Sunday, 12 March 2017

Super Happy Magic Forest by Matty Long

The happiest of places, the Super Happy Magic Forest is home to the happiest of people. But one day the source of all the happiness (the mystical crystals of life) go missing. So five willing heroes (a unicorn, a fairy, a gnome, a faun and a mushroom) band together and go after the magic crystals, battling against all the odds they reach the source of all evil, Goblin Tower. Except the crystals aren't there!

I won't ruin the ending for you (of course it all comes right in the end!) but would just quickly like to point out that there are several similarities to Lord of the Rings in this brilliant picture book. That's not a nit picking thing, since I'm rather impressed that it has managed to work so well. The combination of artwork, speech bubbles and text gives it a fresh feel and there are quite a few contemporary references to modern films which is really quite clever. I think this is quite an ambitious story which manages to work really well within the picture book confines. My two daughters (four and seven years old) have certainly really taken a shine to it and indeed this morning I heard them playing a version of the story combined with the Trolls movie plot - which they're currently obsessed by. So the highest praise indeed - re-enactment!

I love the fact it works on a variety of levels, you can just read the simple story, you can add in the funny speech bubbles and you can also work out a couple of puzzles as you go. It's sort of a picture book version of an early graphic novel. It would make a great interactive app!

So in conclusion we love this book! And it's being very well used. We got our current copy from the library but we'll be purchasing it as soon as we send it back. Matty Long has a website which has several of the pages from the book so if you want to try before you buy take a look! And the sequel Super Happy Magic Forest and The Slug of Doom came out last year too, we will be hunting it down very shortly!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Where's Bear by Emily Gravett

When my three year old (not far off four!) picked up Where's Bear in the library my initial reaction was that it was too young for her but because she was insistent we bought it home. And although it is a very simple book that you could share with a much younger child it does work really well for her age too. It's a very witty book and the beauty of it is that it's so simple. 

Bear and Hare are playing hide and seek. Hare counts to ten and then starts to look for Bear. But because Bear is so big he isn't that good at hiding and Hare gets a little exasperated with how easy it is. So Hare has a go at hiding instead and proves a lot more difficult for Bear to find. There's a funny pickle of a muddle at the end with both of them ending up under a duvet and losing each other. 

What we really loved about this book is the counting (my three year old proved herself surprisingly adept at recognising numbers) and also the spacial awareness. It is very clever at helping a young child recognise how big something is and if it will fit into a space or not. The relationship between Hare and Bear is very lovingly explored too and of course Emily Gravett's illustrations are sublime. There are other books in the Bear and Hare series and we will look out for them. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

Dragon Jelly by Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra

It's been a long time since I last blogged. Everything feels like it's been going at full pelt! But we've got such a favourite book at the moment that I thought it was worth breaking out of my silence and writing about it.

It's called Dragon Jelly by Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra and is a total hit with my three year old. It's one of those deliberately-designed-to-be-disgusting books that has me gagging as I read it.

It's very simple and have a plot as such, it's a monster's birthday party and goes through the traditional birthday fun but with yucky twists. The pass the parcel is full of worms - ugh! The party tea is creepy crawly delicious and the cake is squidgy eyeballs and earwax candles.

I have to be honest, and maybe I'm some kind of delicate flower, after one reading I really wasn't keen to do another due to the stomach turning I was experiencing! But my three year old loves it so much and is currently demanding it around three times a day! So I've got past all that and we're just enjoying the endless rereading that it brings!

It's got a great rhyming text, from Claire Freedman of Aliens Love Underpants fame and fabulous illustrations from Sue Hendra of Barry the Fish with Fingers fame. Another big plus point, which I've only just discovered is that it has a free downloadable activity pack available on the Bloomsbury Books website.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper

There's an abundance of pumpkin soup in our house this week (I wonder why!) and every time I heat it up I can't help but say 'Pumpkin Soup, the best you've ever tasted' in a singsong voice (it's now apparently starting to get annoying!).

But weirdly, given that it's one of my favourite picture books, I don't seem to have blogged about it before. So I'm going to rectify that right now!

Pumpkin Soup is a perfect picture book for this time of year with sumptuous autumnal colours and a sense of crisp fresh air outside and cosy, warm times inside. The text is beautiful to read aloud and although it's fairly long I've never struggled to keep my children's interest throughout. This is probably because the story is full of twists and turns and keeps them entertained all the way.

Cat, Duck and Squirrel live in an old white cabin in the woods (incidentally if anyone knows of any cabins like this, please contact me!). They have a well worn routine and live harmoniously until Duck decides to make a few changes. This results in a terrible quarrel and Duck leaves. Thankfully, he does return and peace is restored, or is it?!

It's a lovely, gorgeous book that is a definite classic and should be read at least once an autumn!

Here's the 'mantra' which has to be quoted when making pumpkin soup of your own!

"Pumpkin Soup. The best you've ever tasted. Made by the Cat who slices up the pumpkin. Made by the Squirrel who stirs in the water. Made by the duck who scoops up a pipkin of salt, and tips in just enough."

Oh, and also for the best pumpkin soup recipe I've found go to Delia's recipe page, found here. I don't make it with cheese but it would probably be even more delicious!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

National Poetry Day!

It's National Poetry Day! I thought I'd break my extended silence and talk about a few of my favourite children's poems. We have a small selection of children's poetry books at home and one the ones I like the best is the 100 Best poems for Children compiled by Roger Mcgough. It's jammed full of fabulous poems and I love dipping in and out of it.
Another firm favourite is Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg, fantastic for school age children and full of fun. I must share it with my six year old!
A new poetry book out very recently and getting lots of plaudits comes from two venerated and wonderful authors Chris Riddell and Michael Rosen. A Great Big Cuddle is a lovely book which works brilliantly with young and old. 

Here is a poem I particularly like for young babies, I think it's the chanting quality, maybe it soothes!

Star light, star bright,
First Star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish, I wish tonight.
(Traditional Nursery Rhyme)

And this is from Lewis Carroll, I also love Jabberwocky but I really like the conversational nature of this and the way the roles are reversed. And it's from one of my favourite ever books, Alice in Wonderland.

You are old, Father William by Lewis Carroll (from Alice in Wonderland)

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father; "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"

So there we have it, a celebration of children's poetry. It's not that extensive, given that it's drawn from my narrow collection. Happy Poetry Day!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Young fiction to read aloud featuring Princess DisGrace by Lou Kuenzler

We've been reading young fiction with Rosie for a while now. She really enjoyed reading The BFG by Roald Dahl with her dad a while ago and they're now onto James and the Giant Peach.

In school her class has been reading The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton so we decided to carry it on and read the next book The Faraway Tree. That was fun, although I got slightly bored by it!

And then from the school library Rosie has been bringing home some Rainbow Magic books (slight groan) and the Darcey Bussell ballet stories which are actually very good!

When we were offered the chance to read Princess DisGrace Third Term at Tall Towers I decided it might work quite well and we started to read it together. I'm so pleased we did! It's been a total pleasure to read and is a great adventure story with a good message of an unprincessy fun, spirited girl. In fact we enjoyed it so much we sought out the other ones in the series.

Princess Grace attends a boarding school for young princesses on an island. Her horrid cousin, Precious, also attends and she has two best friends, Scarlett and Izumi. It combines the boarding school life with fantasy so the princesses ride unicorns and lean to swim with mermaids. The plots are great, full of twists and turns and easy enough for my five (nearly six - eek) year old to follow. In fact I've been enjoying them so much I occasionally read ahead when we've finished the chapter for the night, I just need to know what happens next!

The illustrations by Kimberley Scott have been a big hit as well. Rosie always stops at them and stares at them attentively. 

Thank you to Scholastic Books for our review copy of the Third Term. We've managed to get the first book and now just need to find the second in the series!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

This book just ate my dog by Richard Byrne

Hello! I feel as if I haven't posted a blog post in quite a while. It's been a busy few months but I'm going to try and get back to speed again!

I couldn't not post about this book - This book just ate my dog by Richard Byrne. It's brilliantly funny, interactive and great for all ages. I learnt about it through a meeting at BookTrust when I was part of the panel to help choose this years book for the Book Packs that are given out to every child. It was a wonderful day and I met some lovely people and read a shed load of children's books at breakneck speed!

Anyway a copy of This book just ate my dog was at the meeting and I immediately fell in love with how simple, yet clever it was and knew my children would adore it. I was right! They liked it from the start and it's been one of our best shared bedtime stories for a while. The book uses the fold in the middle to pretend that people (and dogs) are being eaten up. Then after everyone has disappeared it asks you to shake them out. It's very cute and we have been enjoying it very much.

It has also found a way into my new business which I have just started The Book Nook. I take my bell tent and lots of children's books plus cushions and rugs and set it up at events, weddings, fetes, parties, schools etc. This book is a brilliant one for storytelling when you have a mixed age group, and passing it round to get everyone to shake the characters out is lovely and interactive.