Book review: A picture perfect summer of fun

On your marks, get set, go… school’s out and the holidays are here!

Thursday, 24th July 2014, 10:00 am
A picture perfect summer of fun
A picture perfect summer of fun

But why should the big girls and boys have all the fun? Babies and toddlers want their share of playtime too so what better than a sparkling collection of exciting picture books.

There are hours of entertainment just waiting to be enjoyed in the latest round-up of top-notch summer stories. Whether it’s a grumpy king who wants his own way, a dog who loves to be smelly or an elephant who adores trains, little ones will be spoilt for choice.

Cantankerous King Colin by Phil Allcock and Steve Stone

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Maverick Arts Publishing have gained a well-earned reputation for producing children’s picture books with quirky and inventive themes and Cantankerous King Colin is their crowning glory.

King Colin is naughty, lazy, silly and grumpy but he is king so he does just what he likes. Soon he discovers that even a king can’t get away with everything… there’s just one very powerful person who can stop him. Who is it? His mum of course, and she’s making sure it won’t be King Colin who gets the last laugh!

This funny, cautionary tale from debut children’s picture book author Phil Allcock will be a favourite with every mischievous child, and the unique illustrative style of Steve Stone, who excels in bold pictures full of expression and humour, has a special appeal for little children.

A wonderfully anarchic story just made for sharing…

(Maverick Arts Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Hocus Pocus Diplodocus by Steve Howson and Kate Daubney

Another Maverick Arts debut author with his finger on the pulse of children’s humour is Steve Howson who has conjured up magical dinosaur Hocus Pocus Diplodocus.

The prehistoric world has never looked so exciting as when Hocus flicks his tail and makes strange things happen. You see, he’s not like other dinosaurs. Hocus is actually the world’s first magician but as his powers grow, his fame grows with it and there is more chance that it can all go wrong… drastically wrong!

Hocus’s madcap adventures are brought to vivid life by Kate Daubney’s cheeky and cheerful illustrations. A colourful story with an addictive sense of fun.

(Maverick Arts Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner

Louie’s got the bathtime blues and he’s tired of coming up roses…

Greenaway Medal winner Catherine Rayner works her special magic on Louie the dog who is desperately tracking down his own Special Smell after being dunked in a tub of scented water.

Unhappy with his new clinging aroma of roses and apple blossom, Louie is doggedly determined to sniff out his old odour and the hunt leads him to lots of smelly things along the way. There’s a stinky fox, some interesting dustbins, a pongy pond and a marvellously muddy puddle to roll in. Will he succeed in getting his smell back and, more importantly, will he be able to keep it this time?

Smelly Louie and his wonderfully whiffy adventures are full of Rayner’s addictive humour and amazingly textured artwork.

The perfect bedtime read for all little bathing belles…

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Little Puppy Lost by Holly Webb and Rebecca Harry

And there’s another dog – well, a lovable puppy – stealing the limelight in a delightful new picture book from popular children’s author Holly Webb.

Little Puppy Lost is one of a new collection of books from Little Tiger Press who have launched an innovative summertime Reading Rocks! campaign, gathering together the very best of a stable of top class authors and illustrators.

Harry the puppy’s action-packed adventure is the first picture book from Holly Webb who has teamed up with illustrator Rebecca Harry. And it’s a surefire winner with its heartwarming story of triumph and disaster and a gallery of irresistibly cute and cuddly animal characters.

Harry the puppy is out on his first walk with his owner Evie when a bright red ball whizzes past his nose. Off Harry races to find it but when he catches the ball he realises he has lost his collar – and Evie! Will he find his way home? Maybe he will, but only with the help of a brand new friend.

Webb’s warm and reassuring story, with its themes of fun, friendship and sharing, is ideal for all little animal lovers – and those eager to have a pet of their own.

Animal magic with a soft centre…

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Train! by Judi Abbot

All aboard the fun express with a little elephant who has a ‘one-track’ mind!

If your little one loves anything that goes vroom, vroom, they will get fully revved up with this wonderful picture book about trains, planes, cars and diggers.

Little Elephant wants to play with nothing but trains so his mum and dad take him for an exciting trip on a real train. But there are other passengers too. There’s Cat who wants to play with his plane, Penguin who only wants to play with his car and Rabbit who would much rather play with his digger. However will they learn to play together?

Judi Abbot’s bright, funny and colourful illustrations are the perfect foil for Little Elephant’s journey of discovery and the addictively repetitive section in the middle of the story which will have pre-school children chanting along to the rhythm of the wheels.

This is a wonderfully inventive book, perfect for reading aloud and teaching youngsters about the joys of shared play.

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Flood by Gillian McClure

Forget Noah’s Ark! When the floods arrive, there are three creatures who have their own ideas about keeping their heads above water.

Flood, a captivating picture story underlining the importance of co-operation in times of trouble, is the work of author and illustrator Gillian McClure who has set up Plaister Press to bring back into print some of her most popular books and to publish exciting new titles.

McClure’s distinctive illustrative style, which involves the use of watercolour, waxing and sprayed ink to obtain a ‘splattery’ look, is ideal for this warm-hearted cautionary tale about pulling together when a soaking wet disaster strikes.

It just won’t stop raining and out in the fields, Old Slodger the Ox keeps his head down and his eyes to the ground. Close by is Fussy Hen who is too busy squawking and looking this way and that for the cunning Hungry Fox. And sure enough the Hungry Fox has his beady eyes on Fussy Hen. What none of them has spotted is that the waters are rising rapidly and when the three animals finally realise that they must work together as a team if they are to reach land safely, there is a danger they might have left it too late…

A funny, characterful and beautifully illustrated way to show that getting on swimmingly solves a lot of problems!

(Plaister Press, paperback, £6.99)

Bocchi and Pocchi and the Bird by Noriko Matsubara

Woolly sock friends Bocchi and Pocchi are proving a popular pair of foot-hugging heroes as they jump into action to save a bird in distress.

The adventures of Bocchi and Pocchi are knitting together perfectly for Japanese-born author and illustrator Noriko Matsubara after the success of her first book, A Tale of Two Socks.

Matsubara, who includes a pattern to knit your own Bocchi and Pocchi socks at the end of this charmingly illustrated book, found the inspiration for her stories from her childhood when she would sit and watch her grandmother darn socks and make up stories.

Here the two socks meet an injured bird who can’t fly back to her nest. Helped by a friendly spider, together with Grandma mouse, the knit one, purl one pals put their best feet forward and eventually manage to help the bird to their home and a place in their cosy sock drawer. And when they awake in the morning they find some unexpected guests have arrived…

A wonderfully quirky story about a two truly close-knit friends!

(Troika, paperback, £6.99)

What I Think About When I Think About ... Swimming by Eleanor Levenson and Katie O’Hagan

And from Troika Books comes another unusual picture book … about a philosopher fish with a big imagination and a big appetite.

Debut author Eleanor Levenson shows us life in the round as we meet a goldfish who likes to think. What wonderful jokes he has heard, what will it be like to be old, what would it be like to have legs and will he need a boat to combat climate change? And there’s something that he thinks about every day... fish food!

Katie O’Hagan provides the big, bold, eye-catching illustrations for Levenson’s wryly funny story which has a wonderfully swishy twist in its tail.

A meaningful look at life in the goldfish bowl…

(Troika, paperback, £6.99)