Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Our Favourite Picturebook Friendships

May 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 18 May, 2017 08:38PM

The theme of friendship is found in many of our favourite picturebooks. Below we review two much-enjoyed, recent additions to the genre.

Winnie the Pooh: The Great Heffalump Hunt
written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Angela Rozelaar, published by Egmont

One of the most famous picturebook pairings is the unlikely duo of Winnie the Pooh and his faithful pal, Piglet. The original stories of A A Milne are among the best works of children's literature, and we love this new iteration from author and master rhymer Giles Andreae.

His retelling of the pair's hunt for a heffalump brings out all their best qualities - adventure, partnership and loyalty - and the carefully crafted and gentle rhyme moves the story along at a quick pace.

Angela Rozelaar's delightful illustrations capture the spirit of the original story with a modern feel, ideal for young children. Her heffalump dream sequence and piglet's nighttime search for his friend are suitably atmospheric with just the right pinch of mild peril.

South by Daniel Duncan, published by Abrams Young Readers

This book begins with the depiction of a fisherman's lonely life out on the ocean. He has only his banjo, old photographs and mementoes of happier days to keep him company.

When a bird with a broken wing lands on board, the fisherman finds a renewed purpose as well as an unexpected friendship. He sets a new course, both literally and spiritually.

A sparse, poignant narrative is combined with lustrous illustrations brimming with beauty. Each page is filled with a nautical treasure trove of details, whether out on deck with nets and buckets, inside the ship's cosy cabin, or down below on the wondrous sea bed.

Other favourite picturebook friendships, all previously reviewed on our site, include:

A dog and a stripey sock (Claude All at Sea)

A boy and an alien (The Way Back Home)

A boy and a baby whale (The Storm Whale)

A monkey and a mouse (Monkey and the Little One)

A lion and a mouse (The Lion Inside)

Children and an alligator (Aunt Amelia)

A mouse and an ogre (Mortimer's Picnic)

A goose and a crocodile egg (The Odd Egg)

  • Comments(0)//

Books My Toddler Loves 2nd Birthday competition

May 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 15 May, 2017 06:45PM

It's been almost two years since we started in June 2015. It began as a way to remember the books our daughter enjoys and the fun times we have reading them with her. A few months later our second daughter arrived - she's now developing her own love of books too.

We've been thrilled by the positive feedback we've had from fellow picturebook readers, authors, illustrators and publishers. It's amazing to us that more than 50,000 people have read reviews on our site - and hopefully they've discovered new favourites to enjoy with the little ones in their lives.

To celebrate our site's second birthday we're giving Twitter folk the chance to win their choice of book from our 2015 or 2016 Picturebooks of the Year (pictured above). For a chance to win, just follow us @books4mytoddler and retweet this tweet.

A winner will be picked at random after midday UK time on Friday 26th May 2017 (please note we can only post to a winner with a UK address).

Thanks for all your support!

  • Comments(0)//

Wild Goose

May 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 14 May, 2017 08:49PM

Wild Goose
by Laura Wall, published by Award Publications

Imagination, fresh air, friends and sunshine - four of the best ingredients for happy childhood memories. All of them feature throughout Laura Wall's uplifting and feel-good 'Goose' series, which follows a white-feathered friend and a group of small human pals as they experience childhood together - whether going to school, celebrating a birthday, going shopping or spending time on a farm.

The latest title, 'Wild Goose', is a celebration of the great outdoors, the wonders that can be discovered and of the fun that can be had. With no batteries or touch screens in sight, Goose and her friends set off on an adventure through the forest - hunting for wild treasure, stepping across tree stumps and squelching through mud. Knobbly sticks found by an old tree leads to pirates on the high seas, wizardry and den-building.

We watch the group discover nature on the ground and up high in the trees, while learning how to respect and cherish the natural world. Our daughter's favourite scene is the book's last - when the children use the treasure they have gathered to make a wonderful picture of their friend, Goose.

Laura Wall's distinctive and bright palette fills every page, and her illustrations glow with an engaging and happy energy. There are several lovely details in the book, such as the almost ever-present squirrel, and the hiking boot that can be found on the edge of most pages, subtly reassuring young readers that there is a grown up looking out for the children (our four year old daughter was pleased to spot this).

As in the other Goose books, there is welcome diversity in the children featured. In another much-loved book from the series, 'Goose at the Beach', there is a wonderful depiction of how childhood friendships so easily transcend across nationality or spoken language, particularly when there is an enormous sandcastle to build!

  • Comments(0)//

A Hole Lot of Fun

May 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 09 May, 2017 08:49PM

Two of our favourite picturebooks are about what lies beneath our feet - specifically, what we might find down a hole in the ground. Where did the hole come from? Where does it lead? What might be living down there? What treasures might we find?

The Something (by Rebecca Cobb, published by MacMillan Children's Books) wondrous celebration of a child's imagination. This is a tale that starts when a ball doesn't bounce back - disappearing into a small hole besides a tree adorned by the green buds of Spring, in a boy's back garden. As the boy and his dog look down, we look up at them from the hole.

At first, the boy just waits and wonders. As the tree blooms into colour, the boy begins to ask others what they think might be down there. In the top half of the pages that follow, we see the boy, his family and his friends each taking a turn at guessing what might be below - and in the lower half of each page we see his imagination come to life - a mouse's house, a troll, a snoozing fox, even a dragon. In each scene, the boy's lost ball can be found.

As the pages turn, so do the leaves on the tree as autumn arrives, and finally the tree is bare. The boy is not upset that he doesn't have the answer - rather, he is "pleased that something has chosen our garden to live in".

Rebecca Cobb's beautiful and distinctive illustrations bring her first person narrative to life. There are charming and touching details to be discovered. When the boy's grandparents suggest that if something does live down there it is most likely a mole or a badger, the boy imagines the creatures knitting and doing the crossword - just like his Granny and Grandad are above ground. The diversity of the boy's friends is worth a particular mention.

We adore Rebecca Cobb's books and highly recommend others she's written and illustrated (including The Paper Dolls; Lunchtime; Aunt Amelia and There's an Owl in My Towel - all reviewed on our site).

In Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, published by Walker Books) we meet two determined diggers on a mission, who vow that they "won't stop digging until we find something spectacular".

Setting out with their spades into a barren field next to a farmhouse and a single apple tree, Sam and Dave begin to dig. Here we see clear looks of determination from the pair, and their dog. Their cat looks sceptical and watches from the porch step. Jon Klassen's use of 'side-eye' in his characters' faces is second to none for illustrating a huge range of emotions.

They begin to dig down, and then across, at each turn narrowly missing increasingly huge diamonds buried in the earth. They stop for a rest and animal biscuits. When they fall asleep, their dog digs a little further, and opens up a hole in the bottom of the page. They all fall, landing with a bump on the earth below. "That was pretty spectacular" they say. But are they home?

Mac Barnett's sparse narrative is perfectly matched to Klassen's deadpan illustrations. The minimalist style enables readers to focus in on details, and notice new aspects of the story on each reading - it wasn't until recently we realised that the dog is always trying in vain to indicate where the gems are buried.

If you are looking for more books featuring holes in the ground, check out these two (reviewed previously): A New House for Mouse by Petr Horacek; and Rabbityness by Jo Empson.

  • Comments(0)//

Little Reds

May 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 27 Apr, 2017 09:37PM
Like many classic nursery rhymes, fairy tales have an extraordinary ability to transcend generations, cultures and languages. Their plots are filled with mild (and often more than mild) peril. Perhaps one reason for their enduring popularity is that they give children, and the adults they read with, the opportunity to explore challenging themes from the comfort of a cosy bed or another safe space. Many of these fairly tales have a clear resolution, vindicate goodies over wronguns, and teach some helpful values along the way.

Little Red Riding Hood has survived in literature for at least a thousand years. Its origins can be traced back to several European folk tales from the 10th century, including an Italian version called 'La finta nonna' (The False Grandmother). It has inspired an array of interpretations for page and screen, including many in picturebook form. Below are three of our favourites.

Little Red Riding Hood by Anna Milbourne (words), Julia Sarda Portabella (illustrations) and Nicola Butler (design), published by Usborne

This is a hugely innovative delivery of a traditional retelling, brought to life through an extraordinary feat of paper engineering. From the front cover onwards, we can see through the story, with each cardboard page containing intricate cut-throughs to those that follow. Through the front cover, we can see a dark, thick forest as the journey begins. The books pace-setting words are matched perfectly with charming illustrations. With every turn, more of Little Red's near-three-dimensional world is revealed. Her red cape shines through the pages like a beacon, through the dark wood filled with rabbits, deer and squirrels. The big bad wolf is suitably creepy and sinister.

The book's unique selling points are accentuated by flaps and hidden turns, which add to the fun. Over the course of the book the reader can move through the forest, into grandma's house, and out again - in a way that is as close to animation as you can get in a picturebook. Illustrator Julia Sarda Portabella's beautiful pictures convey both a retro and Germanic feel, perhaps as a nod to the most famous version of this story - that of the Brothers Grimm in 1812.

Little Red by Bethan Woollvin, published by Two Hoots

The cover of this book sets a tone of subversion from the off. This isn't going to be a straightforward retelling. Black lines against a stark white backdrop, depicting a girl's fringe and side-eyes stare, are surrounded by a blood-red hood. The inside cover shows the girl, hands on hips, amidst a bleak forest - she is a Scandi-noir Little Red who is not in a mood to be messed with.

Asked to take some cake to her poorly grandma, she sets off, not looking too impressed by the prospect. The wolf, whose teeth literally fill the page, approaches her, and growls. We are told this "might have scared some little girls. But not this little girl". The wolf makes a plan, but so does Little Red.

We won't reveal the truly brilliant and shocking ending in this post. Let's just say that if I'd been drinking tea at the time of reading this book it might have been splurted across the room. It's no wonder this picturebook (Bethan Woollvin's debut) was chosen as one of The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2016.

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T Smith, published by Scholastic

Alex T Smith applies his brilliantly irreverent style to a transposition of Little Red to the Savannah - with an amusing narrative amid fabulous splashes of sumptuous colour. Her ruby-red dress is juxtaposed with the rich pinks and oranges of the African plains and skies, and the hungry wolf's (or in this case, lion's) bronze mane.

When Auntie Rosie calls for help - she is covered in spots - Little Red sets off to see her - with a basketful of medicine and fresh doughnuts. We follow her all the way, around warthogs and atop elephants. When she stops for a rest under a shady tree, the lion makes his move and forms his "very clever plan" - humorously depicted in the form of what appears to be an all-too-hastily-doodled step-by-step guide.

Rosie arrives at her Auntie's house and on entering her bedroom immediately sees her - locked in the cupboard - with the lion tucked up in bed. She decides to teach him a lesson (several in fact) including hair braiding, dental hygiene and fashion. The lion finally has enough of playing the role of Auntie, and can stay in character no longer. Happily, a deal is struck, doughnuts are consumed, and the lion's interest in eating aunties and girls vanishes, as do Auntie Rosie's spots.

If you like these, and are looking for more Little Reds, try:

Yummy by Lucy Cousins - a compendium of classic folk and fairy tales depicted through the author's famous primary colour palette (including Little Red).

Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy - where the wolf is worn down by the energy and persistence of a "threenager" Little Red.

  • Comments(0)//