NEW TITLES

This month our selection for children aged 5-7 years, reviewed by teachers and librarians, includes a wide range of picture books that can be used across these years to encourage discussion and writing skills, as well as some great books for young readers developing in confidence.

Grandad's Secret Giant
David Litchfield

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847808479

Billy has been helping to paint the town mural, but nobody can reach the top of the wall, even with a ladder. But Grandad knows just the chap to help, someone who has been doing good deeds for a long time. Someone with hands the size of tables, legs as long as drainpipes and feet as big as rowing boats. The trouble is Billy doesn't believe his granddad; how could a giant stay hidden and why would he keep himself a secret? Billy finds out the answer and realises how to put a mistake right in this heartwarming story of friendship and belonging. Illustrated in glowing, jewel like colours there is a lot of detail in the double page spreads for children to pore over, with the giant there but not noticed by those he's helping - Grandad is the only one who knows. David Litchfield has combined his atmospheric, distinctive pictures and economical text to produce another superb book, ideal for sharing with children of all ages to promote discussion around its themes. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, school librarian.

Grandad's Secret Giant
Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth
Nicola Davies

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406360486

This deceptively simple text, beautifully illustrated by Emily Sutton, carries a hugely important message, that of diversity on Earth. Author Nicola Davies, a trained zoologist, explains what we mean by diversity on Earth through the eyes of a girl as she explores different environments. She discovers some of the species Earth is home to, ranging from tiny microbes to huge elephants - and has a glimpse of how many amazing and wonderful creatures there are on our planet, the 'Lots' of the title. All these creatures, she finds, are interconnected; it's like a huge pattern on Earth. But she also learns about the threats faced by so many creatures through the damage done to our planet by humans - pollution, global warming and the loss of habitats. These are powerful messages to deliver through a few pages of a picture book and it is a credit to both the author's and illustrator's talents that they have achieved this, without losing the joy of learning about life on Earth. As such, the book would make an invaluable resource for those exploring themes around the environment and endangered species, habitats and wildlife. But it also stands beautifully on its own - a love song to our planet and a plea to the next generation to provide good stewardship of all we are responsible for. 40 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by Alice Fisher.

Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth
I'm Going To Eat This Ant
Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408869901

With a determined Anteater eyeing him up on the front cover, things aren't looking good for the Ant of this story.... This is an unexpected and playful story from Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, his debut picture book, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. In I'm Going to Eat This Ant, the Anteater decides he is bored of eating plain old ant; wouldn't 'this Ant' taste better sliced or squashed, smoked or stir fried? We see Ant putting up with each of these imagined scenarios - but that glint in its eye suggests that the Anteater isn't going to get his way and, sure enough, Ant wins the day. For children who love their stories with a touch of the gruesome, this picture book will have lots of appeal, but it is also a fun way to play with letter sounds (especially for words beginning with 's') and it's perfect for demonstrating alliteration ('simmering in a soup and scooped with a spoon' for example). The illustrations are brimming with expression and beautifully drawn and laid out. Of course this picture book could also form the start of investigations into the lives, diet and habitats of ants and anteaters, and perhaps children could think of their own pairing of two creatures from nature to create their own picture book story. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Alice Fisher.

I'm Going To Eat This Ant
Nibbles: The Book Monster
Emma Yarlett

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781848692879

What a wonderful story to illustrate how readers 'devour' books - although in this case, the mischievous Nibbles the Book Monster (now available in paperback) does so literally, escaping from his wooden crate and diving into a pile of books where he promptly chews his way through, changing the endings of the stories beyond recognition as he does so. 'It wasn't me, it was a MONSTER!' declares Cinderella at the chaos Nibbles leaves in his wake. Nibbles becomes the hero in Little Red Riding Hood (who is not happy about this at all!). And he helps Jack make a quick getaway down the beanstalk by biting the giant on his bottom. The pages he chews through from each of the fairy tales is presented as a 'book within a book', giving it lots of appeal to young readers, and the reader is also involved in Nibbles' capture at the end (although that's not a total success....) Nibbles is a wonderfully appealing 'monster' and children will love the mayhem he causes. The story can also be used with older KS1 children to explore the idea of changing fairy tale endings by bringing in a new character. They will also enjoy reading the blurbs at the end of each story which have been nibbled - and so changed - by Nibbles; something they can practice when re-writing their own fairy tales! Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Linda Nicholson.

Nibbles: The Book Monster
Pigeon P.I.
Meg McLaren

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783444830

Before you read this book. Set yourself up- watch a few episodes of Magnum PI or Columbo, get those voices in your head and apply when reading to get the best effect. I loved Pigeon P.I. - this is a fabulously illustrated book telling the story of Pigeon PI and how he takes on the case of the missing canaries. The story walks us through his adventure to solve the case. But there is an amazing mix of illustrations and humour. I loved the way the author uses the traditional American private eye style to tell the story, for grown ups this will be very funny to read, but also the illustrations and their subtle play on words - when they go to the red herring bar and grill, look at the names on all the bird boxes, for example. This would be a great vocabulary exercise - could the children think of more of their own? The story sticks with the traditional good over evil and in the end Pigeon PI get the crook and all is well. I think this is a great read with children, but I think the adults will enjoy it just as much especially if your a fan of those 1920s cop shows.... this one is for you! For any teachers reading - I think this could be a good Talk for Writing text, and would be a great story to innovate from. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Marie Berry, teacher.

Pigeon P.I.
Also an Octopus
Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406373387

Also an Octopus is a humorous and engaging story which had my children in fits of giggles throughout. Although it is a very different narrative from the usual story I read with my children, we all really enjoyed it. This story was busy, with lots going on per page so we spent lots of time finding objects and talking about each piece. The narrative is very good for learning how to write creatively, it is almost a teaching tool story and could well be used in a Primary School setting. It begins with explaining how every story comes from nothing, 'each story starts the same way' with nothing. The narrative then goes on to explore how to introduce character, setting and plot, but it does this in a very humorous way, including a purple shiny space rocket made of waffles. What is so engaging about this story is that it is teaching your child how to write a story, but that message is hidden beneath the humour of a ukulele-playing octopus on a mission to space. What I particularly liked about this story was its 'older style' print and use of colour. It reminded me of a story one might have found in the 1980's as the colours are darker and the images less intricate. It stands out because of its more unique style and children are drawn to it, my children would often pull it off the shelf for bedtime reading; we all loved the different expressions on the Octopus. Brilliant as a teaching tool for younger years but also as a lovely story, I would recommend this story for ages 3+. Picture book / Ages 3-6 years / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Also an Octopus
Message in a Bottle
Matt Hunt

Scholastic

ISBN 9781407159188

Living in the busy, rainy city Lion is fed up and dreams of escaping to somewhere warm, where he can relax and play his guitar. It is his lucky day, with an island beach house advertised for sale in the newspaper and he packs his bags that very evening. Besides his guitar, he takes lots of bottles of his favourite treat - strawberry smoothies. But after a while, Lion realises that life on the island isn't quite so perfect; he's lonely and needs a friend. With no telephone or postbox, there is only one way to send a message - in a bottle! In fact, he sends sixty bottles bobbing away over the waves. Animals of all shapes and sizes, with all types of instruments, start arriving. And although he really wanted a friend with a guitar, he soon comes to realise that other types of music are just as good. This debut picture book celebrates difference with cheerful, expressive illustrations and a toe-tapping conclusion. This is a book to have fun with besides thinking about the main theme, perhaps writing messages in bottles and exploring the music and instruments. I will be sharing this with teachers in Key Stage 1 at my school, for their Fantasy Islands topic next term. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, school librarian.

Message in a Bottle
The Lumberjack's Beard
Duncan Beedie

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781783706884

Jim is a lumberjack who lives in a forest. Each day after exercising and breakfast he sets off to the forest to chop down trees. After each busy day, different animals come to his cabin and angrily express their situation... they are homeless because Jim has destroyed their homes. Jim takes on each of the animals and provides a home for them in his big beard. Until one night when he can't take the chirping, prickling and thwumping any longer and demands they leave. With nowhere for the animals to go, Jim shaves off his beard to make a den for the animals. The next morning, Jim wakes up to a bare, stubbly chin and also realises that where a forest once was, there is now bare ground. Saddened by the sight, he has an idea to dig hole after hole and plant tree after tree. This is a fun story for children to use to learn about forest habitats and the consequences of destroying woodlands. It could lead to work about plant growth, habitats, animals, survival and changing landscapes. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Maria Faithorn, teacher.

The Lumberjack's Beard
When Grandad Was a Penguin
Morag Hood

Two Hoots

ISBN 9781509814015

A hilarious case of mistaken identity leaves a young girl wondering why Grandad is acting so strangely? Something is not quite right - something is rather fishy. During a visit to Grandad's house, it becomes very clear that Grandad is not quite himself. The text balances perfectly with the illustrations: showing the little girl's thoughts and confusion through the words alongside the reality in the illustrations. The illustrations are brimming with humour and show Grandad - who is very clearly a penguin - doing all sorts of things that you would not expect of Grandad. As well as his clothes not fitting anymore and his strange obsession with fishing, he keeps turning up in the most unlikely of places: in the toilet, upside down in the fish tank, and in the refrigerator! Grandad is even shown sliding down the banister on his belly! Could it just be that Grandad's behavior is because he is getting older, or is something more fishy going on? Perplexed and a little concerned, the child eventually gets a call from the zoo, where it appears that there has been a mix-up. The little girl heads to the zoo to sort out the muddle and hopefully swap a penguin for her Granddad. She leaves the penguin safely at the zoo, heading home with Grandad. Or at least that was the plan, but Grandad seems to have other ideas... This book is simple yet filled with possibility. Children could use the format to write their own case of mistaken identity. They could also write from Grandad's point of view or the penguin's, keeping a journal of their time away from home. A newspaper article, reporting this hilarious mix-up, could also been inspired by the main points of the story. This could also open up the way for researching the animals within the story and their natural habitat, moving on to discussions about zoos and the positives and negatives. What would it be like to live like Penguin, in an enclosure? There is so much that could be done with this book so despite its simplicity, it will appeal to all ages and can open the doors to a wealth of writing and discussion opportunities for all abilities. Simple, comical illustrations tell the story beautifully and provide even more points of discussion, as well as a good giggle! Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Torie Walton, school librarian

When Grandad Was a Penguin
Life is Magic
Meg McLaren

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783444861

Life is Magic is a lovely story about Houdini who is a performer in a magic show. Houdini is the Magician's assistant and has an knack for doing all the right things that make him an excellent assistant. One night something goes wrong and Houdini ends up turning the magician into a rabbit. So Houdini becomes the main act and starts doing tricks in a show that everyone flocks to see. However, as time goes on, Houdini sees that him being in charge and leading the show isn't popular with everyone and the magician now rabbit is very unhappy. Houdini realises he needs to bring his team working skills into play and performs a great trick, returning all to normal. This books is beautifully illustrated with limited text so creates lots of opportunities to discuss what is happening, and to make predictions and inference about the story. There are a lot of underlying messages too; being a good team worker, sharing the limelight, thinking of your friends... all of which could be opened up with the use of this book. But an a stand alone bedtime read, Life is Magic is a perfect one. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Marie Berry, teacher.

Life is Magic
Tibs the Post Office Cat
Joyce Dunbar

words & pictures

ISBN 9781910277201

Tibs the Post Office Cat is based on the real cat who helped keep mice at bay at the post office, during the 1950s, and who got paid for doing his job. It also draws on the parties that used to be held underground, where the Royal Mail had a special train called the Mail Rail. Both these threads are drawn together in the story, where a young Tibs first arrives at the post office and has to find a way to keep the mice - with whom he forms friendships - away from the precious post. He realises that what they each want is their own name and, after training the mice to always cover up their tracks, he discovers a way to do this for them. The detailed, slight old fashioned illustrations work beautifully with the text, which likewise is told like an old story. It is quite a long text for this age range and could be used to inspire children to write about an invented mouse, naming its characteristics and giving it a name that would suit it. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Ellen Storey.

Tibs the Post Office Cat
The Covers Of My Book Are Too Far Apart: (And Other Grumbles)
Vivian French

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781126028

Vivian French has created another super book about the commonly mentioned issues when asking children to read. All the usual excuses about not reading are addressed in this book with lots of real reasons why they are not true. I love how each page of the book begins with a statement grumble from a child about why they can't or don't like reading. It is then followed by a diverse rage of responses from all sorts of people contradicting the idea. Responses come from old, young, animal, superhero, and many diverse groups throughout society. I think this book is a must for every school library and could be used as a great stimulus to promote good reading behaviours across the school. It could be used with parents, too, as sometimes it can be difficult to engage parents with reading. Sharing this book with parents and children together could be very powerful and create lots of different stimuli to engage children with reading. I would like to use the statements in the book with children in school and see what suggestions they come up with to counter that opinion and put a positive spin on reading. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to parents, teacher and children alike. Picture book / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Marie Berry, teacher.

The Covers Of My Book Are Too Far Apart: (And Other Grumbles)
The New Adventures of Mr Toad: A Race for Toad Hall
Tom Moorhouse

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192746733

I enjoyed this rip roaring adventure tremendously. As a child I listened to the Ladybird simplified version of the Wind in the Willows on tape over and over. I loved the characters, particularly Ratty and the very silly Mr Toad. This book introduces younger readers to the next generation of the Wild Woods in an updated and accessible way. The story features Mr Toad, who has been frozen for 100 years in his ice house, and young versions of Ratty, Mole and Badger from a few gerations down the family tree. The characters are more up to date than in the original but have lost none of their charm. By ingeniously including the original Mr Toad, the spirit of the the original story is very much alive. The plot is simple to follow but makes use of the best (or worst) characteristics of Mr Toad: his hubris, his love of driving (very badly) and his love of his home. It even keeps his 'poop poop' catchphrase while updating the setting. I guessed the plot twist regarding the race but do not think that a young child would see it coming. I could see this book being a great introduction to the characters of The Wind in the Willows for children who would be put off by the length or complex language of the original. It has beautiful illustrations and the story moves at a cracking pace. I think a 5+ reader would enjoy hearing it read but think for reading alone, it would be more suitable for 7+. I will certainly be sharing it with my 7 year old daughter who I think will greatly enjoy it. 160 pages / Ages 5-8 years / Reviewed by Alison Urquhart.

The New Adventures of Mr Toad: A Race for Toad Hall
Knighthood for Beginners
Elys Dolan

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192746023

Dave is a dragon, albeit not a very good one, and is about to fail his Dragon test, despite the best efforts of his despairing parents. Dave, a keen reader, has read about knights and decided this is the life for him, seemingly unaware that the main point of a knight is to slay dragons and rescue damsels in distress. Fortunately, he stumbles upon a particular book, 'Knighthood for Beginners', which claims to give step by step guidance on becoming a knight. Step 1 is to acquire a trusty steed. This turns out to be Albrecht, a goat with a very interesting past and a fund of stories (which may or may not be true). Together they go in search of adventure, involving knights, kings, princesses, frogs and a whole host of other unlikely characters in this truly funny romp of a story. The book is also packed full of Elys Dolan's wonderful illustrations which add to the reader's enjoyment of the story. The book is a hoot and enormous fun but, in amongst the eccentric characters and unusual events, is a subtle message about not letting yourself be defined by what other people expect of you (Dave the dragon who wants to be a knight, the doctor who wants to be a professional jester, the circus performer who wants to be a doctor) which is very welcome for young readers establishing friendships, as is the relationship between Dave and Albrecht which includes a monumental falling-out. Newly independent young readers will enjoy this book enormously, as will any reader looking for an exciting story and a bit of a chuckle. 208 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

Knighthood for Beginners
The Royal Rabbits Of London
Santa Montefiore

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471157882

This is a truly superb book with great writing and fantastic illustrations. I was drawn into the story just a few pages in and felt the years drop away as I engaged with a story that captured me just like Brian Jacques' books did years ago. I am in no way drawing a parallel between the two as Rabbits of London is suitable for a younger audience, however it does the same job of telling an emotionally engaging and compelling story using animals in place of people. Although this fits into a conventional 'coming of age' story mould, the underlying plot line is original and interesting. I liked the play on words with the 'ratzis' and the fact that the queen's corgis were a pack to be feared! There were hints of Mrs Frisby and the rats of NIMH, Ratatouille and echos of Robin Jarvis echoing in my head as I read it. The interviews with the authors at the back of the book shed light on the mix of emotional intelligence and high adventure in the book. By combining the writing styles of the husband and wife team, you get the best of both worlds: a book that takes a look at how someone written off and bullied by others can over come, and also a book with convincing peril and even a few grizzly (bad guy) deaths. It also means that the story is accessible to both boys and girls.

The Royal Rabbits Of London