Sunday 28 June 2015

Is there a dog in this book?


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You may also be interested in:There Are Cats in This Book

Details: Author/illustrator: Viviane Schwarz. Published by Walker Books 2014.

The story:
Three cats- Tiny, Moonpie & Andre, think there might be a dog in the book. From the cover pages, we can see that, a dog in their territory could be an emergency situation- just look at those panicked eyes! 
Speaking directly to the reader , the cats ask that you help them to hide from the dreaded Dog …..although, Tiny is curious, he doesn’t  know what a dog actually is…maybe Dog could be nice? Hiding behind the sofa, in the piano,  in a suitcase (underneath book flaps) they ask that, you help keep them hidden -but how can we resist those flaps?!  
Finally, the dog sniffs them out- initially there is cat panic- until the felines realize that,  the dog is friendly. But, oops- Tiny mentions that the reader could cuddle the dog and he runs away scared. Oh dear-their friendship is only blossoming and those cats must find their doggy friend. After a page of numerous flaps-Dog is found, all is well and the author closes with ‘There are three cats and  a dog in this book. They are all your friends.’

Why I Like This Book :
Hang on!
'Like it’ ??
I LOVE it!
This is such a FUN, interactive book! How refreshing to find a 'Lift the Flap’ book which is not  a predictable game of peek-a-boo. This is 'Lift the Flap’ advanced style!
The story is entertaining with 3 endearing cat characters. They speak to the reader, with text in speech bubbles and in their panicky manner, ask that you the reader, do not reveal their hiding places. But, who can not look at a flap without opening it?! 
And these are not your average lift the flaps- each action (of flap lifting) changes the nature of the story, with both the front and rear of each flap adapting to the story line i.e the facial expressions of the cats may be different depending on which side of the flap falls onto the page….on one page, the lifting action results in the dog being touched by one of the cats.
While the cat characters interact with the reader and each other in text, the dog does not talk directly to the reader- however, he communicates through his facial expressions, sniffing , cute tail wagging and woofing.When we do see text bubbles above doggy, they are filled with stick-like drawings or symbols such as a love heart at the end. I like that there is a subtle difference here and this allows  readers to make their own interpretations about the dog thoughts. 
The illustrations are fun, bright, varied in texture and engaging- standing out well on the white background.
The flaps are of  a card like quality, vary in size  and will withstand plenty of flapping/lifting by the older child- but younger toddlers may be tempted to tear. I think a child of 3+ would enjoy this story and be able to manipulate the pages/flaps with care.
What the child can learn from this book:
This book will appeal to a child’s sense of humour. At the same time, it may give insight into emotions such as fear, panic, curiosity (Tiny doesn’t know what a dog is and asks lots of questions) relief, joy, excitement and togetherness. Children will also learn a little more about typical dog/cat relationships- and how assumptions and preconceived ideas about others can be limiting/untrue.
In short/less of the waffle:
This is a very cleverly designed interactive book with a comical story line, cute characters & fantastic illustrations. 
I Love it!  See some video reviews below.
Also, author Viviane Schwarz provides printable downloads and knitting patterns for Moonpie, Tine & Andre on her website.See link below.
Happy reading, 
Missus B :)
Viviane Schwarz's 'Fun and Freebies' page here
My video review:

A video review by a child:

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Tom's Special Talent

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An introduction to dyslexia along with important messages about individual learning styles & unique talents.

Title: Tom's Special Talent : A story About Dyslexia (Special Stories)
Author: Kate Gaynor
Illustrator: Eva Byrne
Published: 2009 by Special Stories Publishing

Reviewed copy from my local library.

Book Description
Back of Book: Tom isn't sure if he really has any talents at all when he sees how good his friends are at writing and reading. But a school competition helps him to find his own very 'special talent.'

The Story:
Tom is the narrator, and aged maybe 7 or 8, he fondly describes his school life - his lovely teacher, Miss Jolly, and fun activities including singing, music and art.
Tom struggles with literacy lessons though....anxious about reading, he worries that he's not as good as his peers. 

The kind Miss Jolly is there to support him however, explaining that, we all learn differently, each of us having special or unique talents. 

Tom explains a little about dyslexia, reassuring readers that,it doesn't mean you're not clever, 'it just means you have to practice a bit harder at the things you find difficult to do.' While Tom finds reading difficult, he really enjoys singing songs, playing games and art time..Tom's 'special talent' is painting pictures.

More from Missus B:
With bright and cheerful illustrations, this book celebrates diversity, mutual respect and individuality. 

Many readers may relate to the challenges Tom faces.'The only part of the school day I don't really like is when we practice our reading and writing' . We see the glum faced Tom standing in front of his peers with the word 'Help' framing his face.

'I feel worried and afraid that I might get the words wrong. I am not as good at reading as some of my friends.'

We all have special talents that are unique to us Miss Jolly reassures Tom.
Tom describes Dyslexia in simple terms, and highlights how, while writing and spelling is hard for him, there are many things that he does easily. This is a simple message for the child with dyslexia, or any child who may struggle with some parts of learning. Within the story, we hear about several students who may struggle in one area, while being skilled in another.
The book gives a brief explanation about dyslexia.At the rear of the book,
there is a 'Notes for Grown Up's '
section which provides further info about this learning difficult
On closing the story, Tom asks the reader to think about their own special talent and a page at the rear is left blank for the child to colour or write about this. 

When I shared this book with my nieces and nephews, it led to a lovely discussion about the talents of each family member, with the children discussing and acknowledging their positive attributes - a nice change from the usual sibling rivalry!

The back inside cover has 'Notes for Grown Up's'  as well as contact information for a dyslexia support agency.

In short
This book gives a positive message about learning styles, talents and unique characteristics. It gives a brief explanation about dyslexia and for the young or a recently diagnosed child, it is a positive and reassuring read. All children will relate to it's core message-we each have strengths and weaknesses. 

While the book's cover has 'A Story About Dyslexia' in small print, the information is on the brief side-it may not satisfy the child with more questions.

If you as a parent or professional need more information in a child friendly format- here is another excellent resource which I have used in my work : - Dyslexia:information for kids
Child reviews the book:

A Missus B video review:

An excellent child friendly web page to help children learn more about dyslexia:Kids Health: Dyslexia

Are you a parent in need of  more information about dyslexia? Here is a helpful page-KidsHealth:Understanding Dyslexia

Happy reading,

Missus B

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Oi Frog!

Cats sit on mats, mules sit on stools- every animal has a special place!

Written by Kes Gray

Illustrated by Jim Field 
Hodder Children's Books, a division of Hachette Children's Books  2014
ISBN: 978 1 444 91085 8, 10 987 6543
Library Copy

Back of Book:

Cats sit on mats, hares sit on chairs, mules sit on stools and gophers sit on sofas, but Frog does not want to sit on a log!
From the award-winning Kes Gray and the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Jim Field. A hilarious rhyming tale about a frog who discovers that all animals have their special places to sit!

The story:

Frog meets a cat who says "Oi Frog! Sit on a log!" but Frog points out that: 
"Logs are nobbly and uncomfortable. And they can give you splinters in your bottom." 
He makes a valid point, and we can see some little splinters stuck in his butt while his eyes water but the cat is having none of it. Frog asks if he could sit on a mat instead, but cat curtly tells him, "Only cats sit on mats." As for a chair?- Well, that's where a hare sits. 
And so it goes on, with Frog suggesting various places he could sit and the cat informing him of the other animals who already belong in such places. 
Strong vivid colours, comical animal characters, clever rhyming text and the general wackiness of this book make it a fun read for people of all ages.
A Missus B favourite!

Why I love this book:

The illustrations are a delight! The comical animal characters stand out perfectly against the bold backgrounds and the illustrator has given each one animated facial expressions- from the pained lion as he sits on the pointy end of an iron (lions sit on irons didn't you know?) to the disconcerted seal as he tries to balance himself on a wheel.

I wonder is that iron still hot?!
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
'Oi Frog!'
Each page is packed full of action-a flock of puffins are squidged onto creamy muffins, a giant ape sits on a mountain of grapes, some tiny fleas rest on peas. These visual delights of comical antics will make you laugh out loud.

'Foxes sit on boxes....'
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
'Oi Frog'
As usual, Kes Gray comes up trumps with his rhyming text and here is a lovely example:

"What do seals sit on?" asked the frog.

"Don't you know anything?" said the cat.
"Seals sit on wheels,
doves sit on gloves,
newts sit on flutes, lizards sit on wizards and
apes sit on grapes."

Before you know it, little readers will be joining in with the wacky text and memorising the comical rhyming words. What a fun way to develop literacy skills. There are 29 animals/insects named in this book also- a fine collection of living things for you to discuss! 

Weasels on easels, moles on poles- I love that gorilla on the pillar!
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
'Oi Frog!'
The dialogue between the cat and Frog is comical and their personalities come alive on the pages. The frog is playful and carefree- dreamily stretching on the sofa as he suggests it as a resting place, having a sneaky strawberry from the cake (which is topped by a snake.)  The cat is somewhat aloof and condescending, as only a cat could be, and he grumpily tells Frog "It's not about being comfortable....It's about doing the right thing."  Cat seems almost irritated by Frog's endless questions and he even takes to diagrams to enlighten the uneducated frog.

Frog gets a lesson from the grumpy cat.
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
'Oi Frog!'
But, he leaves out one important fact. "I was hoping you weren't going to ask that" he responds when Frog wonders "What do dogs sit on?"

Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
'Oi Frog!'

A hilarious ending to 'Oi Frog!', lets just hope that a hog doesn't come to sit on that dog! 

Love, love this book! See my video review here:

Happy reading, 

Missus B 

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Vegetable Glue

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Author:Susan Chandler

Illustrator: Elena Odriozola

Published by: Meadowside Children's Books, 2004
Library Copy                                  

Back of Book- 'When my right arm fell off, I knew what to do, I stuck it back on, With Vegetable Glue.' If things start falling off your body, it's time to reach for the Vegetable Glue.

In comical rhyming fashion, we hear the tale of a little girl whose bits keep falling off- because she only eats cake. 
She explains that, by eating our 5 a day, our bodies make a special glue of goodness inside us. But, because she hasn't eaten her greens, she could drop a limb at any moment. Oh dear! 
When she sneezes, her ear pops off. We also see her head rolling away and her arm dropping off.  
To remedy the situation, she is now eating a huge pot of Vegetable Glue, with her granny bringing her a supply of fresh veg to top up on. 
Granny is a prime example of a healthy-vegetable-eater. She jogs into the story looking as fit as a fiddle and nothing near her impressive age- one hundred and four.

This book is a visual delight, with beautiful, quirky illustrations, soft textured colours and lovely patterned details. Tim Burton comes to mind -but less of the spooky and more of the cutey.

A work of comical art. The pictures are some of my all time favourite
picture book illustrations
Why I Love this book
I discovered this little gem about 10 years ago and it is one of my all time favourites. I have fond memories of groups of pre-school children giggling at this story line, joining in with the comical rhyme and enthusiastically discussing the pictures.
The story gives a fun message about eating your greens. Children with a sense of humour will enjoy the amusing illustrations- the ear dashing across the page as the little girl sneezes, her bottom falling off as she makes 'a rude sound.'
The verse makes for a perfect 'read aloud' with a group of children- it is simple, memorable and flows well, inviting the listener to join in with ease. My pre-schoolers were guessing the words after one or two reads. The large sized text and illustrations are also suitably attractive for story time in a group setting.

My favourite page : 'Oops, pardon me, I've made a rude sound. My bottom's
dropped off...And is now... on the ground.'
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews : 'Vegetable Glue'
Overall, this book offers opportunities to discuss healthy eating. Little readers will laugh out loud at the idea of sneezing an ear off, while the image of the super fit grandmother may lead to discussions about the benefits of having a well balanced diet.

In short:
A comical story, with lovely rhyming text, quirky illustrations and a non-preachy message about healthy eating. A Missus B favourite.

Peas Please!
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews: 'Vegetable Glue'

See my little nephew reviewing the book here:

Happy reading,
Missus B

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'My Humongous Hamster Goes to School'

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A giant hamster at school?! Oh what fun!

Book Details

Text & illustrations: Lorna Freytag
Published by Picadilly Press 2014
ISBN: 978 1 84812 379 3

Book Description
It's Bring your Pet to School Day! 
‘Freddy brings his fish….. Maisie brings her rabbit' and the narrator brings his pet hamster.
But,escaping from his cage, Hamster decides to tuck into everyone's lunch….
After gobbling  his way through a classroom of  snacks, Hamster begins to grow and grow until, he is HUMONGOUS!
That’s when the trouble begins.
Hamster causes a bit of a stir - breaking furniture, getting in the way during ballet, frightening  the dinner ladies. The adults at school are not impressed, but the children seem to enjoy their big visitor and, although he gets in the way, he is a welcome distraction.
Finally, Hamster  gets himself into trouble with the head teacher and, looking rather sad, he is given a  sympathetic group hug from the children. That cuddly hug must give the hamster a 'snug as a bug feeling’, because pretty soon, he shrinks back down to his normal hamster size.
Why I like this book
Fantastic photographs are manipulated in this book, giving the reader a perfect vision of how school would be, if a giant hamster (or any giant pet) invaded the classroom for a day!
In Goldilocks style, Humongous Hamster sits on a chair and breaks it-teacher wags her finger up at him, while the students love the spectacle. Mayhem continues, with the giant tutu-clad hamster getting in the way during ballet, eating all the artwork and peering into all the classrooms with his giant hamster face.
School children will enjoy this book as the pictures are literally real life, with clever  photography creating a perfect classroom situation (pets in school? pets making school crazy?!) 
Also, Hamster manages to drive the teacher, head teacher and dinner ladies over the edge…….Now, isn’t  that an entertaining day at school?  
In short
The photography in this book beautifully combines typical classroom scenes with, well…with a giant hamster!


Happy reading, 

Missus B

Watch a child review the book here:

Missus B video review here:

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Worries Go Away!

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The story of a little girl, with some very big worries.

Book Details
Title: Worries Go Away!
Author: Kes Gray, Illustrator: Lee Wildish
Hodder Childrens Books 2014

Library copy reviewed

Back of book:
For every child who has worries - BIG and SMALL-comes this compelling and comforting story. From the bestselling team behind Leave Me Alone and Mum and Dad Glue. 

The story: Through rhyme, a little girl tells us about the imaginary world she escapes to when feeling sad. At first, it feels wonderful with blue skies, cream cakes and quiet places for thinking. But, her worries follow her there, creeping into her mind, turning into monsters and chasing after her. Feeling frightened in this world of her own, the little girl comes to a door and realises that, by opening it and in turn opening her heart to others, she can be supported by her friends and family. A powerful story with an important message about reaching out for help at times when we are scared or worried. Wonderfully illustrated by Lee Wildish.

Why this book is one for my bookshelf:

On stumbling upon this Kes Gray/Lee Wildish combination at my library, I knew this was a definite check-out for me. Their lovely book 'Mum and Dad Glue' has won a place in my heart and I was happy to come upon another little gem from this duo. 

And a gem it is.....

In the story's opening pages, the  little girl narrator talks about escaping to 'a world of my own.' She describes freedom from sad feelings and a place where no-one else can reach her. And with the lovely rhyming text and beautiful illustrations we drift into a world of giant ice creams, lollipop trees, endless fizzy drinks, bunny rabbits & smiling honey bees. 

In chunky, bright pictures we see the story's character blissfully skipping through her heavenly world with her teddy. Oh, and there's a unicorn. Of course! A lovely, fat, pink unicorn trots across the blue sky leaving a colourful rainbow trail (the rainbow looks like it's coming from it's butt-only a unicorn could poot a rainbow I guess)

But then, the little girl's worries start to creep in. As the story unfolds, Kes Gray perfectly describes how emotions can escalate and overwhelm, for example:

My worries grow larger,

They play on my mind.
They start to play tricks
Of the scariest kind.

They turn into monsters

That circle and prowl,
That bellow and cackle,
That grizzle and growl.

And, we hear of how this impacts on the child:

They won't let me lose them,

They won't let me go.
I'm beginning to panic,
I'm beginning to slow. 

What a simple and perfect description of how 'worries' can creep into your mind and take hold? And for me, the use of rhythm in the story adds emotional depth- in a sense, it gives the story a heart beat and it allowed me to feel connected to the racing fears of the character. 

As for the illustrations- well, until now, I did not know what 'A Worry' looked like. However, Wildish gives us a perfect picture of this emotion.  'Worries' are hot and swirling, mottled yellow and red,  they have squiggly swirling tails, long clutching arms, they swoop, they glide and they chase.These monsters wreck everything in their path- ice-cream melts, flowers droop, skies darken and they arrive in a swirling storm of lightening. 

  It's hard to escape from worry monsters....
'The blue sky above me
Turns black as deep space.
I turn and I run,
            But the worries give chase.'      Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
As for the fat pink unicorn? Nowhere to be seen :(

Of course, this story comes full circle in that, the character manages to escape her fears. She runs away from her monsters and comes to a dark and quiet space, where she gropes about and finds a door with a keyhole. The door is a metaphor for 'reaching out' and being open to help. When the character looks through the door's keyhole, she sees that people on the other side have been knocking and trying to open it. The little girl had locked herself away, but now she realizes that she has the power to let people into her world and help her feel safe. 

I stare at the door,

The door stares at me.
Suddenly I realise

If I open my heart

To my family and friends
My worries might go
And my trouble might end.

And as lovely, pink heart shapes gush in through the keyhole, the little girl opens the door to be surrounded by the warm glow of people who care. Welcoming arms reach out to her, and while we only see legs and arms,we can assume that  these people may be  family members, neighbours or other caring adults. As the character receives a warm hug she says: 

The next time I'm troubled,

There's a place I will go.
Not a world of my own.
But to someone I know.

Worries Go Away
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
The book ends with a lovely colourful page spread (no text)- a warm, bright picture with giant ice cream cones, bottles of soda, love hearts and smiling birds. The unicorn is back and pooting rainbows...and so are the happy honey bees. 

In short:

I LOVE this book , it's very important message and engaging pictures. 
This story is an excellent resource for developing emotional literacy, opening dialogue about feelings and encouraging children to communicate with others if they are feeling scared or worried.
Happy reading, 
Missus B
This is a Missus B favourite and valued treasure on my book shelf. Watch a video review here:

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