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Albie is back! And it’s AWESOME!

7 Oct


The Albie books by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves hold a special place in my heart. My daughter has grown up with them as firm favourites and even now, as she embraces full length chapter books and reading to herself, she regularly returns to Albie’s adventures. Her face lit up when this one dropped through the letterbox. A sure sign of a winning format!

I love the Albie books because of their celebration of childhood and imagination, and for their brilliantly casual inclusion. I’ve raved before about how Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves do this and how much I love them for doing so. Because it is an important thing. They make these books so much fun for kids but at the same time they think responsibly about how they present Albie’s world to them. That makes them superheroes in my eyes.

This latest adventure sees Albie turning into a superhero in order to tidy his room in time for ice cream. How to Save a Superhero has all the qualities you expect from a superhero adventure – the villain, mild peril, the trap, the rescue and the okay-i’ll-be-good resolution. It is fast-paced, action-filled and super fun. But guess what? There are different shades of skin colour here! And the villain is female. And there’s a girl superhero. And at one point the girl rescues the boy! 

All brilliant things that make me super happy. But, once again, the children enjoying this book won’t actively notice any of those things. Because THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME and they will be far too busy dressing up as superheroes and desperately scrawling ‘I want a Flying Game Grabber and a Snooze Ray’ onto their wish lists. As it should be.

Bravo, Caryl! Bravo, Ed! High fives all round.

You can grab your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Simon and Schuster.

Hiding Heidi by Fiona Woodcock 

8 Jul

Heidi and her friends love to play hide and seek. The trouble is, Heidi always wins. She can’t help it – she’s just too good! But Heidi soon learns that being hard to find can be hard to take, so she needs to come up with a plan…

Hiding Heidi is a beautifully designed and deceptively simple picture book. The artwork is gorgeous and the story is light and well paced. The joy here is that Fiona Woodcock hasn’t dumbed down for a younger audience, but has left room for them to explore and investigate the pictures and to have their own ideas about what is happening in each picture. 

The illustrations are packed full of printed shapes and patterns and would be wonderful inspiration for printing and shape games for children. There’s lots of scope for talks about hiding and camouflage here too. It really is a book that belongs in nurseries and infant schools alongside a stack of art supplies. 

A very impressive debut. A scrummy, beautiful book that will win the hearts of children and teachers alike.

You can get your copy from Indy-loving, tax-paying here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Simon & Schuster.

Inclusion in How to Catch a Dragon

3 Mar

Following on from my Inclusive Minds call to action, I want to share something with you all. I want to tell you that I love the Albie books by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves! In fact my whole family loves the series – for differing reasons. My daughter, Mollie, loves the concept, the adventure, the pace and the fun. My wife, Kerry, loves the story lines and text that give her so much to work with when reading aloud to Mollie. (Kerry is very good at voices!) I love them because they are hugely popular award winning books that appeal to children – not ‘just boys’ or ‘just girls’ but children– and because they are gently infiltrating mass market publishing with inclusion. It’s a tough thing to do, but Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves have worked their magic and thought about inclusion when creating these books. That is huge! Being aware of the importance of including diverse characters that reflect society is further than many authors and illustrators ever go. The fact that they have thought about it, discussed and planned and worked with their publishers and achieved some diversity of character, is much to be proud of.

Take a look:

A female pirate and range of skin colours in Plunge into the Pirate Pool.


How to Catch a Dragon, my favourite book from the series (so far!) A female troll – much rarer than you’d think – a lovely range of race and a celebration of libraries! “Nobody could EVER be bored in a library”. Brilliant!

Books are so important in helping children to understand the world they live in. In order to do that, books need to be truly representative of our diverse society. Every child should be able to see themselves in their books, whatever their gender, heritage and race, culture, disability, or sexual orientation. For that to happen mainstream books need to represent every child.

The result of a truly inclusive society is that you don’t notice differences. Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves have achieved this in these books. These are not ‘token diversity characters’. Share these books with a classroom of children and they won’t notice that there’s a female pirate or that there are different skin colours on show. They will be too involved in the story and the excitement of the illustrations. But those characters are there and they will be seen without being noticed. And that is a wonderful thing. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me. Because true inclusion should go unnoticed. Radical books are important in paving the way and leading by example. Then inclusive publishers take the lead and publish books that portray a truly diverse society. But when mainstream publishing houses start to follow that lead and inclusion becomes everyday and unnoticed, that is when we know we are getting somewhere. Yes these are baby steps but these baby steps are leading us firmly in the right direction.

Keep going, Caryl and Ed! Keep pushing for what you believe in and know that you are making a difference and helping to change the face of children’s publishing. And thank you to Simon and Schuster for taking steps in the right direction. Keep treading that path!

Source: Bought from our lovely local bookshop, Bags of Books.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole

4 Mar


In the middle of New York in Central Park zoo there live two penguins called Roy and Silo. They do everything together, just like the other penguin families and all the other animal families in the zoo. But Roy and Silo are a little bit different, they are both boy penguins.

They do everything the other penguin families do. They bow to each other, sing to each other and build a home together. But when it comes to laying and hatching an egg they realise that the other penguins can do something they can’t.


They lovingly care for a rock in their nest but nothing happens. Poor Roy and Silo. But their keeper Mr Gramzay has been watching them and he has an idea. He gives them an egg that needs to be cared for and Roy and Silo know exactly what to do. Before long…


It takes two to make a Tango! I know! I can hear your hearts melting from here, that one even got in through my hide. This is a gem of a book, proving the quote from the back cover ‘all you need to make a family is love’. I love the gentle illustrations and the subtle expressions on the penguins faces.

Tango is a beautiful book to introduce same sex parents, adoption and diverse families to young children. Children are used to animals being used to introduce human situations in picture books but Tango goes one step further and explicitly links the animal families to human families at the beginning and again at the end of the book. This is a touching way of emphasising the similarities to children’s own home lives and experiences and the positivity of the message. It’s a gorgeous way to tell the story, it feels like being taken by the hand and gently led in to the zoo and introduced to the characters. Perfect for little ones.

For slightly older children the author’s note at the back explains the true story behind the book. It includes some facts about penguins and tells the real story of where Roy and Silo’s egg came from. Older children will lap this up and it will enhance the message of the book and the connection to real life. Great touch!

I am just a little bit in love with Tango and I think I would like to shake Mr Gramzay by the hand. Hurrah to all involved for creating a book full of positivity, celebration of diversity and above all, love.

Source: Purchased for Rainbow library, via Letterbox Library thanks to kind donation from Alison Fennell

No-Bot, the Robot with No Bottom by Sue Hendra

12 Jan


Bernard the Robot loses his bottom on the park swing, and sets off to find it. Every time he gets close, it disappears again! Bird was using it as a nest, but it was too heavy; Bear used it in his drum kit, but it was too tinny; the Rabbits built sandcastles with it…and now it looks as if they’re sailing away in it. Will Bernard EVER get his bottom back?

I feel like I can really relate to this book. Look at Bernard’s face on the front cover. He’s got that embarrassed it’s-fine-really braving-it-out look. I try to be a sophisticated rhino but I’m a clumsy soul at heart. I pull that look myself regularly.

There’s something for everyone in this book. From the holographic title to the use of circuit board and binary designed backgrounds, the robotic theme flows through each page. There’s some fun language play and the illustrations are brightly coloured and deceptively simple. I particularly approve of the funky outlines.

And the best bit? This book is aimed at children. Not at boys. Or at girls. At CHILDREN. Hooray for a book about a stereotypically gendered subject that is written and illustrated without a gender bias.

No-Bot makes me smile because it is pure fun. It’s about friendship, silliness and bottoms and it ends with a bottom wiggling dance. When you have a bottom as large as mine, a bottom wiggling dance is quite an occasion.

So here’s a wiggle to a book that encourages all children to have fun and giggle at the silliness of life. Hurrah!

Source: Our bookshelves.