Monday 29 August 2022

Our Summer Round-Up of Picture Books (including what's coming up!)

While I've been reading novels all summer, bedtime with our little readers have been all about picture books. Even at 11, 9 and 7, my three still love a picture book and refuse to settle without one. What I've loved about this summer, though, is that all three of them have also (independently) been devouring books of their choosing; chapter books, non-fiction books, graphic novels, and yet still want that shared storytime at the end of the day. Thanks to these new releases, we certainly haven't been short of new material...

Sid's Big Fib by Roo Parkin and Irina Augustinavich

Link to publisher

Published by: Maverick Publishing, 28th July 2022


WOW! What a treat! We've been waiting for this one ever since it was announced. With its hooky title and bold front cover, Sid's Big Fib seemed to be promising us an in-your-face story filled with bucketloads of fun and chaos, and that is exactly what we got!

It's Monday morning and Sid and his friend, Lulu are trying to outdo each other's weekend activities. But when a fib slips out of Sid's mouth, it soon escalates beyond his control. Can he put things right?

As a former primary teacher, I really enjoyed the fact that this story is based around child banter in the playground. The weekend scenarios are hilarious and Roo Parkin nails Sid's perspective as he tries to compete with his friends.

Keeping up the pretence of a fib is hard work and readers will see the comical lengths Sid has to go to to maintain his snowballing lie. Hidden underneath the humour, of course, is the clear, but not didactic, message of the importance of telling the truth and the text comes to a neat full-circle conclusion. The illustrations by Irina Augustinavich are fantastic and this has now become a firm favourite amongst our other bright, quirky and cleverly funny picture books from Maverick Publishing. 

Never Let a Diplodocus Draw by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Diane Ewen

Link to publisher

Published by: Penguin, 18th August 2022


As above, the arrival of this pre-order caused great excitement. The third in the series of 'Never Let a [Dinosaur]'... this is probably our favourite so far (and we've loved all of them). 

Never Let a Diplodocus Draw. Who knows what could happen? Things might spiral out of control...and then what? Where might it all end? Why not turn the pages and find out...

Celebrating the power of imagination and the importance of having dreams and aspirations, this 'what if' book teaches young readers never to impose limitations upon themselves. Each book in the series pays homage to the gift of education and dreaming big and focuses on the exciting things that can happen as a result. 

What we particularly loved about this story was the celebration of creativity and the infectiousness of it. My son chuckled at the colours and the splats and revelled in the characters' freedom to be able to explore, experiment and make a mess that was valid and valued. Mix in the fact that, of course, the genius aspect of the series is that the main character just happens to be a dinosaur and you have a winner of story. The illustrations are incredible with lots of extras to spot - particularly look out for characters you may have met before - and we're already on the edge of our seats wondering if this is the last we'll see of this dream series and dream creators. 

The Elephant Detectives by Ged Adamson

Link to publisher

Published by: Nosy Crow, July 2022


Highly entertaining, this story stole our hearts with its charm and general gorgeousness. Gentle and yet totally endearing, can you help the elephant detectives solve the case of the missing elephant?

When Alan's elephant goes missing, he's relieved to bump into Edie, an elephant detective. Convinced she knows where the elephant has gone, they search everywhere; from doughnut shops to a museum, but without any success. Will the elephant ever turn up? And why is Edie so keen to help?

With the entertaining illustrations telling an alternative story to the text, this book is a great opportunity for little ones to become detectives themselves and stay one step ahead of the characters. We loved how the elephant facts were interpreted by Edie and twisted into a highly original adventure. There's a lovely nod to how important a child's relationship with a pet or animal can be and also to the importance of friendship. It left us with a warm, fuzzy feeling and a smile on our faces!

One Tiny Dot by Lucy Rowland and Gwen Millward

Link to Waterstones

Published by: Templar, April 2022


If the world needs more of anything, it's kindness and this beautifully written rhyming story is a gentle and poignant example of how wonderful things could be if we all embraced it. Exploring the impact that kindness has on both individuals and the community, it is the perfect text for the classroom and for discussing emotions.

Dot is kindness, determined to spread joy. As it travels through the book, how will it deal with others who don't feel the same?

Our favourite things about this book were the infectiousness of kindness and the depiction of anger and sadness. We also loved how Dot physically transformed as a result of kindness, resembling how it makes us feel inside. Both the text and the illustrations give the book a wonderful feel of inclusivity and, aside from the rhyme, this felt different in style to Lucy Rowland's well-known fairy tale retellings, which we also love. 

I-Spy Island, Book vs. Shark by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Link to publisher

Published by: Simon and Schuster, July 2022


Stories about inanimate objects are a personal favourite of mine and, considering the success of Supertato amongst the other countless picture books Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet have created, it appears they are popular in general. After thoroughly enjoying the first I-Spy Island story, we were really excited for the release of the second and I-Spy an S for another Success. 

What do you do when you spy a book that's lost its story and a shark that's bored? Well that's what Island, Glove, Banana, Bottle and Bird and Treasure Chest need to work out when the two things collide right on their shores. Will this round of the game have a happy ending?

The first story in this series, which we reviewed a year ago, was an hilarious, quirky and slightly random tale featuring an eclectic group of objects. What I love about book two, however, is the extra depth the tale brings to the series. My son loved finding out about the character's backgrounds - providing a context for how they all ended up on Island - and so did I! The plot is brilliant and the fact that is still set within the boundaries of a game of I-Spy made us laugh out loud. 

Book is a great new character, subtley highlighting the importance of stories and storytelling. This isn't the first tale I've read where a book has lost its story but it is the first that involves a shark. And as Shark seems intent on creating waves, there might be a tense climax...or a fun twist...we're not going to spoil it for you. This is definitely a new firm favourite of ours amongst our many other books by this phenomenally talented duo. It rocks!

The Fairy Dogmother by Caroline Crowe and Richard Merritt

Published by: Little Tiger, July 2022


A fairy tale retelling is always popular in our house and this one is great fun. Changing 'godmother' to 'dogmother' opens up a whole new story inside the walls of Woofington's Dog Shelter, where Cinders is living his best life...or so he thinks. 

What should a dog wish for when his fairy dogmother turns up? Cinders isn't sure. He has friends, food and space to dig so he asks advice from his friends. With lots of ideas, will Cinders ever decide?

With vibrant and fun illustrations, depicting the lovely life the dogs have at the dog shelter, this is a more upbeat retelling than the original that sparkles with magic and creativity. 'Pawfect' for both fans of fairy tales and for animal-lovers, the themes of friendship and family tug at the heartstrings like a dog pulls on a lead. The ending is heart-warming and Cinders and his four-legged friends steal the show from the start. The fairy dogmother is a vision to behold - just look at that pink! - and the story will have you wanting to take a trip to the local dog shelter. If only all dogs had their own fairy dogmother...

UPCOMING RELEASE:We Are The Shapes by Kevin Jenner

Link to publisher

Published by: Happy Yak, Quarto, 2nd August 2022


During a recent picture book retreat, I was lucky enough to hear a talk from the director of Happy Yak about their new picture book, 'We Are The Shapes'. So, when the text became available on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to share it with my little ones. Similar to 'The Perfect Fit' by Naomi and James Jones but with more attitude, this story follows the argument between The Squares and The Triangles, who really can't get on. 

The Squares are straightforward and reliable. The Triangles are sharp and edgy and they really don't get on. So when a fight breaks out, can circle turn things 'A-ROUND' without taking sides?

As well as being a great way for young children to learn about shapes and the properties of shape, this is a sharp, witty, character-led text which would also lend itself well to PSHE lessons about getting on and resolving conflict. The clever puns bring a light touch to the shapes' argument, ending with the overall message that it's okay to be different and that everyone has a valuable part to play. Simple but beautifully executed, this maths based story makes learning fun. 

UPCOMING RELEASE:The Littlest Yak: The New Arrival by Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley

Published by: Simon and Schuster, 29th September 2022


It wasn't long ago that Gertie, the littlest yak, took the picture book world by storm, winning lots of awards and a permenant place in the hearts of readers young and old. Well, GOOD NEWS, Gertie is back and as cute as ever. But something cuter might be on the way...

When Gertie learns she is about to become a big sister, she is over the moon. But, as she busies herself making preparations, a horrible thought suddenly strikes her. Maybe being a big sister won't be so great after all. 
Rushing to find her mummy, Gertie finds herself a little lost yak. Will Gertie be found? And will being a big sister turn out all right after all?

After falling in love with Gertie first time round, we weren't sure whether it would be possible to like this one more, but we did! Lu Fraser's rhyme is not only perfect but it evokes the most beautiful images and emotions within the reader, telling a story that will be relatable to lots of young readers. Kate Hindley's illustrations are rich and warm (despite the snowy scenery), truly giving us 'all the feels'.

Although we loved the message of the The Littlest Yak, the themes and message of this second story won our hearts. I haven't seen many new sibling stories of late but out of the ones I have read, this has to be one of the most beautiful. Without giving too much away, watch out for the heart in the snow because it will literally melt yours. With gentle humour, family dynamics and characters you won't forget, this will be the story of the winter season; gorgeous, cosy and cockle-warming.

A big thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for allowing me a review copy. The Littlest Yak: The New Arrival is available to pre-order and is out on 29th September. 

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