September 2015 ReviewsPosted by Max 28 Sep, 2015 08:50PMStanley 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.
September 2015 ReviewsPosted by Max 23 Sep, 2015 01:08PMGoldilocks and the Three Bears
, illustrated by Francesca Assirelli, published by Miles Kelly
For breakfast, our daughter usually requests 'cereal with jammy bits' (cranberry wheats), 'an egg in a cup' (boiled egg in an egg cup with an elephant on it) or porridge.
Of late, porridge has been her favourite, which may be due to a new fascination with the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. This began after we read Lucy Cousins' excellent 'Yummy', a compendium of fairy tales including that of the precocious girl and the family of bears who discover her asleep in their house.
A few days later, her auntie sent her a surprise gift - a small rag-doll with golden pigtails, which she immediately named after the story's main protagonist. Over the last week we've explored a diverse range of adaptations, including the 1939 Disney animation.
A version that she loves is the delightful My Fairytime Tale edition from Miles Kelly publishers and Italian illustrator Francesca Assirelli.
The story is well told in clear, easily repeatable language, brought to life by colourful, bold illustrations and larger than life characters. Our daughter loves to point out the traditional antics of "that naughty girl" - as she eats baby bear's porridge "all up", breaks his chair and sleeps in his bed.
There are some nice touches to the book itself, such as the sparkly, bobbly butterflies, bear noses and title on its front cover, which our daughter enjoys feeling with her fingertips.
After more than 150 years of The Three Bears, as it was first known, this is a sweet, charming take on a truly classic tale.
September 2015 ReviewsPosted by Max 20 Sep, 2015 08:09PMHickory Dickory Dog
by Alison Murray, published by Orchard Books
As our daughter gets older, she takes an increasing interest in the concept of time: The pattern of the day, the appearance of the moon, ideas of tomorrow and yesterday. Part of her intrigue has been in relation to clocks, asking us what they are for and how they work. Recently, we discovered an effective method for indicating to her that it's time to go upstairs for sleep, asking her "what's the time on the clock", to which, so far at least, her answer has been: "Bedtime!"
The traditional children's verse that starts 'Hickory Dickory Dock' was first recorded in 'Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song-Book', an anthology of English-language nursery rhymes published in 1744. In Alison Murray's playful adaptation, we accompany Zac and his dog Rufus on a sunny Autumn day, first at home then at school.
As well as its two main protagonists, 'time' features throughout the book. Scenes are cleverly announced by a clock, striking the next hour of the day, accompanied by a rhyme to match: "Hickory, lickery, lunch. Some yummy crumbs to munch. The clock strikes noon, Zac's dropped his spoon! Hickory, lickery, lunch.
Their day is packed with activity: Getting dressed and ready to go; dancing, painting and gardening at school; returning home for bathtime and storytime, before snuggling down to sleep.
We love Alison Murray's colourful, warm and charming illustrations, which we first discovered in her excellent 'Apple Pie ABC
', depicting the alphabetised antics of a small dog with his eyes on a tasty prize. More recently, we've enjoyed her adjective adventure 'Little Mouse
', about a girl who wants her growing independence to be acknowledged. All three of these wonderful books come highly recommended.
September 2015 ReviewsPosted 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.
September 2015 ReviewsPosted by Max 11 Sep, 2015 11:21AM
Ernie's Big Mess, by Sarah Roberts and illustrated by Joe Mattieu, published by Random House (1981)
The first song our daughter sang was ABC, learned after quite a few viewings of the 'Sesame Street Alphabet' song
, which she adores. Even now, when she wants to watch a little Sesame Street, she asks for "ABCs", her shorthand for a visit to the wondrous world created by the Children's Television Workshop.
As a child growing up in the UK, her access to Sesame Street is generally limited to the classic episodes and clips available online. These were, at the time and even now, groundbreaking in their portrayal of inclusiveness, integration, welfare and community.
We're glad that, as well as the inevitable contemporary influence of Frozen and Minions, she enjoys the stories of Ernie, Grover and co, and the show's morally grounded classic songs, such as "We all sing with the same voice"
As a child, I had a collection of Sesame Street books from a "Start to Read" series. These short, toddler sized hardback picturebooks capture the warm, sentimental mood of the show through colourful illustration and gentle fable. It was with great delight that I discovered them in a box a few months ago, including my favourite - Ernie's Big Mess.
The friendship of Bert and Ernie is a famously fractious one. Here, the juxtaposition of the ultra neat, serious Bert with the fun loving, messy Ernie, results in an angry Bert shouting at his old pal for all the mess he's made, telling him he wished he lived on his own. Later that evening, Ernie packs his belongings and takes to the streets, searching for somewhere else to sleep.
Although his neighbours are kind and try to accommodate him, he's forced to move on: Big Bird's nest is too pointy and hard, Grover's bed too small, and Oscar doesn't want to let him near his rubbish bin.
Meanwhile, Bert, feeling regretful that his friend has been hurt by his harsh words, is out looking for him, unable to sleep. When eventually he finds him asleep on the ground he says sorry and welcomes him back to their home, only for Ernie's suitcase to unlatch and pour out a mountain of clutter.
Happily, the friendship between this unlikely pair holds firm and all is forgiven.