Tag Archives: Gift Ideas

Treasuries to Treasure

I kept a selection of books from my childhood, mostly novels from when I was 12+ and no picture books. But the books I do still have from when I was younger are all treasuries. Lovely chunky hardback collections that people generally only buy as presents, especially at Christmas. Here are a selection of newly published, delicious additions to any bookshelves, all of which would make perfect gifts.

Just So Stories: Rudyard Kipling & Robert Ingpen (Templar Publishing, 2013)Just So Stories: Rudyard Kipling & Robert Ingpen (Templar Publishing, 2013)
Long ago, before your parents’ parents were born, O Best Beloved, there was a man who told stories about how things came to be… I would love to write this review in the style of Just So stories but using O Best Beloved is about as good as it gets. Kipling was a genius, there is no doubt. I’m embarrassed to say I have barely read any of his original work (I assume The Jungle Book doesn’t really have singing monkeys in it…) but I did grow up on a sprinkling of Just So Stories and therefore have a soft spot for them, though there are many in this book that I never knew, or don’t remember. But why buy a book when you can get them for free online, you might ask? And there are so many versions, why this one? Because Robert Ingpen’s illustrations are just so ūüôā This is a truly beautiful book, packed full of colour illustrations throughout, with many double-page illustrations, and coloured pages.¬† It uses the original text, which may lead to conversations about historical changes. I personally love the part where a father is furious with his daughter and is contemplating whether skinning her or not giving her a kiss at bedtime is the worst punishment – this is a book for all ages! This version is beautifully produced, and a nice size for reading too. I’m hugging it a bit as I write this (in between reading a bit more, and gazing and the illustrations.) The RRP is ¬£16.99, which is a bargain for what you get, and I’d not be at all surprised to see this on the Greenaway long list next year.

The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales (The Story Collector 1): Jane Ray (Boxer Books, 2013)The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales (The Story Collector 1): Jane Ray (Boxer Books, 2013)
This is a beautiful collection of traditional tales involving birds in some way. The stories are perfect for reading aloud but even fairly early readers can attempt the easily laid out text (although the words may be challenging.) This is the first in a series of tales collected by the enormously talented Jane Ray and illustrated using scraperfoil techniques. The book has been formatted beautifully, and includes many coloured pages for interest. The stories are suitable for all ages, and include tales that have both sad and happy endings. It is a gorgeous book for any book lover, young or old, and a bargain at RRP £12.99.

Little Grey Rabbit's Story Treasury: Alison Uttley & Margaret Tempest (Templar Publishing, new ed. 2013)Little Grey Rabbit’s Story Treasury: Alison Uttley & Margaret Tempest (Templar Publishing, new ed. 2013)
Little Grey Rabbit books are ones I remember from my childhood and it’s lovely to see them all being reprinted in their original little book form by Templar. Because of course, they should be little books, unless they’re in a treasury. This book collects six of the tales together and includes information about the editor, author and illustrator, as well as the characters. I never knew Alison Uttley was one of the first women to gain a physics degree (in 1906), and that just makes me love the stories even more. These are delightful stories and, dare I say it, much more readable than many of Beatrix Potter’s tales. This is a beautiful gift edition that should delight any age. RRP ¬£12.99.

The Orchard Book of Greek Myths: Geraldine McCaughrean & Emma Chichester Clark (Orchard Books, reissue 2013)The Orchard Book of Greek Myths: Geraldine McCaughrean & Emma Chichester Clark (Orchard Books, new ed. 2013)
I always loved Greek and Roman Myths when I was a child, and as this is the 21st anniversary edition I wondered why I never had this one. Then I remembered I was 17 twenty-one years ago, in the midst of A-Levels and was mostly reading Stephen King and Terry Pratchett. If it had been around as a child, I’m sure I would have loved this book. Containing sixteen famous tales from Pandora to Persephone, Orpheus to Odysseus, this is a beautiful introduction to stories that have been told for thousands of years. RRP ¬£12.99.

The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems: Carol Ann Duffy & Jackie Morris (Barefoot Books, 2006)The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems: Carol Ann Duffy & Jackie Morris (Barefoot Books, 2006)
Introduced by Carol Ann Duffy and stunningly illustrated by Jackie Morris, this is a beautiful collection of many favourite poems to share with children, including selections from Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter De La Mare, A A Milne, Eleanor Farjeon, Elizabeth Browning, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Kipling, Shakespeare, Auden… I never studied literature beyond GCSE and I recognise almost every name, and almost every poem. These truly are classics. Accessible, enjoyable, and a beautiful addition to any bookshelf. RRP ¬£14.99, but get 20% off with code TWENTY13 if you buy online (or look at these blogs for 25% off for a limited time.)

Old Bear Stories: Jane Hissey (Scribblers, updated ed. 2013)Old Bear Stories: Jane Hissey (Scribblers, updated ed. 2013)
Even though the original Old Bear stories were wonderful in their original format, Jane Hissey reworked them all this year to reduce the text, making them even more readable, and on a par with modern picture books. The reissued books seem even clearer and more beautiful that before (we have a mixture of old and new versions!) Old Bear Stories collects five favourites: Old Bear, Little Bear’s Trousers, Little Bear Lost, Jolly Tall, and Jolly Snow into one glorious hardback edition. Having had the delight of meeting Jane earlier this year, I am even more in love with these stories. Every picture is based on real-life models that Jane created, and the detail in the pencil pictures is breathtaking. Perfect for very small children and up, this is a very special book. RRP ¬£16.99.

The Orchard Book of Funny Fairy Tales: Laurence Anholt & Arthur Robins (Orchard Books, 2013)The Orchard Book of Funny Fairy Tales: Laurence Anholt & Arthur Robins (Orchard Books, 2013)
A collection of six classic fairy-tales retold with lots of fun, lots of rhymes, silly pictures, and without any of the scary bits. Laurence Anholt and Arthur Robins also collaborate on a series of seriously silly stories for younger readers and this is a great addition to silly fun for threes and up. This would be a brilliant addition to any Christmas stocking, but you’d better be ready to read them all day as they’ll be a hit. Stinky stepsisters, gentle giants, hairy bears, and did you ever wonder what a house made of sweets would do to a witch’s teeth? Once you see the answer, you’ll be brushing your teeth very carefully! RRP ¬£12.99.

My Rainbow Fairies Collection: Daisy Meadows & Georgie Ripper (Orchard Books, reissue 2013)My Rainbow Fairies Collection: Daisy Meadows & Georgie Ripper (Orchard Books, reissue 2013)
Regardless of what you think of Rainbow Fairies, there is a certain demographic (of which my eldest child is a part of) who think they are wonderful. This book contains the original seven rainbow fairy stories plus one special, Flora the Fancy Dress Fairy. The stories are about two girls who are independent and brave, and their adventures helping the fairies of fairyland. It’s not great literature, but it’s fun and (in this collection at least) doesn’t depict limiting gender stereotyping. Any series with over 100 titles will suffer quality issues over time, but these are the originals and are quite captivating. The best thing about this collection is that it is illustrated in colour. Mighty-Girl is a very good reader, but she doesn’t stick with books that she is capable of reading because she doesn’t like books without colour pictures. She is a very creative and visual child, so pictures are important to her. With this collection, she is flying through the stories, which can only be good for her literacy levels. The book itself has a padded cover, is covered in sparkling stars and butterflies, and includes a ribbon bookmark. Every page is in colour, and there are added character profiles, a map, and a pictorial list of all (so far) 169 books! A delightful gift for RRP ¬£12.99.

Disclosure: All except The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems and Old Bear Stories were received from their respective publishers for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post. Barefoot Books links are affiliate links.

Review: Edtoy Magnamobiles

Edtoy Magnamobiles from Play Merrily Toys

Last year, when choosing some of our favourite things from Play Merrily, I mentioned how I loved the look of the Edtoy range so when the chance to review two of the vehicles came up, I asked very, very nicely if we could be chosen! We were sent two of the Magnamobiles to play with: an SUV and a racing car.

Play

Edtoy Magnamobiles SUV and Racing Car in pieces
Edtoy Magnamobiles are wooden vehicles made from about nine pieces that cleverly click together due to rotating magnets. The pieces will therefore always connect, and never repel each other.

Because of the strength of the magnets, they can be played with just like any other cars and vehicles – although if they have a severe crash, they might need to be rebuilt!

They can also be taken apart and played with as a construction toy. There is plenty of play value with these toys covering imaginative, creative and construction play. The cars are easy to manipulate for small hands and manipulation of the pieces will improve fine motor skills.

This video shows how the pieces click together to build the racing car:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSuZHn0DUpE]

MG (6) and DG (4) both loved this addition to their car box, and cars became the central focus of their imaginative play for several days after the Magnamobiles arrived. Creating new cars from the pieces was a huge hit. The only reason I don’t have any pictures of them playing is because they’re at school all day and the light is terrible in the evening so the pictures are rubbish!

Here’s some playing with the pieces to construct new vehicles – I’m nowhere near as creative as my children are I’m afraid! Note that the wheeled piece can be either side up to make different creations:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99yT0Jm_Di4]

Practicalities

The first thing I want to point out about these cars, which has very little to do with the cars themselves, is that the boxes are very easy to open and unpack. You know the scene: it’s Christmas (or Birthday) morning, the shiny wrapping paper has been torn off, the boxes have been played with, and now your little one wants to play with what’s inside! The box is opened, and… two hours later you’ve at last finished untwisting wire tags, snipping through plastic ties, tearing apart cardboard packaging that appears to be glued to the toy. With the Edtoy Magnamobiles, you open the box, lift out the contents and hey presto there’s a toy to play with. This really is a huge selling point for me!

These vehicles are exceptionally good quality. They’re made from chunky pieces of wood that are easy for small hands to grasp and manipulate. Although the packaging says they are suitable for age 3+, this is probably due to the magnets. With supervision, I think children from around 18 months will get lots out of these and interest in them should hold for many years.

The magnets are strong enough to withstand the cars getting battered. I made two videos testing the magnets, which you can view on YouTube. Showing magnet strength can be found here, and magnet rotation can be seen here. The click when the magnets come together is very satisfying, and you might notice in the videos above that I love twisting the pieces to hear the magnets click!

The number of pieces quoted on the outside of the box is puzzling. The vehicles include two plastic pieces that connect the wheels together, and these seem to be included in the count. But even so, that makes ten total pieces for the SUV rather than nine. I’m not sure what the plastic connectors are for, as they restrict wheel movement and look more like packaging.

There are some limitations to how you can fit the pieces together due to magnet configuration. As you can see in the picture below, they are either single or in pairs and you can only connect them if the configurations match. However, this also adds to creative skills needed for young children to put them together, which can only be a good thing.

Edtoy magnets

Price

Edtoy Magnamobiles with other cars for scale

The image above shows the two Magnamobiles next to an Imaginext Motorised Batmobile (RRP approx £26) and a Wow Toys Dynamite Daisy (RRP approx £11) plus a standard Corgi-style car for scale. Compared to the plastic vehicles, the price of £17.95 (correct November 2013) is in the same range. Given the added play value of being able to mix-n-match to create your own vehicle, this makes the range very attractively priced.

Summary
A great toy with varied playability. The limitation in connecting pieces due to magnet configuration is a little frustrating, but the durability and play value more than make up for it. A single vehicle contains lots of play value and creativity in itself, having more than one just increases the fun. MG (6) and DG (4) have played with them daily since they arrived and think they are “brilliant” and “fun”. In MG’s phrasing, they are one thousand fun! There are lots of other vehicles to choose from, including a fire engine, buldozer, helicoptor and ambulance. Recommended for children from 18 months to 8 years, and their parents.

Disclosure: We were sent two Edtoy Magnamobiles by Play Merrily Toys in exchange for an honest review.