talent for making every single animal that she paints – large or small – a wonderfully unique character. Here she has, I think, excelled in her portrayal of Louie whose zest for life and pongyness leap off the page. Rayner paints so eloquently one can almost hear Louie’s splash and the explosion of the ducks as they take off in panic from the pond, and touch and smell the malodorous miasma emanating from the canine hero’s filthy tangled coat.
That’s What Makes a Hippopotamus Smile
Sean Taylor, ill. Laurent Cardon, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 978 1 84780455 6, 32pp, £11.99 hbk
Have you ever wondered what to do if a hippo happens to come calling? Probably not but just in case, the girl narrator of this amusing story seems to have got it worked out, at least to the satisfaction of her particular, very large visitor.
Determined to give her visiting – or rather door crashing - hippo a great time she plays a wonderfully ‘splashy, sploshy, squity wirty’ game followed by a scrub in the tub complete with appropriate floaty toys. This is followed by a yummy and very crunchy, super sized salad. Even her farewell is spot on – a big grin and a stylish dance; both sure to create wonderful memories for a new best friend and the likelihood of a return visit, perhaps with a friend or two in tow.
The playful, half rhyming text is cleverly structured with ‘Because…’ used to link action and reaction both of which are amusingly portrayed in Cardon’s comical mixed media scenes. Herein the small green amphibian creature certainly knows how to make his presence felt at every turn of the page. The unusual shades of blue, green, purple and pink that Cardon chooses to use add to the surreal quality of the story. JB
On Sudden Hill HHHH
Linda Sarah illus Benji Davies, Simon and Schuster, 978 1 4711 1929 3, 32pp, £6.99pbk
Etho and Birt are best ever friends – kings, pirates, soldiers and astronauts as they share adventures in their cardboard boxes on Sudden Hill. But one day Shu arrives, and although they welcome him into their dragon slaying and skyscraper dances, it all feels very strange to Birt. One night, in anger and loneliness, he smashes up his box and stops going to Sudden Hill. But Etho and Shu haven’t given up on their friend, refusing to let him go as the two-by-two rhythm of his former friendship becomes a three-by-three rhythm with which they are all comfortable.
This is a poignant and evocative story of early friendship which is ideal for sharing or for young readers to enjoy alone. The narrative is sparse but
effective, as the story is fully told in images. Large, empty vistas form the backdrop for little people with big imaginations to be Big friends and Giant kings. It would be difficult not to be moved by this book. I highly recommend it for nurseries, pre-schools, Key Stage One classes and any home inhabited by a young child.
GR Train! HHHH
Judi Abbot, Little Tiger Press, 978-1-84895-902-6, 32pp, pbk £6.99
This simple story featuring the joy of learning a new word, and a child’s obsessive love for a favourite toy, is cleverly pitched to entertain the youngest toddler. On a real train ride Elephant is surprised to find animals who cling to cars, planes and diggers instead of what he knows is best, a train. But these creatures are just as firmly wedded to their chosen object as Elephant is. Together, they battle it out in a beautiful shouting match where the favourite words are given full vent with jolly pictures to emphasise their zeal. The kids compete in belligerent disharmony until passing through a tunnel they and their toys land in a muddle and get swapped around. Then Elephant, Cat, Rabbit and Penguins begin to see the merit in other things, learning not only the words for the toys but the most important new word of all – friends.
For a toddler whose current passion is trains, this book was a winner, especially when Elephant had a ‘Terrible train tantrum’. (I particularly liked that bit too.) Full of vivacity and fun, the pictures have a warm and comforting feel with their simple lines and strong yet gentle colours. Added to this the rhythmic and bold lines are perfectly complemented by the expressive animals who learn to enjoy sharing and playing together. JNH
Ten Terrible Dinosaurs HHH
Paul Stickland, Picture Corgi, 978-0-552-57251-4, 32pp, £6.99pbk
Counting down books can be worrying as characters or things disappear, but this one is offset by so much noisy fun and mayhem it doesn’t matter. Entertaining characters full of action and bravado fly and stomp across the pages in a cavorting dance of delight, ending with the satisfying roar when they all come back together. Clever use of pattern and colour make this crazy and exuberant tale a naughty delight. Kids will love it.
The Funny Fingers are having a Party!
Nikalas Catlow, David Sinden & Matthew Morgan, Egmont, 978 1 4052 7174 5, 32pp, £6.99
An imaginative and unusual method of illustration will certainly catch your
attention. We join the Funny Fingers who are throwing a super fun party, much to their grumpy neighbours’ annoyance, the Terrible Toes. The Fingers are having far too much fun and making far too much noise, so the Toes send their pet foot Errol over to scare everyone away. But instead of scaring everyone Errol can’t help but join in the fun too. A fun and vibrant story with an added search and find element, it is bound to keep little ones entertained.
HH Why? HHHH
Tracey Corderoy, illus Tim Warnes, Little Tiger Press, 9781848958944,32pp, £6.99
Archie the Rhino is a very inquisitive tot. He wants to know the answer to everything, driving his mum and dad crazy with so many ‘whys’. One day they decide to take him to a place where he can find lots of answers to his questions, but to his parents’ dismay this only leads to more questions, some inappropriate ones too …. A very charming and funny sequel to the popular No! It will more than likely be very familiar to families with toddlers who have moved on from ‘No!’ and just love to ask ‘Why?’ It certainly made me smile.
HH Cat and Dog HHHH
Michael Foreman, Andersen Press, 978 1 78344 011 5, 32pp, £11.99 hbk
This heartwarming story about an unlikely friendship starts with a set-up reminiscent of Owl Babies; a mother goes to find food for her three little ones, but takes too long to return. In Foreman’s story the action is developed – the mother cat has been caught in a van that went to the harbour. A stray dog takes pity on the stranded kittens and keeps them safe till their mother’s return. When the cat describes the beautiful seashore she had seen on her detour, the animals decide to return together and explore.
Michael Foreman’s gentle tale of animal friendship could be read as a story showing the evolution of the kinds of family structure that exist in the current climate – the cats welcome the dog into their unit for the good of the family, who are stronger together despite their differences. On the other hand it’s simply a gentle story about cats and a dog enjoying the beauty in the world around. As always Foreman’s prose is clear and his paintings recognisable in their cool colours and warm tradition.
The Dinosaurs are Having a Party
Gareth P. Jones illus Garry Parsons, Andersen Press, 978 1 78344 037 5, 32pp, £11.99 hbk
The dinosaurs are having a party, and strangely enough they’ve invited a young boy. He’s the guest of honour at their party tea, but the barbeque has no food on it! The bouncy castle is great fun, at least until the spikey stegosaurus takes a turn, and everyone really enjoys musical
bumps. It’s a very noisy party but there will be no complaints from the neighbours. The little boy is having a good time at the dinosaurs party, but when T-Rex appears it’s time to grab a party bag and RUN!
Garry Parsons’ bright and colourful dinosaurs are mostly fun and friendly, but the surprise T-Rex spread is delightfully menacing. With a bouncing rhyme and a visual feast of laughs and thrills there is lots to enjoy here; children will love being in on the joke with the dinosaurs and the final spread is a real tickle. This prehistoric party will delight little dinosaur fanatics and would make the perfect birthday present to take to (and read aloud at) a birthday celebration!
KC You Are (Not) Small HHHH
Anna Kang illustrated by Christopher Weyant, Hodder Children’s Books, 978 1 444 91830 4, 32pp, £11.99 hbk
‘You are small.’ insists a fuzzy creature to his, admittedly smaller, companion. But the little creature has a cunning defence: ‘I am not small. You are big.’ The argument evolves; others get involved each claiming that they are the rule and the other is the exception until more creatures show up and complicate the matter even fur ther. The creatures eventually agree that everyone is both big and small, but that they’re all hungr y. This wonder fully
simple stor y
demonstrates how all things are relative, whilst enforcing an inclusive message about being comfor table with who you are. It’s cleverly done and the clear illustrations are a per fect match to the smar t and succinct text. Cer tainly a useful picture book for classrooms, but this neat little treat could become a real favourite at home too.
KC Harry and the Monster HHHHH
Sue Mongredien and Nick East, Little Tigher Press, 978 1 84895 299 7, 32pp, £5.99 pbk
Poor Harry is too frightened to go to sleep. Every time he goes to bed a big scary monster invades his dreams. Mum and Dad try to come up with ideas that won’t make the monster so terrifying – ‘try imagining him with a big pair of pink pants on his head’ suggests mum. But this only makes the monster more furious. In the end it’s an imaginary telling off from mum that works best, it was the monster’s turn to be scared this time! The gentle text and humorous illustrations make a perfect book for banishing those night-time monsters. It is brilliant bed time read and a welcome edition to any book shelf.
HH Line Up, Please! HHH
Tomoko Ohmura, Gecko Press, 978 1 877579 98 1, 48pp, £10.99hbk
Why would fifty animals of different shape, size and colour all be lining up? Join the animals as a slightly
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