Book reviews: Easter fun time for young readers

Pre-school children are set for a cracking Easter with a fabulous selection of books guaranteed to send imaginations soaring.
Pre-school children are set for a cracking Easter with a fabulous selection of books guaranteed to send imaginations soaring.

Pre-school children are set for a cracking Easter with a fabulous selection of books guaranteed to send imaginations soaring.

Enjoy touchy feely chicks, pick up the latest portable board books, watch a rabbit make sense of the world, have fun with the animals in Acorn Wood and meet a super special sniffer dog.

Age six months plus:

Really Feely: Farm and Baby Animals

You know Easter is here when you see a fluffy chick on a book cover… and here’s one that is really special!

Really Feely: Farm and Really Feely: Baby Animals are two exciting new touch-and-feel pre-school books from DK (Dorling Kindersley), a publisher whose children’s books have become a byword in beautiful design and illustration.

These stylish board books, with their amazing 3-D, raised effects and seductive illustrations, are packed with fluffy patches, bumpy patterns, touchable glitter, shiny spots and textured patches.

With so much to feel and a simple text on every page, these books make story time even more fun and children will love getting their hands on the thick pages to explore for themselves their favourite soft and fuzzy farm animals.

In the Farm baby book, meet a fluffy duckling, a woolly sheep, a bristly pig and other animals around the farm, and in Baby Animals, make friends with a cuddly kitten, a playful puppy, a furry baby donkey and other cute baby animals.

Toddlers can touch, pat and feel each farm animal, encouraging sensory development, language skills and early reading skills, while also teaching them about animals, a favourite pre-school subject.

The ideal way to put ‘feeling’ into early learning…

(DK Children, board book, £5.99 each)

Age 2 plus:

Pick Me Up! Dinosaur and Pick Me Up! Puppy

And another hands-on winner from DK are these inventive Pick Me Up portable board books.

Pick Me Up! Dinosaur and Pick Me Up! Puppy are ingenious shaped and handled board books made to look like a pet carrier with a front cover peep-through hole that reveals the animal inside.

These novelty books – which feature action-packed, rhyming stories perfect for reading aloud, an easy-to-follow text and bold images – help to enhance pre-reading skills and essential pre-school knowledge, and promote imaginative play.

Each story introduces the animal and its characteristics, while speech bubbles and annotation encourage little ones to talk about the pictures, building language skills and reading readiness.

Pick Me Up! Dinosaur is perfect for any pre-schooler who loves dinosaurs and wonders what it might be like if they came to play. When they aren’t taking their dinosaur for a walk in its carrier, toddlers can learn about five different kinds of baby dinosaurs… the Triceratops, the Stegosaurus, the Diplodocus, the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Edmontonia.

Along the way, they will learn about their features and characteristics, from the heavy stomps of their feet to their loud roars. And their imaginations will soar as they realise what fun it would be if friendly baby dinosaurs came to play ball, go puddle jumping, and give piggyback rides.

Pick Me Up! Puppy features a fun-to-read story about five cute puppy pals. Find out what happens when Booker the puppy tries to play ball and mud games with his friends. One wants to lie in the sun, one doesn’t want to get messy and some want to eat their dinner. Is there any game that will bring them all out to play?

These cute and original board books are fun to read aloud and make the perfect gift for little ones who love animals and long to have a pet of their own.

(DK Children, board book, £5.99 each)

Age one plus:

Fluffy Chick by Rod Campbell

Even the very youngest children want to get in on the Easter fun!

So let Rod Campbell, creator of the pre-school lift-the-flap classic Dear Zoo and a trusted name in early learning for over 30 years, entertain them with this beautiful touchy feely board book which stars an adorable fluffy chick and encourages active participation.

Babies and toddlers will love discovering the different touch and feel textures on every page as they follow chick around the farm and meet all her animal friends. Stroke the woolly lamb, feel the cow’s smooth horns and then lift the flap at the end to find out who is hiding under mother hen’s wing!

With bright, bold artwork, a lift-the-flap ending and a whole host of favourite farm animals, Fluffy Chick is a perfect first farm animal story book, and the sturdy board pages, chunky cover and touch-and-feel patches make it ideal for small hands.

The ideal way to teach little ones how to interact with the world around them, and an entertaining way to introduce them to the ‘feel’ of books and reading…

(Macmillan, board book, £5.99)

Age one plus:

Charlie Chick Wants to Play by Ant Parker and Nick Denchfield

And your little chicks will certainly be in a flap this Easter when they get their hands on this gorgeous, glittery board book.

Charlie Chick is back with a brand new adventure in a specially shaped chicken board book with flaps to lift, facts to discover and a warm-hearted story to make young imaginations take flight.

Charlie Chick wants to play but he can’t find his ball. Can you help him find it? Meet his friends Frankie Frog, Desmond Dog and Penelope Piglet, and lift the flaps to see if it’s in the pig sty, the kennel, the reeds or the hen house in a bright and bold board book about friendship, farm animals and playtime.

With intriguing flaps to lift and enchanting illustrations by Ant Parker, this sweet, funny story is an ideal way to learn about first animals and their homes. Also available in the series are Charlie Chick, Charlie Chick Goes to School and Charlie Chick Learns to Fly.

With chirpy, cheepy thrills from start to finish, Charlie’s egg-cracking adventures make the perfect Easter gift…

(Campbell, board book, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

Hooray for Hoppy by Tim Hopgood

Hoppy the Rabbit has five good reasons to enjoy the arrival of spring… and he’s discovering just how useful it is to be able to smell, see, hear, touch and taste!

Hooray for Hoppy is an exciting board book from the Booktrust award-winning illustrator Tim Hopgood… it’s easy to handle, full of discovery and helps little ones to make sense of their senses.

When Hoppy the rabbit wakes up on the first day of spring, he discovers a world full of wonderful things but after he has sniffed the fresh air, listened to the singing birds and tasted the fresh green grass, he starts to feel a little lonely. And so he finds a way to wake up his friends so they can enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of spring all together.

This bold, colourful and appealing introduction to the senses helps children to learn about the way they can use their five senses to interact with the world around them, whilst the stunning artwork has a delightful retro charm that will appeal to readers young and old.

Don’t miss the fun with Hoppy as he makes sense of the world around him.

(Macmillan, board book, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Rabbits Don’t Lay Eggs by Paula Metcalf and Cally Johnson-Isaacs

Not being able to lay an egg is no yoke for Rupert the rabbit! Paula Metcalf and Cally Johnson-Isaacs have teamed up to bring us a warm-hearted and whimsical story about a rabbit who wants to make friends.

This sturdy board book, with its glittery cover reflecting a bright new season, and a pack of animals all ready to spring into action, is a tip-top book for Easter.

What can rabbits do? Rabbits don’t belong in the farmyard so it creates quite a stir when Rupert the rabbit pops up. He tries to make himself useful but he can’t cock-a-doodle-do like cockerel and when he tries to lay an egg like Dora the duck, it’s a disaster. Luckily Rupert is good at digging which soon leads to the most unexpected farm job of all…

Rupert’s adventures and misadventures are about doing your best however difficult the going gets and learning to think for yourself. Little ones will adore the enchanting Rupert and his raucous farmyard friends while the bold, colourful illustrations will have them frowning and laughing in the blink of an eye!

(Macmillan, board book, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

Tales from Acorn Wood: Rabbit’s Nap by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Creators of The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, are the geniuses behind this enchanting lift-the-flap board book with comes complete with a glittery glow.

Rabbit’s Nap comes from Donaldson and Scheffler’s best-selling lift-the-flap toddler series, Tales from Acorn Woods, which features Bear, Fox, Pig, Rabbit and all their woodland friends, and has been delighting both parents and toddlers for over 15 years.

Here we find tired Rabbit trying to get to sleep, but everyone is being so noisy. Little ones will love lifting the flaps to find out who is keeping Rabbit awake. Will she ever have her nap?

With sturdy flaps on every spread and rhyming stories that are a joy to read aloud, this captivating and colourful story is the perfect introduction to the playful stars of Tales from Acorn Woods and the ideal way to make learning fun!

(Macmillan, board book, £5.99 each)

Age 3 plus:

The Rhyming Rabbit by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

This gorgeous glittery board book about a rabbit with a penchant for poetry will have your budding little poets in rhyming heaven!

The tale of a Rhyming Rabbit trying to find somebody who appreciates his poems is the bewitching creation of bestselling duo Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks, creators of the hugely successful What the Ladybird Heard.

‘Grass is growing all around.

It makes a lovely swishing sound.’

Poor old Rhyming Rabbit is feeling lonely and left out. None of his fellow rabbits appreciate his carefully thought-out poems. And as for the other animals he meets, they just tell him to be quiet! Then one starry night he meets someone who shares his enthusiasm for poetry… a sheep with a rare rhyming habit.

Filled with Donaldson’s warm and witty verse and Monks’ irresistible illustrations, this clever, funny story is proof indeed that there’s no rhyme or reason for disliking poetry!

(Macmillan, board book, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Sheep Who Hatched an Egg by Gemma Merino

The simplest of stories can carry the cleverest of messages….

Writer and illustrator Gemma Merino works some real animal magic in this warm, wild and wonderfully woolly picture book which reminds us, through words and pictures, that friendships are more important than personal vanity.

Lola the sheep has the most extraordinary wool. It’s soft and silky and is her pride and joy. But down on the farm, when the sun comes out, the wool comes off. Poor Lola is so upset by her haircut that she runs away to the far side of the farm where she sits all alone, waiting for it to grow back. And when it does, it’s no longer silky, it’s completely wild! But with the shearing comes a wonderful surprise... courtesy of a tiny chick.

This wonderfully clever, whimsical and warm-hearted story about a vain and self-obsessed sheep serves up an important life lesson in the most unique and funny style, and will have children laughing along with her adventures.

Sometimes great friendships are more important than simply having great hair!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Town Mouse Country Mouse by Libby Walden and Richard Jones

It’s over 500 years since the first recorded publication of Aesop’s Fables and it’s no surprise that these amazing tales have stood the test of time.

Some of the staples of the English language originated from these famous fables as the characters and content have transcended their stories and become everyday idioms. These include counting one’s chickens before they have hatched, crying wolf and being a town mouse or a country mouse.

In this charming peep-through picture book, children will discover Aesop’s classic story of the town mouse and the country mouse. Richard Jones’ beautiful illustrations combined with Libby Walden’s enchanting lyrical text bring the story of these two mice to life whilst introducing little ones to the concepts of exploration, discovery and finding your place in the world.

(Caterpillar Books, hardback, £10.99)

Age 3 plus:

Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

Ten years ago, a book was launched on to the market that had underpants elastic twanging, made children snort with laughter and saw the birth of a legendary story.

If you haven’t already guessed, the book in question was, of course, Aliens Love Underpants, a glorious rhyming picture book adventure from the award-winning team of Claire Freedman and Ben Cort.

And to mark this auspicious anniversary, the aliens have returned to send a new generation (and those never too old to still enjoy a bit of zany fun!) helter-skelter into that amazing madcap underwear adventure.

Since the publication of the book in 2007, wordsmith Freedman and talented illustrator Cort have brought us the pant-loving antics of aliens, monsters, pirates, dinosaurs and even Santa Claus, all featuring the most amazing and colourful assortment of underpants.

Aliens Love Underpants is a true celebration of children’s humour with its addictive rhymes, stupendous array of underpants and larger-than-life cast of hilarious characters, and this special edition, which will be donating 50p from the sale of every book to the NSPCC charity, includes the original sketches.

A book full of underpants jokes that will never wear thin…

And if you want more information, games and downloads, visit the Aliens Love Underpants website www.aliensloveunderpants.com

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Detective Dog by Julia Donaldson and Sara Ogilvie

The amazing Julia Donaldson, creator of the world famous Gruffalo, is on the scent of another rhyming classic with a super special sniffer dog called Nell.

In a brilliant brand new partnership with multi-talented illustrator and printmaker Sara Ogilvie, Donaldson conjures up more picture book magic in an exciting and fast-paced celebration of friendship, books, reading and the important role of libraries.

‘There once was a dog with a keen sense of smell.

She was known far and wide as Detective Dog Nell.’

And so begins the story of Peter’s sleuthing dog Nell who, with just a sniff, sniff, sniff, is always on the case whether it’s finding a lost shoe, discovering who did a poo on the new gravel path or tracking down the honey thief. Nell’s ever-sniffing nose is always hard at work. But Nell has other talents too. Every Monday she goes to school with Peter and listens to children read. So who better to have on hand when they arrive one morning to discover that the school’s books have all disappeared! Who could have taken them, and why? There’s only one dog for the job ... and Detective Dog Nell is ready to sniff out the culprit!

Revel in the warm friendship between Pater and his dog, take a peep at all the wonderful books you can find in a library and see if you can help Nell solve the mystery of the missing books.

A warm, wise and inspirational new story from rhyming queen Julia Donaldson, and the perfect book to show off the talents of exciting illustrator Sara Ogilvie.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)