Tag Archives: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Martha and the Bunny Brothers I Heart Holidays Postcard

There are some people or characters that you can instantly fall in love with. Martha Bunny is one of those characters. Clara Vulliamy is one of those people.

The Chaos household have all fallen head over heels for Clara and Martha (the big eared one) and we’re thrilled to be part of this tour of special postcards from Martha Bunny herself to celebrate the publication of the third book in the series: I Heart Holidays.

Monday’s postcard: Read It, Daddy (plus bonus lolly ratings)
Tuesday’s postcard: Smiling Like Sunshine
Wednesday’s postcard (and special interview): The Book Sniffer

Today’s postcard:

I Heart Holidays (Martha and the Bunny Brothers #3): Clara Vulliamy (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2014)

Paws looks so fab in starry sunglasses, and I love Martha’s dress (and still wearing wellies, joy…)

Tomorrow’s postcard will be at Making It Up, make sure you check it out to see (I can’t wait!)

In I Heart Holidays Martha has a shiny new suitcase that she’s packing with all the essentials for a summer holiday – scrapbook, pencils, bucket and spade… Monty and Pip are packing too, and so is Paws (and mum and dad somewhere!) but it’s time to hurry to pack everything into Bluebell, the gorgeous blue camper van. The image of everyone squished into the back in their car seats is wonderful – and we even get a peek of mum and dad.

Martha’s family are having what is probably now an ‘old fashioned’ beach holiday, but it’s the holiday of my childhood, and the holiday of my children’s childhood and is full of everything you’d expect – sand sandwiches, ice creams dropped (repeatedly), rain as the children paddle, and happiness, sunshine, and love.

Read more of what we thought of I Heart Holidays (spoiler: WE LOVE IT! I would say it’s the ‘best yet’ but they’re all the best); a comparison of I Heart Bedtime and I Heart School; and see all our Martha Bunny posts and crafts.

If you want to make some Bunny paper dolls with dress-up pyjamas (and you can always create your own clothes too), then you can download two sizes of doll here: smaller and bigger.

Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Heart Holidays was published on 3rd July, and is essential summer holiday reading. All three Martha Bunny books are available in paperback.

#BookADayUK Should Have Sold More Copies

Another theme that stumped me, I don’t know a lot about book sales. So I’ve chosen a picture book about numbers instead…

The Hueys in None the Number: Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2014)The Hueys in None the Number: Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2014)

This is the third in the Hueys series, which seem to follow a philosophical theme. All Hueys books would be good to kickstart discussions in a classroom or home setting.

None the Number could be seen as a counting book for young children, that also introduces the concept of zero; it could be seen as something surreal (3 is a collection of chairs, 7 is oranges balanced on some things…); or it could be seen as a fun but silly story with a bunch of loveable characters.

This is my personal favourite of the three Huey books so far, but sadly none of them have caught the imagination of MG or DG. Although they’re not for us, I recommend them for their uniqueness and power to make you think.

Disclosure: The Hueys in None the Number received for review from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

#BookADayUK Summer Read

I was going to be awkward for the summer read, and choose a wintery themed book, but then this popped through my letterbox this week and it was the only choice really 🙂

I Heart Holidays (Martha and the Bunny Brothers #3): Clara Vulliamy (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2014)I Heart Holidays (Martha and the Bunny Brothers #3): Clara Vulliamy (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2014)

I am hugging this book to my chest as I contemplate how to describe how much all the Chaos family adores Martha and her bunny brothers. I gave some examples of all the wonderful little details in my I Heart Bedtime review and all the little touches are back in this third volume.

It starts with “This is a happy book, all about MARTHA – that’s me!” and has the different fonts, lists, news, things to choose from, menus, expressions, happiness and pure joy that the first two books are packed with and is still unique and fun and brilliant on its own merits. “I love this!” says Danger Girl (5).

I tried to get Danger Girl to choose her favourite of the three Martha books. “I love all of them!” But if you could only have one? She looked completely downcast at this, “But I want them all!” After a little chat she decided that I Heart Holidays was best for packing for a holiday, I Heart Bedtime was best for packing for a sleepover, and I Heart School was best for taking to school, but all three were best for under her pillow at home.

In I Heart Holidays Martha has a shiny new suitcase that she’s packing with all the essentials for a summer holiday – scrapbook, pencils, bucket and spade… Monty and Pip are packing too, and so is Paws (and mum and dad somewhere!) but it’s time to hurry to pack everything into Bluebell, the gorgeous blue camper van. [All of a sudden, I really really want a camper van, Clara makes everything look so gorgeous!] The image of everyone squished into the back in their car seats is wonderful – and we even get a peek of mum and dad.

Martha’s family are having what is probably now an ‘old fashioned’ beach holiday, but it’s the holiday of my childhood, and the holiday of my children’s childhood (we’re off to a Scottish island again this year, bliss) and is full of everything you’d expect – sand sandwiches, ice creams dropped (repeatedly), rain as the children paddle, and happiness, sunshine, and love.

I have an extra reason to love I Heart Holidays, on top of the lovely story and beautiful illustrations. Last year I found some material that I thought matched the cover of I Heart Bedtime and sent it to Clara, and she used the material as Martha’s sleeping bag. I sort-of-almost-not-really-but-I’m-pretending-I-did contributed to a Martha Bunny book 🙂

I Heart Holidays (Martha and the Bunny Brothers #3): Clara Vulliamy (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2014)

I Heart Holidays is published on 3rd July 2014, and the Chaos family recommends every Martha Bunny book for all happy bunnies everywhere.

Disclosure: I Heart Holidays received for review from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

#BookADayUK An Old Favourite

I have lots of old favourites, some of which I’ve probably already mentioned. But when it came to thinking of a picture book to review for today’s theme, a very special old favourite came to mind…

Mog And Bunny And Other Stories (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013)Mog And Bunny And Other Stories (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

This is a collection of three Mog books by Judith Kerr, in the modern large format (all the better for seeing the gorgeous artwork.) I am in two minds on picture book collections. On the one hand, I prefer individual picture books, partially for the endpapers and because my children never let me read only one story out of a collection, it has to be the whole book, but mainly because I just prefer individual books. On the other hand, collections like these often cost little more than a single picture book so are great value for money and also make wonderful gifts.

The three stories in this collection are Mog and Bunny; Mog and the V.E.T. and Mog and the Granny. In Mog and Bunny we’re introduced to Mog’s favourite toy. In Mog and the V.E.T. Mog hurts her paw and has to go to the vet to get better, and in Mog and the Granny, the family go on holiday leaving Mog to be looked after by a friend.

As always, the observations of cats are perfectly illustrated, and on reading these stories, I could see why there is a book called “All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome”! My only gripe is that the phrase Red Indian wasn’t changed to a more acceptable term.

I love Mog, and think she belongs on every child’s bookshelf.

Disclosure: Mog And Bunny And Other Stories received for review from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

#BookADayUK Least Favourite Book By Favourite Author

This is a hard one. The first book that popped into my head for me was Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, although as it’s been almost nine years since I read it I can’t give a proper reason as to why. I think it was something to do with how the main character was treated and it made me feel sad. I’ll have to re-read it at some point, it’s still on my shelves…

I don’t know what to choose for a picture book. I don’t want to put any of them in this category! I don’t think I have a least favourite from a favourite author/illustrator, and I can’t think of any that Mighty Girl or Danger Girl have singled out either.

Ah, I have thought of one. This is an author/illustrator I loved as a child.

The Best Lowly Worm Book Ever: Richard Scarry (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013)The Best Lowly Worm Book Ever: Richard Scarry (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

I know, Richard Scarry, how can I not like Richard Scarry books? It’s not because this is a new book finished by his son from sketches, I’ve borrowed other Richard Scarry books from the library and felt the same, it’s just that they don’t have the same pull for me as they used to. I do have some nostalgia in looking at them, but they’ve not caught the imagination of MG or DG at all.

I wonder whether my daughters will read Enid Blyton, or Susan Cooper, or Alan Gardner, or C.S. Lewis, or Lewis Carroll, or J.R.R. Tolkien. They do not seem to be drawn in to the old fashioned fantasy worlds that I loved as a child. Maybe they will when they’re older but there are so many books to choose from and they enjoy ones they can relate to more, so even the 1970’s seems ancient to them.

But I’m not one for thinking that old = good and new = bad so although I’ll share the books I loved as a child with my children, I’m enjoying finding more and more books through them too.

The Best Lowly Worm Book Ever is a lovely book, but is my choice today just because I used to love Richard Scarry books as a child and don’t as much as an adult.

Disclosure: The Best Lowly Worm Book Ever received for review from HarperCollins 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.

Perfect Presents

We were delighted to receive these two sequels to books that we thoroughly enjoyed. Fiona Roberton’s almost line-drawings are a complete contrast to Rachel Bright’s colourful prints but the art in both is stunning. These are two wonderful series, and I thoroughly recommend both.

The Perfect Present: Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children's Books, 2012, PB 2013)The Perfect Present: Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children’s Books, 2012, PB 2013)

We absolutely loved the first book about Henry and Spot, Wanted: The Perfect Pet, and the duo return here for Henry’s birthday. Spot has found what he thinks is the perfect present, but when Henry gets distracted by another present and doesn’t even open Spot’s, Spot leaves feeling dejected…

Oh, how I feel for poor Spot as he leaves. Not only that but it’s dark and miserable out too, with lightening and things do seem to get a bit hairy… But I’ll let you in on a secret, it does all end well, with Spot and Henry reunited. I am so in love with these characters, they are pitch perfect and adorable. The minimal art style still conveys so much emotion, and it’s all quite wonderfully surreal.

The books are also laid out into chapters, although they are very much in picture book format, but this makes them excellent for early readers. They are more suitable for older (late EYFS/KS1) children because of the subtleties in them, but can be enjoyed by toddlers and pre-schoolers too.

If you’ve not met Henry and Spot yet, I thoroughly recommend finding a copy of Wanted: The Perfect Pet first. The Perfect Present works well independently, but is just even better with the back story.

Love Monster & the Perfect Present: Rachel Bright (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013)Love Monster & the Perfect Present: Rachel Bright (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

Another fabulous sequel following a wonderful first book. We loved Love Monster in his first tale, and this sequel he’s trying to find a special gift for the most special monster in his life. But although the shops are packed full of sparkling gifts, apparently fluff and buttons don’t go very far to buy them…

How wonderful it is for a book to extol the virtues of heartfelt gifts that do not need to cost the earth. We live in such a materialistic society with children constantly bombarded by the messages of consumerism, and I do fall into the trap of wanting to get my children nice gifts, but it’s good to be reminded about all the things that are worth far more than money.

Mighty-Girl has asked me what I want for Christmas, and I have requested one of her books because she writes such wonderful stories. I hope she realises that this means more to me than anything money could ever buy.

Beautifully illustrated, and full of love, this is a great book for Christmas (you can even borrow it from the library to eschew consumerism – but it would be really nice to put in someone you love’s stocking too!)

Disclosure: We were sent copies of The Perfect Present by Hachette Children’s Books and Love Monster and the Perfect Present 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.

[Word count: 523; November word count: 2,129]

Picture Book Roundup

July / August 2013 Picture Book Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

September / October 2013 Picture Book Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Quit: Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013)

The Day the Crayons Quit: Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

A book review, at last! Having managed only two last month, and three the month before that, this book blog is severely lacking in actual books. But I now have actual time to write, so picking one more or less at random… Okay, I lie, there’s something that bugged me about this book and so I chose to write about it first.

Warning: review may contain spoilers.

I’m going to start with saying I’m not a big Oliver Jeffers fan. I utterly love Stuck, and I like most of his other picture books, but… I don’t know, that writing style appears on everything these days and it gets a bit boring. So unlike many, I don’t jump up and down just because something has ‘Oliver Jeffers’ written on it (which is not the same as saying I don’t like his books at all.)

In the case of The Day the Crayons Quit, the writing and art style that Jeffers has fits perfectly with the storyline of letters written by crayons to their owner. As a concept, the book is a winner. I love to imagine inanimate objects having a life while you’re not looking, and getting letters from them as a child would be awesome.

The book includes ‘letters’ from red, purple, beige, grey, white, black, green, orange, yellow, blue, pink and peach crayons to a boy called Duncan complaining about their lot  (over use, under use, repetitive use, nakedness etc) and beseeching him to improve their lives. Which he does, in a fab way.

In summary: great concept, pictures and text work well together, fun story, great interest for children. I think it will appeal to KS1/KS2 children more than the pre-school/EYFS age range. I’d recommend it as a good read etc.

So, what’s my problem? It’s my annoying attention to detail and picking up contradictions. We have, in the eleventh letter to Duncan, the pink crayon complaining that its never been used once in the last year apart from by his sister (to colour in a princess, because of course that’s what girls do rather than cowboys, dinosaurs and monsters that boys draw; this page is not endearing itself to me!) But let’s go back through the book so far, shall we? In the second letter (purple), the wizard has a pink nose and mouth. In the fourth letter (grey), the hippo has pink nostrils. In the eighth letter (yellow), there’s a pink pig and a pink basket!

The final picture, that’s supposed to placate all the crayons, also doesn’t answer all the questions. I can’t see beige, but there’s a brown bear. It doesn’t look beige to me. Blue has still been used lots when it asked not to. Did Duncan choose orange as the colour of the sun then, but what about poor yellow or is the colour of the sky meant to mean sunshine? And what about peach, is it still naked? If I were those crayons, I’d still be on strike…

Seriously though, this is such a fun book, and with older children you can discuss potential contradictions and anomalies (and why they might be there), and maybe think up letters from their crayons / pens / pencils – what would the complaints be in your house? Our felt tips would definitely complain of being left ‘headless’ and dehydrated without their tops.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Day the Crayons Quit 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.