NEW TITLES

There are some great characters in this month's picture book highlights who will help children navigate friendships and sibling relationships, plus some real must-have books for the classroom.

Alphonse, That Is Not OK to Do!
Daisy Hirst

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406354317

The sibling relationship in this story will be recognised by many an older - and younger - sister or brother. 'Once there was Natalie, and then, there was Alphonse too,' is how it begins. 'Natalie mostly did not mind there being Alphonse' and the two do many things together. Until the day that Natalie finds Alphonse under their bunk beds, eating her favourite book.... something that Natalie thinks is "not ok to do!". She doesn't want to play with Alphonse any more until she discovers how much Alphonse wants to put things right - despite the disasters that follow! There is lots of gentle, warm humour in this book and some wonderfully expressive illustrations (these two little monster siblings are a treat!), as well as a real recognition of the kinds of things that can make a 'bad day' for young children ('One day when lunch was peas and telly was awful and Mum did not understand...'). The story also has lots to discuss with young children, from what kind of things would make their day an unhappy one, to exploring relationships both with siblings and friends; how to look after each other and how to put mistakes right. I also liked the idea of shared drawing the siblings do at the end; perhaps children could work in pairs to draw their own pictures of what makes them and their friends happy. I really enjoyed this picture book, it is brimming with heart. Picture book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Alice Kendall

Alphonse, That Is Not OK to Do!
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Leigh Hodgkinson

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408864821

The creator of Limelight Larry has produced a gentle rhyming picturebook about a young boy who is on a quest for the perfect spot to sit and read. What should be a straightforward search takes him to the extremes of temperatures, noises, smells, and so on. With each place he visits, he collects at least one more creature who follows him onto the next chair in their eagerness to share his book. As he rejects seats on a star or in a tree, in a dark forest or a soggy swamp, he finally concludes that 'it doesn't matter where you sit a book is best anywhere ... when you share'. The final illustration shows the boy surrounded by the creatures who are all absorbed in the book. The text is bold, large, and eye-catching as different words represent the climate the boy finds himself in so the word 'cold' appears to shiver and the word 'tree' is formed by twigs. The illustrations themselves remind me of Lauren Child's with their collage effect and contrasting patterns and sense of textures. This is a pleasant book about books, with lots of onomatopoeia so it is fun to read out loud, and would work well with other stories such as Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's Charlie Cook's Favourite Book (because of the build-up of characters enjoying a story) or Goldilocks (because of its focus on choices and contrasts). Picture Book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Natalie Plimmer, librarian.

Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Some Birds
Matt Spink

David Fickling Books

ISBN 9781910200667

This jaunty debut picturebook explores birds in all their differences. With every turn of the page, we come across a vibrant array of enchanting, feathery characters who fly, squawk, waddle, tweet, or even pop from eating too many worms. This fluttery display cumulates with some birds who live in cages and others who fly free and it closes with the grand statement that this is 'a much better life I'm sure you'll agree'. Personally, I think it is a shame that this is the conclusion because I can foresee a lot of young children worrying about the happiness of their pet budgies etc. It also contrasts greatly with the light-hearted nature of the rhyming text up to this point. However, despite this, I think the artwork is glorious. Each bird is kaleidoscopic in jewel colours resembling images made from stained glass. The enchanting characters seem to want to fly off the page and many are easily identifiable species such as penguins, eagles, woodpeckers, or quail. The layout of the writing also makes it a very visual book with different colours, sizes, and shapes of letters used. Picture book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Caroline Downie, librarian.

Some Birds
The Bear and the Piano
David Litchfield

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847807182

This beautifully illustrated debut story - now available in paperback - is charmingly magical; it has also just won a Waterstones Book Prize award. In it, the reader is transported into an enchanting world from the moment Bear finds a "strange thing" in the woods and it makes an "awful sound". The strange thing is a piano and I love the fact that where it came from or why its sat in a clearing is never explained or questioned - its classic picturebook magic encourages readers' imaginations to go wild. After much practice, Bear becomes an accomplished pianist and gives popular recitals to the other bears and inhabitants of the woods. This is until a little girl and her dad hear him and, suitably impressed, arrange for him to perform in New York to packed grand theatres. After becoming a runaway success, he feels homesick and soon his longing for home gets too much, so he returns to the woods but his old piano and his bear community are not there. Worried that they are annoyed with him for leaving, he is despondent. However, he soon finds his old friends have not forgotten about him but in fact have followed all of his successes and even kept his piano safe for his return. The way Litchfield has created a sense of environment, and the light and atmosphere that imbue his illustrations, are breathtaking, specifically those images of inside the theatre and the cityscape. The dual messages of how success comes only with hard work and perseverance is subtly implied and the importance of home as well as having adventures further afield is evocatively captured. I think this is a lovely addition to the picturebook box and will prove to be a popular read. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Natalie Plimmer

The Bear and the Piano
Unstoppable Max
Julia Patton

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192744104

I really enjoyed Unstoppable Max. Is this really an insight into our children's thought patterns when we send them up to get ready for bed??? The story is about a little boy, Max, who has a huge amount of energy. But when he is given three tasks to do at bedtime - tidy his toys, put on clean pyjamas and feed the goldfish - it doesn't go smoothly and Max has to stop and think carefully about how to put things right. I loved the imagination of Max in the story and all the adventures he wanted to have. I also like the fact that Max thought about doing something naughty but alway chooses the right thing in the end. I think this story would be lovely to use as a circle time book in class and with slightly older children, they might like to write their own stories in a similar style to this one about following instructions in school! I loved Max's thinking cap - I think I will be making one of these for my class of Y1s and use it as a self managing strategy. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Marie Berry, teacher.

Unstoppable Max
Don't Call Me Choochie Pooh!
Kate Hindley

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406345605

An endearing and funny story about a very small dog who doesn't want to be carried in handbags, given heart-shaped mini-puppy treats, or - worst of all - to be called 'choochie pooh', especially in front of other dogs! The life of the pup, adorned with an oversized pink bow, is made miserable by this kind of treatment until he meets some other (bigger) dogs in the park who are keen to play. When he discovers that their owners sometimes call them funny names too (like 'Jiggins Wiggins Cuddle Pie'), he can relax - and carry on enjoying the new friendships he's made. I really enjoyed this book and there are some nice, humorous touches like learning about the games the dogs play (eg It's My Stick where the main rule is you have to growl as if you're really angry, even though you're not) and the special fonts used for the silly names owners give their dogs. The story reminds us that, although we might feel strange and different, we're basically all the same. This is a fun story to read aloud. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Anna Knightly.

Don't Call Me Choochie Pooh!
The Crow's Tale
Naomi Howarth

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847806154

This is a nice creation story (now available in paperback) that encourages its readers to value the natural world and themselves. The story begins in a cold world, with constant snow. The animals decide to ask the sun for help and the beautiful rainbow crow volunteers to go. The sun gifts the crow a big stick of fire to melt the snow and keep them warm, however as Crow carries the stick back, his beautiful feathers become covered in soot. Once back on earth, the animals are overjoyed at the heat from the fire, but Crow is saddened by his blackened feather and the loss of his beautiful singing voice. The sun reminds him that he is a hero to his friends, and it is what's on the inside that counts. This is a nice moral for younger readers, and the story is told beautifully through rhyming couplets that sit on captivatingly illustrated pages. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Lizi Coombs, teacher.

The Crow's Tale
Swap!
Steve Light

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406367768

This is a clever story about friendship, bartering and journeys, with a little bit of maths for good measure. A small sailor sets out to help a sea captain to repair his decrepit vessel. They set off on a small expedition in a little rowing boat, undertaking a series of swaps at each small island they land at. One button is swapped for two teacups, two teacups for three coils of rope, two coils of rope for six oars, two oars for four flags and so on, until they have enough roap, flags and an anchor to repair the old ship. With each swap, children will need to think how many (flags, birds, ropes etc) remain either for future swaps, or to help repair the ship. There is also a map, at the front of the book showing each island with the goods they will need, while at the back of the book the map charts their actual journey, so it is good for map work, too. There is relatively little text - the text that is there just charts the swaps - so children will need to follow the pictures to understand the story. A really useful book to use around maths, maps and visual literacy - not forgetting pirates - and children can be encouraged to create their own journey of bartering, using simple text, maps and charts to keep track of what they have swapped and what they have remaining. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Alice Young.

Swap!
Quick Quack Quentin
Kes Gray

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444919561

I fell in love with this book immediately, both as a teacher and as a mother. From the same pairing that brought us 'Oi Frog', Quick Quack Quentin tells the humourous tale of Quentin the duck who has a quick 'quck' after he loses the A out of his quack. The story shows Quentin searching through all his animal friends, borrowing letters from their names to improve his quack; he gets a quock, queck, quuck and a quoock in his search for an A to fix his quack. As a mum, I loved reading this to my two children and they laughed at the silly names the animals were left with after their A was borrowed. As a Year 1 teacher, preparing five and six year olds for the phonics screening test, this book is inspired. My son is in Year 1 and I had him sounding out the animal named using the phonemes left. Great way to practice those silly pseudo words we've got to prepare for. In class I used the book to have a play with words - changing vowels and making silly words instead. The only thing I would say is that I wish the animal words were in small case letters rather than capitals, but this is such a tiny thing in what is a really fantastic book. A must buy for all phonics teachers!!!! Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Marie Berry, teacher.

Quick Quack Quentin