Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Interactive Books of the Year

December 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 08 Dec, 2016 08:06PM

This year, we've enjoyed many wonderful books with our daughters, including several that have been brilliantly interactive. They combine beautiful illustrations and engaging stories with technically creative use of flaps, levers, pulls and going beyond the 'fourth wall'. Below is a selection of our favourites, all reviewed in 2016.

Mungo Monkey Goes On a Train by Lydia Monks, published by Egmont

This is the story is of Mungo and his sister Mimi on a day-trip with their granny and grandad. The pages are full of bright colours and charming details, with a bounty of page flaps that cleverly add to the fun. Our favourite scenes include the dark tunnel where four flaps reveal the creepy crawlies hiding in the dark; the triple fold flap that flips up three times to incrementally take the train "up", "up", "up" the hill; and storefront of the shop at the top of the hill that lifts up to reveal its wonderful wares, including ice creams, souvenirs and outdoor toys.

With a superb combination of an easy read narrative, highly engaging illustrations and clever page flaps, this is a delight to read for all involved. It also offers a lovely depiction of a grandparents and grandchildren relationship.

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 by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (words) and Sarah Ward (illustrations), published by Bloomsbury

This has been hugely enjoyed by both our daughters. It is 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).

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

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

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.

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. Soon other people and vehicles disappear into the book's middle, and even Bella follows. We all have help Bella by to turning, shaking and speaking to the book to get the characters back.

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.

Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle, published by Chronicle Books

The third 'Flora' book from Molly Idle, all of which have featured birds, this is a tale of friendship and rivalry, told through the spirit of dance in lavish emerald and turquoise. Two peacocks, green with envy, vie for attention from a girl with an ornamental fan, each displaying their plumage in an effort to outbid the other.

A clever use of lifting flaps literally provides the twists and turns to a wordless yet fully engaging story (including a magnificent fold-out double page). Compromise wins the day and provides a satisfying, happy ending.

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".

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Books My Toddler Loves Books of the Year 2016!

December 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 06 Dec, 2016 08:36AM

In this post, we've selected five picturebooks from the 62 we've reviewed this year. They have been chosen for their beautiful art, captivating words and the sheer delight that pours from their pages. All five have been a joy to read, again and again and again.

Lionheart by Richard Collingridge, published by David Fickling Books

Learning to find our inner roar is the central theme of this stunning, cinematic triumph. When a small boy senses the presence of a monster in his bedroom, he runs, clutching his cuddly lion. As he flees through the town, illuminated by the moon, he reaches its outskirts. Then, in a scene reminiscent of the opening to 'Where the Wild Things Are', he wanders into grasses that grow thicker and taller. There, suddenly, he is surrounded - by a menagerie of creatures. They can sense the monster too, and they are afraid.

They all take flight, but the boy runs straight into "something, or someone" - a huge Lionheart, towering above the boy - majestic, strong, fearless and protective. Riding high, nestled in Lionheart's mane, they set off on thrilling adventures, leaping rocks, diving under water, and joining the animals to explore ancient ruins. But their fun cannot last - still they feel the imminent danger of the monster. Finally the boy, his Lionheart and the animals see the monster looming over them.

To reveal the book's ending here would spoil the impact of its extraordinary denouement, and we hope others will discover for themselves its final pages, among which is one of the most dramatic double page illustrations we've ever seen. Despite (or perhaps because of) its generous pinch of mild peril, our daughter requested a reading of 'Lionheart' many days in a row - often a few times each day. Equaling our love for Richard Collingridges's 'When it Snows' was a tough task, but 'Lionheart' quickly found a place among our favourite reads.

A Great Big Cuddle by Michael Rosen (words) and Chris Riddell (illustration), published by Walker Books

When we ask our three year old daughter if she'd like to read 'A Great Big Cuddle', she replies "yay, poems!" We like to think that this reaction is what the creators of this magnificent book were hoping for. The combined literary alchemy of two Children's Laureates (words by Michael Rosen and illustrations by Chris Riddell), is fully realised in this original compendium of "Poems for the Very Young". This is a book of drum beating rhythm, stomping feet, clapping hands, and laughing out loud.

At 73 pages it could be dipped into, but we have found great value in enjoying the flow and music of the book as a whole. Our daughter has been captivated every time, and always wants to read it in full.

This is the picturebook equivalent of a winter's day tucked up in bed with hot tea and toast, taking part in a display of verbal gymnastics, going on a wild tour of menageries and monsters and, indeed, having a great big cuddle, all combined.

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.

'The Lion Inside' is a pitch-perfect tale of a teeny, meek mouse that goes in search of its inner roar. 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 both have something to offer each other, they overcome their fears and find the a bond of friendship.

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

When a young boy receives to a surprise a notice informing him that he has won a prize to run a 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.

The boy soon discovers many wonderfully-named bizarre beasts in Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie brilliant 'Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo'. 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, none of the monsters want the boy to leave.

Sara Ogilvie's 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.

Oddsockosaurus by Zanib Mian (words) and Bill Bolton (illustration), published by Sweet Apple Books

Our three year old daughter has recently undertaken a new childhood rite of passage - acquiring a love of dinosaurs. Prehistoric picturebooks have played a key part in her growing fascination. In the excellent 'Oddsockosaurus' the many wonderful facets of a toddler's personality are explored through a humorous take on the Greco-Roman dinosaur names that fascinate our daughter.

The book is narrated by a small boy who acknowledges that he's "very complicated". Sometimes he's a Mudiraptor, jumping in mucky puddles his mum told him not to go near. Other times he's a Readabookadocus, enjoying stories and a love of reading every day; or a Lovelyonychus, which includes being kind to his sister. One of our favourites is Nofocusadocus, when "I just have to look for my favourite toy while putting my shoes on".

Each trait is perfectly matched to a cute scene of the boy dressed up as a different dinosaur undertaking an apposite activity.

A few final remarks for 2016...

We launched in June 2015 as a way of remembering some of the precious reading moments we've shared with our daughter and to help others discover a selection of books that we thought the children in their lives would enjoy.

In the last 18 months, our elder daughter turned three and our second daughter was born (and has now turned one). We've posted more than 100 reviews, received more than 35,000 visitors to our website, and met a community of readers through our Twitter account @books4mytoddler.

Thank you so much for your interest and wonderful feedback. See you next year!

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School for Dads

December 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 04 Dec, 2016 05:52PM

School for Dads, by Adam and Charlotte Guillain (words) and Ada Grey (illustrations), published by Egmont

This week we are visiting prospective primary schools for our older daughter, who turns four next year. It seems inconceivable that this could be happening so soon, but she is excited by the idea of "big school", to where many of her nursery friends departed over the summer.

"School lessons" is one of her favourite games to enact at home - with her as the teacher and her mummy and daddy as "girl" and "boy". "Come on girl, it's time for your painting lesson"; "now, does anybody need the toilet?"; "don't fill up on snacks".

Certainly one of the inspirations for this is the terrific 'School for Dads', a tale of role reversal where children are teachers for a day and their dads are the pupils. The dads have a lot to learn, starting with their behaviour: "Don't ignore us when we want to play, and stop looking at your phone. Don't tell us it's time to go and never answer "no"".

A full programme follows, including scenes of the dad's trying their best at art and P.E., as well as a "loud and rowdy" lunchtime. Soon, the children realise that it's pretty hard work being a grown up, and decide to end the day with a celebration of what they appreciate about their dads, from cuddles to playing football to making hot chocolate. The dads all get a "well done" sticker and they all go home happy.

A fun and pacey rhyme is accompanied by illustrations that are engaging, full of bright colours and scattered with details. One of our favourite scenes is the dads travelling to school - on bikes, skateboards and even a pogo stick!

A diverse group of dads and children are depicted and the book helpfully challenges a common gender stereotype in picture books where it is almost always the mums who go on the school run. This is an ideal choice for children turning their minds to school or starting in the older class at nursery. It would make a perfect choice around Father's Day, too.

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