Captain Sparklebeard written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Sam Lloyd

I have to admit that I was not quite taken with Captain Sparklebeard at first. I found the Cinderella style opening a bit old fashioned and I thought it all might be too wacky for Little P to understand. But I could not have been more wrong! This is one of those special books that immediately engages preschoolers.

By day Peg works hard for her wicked step great grand Auntie (!) but at night she reads books filled with pirate stories. She dreams of heading off on her own pirate adventure and when the pirates come to town she sees her chance of escape. But when Peg asks Captain Hairy Ears if she can join his crew he just laughs. Who ever heard of a small, polite pirate who reads books! And she doesn’t even have a beard!! This makes Peg more determined then ever so she gets to work making a pirate costume from curtains and a beard from the sweeping brush. A little extra sparkle from her Auntie’s jewellery box and Captain Sparklebeard is born.

When Captain Sparklebeard turns up in her boat made from books Captain Hairy Ears and his crew are unimpressed. Who ever heard of a boat made from books?!! But Peg is certain she will find the treasure before the pirates. Using her ingenuity and her reading skills she makes her way through whirl pools, past sea monsters and over underwater volcanoes. Finally she reaches Treasure Island where X marks the spot. Captain Hairy Ears and his crew are so impressed, even when they find out that Captain Sparklebeard is really a little girl, they beg her to teach them to read and let them join her crew. And so a small little girl who reads books becomes the greatest pirate that ever was!!

Little P LOVES Captain Sparklebeard and so do I. It’s a truly child-centric book with so many positive messages that never interfere with the fun of the story. The illustrations are brilliantly bold and provide another element of the story with perilous maps and cheeky sea creatures. This has to score a ten out of ten on the P-OMETER. OOH-ARR!!

Captain Sparklebeard written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Sam Lloyd is published by Egmont. ISBN: 978-1-4052-9131-6

Lots of Frogs written by Howard Calvert and illustrated by Claudia Boldt

Frogs are the creature du jour in our house at the moment. Mostly because they can jump, make funny noises and they start life as squishy looking frog spawn! Anyway it was inevitable that Little P would make a grab for Lots of Frogs when she saw it in the library. And it didn’t disappoint.

The story of Tom and his box of frogs is told in short and snappy rhyme and it’s a lot of fun to read aloud. Tom brings his frogs to school all safely tucked away inside their box. Unfortunately Tom sneezes and releases the entire box of frogs to create mayhem. They leap around the classrooms landing on desks and jumping on teacher’s heads much to the amusement of Tom’s classmates. Luckily a bright yellow space hopper and a net prove to be very effective frog catching devices. Eventually Tom manages to get all the frogs back into the box. Until he…………coughs!!

This story is crazily chaotic and the illustrations reflect it perfectly. They are bold and bright with lots of movement, pen lines and brush strokes. Each frog has it’s own unique personality created by Claudia Boldt using googly eyes and giant smiles.

Little P loves the madcap antics of the scampy frogs and the fact that the whole adventure starts all over again at the end of the book makes her laugh every time! This scores a seven out of ten on the P-OMETER.

Lots of Frogs written by Howard Calvert and illustrated by Claudia Boldt is published by Hodder Children’s Books. ISBN: 978-1-444-93964-4

Dr Hibernica Finch’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals created by Aga Grandowicz and Rob Maguire

As a child I remember so many wonderful wildlife books around our house by authors such as Éamon de Buitléar and Geritt van Gelderen. When I saw the cover of this compelling compendium I was reminded of them all and I knew that Little P would love it. She is fascinated by the animals, birds and sea creatures she sees daily and is full of questions about them. This book provided plenty of answers and was an education for both of us.

Every double page spread is full of information laid out in a most accessible fashion with a large detailed illustration. The full name, Irish name and class of each creature is included along with a descriptive paragraph written in witty conversational style by Rob Maguire. There is a list of essential facts such as size, diet, home and expected lifespan. Each page also contains text boxes with interesting points about where in Ireland the creatures can be found or what their name actually means. There are also smaller illustrations of baby animals, details of paw prints or depicting the actual size of the tiny creatures like the pygmy shrew.

The sheer size of Aga Grandowicz’s illustrations mean that every anatomical structure stands out. The robin’s feathers, the stickleback’s fins and the dragonfly wings are all expertly drawn in fine detail. It’s the next best thing to having the actual creature sitting on your kitchen table!

Not surprisingly Little P gets loads of fun out of this book. She really enjoys spotting the creatures that she is familiar with like the hermit crab, the fox, the hare and the seagull and we are already making plans to seek out the ones we haven’t seen yet. First on the list is the natterjack toad! This scores a solid nine out of ten on the P-OMETER.

This is a fun and accessible reference guide to the wild creatures that every Irish child is likely to see in their environment. Whether in the countryside, city or suburbs seagulls and squirrels, badgers and butterflies can be easily spotted. A book that is worth having in every house to foster the innate curiosity and fascination that all children display for the natural world.

Dr Hibernica Finch’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals created by Aga Grandowicz and Rob Maguire is published by Little Island Books. ISBN: 978-1-910411-94-0