Animals in odd places

Welcome to Childtastic’s Christmas Advent Spectacular!

That’s probably a massive overstatement but, over the period of Advent, I will be attempting a post a day! So let’s see what is behind Window 1…

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At school I have been reading stories to the children about animals in strange places, as this does seem to be a recurring theme in children’s picture books in particular. There are all sorts of animals in all sorts of places but in this post, we’ll concentrate on lions and tigers.
Catherine and the Lion, by Clare Jarrett, published by Collins Picture Lions
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The premise of this delightful story is very simple – young Catherine wakes up one morning and sees a lion in her bedroom. Rather than find this situation frightening, Catherine welcomes the Lion into her life and the two enjoy a typical day together – going to school, doing arts and crafts, having meals together and swinging in the hammock. Lion is a gentle, comforting presence in Catherine’s life and perhaps a much-needed one as we’re told subtly, in a by-the-by type of way, that a new baby sister has arrived in her family. Perhaps Lion is providing some comfort in a home where disruptions is inevitable with a new baby. In any case, the story is gentle, sweet and has – I am afraid – a very funny moment when we’re introduced to Catherine’s teacher, Mrs Tickle (I kept thinking of the Mr Men and Little Miss series with this). Jarrett’s deceptively simple line drawings are flooded with warmth, making this a soothing book to share.
How to Hide a Lion at School, by Helen Stephens, published by Scholastic
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Helen Stephens’ How to Hide a Lion series is both best selling and award winning and it’s not hard to see why. The fun that Iris has hiding her best friend Lion makes for great reading, and the accompanying illustrations bring the story to glorious, humorous life. In this instalment, Lion desperately wants to be with Iris at school, but the strict Miss Holland is having none of it. Wherever he hides – behind the whiteboard, inside the piano and behind the coats – she spots him and sends him out of school. On this day, however, Lion decides to take a nap on top of the school bus so that, when Iris and her friends come out for playtime, he can listen to and watch them. Unfortunately, this is also the day the children are going on a school trip to the museum (which looks very much like the Natural History Museum in Oxford) and Lion wakes up to find the bus zooming along the road with him on top of it! What will become of Lion? And will Miss Holland spot him? A book with much humour and fun in both words and pictures.
There’s a Tiger in the Garden, by Lizzy Stewart, published by Frances Lincoln
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This picture book won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2017 and its appeal is instantly obvious – the cover is gorgeous, bright and welcoming – inviting the reader into a world of colourful imagination. The story focuses on Nora, who is staying with her grandmother and, despite having toys all over the place, is bored. Grandma suggests she try exploring the garden, where she might find dragonflies the size of birds, plants that can swallow a person whole, a grumpy polar bear who loves fishing, and a magnificent tiger. Unlike Catherine in our first book, Nora doesn’t believe in endless possibilities and scoffs at her Grandma’s claims … until she spots a dragonfly the size of a bird. Nora keeps exploring her grandmother’s garden with her friend, Jeff the giraffe, and comes across everything her Grandma promised – including the elusive tiger! The ending promises an extra surprise which I won’t spoil here. The children in my classes loved this book and looking for clues and hints of what they might find next. When the tiger finally appears, he bears a huge resemblance to Judith Kerr’s Tiger Who Came to Tea and it has been suggested that this character, who Lizzy Stewart adores, eventually found his way into this book from little Sophie’s home after draining dry her taps of water! Which leads me on nicely to my final book…
The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr, published by Picture Lions
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This is a perennial favourite in the library, thanks to Kerr’s fantastical story of a tiger who turns up, very hungry and thirsty, and proceeds to literally eat and drink Sophie’s house empty and dry. While Sophie’s mum looks on in alarm as her house guest exceeds the boundaries of hospitality, the little girl follows the tiger around, seemingly enamoured. Children love the naughtines of the story – little Sophie behaves well but the tiger needs to learn a few manners, although admittedly he does says “Thank you for my nice tea.”
That’s today’s post. What will be behind door 2 tomorrow?
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