Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
Mo Willems

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406347296

'Once upon a time there were three dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur...' etc. We know from the start that this is an alternative fairy story and the humour for adults is very dry. For children, alternative tales are best with slightly older ages who know the traditional tales to appreciate the twists - and this one has a lot of twists that children will find amusing. From the end papers covered with titles crossed out to show that the author has tried hard to find a suitable title, there is humour in the illustrations. The faces, especially, convey conflicting emotions. Two morals are given at the end, neither of them traditional, but adding to the humour. As he story progresses there are clues as to what is about to happen and can be used to great effect to get children guessing. An alternative tale has to be bizarre and this doesn't disappoint. It wouldn't be out of place in a high school for pupils to pick up as a quick read. Reviewed by Dawn Woods, SLS librarian

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
One World Together
Laurence Anholt

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847804051

This gorgeous book from the Anholt team of Catherine and Laurence provides a wonderful starting point for talking about children in different parts of the world. Each spread in the book tells us which country we we are in ('I went to....' Brazil, Sweden etc), the word 'hello' in that language, and things that are distinctive about that country. So Sophie and Sem in the Netherlands ('Hallo') like cycling, playing in the garden and riding in the canal boat, and their favourite day is Christmas. In India, Vani wants to be a famous singer, she wears saris and has oil in her hair and the rainy season is called the Monsoon. We also visit Kenya, Russia, China and Japan. The book lends itself to a whole topic across a half term, where children can learn about other countries, and it can be used with Reception children through to KS2. In Reception, you could take a country each week and explore language, food, clothing, perhaps setting up different tables in each part of the classroom to represent that country. You could also explore that country's music or use it to develop mapping skills - a great all-rounder suggesting lots of cross-curricular work. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher.

One World Together
Herman's Letter
Tom Percival

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408836750

This beautifully-illustrated story explores themes of friendship, jealousy and loneliness. Herman and Henry are friends so when Henry moves away, Herman misses him terribly and Henry's letters about his new friendships and activities don't help as they leave Herman feeling sad and left out, even though Henry makes it clear how much he is missing Herman. Each of Henry's letters is carefully folded on the pages of the picture book and children will take much pleasure in opening these up. While Herman likes getting the letters, he struggles to write back: 'how could he possibly tell Henry how miserable he was?'. When Henry suggests Herman comes to visit, Herman finally writes his own letter and decides to deliver it himself with some unforeseen consequences. The story could be used during circle times to encourage children to discuss when they have felt excluded or sad and how they have managed their feelings - which are beautifully presented in the book's illustrations. In the story, we discover that much heartache could have been spared if Herman had just talked about how he felt. The picture book can also be used to encourage letter-writing between pupils in different classes, especially if friendships have been disrupted by class moves. Altogether a warm and appealing story. There's a great trailer for it here, too, voiced by none other than Lenny Henry! Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher.

Herman's Letter

ISBN 9781444919110

If you're looking for some humorous books with captivating characters for younger readers, then do explore Alex T Smith's Claude books. These stories, about a little dog whose best friend is a sock (Sir Bobblysock), have all the humour, wit, adventure and design flair your readers could want. Claude's many adventures have included Claude in the City, Claude in the Country and Claude in the Spotlight. The latest story, Claude on the Slopes, is a suitably chilly adventure for the upcoming winter and sees Claude spending the day making friends and dodging avalanches on a snowy mountainside. Each of the stories covers a single day, from the moment 'Mr & Mrs Shinyshoes' depart for work until their return home. This leaves Claude and Sir Bobblysock (who is 'both a sock and quite bobbly') free to get up to all sorts of mischief. The stories are brilliantly paced, very funny and slightly mad - a perfect combination for younger children. The pages are also carefully designed to be as enticing as possible, with dramatic landscapes, entertaining characters and endless surprises appearing alongside short, manageable stretches of text. 96 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

ISBN 9780091893644

Author and illustrator Alexis Deacon, whose earlier titles including Beegu and Slow Loris, was asked by his publisher to create a retelling of a classic story and he chose The Selfish Giant. Deacon says that the aim in his retelling was to explain through his illustrations why the giant behaved as he did - why he didn't want the children in his garden - and within the images are a real exploration of the giant's motivation. The text, which is abridged, remains essentially the same but without some of the lengthier descriptive sections. The visual clues we are given in the opening sequences - the giant toy puppets, the theatre and the broken boat in the pond - depict a once much-loved garden. The pictures on the giant's bedroom wall in the central, pivotal spread also show him as a child playing in the garden. We come to see how precious the garden is to him as a reminder of his happy childhood; that it is close to his heart, that he wants to protect it. But his selfishness and unwillingness to share the garden have consequences and, as in Wilde's story, bring the full force of winter to his door. Again the seasons are eloquently represented in Deacon's images of Hail, Snow, Frost and the North Wind. The colour palate reinforces the emotional journey that the giant travels, with his shift from stagnation and isolation depicted in subdued greys, black and blues and his release into springtime in gorgeous greens, pinks and yellows. It is a beautifully-depicted abridgement that will amply reward a thorough and careful visual reading. Picture book / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

What If...?
Anthony Browne

Doubleday Children's Books

ISBN 9780857531131

Once again Anthony Browne has produced a visual masterpiece of a book, where he uses his surreal magic to allow young children to explore a very real and recognisably scary situation. The nervous stance of young Joe as the book opens; all ready to set off to his very first party, is so evocative. He is both leaning forward and hanging back at the same time. Mum is trying to be reassuring and helpful because they do have a problem. Joe has mislaid the invitation and they don't know which house to go to. But they set off down a normal looking suburban street, determined to find the party. Each house is considered, but each is anything but normal. The clues are there for the visually literate young readers to spot and discuss. The spaceship clouds and alien face in the moon above the house of the not so normal couple for example. Each house represents another anxiety being discussed with his patiently reassuring Mum: how many people, what sort of food, what sort of games? But even his worst fears would not amount to the surreal snakes and ladders or the Billy Bunter style nasty tea party complete with snail cakes, that we spy through the windows. The last house seems so dark and forbidding that we don't want to even try to look in there, but when the door opens, the light spills out and his friends are so pleased to see him. Parents will sympathise with the anxiety of Mum who then walks off alone, worrying about Joe left behind and what she will find through the window two hours later. But the golden delight of Joe is the glorious reassuring conclusion to a book which manages to combine the darkly grotesque imaginative world and the everyday situations that children face. Indeed all of us are inclined to wonder what goes on behind the curtains.... Reviewed by Joy Court, Librarian.

What If...?