NEW TITLES

This month's selection of picture books reminds us that it's summer, with some lovely seasonal stories, but our reviewers have also selected stories about friendship and picture books that give a twist on traditional tales. For ages 3-7 years.

Blocks
Irene Dickson

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857638618

It isn't always easy to encourage young children to share so this is a great story to read aloud when children are struggling with the idea of sharing and / or playing together. It's also beautifully illustrated with slightly retro-style, bright images that will catch children's attention. Ruby builds with her red blocks while Benji has blue blocks and all is well until Benji takes one of Ruby's red blocks; she wants it back! But when all the blocks come crashing down and get mixed up, they build together. Then along comes Guy with his green blocks... A lovely story to introduce discussions around sharing and problem-solving with very young children. Board book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Helen Fox.

Blocks
Jane Cabrera: Opposites
Jane Cabrera

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781783707874

This is a beautiful board book of opposites, ideal for encouraging young children to think of everyday opposites such as light and dark, big and small, asleep and awake and in and out. There's even a positional opposition - in front and behind. The glossy spreads offer plenty of flaps to keep young children interested in what is happening on each spread and the images of course help emphasis the oppositions. This is a lovely book for nursery settings to start children thinking about opposites and to encourage them to think of their own oppositional pairings. Board book / Ages 0+ / Reviewed by Helen Fox.

Jane Cabrera: Opposites
Ready, Set, Build!
Meg Fleming

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781783708093

A lovely picture book to use with preschool and early years childen when exploring building and construction as the rhyming verse makes it a good read-aloud with younger children, while there is enough detail in the text and images to explore more around the subject of construction with early years children. The story follows Dog and Bird as they build a home together, from sketching the plans to clearing the site, digging and then building. Dog is very child-friendly - he arrives at work on a skateboard and stops for lunch under a tree - and bird keeps him company. Children can be encouraged to think about the different steps in constructing a building and all the different machines that will be needed. Picture book / Ages 3+ / Reviewed by Samantha Mayle.

Ready, Set, Build!
Sun
Sam Usher

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781783707959

Another of Sam Ushers brilliantly illustrated stories following his series of books based on the weather. This is the third in the series and having read 'Snow' and 'Rain' before, I looked forward to revisiting Grandad and the boy and seeing what adventures they got up to this time. This story starts like the previous two. A young boy wakes up to find it is sunny, very sunny; the hottest day of the year! And on this day the boy and his grandfather decide to go on an adventure. They pack provisions and set off to find the perfect picnic spot. The illustrations are vibrant and enticing and ooze heat in their yellows and oranges. Grandad and the boy stop and start on their journey looking for the best spot, 'a shady spot, somewhere with a cool breeze' - until eventually they find the perfect picnic place but somebody has got there first! The watercolour images are brilliant and set the scene perfectly. The colour gets progressively darker as the story goes on and this could be explored with the children. This text could be used as a stimulus for art work, how different colours make us feel and different shades of colours. Children could produce their own weather paintings in the style of Sam Usher. This text could be a good resource to support geography work using maps/plans. Looking at the school grounds or local area, I would ask children to imagine we were going on adventure like the boys and if we had to find a shady spot/ a picturesque spot etc, where would we go? Children could plot these on maps and plans. This story has a repetitive pattern lots of children will enjoy joining in with; an NC KS1 target to be able to join in with predictable phrases. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Nikki Stiles, teacher.

Sun
Big Brown Bear's Cave
Yuval Zommer

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781783706464

Big Brown Bear's Cave is a lovely picture book. It tells the story of Brown bear who finds a new cave and can't make it feel like home. So he goes out to find 'stuff' to put in his cave. He stumbles across a human street and notices their caves (also known as sheds) are full of stuff so he decides to collect some of it to fill his cave with. And he goes all out filling his cave with all the junk that we have in our sheds and garages. Tables, chairs, lamps, watering cans, guitars and much much more soon fill up Bear's cave; so much so that he can no longer fit in it to any of the things bears do. Even worse, he can't share his new cave with his friends. In the end Bear finds himself completely stuck amongst all the stuff and turns to his friends to help him out. Soon he realises that all this stuff isn't that good, and his bear friends find a way to share the cave together which makes it truly feel like home. This is a great book for reading with children and it creates lots of talking points. It also is a good story to use when talking to children about materialism and what are the really important things to care about, like enjoying friendship. There are really lovely illustrations in this book which will captivate and engage readers. I think this book will also be a good gift for dads who love their 'man cave' and for long-suffering wives ever on at them to clear them out! We'll be enjoying this book at bedtime tonight and I'm sure there will be call for a repeat read. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Marie Berry, teacher.

Big Brown Bear's Cave
Class One Farmyard Fun
Julia Jarman

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444927160

This is the latest in the series that began with Class Two at the Zoo, in which a group of children visit a farmyard to find out about the animals. But while they are happily spotting a goat eating the farmer's coat, and a giggle goose in a rowing boat, they fail to spot the the bull, who is in a strop; there is far too much red in his farmyard! All the children are sporting something red - so when the bull's rampage begins, the results are predictable but some quick thinking from one of the children saves the day. The rhyming text is wonderfully fun and the progress of the bull through the farmyard will keep young children engaged. The illustrations, too, are colourful and detailed with plenty to draw on about animals and the work that takes place in farmyards. The text also offers lots of opportunity to work on rhyming words, and phonics, and for encouraging children to create their own farmyard rhymes. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Nicola Child.

Class One Farmyard Fun
Poppy and the Blooms
Fiona Woodcock

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471147784

This is a beautiful book! A fantastic little story about how a group of wildflowers take it upon themselves to brighten up the city as the last park is about to be closed. It's a simple story to follow but opens up lots of conversations, especially with older children, about the environment and built up areas. Each page is bursting with wonderful illustrations that you can spend forever looking at. The images are all black and white, with the flower characters being the only colours on the page - until the end when the pages are rich with the colours of the flowers they've planted. This is a lovely picture book to use in conversations about the environment and conservation. Older children could perhaps write an extended version of the text, looking at the personification of the flowers and their feelings. The personification of the flowers is a good way of introducing this subject to younger children too - and getting them to think about how flowers make us feel and the importance of nature. This would also be a great story to look at in art and to look at the use of colour. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Lizi Coombs, teacher.

Poppy and the Blooms
Fairy Tale Pets
Tracey Corderoy

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781848694415

Imagine if the fairy tale characters - Goldilocks, the three little pigs, Jack from the beanstalk and the troll in the Three Billy Goats Gruff - needed to tend to the animals that have a role in each of their stories? How tricky might they be to look after? When Bob, who is broke, decides to set up a pet-sitting company, he doesn't realise that these are the kinds of pets he'll be given to tend to... and they aren't easy customers. Little Bear has tantrums, the goose is terrified and the trip-trapping goats are just plain noisy - but none of them are quite as bad as wolf.... This picture book gives us a fun new way to look at fairy tales, although children will need to know each of the stories to understand the humour. There are lots of opportunities to develop work around the story. Children could talk about their own pets, or a fairy tale pet, and how they might look after it. What would be the worse fairy tale pet they can think of to look after? How about setting up their own pet-sitting corner and creating fairy tale pets to fill it, or making a display for the classroom walls? Older children in KS1 could recreate the story with different pets, and act it out. This picture book is great fun, and a must-have for work around fairy tales. Picture book Ages 4+ Reviewed by Alex Young.

Fairy Tale Pets
The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat
Becky Davies

Little Tiger Press

ISBN 9781848695764

I loved this take on the story of the Three Little Pigs, in which we follow three little pugs and a very bad cat. There is so much detail and humour in the illustrations, and we really get a sense of each of the characters. When the three pugs are told to go and build their own homes, they set off but with a warning - watch out for the Big, Bad Cat, the meanest moggy around! Treat-loving Bubbles ends up building a house of straw; Bandit, who loves sticks, builds a house of sticks while the sensible Beauty takes time to build a brick house. Then the moggy arrives and after each of their houses are destroyed, Bubbles and Bandit take shelter with Beauty - who has a plan to sort out the mean moggy once and for all.... Children will enjoy the repeated, alliterative warnings: 'Sharp scratchy claws, a terrible twitching tail and mean moggy eyes', each time the cat arrives on the scene. The dogs are illustrated with photographs which adds another layer of humour to the story as they are so expressive, and it's funny seeing their doggy habits introduced to the story - chasing sticks or begging for treats. Definitely a fun follow-up to any work you do around traditional fairy tales / The Three Little Pigs. What animals can children think of themselves to replace the traditional pigs and wolf, and how could they twist the ending? Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Alice Short.

The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat
Dreamweaver
Claire Freedman

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781783707997

Dreamweaver is one of the most beautiful books I have had the pleasure of reading recently. Claire Freedman, most famous for being the author of the 'Aliens love Underpants' series, has created a text that is just perfect for bedtime - which is exactly what it's purpose is. The story is all about the Dreamweaver, a magical fairy who flies around the world with her sack of dreams, trying to drift sleepy animals in the world of sleep. As a stand-alone read aloud book, this is just wonderful as the pictures help make it so beautiful. My year 1 children enjoyed spotting things within the picture and making connections with the dreamweaver. The girls within my class certainly enjoyed it and it was refreshing to read a book with a female lead character to them. Although maybe not the first book the boys would have picked, I do think they enjoyed listening to it. The rhyming couplets used throughout help the text flow from page to page and the language use is amazing. This in itself would make a wonderful English lesson as children could explore the use of imagery within. My children also liked being able to connect to the dreamweaver on a personal level as she used phrases their own parents used at bedtime. I think this book could be used to create a wonderful reading corner project in a school or community library and would be great to read as a 'bedtime story' event to try and inspire parents into a regular bedtime reading routine. I also found myself thinking that lots of wonderful art and music work could be planned and completed through using the book. Primarily aimed at the younger children in a primary setting, I could see this picture book being used well in KS2 also. Very enjoyable. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher.

Dreamweaver
A Secret Worth Sharing
Jonathan Emmett

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406373240

The Mole and Friends books - now available in gorgeous paperbacks - are lovely stories for exploring friendship and what makes our friendships special. The books are unusual in having slightly longer text but I think this works really well for children of this age and it's nice to have something slightly more involved than many picture books. In this story, A Secret Worth Sharing, Mole finds a new friend, Mouse, but decides to keep her as a special friend so instead of introducing her to his other friends, he keeps her as a secret. Unfortunately, this means he neglects his old friends until Mouse unexpectedly provides the solution. See also The Best Gift of All, another picture book in this series. Picture book / Ages 4-7 years / Reviewed by Alice Short.

A Secret Worth Sharing
There Is No Dragon In This Story
Lou Carter

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408864906

There is definitely no dragon in this story! He has gone off in a huff because he doesn't want to capture icky, frilly princesses today or to fight brave, shiny knights. This dragon wants to find a story where he can be the hero for a change! But it proves a little difficult when everybody he approaches to offer help, including the Gingerbread Man, the Second Little Pig and Goldilocks, remind him in no uncertain terms, that 'there is NO DRAGON in this story'! His turn to prove that even dragons can be heroes comes when a giant's sneeze blows out the sun and he re-lights it. A delightful picture book in which a number of fairy tale characters appear, so it does help if young listeners are familiar with them and their stories. There are plenty of visual jokes and talking points to extend a reading of the book. Recommended for sharing with children in Key Stage 1. Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian.

There Is No Dragon In This Story