Tag Archives: Reading

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:


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):


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:


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!


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:


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.


This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith

This Is What Happy Looks Like: Jennifer E Smith (Headline, 2013)

This Is What Happy Looks Like: Jennifer E Smith (Headline, 2013)

This is far removed from my usual book preference, being a contemporary teenage romance with no supernatural elements at all. I ought to dislike it intently, it starts with a random mistyping of an e-mail address connecting two people, who happen to both be seventeen, and happen to get along wonderfully, and one of them happens to be a famous film star who is practically a Mary Sue in talent and good looks. Except… I loved it!

My inner sixteen year old loved the budding romance and the ups and downs in it. My adult self cringed in the first few chapters when an accident meant a change in top (with name label) leading to a mistaken identity… Oh no, I thought, this is going to go on far too long when in reality as soon as the characters speak to each other they’d realise their mistake. What a cliché… But the characters did speak to each other and instantly realise the mistake – joy! I do like a plot that follows some logic, and this one does.

The story also manages to avoid what could be a trite family reunion by… Well, that might give too much away. It also avoids an overly cliché ending. Even if teenage contemporary romance isn’t your thing, this is compelling enough to grab your attention and keep it (I read it in one sitting), it’s not cliché-filled and although at the start the description of Graham makes him seem one-dimensional, the characters are all well-rounded. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of This is What Happy Looks Like by Headline for review thanks to a nomination from Jax at Making It Up. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Red Riding Hood and the Sweet Little Wolf by Rachael Mortimer and Liz Pichon

Red Riding Hood and the Sweet Little Wolf: Rachael Mortimer & Liz Pichon (Hodder Children's Books, 2012)

Red Riding Hood and the Sweet Little Wolf: Rachael Mortimer & Liz Pichon (Hodder Children’s Books, 2012)

The story follows the Red Riding Hood plot from the wolf view-point. Sweet Little Wolf is sent out by her parents to get dinner (one onion, two potatoes, one tender and juicy little girl…) but gets sidetracked by listening to Red Riding Hood’s fairy tales and dressing up in Grandma’s lovely pink nightgown! Red Riding Hood finds Sweet Little Wolf snoring and screams, so a woodcutter runs in to help. But all ends happily with Red Riding Hood writing a nice letter to Mr and Mrs Wolf.

Interview with DG about the story:

Me: What did you like best?
DG: The sweet little wolf. When she dressed up. The little girl had lots of apples.
Me: What didn’t you like?
DG: Mummy and Daddy wolf. They were naughty.
Me: Is this a good book?
DG: Yes!

This book is worth having for the illustrations and the focus on writing lists and letters – great encouragement for early school-age children – you could do some lovely writing projects based on this book as a starting point.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Red Riding Hood and the Sweet Little Wolf 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.

Come On, Daisy by Jane Simmons

Come On, Daisy: Jane Simmons (Orchard Books, 1998)

Come On, Daisy!: Jane Simmons (Orchard Books, 1998)

This is a fifteenth anniversary re-issue, and therefore completely new to me! Fifteen years ago I was… Um… I was 22, not quite two years out of university and just about to leave home and move into a rented bedsit. It was not a time when I took much interest in picture books!

Daisy is a curious little duckling who is more interested in investigating the world around her than listening to her mother’s calls of “Come on!” It’s an all-too familiar scenario for any parent of small children. Come on; Keep moving; Keep Close; Don’t stray… We constantly tell these things to our children, knowing that we have to get somewhere, knowing that we want to keep them safe. But children need to explore and discover, and learn danger. I’d rather they learnt danger from Daisy’s worries than in real life, but I think this book also has a message for parents too: allow time for exploring. I think Mamma Duck has slowed down a little at the end so Daisy can look at the butterflies while staying close, and Daisy has learnt that she needs to listen to Mamma Duck too.

A lovely message in a beautifully illustrated book. Suitable for toddlers and up, we’ve all enjoyed this story in the Chaos household. It’s no wonder it’s been popular for fifteen years, here’s to the next fifteen and beyond.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Come On, Daisy! 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.

Dave by Sue Hendra & Liz Pichon

Dave: Sue Hendra & Liz Pichon (Hodder Children's Books, 2009)

Dave: Sue Hendra & Liz Pichon (Hodder Children’s Books, 2009)

I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve read this book. It’s a huge success with both MG and DG and I generally have to read it at least twice in a row whenever it is chosen. Look at the praise on the front cover: “I laughed so much I farted!” says six-year-old Edward. That might give you an idea of the humour in this book.

Dave is a BIG cat who eats fantastically sized meals until one day he gets stuck in his catflap. The whole garden of bugs, birds, squirrels and more try to help free him but it’s not until one bright bug has the idea of feeding Dave beans that he manages to get free. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Blast Off!!!

As you can imagine, this book is wonderful to read to small children and great to add sound effects to! We all do a great line in raspberries in the Chaos household.

Dave was originally published in 2009 and has been reissued with a lovely glittery cover this year. Sue Hendra and Liz Pichon are both hugely (and deservedly) successful separately and this is a lovely combination of their talents. It will not suit you if you don’t like fart humour, but will be a huge success for children who love David Roberts’ Dirty Bertie picture books for example. Or children aged about two to… um 37 and counting?!

We all LOVE Dave, and recommend him wholeheartedly. Wholesome and full of beans 😉

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Dave 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.

Ten Tickling Toes by Morag Dennett & Warren Osborne

Ten Ticking Toes:Morag Dennett & Warren Osborne (Ten Ticking Toes Publishing, 2012)

Ten Ticking Toes: Morag Dennett & Warren Osborne (Ten Ticking Toes Publishing, 2012)

Ten tickling toes I feel, along the sole and to the heel… so begins this delightful rhyming book taking you on a journey from the tops of your toes to your fingers high in the air and covering many body parts in between.

I really do love this book. It has a couple of stumbling blocks in the rhyme but more than makes up for it with the bright colourful character, Bebo, and the active journey naming body parts. We have the paperback version of this book which is beautifully printed with purple glossy paper making the white wording and colourful Bebo stand out well.

The font used is an easy to read one, where the a is a circle with a tail, the l has a tail and b/d are distinguishable. This is something I look for in books because although I do like fonts, it’s nice when a book is accessible to early- and dyslexic readers.

This book is especially good for babies and toddlers who are learning body parts, and would be a lovely book to include as part of a toddler group session. In fact, I do think groups should consider giving this out to parents, especially in areas where books are not found in homes and parents don’t read aloud. This would be an excellent book for reading initiatives to spread to parents of young children to encourage reading together – not only because the fun activity-based nature of the book but because the text will help parents who feel they can’t read, perhaps because of undiagnosed dyslexia.

Being slightly on the older end of the age range for this book, MG and DG are inclined to grumble at me as much as enjoy this book depending what mood they’re in! Usually tickling is allowed, but sometimes I can only read the words and not tickle! It is an active book, but can be enjoyed as a read-aloud without actions for more tired occasions. But as the book ends with a hug, I try to sneak one in every time too!

Ten Tickling Toes is available from their website at £5.99 plus postage, or as an electronic version for only £1.99. This would be best enjoyed on a colour tablet rather than a black & white e-reader. The website also includes some activities, including a colouring page and a Bebo mask, brilliant for including in any toddler group sessions.

If you’re running a toddler group or reading session, do consider using this book. The kids will love it, and it’s a book that will be picked up again and again thanks to its brightly coloured pages and loveable, ticklish Bebo.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Ten Tickling Toes by Ten Tickling Toes Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Ant and Bee by Angela Banner

Ant and Bee: Angela Banner (Egmont, revised ed. 2013)
Ant and Bee: Angela Banner (Egmont, revised ed. 2013)

People of a certain age will remember Ant and Bee from their childhoods. Actually, people of several certain ages as Ant and Bee were in print from 1950’s to early 1990’s. Anyhow, some people (me included) remember Ant and Bee with a sense of nostalgia and love, so hearing that Egmont was starting to reprint them was hugely exciting.

I pre-ordered a copy of the first Ant and Bee from the lovely Mostly Books and it was with some trepidation that I collected it because nostalgia is a funny thing… I needn’t have worried, the new and updated*  versions were an immediate hit with MG and DG and have been read innumerable times in the three days we’ve owned it.

*(I suspect the original language would have been very dated but don’t have an original copy to compare, I hope Storyseekers will do a comparison post with her loft treasures!)

Ant and Bee, drawn by me Bee, by MG

Ant and Bee is a quite surreal story in order to fit the introduction of 26 three-letter words alphabetically (in order) throughout the text. As each new word is introduced, it is given a page to itself (double page) and then the word is included in red text throughout the book to encourage young children to join in. As a method of learning to read, this will work for some children and not others.

I never learnt to read with Ant and Bee but they were great as early readers. The same is true for MG. She has learnt to read phonetically, is currently on Blue/Green book band level and can read the entire book. The pride from reading such a long (over 100 pages!) ‘real’ book is wonderful to see and the mad story is appealing to her. DG loves shouting the words as we get to them, but is not at a stage to recognise the red symbols as being a word yet, although she does recognise letters, so cannot read along other than with the first introduction of a word.

MG has already requested another Ant and Bee book for her birthday later this month, and I can see us collecting them all as they are published. Three were published today, with another three following later in the year.

MG reading an extract from Ant and Bee, with DG in the background not listening 😉

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time: Mark Haddon (Vintage, 2003)This novel probably needs no introduction but in summary it is written from the viewpoint of Christopher John Francis Boone, who is 15 years old. Christopher finds his neighbour’s dog dead and sets on a course of events to discover the murderer that instead unlocks family secrets.

It is never explicitly stated in the story, but Christopher appears to have a form of high-functioning autism. He is very logical and does not understand people. He starts to write his detective story for his teacher at school, and adds descriptions of random things because she says he needs to include more descriptions. It’s probably the only fiction book with the answer to an A-Level maths question in it, not to mention being my first introduction to the Monty Hall Problem.

I love most of this book. On the first reading I related to much of Christopher’s viewpoint of the world and the disconnection appeals to me. However, Christopher’s disconnection to the world is severe. On being told his mother has died, he feels no sense of emotion. Autism is a spectrum disorder and there are as many different versions as there are people but in the years since I first read this I feel that the emotional disconnect applied to people with Autism is taken too much for granted.

I think this is the original book of this kind. Mockingbird is a poor relation whereas Room (Emma Donoghue) is probably more comparable being written from the viewpoint of a hyperlexic five-year old with limited world knowledge. I like how this book doesn’t have a neat ending. The investigation is completed and things are found out but life for Christopher has changed irrevocably and there are no neat endings for life. There are no ‘happy ever afters’ here but you’re not left feeling cheated. It is right, it finishes in the right place, and in keeping with the personality of the story, it ends with something completely disconnected!

The title is taken from this quote, which I include because I also like it:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

“Silver Blaze”: Arthur Conan Doyle, 1892

Ruby, Blue and Blanket by Jane Hissey

Ruby, Blue and Blanket: Jane Hissey (Scribblers, 2013)

Ruby, Blue and Blanket: Jane Hissey (Scribblers, 2013)

This is Jane Hissey’s first book in ten years and although in some ways a complete departure from her earlier, much loved, Old Bear stories, it is still very much a ‘Jane Hissey’ book thanks to the beautiful pencil drawings which are so real they seem three dimensional and just ready to pounce off the page into your arms.

Extract from Ruby, Blue and Blanket:

Oh, this is such a beautiful book, and one that can be enjoyed from very young (to as old as you like!) The text is written in a bouncing rhyme sharing Ruby (the mouse), Blue (the rabbit) and Blanket (the horse)’s game of dressing up. But Ruby cannot decide what to be and tries out being a fairy, a pirate, a mermaid, a spaceman…

I can’t express how much delight this fills me with. Ruby is a girl mouse but she does not choose to be a fairy, a princess and a mermaid only. She chooses all the options. And Blue Rabbit, a boy, chooses a princess costume! Because given a box of dressing up clothes, young children transcend gender stereotypes and choose whatever they want. As it should be!

Jane Hissey in studio (c) Salariya

I especially love how one of Blue’s stipulations in dressing up is to wear “nothing at all on my feet”. Maybe it’s just for the rhyme, but I think actually Jane knows exactly what she wants in this story and knows her audience very well. Shoes can be so horribly constricting for young children.

We follow Ruby through the book as her imagination flits from one place to another. A helmet is all that’s needed to be a spaceman; a sheet makes you a ghost. In the interview (video below) Jane talks about how she sees children in Disney Princess or Marvel Superhero costumes at the expense of imagination (company names added by me, because let’s not forget the branding!)

The interview is a must-watch in my opinion. Only fifteen minutes of your time required to hear an evident expert on children speak so much sense, and the insight into creating her books is wonderful too.

The conclusion to Ruby, Blue and Blanket is perfect and something I see in my children every time they empty the dressing up clothes over the floor (several times a day!) Why be one thing, when you can be many? Life doesn’t fit into neat little compartments, much as we try to fit our children into them. They know better!

Jane Hissey, Ruby, Blue & Blanket (c) Salariya

I had only one gripe with the book, and it’s just a ‘packaging’ point. On the back of the book, there is an illustration of Blue dressed as a mermaid witch. For me, this feels a little like giving away the end of the story before you open the book but as gripes go, it’s not an issue! The text and illustrations are perfect, and we’ve read this over and over since receiving it.

The official publication date is 27th February, but you may already be able to find this in stock at your local independent bookstore. I wholeheartedly recommend Ruby, Blue and Blanket; and so do DG and MG.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Ruby, Blue and Blanket by Salariya for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Interview with Jane Hissey:

Cinderelephant by Emma Dodd WITH GIVEAWAY!

Cinderelephant: Emma Dodd (Templar Publishing, 2012)

Cinderelephant: Emma Dodd (Templar Publishing, 2012)

Cinderelephant is a Cinderella tale with the main parts taken by Elephants. The Warty Sisters are the step-sisters (or warthog cousins in this version); there’s a Furry Godmouse (a male one at that); and lots of elephantine puns!

As well as being full of anthropomorphic animals, this is a modernised Cinders with a glossy white limo and sparking pink high heels. Prince Charming Trunky reminds me of Babar (although I was remembering incorrectly because Babar doesn’t wear green pinstriped trousers other than in my head apparently!)

...and it's a big but...

The enormous shoe is obviously, ridiculously, too big for all the ‘girls’ who try it on, which adds another lovely comic touch to the imagery. I would have prefered something other than “[they] were married the very next day” at the end, but it’s a minor quibble. The art is gorgeous, and it’s a lovely alternate-Cinderella addition to fairy tale loving children.

I am thrilled to be able to offer a SIGNED copy of Cinderelephant to one lucky reader. All you need to do to enter is click the widget below and add a comment. The prize will be sent directly by Templar, and you need a UK address to enter. As with all good things, the giveaway ends at midnight… on 29th January. I’ll press the button to get the random winner in the morning of Tues 29th January.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We were sent an e-copy of Cinderelephant by Templar Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to review the book, just to offer a copy to give away!