Tag Archives: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Eight Recent Picture Book Paperback Releases

I have realised that I am not going to be able to give every book we have to review a post of its own but I do want to write about them all so here’s a multiple review post with no particular theme or order!

Copycat Bear: Ellie Sandall (Hodder Children's Books, 2012)Copycat Bear: Ellie Sandall (Hodder Children’s Books, 2012)
Plot: A lusciously illustrated tale of Mango the bird and her friend, Blue the bear. Blue copies everything that Mango does until Mango gets fed up and leaves her friend…
Age range: Toddler; Pre-school; KS1
Concepts: Frustration; forgiveness; breaking and making friends
Activity: Make patterns on paper, cut up into leaf shapes to make a tree
Also read: Iris & Isaac by Catherine Rayner

Elephant Pants: Smriti Prasdam-Halls & David Wojtowycz (Orchard Books, 2012)Elephant Pants: Smriti Prasdam-Halls & David Wojtowycz (Orchard Books, 2012)
Plot: Bright, colourful and told in rhyme, this tale follows poor Major Trump who’s lost his knickers! Noah goes through all the animals in the ark until they eventually turn up.
Age range: Toddler; Pre-school; KS1
Concepts: Embarrassment; humour
Activity: Decorate underwear templates, make a washing line
Also read: Pants by Giles Andreae & Nick Sharratt

Jack's Amazing Shadow: Tom Percival (Pavillion Children's Books, 2013)Jack’s Amazing Shadow: Tom Percival (Pavillion Children’s Books, 2013)
Plot: Jack is an ordinary boy with an extraordinary shadow, and together they are the best of friends. Until one day Jack’s shadow gets him into trouble and he shouts at him. Emotions are conveyed beautifully in the artwork, making this a great book to discuss emotions as well as a feel-good story with fun illustrations.
Age range: Pre-school; KS1; KS2
Concepts: Anger; forgiveness
Activity: Copy the ideas on the endpapers to make shadow hands, or cut out black paper shadow shapes
Also read: Copycat Bear by Ellie Sandall

Tim, Ted and the Pirates: Ian Whybrow & Russell Ayto (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2006)Tim, Ted and the Pirates: Ian Whybrow & Russell Ayto (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2006)
Plot: Told in rhyme, a bored boy imagines a swashbuckling pirate adventure during a dull storytime at school.
Age range: Pre-school; KS1; KS2
Concepts: Boredom; imagination
Activity: Look at the cutaway pirate ship, think about what rooms you’d have on your ship and design your own
Also read: Captain Flynn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andraea & Russell Ayto

A Farmer's Life For Me: Jan Dobbins & Laura Huliska-Beith (Barefoot Books, 2013)A Farmer’s Life For Me: Jan Dobbins & Laura Huliska-Beith (Barefoot Books, 2013)
Plot: A sing-a-long book (with CD) about different aspects of farming.
Age range: Baby; Toddler; Pre-school
Concepts: Being busy; working
Activity: Sing!
Also read: Over in the Meadow (various versions available)

Pittipat's Saucer of Moon: Geraldine McCaughrean & Maria Nilsson (Hodder Children's Books, 2012)Pittipat’s Saucer of Moon: Geraldine McCaughrean & Maria Nilsson (Hodder Children’s Books, 2012)
Plot: A kitten imagines the moon is a saucer of milk and dreams of climbing the sky to drink it. The art is gorgeous but I find the text too tongue tripping to easily read aloud.
Age range: Pre-school; KS1; KS2
Concepts: Bravery; dreaming
Also read: watch In the Night Garden for similar surreality

Llama Llama Shopping Drama: Anna Dewdney (Hodder Children's Books, 2007)Llama Llama Shopping Drama: Anna Dewdney (Hodder Children’s Books, 2007)
Plot: Young Llama Llama is taken shopping and gets very fed up. Told in rhyme with lots of humour, and great expressions from the baby llama. A very familiar tale for any parent of young children, and great fun to share.
Age range: Baby; Toddler; KS1
Concepts: Boredom; tantrums; forgiveness
Activity: Play shops
Also read: More in the Llama Llama series; How Do Dinosaurs…? series by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague

Florentine and Pig and the Lost Pirate Treasure: Eva Katzler & Jess Mikhail (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2013)Florentine and Pig and the Lost Pirate Treasure: Eva Katzler & Jess Mikhail (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)
Plot: Florentine enthuses about the fun they’re going to have in the sunshine outside, until Pig points out it’s raining. They then imagine they are searching for missing treasure and have a fun day inside instead.
Age range: Pre-school; KS1; KS2
Concepts: Imagination; creativity
Activity: Cooking and crafts already in the book
Also read: Tim, Ted and the Pirates by Ian Whybrow & Russell Ayto

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of all eight books by their respective publishers (Hachette Children’s Books, Harper Collins Children’s Books, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Barefoot Books and Pavillion 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.

Mabel and Me Best of Friends by Mark Sperring & Sarah Warburton

Mabel and Me Best of Friends by Mark Sperring & Sarah Warburton

Mabel and Me Best of Friends: Mark Sperring & Sarah Warburton (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

Unlikely friends are a common theme in children’s books. Unlikely friends. But let’s think about that for a bit. Terry Pratchett writes in his Discworld novels that million-to-one chances work out nine times out of ten and it seems to me that unlikely friends are just as likely. I’ve written before how author / illustrator partnerships where the collaborators are friends seem to produce books that stand out more, whether they were friends before or became friends from working together, and the partnership of Mark Sperring and Sarah Warburton shines through in Mabel and Me Best of Friends.

I’ve loved Sarah Warburton’s work for several years now and have previously raved about The Princess and the Peas, a collaboration with Caryl Hart. I’m not sure Caryl and Sarah knew each other well before working on The Princess and the Peas but they certainly completely “got” each other and what was needed there, and Sarah showcases her talent for matching pictures to text again with Mabel and Me.

Mabel and Me‘s unlikely friendship is between a little girl and her “strange little creature thing with scrawny hairy rodent legs” friend. “Me” takes centre stage with Mabel only saying a few words throughout the book, although these words are significant as well as being “hugely harrowing and diabolically difficult” on occasion.

The words chosen throughout the story are spot-on. Many phrases from this book have entered the everyday subconscious of the Chaos household. “Hey, you, you in the tutu!” being a particular favourite. But it’s not just the words that are spot-on; each character’s expression conveys so much meaning. The shocked faces of Monsieur Famous French Photographer and Senora Prima Ballerina (and what wonderful names they are too!); Me’s perplexity, indignation and forlornness (amongst others); and most of all the looks of friendship between Mabel and Me.

There is too much to love about this book. From the copyright page styled as a wall with posters pasted on; the end papers showing the characters in daytime and night; the detailing of the city they walk through; the cat in one window eying up a goldfish in another; the fez and stetson thrown in the air (Fezzes are cool!); the photobooth with a mustache; more wall posters…

The detail in the illustrations make this book a joy to read over and over again, plus give so many jumping points for follow on projects: houses and architecture; Europe; ballet; photography; design; dance; emotions… Not to mention what can be taken from the text: alliteration; mixed-up sayings…

Overall and beyond all that, this is a lovely story about friendship that we all enjoy on different levels. Although suitable for toddlers and up, there is so much in Mabel and Me that makes it perfect for older children so I’d recommend for any household with children aged 2-10.

Mabel and Me Best of Friends is currently out in hardback with RRP of £12.99 and is worth every penny; it’s out in paperback on 4th July.

You can read a lovely story behind the creation of the book and a newsflash mini-story starring Mabel and Me on Sarah Warburton’s blog plus an interview with Sarah here. I’m not leaving Mark out on purpose, I just couldn’t find much of an online presence to share!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Mabel and Me Best of Friends by Sarah Warburton and HarperCollins 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.

Sarah also wrapped the book beautifully and added some lovely extras, which made me squeak loudly when we opened the package. Huge and extra-special thank-yous from us all to Sarah xx

Mabel and Me book and cards

The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me by Oliver Jeffers

The Hueys in It Wasn't Me: Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013)

The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me: Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

It Wasn’t Me is the sequel to The New Jumper. Both books could be used as a basis for philosophy for children, and I think would be good discussed by older primary aged children. They don’t work as well as stories, but this is not a bad thing (unless that’s what you’re looking for!)

In It Wasn’t Me, a group of Hueys are arguing. Although when Gillespie asks why, none of them can remember. The visual descriptions of the arguments work very well, so the book could be used to discuss emotions and arguments. I really do see the Hueys as books to use for discussion more than story books.

I asked MG and DG what they thought of both books. They both prefered “the orange one” but I may have biased them by speaking first. Asking about “the blue one”, MG told me the story was about a fly and DG told me the story was about fighting. MG did not like the “scribbles” – I think the negative emotion contained makes her feel uncomfortable. DG liked the speech bubbles changing colours, and the flying elephant.

I’m not entirely sure what the story was really about to be honest. Who killed the fly?! A book that makes you think, but might tie your brain in knots 😉

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of It Wasn’t Me by HarperCollins 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.

Friends creating books

I have a ridiculous pile of review books to get through, so much so that I will have to schedule time to write in as just writing when I feel like it doesn’t seem to be working for me at the moment, because I don’t really feel like it.

But I really need to share some of the wonderful books I’ve been sent and we’ve been in enjoying, so in lieu of proper reviews (which will follow), I want to talk about three books that MG and DG are particularly loving at the moment. Actually, it’s six books but four are by the same author/illustrator team so I’m choosing one from them.

It’s author/illustrator teams that I want to talk about. I’m merely a (very) interested party when it comes to picture books so I know a few things about how picture books are magicked into existence, but not the full details. So I may get some things wrong here!

In general it appears that for books created by two people, i.e. an author (or “illustrator’s assistant” as Korky Paul described them in a recent event we went to) and an illustrator, the creators may never even meet each other. For the books that MG and DG are loving so much at the moment, this is not the case.

All three books are about friendship in some way, and have been created by friends. This really seems to shine through and make these stories extra special.

friends

Mabel and Me is a hilarious, insightful, quotable and gorgeous book. You can read about Mark Sperring and Sarah Warburton on Sarah’s Blog.

Bubble and Squeak is a delicious, moreish, adventurous and happy book. You can read about James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy on Clara’s Blog; and on James’ Blog.

Faster, Faster, Nice and Slow is a colourful, contradictory, bouncy and bright book. I couldn’t find any Nick Sharratt or Sue Heap information probably because this is an older book, but it’s extra-special because Nick and Sue both write and both illustrate and both appear in the books. They’ve collaborated on four books together, and this is my personal favourite (DG loves them all extra specially, they are her special books).

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of Mabel and Me by HarperCollins Children’s Books and Bubble and Squeak by Hachette Childrens Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

I Heart Bedtime Blog Tour: Bunny Crafts

It’s PUBLICATION DAY!!!! If you haven’t already, get running to your nearest bookshop and grab a copy of I Heart Bedtime! After you’ve done that, why not read on about my bunny crafting attempts 🙂

Clara Vulliamy is the sort of person who could inspire practically anyone to have a go at some kind of craft. From her website packed full of things to try; to events where there’s always something to make involving felt, button and ribbons; to tid-bits that arrive in the post occasionally from the Happy Bunny Club. We’ve had the pleasure of bunnies in matchboxes, bunny ears, felt bunnies with satin hearts inside, colouring and sticking…

Not only is Clara an extremely talented author illustrator and crafter, she can do mechanics too. Look at this amazing music player that she actually made: (You can watch the video of it playing at www.claras.me)

I Heart Bedtime: Clara's Music Box

I jumped at the chance to be part of the I Heart Bedtime blog tour, and knew something crafty would end up happening. I’ve already reviewed I Heart Bedtime in a separate post, and to celebrate publication day I offer you: my rubbish sewing skills! Don’t worry, there’s also a little treat from Clara herself to download too 🙂

I didn’t know what I wanted to do so just wandered into the local haberdashery (I know how lucky we are to have one: Masons in Abingdon, if you were wondering) and wandered. Near the entrance I saw the most utterly perfect material for the book: mini hearts in pink, blue, yellow and orange. Squee! And then my latent inner-crafter took over and I came out with a bag including white fleece, felt, mini sewing kit (I didn’t even own a needle and thread) and from their sister shop next door, embroidery thread in pink and black.

We had a paper colouring-in template from last year, which I traced around to make a simple bunny doll template. Actually there was about five iterations, because the picture was designed for colouring in, not for cutting out. I traced around the head, and then moved the body to make a neck; then I ditched the idea of fingers as they’re too small and fiddly; and I moved the legs closer together so they looked better as a doll; plus I widened the arms and legs (but not enough as it turned out!) Finally I drew a dotted line around my template for the seam and cut it out.

I Heart Bedtime: Martha Pattern

The only way I know to make soft toys is the very simple “cut two of the same shape and sew them together” method! I do know enough to leave room for a seam, and to sew inside out and then turn round to fill, so I realised that I would need to create the face first. I pencilled in the face and cut out two inner ears in felt to sew in place then used the black and pink embroidery thread to sew her sunny smile.

I Heart Bedtime: making the bunny toy smile

Next, I put the two fleece pieces back to back and sewed around, leaving the head unsewed for turning. I used backstitch – at least, I think that’s what it’s called! – to make the seams stronger. Oh, I wish I had a sewing machine! Hand-sewing seams takes forever! As I was sewing I thought the arms and legs were a bit thin, and I’m not going to admit to how long it took me to turn them the right way round, with copious help from the back end of a pencil. When the body part was turned, I used the same backwards method to sew the face and ears, leaving a small hole at the top for filling.

I Heart Bedtime: Sewing the bunny toy and dressing her

My plan was to use a funnel and fill the bunny doll with rice. Could I find a funnel anywhere? Hah! We have at least three plastic funnels in the house and the last time I saw one it was in the correct drawer but Destructo-Girl does have a habit of stealing things from the real kitchen for her pretend games and after searching through three boxes of their toys I lost patience! I then looked up toy fillings and it said rice was a bad idea because it went mouldy when wet too, so the next day I went back to Masons and bought proper hollow fibre toy stuffing instead.

I Heart Bedtime: Not Quite Martha Bunny

Of course, having made Martha for Mighty-Girl, I had to make Pip for Destructo-Girl. I made a couple of changes when cutting round the same template, widening the arms and legs, ditching the feet (they were so fiddly) and thinning the neck. I think the original one looks better, maybe third time lucky I’ll get a suitable template, or just leave that to the experts!

I used the perfect material for Martha’s dress (nightie) and decorated it with mini buttons and ric rac we already owned (I’m a bit of a button and ribbon addict!) It was a very simple “cut round the outline and sew it up” design! My plan was for the dolls to have several outfits to dress and undress but I got the sizing totally wrong and it’s a good thing Martha was filled with her outfit on or it would never have fit her! Pip is obviously wearing Monty’s old pyjamas because they’re Monty’s favourite colour and Monty loves stars too (well, he loves rockets, so he probably loves stars too), DG wanted Pip to have stars because he is wearing stars in I Heart Bedtime. I didn’t do any seams on the clothes so they are fraying and rubbish, but it’s the thought that counts?!

I Heart Bedtime: Two soft toy bunnies, entirely hand made!

All the above was something that was a little more complex than my little bunnies could cope with so I begged the lovely Clara for some paper dress-up bunnies and she e-mailed me a set of bunnies and their pyjamas. I printed out a few sets and they’ve been lying around this week for my girls and any guests to have a go. There’s been some great decorating and cutting going on, and a whole lot of mess!

I Heart Bedtime: DG and MG's paper doll bunnies (I might have coloured in one of them!)

You can download your own paper bunnies too! I made two sizes – one where all three bunnies fit on one page and their pyjamas on a second sheet; and another where each bunny and two pairs of their pyjamas are on each page.

I Heart Bedtime Paper Doll Templates

Bunny Paper Dolls small (takes you to OpenDrive to download)
Bunny Paper Dolls medium (takes you to OpenDrive to download)

I Heart Bedtime is a dream of a book, and has spent its life so far in the Chaos household being dragged up and down stairs like a yo-yo so that it can be read just one more time… 🙂

I Heart Bedtime Blog Tour so far:
23 March: Clara Vulliamy guest post at Netmums
24 March: Bedtime routines with Jax and family from Making it Up
24 March: Illustrated interview with Martha herself from The Book Sniffer
25 March: Princess C interviews Clara Vulliamy at Read It, Daddy!
26 March: Bedtime routines with the Library Mice
27 March: Bedtime with Smiling like Sunshine

Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Heart Bedtime

Martha and the Bunny Brothers I Heart Bedtime: Clara Vulliamy (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013)

Martha and the Bunny Brothers I Heart Bedtime: Clara Vulliamy (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

Occasionally, when I review books, I look at them almost entirely from an adult perspective. This is usually when the book is so loved by my daughters and me that I feel it really needs some extra attention in the review. This is one of those books.

I Heart Bedtime is the sequel to I Heart School and is just as utterly delicious as the first book. There is a wonderful adult-centric review as to why I Heart School is such a great picture book on the blog Did You Ever Stop to Think…?, which I thoroughly recommend.

For a child-centric reason why both Martha books are wonderful, I offer up the examples of my daughters. Destructo-Girl (almost-four) has slept with a variety of Clara Vulliamy books under her pillow for chunks of the mere fifteen months since we first discovered them. Martha Bunny was a favourite from the moment it arrived a year ago, and DG could find it spine-out on a bookcase at age two. Mighty-Girl (six) is a good reader but currently stuck in the mindset that she can only read banded books, but she has read the entire Martha books to her little sister – and they are fairy verbose books even though they don’t feel it when you’re reading them. Both DG and MG can quote huge sections of the text from either book, and they both relate to almost all of the scenarios. These are picture books for children that children enjoy, but are packed with so much that they are a joy to read over and over again as an adult.

From the very first page, the bright colours and happy smiling bunny entice you to read more, but more than that the links between both I Heart School and I Heart Bedtime are cemented in this first page too. Small children love and need the familiar, the world can be a scary enough place and often children latch on to a familiar toy or comforter. The Martha books understand this need in small children and keep the familiar not only in the situations that children will experience, but in the structure of the book too starting on this first page:

marthafirstpage

Other similarities are more subtle, but bring the child into the second book with ease once they are familiar with the first book (in whatever order they are read):

marthasimilarities

I often comment on fonts used in picture books and how I like easy-to-read fonts for early readers. But for some books, the array of fonts used is part of the story. In the Martha books, there is a script font that can be challenging to read but it is used sparsely and for similar words (see examples in images above) so familiarity/guesswork can be used!

On the subject of fonts, and being such a part of the story, I have to share these examples of words (doodling is from I Heart School, and sharks is from I Heart Bedtime). What an absolutely wonderful use of typography in the text:

marthatypography

My final example of book love for the two Martha books is Martha’s clothes. In I Heart School we are shown a selection of Martha’s favourite clothes, and in I Heart Bedtime we are shown her favourite pyjamas. What is absolutely wonderful is that Martha is shown in pyjamas in I Heart School which then appear in I Heart Bedtime, and shown in a dress in I Heart Bedtime that appeared in I Heart School. Just wonderful!

marthaclothes

And I haven’t even mentioned that lovely expression Martha has in both the inset pictures above, all because of her bunny brothers! Or that their toothbrushes in I Heart Bedtime are the favourite colours listed in I Heart School. Or that no adult characters appear, all the images are about Martha, Monty, Pip and Paws. Or that my Destructo-Girl copies Pip’s antics regularly including the necessity for strawberry toothpaste…

And really finally, I don’t know about other parents, but I am certainly guilty of this little white lie in order to get children to bed on time:

5oclockbedtime

In this case, Martha is so excited to spend some time with her best babysitter that she starts trying to get her bunny brothers to bed as early as possible. Later in the text, mum says “Now it really IS bedtime, little bunnies,” as they have taken so long coming up with excuses not to go to bed that the time has flown past. There is a delightful scene where Martha, Monty and Pip are shown going up and down the stairs with one excuse or another. Something else that is very familiar in the Chaos household!

There are too many little (and big) familiar moments in I Heart Bedtime that makes it a delight to read. Not only that but the highlight for MG and DG is the Bedtime Bunnies Song. My singing is rubbish but I do try! To listen to the song pop along to www.claras.me.

Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Heart Bedtime is published on Thursday, 28 March 2013, and I’ll be sharing some bunny-inspired crafting with you then as part of the official blog tour. I can’t wait! 🙂

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Heart Bedtime by HarperCollins 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.

 

Lulu and the Treasure Hunt by Emma Chichester Clarke

Lulu and the Treasure Hunt: Emma Chichester Clarke (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013)

Lulu and the Treasure Hunt: Emma Chichester Clarke (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

This is the second in the Wagtail Town series and both MG and DG love both this and Lulu and the Best Cake Ever. What’s not to like in a town full of dogs? In this story the school children go on a treasure hunt to the local park following clues to the final treasure. Lulu volunteers to look after Bonnie as she’s the smallest but gets impatient and leaves her behind! Her friends get cross and leave Lulu to find Bonnie. I feel sorry for Lulu here because the whole group could have waited before instead of leaving both Lulu and Bonnie behind but fortunately all ends well, Lulu is very sorry but Bonnie doesn’t mind and between them they find the best treasure.

The details in the dog breeds for the Wagtail Town books will delight any dog enthusiast (I prefer cats!) and the gentle message of not leaving someone behind just because they are small is good for young children. MG and DG give Wagtail Town a big thumbs up!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Lulu and the Treasure Hunt by HarperCollins 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.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd

The Runaway Bunny: Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd (HarperCollins Children's Books, 1942, 1972, 2013)

The Runaway Bunny: Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 1942, 1972, 2013)

This is a newly published edition of a classic first published seventy years ago with forty year old illustrations. The text is as perfect and relevant today but I’m afraid the illustrations don’t work as well for me. Perhaps it’s the size of the book, the illustrations may work better in a smaller format. This is the same duo who created the infamous Goodnight, Moon which I wouldn’t change at all but I’d love to see The Runaway Bunny with new illustrations. I am probably in a very small minority with this classic!

I hadn’t actually read The Runaway Bunny before, at least I don’t remember it but probably have seen it as a child. As a parent, the text is just perfect.

Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.
So he said to his mother, “I am running away.”
“If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you.
For you are my little bunny.”

For MG and DG, the whole book is lovely. They love the slightly surreal illustrations (flying bunnies, bunny ears as sails for a boat!) I tell them I would do everything the mummy bunny would to get them home as I love them too, which they find quite silly! I do like how the book changes between text with line illustrations to double page paintings as it is different from most books today (maybe a re-illustrated version is a bad idea after all!) and makes this something different for MG and DG to experience.

Overall, a beautifully written classic in a lovely new edition that parents and carers will relate to and children will enjoy knowing that they are loved too. It would be a lovely mother’s day gift – at any time of year!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Runaway Bunny by HarperCollins 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.

Recent Reads

As part of the book challenges I joined, I wanted to write reviews of every book I’d read. I’ve not had the time to recently and the longer I leave it after reading, the less detail I can remember to write about. So here are some brief summaries of books I’ve read so far this year that I haven’t yet reviewed.

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)

This is still my favourite fairy tale after almost thirty years, and I loved it on re-reading as an adult. It deserves its own post and I have no problem with reading it over and over again in order to give it the attention it deserves. The story follows Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, the seventh daughter born to the King and Queen of Phantasmorania, who at her Christening is given the gift of being ordinary by a crotchety fairy. So she grows up with freckles, mousey hair and everyone calls her Amy. In true fairy tale fashion there is danger and romance, but with a twist and a lot of humour.

The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)

I backed this book on Kickstarter after falling in love with Jake Parker’s art for The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. It was worth the eight month wait. I’m more of a wannabe comics fan, which I suppose doesn’t make sense as I am a fan but I’m not in the slightest bit knowledgeable and comics are an expensive habit so I never am going to be knowledgeable. Being such a visual medium, and being a bear of little brain, I also find comics impossible to read aloud to children. It’s like audio description for television: very clever and not something I can do! The ten short stories in this volume are wonderful, and completely moreish. I want more of every world Jake Parker has created. I’m very glad I backed this and will read it many times, and when MG and DG are a bit older I might even let them borrow it too!

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)

I put off reading this novel for ages because it’s not a genre I’m particularly interested in and I didn’t want to dislike something from Shirley Hughes! It took a few chapters to suck me in but the story was compelling and the characters beautifully drawn – in words, not pictures. I hope Shirley Hughes writes more novels and I won’t care what genre they’re in because the writing shines through and makes this novel irresistible. I’m glad I got over my mini-phobia and read this book.

Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)

I got this second-hand and started reading it one evening, only to find I’d finished it in one sitting! For some reason the mystical element at the end, with the gypsy curse appearing to be real didn’t sit right with me despite the entire book being fantastical with juvenile detention camp inmates digging a hole 5ft deep and 5ft in diameter every day. But somehow it all seems to make perfect sense as you read it, and Stanley Yelnets and Zero make good believable characters. It’s a weird and wonderful narrative that pulls you in from the start. Oddly enjoyable.

Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2009)Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2009)

I bought this at the Oxford Children’s Book Group event and started reading it because  Katherine Langrish was  a great speaker and the descriptions of her work sounded just my kind of genre. I’ve just realised what this reminded me of: Redwall by Brian Jacques, although it’s been years since I read any of that series and Dark Angels isn’t about mice! The 12th Century Welsh setting with monasteries and castles is a backdrop to a very human tale. There may be elves, angels, devils and ghosts but they often seem dream-like so this works as historical and fantasy fiction. I loved the world envisioned in this book and the ending holds hope for a sequel. Wolf and Nest call Elfgift their little sister but she seems like their daughter too and I really want to find out more about their relationship. More, please!

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)

This novel has garnered high praise from many quarters and I ended up reading it in one day, in between child-wrangling. It’s not a book to read if you’re after a happy tale, because this is very depressing. It is also compelling and very readable. It’s set in an alternate 1950’s and the places are described as the motherland, the homeland, zones… It’s a miserable existence for Standish and his grandfather but they’re surviving. There are some horrible events in the book so it’s definitely not for younger children but it’s a chilling glimpse into a world that could have been and well worth a read.

Splat says Thank You! by Rob Scotton

Splat Says Thank-You!: Rob Scotton (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2012)

Splat Says Thank-You!: Rob Scotton (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2012)

It’s hard not to like Splat the Cat. This is his seventh picture book and in it his friend Seymour is feeling sad because he’s ill. Splat tries to cheer Seymour up with his friendship book, a list of all the things Splat wants to thank Seymour for.

“When I broke my mum’s favourite ornament, you fixed it for me,” said Splat.
Except somehow, Mum noticed and I had to have a bath and go to bed early.
“Thank-you, anyway.”

The humour oozes though the pages with the pictures telling more of the story and lots to laugh along with, although tinged with feeling sad for poor Seymour too. But mainly lots of giggles at all the scrapes Seymour has helped Splat out of, for which Splat is genuinely grateful no matter how it turned out.

“You are my smallest friend and my biggest.”

That line makes me have a bit of dust in my eye… 😉 Beautifully illustrated, funny and with a great message too.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of  Splat Says Thank-you! by HarperCollins 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.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og9dxHWnnNg”]