Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Solomon and Mortimer

FriendshipPosted by Max 13 May, 2016 04:07PM

Solomon and Mortimer by Catherine Rayner, published by Macmillan Children's Books

If you were looking for fun in the Savannah, would you sneak up on the biggest hippo in the river? Solomon the crocodile is back, this time with twice the splash, as he is joined by his new best friend, Mortimer.

'Solomon and Mortimer' is (Kate Greenaway Medal winner) Catherine Rayner's terrific follow up to her brilliant 'Solomon Crocodile' (previously reviewed here), which ended with the promise of "double trouble".

This sequel is a tale of pranks, pelicans and peer pressure. Bored with their failed attempts to fly, look for lizards and climb trees, they spot hippo, the largest creature in the river and hatch a plan to creep up and scare him. Others see what they're up to and try to warn them off, to no avail. But surely they should heed the wiggle of the hippo's ear, the twitch of his tail and the turn of his eye?

The jungle river and its hubbub menagerie is the perfect backdrop for Rayner's glorious watercolours, which burst with life and light. Solomon and Mortimer's ill-advised adventures are first and foremost great fun and lovely to look at.

Yet the book can also serve as an ideal choice for teachers and parents as a prompt for discussions with young children about risk-taking, making choices, heeding advice and understanding consequences.

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The Odd Egg

FriendshipPosted by Max 23 Feb, 2016 08:51PM

The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett, published by Macmillan Children's

At our eldest daughter's third birthday party this weekend, we had a dinosaur themed pass the parcel. Contained within each layer of wrapping was a small brontosaurus, pterodactyl and triceratops.

The final prize, won (of course) by the birthday girl, was a 'dinosaur egg', from which, when left overnight in a bowl of water, emerged a large sponge tyrannosaurus Rex.

So it seemed particularly fitting to enjoy a reading tonight of Emily Gravett's marvellous modern classic, The Odd Egg.

Depicted through her distinctive pastel watercolour and pencil illustration, and a clever use of flaps for dramatic effect, we follow the travails of duck, the only bird in the book who hasn't laid an egg.

While owl, flamingo, robin, chicken and parrot look on at their clutch with pride, duck is alone. When he (yes he) finds an enormous egg covered with green spots, he thinks it's the most beautiful he's ever seen.

In the face of the others' taunts and ridicule, he nurtures his huge egg. After all, their insults are merely water off his back.

When all the other eggs hatch, duck starts to wonder if his ever will, and he settles down to knit a long, woolly scarf while he waits.



The ending is a joyful surprise, not to be given away here. The other birds certainly learn their lesson for their meanness, and duck and his hatchling waddle off happily together.

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Where Bear?

FriendshipPosted by Max 14 Feb, 2016 04:53PM

Where Bear?
by Sophy Henn published by Puffin

In recent weeks, having just moved house, and as our older daughter turns three, books with themes of home and growing up have had particular resonance.

Where Bear?, Sophy Henn's marvelous and visually distinct debut, has become a perfect choice, especially suited to a variety of times of change.

Bear and the boy have been friends since they were both little. Now they've grown up and bear is too big and bearish to live in the boy's house any more. So begins the search for bear's new home. Although both of them agree that bear needs to find a new home, their search seems futile - bear isn't happy with any of the boy's ideas.

Would bear like to live in a toy shop? There are bears there. No says bear. "Then where, bear?" What about the circus, the jungle, a cave? None of these is suitable. We all enjoy the rhythm of the tale, echoing the boy's response to the bear's reluctance "where bear?"

Then, while enjoying an ice lolly, the pair realise that bear likes the cold. What about the Arctic? At last, bear is happy and the boy is happy. Boy goes home, and the two speak on the phone, growing up through the years.

We see them older now, and bear now has a family of his own. They agree to meet again and go somewhere. "But where, bear?" A clue to their destination is revealed in a charming final page.

With its gentle exploration of what home is, finding one's place and growing up, this is a great big bear hug of a book, content rich and perfectly matched by warm, matte illustrations.

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Monkey and the Little One

FriendshipPosted by Max 12 Nov, 2015 07:32PM

Monkey key and the Little One by Claire Alexander, published by Egmont Books

Before the arrival of our second daughter we often wondered how our older daughter (who is just over two and a half) would respond to the arrival of a sibling. It's now seven weeks since our youngest arrived and, to our great relief and delight, so far so good.

Inevitably, there have been a few moments when our oldest's enthusiasm and usual sweet response to her new sister have been tested. As well as reassurance, cuddles and extra attention, picturebooks have played an important role in helping her adjust to this momentous change in her and our lives.

We've written already about the books that we read with her to help prepare her for our new baby. Since her birth, other books that centre on new arrivals and sibling relationships have also played a role. Of these, a favourite is Monkey and the Little One, a tale of initially unrequited affection, about two creatures who struggle to speak each other's language.

Monkey is happy - whether reading quietly alone, swimming in the tranquil lake, or relaxing in a hammock. From nowhere, a mouse appears. This Little One gets in the way, copies what monkey does, and interrupts the routine. Monkey asks the mouse to leave. The mouse doesn't seem to understand, and instead continues to impose, even keeping Monkey awake all night with 'loud music'. The mouse tries to make amends with a flower and a jam sandwich, but Monkey shouts at the Little One to GO AWAY! The mouse understands and without a word it leaves.

Monkey returns to his routine, but "somehow it didn't seem the same anymore". He realises he'd kind of enjoyed mouse's company and resolves to find her. After searching far and wide he traces her to the field of flowers and they share a jam sandwich together. In fact, they realise they have a lot in common and enjoy each other's company. In a final illustration, we see them sheltering and holding hands in the rain, smiles on their faces, as they keep dry together.

This is a tender picturebook whose messages are as gentle and sweet as its illustrations. It's an ideal choice for reading to a young child when a new sibling arrives, or when significant change has come into their lives. It's an additional bonus that our daughter's nickname for her baby sister is Little One.

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Hooray for Hat!

FriendshipPosted by Max 04 Oct, 2015 04:49PM

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won, published by Andersen Press

In the words of our daughter, Hooray for Hat is a book that is "grumpy, so sad and then all friends and happy."

Brian Won's colourful and vibrant illustrations depict this tale of sharing and friendship, where a surprise hat in a box helps to turn any frown upside down.

It begins when elephant wakes up in a grump, cleverly expressed with fierce downward eyebrows and a dark scribble above his head. The doorbell rings and he stomps downstairs shouting "Go away, I'm grumpy!" Yet on opening the door he finds a large box wrapped in a huge red ribbon - an instantly irresistible curiosity.

As we turn the page we're met with a double page spread of the now-beaming elephant, adorned with his gift - a multi-level hat extraordinaire. "Hooray for Hat!" we all sing together.

Now in a happy mood, he wants to show his friends. However, he finds that each of them, in turn, wants him to "Go away, I'm grumpy!" - that is until he shares with them a piece of his hat to wear: "Hooray for Hat!"

Our daughter enjoyed this book from her very first read - it's told with simple language and a clear narrative, perfectly matched by a bright colour palette and highly expressive animals.

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