Being True To Yourself

Jasper & Scruff
by Nicola Colton

It’s time for another chapter book review and this one had Ivy and I in fits of giggles!

Jasper likes to think of himself as cut above your average cat. He lives in a fancy apartment surrounded by books and fine art and his taste in bow ties is impeccable. Jasper has everything he needs except the ‘right’ kind of friends. He dreams of joining an elite group of felines called ‘The Sophisticats’ because members are invited to all the best parties and dine at the nicest restaurants in town.

He carefully crafts a letter inviting a select group of The Sophisticats to his home for dinner and is over the moon when they accept – but things don’t quite go to plan…

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Elephant Me
by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees

‘Giraffes Can’t Dance’ is one of our all-time favourite books so we were extremely excited to get our hands on this new one from the same team. I am happy to report that it didn’t disappoint and we’ve been reading it on repeat for days!

It’s the day of the Elephant Games which means that all the baby elephants have to perform for the King. In line with tradition, if they manage to impress him with their special skill then he will award them with their Elephant Name.

Nina goes first and she chooses to display her strength by ripping a tree from the ground with her trunk. King Elephant Mighty is amazed and he names her Elephant Strong. Norcus bellows so loudly that he gains the name Elephant Noisy! As each elephant steps forward in to the limelight, the King spots that one little elephant is cowering at the back of the line. Poor Num-Num hasn’t found his special skill yet and when he tries to perform some tricks everyone laughs at him – even the King!

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Paris Cat by Dianne Hofmeyr & Piet Grobler

Cat lives with her large, noisy family in a smelly alleyway behind a fishmonger’s shop in Paris. Surrounded by fish bones and squabbling cousins, she finds herself dreaming of a bigger life. She wants to see more of this fabulous city and find out what it has to offer.

One night she slinks in to a crowded cafe where she sees Edith Piaf singing to a sophisticated crowd. Filled with confidence,  Cat joins in but is quickly ejected for caterwauling. She finds herself outside in the rain so she climbs a fire escape and sneaks into a nice warm room to sleep.

When she awakens Cat realises she is in an atelier surrounded by busy seamstresses, taffeta, velvet and racks of beautiful dresses. She watches carefully and by the time the workers leave for the day she has formulated a plan. She gathers up scraps of fabric and using her new found knowledge she creates herself an outfit befitting of a high-society cat.

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Super Milly and the Super School Day by Stephanie Clarkson & Gwen Millward

Milly is very excited about going to school because it’s Superhero Day. She has fashioned a costume out of tin foil and a tea towel but she’s a little bit sad that she doesn’t  have any REAL super powers. Or does she?

In the classroom Super Milly spots that William is sad because his dad forgot it was a dress up day. She hands him her superhero badge and tells him he can be Wonder William. She cheers up Fantastic Flora with some jokes. She settles a dispute between Amazing Archie and Spider Sid and she comes to Incredible Iqbal’s aid when his pet spider escapes during Show and Tell.

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Frog Boots by Jill Esbaum & Joshua Heinsz

Dylan is utterly fascinated by poison dart frogs so when he spots a pair of boots featuring his favourite amphibians he jumps for joy. He thinks they’ll be absolutely perfect for his first day at school – but his mum isn’t sure because the boots are purple and sparkly. She tries to steer him towards a different pair but Dylan won’t be swayed.

He wears the boots home feeling taller and cooler than ever before and that night he discovers that the frogs even glow in the dark. He is so excited to wear them to school and show his new friends!

Unfortunately things don’t quite go as planned. The children in his class call them ‘girl boots’ and laugh in his face. Poor Dylan feels embarrassed and retreats in to himself. The boots get kicked to the back of his wardrobe and he spends the rest of the week at school avoiding eye contact and playing alone.

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Slow Down Monkey!
by Jess French & Eefje Kuijl

It’s Monkey’s birthday and she’s planning a lavish party which she desperately wants to be perfect. She has asked her friends to look after the music, the cake and the decorations so she zips and zooms around the forest in a panic checking on their progress.

Unfortunately nothing is quite right, which sends Monkey in to a tizz. The birds are trying (and failing) to learn the drum beats she wanted, Bear has accidentally baked mud in to the cake and Tapir has got herself tangled up in the decorations. Monkey is in such a flap that she doesn’t stop to help. She just continues to swing around the forest, getting more stressed by the second.

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I Will Be Fierce
by Bea Birdsong & Nidhi Chanani

I love picture books where the words and illustrations work in opposition and ‘I Will Be Fierce!’ is the best example I have seen.

The pictures show a young girl moving through an ordinary day at school but the words are those of a fierce knight going in to battle, determined to make the world a better place. The result is a powerful narrative which teaches children that they can be the hero of their own story.

At the start of the day we see the protagonist don her armour (a stripy jumper), fill her treasure chest (a rucksack of books)  and head out in to the world. On her way to school she fearlessly faces monsters (dogs), giants (older children) and a dragon (the school bus). The day continues in this wonderful manner as we encounter more mythical beasts (like the Guardian of Wisdom – the school librarian) and battle against doubt and injustice.

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Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller & Jen Hill

When Tanisha spills purple grape juice all over her favourite dress everybody in the school cafeteria laughs at her.

As she runs from the room in tears one lone girl wants to help but she just doesn’t know how. Later Tanisha returns to class wearing her art smock and the girl thinks about what she should have done. Could she have shared a napkin so Tanisha could dry herself? Should she have let her borrow her jumper? Should she have poured juice over herself as well to deflect the laughter?

As she sits painting a picture she ponders what it means to be kind. Is it giving or helping? Is it listening or sharing? Being kind should be easy, so why is it sometimes so hard?

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Sophia Sparks
by Elanor Best & Lara Ede

Little Sophia Sparks is a brilliant inventor who creates wonderful things out of items she finds in her home – like rockets and robots and even a house with legs! She wears a bright blue bow in her beautiful curly hair and she’s pretty sure that this is the source of her creativity. With the bow in place she comes up with idea after idea.

When her teacher announces to the class that they are going to work together to transform an old bus into something exciting, Sophia is over the moon – until she realises that she has lost her precious blue bow.  As the other children get to work Sophia’s tummy starts to churn and her mind goes blank. No bow = no inspiration!

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First Day Critter Jitters
by Jory John & Liz Climo

It’s the night before the first day of school and all of the animals are feeling a bit nervous.

Sloth is worried that he’s going to be late. Snake can’t get his backpack to stay on. Mouse is scared that he’s too little for big school. Kangaroo is feeling anxious about being away from his mum. Parrot is feeling skittish because he talks too much. Mole thinks his sight might let him down. Bear thinks he should probably just sleep instead and Rabbit has too much energy and is concerned she won’t be able to sit still.

Each of their worries is different but each one is valid – after all, they are about to start a whole new chapter in their lives.

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