NEW TITLES

Here are the latest picture books, ages 3-7 years, reviewed by teachers and librarians.

Mince Spies
Mark Sperring

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408893463

Mince Spies is a lighthearted and enjoyable Christmas read for young children. The rhyming narrative flows throughout the text and the accompanying illustrations by Sophie Corrigan really help create a delightful and fun story. I can envision sharing this story on a wintry afternoon, fully equipped with mugs of hot chocolate and plates of mince pies to enjoy. Santa is worried. Something, or someone, is destroying all the Christmas treats in the supermarkets - so he sends in his Mince Spies on a secret mission to uncover the culprits... Whilst reading the story, links to the 'Supertato' picture book series started to emerge - something I am sure younger readers would also notice. This would create wonderful discussions and allow children to develop crucial reading skills - especially if shared within a classroom environment. The narrative is broken up with the clever use of font - with key vocabulary manipulated to stand out and be given more importance. This really helps when reading the text aloud as it allows for opportunities to hook the listener in. Some of the descriptive language is also of high quality and works as a way to expand children's own breadth of word choices. I particularly enjoyed the alliteration of 'super-speedy second' and 'as shadows spin across the wall'. Both of these would allow for discussions to be made about the authors' word choices. Another highlight of the text is the way that the whole story relies on the supermarket setting. Not only are the characters foods, but the props and areas they move through are all part of the supermarket too. I am sure that children could quite easily imagine the Mince Spies creating havoc in their own local supermarket with their puff-pastry jetpacks and shortcrust walkie-talkies. This is an easy and enjoyable read in the build up to the holiday season and there is also scope for it too be used within EYFS as a focus book to lead learning. Picture book / Ages 3-6 years / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher.

Mince Spies
Storm
Sam Usher

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781787412422

This is a nice, simple story that features the seasons - Rain, Sun and Snow are earlier titles by author and illustrator Sam Usher. A boy and his grandad decide it is perfect weather to fly a kit but they can't seem to find the kite. As they search through their house, they come across other objects which bring back nice memories for them. Finally they find the kite and set off on an adventure! While the story is quite simple, the book includes some lovely, detailed pictures which definitely add to the story. Young children would enjoy it being read to them. Storm - together with Usher's earlier titles - could be used to discuss seasons with younger children as it includes lots of elements of autumnal weather. Since the boy and his grandfather also feature in the other books, their close relationship could prompt discussions of special relationships the children might have with grandparents or other members of their family. Picture Book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Lucy Newton, teacher

Storm
What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo?
John Kelly

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781848699496

Pet owners, animal lovers and particularly rescue pet owners, you will adore this creative and fun story for children. What do you do if your house is a Zoo? follows the story of young Oscar when he is finally told by his parents that he can have a pet. But the only question is, what pet should he choose? Oscar puts out an advert in the local paper - 'Could you be the pet for me?' - and suddenly he starts receiving a whole array of humorous responses from Beavers to Bulls, from Gorillas to Meerkats; Oscar is suddenly very popular! Unfortunately for Oscar, the pets don't just respond to his advert, they also decide to move in with him straight away! Eventually, Mum and Dad exclaim that they all have to go and poor Oscar is once again left alone. That is, until he spots a letter he had missed... Ending with a delightful wholesome message, I challenge you not to well up at the end (especially if you've ever rescued a pet). Told from in a first person narrative, Oscar's voice will strike a chord with all children ages three to six as they identify with Oscar's plight to find the perfect pet. My four year old was laughing out loud as the gorilla picked up the car to send the family off to work while Dad was blow-drying Mr Jones's wig. Illustrated by Steph Laberis, she truly captures the fun of this tale. Her illustrations are big, colourful and animated. The facial expressions on each pet made me laugh and the wonderful creative way of presenting the letters from the pets on each page to represent their nature - chewed (goat), wet (goldfish), dirty (ants) - was great fun to read. Each pet had their own personality and made this story come to life. A delightfully colourful tale that is great to read any time of the day. It can also be used to inject a little fun when children study letter-writing. Picture book / Ages 3-6 years / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo?
Itchy, Scritchy, Scratchy Pants
Steve Smallman

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781848699410

What a superb, amusing and original story. From start to finish we loved reading this delightful tale together. Full of humorous little jokes amidst the narrative - 'oooh, the wind's blowing into my pants. / it's blowing out of mine!' - my four year old was rolling around laughing at the unfortunate circumstances of the poor Vikings. Itchy Scritchy Scratchy Pants tells the tale of four poor Vikings who have lost their knickers during a fight, so they set off on a mission to replace them. The conditions are freezing and the Vikings urgently need new knickers. But, when they get to the Knicker Lady, they find she is out of wool, so now the Vikings must set off on a new quest to find the Yeti and retrieve the wool from his back. Along the way, the Vikings have to battle through many quests before meeting the friendly Yeti who is very pleased to meet the Vikings. Will your child spot what is wrong with the Yeti in the very cleverly drawn illustrations? Before they know it, the Vikings have warm new knickers, but there is something definitely wrong with them - they are full of fleas! The narrative is written with a regular rhyme and rhythm which engages your child as the narrative continues and they will giggle with glee at phrases such as 'my bottom's gone all ouchy'. With wonderful, large, bright illustrations, all children will delight in spotting all the details. The characters are animated and full of expressions, clearly showing the emotions of the characters as the story progresses. My personal favourite characters are the dragon who refuses to eat the Vikings because 'they always give me wind', and the very casual Yeti who is just chilling outside his cave, cup of tea and chocolate biscuit in his hand. Engaging from the very first line, this story is wonderful to share with young children ages 3+. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Itchy, Scritchy, Scratchy Pants
Where Happiness Lives
Barry Timms

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781848699519

Traditional and classic; this story makes a perfect gift. Perhaps one my favourite picture books, I absolutely adored this tale. With its beautifully drawn illustrations and engaging story, Where Happiness Lives will quickly become a firm favourite on the book shelf that you will want to read again and again with your children. Reminiscent of Sylvanian families, this delightful tale tells the story of three little mice who are all content in their own houses before they spot 'something better' on the other side of the village. It begins with little grey mouse, whose house is small but full of laughter and family, but as he is out walking one day he spots a house 'that is hard to ignore'. He meets the owner (a white mouse) and exclaims that her house 'is much bigger...you must be the happiest mouse in the land'. However, together they spot a much grander house and they set off to go and have a look. They become so focused on their mission to see the grand house, they don't notice all the other things that once made them so happy - the bird song, the fish in the brook, the butterflies dancing. Finally, they meet the brown mouse who proudly shows them around her grand house and the two mice exclaim 'the happiest mouse is the mouse who has MORE'. But, as they reach the final room, the brown mouse is lonely and sad so shows them her favourite view - looking through the telescope at the little house of the grey mouse - 'for that is a house where true happiness lives!' With a heart-warming message that rings so true in today's materialistic society, this message is so important to install into young people. The illustrations are carefully hand drawn and add to the traditional feel of this story. Each page is more beautiful than the last. Aside from the wonderful narrative and beautifully hand drawn illustrations, this book also has flaps to lift as well as cut out elements of the picture which reveal a new picture when you turn the page. This picture book has it all! I cannot rate this picture book highly enough - I have already purchased several more as gifts! Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Where Happiness Lives
Where in the Wild
Poppy Bishop

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781848699557

Another success by Jonny Lambert. Having previously fallen in love with 'The Only Lonely Panda' (his earlier picture book), I knew I was in for a treat when I picked up Lambert's latest book; and I wasn't disappointed. Written by Poppy Bishop and illustrated by Jonny Lambert, this is a story to love again and again. Bishop uses rhyming couplets throughout to teach young children about the environment, habitats and conservation, what is there not to love about this beautifully written and illustrated picture book?! 'Where in the Wild' moves through a range of different habitats with the creatures dictating the narrative. Each habitat shows a range of animals that live in the environment and teaches children about the habitat as well as facts about the animals. For example, the Seahorse - 'this grass is where I spend my days / I use my tail to hold on tight / so I don't float away at night.' Moving from rivers to rain forest, deserts and the Arctic, a vast range of habitats are explored and it ends with a very poignant message of treating our planet with respect - 'let's save each river, plant and tree; the homes of creatures, wild and free.' Conservation of the planet sits at the very heart of this tale, a message that is important for young children to hear, and which is clearly something that is close to the author's heart.& The beautiful, original illustrations make this tale one to stand out on your child's book shelf and they will want to return to it again and again, delighting in finding something new on each page. Carefully hand drawn with intricate detail, I adored discussing each animal and their habitat with my four year old son. One of my favourite features about this story is the facts found on each page, accompanying the narrative. The pages also have little holes cut out so that when you turn the page, a new picture is revealed or a creature focused on. A thoughtful story with an important message; one every child should read. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Where in the Wild
Moth
Isabel Thomas

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408889756

The story of evolution and adaption is covered wonderfully in Moth.Everything about this book is a success. From the beautiful artwork to the poetic language, which is linguistically balanced enough to be accessible to both children and adults, and so much more. Through reading this text, children become more knowledgeable on the topics of evolution, adaption, pollution and how humans are responsible for the consequences of their actions. There is also the underlying message of hope; a message that children don't have to settle, that they too can adapt to changes in their worlds and survive. I certainly feel that this book could be used in primary schools to help lead learning around the above mentioned topics. It would work well as an introductory hook and could provoke many great discussions as well as writing opportunities. I will be recommending it to colleagues as a potential text to plan against. I certainly feel Isabel Thomas has worked wonders here and could extend the series to include other animal adaptions based on human factors. 48 pages / Ages 5-9 years / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher.

Moth
Red and the City
Marie Voigt

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192767745

Think you know Red's story? Think you know the wolf This Red has a story of her own.... Red and the City is a clever new take on the famous tale of Little Red Riding Hood. The story begins as all the innovation of this folktale start, with a little girl being tasked with the job of delivering something to her Grandmother. Her mother sets the rules clearly, 'follow the heart flowers, take care crossing the road, stay on the path and don't talk to anybody'. Red sets off fully intending to follow these rules. That is until she begins to feel hungry and ends up eating the whole cake for Grandma. Racked with guilt, Red unwisely heads off path to go and find Grandma another present in the city. Before long, Red has been consumed by the bright lights and distractions around her. Thankfully, with the help of a trusted friend, she comes to her senses and once more finds the path to Grandma's house. The book is a wonderful innovation, with enough elements for children to pick up on to remind them of the famous original. It also teaches them the life lesson of having to sometimes find their own path the hard way, even if that means making a few mistakes along the way. And it reminds them of the importance of having the one friend who is there for you and there to ground you when needed. The most powerful element of this book, however, is the fact that there is no physical wolf. The wolf itself is the city. Through the wonderful illustrations, we can see the wolf's presence in the book and Red is still being lured away from the path by it. Look closely at the skyline, the window frames and even the phone screens - all demonstrating the wolf's presence as Red is stalked along the path. This would generate a lot of discussion with young readers and would prompt many revisits to the pages to see what else could be noticed - all helping develop the further reading skills required by children. I am happily going to introduce this book to my class and I am looking forward to seeing what they notice without too much prompt and input from me. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher.

Red and the City
Juniper Jupiter
Lizzy Stewart

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781786037015

Lizzy Stewart has created a fun and feisty book - now available in paperback - all about friendship which can be enjoyed as both a reading book but also a focus for a PHSE circle time. Throughout the book, Juniper is on the hunt for the side-kick, identifying all the traits a good companion needs (loving ice cream being the priority). After many failed interviews and audition, she is about to give up but then she realises that her side-kick has been there the whole time. This story is great to prompt class discussions about the importance of recognising what makes a friend special and allowing children to really think about the talents and skills their peers have that should be acknowledged. It also reminds us to never forget that sometimes the answer to what we are looking for can be right in front of us, we just need to open our eyes. Juniper soon learns this by the end of the text. The text flows around the beautiful illustrations and allows the book to flow nicely. The illustrations give clues to the final outcome of the story; the more eagle-eyed children may twig what is to come if they study the pictures as they go through it. Unusually for a story based on a superhero, the lead character is a girl. This interested the girls in my class from the start and they enjoyed seeing this twist of stereotypes. There is also no strong male character within the book at all, with Juniper having many interactions with mum. This may go over the head of the younger audiences but adults and older children would appreciate this. I think this book could be linked to some learning opportunities in the form of advertisements, diaries and role play. As with most superhero-themed books, the children of my class enjoyed this text. It was, however, nice to see more girls engaged than usual. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher

Juniper Jupiter
Dear Donald Trump
Sophie Siers

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781787415119

An interesting book based on some very current issues! Sam has a problem; he has an annoying older brother who he has to share a room with! Sam hears of Donald Trump's plans to build a wall while he is watching TV one day. This gives him a great idea - he could build a wall so him and his brother can have separate bedrooms! Sam writes numerous letters to Donald Trump as he begins planning to build his wall when his thought process starts to change. As his plans begin to change, he realises that building the wall may not be a very good idea after all as sometimes, it is useful to have your big brother around! This is a book with a brilliant message for adults and children; we all need other people at points, both to help and to get help from! It is an interesting read for any child to learn about peace, conflict and building good relationships but especially useful for any children who are quite aware of the political climate that we are living in! A great discussion point for KS2 children in schools or with their parents at home. Picture Book / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Lucy Newton, Teacher

Dear Donald Trump
Ella Queen of Jazz
Helen Hancocks

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781786031259

Ella is an up and coming jazz singer who is struggling to hit the right notes with everyone in her career. Ella is refused the opportunity to sing at one of the biggest joints in town because she and her band of fellas are black. Hearing of this new and amazing talent a very special lady gets in contact and strikes an unmissable deal with the club. A new friendship is made between two iconic ladies and the story continues to share some of their greatest achievements together. This is a great non-fiction resource looking at people in the past without delving too deep into topics/facts about these key characters beyond academically acceptable at a primary stage, given that this book is a picture book. We loved seeing that this book was about real people especially the real-life photos on the back page. I felt just as immersed as the children with this book as I too had never heard of this tale of friendship between two such amazing artists. I would use this text to talk about influential people (modern day celebrities, sports champions etc.). What it means to be influential and the affects they can have on others both good and bad. This could take shape as a topic for discussion in PSHE or in the form of a persuasive writing stimulus. Children could think about their own influential person and the persuasive tact they would use. Great links can also be made with UNICEF convention for the rights of the child, looking at rights respecting articles around equality and respecting the rights of others. There are lots of new cultural vocabulary/sayings ('joint in town', 'hit the big time', 'on her way up', 'folks' etc.) in this book that the children could also explore. Picture book / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Nikki Stiles, teacher.

Ella Queen of Jazz