More puzzle story fun! This is a sequel to Lucy and the Sea Monster, one of the Usborne Young Puzzle Adventures, a series by different authors with titles such as Molly’s Magic Carpet and Uncle Pete’s Pirate Adventure. The series seems to be aimed at slightly older readers, perhaps newly independent readers, following on from the excellent Young Puzzles books by Susannah Leigh. As in all the puzzle tales, a child has to read a simple paragraph or two per page, and solve a small puzzle, such as spotting something integral to the next event, or finding the way through a maze. At each page turn there’s a cliffhanger fraught with the kind of excitement that bugs out a five-year-old’s eyes. And although I didn’t find the tale quite as gripping as my daughter did, the little challenges do brighten up the story by seeming to involve the reader in the success of the quest. Plus, in this one, Lucy gets to ride through the waves on Horace the friendly sea monster’s back (again) to rescue her castaway pals on Treasure Island. Pirates too, y’see. Via Chocolate Island (vicarious tasty treats as well). As far as I can tell, the main difference between this series and the Young Puzzles books is there’s a bit more reading and a bit less puzzling. Suitable for co-reading from age four, probably.
Category Archives: 3+
Anne Fine is the illustrious author of this very short but rather sweet book about the doctor mum too busy and tired to spot her own child’s chicken pox. She has written many wonderful books for older children and adults, but this is the first I’ve seen for toddlers. The illustrations are pleasant and clear enough, and there is a nice juxtaposition to observe between mum’s tasks as a GP and Monty’s play mirroring her activities. The story is simple and my daughter easily identified with being only half-listened to by tired mum (oh dear…). When mum finally hears what Monty’s on about, she exclaims “Poor Monty! I’m a terrible doctor!” when, to my mind, she might as easily have berated herself for being a terrible mum. And there’s a terrible dad, too, who taps on his computer all day while Monty plays all by himself, feeling sicker and sicker and getting spottier and spottier. You needn’t be a GP to recognise chicken pox, frankly. However, we could also read the book as an inspirational tale of career mum instead of career dad, since after all, chicken pox is not a serious disease, and Monty does end up cosily in bed with both adoring and concerned parents tucking him in (my daughter loved this bit). Despite the possible subtexts, it really is a charming read.
Even if you’ve not previously read an Elmer book, so ubiquitous is this patchwork pachyderm that he will be instantly familiar. Probably it is best to begin with the eponymous title, introducing the Elmer’s Day Parade, on which all other elephants paint their boring grey selves with colourful patterns galore and parade, led by Elmer with his patchwork obliterated by grey berry-juice.
Then, perhaps, read Elmer and Wilbur, which introduces Elmer’s ventriloquist chessboard-patterned cousin (it’s rather hard to explain ventriloquy, if that’s the word I want, without being able to demonstrate, I warn you). Having absorbed these peculiarities, the (many) other Elmer adventures will seem less odd. Less odd, rather than not odd, mark you. Rainbows that lose their colour, rather complex tricks, and elephant-lifting gales will strain credulity, but the unfailing politeness of all the animals and the affectionate incompetence of the none-too-bright elephant herd will keep you entranced. Also, the Elmer books have quite an advanced turn of phrase, which makes a change.
Right, back to this particular book. Elmer’s Special Day refers to the annual elephant-decorating parade. Preparations are extremely noisy, and, as so often is the case, the neighbours can only be placated by an invitation to the party.
Excellent illustrations of the elephants planning their patterns and the wonderful costumes of the other animals will charm your child for minutes on end. The twist is that the neighbouring animals also wear elephant masks, so that it will still be an elephant parade. This got us snipping and colouring, and presto, soon the entire family were parading in our very own elephant masks too. Lots of fun.
Another of Mike Inkpen’s inventive tales of cute urban animals, though this one does have storyline similarities to Kipper’s Toybox. Rollo’s the kindly corner-store cat. The LFB is the Little Fluffy Bird (I’m not sure the acronym concept got across, though). And Ruff is the rat who yearns for nicer living conditions and tastier rations. The tap drips and the cat dozes, but somebody rather smelly has chomped his way through Rollo’s rug and red ball and then curled up for a nap in the LFB’s freshly made nest. The culprit’s tale of underground woe and drain-damaged dinner inspires Rollo and the LFB to make Ruff a cosy bed at the top of the drainpipe, and to feed him a delicious selection of cornershop dainties. My daughter was charmed to think of snuggliness and sweeties. The last page features the grateful Ruff having a good wash under the tap, now that he can live a clean new life (perhaps meant to be a nudge to reluctant bathers?). Pictures are simple and pleasing in the Inkpen tradition and the book is a bit more challenging to read than most of the Kipper adventures we’ve read.
This books charmed the pants off me and also my daughter! We could mull over its problem-solving trajectory many more times before boredom sets in, and you can’t say that for too many toddler books. Sweet, rosy-faced Wibbley Pig has a party bag of treats to contend with, with the help of Pigley, his comforting soft toy. Sadly, the balloon is too much for Pigley’s gravitational abilities, and it’s only when the party squeaker is deployed that a harmonious reunion is achieved. Along the way even the sticky licky lolly and the jelly alien are restored to Wibbley. The text combines the toddler point of view (Pigley is stuck on a ‘tall thing’) with slightly more sophisticated words every so often. My favourite (at the moment, by a short head) of Mike Inkpen’s many wonderful offerings.
This charming book’s simple story will appeal to two-year-olds and older who are perhaps starting to ‘look after’ their dolls or soft toys in a nurturing way. A small, sad, hungry cat with no home is rescued by a kind little girl who names him Ginger and feeds him up. A few unusually difficult (for a two-year-old) words and concepts are introduced, such as the nervousness of the cat at finding himself indoors, and the implication that because ‘his tail was like a string!’ he was very skinny. The illustrations are sweet too. Why not combine the book with a toy cat and practise stroking it the right way?
This cheerful book is more complex than it seems at first, with much to enjoy. It introduces the concept of a telescope, so, unless you can show a toy one to your child, I’d think it would not make much sense. My daughter was almost 3 when she started to enjoy it. It also uses rhyme, repetition and optical illusions as humorous devices. Expect much happy recitation of up, down, side to side and all around (also good concepts to revise). There is another book with a very similar title – this is the one starring Timothy Pope.