Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Rib-tickling Rhymers

June 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 29 Jun, 2016 08:05AM

Many picturebooks have a story told through rhyme, which often adds a level of energy and song when read aloud. Some use rhyme to enhance the humour of the story or to add an element of dramatic suspense (for example where a couplet is not complete until the page has been turned). Below are three of our favourite rib-tickling rhymers.

Peck Peck Peck by Lucy Cousins, published by Walker Books

'Today my daddy said to me,
"It's time you learnt to peck a tree."'

As the sun rises a little woodpecker sets off from his nest to peck at everything he can find. He starts off in conventional fashion, pecking an actual hole through a tree, perfect for little fingers to reach into and use to turn the page.

The bird reaches a nearby fence and then a house:

"And now I'll peck this big blue door,
Then go inside and peck some more."

The little bird pecks his way inside, and through a culinary bounty including a nectarine, an aubergine, and seventeen jelly beans - the words of the book cleverly interwoven among the holes. As he makes his way through the house he finds more and more to peck, with a grand finale of 53 pecked holes through items in the laundry room.

After a long day, rather dizzy and with a frazzled beak, he returns to his proud daddy and gets tucked up warm and snug.

'Peck Peck Peck''s scattering of holes and bold primary colour illustrations, which fill each page with a level of detail that will delight, make it a strong contender to be 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' of our daughters' generation.

Doughnuts for a Dragon by Charlotte Guillain and Adam Guillain, illustrated by Lee Wildish, published by Egmont

We're big fans of George and his series of amazing adventures. We love a regular romp with George as he takes 'Treats for a T Rex', prepares 'Pizzas for Pirates' and gives 'Socks for Santa'. Probably our favourite is 'Doughnuts for Dragons', a melodic medieval marvel, which sees George transported back in time to a fairytale land of castles, knights and princesses.

George dreams of becoming a knight and taking on a dragon, and sets of on his intrepid quest. Armed only with doughy treats, he puts these to good use to avoid the threatening advances of ogres and witches, with more than a little help from a skilful slingshotting princess.

'"Yum" said the ogre, lifting George up, "I’ll have you for dinner tonight." "Don’t eat me," cried George, "Have these buns instead! 'Cause I’m seeking a dragon to fight."

As with the others in this terrific series, a pacy and amusing rhyme is accompanied by Lee Wildish's energetic and bold illustrations. The pages are filled with details and humour, which keeps each read (and there will be many!) fresh and fun.

Kitchen Disco
by Clare Foges and Al Murphy, published by Faber and Faber

Have you ever wondered what goes on in your fruit bowl at night when you're asleep? A very entertaining supposition is presented in this glitter-ball of a picturebook.

Set to a toe-tapping rhythm, we learn about DJ bananas, lemons breakdancing on the chopping board, and coconuts bubble-bathing in the washing up bowl. As the chorus chants:

"It's called the Kitchen Disco,
And everyone's invited.
So move your hips,
Shake your pips,
And let's get all excited."

The bright, near-neon illustrations are perfectly matched with descriptions of the frenetic fruity frolics. 'Kitchen Disco' is guaranteed to be met with giggles and dancing by our daughter.

Other superb and amusing rhymers that we've reviewed already include Dinosaur Roar; Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo; Hickory Dickory Dog; and Meet the Parents.

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When Picturebooks Break Through the Fourth Wall

June 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 21 Jun, 2016 10:21AM

Some of the most memorable picturebooks are those with characters that interact directly with their readers by 'breaking through the fourth wall'. A superb list of books from this genre has been collated on the Good Reads website. Below we review two of our favourites, published 43 years apart.

The Monster at the End of This Book written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Mike Smollin, published by Random House Children's Books (1971)

As a child, this was one of my favourites, and I've taken great delight in reading my tattered childhood copy with our elder daughter. First published in 1971, it is considered a modern classic in children's literature.

The book begins with loveable, scrawny and usually afeared Grover, who has noticed the title of this book, which he is within and we are reading. He urges us not to turn the page as this will only result in us all getting closer to the monster that awaits.

With the inevitable turn of each page that follows, Grover becomes more desperate in both his pleas for us to halt and in his attempts to prevent us from doing so - nailing wooden planks across the page, building a brick wall, using a metal door. As we reach the final page turn, Grover makes one last futile attempt to persuade us to avoid disaster, before the funny and heartwarming reveal.

Wonderfully illustrated, the book's genius is that it explores the concepts of fear and anxiety while placing total control of events with the reader, and ultimately demonstrating that these valid emotions were unfounded. It remains Sesame Street's best selling book and is frequently featured by American teaching professionals' in their top ten lists of modern children's classics.

This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne, published by Oxford University Press

When Bella takes her dog for a walk across the book's opening pages, "something very odd happened". We see her dog's front half vanish into the book's gutter, and then the rest of him, with Bella left tugging on his lead.

When her friend Ben arrives with a yellow balloon she tells him "this book just ate my dog!" Intrigued, he approaches and promptly disappears, his balloon left floating away. Vehicles of various kinds arrive to help, sirens blaring, before they too speed out of sight. "Things were getting ridiculous" we are told, and Bella decides to take matters into her own hands. Boldly, she strides into the book's ether.

After a loud "burp" from between the pages, a silence descends and "some time later" a hand written note appears, penned by Bella, politely asking the reader to help rescue her and the others, along with instructions on how to do so - turning the book on its side and shaking it up and down with vigour will do the trick (we find that tapping, blowing and jiggling the book also helps).

We rotate the book and from the pages fall Bella, the emergency service vehicles, Ben and her dog. Normality at first appears to have been restored, but on closer inspection we can see Bella's dog has a new logistical problem!

Our daughter loves the interactivity of this laugh out loud tale. She is intrigued by the idea of a book that can consume its protagonists, who actively acknowledge their existence inside a picturebook, and by the concept of another world within the book from where a letter can be sent to her. We love Richard Byrne's expressive characters, who are cute but not cutesy, and beanie-wearing Bella's can-do attitude to dealing with a crisis.

This Book Just Ate My Dog! was shortlisted for the UKLA 2016 Book Award in the 3 - 6 year old category.

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Ducks, hatchlings and Hattie Peck

June 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 08 Jun, 2016 04:25PM

Five weeks ago, two ducks swooped into our garden as we were playing with our daughter on the swing, one almost touching the top of her head as he landed on the lawn, quacking loudly. The next day, after the male had patrolled up and down the grass, we saw that the female was resting in our flowerbed. When she got up briefly to change position we saw several pale blue eggs under her in what was clearly a nest.

For four weeks our resident duck sat in the flowerbed. We became something of experts in mallard nesting, including the rules on what not to do, and kept our garden time to a minimum so as not to disturb her.

Two days ago, ten fluffy ducklings emerged from their shells, and yesterday they completed a daring departure - crossing under our hedge to next door, then beneath a fence on the other side and on into a garden beyond where we think a pond awaits. At one point, one duckling was left behind by its mother and nine siblings, only for them to all return when they heard its plaintive cries for rescue (this high drama observed by our transfixed three year old from her bedroom window).

Unsurprisingly, stories featuring eggs and ducks have become popular choices in recent days. Below is a review of one of our favourites.

Hattie Peck by Emma Levey, published by Top That Publishing

This is a delightful and heartwarming tale of nurture, family and the value of overcoming adversity. Hattie Peck is a chicken who loves eggs. She had laid just one egg herself, which hadn't hatched. She was sad, longing for more eggs. One day she decides she will make it her mission to rescue as many abandoned eggs as she can.

So begins a perilous journey, over crashing waves, up mountains, across rooftops and even through a blazing fire. In one very memorable scene she appears soaring in a hang glider over a Manhattan-esque skyline in search of lonely and left behind eggs.

Finally, with eggs of all sizes and colours piled high on a raft she gets a tow from an ocean liner and heads for home. The final page reveals an astonishing array of hatchlings that have emerged, including a flamingo, a platypus, a crocodile and a snake, all of whom receive Hattie Peck's unequivocal love. Adorably, she is busy knitting, with most of the brood already wrapped up warm in bobble hats, jumpers and scarves, made to fit their many shapes and sizes.

Emma Levey's illustrations form a colourful tapestry of high energy pages, accompanied by a strong narrative packed with verbs and adjectives that match the scale of her adventure. Her use of alliteration works very effectively ("Hattie Peck decided it was time to return her colossal clutch back to the coop", "she dived to the deepest depths"). We'll be sure to seek out the next instalment, 'Hattie Peck: The Journey Home' which was published earlier this year.

P.S. Another 'egg-cellent' picturebook we've reviewed already is Emily Gravett's 'The Odd Egg'.

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It's our 1st Blog Birthday!

June 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 04 Jun, 2016 10:07PM


It's our 1st Blog Birthday!

To celebrate, we'd like to offer a small thank you for the 21,000 visitors we've had to our website to date.

We've picked four of our favourite picturebooks of 2016 so far, and we will send a new copy of one of these to one lucky winner, who can pick which one they'd like to receive.

To enter for your chance to win: Just retweet this tweet and & follow us @books4mytoddler by 22 June to win one of these four favourites (UK only).

These books are reviewed here

A Great Big Cuddle by Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell

by Richard Collingridge

Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo
by Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie

by Zanib Mian and Bill Bolton

On 22 June, one lucky picturebook lover will be picked at random and will be sent their choice from these four fabulous books.

Good luck!

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Reading About Robots, Through the Ages

June 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 02 Jun, 2016 08:15PM
As our elder daughter nears three and a half, we've been reflecting on how her reading choices have developed over time. We have been reminded of how far she has come in this regard, and many others, as we watch her little sister (who has just turned 8 months) change and grow.

Our three year old continues to adore picturebooks, but she is increasingly interested in books that involve a greater amount of text and narrative. She has also had a lot of fun in the last few months revisiting some of her favourite board books, which are now being devoured (figuratively and literally) by her baby sister.

This tale of her literary development can be told through books featuring robots. Books featuring robots piqued her interest at a very young age, continuing through her toddler years and as she transforms into a girl before our eyes.

ABC Alphabet Fun (My First Touch and Feel) by Jonathan Litton, published by Little Tiger Press

As a one year old, our elder daughter (and now increasingly her little sister) was keen on board books based on the alphabet, first words and shapes. One of the best series of early learning books is those published by Little Tiger Press - whose excellent range includes board books, stickerbooks and jigsaw puzzles.

One of the series' authors, Jonathan Litton, created the cleverly designed 'Roar: A big-mouthed book of noises', one of our favourites. His 'ABC Alphabet Fun (My First Touch and Feel)' is another delight from start to end, with an array of tactile features to interact with, including a dog's squishy nose, a lion's fury mane, and a sticky splodge of jam. 'R' is for Robot, memorably depicted upside down, which in itself is a talking point, along with its shiny buttons, whirring dials and wind up cogs. From A-Z, this is a super sensory delight.

Tin by Chris Judge, published by Andersen Press

This brilliant combination of storytelling and eye-spy features a periodic table of characters, and has been enjoyed again and again since our daughter turned two. It is the tale of Tin, a young robot, whose mother entrusts him with the care of his little sister, Nickel. Although he is pleased with this responsibility, he is nevertheless distracted by his comicbook and only with an alert from his robot dog, Zinc, does he notice his sister floating off into the sky, holding a helium balloon.

So begins his intrepid rescue, involving flights across a futuristic cityscape, and daring adventures in a fairground and zoo. The story develops within a series of magnificent landscape spreads, each packed with details to spot and enjoy, reminiscent of the best scenes from Where's Wally. Tin and Nickel's escapades, eventual rescue and return home go unnoticed by their mother, who arrives back just after they do. She praises Tin for his attentiveness and care of his sister, neither of them noticing Nickel has been enticed by another balloon. This is the equivalent of picturebook metallurgy - turning words and images about common metals into storytelling gold.

Superbot and the Terrible Toy Destroyer by Nick Ward, published by David Fickling Books

Earlier this year our elder daughter was given her first chapter book - Superbot and the Terrible Toy Destroyer by Nick Ward - a tale of robots with many more words than other books in her collection, split into bite sized chapters.

Although it has longer passages of text than she had been used to, these are set alongside engaging and detailed illustrations depicting the world of Superbot, his maker Mrs Brightspark and his nemesis, Bruto the Bad.

When Bruto takes and crushes all of the local children's favourite toys, it's down to Superbot and his array of clever gadgets to put an end to Bruto's destructive behaviour, and discover the reason behind it.

Over the last few weeks, Superbot has been requested over and over again, probably more times than any other book. While on holiday at Easter, we read it five nights running - usually two chapters at a time. This tale is part of David Fickling Books' new Dfbees series of early readers. We're excited for what we hope will be many future instalments of Superbot.

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