NEW TITLES

This month's selection of picture books, reviewed by teachers, range from funny stories about family and friends to those that explore more difficult emotions including loneliness, loss and jealousy within beautifully framed stories.

Daddy Hairdo
Francis Martin

ISBN 9781471147876

I knew even from page one that this was a book to love. The characters' expressions, as Amy's hair grows and grows whilst dad loses his, are a treat - parents and teachers will find this book as funny as children will. As Amy's hair grows ever longer and wilder, dad steps up to the plate with some fantastic hairdos to save the day. Personal favourite? The Rings of Saturn. It's nice to see a dad in the foreground for a change, with no mention of mum. The illustrations are vibrant and stimulating and have lots of those small extra details that kids love to spot on second and third read-throughs. I want to live in Amy's world! This is a book you can return to time and again, that shines with wit, warmth and humour. Highly recommended. Picture book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Carol Carter.

Daddy Hairdo
The Queen's Lift-Off
Steve Antony

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444934212

The Queen's Lift-Off is the latest in Steve Antony's series of books revolving around the adventures of the head of our royal family. Being a fan of the other books in the series, I was excited to read and review this text. The story begins with The Queen helping the Prince and Princess build a rocker in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. I think many readers will make the connection to Prince George and Princess Charlotte and imagine that our Queen has just as much fun as the one in the story. Soon, the three royals are flying into space and going on a journey around the solar system. Following in the footsteps of the other books, this involves visiting many locations that are well known and using high quality language to describe how she moved between these locations. Despite this being a book with very little text, the language used is of high enough quality to inspire and engage the reader throughout. As a reader, I truly visualised the queen zooming, zipping and soaring around the planets. The illustrations that accompany the book are of an equally high standard. Steve Antony has created pictures that fit in perfectly with the language and really take you on a visual journey with each page turned. One of the fun elements to the book are all the hidden characters and items to find on the pages, such as the alien waiter hidden on each page. There are also lots of throwbacks to the other books in the series as well as other Steve Antony publications. Having used The Queen's Handbag as the basis of a KS1 learning topic about the UK and landmarks, I would happily use this book in a similar way when learning about space and the solar system. I can envision children being engaged fully in the topic, especially with the planet names being used correctly throughout the book. A fun and engaging read, perfect for children in both EYFS and KS1 settings. Picture book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers

The Queen's Lift-Off
You Can't Let an Elephant Drive a Digger
Patricia Cleveland-Peck

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408879146

Have you ever wondered why Elephants can't drive diggers or why you shouldn't let polar bears cut your hair? Well this book will tell you all the reasons why! However much we would like some of these animals as pets they all come with a precaution and we shouldn't let them do certain things. You Can't Let an Elephant Drive a Digger is the follow-up to You can't take an Elephant on the Bus and it is just as funny. Everything about the book is funny and clever, allowing your imagination to run wild! The illustrations by David Tazzyman are fantastic and full of very funny details. The book provides a great starting point for sharing poetry with children, allowing them to be creative and think of their own, with completely over-the-top ideas and creations! Picture Book / Ages 3+ Reviewed by Lauren Maidman, teacher.

You Can't Let an Elephant Drive a Digger
The Only Way is Badger
Stella J Jones

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781848699397

This is a sassy story about a brazen badger who has decided that he is quite obviously the better species and all of his woodland friends should do their upmost to be more like him; they need to 'make an effort to be more badger!' The woodland creatures get their first dose of badger's tyrant behaviour when a wall suddenly appears overnight adorned with posters that read 'The only way is badger' and 'Badgers are best'. The forest animals are confused and puzzled at his confidence and so badger manages to convince them that his way of thinking is best. Badger then puts all his furry friends to the test to see just how badger they are, excluding and rejecting anyone who is just not up to scratch in his quest for an entirely black and white wood, just like badger himself. Unfortunately, it seems what badger doesn't realise (until it's too late!) is that the diversity of life, in all its colour, shapes, voices and habits, are what make our world a wonderful place to live in. We need to appreciate and accept everyone for their individuality. This is a brilliant story to share with children to talk about acceptance, difference and learning to say sorry. Before reaching the beautiful double page spread when badger begins to realise the error of his ways, my little ones had already started to say how unhappy they were with badger's behaviour and make predictions as to how he is going to end up. I would use this story to create a similar story with the children changing the main character to another animal with specific features that the children could incorporate into the challenges for the animals. For example, be more lion; grow a mane like me, can you roar like a lion? Climb the highest rock? The children would need to research their chosen animal to find out about its adaptations for a particular environment. And I feel the abrupt barks of the badger will excite the children to write their own demands for the animals to conquer. I love that there are lots of opportunities for writing in the classroom using this book as a stimulus. Picture book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Nikki Stiles, teacher.

The Only Way is Badger
Oi Duck-billed Platypus!
Kes Gray

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444937329

The latest book in the 'Oi Frog!' series, Oi Duck-billed Platypus was never going to disappoint. My class of year 1's thoroughly enjoyed this rhyming romp. And in their words 'Kes Gray is very good at rhyming, he's funny!'. The story holds direct links to the previous three books and if you haven't read those, you might end up finding it difficult to get into at first, as the humorous conversation between the frog, cat and the dog at the beginning comes across as a bit of a 'private joke' that you really can't wait to be let in on. This new vibrant addition to the picture book series seems to acknowledge the fact that after four instalments, it is becoming almost impossible to continue to generate witty rhymes with the names of different animals. And so, in this book Gray turns frogs' attentions to the 'first names' of the animals impatiently waiting to find out what they should sit on. The pace of the story picks up from here and once again frog begins to reel off wacky rhymes for each of the animals, a feat that we found nearly impossible between both the teachers and children at my school. This didn't mean we didn't enjoy trying and have a good giggle at what we couldn't come up with! I love the brightly coloured backgrounds, a different colour given to each page which stand out and would appeal to any early reader at first sight. The images are detailed and give the children lots to explore as well as clues to help work out some of those trickier phonetically decodable words. As early as EYFS children are expected to be able to continue a rhyming string, what a great place to start with a book that will motivate and enthuse them to enjoy rhyming and looking at the sounds in words. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Nikki Stiles, teacher.

Oi Duck-billed Platypus!
We Are Together
Britta Teckentrup

Caterpillar Books Ltd

ISBN 9781848576582

Britta Teckentrup, a CILIP Kate Greenaway medal shortlisted illustrator, has created this stunning peep-through picture book in her usual fantastic style. This beautiful picture book celebrates the power of being part of a team and the joys friendship brings. The story begins with two children appearing in the cut-outs, as you turn each page the number of children grows each time, building up a community of collaborative voices. The simple rhyming text explores the benefits of standing together with friends, supporting one another and tackling challenges together; 'our friends keep us going, they won't let us stop'. It is great to see a wide variety of diverse characters depicted although you would need to be up close to see the children clearly, they are all detailed with their own individuality. The illustrations are rich and vibrant, depicting different scenes/scenarios the group might face together. The images in this book are perfect for looking at weather, different climates and habitats as the collage imagery is abundant in wildlife. This is a great story to share in a whole school assembly to promote a sense of togetherness, teamwork and to encourage children to think of 'being there' for others. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Nikki Stiles, teacher.

We Are Together
Caterpillar and Bean: A Science Storybook about Growing
Martin Jenkins

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406355161

Caterpillar and Bean is a beautifully-presented book that takes a slightly different look at metamorphosis from other picture books by showing a caterpillar's changing stages against the backdrop of a bean plant. First we see the bean plant starting to grow roots and leaves, then an egg appears on a leaf and from that grows the caterpillar and we are shown it growing through its various changes. We also watch the seasons change with them, from spring to summer and then through winter, the chrysalis hangs while the beans fall to the ground, ready to grow in the spring as the butterfly emerges. The text is chatty and informal, prompting lots of questions and if you're sharing this with a group of young children, they will be eager to guess what is coming. There is also some supporting non-fiction text that give additional facts; the caterpillar grows out of its skin three times, for example. Each spread of the picture book is clearly illustrated, showing in detail each stage of the plant and caterpillar's growth, so it would support work around metamorphosis and plant growth, as well as the seasons. Distinctive and informative, I would happily recommend this 'science storybook'. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Alison Brown.

Caterpillar and Bean: A Science Storybook about Growing
The Space Train
Maudie Powell-Tuck

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781848699458

The Space Train revolves around a small boy called Jakob who lives on a space station with his Granny and Derek - his robot chicken. One day Jakob discovers something hidden away in Hanger 19 of the space station.....a huge, abandoned spaceship. It turns out that this spaceship is actually the Space Train - a rocket that criss-crossed the universe on stardust tracks, visiting station after station after station. Unfortunately, it had become abandoned and derelict over the years. After hearing stories of the places it visited and the passengers it collected, Jakob becomes determined to bring it back to life. With the help of Granny and Derek (as well as Toolbot), he manages to do just that. This text is full of fun and out of this world illustrations that certainly help create the illusion that you are many thousands of light years away. The added bonus of lift the flaps and peek through pages will engage younger children as they join Jakob on his intergalactic adventure. Younger children with vivid imaginations could certainly create many wonderful places the space train could visit and invent brand new aliens to pick up on the way - the possibilities really are endless. An enjoyable text for younger readers, I did, however, find it hard to get my teeth into and read with much flow. Certainly fun for younger audiences though. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher.

The Space Train
The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and the Fiddle
David Litchfield

Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN 9781847809179

This is the heart-warming story of Hector and Hugo and their love of music. Hector was a fiddle player, and his act was great, until a piano playing bear came along and he had to retire. Hector's dream of playing to thousands one day was shattered so he put away his fiddle forever. Until one night he heard Hugo, his dog, playing his fiddle to the neighbourhood and they loved it! Even the piano playing bear heard Hugo and asked him to join his band. Unfortunately, Hector and Hugo fell out over Hugo's success and Hector said some things he shouldn't have. It wasn't until Hector saw him play that he realised how amazing he was and their friendship is restored, with a duet on stage to thousands! When I heard there was sequel to The Bear and the Piano I was delighted as I was such a big fan of the first book. The illustrations and the detail is brilliant and brings the story to life. This is such a gorgeous book that celebrates friendship and the ideas of forgiveness. It could also explore dreams and how they can come true, even if they take a long time. It would be fantastic to use in class or one to one with a child. Good friendship, just like good music, lasts a lifetime. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and to my class. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Lauren Maidman, teacher

The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and the Fiddle
Dave the Lonely Monster
Anna Kemp, illus Sara Ogilvy

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471143687

Dave is a lonely monster who was once the terror of the town, until banished to Echo Rock. Now Dave is old and lonely, with only his bass guitar for friendship and sock knitting for fun. Knights come and poke fun of him but he is no longer interested. Until one day a very small and brave knight called Percival meets Dave. They become friends and Dave is lonely no more. When the village becomes bored, they try to capture and bait Dave, Percival stands up for him in front of the village. With his bass guitar Dave plays the best Monster Rave for the bored villagers and they all become friends! The story is vibrant and fun and the illustrations lend massively to the story. The idea of having a rhyming story helps with the flow and engages readers, trying to guess what the words might be. I thought Dave the Lonely Monster was a hilarious book with lots of hidden jokes for the adults in the illustrations. It has something for everyone and explores lots of different themes. But while it is certainly a fun story to share, Dave the Lonely Monster also gives young children a gentle introduction to the idea of difference and loneliness, and making sure that everyone is looked after when they need help. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Lauren Maidman, teacher.

Dave the Lonely Monster
The Garden of Hope
Isabel Otter

Caterpillar Books Ltd

ISBN 9781848577138

The Garden of Hope is the story of a little girl who finds courage and purpose as she transforms an overgrown and neglected garden into a place of hope. Isobel Otier, with the help from the beautiful illustrations of Katie Rewse, has created a story that shares a powerful message. A message of hope for when times seem at their toughest. The text tackles the sometimes difficult topics of sadness, anxiety and of loss but does so in a thoughtful and delicate manner. As you read the book, you can feel yourself connecting with Maya as she comes to terms with how life is different now that mum has gone. You also connect with her dad as he too struggles with the adjustment in his life as well as staying strong for his young daughter. The Garden of Hope carefully and gently explores the heart-warming relationship between father and daughter, something that is often not seen in other texts. Dad takes it upon himself to do something to combat Maya's worries. He tells her stories of how her mum would tend to and care for the garden when she felt worried and how a growing plant could help wave worries goodbye. Before too long, Maya channels these worries into creating a beautiful and colourful garden, one which her mum would be proud. This book is a perfect way to address anxiety, worries, sadness and loss with small children. Anyone working in a setting with young children could find this text very helpful in unlocking children's feelings who may be experiencing something similar in their lives. I will be recommending this text to our Family Support team but it would work in all primary schools. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher.

The Garden of Hope
How Does My Home Work?
Chris Butterworth

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406379525

The clever title of this book caught my eye, it's part of a series that also covers how we get the food in our lunch boxes and where your clothes come from. Although it begins in quite a simple way, looking at the 'magic' of water from taps, cold drinks from the fridge and light at the touch of switch, the pages quickly move on to simple but detailed explanations for how these different forms of energy get to our houses via the pipes and wires that lay behind the walls. There are spreads showing how electricity from the power station reaches our home; where gas comes from; and how water from the rivers reaches our taps, plus how it takes away things we don't want like sewage. The illustrations are well laid out and informative; this would be a really useful book to support topics around electricity and how we use energy, and there are some website links to explore the topic further plus tips on saving energy. The book doesn't have a contents page but there is an index that can be used to introduce children to how to use non-fiction texts. Having seen this book, I'll definitely look out for the others on food and clothes. 32 pages / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Alison Brown.

How Does My Home Work?