Books My Toddler Loves

Books My Toddler Loves

Four Fabulously Interactive Board Books

July 2017 ReviewsPosted 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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Dragons: Our Four Fiery Favourites

June 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 21 Jun, 2017 10:12PM
Dragons have been part of folklore and literature for millennia, and remain as popular as ever in contemporary fiction. They can be found in many wonderful picturebooks, and below we highlight four of our favorites.

Knighthood for Beginners by Elys Dolan, published by Oxford University Press

For as long as there have been knights, there have been dragons. But has there ever been a dragon who has also been a knight?

In this chapter book from surrealist comic writer Elys Dolan we meet Dave, a small and not very green dragon, who's lack of dragony skill has led him to seek a new career as an armour-clad knight of the realm.

Equipped only with a copy of Knighthood for Beginners (given to him by his lovely librarian Aunt Maude), he sets off in search of the first key ingredient, a trusty steed. Or, in Dave's case, a rather smelly goat with a strong German accent called Albrecht.

Together, they take on the establishment, rioting peasants, unqualified clinicians and even Sir Knasty's axis of evil. Told at a rip-roaring pace alongside delightfully slapstick illustrations, its off-beat humour is at times laugh-out-loud for children and adults alike. Please can this be the first of many in a new series?

The Great Dragon Bake Off by Nicola O'Byrne, published by Bloomsbury

Some dragons just don't want to be the stereotype - they might seem like the perfect student to join the Ferocious Dragon Academy and look "especially enormous and terrifying", but Flamie Oliver just wants to bake.
He has a "passion for pastry" and takes no part in honing his "dastardly dragon skills". He's told he will fail his final exams unless he captures and eats a princess, but he and Princess Rosewater have another, far more tasty idea.

A perfect book to accompany a day of baking, the pages are filled with engaging illustrations that almost burst from the page, and the spreads of tasty treats look more than good enough to gobble.

The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight by Elli Woollard (words) and Benji Davies (illustrations), published by MacMillan

The book opens with a "Mappe of Hardbottom's and the Surrounding Lands", including The Mountains of Dread, the Perilous Peaks and the Impassable Pass. At the centre is Hardbottom's Academy, a formidable castle set in the Darkish wood.

On turning the page we see a small boy kitted out in miniature armour, trotting passed the school - an Academy for Young Knights - and a notice board informing us that tomorrow is its Sports Day and the chance to "Fight a Real Dragon".
Meanwhile, a young dragon (the smallest member of the Dragons of Dread) is told by his kin to leave the nest and prove himself by biting a "nibblesome knight" of his own. Caught out by a storm, little Dram splashes down into a lake, where the young boy-knight, James, has been duck-spotting.

James nurses Dram back to health, convinced he's an odd bird with a curious quack. The two become friends and as the day ends, James heads back to the castle as Dram falls asleep in the grounds. Dram wakes, wanders into a field and through some open gates, and finds himself in the midst of the dragon slaying contest - face to face with his friend.

As the dragon clan and the knights of the realm look set to come to blows, friendship wins the day. A sweet tale of overcoming difference and celebrating diversity, with pitch-perfect illustrations that capture a heraldic feel.

There is No Dragon in This Story by Lou Carter (words) and Deborah Allwright (illustrations), published by Bloomsbury

The newest entry to this scaly canon is a novel convergence of dragon lore and fairy tales. We're told by a 'reader' - whose dragon-like hands we can see holding up the story - that she was going to tell us a typical story (you know, where a knight rescues a princess who's been captured by a dragon), but that won't be possible as the dragon has "gone off in a huff".

The dragon is fed up of being the villain and wants to be a hero - and he sets off into the midst of other stories to try to save the day. The problem is, no one wants his help - despite their respective impending peril.

The gingerbread man, Little Red Riding hood, the three little pigs, and even jack as he climbs up the beanstalk all tell him "no, no, no! That's not how the story goes". Despondent, the dragon shuffles away. Events, however, take an unexpected turn, and the dragon gets his chance to shine (literally).

The engaging narrative cleverly breaks through the fourth wall and finds a new spin on traditional tales of old. The illustrations are pleasing on the eye and depict a delightful array of cartoon-like characters. A pair of night-scenes are particularly atmospheric. The book concludes with a trio of endings, which round off a highly satisfying adventure.

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The Birthday Invitation

June 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 16 Jun, 2017 02:57PM

The Birthday Invitation by Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes, published by Bloomsbury

On a recent family holiday, we celebrated three birthdays for people ranging from age 1 to 63. Our girls marked each occasion with great excitement, helping to unwrap (other people's) presents, eating cake and singing raucous renditions of "happy birthday".

There are many lovely picturebooks about birthdays and birthday parties. Our favourite is a new story from the brilliant author/illustrator partnership of Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes.

This is a tale of a party invitation - dropped by a young girl who sets off to deliver them to her friends, caught on the breeze and found by an array of larger than life fairytale characters - including a wizard, a pirate crew, a princess and a knight.

The book starts with a teddy bear wearing a party hat and a puzzled face, sat by a hand written invitation. The opening spread of the title page is an incredible bird's eye view of the girl's quiet village, surrounded by a geography created in her imagination - a mountain with a white castle on top, a gingerbread house, a red aeroplane doing loop the loops and a pirate ship out at sea.

Laura Hughes' ink and paint illustrations are (as ever) bright, breezy and full of life. Her scenes follow the invitation's journey switching from ground level to high up in the sky - whether within the beak of a parrot, in the pilot's cockpit or atop a castle turret.

The pictures are perfectly matched to the rhythm of Lucy Rowland's engaging words, which tell the story with a light and lyrical rhyme that is fun to read and cleverly constructed.

Later, as the girl is preparing for her party she hears a KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK at the door. Unaware of the path of her invitation, she opens her door to quite a surprise! Pleasingly the book ends with the same teddy bear from the start, now sat in front of a delicious slice of cake.

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Our Favourite Picturebook Friendships

May 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 18 May, 2017 08:38PM

The theme of friendship is found in many of our favourite picturebooks. Below we review two much-enjoyed, recent additions to the genre.

Winnie the Pooh: The Great Heffalump Hunt
written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Angela Rozelaar, published by Egmont

One of the most famous picturebook pairings is the unlikely duo of Winnie the Pooh and his faithful pal, Piglet. The original stories of A A Milne are among the best works of children's literature, and we love this new iteration from author and master rhymer Giles Andreae.

His retelling of the pair's hunt for a heffalump brings out all their best qualities - adventure, partnership and loyalty - and the carefully crafted and gentle rhyme moves the story along at a quick pace.

Angela Rozelaar's delightful illustrations capture the spirit of the original story with a modern feel, ideal for young children. Her heffalump dream sequence and piglet's nighttime search for his friend are suitably atmospheric with just the right pinch of mild peril.

South by Daniel Duncan, published by Abrams Young Readers

This book begins with the depiction of a fisherman's lonely life out on the ocean. He has only his banjo, old photographs and mementoes of happier days to keep him company.

When a bird with a broken wing lands on board, the fisherman finds a renewed purpose as well as an unexpected friendship. He sets a new course, both literally and spiritually.

A sparse, poignant narrative is combined with lustrous illustrations brimming with beauty. Each page is filled with a nautical treasure trove of details, whether out on deck with nets and buckets, inside the ship's cosy cabin, or down below on the wondrous sea bed.

Other favourite picturebook friendships, all previously reviewed on our site, include:

A dog and a stripey sock (Claude All at Sea)

A boy and an alien (The Way Back Home)

A boy and a baby whale (The Storm Whale)

A monkey and a mouse (Monkey and the Little One)

A lion and a mouse (The Lion Inside)

Children and an alligator (Aunt Amelia)

A mouse and an ogre (Mortimer's Picnic)

A goose and a crocodile egg (The Odd Egg)

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Books My Toddler Loves 2nd Birthday competition

May 2017 ReviewsPosted by Max 15 May, 2017 06:45PM

It's been almost two years since we started in June 2015. It began as a way to remember the books our daughter enjoys and the fun times we have reading them with her. A few months later our second daughter arrived - she's now developing her own love of books too.

We've been thrilled by the positive feedback we've had from fellow picturebook readers, authors, illustrators and publishers. It's amazing to us that more than 50,000 people have read reviews on our site - and hopefully they've discovered new favourites to enjoy with the little ones in their lives.

To celebrate our site's second birthday we're giving Twitter folk the chance to win their choice of book from our 2015 or 2016 Picturebooks of the Year (pictured above). For a chance to win, just follow us @books4mytoddler and retweet this tweet.

A winner will be picked at random after midday UK time on Friday 26th May 2017 (please note we can only post to a winner with a UK address).

Thanks for all your support!

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