Bookshelf Picture Books

Big Cat

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Whilst searching the back garden for Grandma’s missing glasses, a little girl finds a new cat. Not one of Grandma’s - she has five- but a new, very big cat. Although the neighbours are not very happy about this addition to the family, Big Cat moves in. He’s great fun, but eats an awful lot and takes up a lot of space. When Big Cat’s parents arrive looking for their missing son, they have Grandma’s glasses with them and she get a really BIG surprise when she puts them on!

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The illustrations are bright, bold, full of fun and little jokes. Grandma’s much loved felines have their portraits hanging on the walls- one like the Mona Lisa, one with a Mondrian style background, one like Warhol’s Marylin- whilst the little girl and the tiger cub read ‘The Tiger Who Came to Dinner’ and ‘The Human Who Came for Tea.’ There are partially hidden clues to the visitor’s identity on the newspaper that holds their fish and chips or the one that Grandma ‘reads’ upside-down without her glasses.

The story bounces along at a pleasing pace, allowing the reader to enjoy the visual jokes and waiting for Grandma to cotton on to the true identity of her new rescue. That the story acknowledges ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ means it is perfect for comparing the two tales and enjoying both the similarities and the differences. And there’s always the possibility of telling the next story- all about what Grandma hasn’t noticed next…

Big Cat Emma Lazell

Pavilion Books ISBN: 978-1843654018

My Grandma and Me

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In this big universe full of many moons, I have travelled and seen many wonders, but I have never loved anything or anyone the way I loved my grandma. She was kind, generous and full of love. I still want to be just like her.

This beautiful book explores the relationship between a little girl and her grandmother who is the centre of her world. As she grows up in Iran, she shares everything with the old lady- prayer times, visits to the Mosque, playing with neighbours. As her grandmother sews, little Mina plays with the wonderful fabrics used to create her chadors. It is a gorgeous celebration of a warm, loving relationship.

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I spotted this gem whilst I was at the Discover Story Centre on Saturday and was completely smitten. Lucky enough to have had a close relationship with my own grandmother, though culturally different, there are so many instances I can relate to; simple, daily occurrences we take for granted, moments shared and enjoyed. We learn that Grandma’s neighbour - and close friend- attends church, rather than the Mosque, subtly emphasising the inclusive nature of their relationship and the focus is on all the joys that unite them: watching their granddaughters play, knitting, drinking coffee and chatting.

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The illustrations are wonderful, drawing on cultural traditions, using rich colours and patterns. Lindsay Yankey captures the tender relationship perfectly. It is quite simply a delight from cover to cover.

‘My Grandma and Me’ is a beautiful celebration of shared memories, growing up and family love. The last pages will ring true for many; deeply personal, yet easy to identify with. Can’t wait to get this into school!

My Grandma and Me Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Lindsey Yankey

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406384949

Somebody Swallowed Stanley

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Although he finds himself floating in the ocean, Stanley is no ordinary jelly fish. As he travels through the water, Stanley meets many marine animals who mistake him for a tasty treat only to find that he is not. Fortunately, most of the creatures are able to spit him out again; however, one isn’t so lucky- until a young boy comes to the rescue!

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The perfect story for encouraging children to think about the impact our plastic waste has on the environment, ‘Somebody Swallowed Stanley’ could be used with children of any age. Told in rhyme, the story follows Stanley as he is mistaken for a jellyfish and allows discussions about the dangers of digesting plastic. Each creature is identified through a series of clues, engaging younger children with guessing what it might be. As each creature tries to eat him, the language of the text has been carefully chosen to emphasise the impact Stanley has on each one, giving a very clear message, but the book offers a happy ending for all the creatures - and for Stanley too as he is recycled into a kite!

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This is such a current topic in schools that the story is sure to encourage action and make everyone think about what happens to our plastic once we can no longer see it. The illustrations are wonderful with a deep indigo background in many spreads making Stanley and the wonderful marine life stand out, emphasising the beauty of the ocean. Stanley himself is full of personality; he is not portrayed as evil, but as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A very engaging story with an important environmental message, ‘Somebody Swallowed Stanley’ is perfect for starting discussions and raising awareness amongst our children.

Somebody Swallowed Stanley Sarah Roberts, illustrated by Hannah Peck

Scholastic ISBN: 978-1407195100