BfK Under 5s Pre-School/Nursery/Infant continued

accompaniment, both enhancing and extending the text. Her bold colours are never harsh but rather satisfying in their solidity. The expressions on the faces of her loveable characters convey the feelings exactly without resorting to

cartoonish reactions.

While the reader will revel in the bold full-page illustrations, there are also the delicate pen and ink vignettes interspersed through the text bringing details into focus. This family may be bears (with a close affinity to the Teddy at the end of the bed perhaps), but it is a family that steps off the page. A joy. FH

Found You HHHH

Devon Holzwarth, Alison Green Books, 32pp, 978 1 407196 27 5, £6.99 pbk

Sami is lonely. Having come from a far-away country where he had many friends, he finds himself in a new place where he knows no one. Not only that, but the people he meets don’t

Not a pumpkin but a potential one. To their delight the fruit swells, absorbing both water and sunshine, but it’s a fair while before it starts to change from green, to first yellowy and then – joy of joys – that bright orange of ripeness. Harvest time at last! Just in time for Halloween – hurrah! Beautifully

illustrated, with just

the right amount of detail in both words and pictures for pre-schoolers. Slightly older children will be able to try reading it for themselves; and I’m certain that both listeners and readers alike will be eager to try

growing their own pumpkin seeds. JB Shy Ones


Simona Ciraolo, Flying Eye Books, 24pp, 978 1 9124 9735 5, £11.99 hbk

Maurice is an extremely shy young flapjack octopus that keeps himself tucked

behind seaweed seem friendly. He teaches

himself how to juggle because he can do that by himself. Mum is concerned, but in the park one day a little bird bumps into him accidentally- on-purpose, and they strike up a friendship of sorts. The little bird has lost her friends and wants Sami to help her find them. In the process, he meets several of the people that had seemed unfriendly before and discovers them to be smiley and quite different. Ultimately, he meets a girl from his school who asks him to play with her, and we know he is on his way to feeling more at home. The bird, whose job it is to find lonely people and help them make friends, is the symbol of how we should all treat strangers in our midst. Gentle illustrations of the strangeness of the new and reflecting how it feels to be on one’s own in an unknown society, are poignant without being the least bit maudlin. A lovely book. ES

We Planted a Pumpkin HHHHH

Rob Ramsden, Scallywag Press, 32pp, 978 1 9126 5038 5, £12.99 hbk

This is the third in the terrific In the Garden series

of nature stories

featuring a small boy and girl. In this book they plant a seed to grow a pumpkin for Halloween and anxiously watch for signs of growth. Things go well initially with root and shoot emerging, but before long the children start growing impatient. Will its fruit be ripe and ready in time for the celebration? Youngsters, like the two characters, can follow the squash’s growth through the summer when there’s an abundance of flowers and bees, butterflies and other insects visit the vine’s bright yellow blooms. Eventually after weeks and weeks,

almost all the flowers die off, but at the base of one female flower, the children spy a small green swelling.

his mother, in the hides

behind his desk at school and among the


“Unless you were looking for him, you wouldn’t know he’s missing,’ we read. However Maurice is not the boring creature we might imagine him to be. Not at all: he has a passion for solo dancing, at the Deep Blue Dance Hall to be exact. One day the little octopus receives

an invitation to a fancy dress party and despite it not being something he wants to do, he accepts; albeit, having donned a body-covering disguise. A disguise somewhat similar to that of, we then discover, the book’s narrator. From small beginnings a firm friendship ensues and we meet the narrator in person (or rather, in fish) on the final endpaper. Those with a fine eye for detail

will perhaps have already spotted – pardon the pun- this fishy friend hiding in plain sight on a number of spreads before the big reveal; others will have fun going back and finding her hiding places in Simona Ciraolo’s gently

humorous aquatic

And then – disaster! A skateboarder

crashes into the boy and almost all his money disappears into a drain. Only one coin is left, and it’s not enough to buy a single thing. Suddenly, before our eyes, the world is drained of colour – until the boy discovers a shop with photos on the wall. It’s called SMILE, so he goes in. ‘I have very little money,’ the boy

says to the smartly-dressed man behind the counter. ‘Could I buy a smile, please? A little one, perhaps?’ But it seems that smiles cannot be bought or sold. They can be only be exchanged and shared – as the proprietor demonstrates, when he takes the boy’s photo and presents it to him, free of charge. And when you smile, of course, the whole world smiles along with you…. Full

of urban

messaging that elsewhere.

expressive observational on


conviviality and detail,

this gentle story offers a different perspective


commercial meet

multi-award-winning artist whose books

have been translated

many languages, and this is a quietly sophisticated offering with lots

Satoshi Kitamura is a into to

admire and enjoy. Text is largely confined to a single

statement per spread and the story is told in the first person from the boy’s point of view, allowing plenty of room for observation, reflection and discussion. The boy’s voice can feel a little inconsistent, but Kitamura’s artwork creates a fully-rounded and highly expressive character


readers care about. His deep blue sweater and dark

red scarf are constant throughout, drawing the eye and enabling quick identification even on the busier spreads, but the colour saturation in his surroundings varies according to the boy’s mood and focus of attention. Look at the monochrome street following his accident, or the way the market stalls jump into focus as the boy looks and smells and gets involved. It’s details

like these that scenes

that are full of fun details and sea creatures glowing bright. Whether or not they tend towards Maurice’s shy disposition, this story is great fun to share with young humans. JB

The Smile Shop HHHH

Written and ill. Satoshi Kitamura, Scallywag Press, 32pp, 978-1-912650-21-7, £12.99, hbk

Some of the best things in life cannot be bought or sold, and should be shared… A little boy has saved all his pocket

money for a special shopping trip and he’s very excited. Off to buy something for himself for the very first time, the boy goes to the market where he wanders round the stalls to discover what’s on offer. The apple pies look tasty, but the model boat is probably expensive. What about a hat? Or a book? The possibilities seem endless, and decisions difficult to make.

20 Books for Keeps No.244 September 2020

direct and shape our experience of this lovely book, even though we may not be aware of them, and Kitamura works every spread to maximum effect. The Smile Shop will be enjoyed

by older readers as well as younger ones, and deserves to be widely shared – just like a smile! CFH

My Friends and Me HHHH

Stephanie Stansbie, ill. Katy Halford, Little Tiger, 26pp, 9 78 1 912756 88 9, £11.99

Families come in all kinds and colours, and

in this picture book, Jamie

tells us about her friends and their families. One has two dads, another two mums, Lily has two houses and two of everything because her parents are divorced. There is a trans mum, a single mum, and friends who live in everything from a grand stately home to a ‘cosy caravan’. Hannah has foster parents, but it is Jamie’s own family that she loves best: her granny

and grandpops. There is a funny little twist at the end, which is fun. The plethora of family types abounds, and the humorous pictures, with lots of tiny labels on various things in each picture – the goldfish is labelled ‘Frank’ and the cat ‘grumpy cat’ – will appeal greatly and will be pointed out each time the book is read. It’s a good thing to keep reminding children that each family is different and that is the way life should be. ES

The Diddle that Dummed HHHH

Kes Gray, ill. Fred Blunt, Hodder Children’s Books, 32pp, 978 1 444 95368 8, £6.99 pbk

This tale of musical mayhem is a welcome

addition to Kes Gray’s

ever-expanding range of laugh-out- loud funny picture books. Flinty Bo Diddle is writing a tune for his fiddle and all is proceeding well until one of his diddles goes ‘dum’. Despite Flinty’s best efforts at re-arranging his tune the diddle that dummed keeps causing havoc, Flinty becomes increasingly

distraught and the

silliness levels rise to culminate in an ending of toilet humour hilarity involving piddles and a plop rather than diddles and a dum! The

illustrations by Fred complement backgrounds Blunt

humour of the text perfectly. The white

the word play and and


notation with rows of appealing blue diddle notes are eye-catching and the expressive illustrations of Flinty gradually losing the tune-writing plot are increasingly humorous. This new picture book by Kes Gray has great verbal and visual appeal, it is perfect for performing aloud and provides an early introduction to musical notation as well as to the power of standing out from the crowd. An entertaining read for children who love silly, anarchic humour. SR

Stay, Little Seed HHH

Cristiana Valentini, ill. Philip Giordano, Greystone Kids, 32pp, 978-1-77164-646-8, £12.99, hbk

‘On the top of a hill, above a meadow, lived a huge tree covered in little seeds….’ Most of them can’t wait to fly

away to Who Knows Where, but one particularly small seed doesn’t want to let go, so the tree allows it to stay. Who Knows Where might not be very welcoming, and the tree has such a tender heart that it doesn’t want the tiny seed to get too wet or cold. Day after day, the tree provides the best of care, and day after day, both tree and seed worry about the future. But even the most assiduous of parents cannot protect

their young forever. One

morning, while the tree is sleeping, a magpie swoops down, grabs the seed and drops it. Many seasons come and go, and all the tree can do is wonder. Until, one warm day, it hears a voice drifting up from the ground below. All by itself, the tiny seed made a safe journey and became a ‘sapling, beautiful and strong….’

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