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BfK 5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued


amusing story. They are cartoons with a lot of fun in facial expressions (including the evil cat!) and lots of detail to look at. Designed for children who have just learned to read, the pictures help with deciphering the words, and the letters are formed without any ornamentation.


It’s a


good story, and this will be fun to read and look at. DB


I’m Not a Mouse! HHHHH


Evgenia Golubeva, Child’s Play, 32pp, 978 1 78628 463 1, £6.99 pbk


This laugh-out-loud picture book


is a brilliant take on the use of pet names for children and the difficulties kids have with these. Olivia is called ‘Mouse’ by her mother, and every time she does so, Olivia turns into a mouse! This can have unusual ramifications, particularly when Mum calls ‘Mouse’ while Olivia is stroking their cat! The answer turns out to be that Olivia simply refuses to answer until her Mum uses her real name. Fine for her, but she soon realises that all her friends are called by pet names too, and they all turn into whatever that name is: Little Pumpkin, Sweetpea, Superstar, Treasure – whatever. This gets even funnier when Granddad takes Olivia and her Mum to the cinema and Granddad calls Mum his Little Chicken with the obvious result. A super wheeze this, and the pictures are huge fun too. One of the nicest touches is on the endpapers. The one at the front is of a little mouse noodling about, and the one at the back shows all sorts of creatures who have turned into their pet names, some of them in other languages. The moral of this story is for the parents: Be careful when and where you call your children by their pet names! ES


Peter and the Tree Children HHHH


Peter Wohlleben, transl. Jane Billinghurst, ill. Cale Atkinson, Greystone Kids 40pp, 978- 177164457-0. £12.99 hbk


Peter Wohlleben’s book for adults, The Hidden Life Of Trees, in which he explained the interconnectedness and sensitivity of trees, was a bestseller, and in this picture book he puts forward a simpler version for children. He becomes Peter the forester, and meets a squirrel, coincidentally called Piet, who is upset because he has no family. Peter leads Piet, (though sometimes the squirrel goes too fast for him) through the forest to find tree children. They find places where young trees cannot grow because it is too hot, or flattened by machinery, but Dana and her horse towing the trees they have felled are kinder to the soil, and they have a chat. Peter is angry when he finds an area where lots of older trees have been cut down, but there are people planting saplings to replace them. These are not what Peter is looking for, though, and he explains to


Piet that the young trees communicate their unhappiness at their lack of shelter from large trees, by sending out a particular smell. Finally, he shows Piet a beech tree where seeds are fluttering down like butterflies, and young beech saplings are


growing


underneath sheltered by the branches above them: these are tree children who are happy. As a conclusion, Piet offers to be family for Piet, and they go back to his house together. At the end of the book, Peter


Wohlleben explains about the ‘wood wide web’ whereby trees send messages to each other via fungal threads in the forest floor, that some trees can make their leaves bitter so that caterpillars won’t eat them, and other fascinating information. He really does have a squirrel who visits him, and he knows a particular beech tree near his home: that authenticity shines through. Cale Atkinson is Canadian and also a fan of trees, so his illustrations are lovingly rendered. DB


Samira’s Wish HHH


Saviour Pirotta, ill. Valeria Szucs, Wacky Bee, 40pp., 978-1-913292-07-2, £6.99 pbk


Samira lives with her parents and brother, and is very good at a lot of things, especially helping people. When Grandma and Grandpa are due to arrive very early one Saturday, Samira plans to make them Grandpa’s favourite breakfast of beans on toast, and gets everything ready. However, in the morning she finds that Dad has eaten the beans, so Samira and Grandpa go to the local shop to get some more. These turn out


to be


magic beans, granting a wish with every mouthful, and Grandpa tries it out. A book thumps onto the table, and Grandma is scornful about a wish wasted, because ‘you can get a book free at the library’ (Hooray!), but then her brother Anish gets a bike. Grandma gets a horse, and she passes the tin to Mum with the encouragement to ‘do something right’. Mum therefore wishes for a bigger house, but this means that the neighbouring houses all get squashed. Angry neighbours are given their turns, and the results get more and more ridiculous as someone even wishes for a jumbo jet, then the empty tin is thrown out of the window, and still Samira hasn’t had a wish of her own. There is,


fortunately, one


bean stuck under the lid, and Samira makes a careful wish: everything goes back to normal, and the full tin is back on the shelf of the shop. They buy something else for breakfast, and the special tin will wait for another time. The Notes at the end explain


how baked beans are made and give some fascinating facts, then a delicious recipe for beans on toast. The illustrations are fun, and this entertaining story by the experienced storyteller Saviour


Pirotta 26 Books for Keeps No.246 January 2021 involving an Indian family will resonate with


many children. The pictures help with


deciphering Wild is the Wind HHHHH


Graham Baker-Smith, Templar, 36pp, 9781787417854, £12.99 hbk


Cassie cradles the swift in her hands. Already


it senses the wind in its


feathers and when Cassie sets it free as she floats in her balloon across the sky it joins its fellows as they fly on the wings of the wind towards a distant destination. And it is the wind that is their companion in all its moods – the


trade winds driving commerce,


cyclones, powerful, destructive, storms whipping up crested waves, sculpting desert sands, eroding rocks into art forms and caves. The wind is


their


passage to another country where a boy welcomes them as harbinger of summer. There they will stay to bring up a family before setting off once more with the wind blowing across the world. In Rhythm of the Rain, we


followed the path of a raindrop as it travelled across the world, an element


connecting two children.


Here, we take to the sky – the air that surrounds our world, an element that is far from passive, full of currents some as gentle as a breeze, others mighty storms – the wind. Once again we meet two children – Cassie and Kûn – but it is not just the wind, it is a swift, a tiny migrant, that is the connection. Here we have a story that brings information and imagination together through words and image. Baker-Smith’s text is neither dull nor dry. The cyclone is ‘a great spiral howling with stormy power’, the wind ‘sculpts echoes in the sand’ – the vocabulary conjures pictures. And the illustrations give them life – saturated colour spreads create a feast for the eye – wild white horses of foam, strange rock formations – and across the sky the tiny flock of birds. This is a book to delight and inform; to share and to inspire. FH


Rain Before Rainbows HHHHH


Smrithi Halls, ill. David Litchfield, Walker Books, 32pp, 978 1 4063 9235 8, £12.99 hbk


Rain Before Rainbows presents a hopeful message to young readers about life itself and growing up. Life can be an adventure though there will be challenges, difficulties and hurdles, we may have worries and face difficult decisions but there will be those who can guide us and help us. The text is gentle and poetic with


a pleasing rhythm which would be perfect for reading aloud. David Litchfield’s trademark magical


illustrations bring the text to life, weaving a story around it. He provides us with an array of wonderful settings on each double page spread with two characters centre stage, a girl and a fox, on a journey together experiencing danger and finding happiness.


the words, and


the letters are formed without any ornamentation, in a font which might be Century Gothic. DB


potential for young readers to engage imaginatively and further


the narrative. Why did the girl and fox leave the castle? Where are they going? What will happen to them in the future? This book was first released as a


free downloadable e-book by Walker Books to support Save the Children’s #SaveWithStories campaign which is helping children most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The hard copy is a gem well worth lingering over and sharing again and again. The cover illustration


perfectly capturing the


hopeful message of the text with the girl and fox gazing wistfully up into a rainbow which bathes them in its colourful light. SMc


Girl From the Sea HHHH


Margaret Wild, ill. Jane Tanner, Allen & Unwin, 32pp, 978 1 9116 3176 7, £11.99 hbk


Margaret Wild’s text takes the form of a first-person narrative spoken by a girl standing alone on the shore. Who she is or where she’s come from we know not but as she spies two children and their parents, so she surmises, and a dog, a cat and a bird, she wonders who lives in the cottage close by, and wishes it was herself going on to talk of what she would do – ‘stir the soup, turn the pages of a book and stoke the fire so that all sleep warm and well’. Using minimal colour, Jane atmospheric


Tanner’s illustrations


immerse us in a strange, sometimes surreal visual story wherein light and dark play a powerful part as we see ethereal moonlit images from both outside and inside perspectives. That these scenes are full bleed has a truly mesmeric effect and serves to heighten the mystery of the whole literary experience, a mystery that is left unsolved with the reader pondering upon whether perhaps the speaker is a ghost, a sleepwalker or perhaps a wandering soul that is lost or stranded between worlds. For


teachers of older The Kiosk HHH


Anete Melece, Gecko Press, 978 1 7765 7299 1, £11.99, hbk


From time to time most of us start to feel stuck in one way or another and so it is for Olga, the protagonist in this story that originated as a short animation in Latvia. Olga has lived and worked in her kiosk for a very long time. Her stall is a popular one with all kinds of customers wanting her wares – newspapers, magazines, sweets, bottles of water - and many have become her friends, stopping just for a chat. After work Olga reads of


far-off places and dreams of


distant seas and beautiful sunsets. One morning Olga’s entire world is


tuned upside down – literally – but does the plucky Olga despair? No,


children


especially, this enigmatic book is rich in potential. JB


This visual storytelling offers the develop


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