Tag Archives: Bloomsbury Children’s Books


Jam! Jam! Jam! Jam! Lovely Jam! Wonderful Jam!

I may have misquoted slightly, but I couldn’t resist. Jam goes in sandwiches, in porridge, on toast, in cakes, and in debates about whether strawberry or raspberry is best. Raspberry, obviously. And it can be mistaken for blood, which is what the following three books sort-of have in common.


Jampires: Sarah McIntyre & David O’Connell (David Fickling Books, 2014)

Jampires began life as a comic created by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell, where one drew a page and the other one followed until a story appeared.  Encouraged by their publisher to transform the idea into a picture book, David and Sarah worked together to create Jampires. Sarah and David are both the author(s) and the illustrator(s) in this fabulous collaboration.

Sam is distressed to find his favourite treat dry and wrinkly, as if all the jam had been sucked out. Determined to catch the culprit, he sets a trap with ketchup filled doughnuts (yuck!), but ends up with more than he bargained with. Two small Jampires, a land of yummy treats that DG(5) wants to move to, and a deliciously sticky adventure.

The Jampires are far too cute to be scary, even with those fangs and red-smeared faces. You can find out more on the Jampires website, including the original comic and activities to download.

bernardBernard: Rob Jones (Beast In Show Books, 2014)

This is not only Rob Jones’ debut picture book, but the publisher’s debut too. Based on the quality of this, I expect Beast In Show Books, and Rob Jones, to have a rosy future ahead of them.

Bernard is the tale of a misunderstood wild dog. Poor Bernard, all alone on the moors with everyone afraid of him, and all he wants is your yummy tasty jam – eek, lock up your fridges!

Told in a minimal palette with strong lines and text taking a starring role, the bold style will appeal to even small children. Grown-ups, however, might find some of the images a little scary, especially one of the double spreads showing a close up of the hound’s mouth full of sharp pointed red-stained teeth and manic red pupils… Just hold your child’s hand and you’ll be fine.

Disclosure: Bernard received for review from Beast In Show Books.

The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2003)The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2003)

The slightly scary nature of Bernard, and his taste for jam, brought to mind the wolves from this classic Gaiman/McKean picture book. I reviewed The Wolves in the Walls a couple of years ago, and actually we haven’t read it this year so I’ve pulled it out to see what DG thinks of it now she’s five (MG doesn’t listen to stories at all any more, she prefers to read alone.) What this has in common with Bernard is that it’s a book that grown-ups will probably find more frightening than children will.

I think we forget that a book like Owl Babies is more terrifying to a small child than vampires or werewolves can ever be, or that children will just see jam as jam if that’s the context…

#BookADayUK Favourite Cover

This was another hard choice, because picture books usually have gorgeous covers. I chose this one because Marmaduke is such a cute orange dragon, and the golden stars sparkle. DG(5) agreed that it was a beautiful cover.

Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon: Rachel Valentine & Ed Eaves (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2014)Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon: Rachel Valentine & Ed Eaves (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2014)

This is one of those special books celebrating individuality and non-conformity that I adore, and it’s a great story beautifully illustrated so ticks every box for me as a parent, and for my children as voracious devourers of good stories.

Marmaduke is different. He’s orange where all the other dragons are purple; he has sticky-out scales where all the other dragons are smooth; he has big ears where all the other dragons have small ears. He also doesn’t like to fly, for reasons that are completely given away on the front cover (I do think it is a beautiful cover, and it attracts you to the book, however it does ruin the ‘surprise’, but as children read books so many times, surprises never last long!)

He wants to protect a princess like all the other dragons, but the princesses reject him “My daddy’s getting a real dragon…”, as do all the other dragons. Meg is different too. She’s a princess but nothing like the others, and she does things her own way (I love her already!) but this does put her in a spot of bother (good lesson for small children – there are times when conforming is slightly useful, like not running into roads or disappearing off where nobody knows you are…) Fortunately Marmaduke’s big ears come into their own, so Marmaduke and Meg conform to the princess-dragon protector stereotype – hold on, no no, this is a great book, so Marmaduke and Meg continue to be different together, as friends.

Absolute perfection on many levels, and with a double spread full of sparkling gold stars this is a stunning book that I want to give to all little princes and princesses everywhere. We love Marmaduke.

Disclosure: Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon received for review from Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

#BookADayUK Future Classic

Is the definition of ‘future classic’ a really boring book that children will one day be forced to read at school? I think schooling destroyed my appreciation of many books!

Fortunately that definition of ‘classic’ doesn’t seem to apply to picture books 😉 Today’s choice is surreal timeless fun and one I think deserves to be a classic.

There’s a Dinosaur in my Bathtub: Catalina Echeverri (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2014)There’s a Dinosaur in my Bathtub: Catalina Echeverri (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2014)

Amelia has a secret – shhh! – there’s a mustachioed French dinosaur called Pierre hiding in her bathtub. Fortunately Pierre is good at hiding, so good that only Amelia can see him.

They spend their weeks doing the usual things that children and invisible French dinosaurs do – flying to the moon, dancing upside down, eating giant ice creams and stinky cheese, and sailing to magical lands – but it’s almost the end of the summer holidays and their fun must come to an end. Or does it?…

Full of humour, subtle surreal silliness, and packed to the brim with imagination, this is a story that will take children on a magical journey with a wonderful new friend. Danger Girl (5) and Mighty Girl (7) both love this tale. It’s great for imagination (who do we have hiding in our bathtub?) and packed full of lovely details (DG loves pouring over what Pierre packs in his suitcase.)

I think it’s brilliant too, and am quite happy to read about Amelia and Pierre’s antics over (and over and over) again.

Disclosure: There’s a Dinosaur in my Bathtub received for review from Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

#BookADayUK Reminds Me Of Someone I Love

Today I am a bit stumped. Books are such a part of my life that nearly every one reminds me of something or somewhere or someone. In light of yesterday’s news I’m tempted to to choose George’s Marvellous Medicine because it reminds me of Rik Mayall, who shaped my childhood and sense of humour.

I think I’ll twist the theme again, and choose a book about love instead.

Found: Salina Yoon (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2013)Found: Salina Yoon (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)

This is such an adorable book, plus it uses an fairly easy to read font so might be good for some early readers too. Bear finds a toy bunny, and thinks its the most special thing ever. So he tries to find the bunny’s owner because he thinks the bunny must be missed so much. But Bear loves bunny too, and when the time comes to give bunny back, he does it without question but feels very sad. But then something wonderful happens, and the ending is perfection.

Did I mention that I love this book? I love this lino-print style art and really must try printing with the children again (has it really been over two years? I hope the inks are still okay!) The story is so cute, and easy to read over and over and over again (which it will be, as it will be requested lots, it is here!)

I also love the end papers, with lots of lost and found notices. They are full of such humour, my particular favourite being one of a triangular red hat and the words “LOST MY HAT – I want it back”! Perfection.

Found is a story of love and loss, and of caring and sharing. Full of emotion, it just makes me want to hug it (and my girls). We recommend it to everyone.

Disclosure: Found received for review from Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

#BookADayUK Doesn’t Belong To Me

Um. There are lots of books in this house that technically don’t belong to me. Mr Chaos has a selection. Mighty Girl and Danger Girl have lots. But most of the children’s books have been bought by me and part of parenting will involve culling them at some point (sniffle) so MG & DG don’t completely own their own things.

There are a couple of books I have borrowed from other people, and we even have four library books out (I’ve been rubbish with library books this year) but I’m not sure what to choose. I want to do one unreviewed book every day, so I guess I can choose any of the picture books.

Let’s see…

The Story Machine: Tom McLaughlin (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2014)The Story Machine: Tom McLaughlin (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2014)

I’ve chosen this one today because this story doesn’t belong to me, I’m old enough to remember typewriters. I even had a manual typewriter. Well, it was my mum’s, but I borrowed it lots. But my children have never seen one. Maybe in older television, but television is made up and not real so the idea of a typewriter is a strange and curious machine.

In The Story Machine, Elliott finds an old typewriter, but not knowing what it is he experiments until he discovers he can make pictures from the letters, and the pictures tell stories. Elliott thinks the machine is making the stories, but after things start to go wrong, he realises that the stories come from himself.

This is a lovely tale of the power of imagination and creating stories, beautifully illustrated. It’s perfect for my writer MG(7) and DG(5) is fascinated by it and often asks for the book by name at bedtime. The power of stories is something I’m glad that my children both know well, and they are drawn to the power of this one.

Disclosure: The Story Machine received for review from Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

#BookADayUK Best Bargain

I’ve bought so many book ‘bargains’ over the years that I can’t think where to start. I used to live in the cheap bookshops as a student, bringing home piles of SF and Fantasy and reading them when I should have been revising. Sadly, most of the shops that I bought many books from no longer exist.

Then there are all the charity shop bargains. All the books with the covers I remember from my childhood that I pounce on when I see and get to share with my children.

And, of course, the books that are just worth every penny and more because they are beautiful, or inspiring, or comforting, or everything all at once.

Many of my bargains these days are bought from The Book People, although it’s a two-edged sword. Some sets of books seem so low priced that I’ve been too tempted even though I know I’ll never read them so there were books that were bought and then went to charity without being read at all. I still think they’re a bargain though…

But today I’m going to choose a book that was so beautiful I hugged it when it arrived, a bargain at any price:

The Dawn Chorus by Suzanne Barton (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2014)The Dawn Chorus: Suzanne Barton (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2014)

This is not only a physically beautiful book, but it tells a beautiful story. Peep loves to sing and wants to join the Dawn Chorus but he just can’t wake up in time to make it. He keeps trying, but it’s not in his nature. Why can’t he fit in with the other birds? Because he is not like them, but that’s okay because he is perfect just how he is.

I can’t help but love this story because I’m drawn to stories where characters don’t fit in but are accepted how they are, instead of being forced to conform. Everyone is different, and we all have our worth in the world. I hugged this book for that reason, and for how it is made too. The hardback is stunning. The cover is matt and printed on something that seems to have the texture of raw silk. The pages are also soft matt (I’m not keen on glossy) and the muted colours are a joy.

We were fortunate to have the chance to meet Suzanne as she decorated the window at Mostly Books.  Mighty Girl (7) asked Suzanne how she made her pictures, so she talked about how she created the pictures with collage and paint. It was wonderful to hear her talk about each element on one page of the book, and the story behind it – this is a piece of antique paper from a French market, that was the skirt of a dress in a vintage magazine… She knew every piece that she’d used, and MG was very inspired by Suzanne’s passion (this might have something to do with all the scraps of wrappers and papers that MG has been squirrelling away for art purposes!)

We all love this book, and hugely recommend it – especially in the gorgeous hardback edition.

Disclosure: The Dawn Chorus received for review from Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Mother’s Day Picture Books

Mother’s Day is on Sunday 30th March in the UK this year, and we’ve been sent a selection of delicious picture books perfect for mums to share with their little ones. Although, significant others, you might also want to try to supply a lie-in or time for a nice bath too if you can!

I Love You Night and Day: Smriti Prasadam-Halls & Alison Brown (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2014)I Love You Night and Day: Smriti Prasadam-Halls & Alison Brown (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2014)
The two characters in I Love You Night and Day aren’t specified as a mother and child, but I’ve chosen to interpret them as such (although this would work just as well for fathers, grandparents, and other significant carers.) There are no genders mentioned either therefore you can take the ‘child’ (rabbit) to be male or female easily. There is so much to love about this book – lot of different words for increasing vocabulary, sharing the love you have for a child, spot-on rhyming couplets and gorgeous illustrations. One for sharing at any time of year.

Mum's The Word: Timothy Knapman & Jamie Littler (Hodder Children's Books, 2014)Mum’s The Word: Timothy Knapman & Jamie Littler (Hodder Children’s Books, 2014)
The illustrations for Mum’s the Word are almost edible in their deliciousness. A puppy bounds with endless enthusiasm through the pages (so that would be any small child too, then!) trying to think of the word that means so many different things to him/her. No gender is mentioned so the pup could be male or female. Small children will love all the bright images throughout, and can you guess what the word is? Oh, I think the title might have given it away 😉 “It’s a word as warm as a goodnight kiss. There’s no other word that’s as good as this.” 

Me and My Mummy: various (Little Tiger Press, 2014)Me and My Mummy: various (Little Tiger Press, 2014)
This is such a lovely little set for any tot to share with mummy. Consisting of a cardboard case with carrying handle so little ones can carry it everywhere, and sealed with velcro for easy opening, the box contains four paperback stories, a card, envelope and sheet of stickers. Even very little ones can decorate mummy’s card with the stickers, and can proudly present their card in the morning, with stories ready for sharing. The books are small sized paperbacks, that can be easily transported without taking up much room in a bag, and would be good for toddlers to pretend to have ‘school reading books’ as they have a similar feel. The four stories are: The Most Precious Thing: Gill Lewis & Louise Ho; Big Bear Little Bear: David Bedford & Jane Chapman; Little Bear’s Special Wish: Gillian Lobel & Gaby Hansen; My Mummy and Me: Tina Macnaughton. Although all four books celebrate a mother and child’s special bond, Little Bear’s Special Wish does specifically mention ‘birthday’ rather than mother’s day. This is a very cute gift set with a low RRP of £9.99 (ISBN 978-1848958722)

I Want My Mummy!: Tracey Corderoy & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2013)I Want My Mummy!: Tracey Corderoy & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2013)
This is an adorably cute story about a little mouse who is spending his first day away from mummy. It’s lovely on many levels. Little Arthur is so cute in his dragon costume and this book is aimed at little ones who don’t go to nursery as Arthur’s first day away is with his granny. My children did go to nursery but I hear many parents asking why ‘first day away’ stories are always about nursery / playschool settings when they’ve chosen not to put their children into daycare at any time so this book will really suit. And even if your little one has spent time away before, it’s comforting to share Arthur’s fears and worries in the comfort of home again and again to remember that Mummy always comes back.

Mummy's Little Sunflowers: Angela McAllister & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2014)Mummy’s Little Sunflowers: Angela McAllister & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2014)
More cute little mouses! This is a lovely story about sibling love. Big brother Scurry brings home a sunflower seed from nursery but baby brother Scamp eats it! They then search for more seeds but when Scamp realises how long it will take for a sunflower to grow, Scurry helps them both become sunflowers for Mummy. Perfect for mums of a toddler and baby, or pre-schooler and toddler. After reading you could plant seeds or dress up too.

Dino-Mummy: Mark Sperring & Sam Lloyd (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2014)Dino-Mummy: Mark Sperring & Sam Lloyd (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2014)
I’ve not read Dino-Baby but I assume this book is similar so if you like Dino-Baby, you might like Dino-Mummy. Personally I find this book appallingly sexist in its depiction of the mother dino dressed in pink heels vacuuming, cooking, doing all the childcare, washing, cleaning ovens etc while in one spread you spy father dino sitting behind a newspaper and doing absolutely nothing. I think it’s supposed to be a celebration of everything that mums do, but the portrayal of a domestic goddess mother and unhelpful father does not suit our family.

My personal favourite ‘mum’ book is Just Like My Mum by David Melling (Hodder Children’s Books, 2008)

Disclosure: Received for review from Little Tiger Press, Hachette Children’s Books and Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Penguin in Love by Salina Yoon

Penguin in Love: Salina Yoon (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2013)

Penguin in Love: Salina Yoon (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)

Penguin in Love is the third in a series of picture books about Penguin and his discoveries. I want to love this book more than I do, but I just don’t get it. I don’t dislike it, but it doesn’t quite gel. However, it is beautifully illustrated and reminds me of Extra Yarn – which I also didn’t get, but which has won awards and praise so I think we’ll just ignore my opinion on books involving knitting as I’m obviously in the minority!

Penguin finds a mitten, and goes off to see who it belongs to. It doesn’t seem to belong to any of his friends and family, and he doesn’t seem to notice that it looks just like a bill-warmer so knits his own bill-warmer for a puffin, who then decides to find Penguin love. The puffins steal wool from Penguin and his friend Bootsy, they follow the trail knitting as they go and through the journey fall in love.

At least, I think that was what the story was about. There’s lots of knitting. The pictures are lovely. The wool never seems to run out. DG enjoyed the story, and I think it’s very sweet even if I don’t get it!

Suitable for toddlers, pre-schoolers and up, and will probably be enjoyed by anyone who likes penguins, snow, knitting, and warm-hearted stories. Perfect for Valentines of any age.

Disclosure: Received for review from Bloomsbury 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.

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell, and Skottie Young

Books published on either side of the Atlantic (which for purposes of simplicity, I’ll refer to as US and UK) are often subtly different. They may have different publishers; the covers may vary; they almost certainly will have different editors and there may be changes in text due to cultural differences.

I’ve never felt the need to buy US and UK editions of a single book before, even other novels with different illustrators, but Fortunately, The Milk is a highly illustrated text and I was so torn between both Chris Riddell’s and Skottie Young’s illustrations based on the front cover that I couldn’t choose between them.

So I bought both.

This post is a comparison of the US and UK versions of Fortunately, The Milk. I’m not aiming to review the book and I’m assuming that you’ve either already read one version, or that you don’t mind being spoilered. If you don’t want to read spoilers, bookmark here and go read the book first.

UK readers can order either version from Foyles.

Outside Appearances

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell & Skottie Young (Bloomsbury Children's Books UK, Harper US)The US edition is a subtler, slimmer tome with matt cover and a white hardback underneath. The UK edition has a red hardback and the cover is shiny and bright. The UK edition is on the Bloomsbury website under the age band 7-9. The US edition states the age band 8-12.

The UK edition is slightly wider, and slightly shorter than the US. It is also slightly thicker with 166 pages (146 for story, 20 for dedication, copyright and extras) compared to 128 pages in the US edition (114 for story, 14 other). This is mainly due to font size, which is bigger in the UK edition, although there are also some paragraph differences and the UK edition has ‘extras’ that the US doesn’t.

For the UK edition, Gaiman is described as RIDICULOUSLY BESTSELLING AUTHOR, whereas he’s merely a New York Times Bestselling Author in the US.

The back flyleaf description of Gaiman is subtly different. They both mention that he won both the Newbery and Carnegie for The Graveyard Book, but the US edition points out which is the US award and which the UK. The UK version mentions Doctor Who and Stardust; whereas the US edition mentions that he is from England but now lives in the US. Riddell and Young’s write-ups are completely different, on account of being completely different people.

The First Page

Fortunately, The Milk: First page
In Riddell’s version we see the narrator looking into the fridge and in that one image the entire book is set up – the hot air balloon, aliens, pirates, dinosaurs, ponies, vampires, volcano, all are in this image.

Young gives us the fridge-eye view of the narrator finding nothing in the fridge for his Toastios.

You can also see that the first page of text in the US edition is already 21 words longer than the UK version.


Chris Riddell’s characters have a more realistic feel to them (in as much as globulous aliens, volcano gods, and vampires can be realistic) and Skottie Young’s are more cartoonish. Riddell appears to have followed the text more closely in his illustrations. For example his aliens are all globby, where Young’s are more varied, and his dwarves have beards (text difference UK p128; US p98.)

Riddell’s time travel machine also actually looks like a cardboard box with gemstones stuck on it, but Young does the best teeth (the shark on US p24 especially). Young’s vampires are all utterly terrifying with their teeth, but Riddell has an especially chilling Nosferwatu.

Riddell depicts the dad very obviously as Gaiman, although Young’s scruffy haired dad may well be Gaiman too.

Fortunately, The Milk: The Dad
In the UK edition there are 23 pages containing only images (excluding extra pages), and 28 in the US edition. The UK version has 30 pages with text only, compared to 11 in the US. The other pages are a mixture of text and images. The US edition appears to have more frequent, smaller, images compared to the UK and has no double-page spreads without any illustration (apart from one which has white text on a black background and could therefore be considered illustrated).

The UK edition has four double-page spreads without illustrations, although two of these are white text on a black background. However, the UK edition has extra pages of character illustrations and, more significantly, a fold out colour four-page spread picture hidden in the middle.

There is an ending to Fortunately, The Milk that can only been seen in the illustrations. Young’s illustration very obviously points it out; I didn’t actually realise the significance in the UK edition until I’d read the US one, although in retrospect it’s obvious in a different way and I was just being a bit slow! I won’t spoil what that is though, you’ll need to read (either version) to find out.

Text Differences

There are several subtle word changes between the two versions, but one cultural difference that I was surprised not to find was the use of ‘mum’ in both versions. I expected ‘mom’ in the US edition but it’s not used.

A subtle cultural difference that is only apparent in the illustrations is that of the milk. In the UK the milk is in a tetrapak, the US milk is shown as a bottle.

To me, a gondola is a type of boat, one that you’d probably find in Venice. On a trip to Canada I was not keen on the idea of a ‘gondola ride’ because I don’t like boats, but it turned out to be what I’d call a cable-car. In the UK, the container for people that hangs under a hot-air balloon is called a basket. In Fortunately, The Milk, the balloon basket is mentioned on at least six occasions. In the US edition, it’s called a gondola on only two of these occasions (the rest of the time it’s a basket.)

The table below contains the wording (and some punctuation) changes I found. I almost certainly missed some, as I compiled this list by reading both versions simultaneously, a few pages at a time.

UK edition

US edition


house key




Now dad came into the kitchen.


Now dad came in.


He had his ‘no tea’ face on.


He had his “no tea” face.


Not skimmed.


Not the fat-free kind.


said my dad


said my father


“Who be ye, landlubber?” asked the woman…


“Who be ye, landlubber?” said the woman…


I’d just been to…


I just set out to…


At the corner of…


On the corner of…


…it was safer just to get…


…it was safer just to have…


 …just like ours, appeared over by…


…just like ours, appeared, over by…




hot air


…the side of the basket…


…the side of the gondola…


embroidered cushions




southern hemisphere


Southern Hemisphere


They had purple skin and orange beards, and…


They had purple skin and…


…into the basket of her balloon…


…into the gondola of her balloon…

Fonts and Paragraphs

This is one of the most interesting (to me) differences between the two versions. There are too many differences for me to list every single one. The US edition uses a larger variety of fonts, and accentuates words and phrases far more than the UK edition. This makes the text more interesting, and helps with intonation when reading, but also makes the text itself harder to read for newer readers and may explain the age band differences in the UK and US editions.

The UK edition only uses two different fonts: one for the main story that the child narrator is telling, and one for the dad’s story. Therefore the interruptions to the story from the children are in the same font as the book started with. The dad’s story is also enclosed in quotes.

In the US edition, when the dad’s story starts it is not separated from the rest of the text by quotes or font changes. However, whilst the story is being told, any interruptions from the children (and answers from the father) are shown in completely different fonts.

Fortunately, The Milk: interruption
The UK edition uses illustrations for the warning signs in the alien spaceship, whereas the US edition uses interesting fonts. This does mean, to take a random example, that if you’re given a text-only proof to read some sense is lost because the illustrations contain part of the text.

Considering the US edition makes such good use of different fonts and emphasis, there are several places where it misses a trick. The start of the dad’s story (UK p16; US p11) feels to me like it should be the dad making a point, and the UK edition has this in capitals: “I BOUGHT THE MILK.” On first confronting Professor Steg (UK p36; US p26), the UK edition puts “You’re a Stegosaurus” in larger text, but there’s no emphasis in the US edition.

The second time the dad is kidnapped by aliens (UK p95; US p70), Professor Steg’s interrupted speech is shown as “…travelling companiAARRGH” with the letters getting larger, but again no emphasis in the US edition. The UK edition also has EYE OF SPLOD in capitals throughout, which isn’t in the US edition.

The UK edition uses black pages with white text more, with seven pages compared to the US edition’s two. White on black is used to emphasise the time travel overshoot in the UK edition (p76/77), which is almost entirely sidelined in the US version (p51/52).

There are other occasions where the UK edition has emphasis and the US doesn’t but on the whole, the US edition has far more emphasis in the text using different fonts, weights and sizes.

Astonishingly, there is actually one page where both the US and UK editions contain exactly the same words (UK p96; US p72).


I think it’s fairly obvious that I am a fan. I’m glad we have both versions, and we’ll treasure them both but (probably because I’m a UK citizen and more used to the UK way of doing things) the UK version has the slight edge for me, although the larger font size may put off older readers.

I love Skottie Young’s illustrations but it’s the rest of the US edition package that is less appealing, mainly due to inconsistencies in how the text was treated – although to be fair, I was reading analytically and I doubt there are that many people who will be bothered by things like ‘the milk‘ being inconsistently emphasised in the text.

I’ve read the story to my daughters (aged six and four) a few times, and the six-year-old has read chunks of the book independently. In fact she pointed out some of the wording differences, just from reading the two versions, before I started to look for them! My eldest is fascinated with the idea of the same book being different.

The story is the same regardless of version, and it comes down to a matter of taste (or availability) to which version to read. Fortunately, The Milk is mad, funny, and works for a wide age range.

All the above comments refer to the standard hardback editions of Fortunately, The Milk published in the UK by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, and in the US by Harper (part of HarperCollins Children’s Books) in September 2013.