September 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 21 Sep, 2017 07:16PM
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.
For more books featuring peace-making, reconciliation and making amends, try these (all reviewed on our site):
September 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 17 Sep, 2017 07:36PMEdgar and the Sausage Inspector
by Jan Fearnley, published by Nosy Crow
Authority is often found in a hat, a badge and a notepad - this is true in many situations and certainly is true in this tale of an alleyway cat called Edgar. When Edgar sets out to get a treat for his sister, he's delighted to find her favourite - a string of tasty sausages.
But as he heads home a rat in a hat declares he is The Inspector. Furthermore, he states that the sausages are required for testing as he suspects them to be "bad" (there have been "reports"). Off scampers the scrawny rat, squeeeeeeezing through a hole in the wall, and Edgar returns to his house empty-handed, much to the disgruntlement of his hungry sister Edith, who is not impressed by his story of the hatted rat.
The next day, the rat requisitions Edgar's cakes, and Edgar feels unable to challenge The Inspector's authority - as he's now added a badge that states his title for all to see. The rat, plumper than before, scoots away.
The third time, rat has added a notebook and pen, and demands Edgar hands over his latest hamper of goodies. Edgar is impressed, but the rat's successes as an inspector have made him large and juicy now, and Edgar is less interested in his credentials and more in his taste...
This is a gloriously funny tale, with great set pieces and a delightfully acerbic ending of cat comeuppance. Fine double page spreads are packed with detail (can you spot the pair of tiny birds in every scene?) and we are treated to a mouth-watering series of Parisian patisseries and boucheries.
The words are lively and some are given extra emphases to help with dramatic retellings, alongside memorable characters that are full of expression. 'Edgar' is a big hit with us and is sure to become a long-term household favourite.
September 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 08 Sep, 2017 04:35PM
First Day At Bug School (by Sam Lloyd, published
Our older daughter starts
school next week. It's a happy relief that she's excited, but we're
stereotypically emotional. There are many wonderful picturebooks that take on
the theme of starting school - which can be hugely useful for helping little
ones (and their parents) get in the right frame of mind and ease some of the
worries and uncertainties away.
One of our favourites over the
summer has been First Day at Bug School. This is a delightful depiction of day
one for the new insect intake.
After greeting the children
and taking the register, Miss Bee directs the creepy crawlies to their own area
of learning. Mr Wincy is teaching the young spiders not to go up the water
spout, the crickets are rehearsing a new song, and the little ladybirds are counting
each other's spots. The fleas are excelling at PE and the dung beetles are
desperate for the loo.
The pages are packed with
delightful details and bright, engaging illustrations. A clever and fun rhyme
throughout moves the story along at a nice pace. Before we know it, it's home
time and the parents are waiting at the gate - met by their children with a
great cheer of "can we come again tomorrow?"
This is a terrifically
entertaining and comforting picturebook which nicely depicts a balance of the
fun and the routine of school, of making friends and trying new things.
Other recommended new school
School for Dads - Fun and frolics
in this tale of child and parent role reversal;
My Busy Being Bella Day - Superb depiction
of the push and pull of sibling rivalry;
School Gremlins - Fabulous flapping fun as gremlins take over the classroom;
I Am Absolutely Too Small For
School - Charlie and Lola prepare for school
August 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 07 Aug, 2017 08:57PM
As our nearly two year old discovers an adoration for books and being read to, our four and a half year old is starting to explore a new dimension - recognising letters and reading words for herself.
Books that suit them both are therefore ideal for quiet story times, where engaging illustrations are matched by easy read font and clear language.
Here are three favourites, featuring feline friends to mark International Cat Day.
Lulu Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn (words) and Rosalind Beardshaw (illustrations), published by Alanna Books
Published today, the latest in the delightful series of Lulu stories describes the responsibility and reward of caring for a pet. Lulu really wants a cat. Her mum has told her how much work looking after one would be. Together, they find out more, borrowing a book from the library, reading up about them and practicing good pet care.
After finding out about pet adoption, Lulu is chosen by a little grey kitten when she visits a cat rescue shelter. Her dad helps Lulu get the house ready and, once home, kitten Makeda (named after an African Queen) cautiously shrugs off her shyness and comes out to play.
We see Lulu having lots of fun, and keeping track of her responsibilities with a wall chart of duties. A final spread shows them both enjoying a read of Puss in Boots. The words are charming and clear, ideally matched to warm, happy and colourful illustrations - perfect for engaging young readers.
Jaspers Beanstalk by Nick Butterworth (words) and Mick Inkpen (illustrations) published by Hodder Children's
In this instalment of the ever-determined Jasper we follow his efforts to nurture and grow a giant Beanstalk. We see he's been inspired by the tale of Jack. Taking on a different task each day, we watch him dig a hole on Monday and then plant a bean, water, rake, hoe and mow.
When Sunday arrives he waits all day but nothing seems to be happening. But, "a long, long, long time later", after being distracted by a good book, sure enough the beanstalk grows and on the final page we see Jasper disappearing up the stalk and out of the book.
This story of how patience reaps rewards is told with a minimum of fuss (in fewer than 100 words), through a simple and engaging narrative that highlights the passing of time through clear references to the days of the week. Mick Inkpen's illustrations are light, fun, and as distinctive as ever. This is a perfect choice for both new listeners and early readers.
Posy by Linda Newbury (words) and Catherine Rayner (illustrations), published by Orchard Books
We've written before that Catherine Rayner is our favourite illustrator of the natural world, and our view that her depictions of animals are second to none. Here, her distinctive watercolour and ink artistry brings to life a tiny kitten called Posy, who is discovering a new world of fun and mischief.
A light and breezy narrative tells us of Posy's alliterative adventure as a whiskers wiper and sofa scratcher. Gentle rhyming informs us that she's also a mirror puzzler and an ice cream guzzler, a sandwich checker and a board game wrecker.
A final spread shows her curled up in her mother's embrace, sound asleep, making this a lovely choice for bedtime.
July 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 25 Jul, 2017 08:59PM
Ellie's Magic Wellies by Amy Sparkes (words) and Nick East (illustrations), published by Egmont
Wellies - the footwear of choice for many children - shiny, bendy and synonymous with messy play, a footwear permission slip to squelch in mud, kick through leaves or (best of all) jump in puddles. The saviours of boredom on a rainy day, wellies turn splashing into adventure.
Last weekend, our four year old chose a new pair. A deep-space blue with cosmic swirls and sparkly stars. She was thrilled, but nothing could have prepared her for what happened when she put them on and did her maiden jump in our back garden - they have LIGHTS! Blue flashes illuminated her soles - shimmering in the small pools of rain that dotted our patio.
We have recently been enjoying the fabulous 'Ellie's Magic Wellies', in which we meet a girl called Ellie Pengelly who is fed up of watching the rain. Her mum tells her she'a popping out to the dentist, and that auntie Flo is coming over to look after her.
Peacock feathers adorn Flo's purple hat, and she carries a handbag that commands "Give it wellie". Ellie knows this wet and dreary day is about to take an exciting turn. And Flo has a surprise gift for Ellie - a pair of golden, winged wellies - fit for a toddler Hermes.
But when Ellie leaps into a huge puddle she doesn't just produce a big splash - out jumps a small, purple creature in a woollen gingham suit and hat - a Flibberty Gibberty (who we think might have escaped from Amy Sparkes' Do Not Enter The Monster Zoo').
Together they set out on an alliterative adventure of messy play, told through a funny and smart rhyme. "Let's juggle with jam, jiggle with jelly...guzzle and gobble" exclaims the creature. They "hippetty-hopscotch" and "zippetty-zoom".
Nick East's marvellous illustrations fizz with energy and burst with colour, and we watch as the new pals turn the house upside down. Luckily, Ellie's wellies have another important magic power - the ability to help with tidying up, just in time for mum's return. It's time for the creature to go home too - but who knows? The next time Ellie splashes in the puddles, maybe the Flibberty Gibberty will bring some friends.