Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: When Sue Found Sue by Toni Buzzeo and Diana Sudyka

Review: When Sue Found Sue by Toni Buzzeo and Diana Sudyka

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Sue Hendrickson was born to find things. From the moment she was a little girl, she was on the lookout for curious objects to take home and study. The shy, intelligent child grew into an explorer, and in 1990 Sue Hendrickson found a whole T-Rex skeleton in the cliffs of South Dakota. Her team decided that the fossil should be named after Sue. 

A real-life story about a woman who lived her passions.

The first thing I loved about When Sue Found Sue was it didn’t push the inspirational narrative. Recently there have been such a number of books about inspirational lives that the phrase has lost all meaning. When Sue Found Sue begins with a shy, studious kid who found a way to follow her interests as an adult. I prefer these authentic life stories because the whole reason to tell them is to show that great things start with passion and drive. 

The illustrations hint at Sue’s love for the outdoors. Even when she is inside, there are trees and birds visible through the windows, and when she is outdoors she appears to be part of the great sweeping landscapes and underwater worlds. A double spread picture of the fossil brings to live the enormity of what Sue Hendrickson found. 

A note at the back puts the story into context and discusses the ethical questions raised by the fossil’s ‘discovery’. My favourite quote says simply that, at one point, only Sue Hendrickson didn’t believe she owned Sue [the fossil]. Regardless of how other people behaved, Sue  Hendrickson respected the world’s treasures. 

A wonderful introduction to Sue’s story and the kind of book which makes readers want to get up and follow their own passion. 

 

Thanks to Abrams Books for my gifted copy of When Sue Found Sue. Opinions my own. 

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Wilfred And Olbert’s Epic Prehistoric Adventure by Stephan Lomp

Wilfred And Olbert’s Epic Prehistoric Adventure by Stephan Lomp

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A time machine takes Wilfred and Olbert back to the beginning of time. Through a series of portals, they travel through pre-history, starting with the Big Bang and ending with the frozen ice ages of the Quaternary period. During their adventures, they see how animals evolved and the environment changed across millions of years. 

A zany look at the prehistoric era which mixes puzzles, games and humour with an illustrated guide.

Fact file this isn’t. Information is, on the surface, kept a minimum with a short line of summary at the top of each double-page spread and name labels for the animal life in the pictures. The many speech bubbles are filled with jokes and follow Wilfred and Olbert’s adventure. 

Actually, the book is packed with information, but most of it is in the pictures and puzzles. Each spread is a great at-a-glance guide to the different ages. Did you know the dinosaurs had to contend with meteors? Or that corals were around right when the earliest life began? All of this information can be learned through the pictures. 

This would suit readers who enjoy reading pictures – really taking time to get information out of the illustrations. It is encouraging to see books which take a fun approach to non-fiction. We can learn in hundreds of different ways and books which encourage play and laughter are picked up many times by readers who might shy away from traditional fact-files. 

A double thumbs-up for Wilfred and Olbert. Looking forward to learning where their next adventures take them. 

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Creature Feature Dinosaurs by Natasha Durley

Review: Creature Feature Dinosaurs by Natasha Durley

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Millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the Earth. This fantastic visual guide shows dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes – horned ones and beaky ones and dinosaurs with long necks.

Each section has an introduction which explains what specific characteristics were for. Beaks, for example, were useful for snipping leaves, spearing fish and cracking open nuts. The double page spreads are largely visual, making this a catalogue of dinosaurs. It would be perfect for flicking through and finding a favourite. The dinosaurs are named and it would be a wonderful resource for enthusiasts to learn names and test their memories. 

The illustrations use a wonderful range of colours which stand out against single colour backgrounds. The use of shape is inventive and the book is a lovely starting point for anyone wanting to draw dinosaurs. 

Although the book has board pages, it is not exclusively for tiny readers. It could be enjoyed by anyone aged two upwards. As this is a visual guide, I can imagine readers flicking backwards and forwards through the pages, and the more durable material means the pages won’t wear about with heavy use. 

A ROARsome visual guide which will be loved and examined by young dinosaur enthusiasts. 

 

Thanks to Big Picture Press for my gifted copy of Creature Feature Dinosaurs. Opinions my own.

Board Book · Uncategorized

Board Book Round-Up (March 2019)

Board Book Round-Up (March 2019)

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The ABC OF Musical Instruments by Ailie Busby

Join a cast of forest animals as they bang their drums, blow their oboes and party from A to Z. An alphabet book in a traditional format (A is for …, B is for …), what makes this especially beautiful is the use of pattern. The designs were inspired by Jane Austen’s garden, and by the lining of a coat thought to have belonged to her which is in the care of the Hampshire Cultural Trust. Pages alternate from a colour-blocked letter with a patterned background to a colour-blocked letter with a patterned background.

The book has a lovely vintage feel but is lively and appealing for young readers.

123 Tea Party by Ailie Busby

A little fox is setting out a tea party for his friends. How many cakes does he need? How many pots of tea. Count from one to ten and join little fox and his friends at the end as they celebrate with a tea party.

Plain block backgrounds allow the patterned numbers and details to stand out. As in The ABC Of Musical Instruments, the patterns were inspired by Jane Austen’s garden and at Chawton. This is a very pretty book. Fox is helped along the way by a flock of birds and everything about his tea service is totally Cath Kidston.

Early numeracy is important but teaching children the basics of afternoon tea is inspired.

 

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Say Hello To The Gruffalo. Based on the book by Julia Donaldson And Axel Scheffler.

A stroll in the wood. Off we go! Who is coming to say hello?

Join the famous mouse on a walk through the woods and meet the characters known and loved from the original picture book. This would make a gentle introduction to The Gruffalo for children too young for the original book. It is also a lovely rhyme.

The book has peek-through pages. Characters are first seen through round windows which then frame the mouse when the page is turned. This allows plenty of play and is a good big space to stick little fingers through.

A thoughtfully designed companion to a favourite book.

 

Gruffalo, What Can You Hear? Based on the book by Julia Donaldson And Axel Scheffler.

A hiss in the leaves, a hoot in the trees …

This lovely little book introduces words for sound, especially focusing on the animals featured in The Gruffalo. Three sentences extend over the course of the book, making it the perfect size to enjoy on the go.

The book clips on to the buggy with a strap, which can be dettached if the book is unclipped and given to a tiny child. The strap is made from stretchy elastic so the book can be pulled a little way around from where it is attached.

Give the gift of reading on the go, and introduce a small child to the Gruffalo.

 

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Pets by Jane Foster

Reptiles and birds. Big and small. Say hello to the animals most commonly adopted as companions.

With a word and a picture, this is the perfect vocabulary builder. Point at the pictures and follow the letters of the word until your little reader learns the words for our animal friends.

I adore the design, with bright, contrasting colours, subtle patterns on the pages with the words and funky retro-style animals which could be straight out of a 1960s picture book. Elder siblings might enjoy using this as a catalogue for drawing inspiration. This would be a lovely way to bring the bigger kids into a reading experience designed for the very young.

This is part of a series of books. Think first 1000 words split into bright, attractive volumes. Why wait until your child is old enough for paper pages when you can start with such beautiful and fun books?

 

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Who’s Hiding At The Seaside? and Who’s Hiding In The Woods? by Katherine McEwan

There are animals hiding everywhere. 

Take a trip to the seaside. Go for a stroll in the local woods. Who do you expect to find?

The answer is there are more animals out there than many of us realise. With an increasingly urbanised population, and dwindling knowledge of the natural world, it is important we introduce a love of the outdoors early so that the next generation grow up to love and protect the world.

Microhabitats are introduced, from a windy cliffside to a rock pool. Lift back the flaps to find out which animals inhabit each area. On the reverse side of the flaps are facts about the animals. As these are cardboard flaps, I would recommend these books to the oldest board book readers, although many of the parents I speak to on Twitter are absolute pros at keeping cardboard flaps safe (or letting them get damaged in the name of education. Also a good call.)

The illustrations pick out the different textures you would expect in each habit and capture the movement of leaves and grass blowing in the wind. A beautiful introduction to the outdoors.

 

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Hello, Mr Dinosaur! by Sam Boughton

Take a tour through the time of the dinosaurs. Just how big was a velociraptor? What did a triceratops eat? Learn some basic facts about each dinosaur until you too are a fully qualified dino-spotter.

With the dinosaurs illustrated from different angles and the textures of their bodies really thought out, this is one of the most attractive introductions to the subject which I have seen in a long time. I love the paint and crayon effect of the pictures and the way the landscape is shown alongside the animals. Many children are shown touring the prehistoric world, which makes the subject feel less remote than it can in books which show only the unknown.

The end pages fold out into a big dinosaur display which also acts as a memory test of the dinosaurs’ names. This will keep young enthusiasts busy and engaged.

The book has cardboard flaps and challenging facts and would be perfect for slightly older board book readers. This would be perfect for older children with small siblings – this was a specific group we catered to when I worked as a bookseller because some parents just didn’t want to buy paper books when they were in danger of being wrecked, but also wanted to keep their nursery aged children engaged.

An insightful and attractive introduction to a popular topic. Highly recommended.

 

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Ottie Elephant In The Town and Marley Bear At The Farm by Melissa Crowton

Where are the animals off to today? What do the hear? What kind of objects might they find? Take a trip out and about with an animal friend and explore the vocabulary relevant to different settings.

With felt flaps to lift and scrunch, mirrors for play time, textures to stroke, and hide and seek games in the pictures, these books are high on play value. They are bright and attractive with lots of primary colours and simple patterns.

Although the book follows the animal through one location, it could be opened on one page to play a game. This makes them great books for on the bus or train because they will keep your little reader distracted without it being a disappointment if the story can’t be finished.

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow Books, MacMillan Children’s Books UK, Templar Publishing and New Frontier Publishing UK for gifting the books in this feature. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Dinosaur Department Store by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt

Review: The Dinosaur Department Store by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt

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Eliza Jane has been given plenty of labels. Wilful. Wild. It comes as no surprise to her parents when, on Eliza Jane’s fourth birthday, she asks for a dinosaur as a pet. Off they go to the Dinosaur Department Store where Mr Magisaurus gives them a tour. 

A vibrant, lively story filled with humour and action. 

img_8515It must be the dream of many small children to own a real dinosaur. Dinosaurs are staples with under eights. They are on television programmes and in films. Toys and video games. They are on clothes and stationery and in wonderful stories like The Dinosaur Department Store. Whether the reader is interested in the history and science of dinosaurs, or simply in the characters, they will enjoy this one. It is the ultimate in wish fulfillment. 

Like Eliza Jane, the dinosaurs in this story are filled with energy. They swish their tails and crunch bones and make spectacular noises. Eliza Jane is filled with empathy for the dinosaurs stuck in their cages … and so she comes up with a plan. I love how tiny she looks beside the dinosaurs. It makes it more difficult to notice what she is up to. Readers are encouraged to look elsewhere and will be excited to see that there is more going on than the words let on. 

The illustrations are a riot of colour and pattern, balanced out with gentle green fronds and the white wallpaper of the department store. The reader feels up close to the dinosaurs and I just love how much we read about Mr Magisaurus’s smug personality from his face. 

A real treasure which will go down will with dinosaur lovers and makers of mischief. This will raise laugher and excitement and would make a wonderful bedtime read. 

 

Thanks to Buster Books for my gifted copy of The Dinosaur Department Store. Opinions remain my own.