Thursday, 7 August 2014

Elephant Wellyphant by Nick Sharratt

We've been having a lovely time with Elephant Wellyphant. It's hilarious and perfect to share with mixed age children. The link above is for the publisher's website but I don't think there is a link to buy so here is another one!

There are a few bits inside the book that mean you can't really leave your toddler alone with it - spinning wheel and pull out tabs etc but the whole premise is beautifully suited to 18 months plus although I'm sure you could use it with younger children too.

It's a very simple play on the word elephant. There's Smelliphant (pull a tab and out pops a 'parp' - greatly loved by my four year old!). A poorly, spotty Unwelliphant. A Cinderellaphant (turn the flap and there she is ready for the ball). And of course as the title suggests an elephant wearing wellies - a Wellyphant.

Nick Sharratt's fantastic artwork is perfect for this format and style of book and his sense of humour and the ridiculous can be seen to great effect here. Love it!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mini Scientist - In the Kitchen by Lisa Burke

Rosie was taken to a science event for kids by my husband earlier this year and was completely bowled over by it. As he commented 'she thinks it's all magic and a show' (two of her current loves!) but we're keen to foster this interest and so when I saw Mini Scientist - In the Kitchen at the library yesterday I decided to get it out. 

It's a DK book and similar to a cookbook layout with good explanatory text and helpful photos to show you what to do. There are some really fun experiments and a lot of them don't require many materials. We tried making an egg float yesterday and all you need for that is a container, an egg, water and some salt. There's another good one using balloons to learn about static electricity. 

It's nice to see a book like this out on the shelves (although since this particular title is out of print then it won't be everywhere!) because as the parent of an inquisitive four (nearly five) year old this gives some great ideas about things we can do together and hopefully is going to make her think of science as an exciting and interesting subject as she grows up. 

Unfortunately the Mini Scientist In the Kitchen is no longer in print (although you can get it second hand), they do have a few titles in the series though In the Garden and Water Fun and My Body are on their website and I think we might give them a try next! There's also a book called Science Experiments by Robert Winston which I'm going to keep an eye out for, although I think it's probably better for older children. Happy experimenting!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Pip and Posy: The Big Balloon by Axel Scheffler

Pip and Posy are lovely characters and great favourites in our house, they are good at holding both my one year old's attention and my four year old's (only just these days, mind you!).
In Pip and Posy: The Big Balloon Pip has a lovely red balloon that he is very proud of and takes to show Posy. But he accidentally lets go of it and they follow it until it eventually bursts. Thankfully Posy has a bright idea and saves the day by bringing out some bubbles. They have fun blowing them and watching them pop, as they are meant to! 

This is of particular interest to us because we have recently lost two balloons to the great outdoors. And there really is no greater sadness for a child than losing an exciting balloon that you have been clinging to and then watching it float up into the air. (My sadness is more that it is very bad to let something plastic and rubbery float off into the environment and add more to the mounds of plastic that litter our world.) But anyway we all felt very sad. So this book is wonderful and next time we lose a balloon (probably soon!) I'm sure my four year old will suggest we get the bubbles out!

Of course you'll recognise the artwork on this - it's the wonderful Axel Scheffler. The illustrations are lovely with gorgeous little details and lots to spot and talk about. 

This series is lovely for children who have started to want a bit more of a story and can sit down to listen (but wouldn't survive a full picture book text). Perfect from 18 months I would say!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Hey Presto! by Nadia Shireen

We are into magic tricks at the moment! Rosie's nanny found a magic set at a car boot for 10p or something and although it's in French (Rosie's daddy is a whizz at that) it hasn't set her back.
So when we dug out our copy of Hey Presto! it was even more of a hit than it was when we got it last year. It's a very sweet story of Presto and Monty who decide to set up a magic show together but Monty likes the limelight so much he hogs it, even though Presto is doing all the tricks behind the scenes. Presto eventually gets fed up and leaves and Monty realises the error of his ways. They reunite and all is well!

I particularly like the use of Presto as a name in this, it always makes me smile when Monty says 'Hey, Presto'. The artwork is great and I love the comic touches that Nadia brings to this. We also like to read Good Little Wolf which has a great (possibly shocking?!) twist at the end.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

In praise of fathers - books with lovely daddies!

Amazing Dad
I was just going to look at My Dad by Anthony Browne for this blog post, it seems to cover everything about dads and is such a lovely book. It tells us how the dad is brilliant at all things (football, singing, dancing, wins the race at sport's day easily!) but most of all he's 'my dad'. It's just wonderful and funny!

But then I was thinking about the way fathers are depicted in picture books and thought I'd offer up a small selection to look at. Penguin did a similar thing on their blog this week, they concentrated purely on Penguin books (understandably), but it's still worth a read.

Detached Dad
Gorilla, another Anthony Browne fabby-do whizz-corker of a book, is the story of a dad who just doesn't make time for his daughter. Hannah is desperate for her dad to take notice of her and do some fun things with her. Then one night her toy gorilla comes alive and takes her on a nighttime adventure. Finally her dad takes some notice and they end up going to the zoo together. It's a beautiful, poignant and memorable picture book.

Ridiculous Dad
This isn't really from the picture book genre but Daddy Pig from Peppa Pig is certainly one of the most prolific dads around right now. Poor daddy pig is always getting everything wrong and into all kinds of problems but he's also very hands on and involved!

Adventuring Dad
We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury is superb and an all-time favourite and it's easy to see why. The dad and his kids go on an exciting hunt for a bear through all kinds of terrain with the classic refrain 'We're going on bear hunt, we're going to catch a big one, we're not scared' echoing throughout. When they find the bear though they are scared and end up snuggled in bed all together.

Champion Dad
In The Tiger who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr we see more of Sophie, the little girl, and her mummy than we do of the daddy. But at the end when Sophie's daddy returns and finds Sophie and her mummy with no food or even water in the house he whisks them off to tea at the local cafe. Maybe a bit old fashioned in the 'knight on shining armour' theme but also an extremely comforting thing to happen!

Sleepy Dad
In the Gruffalo's Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler the dad spends the whole time asleep while his child goes off on a whole adventure on her own. It's immensely comforting to know that although the child is alone the daddy is there snoozing in the background and would surely come to help if needed!

Disbelieving Dad
In Dogs Don't do Ballet, by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, Biff the dog wants to be a ballerina but Dad doesn't think dogs can be ballet dancers and his owner (we don't find out her name because she narrates) is incredibly surprised and delighted when Biff proves them all wrong. The dad in this is a bit stern and serious but is shown to be taking his daughter to the ballet and engaged in her interests. He just doesn't listen to her when she says her dog likes ballet!

Trying to get home Dad
Stickman by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is a heartwarming story of Stickman trying to get home to the family tree to his family. It's an adventure story but also a story of a dad's devotion and love for his family. Finally he returns, just in time for Christmas!

So there you are, a selection of different fathers, I'm sure there's many I've missed and don't even know about!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Jumping on the bandwagon of the World Cup! Willy the Wizard by Anthony Browne

Now, I'm not the world's biggest football fan, I don't like the culture surrounding the overpaid players and I think that they should pay more attention to the fact that they are role models for young children. But I do follow Norwich City (sob, they've just gone down to the Championship) and the fact that the World Cup starts today (my husband has pinned a chart up - it's ruining my decor!) has not passed me by. So after a very long preamble (and slight rant), sorry about that, hope you're still with me! I thought that it might be nice to feature a picture book about football. The Willy books by Anthony Browne are big favourites in our house and Willy the Wizard is a particularly good one.
Willy loves football and is desperate to play but he doesn't have any boots and is never picked for the team. Then one night he's given some boots by a mysterious stranger and all of a sudden his luck begins to change. It's a great story and the illustrations are superb, as you'd expect! This book also draws beautifully on the superstitions that some sportspeople can have. And I think it really does portray football as a beautiful game, which it can be!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The 'Tim' books by Edward Ardizzone

We were bought the box set of the 'Tim' books by Edward Ardizzone by my dad when Rosie was only about two years old and I've been saving them to read until she is old enough. I think we're finally there! We've read Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain three times this week so far, they're obviously as appealing now as they were when I was young. Not really a surprise!
They are true classic picture books with superb, beautiful illustrations. They are also great adventure stories of a type that you don't see much of in picture books today. The ending of Tim and the sea captain has Tim asking his parents if he can go away to sea again (after he's been rescued by a lifeboat from a sinking steamer in the middle of the ocean) and his parents say 'yes'. I'd be interested to see if that would get through in a modern picture book!

The story of The Brave Sea Captain is an interesting one because the main protagonist, Tim, doesn't really speak, we're told how he is feeling but he isn't given a voice. However he has plenty of action, from becoming a stowaway and having to work his passage, to becoming violently seasick and then discovering he has been abandoned by all but the captain to a rapidly sinking ship. It's thrilling stuff!

I defintitely have a soft spot for these books because of my own childhood (as you can guess, having purchased them so early on for Rosie, my dad loved them) and also because they feature the coastline of suffolk and little details that recall places I know - the last page of The Brave Sea Captain has the lifeboat men lined up with a flag that says 'Thorpeness Life Boat'. Slight digression here but Thorpeness is a lovely place with a fab boating lake themed around Peter Pan, I have many happy memories of water fights and frolics all over it!