Tag Archives: Books

I Love You by Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd

I Love You: Giles Andreae & Emma Dodd (Orchard Books, 2013)

I Love You: Giles Andreae & Emma Dodd (Orchard Books, 2013)

We’ve not read ‘I Love My Mummy’ or ‘I Love My Daddy’ from the same collaboration of Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd, but based on this third book in the series I expect they are excellent Mother’s and Father’s Day presents. ‘I Love You’ is a great book to read snuggled up together, with gently rhyming text and delicious pictures.

I love you, doggies, with your funny waggy tails.
I love you, beetles and bugs and snails.

The book follows a toddler child as they happily get through the day declaring their love for their favourite things. The child is fairly androgynous making this a book easy to share with either boys or girls identifying with the main character. For babies and toddlers, this book would be perfect. Especially toddlers who can identify with the child in the pictures. But it’s still been enjoyed very much by MG and DG, with MG able to read many of the clear words too.

The hardback book is a good size to appreciate the pictures, which aren’t too cluttered for small children. I love it as a snuggle-together book but it would be a wonderful read-aloud book in a toddler session or pre-school, with the children getting to interject with what they love too.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of I Love You by Hachette Childrens Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Belle & Boo by Mandy Sutcliffe

Belle & Boo are new to me, but I am totally in love. And based on the blissful silence and total concentration from both MG and DG (alone and together) these beautiful books grab the attention of small children too. Belle & Boo is described as a ‘lifestyle brand’, which is actually a negative for me because phrases like ‘lifestyle brand’ generally make me feel like vomiting! However, what this means in reality is that these beautiful characters already exist as stationery, party accessories and even clothing.

Again, this could be perceived as a negative, but the text in these books is written by Gillian Shields which makes them thoughtful, readable books instead of just ‘character tie-ins’. The delightful vintage feel to the illustrations will appeal to many. I’m usually not a huge vintage fan but Belle & Boo have completely won me over. They are adorable.

So far there are three books: Belle & Boo and the Birthday Surprise (available in hardback and paperback); Belle & Boo and the Goodnight Kiss (available in hardback, paperback published on 7 Feb 2013); and Belle & Boo and the Yummy Scrummy Day (published in hardback on 21 Feb 2013 & paperback 6 Jun 2013). There are also two sticker activity books to be published in July 2013.

I was sent one paperback and one hardback book by Hachette Children’s Books to fall in love with review, and found the books themselves beautifully made. Gorgeous matt pages add to the vintage feel and the hardback cover again has the vintage attention to detail. I’m in danger of completely overusing the word vintage but it fits so well! A set of the hardbacks would make a lovely Christening present, especially when coupled with Belle & Boo stationery.

This is Belle, and this is Boo.
They are always together –
on sunny days,
rainy days,
and dreamy let’s be lazy days.

Belle & Boo and the Goodnight Kiss: Mandy Sutcliffe, text: Gillian Shields (Orchard Books, 2012)Belle & Boo and the Goodnight Kiss: Mandy Sutcliffe, text: Gillian Shields (Orchard Books, 2012)
It’s the end of a busy day, full of ‘very lots of busy’ and Belle & Boo are tired. But first they must do all their bedtime rituals: bath, putting the other toys to bed, milk and cookies, story… But then Boo decides to hide to give Belle a surprise and when she can’t find him, she worries he’ll miss the most important part of bedtime: a goodnight kiss. This is a lovely, gentle story with a familiar bedtime routine that’s perfect for sharing at bedtime. The gorgeous muted pastel illustrations are eye-catching and uncluttered so as not to overwhelm before bedtime. I love little details like Belle’s stray hairs sticking out of her bob, and Boo’s expression with the dust under the bed. Just beautiful.

Belle & Boo and the Yummy Scrummy Day: Mandy Sutcliffe, text: Gillian Shields (Orchard Books, 2013)Belle & Boo and the Yummy Scrummy Day: Mandy Sutcliffe, text: Gillian Shields (Orchard Books, 2013)
Boo is having a ‘hungry sort of day’ but everything Belle offers him is wrong. Porridge is too hot; toast too crunchy; and a boiled egg is just too ‘eggy’! He wants cookies and cake, but Belle wants to show him that fruit and vegetables are lovely too. Belle takes the role of grown up here, taking Boo to pick fruit from the orchard and vegetables from the garden. Boo takes the child role, agreeing with Belle that he doesn’t like soup (‘too soupy’) even though actually it smells delicious. A brilliant idea saves him from showing his changed mind, and cuteness ensues. This is so true-to-life of children who can come up with any excuse not to eat something, I particularly loved ‘too eggy’ and ‘too soupy’ as reasons. Simple perfection.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of Belle & Boo and the Goodnight Kiss and Belle & Boo and the Yummy Scrummy Day by Hachette Childrens Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge

Twelve Minutes to Midnight: Christopher Edge (Nosy Crow, 2012) Twelve Minutes to Midnight is the first in a series of books about Penelope Tredwell, thirteen year old proprietor and writer for The Penny Dreadful – a monthly periodical she’s made so successful since her father’s death that it’s now outselling The Strand.

In this tale, Penelope’s alter-ego Montgomery Flinch is requested to help a baffling mystery at Bethlem Royal Hospital – the notorious Bedlam. Fortunately for Penny, she has already hired actor Monty Maples to ‘play’ Montgomery Flinch, as she’s desperate to solve the mystery for her next story. Unfortunately for her, Monty is terrified of almost everything so she doesn’t get to find out as much as she needs from the haunted inhabitants at Bedlam. Every night, at twelve minutes to midnight, every Bedlam patient is compelled to write and write. Words of madness believe the Superintendent but Penelope is sure there is truth in them…

The first 100-or-so pages set up the characters and plot and are relatively slow-paced. Relatively compared to the second half of the book when as soon as we’re introduced to the mysterious widow, Lady Cambridge, things start happening in speedy succession. Lady Cambridge’s creepy research subjects are still making my skin itch a day after finishing this book; and the world of Penny, Alfie, Monty and Mr Wigram are somewhere that the reader will almost certainly feel compelled to revisit.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight is an intriguing mix of historical, alternate history, mystery, horror and paranormal novel with a strong female lead and decent supporting cast. Penny is probably a little too brilliant to be believable, but not in an overly irritating way. I also wasn’t convinced by some elements of the dream-based finale but I am not the target audience!

I have to review this as an adult, because MG and DG are too young. This is aimed for age 9+, and I wondered how many of the historical references would be understood by this age group. However, I have no current direct experience of the age range to know, and even if the historical references pass the reader by the story can still be followed and enjoyed. I just got an extra thrill from the inclusion of Arthur Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Freud et al.! I found this a very enjoyable read and will be getting the sequel because I want to find out more about Christopher Edge’s turn-of-the-century Victorian world. The synopsis for the sequel, Shadows of the Silver Screen, sounds intriguing and it’s published on 10th January so not long to wait!

The Little Fir Tree

This year MG has the part of Mary in her class Nativity play (5-7 year olds). The main part is the fir tree, Mary and Joseph don’t have any lines but they do join in the songs! I’m getting an idea of the play, not only from MG’s singing but she made this book at the weekend, and being the ultra-proud parent I am, I had to share!

The Little Fir Tree Cover “The Littl fir tree”
The top corner says “scall” (school) and the names of her teachers.

The Little Fir Tree pages 1 & 2 “The Litte fir tree. One day groe sum fir trees one was sml the uvers lrft heloe shorte heloe scwert he toe small The wodkcuter cam to lok at all the trees the wodkcuter cam”
The Little Fir Tree. One day some fir trees grew. One was small. The others laughed: hello shorty, hello squirt, he’s too small. The woodcutter came to look at all the trees. The woodcutter came 

The Little Fir Tree page 1Page 1 flap open

The Little Fir Tree pages 3 & 4

“Sum time the rain fet on the trees splish splash piter pater in the rain forist fallin on the”
Sometimes the rain fell on the trees. Splish, splash. Pitter, patter in the rain. Falling in the forest.

The Little Fir Tree pages 5 & 6
The Little Fir Tree pages 7 & 8
“fall in the graown flot in all a rown
sumtims the sun shind brit on the trees sun lit sun lit berning
brit in the blow sky sunit sunlit berning brit in the blow sky”
Falling on the ground, floating all around.
Sometimes the sun shone bright on the trees. Sunlight, sunlight burning bright in the blue sky. Sunlight, sunlight burning bright in the blue sky.

The Little Fir Tree pages 9 & 10
“mere and dyosif wer son to hav a baby that ni the baby was born”
Mary and Joseph were soon to have a baby. That night the baby was born.

The Little Fir Tree pages 11 & 12
“Jezs Jezs so small and so preshesj and glorre of heven alyoleer alyoler come to erth”
Jesus, Jesus, so small and so precious. Glory of heaven, hallelujah, hallelujah. Come to Earth.

The Little Fir Tree Back Cover
“evre one has sum think to liv for evre one of us has sumthink to liv for”
Everyone has something to live for. Every one of us has something to live for.

MG told me that the last page should also say “everyone has something to give”. I’m not sure what the picture is, the things she likes about herself maybe? Or just a random doodle that belongs somewhere else?!

MG makes a lot of books like this. She glues pages together, creates flaps and sticks pictures she’s drawn and cut-out down. I really must find some of the other good examples and take pictures. This one especially impressed me because it’s a more complete work (she often gets distracted, or the books are more disjointed – I love them all!) and because it shows how she has learnt and understood her Christmas play.

Things I find interesting are how there are a lot more high frequency words that are in her head that she can write correctly. It’s interesting (to me!) to see this develop. I also find it interesting how the “D” and “J” sounds can be confused. She writes “Dyosif” for “Joseph”, cf. “Jagn” for “Dragon” in her first stories four months ago. I also love her hallelujah: alyoleer/alyoler. I had to look up the spelling and had forgotten it actually starts with an H so I think her attempt is brilliant.

Her spacing and splitting of words over two lines make it quite hard to work out all her meaning still, but every part of that is improving and she’s really getting her ideas across. I leave her total freedom to create, and don’t “correct” anything she does. I do say I can’t always read what’s written but we work it out together and I’m getting pretty good at reading phonetically now!

Not wanting to leave DG out, she’s starting to make letter shapes so I think she’ll be forming her first letters and maybe her name very soon. At her age, MG could write her own name and her sister’s but MG and DG are different people. In contrast, DG flies off into preschool in the morning without a backward glance to me but I was still coming into the class every morning for the whole of F1 with MG and she still has shy mornings now, although her confidence is blossoming.

Blossoming is one of the words MG’s teacher used to describe her in parent’s evening last week, along with determined and a credit to the school. The teacher also said that whatever I was doing at home, to keep on doing it because MG is putting everything together and has no worries in any subject area. DG’s key worker said she was quiet! My daughters are completely different people at school than at home! I am utterly proud of every bit of both of them.

Friday Pick{ture Book}: Katie and the Starry Night

Katie and the Starry Night: James Mahew (Orchard Books, 2012)

Katie and the Starry Night: James Mayhew
(Orchard Books, 2012)

James Mayhew is a simply a genius. As well as the Katie and Ella Bella books, he also paints live at classical concerts and is currently designing the sets for a stage version of Katie and the Mona Lisa. I’m still only really newly discovering James and only just starting to appreciate the depth of his talent and commitment to sharing the arts with all children.

I’m probably a total cretin when it comes to “the arts” but I’m also of the opinion that “I like what I like” is a perfectly valid viewpoint. I like Starry Night, it’s a beautiful painting. I like that Van Gogh was a character in Doctor Who! We were going to watch that episode as part of the “Starry Night” week I planned for half term to go with this book but the week flew by and it turned into one day of projects.

We had a Playing by the Book moment, and I looked up lots of ideas related to Starry Night to go along with reading this book. In the end we made a starry jar (or four), and MG copied the picture freehand (I was going to print off a colouring sheet!) in a painting session. You can click to see my pinboard of collected ideas.

MG painting Starry Night

This is the twelfth Katie book (which means there’s one we don’t own!) and follows Katie through five Van Gogh paintings: The Starry Night, Noon, Vincent’s Chair, Fishing Boats on the Beach and The Olive Grove. James Mayhew seamlessly melds these paintings together as Katie wanders through them and the art gallery to collect missing stars while her Grandma sleeps…

At the end of the book there is additional information about the paintings, providing a springboard for further study if required. All the Katie books are lovely introductions to various art and any (or all!) of them deserve a place in every household. Katie and the Starry Night is a beautiful addition to the series, we all enjoyed reading it and then making messy art too!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Katie and the Starry Night by Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

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The Princess and the Peas at Tales on Moon Lane

Invitation

I was so excited when the invitation arrived in my mailbox and said “Yes! Yes! YES!” immediately. I live near Oxford and have no clue about London but it generally seems fairly easy to visit. The night before when I actually checked the route and realised it was going to take me three hours to get there I panicked but still thought it was worth it. On the actual day, DG had her pre-school booster inoculations and was really upset so I turned into overprotective mummy mode and didn’t want to leave her!

I missed this fab event, but Caryl and Sarah very kindly e-mailed me lots of pictures to share instead. Thanks to Dom from Nosy Crow who sent me a copy of the book to review and I also want to give special thanks to Elli, who offered to ‘hold my hand’ finding the event and in my absence got a copy of the book signed for my girls 🙂

As I wasn’t there, I’ll have to let the pictures talk for themselves, it looked like an amazing time was had by all and the children look so captivated. Well done Nosy Crow, Sarah, Caryl and Tales on Moon Lane!

Caryl & Sarah with Lily-Rose May, Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl & Sarah with Lily-Rose May, Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl reading, Sarah drawing, crowd laughing - Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl reading, Sarah drawing, crowd laughing – Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl reading, Sarah drawing, crowd laughing - Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl reading, Sarah drawing, crowd laughing – Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl & Sarah signing for their fans

Caryl & Sarah signing for their fans

Sarah & Caryl join the Tales on Moon Lane wall of fame

Sarah & Caryl join the Tales on Moon Lane wall of fame

The end of the evening, and it looks like even the made up characters had too much bubbly... ;-)

The end of the evening, and it looks like even the made up characters had too much bubbly… 😉

Friday Pick{ture Book}: The Princess and The Peas

The Princess and The Peas: Caryl Hart & Sarah Warburton (Nosy Crow, 2012)

The Princess and The Peas: Caryl Hart & Sarah Warburton
(Nosy Crow, 2012)

I am a teeny (huge) bit of a fan of both Caryl’s and Sarah’s work separately, so this combination was hugely exciting to me. It looks like I should dislike it intensely: see the princess, see the pink cover! But this is Caryl Hart, Sarah Warburton and Nosy Crow so you know you’re going to get something wonderful and this book doesn’t disappoint.

“With all things considered, I have to assess
This disease has no cure! The girl’s a princess.”
“You have to be joking!” her father exclaimed.
“Shes a princess all right,” the doctor explained.

Forgive me for going off on an adult-focussed commentary but I absolutely love this book and need to write about it in detail! Lily-Rose May lives with her dad in a lovely home in the woods. All the pages set at home are in beautiful natural colours with a lovely garden, rabbits, nature everywhere. Lily-Rose has a dress which is white with cherries on and a red ribbon in her hair. She is wonderfully, happily, girly without the default pink-ness. Her room is shown as being bright and feminine with the natural green and yellow that permeate the ‘home’ images and there are pink things in it because why not, girls do like pink too and that is just fine.

She lives with her dad. In the background of the pictures there are photo frames where you see a happy couple on their wedding day, plus baby pictures. The whole aura is of a well-loved little girl with a very caring dad who tries his best to give her a great and healthy life. There is no mention of the mother so there seems to be a tinge of sadness behind the story but Lily-Rose and her dad are having a lovely life together. The sadness behind the scenes may be why her dad tries so hard to get her to eat peas, but this is a children’s story so it’s also a slightly surreal point that drives the story on too.

http://swillustrators.co.uk/illustrators/sarah-warburton

The doctor is quite utterly mad, and has very much the look of a mad scientist about him. The diagnosis of Princess-itis and taking Lily-Rose away from her idyllic, but normal, life is probably one that many children brought up on a diet of unrealistic expectations and reality TV dream of. The cautionary tale of “The Princess and The Pea” retold beautifully in monotone with the main characters peering around the side of a gigantic book is the second distinct colour-scheme in the book making each location very distinct from each other.

Lily-Rose is torn between her love for her dad and the promise of great things and her loving father soothes her and does what he thinks is best for her future. Onto the palace location and pink becomes the primary colour in the illustrations. There is everything a princess could wish for: dressing up room, shoe room, a huge library, a room of her own with a television, jewels and pink dresses!

She’s initially taken in by all the material things, she puts on the frilly pink dress and tiara, she bounces on the luscious pink bed, she’s smitten by the enormous library (I’ll give her that one!) but of course reality soon hits in the life of a real princess isn’t wearing clothes and looking pretty, it’s hard work meeting people, representing your family, giving speeches and encouragement, shaking hands and deportment… The food also isn’t up to much 😉 Peas may be off the menu but the replacement certainly isn’t an improvement!

http://swillustrators.co.uk/illustrators/sarah-warburton

Lily-Rose soon realises that home and her dad are where she belongs so she gives back all the jewels and clothes and goes back. The odd pea is a minor inconvenience in the wonderful life with a loving family, and all’s well that ends well.

There is too much to love in this story: the lyrical rhyming, the fun and funny story, the encouragement to eat what you’re given, the pro-books imagery everywhere, the moral that for most children, home is the best place to be and celebrity isn’t all it may seem… Maybe I read too much into it but I love, love, love what this book says to me!

As for MG and DG, they love the book for its funny story, for its beautiful illustrations, for all the details they can pick out. And of course they also love the pink palace and all the princess things but I hope the message is going in too. There’s no reason not to like pink, or to play dress up and pretend to be a princess, and to like a variety of things (including tons of pink if you want!) but reality is a different matter too and happy ever after comes in all sorts of forms…

Disclaimer: I requested & received a copy of The Princess and the Peas by Nosy Crow for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Addendum: I also bought a copy which was kindly signed by Sarah and Caryl for MG and DG, so I’ll be donating the review copy.




Sir Laughalot: Tony Mitton & Sarah Warburton

Sir Laughalot: Tony Mitton & Sarah Warburton (Orchard Books, 2010)

Sir Laughalot: Tony Mitton & Sarah Warburton
(Orchard Books, 2010)

Sometimes, when I really love a book, I find it hard to write about it. Partially because I don’t know where to start and partially because I’ve been spending too long looking at all the lovely details in the book instead of actually writing about them! This is one of those books…

He has his shield. He had his sword.
But Laughalot is feeling… bored.
What can he do? Where can he go?
Let’s find Sir Laughalot a foe.

Try as we might (because as the reader, you are leading the child through the story), we cannot find a suitable foe. There’s a dragon, a giant and a sorceress but Laughalot isn’t really the fighting kind and finds humour in every situation which all the potentially fearsome foes end up laughing along with.

Then somehow, joyously, instead he finds the perfect match for him (and he for her) and instead chooses to “chuckle all their cares away.” A great story to lift your spirits. The rhyme is fun and flows well but the illustrations, oh the illustrations are sublime! The dragon with his very spiky teeth and wiggly nasal hair; the beautiful borders around the pictures; and the scary sorceress with her tall tower and owl…

The book has also been laid out beautifully with a great mixture of full page and small detail illustrations, differing text sizes and medieval woodcut style pictures scattered throughout. A hoot and a hit!

Disclaimer: I requested & received a copy of Sir Laughalot from Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

 

The Somethingosaur: Tony Mitton & Russell Ayto

The Somethingosaur: Tony Mitton & Russell Ayto (Harper Collins Children's Books, 2012)

The Somethingosaur: Tony Mitton & Russell Ayto
(Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2012)

 Russell Ayto and dinosaurs again 🙂 These are much nicer dinosaurs though, they’re curvy, less angular and don’t have such big sharp teeth! They’re also incidental to the story as the little somethingosaur may not be an -osaur at all…

He wanders the deserts, the swamps and the plains.
He travels through blistering heat and through rains.
He visits the places that no dino knows.
And little by little… He grows… And he grows.

An egg is lost and sits alone until out pops a very cute and very alone little… something. There are some very lovely little things in the backgrounds of the pages, like a “lost egg” poster where little Something hatches, not to mention an incredibly cute bug who follows Something on his adventure with his own story.

Something asks the dinosaurs he meets if he belongs to them but being rejected he goes on a long quest and eventually finds his mum. The mountain he climbs to get there is very dark and foreboding but there’s a happy surprise at the end. And is he really a dinosaur? Now that would be telling…

The book has gorgeous artwork throughout and a lovely happy snuggled-up-families ending. Great to read when snuggled together.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Something-O-Saur by HarperCollins Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Captain Flinn and The Pirate Dinosaurs Missing Treasure: Giles Andreae & Russell Ayto

Captain Flinn and The Pirate Dinosaurs Missing Treasure: Giles Andreae & Russell Ayto (Puffin Books, 2007)

Captain Flinn and The Pirate Dinosaurs Missing Treasure: Giles Andreae & Russell Ayto
(Puffin Books, 2007)

This is one of a series of books following Captain Flinn (a boy), his friends (boys and girls – yay!) and their encounters with the ferocious Pirate Dinosaurs. Pirates and Dinosaurs? Genius!

In this story, Flinn and his classmates are visiting a museum (museums – yay!) when they hear that some real pirate treasure has been stolen from an exhibit. The intrepid crew follow clues and are thrust onto a pirate ship and into the clutches of the scary pirate dinosaurs…

Actually, these dinosaurs really are pretty scary with their spiky teeth and pirate paraphernalia (fantastic!) but they’re no match for Flinn and friends so all ends happily after a few shocks and scares…

And don’t think we’ve forgotten
That this pirate’s rather rotten
So let’s barbecue his bottom
With some spicy chicken wings!

The book is written in prose but Andreae’s wonderful rhyming does get a look-in too – being a child at heart I love the barbecued bottom line. Coupled with Russell Ayto’s crazy illustrations this is a fabulously silly and fun book to read.

MG and DG aren’t so into pirates and dinosaurs (DG had a big pirate phase, but not really dinosaurs) so this book doesn’t go into their hit list otherwise I’d have bought the whole set. I think it’s great fun and most dinosaur and pirate loving kids are bound to love it too.