Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Dragons: Our Four Fiery Favourites

June 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 21 Jun, 2017 10:12PM
Dragons have been part of folklore and literature for millennia, and remain as popular as ever in contemporary fiction. They can be found in many wonderful picturebooks, and below we highlight four of our favorites.

Knighthood for Beginners by Elys Dolan, published by Oxford University Press

For as long as there have been knights, there have been dragons. But has there ever been a dragon who has also been a knight?

In this chapter book from surrealist comic writer Elys Dolan we meet Dave, a small and not very green dragon, who's lack of dragony skill has led him to seek a new career as an armour-clad knight of the realm.

Equipped only with a copy of Knighthood for Beginners (given to him by his lovely librarian Aunt Maude), he sets off in search of the first key ingredient, a trusty steed. Or, in Dave's case, a rather smelly goat with a strong German accent called Albrecht.

Together, they take on the establishment, rioting peasants, unqualified clinicians and even Sir Knasty's axis of evil. Told at a rip-roaring pace alongside delightfully slapstick illustrations, its off-beat humour is at times laugh-out-loud for children and adults alike. Please can this be the first of many in a new series?

The Great Dragon Bake Off by Nicola O'Byrne, published by Bloomsbury

Some dragons just don't want to be the stereotype - they might seem like the perfect student to join the Ferocious Dragon Academy and look "especially enormous and terrifying", but Flamie Oliver just wants to bake.
He has a "passion for pastry" and takes no part in honing his "dastardly dragon skills". He's told he will fail his final exams unless he captures and eats a princess, but he and Princess Rosewater have another, far more tasty idea.

A perfect book to accompany a day of baking, the pages are filled with engaging illustrations that almost burst from the page, and the spreads of tasty treats look more than good enough to gobble.

The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight by Elli Woollard (words) and Benji Davies (illustrations), published by MacMillan

The book opens with a "Mappe of Hardbottom's and the Surrounding Lands", including The Mountains of Dread, the Perilous Peaks and the Impassable Pass. At the centre is Hardbottom's Academy, a formidable castle set in the Darkish wood.

On turning the page we see a small boy kitted out in miniature armour, trotting passed the school - an Academy for Young Knights - and a notice board informing us that tomorrow is its Sports Day and the chance to "Fight a Real Dragon".
Meanwhile, a young dragon (the smallest member of the Dragons of Dread) is told by his kin to leave the nest and prove himself by biting a "nibblesome knight" of his own. Caught out by a storm, little Dram splashes down into a lake, where the young boy-knight, James, has been duck-spotting.

James nurses Dram back to health, convinced he's an odd bird with a curious quack. The two become friends and as the day ends, James heads back to the castle as Dram falls asleep in the grounds. Dram wakes, wanders into a field and through some open gates, and finds himself in the midst of the dragon slaying contest - face to face with his friend.

As the dragon clan and the knights of the realm look set to come to blows, friendship wins the day. A sweet tale of overcoming difference and celebrating diversity, with pitch-perfect illustrations that capture a heraldic feel.

There is No Dragon in This Story by Lou Carter (words) and Deborah Allwright (illustrations), published by Bloomsbury

The newest entry to this scaly canon is a novel convergence of dragon lore and fairy tales. We're told by a 'reader' - whose dragon-like hands we can see holding up the story - that she was going to tell us a typical story (you know, where a knight rescues a princess who's been captured by a dragon), but that won't be possible as the dragon has "gone off in a huff".

The dragon is fed up of being the villain and wants to be a hero - and he sets off into the midst of other stories to try to save the day. The problem is, no one wants his help - despite their respective impending peril.

The gingerbread man, Little Red Riding hood, the three little pigs, and even jack as he climbs up the beanstalk all tell him "no, no, no! That's not how the story goes". Despondent, the dragon shuffles away. Events, however, take an unexpected turn, and the dragon gets his chance to shine (literally).

The engaging narrative cleverly breaks through the fourth wall and finds a new spin on traditional tales of old. The illustrations are pleasing on the eye and depict a delightful array of cartoon-like characters. A pair of night-scenes are particularly atmospheric. The book concludes with a trio of endings, which round off a highly satisfying adventure.

  • Comments(0)//

The Birthday Invitation

June 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 16 Jun, 2017 02:57PM

The Birthday Invitation by Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes, published by Bloomsbury

On a recent family holiday, we celebrated three birthdays for people ranging from age 1 to 63. Our girls marked each occasion with great excitement, helping to unwrap (other people's) presents, eating cake and singing raucous renditions of "happy birthday".

There are many lovely picturebooks about birthdays and birthday parties. Our favourite is a new story from the brilliant author/illustrator partnership of Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes.

This is a tale of a party invitation - dropped by a young girl who sets off to deliver them to her friends, caught on the breeze and found by an array of larger than life fairytale characters - including a wizard, a pirate crew, a princess and a knight.

The book starts with a teddy bear wearing a party hat and a puzzled face, sat by a hand written invitation. The opening spread of the title page is an incredible bird's eye view of the girl's quiet village, surrounded by a geography created in her imagination - a mountain with a white castle on top, a gingerbread house, a red aeroplane doing loop the loops and a pirate ship out at sea.

Laura Hughes' ink and paint illustrations are (as ever) bright, breezy and full of life. Her scenes follow the invitation's journey switching from ground level to high up in the sky - whether within the beak of a parrot, in the pilot's cockpit or atop a castle turret.

The pictures are perfectly matched to the rhythm of Lucy Rowland's engaging words, which tell the story with a light and lyrical rhyme that is fun to read and cleverly constructed.

Later, as the girl is preparing for her party she hears a KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK at the door. Unaware of the path of her invitation, she opens her door to quite a surprise! Pleasingly the book ends with the same teddy bear from the start, now sat in front of a delicious slice of cake.

  • Comments(0)//