Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Ellie's Magic Wellies

Poetry and rhymePosted by Max 25 Jul, 2017 08:59PM

Ellie's Magic Wellies
by Amy Sparkes (words) and Nick East (illustrations), published by Egmont

Wellies - the footwear of choice for many children - shiny, bendy and synonymous with messy play, a footwear permission slip to squelch in mud, kick through leaves or (best of all) jump in puddles. The saviours of boredom on a rainy day, wellies turn splashing into adventure.

Last weekend, our four year old chose a new pair. A deep-space blue with cosmic swirls and sparkly stars. She was thrilled, but nothing could have prepared her for what happened when she put them on and did her maiden jump in our back garden - they have LIGHTS! Blue flashes illuminated her soles - shimmering in the small pools of rain that dotted our patio.

We have recently been enjoying the fabulous 'Ellie's Magic Wellies', in which we meet a girl called Ellie Pengelly who is fed up of watching the rain. Her mum tells her she'a popping out to the dentist, and that auntie Flo is coming over to look after her.

Peacock feathers adorn Flo's purple hat, and she carries a handbag that commands "Give it wellie". Ellie knows this wet and dreary day is about to take an exciting turn. And Flo has a surprise gift for Ellie - a pair of golden, winged wellies - fit for a toddler Hermes.

But when Ellie leaps into a huge puddle she doesn't just produce a big splash - out jumps a small, purple creature in a woollen gingham suit and hat - a Flibberty Gibberty (who we think might have escaped from Amy Sparkes' Do Not Enter The Monster Zoo').

Together they set out on an alliterative adventure of messy play, told through a funny and smart rhyme. "Let's juggle with jam, jiggle with jelly...guzzle and gobble" exclaims the creature. They "hippetty-hopscotch" and "zippetty-zoom".

Nick East's marvellous illustrations fizz with energy and burst with colour, and we watch as the new pals turn the house upside down. Luckily, Ellie's wellies have another important magic power - the ability to help with tidying up, just in time for mum's return. It's time for the creature to go home too - but who knows? The next time Ellie splashes in the puddles, maybe the Flibberty Gibberty will bring some friends.

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The Birthday Invitation

Poetry and rhymePosted 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.

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Old MacDonald Heard a Parp

Poetry and rhymePosted by Max 21 Apr, 2017 08:00AM

Old MacDonald Heard a Parp by Olaf Falafel, published by Harper Collins

Toilet humour is probably the oldest form of comedy. Chaucer's medieval 'The Canterbury Tales' of 1400 is filled with jokes about bodily functions, while 'The Clouds', a 423BC play by the Ancient Greek writer Aristophanes finds the philosopher Socrates debating whether his friend's bowel movements are louder than thunder - complete with enthusiastic sound effects. According to there are 251 synonyms for "fart" - demonstrating this subject's enduring linguistic appeal.

A new entry to this cacophonous literary tradition is from comedian Olaf Falafel, in his absurdist take on the favourite children's song Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Here, an aurally attuned Old MacDonald "heard a parp" - and suspects his animals to be the culprits.

Accompanying each accused animal and their suspected gaseous emission are amusing instructions on how the reader should make each sound - with a "puck-er" here, and a "pop pop" there. Our 18 month old and her older sister took great delight in imitating this windbreaking wordery.

The one who dealt it is eventually revealed - not before an unexpected and mirth-making dream sequence involving unicorns, rainbows and Salvador Dali's melting clocks (from his painting 'The Persistence of Memory').

If you liked the smell of this, you would probably also enjoy:

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A Pair of Picturebook Cuddles

Poetry and rhymePosted by Max 28 Sep, 2016 08:29PM

Sometimes, we all need a hug – whether it's a grazed knee, a popped balloon, a dropped ice-cream, or those times when you're one and you just can't keep pace with your big three-and-a-half-year-old sister.

Picturebooks can be a great source of comfort, and we've featured many reassuring classics on this site. Our first review ever, 'I Love You Night and Day', was one of the first we read to our elder daughter when she was a newborn.

It remains a family favourite, joined now by two more by the same author, Smriti Prasadam-Halls, who's gentle ryhmes and soothing words are like a soft blanket fresh from the tumble dryer.

'I'll Never Let You Go' is in a way the sequel to 'I Love You Night and Day', beautifully delivered by the same author/illustrator partnership (with pictures by Alison Brown).

It features pairs of animals and birds (probably a parent and child but could also be siblings) experiencing life together. Most of the images are set against an autumnal backdrop, making this an ideal choice this month as the leaves start turning brown.

It begins with a scene of joy: “When you are happy, I hear you swoop and you soar, you LOVE everything”. From here the book addresses a range of other emotions, including sadness, excitement, uncertainty and fear, before concluding: “When you are high and when you are low, I'll be holding you tight and I'll never let go”.

In every scene the overarching themes of support, comfort and love are depicted in sweet, colourful yet calm acrylic and pencil illustrations.

The final spread is a lovely scene of all the pairs of creatures together, watching a firework display in the moonlight.

'Kiss It Better' (also by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated wonderfully through mixed media and a charming use of collage by Sarah Massini) is also a 'snuggle up with a blanket and cup of hot chocolate' kind-of-a-book.

Starting on its inside pages with a double page of whispy pink and white hearts, which go on to flow throughout the book, we join a family of bears whose scrapes and bumps mean they need lots of kisses.

We find out that there is a kiss for every occasion, accompanied in each case by a lovely image: “An I'm sorry kiss helps make amends. It whispers softly, “Can we be friends?””

While: “A see-you-soon-kiss says, “Ill miss you, too” and a go-to-sleep kiss shouts out, “MONSTERS, SHOO!””

A scene of the bear family's extended relations and friends, picnicking under a tree adorned by heart bunting to welcome a new cub, is one of our favourites. We also love the one of daddy bear returning home from work to their cave home to be greeted by his two little ones (which is the best bit of my day, too!).

'I'll Never Let You Go' by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Alison Brown, and 'Kiss It Better' by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Sarah Massini, are both published by Bloomsbury Children's Books.

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Rib-tickling Rhymers

Poetry and rhymePosted by Max 29 Jun, 2016 08:05AM

Many picturebooks have a story told through rhyme, which often adds a level of energy and song when read aloud. Some use rhyme to enhance the humour of the story or to add an element of dramatic suspense (for example where a couplet is not complete until the page has been turned). Below are three of our favourite rib-tickling rhymers.

Peck Peck Peck by Lucy Cousins, published by Walker Books

'Today my daddy said to me,
"It's time you learnt to peck a tree."'

As the sun rises a little woodpecker sets off from his nest to peck at everything he can find. He starts off in conventional fashion, pecking an actual hole through a tree, perfect for little fingers to reach into and use to turn the page.

The bird reaches a nearby fence and then a house:

"And now I'll peck this big blue door,
Then go inside and peck some more."

The little bird pecks his way inside, and through a culinary bounty including a nectarine, an aubergine, and seventeen jelly beans - the words of the book cleverly interwoven among the holes. As he makes his way through the house he finds more and more to peck, with a grand finale of 53 pecked holes through items in the laundry room.

After a long day, rather dizzy and with a frazzled beak, he returns to his proud daddy and gets tucked up warm and snug.

'Peck Peck Peck''s scattering of holes and bold primary colour illustrations, which fill each page with a level of detail that will delight, make it a strong contender to be 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' of our daughters' generation.

Doughnuts for a Dragon by Charlotte Guillain and Adam Guillain, illustrated by Lee Wildish, published by Egmont

We're big fans of George and his series of amazing adventures. We love a regular romp with George as he takes 'Treats for a T Rex', prepares 'Pizzas for Pirates' and gives 'Socks for Santa'. Probably our favourite is 'Doughnuts for Dragons', a melodic medieval marvel, which sees George transported back in time to a fairytale land of castles, knights and princesses.

George dreams of becoming a knight and taking on a dragon, and sets of on his intrepid quest. Armed only with doughy treats, he puts these to good use to avoid the threatening advances of ogres and witches, with more than a little help from a skilful slingshotting princess.

'"Yum" said the ogre, lifting George up, "I’ll have you for dinner tonight." "Don’t eat me," cried George, "Have these buns instead! 'Cause I’m seeking a dragon to fight."

As with the others in this terrific series, a pacy and amusing rhyme is accompanied by Lee Wildish's energetic and bold illustrations. The pages are filled with details and humour, which keeps each read (and there will be many!) fresh and fun.

Kitchen Disco
by Clare Foges and Al Murphy, published by Faber and Faber

Have you ever wondered what goes on in your fruit bowl at night when you're asleep? A very entertaining supposition is presented in this glitter-ball of a picturebook.

Set to a toe-tapping rhythm, we learn about DJ bananas, lemons breakdancing on the chopping board, and coconuts bubble-bathing in the washing up bowl. As the chorus chants:

"It's called the Kitchen Disco,
And everyone's invited.
So move your hips,
Shake your pips,
And let's get all excited."

The bright, near-neon illustrations are perfectly matched with descriptions of the frenetic fruity frolics. 'Kitchen Disco' is guaranteed to be met with giggles and dancing by our daughter.

Other superb and amusing rhymers that we've reviewed already include Dinosaur Roar; Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo; Hickory Dickory Dog; and Meet the Parents.

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