Superbat by Matt Carr

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“Is it a BIRD?

Is it a PLANE?

Er… I think it’s a BAT in a funny little costume!”

Superbat

Pat the bat is having trouble sleeping. Bored of being a normal bat, he wants to be more like the superheroes in his comics. Pat is the kind of bat who has an idea and acts upon it. He gets things done, has a cup of tea and then he does a bit more.

The other bats question that his super powers aren’t actually all that super, being as all bats have them. Although his ears flop a little with sadness, Pat picks himself up, takes his skills and uses them for good! Check out his antics for yourself, enjoy his story and learn more about bats along the way.

A Book with Style

Hands down the most super bat I have encountered in children’s literature with the most super art work; this is a book with style. Some proper colour genius is going on here: we have teal and red and mustard and together they are magnificent. A book that provides not only excellent design but also offers new colourway combinations for the wardrobe as we sashay into spring. What could possibly be better?

Just this: the best aspect of Superbat for me is the message it sends out to young readers that we can all do extraordinary things. What seems ordinary to a bat is extraordinary to us and what we take as normal can provide us with the means to do achieve wonderful outcomes. We can all be amazing with or without the cape. Preferably with though.

We could learn a lot from Pat the Bat. We too can be heroes.

Superbat is full-on, important, technicolour joy.

 

Thanks Scholastic for sending me this lovely book!

 

 


Dear Dinosaur by Chae Strathie & Nicola O’Byrne

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dear-dinosaur-done

Dear Dinosaur

Dear Dinosaur, written by Chae Strathie and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne, is an adorable new picture book for 2017 from Scholastic.

When Max visits a big museum a long way from home, he is really taken by the dinosaurs- especially the Tyrannosaurus Rex. He has so many question but the museum’s about to shut so Dinosaur Dora who works there suggests he writes to the T.Rex instead. So begins a sweet and funny story, full of fun facts and accompanied with attached real letters, cards and postcards for children to open along the way! It’s a beautiful book with artwork and story complimenting each other really well. Dear Dinosaur is a genuine all round crowd pleaser, therefore I’d strongly recommend it as a shared text in schools for younger children as well as a great addition to your child’s home library.

What’s Not to Like?

The interactive element of opening the various attachments is a brilliant way of engaging young children in books: it’s varied, it’s lots of fun and exactly the sort of introduction to the world of reading you’d want for the kids in your life. For extra classroom value, follow this link to a very useful teaching resource. Scholastic Story Stars have created pages and pages of brilliant resources to go with the book. I’m a teacher and know how much this will be appreciated by colleagues everywhere. A fab new book with classroom ready activities spanning the whole curriculum- what’s not to like?

Fiercely Fantastic

Why do I like it so much? When I was very young, my favourite picture books were just like Dear Dinosaur: full of surprising extra details that made me happy and want to re-read them again and again. When you’re a child, books like this feel like they were written especially for you. It was lovely to have this feeling again and I really didn’t want the story to end.

Dear Dinosaur is a fantastic introduction to the joy of reading for kids and a big dollop of gorgeousness for the adults that share it. Bound to be a roaring success!


Stone Underpants by Rebecca Lisle

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Illustrations by Richard Watson

stone-undies-done

“It was cold in the Stone Age

When the icy wind blew it was freezing.

‘Brrrr! My bottom!’

‘I really do need something to keep my bottom warm,’ Pod told his Dad.

‘You could make something,’ Dad said.

‘Stone is very handy.'”

Stone Underpants

Spare a thought for poor Pod at this time of year. As the weather gets colder, we can avoid a chilly bottom by cranking up the heating, pulling on an extra layer, or hunkering down with a hot chocolate for company. Pod has no such luxuries. He lives in the Stone Age. Instead, he has to experiment with different materials in order to find a suitably bottom-warming pair of pants. We join him as he tries different pairs, all with comical consequences.

Cheeky!

This cheeky book (pun fully intended) will be enjoyed by children aged three years plus who will adore both Pod and the many references to his bottom. Young readers are transported to a different world and given a good giggle whilst they’re there.

I found Stone Underpants funny and charming. This is a story that’s obviously written and drawn with love and children will get that. Richard Watson’s illustrations are superb. As with all good picture books, the art adds opportunities for discussion and gives readers the power to add their own thoughts to the story.

Rocking it for New Readers

Picture books are so important: they are our first and most crucial opportunity to encourage reading for pleasure. They need to be fun, surprising and ideally a bit bonkers too. Stone Underpants has all of these covered.

You’ll love the way it lends itself to reading aloud and how Rebecca Lisle has used a structure that will encourage children to remember elements of the story and even join in. Needless to say, this is perfect for reading time and time again. There’s a lot of fun to be had here in the sharing of Stone Underpants for grown-ups and children, whether it be at home or at school.

Stone Underpants, to put it in simple terms, rocks.

 

Thanks so much to Maverick for sending me this lovely book!


Potion Commotion by Peter Bently & Sernur Isik

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potion-commotion

” The brew had gone barmy!

What hullaballoo!

Soon the whole cottage 

was filled up with goo.”

Halloween Hullaballoo

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any book containing the word ‘hullaballoo’ must be held in great esteem, so I am delighted to be sharing one with you today. Potion Commotion, written by Peter Bently and illustrated by Sernur Isik, is an explosion of joy and delight for younger readers delivered in time for Halloween.

Free Spirit

Betty’s mum is off to the shops. Before she goes she warns Betty to stay indoors as there’s a dragon about and also tells her that once she returns she’ll cook a nice stew for dinner. However, as an independently minded young thing (with lots of marvellous free-spirited curly hair), Betty decides cooking looks easy and has a go at making the stew herself. As Betty and her mum are witches, anything could happen…

Potion Commotion!

Children will adore Betty and her adventuring as she creates the stew (pleasingly free-form), then loses control of it as it grows and grows and gushes through the town, and finally as she comes face to face with the dragon her mum warned her about. The story is told as a poem so it’s a pleasure to read either alone or out loud, as you wish. Reading aloud does allow opportunity for doing a dragon impression though- something I’d strongly recommend you don’t pass up on.

The artwork packs a punch and every page brings another burst of colour- just the thing to light up these dark nights. The pictures add to the narrative, as all the best picture books do, and you’ll be spotting new details with every read.

Potion Commotion: more fun than fireworks and definitely a favourite for Halloween!

 

Big thanks to Scholastic for sending me this lovely book.

 

 

 


The Snowflake Mistake

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By Lou Treleaven & Maddie Frost

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“High, very high, almost too high to see,

an ice palace floats like a ship on the sea.”

In that ice palace lives a hard-working Snow Queen and her playful daughter Princess Ellie. Here, clouds are gathered and a special machine creates snowflakes from them. While the Queen ensures all the snowflakes come out of the machine on time, perfectly regular and identical to each other, Ellie prefers to run carefree with her feathered friends.

Snow!

Then one wintry day, the Queen has to go out on business and leaves Ellie in charge of the snowflake making machine. Ellie, however, becomes distracted from her task. When she notices grey clouds forming, she rushes to make the snowflakes by using the double speed button. Disaster strikes: the machine grinds to a shuddering halt! As the children below wait expectantly for snow, Ellie has the idea of making snowflakes by hand, cutting them from the clouds and creating each one individually.

How will the Snow Queen react to Ellie’s changes? Will Ellie make enough snowflakes in time for the children be able to play in the snow?

Enchanting

The Snowflake Mistake is an enchanting wintry treat spreading the message that it’s good to be different!  Lou Treleaven’s descriptions are so delicious, you’ll be simply longing to read them aloud. Gorgeous rhyming couplets swirl around Maddie Frosts’s ethereal skies, creating layer on layer of loveliness.

I kind of want to frame this one...

I kind of want to frame this one…

This is a really generous book: besides the scenes high in the sky, we can also see plenty going on down below. There are children dressed in bright winter woollies, curious little houses with coloured walls; there are bears, foxes and dogs too. All these extra details are waiting for readers to come along and bring them to life, to add their narratives to the main story.

The Snowflake Mistake offers a myriad of possibilities to young readers who may choose to read alone or with others, create snowflake art, even perform it as a play or create a song or a dance. Children are free to bring their own brand of creative magic- the sky’s the limit here!

For children (and adults) who can’t wait for this winter’s first snowfall, The Snowflake Mistake will bring an early sprinkling of magic.

 

Big sparkling thanks to Maverick for sending me this lovely book.


Mr Mustachio

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By Yasmin Finch & Abigail Tompkins

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” As Mr Mustachio marches down the street, his extra long, super-duper, curly-wurly moustache flies wildly in the wind, and he smiles with pride.”

Enamoured

Mr Mustachio is a funny and original picture book that the whole family will love.

Mr Mustachio has excellent taste. Who doesn’t love a man in a full length camel coat and a Cuban heel? His moustache is also quite the thing: very long and curly and something he is quite rightly proud of. As you can tell, I’m quite enamoured by him.

When the story begins, all is going well for our fuzzy friend. It’s a lovely day and he’s off for a picnic at the local park. Then disastrously, a freak roundabout accident spells the end for Mr Mustachio’s beloved soup strainer as it becomes irreparably tangled…

Tangled

Many kind souls try to help him untangle his whiskers, but without success. We have one super strong girl, two clever boys and ten tall teachers amongst the volunteers. (I love the detail in the illustration of the teachers who all wear lanyards, quite rightly.) The moustache, tragically, must be removed.

Although his moustache is a thing of the past, Mr Mustachio will not be beaten.

An alternative for his nose neighbour must be found and Mr Mustachio has lots of wonderful and hilarious ideas that are revealed in the story. What would you go for?

Inspired!

This book is a total hoot and kids are of course going to love it. Adults and children reading together will not only enjoy the story but will also have fun imagining who else might have come to help Mr Mustachio and what other crazy alternatives they can think of for his missing moustache.

I’m sure teachers will be excited by the possibilities presented here for creating imaginative ways to encourage writing for pleasure, as well as the reading for pleasure that this story will inspire.

Again, like The Libearian which I recently reviewed, this is an excellent book  for adults to have a dialogue with children about, whilst enjoying a wonderful story – how great is that?

As Mr Mustachio would say, fantabulous!

 

Thanks to Maverick for sending me this cracking book!


The New Libearian

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By Alison Donald & Alex Willmore

libearian-done

“A hush fell over the library.

Storytime was about to begin.”

The New Libearian by Alison Donald and Alex Willmore is a gorgeous picture book, suitable for children of three years plus (and adults of any age).

As The New Libearian begins, the hush that falls over the library is a wonderful one. It’s brought about by children in anticipation of the story they are waiting for, rather than by the stereotyped librarian of the past with their finger to their lips. Waiting on squishy bean-bags for their story time, the children fidget impatiently. Mrs Merryweather the librarian is late and they are worried that something isn’t right. Led by the intrepid Dee, they decide to go in search of her.

The children’s (and the reader’s) journey through the library is a thrilling one. We follow the bookshelves through galaxies, into oceans and along runways. Alien creatures peep over the stacks and huge creaking galleons set sail along the aisles. Beanstalks burst through the floor and slippery Octopus tentacles curl into Kids’ Corner. Throughout The New Libearian, books spring into life, their contents spilling off the shelves and onto the carpets.

This is a wonderful and obviously true observation of libraries that the author and illustrator have got spot on. We adults know that books, both fiction and non-fiction, will take us into new and exciting worlds. Here it’s lovely to see that truth presented to children, and in such magical terms.

And then there’s the bear. He shrugs, he nods, he chews the books. He stands slightly pigeon-toed and is entirely adorable. Every story should have one. He also gives adults reading The New Libearian out loud the chance to roar and growl very loudly, which is always a pleasure!

The New Libearian is a proper picture book: both the story and pictures work together brilliantly and will delight young children. Alex Willmore’s illustrations are glorious. I love the slightly retro colour palette and styling of the characters, especially the magnificent Mrs Merryweather who, rest assured, is going to be fine. It reads beautifully, and in addition to this there’s a dialogue to be had here with youngsters who will want to share their opinions and read between the lines to solve the mystery.

Pictures are narrative and descriptive, so children who aren’t yet readers or have a limited knowledge of English will get plenty from it to without necessarily having a full understanding of all the words. Young readers will be keen to point out bear clues everywhere as they follow the children’s journey through the shelves. From the recipe book for honey, the sticky desk and the big bear paw prints to follow, there is plenty to talk about. But do you know what children are going to say most of all? Two things:

Can we read it again?

and

When can we go to a library?

and how can that not be a good thing?

 

Many thanks to Maverick for sending me little wonderful book.

 

 


Alphonse, That is Not OK to Do! by Daisy Hirst

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alphonse done

“ONCE there was Natalie

and then, there was

Alphonse too.”

Marvellous

Alphonse, That is Not OK to Do! by Daisy Hirst is another wonderfully silly story of glory from Walker Books. Suitable for readers of three years plus, and especially marvellous for those with siblings, this a great book for sharing and enjoying with others.

Big Love for Little Alphonse

Alphonse is Natalie’s little brother. Most of the time they play together nicely, but then Alphonse, being that bit younger, doesn’t always do the right thing and makes Natalie cross. Well, you might be a bit fed up too if someone ate your new drawing, even if they were really cute and little and blue. Will it all be okay in the end? ‘Course it will!

alphonse inner done

Alphonse, That is Not OK to Do! is a gorgeous picture book and a little slice of joy: it’s full of warmth, plus it’s jolly funny and charmingly illustrated. I like it very, very much, from Natalie’s exasperated expressions to Alphonse’s tiny, pointed teeth and predilection for yumming up works of art. One thing is clear: Daisy Hirst not only knows how to name a pigeon, but also how to write and illustrate a stonkingly good book. Kids will love it; adults will love it too. I possibly love it most.

Alphonse is my new favourite thing in the world. He rocks.

And if you enjoy this, you should definitely check out some of Walker’s other picture books. There are some real crackers, such as Alan’s Big Scary Teeth, Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh! and Hoot Owl Master of Disguise.


Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space by Cléa Dieudonné

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mega 1

“Megalopolis is a magnificent city. People come from far and wide to see its sights. One day, there was even a visitor from another galaxy.”

Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space by Cléa Dieudonné is a very special picture book telling a vertical story. Suitable for readers ages 5+

A Tall Tale

Living in a city that feels welcoming is a wonderful thing that spells the difference between location and home.

When our hero, the little green visitor from outer space, arrives in his Jetsonesque spaceship, he is warmly welcomed by everyone he meets. There are many who wish to meet him, all throughout the city! As the story unfolds (or as we unfold the story), we follow his progress down through Megalopolis for he appears on each page. He attends a spectacular firework display in a dormant volcano, plays hide and seek in the Chinese Gardens and is introduced to the animals in the zoo. There are weddings, near death experiences and many types of brightly coloured cake.

Look Again!

The story text is rich in detail, sweet and funny and captivating. Cléa Dieudonné changes the colour of her text with each page: a neat move that links the words simply but effectively to the pictures. Oh, and the pictures! An artwork unfolds showing the whole of Megalopolis, from the skies above to the depths below and all in between. Colour and detail are the thing here. Balanced use of the full spectrum of colours means that no aspect overshadows another. Whilst searching for our intergalactic hero, we happily take in the rest of the Megalopolis.

There are many things to spot. I loved the animals, especially the dogs- including one very fine pink poodle. As in every big city though, there is evidence of crime. Kids will love finding the cheeky burglars up to no good! No building is the same and there is movement and noise everywhere. You can even see a mermaid…

I took a few photos so you could see how that works:

Gorgeous isn’t it? And honestly, so much better than this in real life where you can really appreciate all the finer detail, the feel of the book and sound of the pages unfolding.

Unique

If you’re looking for something totally different with a wide breadth of appeal, you really need to check out Megalopolis. This is a vertical story, beautifully illustrated on fantastic quality thick, resilient paper, that folds out to three metres long. It’ll need to be tough, for this is a book that will be pulled out and enjoyed time and time again. Kids will treasure it. Megalopolis is a great leveller that will be loved by both reluctant readers and established book lovers alike, simply because it’s an entertaining and accessible read.

 A vertical story of ultimate glory with something new for you each time you read it.

Notes for Teachers

Hurrah! At last a book that we can all get excited about together! That’s right, even those kids in your class that are struggling to find the right book; that one book that will make them think a little differently, stop reading being a chore and turn it into an adventure. Bold claim, but I absolutely think this book could be just the thing to create a buzz in young readers. Why? Well, read on.

The Class of 2011 and Talk for Writing

A few years ago I taught in a school that streamed by ability for Numeracy and Literacy. In taking the ‘lower’ literacy group, it was no surprise to find even by Year Five, most of them were conditioned to be down on their own abilities and sadly aware that they were labelled as the bottom half of the year in reading and writing. A lovely group of kids with loads to offer, let down by ‘rigorous’ assessment and left to feel like square pegs.

Then one day, I went on a Pie Corbett course which showed me how to help them by working a bit differently. By using Talk for Writing, we learnt stories together and used ALOT of flip chart paper to break down those stories into simple pictures, codes and symbols. For an ex-art teacher like me, it made utter sense. The children came up with actions to go with the symbols and we acted it out and of course they loved it. Plus, for maybe the first time ever, they knew a story inside out.

They were equipped to start planning the next stage of their writing on their own. Out came the rolls of lining paper. They mapped our group work onto it, working in pairs along corridors to construct stories that were many metres long. They changed aspects, made them individual. In short, they owned it. It wasn’t unlike Megalopolis in structure, and it lit up their eyes to work this way. They loved to read it back, walking along their stories as they did so, jumping over it, kneeling next to it but most of all, treasuring it and keeping it safe from nearby careless feet!

For three weeks they worked more or less independently in the name of fiction. I can’t tell you how much they enjoyed it and when they wrote up their stories as more traditional ‘books’ with covers and a blurb at the back, their writing had improved beyond belief. Really, all this good stuff was there in them in the first place, they just needed the time to engage and to look at things in a new way to find out what they were capable of. Best use of half a term’s Literacy lessons ever. Do try it if you can.

The Power of Books

Megalopolis reminded me of that class. They would’ve absolutely loved it. We would’ve left our places, spread it out across tables through the centre of the room and read it together, walking along it, spotting things, taking notes and talking about it. I know they would have seen there were more stories to tell amongst the other characters in the book. They would have run with that, created new tales.

They would’ve said to me “Next time we do Talk for Writing, can we make a book that looks like that?” I could really get kids writing with a starting point like this, let alone reading! The reading part would be easy! Coloured fonts? Stories three metres long? Integrating art and writing? Yes please! Now that would be something worth showing off to mums and dads at parents evening. Rather more exciting than thrice collected evidence of adjectival phrases and far, far more likely to encourage reading and (dare I say) writing for pleasure.

I truly think Megalopolis could add value to learning across the primary age range. From creating happy readers in key stage one, to using it the heart of the curriculum higher up. Teachers are amazing at making links that matter and Megalopolis is full of possibilities. For example, the parallels here between the alien being welcomed into a new world and our oldest pupils thinking about new beginnings at secondary school is just one aspect. There are many more to explore. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to use a picture book to kick off your topic work in Year Six? Why not do it? It would certainly give the kids and the adults something to think about.

(Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space was kindly sent to me by Thames and Hudson)

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hoot Owl Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, Illustrated by Jean Jullien

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hoot owl ready

” Everyone knows

owls are wise.

But as well as

being wise,

I am a master

of disguise.

I organise a costume.

Look…

I disguise myself as…

an ornamental bird bath.”

Being partial to an owl or two, I find it very hard not to go over the top here. I think you’ll agree I managed to keep the owl quota on the photo down to the bare minimum. It’s all about applying appropriate levels of restraint and I think I’ve succeeded in that.

Hoot Owl Master of Disguise is a fearsome hunter who, like Liam Neeson in Taken, has a very particular set of skills. By employing a variety of cunning disguises, he attempts to outwit his prey in order to fill his tummy. The results of this will have you rolling around wheezing like a drain with laughter, regardless of age, but will probably best appreciated by those with at least three years under their belts.

Sean Taylor himself is a bit of a master at this writing lark- not just the sentences, but the space around them (if that doesn’t sound too fancy) which gives the one reading out loud the gift of comic timing and makes them sound like a comedy genius. How kind!

The descriptive language is very poetic and for me the hero of the hour, with gems such as

“The shadowy night stretches away forever, as black as burnt toast.”

Dreamy, huh?

Jean Jullien’s illustrations are strong lined and smooth, with flat clashing colours and excellent use of big eyes imperceptibly changing but telling us exactly what the characters are thinking. His artwork is as creative as Taylor’s words, making this a pretty much perfect picture book.

hoot owl inner ready

The more I research authors, the less surprised I am to find out that the most creative story tellers are usually poets too. Sean Taylor’s own poetry is well worth a look and teachers will be pleased to hear that he also does workshops and school visits. I can’t imagine these would be anything less than brilliant.

Hoot Owl Master of Disguise has it all: great art, humour and owls. No wonder it’s been shortlisted for the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards, or Lollies, in the picture book category.

I strongly encourage that anyone in need of a bit of a cheer up should check out Hoot Owl Master of Disguise and display it proudly thereafter on their coffee table as a thing of great beauty and infinite wisdom.

Hoot Owl Master of Disguise is a picture book of true glory, and a proper hoot to boot.

Notes for Teachers on Poetry

When I was in primary school and our fourth year teacher introduced poetry, she told us that poets used something called Artistic License. It was years before I realised this wasn’t an actual thing you had to apply for once you’d made the decision to enter the creative industries as a career, which was a shame because I really wanted one. Poetry for me was amazing, because not only could you combine it with illustration, but using drawings actually made it look even better! You could act it out too- we performed on local radio as a class, each reading a line or so of our group creation. It was something I bet not one of us has forgotten the thrill of.

Nowadays poetry is way, way undervalued in most primary schools- at least in my experience- and it’s such a shame because kids love reading it, writing it and hearing it. If you go in any primary classroom and take a look at what the kids are choosing to read in their own time, I guarantee you’ll see lots of them have chosen poetry books. They choose them because they’re exciting; for the variety of subjects and the way they make them feel, plus they look interesting and can feel friendlier than a big fiction text.

They can hear them in their heads, enjoy reading them out loud and performing them with friends. It’s a total no-brainer that this is a great way to develop reading for pleasure, because kids are already choosing to do it!

Try to, if you can, ignore the lacklustre approach the government takes to poetry in our current Primary Programme of Study for English (poetry is mentioned 11 times, as opposed to spelling’s 102 times plus there’s another document entirely devoted to all things SPAG…) and try to comfort yourself that poetry is at least hazily acknowledged in this document to be key in children developing a positive attitude to reading and a good way of getting kids reading for pleasure, which is something we can all agree on.

Teach it for its own sake, without trying to tailor it to a specific outcome, as you would teach art ( I hope). Talk, act, draw, sing, laugh, work together, get a poet in. Even get Sean Taylor in, or at least remember to check out his poetry here.

Follow the sage advice of wise owl Brian Moses who knows his onions about how to raise the profile of poetry. Take a look at his ten point plan here and share it with your colleagues. Go, do it now.