Zoe and Beans are two characters from Chloe and Mick Inkpen who appear in a small collection of books, aimed at young babies and toddlers, all telling of the adventures of Zoe and her scruffy dog, Beans. In this book, Zoe has found a ladybird, and put it in a jar. But as soon as she comes to show it to us, it disappears. Zoe and Beans then hunt everywhere for the ladybird and find a lot of other lost things in the process.
Look closely at the picture above. Can you spot it? Yes, there is is; a tiny ladybird on Zoe’s head. And that is the premise of the book – the ladybird appears in a slightly different place on every page and can be found with a little bit of hunting. Although the ladybird is tiny it is actually reasonably easy to spot, even for quite a young child. This was extremely popular with the fifteen month old who chose it for a bedtime story most nights it was on loan from the library.
It’s a very simple book but lifted out of the ordinary by a few important details. First, the drawings are delightful, and the characters of Zoe and Beans are instantly appealing to young children. Secondly, instead of just being a ‘spot the ladybird’ book, there is a narrative thread that runs through it as Zoe finds other things to put in the empty jar. And thirdly, the language is not neglected (as it often is in books driven by illustrations) but well-crafted and fluent – note the alliteration when Zoe finds “an old penny, a purple pencil, and a soggy pink party popper”.
This is a simple but well-made book, ideal for toddlers just beginning to cope with stories with sentences rather than single words per page.
You can find out about Zoe and Beans on their website, here.
“The sun is down.
The moon is up.
It is bedtime for the little Princess.
But outside the castle…”
Outside the castle all kinds of noisy things are happening. A dragon is roaring, knights are clanking, ghosts are ‘ooo-ooo-oooing’ and “the trolls and the goblins are guzzling and gobbling and slurping and burping.” But the Princess is trying to sleep, so all these people need to be told to ‘SHHH!’
Part prose, part poetry, this unusual book is an enjoyable read. As each character is asked to ‘shh’ they query ‘Who me?’ and the answer is ‘Yes you!’ Mick Inkpen varies it slightly each time whilst preserving the rhythm and rhyme. Our favourite is the giant: “Should I take off my boots? Yes, do!” There is also plenty of onomatopoeia and a lot of noisy participles which are brilliant for small children. Eventually all the shushing wakes up the princess who needs a lullaby to go back to sleep, and there is a funny little twist at the end too.
The illustrations are as detailed and sweet as you would expect from Mick Inkpen and the foldout pages (to reveal the character’s guilty faces) are an unusual and effective feature. Children will love listing to the sound of the story, especially all the repetition, and it’s not so long as to be tedious for an adult to read.
A creative enjoyable read for children who like the sound of words.
“In the window was a rat. I looked at him. Half of his whiskers were missing. ‘I’m a bargain!’ called the rat through the glass. ‘I’m only 1p! Choose me!’
This wonderful first person picture book is the story of a boy who goes to the pet shop sale. The basic structure is a list of all the animals on sale and how much they cost, but some witty presentation and a running commentary from the desperate rat make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. Bamboozled by the prospect of a salamander (6p) a skink (7p) and a gecko (8p) the boy asks, “Which one is which?” “Nobody knows! Nobody cares!” says the rat. “Sausages on legs! You don’t want one of those!” The animals in this pet sale are all remarkably cheap, especially the Komodo dragon which retails at a staggering 25p, for reasons which become clear at the end of the story.
This is a delightful book with flaps and a final pop-up which will be enjoyed by adult and child alike. (I defy anyone not to laugh at the cardboard box of ‘assorted little brown creatures’, 10p the lot.) Reading this you could discuss which animals you might like to take home, and which ones (surely the Komodo dragon?!) you might leave in the shop. With older children you could talk about the rat and why he is so keen to be bought, as well as playing numeracy games adding together the total price for the different animals.
Mick Inkpen has written a large number of highly regarded picture books but this relatively unknown little gem is up there with the best of them.