Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Christmas

This isn't a review of Humphrey's Christmas - although the book is gorgeous and well worth hunting out (the illustrations make my heart hurt) - we just wanted to wish everyone reading a Happy Christmas (or other holiday!) and to let you know that we'll be back with lots more lovely  picture books in the New Year.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Jesus's Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan

Is there really any point telling you about this book? You've all seen it, read it, treasured it, yes? I hope so, because it's one of our all-time favourites.

I'm not religious at all, but I adore this book. It's the nativity story, but told from the point of view of the innkeeper who just wants a good night's sleep and is constantly woken by knocking at the door.

The story is simple and sweet, the illustrations are adorable and we never get tired of reading it, even though it's always the first Christmas book we pull out.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Winter favourites: One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth

We're not just reading Christmas books at the moment, we've also pulled out a few wintery favourites and I've actually had this one since before I had children (I used to take it when I went babysitting, I didn't just read it to myself).

I love Nick Butterworth's illustrations and the Percy the Park Keeper stories are so charming and sweet. 2-year-old Joe chose this one the other night and was absolutely transfixed. On the snowy night of the title, the animals come to Percy's hut to keep warm. He doesn't have enough room for all of them, until they're frightened by the arrival of the mole (via the floorboards) and find cosy hiding places for themselves. Joe was particularly charmed by the mice in Percy's slippers.

These are such lovely books for reading aloud, with a variety of animal voices to get your teeth into, plus there's a Percy book for every season. I love switching to the next as the weather changes. (There was a Percy the Park Keeper TV series and the DVDs of that are well worth watching as well.) Lovely.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Usborne Christmas Pocket Doodling and Colouring Book

I've never bought a doodling book before, but 7-year-old Harry spotted this in a shop and fancied it so we bought it and it's wonderful. So wonderful that I've actually considered buying a second one for myself (not that I'm a control freak or anything, but I just don't think Harry's thumbprint penguins will meet my high standards...).

There are baubles and Christmas trees to decorate, the aforementioned penguins to draw and lots lots more. (And some of the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous - seems a shame to doodle on them.) (Maybe I am a control freak...)

It's suitable for different ability levels too, so even 2-year-old Joe could do a bit of colouring while Harry (and, um, me) are more likely to focus on the bits that require a bit more imagination.

The back cover warns 'this book could become very, very addictive' and I can totally imagine that could be true. A great one for Christmas stockings.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Peppa's Christmas

My 2-year-old has recently become completely obsessed with Peppa Pig, so when we saw this book we had to get it.

It's a board book with a very slight story - Daddy Pig buys a tree that's too big for the car, Father Christmas can't get down the chimney and so Peppa and George run downstairs and meet him at the front door - but that's actually turned out to be a good thing, since Joe has almost memorised it and now, once I've read it,  he can read it to me too.

We've amassed quite a few Christmas books over the past few years and I love hauling them out at the beginning of December and reading a different one each night. I'll be sharing a few of them here over the next few weeks.

What's your favourite Christmas picture book? 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Usborne's Advent Calendar

In case you haven't noticed, it's the 1st of December today and that means... advent calendars!

We've actually got a couple of advent calendars we trot out every year and the children's grandma usually buys them a chocolate one (I suspect she's keeping it at her house this year - worried I'll eat the chocolate, no doubt), but when I saw this Usborne Advent Calendar I had to buy it.

It's not a book, it's a cardboard gatefold picture of a busy street scene. Behind each window there's a little picture to colour and the main street can be coloured too (it's black and white with some colour here and there).

It's so pretty that I'm not actually going to let my kids colour it, at least not this year.

Friday, 25 November 2011

We *heart* penguins

Have you been watching the BBC series Frozen Planet? We've all been loving it and the biggest hit in this household has been the penguins. Particularly the penguin who pinched the pebbles from the other penguin's nest. He brought the house down. So I thought I'd share few penguin books you might like.

I bought Hide-and-Seek Penguins by Fiona Watt and Lesley Danson for my 2-year-old a few weeks ago and it's really cute. It's a lift-the-flap and counting book with really sweet illustrations and textures too. Joe loves it.

365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet is a classic and it's glorious. It's about a family who find a penguin mysteriously delivered to their door every day for a year. At first the family is quite pleased and intrigued, but soon they find the penguins hard to look after - where do they even put them? They come up with some creative - and very entertaining - storage methods.

The illustrations are fab - the expressions (or lack of) on the face of the penguins are hilarious and the book even has a global warming message (but it's not too heavy-handed...).

Of course there's also Me... by Emma Dodd, which we've reviewed already and is just gorgeous.

And I know this isn't a book - although there is a book as well - but I was really surprised at how entertaining this new film is. It's sweet and very funny and the penguins are highly entertaining.

If you are interested in the book - also called, perhaps unsurprisingly, Mr Popper's Penguins and written by Richard & Florence Atwater - I'd say it's definitely worth a read, but it's very old-fashioned and my 7-year-old lost interest pretty quickly.

What's your favourite penguin book?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

10 Minute Tales: Postman Pat - The Wind Machine

I can't remember where we first picked up one of these 10 Minute Tales - it may even have been the supermarket - but we've bought a few now and my boys both love them.

The really fun thing about them is that on the left page you have the story told in relative detail, which is great for reading aloud or for a more confident reader to read by themselves, and then on the facing page there's a short summary for a newer reader to read alone (or for me to read to my 2-year-old when I can't be bothered reading the full story).

Obviously once the less confident reader progresses, they'll be able to read the full story and I think the fact that they will be able to see their own progress - from the 'beginner' page to the 'advanced' - will probably do wonders for their confidence.

We've got the Postman Pat story pictured above and a couple of the Fireman Sam books, so the stories aren't anything very exciting - they stick pretty closely to the TV stories - but my boys enjoyed that too, since they're already familiar with the stories.

We'll definitely be buying more, but I hope the publishers branch out into original stories at some point too.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Claude in the City and Claude on Holiday by Alex T Smith

I picked up Claude in the City mainly because it looked cute, but also because it was part of Richard & Judy's Children's Book Club.

It's the story of Claude, a little beret-wearing dog, and his friend Sir Bobblysock (a sock). In the first book, Claude and Sir Bobblysock go into the city and foil a robbery in an art gallery. In the second part of the book, Claude takes Sir Bobblysock to hospital because he's not feeling well.

Both Harry and I were captivated by this book. We both laughed a lot and I particularly loved that no one questions the fact that Sir Bobblysock is indeed a sock. Then again, Claude is an upright dog wearing a beret, so I'm not sure I should have been surprised...

Because we'd enjoyed the first book so much, I ordered Claude on Holiday straight away and we both loved this one too. In this book Claude goes on holiday (funny that), saves a man from a shark and meets some pirates.

The illustrations are fabulous and very funny. Harry particularly liked that both books heavily feature underpants and bras. There's not much funnier for a 7-year-old than underwear.

When Harry saw the advert for Claude at the Circus at the back of the second book, he actually squeaked with enthusiasm. We're both really looking forward to it and I know we'll be rereading these two for a while.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman

Last week my 7-year-old, Harry, asked me if men could marry men. Actually, that's not true. He first told me that men couldn't kiss men and when I told him that was wrong, he asked if they could get married. Realising it was time he learned that all families aren't like our family, I bought a copy of The Great Big Book of Families (it was recommended by a friend).

It's a lovely book, but not quite as detailed as I was expecting it to be, so it worked as an introduction for the 2-year-old as well as for Harry. The book begins by explaining that 'Once upon a time most families in books looked like this..." with an illustration of a family with "one daddy, one mummy, one little boy, one little girl, one dog and one cat" and then goes on to explain that "in real life, families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes."

Included in the book are children who live with just their daddy or just their mummy, some who have two mummies or daddies, some who are adopted or fostered, some who live with grandparents. We then go on to look at extended families and how families can be big or small, different homes, hobbies, types of schooling and employment, different kinds of food, holidays, clothes and pets, different celebrations and feelings. All are accompanied by Roz Asquith's joyful illustrations, but each only has two pages so it is a very basic overview.

It's interesting and sweet and there's enough detail in the drawings to merit rereading with the 2-year-old, but probably not with Harry. I need to find more books featuring "alternative" families and perhaps aimed at the 6-9 age range. Anyone know of any?

Monday, 31 October 2011

Red House Children's Book Award - Press Release

Established names and stars of tomorrow are shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book Award 2012 – chosen and voted for entirely by children.

Some of the biggest names in children’s fiction are joined by exciting new authors and illustrators on the shortlist for this year’s Red House Children’s Book Award, the only national award for children’s books that is voted for entirely by children themselves. What could be a better indicator of the books that will tempt children away from computer games and DVDs than a list drawn up by young people across the country, which pits literary heavyweights like Morris Gleitzman and Patrick Ness against outstanding debut authors such as Annabel Pitcher?

Who will win? It’s up to children everywhere to decide. Voting is now open and the Red House Children’s Book Award would like to encourage every child in Britain to check out the shortlisted titles and vote for their favourite!

The Red House Children’s Book Award is highly respected by teachers, parents and librarians and has brought acclaim and strong sales to past winners such as J.K. Rowling, Andy Stanton, Malorie Blackman and Anthony Horowitz. The award has often been the first to recognise the future stars of children’s fiction and has the ability to turn popular authors into bestsellers.

Children nationwide are now invited to vote for their favourite of the ten shortlisted books. The category winners and the author of the best children’s book published in the 2011 nomination period will be announced – for the first time ever – at a glittering awards ceremony which takes place in the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre in London on Saturday 18th February 2012.

A dedicated website showcases all the shortlisted titles and featured authors. Any child can vote here for their favourite book until 20th January 2012.

The full shortlist for the Red House Children’s Book Award 2012 is as follows:

Books for Younger Children

Rollo and Ruff and the Little Fluffy Bird by Mick Inkpen, published by Hodder
Don't Worry Douglas! by David Melling, published by Hodder
Peely Wally by Kali Stileman, published by Red Fox
Scruffy Bear and the Six White Mice by Chris Wormell, published by Jonathan Cape

Books for Younger Readers

One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson, published by Marion Lloyd Books
Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis, published by Oxford University Press
The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon, published by Scholastic

Books for Older Readers

Grace by Morris Gleitzman, published by Puffin
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, published by Walker
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, published by Orion

Thursday, 27 October 2011

999 Tadpoles Find a New Home by Ken Kimura

I picked this book up on a whim because the cover was cute and after reading two pages knew I had to buy it.

The book begins with Mother Frog laying 999 eggs in a little pond. Once they've hatched, the parents realise the pond is much too small and they'll have to move. They head out into the world to find a new home, but come across obstacles like snakes, hawks... and the tiny frogs' moaning:

'Are we there yet?'
'Sick of hopping.'
'I'm tired!'
'Need water.'

When the hawk carries them all off - he takes Father Frog, but the rest aren't willing to let him go and all hold onto each other - the froglets are excited and then, inevitably, bored and fed up, but when the hawk drops them, they find themselves in a perfect pond.

It's a simple story, simply told and with very simple, cute, illustrations (by Yasunari Murakami), but it manages to pack a punch about family and the idea of home. It would make a perfect gift for children moving house for the first time. Lovely.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

We *heart* Mo Willems

We are massive Mo Willems fans in this house. We own almost all of his books (and those we don't already have are on our wish list), we went to see the Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late live show, even taking Joe who was only a few months old at the time (he seemed to enjoy it), Harry even sleeps with a Pigeon soft toy and we bought him the Pigeon Game for his birthday (it's great fun).

And if you've never read any Mo Willems books, you really should. Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too are classics (we haven't yet got the third Knuffle Bunny book but we're hoping Father Christmas might bring it).

Harry and Joe's favourite Pigeon book is The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog (but they're all great), and Time To Pee not only helped Harry learn when to, you know, pee, it also made him laugh so hard he almost fell off the bed.

The Elephant & Piggie books are hilarious. They're so quick and easy to read (Harry loves deciding if he's going to "be" Elephant or Piggie) and the books all have brilliantly simple and subtle messages about sharing, self-esteem, etc.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Me... by Emma Dodd

Emma Dodd is rapidly becoming one of my favourite picture book authors. I picked up Me... without realising Emma Dodd is the illustrator of I Love My Mummy (and I Love My Daddy, which is another of our faves), and within a couple of pages knew I  had to buy it.

The world is big... and I am small. 

It's a very simple and sweet story of a little penguin finding his or her way in the world...

The sky is high... and I am small. 

The illustrations are of course beautiful. Clear and simple, using just a few colours, but conveying the penguin's personality and the starkness of its habitat.

The starts stretch far... and I am small. 

But the thing I love the most about this book is how it's about the penguin realising how much he or she is loved. It's a gorgeous message for a book and it's a gorgeous book.

I may be small, but I can see the biggest thing to you... is me. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Game of Light by Herve Tullet

I've been reading about Herve Tullet's wonderful-sounding Press Here lately and I've added it to my wishlist, so when I saw The Game of Light in my local(-ish) Waterstone's I pounced on it.

It's a small board book with each page featuring cut-out shapes through which you shine a torch to project the shapes onto the walls and ceiling.

We rushed home and grabbed the only torch we could find - a dinosaur torch that roars when its mouth opens to reveal the torch itself. It didn't work brilliantly with the book - the dinosaur's mouth kept getting in the way - but 2-year-old Joe was transfixed as was 7-year-old Harry when he got home from school.

Such a simple, but brilliant, idea. I'll be buying copies as gifts for all the children I know.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Night Pirates by Peter Harris

I wasn't sure about this book at first - I've never really been particularly into pirates and nor have either of my children - but then one night I decided to read it and I loved it.

The pirates of the title are "rough, tough, little girl pirates" who turn up at Tom's house and take him on an adventure. It turns out they want to use the front of his house to disguise their pirate ship while they go and steal treasure from some grown-up pirates.

The illustrations by Deborah Allwright are lovely and the gentle rhymes make it easy for children to read themselves.

The gentle humour makes my boys laugh (particularly the grown-up pirate threatening to tell his mummy) and I particularly enjoy the feisty girl pirates - my oldest son loves reading about girls and I like that these girls aren't doing stereotypically girly things. A really sweet book.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates

I thought I'd continue the dog theme, with Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates.

Dog loves books so much that he decides to open his own bookshop, but he soon realises that not everyone loves books as much as he does and it's not very busy. In fact, he's a bit bored. That is until he realises that he can take any book from the shelf and be transported to an adventure. With dinosaurs! Kangaroos! Aliens! And then he does get a customer. A little girl who wants a book about ballet and Dog knows the very one to recommend. (It's not this one, but how perfect would that have been?!) 

Again, this book features really cute illustrations (including - yes! - a dog in a tutu!)  and a great message about the joy of books. Perfect for young readers just discovering reading and highly entertaining for grown-up book lovers too. 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Dogs Don't Do Ballet by Anna Kemp

This book pretty much had me at the title. And at the gorgeous cover illustration. It would take a stronger person than I to resist a pug in a tutu. Fortunately the story lives up to the cover. 

Dogs Don't Do Ballet is about a nameless little girl who is mad about ballet. So is her dog, Biff. Everyone keeps telling him that dogs don't do ballet,  but when he sneaks into a performance by the Royal Ballet in which the prima ballerina falls over, he's able to take over and save the day. 

I really loved this book. It's written in a very simple style and the illustrations (by Sara Ogilvie) are hilarious. The dog's expressions are conveyed brilliantly and, like I said, a pug in a tutu? What's not to love? It also features the message that you can be anything you want to be and you shouldn't let others dictate your dreams. Can't read that too often. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Green Line by Polly Farquharson

Today we've got a guest review from Nayuleska of Nayu's Reading Corner

Summary from Frances Lincoln

Join in on a joyous walk to the park with this child’s eye photographic exploration extravaganza. Cleverly never showing the child narrator, the reader follows the narrator’s green doodle line as she investigates a stick, a butterfly, a feather, a daisy chain and other features, as well as crossing the road and avoiding the cracks in the pavement.  

Nayuleska’s thoughts

A fresh look on encouraging interest in nature, this was a fun read, making me remember all the fun I had outside when I was little. The photos in the book are stunning, capturing the feel of the narration and provide talking points for the reader. 

This gets 10/10 from me. 

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Mummy Laid an Egg by Babette Cole

How I've managed to get to my age without having read this book (particularly since I used to work in the children's department of a book shop) I'll never know, but I'm so glad I finally did.

A couple of weeks ago, my 7-year-old, Harry, asked me "How did you make Joe?" "Same way as I made you," I replied, dodging the question since we were in the queue at M&S at the time. "But how?" he said. "Well it's a bit of Daddy and a bit of Mummy and that makes a baby." "Yes, but HOW?"

Eep. I told him it was complicated and we'd look it up when we got home. I use the wonderful BrainPOP for the many and varied questions I can't answer, but BrainPOP didn't have the answer for me this time either. There's a video supporting the 'bit of mummy and daddy' concept, but - perhaps unsurprisingly - not the HOW.

Probably as a result of my panic at having been asked the question, I completely failed to consider a book on the subject, but thankfully my friends are a lot smarter than me and instantly recommended Mummy Laid an Egg. After reading the reviews I could hardly wait to read it myself, never mind Harry.

And I wasn't disappointed. It's WONDERFUL. The premise is that the parents decide it's time to tell the children how babies are made. They tell them that babies can be grown from seeds, hatched out of eggs, squeezed out of tubes and a few other entertaining suggestions. The children think this is hilarious and say, "You were nearly right about the SEEDS, the TUBE and the EGG." And then they do some drawings to show their parents how babies are really made.

The drawings show where the seeds come from and how they get from daddy to mummy ("Here are some ways mummies and daddies fit together") in the most hilarious - and hilariously unrealistic* - way. I think it's a perfect way to introduce the idea of sex to children - it's not graphic or scary, it's joyful and funny. I laughed out loud when I first saw these two pages and totally expected Harry would too. He did not. I got to the end of the book and said, "So. What do you think?" "That's crazy talk," he said. Fair enough.

* At least I'm pretty sure doing it on a Spacehopper or skateboard is unrealistic. Unless I've been missing out all these years.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers

I've been aware of Oliver Jeffers books for a while - I drooled over the beautiful iPad app for The Heart and the Bottle (and then I cried when I read the actual book... in Asda), and both my boys love Lost and Found, but for some reason I'd never seen The Incredible Book Eating Boy. Another parent recommended it to me in the library and I'm so glad she did because we all loved it.

Henry loves books, but he loves to eat them rather than read them. But he soon finds that he's literally ingesting knowledge and getting smarter and smarter the more books he reads. But then he eats so many books it makes him sick. And he realises that he's not been digesting the books properly and all the knowledge is getting mixed up in his head. So he stops eating books and, eventually, decides to try reading them instead.

I love everything about this book. I wasn't sure at first if my 7-year-old would like the fairly dark illustrations, but he loved them - particularly the one of Henry throwing up (typical). I love the message of the book, which manages to be both blindingly obvious and oddly subtle at the same time. This is a book all book lovers should own (but not eat).

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Bridget Fidget Hold on Tight by Joe Berger

Bridget Fidget is in a FIX. She forgot to hold on tight to her beloved toy, Captain Cat, and lost him in a shop - disaster! Luckily, her friend Billy is there to save the day AND Captain Cat with his brand-new Superzoom 500 car. Quick, everyone, hold on tight!

With overtones of Shirley Hughes's classic Dogger, this is a hilarious comic caper from Joe Berger, World Book Day Illustrator 2010.

With lovely bright artwork and larger than life drawings, Joe Berger's Bridget Fidget is a great little picture book full of humour and a quest. Quests are 100% my favourite thing.

When Bridget Fidget dashes through the Absolutely Best Shop in the World for Spending Shiny Coins (can someone please make a shop called this for real!?) clutching her backpack and shiny coin from the tooth fairy, she pays far less attention to Captain Cat and he bounces straight out of her backpack into the basket of another little girl strolling past.

When her friend Billy points out that Captain Cat is gone, poor Bridget Fidget goes into serious panic mode. She starts hunting for him everywhere but there is no sign of her special one and only. Fortunately Billy comes to the rescue but in the end it is Bridget Fidget who ends up saving the day overall in a great turn of generosity and kindness.

I enjoyed this - it's a very subtle way to teach younger folk (3 - 5 y/o) the value of sharing with those who may not have as much. Also, the language use was a bit reminiscent of Charlie and Lola, so for readers who are starting out, this is a great primer. And, as I said, wonderfully illustrated with Bridget Fidget being a very cute character whom I really liked. I too want to have a Captain Cat and fully expect that mine would be arriving from Dingle Bang's Universe of Toys at any moment.

Bridget Fidget Hold on Tight has been out since 2010 from Puffin. Find Joe Berger's website here.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Me and You by Anthony Browne

One day, a girl came into our house, ate my porridge, broke my chair and fell asleep in my bed. I wonder who she was?

This is a thoughtful retelling of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story.

It left me with a sense of peculiar sadness and I'm not sure why. Actually, I think I know. I think it's because of the artwork - it has a peculiar quality to it. Unlike most picture books where the artwork truly invites you in with vibrant colours and over the top drawings, Me and You has made use of subtler tones.

On the one hand we have the pages illustrating the young girl leaving her home with her mum. The artwork is quiet, grey, dull. She's dressed in a hoodie and the area does not look very nice.

Contrasted wildly with the greyness of the young girl's world, we have the home of the bears. A wonderfully large home, far brighter and more interesting. There is also a cohesion in the family in that it has a mum, dad and boy bear - a family unit. They go out and do things together.

The girl spots a balloon whilst she's standing in front of a shop window with her mum and she runs off to catch it. She doesn't pay attention where it's going and before she knows it, she's lost and the balloon is entirely out of her reach.

She wanders around and finds the wonderfully large and beautiful home of the bears. She does exactly what Goldilocks is meant to do - basically invades their home and privacy and eventually falls asleep in the bear junior's bed. The bears return home after a lovely stroll out and discover their house broken in to. They sneak around and find the girl asleep. They confront her and she runs away.

Soon the artwork changes again to reflect the greyness of the girl's surroundings and as she flees the bears and their neighbourhood, she runs deeper into the darkness. But it ends well, with a great blast of colour.

I think that this one is by far the most subtle picture book I've read in ages. I think young folk would like it for the obvious Goldilocks story but I think slightly older, more advanced readers, would notice the contrast between the girl's drab life and that of the bears and it will make them wonder.

It's a beautiful book but it's definitely one that makes me feel melancholy.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie on the Road by Joel Stewart

Today's Picture Book Saturday features Joel Stewart's fabulous Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie on the Road.

The book opens with this great image of Dexter and the Beastie standing on the roofs of a town, hooting and tooting on their horns. It is night time and the stars and half moon is out. They are kicking up a racket and an angry speech bubble from a garret tells them to Be Quiet!

By refusing to Be Quiet and To Behave, Dexter and the Beastie get thrown out of town. Straight out, into the deep dark scary forest. They don't stay frightened for very long. They walk along, tooting and hooting on their horns and trumpets when they unexpectedly come across the tremendously charing Sir Percy Pecket who loves their hooting and asks them to assist in waking up his Beloved, the Princess Philippina. The Princess awakes and like Sir Percy she adores the hooting and joins in with her flute. But then the Princess asks Sir Percy if he's taken care of that pesky dragon problem. Sadly, he did not and so Dexter, the Princess and Beastie all set off to give the Frightful Dragon what for. Only, it turns out the Dragon is actually quite cool and he learns to tapdance to their tunes.

Well, the story continues apace, with the Princess, Dexter and Beastie and the Dragon giving performance here there and everywhere. Until they realise they just cannot stop!

Needless to say, this is a great picture book. The language is wonderful and the illustrations are quirky and fun and I quite would love a Big Blue Beastie of my own. Now, please? Their adventures are over the top, loud and funny and they meet unexpected characters who act in charming and eccentric ways. It's a book about friendship and music, packed with comedy and giggles. I loved it and can highly recommend it to readers both very small and very old.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

FArTHER by Grahame Baker-Smith

When a father who dreams of flying goes off to war and does not return, his son decides to make the dream come true. Grahame Baker-Smith’s moving story, with stunning illustrations, shows how, with love and a bit of ambition, you can reach seemingly impossible goals.
For our sixth Picture Book Saturday we received FArTHER and I am very grateful to Templar for sending me a copy to review and to hold and love.

This gorgeous book won the Kate Greenaway Award 2011 and a more worthy winner would be hard to find.

Not only are the illustrations whimsical and creative and beautiful, the story is wonderfully touching.

It is completely from our main character's point of view. In a few words he explains his father's obsession with flying. He is always thinking about it, puttering around in his workroom making fantastical flying contraptions that somehow just just lack the ability to fly. The boy says how he then crawls into his father's lap until his father remembers that he's there. Then his father would grab him, and run with him and they would spend time on the beach, laughing and playing and flying kites. But that is until his father gets that look in his eye. And once again the boy is left to his own devices as his father starts tinkering with his creations yet again.

The story moves on from there, but to tell it here would be unfair. FArTher is meant to be read by parents to their children. It is meant to be read by adults so that they can remember where they come from. It is meant to be read by teens to remember that once upon a time, not so long ago, they were that small and that confused by their parents lives and that following your dreams may not be a bad thing.

I adored FArTher (a lovely play on the words further and father that you will understand once you've read the book) and it made me really miss my own dad with his own crazy ideas and whimsical dreams. But even more important is the core central message of "never stop dreaming" and I heartily approve.

I think that FArTHER has become my picture book of the year thus far and I will definitely want some of the whimsical pieces of art by Mr. Baker-Smith for my walls here at home. Do visit here, for a look at some of his illustrations.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Barry the Fish with Fingers - Gets An Animation Deal!

Press Release

Simon & Schuster Children’s Books today announced that animation rights have been optioned for their bestselling preschool brand Barry the Fish with Fingers, written and illustrated by Sue Hendra.

Wish Films have secured the option for television animation rights on two titles: Barry the Fish with Fingers and Barry the Fish with Fingers and the Hairy Scary Monster.

Sue Hendra is a rising star on the S&S picture book list with four further titles already signed up for 2012 and beyond.

Her first title for S&S, Barry the Fish with Fingers, was published in 2010, and became an instant hit, selling more than 105k copies to date, with several foreign rights deals secured.

Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell (January 2011) was the bestselling new picture book for the first four months of this year and continues to be one of the top selling picture books of 2011.

Little Monster Did It by Helen Cooper

Everything was quiet and peaceful in the house until Little Monster arrived.

Little Monster loves Amy, but he hates the new baby. Soon he starts doing some very naughty things and Amy gets the blame...

Little Monster Did It by Helen Cooper is a wonderfully illustrated picture book for younger readers. I would say under six's would get most enjoyment out of it, and of course, us older folk too. Especially in the fine detail of the artwork which is not intensely coloured, but instead, by using muted hues, their impact is quite striking and...thoughtful. It's difficult to explain. The colours used throughout made me want to pause in my consideration of them, they drew me in, which I really liked.

Amy loves her mum and dad and loves the time they spend together. She likes that it's only the 3 of them. But when her mum goes to hospital, after giving Amy a large Little Monster as a present, and she comes back with a new baby, needless to say, Amy is not best pleased. And Little Monster is deeply upset. He throws tantrums and makes a noise when the baby wants to sleep. When they all cuddle in with mum and dad and the new baby, Little Monster spitefully opens the hot water bottle in the bed and empties it all out. Of course, all his naughty actions are blamed on Amy.

It is a very fast read, mostly because the pictures themselves tell most of the story - the prose is light and clever, but not as clever as seeing Amy's naughty face peer out from behind the tv watching Little Monster push donuts into the VCR. The expression is surprisingly sly and naughty and works so well.

I know exactly what Amy was going through and although I didn't have Little Monster, I acted very badly towards my nieces and nephews until I realised that they would become my best friends forever. All I had to do was give them a chance.

Little Monster Did It is a clever book for young readers struggling to cope with a new addition to the family or an upcoming new addition to the family. It makes them stop and think and it made me, as a reader, feel very nostalgic for my own overly busy childhood with hordes of nieces, nephews and cousins underfoot.

Find Helen Cooper's website here. A bit thanks goes to Random House who have listened so kindly to my pleas for more picture books to be sent. They give me immense enjoyment and I find my wishlist of picture books growing and growing!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Who Wants to be a Poodle? I don't by Lauren Child

I adore Lauren Child's books. From Charlie and Lola to That Pesky Rat to Clarice Bean, I love them all. So when I spotted Who Wants to be a Poodle in the library, I pounced on it.

It's the story Trixie Twinkle Toes Trot-a-lot Delight - a poodle who doesn't want to be primped and pampered, but instead yearns to splash in puddles and be a Dazzlingly Dangerous Daring Dog!

I loved this book and so did my 7-year-old (and his toy dog Buster who wagged his tail throughout - with a little help from Harry, obviously). It's written in Child's usual quirky style and has some laugh out loud moments for both children and adults. (Harry loved that Trixie gave the pet psychic fleas, I loved the pet psychiatrist.)

It's illustrated in Child's usual collage style with fabulous attention to detail.

I also loved the message of this story - that you don't have to be who or what people expect you to be. Or, as the back cover says, "Don't you ever yearn just to be YOU?"

One extra detail I enjoyed - despite the fact she hates being pampered and wants to be daring, Trixie is a girl dog. When the vet comes to check on her, the vet is a woman. I appreciate the non-traditional gender representations - I'm always on the look out for that in picture books.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Teeny-Weeny Walking Stick by Karen J. Hodgson, Sally Anne Lambert

The Teeny-Weeny Walking Stick is a charming tale of innocence with an old fashioned quality to it, which both my six year old and I enjoyed.

It's a pretty simple story, Edward is trying to convince his older sister Hattie that little people live at the bottom of the garden by bringing her teeny-weeny items such as a walking stick, hat, wings and slippers. But Hattie dismisses each and every one, it's a twig, an acorn lid, sycamore seeds and catkins. But Edward is firm in his belief, what can he do to prove it to Hattie?

This book fully captures a child's imagination, they'll adore Edward and his belief in the little people, be outraged by his sisters cynicism and delighted by the ending which see's Hattie accept that Edward could be right after all. As an adult reading this to my child I appreciated the beautiful illustrations which reminded me of books from my own childhood books and the whimsical tale of innocence.

The story is simple enough to be enjoyed by very young children, and also has enough text to charm older children who can read alone. My daughter has read this book several times to herself over the last few days, as well as enjoying having it read by me. A lovely, magical book ideal for bedtime reading.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Grunt And The Grouch by Tracey Corderoy

Parents Beware! This is quite possibly one of the most disgusting books you will come across. Seriously stomach churning at times with talk and illustrations of snot, maggot cakes and mouldy teeth, it's not pretty. So of course little ones will absolutely adore it and find it hilarious!

The Grunt and The Grouch kind of reminded me of Roald Dahl's The Twits, they are really that disgusting, maybe even more so. My daughter laughed her way hysterically through this one then wanted it read over and over again. It's a pretty simple story, and alongside the grossness and hilarity there's a nice message about telling people how you really feel and being brave enough to reach out to them. I really liked this element to the story, so did my daughter who thought it was ever so sweet the trolls now have each other.

The writing in this book is simple and fun and will appeal to boys and girls from age 2-7 years. With clear, bold text it's a great book for being read to or practising reading skills for older children and is engaging throughout. The illustrations are bright and detailed and utterly gross, which will delight young children, especially when they see your (exaggerated disgust). My daughter wanted to go back to the `snot' page time and time again just to see me hide behind my eyes screaming `eeeuuuuw'

I definitely recommend The Grunt and The Grouch, it's the type of book children will love, the author clearly knows what it is that gets a young child hooked on books. It's five star fun from beginning to end.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Someday by Alison McGhee

A while ago, I discovered a classic American picture book called Love You Forever. By Robert Munsch, the book featured repetition of the lines "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living my baby you'll be." I'd not long had Harry when I bought it and I couldn't read those lines without crying. However, the illustrations in the book were kind of ... peculiar. And it ended with the mother phoning the son to tell him she was dying and him cradling her on his lap like a baby. I couldn't read it myself, let alone to Harry. So I was thrilled to be sent a copy of Someday by Alison McGhee.

The theme is similar to Munsch's book: Someday begins with the baby being born ("One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one") and ends with the child as an old woman ("Someday, a long time from now, your own hair will glow silver in the sun. And when that day comes, love, you will remember me.") but the illustrations are beautiful and the story much simpler.

Of course, I still can't read it without crying, despite the fact that the baby is a girl and I have two sons. It's a gorgeous book and would make a lovely gift for the new mother of a daughter.

Christopher Eccleston reads Night Monkey Day Monkey

Two of my favourite things, together at last. I love Christopher Eccleston (and have done for YEARS! I'm not one of these Doctor Who johnny-come-latelies) and Night Monkey, Day Monkey is one of my favourite kids' books. So I thought I'd share my joy. Here you go:

Marshall Armstrong Is new to Our school by David Mackinstosh

Marshall Armstrong is new to school and definitely stands out from the crowd, with his pale skin, perpetual hats, and special “space food” lunches that come in silver wrappers. He doesn’t play sports, and he doesn’t watch television. So when he invites everyone in class over for his birthday party, it’s sure to be a disaster. Or is it? Marshall Armstrong might have a trick or two up his long, “sun protective” sleeve. (From

This is a beautiful hardback book, although the thick paper outer cover maybe isn't such a great idea for very young children, I imagine it will get tatty very soon and would easily tear...sadly the hardback underneath doesn't have the same cover and is a bit plain. The paper back edition is released this month and may be worth considering! 

The story is lovely and unique. It's fun to read but also has a great message about being different...that it's ok and quite cool.  It also reminds us that we shouldn't judge people on appearances, as they can be deceptive. I love how David Mackintosh gets the anxious voice of a young child facing someone different and new perfectly, and how he eventually overcomes this without being too complex. The language is suitable for children ages 3 up who will enjoy having the story read to them and is perfect for older readers who are just learning. My 6 year old managed this quite easily with only a few words to challenge her. The illustrations (also by David Mackintosh) are also quirky and entertaining with plenty to look at and amuse. 

Apart from the delicate cover, this is a lovely book which comes recommended by myself and daughter. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

I Love My Mummy by Giles Andreae & Emma Dodd

I love Giles Andreae's books, but I was actually attracted to I Love My Mummy by Emma Dodd's lovely illustrations.

I love my mummy very much
She's great to cuddle, soft to touch.

Clearly - and unsurprisingly - the words are just as entertaining as the pictures with a simple rhyme and a few parenting realities that rarely make it into children's books (I like to watch her brush her hair and dance round in her underwear). 

Two-year-old Joe requested this book every day for weeks and he now likes to do the actions - cuddling me when I read 'great to cuddle' and pretending to cry when the baby in the book cries.

The thing I love the most about this book is the joy the mother and baby show in each other. On every page they look like they're having fun and their love shines through. A perfect book to read with a little one.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

It's A Book by Lane Smith

I'm not usually much of a fan of book trailers, but this one made me laugh out loud and immediately order the book.

I absolutely love it. I love the idea behind it, I love the illustrations, it still makes me laugh even though I've read it a few times now and it makes my boys laugh too. There's just one thing... The characters are a mouse, an ape and a donkey who's described as a "jackass". The last line of the book - spoiler alert! - is "It's a book, jackass."

Funny, yes. But not something I particularly wanted my 7-year-old to start saying. Just imagine it: Harry, at school, reading. His teacher asks, "What have you got there?" and Harry answers, "It's a book, jackass." *shudder* So I told Harry that as well as being a word for a donkey, "jackass" was a naughty word and one he really shouldn't repeat outside of reading this particular book. Since then, he's refused to read it and calls it "the book with the naughty word."

Fortunately, the 2-year-old is less sensitive...

So. Watch the trailer. If you love it, you'll love the book. Naughty words aside, I highly recommend it.

Monday, 18 July 2011

You Do! by Kes Gray & Nick Sharratt

Don't pick your nose," says Daisy's mum.
"You do," says Daisy.

Whenever Daisy's mum tells her off for doing something naughty - picking her nose, lolloping on the sofa, dropping her clothes on the floor - Daisy points out that her mum does it too.

Daisy's mum always has an excuse for her bad behaviour, but Daisy doesn't seem convinced and neither was I. I must admit this book appealed to me because I do find this type of thing comes up in parenting quite often: telling my boys off for things I do myself (not that I EVER pick my nose, honest).

My 7-year-old son, Harry, is a big fan of the Daisy chapter books and so I bought You Do! thinking he'd enjoy it and I could also read it to my 2-year-old.

Harry definitely liked the idea that Daisy's mum is as naughty as Daisy is, but it wasn't exactly a concept he was unfamiliar with since he's got me as a mum. And though I enjoyed it too, I didn't find this book to be as engagingly written as some of the others in the series. There's a bit too much repetition and, while Harry the ending made Harry giggle, I found it a bit unsatisfying - I would have liked Daisy's mum to admit she sometimes does naughty things too.

This book comes with a CD containing the story read by Jenny Eclair and a read-along version, which we probably won't use since we usually read in bed and we don't have a CD player in there.