EYE SUPPLEMENT Picture book reviews – educational reads

Meg Barclay is an education consultant and early years reviewer for the School Library Association
Thursday, June 27, 2024

Meg Barclay, education consultant and early years reviewer for the School Library Association, reviews books which help children to build friendships, learn about stories from India and be introduced to key mathematical concepts

1 Will You Be My Friend?

By Sam McBratney

Illustrated by Anita Jeram

Walker Books

January 2024, pp24, £7.99


Reading age: 1+ years

From the creators of Guess How Much I Love You comes a book which celebrates curiosity, play and making new friends. Readers will be delighted to follow Little Nutbrown Hare who has new adventures playing by himself, as Big Nutbrown hare is very busy. While exploring, Little Nutbrown Hare discovers many new things, including his own reflection, his own shadow and a surprise in the heather on Cloudy Mountain. This turns out to be Tipps, a snow hare, who asks ‘Will you be my friend?’ and they go off to play together.

The story explores themes of curiosity and resilience when the friends’ games don’t quite go to plan, and all is well again when Tipps visits Little Nutbrown Hare at home, proving to be a friend.

Beautiful, characterful illustrations immerse readers into the world of the hares.

The text is clear and easy to understand, and also introduces some basic science, which is shown through Little Nutbrown’s play.

A robust board book, this is sure to withstand much use by little ones who will love to return to this sweet story again and again.

2 Animal Tales from India By Nikita Gill 

Illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat

Nosy Crow

May 2024, pp96, £16.99


Reading age: 4+ years 

This is a beautiful retelling of ten tales from the Panchatantra, a collection of ancient Indian animal fables. Set within beautiful and vibrant artwork which immerses children in the worlds of the different animals, readers will meet clever monkeys, courageous mice, cunning crocodiles and talkative tortoises in stories filled with wise lessons about courage, helping others, friendship and bravery.

The text is clear and accessible, with beautiful prose lilting along and using age-appropriate vocabulary to convey the plot twists of these wonderful tales.

The stunning illustrations are a real highlight, conveying the animal characters with warmth and humour across the different stories. They help to create a magical feel to this beautiful book that readers will keep returning to.

This text will be useful for supporting learning about the world, and will no doubt provoke rich discussions around the lessons readers can take from each of the tales.

A beautiful and yet robust hardback with a gilded dust jacket, this will be treasured by readers.

3 That’s Mathematics

By Chris Smith

Illustrated by Elina Braslina

Mama Makes Books

March 2024, pp32, £7.99

ISBN: 9781739774851

Reading age: 4+ years

Based on lyrics from the song ‘That’s Mathematics’ written by Tom Lehrer, this wonderful book about all things mathematical is a fantastic resource for settings.

Each line from the original song mentions a situation in life which uses maths, and each double page in the book explores this in more detail. It uses simple, age-appropriate text, bright and bold illustrations and accessible activities to reinforce readers’ understanding in a fun way.

Activities to support children’s understanding of the concepts include a game where readers spin on the spot based on the angle the leader says, and if they get the spin wrong, they are out! The fun illustrations show angles in real life, such as those involved in playing football, mini-golf and snooker.

The song lyrics cover a variety of situations ranging from ‘how much postage to use’ and ‘keeping time to the beat’, to ‘counting sheep when you’re trying to sleep’.

At the back of the book there is also a glossary, the answers and notes for parents. This is a fabulous resource for settings looking to inspire a love of maths in children.

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