Reviewer: by Tiffany Markman, who is mom to a delicious one-year-olda book reviewer and a freelance copywriter, editor and writing trainer who tries to balance her workaholic tendencies with addictions to smooching her toddler, salacious non-fiction, caffeine, her iPhone and more. Follow Tiffany’s tongue-in-cheekery on twitter.

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AFRICAN ANIMALS ABC

By Philippa-Alys Browne

I’m not fussy when it comes to choosing books for my one-year-old. But I am discerning. (Which, my husband says, is a euphemism for fussy.)

You see, so many of the kiddie books we’re given have pretty pictures, but rhymes that don’t quite scan. Or missing apostrophes (Its fun at the sea-side.) Or a warped sense of gender roles (He likes to work. She likes to cook.) And this is why I’m extremely careful when buying books for our daughter. I check them for spelling, grammar, rhymes that flow properly and messages that – while they needn’t be hugely meaningful – aren’t socially worrisome.

Philippa-Alys Browne’s AFRICAN ANIMALS ABC is a magnificent book, and one I can’t wait to read to my daughter. Or, if we’re being accurate, have her ‘read’ to me.

Its pictures are authentic and beautiful African-style illustrations (or perhaps lino-cuts) of African animals – some common, some less so – with an appropriate verb:

Bushbaby blinks
Dassie drinks
Impala grazes
Quail scuttles
Yellow-billed kite soars in the sky

The words chosen are lovely – some are easy, like ‘Crocodile snaps’; others are a bit more challenging, like ‘Porcupine quivers’. And, at the back, there’s a useful blurb on each of the pictured animals for when she’s a bit older or starts asking questions:

The umhutu or mosquito is an insect. The common household mosquito can be found throughout Africa.

Nyala are antelopes that can be found in Southern African. They live and graze in forests and when they are scared, they make a barking sound. Also, it’s a sturdy board book, which means my little monster can’t rip it to pieces.

In the 13 months of her life, our daughter has been to the bush twice, with a third trip coming up in a few months. So, to have a book with which she can grow accustomed to some of the interesting animals (her word: ‘amals’) we see there, is a great gift.

AFRICAN ANIMALS ABC is also a wonderful gift for foreigners with small children.

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WE ALL WENT ON SAFARI

By Laurie Krebs & Julia Cairn

Subtitled ‘A Counting Journey through Tanzania’, this lovely book introduces little readers (I’d say older toddlers – aged 2 to 5 – who are still being read to, and 6- and 7-year olds who are just starting to read for themselves) to three things:

  • Tanzania
  • Safaris
  • Counting
  • The story starts with a large extended family going on ‘safari’ at the start of a sunny day and spying a lonely leopard. They count ‘one’ (in Swahili, ‘moja’). Then, two (‘mbili’) ostriches running. Then, three (‘tatu’) giraffes grazing. And so on, through beautifully illustrated and laid out pages, to ten (‘kumi’) enormous elephants.

    The use of descriptive verbs (‘Up bobbed some hefty hippos’), colourful adjectives (‘Grasslands damp with dew’, ‘Zigzag zebras’) and tidy rhyme is careful and clever. And right at the end, as an extra, are pages on the animals of Tanzania, the Maasai people, Swahili names and their meanings, facts about Tanzania, a map and the full list of numbers, one to ten – all with stunning illustrations and useful pronunciation.

    I can’t wait for my littlie to be just old enough to graduate from board books and have this read to her. In the interim, you should buy it. It’s something really different.

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    BEAR TAKES A TRIP

    By Stella Blackstone & Debbie Harter

    ‘Bear has a very long journey to make. There are lots of things for him to take.’

    So he wakes up early, at 7.00am. By 8.30am he’s made his bed, washed his face, eaten his breakfast and packed his case. Filled with vibrantillustrations – some of the prettiest and most colourful I’ve seen in a children’s book – this wonderful story introduces little readers to telling the time, but it also has supplementary messages about making preparations, about taking trips and about spending time with friends.

    (In terms of age range, I’d say older toddlers – aged 2 to 5 – who are still being read to, and 6- and 7-year olds who are just starting to read for themselves.)

    If you’re a family that travels regularly, or that is planning a trip, this is a great way to introduce your kids to getting ready, getting going, being patient and enjoying their surroundings. But beyond that, the story’s core focus is time-telling.

    There are clocks and watches on every page, explanations of ‘noon’, ‘midnight’, ‘quarter to’ and so on, and pictures of different clock faces, with the big and little hands in different positions. I love it. It’s a nice buy, too, for a long car journey.

    We have a seven-year-old littlie living with us, and she’s starting Clocks at school, so I’m planning on testing this book out with her to see how she likes it…

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