BfK 5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued

Bright Feelings series and once again he has created a story to expand children’s understanding of the world, boost their confidence, and counter their anxieties. LS

The Teeny Weeny Genie HHHHH

Julia Donaldson, ill. Anna Currey, Macmillan, 32pp, 978 1 5098 4360 2, £12.99, hbk

Yet another captivating tale from Meesha Makes Friends HHHHH

Tom Percival, Bloomsbury, 32pp, 978-1526612953, £6.99 pbk

Meesha loves making things. We see

surrounded gluesticks Meesha


making things, as the text and some gorgeously

is especially good expansive


explain: she can make pictures out of numbers, and pictures out of sounds, and sometimes pictures out of both. But there’s one thing that Meesha finds hard to make, and that is friends. Everyone else seems to find it easy, says the text, but not Meesha. The illustrations again let us know just how Meesha feels – the other children are depicted in greys and half-tones; Meesha by contrast is in a bright red dress. The gulf between her world and theirs is vivid. To escape loneliness, Meesha starts to make her own friends, stitching and glueing a whole group. They might not be good at

boisterous games, but Meesha

feels comfortable with them and that, says the text: “was what mattered.” Then Meesha is invited to a party. Her parents assure her it will be fun, but Meesha can’t find a way to join in. She retreats to a quiet corner and starts to craft friends, until a boy asks if she’ll show him what she’s doing. Before long, they are working together, and chatting, and have soon caught the attention of the other children too. And that, says the narrator, was how the

friends that Meesha made…

helped Meesha make friends. We can see that for ourselves because Meesha’s world has changed and is all colour now, no grey left. The story is told with a beautiful

simplicity and clarity but the truths that it conveys are important and heartfelt.

Meesha has particular

problems (adults will realise that she is autistic) but lots of us struggle with shyness and lack of confidence. Her story shows young readers how painful that can be and reassures them that talking, sharing, being honest and trusting others can change things. This is the latest in Tom Percival’s Big

her looking very comfortable by card, crayons, scissors. In fact, at

Donaldson, with a magical genie in a teapot and a farmyard full of noisy fun. Children just love chanting the rhyming title over and over, from a whisper to a SHOUT. Old Macdonald had a farm… a farmhouse, a cupboard…. and a teapot. And in that teapot lived a teeny weeny blue genie. The farmer is asked by the genie if he would like a wish granted. The genie puffs himself up, saying, ‘ABC and XYZ, gobbledegook and garlic bread.’ And the wished-for bright red tractor appears! The wishes continue, each with a charmingly hypnotic rhyme from the genie. ‘ABC and XYZ, cauliflower cheese and chocolate spread;’ ‘ABC and XYZ, gooseberry green and raspberry red!’ All enormous fun, as the characters and wishes from the original traditional rhyme about Old Macdonald cover the pages. Each new wish creates a new scenario, and oh what a noise is made by each and every character…. We watch as we see the blue genie getting smaller and smaller, finding the incredible noises just too much. When a wished-for mouse wants to become Supermouse, the cat then wishes to be Supercat, and each of the new characters wishes to be their superhero version. Chaos! SO noisy, as mice, cat, dog, Mr and Mrs Macdonald - and baby - all whizz through the air, banging and crashing into each other. Poor genie cannot stand the noise any longer and wishes they’d all go away. He forgets that he is only allowed to grant wishes for other people. How the tale is brought to an end is very satisfying. ‘ABC and XYZ, broccoli broth and breakfast in bed!’ shouts the GREEN genie, and the two jump into the teapot which sails away. Landing on a beautiful, deserted beach, the only sound being the gentle lapping of waves, the two genies climb deep inside the teapot and fall asleep. ‘So……,’

says Julia,

‘Please don’t disturb them if ever you find that teapot on a beach. Think very hard to make just one wish. What will that wish be?’ In this enchanting tale of fun and

frolics, as readers we are grateful for the peacefully quiet conclusion! Another big hit for Julia, and well supported again by Anna Currey. There is much movement in her brightly coloured, humorous illustrations. As readers we have high expectations of each new title from Julia. Expectations are realized, for here it is, a book of

orchestrated exuberance! GB 22 Books for Keeps No.244 September 2020

Mouse in the House HHHHH

Russell Ayto, Andersen Press, 32pp, 978 1 7834 4876 0, £12.99 hbk

Make sure you read the book from cover to cover: Russell Ayto introduces his cast of characters in this comedy even before the title page, placing them in order of intelligence starting with the most intelligent. The story begins outside a house –

the wrong house, but the one where mouse catchers, Mr Bosh (the boss) and his assistant (with squeaky shoes), Mr Bumble have parked their van. Then with correct house located, Mr Bosh sends in his assistant armed with traps, to do the job. The resident mouse however is a clever creature and the traps won’t work unless trodden on – something of which the rodent is aware but seemingly not Mr Bumble who ends up well and truly sprung. Time for plan B. Mr Bumble is despatched to fetch a cat. What follows is a comedy of errors

that begins when Mr Bumble returns with ‘nearly a cat’. In other words a guard dog ‘Specially trained to protect houses from intruders.’ I’ll say no more except that the plan falls flat on its face, completely and utterly, leaving the mouse anything but trapped. The author ends


stating that ‘no animals were harmed in the making of this book’. That’s a relief, but this reviewer was almost in need of repair after reading this side- splitting performance. JB

King of the Swamp HHH

Catherine Emmett, ill. Ben Mantle, Simon and Schuster, 32pp, 9781471181696 £6.99 pbk

This picture book has a great message about protecting the environment and all things natural. McDarkly loves his swamp and likes being on his own with nature. He tends his garden carefully and has great plans to grow orchids. Until one day when a rather conceited, pompous King rides by and declares that the swamp is stinky and slimy and must be turned into a roller skate park. Although McDarkly explains his

swamp is about to become the home of beautiful orchids the King doesn’t give way.This causes McDarkly to despair but he is given a ray of hope when the King’s daughter, who has accompanied the King, says she would like to see those orchids and study them. So the King, as in lots of good tales, lays down a time limit and says McDarkly has 10 days to ‘buck up your ways! The WHOLE of this swamp best be bursting with grace, Or soon I’ll be skating all over this place!’ The font is fun and clear along with great drawings showing the characters very well. I’m sure children will enjoy the main character- McDarkly-

but also the smaller

illustrations of the King and his court. It’s a great message and will be a big hit, I’m sure, with any mini eco warriors out there.

There is a lovely ending and all is

well although with a little twist so it’s not quite as straightforward as you might initially think which keeps the reader on their toes. SG

A Bear Named Bjorn HHHHH

Delphine Perret, trans. Antony Shugaar, Gekko Press, 64pp, 978 1 776572 69 4, £9.99, hbk

In a series of six illustrated short stories we meet Bjorn who lives in the forest with his animal friends. Each story relates a charming anecdote, through which we find out about the ups and downs of Bjorn’s life alongside the human world. There are days when the animals

do nothing much at all and others when they are very busy, for example ‘borrowing’ clothes from a campsite, dressing up as humans and having a carnival - with music, dancing, blueberry tart and fleas (!) to eat. There is the time Bear struggles to find just the right present for his young human friend and the time he realises free gifts can be problematic when they arrive sofa size and fill up his cave. On another occasion Bjorn finds out his eyesight isn’t as good as he thought, and he may need glasses. The final story of the collection fittingly shows Bjorn getting ready for hibernation ensuring he is well fed with a good layer of body fat to see him through the winter months. With echoes of Winnie the Pooh, this is a delightful book of engaging, illustrated

short stories told with

warmth and humour. The book is beautifully presented on mint green paper with the author’s own line drawings perfectly

illustrating each

page. Although the block capitals may worry some educators, the delicate light font works very well in the highly attractive overall design. Already a prize-winning book, this translation from the original French is published by Gekko Press. SMc

Paris Cat HHH

Written by Dianne Hofmeyr, ill. Piet Grobler, Tiny Owl, 32pp, 978-1-910328-59-0, £7.99, pbk

Prowling through the backstreets of Paris, an alley-cat listens to Edith Piaf singing in a café ‘Pfft...’ Cat says. ‘I can do that!’ But her yowling doesn’t please the audience and she’s forced to make a quick retreat. Climbing the fire-escape to Madame Delphine’s couture atelier, Cat discovers a nest of ‘silk and satin, tulle and taffeta’ where she falls fast asleep. ‘Pfft…’ she says, later, watching the seamstresses at work. ‘I can do that!’ Equipped with a stage outfit made from offcuts, Cat joins Josephine Baker’s chorus line. Soon she’s almost as famous as Chiquita, Josephine’s diamond- collared cheetah, but Cat is always restless and never stays still for long. Down in the Parisian Catacombs, she opens her own establishment where friends and family can dance the night away. But will Cat’s story end

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