NEW TITLES

From picture books to start discussions and activities, to some very funny and adventure-laden early fiction, this month's selection offers plenty to explore for the shelves of your class or school libraries.

The Lost Penguin: An Oliver and Patch Story
Claire Freedman, illus Kate Hindley

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471117336

From the Author of a firm favourite in our house; the Aliens Love Underpants series, Claire Freedman and Kate Hindley have created A brilliant new addition to the Oliver and Patch stories. Three very best friends decide to have a day of exploring the zoo. Whilst there they find a very sad looking little penguin who looks a little out of sorts, being the newbie. When the friends return the next day to find Peep is missing they decide to go and look for him. Oliver, Patch and Ruby search all around town until they finally find Peep and head back to the Zoo only to find that the zoo is closed. The two children then had the very tough decision of deciding who gets to have Peep stay with them until the morning. Unfortunately, they argue so much that they don't notice that Peep and Patch have vanished on their own! A heart-warming tale of friendship. This book is a really nice story to share with young children to evoke team work and an understanding that strong friendships stand the test of time, differences can be worked out. There are lots of animals to explore with the children, who will enjoy seeing how many they can spot and name. The illustrations on the double page spread of the children's disagreement provided lots of stimulus for discussion and inference, looking at the characters' different facial expressions. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Nikki Stiles, teacher.

The Lost Penguin: An Oliver and Patch Story
The Last Chip
Duncan Beedie

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781783700622

Life on the streets is tough. Especially for a pint sized and peckish pigeon like Percy. Throughout this very enjoyable story, we follow Percy in his long struggle to find something, anything to eat. Wherever he goes, Percy can't hold his own and is bullied out of the food on offer. The story builds on the idea of overcoming adversity and never giving up, no matter how weak and defeated you feel. It also shows the reader the importance of never underestimating the kindness of strangers with a heart warming ending. Duncan Beedie is an author and illustrator based in Bristol and it is easy to see that many of his illustrations are inspired by his home surroundings. The train station is reminiscent of Bristol Temple Meads, the coloured buildings within the city can also be seen in Bristol itself and the pier is very similar to Weston Super Mare. Being from the area myself and teaching in a school nearby too, both the children and I had great fun making these links. It also linked in beautifully with our local area topic work and prompted many good discussions about what is in our area. The story flows wonderfully throughout and the way Percy's energy levels begin to fade as the story moves on really help with the development of the story. It would have been easy for Duncan to have Percy fly effortlessly around the city but witnessing his struggle made the story even more compelling. The language choices made by Duncan are great and paint a vivid picture in the reader's head, even without the accompanying illustrations. We enjoyed unpicking some of the verb choices such as 'buffeted' and 'plummeting' and looking for new and exciting adjectives and adverbs. This book has much to offer and is an example of a text with a wonderful range of descriptive vocabulary, I would happily read this over and over again. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher

The Last Chip
The Pirates of Scurvy Sands
Jonny Duddle

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781783704088

It's good to see the characters from The Pirates Next Door make another appearance, and this time Matilda gets to experience some pirate life - and we discover that pirates have just as many reservations about 'lubbers' as land lubbers have about pirates! So the story is a perfect companion to The Pirates Next Door - and has all the accomplishment of the original picture book. It's summer in Dull-on-Sea and Matilda gets a message in a bottle from her pirate friend, Jim Lad, telling her to prepare for a 'special pirate trip'! They sail for three days before arriving at Survy Sands - a holiday centre for pirates, headed up by 'Cap'n Ollie Day'. They can do all sorts of pirate activities, such as searching for Mad Jack's missing gold which is buried somewhere on the island. But Matilda is soon the object of consternation from the pirate holidaymakers. She has table manners, her teeth are shiny and her hair is clean! 'I ain't seen nothin' like it. That little girl is WEIRD', declares Old Man Grumps. But while they all focus on what why Matilda wouldn't 'pass the pirate test', Matilda gets on with quietly attempting to solve the mystery of the missing gold. Her pirate talents turn out to be better than all of them! As well as its inclusive message, there is plenty to enjoy in the detail of this lovely picture book, from the humour in the names to the gorgeous scene-setting and brilliant characterisation. It is a must if you're doing topics around pirates, can be used to support map reading and work around mirror writing (I don't want to give too much away in the story!). Jonny Duddle is also a master at using images to tell the story and, given how packed the pages are with detail, there are lots of opportunities to explore the text and images. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Gail Lenton.

The Pirates of Scurvy Sands
Friends for a Day
Neal Layton

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444928259

This is a great picture book about friendship and helping one another, as well as delivering a gentle environmental message. Bear spends his days in solitude on a mountainside, wondering what are the bright lights he can see in the distance. Then a bug bumps into him and pleads with him to take it to those lights - the city! The bug is a crane fly and he only has one day to live - there isn't a moment to lose! Bear overcomes many obstacles to get the bug to his destination and the party begins! This is a great story for young children to encourage them to explore the idea of getting out of their comfort zone and enjoying unexpected new experiences. It's also about helping friends, even if we don't know them very well. The facts about bears and crane flies at the back of the book provide some welcome information to help children put the characters into context - and the story could be used around a mini-bugs topic. The story could be taken further with children charting Bear and Bug's journey down mountains, across rivers and through the swamps, or creating a diary together of a 'day in the life of' a different kind of bug. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Gail Lenton.

Friends for a Day
Mr Bunny's Chocolate Factory
Elys Dolan

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192746207

This isn't a new title but just in case you missed it last Easter....this picture book is just fabulous across all age ranges! It explores commercialism, exploitation, factory production and of course, chocolate. It begins with a question, 'How do you think chocolate eggs are made?' and goes on to explain about factories - but this is no ordinary factory. The workers here are hens who eat lots of chocolate in order to lay chocolate eggs. There is also a 'quality control unicorn' called Edgar. It is the details such as these that make this picture book such a delight, for older as well as younger readers. Mr Bunny - who owns the chocolate egg factory - decides that, although he is already rich - he could be richer! - and sets new, higher targets for his'staff' until, feeling bullied and coerced, the hens stage a work out, closely followed by the rest of the staff. My Bunny has to learn about teamwork and creativity over targets and greed. It's a fabulous lesson, beautifully and entertainingly package, and one that I could see many classrooms sharing in the run-up to Easter. There is lots of discussion to be had around working as a team, allowing creativity and healthy eating. It's also a good book to use if you're looking at marketing and branding, and how things are made. Oh, and there's a reason why the factory owner is a bunny, which you'll spot at the end! Picture book / Ages 5-9 years / Reviewed by Alice Ewell.

Mr Bunny's Chocolate Factory
A Lion Is a Lion
Polly Dunbar

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406371536

This is a fun story with an edge, and children will (one hopes) pick up instantly that danger lurks in their new visitor, a lion. We are used, in picture books, to seeing fierce animals (such as lions) being unveiled as warm and cuddly and in need of friends. This isn't that kind of picture book; the title is, after all, 'A Lion is a Lion' - even if he wears a suit... 'Is a lion still a lion if....he wears a hat? And is a lion still a lion if... he carries an umbrella, too?' This lion seems very friendly, and playful, and the little boy and girl whom he has visited have lots of fun with him - until suddenly it's lunch time. 'Is a lion still a lion if... his eyes are bright, and his teeth oh-so-pearly-white and he looks like he might just... BITE!' With it's Seuss-like turn in the final pages, the children get the upper hand and learn to say 'No! No! No! NO!', so delivering brilliantly a message about keeping safe, and learning to say 'No' if something makes them feel uncomfortable. I'd say this is a must-have in the classroom for its message. You can use it alongside re-tellings of A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing and Little Red Riding Hood to explore the message and, among older children, to encourage comparison between the stories and their messages. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Alice Ewell.

A Lion Is a Lion

ISBN 9781847807557

The Story of Life: A First Book About Evolution, is recently republished in paperback. Firstly, I must comment on the vivid and imaginative language that the author uses to discuss and describe these, sometimes hard to grasp, concepts. Choices such as 'choking gas', 'churning seas' and 'belched towards' really hook the reader into learning about early life. The text is easy to follow and understand and the flow of the book is superb. Despite there being great periods of time between each event, the pages just seem to mould together and you can see life evolve in front of you. Even the very origins of the earth, pre-dinosaur, are compelling to read and interesting. The introduction of the dinosaurs once again grabs your attention and the use of language once more allows you to live that time period with time, you almost feel like you can 'thunder', 'wade' or 'wander' with the best of them. Post-dinosaur, the books clearly explains the evolution of mammals into man and shows how we slowly adapted to our surroundings. It then concludes with a stark message that we, as modern day man, are destroying our planet and reminds us of the need to protect our world for years to come. This book is a fantastic non fiction text to share with any curious children. It offers solutions to many early questions children may have regarding how the world started or even when dinosaurs died. It is both child and adult friendly and I found myself learning new things in a way that didn't make me feel silly. I would happily use this text with a class as a way of introducing evolution and to discuss our heritage. The text doesn't follow the usual conventions of a non fiction book, instead it uses vivid illustrations to support the facts and flows more like a fiction text. I found myself wanting to read on and on. The addition of a time line at the bottom of the book as well as glossary, make this even more of a learning tool. Overall, an excellent and informative read. 40 pages / Ages 6-9 years / reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher.

Meet the Ancient Romans
James Davies

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781787410527

This book is just great, ideal for any young historian! I almost wish I was back in Primary School myself; a project on the Ancient Romans using a book like this would be easy. Packed full of relevant clearly written facts and information, supported by simple illustrations and humorous annotations, it makes for a great classroom resource. Written in clear comic sans font, using simple language, this book should be suitable as an independent read for most Year 3/4 children. The basic map and timeline include enough details to be relevant and informative without appearing overwhelming. The book has an easy to read contents page and each short chapter / section is clearly labelled and numbered; the addition of an index and glossary would make it even better. This book is one of a pair, the other is very similar in format and introduces the Ancient Egyptians. 64 pages / Ages 7-10 years / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

Meet the Ancient Romans
Art Activity Book (STEM)
Jenny Jacoby

b small publishing

ISBN 9781911509219

Stem Starters: Science and Stem Starters: Art - Designed to encourage boys and girls from all backgrounds take an interest in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), these two books from the series offer a range of activities to engage and inspire. The Science Activity Book introduces various science concepts from materials to energy to light and sound. Each section offers information and activities like mazes, word searches and drawing. The colourful, cartoon-filled pages are appealing and the answers to all the puzzles are included at the back of the book. The Art Activity Book explores a range of artistic skills and techniques, but also links these to how engineers, scientists and designers work, encouraging readers to see and value the links between these areas of learning as well as developing creative activity. For example, the science of colour is looked at alongside its artistic use and tessellation is considered as pattern and art. Again, answers are included at the back of the book. Combining learning and fun, these books are sure to pique interest in the STEM subjects and encourage children to develop this further. 32 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Art Activity Book (STEM)
Meet the Twitches
Hayley Scott

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474928120

Meet the Twitches is a lovely story book that would be a pleasure to share with any young story enthusiast. Its delightful plot unfolds revealing a family of four tiny, magical, toy rabbits; The Twitches. The Twitches live inside a Teacup House; a special gift that is given to a young girl called Stevie when she leaves her home in the city, to move to a cottage in the countryside. Sad to be leaving her home and her friends behind, Stevie is understandable thrilled with this gift and is excited about setting up home for her new family of toy rabbits. What Stevie doesn't know is that her rabbits are really rather special and when no one is looking they come to life, ready for their own adventures! When Stevie finally arrives at her new home, she is so tired and sad that she doesn't notice as she drops one of the rabbits in the garden of her new house. The biggest of the rabbits, a rabbit called Gabriel, tumbles out of the little bag and into the overgrown garden. Once Stevie realises, she and her Mum frantically search for Gabriel Twitch. Meanwhile, the rest of the Twitch family are also preparing a daring search. Will Stevie find the magical toy before one of the removal men step on him? How will Daddy Gabriel get back to his family? Who will help rescue him? This is a fabulous story ideal for sharing with any young animal-loving thrill seeker. As the rabbits get stuck in giant sticky webs and parachute off tables, it's a great tale of adventure, family and friendship. I really enjoyed this story, particularly the courage of the young girl rabbit, Silver, it's just a little sad that I read it on my own as I think it would reach an entirely new level shared with a young reader. Colourful illustrations throughout the story help bring this magical tale to life, I will most definitely be recommending this series to parents and teachers of young readers. 128 pages / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

Meet the Twitches
The Day That Aliens (Nearly) Ate Our Brains
Tom McLaughlin

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406375794

Freddy is desperate to watch a wrestling match but he does not have satellite TV. Fortunately, his neighbour does, and Freddy, with the aid of his friend Sal and various bits of kitchen equipment, intends to latch onto his neighbour's signal to enable him to watch the ultimate title fight. Unfortunately, the signal he receives is not from his neighbour's TV but from a very grumpy alien who plans to take over the world and learn the entire sum of human knowledge by means of eating human brains. So starts Tom McLaughlin's latest book, a fast-paced adventure involving world leaders, NASA, a lollipop lady and helicopters on garden lawns. Will the combined forces of Planet Earth be enough to withstand an alien invasion, or will the alien invasion turn out to be not quite what they were expecting? The cover of the book, with its luminous green, three-eyed alien sets the tone for this adventure. The book is peppered with black and white illustrations and frequent changes of font. Chapters are reasonably short and the alien, known as Alan, speaks English in a peculiarly funny way. The humour (the eating of brains, the effects of cheese and onion pasties on the police chief's digestive system) will appeal to many a newly confident reader and Freddy and Sal are engaging characters who try to sort out the invasion they have inadvertently started. 176 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

The Day That Aliens (Nearly) Ate Our Brains
Safari Pug
Laura James

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408866405

What a lovely book! The first thing that struck me were the illustrations in green and yellow, with their echoes of Dr Seuss. Seuss-like too was the way the story meandered and rambled through various unlikely scenarios, and yet it somehow still had one paw in reality. As I am used to reading books with 'messages', it was nice here just to read a book for sheer enjoyment and to enjoy the silliness of it. I think I have fallen in love with Pug, and I'm looking forward to finding out what he and Lady Miranda get up to next! 112 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Rachael Salmon

Safari Pug
Trouble In New York
Jennifer Gray

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474927253

Ermine is on a trip around the world, first stop New York City and the home of Michael Megabanks. Recently adopted by the Grand Duchess Maria Von Schnitzel, Ermine has become her protege and is fortunate to be completing her education whilst travelling and visiting the friends of the Duke and Duchess of Balaclavia. Importantly, Ermine is no ordinary charge. Small, snowy white in colour, with a long bushy tail and whiskers, Ermine is a stoat. Saved by the Grand Duchess when her husband attempted to repair his regal robes with Ermine's fur, instead she was rescued and instated as a member of the family. Ermine may be little in stature but she is a giant in terms of personality. She is incredibly friendly, always carries a tool kit and travels with a vast wardrobe of outfits. At first the Megabanks are surprised to meet Ermine but it doesn't take long for them to warm to her and welcome her into their home. All seems to be going swimmingly for Ermine and she is loving her time in the Big Apple but unbeknownst to her she is heading for trouble. The notorious Spudd brothers have escaped from prison and their paths are about to cross; a mix-up in the left luggage section of the New York Airport has left the Spudd brothers without a precious diamond - they suspect that Ermine has it. Slapstick chaos ensues as the bundling criminals try to get their precious gem back. A charming story with fast pace and endearing characters, as well as lots of humour for this age range. Readers will enjoy the incredibly determined Ermine and the pandemonium she causes as she evades the robbers hot on her tail- quite literally! 160 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Emily Beale, school librarian.

Trouble In New York
The Nothing to See Here Hotel
Steven Butler

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471163838

This book is a real deal breaker for any reluctant reader! A real laugh out loud tale of weird and wonderful ghosts, ghouls and goblins. A delightful story told by a young boy called Frankie Bannister whose parents run The Nothing to see Here Hotel. This magical hotel stands in plain sight on the Brighton seafront and is the best secret holiday destination for magical creatures in the whole of England. Coming from a family dotted with trolls, humans and harpies, Frankie is a quarterling, one thirty-sixth troll! His father is a halfling and his Mum is completely human, although many of Frankie's wider family are not so normal; mixtures of all sorts of strange magical, mythical individuals. The hotel, originally built by Frankie's great-great-great grandparents, is cloaked in magic, deterring the entrance of any non-magical person with its outwardly grubby appearance and its disgusting stink. It is a popular venue for many non-humans, so when Frankie's parents hear that they have been chosen to be visited by a real goblin VIP, they feel suitably honoured. However, the arrival of Prince Grogbah of the Dark and Dooky Deep does not quite go as expected. Prince Grogbah proves to be more than the usual 'goblin handful', His accompanying entourage are rather intimidating and as chaos ensues, Frankie and his family start to wonder exactly what they have let themselves in for. Gruesome feasts, rudeness and bad behaviour make for a rib-tickling read, although it is the arrival of Tempestra Plank and her crew of goblin pirates that finally stops Gogbah in his tracks! Naughtiness, word-play, male and female protagonists make this action packed tale an enjoyable read for young and old. A real page turner for a young reader and a certain motivational read for any reader who has not yet developed a passion for the written word. I highly recommend any parent or teacher to treat their children to a trip to The Nothing to see Here Hotel. I certainly hope to be able to revisit for subsequent adventures. 192 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

The Nothing to See Here Hotel
Blast Off!
Carole Bromley

Smith/Doorstop Books

ISBN 9781910367766

This is Carole Bromley's first anthology for children (published by a new imprint Small Donkey Books) and a very welcome addition to the world of children's poetry it is too. It has children - their interests, their concerns, their sense of the ridiculous - firmly at its heart. The title poem, Blast Off! (p.28), has shades of Where the Wild Things Are although in this case it's the child's refusal to do sums that leads to I-Pad removal and resort to the fantasy world offered by the rocket in her (or is it a 'he'? I like the way the child's voice could be either in many of the poems) bedroom. Countdown to zero 'and I'm off, / heading straight for Mars, / steering with my frisbee wheel / past unfamiliar stars.' And, just as Max finds his fantasy world ultimately lonely, so it is for this child who finds 'I'm hungry and I'm small /' and returns to mum's countdown: 'What on earth are you up to? Right! / I'm counting. Eight. Nine. Ten.' There's an alien in my wardrobe (p.64) appeals to the age-old themes of both imaginary friends and something or somebody lurking in the bedroom: this time it's a friendly alien in the wardrobe who is, of course, known only to the child who nicks tin cans from the recycling with which to feed him. Risk of discovery lurks though because of the moonwalking lessons which leave 'green footprints / wherever he goes / and I have no idea / how I'll explain those.' The final and fitting realisation is that 'he'll leave me / I can't keep him forever. / I'll wake up and he'll be gone.' There are more bedroom secrets in Under my Bed (p.25), another powerful imaginative space for children. Here, it's what is to be found: 'the spider I didn't want to kill, / some fluff, my walkie-talkie doll./ The poem moves in and out of the familiar, ('plimsolls, slippers, outdoor shoes'), the unexpected ('a sleeping cat'), fantasy ('a ghost') and poignancy at the end: 'the lost key from my brother's train, / that friend I'll never see again'. School Dinners (p.30) bridges the gap between home and school. 'I wish I could go home for lunch / and eat a bowl of monster munch.' it starts, before a series of rhyming couplets bring us full circle to the monster munch wish again. There's a canny reference to the things that grown-up say (to no effect): 'Grandad says 'When I was small / we didn't have no lunch at all, / we just did sums and learnt to read / and then went home to boiled swede'. Still in school, 'Golden Time' (p41) offers a fanciful wish list. The repetition of 'I might...' is something children will enjoying using to create their own wish lists. There are other poems in the collection that provide opportunities for the children's own writing. Who is it? (p.20) uses simple repeated questions to structure a powerful three verse poem about an owl: 'Who is it, / I called. / There was no reply, / just a rush of wings as an owl flew by./' The repetition offers a structure that children could use for their own writing. There is a clever DIY Zoo Poem (p.22) which taps into children's sense of rhyme and rhythm as they are asked to supply the missing words: 'I went to the zoo and looked in a cage, / Beware of these tigers. They get in a ......./.' For cross-curricular fun, look at The Six Wives (p.38) which provides a pithy rhyming history lesson: 'Catherine Aragon was first to go; / he went to the Pope and the Pope said no / but Henry was a stubborn so and so.' There is a rich vein of poems running through the book which draw on intertextual knowledge and subvert traditional texts. Unsuitable Nursery Rhymes (p.54) offers well known opening lines which segue into an unconventional twist: 'Mary, Mary, quite contrary / how does your garden grow? / Same as everyone else's. / Who wants to know?' Then there's Snow White (p.67) who has 'nothing against little men / and there's safety in numbers' but nevertheless finds the accommodation a 'tad snug, / it was like living in a doll's house /.' Children will enjoy the complicity with SW when she confides in the final verse 'You know how it went. / The whole prince to the rescue scene. /' Cathy Benson's is a delightful depiction of the little men 'hi-hoeing down the path / with their shovels and picks. /' Equally engaging is her illustration of the three bears (p.70) humouring baby bear ('their spoilt wee brat') by swinging him as they take a walk in the woods while their porridge cools. But, of course, the real spoilt brat in this poem is Goldilocks having her little rant: 'just absurd / bears eating porridge, bears wearing frocks - / next time they're out 'm changing the locks. With its blast of myriad themes and forms, the anthology really does live up to its name! 60 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

Blast Off!