Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Three fabulous board books for new speakers and early readers

March 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 21 Mar, 2017 04:36PM
We've reached an exciting literary time in our house. Our younger daughter, who is now one and a half, has a blossoming vocabulary and is soaking up new words like a sponge.

Meanwhile our older daughter has just turned four and is beginning to understand how the shapes of letters on the page relate to the words we speak when we read books to her out loud.

We are now often able to read to them together, from the same book, each taking enjoyment at the sounds and shape of words on the page.

Board books play a vitally important role in early reading. While more recently our four year old has been mostly enjoying illustrated chapter books, she has taken a renewed interest in board books as she develops her tentative reading skills. Our one year old loves their tactile, compact structure, bold illustrations and frequently alliterative language.

Our two young children have a huge and wonderful choice of board books, and below are three new publications that have caught their eyes and ours.

Can You Say It Too? Brrr! Brrr! by Sebastian Braun, published by Nosy Crow

This cheerful and bright book is filled with Antarctic adventure, depicting bright sunny days and frosty winter mornings in the lands of ice and snow. Large, heavy duty flaps on each page help to answer the questions posed: "Who's behind that iceberg?"; "It's chilly penguin! Brrr! Brrr!"

An emphasis on repetition and fun sounds ("Splash! Splash!", "Yip! Yip!") makes it easy for the youngest readers to engage and enjoy. The final page has an innovative double flap, revealing not just a noisy wolf, but also her three cubs "Harooo! Harooo!".

Sebastian Braun's delightful illustrations of the natural world are full of fun and bright colours (we loved his Mayday Mouse, reviewed here), and there are playful touches in the book's design too - with textured elements such as clouds and melting snow adding extra dimensions.

Bedtime with Ted by Sophy Henn, published by Bloomsbury

Ahh, bedtime routines - don't you just love them? Fingers crossed, we have a pretty decent system worked out now for our two, and reading is a key part of the process.

This charming boardbook tells us about Ted's bedtime adventures, from his perspective. Each page hears the plaintive cry of his adult calling "Bedtime Ted". But he tells us "Not yet! I'm far too busy".

Each time, we lift the flap to see why - "splish splosh splashing" with penguins in the bath, or "brush brush brushing" his teeth with a snappy crocodile. Finally, after having to do "a thing" and then "another thing", he's ready to settle down with a cuddly or four.

Sophy Henn's distinctive, retro-feel, matte palette (we've previously reviewed her brilliant 'Where, Bear?') is a perfect choice for a bedtime board book.

Baby's First Words by Christiane Engel, published by Barefoot Books

This is a bright and cheery board book which is ideal for new speakers and new readers. It depicts a day in the life of a toddler girl, as she wakes up, gets dressed, goes out, has dinner and goes to bed. Each page is filled with wonderful details, each labeled in a clear, bold font.

Each page has its own tab along the edge, helping children see their progress through the book and with a clue as to what is to come. Alongside the scenes of her day, there are some lovely additional pages focused on emotions, clothing and animal sounds.

We enjoy trying to spot the cuddly woolly mammoth in every page, while the girl's two dads make this a great example of diversity in picturebooks.

Christiane Engel's illustrations are fabulous - we'll be seeking out more of her work - with a kaleidoscope of colours matched to easy on the eye layers of detail that make for lots of talking points.

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Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake

March 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 07 Mar, 2017 01:36PM

Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake
by James Mathew, published by Orchard Books

For World Book Day, children across the country went to nursery and school dressed as their favourite book character, and took the related book in to read with their class. It's a fun way to bring stories to life, and an opportunity for parents to try their hand at costumes.

This year, when our now four-year-old daughter insisted on wearing her Elsa dress, we enthused her with the idea of being the Princess and the Pea - on the condition that she could take with her a single pea in a small plastic pot. She also chose the costume for our one year old - a Sophie la Giraffe tutu onesie - on the basis that her book character must be 'Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake'.

This book is one of a series of Ella Bella stories based on real ballets, a perfect showcase of Author illustrator James Mayhew's love of art and classical music (read his biography here). As well as the hugely popular 'Katie' series, James has written for the fabulous CBeebies series 'Melody' (where a girl listens to classical music and unlocks her vivid imagination).

Ella Bella Ballerina presents a version of the magical, majestic and at times quite dark Swan Lake. It starts on a rainy evening when Ella Bella is dropped at her ballet lesson. She joins in with Madame Rosa's class as they dance to the melody from Tchaikovsky's evocative score (a composition that is now more than 140 years old).

As the class ends, the other children filter out to change, and Ella finds herself alone on stage. Suddenly, the theatre transforms into another world, of watery reeds, ballrooms, the night sky and, first, a flock of swans who become white ballet princesses. Odette, the swan princess, leads Bella on an adventure to secure the true love of her prince and break the sorcerer's spell that is cast to commit her to her half-swan form forever.

The dreamy, washed illustrations are beautiful and full of movement, and reminiscent of the Madeline books. When we read the story, it is brought even more to life by playing a clip from the denouement of the score - which (like Melody) proved to be an ideal way to introduce our young children to classical music.

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