Learning & Development: Book choice

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THE PENCIL; by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingram; Walker Books, 10.99

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A lonely little pencil starts to draw, first a boy, then a dog, a cat, a whole town for them to play in and finally a paintbrush, which adds colour to everything. Trouble starts when new characters complain about their appearance, and the rubber drawn to erase deletes everything, except the pencil. A battle for survival ensues, but the pencil emerges victorious and sets about redrawing things, and the story moves on.

What better way to introduce older children in the EYFS to the creative process, the power of imagination and some interesting questions: what would have happened if the rubber had won? Where would we be without stories?

ZOO-OLOGY; by Joelle Jolivet; Egmont, £12.99

Nearly 400 species crowd in varied categories - 'feathered', 'black and white', 'freshwater' - on to the pages of this huge illustrated book, offering a packed and varied zoo without bars. Each category, spread over two pages, combines the familiar and exotic, with the rhino, scarab beetle and zebu all squeezing into the 'horned' section. Thick black outlines and solid blocks of colour make each of the animals stand out against the warm and inviting pale yellow, speckled pages.

This is a big book that is manageable and one well worth investing in. It could be shared with adults or used in the creative area to inspire children's drawings, but really it belongs on the floor in the book corner where children can lie and ponder the images for as long as they want.

IF I WERE YOU; written by Richard Hamilton and illustrated by Babette Cole; Bloomsbury Children's Books, £10.99

'If I were you,' says Dad as he puts Daisy to bed, 'I'd go to sleep.' And so Daisy and Dad start to bat back and forth ideas about what they would do if they swapped roles. Dad balks at Daisy's plan to wheel him around in the old pushchair, dressed in a pink tutu, but likes the idea of watching TV while Daisy does the housework. Little surprise then that Daisy decides she's better off as herself.

This is a wonderfully warm, funny and thought-provoking book. Cole's trademark drawings add to the insights that it provides into feelings, roles and responsibilities (Dad, we assume, is a single parent).

MR MAC'S BAD RABBITS: by Simon Puttock, illustrated by Judith Drews; Boxer Books, £11.99

Lonely Mr Mac invites a bunch of bad bunnies to stay in his house and is happy to explain away their terrible behaviour with 'rabbits will be rabbits'. But his quiet acceptance turns to fury when they trash his house. Unsympathetic neighbours lay the blame at Mr Mac's door - he's as bad as the rabbits! Shocked, Mr Mac transforms his bunnies but not himself, so, fed up (and now 'perfect'), the rabbits move out. Lonely once more, Mr Mac invites some bad mice to move in.

The best of stories deliver the most profound of messages in the most subtle of ways, so perhaps it's unfortunate that the focus of the story has to be 'how not to behave'. But given the growing number of tedious stories devoted to lecturing children on being 'good', this is a wonderful exception.

BEAR FEELS SCARED; by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman; Simon and Schuster, paperback, £5.99

Bear doesn't it make it back to his friends before nightfall and finds himself alone and scared in the woods. Concerned, his friends set off in search of him and are able to return him safe and sound to their warm home.

TOOT TOOT BEEP BEEP; by Emma Garcia; Boxer Books, £11.99

Follow the traffic as it 'zooms', 'trundles', 'glides' and 'rolls' through the city's busy streets, 'whooshing', 'honking', 'beeping' and 'vroom-vrooming' along the way. A book that young car enthusiasts will love, with the illustrations as rich as the language.

RATTLE AND RAP; by Susan Steggall; Frances Lincoln, £11.99

Take the train to the seaside and join in as it whooshes through a tunnel, rattles across a level crossing and rumbles along the track, taking its passengers safely to their station. Simple, rhythmic text makes this ideal for sharing and reading aloud.

MINE'S BIGGER THAN YOURS; by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds; Andersen Press, £10.99

Little Hairy Monster is licking a lollipop when along comes Scary Monster, saying, 'I'm bigger than you. Give me your lollipop!' But Little Hairy Monster won't, no matter how much Scary Monster bullies and intimidates him. Size wins out in the end: 'My mum is bigger than your mum!'

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