Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

A true classic of a book! And one that has kept us entertained from when Rosie was really quite little. We have both the standard board book and the pop-up book and I must say I think the pop-up is just brilliant. It really enhances the book. They're simple pop-ups but that's why they work really well with the story - it's simple too!
The premise of the book is straightforward. The narrator has written to the zoo asking for a pet and the zoo keeps sending him animals, lion, snake, monkey etc until at last they send a puppy and all is well. It's silly but lovely and is helpful in getting a young child to learn their animals. Of course you can also supplement the reading with some animal noises. I think it's the book Rosie learnt to roar like a lion from...
This should be part of a child's first library really. And it's suitable from around 12 months so you'd get a lot of use out of it. The pop-up version is pretty sturdy so it should survive, although I probably wouldn't leave them alone with it for too long and if you have a child who enjoys ripping paper then it won't survive!

The publisher, Macmillan have also just launched an iPad app of Dear Zoo and it looks fab! Unfortunately I don't currently own an iPad so I can't test it out just yet!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Biscuit Bear by Mini Grey

I have to dedicate a post to Biscuit Bear by Mini Grey because I've been reading it non-stop to Rosie for the last month. It was every morning and every night but it's calmed down now! She got obsessed with it. Thank goodness it's a brilliant picture book and can stand being re-read so much. The girl's got good taste!

It's kind of a retelling of the Gingerbread Man tale with a clever twist. The artwork's amazing and has some great details that you only spot after the fiftieth reading. I really love the biscuits on the duvet cover and bits like that.

It tells the story of a little boy who makes a biscuit bear with his mother and then isn't allowed to eat it. When all is quiet in the dead of night the biscuit bear gets up and because no-one else is awake he decides to make some more friends. Biscuit Bear's circus is born and they all have a lot of fun... until the dog decides to join in. Biscuit Bear decides to leave and seek safety in the local bakery display window where he will never be eaten. A very satisfying tale!

It reads really well and I love the text nearly as much as the artwork. The only quibble I have with the whole book is the fact that Biscuit Bear makes his biscuit friends out of 'butter, flour and milk'. But I guess he's young and has never made biscuits before!

I think this book works for a two year old who wants to be told slightly more complicated stories but needs something quite simple which will quickly grab their imagination.

We've enjoyed quite a few of Mini Grey's books. She's a fabulous picture book author and illustrator. We love Egg Drop (although Rosie did drop a couple of fresh eggs on the floor the other day and I think I'm blaming the book for that!). And 'The Dish and the Spoon' is classic and worth getting. And the Traction Man series is cool. She's just brill!

We have even made our own biscuit bear to add a little extra curricular fun to the tale! Although Rosie seemed to think it would be fine to eat Biscuit Bear!!

Step 1. Stirring the mix (I used Nigella's Christmas biscuit recipe - mainly because I wanted to try it out. I think there must be much simpler gingerbread men recipes out there!).

Step 2. Making the biscuit bears - a slightly fiddly job which we found a bit hard to agree on!

Step 3. Biscuit Bear is ready to go into the oven - yummy! Can you see which one is the real biscuit bear?!

Step 4. Ok, so Rosie seems to have forgotten about how the real Biscuit Bear actually wanted to stay alive and not be eaten. Oh well (big sigh!).

We bought our biscuit bear cutter from Blackheath Cooks in Blackheath Standard, South-East London. I'm not sure if they do mail order but they're very nice people so give them a call!

Monday, 5 December 2011

My Dad and My Mum by Anthony Browne

We love these books! They're actually perfect presents for father's and mother's day but we got them for Rosie's birthday and have been enjoying them ever since!

It's a pretty simple concept but executed in a very clever way. You wouldn't really expect anything less from Anthony Browne! Both parents are wearing slippers and dressing gowns throughout their respective books and look like they'll give a cuddle and a hug whenever it's required. Dad can do anything and 'he's all right, my dad' whilst Mum is also pretty talented but 'She's really, REALLY nice, my mum'.

The books are told from the child's perspective and how each parent can sing, cook, dance and basically do anything. One of my favourite pages is in the Mum book where she is sitting in a corporate office and is 'the big boss'. It subtly addresses the mum going out to work and having a successful career in a very clever way. The artwork is meticulous and full of clever details, thank goodness since I've now read this a few thousand times!

And maybe, just maybe, these books work really well because they address those crazy ambitions that we all have. I know I still mourn the fact that I'll never play at Wimbledon, perform with the Royal Ballet or become a professional ice skater! Those ambitions have to take second place once you have kids. Otherwise who knows what I might have become?! But the point is that until a certain age your child/children will think you are the best in the world.

Rosie really likes these and it's partly because she's at the age where she finds us fascinating and want to do everything we do (I don't think this stage lasts!). We've got the board book versions so they're prefect to slip under the buggy and whip out when you're trying to keep the wee scrap entertained.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allan

A funny, irreverent picture book from Nicholas Allan with counting, Christmas and toilet humour. What's not to like when you're winding your toddler up about Christmas, thinking about potty training and constantly counting things with her?!

I might do a Christmas books post as well but this really deserves its own post since we're reading it a lot at the moment.

The premise is very simple, Father Christmas goes from house to house drinking drinks which have been left out for him. Then he realises he's forgotten to leave the presents and has to go back, counting backwards as he goes. Eventually he's able to return home and rush to the loo but he's lost his key. Will Father Christmas get his wee?!

Lovely text, funny illustrations and a great ending make this a fantastic Christmas picture book. Enjoy!