Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Star in the Jar

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.



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Our 2017 Books of the Year

Books of the yearPosted by Max 29 Dec, 2017 04:51PM

It's been another wonderfully book-filled year, and below are five of our fabulous favourites, including board books for early listeners and chapterbooks for new readers.

Wishing you all a brilliant 2018!

Little Red
by Bethan Woollvin, published by Two Hoots

The cover of this book sets a tone of subversion from the off. This isn't going to be a straightforward retelling. Black lines against a stark white backdrop, depicting a girl's fringe and side-eyes stare, are surrounded by a blood-red hood. The inside cover shows the girl, hands on hips, amidst a bleak forest - she is a Scandi-noir Little Red who is not in a mood to be messed with.

Asked to take some cake to her poorly grandma, she sets off, not looking too impressed by the prospect. The wolf, whose teeth literally fill the page, approaches her, and growls. We are told this "might have scared some little girls. But not this little girl". The wolf makes a plan, but so does Little Red.

We won't reveal the truly brilliant and shocking ending in this post. Let's just say that if I'd been drinking tea at the time of reading this book it might have been splurted across the room.

Ottaline by Chris Riddell, published by MacMillan Children's Book

A highlight of our year has been discovering the surrealist world of Ottaline by former Children's Laureate Chris Riddell. Ottaline is a resident of the Pepperpot Building, situated in the heart of a fantastical metropolis. She is the daughter of parents in abstentia - roving collectors, professors and international travellers - who keep in touch with postcards and letters which are sent and received intermittently.

Ottaline is left in the care of a medley of service providers, who keep an eye out for her while she and her companion, Mr Munroe, a small hairy Norwegian troll, pursue a series of adventures.

In Ottaline at Sea (the third of the series but the first we read), Mr Munroe sets off alone for Norway to find the bog that was once his home. We follow him, accompanying Ottaline as she seeks to be reunited and bring him back, adorned with wonderful outfits and an array of oversized hats and sunglasses. In this and others in the Ottaline series, readers are immersed in the witty prose and astonishing, intricate detail of the illustrations, bringing to life Ottaline's world in a feast for our eyes and an enrichment for our imaginations.


We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, published by Walker Books

A few months ago, when our nearly two year old became quite obsessed with 'Bear Hunt' we decided to order it in board book form to preserve our original copy.This more robust version is a perfect size for little hands, and still big enough for Helen Oxenbury's beautiful whimsical illustrations to be appreciated. Her swishy swashy grass seems to actually sway in the gentle breeze. You can almost feel and hear the squelching mud.

And the words! They are enticing, addictive, immersive and fun. Who can resist joining in with the "Hoooo Woooo's" of the swirling whirling snowstorm? Or doing the actions of stumble trip. Both our daughters mastered "uh oh" and "oh no!" at a very young age thanks to Michael Rosen and Bear Hunt.


Blocks: Let's Share by Irene Dickson, published by Nosy Crow

Our youngest daughter, who is soon to be two, is very loyal to her favourite books, often requesting them over and over again in one sitting. One such current favourite is this simple, lovely board book, which is fitting to feature on International Day of Peace. It's theme is sharing and, ultimately, learning that there is more pleasure to be had in collaboration than division.

The book starts with a peaceful scene of Ruby, building with her red blocks, whilst wearing her shiny red shoes and red stripy top. Ruby is content until...along comes Benji with his enticing blue cart full of blue blocks. For a while, Ruby and Benji play side by side, each with their own coloured blocks.

After a while the allure of Ruby's red blocks becomes too much for Benji and he helps himself to one, much to Ruby's dismay: "Ruby wants her red block back" and they grapple it between them, until - turning to our daughter's favourite double page spread - "CRASH", and they and the blocks all come tumbling down. Ruby, who has lost a shoe in the melee, and Benji sit amongst the mixed up blocks looking forlorn and rosy cheeked. Happily, it doesn't take the toddlers long to find a new and better way to play - "together" - with both the red and the blue blocks.

Peace is restored and they harmoniously build a magnificent tower of red and blue blocks. But wait: Here's Guy, with a cart full of green blocks! Guy is smiling though, and the sense at the end of the book is that these toddlers will soon find a way to incorporate a third party into their play. Beautiful, bright, block colour illustrations are a perfect match for the crisp, clear language. It's an ideal choice visually and verbally for an early listener and early reader, and is sure to remain a firm favourite in our home.


Rabbit's Nap
by Julia Donaldson (words) and Axel Scheffler (illustrations), published by Macmillan Children's Books

This title in the Acorn Wood series is one of our younger daughters most read board books. "Babbit", she calls (which is also her name for her much adored bunny comforter) and "again" she demands, as the final page is read.

The magical combination of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is internationally acclaimed, and this book is no exception. Here their words and pictures alchemy tells the story of a tired Rabbit who simply wants somewhere to sleep. No matter where she goes, a neighbour is making noise - from a builder bear to a wood-chopping fox.

Filled with delightful details (such as carrot curtains) and told with a gentle rhyme, the story is enhanced by clever flaps that reveal each of the noise-makers in turn.

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Our Festive Favourites for 2017

Christmas classicsPosted by Max 19 Dec, 2017 07:58PM

It’s a most wonderful time of year (if you ignore the to-do lists still growing with less than a week to go before the big day). Here are some festive favourites that we’ve been enjoying in recent weeks - the first two being a perfect accompaniment to the recent snowfall.

Bear and Hare - Snow! by Emily Gravett, published by Two Hoots

We are already big fans of Emily Gravett’s wonderful animal picture books, which she writes and illustrates beautifully. This is one of a series of stories about the adventures of best friends, Bear and Hare.

Bear and Hare wake one morning to find - SNOW! Hare is clearly elated, Bear a little unsure. First things first, Bear and Hare catch snowflakes on their tongues (an action that our youngest daughter never fails to copy when we’re reading this to her).

Hare gleefully embraces the snow, making snow prints and snow hares. Bear is less keen, sinking deep into the snow when trying to make a snow angel and getting covered in snow from a tree, becoming his own snow bear.
The snowballs that Hare pelts at him are the last straw. Cold and miserable, Bear hopes that it’s time to go home? Hare is undeterred, however, and pushes his reluctant friend to the top of a hill, where they go sledging. The look of joy on Bear’s face as they come whizzing down the hill, shows that he finally understands the magic of a snow day.


First Snow by Bomi Park, published by Chronicle Books

This is a beautifully enchanting debut picture book (shortlisted for the Klaus Fluge Prize 2017) from South Korean artist, Bomi Park.

It captures the magic and wonderment of a toddlers first glimpse of snow. The excitement builds as the first flakes start to fall, “shhh, listen.. do you hear something?”. A little face presses up against the window, drawn to the “pit, pit, pit” of the snowflakes on window pane.

In the darkness of night, the little girl bundles up warm, her red scarf one of the few flashes of colour in the monochrome illustrations, and heads out into the snow. “Pat, pat, pat. Roll, roll, roll”, the little girl begins to make a snowball, making her way through “beneath the moon” and “through the woods” as the snowball grows.

There follows some ethereal scenes with woodland creatures, polar bears and ending with a gathering of other children all building snowmen in their “first snow” experience.


Is it Christmas yet? by Jane Chapman, published by Little Tiger

This fun romp of a picture book perfectly captures the build up to Christmas, both in terms of children’s mounting excitement levels and the correlating stress levels for parents!

Baby Ted simply cannot wait until Christmas, but Big Bear has things to cross of his list before the big day. There’s the presents to wrap, cake to bake and tree to purchase then decorate. It’s ok though, Baby Ted is happy to help.
Anyone who has attempted present wrapping with toddlers “helping” will be sympathetic to Big Bear’s plight! Things come to a head when the enormous tree that Baby Ted insisted upon almost comes a cropper when they try to squeeze it in to the house.

As always though, the parents pull through and it all comes together in time for Christmas. The last scene perfectly encapsulates the joy of Christmas morning, with big, joyful smiles from Baby Ted and Big Bear, who’s hard work has all paid off.


Penguin’s Christmas Wish by Salina Yoon, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books

This is one of a series of Penguin books from Salina Yoon. We’ve really enjoyed this Christmas instalment, with its bold primary coloured illustrations and look forward to checking out some of the others.

It’s Christmas Eve and Penguin is trying to make the perfect Christmas for his family. They return to the forest, where an old friend, “Pinecone”, has grown into a magnificent Christmas tree. The Penguins set about decorating the tree and place their presents at its foot.

Alas, a storm overnight means that their Christmas morning does not go to plan. The decorations and presents have all blown away.
What follows is a lovely story of making the best of things, counting your blessings and a lovely reminder from Grandpa Penguin that “Christmas is not about decorations and presents... It is about being with the ones you love”. We couldn’t agree more.



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Chapter Book Series of 2017

FriendshipPosted by Max 27 Nov, 2017 03:04PM


This year our elder daughter, who is now nearly five, developed a love of illustrated chapter books. There are many wonderful choices for her age group, and reading them with her has proved to be a great way to move towards the first readers she now takes home from school.

Our blog will continue to focus on picturebooks - including those adored by our second daughter who recently turned two - but for now here are our top three chapter book series of 2017.


Ottaline by Chris Riddell, published by MacMillan Children's Books

A highlight of our year has been discovering the surrealist world of Ottaline by former Children's Laureate Chris Riddell. Ottaline is a resident of the Pepperpot Building, situated in the heart of a fantastical metropolis. She is the daughter of parents in abstentia - roving collectors, professors and international travellers - who keep in touch with postcards and letters which are sent and received intermittently.

Ottaline is left in the care of a medley of service providers, who keep an eye out for her while she and her companion, Mr Munroe, a small hairy Norwegian troll, pursue a series of adventures.

In Ottaline at Sea (the third of the series but the first we read), Mr Munroe sets off alone for Norway to find the bog that was once his home. We follow him, accompanying Ottaline as she seeks to be reunited and bring him back, adorned with wonderful outfits and an array of oversized hats and sunglasses.


In this and others in the Ottaline series, readers are immersed in the witty prose and astonishing, intricate detail of the illustrations, bringing to life Ottaline's world in a feast for our eyes and an enrichment for our imaginations.




Evie's Magic Bracelet by Jess Ennis-Hill and Elen Caldecott (writers) and Erica-Jane Waters (illustrator), published by Hodder Children's Books

This series, inspired by the childhood of one of the great 21st century role models, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill (written with Elen Caldecott), has become a firm family favourite. It follows the adventures of Evie, a seven year old girl whose family has recently moved to a new area. The first book in the series tells of Evie's early days at her new school, and her tentative steps towards friendship with two classmates, Ryan and Isabelle.


In each book, her grandmother, who lives far away, sends Evie a magical bracelet and an accompanying riddle about how to use the magic it can release. Delightful illustrations by Erica-Jane Waters are placed on the majority of pages, which help our daughter follow the stories (lengthier than other books we've read before at 120+ pages).

The boys and girls help each other in times of need and times of fun. While the stories feature some mystical creatures (including trickster sprites and a majestic unicorn) the underlying message is clear - true magic lies in the friendships we make, the hard work we do, trying our best and the love of family.


Secret Princesses by Rosie Banks, published by Orchard Books

This fantastical series centres on best friends Mia and Charlotte, separated by the Atlantic Ocean after Charlotte's family emigrate to America. However, when cousin Alice reveals to them that she is a Secret Princess - a wish granter who lives with a group of others at Wishing Star Palace - they become Secret Princesses in Training, able to reunite through the power of a BFF heart pendant split in two between them.


Their missions, assigned by the Princesses and a magic mirror, require the girls to use their new powers to grant the wishes of others. These acts of kindness are hindered by the mean intentions of Princess Poison, a former secret princess expelled from the kingdom, who seeks to spoil the wishes and ruin other people's day.

In the first of the series, The Magic Necklace, Mia and Charlotte come to the aid of a birthday girl who wishes for a perfect party. The girls have only a few uses of their powers available for each task, and to succeed requires them to work together and use skill, care and planning.


Exciting illustrations match a pacy narrative, along with a fair bit of detail, which our daughter loves, about hair styles, dresses and shoes (that, for this particular reader dad at least, taught me a few useful things!). Princess Poison (and her sidekick, Hex) is an excellent villain - with just the right level of baddie-ness to excite but not frighten our four year old. Each book that follows has a similar template to the first, with the girls' friendship and our interest in their lives growing with each adventure.



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Revisiting Old Favourites

Cooking and eatingPosted by Max 22 Nov, 2017 10:25AM

It is a particular pleasure to revisit our own favourite childhood reads with our daughters, and these two have certainly stood the test of time.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch by Ronda and David Armitage, published by Scholastic

We were delighted to find this treasure in our local library. First published in 1977, forty years later it remains a firm family favourite.

It is the tale of Mr Grinling, the dedicated lighthouse keeper; his wife, amazing concoctor of delicious lunches; and their battle against three determined seagulls, Tom, Fred and Bert. Mrs Grinling lovingly made tasty packed lunches everyday for Mr Grinling and delivered them (thrillingly) via a basket clipped on to a wire connecting their cottage with the lighthouse out at sea.

This happy existence is interrupted one day by some pesky seagulls who tuck into that day’s tasty morsels: seafood salad, sausages and crisps, peach surprise and iced sea biscuits. Lucky seagulls.
Mr and Mrs Grinling set about making a plan to foil the seagulls and after a few failed attempts (including the reluctant involvement of Hamish, their cat who “didn’t like flying” with the lunch basket), the seagulls are chased off. Mr Grinling happily resumes his luxurious lunches, at the expense of an unlucky fisherman.

This whimsical and taste bud enticing tale is charmingly depicted in watercolour illustrations, showing the beautiful colours of the ocean, dark and imposing cliffs and sun streaked sky above.


Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy, published by Walker Books

This ageless classic by Jill Murphy, author-illustrator of the bestselling The Worst Witch series, was first published in 1986, celebrating its 30th anniversary last year.

The story follows Mrs Large’s desperate quest for a bit of “me time”. Mrs Large is the somewhat harassed elephant mother to three boisterous young elephants and she’s definitely a character to whom most parents will no doubt relate. We join the family at breakfast, a particular chaotic and rowdy scene.

Mrs Large looks weary and begins to prepare herself a tempting breakfast tray to enjoy in the bath. She tries to sneak off, but before she can make her happy escape the children demand to know where she is going and why. Mrs Large explains that she needs “five minutes peace from you lot” and implores the children to entertain themselves.

The next scene is one from all parents dreams: Mrs Large (resplendent in her bright bath-hat) luxuriating in a deep bubble bath: “It was heaven”! However, all too quickly the peace is shattered by visits from each child, wanting to display their recorder or reading skills or simply to jump right in the bath.

Eventually Mrs Large gives up on her bath (now full of children and toys), and heads back down to the kitchen, still hoping for her elusive five minutes peace. In the end she has to settle for a measly “three minutes and forty-five seconds” of tranquility before the mayhem resumes.

The illustrations are colourful and detailed, making this a charming classic that can be enjoyed time after time.



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