Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Four Fabulously Interactive Board Books

Interactive favouritesPosted by Max 02 Jul, 2017 09:12PM

As our younger daughter nears her second birthday, she's become increasingly enthralled by the wonder of books. Her current favourites include four board books that are fabulously interactive and engage her hands, ears and eyes.


We're Going On a Bear Hunt
by Michael Rosen (words) and Helen Oxenbury (illustrations), published by Walker Books


A few months ago, when our nearly two year old became quite obsessed with 'Bear Hunt' we decided to order it in board book form to preserve our original copy.

This more robust version is a perfect size for little hands, and still big enough for Helen Oxenbury's beautiful whimsical illustrations to be appreciated. Her swishy swashy grass seems to actually sway in the gentle breeze. You can almost feel and hear the squelching mud.

And the words! They are enticing, addictive, immersive and fun. Who can resist joining in with the "Hoooo Woooo's" of the swirling whirling snowstorm? Or doing the actions of stumble trip. Both our daughters mastered "uh oh" and "oh no!" at a very young age thanks to Michael Rosen and Bear Hunt.

Earlier this year, we were reading this book more than 10 times a day for many days running. We are grateful to a wonderful film of Michael Rosen reading his story aloud, which several times saved our nearly-lost voices.



Touch and Explore Pets
by Geraldine Krasinski (words) and Xavier Deneux (illustrations), published by Twirl Books (Abrams & Chronicle)


This pet edition of the highly tactile series is adorable and a sheer delight. We meet an array of homely animals, with fun and amusing facts alongside cute, stroke-able and fur-covered illustrations.

Each spread includes four inviting windows of information, one of which opens out as a flap to reveal extra insights into each pet. The combination of fun facts and hands-on elements makes it a great book to engage both our daughters (aged 1 and 4).

The pages are hard-wearing and the words are in a clear, friendly font. A final spread of more unusual potential pets includes further opportunities for textural discovery.



Rabbit's Nap
by Julia Donaldson (words) and Axel Scheffler (illustrations), published by Macmillan Children's Books


This title in the Acorn Wood series is one of our younger daughters most read board books. "Babbit", she calls (which is also her name for her much adored bunny comforter) and "again" she demands, as the final page is read.

The magical combination of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is internationally acclaimed, and this book is no exception. Here their words and pictures alchemy tells the story of a tired Rabbit who simply wants somewhere to sleep. No matter where she goes, a neighbour is making noise - from a builder bear to a wood-chopping fox.

Filled with delightful details (such as carrot curtains) and told with a gentle rhyme, the story is enhanced by clever flaps that reveal each of the noise-makers in turn.


Hush... Little Bear Is Sleeping by Surya Sajnani, published by Wee Gallery (Quato Group)


From a very young age our daughter greatly enjoyed the series of boardbooks from Wee Gallery. This is a stylish, sleek, minimalist book, with simple text and drawings in predominantly white and black with a dash of one other colour (in this case blue).

The pages present a cwtch of nocturnal animals, whose miaow, bark, cricket and twit two are keeping little bear awake. They are brought to life in a second dimension through sound buttons, which enable children and their tiny fingers to hear the animals making their nighttime noises.

This book, and the series of which it is a part, is a sure winner with very young readers. As well as enjoying for yourselves, all of these Wee Gallery books also make a lovely and unusual gift.



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Interactive Books of the Year

Interactive favouritesPosted by Max 08 Dec, 2016 08:06PM

This year, we've enjoyed many wonderful books with our daughters, including several that have been brilliantly interactive. They combine beautiful illustrations and engaging stories with technically creative use of flaps, levers, pulls and going beyond the 'fourth wall'. Below is a selection of our favourites, all reviewed in 2016.


Mungo Monkey Goes On a Train by Lydia Monks, published by Egmont

This is the story is of Mungo and his sister Mimi on a day-trip with their granny and grandad. The pages are full of bright colours and charming details, with a bounty of page flaps that cleverly add to the fun. Our favourite scenes include the dark tunnel where four flaps reveal the creepy crawlies hiding in the dark; the triple fold flap that flips up three times to incrementally take the train "up", "up", "up" the hill; and storefront of the shop at the top of the hill that lifts up to reveal its wonderful wares, including ice creams, souvenirs and outdoor toys.

With a superb combination of an easy read narrative, highly engaging illustrations and clever page flaps, this is a delight to read for all involved. It also offers a lovely depiction of a grandparents and grandchildren relationship.


A Case of Good Manners Published by Sweet Cherry

This is a wonderful collection of 12 bite sized books about manners, brilliantly packaged inside a robust, illustrated, child-size carry case. It's contents are entertaining for babies and older toddlers alike - our 9 month old and three and a half year old daughters recently spent a very happy afternoon together, interacting with the Case and all it has to offer.

Delightful illustrations depict scenes of adult and child animals demonstrating the worth and importance of 'good manners', 'good habits' and 'getting on with others' (with each book addressing a single theme such as kindness, sharing, taking turns and listening). The books also work well as a group in a literal way, with their back covers each forming part of a 12 piece jigsaw.


I Wish I Were a Pirate by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (words) and Sarah Ward (illustrations), published by Bloomsbury

This has been hugely enjoyed by both our daughters. It is highly tactile, with strongly made interactive elements on every page, including their front covers (from a rotating ship's wheel, to pirates that you can tip into the sea with the flick of a finger as they walk the plank).

A gentle rhyme accompanies highly appealing illustrations depicting children engaged and happy in make believe play as pirates, with boys AND girls represented. Our elder daughter also enjoyed reenacting many of the books' lively scenes.


There's an Owl in My Towel by Julia Donaldson (words) and Rebecca Cobb (illustration), published by Macmillan Kids


Here, the author/illustrator dream team of Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb are reunited in a new boardbook for younger readers. Julia Donaldson's trademark light-hearted rhymes, here describing amusing situations that make us and our elder daughter smile (including 'a mole in my bowl', 'a hare in my chair' and 'a lamb in my pram') are perfectly matched by Rebecca Cobb's beautiful illustrations of small children faced by these animal antics.

Interaction comes from the clever use of flaps to reveal a gentle riposte to the animals' behaviour (such as 'fly away owl', 'run away mole' and 'skip away lamb'), and a memorable song version of the book available to watch here, performed by Julia herself. A final scene of cosy sleep, and the comfort of a teddy in bed, draws the book to a soothing close.


This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne, published by Oxford University Press

When Bella takes her dog for a walk across the book's opening pages, "something very odd happened". We see her dog's front half vanish into the book's gutter, and then the rest of him, with Bella left tugging on his lead. Soon other people and vehicles disappear into the book's middle, and even Bella follows. We all have help Bella by to turning, shaking and speaking to the book to get the characters back.

Our daughter loves the interactivity of this laugh out loud tale. She is intrigued by the idea of a book that can consume its protagonists, who actively acknowledge their existence inside a picturebook, and by the concept of another world within the book from where a letter can be sent to her. We love Richard Byrne's expressive characters, who are cute but not cutesy, and beanie-wearing Bella's can-do attitude to dealing with a crisis.


Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle, published by Chronicle Books

The third 'Flora' book from Molly Idle, all of which have featured birds, this is a tale of friendship and rivalry, told through the spirit of dance in lavish emerald and turquoise. Two peacocks, green with envy, vie for attention from a girl with an ornamental fan, each displaying their plumage in an effort to outbid the other.

A clever use of lifting flaps literally provides the twists and turns to a wordless yet fully engaging story (including a magnificent fold-out double page). Compromise wins the day and provides a satisfying, happy ending.


Baby Gym series published by Child's Play

This charming and engaging quartet of board books is perfect for hands on play with your baby, with each book designed to suit a variety of times in a baby's day, including active play of fun and games, and soothing time to encourage sleep. Each book contains five spreads featuring a baby enjoying a different movement or interaction with their adult. The pictures are accompanied by lyrics, songs and helpful tips and information on how to support a baby's visual, aural and physical development.

Bounce & Jiggle and Wiggle & Move contain between them 10 rhymes, songs and poems matched with instructions on how to enjoy physical interaction and rhythm. Touch & Tickle has 5 great ideas based on baby massage techniques, while Calm & Soothe focuses on touch aimed at encouraging relaxation, good digestion and wind down. A lovely aspect of the illustrations is the diversity of babies (all kitted out in adorable baby grows) and their adults, including scenes of twins. Our elder daughter loves to listen to the songs, and regularly joins in while we engage our baby in the likes of "this is the way the ladies ride", "criss-cross apple sauce" and "hush little baby".



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Brilliantly Interactive Boardbooks

Interactive favouritesPosted by Max 12 Jul, 2016 10:04AM

As our younger daughter approaches 10 months we are seeing the world appear before her eyes. As with our elder daughter when she was a similar age, books are increasingly an important part of her life. There are many wonderful board books designed for the littlest of fingers and thumbs, and resistant to newly emerged tiny chompers. Below is a selection of our current favourites.


A Case of Good Manners Published by Sweet Cherry

This is a wonderful collection of 12 bite sized books about manners, brilliantly packaged inside a robust, illustrated, child-size carry case. It's contents are entertaining for babies and older toddlers alike - our 9 month old and three and a half year old daughters recently spent a very happy afternoon together, interacting with the Case and all it has to offer.

Delightful illustrations depict scenes of adult and child animals demonstrating the worth and importance of 'good manners', 'good habits' and 'getting on with others' (with each book addressing a single theme such as kindness, sharing, taking turns and listening). The books also work well as a group in a literal way, with their back covers each forming part of a 12 piece jigsaw.



I Wish I Were a Pirate/I Wish I Were a Princess by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (words) and Sarah Ward (illustrations), published by Bloomsbury

This perfect pair has been hugely enjoyed by both our daughters. The books are both highly tactile, with strongly made interactive elements on every page, including their front covers (from a rotating ship's wheel, to pirates that you can tip into the sea with the flick of a finger as they walk the plank, to a princess who gives a royal wave and changes outfits at the turn of a dial).

A gentle rhyme accompanies highly appealing illustrations depicting children engaged and happy in make believe play as pirates and princesses respectively, with boys AND girls represented in each book. Our elder daughter also enjoyed reenacting many of the books' lively scenes.





Baby Gym series published by Child's Play

This charming and engaging quartet of board books is perfect for hands on play with your baby, with each book designed to suit a variety of times in a baby's day, including active play of fun and games, and soothing time to encourage sleep.

Each book contains five spreads featuring a baby enjoying a different movement or interaction with their adult. The pictures are accompanied by lyrics, songs and helpful tips and information on how to support a baby's visual, aural and physical development.

Bounce & Jiggle and Wiggle & Move contain between them 10 rhymes, songs and poems matched with instructions on how to enjoy physical interaction and rhythm. Touch & Tickle has 5 great ideas based on baby massage techniques, while Calm & Soothe focuses on touch aimed at encouraging relaxation, good digestion and wind down.

A lovely aspect of the illustrations is the diversity of babies (all kitted out in adorable baby grows) and their adults, including scenes of twins. Our elder daughter loves to listen to the songs, and regularly joins in while we engage our baby in the likes of "this is the way the ladies ride", "criss-cross apple sauce" and "hush little baby".




There's an Owl in My Towel by Julia Donaldson (words) and Rebecca Cobb (illustration), published by Macmillan Kids

Our fourth ever review, back in June 2015, was of the wondrous The Paper Dolls, which remains one of our favourite picturebooks. Here the author/illustrator dream team of Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb are reunited in a new boardbook for younger readers.

Julia Donaldson's trademark light-hearted rhymes, here describing amusing situations that make us and our elder daughter smile (including 'a mole in my bowl', 'a hare in my chair' and 'a lamb in my pram') are perfectly matched by Rebecca Cobb's beautiful illustrations of small children faced by these animal antics.

Interaction comes from the clever use of flaps to reveal a gentle riposte to the animals' behaviour (such as 'fly away owl', 'run away mole' and 'skip away lamb'), and a memorable song version of the book available to watch here, performed by Julia herself.

A final scene of cosy sleep, and the comfort of a teddy in bed, draws the book to a soothing close.



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When Picturebooks Break Through the Fourth Wall

Interactive favouritesPosted by Max 21 Jun, 2016 10:21AM

Some of the most memorable picturebooks are those with characters that interact directly with their readers by 'breaking through the fourth wall'. A superb list of books from this genre has been collated on the Good Reads website. Below we review two of our favourites, published 43 years apart.

The Monster at the End of This Book written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Mike Smollin, published by Random House Children's Books (1971)

As a child, this was one of my favourites, and I've taken great delight in reading my tattered childhood copy with our elder daughter. First published in 1971, it is considered a modern classic in children's literature.

The book begins with loveable, scrawny and usually afeared Grover, who has noticed the title of this book, which he is within and we are reading. He urges us not to turn the page as this will only result in us all getting closer to the monster that awaits.

With the inevitable turn of each page that follows, Grover becomes more desperate in both his pleas for us to halt and in his attempts to prevent us from doing so - nailing wooden planks across the page, building a brick wall, using a metal door. As we reach the final page turn, Grover makes one last futile attempt to persuade us to avoid disaster, before the funny and heartwarming reveal.

Wonderfully illustrated, the book's genius is that it explores the concepts of fear and anxiety while placing total control of events with the reader, and ultimately demonstrating that these valid emotions were unfounded. It remains Sesame Street's best selling book and is frequently featured by American teaching professionals' in their top ten lists of modern children's classics.

This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne, published by Oxford University Press

When Bella takes her dog for a walk across the book's opening pages, "something very odd happened". We see her dog's front half vanish into the book's gutter, and then the rest of him, with Bella left tugging on his lead.

When her friend Ben arrives with a yellow balloon she tells him "this book just ate my dog!" Intrigued, he approaches and promptly disappears, his balloon left floating away. Vehicles of various kinds arrive to help, sirens blaring, before they too speed out of sight. "Things were getting ridiculous" we are told, and Bella decides to take matters into her own hands. Boldly, she strides into the book's ether.

After a loud "burp" from between the pages, a silence descends and "some time later" a hand written note appears, penned by Bella, politely asking the reader to help rescue her and the others, along with instructions on how to do so - turning the book on its side and shaking it up and down with vigour will do the trick (we find that tapping, blowing and jiggling the book also helps).

We rotate the book and from the pages fall Bella, the emergency service vehicles, Ben and her dog. Normality at first appears to have been restored, but on closer inspection we can see Bella's dog has a new logistical problem!

Our daughter loves the interactivity of this laugh out loud tale. She is intrigued by the idea of a book that can consume its protagonists, who actively acknowledge their existence inside a picturebook, and by the concept of another world within the book from where a letter can be sent to her. We love Richard Byrne's expressive characters, who are cute but not cutesy, and beanie-wearing Bella's can-do attitude to dealing with a crisis.

This Book Just Ate My Dog! was shortlisted for the UKLA 2016 Book Award in the 3 - 6 year old category.



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Animal Opposites

Interactive favouritesPosted by Max 29 Jun, 2015 07:06PM

Animal Opposites
, by Petr Horacek, published by Walker Books

This is a pop up book of antithetical creatures big and small, fast and slow, quiet and loud. It's a marvel of paper engineering and beautiful illustration. Petr Horacek brilliantly captures the essence of the adjectives assigned to his creations, and the pop-ups are ingeniously crafted to add visually impressive movement.

Our favourites include the strong gorilla doing push ups, the colourful peacock whose feathers open out to a magnificent plume, and a fast cheetah that launches across from one side of the page to the other.

It's a great book for helping young children get to know the names of animals, a selection of words to describe them, and an understanding of how to compare one with another, in a way that's fun and dynamic.

In the final pairing, a small ladybird is placed alongside a big elephant - the latter unfolding from the size of a single page to a magnificent four page poster - an ending that is always met with a great reaction from our toddler.

With thanks to Petr Horacek for allowing the use of his cover image with this review. Puffin Peter, another favourite of ours by the same author, will be reviewed soon.

Feedback from the author: @PHoracek said: "Thanks for reviewing the book so nicely and really glad you like it"

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