Tag Archives: Hachette Children’s Books

#BookADayUK The One I Have Reread Most Often

I’m not sure which book(s) I have reread most often. There have been a few loved to death books over the years. I know I read the first Red Dwarf novel repeatedly as a teenager, and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I don’t really reread books for myself now, and haven’t for a long time. But as a parent of young children, I do read certain books over and over and over again. Today’s choice is one that has been an almost daily request for May and June.

Jack and the Jelly Bean Stalk: Rachel Mortimer & Liz Pichon (Orchard Books, 2014)Jack and the Jelly Bean Stalk: Rachel Mortimer & Liz Pichon (Orchard Books, 2014)

Danger Girl (5) loves fairy tales / fables / traditional tales. Whatever you call them, they are her favourite genre of story. Humorous twists on familiar tales always go down well, and adding sweeties into the mix makes this a piece of genius storytelling.

In Jack and the Jelly Bean Stalk, the familiar tale of poverty starts how we’d expect. Jack goes to market to sell his cow, but on the way he’s offered twenty gold coins for her… Hold on a minute, Jack just sold the cow for something sensible, this can’t be right? Of course it will go wrong shortly, and in this case Jack’s eye is caught by a huge bag of jelly beans in a magical sweet shop…

The tale then returns to what we expect: Jack’s mum’s ire, beans thrown out of the window, Jack sent to bed without any supper, and then… More familiarity with a giant (jelly) beanstalk, a giant, a goose, and a harp, with an imaginative way of escape and enough jelly beans to last every meal for years. The final page is hinted at earlier in the book, but makes DG and MG giggle every time as they shout out the last few words.

This is the third in a series of alternate fairy tales from the team of Rachael Mortimer and Liz Pichon, and I am regularly told off by DG because we don’t own them all. Fun to read for all ages, and with lots to inspire children’s own storytelling.

Disclosure: Jack and the Jelly Bean Stalk received for review from Hachette Children’s Books

#BookADayUK Makes Me Laugh

I think I used to laugh more. I know I used to laugh more. I have been stared at on the bus as I couldn’t keep in a laugh from what I was reading. Depression takes its toll, and I haven’t been laughing as much as once I did.

A little before my 17th birthday (22 years ago – eek!) I borrowed my first Terry Pratchett book from the library. Wyrd Sisters. By the time of my 17th birthday two months later, I’d not only read every Discworld book that I could find in the library, I also owned almost all the ones published in paperback to that point. Discworld were my comfort reads. Discworld were novels I laughed at loud at.

I don’t laugh as much as I used to. One recent book that I have been giggling though as Mighty Girl (7) reads it to me is Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell. She looks at me and keeps saying “I don’t get it” but she’s reading it all the same. It’s not today’s choice because we’re only a few chapters in.

Today’s choice is the second in a series that has made me laugh so much.

Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes: Hilary Robinson & Liz Pichon (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes: Hilary Robinson & Liz Pichon (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)

Mixed Up Fairy Tales and Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes are both amazing books. They are split page books where you make your own story at random. My children also like to find the ‘correct’ story. This is easier in Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes as the flaps are in order, but a more complex in Mixed Up Fairy Tales where the pages are mixed from the start.

Mixed Up Fairy Tales is also more complex with four parts to every story, whereas Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes has three parts. This gives more story options with the Fairy Tales. The Nursery Rhymes are therefore more suitable from a younger age, but any age from pre-school and up can enjoy both. It helps to have a certain grounding in fairy tales and nursery rhymes to really get the humour, which shouldn’t be too difficult for most children!

I am in awe of how Hilary Robinson has managed to make phrases that fit together in any combination to make a sensible (silly) story. For Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes, that’s three parts to 12 rhymes, making possible 1,728 combinations, and for Mixed Up Fairy Tales, that’s four parts to 12 stories, making 20,736 combinations! And they all work!

(* It might be 1,320 and 11,880 combinations. My maths is very rusty. It’s something to do with permutations. Whatever the answer, it’s a lot of laughs…)

Some random examples from Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes:

Old Mother Hubbard went to town riding on a pail of water.

Polly found a crooked sixpence and lived in a cup of tea.

The Grand Old Duke of York went to Gloucester in a shower of rain and stood on a plum.

The Queen of Hearts put the kettle on and drank a spider.

Highly recommended essentials for every bookcase (not that they’ll stay on the shelves for long, these live under my daughters’ beds for easy access most of the time…)

Disclosure: Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes received for review from Hachette Children’s Books.

#BookADayUK Film or TV Tie-In

I love books, and I love film and TV too so we do have several film and TV tie-in books. I mainly have Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer guides, but also books on film art like Labyrinth, Mirrormask, and The Fifth Element. Mr Chaos mainly has books about how to make films. MG and DG have various character based books.

We also have many books that have been made into films or TV, which I suppose aren’t really ‘tie-in’ because they came first, but that’s where I’m choosing today’s book from.

How To Be A Viking: Cressida Cowell (Hodder Children's Books, 2000, 2014)How To Be A Viking: Cressida Cowell (Hodder Children’s Books, 2000, 2014)

How To Be A Viking was originally published as Hiccup: The Viking Who Was Seasick and is the first tale in the How To Train Your Dragon series. With the second film coming out this year, and the tenth anniversary of How To Train Your Dragon last year, the picture book has been reissued with a new title matching the other How To Train Your Dragon titles and a new forward from Cressida Cowell.

I have to admit we’ve not read any of the How To Train Your Dragon books other than this picture book. Mainly because we saw the film first, and absolutely loved it. Hopefully my daughters will get into the books when they’re a bit older though.

In this picture book introduction, Hiccup is afraid of everything but he’s especially afraid of going to sea for the first time. His father Stoick the Vast laughs at the idea of fear, but Old Wrinkly encourages Hiccup to find out for himself. Hiccup is seasick, but he learns something about all Vikings when a storm hits. Vikings sometimes get frightened, but what they do despite the fear is what makes them brave.

A wonderful message for all young children, and a great story for all pirate fans too. An essential edition to all How To Train Your Dragon fans bookshelves, as is the gorgeous looking Incomplete Book of Dragons out this month.

Disclosure: How To Be A Viking received for review from Hachette.

#BookADayUK Forgot I Owned It

There are probably several books that I’ve forgotten I own, but I can’t remember what they are… I rarely forget real books but I do find things I’ve bought on Kindle that have completely slipped my mind…

For a picture book choice, this is not a book I’ve forgotten but instead a book about forgetting.

Really and Truly - A story about dementia: Emilie Rivard & Anne-Claire Delisle (Franklin Watts, 2013)Really and Truly – A story about dementia: Emilie Rivard & Anne-Claire Delisle (Franklin Watts, 2013)

Really and Truly tells the tale of Charlie and his Grandpa. Grandpa used to tell Charlie tall tales, ending them with “Really and truly, Charlie” but now Grandpa stares out of the window of his nursing home when Charlie and his parents visit. Remembering all the lovely tales, Charlie manages to make his Grandpa smile again with his own tales. Maybe Grandpa doesn’t remember but his legacy lives on. Really and Truly is a sensitive and touching tale full of hope despite the lack of a cure for dementia.

We have been fortunate that dementia has not touched our family as yet but this is still a book that can be shared with any child whether they have experience or not, but if they have a grandparent with dementia then they may find it easier to ask questions about the Grandpa in the book than in the real world.

I wasn’t sure how DG (then 4) would take this book, but she asked for it over and over again. The made up stories illustrated with line sketches over the ‘real world’ illustrations in the book appealed to her, and she laughed at all the funny stories Grandpa and Charlie made up. She could understand that this Grandpa was unwell, but the uplifting story made this a book that she could listen to over and over.

Sensitively portrayed and delightfully illustrated, this is a book that belongs in every setting and many homes. Well worth looking out for.

Disclosure: Really and Truly received for review from Hachette Children’s Books

#BookADayUK The One I Always Give As A Gift

I usually give books as gifts. After all, what could be more fun than whiling away a rainy afternoon in my favourite indie, perusing the shelves and reading lots of blurbs? But I don’t always give the same book, because I like the fun of choosing something each time.

However, for every one of Danger Girl’s birthday, I’ve got the latest picture book in a particular series, and will continue to do so until the series finishes, whenever that may be. The first book came out just before she was one, and the fifth came out just before she was five, and we are very lucky that every single one has been signed and dedicated especially.

I may have devoted a lot of the blog to this particular bear (and given him as presents to lots of other children too) but he is very cute…

Hugless Douglas at the Chaos Household

Happy Birthday, Hugless Douglas: David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, 2014)Happy Birthday, Hugless Douglas: David Melling (Hodder Children’s Books, 2014)

This is the fifth book in the series of full length Hugless Douglas stories, and it’s a joy. It’s a very special day for Douglas, as he blows up balloons and waits for his friends. But his excitement is short-lived when his little twin cousins arrive and exuberantly take over the party. It looks like Douglas is going to have the worst birthday ever, but his friends pull together and soon all is happiness again.

I adore the cheeky twin cousins, Felix and Mash, even if they start off by ruining Douglas’ fun. They’re too cute not to like. As with all David Melling’s books, this one is packed with tiny details to look out for and features all the characters from earlier books. With new characters and old favourites appearing in every book, Hugless Douglas is a series that never fails to delight toddlers and up.

Squeak! I have just noticed the baby Douglas picture on the wall in the second spread of the book – too cute! As I’ve said, the details just keep adding to this book on every read. Hugless Douglas is a bear who will always keep a place in our hearts, and it’s been joyous watching my children grow up with him.

For Hugless Douglas fans old and new, there are also two activity and sticker books that are not to be missed (I had to buy more than one copy so that I can keep the stickers!)

Disclosure: We Love You Hugless Douglas, Hugless Douglas Finds A Hug, and My First Hugless Douglas Activity Book were received for review from Hachette Children’s Books. 

Famous Five Colour Reads

Famous Five Colour Short Stories: Enid Blyton & Jamie Littler (Hodder Children's Books, 2014)

We had all twenty-one Famous Five books when I was young, and I read them all. Actually, we had twenty, number two in the series was missing so I begged my mum to buy it because I needed to read them all! With much older siblings (aged 12, 11, 10 & 5 when I was born) the books had been bought over the years and had a variety of covers from late 1960’s versions to late 1970’s with pictures from the TV series (which I’ve still never seen) I forget what ‘my’ cover was, whatever was published in about 1983/4 when I voraciously read the series aged 8 or 9.

Mighty-Girl is now seven and although a great reader, she doesn’t seem to have the concentration span to read novels and gets distracted very easily. Something I find hard to relate to as I was powering my way through books at her age! She loves colour pictures too, so finds novels off-putting, but most colour reads are too ‘easy’ for her.

I therefore jumped at the chance to review one of these Famous Five colour short stories aimed at 7-9 year olds. However, getting MG to read it in time for a review is apparently a tall order (she does things her way) so I ended up reading it aloud instead. It works well as a read aloud, and is short enough to read in one sitting. At 80 pages split into eight chapters, it’s also challenging enough for newly independent readers to get their teeth into.

It was hard not to giggle at some of the language with an adult mind, but of course children aren’t aware of the connotations of Dick or Aunt Fanny, and also aren’t phased by phrases like “golly gosh” (I went to school with someone who used this phrase in all seriousness) and “jolly exciting”. I’m not entirely sure that Anne really should have been “fondling Timmy” though…

We received Five and a Half-Term Adventure, the first of a series of eight colour reads (two currently published, with two more following in April and a further two in September) and jokes about the language aside, it’s actually much fun.

The Five are at Kirrin cottage for half term (four whole days! I remember being mortified that my secondary school had four day half terms, although by the time I left they were longer) and decide to go for an Autumn walk. Silly old Ju has forgotten to wind his watch though, and by the time they realise it’s too late to walk back so they catch a train (this is pre-Beeching, of course, with local trains.) But who are those two suspicious characters on the train, and could it be a mystery to solve? I say!

What really makes these books though, is the fabulous artwork by Jamie Littler. Picturing the children as modern children, with modern trains, and modern phones, allows the story to work for a modern reader. And Timmy the dog is adorably cute! The pictures are full of interest and fun, I’d buy these books for the illustrations alone.

Oops, I seem to have managed to have written this entire review without mentioning Enid Blyton. She wrote the stories of course. But these gorgeous little books are all about the illustrations! You can see some of them at Jamie Littler’s blog. These are books which modern children will find a joy to read, and may tempt them into more ‘classics’ from bygone days…

Disclosure: Received for review from Hachette Children’s Books.

Cuckoo by Fiona Roberton

Cuckoo: Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)

Cuckoo: Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)

We’re already fans of Fiona Roberton from the two Spot and Henry books, and Cuckoo just cements this. It’s one of those books that I need to write about to explain why I love it so much, but just take it as read that the children think it’s ace too.

Cuckoo, as most Cuckoos are, is hatched in a nest of other birds. Mum and two siblings get on well but Cuckoo is… different. The differences throughout the book is played out in the sounds that all the creatures make. Cuckoo says “cuckoo”, his family say “too-too weet”. There are many other animal sounds throughout the book, which is great fun for little ones.

Cuckoo tries, he really tries, but they can’t understand each other so he decides to leave. He searches for someone who understands him, but it seems that everyone is speaking a different language. Then he tries to learn their languages, but no matter how hard he tries he still can’t get it.

Cuckoo: Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)

Image from Tales of Little Gribblington website (c) Fiona Roberton

And this is why I am utterly in love with this book. It’s a book about accepting differences, but I see it from an Asperger’s viewpoint. A life trying to fit in, trying so hard to learn everyone else’s language, when what you really need is to find someone who understands your language and then you can communicate freely.

Cuckoo could easily be a child with autism, struggling to understand the world and not quite fitting in. His story gives hope, there will be someone out there who understands you, even if it takes a while to find them. But also his story shows that we all can try to learn to communicate with each other, it’s not just up to Cuckoo to fit in.

We have the paperback version, which doesn’t have any endpapers but I found this image which I assume is from the hardback endpapers, and this consolidates the idea of everyone trying to learn each other’s ‘language’. I wish it had been included in the paperback.

Cuckoo: Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)

Image from Tales of Little Gribblington website (c) Fiona Roberton

This is a beautiful book, and even has a cameo from Spot and Henry, and their pet, which is a great ‘in-joke’ for children who have read either of the Spot and Henry books. I adore Cuckoo, it’s told simply and effectively, and is so easy to love on many levels. It ‘talks’ to me in a way that makes me want to share it with the world, but however you read it this is a lovely story, full of great animal sounds to have fun with too!

Disclosure: We received Cuckoo from Hachette Children’s Books for review.

Great Gifts for Nought to Five Year Olds

Puppet Books

Hugless Douglas Finds a Hug: David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)Puppet Books are great to engage older babies and toddlers, and because the puppet is attached to the book, you don’t have to worry about losing it either. Our favourite new puppet book is the adorable Hugless Douglas Needs A Hug, full of lovely illustrations and with the cutest Douglas puppet. The puppet is made for grown ups to operate, and for little hands to stroke and cuddle. We love Hugless Douglas here, and this book has been a huge hit.

Child's Play Puppet Books

For little ones who want to operate their own puppets, Child’s Play have a huge range of puppet activity books. Older babies and young toddlers will be able to stick their whole hands in to move the bunny in Bib on, Bunny and the monkey in Monkey and Me, plus the familiar settings will appeal. As always with Child’s Play, the children depicted are from various cultures and look fairly androgynous meaning that every child will be able to find a picture they can relate to in one of the books in the series. Older toddlers and pre-schoolers can improve their motor skills and learn as they play in titles like What’s The Time, Mr Wolf? Grown ups can operate the puppets with fingers (if they’re ever allowed to!) and the three titles that we tested got a huge thumbs up from the four and six year olds, so they have great longevity in use too.

Anything by Jo Lodge

Books by Jo Lodge from Hodder Children's Books and Nosy Crow

We first discovered Jo Lodge several years ago via Mr Croc. The few Mr Croc books we had were literally loved to death over a couple of years and after much fixing and re-fixing eventually went for recycling. This year we discovered Little Roar and Icky Sticky Monster too. Jo Lodge engineers her own books, and they are bright, colourful, attractive to small children and great fun. Little Roar is suitable from the youngest age, with chunky tabs to pull and turn. We used to have a fantastic Mr Croc board book suitable for the youngest hands too, Up and Down, but it appears to be out of print. I’m sure similar are still available. The Mr Croc pop-up and tab books are very innovative. Ours may have broken, but that was from a lot of use and not because of quality. The last page of the books is usually Mr Croc popping up to get you, which my two found utterly hilarious (and still do!) Icky Sticky Monster is more suitable for pre-schoolers and is the first from Nosy Crow, with two more coming out next summer. Hachette publish Mr Croc and Little Roar, plus a new series of crinkly cloth books for the smallest hands. I am not kidding when I say anything by Jo lodge is the perfect gift for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and up…

Explore and Play

Child's Play Little Explorers and Little Drivers

The Little Explorer and Little Driver ranges from Child’s Play are excellent for imaginative play on the go, with a small character attached by ribbon that you can put in and out of pockets on each page, to pretend to control different vehicles. The character card is shaped and double sided so the child can choose boy or girl characters. These are not only wonderful fun, but great for motor skills development too. There are also dress up books in the same theme. With chunky card pages, and see through pockets, these are great quality and durable books for lots of fun play.

A board book that’s also a mask? What a wonderful idea! The Look At Me range are a series of books you can hold over your face to pretend to be a robot, or a monster; an alien or a clown. Due to the shape, a child or a grown up can play pretend. Great fun.

Pull, Twist, Poke, and Push

Child's Play Books

Books with flaps to lift and tabs to pull are always good fun with small children, but some are quite complex for little hands. Peekaboo Little Roar has tabs suitable for very small hands, and there are a range of Tiny Tabs books from Nosy Crow that are also good for babies. For older toddlers, Ian Whybrow and Axel Sheffler’s The Tickle Book (Macmillan) is full of tabs to pull and things to move, and Nick Sharratt’s Octopus Socktopus (Scholastic) is another enormous hit here. For preschoolers, Child’s Play’s Ten in the Bed not only teaches counting backwards from ten, but you get to turn a wheel to get a child to fall out of bed each time (and the children represent a variety of cultures, making this perfect for any child)

I couldn’t do a list of the best touchy-feely-pully-pushy-twisty-movey-interactive-novelty books for younger children without mentioning Child’s Play’s books with holes series. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly was published forty years ago, and it’s one of the first board books I bought for Mighty-Girl when she was born. But there’s not only the Old Lady. We also have Old Macdonald, and I find it so clever how the holes, pictures and text are positioned. The children, of course, just think it’s lots of fun. Books with Holes come in all sorts of formats from small board books to gigantic books for sharing.

For more innovative, interactive, and intelligent book gift ideas please see Gifts for Curious Children (non fiction) and Great Gifts for Children (age 4+)

Disclosure: Many of the books listed were supplied for review by Hachette Children’s Books and Child’s Play International. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup

The Memory Tree: Britta Teckentrup (Orchard Books, 2013)
The Memory Tree: Britta Teckentrup (Orchard Books, 2013)

On December 2nd 2010, my dad died. He was 75, I was 35, neither of us particularly old or young for this life event to happen. But my daughters were eighteen months and three-and-three-quarters, and although the youngest one didn’t really understand that anything had changed, Mighty-Girl certainly did.

“Why is Mummy crying? Why are you crying, Mummy?” she asked. And we told her, because she’s a bright girl and doesn’t take any answer but the truth. And we explained what death meant. And we had a three-year old who couldn’t sleep at night and sobbed that she didn’t want to die. Score zero for parenting.

Friends recommended Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley, a picture book about death and remembering loved ones. I cried when I read it to MG and DG, but it helped to talk about what had happened, and we all healed over time. I don’t cry when I read Badger’s Parting Gifts now.

I cried when I first read The Memory Tree. It is an exceptionally beautiful book and within the first page the art and text gives an emotional punch for anyone who has lost a loved one. Fox has lived a long and happy life, and is ready to sleep. He has many friends who were affected positively by his life, and who join together to remember their friend.

Their memories grow a tree, which nurtures and supports Fox’s loved ones. Remembering all the good things about their friend, keeps him with them forever. The story is lovely to read even if a child hasn’t lost a loved one, but it’s especially poignant if they have. The images of Owl hugging his friend, and the snow covering the ‘sleeping’ fox are both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

The illustrations are stunningly beautiful. Uncluttered and full of warmth they perfectly accompany the text. The Memory Tree is a very special book, and an essential book to share when losing a loved older relative or friend.

Today I will be remembering my dad, gone for three years exactly. Thinking both sad and happy thoughts, and wishing that my children had got to spend more time with him. And I will be reading The Memory Tree, and crying, but they will be good tears building our own memory tree.

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of The Memory Tree by Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Gifts for Curious Children

All children are born explorers, engineers and investigators. Here are a selection of books for curious children to feed their need for discovery, all of which would make excellent gifts.

Alphasaurs, and other Prehistoric Types: Sharon Werner & Sarah Forss (Blue Apple Books, 2012)Alphasaurs, and other Prehistoric Types: Sharon Werner & Sarah Forss (Blue Apple Books, 2012)
There are so many dinosaur books for dino fans, but this one is particularly good for curious children due to the unique illustrations. Each dinosaur is made out of a single letter, in a variety of fonts. This could potentially encourage reluctant writers to have a go at letter formation, but also introduces a world of design – can your child design their own book or magazine using just letters? There are plenty of large flaps to keep interest and a plethora of bitesize dino facts. Our full review can be found here. The same team also created Alphabeasties and Bugs By The Numbers, for your animal loving explorers.

The What on Earth Wallbook: Christopher Lloyd & Andy Forshaw (What on Earth Publishing, 2010)The What on Earth Wallbook: Christopher Lloyd & Andy Forshaw (What on Earth Publishing, 2010)
What on Earth Happened? by Christopher Lloyd is a chunky tome that tells the known history of the planet from creation, through prehistoric eras, to people and world history. The Wallbook is based on this, and is a huge elongated poster packed with illustrations of events across history, that can either be hung on a wall or left in ‘book’ form to pore over and discover interesting snippets that can start a conversation or a project. It has its faults, but is an ambitious idea to try to cover the world in one narrative and the Wallbook is great fun to browse through.

The Story of Things: Neal Layton (Hodder Children's Books, 2009)The Story of Things: Neal Layton (Hodder Children’s Books, 2009)
This is such a fun book! It takes us through a history of ‘things’ from cavepeople who had no possessions, to developing civilisations (I love the page which is of a desert, with four hidden pop-ups of civilisations that came and went, such a clever illustration of the concept), to industry and modern day electronics. There are so many things to lift and pull and peek under that you barely realise that this is actually a history book. Some of the pop-ups are a little flimsy (or maybe that’s just my copy), so it’s not one for heavy handed toddlers, but fixing the odd break is a good engineering skill for the reader too! There are two other books in the series too: The Story of Everything, and The Story of Stars. Excellent fun.

Barefoot Books World Atlas: Nick Crane & David DeanBarefoot Books World Atlas: Nick Crane & David Dean
This really is the perfect primary-age atlas which not only gives an overview of the shape of the world and its countries but covers important information for each continent (or part continent, as some are split) under the headings Physical Features; People and Places; Climate and Weather; Land Use and Natural Resources; Environment; Wildlife; and Transport. Capital cities are clearly marked on the maps and they’re also full of images from the countries to give a sense of the diversity in the world. Lift-up flaps give more ‘did you know?’ facts of historical significance. Not only useful for homework projects, the accessible text and interesting layouts (with something to lift on every page) are likely to have children pouring through this just for fun (and learning lots about the world along the way!) There’s also a world poster in a pocket on the back page for displaying on the wall if wanted. Written in 2011, this is an up-to-date introduction to continents, countries and cultures for a modern audience. Did you know that the Mount Rushmore sculptures took 14 years to complete, The Great Wall of China isn’t visible from the moon, Rubik’s cubes were invented by a Hungarian sculptor, and the keel-billed toucan is the national bird of Belize? You would if you had this Atlas 😉

Maps: Aleksandra Mizieli?ska & Daniel Mizieli?ski (Big Picture Press, 2013)Maps: Aleksandra Mizielieska & Daniel Mizielieski (Big Picture Press, 2013)
This book is HUGE. It is also utterly beautiful and worth every penny of its £20 price tag. Writing about it can’t possibly do it justice. You can view a sneak peak in the video at the end of this list but it’s really one to get in real life and spend hours and hours pouring over. On a simple level, it is literally a book full of maps. It can’t cover the entire world, so there are huge swathes of countries that have been missed out (Maps 2 maybe?!) but each country that is included has been illustrated with a host of national facts: significant buildings, native animals, examples of popular boy and girl names, food, work, historical figures… Major or important cities are marked, and there is a list of capital, languages, population and area. The text is minimal, on the whole it is there to label the illustrations and yet Maps still managed to be packed full of facts. It’s not an Atlas, and doesn’t pretend to be. It is unique, beautiful, and perfect for curious children (and grown-ups).

Ocean Deep: Richard Hatfield (Child's Play, 2011)Ocean Deep: Richard Hatfield (Child’s Play, 2011)
This is a beautifully illustrated exploration into every part of the ocean from rock pools to the deepest depths. The sturdy card pages make this suitable even from early ages, and all ages can appreciate the illustrations before reading the labels to learn all the names, and the text to find out more about the ocean. Each page is cut so you can see further pages into the book, so it feels like you are diving deeper and deeper into the ocean. The design also gives lots for little hands to explore, and the entire book can be displayed on a surface due to the concertina pages. Another one that needs to be seen in real life to be appreciated, full of facts, and some really creepy critters the deeper down you go…

Metamorphoses: Egg Tadpole Frog (Child's Play, 2006)Metamorphoses: Egg Tadpole Frog (Child’s Play, 2006)

This is a(nother) brilliantly clever book from Child’s Play. The shaped cover is tied with ribbon, and inside you find the life cycle story of frogs (Butterflies and Dragonflies are covered in other titles in this series.) This can be read as a book, with very clear and simple text, and pages that sort-of pop up. But… open it up and you have another table display of the entire life cycle with sticking out bits, and… Oh, you just have to see this in real life again, it’s just brilliant! I didn’t hold it very well (one-handed) in the video below but it gives you a rough idea. It really is brilliant, and perfect for young explorers. The back of the pages shown are illustrated with various frog species. The pages are strong card so will withstand lots of play too.


snowrolypolySnow Roly Poly Box Book: Kees Moerbeek (Child’s Play, 2008)

Child’s Play are definitely getting my thumbs up and full marks for ingenuity for books to entice even the most uninterested-in-books child. There are currently a dozen roly poly box books to choose from, but Snow is perfect for this time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere at least!) It looks like a cube, but pull the arrow on the outside and up pops and owl. follow the arrows and you unfurl a whole host of snow-loving creatures from across the globe. And it’s just as easy to roll back up again too. This is the least book-looking book you’re likely to find! Great for small people to explore.

headoverheelsgymnasticsBoys & Girls Floor Skills: Gemma Coles (Head Over Heels About Gymnastics, 2013)
I have occasional bug bears with independently published books, especially when cost cutting results in a flimsy and unattractive paper book, but it’s clear that careful thought has been put into both use and content with this beautifully produced guide. With a spiral spine, and the ability to stand upright, this book can be used whilst practising the skills inside. The clear, real-world, photographs illustrate gymnastic skills in easy to follow steps from simple to complex. It can’t replace hands on tuition, but it’s been giving my extremely active climbs-the-walls six year old a lot of new fun things to try. I especially love how it is aimed at boys and girls, and the pictures have a boy and girl equally illustrating the skills. For any child with an interest in gymnastics, this would be an excellent starting point before (or as well as) proper tuition. Check out the Head Over Heels About Gymnastics website for a discount on this clear and well produced guide.

How Many?: Ron Van Der Meer (Random House Children's Books, 2007) How Many?: Ron Van Der Meer (Random House Children’s Books, 2007)
When I was searching for pop-up books a couple of years ago, Ron Van Der Meer was recommended and I found How Many? in a discount store. It is full of complex pop-up sculptures in bright colours and geometric shapes. The text asks you to count shapes, colours, lines… or you can just marvel at the complex sculptures. This is definitely not for small children without supervision, as the detailed pop-ups are delicate. It appears to be out of print, although you can get used copies online. Whilst searching for a replacement to write about I discovered this newly reissued Interactive Art Book reviewed at The Little Wooden Horse, which although it doesn’t quite replace the mathematical side of How Many?, does showcase paper engineering skill and artistry.

Because these are all very interactive books, I made this brief video whizzing through a few pages of each to give a taster of what they’re like. They are all much nicer in real life. (The video is soundless)


Disclosure: Alphasaurs, The Story of Things, Ocean Deep, Egg Tadpole Frog, Snow, and Gymnastics Floor Skills were sent to us by their respective publishers for review. All other books were purchased or borrowed independently. Barefoot Books links are affiliate links. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.