Tag Archives: Children’s Books

Splat says Thank You! by Rob Scotton

Splat Says Thank-You!: Rob Scotton (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2012)

Splat Says Thank-You!: Rob Scotton (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2012)

It’s hard not to like Splat the Cat. This is his seventh picture book and in it his friend Seymour is feeling sad because he’s ill. Splat tries to cheer Seymour up with his friendship book, a list of all the things Splat wants to thank Seymour for.

“When I broke my mum’s favourite ornament, you fixed it for me,” said Splat.
Except somehow, Mum noticed and I had to have a bath and go to bed early.
“Thank-you, anyway.”

The humour oozes though the pages with the pictures telling more of the story and lots to laugh along with, although tinged with feeling sad for poor Seymour too. But mainly lots of giggles at all the scrapes Seymour has helped Splat out of, for which Splat is genuinely grateful no matter how it turned out.

“You are my smallest friend and my biggest.”

That line makes me have a bit of dust in my eye… 😉 Beautifully illustrated, funny and with a great message too.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of  Splat Says Thank-you! 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.


Come On, Daisy by Jane Simmons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave by Sue Hendra & Liz Pichon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn with Auntie Toks

I live in a very monocultural part of the world. Fortunately there is a wonderful Montessori nursery very close to us which is a perfect microcosm of multiculturalism with children, teachers and assistants from around the globe working and learning together; this is where my daughters spent 30 hours a week from when they were 5 months old until I stopped working (age 2 for DG; and 4 for MG.) Our local village school is wonderful and inclusive, but it’s hard not to notice the sea of mainly-white faces on stage at their end-of-year assemblies. This is not the idea of ‘normality’ I want my children to absorb. Fortunately their very early years nursery experience; their close friends; their parenting; and their school’s excellent teaching counteract the overly monocultural environment they could be experiencing.

Given my worries on the lack of multicultural experiences, I was more than happy to be offered the chance to review this set of story and activity books based on African folk tales and published to supplement the not-for-profit work of The Lighthouse Children’s Workshop. There are two story books and each has an accompanying workbook.

The Elephants Who Always Forgot (Tokunbo Ifaturoti: TOWAT Publishing, 2011)The Elephants Who Always Forgot (Tokunbo Ifaturoti: TOWAT Publishing, 2011)
This is based on a Kenyan folk tale. The storybook includes a CD with three tracks – one is the Lighthouse Children’s theme and the other two are slightly different versions of “We Love The Elephants” from the story, which is simple and catchy. There is also a recipe for Kenyan Kunde, a black-eyes peas and tomato dish. I haven’t attempted to make this with MG and DG but it looks like a straightforward recipe to follow with slightly older children due to the frying and chopping involved.

The story follows a village where people and animals live in harmony, and hunters come to try to steal the tusks from their elephants. Being forgetful, the mummy elephant who runs to warn the villagers forgets why she was running but all ends well – not so much for the hunters! The storybook is set up to be educational so on each page there are questions. These range from observations on the pictures to thinking about other knowledge children may have e.g. “Why did the farmer pick up the knife carefully?” It’s possible to read the story and leave out the questions, or to only use the questions that are most appropriate for the audience.

The activity book to go with the story contains large black and white outline pictures of every picture from the story, with activities on the opposite page. The activities include wordsearches, instructions on how to colour the picture in, counting, talking exercises etc. There is such a variety that you can pick and choose what to use with a particular child, or just use the book for colouring in. There are lovely big pictures of elephants to colour which should appeal to any age.

The Monkey and the Peanuts (Tokunbo Ifaturoti: TOWAT Publishing, 2011)The Monkey and the Peanuts (Tokunbo Ifaturoti: TOWAT Publishing, 2011)
This is based on a Nigerian folk tale. The storybook includes a recipe for Kunu Zaki, a ground millet drink. The ingredients for this would probably require a trip to a more specialist store than a supermarket but I know of many in Oxford (Cowley Road seems to have food shops for almost every culture from Halal supermarkets to Polish and Russian; there’s a Chinese supermarket somewhere more central; and just because I can’t think of an African one offhand just means I haven’t been past it on a bus) so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one in cities at least, and would be a good educational experience for children unfamiliar with these cultures.

The story follows a king who loves every part of his kingdom and a naughty monkey who steals peanuts and learns his manners. Again there are questions on every page of the story, which cover observations and knowledge. I feel this is a calmer story than the Elephant one and is the one I prefer for my children’s age group. A lesson on manners is always a plus!

The activity book is similar to the Elephant one with a colouring page on one side and various activities on the facing pages. In both cases the story books are approximately A5 sized landscape and the activity books approximately A4 sized landscape.

There are many positives for these storybooks and activity books. The font used is one with easily distinguishable b/d; p/q; I/l; a as a circle. I keep pointing out easy reader fonts in books, but they do help early/struggling readers and people with dyslexia so it’s a plus point in my mind. The copyright page says the font is Baskerville, which it isn’t, but that’s a plus! There are so many different questions and activities that it covers a wide range of education and age ranges, from early years to late primary / early secondary.

However, the packed nature of the questions on every page of the story and the different styles of questions on each page of the colouring book may be overwhelming to a struggling reader attempting to read everything. It might be worth taking the activity book apart and using as worksheets if that is an issue. The story and activity books are more of a workbook / reading scheme format, these are really for educational use than just stories even though you can read the stories as stand-alone folk tales too.

I have some reservations about some of the artwork, especially the pictures depicting the hunters and their knives in the Elephant story which may be a bit too frightening for small children and the scary cyclops monkey on the front cover of the Monkey story! But on the whole children should find the stories and pictures amusing, the Monkey one especially with MG and DG. These are designed as educational books, and as such they are good value for money. It’s worth getting the story and activity book for either (or both) tales together.

All four books can be bought from Lighthouse Children for £5.99 each with free shipping. They would be perfect for home educators, youth groups, schools and other educational establishments as well as home use.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of these books by Tokunbo Ifaturoti for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Ten Tickling Toes by Morag Dennett & Warren Osborne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ant and Bee by Angela Banner

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

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

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

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

Ant and Bee, drawn by me Bee, by MG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Silver Blaze”: Arthur Conan Doyle, 1892

Ruby, Blue and Blanket by Jane Hissey

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

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

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

Extract from Ruby, Blue and Blanket:

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

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

Jane Hissey in studio (c) Salariya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Jane Hissey:

Cinderelephant by Emma Dodd WITH GIVEAWAY!

Cinderelephant: Emma Dodd (Templar Publishing, 2012)

Cinderelephant: Emma Dodd (Templar Publishing, 2012)

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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.