Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Moving House and New Homes in Picturebooks

Moving home and new startsPosted by Max 20 Jan, 2017 05:16PM

Moving house is a big deal for anyone, particularly young children. We moved a year ago, when our elder daughter was nearly three and our younger daughter only a few months old. Even though she prefers her new home, our nearly four year old does often talk about the "old house" and sometimes asks if we will ever go back. It helped that we only moved a few minutes from where we used to live, so her key points of reference (the park, the shops and her pre-school) remained the same.

Moving home is a significant theme in the picturebook canon, and there are some wonderful choices to help young children think through and adjust to the upheaval. Below are four of our favourites.


A New House for Mouse
by Petr Horacek, published by Walker Books

This tale of a hungry mouse seeking a new abode is one of our most read picturebooks, beautifully illustrated by Petr Horacek's distinctive and bold blocks of colour.

When a small mouse wakes up and leaves its hole to seek food, it comes across a big, juicy apple. But the mouse hole is just too small to get the apple through, so the journey begins to find a home that can accommodate her tasty prize. As we all know, looking for a new house is tiring and hungry work, and so the mouse takes a little bite each time a new place is considered.

Rabbit, badger and mole are all unable to accommodate the mouse and the apple, and she has second thoughts about asking bear to share its cave. Finally, after a long search, and with the apple not much more than a core, mouse comes across a small mouse hole that's just big enough to fit what is left of the apples. Fortunately mouse finds that this place with a familiar feel is empty, and ever so cosy.

This tale is all the more engaging thanks to its clever interactive element of page cut outs, which enable readers to see through the pages into each of the homes mouse visits. A New House for Mouse is a wonderful picturebook that truly conveys the meaning of "home sweet home".



My New Home by Marta Altes published by Macmillan Children's Books

This is an ideal choice for young children who had an established group of friends that they are leaving behind or who may be starting a new school because of a house move.

A young raccoon and its family moves across town to a new house, and is finding it all a bit scary and confusing. Everything is in boxes and nothing is familiar. The other animals aren't like the old friends and the raccoon feels sad and lonely. But with 'new' comes 'adventure' and, after some time has passed, the raccoon is happier.

Marta Altes' distinct and cute characters are perfectly matched to this tale of adjustment to new surroundings and new friendships (unusually told in the first person).




Little Home Bird by Jo Empson, published by Child's Play

Sensitive subjects have proved a speciality for Jo Empson. A wonderful book previously featured on our blog, 'Rabbitiness', movingly addresses the theme of loss and bereavement. In Little Home Bird she focuses on the subject of leaving a much loved home behind.

This beautiful tale of a bird who has to give up all it loves to find a new home, is a perfect choice to help young children who are having to move under difficult circumstances. It proves impossible to bring its favourite things along for the journey, but on reaching its destination little bird discovers replacements to make a new nest a happy home too.

This book would be a good choice for a child whose family is in two places and they are living between two homes, or when they are moving for more global reasons such as migration from another country.

Filled with light and bright with colour, Little Home Bird is also an incredible work of art in its own right and its sweet tale can be enjoyed on non-emotive levels too, including as a way to learn about the cyclical movements of birds.




Trouble Next Door by Chris Higgins, Illustrated by Emily Mackenzie, published by Bloomsbury Children's

Our elder daughter is taking a keen interest in illustrated chapter books and this tale of adventure, new friends and settling into a new house was very well received over the course of a few nights. Bella and her little brother Sid are adjusting to life in a new home, an old cottage in the countryside.

While their parents are busy unpacking and decorating, they explore, drawn towards a wooden door leading to the attic. Bella can hear scurrying sounds from the attic, which is above her bedroom ceiling. Her parents tell her not to go up there because it's dark and messy, but she thinks it must be a ghost.

When she befriends the confident and adventurous Magda, the two get into a few scrapes - resulting in broken crockery, chimney soot on the new carpet and a ghost hunt in the attic - all of which get Bella into trouble, while Magda seeks to get away with everything.

Nearly every page of text is accompanied by fun, engaging illustrations that successfully convey the mischief and capers of the story. The book ends well with Bella and Sid settling into their new home, and cheeky Magda learning the value of loyalty and honesty.



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Rabbityness

Moving home and new startsPosted by Max 17 Jan, 2016 05:05PM

Rabbityness by Jo Empson, published by Child’s Play

Our nearly three year old daughter loves rabbits. For her second birthday she asked for a Peter Rabbit themed party, which included a home-made Peter cake, a radish and carrot banner and Beatrix Potter character cupcakes. Her fondness for rabbits was furthered by visits to a nearby petting farm, where we’ve spent many hours feeding rabbits, rare breed chickens, muddy pigs, goats, hamsters and, when it’s in the mood, a grumpy llama.

One of her current favourite picturebooks is Jo Empson’s Rabbityness in which, amid an initially grey canvas, we meet Rabbit. We are told he enjoys doing 'rabbity' things, like sleeping, burrowing and hopping around in the two-tone world. But as we soon learn, from the pages filled with musical notes and splashes of bright purples, lime greens and vibrant fuchsias that follow, Rabbit loves to do 'unrabbity' things too – painting and making music.

She is amused as we see a huge trumpet-like instrument that Rabbit blows to produce his melodic cacophony. We then see Rabbit face on, smiling at us amid his latest creation. Our daughter likes to point out how Rabbit’s love of art has left him covered with paint, splattered over his cheeks and ears. Rabbit is loved. We read that ‘all the other rabbits caught his happiness’, and that ‘he filled the woods with colour and music’.

Suddenly, on a page that is stark and empty, devoid of movement and sound except for a few falling leaves, we learn that Rabbit has disappeared. “Oh no! Where’s he gone?” our daughter asks. The rabbits are sad and can’t find him anywhere. The woods turn ‘quiet and grey’, and a deep, dark hole appears, which we’re told is ‘all that Rabbit had left’.

Deep down in the hole, the other rabbits find he has left them some gifts: ‘Lots of things to make colour and music’. Inspired by their absent friend, the rabbits ‘filled the woods with colour and music once again’, with strings of art hanging between tree branches, adorning the wood in waves of colour like a grove of Nepalese prayer flags.

Rabbityness is a beautiful, unusual and impactful picturebook that weaves together several important themes: The value of individualism and originality; the benefits to oneself and others of stepping outside a comfort zone; and encouraging children to celebrate differences. It would also be a sensitive and ideal choice when a child has experienced loss (perhaps to be read alongside Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies, reviewed here).

Rabbityness was shortlisted for the 2013 Waterstones Children's Book Prize.



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Grandad's Island

Moving home and new startsPosted by Max 06 Aug, 2015 02:17PM
Grandad's Island by Benji Davies, published by Simon & Schuster

There is a line in Benji Davies' extraordinary new book that reads: "At every turn they saw new wonders". This is how we felt on reading Grandad's Island for the first time (in fact we were moved to tears), and how we have felt every time since.

Grandad's Island features Syd, a small boy who joins his Grandad on an adventure to a far away island. The story vividly and poignantly depicts the special bond between grandchild and grandparent (which we've happily observed develop between our daughter and our parents over her first two and a half years).

In a series of beautiful tableaux, we see Syd and his Grandad (who has forgone his walking stick and found a new lease of life) setting up camp, diving under a waterfall and painting above the rapids. It is a cacophony of colour, which seems to burst from the page with life, sounds, smells.

While Syd wishes he could stay forever, he seems to know when it's time for him to leave. At that moment, Grandad tells Syd that he's thinking of staying on the island and Syd knows this is goodbye. At this point we understand this has become a tale of the passing of a grandparent, and the book will serve as a source of great comfort for children (and their parents) under those circumstances. The appearance of the 'storm whale' and its mother in the ocean during Syd's return journey is perhaps indicative that life carries on, even at times of sadness and loss.

Benji Davies' characters to date have been centred on the adventures of small boys and their friends, fathers and grandfathers, and their male bonds are beautifully drawn. Yet our daughter has certainly connected with his characters - first Noi (Storm Whale), Shu (On Sudden Hill) and now Syd - and all of his books would be perfect choices for boys and girls.

We and our toddler were already big fans of Benji Davies' work: On Sudden Hill (written by Linda Sarah, reviewed on this site) and Storm Whale are among her her most requested books, and Grandad's Island is now up there with her prized favourites.


Author feedback: @Benji_Davies: thank you for the wonderful, thoughtful review - so pleased you like the book.

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