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Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie
by Joel Stewart
What do you do if you find yourself confronted with an enormous blue creature sporting a hat and waistcoat, who tells you that he’s BIG and BORED and that you look SMALL and TASTY? Well, if you’re Dexter Bexley you present it with all manner of distracting and interesting ideas, giving the Beastie time to do some thinking of his own and come up with not only the best idea of all, but a realisation that having a friend changes the way you see everything.
A visual and verbal treat this.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Mabel's Magical Garden
by Paula Metcalf
Mabel loves her garden full of bright glowing flowers. She also loves her animal friends George and Nigel who play in the garden with her every day and admire her beautiful blooms. But, one day Mabel waits in vain for her friends and finds them busy in their own garden. Suspecting them of stealing her blooms, a furious Mabel builds a high wall around her garden - so high that even the sun cannot shine into it. Inevitably, despite her efforts, the flowers sadden and die while those in George and Nigel's garden thrive in abundance beyond the wall. Finally, a little bird encourages Mabel to look beyond her prison wall and then she begins to learn some important lessons.
    With its themes of friendship and learning to share, there are echoes of Wilde's Selfish Giant in this, the first book from a new author/illustrator. Her illustrations have a plasticity about them so that her characters and even the flowers appear to be moulded on the page: a new talent to watch.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Will and Squill
by Emma Chichester Clarke
(Andersen Press) 1 84270 382 X
A lovely, funny story of an unusual friendship between a small boy and a red squirrel who quickly become inseparable. Together they bounce, swing, swim and play football play despite their parents' disapproval. Then Will's parents present him with a kitten who causes the friends to fall out. Will quickly finds out that what kittens like doing best is sleeping and misses his best friend as does Squill, who doesn't really appreciate the loving care of his new minder. Then, it's time to say sorry for, as everyone realises, ' Where there's a Will there's a Squill and where there's a Squill there's a Will. '
    You have to read the pictures to get the most from the story and to read the story aloud to appreciate fully, the short and deliciously punny text.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Tea with Bea
by Louis Baum, illustrated by Georgie Birkett
Tilly is so excited about her friend Bea coming to tea, she can hardly wait. But when the doorbell rings, things don’t go quite as smoothly as planned and squabbles ensue Being friends however, the girls soon find an amicable solution: one that involves two large teapots and some turn taking and sharing, not to mention rather too many cakes, and of course, a return invitation.
With its inbuilt lessons on the vital ingredients of friendship, this is a lovely story to share with young audience. The mixed-media illustrations too, are a delight, especially the teapots.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Pound Dog and Frog, Best of Friends
by Mathew Price & Moira Kemp
(Mathew Price)
The possibilities of differences within friendship are explored through two toy characters from a playroom: a squashy dog and a frog. Here, Poundie does not share Frog’s enthusiasm for the crooning bullfrog on the pond, but the wise dog realises that their friendship is big enough to accommodate both their musical tastes.
A gentle, reassuring tale with vibrant paintings, to read with the very young at home or in nursery or playgroup.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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The Den
by Adam Stower
Having to make new friends following a house (or school) move is something many young children have to face. Here is a story that explores the theme through the eyes of newcomer Rabbit who devises a clever plan when he finds it more than a little hard to be accepted by grumpy Pig in his new neighbourhood.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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At the End of the Rainbow
by A H Benjamin & John Bendall-Brunello
(Little Tiger Press)
Two friends, Fox and Badger set out to find the treasure at the end of the rainbow. On the way they encounter a host of other animals all with different ideas about what treasure is. Then when there’s a shower of rain it seems the pair will never find their pot of gold, but having to wait for the dark clouds to disperse makes them rethink their ideas about real treasure: for what could be more precious than each other?
A gentle story about values and what really makes us happy. Perfect for young audiences and their carers to share.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Lost and Found
by Oliver Jeffers
(Harper Collins)
With its deceptively style in both writing and watercolour illustration, this is one of those books with a real ‘aah’ factor that manages to be both quirky and poignant thus avoiding sickly sentimentality. It features a small boy, and a lost penguin who turns up at his front door. Together the pair journey to The South Pole, Penguin’s erstwhile home, but as he sets sail again, the boy realises that perhaps the penguin is looking for friendship more than his home.
The way the story moves almost imperceptively between fantasy and reality is akin to the way young children slip seamlessly from the real world into that of their imaginations. That power and education of the imagination is something we need to do all we can to foster as they get older. Jeffers is a real treasure.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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The Owl, the Aat, and the Roar
by Tanya Linch
Every day when Ben goes to nursery he takes his two favourite toys with him. The pair are good friends and everyone is happy until one day Ben decides to take Roar along too. Roar is totally unlike Aat and Owl, he’s noisy, angry and unfriendly - altogether a real rebel with a large ego. But then at hometime Roar is accidentally left behind and before long he begins to understand the importance of getting along with others and to appreciate the value of friendship. The delightfully lumpy characters, even the Roar, are thoroughly endearing.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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by Kathryn Cave, illustrated by Nick Maland
Friends comfort you, guide you, wait for you, walk beside you and stand by you through thick and thin: in short, they care for you. So discover a big one and a small one in this tender evocation of one of life’s most vital relationships told through the eyes of the smaller of two creatures.
Gently humorous pen and water colour illustrations portraying the duo as they share life’s ups and downs, extend the text and open up numerous opportunities for children’s personal storying.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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What Friends Do Best
by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Nathan Reed
That it’s fine to let friends help is something that doesn’t come easily to everyone but it’s the lesson that ace designer and maker of vehicles, cat Winston finally has to learn when he embarks on his most ambitious building project ever. At first he is determined to work solo but eventually he is forced to confront the truth – some jobs are just too big for one. Luckily, his friends are ready and willing to assist; after all, helping is what friends do best.
What it is that Winston is trying to build is kept as a surprise until the final pages though there are clues to be found in the illustrations as the story unfolds. It’s great fun to go back and search for them once the book has been read.
A jolly tale of friendship and co-operation with an important message that is all too often overlooked in today’s competitive world.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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