Book reviews: A special birthday and animal magic with Macmillan

Dear Zoo
Dear Zoo

One of the best-loved and most ingenious picture books celebrates its 35th birthday as Macmillan roll out a new season of reading for early years children and their parents.

Enjoy discovering a menagerie of animals in a sumptuous edition of Rod Campbell’s timeless Dear Zoo, watch two charismatic crocs at play, count down for ten terrific dinosaurs or head off on a madcap teddy bear adventure.

Age one plus:

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Rod Campbell’s irresistible animal lift-the-flap book, Dear Zoo, has been delighting pre-school children for 35 years now and to celebrate this timeless classic, Macmillan have produced a beautiful gift edition.

Campbell is a master of interactive storytelling and this ingeniously simple but effective tale finds a truly original way to unite discovery and fun. The book is an essential part of every first library and features a child who writes to the zoo asking them to send a pet.

Each new generation has thrilled to the story, enjoying the wonder and variety of wild animals, and lifting the flaps to discover which the animals the zoo has sent… a monkey, a lion and even an elephant! But will the zoo ever manage to send the perfect pet?

A firm favourite with toddlers and parents, this sumptuous new hardback edition has a jacket with shiny gold foil and slots neatly into a specially designed, sturdy gift slipcase. The extra thick, glossy card pages, durable flaps and stylish finish make it perfect for small hands and with Campbell’s bright, bold artwork, a catchy refrain full of gentle humour and a whole host of favourite animals, Dear Zoo is a must for every child’s bookshelf… and the perfect gift to treasure forever.

(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Solomon and Mortimer by Catherine Rayner

Solomon Crocodile captured readers’ hearts when he first appeared in 2011 and now the charismatic little croc is back to snap up some new followers!

Award-winning author and illustrator Catherine Rayner captures the playful nature of two unlikely heroes in a gorgeously illustrated and lively picture book using her distinctive bold style and clever use of colour.

Solomon Crocodile and his croc friend Mortimer are bored. They want to find some fun but what can they do? Tree-climbing is tricky, chasing lizards doesn’t end well and flying turns out to be a lot harder than it looks. But then they spot the biggest hippo in the river. Just imagine the splash he would make if two naughty crocodiles were to surprise him! But Solomon and Mortimer are about to get a whole lot more than they bargained for...

Funny, uplifting and with eye-catching illustrations on every page, Solomon’s new adventure will have youngsters crying crocodile tears of laughter!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age two plus:

Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland

Another popular book making a welcome comeback is Ten Terrible Dinosaurs, a fun, rhyming, colourful counting book from Paul Stickland, the illustrator and creator of Dinosaur Roar!

Since it was first published in 1994, Dinosaur Roar! has become every child’s favourite dinosaur book, serving as the ideal introduction to dinosaurs and exploring the concept of opposites in a fun and entertaining way.

And now Stickland’s lively counting extravaganza, a picture book first published in 1997 and based on the characters from Dinosaur Roar!, has been republished with a special endorsement by the Natural History Museum.

Stickland’s rip-roaring rhyme, the addictive countdown and the cast of multi-coloured dinosaurs make this an entertaining and interactive method for little children to learn about numbers… and dinosaurs.

The rhyming text encourages children to join in, helping them to learn their numbers as they count down from ten to one, and ending with a wonderful loud ROAR as all the dinosaurs assemble!

Clever use of colour, an exuberant story and the crazy antics of the dinosaurs ensure this enchanting book will go on entertaining little ones for many years to come.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Everywhere Bear by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb

Ready, teddy, go! Successful picture book duo Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb are on terrific form in a charming new rhyming picture book story brimming with fun and adventure.

Little ones will fall in love with Everywhere Bear, the school teddy who embarks on a crazy adventure that takes him far away from his home on the classroom shelf and way out to sea where the seagulls glide and the fishermen work.

Each day holds a new adventure for Class One’s Everywhere Bear. His home is on a shelf in the classroom but he doesn’t spend much time by himself because every boy and girl in the class is a friend. And he goes home with one of them every weekend. But one day he gets more than he bargained for when he falls unnoticed from a backpack and embarks on his own big adventure. He’s washed down a drain and whooshed out to sea, rescued by a fishing boat, loaded on to a lorry, taken to the tip and carried off by a seagull... how will he ever make it back to Class One?

Donaldson’s wonderfully engaging, empowering and warm-hearted story is guaranteed to appeal to curious young minds and inspire children to seek out their own adventures.

Youngsters will enjoy getting to know all Everywhere Bear’s classmates, sharing their antics when they take the teddy home and then joining the intrepid traveller on his own lost-and-found odyssey. The rhyming text brings extra pace to the action and Cobb’s busy, colourful illustrations add life and vitality to the bear’s escapades.

A ‘class’ act from a top team…

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

When Grandad Was a Penguin by Morag Hood

Grandads do the strangest things, but acting like a penguin? That’s exceedingly strange!

Scottish illustrator and author Morag Hood is developing her own unique voice and style in the world of children’s books and this quirky, wryly funny and captivating picture book ensures there will be smiles all round at story time.

So what DO you do when your Grandad starts acting very much like a penguin? He likes sitting in the fridge, diving into the goldfish bowl and swimming in the sink. It’s all a bit fishy. Perhaps he’s just getting older, or was there a mix-up when he visited the zoo?

Familiar, everyday settings get a surreal makeover in this eloquently and beautifully envisioned fish-out-of-water story. The lino cut artwork is bold and eye-catching, and Hood’s quirky use of colour and keen eye for design, which won her a place as runner up in The Macmillan Prize for Illustration, comes gloriously alive.

A celebration of the love between older and younger generations, Hood’s witty, moving and clever swapping places story has something in it for all the family… a cool mystery, a puzzling penguin, a gregarious grandad and an ingenious twist in the tail!

(Two Hoots, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

It is a perfect day for Bear… but not for anybody else!

Inspired by much-loved US author and illustrator Lane Smith’s real-life encounter with a marauding bear in the woods near his home in rural Connecticut, this playful, witty and chaotic tale imagines how one creature’s idea of a perfect day might not be quite like another’s.

The animals in Bert’s garden are having a perfect day. Whether basking in the warmth of the sun, nibbling on a fresh yellow corn-on-the-cob, or cooling off in a clear pool of water, it is a truly beautiful afternoon for all of them. Well, it was! Someone else is here and he’s not a welcome visitor… a big, bad bear is also hoping for a perfect day. Is he going to spoil it for everyone else?

Lane’s fresh and fun-filled story about a group of appealing animal characters and their (not so) perfect day offers little ones an exciting and important lesson about contrast, difference and diversity.

Bold, action-packed illustrations provide a visual foil to the earlier serenity of the morning garden, creating a gentle sense of suspense and surprise as the story progresses.

A walk on the wild side for all the family...

(Two Hoots, hardback, £11.99)