Tag Archives: Little Tiger Press

#BookADayUK Can’t Believe More People Haven’t Read

I don’t think I know how many people have read certain books. I think I read bestseller types mainly. Not on purpose, but because that’s how I come to hear of them. I don’t read something just because it’s a bestseller though, but because I like the sound of the synopsis.

For today’s picture book I’ve chosen a book that I’d like everyone to read because I think it’s wonderful.

Dangerous: Tim Warnes (Little Tiger Press, 2014)Dangerous: Tim Warnes (Little Tiger Press, 2014)

Mole loves to label things. He’s happily labelling everything he finds (including a pile of poo – my five year old loved this, and it was a word she could work out herself too!) until one day he finds a strange lumpy bumpy thing and, not knowing what it is, he sticks lots of labels onto it.

Lumpy, bumpy, strange, unusual, huge, peculiar, green… But what if, actually, this new thing is DANGEROUS? Mole sticks on another label. The lumpy bumpy thing wakes up and starts to eat Mole’s labels, which upsets Mole and he wants nothing to do with the strange creature. But the lumpy bumpy thing wants to play and gets sad when it’s rejected. Perhaps there’s another label Mole can use?

Danger Girl (5) absolutely loves stories. Our bed is currently covered in the half dozen or so books that she dragged onto it early this morning, I read her at least three books every night or she can’t sleep (we compromise on which books – three longer ones, or more shorter ones) and she constantly flicks through books over and over, telling her own stories. She has always loved stories and books.

But where Mighty Girl (7) was writing her name and recognising words at three, Danger Girl has found learning to read and write a longer process and is coming to the end of reception year far ‘behind’ where her sister was at the same stage. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest, she will read when she is ready (and perhaps her recent eye test and prescription for glasses has had something to do with her being slower to pick things up too!)

Danger Girl balks at reading sentences in books, but left to her own devices, she carefully works out the words on labels. I have some labels on their toy storage that she’s worked out, I plan to add more. Reading Dangerous together means that she can attempt some of the words on the labels without being put off by whole sentences, so she’s practising and I’m sure one day soon all those individual words will add up to sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books, and she won’t stop reading.

That’s not the only reason I love Dangerous. The art is adorable, the story is heartwarming, and the whole book is full of so much humour that it’s hard not to giggle (especially at some of the expressions of creatures with labels stuck on!) Dangerous is a great start to thinking of describing words (Mighty Girl knows that these are adjectives, I never got the hang of the proper names for things…) and increasing vocabulary. Dangerous is one of my top picks of picture books for 2014.

Disclosure: Dangerous received for review from Little Tiger Press.

Mother’s Day Picture Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Picture Books for Giving

I think any picture book from a child’s favourite theme or illustration style is a wonderful gift when it’s a hardback edition. Hardback books, especially picture books, have a special air about them. Here are a selection of recently published books that are available in hardback and are especially beautiful.

The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, Anniv. ed 2013)The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder Children’s Books, Anniv. ed 2013)
I hadn’t seen this anniversary edition when I first wrote this list, but now I have it’s at the top of it. The Tale of Jack Frost is a near-perfect winter story, beautifully illustrated in watercolour. It’s a fairy tale and a winter tale, full of unique magical creatures, horrible goblins, forgotten pasts and hopeful futures. I’ve written about the paperback version before, but this hardback (signed and limited to 1000 copies) takes a beautiful story and packages it perfectly. With shining snowflakes on the cover and endpapers full of sketches, the anniversary edition is also individually hand numbered and signed by the author. Search out a copy now, before they all disappear.

Abigail: Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press, 2013)Abigail: Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press, 2013)
Every Catherine Rayner picture book is a piece of beauty, and Abigail is no exception. Abigail is the newest animal character from Catherine, and she is a giraffe who loves to count. The hardback edition is a near-square with gorgeous matt covering depicting Abigail against a night sky. The story follows Abigail as she tries to count things, but they keep moving. Eventually she gets her friends together and they find something to count that doesn’t move. Stunning imagery of the African plains and its inhabitants pack the book, with a lovely gentle story suitable for all ages but especially for 3-5 year olds because of the focus on learning to count. A flip-up page adds to the interest, and ending with night-time makes this the perfect bedtime read.

Winter's Child: Angela McAliister & Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar Publishing, 2013)Winter’s Child: Angela McAllister & Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar Publishing, 2013)
This book truly is an object of beauty, and a perfect Christmas story. The story is about Tom, who loves winter and wants it to stay forever. He finds a friend in a strange pale boy and every day they play in the stunning icy landscape. But at home, Nana is getting frailer, food and fuel is running out, and Tom’s mother is worried… I cannot describe how beautifully illustrated this fable is, it is a book to be poured over and enjoyed on many levels. Suitable from 3+, it will probably most appeal to 5-8 year olds, but older children will get so much from the story too.

All Through The Night: John Ceiriog Hughes & Kate Alizadeh (Simply Read Books, 2013)All Through The Night: John Ceiriog Hughes & Kate Alizadeh (Simply Read Books, 2013)
This book has perfect Christmas stocking filler written all over it. It is a small square hardback with words of a traditional Welsh lullaby (translated into English) with beautiful pastel illustrations. The lyrics are very Christian and refer to God and Guardian Angels so will appeal more to people with Christian faith. The book is a small package of beauty, lovely for bedtime reading. It may even be a thoughtful gift for someone who is grieving, but that would be a very personal choice.

Barefoot Books - The World of Miss Clara Gift SetThe Princess and The Pea; The Twelve Dancing Princesses; and The Snow Queen: Miss Clara (Barefoot Books, 2013)
I’m cheating a little here, because I haven’t seen these books in real life yet. I have however seen the chapter book versions and know how stunning Miss Clara’s illustrations are. These three hardback editions are new to Barefoot Books this month, and are also currently available as a gift set saving 10% on individual prices. You can get a further 20% off ordering online with the code TWENTY13. All Barefoot Books are produced to a high standard, and these will be no exception. A trio of classic fairy tales with beautiful illustrations, what more could you ask from a Christmas gift?

Rules of Summer: Shaun Tan (Lothian Children's Books, 2013)Rules of Summer: Shaun Tan (Lothian Children’s Books, 2013)
I don’t ‘get’ Shaun Tan’s picture books. The art is stunningly beautiful, weird and unique, and wonderful for getting lost in. But the picture books make absolutely no sense to me at all. I read this one to my four year old and she told me I was reading it wrong, because I must have missed out some of the words! These are not books for small children. Stunningly beautiful, cinematic and wonderful, this could be read to any child, but is probably of more interest to children aged 8+. I think this is one to add to the Christmas stockings of any art students you know too. This would be perfect as a springboard for discussion about… Well, I have no idea what the book is about at all, which I think may be the point, so the discussions from this book are potentially limitless.

The King of Space; Jonny Duddle (Templar Books, 2013)The King of Space: Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing, 2013)
The paperback version is already out but the hardback is still available. You can read my full thoughts on this book here. This will appeal to all space-loving children (so most of them) of any age, but under threes probably won’t appreciate it as much. It’s also perfect for all sci-fi geek parents too. I’m usually a fan of traditional artists, as I find a lot of digital art too ‘shiny’ (for want of a better word!) but in all three of his books Jonny Duddle has packed the pages with grime and details. I’ve read them so many times and still have the odd “oh!” moment when I notice yet-another connection between the stories in the background…

The Tiger Who Came To Tea: Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books, Gift ed. 2013) The Tiger Who Came To Tea: Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children’s Books, Gift ed. 2013)
This story probably needs no introduction. The fun, and surreal, tale of a Tiger who visits Sophie and her mummy to eat everything in their house has been well-loved since it was first published in 1968. To celebrate Judith Kerr’s 90th birthday this year, a beautiful gift edition hardback complete with slipcase has been released. This gift edition deserves its place on every child (and children’s book lover’s) bookshelves, and makes a perfect gift.

The Girl With A Brave Heart, A Tale From Tehran: Rita Jahanforuz & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013)The Girl With A Brave Heart: Rita Jahanforua & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013)
A traditional tale from Tehran which starts in a Cinderalla-like way; Shiraz’s mother dies young and her father remarries but after he too dies, her life changes from one of happiness to drudgery as the step-mother and step-sister make her their maid. Unlike Cinderella, no prince is required for a happy ending. Because of Shiraz’s kind heart, and the good that she does, it appears that she receives the gift of beauty. In reality it is Shiraz’s own personality shining through. Beautifully illustrated, this is a very positive and non-stereotyped story; the perfect antidote to Disney princesses. Available to buy from Barefoot Books.

amelienanetteSparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties (Amelie and Nanette): Sophie Tilley (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)
In a complete contrast to the non-stereotyped Girl With A Brave Heart, Amelie and Nanette are the epitome of girlyness, and you can read my thoughts on this book here. This is such a beautiful hardback that it deserves a place in this list, as it will make a lovely present. The theme of summer picnics will be a great pick-me-up on a cold, dull winter’s day and the beautiful illustrations should put a smile on even the grumpiest face. Suitable for reading to any age, this will be enjoyed most by 3-8 year olds.

Barbapapa and Barbapapa's Voyage: Annette Tison & Talus Taylor (Orchard Books, new ed. 2013)Barbapapa and Barbapapa’s Voyage: Annette Tison & Talus Taylor (Orchard Books, new ed. 2013)
The Barbapapa books were originally published in the 1970’s although I have no memory of them from my childhood so it’s with new and adult eyes that I was introduced to Barbapapa, a pink blob-creature who was found in a garden (in Barbapapa), and his family (in Barbapapa’s Voyage). The stories are a little strange and surreal, but full of adventure and concepts that small children will be familiar with. These books will either be a classic for parents who read them as children to share, or just fun new additions. They are very lovely, and the hardback editions are beautifully produced. Suitable for any age, but especially 3-5 year olds.

I hope that has given you some ideas of a tiny fraction of the beautiful books currently released in the UK that would make wonderful gifts. I will be writing more gift list ideas over the next two weeks.

Disclosure: All books (except Barefoot Books) received from their respective publishers for review. Barefoot Books links are affiliate links. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Picture Book Roundup

July / August 2013 Picture Book Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

September / October 2013 Picture Book Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bear’s Big Bottom by Steve Smallman & Emma Yarlett

Bear's Big Bottom: Steve Smallman & Emma Yarlett (Little Tiger Press, 2013)

Bear’s Big Bottom: Steve Smallman & Emma Yarlett (Little Tiger Press, 2013)

Bear is sweet, friendly and has a host of fluffy friends. But he has an enormous bottom that’s always getting him into trouble. He takes up the whole settee, he breaks presents, empties the paddling pool, and worst of all he squashes a birthday cake flat. His frustrated friends get cross and Bear leaves them to feel sad. But after a spot of danger, Bear comes through and that big bottom is forgiven!

This is a silly story that small children will love. What can be better for a small child than a story with bottoms in?! Darling-Girl is going through the delightful saying ‘poo’ and ‘bottom’ every other word phase (she’s four) so this is a huge hit with her!

This is a rhyming book with rhymes that work (always a good sign!) It also has a slightly different rhythm to many books with three lines that rhyme (each with eight syllables) and then a final non-rhyming line that always includes the word ‘bottom’.

The illustrations are a modern style and just right, they make us giggle. I love how one of the fluffy characters is wearing glasses too. A silly, fun, enjoyable story suitable for toddlers and up.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Bear’s Big Bottom by Little Tiger Press for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Pirates and Pi-rats

Ten Little Pirates: Mike Brownlow & Simon Rickerty (Orchard Books, 2013)Ten Little Pirates: Mike Brownlow & Simon Rickerty (Orchard Books, 2013)

Five girl and five boy pirates start on an adventure in this delightful rhyming counting book; and are dispatched one by one by a variety of creatures, natural events and other means… This book is wonderful!

Told in rhyme, which scans beautifully, and leads children to correctly work out the next number counting down. The number symbol of remaining pirates is shown on the bottom left hand corner of each double spread, and the number word is in large, bold text (in the same font) on the top middle left spread. This will help cement number symbols and words into young children’s memories without them noticing 😉 Or if they already can read the number symbols, they will delight in pointing it out (in the case of DG, 4) or can just read the whole book (in the case of MG, 6!)

Six little pirates,
trying to stay alive.
Chomp! goes a giant squid –
now there are…

But what about all this chomping and zapping of pirates you may ask? Ah, well, maybe at the end the last lonely pirate isn’t alone for long, and there’s an opportunity to count up to ten again… DG has been choosing this book regularly (“again!”) and joins in with the “Arrrrrrr!”s and counting the numbers down. MG loves reading it. The clear cartoon art is attractive to young children, and still enjoyable for older ones. Suitable for little ones who love pirates and monsters, this has been a huge hit here!

Pi-rat: Maxine Lee (Caterpillar Books (Little Tiger Press), 2013)Pi-rat: Maxine Lee (Caterpillar Books, 2013)

Avast and shiver me timbers! Meet Pi-rat and his dastardly crew, afeared of no-one and nothing… Ah, but here comes the scariest hairiest creature of them all – to get pi-rat out of his bath!

Another wonderful piratey book. We’ve been utterly spoilt. This would also be a great introduction to the idea of comics, because it’s mainly told through speech bubbles and gloriously anarchic images. Every small child would love to have the freedom Pi-rat’s crew has, to do whatever they want. This shows that you can do anything in your imagination, and the scariest monster might just be your closest ally after all.

Another book that DG loves and requests be read repeatedly. Lovely for toddlers and up, but older children will understand the imagination / reality twist better. A must for all pirate-mad children and their grown-ups!

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of Ten Little Pirates by Hachette Children’s Books and Pi-rat by Little Tiger Press for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Tantrums and Moods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Words, Letters and Numbers

Little Tiger Kids

Little Tiger Press has started a new imprint this month, Little Tiger Kids. These are a series of colourful, sturdy board books with pictures of real things, big flaps, things to trace. All of which appeal to babies and toddlers. We’ve been lucky enough to be sent three to test drive. All three instantly appealed to MG and DG with the bright colours and flaps and they’ve been having fun with them. I’m going to review from a grown up educational viewpoint but in terms of child-appeal, these are winners.

first100wordsMy First Book of Words: 100 First Words (Little Tiger Kids, 2013)
There are similar books to this already available and to be fair Priddy Books have probably got the corner on this market but it would be an oversight for Little Tiger Press to have left out a book of this type in their new range, and it makes a nice addition. What Little Tiger Press have got (but I’ve not seen) is a lift-the-flap version of the 100 first words which should prove to be extremely popular. Based on the flaps in the Numbers book that we have seen, these are likely to be extremely robust and great for fine motor skills. Using real pictures is important for very young children who are learning to organise and categorise the world. Cartoon word books are lovely but a child’s absorbent mind also needs reinforcement of the real world.

My First Touch and Trace: First ABC (Little Tiger Kids, 2013)My First Touch and Trace: First ABC (Little Tiger Kids, 2013)
This is a book with enormous child appeal. The format is perfect. Each single page focusses on one letter. The top half of the page has the letter in upper and lower case, the upper case letter is cut out for tracing. The bottom half of the page has a picture starting with that letter and is also a giant flap with another picture for the letter underneath. Each page has bright, clear colours; uncluttered, real photographs; an easy-to-read-and-write font and start and end points for how to draw the letters. It is almost perfect and the only alphabet book you need to start a child’s journey to letter recognition and learning to read. Almost. It is let down by a lack of phonetic awareness. On chatting with other interested parties (parents and educators) on Twitter about the subject of phonetic ABC books, it was pointed out that many books are printed for a worldwide market where phonetics may not be the prescribed teaching method. In the UK (well, in England at least), every child who goes to a state-run school will be taught to read using synthetic phonics.

Phonics has its detractors but as an initial method in getting children to learn to decode quickly, it is excellent. Maria Montessori used phonetics in her methods for teaching children to read. Montessori also used sandpaper letters to get the children used to the shape of letters when they still hadn’t got the fine motor skills for writing, which this book also emulates in its touchable letter tracing. It’s only the upper case letters which are traceable, which is a pity given that we use lower case letters far more frequently in reality but it’s a good start. I also like how the start and end points for letter tracing are highlighted with red and green dots in this book.

I would still recommend this as possibly the best first ABC book I’ve seen. It ‘fails’ as an introduction to the phonetic alphabet in seven of the fifty-two words it includes. These are: ice-cream, ivy, owl, shoes, unicorn, xylophone and x-ray. Admittedly ‘x’ is impossible to do phonetically if you’re only chosing initial letters as there are no words that start with the /ks/ sound. I’m also not keen on ‘jelly beans’ as it’s two words! If you’re fussy on phonics like me, why not stick photos of igloo, insect, octopus, sock, fox and box in the book! I’ve searched but umbrella does seem to be the only object starting with the short-u sound. Up and Under are probably the best options, but hard to illustrate. In summary, this is an excellent alphabet book which is exactly what it sets out to be.

My First Touch and Trace: First ABC (Little Tiger Kids, 2013)

My First Lift and Learn: First Numbers (Little Tiger Kids, 2013)My First Lift and Learn: First Numbers (Little Tiger Kids, 2013)
Another appealing book for children, this comes with a ‘handle’ so it can be easily carried around. I really can’t stress enough how sturdy these books are. They are made from quality strong board, have pages that feel like they wipe clean easily (we haven’t needed to test this) with big, robust flaps. In first numbers, each page shows a picture of an object or objects (one cake, two kittens, three butterflies etc); the flap can then be opened to reveal simplified pictures of the outside of the flap – for example the outside picture may have things that overlap or are slightly different e.g. different kittens, but the inside picture will have the number of things clearly shown separately and be the same in one or two colours only – plus the number with start and end dots, and tracing guide. Another wonderful ‘first’ book.

All three books have enormous child appeal and would be excellent to share starting with babies who will be attracted to the bright, simple and familiar images; onto toddlers who will love the interactivity and ownership they can take for the books; onto pre-schoolers who can take pride in recognising numbers and letters… The Little Tiger Kids range are priced between £5.99 and £8.99 which is excellent value for money, especially the First ABC book above which is only £5.99. More in the series are being released in May. These include jigsaws, tabs and touchy-feely books. If these were around when my girls were younger we would have bought lots of them!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copies of My First Book of Words: 100 First Words; My First Touch and Trace: First ABC; and My First Lift and Learn: First Numbers by Little Tiger Press for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Red House Childrens Book Award 2013 Younger Children Short List

Welcome to Alien School: Caryl Hart & Ed Eaves (Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, 2012)Welcome to Alien School: Caryl Hart & Ed Eaves (Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, 2012)
We’re fans of Caryl Hart in the Chaos household, and bought Welcome to Alien School when it was first published. It’s the third in a series following a boy called Albie and the strange things that seem to happen to him – I’m not quite sure if it’s all in his imagination or not. He’s been to a supermarket that sells zoo animals, planted dinosaurs in the garden and here he ends up on another planet for school. It’s a very fun story with much appeal to small children who may feel that going to school is an alien experience in itself.

Can You See Sassoon?: Samuel Usher (Little Tiger Press, 2012)Can You See Sassoon?: Samuel Usher (Little Tiger Press, 2011)
The bright primary colours and packed illustrations make this a lovely book to curl up with and try to spot all the things in the pictures. I struggled to find Sassoon, the striped snake, in some of the double page spreads but MG’s beady eyes spotted him quickly! There are various scenes that he is hiding in, including food, toys, a bookcase and outer space. DG found the search more challenging but still enjoyed looking and was very excited when she first spotted him without assistance! Great fun and beautifully illustrated.

Spooky, Spooky House: Andrew Weare & Lee Wildish (Picture Corgi, 2011)Spooky, Spooky House: Andrew Weare & Lee Wildish (Picture Corgi, 2011)
This book has flaps to open, pop ups and a heat-sensitive picture on the last page. In a similar vein to Jan Pienkowski’s Haunted House, an unseen narrator tells the reader to keep away from the house because it’s full of so many terrifying monsters. But children, peeking through their hands, insist on each flap being opened and each page being turned before discovering the scariest spook of all on the last page – under a heat sensitive patch which adds another element of exciting discovery, and a twist to the tale…

Dog Loves Drawing: Louise Yates (Red Fox Picture Books, 2012)Dog Loves Drawing: Louise Yates (Red Fox Picture Books, 2012)
If you’ve already read Louise Yates’ Dog Loves Books, you’ll know that Dog loves books so much that he’s opened a bookshop. In this tale, he received a sketchbook from an aunt, and somewhat daunted at first he starts an exciting adventure through the pages joined by a host of friends. This may appeal to fans of Harold and the Purple Crayon and is a clever and fun journey through the world that books and drawing can open up to small children. Plus it has a monster in, which always appeals. Beautifully illustrated and a fun tale of trying out new things even when you’re not sure.

Who do I think will win? They are all brilliant books and well deserving of their nominations, but based on the reactions of children I’ve tested with I think I can guess which might win… I don’t know which one I’d choose as my favourite to be honest, we’ve loved Welcome to Alien School for some time; but Dog Loves Drawing is such a fun idea; but Can You See Sassoon is brightly coloured and challenging; but Spooky, Spooky House has great monsters and cute twist… They should all win!

Voting is open until 27th January, you can vote online as an individual or as a school / library. The books can be purchased from Red House for £2.99 or £3.49 each, click on the images above for the direct link to Red House. The winners will be announced on 23rd February.

Disclaimer: I am on the committee for Oxford Children’s Book Group, part of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups who run the award, and have been test reading the younger children short-list to various children. My opinions are my own and I receive no financial reward for supporting FCBG.

A Book in every Stocking

Sally Poynton has started a brilliant campaign this year: A Book in every Stocking. I wholeheartedly agree, and of course MG & DG will be getting a few books under the tree.

But for many children this is not the case, and if you can give the gift of a book to a child this Christmas, please do. Blackwell’s in Oxford have a Children’s Book Tree to collect gift books for The Children’s Society. You will probably find a similar scheme running somewhere near you if you’re not in Oxford.

Here’s a roundup of a few recently published books worth considering this Christmas (or any time!)

Flying to Neverland with Peter Pan: Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Carolyn Leigh & Amy June Bates (Blue Apple Books, 2012)Flying to Neverland with Peter Pan: Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Carolyn Leigh & Amy June Bates (Blue Apple Books, 2012)
This stunning picture book covers the start of the Peter Pan story where Peter gets his shadow from Wendy and the children fly to Neverland. The text is lyrics from the musical (which I’d never heard of before to be honest, but you can listen to at the Blue Apple website) but it is the art that really makes this book. Peter Pan is a story that I need to re-read as an adult to make any commentary on, but due to strange co-incidences there are people named Peter, Wendy, Michael, John, James and Matthew in my very close family (the J.M. of J.M. Barrie being James Matthew), so I always feel a connection to the book. There are no Tinkerbells or Hooks in my family that I know of! I can’t say the songs are my kind of thing, but I liked musicals when I was younger and if your children are anything like mine they’ll listen over and over and start singing and acting along with the book, so it’s a good wake up exercise book too! Alternately, you can snuggle together and share the beautiful illustrations. Perfect for fans of musicals of all ages, and a lovely Christmas gift book.

The Phlunk: Lou Rhodes & Tori Elliot (Strata Books, 2012)The Phlunk: Lou Rhodes & Tori Elliot (Strata Books, 2012)
The Phlunk is a cat-like alien who lives on a moon shaped like a spoon. His huge ears mean he can hear everything you do… MG & DG really enjoy this book, getting engaged throughout: “He’s listening to us now!” I really want to like this book, but it’s just not my cup of tea and I find some of the pictures quite scary-looking. However, my opinion doesn’t count and MG described the book as “supurve”. I said I’d write superb but she corrected me saying supurve meant super-dooper brilliant. So there you go! This is MG’s top pick of this week’s books.

The Silent Owl: Clemency Pearce & Sam McPhillips (Top That! Publishing, 2011)The Silent Owl: Clemency Pearce & Sam McPhillips (Top That! Publishing, 2011)
This is a lovely book. The collage-style pictures which look like they’ve been made from old notebooks, the muted colour palette, and I love that the font used is a primary font making it easier to read (b/d easily distinguishable; a is round with a circle how most children write; l is clear etc etc). However in my opinion the text lets this book down and makes this merely a good book rather than the brilliant one it could have been. It’s an example of where a rhyme has been forced to fit, when prose might have worked better. Despite my misgivings about the text, this is still one of my favourites for all the positive reasons, and MG and DG love all the noise the owl makes at the end. A positive tale showing you don’t need a voice to make an impression, I probably love it because I was such a shy child myself.

One Starry Night: M Christina Butler & Tina Macnaughton (Little Tiger Press, 2012)One Starry Night: M Christina Butler & Tina Macnaughton (Little Tiger Press, 2012)
Cute fluffy animals and bright silver stars adorn every page of this perfect-for-bedtime tale. Little hedgehog spies some shooting stars and rushes to share with all his friends. Friend rabbit tries to catch the stars with a net and all the friends end up in dark badger’s sett needing to find their way out. The bright stars lead the way so they can all enjoy the beautiful night sky. A gentle, calming tale with adorable animals. The silver foil stars give added interest but very young children will probably adore all the animal characters, and can be introduced to animal homes and the sky at night in a safe, non-threatening manner.

Zoom, Rocket, Zoom: Margaret Mayo & Alex Aycliffe (Orchard Books, 2011)Zoom, Rocket, Zoom: Margaret Mayo & Alex Aycliffe (Orchard Books, 2011)
This is a brilliant book for introducing the concepts of what people have achieved in space – satellites, lunar modules, robot rovers, astronauts… All with some lovely rhythmic text. A great book for toddlers and up, the clear and brightly coloured illustrations have enough detail to be interesting without being overwhelming for younger children. This is part of a series from the same author & illustrator featuring animals, vehicles, dinosaurs etc. I wish we’d found them when MG & DG were younger as I probably would have collected several of them! It’s sad to think that the images of astronauts on the moon is actually a long-distance memory, the last person on the moon having left before I was born, but the pictures are iconic and I know I would have absolutely loved this book when I was a child (I was space-mad!) It’s definitely a book I would gift to encourage the start of a love of space and science in small children, and would be enjoyed by children who prefer factual to fiction books. This is DG’s top pick of this week’s books.

Wibbly Pig has 10 Balloons: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children's Books, 2011)Wibbly Pig has 10 Balloons: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children’s Books, 2011)
For small fans of Wibbly Pig, this is a lovely book which includes some counting backwards practice as Wibbly Pig gives his balloons away one by one to his friends. But not the Teddy Bear balloon, because that’s his favourite. There’s a bit of tension as a tantrumming toddler pig loses Wibbly’s last two balloons but of course all ends happily with every friend getting a balloon that suits. Cute, minimally illustrated with easy text, this is one suitable for toddlers, pre-schoolers, and all Wibbly Pig fans.

For Christmas-focussed #Book_in_every_stocking ideas, please see Advent Books posts.

Disclaimer: We received review copies of all six books from their respective publishers. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.