Seasons and naturePosted by Max 26 Mar, 2018 07:16PMHooray for Hoppy!
by Tim Hopgood, published by Macmillan
This lovely board book from Tim Hopgood (one of our favourite author/illustrators), with its bold splashes of yellows, oranges and greens, celebrates the arrival of spring and its power to reawaken all of our senses.
We first see Hoppy the rabbit in the depths of winter, when he emerges from his underground home wondering “perhaps today’s the day!” only to discover that “the world was covered in snow”. I think we can all sympathise with Hoppy’s next move: “Too cold” he said, and he hopped back to bed”. Reading this to our two year old this month has felt particularly appropriate with the “is it?” or “isn’t it?” unpredictable weather we’ve been having.
The next time Hoppy pops his head out of his burrow, he is once again disappointed, this time he’s met with frost and a ground which is “too icy”. A few days later Hoppy wakes to find the air smelling fresh and feels optimistic that today might really be the day that spring arrives. He sets off to find out.
Hoppy is delighted to find that his senses are overwhelmed with spring sights, sounds, smells and tastes. The birds are singing in a tree covered in blossom, the flowers smell like spring, the lambs gambol in the field and the green grass is ready to be nibbled. Hoppy is delighted to confirm that spring has sprung and wants to share the news with his friends. After waking them with some enthusiastic thumps on the ground, he is soon surrounded by hopping little bunnies.
This a wonderfully illustrated and delightfully colourful celebration of all that is best about spring and is also a perfect choice for Easter.
BedtimePosted by Max 05 Feb, 2018 11:46AM
I Love You, Bunny by Alina Surnaite, published by Lincoln Children's Books
This is a charming debut picture book from Lithuanian author illustrator, Alina Surnaite. This book immediately appealed to us due to the similarity between the little girl that features in the book and our own two year old, who also has a dark-brown fringe and her own treasured bunny (which she calls “Babbit”).
Our daughter became attached to Babbit when she started at nursery just after her first birthday - a soft rabbit snugly with pink and white stripes. Having recently transferred her from cot to big girl’s bed, the presence of Babbit by her side at bedtime has become more important to her than ever.
This story addresses one of the most common childhood worries - a fear of the dark at bedtime. Bunny is little Suzy’s faithful and brave cuddly companion, who protects her at night from any “monsters” that might be lurking in the dark.
One early morning Suzy is alarmed to find Bunny is gone and cries out for her mother, convinced he’s been taken by a shadowy monster she'd seen in her room. As she’s comforted by her mother, the family cat apologetically delivers Bunny back to Suzy.
This is an ideal choice to read to a little one who may have bedtime worries or is transitioning into a new bed. The whimsical pencil drawings, with their sparse use of colour amid the darkness, perfectly accompany the story of a little girl conquering her nocturnal fears.
Cooking and eatingPosted by Max 31 Jan, 2018 05:18PM
Baking with Dad by Aurora Cacciapuoti, published by Child's Play
Last weekend our girls and I baked our first loaf of bread, getting our hands stuck into the gooey mixture, pouring in the yeast and delighting in the dough's expansion in the airing cupboard. Baking with your children is probably about as wholesome as it gets (aside from all the flour and butter in their hair and on the floor) and they both took great pride in creating a delicious loaf from scratch over the course of an afternoon.
Baking with Dad has been a family favourite for some time and we have been reading it again after our recent efforts. It's a charming, sweet tale of a girl and her dad making a tasty treat for a special occasion.
With their matching chef's hats, they get out their ingredients. A brilliant page of baking ingredients is interspersed with items that are definitely not suitable - with a big red X over their tops - including a spider, a jar of pencils, and a snail. We always enjoy taking time to identify the items we want and those we don't.
Next is making the cake mixture, weighing out the flour (which inevitably makes a huge pooff everywhere), nearly slipping on the butter, and cracking the eggs. It's fun to see how the girl's pet cat keeps bearing the brunt of the mess - first an egg on its head, then a bag of flour.
Next, we look out at the girl and her dad from inside the oven, a cake's eye view of their huge smiling faces as they watch "the magic" begin. A fiesta of fruit is next, followed by decoration with bunting, streamers and balloons. Then...Ding Dong - the special guest is here!
A final scene shows a lovely party of family and friends - celebrating together around a magnificent multi-story creation. It's also fun to look closely at the end pages, showing the inevitable clearing up.
The book's sparse narrative is set out much like a recipe, with a sprinkling of words across bright and brilliant illustrations. The cake takes centre stage, but the book's main ingredient is the depiction of a loving relationship and fun time had by the girl and her dad, making memories together as well as a delicious dessert.
Adventures on land and seaPosted by Max 22 Jan, 2018 11:50AM
Snow Penguin by Tony Mitton (words) and Alison Brown (illustrations), published by Bloomsbury Children's Books
This is a beautiful Antarctic adventure, with a pacey rhyme and wonderfully depicted by a favourite illustrator, Alison Brown (see our review of her I Love You Night and Day here).
The story follows Little Penguin on a trip aboard an ice floe where he meets several Antarctic creatures. First it’s the “huge flappy tail” of a “massive blue whale”, a speedy school of orca with their “whistle and click” noises, a great elephant seal and a cuddly sea lion cub having a “nuzzle, a nudge and a rub” with its mother.
Little Penguin is initially excited to meet these new creatures, but soon realises he has drifted a little too far from the warmth of his penguin family. “How will he find them? What will he do? For now the sea’s looking more black than it’s blue...”.
Alison Brown’s clever use of the whole palette of blues, from the pale white-blue of the ice and of Little Penguin’s tummy to the darkest navy of the deepest depths of the sea, makes each double page a delight.
There is a happy ending to Little Penguin’s intrepid exploration and he is soon reunited in the warm embrace of his mother. He regales the other penguins with his adventures as they huddle around him. At this point our two year old daughter always giggles at the brown fluffy hair of the younger penguin chicks. This use of clever illustrative detail brings each character to life. A delightful read.
FriendshipPosted by Max 15 Jan, 2018 01:26PM
Star in the Jar by Sam Hay (words) and Sarah Massini (illustrations), published by Egmont
We’re starting 2018 with this real treasure of a book. Both our girls love to collect miscellaneous bits and pieces that they find in all sorts of places and become completely attached to. Our eldest daughter has her own “treasure chest”, a special tin where she stashes her precious finds and often whiles away an afternoon with emptying its entire contents and carefully sifting and sorting them.
Star in the Jar is a lovely read that really captures this ability of small children to find pleasure and beauty in the smallest things. Narrated by his big sister, this is the story of a young boy who loves to find all kinds of treasure, “tickly treasure” from the park, “glittery treasure...even litter bin treasure”.
One day, whilst kite flying with his big sister, he comes across “something extra special”, his very own twinkle star. The wise older sister counsels that something so precious must belong to somebody else. So, they check with all the likely owners of a sparkly star; the big girl at school who hands out good work star stickers, the dinner lady with her 5* food hygiene rating, the sheriff, the fairies and the wizards, but none have lost a star.
The little boy is initially gleeful that he gets to keep his star and stows it safely in a jar, which he takes everywhere with him. It’s only at night that he notices the star looking a little sad. A message sent from the star’s friends reveals the true home of the star, up in the twinkly night sky. The siblings join forces to try to come up with a way to return the star to his friends.
Eventually the big sister has the bright idea of shining their own message back to the stars in the sky. In a wonderful double page spread, we see the stars join together in a “long, whirly, sparkly silver chain” to rescue their friend. The delightful ending that follows makes this a particularly good read at bedtime.
We love the illustrations throughout - the depictions of the sparkly night sky and the use of light and shade work really well - which perfectly accompany the tale, adding extra details for the reader to enjoy.