Book reviews: Friendship, fairy magic and a big bad cat

Everybodys Welcome by Patricia Hegarty and Greg Abbott
Everybodys Welcome by Patricia Hegarty and Greg Abbott
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Little ones won’t be bored this half term when they get their hands on a super selection of all-action picture and story books.

Learn the joys of friendship, discover a fairy world at the bottom of the garden, meet three adorable pug dogs and join a young girl as she walks her favourite dog.

Age 3 plus:

Everybody’s Welcome by Patricia Hegarty and Greg Abbott

As the world faces a period of uncertainty and instability, it seems more important than ever to learn the age-old values of friendship.

So what better than a gorgeous, fun-filled picture book to help parents and carers to teach the very youngest children about the ideals of refuge, inclusivity and shared bonds?

Everybody’s Welcome, a warm and joyful rhyming story written by seasoned author Patricia Hegarty, is the brainchild of Thomas Truong, publisher of Caterpillar Books and the son of a refugee and a European migrant.

‘It was made with love for our readers because everybody’s welcome, in or out, as long as they’re willing to share the home we are building together,’ he says, and this cuddly little book certainly tells a big-hearted tale.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could build a home that opened its doors to everyone… tall or short, fat or thin, rich or poor? Well, perhaps if everybody pitches in to help, one little mouse can achieve that dream and give a much-needed home to Froggy the frog, some homeless rabbits, a lonely big Brown Bear and a host of other creatures.

Hegarty’s jaunty and lovingly composed rhymes put sharing and togetherness centre stage while illustrator Greg Abbott brings the action to life with a gallery of adorable animal pals. Quirky page cutaways add extra interest for young readers and the sturdy, eye-catching hardback cover makes this the ideal book for parents and nursery or school groups.

Friends united on every page!

(Caterpillar Books, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Fairy Magic by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson

Get ready for a magical mix of fairies, friendship and family!

Little girls will be swept away on a transport of delight as they take flight with an enchanting new picture book from popular CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson, the top team behind the imaginative Harper books series for young readers.

Isabelle lives in a house full of happy sounds with her big sister Isla, big brother Ivan and twin brother Idris but the little girl doesn’t always hear everything because she is deaf. One morning in the wild flower woods, Isabelle feels a tiny tinkling bell flutter in her heart and meets a beautiful fairy called Summer-Blue.

The glittering fairy shows Isabelle a magical world hidden in the woods at the bottom of her garden and she can’t wait to share what she has learned with her family. But her sister and brothers don’t believe in fairies and they don’t believe Isabelle’s story. Because she is deaf, Isabelle can see and sense things that her family can’t. Her hearing aid helps her to understand their world, but how can she persuade them to step into hers?

Burnell transports little ones to a magical, colourful world in a bewitching story packed with warmth, adventure, fairies and subtle messages about the special intuitive gifts possessed by deaf people and the need to understand the essentially silent world that they inhabit.

Anderson’s gorgeously colourful and expressive illustrations ensure that this clever, caring story will be a firm favourite with all the family… and anyone who loves magic!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat by Becky Davies and Caroline Attia

Step aside, Big Bad Wolf… there’s a cunning new baddie in town!

The age-old battle between cats and dogs gets a comical twist in a fresh and funny take on the classic Three Little Pigs fairy tale. Little ones will love joining the adorable Three Little Pugs as they take on their arch-nemesis, Big Bad Cat, in this big, bold picture book.

When Mother Pug packs their bags and tells the three little pugs, Bubbles, Bandit and Beauty, that it’s time to make their own house, the animals set off on an amazing, action-packed journey. There are challenges ahead, not least the Big Bad Cat. With her sharp, scratchy claws, her terrible twitching tail and cynical one-liners, she is the meanest moggy around. Will the three little pugs manage to build homes strong enough to fend off their evil feline foe?

This clever, slapstick retelling of a favourite fairy tale, packed with a lovable bunch of pugnacious pugs and stylishly designed with Caroline Attia’s unique and entertaining blend of modern illustrations and real photographs of the dogs, is guaranteed to win the hearts of all young readers.

You’d have to be barking mad to miss this canine caper!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindström

Walking the dog takes on a whole new meaning in this quirky picture book from Gecko Press.

Gecko is an independent publisher based in Wellington, New Zealand, and prides itself on selecting the best children’s books from around the world by international award-winning authors and illustrators.

My Dog Mouse, illustrated and written by award-winning Eva Lindström, a unique Swedish artist with an international reputation, offers friendship, humour, and gentle heartache in one dog walk. Full of wry humour and perfectly paced, it is ideal for anyone who knows what it is to love an old, slow dog with ears as thin as pancakes.

A little girl loves taking a neighbour’s old dog for a walk. Am I allowed to take Mouse for a walk, she asks, and luckily she is always allowed. They set off very slowly because Mouse walks at a snail’s pace. He stops at lampposts and fences and likes to sniff for a long time. Sometimes he looks up at little girl and she always talks to him. She might simply say ‘old man’ in a very nice voice (not her usual one) or just pat him. She loves Mouse… and she wishes he was hers!

Full of beautiful, soulful illustrations, love, kindness and the special bond between a human and a dog, this is a big-hearted story to leave you warm inside and eager to take your own (or your neighbour’s) dog for a walk!

(Gecko Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Waiting for Goliath by Antje Damm

Also from Gecko Press comes this warm and surprising story about waiting for a friend… even if he’s late turning up!

Waiting for Goliath, a quirky, colourful story with humour, warmth and hidden depth, is the clever creation of Antje Damm, an award-winning German illustrator and author.

Star of the show is Bear who waits patiently for his friend Goliath for a long time, even when others doubt he will show up. The robins fly to the south and the first snow falls and when Bear awakes from a long sleep, he hears a noise like a hand sliding slowly across paper. Goliath is coming but he’s arriving at a snail’s pace…

Damm’s unique illustrations began with the creation of a diorama from cardboard and then she photographed the scenes, giving each picture a special luminosity and depth and providing the perfect way to portray the seasons as they change throughout the story.

Pleasingly original, imbued with the colourful variety of the seasons, and with a cosy story to melt the hardest of hearts, this is a book of warm surprises and strong friendships.

(Gecko Press, hardback, £10.99)

Age 2 plus:

Sun by Sam Usher

Author and illustrator Sam Usher’s much-loved seasonal books just got hotter in Sun, the third adventure in this warm, original and inspirational series for pre-schoolers.

Here we find a boy and his grandad setting off on a scorching journey that will take them on a trail of discovery through heat and unscheduled halts to an unexpected destination.

It’s the hottest day of the year, hotter than broccoli soup, hotter than the Atacama Desert, hotter than the surface of the sun. It’s just the right kind of day for a boy and his grandad to go for a picnic. But as the sun beats down, Grandad keeps having to stop for a rest and by the time they find the perfect picnic spot, some pirates have beaten them to it. Good job they have enough food to share on board the biggest, busiest pirate ship that ever sailed the seas!

Sun is a wonderfully warm, wise and whimsical tale celebrating summer sunshine, the power of the imagination and the special bond between the older and younger generations. Usher’s quirky and charmingly atmospheric story is complemented by a palette of gorgeous watercolour illustrations which add extra character and texture to a funny, enchanting and life-affirming adventure.

Fun, sun and pirates in the great outdoors!

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Jane Cabrera’s Rainbow and Jane Cabrera’s Opposites

Let little ones explore the natural world around them with two bold and beautiful pre-school board books by much-loved children’s illustrator and author Jane Cabrera.

In Rainbow, the book’s clever die-cut form reflects the shape of a rainbow with each arch-shaped page revealing a new colour and featuring bold, colourful creatures. Little ones can explore the world of colour as they race along with a violet coloured butterfly, head into the indigo ocean with a giant whale, look out for a green crocodile or join a red squirrel and his ladybird friends. By following the rainbow, they discover a whole world of colour…

In Opposites, Cabrera presents an enchanting lift-the-flap ‘opposites’ board book with a difference as the pages deliver a surprise under each flap. From a fast-running rabbit and a tiny mouse sailing the ocean to a thrilling double-surprise flap on the last page, this is a book to both educate and delight.

Big or small, tall or short, toddlers will love trying to guess who is under each flap as they explore the concept of opposites and discover a world of fun and amazing creatures.

The exciting and pro-active format of these two shiny, stylish books, and Cabrera’s charming, painterly trademark illustrations, make them irresistible to babies and young children.

(Templar Publishing, board books, £7.99 each)

From birth:

Jane Foster’s London and New York

The wonders of London and New York, two of the world’s most vibrant cities, spring to life in a pair of captivating board books by leading textile designer Jane Foster.

Jane Foster’s London and Jane Foster’s New York are a bold and stylish introduction to iconic landmarks and famous sights. With eye-catching, retro-inspired artwork, these beautifully produced board books are the perfect gift for a new baby or first birthday.

From black cabs, the Crown Jewels and Big Ben to Central Park, the Empire State Building and Coney Island, Jane’s vibrant and retro-inspired illustrations use high-contrast images to introduce children to each city.

Enjoy the vibrancy of a traditional red telephone box, see a colourful plate of English fish and chips or marvel at the intricacy of an American pretzel and the bright yellow of a famous New York taxi.

Foster’s images, featuring vivid colours and thick black lines, provide hours of early learning fun whilst also acting as a stylish alternative to traditional photographic board books. The glossy pages are appealing to both the eye and little hands, and sturdy enough to withstand the roughest handling.

A city spree for the very youngest!

(Templar Publishing, board books, £6.99 each)