Tag Archives: Judith Kerr

#BookADayUK An Old Favourite

I have lots of old favourites, some of which I’ve probably already mentioned. But when it came to thinking of a picture book to review for today’s theme, a very special old favourite came to mind…

Mog And Bunny And Other Stories (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013)Mog And Bunny And Other Stories (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

This is a collection of three Mog books by Judith Kerr, in the modern large format (all the better for seeing the gorgeous artwork.) I am in two minds on picture book collections. On the one hand, I prefer individual picture books, partially for the endpapers and because my children never let me read only one story out of a collection, it has to be the whole book, but mainly because I just prefer individual books. On the other hand, collections like these often cost little more than a single picture book so are great value for money and also make wonderful gifts.

The three stories in this collection are Mog and Bunny; Mog and the V.E.T. and Mog and the Granny. In Mog and Bunny we’re introduced to Mog’s favourite toy. In Mog and the V.E.T. Mog hurts her paw and has to go to the vet to get better, and in Mog and the Granny, the family go on holiday leaving Mog to be looked after by a friend.

As always, the observations of cats are perfectly illustrated, and on reading these stories, I could see why there is a book called “All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome”! My only gripe is that the phrase Red Indian wasn’t changed to a more acceptable term.

I love Mog, and think she belongs on every child’s bookshelf.

Disclosure: Mog And Bunny And Other Stories received for review from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Beautiful Picture Books for Giving

I think any picture book from a child’s favourite theme or illustration style is a wonderful gift when it’s a hardback edition. Hardback books, especially picture books, have a special air about them. Here are a selection of recently published books that are available in hardback and are especially beautiful.

The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, Anniv. ed 2013)The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder Children’s Books, Anniv. ed 2013)
I hadn’t seen this anniversary edition when I first wrote this list, but now I have it’s at the top of it. The Tale of Jack Frost is a near-perfect winter story, beautifully illustrated in watercolour. It’s a fairy tale and a winter tale, full of unique magical creatures, horrible goblins, forgotten pasts and hopeful futures. I’ve written about the paperback version before, but this hardback (signed and limited to 1000 copies) takes a beautiful story and packages it perfectly. With shining snowflakes on the cover and endpapers full of sketches, the anniversary edition is also individually hand numbered and signed by the author. Search out a copy now, before they all disappear.

Abigail: Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press, 2013)Abigail: Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press, 2013)
Every Catherine Rayner picture book is a piece of beauty, and Abigail is no exception. Abigail is the newest animal character from Catherine, and she is a giraffe who loves to count. The hardback edition is a near-square with gorgeous matt covering depicting Abigail against a night sky. The story follows Abigail as she tries to count things, but they keep moving. Eventually she gets her friends together and they find something to count that doesn’t move. Stunning imagery of the African plains and its inhabitants pack the book, with a lovely gentle story suitable for all ages but especially for 3-5 year olds because of the focus on learning to count. A flip-up page adds to the interest, and ending with night-time makes this the perfect bedtime read.

Winter's Child: Angela McAliister & Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar Publishing, 2013)Winter’s Child: Angela McAllister & Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar Publishing, 2013)
This book truly is an object of beauty, and a perfect Christmas story. The story is about Tom, who loves winter and wants it to stay forever. He finds a friend in a strange pale boy and every day they play in the stunning icy landscape. But at home, Nana is getting frailer, food and fuel is running out, and Tom’s mother is worried… I cannot describe how beautifully illustrated this fable is, it is a book to be poured over and enjoyed on many levels. Suitable from 3+, it will probably most appeal to 5-8 year olds, but older children will get so much from the story too.

All Through The Night: John Ceiriog Hughes & Kate Alizadeh (Simply Read Books, 2013)All Through The Night: John Ceiriog Hughes & Kate Alizadeh (Simply Read Books, 2013)
This book has perfect Christmas stocking filler written all over it. It is a small square hardback with words of a traditional Welsh lullaby (translated into English) with beautiful pastel illustrations. The lyrics are very Christian and refer to God and Guardian Angels so will appeal more to people with Christian faith. The book is a small package of beauty, lovely for bedtime reading. It may even be a thoughtful gift for someone who is grieving, but that would be a very personal choice.

Barefoot Books - The World of Miss Clara Gift SetThe Princess and The Pea; The Twelve Dancing Princesses; and The Snow Queen: Miss Clara (Barefoot Books, 2013)
I’m cheating a little here, because I haven’t seen these books in real life yet. I have however seen the chapter book versions and know how stunning Miss Clara’s illustrations are. These three hardback editions are new to Barefoot Books this month, and are also currently available as a gift set saving 10% on individual prices. You can get a further 20% off ordering online with the code TWENTY13. All Barefoot Books are produced to a high standard, and these will be no exception. A trio of classic fairy tales with beautiful illustrations, what more could you ask from a Christmas gift?

Rules of Summer: Shaun Tan (Lothian Children's Books, 2013)Rules of Summer: Shaun Tan (Lothian Children’s Books, 2013)
I don’t ‘get’ Shaun Tan’s picture books. The art is stunningly beautiful, weird and unique, and wonderful for getting lost in. But the picture books make absolutely no sense to me at all. I read this one to my four year old and she told me I was reading it wrong, because I must have missed out some of the words! These are not books for small children. Stunningly beautiful, cinematic and wonderful, this could be read to any child, but is probably of more interest to children aged 8+. I think this is one to add to the Christmas stockings of any art students you know too. This would be perfect as a springboard for discussion about… Well, I have no idea what the book is about at all, which I think may be the point, so the discussions from this book are potentially limitless.

The King of Space; Jonny Duddle (Templar Books, 2013)The King of Space: Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing, 2013)
The paperback version is already out but the hardback is still available. You can read my full thoughts on this book here. This will appeal to all space-loving children (so most of them) of any age, but under threes probably won’t appreciate it as much. It’s also perfect for all sci-fi geek parents too. I’m usually a fan of traditional artists, as I find a lot of digital art too ‘shiny’ (for want of a better word!) but in all three of his books Jonny Duddle has packed the pages with grime and details. I’ve read them so many times and still have the odd “oh!” moment when I notice yet-another connection between the stories in the background…

The Tiger Who Came To Tea: Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books, Gift ed. 2013) The Tiger Who Came To Tea: Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children’s Books, Gift ed. 2013)
This story probably needs no introduction. The fun, and surreal, tale of a Tiger who visits Sophie and her mummy to eat everything in their house has been well-loved since it was first published in 1968. To celebrate Judith Kerr’s 90th birthday this year, a beautiful gift edition hardback complete with slipcase has been released. This gift edition deserves its place on every child (and children’s book lover’s) bookshelves, and makes a perfect gift.

The Girl With A Brave Heart, A Tale From Tehran: Rita Jahanforuz & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013)The Girl With A Brave Heart: Rita Jahanforua & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013)
A traditional tale from Tehran which starts in a Cinderalla-like way; Shiraz’s mother dies young and her father remarries but after he too dies, her life changes from one of happiness to drudgery as the step-mother and step-sister make her their maid. Unlike Cinderella, no prince is required for a happy ending. Because of Shiraz’s kind heart, and the good that she does, it appears that she receives the gift of beauty. In reality it is Shiraz’s own personality shining through. Beautifully illustrated, this is a very positive and non-stereotyped story; the perfect antidote to Disney princesses. Available to buy from Barefoot Books.

amelienanetteSparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties (Amelie and Nanette): Sophie Tilley (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)
In a complete contrast to the non-stereotyped Girl With A Brave Heart, Amelie and Nanette are the epitome of girlyness, and you can read my thoughts on this book here. This is such a beautiful hardback that it deserves a place in this list, as it will make a lovely present. The theme of summer picnics will be a great pick-me-up on a cold, dull winter’s day and the beautiful illustrations should put a smile on even the grumpiest face. Suitable for reading to any age, this will be enjoyed most by 3-8 year olds.

Barbapapa and Barbapapa's Voyage: Annette Tison & Talus Taylor (Orchard Books, new ed. 2013)Barbapapa and Barbapapa’s Voyage: Annette Tison & Talus Taylor (Orchard Books, new ed. 2013)
The Barbapapa books were originally published in the 1970’s although I have no memory of them from my childhood so it’s with new and adult eyes that I was introduced to Barbapapa, a pink blob-creature who was found in a garden (in Barbapapa), and his family (in Barbapapa’s Voyage). The stories are a little strange and surreal, but full of adventure and concepts that small children will be familiar with. These books will either be a classic for parents who read them as children to share, or just fun new additions. They are very lovely, and the hardback editions are beautifully produced. Suitable for any age, but especially 3-5 year olds.

I hope that has given you some ideas of a tiny fraction of the beautiful books currently released in the UK that would make wonderful gifts. I will be writing more gift list ideas over the next two weeks.

Disclosure: All books (except Barefoot Books) received from their respective publishers for review. 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.

Advent Books, part three

One Little Christmas Tree: The Curto Family & Rusty Fischer (2012)One Little Christmas Tree: The Curto Family & Rusty Fischer (2012)
I’ve called this section ‘favourite characters’ and am starting with an unknown – but not really as the Christmas Tree is the star of most Christmases in the UK so a very familiar character indeed! This is the story of a fir tree who is left alone in the Christmas tree lot year after year but eventually finds the perfect family to go home with. It’s the first of a series of three books, which seem to share a gentle, loving core. They are available as paperbacks and e-books from Amazon. You can find descriptions of all three books here. I was sent a paperback copy of the first book by the creators. It’s an enjoyable enough story, pitched somewhere between a picture book and an early chapter book. This is very much an American book, e.g. it uses “Mom”, and for that reason it doesn’t work as well for us. MG and DG enjoy listening to the story, MG comments on how the little tree’s nose grows through the story! Based on the first story, these are nice little additions to Christmas story times, but as a thin A5 paperback they are sadly overpriced. However, the clear text would work well on a tablet and it is available in electronic format.

Mog's Christmas: Judith Kerr (HarperCollin's Children's Books, 1976)Mog’s Christmas: Judith Kerr (HarperCollin’s Children’s Books, 1976)
I love Mog. Mog the Forgetful Cat is one of my all-time favourite children’s books. Amazingly, I still haven’t read all of the series, I think partly because I will sob when Mog dies… Mog is drawn with such love and her expressions are wonderful. In this book, she is scared by all the goings on at Christmas (as a side note, I love how Christmas only ever starts on Christmas Eve in children’s books!) There’s a walking, talking tree and everyone is busy so Mog hides on the roof, falling asleep on a nice warm chimney… Another lovely book to share at Christmas story times, MG and DG love Mog and her reactions almost as much as I do. One I definitely look forward to every year!

Merry Christmas Maisy: Lucy Cousins (Walker Books, 2000)Merry Christmas Maisy: Lucy Cousins (Walker Books, 2000)
This is a novelty book with lots of flaps to lift, a couple of tabs to pull and tons of sparkle in the pictures. It is aimed at very young children, and I forget when we bought it but it could have been before DG was born. It is still loved by both MG and DG, despite being technically years too young for MG. DG loves it best, as she still enjoys all the Maisy books where MG is more grown up now (although will watch the DVDs at Nanny’s house on a loop still!) But it’s Maisy, and Maisy is just so lovable and in bright eye-catching colours suitable for babies and up. Probably not one to buy for older children, but get when they’re babies and it will be treasured for years. Also our copy is still in remarkably good condition considering how many years it’s been mauled at Christmas!

Harry and the Dinosaurs make a Christmas Wish: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds (Puffin Books, 2003)Harry and the Dinosaurs make a Christmas Wish: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds (Puffin Books, 2003)
I think there’s a Harry and the Dinosaurs book for every ocassion and I am glad there is because every tale is lovely and full of fun. MG tells me there’s a TV version of Harry and the Dinosaurs that she’s seen at school and with MG, if it’s been on TV it makes it instantly more insteresting! To be fair, she also loved the books before that though. In this tale, the dinosaurs really want a duck for Christmas having seen ducklings hatch at the farm. Harry is distracted by other toys but the dinosaurs still want the duckling. On Christmas morning, they don’t quite get their wish but something even better – a new friend. The Harry books are wonderful. I adore how the subtle text covers sibling arguments, and how the Nan lives with the family.

Harry and the Snow King: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds (Puffin Books, 1997)Harry and the Snow King: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds (Puffin Books, 1997)
Another Harry book, but I had to include it. We all absolutely love this story, me possibly a bit more than MG and DG but there’s lots of snow, and snowmen, and Harry gets a ride on a tractor – all of which is incredibly appealing to small children, well incredibly appealing to my small children but it all seems great fun to me so why wouldn’t it appeal? 😉 I love the patience in which Harry collects up all the tiny amounts of snow in order to make his mini snow king, and the text is perfectly pitched with lovely illustrations. One of my absolute favourites of all the Harry books, I hugely recommend this book at any time of year but it really fits when you’re wishing for the snow that never comes at Christmas. A beautiful book.

The Gruffalo's Child: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books, 2004)The Gruffalo’s Child: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2004)
This is not technically a ‘Christmas’ book, but look at that front cover, it’s so Christmassy. Plus the two animated Gruffalo films were both released at Christmas so there’s a definite Christmas theme… The Gruffalo needs no introduction, it is a wonderful book. I am not as keen as I don’t think the rhyme flows as well in the sequel but it’s a nice touch to have the Gruffalo use the “Big Bad Mouse” as the scary warning to his child, and her attempts to find the Big Bad Mouse with the Snake, Owl and Fox making appearances joining in with the Big Bad Mouse story links it heavily to the first story. Enjoyed by both girls, and who can resist a baby Gruffalo?

I was going to include Everything’s Rosie: The Last Snowball, but actually it’s a book set in spring so I left that one out. There’s Mr Snow from the Mr Men which I should include if I can find it. There’s also Mr Christmas and some other newer snowy and Christmassy Mr Men books, but anything after the first forty-three Mr Men books don’t count in my opinion! We don’t have a huge amount of character tie-in books but there are plenty of Christmas and winter books from all favourite characters that could be included.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of One Little Christmas Tree by Good Times at Home LLC for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

A Handful of Recent Picture Books with Grandparents

Grandma Bendy by Izy Penguin (Maverick Arts Publishing, 2012)Grandma Bendy by Izy Penguin (Maverick Arts Publishing, 2012)

Here is a Grandma like no other – she has very stretchy and bendy arms and legs. She’s a superhero to her grandchildren and great for getting you in the house when you’ve lost your keys, but she has a dark past. Grandma Bendy used to be… a burglar! I like how, although this is a humourous book, it does touch on how upsetting being burgled can be and that a life of crime can only lead to prison.

MG and DG liked looking for Grandma Bendy when she was playing hide and seek, and that she was good now. MG was a little worried about the burglaring part because one of her friends scared her by pretending there were bad men burglars out in the dark, plus she caught some adult chat about the missing child which accentuated her worries. Fortunately this is a happy and funny book, and just what she needed to not worry about ‘bad men’ in the dark when she’s safely at home.

40 Uses for a Grandpa by Harriet Ziefert & Amanda Haley (Blue Apple Books, 2005)40 Uses for a Grandpa by Harriet Ziefert & Amanda Haley (Blue Apple Books, 2005)

A lovely little book, this consists of a list of forty things a grandparent can be, each with an illustration. ‘Uses’ given are storyteller, teacher, referee, nurse, opponent, baker, friend… Various grandparents and families are included in the illustrations, covering different races making this an accessible book. This book does include Americanisms (veterinarian, entertainment center) but not in a way to distract from the overall purpose of the book.

When reading this with MG and DG, we talked about which things their Grandpa was very good at and which things he probably wouldn’t do! Another time I’ll talk about my dad and what he would have done with them if he were still alive.  This is a good book to spark discussion about all the things we have because of our grandparents and all the things they do for us and would also make a lovely gift for a Grandpa to share with their grandchildren. MG and DG’s Grandpa is ‘Grandpa’ rather than ‘Granddad’ or another nickname (my dad was ‘Daddo’ being the Irish pet version) so this works very well for us but the name doesn’t matter as the message is the same so I think it’s suitable for all!

The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2012)The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2012)

A new Judith Kerr, and beautifully illustrated as you’d expect. The premise is lovely: a gang of crime-stopping grannies (the youngest eighty-two) who all do things that you don’t expect elderly ladies to do: like ballooning, chimney repairs and lion taming. I do love the Granny Gang members, but I am disappointed that the antagonists chosen are a gang of ‘hoodies’. I thought we were beyond blaming the youth of today and their fashion sense for all being disrespectful and criminal, and as this is a book to read to young children who may grow up into these youths I’d prefer a more positive role model. I would have preferred a gang of bad grannies for the good grannies to convert! However, my children are young and don’t read so much into this, and it is only a picture book… They like the grannies, the mess, and the crocodile. I like the art, the cats, and the wonderful grannies – especially Maud with her pneumatic drill.

Lollipop and Grandpa and the Wobbly Tooth by Penelope Harper & Cate James (Phoenix Yard Books, 2012)Lollipop and Grandpa and the Wobbly Tooth by Penelope Harper & Cate James (Phoenix Yard Books, 2012)

I found this book whilst browsing the shelves in Mostly Books, vaguely looking for a book involving grandfathers as most of the books I had covered grandmothers but also just generally browsing when this caught my eye. There was also a copy of Lollipop and Grandpa’s Back Garden Safari which I flicked through and it looked great fun but I bought this one because MG is at the age where her teeth will start to wobble soon. Phoenix Yard are a relatively new independent publishers and looking at their catalogue, they are one to keep an eye on. I also flicked through I Have The Right To Be A Child and mentally added it to my wishlist!

Lollipop and her Grandpa have a wonderfully close relationship, she beams when he comes to stay and he loves spending time with her. Grandpa has a huge amount of joy and curiousness about the world, perfect for sharing with a child, and comes up with all sorts of mad ideas for helping Lollipop with her wobbly tooth.Throughout the book healthy teeth habits are encouraged (but not forced) and it’s a healthy snack that helps Lollipop’s tooth come out. I love the caring relationship between the grandparent and grandchild; DG and MG love all Grandpa’s silly suggestions, and to guess what will actually work. This is a happy and reassuring book, lovely to share with grandparents or to talk about them when they are not around, either through distance or loss.

Whizz Pop, Granny Stop! byTracey Corderoy & Joe Berger (Nosy Crow, 2012)Whizz Pop, Granny Stop! by Tracey Corderoy & Joe Berger (Nosy Crow, 2012)

This is the sequel to Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble, which we borrowed from the library and loved (and will probably end up on the shelves at some point!) This granny is definitely very, very different. The first book has her granddaughter attempting a makeover to change her into a normal, ordinary granny but it’s really a story of how to accept people just the way they are. I don’t think the word ‘witch’ is used in either book, but Granny is very obviously a witch with her pointy black hat, black cat, cauldron and book of spells.

In Whizz Pop, Granny Stop the granddaughter wants Granny to stop making spells to try to fix things because they never seem to go quite right (pink hair and a missing rabbit being results of previous spells). For her party she wants it all to be done the long way so they bake cakes and sew clothes, and although the results aren’t perfect, it’s perfect for them. But after the party, there’s all that mess, and Granny’s magic comes in again. This book again is about accepting people for who they are, and for appreciating what we have rather than wishing for perfection. A great philosophy wrapped up in a fun, imaginative rhyme with utterly gorgeous illustrations Both books highly recommended – especially with Halloween just around the corner!

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of Grandma Bendy by Maverick Arts Publishing; 40 Uses for a Grandpa by Blue Apple Books; and The Great Granny Gang 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.

Six Books

Six picture books from my childhood that I bought for my children

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle (1969)
This was the first book I bought for my then unborn first child. It’s just an essential book for every child. I remember as a child loving the different sized pages and the holes where the caterpillar has munched through. The art is gorgeous and iconic. Not only that, but it also teaches the lifecycle of a butterfly, counting, days of the week… It is an absolutely perfect book. So much so, I think I may upgrade the board book version we have to a paperback version so it can be enjoyed in our house for many more years to come.

2. Meg and Mog – Helen Nicol & Jan Pienkowski (1972)
I still love Jan Pienkovski’s art and our house is packed with examples of his work from Meg and Mog to pop-up Haunted House; from 1001 First Words to The One Thousand Nights and One Night… But this is where is all began for me, with the story of Meg the witch, her cat Mog, Owl and the spells that never work out. There’s nothing not to love about the Meg and Mog books but the first one is my special favourite, it’s probably one of the first books I read independently. The fantastic easy to read lettering and the bright contrasting colours means it catches the attention of even very young babies. I never tire of reading it.

3. My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes – Eve Sutton & Lynley Dodd (1974)
I always wonder what happened to Eve Sutton, I don’t think she wrote any other children’s books. Lynley Dodd of course went on to create the fantastic Hairy Maclary series plus many more. But this is still my favourite of her books. The Cat from France may well like to sing and dance but MY cat likes to hide in boxes, and that’s just fine with me.

4. Mog the Forgetful Cat – Judith Kerr (1970)
It seems to me that most people think The Tiger Who Came To Tea when they think of Judith Kerr, but it was always the Mog books for me. I love cats, we had a tabby cat, and I love how poor Mog accidentally saves the day in this story. Mog is such a lovable character in all her stories that I can’t bring myself to read Goodbye Mog (2002) as I know I’ll just sob the whole way through. Fortunately there are many more Mog books that I also haven’t read that I will get to share with my girls at some point, but this is the one I read and re-read as a child.

5. Big Sister and Little Sister – Charlotte Zolotow & Martha Alexander (1966)
I am a little sister with a big sister, which is probaby why I loved this book. I remember reading it when i was about 8, it was borrowed from the library and I tried to copy all the words before it was returned but never finished. It’s one of those random old memories: sitting at the bottom of the stairs reading this book. At 36 I no longer think of myself as being the ‘little sister’ but by virtue of birth order Destructo-Girl is and I think she will relate to this story too. Most importantly, I hope my girls do learn from each other so that they too ‘both know how’.

6. Dogger – Shirley Hughes (1977)
Dogger, the well-loved toy who gets lost. With one ear in the air and one folded over, Dogger was quite like a pet dog we had at the time. I loved this story of losing a favourite thing and regaining it, the kind big sister and the wonderful pictures that take me back to being very young. I still love the story and am happy to read it again and again to my girls.

All these books are still in print (except for possibly Big Sister and Little Sister) and will probably be on the shelves of your local independent bookshop, although Big Sister and Little Sister can still be found new online. I recommend them all for books to be treasured and to not get boring as you read them again, and again, and again…

What books from your childhood did you keep or buy again for your own children? Please comment and share your favourites!