Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves


Seasons and naturePosted by Max 29 Feb, 2016 05:12PM

Rain by Manya Stojic, published by Pavillion

As our younger daughter approaches six months old, we and our three year old have enjoyed watching as she discovers the world around her - seeing new colours, feeling the wind in her hair, or tickling her toes on a blanket.

The five senses are the structure for Manya Stojic's wonderful debut picturebook 'Rain', which depicts the arrival of a monsoon in the hot and dusty Savannah.

The story begins with the dry, cracked ground, illustrated by broad terracotta brushstrokes and the words "It was hot". A porcupine is sniffing around the desert's barren expanse. Suddenly he smells it: Rain. He must tell the zebra.

Lightening bolts flash across the page and the zebra take flight. They can hear the rain, while the monkeys can see it and the rhinos can feel it. The lion purrs and declares that as well as all these sensations, this King of the jungle can taste it too.

The rain arrives and it truly pours, and the pages become awash with blues and greys. When it stops the animals all reflect on how they can no longer directly sense the rain, but they can benefit from its lasting effects - the shade of the leaves it helped grow, the squelch of the mud it helped cool, the quench of the rainwater now filling the lake.

The book ends after the rain has gone, disappearing as quickly as it arrived. It is soon hot again, and a tiny crack appears in the dried out mud.

Rain is a perfect choice for learning about the senses, and also conveys subtle but important messages about the preciousness of water and its impact on nature's delicate balance.

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Seasons and naturePosted by Max 03 Feb, 2016 08:26PM

Lionheart by Richard Collingridge, published by David Fickling Books

At a craft sale in our local park museum, our then one year old daughter chose as a treat a small, peach and white, knitted lion. Recently, thanks to Lionheart, the wondrous new picturebook from Richard Collingridge (author and illustrator of When it Snows, a book we've loved from our daughter's first months) our now three year old daughter has taught her "Lioney" to roar.

Learning to find our inner roar is the central theme of this stunning, cinematic triumph. When a small boy senses the presence of a monster in his bedroom, he runs, clutching his Lionheart cuddly toy. As he flees through the town, illuminated by the moon, he reaches its outskirts.

Then, in a scene reminiscent of the opening to Where the Wild Things Are, he wanders into grasses that grow thicker and taller. He emerges into a magical and mysterious forest. Believing the monster to be close by, he rushes to an opening, dropping his Lionheart. There, suddenly, he is surrounded - by a menagerie of creatures. They can sense the monster too, and they are afraid.

They all take flight, but the boy runs straight into "something, or someone" - a huge Lionheart, towering above the boy - majestic, strong, fearless and protective. Riding high, nestled in Lionheart's mane, they set off on thrilling adventures, leaping rocks, diving under water, and joining the animals to explore ancient ruins. But their fun cannot last - still they feel the imminent danger of the monster. Finally the boy, his Lionheart and the animals see the monster looming over them.

To reveal the book's ending here would spoil the impact of its extraordinary denouement, and we hope others will discover for themselves its final pages, among which is one of the most dramatic double page illustrations we've ever seen.

Despite (or perhaps because of) Lionheart's generous pinch of mild peril, our daughter requested a reading of it six days in a row - sometimes a few times each day. Equaling our love for Collingridges's 'When it Snows' will be a tough task, but Lionheart is quickly finding a place among our favourite reads.

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Apple Pigs

Seasons and naturePosted by Max 10 Nov, 2015 10:18PM

Apple Pigs by Ruth Orbach, published by The National Trust and Pavilion Books

When we moved to our house a few years ago, we inherited a very old apple tree at the end of the garden. Crooked and weather beaten, it didn't look very happy at all. Its branches were tangled with no sign of buds, let alone fruit.

We arranged for a tree surgeon to have a look, and he cut its branches back almost to the trunk. A year later, there was little sign of life, except for a few smaller branches developing from the stumps that remained.

The next spring, however, green shoots appeared, soon followed by a sprinkling of tiny apples. At the end of summer, a hundred or so apples hung from the tree. Apart from a couple of apple cakes and some apple sauce, most of the apples became windfall and were donated to as many relatives, friends and neighbours as would take them.

Each year since, the tree has produced more and more apples. This year was the largest crop yet - more than 200 apples - resulting in a flurry of apple chutney. Our daughter proved herself a very helpful windfall collector and enjoyed helping wash them and dispose of their peel.

Recently, just as the lawn has been cleared of the last apple of the year, we read Apple Pigs for the first time. Reprinted in 2015 by the National Trust and Pavilion Books, this delightful tale of apple abundance is available afresh to a new generation, nearly 40 years after its debut.

When a girl tends to an old apple tree in her garden, clearing its roots of rubbish and promising to look after it, the tree agrees to start producing its fruit once more. At first, the girl is pleased to benefit from its annual crop. But soon, she and her family can't bear to eat another apple: "apples for dinner, apples for tea - too many apples, we all agreed".

As more and more apples appear, they are increasingly at a loss at what to do with all this fruit and where to keep it: "We packed them in baskets, in boxes, in trunks. We stuffed them in cupboards and up in the bunks". Even their bath, sink, grand piano and pram are filled with them, yet the tree gives more and more.

When there is simply nowhere else to store them, the family decides to hold an Apple Feast and invite not just the neighbours but a local menagerie of birds and beasts too - with dancing, songs and, of course, apples (in every form!): "Apple fritters, apple-ade, apple custard father made. Apple strudel, apples dried, apple pigs were mother's pride".

Many of the guests, such as the hippos, giraffes, camels and elephants, are too big to get into the house and have to eat outside, while in the house bears, monkeys, goats and mice enjoy everything an apple has to offer: "Some ate cores, some ate peelings, some ate apples from the ceiling".

As well as being fun to read aloud, Apple Pigs is also a great choice for helping children connect their everyday lives with nature, build an appreciation for the value of food, and learn about how apples grow. Told with a gentle rhyme alongside sparse yet pleasing illustrations, doused in Royal Gala red, this is a joyful tale of apples and the sweetness of sharing with others.

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Stanley the Farmer

Seasons and naturePosted by Max 28 Sep, 2015 08:50PM

Stanley the Farmer by William Bee, Published by Jonathan Cape (Random House)

Not far from where we live is a small petting farm that specialises in hands on activities for the under 5s. Toddlers are encouraged to wander around, feed carrot cubes to rabbits, and scatter seeds for happy chickens. There are mini John Deeres to ride and an old tractor to climb on. Next to a picnic area is a grumpy llama, of which our daughter does a masterful impression.

The first time we went there our daughter was particularly excited as she had just been given a copy of Stanley the farmer, one of a series of Stanley books by William Bee. These books are highly distinctive, colourful and wholesome, with an array of cute characters led by Stanley the hamster, a most diligent protagonist.

In each, our daughter loves spotting and naming great displays of objects associated with the book's title. Here, Stanley the farmer begins with a wonderful double page spread of rural accoutrement (another favourite, Stanley's Cafe, showcases culinary cornucopia from a 1960s-style diner).

This book follows Stanley through a working day on the farm, including spreading manure, sowing crops and bailing hay. He has help from friends, including Shamus the shrew and his small shrew child - Little Woo - one of our daughter's most adored picturebook characters.

After a long day Stanley has dinner, a bath and is last seen tucked up in bed, making this an ideal choice to read as part of a bedtime routine.

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WOW! Said the Owl

Seasons and naturePosted by Max 14 Sep, 2015 08:39AM

WOW! Said the Owl, by Tim Hopgood, published by MacMillan Children's Books

When our daughter was about 14 months old, we took her on her first visit to the Lake District. One gloriously sunny day, the sky was full of colour and the trees of spring were at their most green. It was the kind of Cumbrian day that makes up for the grey mizzle that is equally prevalent.

We decided to take a ferry ride around Lake Windermere, which stops at various points along the way, including the nouveau Wray Castle, built on a hill with wonderful views, making it a lovely picnic spot. As we enjoyed our lunch, our daughter looked out at the water sparkling in the sunlight and the fells shimmering in the haze, and declared: "Nature!"

Tim Hopgood's 'WOW! Said the Owl' is a gorgeous celebration of nature at its most vibrant. When a little owl over-sleeps through the night, she wakes to a new world of light and colour, with the rising glow of the morning sun - "WOW! Said the owl".

As the little owl's day goes on, there are new wonders to behold: The bluest of skies and the yellowest sun. At each new visage we all join in with the little owl's astonishment and repeat: "WOW! Said the owl". When the clouds arrive the little owl sees the most wondrous vision yet - a rainbow! Our daughter loves this page, and it's fun to name all the colours together.

As the sun sets, and dusk arrives, the little owl reflects on his awe-inspiring day. Slowly, as the stars begin to appear, the little owl remembers why owls sleep during the day and awake when it's dark - for a clear, starry, moonlit sky is the most beautiful sight of all.

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