Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

'Good Manners' in Picturebooks

May 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 23 May, 2016 08:45AM

"That's good manners" is one of our three year old's favourite phrases. It is often her concluding remark in a regular exchange with us, which starts with her asking for "a tiny weenie biscuit"/"another olive"/"some smokey cheese". "What do you say?", we ask. "Pleeeeeease, Mr Panda!", she replies, grinning.

Manners are the subject of many favourite picturebooks, with sharing, saying please and being patient their most popular points of politeness. Below is a round up of brilliant books, all on their best behaviour.

All Mine! by Zehra Hicks, published by Macmillan Children's Books

In this laugh-out-loud tale of greed and comeuppance, a mouse's lunch is snatched away by a rude seagull. Not content, and ignoring his small victim's admonishing critique, the seagull takes mouse's crisps as well, and even follows mouse into his little house. However, mouse has a cunning plan, which ends with a glorious cake and a bunting-laden celebration.

A different solid bright colour fills each page, and Zehra Hicks' boldly drawn characters are juxtaposed with clever and highly effective, superimposed photographs of various seagull-tempting treats.

Crunch by Carolina Rabei, published by Child's Play

Crunch is a gluttonous Guinea pig living a comfortable life alone in his cage. When a hungry mouse asks him to share his tasty titbits he refuses. The mouse offers friendship and a hug in exchange, but Crunch just grumbles and grumps and sends him away.

His behaviour leaves Crunch with a bitter taste in his mouth and he can't enjoy his breakfast. He thinks about poor mouse, and imagines a bad fate. He sets off to find him and discovers a world of wonders. He returns home to find mouse tucking into a pile of leaves, where sharing and friendship follows.

Rabei's delightful illustrations have an unusual wood cut-like aspect to them, supported by an array of strong colours, including lime green leaves and a huge slice of juicy red watermelon.

I'll Wait, Mr Panda
by Steve Antony, published by Hodder Children's Books

We waited patiently for this follow up to the magnificent 'Please Mr Panda' and were fully rewarded. In this sequel, the enigmatic Mr Panda has taken to baking, and is preparing a mouth watering surprise.

A series of impatient animals demand to know what he is making. When Mr Panda tells them that they need to wait and see, for "it's a surprise", one after another refuses and walks away.

Finally, a small penguin shows good manners and stands quietly to one side. while Mr Panda finishes up. "Thank you, Mr Panda. It was worth the wait", says the penguin, calling out from underneath the enormous, hundreds-and-thousands-coated, sweet surprise.

As he did in his groundbreaking 'Please Mr Panda', Steve Antony's distinctive black and white characters and teal/grey backgrounds are juxtaposed with an array of wonderfully coloured doughnuts, which this time provide the pattern on Mr Panda's fabulous apron.

For more picturebooks with exceptional manners try these, which we've reviewed earlier:

'Monkey and the Little One' by Claire Alexander

A tale of initially unrequited affection, about two creatures who struggle to speak each other's language. This is a tender picturebook whose messages are as gentle and sweet as its illustrations. It's an ideal choice for reading to a young child when a new sibling arrives, or when significant change has come into their lives.

'Norris the Bear Who Shared' by Carherine Rayner

Catherine Rayner's illustrations are always stunning - in our view she's the most talented illustrator of wildlife in the picturebook business - and the message that underlines her stories is one of adventure, fun and the value of persistence.Norris' patient wait for his prized treat, the wisdom he exhibits, and the benefit of his decision to share it with his new companions is simply and perfectly told.

'Please Mr Panda' by Steve Antony

Steve Antony's illustrations are bold, beautiful and funny. The doughnuts are a colourful feast for the eyes, in a clever contrast to the black and white of the characters that the panda encounters. As the story unfolds, the animals (and their levels of rudeness) increase in size, from a penguin to skunk to ostrich to whale), before concluding with the polite, well-mannered (and very full) lemur.

'Aunt Amelia' by Rebecca Cobb.

Aunt Amelia has been a favourite for a long time. It is a fun, bright and charming book, which wonderfully captures the nostalgic joy of childhood. The gorgeous tapestry of spreads are accompanied by details from the list of strict instructions left by parents for their children's babysitter. Little do they or their parents know, but Aunt Amelia - a matronly crocodile, with her a huge peach sunhat adorned by flora and fauna, equipped with a Mary Poppins-esque purse and umbrella - likes to bend, and even reverse, the rules!

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One Day on Our Blue Planet: In the Savannah

May 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 18 May, 2016 10:08AM

One Day on Our Blue Planet: In The Savannah by Ella Bailey, published by Flying Eye Books

In recent weeks, songs from the Lion King have established themselves as a soiundtrack to our lives. We are regularly serenaded by Elton and co, especially in the car where the perpetually uplifting Hakuna Matata seems to play on a loop. In our playroom, Simba-based make-believe can last for hours.

Fortunately, there is an abundance of wonderful picturebooks to quench our three year old daughter's thirst for tales of lions (we've previously reviewed some of our favourite lion-themed picturebooks including Lionheart by Richard Collingridge and Lion Practice by Emma Carlisle).

Recently, our daughter has taken a keen interest in fact-based offerings on the natural world, even dipping into our BBC Blue Planet box set. Ella Bailey's magnificent book 'One Day on Our Blue Planet in the Savannah' is a distinctive, detailed and striking depiction of a lion cub's day and night in the Savannah.

It offers a perfect balance of fact and fiction as we follow the cub from sunrise to beyond sunset, meeting a myriad of other animals along the way, as he plays, explores and avoids danger. The book also carefully explores aspects of the cub's survival and issues that relate to 'the circle of life', such as hunting other animals to eat.

Bailey's illustrations have a blend of warmth and realism, and the book's inside and back covers are filled with the animals of day and night along with their names - a great learning feature, which provides the opportunity for playing 'spot' during each reading.

There is a particular page focused on the wider pride, identifying the cub's extended family including his aunties and cousins. We've not come across many other picturebooks that feature cousins, so this has been nice as a way of talking about our daughter's equivalent relations.

As with all Flying Eye Books we've read, the production quality is exceptional and its pages are lovely to touch and turn. This is sure to be a book we will all enjoy to for many years to come.

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Solomon and Mortimer

May 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 13 May, 2016 04:07PM

Solomon and Mortimer by Catherine Rayner, published by Macmillan Children's Books

If you were looking for fun in the Savannah, would you sneak up on the biggest hippo in the river? Solomon the crocodile is back, this time with twice the splash, as he is joined by his new best friend, Mortimer.

'Solomon and Mortimer' is (Kate Greenaway Medal winner) Catherine Rayner's terrific follow up to her brilliant 'Solomon Crocodile' (previously reviewed here), which ended with the promise of "double trouble".

This sequel is a tale of pranks, pelicans and peer pressure. Bored with their failed attempts to fly, look for lizards and climb trees, they spot hippo, the largest creature in the river and hatch a plan to creep up and scare him. Others see what they're up to and try to warn them off, to no avail. But surely they should heed the wiggle of the hippo's ear, the twitch of his tail and the turn of his eye?

The jungle river and its hubbub menagerie is the perfect backdrop for Rayner's glorious watercolours, which burst with life and light. Solomon and Mortimer's ill-advised adventures are first and foremost great fun and lovely to look at.

Yet the book can also serve as an ideal choice for teachers and parents as a prompt for discussions with young children about risk-taking, making choices, heeding advice and understanding consequences.

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Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo

May 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 05 May, 2016 09:25PM

Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo by Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie, published by Red Fox Picture Books

One of our three year old daughter's favourite toys is a Playmobil zoo, bought for her when she was one. She still enjoys playing with it, pretending to be a zookeeper, especially feeding the animals and keeping them all in good order.

Yet, for a young imagination, zebras, giraffes, lions and monkeys are surely second best in comparison to the wonderful creations of Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie found in the brilliant 'Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo'.

When a young boy receives to his surprise a notice that he has won a prize to run the zoo for the day, he sets off on his bike without trepidation. As he arrives at the strangest zoo he's ever seen, he finds that the bedraggled zookeeper is off on his holiday. He gives the boy only his best wishes, the key to the front door and his zookeeper's hat.

On departing he imparts to the boy one piece of advice: Make sure you feed the Squirgle, and if you hear its tummy rumble it means it hasn't been fed - and its favourite food is children.

The boy soon discovers many wonderfully-named bizarre beasts, including purple Gurps with their fiery burps, the growling Grimblegraw and the furry Furbles. The zoo is a complete mess and the creatures initially run amok - banging doors, stealing the boy's hat and using his broom as a cricket bat.

But through a combination of assertiveness, persuasion, bravery and guile (all good attributes for young readers to engage with) the boy soon has them under control. When the zookeeper returns, even the Squirgle is on its best behaviour, and none of the monsters want the boy to leave.

Sure enough, next day a note arrives, delivered to the boy's front door by the zookeeper and the monsters, asking the boy to please return and run the zoo again.

We love Sara Ogilvie's illustrations in 'Meet the Parents' (reviewed previously). Here her colourful, energetic, cartoon-like style is perfectly matched here to Amy Sparkes' musical rhyme and her description of the wild-yet-sweet cacophonous creations. A bird's eye view of the zoo and a fabulous vertical double-page spread are two of our favourite scenes.

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