NEW TITLES

This month's selection of picture books reviewed by teachers an librarians includes themes of nature and magic, fairytales and fables, alongside books that will help young children explore positive messages around real life issues including family, dementia and refugees.

Nature Watch: In the Treetops
Hannah Tolson

Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd

ISBN 9780711241589

This board book is bright and eye-catching. It's a non-fiction book that describes different parts of the rainforest and introduces children to different wildlife that live there. See also Nature Watch - Under the Waves, another book in this series that describes different parts of the ocean such as coral reefs and the ocean floor, and introduces children to different creatures that live there. Each of the board books in this series has thick pages, making it appealing to younger readers who would be able to independently look at and hold this book. Each page has holes which peak through to the next, sparking intrigue in children to turn the page. The book is ideal for adults to share with children, it uses a lot of subject-specific terminology and each page has a counting activity to encourage children to look at the pages closely. 10 pages / Ages 3-5 years / Reviewed by Lizi Backhouse, teacher

Nature Watch: In the Treetops
I Can Fly
Fifi Kuo

Boxer Books Limited

ISBN 9781910716434

Penguins are birds too, so why can't they fly? They have wings, feathers, a beak and lay their eggs like other birds do, so why can't they fly? One particular Little Penguin wanted to know just that. Little Penguin was frustrated that he could not fly like other birds do, no matter how hard he tried flapping his wings he could not fly. Little penguin became exhausted from all the flipping and flapping he thought he had to do to be able to fly. Then when day, penguin learns that he can fly but just not in the way that other birds can and dad is on hand to help him learn. This is a sweet, simple story, for young minds to digest. A great hook/stimulus to use in class introducing the Science topic animals/birds, generating discussion around the physical features of different animals. Children could investigate penguins themselves and why this particular species of birds cannot fly. There are lots of opportunities for role play arm flapping with this story, children will enjoy pretending to be little penguin and portraying his frustrations and efforts. I love the crayon like illustrations in this book, the medium is so relatable for the children and they could produce their own 'penguin art' in the style of Fifi Kuo. A great read for young children with stunning pictures to explore. Picture book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Nikki Stiles, teacher

I Can Fly
Little Bear's Spring
Elli Woollard

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509807901

Little Bear's Spring is a gorgeous reminder of changing seasons and how spring will see the world brought back to life again. Little Bear wakes up from hibernation and wanders off on his own, meeting birds, hares and wolves on his journey. He carries a little stone with him to keep him company which, eventually, hatches into a little chick. This is a lovely story to share with young children aged 3+, its lovely rhyming verse and gentle, colourful pictures are full of adventure and, as spring really blossoms, joy. Children can be encouraged to spot the changing temperatures on each page as the snow begins to melt, until the final glorious spreads of colour as spring finally arrives in earnest. There are also animals to explore - birds building nests (Little Bear has a go too), hares leaping through the snow, and wolves - looking for food! This can be used alongside lessons on the seasons and hibernation, animal habitats, or just as a gentle story to share with young children. Picture book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Ellen Green.

Little Bear's Spring
What's Next?
Timothy Knapman

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406376876

This is a gorgeous picture book that plays with children's unwavering interest in 'what comes next', as well as exploring how the world looks so different during the day compared with night time, and which creatures inhabit each of those worlds. When Baby Badger is big enough, Daddy badger takes him to the surface to discover the world above ground, showing him the softest moss to roll in, where to find bluebell bulbs and the perfect place to see the moon and the stars. But when he realises that 'day' comes next after night, the little badger decides he has to see it - and in doing so discovers a 'whole different forest' bursting with colour and life. But since he has raced off to explore on his own, when he gets tired, there is no one around to answer 'what's next?' - until Daddy Badger emerges at his side and brings the little badger back to the burrow, and bed. I loved the careful illustrations, and the pages where the little badger discovers daytime really burst out in glorious colour, after the monotones of night time. This is a reassuring and gentle text and the desire to discover what is next, together with the beautiful illustrations by Jane McGuiness, will have children demanding to turn the next page. Picture book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Elena Byrne

What's Next?
Once Upon a Unicorn Horn
Beatrice Blue

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781786035882

I loved the idea of this picture book, in which a little girl called June lives in a magical forest with her family, who spread their special magic among its creatures. June is a fabulous character - lively, inquisitive and full of charm, as are the gorgeous illustrations. June spends her time hunting for 'treasures' in the woods, and one day spots some tiny magic horses learning to fly. They all manage to get off the ground, except for one forlorn little creature who can't. June tries to help it, including with a 'big wish', but to no avail. So mum and dad promise (in a shower of stars) that they will all help together. They gather all the things a tiny flying horse might like, and set off, and while things don't end up quite as they had planned, through a mishap and much laughter, everything is resolved. This would be a wonderful book to share with children as its message is laughter and happiness, rather than worry and concern, will help us succeed and that life is a little magical. It is also a gentle reminder to talk about things that are worrying us, and to take those problems to mum and dad or a caring grown up. In the classroom, this would be a great starting point for encouraging children to build a story around their own 'magical wood' and the creatures they might be able to help- something the whole class can contribute ideas for. In short, a lovely, quirky picture book that children - especially the unicorn fans among them - will love. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Lucy Giles

Once Upon a Unicorn Horn
The Tide
Clare Helen Welsh

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781788810852

A little girl muses about her Grandfather as his memories now ebb and flow like the tide. She remembers their trip to the beach where they played so happily in spite of Grandad burying the sandwiches. Although she admits to being cross sometimes when he forgets things, she recalls times when she has forgotten things and has needed help and support from others. The story ends with the comforting thought that even if Grandad doesn't remember things as he used to 'I love him as much as I always have. And I know that he loves me.' This is such a beautiful and reassuring book which gently explores the complex emotions experienced by those facing dementia in a loved one. As the little girl thinks about her grandfather, she deals with her feelings towards him and considers all her worries, making this a perfect book to share with those in a similar situation. The reassuring message the story gives about love is poignant and beautiful. Full of delightful illustrations showing lovely scenes of family life and fun, the pictures are also cleverly used to emphasise what is happening in the text. For example, at one point, the little girl wonders whether her Granddad might forget her and the picture shows her standing alone on a rock, a long shadow behind her. A heart warming story on such an important subject, The Tide is an essential book for everyone to share. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

The Tide
The One-Stop Story Shop
Tracey Corderoy

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781788811002

The One-Stop Story shop is the tale of a fearless knight who goes hunting for a dragon to slay, although, it seems this particular time his story becomes 'stuck'; his predictable nemesis,'The Terrible Dragon' is not there to fight! He's gone on holiday! When this happens there seems only one thing to do and that is to visit the One-stop Story Shop for a new dragon. This magical store is stuffed to the brim with tales, props and characters galore. Although when the frustrated knight insists to the shopkeeper, he needs the feistiest dragon he's got, it's the one thing he's all out of and instead he's offered a fearsome ferret! Not quite what he's looking for. With some changes to the character, maybe some changes in setting are needed too, and the helpful shopkeeper makes some interesting suggestions for the knight such as the wild west, exploring the jungle, or a deep space adventure facing the 'Space Ferret of Doom!', none of which seem to be the happy ending our knight is looking for. As we follow along with this hilarious romp of an adventure, we learn that maybe the best stories are sometimes the ones we least expect, and friendships can flourish in even the most unconventional pairings. This is a perfect book to share with a class of enthusiastic writers, to teach children about setting and character description. It's also a great read to work alongside learning about mixed up fairy tales and key features of particular genres. Children will be encouraged to let their imaginations run wild with this story to see what new adventures they can come up with for the knight, who in fact decided that he no longer wants to battle a beastly dragon in ready-made tales and that there is a whole world of stories just waiting for him (and ferret of course!) to explore. The illustrations in this book are side-splitting, bright and bold and action packed with so much detail it is certain you will find something new almost every time you read it. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Nikki Stiles, teacher.

The One-Stop Story Shop
The Suitcase
Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788004480

When a strange-looking creature arrives one day, carrying a large suitcase, the other animals are naturally curious. When they ask about the suitcase and its contents, they are puzzled by the stranger's answers and after he falls asleep, they break into the case. What they find there causes them to question their actions and seek to make the stranger welcome. This is a beautiful picture book about empathy and compassion which challenges us to think about how we respond to others. The Suitcase is perfectly pitched to encourage discussions with even the youngest children about the importance of welcoming others with friendship and care rather than hostility and suspicion. Although a poignant story about a refugee which is sadly so relevant to our times, The Suitcase could be related to welcoming a new child to class, encouraging empathy and understanding in familiar situations as well. The contents of the stranger's case and the animals' reaction to them also offers the possibility for discussion and reflection. Should the animals have intruded into the stranger's personal belongings? Why did these items hold such significance for him? Why does he have so few possessions with him? What might your suitcase contain? Throughout the story, the new arrival is referred to as the 'stranger', an emotive word which can have very negative connotations. Are all 'strange' things a threat? Perhaps we should consider the Greek's use of the word 'xenos' which gives us 'xenophobia'- a fear of strangers. Yet, this word can also be used for an ally, friend or guest. Why must all 'strange' things be treated with suspicion? A wonderful book, The Suitcase is a simple story with a profound and moving message for us all. Picture book / Any age / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

The Suitcase
A Lion Is a Lion
Polly Dunbar

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406382822

Now in paperback, A Lion is a Lion is a fun story with an edge, and children will (one hopes) pick up instantly that danger lurks in their new visitor, a lion. While we are used to seeing fierce animals (such as lions) being unveiled as warm and cuddly and in need of a friend, this isn't that kind of picture book. '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 who 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 stories like A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing to reinforce the message, and to encourage comparison between the two stories. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Alice Ewell.

A Lion Is a Lion
How to Be a Butterfly
Catell Ronca

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781786038838

This is a stunning book that takes a fresh look at butterflies - asking what makes a creature a butterfly in a friendly, conversational style that will draw young readers. The book begins by reminding us how to identify a butterfly by its wings, antennae etc, then considers if butterflies should be big or small, have dazzling colours or delicate colours, smooth winged or wiggly shapes? As you turn the pages, you learn simple facts about butterflies, which can be easily followed by a child - how butterflies feed and camouflage themselves, and then turn into a pupa - but you are also introduced to a dazzling array of butterflies from around the world, each different and distinct, and with its Latin name. While younger children will struggle with these, it is an interesting way to introduce the idea of 'proper' scientific names - and hopefully it will inspire older children to learn more about these beautiful creatures. This is a lovely book to use alongside topics on mini beasts and life cycles and metamorphosis, and its gorgeous painterly illustrations will lend itself to displays and art lessons. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Lucy Giles

How to Be a Butterfly
A Walk Through Nature: A Clover Robin Peek-Through Book
Clover Robin

Caterpillar Books Ltd

ISBN 9781848578036

Celebrate the wonders of the natural world with this fascinating book, jam packed with facts about natures habitats, creatures and seasonal changes. This beautiful book encourages an enthusiasm about the natural world. Each double page spread with interactive gatefolds focuses on a different topic, as diverse as migration, baby animals and the emergence of plant life. The prose is made up of a perfect mix of captivating poetry and manageable snippets of factual information for young, curious minds to digest. There is an abundance of subject specific vocabulary for children to explore in this book. It is no surprise to us in today's world that children are experiencing less and less interactions with the great outdoors. With children opting for video games, iPads and You tubing over the opportunity for woodland walks and countryside rambles. This is a great stimulus to use to re-engage children with nature. Powerful words such as mollusks, chrysalis, dense flocks, plough and toil can be found on every page, words that children in today's society no longer hear or are introduced to, words that are being lost from children's expressive vocabulary. This is a peek through book which creates an immersive experience for children. Clover Robins's intricate collages are truly beautiful. Each page is a sweeping landscape, followed by an underneath/behind the scenes layer that provides children with a different outlook and fuller understanding of the world around us. On the fold-outs, each stunning picture is captioned throughout, making the information relatable for the children and giving a clear focus to the text. Children will learn that beavers are semi-aquatic animals; key leaf shapes such as Oak and Maple; that Hermit crabs use abandoned shells to protect from predators; and that groups of eggs are called a clutch. The information in this book is diverse, and therefore a great text to use in a learning setting. It is an introduction to nature poetry and comprehensive in its coverage. The nature-filled collage artwork would make for a fantastic art project across school age ranges - a good opportunity for a whole school natural world focus (Science based learning) with lots of cross curricular links. 32 pages / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Nikki Stiles, teacher

A Walk Through Nature: A Clover Robin Peek-Through Book
Cinnamon
Neil Gaiman, illus Divya Srinivasan

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408879221

Cinnamon is a princess in a faraway country in a faraway time. She is blessed with great beauty but she is blind and does not speak. Her parents, desperate to hear her voice, offer great riches (a field of mango trees, a parrot and a portrait of the princess's aunt) to anyone who can get her to talk. People come and try but leave disappointed. Then a tiger turns up, announcing he can get the princess to speak, and the girl's parents agree that this self-confessed man-eater should try. The tiger introduces her to pain and fear but it is only when he introduces love that the princess speaks. Her parents are delighted, her grumpy aunt is eaten by the tiger and she and the tiger leave the palace to live in the jungle, possibly happy ever after, possibly not. This is a story written by Neil Gaiman some 20 or so years ago, inspired by a sculpture of a girl riding a tiger. It is a short story married up with Divya Srinivasan's striking illustrations to form an exquisite picture book. The colours zing off the page and it is a visual treat. The tiger is dominant on every page on which he appears, baring his teeth, roaring fit to shake the palace walls and the story is suitably scary in places. The fate of the aunt, who drinks her tea 'disapprovingly' and offers uncalled for advice at every opportunity, is a little jarring - the Rajah pleads for someone to stop her talking and the tiger happily obliges. Younger readers will be entranced by the illustrations and there is much for older readers to discuss (why does the princess feel she has nothing to say, why does love give her voice while pain and fear do not, do elderly opinionated women warrant shutting up?) in this intriguing and beautiful book. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by June Hughes,

Cinnamon