Martin Brown’s Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown ISBN 9781910200537 £12.99
I gifted this to my niece for Christmas 2017 and am pleased to say she seems to be enjoying sharing it. I was not certain that at 6 years of age she would be old enough to appreciate the more complex text which is pitched at Year 3/ 7-8 year olds. She is a fast learner and one of the oldest in her class, so I’m confident that if she wants to read it then it won’t take her long to learn. However, she can happily enjoy the clear colourful yet cartoon style illustrations with brief boxed annotations without adult intervention. The reason I chose this particular book is that last year she discovered the magic of ‘Siri’ and, after the novelty of asking silly questions and throwing insults at it, she found that the internet could tell her more about the naked mole rat…a character she had come across in another storybook. This title is a perfect way to introduce less conventional animals to childrens’ attention in a fun, accessible and informative way. It also appeals to my niece’s wicked sense of humour!
That is Not a Good Idea! By Mo Willems ISBN 9781406355581 £6.99
Knowing my niece’s propensity for mischief and a love of slapstick humour I was fairly confident that she would enjoy this story. A hen chicken meets a fox and is invited back for tea, and throughout the story baby chicks pop up and warn “that is not a good idea” right up until the surprise denouement! The cinematic style of illustration with 1920s style text between each page of character and plot development brings a little sophistication to what is otherwise essentially an alternative version of Little Red Riding Hood. But it is the humour implied in the illustrations juxtaposed with the text which makes this a little gem to share together.
How to Find Gold by Vivian’s Schwarz ISBN 9781406371642 £6.99
Before my niece started school most of her creative play came from her mum’s ideas and resources from the local children and family centre. But for a lively 4 year old indoor activities don’t keep her interested for long. Luckily they live near the beach and this is one of the most popular activities for our outdoorsy little girl, so I knew Schwarz’s treasure hunting story would be spot on. While the illustrations are deceptively childlike, there are many styles and textures of painting and drawing demonstrated with Anna and the crocodile outlined in charcoal and the sea in broiling blue wax crayon and pastels. However the key to the success of this story is the treasure seeking, with map and ship to aid them and the determination not to give up resulting in treasure at last. Refreshing to have a story led by a girl with a strong character, steely determination and independence – all traits I can see my niece developing, and I am pleased she can see herself reflected with humour and charm in the character of Anna even though they don’t look alike.
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson illustrated by Paul Howard ISBN 9781405201773 £6.99
I chose this particular edition of “The Owl Who Was Afraid” because it is an illustrated edition and felt that was more appropriate for my niece who is still learning to read and is not ready for short chapter books just yet. Plop is an owl who is afraid of the dark, so his mum sends him into the night to talk to some characters who love the dark with the hope that knowledge will help take away his fear. I must confess to giving into to a little bit of nostalgia in choosing this title, as I remember this title fondly from my own early reading days. But the main reason I chose it is because it is such a perfectly constructed simple yet entertaining tale about night time. Most people suffer from night fears at some time in their life and this is such a great story to share with anyone who wants some reassurance and the warmth and comfort of great storytelling, lovable characters and soothing language. Perfect as a bedtime story to share over several nights.
Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen illustrated by Keith Waldron ISBN 9780141379203. £6.99
In my opinion most poetry is written to be performed aloud rather than read, and Michael Rosen’s poetry is no exception. A quick search on YouTube will locate the live performance by the author of this singular creation of wit and wickedness about the awful theft of a whole chocolate cake! My niece has, with the encouragement of her father, developed a taste for chocolate of all kinds. She is also a budding diva who, though unwilling to perform in front of strangers, will happily sing Let it go in front of her toy microphone and borrow her auntie’s acoustic guitar to strum along to the music from mummy’s iPad. As this poem requires some emphasis and change of pace in the telling, it is advised to rehearse and read with your accompanying child together before viewing the performance by the master, or you may suffer from performance anxiety. Well worth the effort however you choose to tell it.