The Storm Whale
Benji Davies

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471115684

Benji Davies' first solo picture book is a poignant, evocative and beautifully-illustrated story about friendship,loneliness and family. Noi lives with his fisherman father by the coast but is often left on his own while his father is at sea. When Noi discovers a small whale that has been washed up during a storm, he befriends it and takes it home, hoping to keep it, but his father persuades him that the creature's home is in the wild. However, his father also realises how lonely Noi has become and in the final spreads, we see how his father responds to his child's loneliness. It is a simply-told story whose images deftly help tell the story and Noi's feelings. It would be a lovely story to explore with Reception children, both to discuss Noi's self-reliance - how would they get a stranded animal to safety? - and the moods that the illustrations convey. In Year 1, it could be a useful text to use to explore how a simply-told story can convey emotions and also how cause and effect can be used to drive a story; that actions can change outcomes. Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher.

The Storm Whale
Boris Gets Spots
Carrie Weston

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192734167

This is a brilliant book for reception that can lead children through an entire week of related activities. Miss Cluck the teacher announces that there is going to be a special visit by Mr Gander from Gosling farm. The young animals are thrilled and start making all the animal noises they can but when Mr Gander arrives, they realise one of their classmates is missing - Boris, who has spots. One by one, the other animals succumb to chicken pox and eventually, Mr Gander uses his cart to take them all home. But they are soon back at school, ready to eat the lovely cookies that Miss Cluck has made from the farm products Mr Gander brought with him. The background to the story is a typical class setting, which children will relate to. There are a variety of displays with labels in the early pages, which could be used to inspire children to make their own displays of food (milk, corn, honey) and where it comes from, as well as leading to discussions about healthy eating. That could also lead on to making the cookies mentioned in the story, and learning how to write instructions and recipes. The arrival of chicken pox among the characters gives opportunities for role play - how do you feel when you are ill, how do you look after someone who is sick? - and they could discuss a doctor's setting as well as making get well cards for friends. At the end of the week, children would have some lovely treats to take home, cookies and cards, after a singing and dancing session inspired by life on the farm! Ages 3-5 years / Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher.

Boris Gets Spots
Do Not Enter The Monster Zoo
Amy Sparkes

Red Fox Picture Books

ISBN 9781849416597

A clever, stand-out story about a small boy who is invited to look after the animals at the Monster Zoo for the day - while the zoo keeper takes a well-deserved break. As the zoo keeper flees over the horizon, the boy is left holding the broom and his hat - but what's inside the zoo? There is something Dr Zeus-ish about the monsters and the way the boy gets to grips with managing them; they prove to be no match for his ingenuity and resourcefulness and soon, he has them eating out of his hand - even the very scariest of them - to the surprise of the returning zoo keeper. His prize? To return the very next day to look after the zoo monsters again! This has a great rhyming text and would lead on nicely to children creating their own 'monster zoo' and deciding what the animals would eat, and how scary they could be.... Ages 3+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Do Not Enter The Monster Zoo
Spaghetti With the Yeti
Adam Guillain

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405263511

This is a fun, loud story with larger-than-life illustrations of a range of monsters that children will love. The rhyming text also makes it a great read-aloud. George is off on a quest up the mountain to find a Yeti to share some spaghetti with it. On the way, he meets lots of different monsters who each have their own idiosyncrasies, from knitting to carrying handbags. Each monster gives George a different treat for the Yeti (including a live goat...) which George takes with him. When he eventually tracks down the Yeti, it is of course the spaghetti that the Yeti enjoys! Humour is a great device for getting children engaged in learning and this story would provide a great template for Year 1 and 2 children to develop their own story based around a journey and meeting different kinds of monsters. Or, as a class, to create their own monster storyboard. Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher.

Spaghetti With the Yeti
Rich Witch, Poor Witch
Peter Bently

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447220183

Twins Rita and Rose are witches who work their magic in very different ways. Rita is wealthy and caters to the magical demands of the richest creatures in the land, from powerful kings to greedy giants, whilst Rose happily helps out the more humble creatures for free. But when Rita is called on to cheer up a petulant princess she discovers that money and magic cannot solve all life's problems. In fact her efforts only cause pandemonium at the palace, and it is down to Rose to save the day and teach everybody a lesson about the value of fun and friendship. With rambunctious rhyming text and witty illustrations this book will be adored by younger children and could be utilised when teaching about traditional tales in literacy or feelings and ethics in PSHE. Ages 3+ years / Reviewed by Alex McGowan, librarian.

Rich Witch, Poor Witch

ISBN 9780230745384

Anyone familiar with the eponymous rodent from the award-winning "Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears" knows firstly that he is afraid of many things and secondly that he enjoys nibbling through books. In Little Mouse's second outing both these character traits remain but the mouse has turned his attention to the myriad terrors of the animal kingdom, from snakes and sharks to crocodiles and wasps. Fleeing from one menacing beast after another, Little Mouse employs various strategies to neutralise them, including typing a crab up in knots and dressing a lion up in pretty mittens. With delightful rhyming text this book is a joy to read aloud but it's truly at its best being digested in detail, as it is full of witty jokes and extras on each page which older children (and adults) will love. It is a great catalyst for discussing the various predators in the animal kingdom and getting children to open up about their own fears. After finishing this book you will never look at mice in quite the same way again! Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Alex McGowan, librarian.

ISBN 9780230760400

Many children love indulging their artistic tendencies, but the boy in this story takes it to extremes. Unfortunately his mum doesn't always see his artistic expressions in the same way, seeing mess, destruction and anarchy instead of the inspired creations of an artistic genius. Will his ultimate gift to her make her finally appreciate his genius, or just send her completely over the edge? This marvellous book treads a fine line by being both hilariously funny and informative about a variety of artistic themes, including colour, pattern and nature (with the narrator posing playfully behind a bush). So, although this could be used as a great catalyst during Art lessons, beware - some children might be encouraged to view their home (or their classroom) as a canvas for their latent talents! Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Alex McGowan, librarian.