Thursday, 5 July 2012

A Tale of Two Mommies/A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager

I downloaded these books from NetGalley because I'm always looking for books featuring "alternative lifestyles" (for want of an alternative phrase) and the illustrations looked particularly cute. I'm featuring the two books together because they're pretty similar.

A Tale of Two Daddies starts with a little boy asking a little girl about her two dads. She tells him that she has a Poppa and a Daddy and he goes on to ask her which of her dads does certain things for her.

"Who's your dad when your hair needs braids? Who's your dad when you're afraid?"

"Poppa's the one when I need braids. Daddy is there when I'm afraid."

The book continues in this vein. Sometimes the answer is both daddies and sometimes the little girl can do things herself. I particularly like the ending: "Who is your dad when you're sad and need some love?" "Both, of course."

A Tale of Two Mommies begins with the question: "If you have a momma and a mommy, who fixes things when they break?" which immediately made me indignant, but I imagine it's pretty true to life, since gender roles are so ingrained in society and I appreciate that both of these books challenge that (for example, one of the daddies bakes, one of the mommies takes the little boy fishing).

The weakness of these books is that they're more about introducing the issue of same sex parents and less about a readable text. Some of the rhymes are a bit laboured, some don't scan so well and the ending of A Tale of Two Mommies is a bit sudden and unsatisfying, but this is actually more than made up for by the glorious illustrations. There's an explanation of how they were made in the back of each book and they're just beautiful. There's more than one that I'd like framed. This one may be my favourite, but it's hard to choose:

Niggles aside, these books are a charming and simple introduction to the idea of same sex parents for younger children.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Whatever by William Bee

I picked this one up in the library because of the bright cover and then realised that it's basically a modern update of one of my old favourites: Pierre (who only would say "I don't care!") by Maurice Sendak.

No matter what Billy's dad shows him, Billy's only response is "...whatever." Something very tall, something very small, the world's bounciest castle, or steamiest train - "...whatever." Even a trip in a rocket to the edge of outer space fails to impress Billy.

And then his dad shows him the world's hungriest tiger... with inevitable (and Pierre-esque) results. The ending of Whatever is darker than that of Pierre and it made my children laugh, whereas they seem unconvinced by Pierre - for whom being eaten by a lion teaches him that he does indeed care. (Even I find myself thinking "Yeah, Pierre. But for how long?")

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

It's Not Fair by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

We bought an iPad. I've quite fancied one since they came out, but the real Apple fanboy in the family - almost-8-year-old Harry - has been desperate for one. So we finally bought one and Harry described it as a "dream come true."

We've downloaded quite a few picture book apps, which I'll write about another time, but the first actual picture book we downloaded was Amy Krouse Rosenthal's I'm Not Fair.

I love Rosenthal's books - particularly Yes Day, which is also illustrated (beautifully) by Tom Lichtenheld (who, I just realised, also wrote and illustrated the wonderful E-mergency!) - and It's Not Fair is another treat, written in rhyme (which doesn't always work without an American accent!), children and more complain about how life isn't fair. You know, like children do ALL THE TIME.

But the most successful part of this book was the following:

'Why can't I have curly locks?'
'Why can't I have my own box?'
Why now, chicken pox?!'

Since I was reading it to 3-year-old Joe, who is indeed suffering from chicken pox. He was so excited to see it in the book, it was hilarious. (The book also features a 'Complaint at Law in the Circuit Court of Fairness' that I'm sure many parents will appreciate.)

One thing I will say is that after spending the day playing with book apps, a plain old book seemed a bit, you know, limited. This is, I know, ridiculous, since I've been reading books for 40 years and, at the time of reading It's Not Fair, had had the iPad for about four hours, and yet I found myself tapping the picture and expecting it to do something. Sigh. You can, however, zoom in, which was great for looking at the chicken pox up close and is also good for isolating particular words or parts of pictures.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby

I read Squish Rabbit via We Give Books, a fantastic site created by the Penguin Group and the Pearson Foundation that donates to selected charities for each book read online.

I was attracted by the cute, uncluttered cover and the book is equally cute and uncluttered. It's the story of a little rabbit named Squish because he's so little he keeps getting, well, squished. He's also so little that people don't notice him, so he's lonely too. Eventually, of course, Squish finds a friend and the illustrations of them meeting each other are really adorable. In fact, every page is adorable. I love it when illustrators manage to convey emotion in such simple characters.

I also love that Squish makes himself a friend and also, at one point, has a tantrum - I'm sure many children will identify. It would be a great book for a child who is struggling to make friends - perhaps one who has just started at nursery or preschool.

Squish Rabbit is a really sweet book that I'm pleased to have discovered. I'll definitely check out the 'real' version one day too. I suspect the illustrations are even more lovely in 'real life'.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

E-mergency! by Tom Lichtenheld & Ezra Fields-Meyer

How would you manage if you couldn't use the letter E? Not very well, I'd imagine. (I've used it ten times in this post already.)

In E-mergency, the letters of the alphabet all share a house and, one morning, E falls down the stairs. ("Eeeee!") The other letters all rally round and once the "EMTs" have "rushed in with an IV, ready to perform CPR", she's rushed to the ER.

They letters get together and nominate O to replace E while she recuperates. On TV, there's a "Spocial Bullotin" to announce the news. D and C go to Washington to alert the government. The other letters go on the talk shows (including O). But for some reason, E just isn't getting better. But then they realise. One person is still using the letter E and it's the narrator of the book...

This book is such good fun to read (although also quite tricky), plus it's crammed with so many jokes, that I still haven't read them all (we particularly love the letter P in the bathroom). My boys both love it and because I'm holding some of the gags back, I know we'll continue to enjoy it for a while to come.

Thanks so much to Tina of ABRAMS & Chronicle Books for sending it.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Great Explorer by Chris Judge

Another wonderful library find, I picked this one up because of the bright and happy cover and then took it home because I liked the theme of exploring.

Tom finds out that his 'Famous Explorer' father is lost in the North Pole and sets off to rescue him. The journey does not go well. His ship runs aground on an iceberg. His hot air balloon pops. He's attacked by a bear. But every time something goes wrong, Tom comes up with a solution and carries on to find his father.

I loved how resourceful Tom was and how even when things went horribly wrong, Tom kept his purpose and even enjoyed the adventure. This is reinforced by the glorious illustrations, which are, yes, simple and retro (just the way I like 'em).

The book brings up lots of discussion points too - about exploring and transport and wildlife in other parts of the world. We all really loved it. It ends with Tom and his father pondering their next adventure. I can't wait.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

It seems redundant writing about an Oliver Jeffers book because everyone knows how awesome they are, surely. In fact, after I mentioned on Twitter that I'd picked up Stuck at the library, I got lots of tweets telling me how fabulous it is. They were right too.

It all begins when Floyd gets his kite stuck up a tree. To knock it down, he throws up his "favourite shoe". When this doesn't work - the shoe also gets stuck in the tree - he tries his other shoe... which also gets stuck. He then tries pretty much everything he can get his hands on - from a pot of paint to a big boat (really) - and it all gets stuck.

There are a couple of bits that made me laugh out loud and a brilliant entertaing-for-the-adults ending that's also great for asking children what they would do in the same situation.

After I read it to Joe for the first time, he asked for 'a song about the Stuck book' at bedtime. And I had to make one up. I don't think you get much higher praise than that. (Joe requesting a song, not me singing - that was probably more of an inadvertent insult.)

See also: The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Jump on Board the Animal Train by Naomi Kefford & Lynne Moore

Joe picked this one up in the library because of the gorgeous bright cover.

Inside is just as bright and gorgeous as a little boy walks along with his mummy and realises something is following him. On the left page you see a bear's hand poking out of a hedge and the right page is split so that when you turn it, there's the boy's mummy walking on oblivious while the split page has revealed the bear... who follows the boy and his mum.

As they walk on, more and more animals join in and Joe loved spotting them and the fact that the mum doesn't know they're there.

It's a lovely book to read aloud too - its repetitive rhymes reminded me of Hairy Maclary:

The elephant's feet plod down the street, 
The tiger's tail swishes the rail, 
The bear's paws pad on the floor. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

There Are No Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz

We all absolutely loved There Are Cats in This Book, so I was excited to spot the follow-up There Are No Cats in This Book in our local library. (We actually got the first book from there too and Harry asked if we could just never take it back.)

I think I may like this book even more than the first. In this one, the very cute cats have decided they'd like to get out of the book and see the world. They try pushing their way out and then jumping out (which leads to a surprise pop-up page), but when that doesn't work, they wish their way out. We know that this works because the next two pages are blank apart from a postcard. From the cats. When they come back, they bring lots of friends, who are all very happy to be in a book.

When I got to the page with the postcard I experienced a moment of cheer - I was thrilled that they'd got out of the book. And I'm 40 years old. I can't wait to see how my children react to it. It really is a lovely, inventive, sweet and funny book. Just like the first one. I highly recommend them both.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Plum and Rabbit and Me by Emma Chichester Clark

I picked this book up in the library, just because the cover is so cute. Once I'd had a quick look through it, I knew I had to get it.

Plum is Humber's little sister and, like Chloe in Chloe, Instead, she's a bit of a pest. But when Granny gives Chloe a toy rabbit and Humber a book, he's jealous. And when Plum won't let him play with it, no matter what he offers to trade, Humber hits her.

It was at this point in the book that my boys went still and silent. I can't think of another book we've read where a child has hit another child and they were clearly intrigued.

Humber and Plum's mum reacts in almost exactly the same way I would. She doesn't shout and she certainly doesn't hit Humber, she sends him to his room and very calmly discusses why what he's done is wrong. Of course Humber apologises and the book ends with Mum cuddling Hum and saying "Well done."

I really loved this book. I loved the storyline and the illustrations are beautiful. It was lovely to see a relatively serious subject dealt with in such a simple and gentle way. This is the third Humber and Plum book and I'll definitely have to check out the other two.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Quack Quack Moo, We See You! by Mij Kelly

I found this book in the library and it's been a massive hit with all of us.

Poppa Bombola knows he's put his "darling daughter" somewhere safe, but he just can't remember where. From the first page, the reader can see that his daughter is in a baby carrier on his back, but he's unaware of this and so turns the farm upside down looking for her, asking the animals in turn "I know I put her down somewhere, so where's my darling daughter?"

My 3-year-old, Joe, loved that he knew where the child was and the daddy didn't. From the first page, he was pointing and shouting "She's THERE!"

It's great fun to read and we've even started to sing the refrain. As a parent, I particularly liked the fact that no mother is mentioned, the father is looking after the daughter alone and even though he can't quite remember where the child is, it's clear that she really is precious to him.

Great fun (as are the illustrations by Katharine McEwen).

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

I've already mentioned how much we love Mo Willems, and we first discovered him via this very funny story. 

Trixie and Knuffle Bunny’s trip to the laundromat goes terribly wrong when Trixie realizes her bunny’s been left behind! Her attempts to alert her Dad all the way home are unsuccessful (even when she tries "going boneless"), until Mum points out that Knuffle Bunny is missing and the family hotfoot it back to the laundromat. Fortunately, KB is safe, if a little wet…

The book is filled with jokes for children and parents alike, and completemented by gorgeous illustrations, which - I hope you can see on the cover - are colour drawings on photographs of Park Slope, Brooklyn (where Willems lives) (Trixie, the toddler, is based on Willems’ own daughter). 

This is definitely one of our favourites and I can also highly recommend Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free. 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino

Because I'm well-known to be New York-crazy, a friend bought this for my 40th birthday and it's just gorgeous.

There’s no story as such, it’s just a boy and his dad exploring New York with accompanying facts and figures (like ‘More hot dogs are eaten in New York than anywhere else in the USA’) and gorgeous retro illustrations.

They take in some of New York’s most famous landmarks (the Empire State Building gets a fold-out page) and well-known streets, meeting New Yorkers and discovering how the iconic city looks, sounds, smells, tastes and feels…

I read it with 7-year-old Harry and he immediately demanded that we head to New York asap. If only. A lovely book.

(We are, however, going to London in a couple of months, so we'll definitely invest in Rubbino's A Walk in London.)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Martha and the Bunny Brothers by Clara Vulliamy

When I got this book last week, there was almost a fight - it's just so bright and happy-looking, we all wanted to get our hands on it. I won, obviously (the envelope was addressed to me) and after a quick flick through, knew it was going to be a popular one.

It's Martha's first day of school and she's really excited, but she's a bit worried about how her two little brothers will manage without her, so she forms the Happy Bunny Club to keep them occupied. Then she gets on with the important business of getting herself ready for school.

Martha is adorable and I really enjoyed reading this one aloud... which was lucky, since Joe has requested it every night since (this is VERY unusual for Joe). There's lots to read on every page and the illustrations are - as you can see - bright and gorgeous. (Oh and I particularly love that when Martha gets home, her brothers "go mad with joy" to see her.)

The publishers describe it as 'pure sunshine in picture book format' and they're spot on. It's LOVELY.

Thanks so much to HarperCollins for sending it to me.

Friday, 30 March 2012

We *heart* We Give Books

It's the Easter hols in about three hours, so I (Keris) won't be posting for the next couple of weeks, but before I skip off into the sunshine (there is still sunshine, isn't there?) I thought I'd mention We Give Books.

Created by the Penguin Group and the Pearson Foundation, We Give Books is an online initiative that features a growing digital library of stories you can read with your child for free - whenever you like, no matter where you are - and each time you read a book online, Penguin will give a hardcover or paperback book to a child in need.

Simple, effective, wonderful.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Chloe, Instead by Micah Player

Who could resist this cover? When I received the bumper box of books from lovely Tina at Abrams & Chronicle Books, it was the first book I grabbed and the first book both Joe and Harry picked up. And the inside is just as bright and lively as the cover.

Molly always wanted a little sister, but Chloe is not exactly what she had in mind. Chloe eats crayons, tears the pages out of Molly's books, messes up her things and interferes when Molly's practicing playing the keyboard.

Molly, of course, comes round to the idea that Chloe is her own little person and that's okay, but it actually happened a little bit too quickly for me. One page Molly is screaming at Chloe and the next page everything is fine. I think the story would have flowed a little better if Molly had taken a touch longer to come around to Chloe's antics, but apart from that, I really enjoyed this book. The ending is particularly gorgeous. I also loved the look at both the upsides and downsides of a new baby in the family and so did Harry, since he's been there himself.

It would make a lovely gift for a child who's about to have a new baby brother or sister.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

We *heart* Sandra Boynton

I bought a copy of Hippos Go Berserk before I even had children. My husband used to read it to my belly during pregnancy and he even attempted to recite it to me during labour (not sure what he was trying to achieve with that, but it made me laugh).

Since then, I've bought quite a few Sandra Boynton books and have loads more on my wishlist. This morning I read the Belly Button Book to Joe and he loved it (toddlers love showing off their belly buttons, no?) and we've also started reading Pajama Time at night and Hey! Wake Up! in the morning (I love how that one starts "Hey little guys, open your eyes! What do you say, it's a brand new day!") Oh and What's Wrong, Little Pookie ("What's wrong, Little Pookie? Your bright eyes are wet. Come over and tell me why you are upset.") LOVE.

Boynton's illustrations are consistently hilarious and the books are fun to read for adults as well as children. Just writing about them now, I've found lots more I neeeeeed to buy. (Philadelphia Chickens has been on my wishlist for years. That one had better be first.)

What's your favourite Boynton book?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Picture Books for Kindle - If You Have a Hat by Gerald Hawksley

I love my Kindle. My boys (aged 3 and 7) would love to get their hands on it, but they're not the most gentle of children and I fear for its safety, but when we went on holiday last year, I didn't want to take a bunch of books in our case and so I downloaded some Kindle books for them, including this one - If You Have a Hat by Gerald Hawksley.

I didn't have incredibly high hopes. Kindle isn't really designed for picture books - or rather, my old, black and white Kindle isn't - but If You Have a Hat was a huge success. Its subtitle is 'A silly rhyming picture book' and it's actually also very simple, which is perfect for Kindle.

The first page features an illustration of a hat, accompanied by 'If you have a hat -'. The next page: the cover illustration of a child wearing the hat, with the text 'put it on your head.' Then we have a cute, waving insect with 'If you have a bed bug -'... can you guess the next line? It's 'tuck it up in bed' with a picture of the cute bed bug, yes, tucked up in bed. The illustrations are simple and cute enough that it doesn't matter that they're not in colour.

Joe (3) loved it because it's funny and he could guess what was coming next. Harry (7) loved it because he could read it himself (which was actually one of the reasons I loved it too - listening to Harry reading to his little brother for the first time...).

(My only complaint is rhyming "wee mouse" with "tree house" - it doesn't really scan and it bugs me every time I read it.)

We also bought Silly Monsters ABC, which was equally successful, and I've just noticed there are five more Gerald Hawksley books for Kindle and I'll be buying them in time for our next holiday.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Never Say NO To a Princess by Tracey Corderoy & Kate Leake

A fun and feisty princess picture book served up with a good helping of adventure, friendship and finally...manners!  The little princess wants her own dragon and no one Ever says NO to a princess, do they?

We meet the young princess as she's in the process of demanding a variety of things and because her parents, the King and Queen are too busy doing royal things, they are happy to instruct servants to give her what she wants.  Her biggest threat to them is that if she doesn't get what she wants, she'll howl and cry and throw a tantrum.

When she sees a dragon, she demands that she should have one.  All manner of antics follow where the servants attempt to snag the dragon, but no joy.  This results in a huge crying spell for the princess and in fact, she cries so much, she floods the castle and the lands and gets swept out on a flood of tears into the dark scary woods.

She's more than JUST a bit scared but help is at hand, in the shape of the very same dragon she desperately wanted for herself.  The dragon is kindly, and the princess demands, quite rudely to be taken home, immediately.  Of course the dragon in turn demands the magic word and the princess is stumped.

Eventually she does figure out what the dragon means by the magic word and after spending the night with him, drying out and chatting, he flies her home.

The princess is reunited with her parents who notice something about her immediately.  She's no longer miserable, she's changed.  The princess dispatches an invitation to her friend and invites the friend to a party and behold: the princess is happy and smiling.  Not only has she made a new friend, but she's also happy.

I loved Never Say NO to a Princess.  The artwork is fresh and cute and full of mad sparkles, and gives us the idea of chaos this princess' life is all about - what she demands, she gets, no questions asked.  She's rude, arrogant, and has no manners.  Yet it takes a run-in with a fearsome monster who has far better manners than her, to teach her this lesson, someone to stand up to her, ignoring the wailing and the bad manners.

Smart and funky, Never Say NO to a Princess, is a great read for readers 3+.  The lesson is pretty obvious but done in a very charming way so that even as an adult, I didn't felt preached to.  Which I think is a great lesson to learn: being polite makes you a better person and invariably makes you friends.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Where is Fred? by Edward Hardy & Ali Pye

Hey, you! Yes, you reading this! I'm Gerald the crow and I'm looking for a lovely, fluffy white caterpillar called Fred. Have you seen him? I want him for my lunch! You haven't? Are you sure? Then...Where is Fred? Follow Fred the fluffy white caterpillar as he outwits Gerald the Crow, in a scintillating new take on the much-loved hide-and-seek theme. 

Poor Gerald is not really the cleverest of crows.  He spots little fluffy caterpillar Fred going about his daily business of relaxing and eating leaves and decides that Fred will be his lunch.  But Fred is fast and clever and uses all manner of mad devices, like hiding in plain sight, to prevent himself from being eaten.

A fast and sweet read, Edward Hardy has given us a clever new hero in Fred and a rather hapless villain in Gerald the Crow.  Although, of course, I was hoping Fred survives, it's poor Gerald who has all my sympathy. Being unobservant and a bit unperceptive has cost him a good meal and probably made him the laughingstock of his crow buddies.

Wonderfully illustrated by Ali Pye, she had her work cut out for her to show us the mad schemes Fred comes up with to hide in plain sight.  Creative and clever, I'd recommend Where is Fred? for younger readers, maybe 1 to 3 years old, as the story is not very involved, but exceedingly sweet.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Gorgeous! by Caroline Castle

I thought I'd feature an old favourite today because I've read it so many times lately.

Gorgeous! by Caroline Castle & Sam Childs was one of Harry's favourite picture books, and recently I read it to Joe and he adored it too. Now Joe is not the most enthusiastic picture book audience and I usually have to offer him at least twenty books before he finally plumps for one about fire engines (with a siren button), but Joe has actually started requesting Gorgeous! every night.

And I don't mind, because it's enormous fun to read. It's the story of Little Zeb who is born at the start of the book after Big Zeb goes behind a bush and says "Ouch!" (at which I always allow myself a wry smile...). Big Zeb tells Little Zeb that he's "Tip Top Gorgeous", but when Little Zeb gets left behind and meets a lion, he doesn't realise that all animals aren't as gorgeous as he is, particularly not hungry ones. Luckily Big Zeb is soon on hand to kick the lion's bottom and send him on his way. It's the bottom kicking and the accompanying "Vamooooosh!" that has Joe in stitches every single time.

Little Zeb learns that some things are "Gorgeous!" some things are "Not gorgeous" and other things should be avoided altogether "Danger!" but at the end of the book, he's snuggled up and happy with his Big Zeb and all is right with the world.

Tip top.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer

“Give me your buns and your biscuits! Give me your chocolate ├ęclairs! For I am the Rat of the highway, and the Rat Thief never shares!”

You may have heard of a Highwayman – but what about a Highway Rat? No food is safe from this rascally rodent! He steals clover from a rabbit, and snaffles nuts from a squirrel. He even hijacks his own horse’s hay! But when a cunning duck crosses his path, has the Highway Rat met his match? Put your hands up for this rhyming romp from the current Children’s Laureate, starring a wickedly loveable baddie who’ll steal your grub – and your heart! This hilarious cautionary tale about greed and its comeuppance will enchant every reader.

I simply adore this picture book - wonderfully illustrated by Mr. Schaffer, everything about it is a bit tongue in cheek and charming.

I ended up reading it aloud to a friend of mine in Foyles, because it trips off the tongue and it is one of those picture books that just stays with you, no matter if you are far too old for them (like me).

Loosely based on the poem by Alfred Noyes, The Highway Rat comes riding riding riding and has no qualms robbing the other animals of their food and snacks, in fact, just about anything. There's a message here about gluttony and general mayhem, bit it's done so well and with such style that it doesn't strike me as preachey. In fact, it is fun, even when the rat gets his comeuppance near the end.

Highly recommended to confident young readers and older readers who like a bit of wicked rhyming. (Like me).

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest

I wasn't sure about reading this book with Harry because he's pretty sensitive and much of the book is rather melancholy.

As well as the dog who belongs to no one, there's a "wisp of a girl" named Lia, who spends her time delivering bread from her parents' bakery and making up stories as she rides her bike. Both of them are longing for a friend.

And then, one night, they are both caught in a storm and both arrive at Lia's house at the same time. They get dry, they eat cake, and they become friends.

It's an incredibly sweet and easy to read story and the illustrations by Amy Bates are absolutely beautiful. Old-fashioned (I know I always say that) and beautifully detailed - the kind of illustrations I'm tempted to rip out and frame.

And I needn't have worried about Harry - the first time I read it, he said, "That was a lovely story. I'm sad and happy at the same time."

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Cuddle Bear by Claire Freedman & Gavin Scott

The simplest ideas are usually the best ones and that's certainly the case with Cuddle Bear. Everyone needs a hug now and then, and Cuddle Bear is happy to help out...whether you're the fiercest lion or the tiniest mouse.

We love rhyming books in this house and after having a go myself at writing children's stories in rhyme (and failing miserably to get passed the first sentence) I'm always in awe at authors who pull this off. What makes Cuddle Bear a winner is the easiness and simplicity with which it's achieved.

There's only a couple of lines per page and it's got that sing-song feel that's a joy to read aloud and kids love joining in with. This one is ideal for very young children and would make a perfect bedtime story although my seven year old, Lucy, loved it too. I almost wished she had a younger sibling to read it to. The illustrations aren't particularly original but are appealing and Lucy was in heaven cooing over the cute animals. I see Cuddle Bear as one of those books that will be pulled out again and again. A real comfort book.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Super-Duper Dudley! by Sue Mongredien & Caroline Pedler

Dudley is a huge show off. He especially likes to flaunt his talent at performing daring tricks in front of his little friend Bonzo and is certain he's the only megastar in the village. Then he hears Bonzo playing the piano and receiving a lot of attention from their friends and gets a bit jealous. Determined to prove he is STILL the only megastar in the village he puts together a plan, after all if Bonzo can play the piano, he can do it better right?

This book reminded me so much of my son when he was younger and wanted to be the best at everything, usually taking a small dent to his pride in the process. It made me smile.

Dudley is a show off, but a pretty adorable one at that. I read it with my seven year old, Lucy, who was probably a little bit old for it but enjoyed none the less, with plenty of incensed face pulling at Dudley's boastful antics. The message is of course that we're all good at different things and all deserve a chance to shine and this is put across gently and simply. I loved the illustrations and the way the text changed to fit in, going from small to large, curling across the page and even changing fonts.

Super-Duper Dudley is cute story which young children will easily identify with and gorgeous illustrations to pour over.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bunny Loves to Read by Peter Bently

If there's one thing I can't resist, it's picture books about books or reading (see Library Lion, We Are in A Book, It's A Book, Dog Loves Books, The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, etc.), so when I spotted Bunny Loves to Read in the supermarket, I had to have it.

Buster Bunny loves books (I love how he's hugging a book on the cover), but his friends don't understand - they think books are boring and playing outside is much more fun. But when their plans to play outside are ruined by the rain, Buster gives them each a book to read and they are completely won over.

One of the things I love about this book is that, after the rain has stopped and the friends go outside to play, their play is informed by the books they've been reading. And, of course, the animals want to borrow books again in future.

The illustrations, by Deborah Melmon, are adorable too. In fact my only criticism is I would've liked a slightly stronger ending - I turned the page expecting a little more - but it's a lovely addition to my books about books collection.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Press Here by Herve Tullet

I'd heard lots of good things about Press Here and I'd also loved Tullet's book The Game of Light, so I was thrilled when lovely Tina from Abrams & Chronicle Books sent me a copy (along with LOTS of other books, many of which I'm sure I'll be reviewing over the coming weeks).

Press Here is brilliantly simple and utterly wonderful. (Are you impressed that I managed to resist "and simply brilliant"? It was hard, honestly.) The first page features a yellow dot and a request to 'press here and turn the page'. When you do, you find two dots and 'Great! Now press the yellow dot again' which leads to three dots. Rub the dots and they change colour, tap them and more dots arrive, shake the book and the dots slide around... Actually, why not watch the book trailer, then you'll see:

My children reacted in pretty much the same way as the children in the trailer. Even Harry, who, at 7, I thought might be a bit old, was charmed. But then I'm 40 and I was charmed. The book is magical in that even though I know clapping isn't making the dots bigger, they're not really sliding across the page... it sort of feels real. I found myself thinking it would make a great iPad app, but the book works in the same way as an app would, but without the technology - another reminder, if one was needed, of the wonder of books.

I find it really inspiring that such a simple idea can so brilliantly capture the imaginations of children who have used computers since before they could walk. It really is something special. Herve Tullet will be going on our 'must buy' list.

Thanks so much to Tina for the book.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Slightly Invisible by Lauren Child

Lauren Child is my favourite picture book author (you may have noticed) and I've wanted to read Charlie and Lola's most recent adventure for a while, so when I spotted it in the library I snapped it up.

Slightly Invisible sees Lola spoiling Charlie and Marv's games and insisting they play with her and her imaginary friend, Soren Lorensen. The boys aren't convinced until Soren helps them catch the "most strange and terrifyingly tricky creature in the universe".

Lola is her usual annoying self and I imagine how annoying you find Lola impacts directly on your enjoyment of the Charlie & Lola books, but I think she's hilarious and an extremely convincing portrayal of a 4-year-old (I have known many Lolas over the years...). I think you need to 'perform' Lola to really get the most out of the Charlie & Lola books. Fortunately, I don't seem to struggle to capture her bossy, self-absorbed, slightly facetious personality... huh. This is one of my favourite bits:

And Lola says, "You can only see me because you know what I look like. You can't see Soren Lorensen at all." 

"That's because there is NO such person as Soren Lorensen," I say. 

"Well, if there is no such person, then who ate all the biscuits?" says Lola. 

Marv says, "WHAT? Your friend Soren Lorensen ate all the biscuits?" 

Lola says, "Oh yes, I am afraid Soren Lorensen is quite greedy." 

Soren Lorensen is actually one of my favourite characters and he features heavily in this book. Actually 'heavily' probably isn't the right word, since part of my love for Soren stems from how brilliantly Child draws him: transparent and glossy, so you can only see him when the light catches the book in the right way.

Slightly Invisible joins I Am Too Absolutely Small for School, I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato and I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go To Bed on our favourite books shelf... No, not the library book - my boys loved it so much that they've insisted on a copy to keep. Praise doesn't come much higher than that!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Talent Show by Jo Hodgkinson

Guest post from Cara Donovan of Freckles Family

It’s lovely to find a book in the library that is so popular with my two year old, he doesn’t want to return it.

I think the initial attraction to The Talent Show was the animals on the front. Animals and dinosaurs are what he is constantly thinking about. What I really liked was the rhythm of the rhyming couplets, it reminded me of Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary.

The Talent show features four friends, Snake, Bear, Lion and Crocodile who decide to enter their band into a talent show. They are a great band, but with no singer amongst them, they feel lacking. A tiny red bird is keen to join them, but he is laughed at by the band as they tell him he’s too small. 

After putting up audition notices, they are disappointed with all the singers, until, a tall, mysterious stranger dazzles them. He turns out to be someone they have already overlooked.

A great story with a lovely moral message. The illustrations are colourful and fun and easy for a toddler to follow along whilst the story is being read.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Little Miss Austen: Pride & Prejudice by Jennifer Adams

I discovered the BabyLit series of board books when the author Stephanie Burgis mentioned them on Twitter.

They were apparently created to be a "great introduction to perennial classics both for very small children and parents who might never have read the classics before" and titles include Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, Romeo & Juliet and the one I bought, Pride & Prejudice.

I really had no idea what to expect - how can you summarise Pride & Prejudice for toddlers? Well that's not really what the book does. It's a 'counting primer' so what we actually get is '1 english village', '2 rich gentlemen' [Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy], '3 houses' [Longbourn, Netherfield and Pemberley], '4 marriage proposals', etc., all the way up to '10 10,000 pounds a year' (which is a bit of a cheat, but made me laugh) all accompanied by simple, bright and retro illustrations by Alison Oliver.

I thought it was a cute and funny idea, but more suitable as a jokey present for a Jane Austen obsessive than something a child would be interested in. So I tested it on 3-year-old Joe (who is, I appreciate, probably slightly older than the target market, but I don't have any younger babies...). He seemed utterly baffled by the whole thing. He was slightly interested in the '7 soldiers in uniform' page, but apart from that, no. I'd still be interested in having a look at the other books in the series, but I don't think my toddler would.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

No! by Marta Altes

Oh I'm such a sucker for a retro illustration, you may have noticed that by now. I spotted this cover across the children's department in my local (ish, only 45 minutes away, sigh) bookstore and scooted straight over to have a look.

It's the simple story of a dog who thinks his name is 'No' because that's what his family are always shouting at him. He then demonstrates precisely why, as he drags them on his lead, pinches their food off the table, digs holes in the garden... all while thinking he's helping and being a 'good very good boy'.

It is such a simple idea, that I kicked myself for not thinking of it first, but I was also totally won over by 'No' (I won't reveal his real name...), who is just adorable.

It's a fantastic book to read with a toddler who may well be just as familiar with the word 'no' as the star of the story and is more than happy to shout it out on every page.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Which is your favourite Julia Donaldson book?

Julia Donaldson is a picture book superstar, but I only realised recently that we hardly have any of her books.

Monkey Puzzle is a huge favourite and has been since our 7-year-old was a baby (plus it's one of the books I always buy for friends' new babies). We also love Night Monkey, Day Monkey and The Gruffalo, of course, but they're the only Donaldson books we own.

A while ago, I noticed a chat about her books on Twitter and someone - I think it may have been the comedian and writer Chris Addison - said his favourite was Charlie Cook's Favourite Book. That one hadn't been on my radar at all, so I picked it up next time I was in a bookshop and it's wonderful, particularly since it's a book about books and the joy of reading.

There are still more than a few gaps in our Donaldson reading though, so I was wondering... which one's your favourite?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

I'm Me! by Sara Sheridan

My niece is named Imogen so when I saw this book about a little girl with the same name, I knew I had to buy it for her. 

Imogen goes to visit her Auntie, who asks her what she wants to be today. She suggests a beautiful princess, a witch's cat, a pirate's parrot, a dragon-taming knight and more. But Imogen doesn't want to be anything other than herself. They do exactly what imogen wants to do (which includes eating ice cream and going on the swings) and then the book ends with Imogen saying "Today, Auntie, what I want is for you to be you and me to be me!" 

The text is fun as well as being repetitive and easy to read. The illustrations, by Margaret Chamberlain, are gorgeous - cute, bright and lively. And obviously, it contains a lovely message about being yourself. I loved it. I really hope my niece does too. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child

I do love Lauren Child's books. From Charlie and Lola to Clarice Bean and (our personal family favourite) That Pesky Rat so I had to buy The Princess and the Pea.

The illustrations in this book are slightly different from Child's other books because she actually created little 3D rooms and scenes, a few of which I saw at an exhibition of her work a couple of years ago. They're all gorgeously detailed, my favourite being the Princess leaving her tree house home - the tree lit with lanterns and the path littered with letters.

You know the story, of course, but here it's written with Child's trademark wit and plenty of nods to the improbability of fairytales. It's a lovely book that would make an equally lovely gift.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Baby Badger's Wonderful Night by Karen Saunders

Baby Badger is scared of the dark so Papa Badger decides to show him how wonderful the night is. He shows him the colours and the stars and makes him feel safe. As the sun comes up, Baby Badger falls asleep in his Papa's arms...

This is such a gorgeous book. I feel all warm and cosy just writing about it. The illustrations - by Dubravka Kolanovice - are soft and dreamy and the text is gentle, relaxing and perfect for a bedtime story, particularly for a baby or toddler.

(It's currently in hardback so is a bit on the expensive side, but it's out in paperback later this year.)