Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Revisiting Old Favourites

Cooking and eatingPosted by Max 22 Nov, 2017 10:25AM

It is a particular pleasure to revisit our own favourite childhood reads with our daughters, and these two have certainly stood the test of time.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch by Ronda and David Armitage, published by Scholastic

We were delighted to find this treasure in our local library. First published in 1977, forty years later it remains a firm family favourite.

It is the tale of Mr Grinling, the dedicated lighthouse keeper; his wife, amazing concoctor of delicious lunches; and their battle against three determined seagulls, Tom, Fred and Bert. Mrs Grinling lovingly made tasty packed lunches everyday for Mr Grinling and delivered them (thrillingly) via a basket clipped on to a wire connecting their cottage with the lighthouse out at sea.

This happy existence is interrupted one day by some pesky seagulls who tuck into that day’s tasty morsels: seafood salad, sausages and crisps, peach surprise and iced sea biscuits. Lucky seagulls.
Mr and Mrs Grinling set about making a plan to foil the seagulls and after a few failed attempts (including the reluctant involvement of Hamish, their cat who “didn’t like flying” with the lunch basket), the seagulls are chased off. Mr Grinling happily resumes his luxurious lunches, at the expense of an unlucky fisherman.

This whimsical and taste bud enticing tale is charmingly depicted in watercolour illustrations, showing the beautiful colours of the ocean, dark and imposing cliffs and sun streaked sky above.

Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy, published by Walker Books

This ageless classic by Jill Murphy, author-illustrator of the bestselling The Worst Witch series, was first published in 1986, celebrating its 30th anniversary last year.

The story follows Mrs Large’s desperate quest for a bit of “me time”. Mrs Large is the somewhat harassed elephant mother to three boisterous young elephants and she’s definitely a character to whom most parents will no doubt relate. We join the family at breakfast, a particular chaotic and rowdy scene.

Mrs Large looks weary and begins to prepare herself a tempting breakfast tray to enjoy in the bath. She tries to sneak off, but before she can make her happy escape the children demand to know where she is going and why. Mrs Large explains that she needs “five minutes peace from you lot” and implores the children to entertain themselves.

The next scene is one from all parents dreams: Mrs Large (resplendent in her bright bath-hat) luxuriating in a deep bubble bath: “It was heaven”! However, all too quickly the peace is shattered by visits from each child, wanting to display their recorder or reading skills or simply to jump right in the bath.

Eventually Mrs Large gives up on her bath (now full of children and toys), and heads back down to the kitchen, still hoping for her elusive five minutes peace. In the end she has to settle for a measly “three minutes and forty-five seconds” of tranquility before the mayhem resumes.

The illustrations are colourful and detailed, making this a charming classic that can be enjoyed time after time.

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Can I Eat That?

Cooking and eatingPosted by Max 29 Oct, 2016 08:36PM

Can I Eat That? by Joshua David Stein, illustrated by Julia Rothman, published by Phaidon

Our now three and a half year old daughter has always been keen to try new food. She has some unusual favourites too - she adored olives at a very young age, is a tomato fiend, and now has a penchant for aubergine. Her little sister has just turned one and already has half a mouthful of teeth. As she starts to try new flavours and textures, both of them are curious to know - what's for eating and where is it from.

'Can I Eat That?' is a picturebook worthy of a Michelin star - with its big dollop of laughs, its generous dash of surrealism, and its eye-candy illustrative filling. A culinarily curious child will revel in the questions posed on the books pages such as "If I can eat jelly...and I eat fish...can I eat jellyfish?!" The delightfully surprising answer of "Actually, you can!" is accompanied by an informative explanation and tasty demonstration.

Fun is also had with plays-on-words - "If there is ketchUP is there...ketchDOWN?"

There is visual humour too, such as the image of a tiny green oval against a shocking pink backdrop, accompanied by the question "Is this a faraway lime or a life-sized pea?"

There's also a pretty good explanation to that most philosophical of eatery enigmas - the respective origins of chickens and eggs.

The pictures throughout are a feast for the eyes - seasoned with a distinctively pop-art flavour (with nods to Warhol's soup and Lichtenstein's backdrops). Possibly our favourite page is the final one, with the heading "Can I Eat?" - presenting a smorgasbord of linguistic tapas, from "two cans of soup" to "toucans", from an "eclair" to a "high chair", from "apple pie" to "pineapple".

Can I Eat That? is a truly satisfying delight, from first course to pudding.

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Daddy's Sandwich

Cooking and eatingPosted by Max 09 Aug, 2015 08:20PM

Daddy's Sandwich by Pip Jones (author) and Laura Hughes (illustrator), published by Faber & Faber

Two weeks ago, our daughter introduced us to a new game: 'Picnic'. The game goes like this:

Mummy/Daddy: "I'd like in my sandwich...a paintbrush"

Daughter: "No! That's for painting with"

Mummy/Daddy: "What about an aeroplane?"

Daughter: "No! That's for flying in the sky"

This format continues until we say something sensible, such as cheese, and then it's her turn to lead.

We're pretty certain this game was inspired after a first reading of 'Daddy's Sandwich', a giggle-guaranteed tale, brilliantly illustrated, about a well meaning little girl and her efforts to make her daddy the perfect sandwich - because what could be nicer than a sandwich made with his favourite ingredients?

Her culinary creation begins in a conventional, benign fashion- cheese and tomato on thick crusty bread. But as the girl starts to think "outside the fridge", she broadens her criteria and begins to add ALL of her daddy's most loved items, including his banjo, deckchair and his special camera (which she knows she's not meant to touch, "but just this once...").

To top it off, she adds some of her favourite things (which of course her daddy loves too, by default) - such as her paintings, paddling pool and, finally, last but most loved, her!

In a triumphant final spread, we see her multi-story formulation in all its glory, with the girl perched on top. Holding a final slice of bread above her head she calls out: "Daddy, your sandwich is ready..." and as her daddy peers round, we see that very familiar parental expression of simultaneous bewilderment and pride.

Daddy's Sandwich is a delicious treat, any time of the day.

Author feedback:

@PipsJones said: Gorgeous review here of Daddy's Sandwich from @Books4MyToddler – thank you very much!

Laura Hughes (@inkylaur) Really sweet review of Daddy's Sandwich by @Books4MyToddler Thank you!

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Cooking and eatingPosted by Max 02 Jul, 2015 09:01AM
Lunchtime, by Rebecca Cobb, published by PanMacMillan

"At lunchtime, Mum said, 'Eat up'. I said, 'No thanks, I'm a bit too busy'"

Lunchtime was one of our toddler's first picture books, and it remains one of her firm favourites. As is the case with all of Rebecca Cobb's wonderful books, she combines beautiful, distinctive illustrations with a fun, well-told story.

Here a determined and imaginative girl is reluctant to interrupt her busy schedule and eat her lunch, only to find that three ravenous creatures (who fortunately think children taste revolting) are more than happy to eat it up for her.

The words of the animal characters in this book are great for reading aloud - it changes periodically but we tend to portray them as a dour bear, an uptight wolf and a nervous crocodile.

It has also been a useful early book for helping our toddler understand about mealtime, and she loves to name all of the items the little girl has for lunch, and later for her dinner "A yoghurt just like me!"

Lunchtime is a fantastic picturebook, a real winner, and it will always have a special place on our shelf.

Lunchtime won the Picture Book Category of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2013. With thanks to Rebecca Cobb for allowing her cover image with this review.

Feedback from the author: @Rebecca_Cobb said "thank you very much for the review. It's very kind & I'm really happy you like it :)"

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Happy Harry's Cafe

Cooking and eatingPosted by Max 27 Jun, 2015 08:34PM
Happy Harry's Cafe, Words by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Richard Holland, published by Candlewick Press

It's a great moment when your toddler starts saying the lines to books she loves before you've even started to read it. This is what happens when we begin the excellent Happy Harry's Cafe (our toddler announces: "The Soup is Good, Daddy!"), a brilliant combination of Michael Rosen's surrealist narrative and Richard Holland's fine, distinctive illustrations.

It's the tale of a lunchtime rush for 'great soup' in a 1950s-esque diner, where all the customer's can't wait to get their spoons into Happy Harry's renowned tomato-based creation. Only there's a problem with one of the regulars - Matt the Cat is missing his spoon!

[Maybe I've read it too frequently in the last few weeks, but to me the book has something of the atmosphere of an episode of the Twilight Zone, particularly given that Matt the Cat is reading a copy of the Daily Miaow, a cat newspaper featuring mug-shots of two feline felons, alongside a headline "Wanted!"]

Fortunately, a potential crisis is quickly resolved, laughter fills the cafe and, before long, Matt joins Harry in a musical tribute to their favourite dish.

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