Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

The Lion Inside

July 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 21 Jul, 2016 11:52AM

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright (words) and Jim Field (illustrations), published by Orchard Books

It's a very helpful life skill to be able to find your inner roar and act like a brave lion, whether it's your first time in the big class at nursery school - or indeed if it's your first time dropping off your three year old daughter for her first day in the big class.

We've written before about our daughter's love of picturebooks that feature lions - notably Lionheart and Lion Practice - and The Lion Inside is certainly worthy of joining this pride.

It's a pitch-perfect tale of a teeny, meek mouse that goes in search of its inner roar. Fed up with being unnoticed and living alone in a house under a rock, mouse sets out to learn how to roar like the loudest lion in the Savannah, the King of the jungle, the envy of all the animals.

We accompany mouse's quest, its large ears drooping by its side, clutching its tail for comfort. Mouse's journey is set against sweeping landscapes and pages filled with eye catching details - from the pot plant on the window sill of its ‘tinyful’ house to the 'How to Roar' book by A A Mouse.

Jim Field's beautiful illustrations are perfectly matched to Rebecca Bright's fun, lyrical narrative. There are enjoyable moments of genuine suspense as mouse climbs to the top of the rock where lion lays sleeping, and asks with a squeak for help, expecting to become the lion's lunch. They come nose to nose, and a tremendous double page spread reveals the scale of lion's enormous face and mane towering over mouse.

But lion's quiff and expressive eyebrows suddenly become limp and instead of a roar he lets out a huge "EEEEEEK!"; for lion, we learn, is afraid of mice. Realising they each have something to offer the other, they overcome their fears through friendship:

"Yes, that day they BOTH learned
that, no matter your size,
we all have a mouse
AND a lion inside."

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Brilliantly Interactive Boardbooks

July 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 12 Jul, 2016 10:04AM

As our younger daughter approaches 10 months we are seeing the world appear before her eyes. As with our elder daughter when she was a similar age, books are increasingly an important part of her life. There are many wonderful board books designed for the littlest of fingers and thumbs, and resistant to newly emerged tiny chompers. Below is a selection of our current favourites.

A Case of Good Manners Published by Sweet Cherry

This is a wonderful collection of 12 bite sized books about manners, brilliantly packaged inside a robust, illustrated, child-size carry case. It's contents are entertaining for babies and older toddlers alike - our 9 month old and three and a half year old daughters recently spent a very happy afternoon together, interacting with the Case and all it has to offer.

Delightful illustrations depict scenes of adult and child animals demonstrating the worth and importance of 'good manners', 'good habits' and 'getting on with others' (with each book addressing a single theme such as kindness, sharing, taking turns and listening). The books also work well as a group in a literal way, with their back covers each forming part of a 12 piece jigsaw.

I Wish I Were a Pirate/I Wish I Were a Princess by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (words) and Sarah Ward (illustrations), published by Bloomsbury

This perfect pair has been hugely enjoyed by both our daughters. The books are both highly tactile, with strongly made interactive elements on every page, including their front covers (from a rotating ship's wheel, to pirates that you can tip into the sea with the flick of a finger as they walk the plank, to a princess who gives a royal wave and changes outfits at the turn of a dial).

A gentle rhyme accompanies highly appealing illustrations depicting children engaged and happy in make believe play as pirates and princesses respectively, with boys AND girls represented in each book. Our elder daughter also enjoyed reenacting many of the books' lively scenes.

Baby Gym series published by Child's Play

This charming and engaging quartet of board books is perfect for hands on play with your baby, with each book designed to suit a variety of times in a baby's day, including active play of fun and games, and soothing time to encourage sleep.

Each book contains five spreads featuring a baby enjoying a different movement or interaction with their adult. The pictures are accompanied by lyrics, songs and helpful tips and information on how to support a baby's visual, aural and physical development.

Bounce & Jiggle and Wiggle & Move contain between them 10 rhymes, songs and poems matched with instructions on how to enjoy physical interaction and rhythm. Touch & Tickle has 5 great ideas based on baby massage techniques, while Calm & Soothe focuses on touch aimed at encouraging relaxation, good digestion and wind down.

A lovely aspect of the illustrations is the diversity of babies (all kitted out in adorable baby grows) and their adults, including scenes of twins. Our elder daughter loves to listen to the songs, and regularly joins in while we engage our baby in the likes of "this is the way the ladies ride", "criss-cross apple sauce" and "hush little baby".

There's an Owl in My Towel by Julia Donaldson (words) and Rebecca Cobb (illustration), published by Macmillan Kids

Our fourth ever review, back in June 2015, was of the wondrous The Paper Dolls, which remains one of our favourite picturebooks. Here the author/illustrator dream team of Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb are reunited in a new boardbook for younger readers.

Julia Donaldson's trademark light-hearted rhymes, here describing amusing situations that make us and our elder daughter smile (including 'a mole in my bowl', 'a hare in my chair' and 'a lamb in my pram') are perfectly matched by Rebecca Cobb's beautiful illustrations of small children faced by these animal antics.

Interaction comes from the clever use of flaps to reveal a gentle riposte to the animals' behaviour (such as 'fly away owl', 'run away mole' and 'skip away lamb'), and a memorable song version of the book available to watch here, performed by Julia herself.

A final scene of cosy sleep, and the comfort of a teddy in bed, draws the book to a soothing close.

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The Truth According to Arthur

July 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 04 Jul, 2016 11:40AM

The Truth According to Arthur
by Tim Hopgood (author) and David Tazzyman (illustrator), published by Bloomsbury Children's

"You're joking, aren't you daddy?", said our three and a half year old this week when I told her she'd only grow big and strong if she ate her mushy peas as well as her fish fingers.

My wife and I recall that, before her third birthday, the task of gaining her cooperation used to be a lot simpler; something of a golden age in this regard, a time when she rarely challenged our contorted reasoning, usually took our answers as unequivocal fact, and it was relatively straight forward to persuade her to do something we asked.

Since turning 3, we've found that our use of the previously occasional white lie has become more of a go to staple in our parenting toolbox - despite us being ever so keen to teach our daughters about the importance of telling the truth.

In the deserted park on a drizzly morning: "We have to go home now so that the other children can enjoy the swing".

When our daughter discovers an empty packet of choc ices: "This is from the vegetables mummy and daddy had with our dinner last night".

After dad accidentally breaks one of her crayons in half while drawing a Diplodocus far too enthusiastically: "Well, you have two now, so that's better isn't it??"

Her straight-faced reply: "You're joking, daddy".

With our daughter's increasing scepticism at our half-truths and porky pies, Tim Hopgood and David Tazzyman's terrific new picturebook, 'The Truth According to Arthur', could not be more timely in our lives. It's a delightful and humorous tale of a young boy who literally and figuratively tries to bend, stretch, disguise and hide his nemesis, 'the Truth'.

After wobbling off his brother's bike and bashing it into his mother's car, he tries to contort and conceal the Truth in various ways to cover his tracks. After three friends fail to see how his revised versions of events will get him off the hook with his mum, he looks the Truth straight in the eye and does something that surprises himself - he owns up - and in doing so finds a good friend in the Truth.

This is a gentle and persuasive tale about why telling the truth is always the best option. Its narrative is fun and reassuring, with a clever visual use of verbs and thought bubbles. The illustrations are warm and inviting, and 'the Truth' is a particularly memorable and innovative character. Truly a book that will be enjoyed and appreciated by readers of all ages.

P.S. We're big fans of Tim Hopgood's storytelling and illustration (our daughters love 'Wow! Said the Owl' and 'Walter's Wonderful Web', both reviewed earlier). It's fabulous that a selection of beautiful prints from 'Wow! Said the Owl' and 'What a Wonderful World' are now available through Tim's new website 'HopShop'.

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