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June 2020 Book of the Month | Check your bookshelves, everyone. We bet they’re full of books about bears, yes? Well it’s time to make room for books about alpacas, starting with this one about alpaca Alfonso! Alfonso loves a good story and when he realises that all his favourite books star bears, but don’t feature any alpacas at all, he sets out to change things. He persuades his friend Colin – a bear – to help, but succeeds only after energetically demonstrating just how great alpacas are. This has to be one of the liveliest picture books of the year, and Alfonso’s passion, enthusiasm and determination gleam from every page. While it makes for wonderful reading, it’s also saying something very important: everyone should see themselves represented in books, and all our reading experiences will be the better if they do. We were lucky enough to ask Emma a few questions about her wonderful picture books..find out more!
Of course you shouldn’t call an elephant in an emergency, he’ll just tangle the fire hoses and cause a flood. Don’t let lemmings fly the rescue helicopter either, or rely on an anteater for a cave rescue (he’ll disgrace himself). These are just some of the ridiculous scenarios dreamed up by Patricia Cleveland-Peck in the latest in this hilarious picture book series, illustrations by David Tazzyman, his scribbly detail catching all the chaos and possibilities of the action. It’s great to read aloud and the action builds to a perfect, and perfectly funny conclusion. Peck and Tazzyman are the consummate picture book partnerships and each double-page is an brilliant adventure in its own right.
Translated by Rachel Ward | The world needs a smart, resilient, lucky little hero right now, and Nibbles the mouse fits the bill perfectly. At the opening of the story, Nibbles is living quietly but happily with his family in Munich but redevelopment means they have to move somewhere a lot less comfortable and when Nibbles gets the chance to hop on a train to Switzerland (aka mouse heaven) he takes it. All sorts of adventures follow – he even finds himself performing in a circus – and his travels take him to France and England too before he makes his way home to his family. Nibbles is a great storyteller and his adventures are both comic and thrilling, while he meets some wonderful characters on the way. The telling is enlivened further by Axel Scheffler’s colour illustrations which are a perfect match for Nibbles’ plain but heartfelt narrative. Thoroughly charming, this is a great little book and perfect for shared or solo reading.
April 2020 Book of the Month | A series of jaw-dropping pop-up spreads present readers with animals and their eggs, and some amazing facts too. Everyone will have their own favourite – the daddy Emperor penguins sheltering eggs and chicks on their feet; the brightly coloured clownfish keeping watch over their babies; the mighty crocodile gently carrying her young down to the river in her mouth. The illustrations and paper engineering are very impressive, and the information they help deliver is fascinating: there’ll be gasps at each turn of the page, time and again.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2020 | | Award-winning Axel Scheffler’s familiar illustrations are a great introduction to simple concepts for the very young. Fox, Rabbit, Bear and Pig, four friends from Acorn Wood explore Colours, Counting, Friends and Opposites in these four small scale and highly durable board books which are neatly held together in a min-library box.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Rabbit and Bear: Book 4 Rabbit is worried: trees in their forest are disappearing and, worse still, the stream has moved – even unflappable Bear declares herself ‘close to being slightly worried’ at that. The cause is the arrival of Castor Canadensis, a beaver, who is delighted with engineering as a means of building ‘New, Bigger and Better things’ in the name of ‘Progress’. It suits some of the animals, but definitely not all. Fortunately, Bear finds a way to get the animals working together, so that Castor’s hard work benefits them all, himself included. As ever, there’s as much insight as humour, and it’s a superb read aloud story. Gough and Field make creating books this good look simple, because they’re both masters at what they do. Treat yourself, and buy all four books.
Ron the Rhino reinvents himself in this delightful story, bringing joy to those around him too as he proves that being yourself, making lots of friends and having fun are the only life rules that matter. As the story opens, Ron is struggling with the rhino lifestyle and its rules, which are all about being alone, being grumpy and charging at anything that comes near you. Looking like a rhino understandably means making friends is very hard, but then Ron has a flash of inspiration and finds a way to show his true colours. Reborn as the fabulously flamboyant Rhinocorn, he’s happy for the first time ever. A funny and satisfying story that neatly delivers a message about tolerance, understanding and the importance of being happy in your own skin.Children who love Ron will of course love Elmer too, and vice versa.
February 2020 Book of the Month | Expect this whimsical and gorgeously illustrated picture book to infect children with an urge to go exploring, if not bird-spotting. Otto’s family are obsessive bird-spotters, indeed, so deep is their passion that they’ve turned their home into a hide. Otto though loves exploring and it’s on one of his trips that he finds, and secretly brings home, a very unusual baby bird. He’s able to hide it from his family because his new friend proves surprisingly good at camouflage. But, as the bird grows (and grows), Otto realises that it’s missing its family and recruits his own to help track them down. There’s lots to enjoy in the story and Graham Carter’s glowing illustrations are full of treats too, the camouflage scenes are particularly delightful. A funny, original story with satisfying underlying themes of adventure, friendship and family.
A cheeky, free-wheeling young monkey is the star of Michael Foreman’s new picturebook, which bursts with energy and fun. Milo is determined mot to miss the cycle race as it comes through his town and has no idea of the devastation he leaves behind him as he races to the finishing line – most of it caused by the banana skin he casually chucks over his shoulder as he starts his pell-mell progress. Children will love the scenes of chaos, and the wonderful way in which Milo’s repeated ‘I didn’t do it!’ becomes a triumphant ‘I did it!’ via a surprise ending. Beautiful to look at, simple to read, and it neatly delivers a very satisfying story too. Hear, hear for Milo!
Fabio the flamingo and Gilbert the giraffe are the animal Holmes and Watson, solving mysteries from their office on the banks of the Laloozee river. A trip in Gilbert’s new plane leads them off the beaten track to a small town where there’s something fishy going on with the water supply. Red herrings are scattered all over the place before Fabio solves the case, identifying the culprits. It all makes for fun and flamboyant reading (love Emily Fox’s illustrations and the fluorescent colour scheme). Fabio and George are a great comic double act and there’s real satisfaction to be had as they work out the crimes too.
As cat-owners everywhere know, all cats are equipped with super-powers and Gwynneth Rees’s series stars a band of feline heroes who use their powers to fight villains (a kind of moggie MI6). In this episode, new recruits Tagg and Sugarfoot have to infiltrate the infamous Hit Cats to stop a prison break. Can they do it, and could they really end up fish-sliced if they get caught? Rees keeps things fun, but suitably tense too and it’s another satisfying adventure in a very enjoyable series. Illustrations by Becka Moor add to the fun. If you like the Super Cats series, look out for Dermot O’Leary’s Toto the Ninja Cat books too.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | January 2020 Debut of the Month | Nizrana Farook sets her story on the island of Serendib, now known as Sri Lanka, and transports readers to a vivid, larger-than-life world where young people can be bold, true and have some extraordinary adventures. Twelve-year old Chaya is a thief with a heart of gold, stealing from the king’s palace to help those in her village. She makes a mistake when she takes jewels from the queen’s bedroom though, triggering a series of events that leads to Chaya and two friends, villager Neel and merchant’s daughter Nour, fleeing into the rainforest on the king’s elephant. There are brushes with death, but great camaraderie too and it all ends with a much-needed righting of wrongs. Great stuff! Readers swept up in Chaya’s story – and who couldn’t be? – will also enjoy Costa Book Award winner Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan.