Tag Archives: Templar Publishing

#BookADayUK Have More Than One Copy

I have several books that I can choose for more than one copy. I was going to go with The Hobbit, of which I have the 50th anniversary paperback, the 50th anniversary hardback, and the 1997 or 2000 Alan Lee illustrated hardback.

But I could have chosen a host of children’s books, including Dogger, Fortunately the Milk, The Tale of Jack Frost, The Jolley-Rogers and the Ghostly Galleon, Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, complete Beatrix Potters, various Roald Dahl, and if you count different versions of fairy tales then I’ve no idea how many copies we might have…

However I’ve decided to use #BookADay to make a chink in the pile of review books that we have so today’s book is one I have to keep in hardback and paperback because of my friend ReadItDaddy‘s quote on the paperback edition 🙂

Troll and the Oliver: Adam Stower (Templar Publishing, 2013)Troll and the Oliver: Adam Stower (Templar Publishing, 2013)

This was one of my top picture books for 2013 but I still haven’t written about it properly. It’s one of those books that you love so much so you know you can never do it justice and therefore don’t write about it at all. Well, that’s what I do…

Troll and the Oliver is funny and subversive. I adore subversive picture books. I’m afraid this is going to be a spoilery review, so for a quick synopsis to avoid spoilers have a look at the top picture books post, otherwise be warned if you continue reading.

Walking back from the park today, in the sun and having not read this book for several weeks (we do have over 700 picture books to get through) I asked Danger Girl (5) whether she liked Troll and the Oliver? Yes, she replied. What’s your favourite bit of the book, I asked? When the Troll eats Oliver, she grinned.

This is a story that sticks in children’s heads, it chews up the rules and spits them out in a laugh-out-loud surprise, that’s quickly turned into a bigger laugh and a fabulous ending.

In Troll and The Oliver, the little boy is the antagonist. He’s not Oliver, he’s an Oliver and Troll becomes not a Troll, but the protagonist in his own right. This is Troll’s story, and the meany Oliver is making his life a misery by not letting Troll catch and eat him.

Obviously, from DG’s favourite bit of the book, Troll eventually does catch the Oliver. Have you ever seen the Loony Tunes episode where Wile E Coyote catches Road Runner? This is the book equivalent, but with a more satisfying ending for all concerned.

I can’t praise this book highly enough, and recommend it to all. Both MG and DG think it’s amazing, and it leads to lots of interesting conversations about conventions in story telling.

Disclosure: Troll and the Oliver received for review from Templar Publishing

Treasuries to Treasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Picture Book Roundup

July / August 2013 Picture Book Selection

Time for Bed, Fred!: Yasmeen Ismail (Bloomsbury Children’s Books; PB Jul 2013) Beautifully illustrated and perfect for toddlers / pre-schoolers, this is a book with the text style of you talking to the character in the book “Fred? What are you doing up there?” Lots of humour as Fred the dog tries to avoid going to bed by doing all sorts of messy things before eventually going through bath, story and bed! A quite familiar story for most parents of small children, this is a perfect bedtime read.

Eddie and Dog: Alison Brown (Little Tiger Press; HB & PB Aug 2013) Two friends looking for adventure find each other but are kept apart until they come up with a solution. A story of friendship against the odds, full of transport (Eddie and Dog meet at an airport) and humour, and how to keep a pet when you live in a block of flats without a garden. Plus, dog on a moped, it’s just too cute!

The Littlest Bird: Gareth Edwards & Elina Ellis (Picadilly Press / Templar Publishing; PB Aug 2013) Littlest Bird is fed up being squashed in the nest by all her brothers and sisters so sets off to find a space of her own before missing her mum and returning. There are dragons in the middle of the story too, what more can you ask for?! A sweet tale of finding your place in a family.

Captain Brainpower and the Mighty Mean Machine: Sam Lloyd (HarperCollins Children’s Books; PB Aug 2013) Captain Brainpower and Mojo are two toys who end up on a rubbish tip and the story follows their adventures as they fight the Mighty Mean Machine and create lots of things from rubbish. Great for junk modellers, the plane created can easily be copied and made out of household rubbish and there’s lots of interest in the pictures. Great for EYFS & KS1.

Where’s Tim’s Ted? It’s Time For Bed!: Ian Whybrow & Russell Ayto (HarperCollins Children’s Books; PB Aug 2013) Tim is staying at his grandparents farm, but where has his Ted gone? A moonlight stroll through the farmyard, with lots of animals joining in, eventually reunites them and Tim can sleep happily. Ian Whybrow expertly weaves a fun rhyme, and Russell Ayto’s pictures are always a joy.

Penguin on Holiday: Selina Yoon (Bloomsbury Children’s Book; PB Aug 2013) Adorable lino-print style illustrations follow Penguin as he heads for a holiday in the sun, makes a friend and gets a visitor back home. A lovely story of long distance friendship in both hot and cold climates. Beautiful.

September / October 2013 Picture Book Selection

Noisy Farm (Little Tiger Press; BB Sep 2013) I’m a big fan of the Little Tiger Kids imprint and this is another hit for younger children. Big, chunky board pages full of all-important real images of farm animals along with a texture to feel and a button to press on every page. The animal sounds actually sound like the animals too. After the two hundredth time the noises might annoy parents a little but compared to many noisy books I don’t find this one too annoying and I am easily irritated by repetitive sounds. I highly recommend this for babies and toddlers and MG & DG think it should be for them too! There’s also Noisy Trucks for vehicle loving children.

Wibbly Pig Picks a Pet: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children’s Books; PB Sep 2013) Wibbly Pig and Scruffy Pig discuss all the brilliant animals they’d chose as pets like elephants, giraffes and dinosaurs but then find out that rabbits are perfect after all. I’m not so keen on this one, it’s basically a story where two friends completely rubbish a first friends’ choice of pet before she’s even chosen it. But it’s Wibbly Pig so toddlers will love.

Wibbly Pig and the Tooky: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children’s Books; HB Sep 2013) Big Pig’s Sister steals a toucan from the zoo and a Wibbly Pig and friends take him back before he’s missed. Gorgeous illustrations as you’d expect, and a tiny bit of tension makes this an exciting adventure for toddlers.

How to Babysit a Grandad: Jean Reagan & Lee Wildish (Hodder Children’s Books; PB Sep 2013) A guide for all children on what to do when your parents leave you with a grandparent to look after. Try to take very special care of him and let him know that your parents will be back soon, and after so much fun it’s nice to know that you can babysit again! Humourous role reversal sure to appeal to all small children who have ever been left to look after their grandparents.

Spider Sandwiches: Claire Freedman & Sue Hendra (Bloomsbury Children’s Books; PB Oct 2013) If you love Morris the Mankiest Monster, then you’ll love Spider Sandwiches with its lists of disgusting foods. Sadly the final food – worse than beetle biscuits, grasshopper smoothie or even cockroach curry – involves sprouts. I like sprouts and find sprout-hatred annoying, if everyone says they taste horrible then how will children ever even try them? A minor quibble in the grand scheme of things I know, and all the other disgusting foods are great fun. The spiders are too cute to eat!

Splat the Cat Fishy Tales: Rob Scotton (HarperCollins Children’s Books; PB Oct 2013) This is not a Splat the Cat book. It is a spin-off book based on Rob Scotton’s characters. The front cover shows this with the all important phrase “created by”. If you have a Splat-mad child then they’ll probably love it but really it’s not a patch on the others.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of these twelve books by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, HarperCollins Children’s Books, Hodder Children’s Books, Little Tiger Press, and Templar Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Fables and Reflections: 10 Traditional Tales Retold

After talking about retelling fables, I’d like to share a very small selection of some of the traditional and modern versions we have on our bookshelves. Many of these are recently published, but I’ve added a few extra that I haven’t reviewed yet. You can find more I’ve already reviewed by clicking here for the Fables tag.

The Emperor's Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales (The Story Collector 1): Jane Ray (Boxer Books, 2013)The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales (The Story Collector 1): Jane Ray (Boxer Books, 2013)
If you’ve any interest in children’s literature, just put this on top of your Christmas list straight away. Or treat yourself now. Or use the children as an excuse. This will make a lovely gift for any child person. The stories are perfect for reading aloud but even fairly early reader’s can attempt the easily laid out text (although the words may be challenging.) This is the first in a series of tales collected by the enormously talented Jane Ray and illustrated using scraperfoil techniques. It is a gorgeous book and only priced at £12.99. A mix of retold stories and collected poetry, this book deserves its own blog post. It is an example of traditional done well, with stories suitable for all ages. All the tales in this collection are linked by feathered friends and include traditional tales from across the globe. (Source: review copy)

whatsthetimemrwolfWhat’s the Time, Mr Wolf?: Debi Gliori (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2012)
Technically not a retelling at all, but packed full of familiar characters following Mr Wolf’s day. Most children are familiar with the “What’s the Time, Mr Wolf?” game and the repeatedly asked question leads us through the day from 7am when Mr Wolf is woken by four and twenty blackbirds (“It’s time for blackbird pie,”) and sleepily wakes up and gets chores done in time for… Ah, that would be telling. Featuring three little pig neighbours (who slam their doors – “It’s time for bacon sandwiches,” (I feel like that most mornings when woken too early, and thankfully this Mr Wolf is a nice wolf when he isn’t being annoyed by naughty neighbours!) Gorgeously illustrated with Debi Gliori’s recognisable style, a humourous and happy story for toddlers and up. I’ve lost count how many times we’ve read it. What’s the time, Mr Wolf? Time to buy more books… (Source: review copy)

Beauty and the Beast: Ursula Jones & Sarah Gibb (Orchard Books, 2013)Beauty and the Beast: Ursula Jones & Sarah Gibb (Orchard Books, 2013)
The illustrations for this traditional retelling of Beauty and the Beast are exquisite. A mix of silhouettes and washes of colour, with gold foiled cover, this is a book to be cherished for its beauty and every detailed poured over. DG (4) certainly thinks so and requests the story night after night, and it’s a wordy book but she listens raptly all the way through and asks again (tomorrow, it’s a bit too long to read twice in a row…) I have some issues with the retelling. It is traditional, and there is a lot of focus on the sisters only being interested in gaining husbands, and new dresses every day being a highlight of Beauty’s stay in the Beast’s house. Beauty is also frequently described as stupid. It is, however, the most complete picture book retelling I’ve read. This Beast is not a Disney-fied softy but there is real horror in his appearance and the “ear-crunching noise” that accompanies his arrival. This really is a stunning, traditional retelling and deserves its place on any child’s bookshelves. (Source: review copy)

Goldilocks and Just the One Bear: Leigh Hodgkinson (Nosy Crow, 2012)Goldilocks and Just the One Bear: Leigh Hodgkinson (Nosy Crow, 2012)
Another modern tale and not quite a retelling of Goldilocks but to say much more would give too much away. “Once upon a time, there was this bear…” and so begins a story  of a bear finding himself in a big city and accidentally entering an apartment. There he tries to find some porridge, but the soggy, crunchy and dry “porridge” that he finds aren’t quite right (hilariously illustrated, you just have to get this book to see!) The same happens with the chairs, and the beds… The Daddy, Mummy and little persons who come across the mess left by the bear aren’t very amused, but the wonderfully satisfactory conclusion perfectly ends this familiar-sounding tale. Funny, stunningly illustrated, and a perfect addition to any bookshelf, I can’t recommend Goldilocks and Just the One Bear highly enough. (Source: own copy)

The Girl With A Brave Heart, A Tale From Tehran: Rita Jahanforuz & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013) The Girl With A Brave Heart, A Tale From Tehran: Rita Jahanforuz & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013)
This is a traditional tale that I had no previous knowledge of. It 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. Shiraz loses a ball of wall off her balcony, precious to her because it was her mother’s, and goes to the house whose garden it dropped in. The lady living here appears to be an unkindly witch and sets three tasks, which Shiraz gladly completes. Because of Shiraz’s kind heart, and the good that she does, it appears that the old women gives her the gift of beauty. In reality it is Shiraz’s own personality shining through. The step-sister attempts to replicate what Shiraz has done but it backfires because of her selfishness. Beautifully illustrated and with an exotic (to my children) location, this story especially grips MG (6) who listens attentively (she usually wanders off during stories to do other things) and tries to read it herself after. A very positive and non-stereotyped story, this is the perfect antidote to Disney princesses. (Source: review copy)

Little Red Riding Hood: Alison Jay (Templar Publishing, 2013)Little Red Riding Hood: Alison Jay (Templar Publishing, 2013)
This is another huge success in our household, and has torn pages to show for how much its been read (sniffles!) Here we find Fairytale Village, where all the fairy tale characters live. Little Red Riding Hood’s mother runs the tea shop and sends our heroine with some treats to see her grandmother. But, oh, the illustrations! They tell the story and more. Starting in the tea shop, there’s Hansel buying a loaf of bread, the Frog Prince gloomily drinking a cup of tea, Rapunzel and the Gingerbread man chatting, Three Little Pigs munching cakes, and who’s that shifty looking character in dark glasses and a trenchcoat pretending to choose jam? MG (6) was the one who pointed out to me that the wolf appears on every single double page of the book, if you look carefully, and she’s right. The backgrounds of the illustrations tell too many stories to mention: Jack taking his cow to market, Hansel and Gretel going for a walk… The Hansel and Gretel tale plays out throughout the entire book, and we regularly see the woodcutter keeping an eye on Little Red Riding Hood too. Which brings me to my only grumble with the story. Despite the mostly modern retelling (the wolf locks grandma in a cupboard instead of eating her, and is sent to a school for naughty fairytale creatures at the end), this retelling doesn’t take the opportunity for Little Red Riding Hood to be resourceful and work her own escape, she is a passive traveller in the tale and the story just happens to her. I do wonder about Grandma too, she lives next door to the gingerbread house, didn’t she notice what was happening to the children there? Apparently I’m reading too much into this! The book really sucks you into the fairytale world and is wonderful for reading again and again. I do hope there will be more stories in this series and thoroughly recommend this version. (Source: review copy)

The Lion and the Mouse: Nahta Noj (Templar Publishing, 2013)The Lion and the Mouse: Nahta Noj & Jenny Broom (Templar Publishing, 2013)
This is a very clever book. Cut-outs in the pages mean that what you think is part of a butterfly’s wing on one page, becomes a lion’s eye on the next; plants on one page become footprints on the next… The art style is simple enough to encourage small children to try making animals with paper collage, and complex enough to hold interest throughout. This is a beautifully illustrated and designed book and for that I think the designer, Jonathan Lambert, should be on the front cover too because he has done a superb job. This would make a lovely gift for toddlers and pre-schoolers (and grown ups…) and is full of educational potential as well as being a lovely read aloud. (Source: review copy)

Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story; Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale; and Little Red: A Fizzingly Good Yarn retold by Lynn Roberts & illustrated by David Roberts (Pavillion Children's Books, 2001, 2003 & 2005)Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story; Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale; and Little Red: A Fizzingly Good Yarn retold by Lynn Roberts & illustrated by David Roberts (Pavillion Children’s Books, 2001, 2003 & 2005)
We love these books so much! David Roberts is one of the best illustrators working today and these three retellings of favourite fairy tales showcase his art beautifully. They are retold by his sister, Lynn, talent obviously running in the family. “In a time not too long ago and in a land much like our own, there lived…” begins each tale. Each has its own era. Cinderella is set in the Art Deco 1920’s/1930’s; Rapunzel in the 1970’s; and Little Red sometime in the 1700’s. They are all thoroughly hilarious with so much to look at in the illustrations that you could just spend hours pouring over them. They are a labour of love, and a must for any fan of fairy tales (or children’s books, or illustration, or humour…) Cinderella follows the most traditional route, with a prince and a ball along with step-mother and step-sisters. How Cinderella ends up with her step-mother is comic genius (a very absent-minded father is involved) and the attention to detail in the pictures is astonishing. We originally borrowed this one from the library but after keeping it for several months I had to buy it and the two others from the series. I am so sad there haven’t been any more since, it looks like plans for the fourth were postponed and I can but hope there are more one day as these are excellent. Rapunzel is set in the 1970’s with a dinner-lady aunt who keeps her long-haired niece on the top floor of a tower block before Roger from the school band finds her. No royalty or weddings in this tale which makes a lovely change, and oh, the ’70’s is so perfectly represented. The illustrator note in this book says he imagined Rapunzel being related to Cinderella somehow so look out in the background for items that appear in both books. Finally, Little Red is set further in the past and Red is gender-swapped to become a boy. I think there should be more gender-swapping in retold tales, it changes the stereotyped interactions into something more interesting in many cases. For instance Princess Rosamund in The Tough Princess finds a sleeping prince to wake. Just wonderful. Little Red does outwit the wolf on his own (now I wish he was female again, but only because of all the other female Reds who have to be saved) and how he gets grandma back after she was swallowed whole should delight almost every child. These three are a delight for children and adults. Humourous, intelligent, and great fun. (Source: own copies)

I would love to include more, because there are so many to write about, but I’m up to almost 2000 words already so this is finished but I’m sure I will write about more retold fables in future.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of the books labelled review copy by Boxer Books, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Orchard Books, Barefoot Books (via BritMums Meet Up) and Templar Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Fish Food by Andy Mansfield & Henning Löhlein

Fish Food: Andy Mansfield & Henning Löhlein (Templar Publishing, 2013)

Fish Food: Andy Mansfield & Henning Löhlein (Templar Publishing, 2013)

I’m not really going to be able to write a huge amount about a book that consists of six double spreads but despite the brevity, this is a must-have book. It’s something in the vein of Jan Pienkowski’s Haunted House, although his Dinner Time is much closer. If you love Pienkowski or pop-ups, you’ll love this.

The first spread starts with a squirmy worm, as happy as can be… You know how in war movies when as soon as a character mentions their love back home, or how near they are to retirement, or some other positive comment, that basically they’re going to die in the next act? Well, that. CHOMP!

This theme contines throughout the book. What makes this book extra fun is that you can see each previous ‘dinner’ through the mouth of the current tip of the food chain. Lush illustrations, wonderful paper engineering, quality card pages and interesting book dimensions add to a great package.

A small piece of perfection and well worth looking out for. It’s also good for reinforcing the elements of story for children preparing for reading. MG and DG play with this book regularly. Perfect gift material and a book that’s going to be enjoyed from toddler to adult. CHOMP! GULP! CRUNCH!

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

Tantrums and Moods

The current England heatwave is certainly bringing out the worst in my darling children! What better way to enjoy a tantrum than in a book?! Here are two recent paperbacks to celebrate the joys of bad moods…

No!: Tracey Corderoy & Tim Warnes (Little Tiger Press, 2013)No!: Tracey Corderoy & Tim Warnes (Little Tiger Press, 2013)

Archie was adorable. Everybody said so… But then Archie learns the word “No!” and uses it all the time. No food; no bath; definitely no bed! No proper clothes; no coat; no playing nicely! Except, soon Archie is missing out on nice things from saying No! all the time, and it’s time to learn a new word.

Archie is adorable. An adorable baby rhino, even more perfect to read for us as we’ve recently seen the baby rhino at Cotswold Wildlife Park. And can you get anything cuter than a toddler rhino dressed up in a tiger suit? Well, possibly, but it’s pretty close to cuteness overload!

DG is being very similar to Archie at the moment. Mr Chaos was off work this week and offered to take her swimming (she loves water) but she threw a tantrum because I wasn’t going (I dislike swimming pools for various reasons, including that the last time I took MG & DG, DG almost drowned. It may have been nearly three years ago, and the lifeguard pulled her out before any problems, but I haven’t taken them since…) No! she screams at the top of her lungs, hitting Daddy. Do not despair, she does not have a favourite parent, I get exactly the same treatment at the moment too. Ugh. But reading books like this, although aimed at toddlers rather than four year olds, reminds us all that we all have our moments and we can say sorry. Destructo-Girl is adorable, too…

Olive and the Bad Mood: Tor Freeman (Brubaker, Ford & Friends (Templar Publishing), 2013)Olive and the Bad Mood: Tor Freeman (Brubaker, Ford & Friends, 2013)

It’s hard, when you’re in a bad mood. When I’m in a bad mood, I just want to be left alone. Grump. Olive is like this too. She has just had a rubbish start to the day, falling over and losing a button on her dungarees. It’s frustrating, annoying, and understandable. This is a story that can be potentially controversial, depending how you read it. For children, it’s a funny and silly story. For grown ups, we could start talking about how mean Olive is to all her friends; how unnecessary it was for her to say the things she says to them; how there isn’t a good moral to the story because she makes them all in a mood and then takes credit for cheering them up…

But for MG and DG it is a silly story. Poor Olive with her little stormcloud. When we’re angry or in a bad mood we can do things we don’t mean to. Olive loves her friends really, but she couldn’t show it properly because everything seemed so wrong in the world for her at the start. This would be a good story to use when talking about feelings. Or just enjoy it for the silliness, and the wonderful illustrations.

I can’t dislike this book even if I try! It has a girl playing dinosaurs, and a boy wearing a hat with a feather; and a boy playing football, and a girl with a frilly pink skirt; and five friends enjoying jelly worms together. No gender stereotyping, no segregation. And Mighty-Girl thinks it’s really funny, which is all you really need to know.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of No! by Little Tiger Press and Olive and the Bad Mood by Templar Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Lucy Ladybird

Lucy Ladybird: Sharon King-Chai (Templar Publishing, 2013)

Lucy Ladybird: Sharon King-Chai (Templar Publishing, 2013)

As DG plopped a battered not-very-old book, with a creased and torn fold out page, and worn edges from where she’s slept with it under her pillow, on my lap for the umpteenth time saying “Read Lucy Ladybird”, I thought it was about time I wrote a review of it!

Lucy Ladybird has no spots, so the other ladybirds push her away. Dejected she travels through the seasons, meeting four friends along the way. Each animal she meets gives her a reason why she is beautiful even though she doesn’t think she is, and gives her one of their spots. When she has four different coloured spots she returns home…

As mentioned above, Destructo-Girl is a huge fan of this story. The bright colourful images appeal to her, the happy friendly animals, and of course the huge fold out end pages full of detail are the absolute winner. She likes counting so the emphasis on counting Lucy’s spots as she collects them are an interest point but overall it is the art and the story of being beautiful whoever you are that works so well.

I love the details. When an animal takes a spot off to give to Lucy, her spot keeps the style and pattern of the original animal, and (I love this!) the spot is missing from whoever gave it to her. Fred Frog has a blank patch by his right thigh even when she returns later in the story; Carla Caterpillar’s spot is missing even when she turns into a butterfly…

This is a beautifully designed book with lots of interest, and a lovely story too. For added fun there are downloadable colouring sheets available at lucyladybird.com, which both MG and DG really enjoyed colouring, tracing, cutting and generally having fun with. There are also wallpapers to download and an online matching game.

Lucy Ladybird gets Destructo-Girl (age just-four)’s seal of approval and will probably appeal to toddlers, pre-schoolers and up.

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

Father’s Day Books

Is it really Father’s Day this Sunday? I know it’s always the third Sunday in June, but I had in my head that it was 23rd June, not 16th! Then again, I think today is the 2nd of June, not the 11th. Or perhaps April. 2010. So my date-keeping isn’t that impressive…

There are lots of lovely books involving Fathers but I hope you don’t mind if I only cover two recent releases that I’ve been sent!

I Love My Daddy: Giles Andreae & Emma Daddy (Orchard Books, 2011)Firstly, there’s the board book version of I Love My Daddy from the team of Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd. A lovely celebration of dad-ness that quite fits our family (the dad is shown cooking pancakes; this is the only thing Mr Chaos volunteers to cook – apart from BBQs of course!) I like how the toddler child pictured could be male or female, making this accessible to any gender of blonde, white child. It is a nice book. It’s not a stand-out or particularly showcasing the talents of Giles Andreae or Emma Dodd, who between them have an amazing body of work, but it’s a nice book. I was going to offer our copy as a giveaway (my two being a bit on the old side for board books apart from their extra-special ones) but someone’s used this book to lean on when drawing so there are small dents in the cover and it’s not good enough (in my opinion) to give away. However, if you’d like it, the first person to contact me will get it in the post – not in time for Father’s Day alas!

There, There: Sam McBratney & Ivan Bates (Templar Publishing, 2013)Secondly, is a book I am far more excited about. There, There by Sam McBratney and Ivan Bates is stunningly beautiful. Sam McBratney is the writer of Guess How Much I Love You?, a book that is a classic but only a so-so book for me. What really makes There, There are Ivan Bates delicious illustrations. I’ve just realised I’ve managed to miss a whole series of books illustrated by Ivan Bates and will be tracking them down forthwith! This story follows Hansie Bear (what a gorgeous name!) as he plays and, as small children do, he gets minor hurts along the way. His dad is there, watching him from a suitable distance, allowing Hansie freedom to play and learn but always being there for a hug and the comforting words of “There, there…” This is a lovely book to share with small toddlers who may be afraid of trying new things, reassuring them that we’ll always be there for them (but not wrapping them up in cotton wool so they can’t appreciate the world or have fun!) but also lovely to share with older children who already know this and who will fall in love with cute little Hansie and his Dad. MG and DG do think he’s cute, and can relate to how Hansie gives his dad a hug at the end to cheer him up because we’re a family who supports each other and our girls have hugged Mummy and Daddy when we’ve been down too. A gorgeously beautiful book with a lovely message, and a fantastic Father’s Day gift too – you’ve still time to order this in to your local independent book store or buy online in time to get it for Sunday. We won’t be giving our copy away I’m afraid!

Last year I reviewed My Daddy by Curtis Jobling. The first Father’s Day book I bought Mr Chaos was Just Like My Dad by David Melling, which six years on is still a firm favourite.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of I Love My Daddy by Hachette Children’s Books and There, There by Templar Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

The King of Space by Jonny Duddle

The King of Space; Jonny Duddle (Templar Books, 2013)

The King of Space: Jonny Duddle (Templar Books, 2013)

Some books are worth every ounce of anticipation, and are even better than you expect them to be. The King of Space is one of these books. Having utterly loved both The Pirate Cruncher and The Pirates Next Door, it was almost a given that we’d love The King of Space but there was some trepidation as I opened the book to read…

As soon as the book opens to the first end paper, there is a treat awaiting you: the contents of Rex’s desk with blaster, blue-prints, planner book and wonderfully retro calculator showing 531608 (for those of us who grew up with trying to make rude words on calculators, this is a treat!) I read the book to myself first, loving all the little sci-fi in jokes and ‘graphic novel’ feel plus slight surrealness of the plot.

Then I paused. I loved this book, but would my daughters understand it? I paused a while before reading it to them. Several days of pausing… But of course, I read The King of Space as an adult and got all the things that were aimed at me, and all the little details in the backgrounds. As I read it to MG and DG, they got all the things that were aimed at them, and different little details in the backgrounds! “Again!” DG shouted as soon as I’d finished. “Yes, Mummy, can we have it again?” added MG. It’s been regularly requested ever since 🙂

I have always been a nerd, a geek, a lover of sci-fi. This book was always going to appeal to me. But it is also another little packet of perfect awesomeness from the incredibly talented Mr Duddle and has all the silliness (and comfort) required for small children with all sorts of interests.

The plot follows Rex, a small boy who lives with his parents on a Moog farm (cows with space helmets!) and has Big Plans. Somehow this time all his plans work out and before he knows it, he’s wiped out all resistance in the Western Spiral with his warbots (dung blaster attachments essential) and caught the attention of the Galactic Alliance. What’s a boy to do, other than kidnap the Emperor’s daughter and bribe her with choco-goo? Soon things get Serious, and Rex realises he doesn’t want to play anymore. Fortunately there’s someone who can always save the day: Mum.

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 climbing frame in Pirates Next Door and King of Space; the ship in Pirate Cruncher and Pirates Next Door; the Cruncher popping up everywhere…)

I personally find The King of Space hard to read aloud because it’s like a comic, with lots of speech bubbles and lots to look at. But my girls forgive my uselessness and help along by pointing out everything I miss! This is a beautiful, huggable book and one I’d put on every bookshelf. I’ve given several copies of The Pirate Cruncher and The Pirates Next Door as birthday presents to friends’ children, and I’ll be doing the same with The King of Space.

Too good to miss, grab a copy as soon as you can.

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