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May 2021 Book of the Month | It is an unusual sight to see a completely naked toddler on the cover of a picture book, but you can tell from his smile as he jauntily stomps across the page that this child is gloriously unashamed, inhabiting that brief interlude in early childhood before self-consciousness sets in. Both here and throughout the book Fred is drawn and positioned so cleverly that his modesty is preserved, and the title reassures the audience that he will get covered up eventually. But first he romps and dances through the house revelling in his freedom, while Mum and Dad blithely carry on reading. Nothing to make a fuss about here! We see his natural curiosity lead him to explore his parent’s bedroom and their wardrobes. Dad’s clothes prove too difficult to handle, but from Mum’s wardrobe he makes a dress from a blouse and scarf. He then totters out on some shoes to try his hand at makeup but ends up with a smear of lipstick across his face, just as Mum and Dad discover him. Their reaction - to clean him up and for Mum to show him how to do it properly and then for Dad and the Dog to join in the fun is simply delightful! A shining example of parental love, acceptance and support. You can never be too young to hear a body positive message told with such innocence and infectious delight.
A group of hungry creatures are searching for their dinner in this Arctic-set picture book, and none of them get it. That might sound disappointing, but from the point of view of the plankton, almost eaten by the sprats, or the sprats, narrowly avoiding the bigger fish, who just escapes the penguin, who in turn avoids the polar bear … well, things look different. Written in rhyme and with gentle illustrations by Silke Diehl this makes a fun bedtime story. Added extras include the Polar Bear’s Song.
Of all Hans Christian Andersen’s tales, the Emperor’s New Clothes is the one that feels the most relevant, and naughty. In Peter Bentley’s retelling, King Albert-Horatio-Otto the Third is a dandy with a passion for the most outrageous outfits, changing them throughout the day – he even changes outfits to go to the loo. His obsession and his vanity leave him wide open to being conned by the two ‘fashion designers’ who turn up to make a special suit for his birthday, one so special that only the wisest and cleverest can see it. Whether you are familiar with the story or not, it’s hilarious and oh so satisfying to see the king exposed to all in his birthday suit. Bentley’s rhyming text is as smooth as the king’s bottom, and Claire Powell has great fun illustrating the designers and the king’s courtiers and staff, not to mention those fabulous clothes. This will have everyone in stitches.
Longlisted for the BookTrust StoryTime Prize 2020 | Ahoy, me hearties, and grown-ups, be warned: the budding buccaneers in your life will demand that you perform Go, Go, Pirate Ship over and over (and over) again! With bright, bold illustrations by the unmistakable Nick Sharratt and a rollicking, rhyming text courtesy of Katrina Charman, this action-packed adventure invites little swashbucklers to join a pair of pirates and their parrot captain on a seafaring quest for a treasure chest. What’s more, while singing the sea-shanty-tastic song to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, there are tonnes of actions to join in with, from raising the anchor and hoisting the sail, to grabbing the ropes and scrubbing the decks. And, like so many classic children’s adventures, our intrepid pirates make it home in time for tea. It’s a bouncy, jubilant joy from start to finish. For more fabulous sing-along fun, see also Car, Car, Truck, Jeep by the same inspired author-illustrator team.
A story of hope for us and our planet | Whenever a new story by Michael Morpurgo, the nation’s most beloved storyteller, is published, it’s worth taking note for, as we know, the charm of the tale usually contains a vital and important message. In this wonderful story, told with Sir Michael’s trademark gentleness and empathy, he starts with a ‘conversation’ between himself and a blackbird that starts an idea which one animal passes to another and so travels the world through each animal’s song, whisper, call or cry until the whole of the world is singing together in gladness. It is a delightful whimsy that conceals the truth that everything on the planet is interconnected, that we are all reliant on each other’s place in the natural order of things. In so very few words Sir Michael gently reminds us that we are merely the custodians of our planet and that we are responsible for its preservation, that each and every one of us is a part of this world and needs to care for it. Gloriously illustrated by Emily Gravett, who makes sheep look fun and crocodiles kind, this is truly a book to gladden hearts, young and old alike. ~ Paul Blezard
Mummy Owl does everything she can to make sure Little Owl is all ready for bed. She’s read a bedtime story – and then one more on the promise that Little Owl will settle afterwards. And she’s tucked Little Owl in with all his favourite things. But Little Owl can’t sleep because it is too dark, too noisy and because he is too excited about seeing his Grandma and Grandpa Owl. Mummy Owl uses all her best powers of invention and story telling to make sure Little Owl can go to sleep!
You almost know this is going to be a beautiful book by its title. It is described as a Muslim book of shapes, but it is so much more. I have to say I learned a lot from this book and was extremely glad of the informative and helpful glossary. The book offers so much – history, shape and pattern, culture and colour. It is so clever that in addition to the different shapes written about on each page, there are more ovals, or arches to look for in the illustrations, subtly hidden in fabrics and the decorations of the mosque. As with many books for young children the use of rhyming couplets adds a lovely rhythm to the pages, as does the fact that the book tracks a whole day from morning prayer to the night sky. Each page is bright and detailed and all the characters in the illustrations seem to shine with a sense of wonderment as if something magical is happening. There is so much to see and discuss on each page which makes it a perfect book to share.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Award-winning writers for adults, Zadie Smith and Nick Laird have now created a perfectly crafted picture book that is simple in its telling and strong in its message. When Maud arrives as a surprise for Kit’s birthday she is treated with great suspicion by the pets who are already in residence. Since she is not like them - a cat, a bird or a pug dog - they are swift to deem her to be a weirdo. Briefly, Maud tries to fit in before taking herself on a life-changing adventure in which she soon discovers that being yourself is far, far more important than fitting in. Magenta Fox’s gentle illustrations are the perfect foil to this punchy celebration of individuality.
Sonny is playing in the sandpit when he finds a little pink bunny, so soft, so cute, so cuddly. Meemo the dog notices but Sonny won’t share Bub-Bun with anyone, so when we discover on the next page that Bun-Bun is actually Boo’s much loved Suki, what will Sonny do? Fortunately for all concerned – and in a useful lesson for readers – it’s the right thing, though it does take a while …. Caryl Hart’s story is a wonderfully accurate and very funny depiction of toddler behaviour and Zachariah Ohora’s illustrations capture the various emotions on display perfectly.
Boo! A Fishy Mystery is a veritable feast of colour by the picture book talent that is Kate Read. Boo! follows up her award-winning One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller and is another triumph. The unique way she builds her creations is just stunning with a mixture of collage, printing and drawing, creating layers of beautifully coloured texture and detail. It's one big stroke-able underwater triumph. As we follow the tiny pink fish on his adventures, we meet a host of sea creatures as the cheeky character causes chaos in the deep. The multi-coloured mayhem is marvellous with Kate's illustrations really bringing the emotions of the fish to life in a funny and vibrant way. The LoveReading LitFest invited Kate to the festival to talk about Boo! You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Kate in conversation with MD Deborah Maclaren and find out why every child will love this book. Check out a preview of the event here.
You can always trust Tony Ross to teach little ones a useful lesson with loads of humour and the perfect level of cheekiness. The grown-ups keep telling the Little Princess to wash her hands – after she’s been playing in the mud, after she’s used her potty, and after she’s sneezed, but why, she asks. The maid explains, gleefully and very vividly, and you can guarantee the Little Princess will never not wash her hands again. She still gets the last word, and the last laugh though! Full of Ross's brilliant touches of characterisation and silliness, this will be a hit with toddlers and parents alike.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | A wise, funny fable about how we don't need to like the same things to find our perfect pal. Duck is not like other ducks. Duck doesn't like water and is perfectly fine alone, thank you very much. But then, one dark and stormy night, an outgoing, water-loving, and very lost Frog turns up at Duck's door. Can this odd couple find Frog's home? And will they find friendship along the way? This endearing, gorgeously illustrated tale marks the author-illustrator debut for Steve Small, illustrator of the highly acclaimed, I'm Sticking with You.