Tuesday, 27 November 2012

First Picture Cookbook

We got this First Picture Cookbook out of the library recently and have been using it so much I think I'll buy it. It has a really good mix of recipes and being a board book stands up well so you can follow it as you go. We do cook together quite a lot so I did find it quite easy to do the recipes with Rosie. She really loves having a recipe book that is hers and likes to suggest things to make from it.
We tried the biscuits - see picture below! It's a good recipe and worked well. As usual the part Rosie enjoyed the most was eating the uncooked dough. We had some ready rolled icing left over from her birthday so we cut shapes from it and decorated the biscuits with it. I really like the fact that it's for 8 biscuits. That's a perfect amount for a child's recipe and you can always increase it if you want more.
Rosie is desperate to make the fudge recipe. It has icing sugar, marshmallows and butter. I've never seen a fudge recipe like it but I guess it's to avoid the dangerous boiling of sugar that you'd normally do. If it works it might be genius (and everyone's Christmas presents!).

It also includes recipes for chocolate crispies, cheesy shapes, flapjacks, bread rolls and cupcakes - although you could do what we did at a recent birthday party and make the cakes and then just get the kids to decorate them with millions of toppings. It seemed to go down well!

I think this has a great mix of recipes and we'll probably get round to making most of them. Although I would like to try the Annabel Karmel First Cookbook to compare, I suspect it has more things like jacket potato toppings and pizza in it and is for a slightly older age group. I like the way this book has only a few recipes and they are mainly baking ones.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg / Snapdragon at Norwich Castle

Funnybones was used as a basis for an activity session that we went to at Norwich Castle last week. We've read it on and off over the last year but I think that Rosie will probably be requesting it more since our day out! The book itself has a lovely rhythmic quality and gathers speed as you read the first page 'In the dark, dark street, there was a dark, dark house.' The story follows the adventures of a big, little and dog skeleton who go out to have fun in the middle of the night and want to find someone to scare. The dog skeleton ends up falling apart and they try to put him back together. Then they go to the zoo and although all the normal animals are asleep the skeleton ones are awake, so they have some fun together!

It's a simple great story that has been around for years and is always a favourite of libraries at Halloween. Our local one was doing quite a lot of drawing competitions based around it. You can understand it being used in so many different ways since it really lends itself to extra activities. Funnybones is part of a series and there are quite a few more including Mystery Tour, and The Ghost Train.

The activity session at the castle was called Snapdragon and for 2-4 year olds. It's run once a month on a friday. The next one is on December 14th. It's £2.50 for an hour and really well organised. We started off looking at different bones and all the kids had to guess what animals they came from (tiger skull, woolly mammoth calf bone etc) and then we were given binoculars (made out of loo roll inners!) and told to go and find the animals in the museum. After that we read Funnybones and then did activities that were bone related, including rubbing fossils through to paper. It was great! I really recommend it if you live anywhere near Norwich.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt

This is quite a young book which you could share with a child who is younger than two but we came to it a bit later and still really enjoy it!
It's a rolling rhyme which goes through a dinner party of sorts introducing all sorts of different animals and their different characters (shy gazelle, fussy duck, angry rabbit) and some different foods (carrots, macaroni, chocolate mousse!) until they all end up asleep. It's a bit crazy and feels quite like a collection of words forced together but somehow it does work and with the payoff of being able to whisper 'sleep' at the end Rosie really enjoys reading it.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker- Rees

This rhyming picture book has a lovely story, wonderful text and gorgeous illustrations. So it's really not a surprise that it was a Richard and Judy children's book choice.

Gerald is a giraffe that desperately wants to join in with the jungle dance but when he goes to take centre stage in front of the other animals they all laugh and jeer at him. So he runs away and hides until he meets a cricket who strikes up a tune and shows him that everyone can dance, just sometimes they 'need a different song.'

It's a great story to illustrate how differences can be good and not everyone does everything the same. I particularly love the illustrations of Gerald circling in a backwards somersault. I think it illustrates how you can imagine dancing without being constricted by an earthly body!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Spot's Camping Trip by Eric Hill

Now unfortunately this book is currently out of print but I felt I had to mention it since it's been one of Rosie's favourites this summer. We've been camping a few times but probably not enough to satisfy her so this book has helped! It's also inspired a lot of creative play with everything under the sun becoming her tent.

In 'Spot's Camping Trip' it's a rainy day and Spot and his friends can't decide what to play so they throw a blanket over some chairs and grab a torch and settle down in 'their tent'. Mum brings a picnic and Helen pretends to be a growly bear. It's cute and simple like all the Spot titles.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Favourite Books for Potty Training

We started potty training earlier in the year and on the advice of Rosie's nursery I bought the Little Princess title by Tony Ross 'I Want My Potty'. It's now a firm favourite and a book that we like to read anyway. Partly because Rosie gets to shout 'I want my potty' very loudly! It's the story of the Little Princess having to learn to love her potty and learning how to use it. It has a very funny twist at the end and what I love most about it is it's not too didactic and is very forgiving towards mistakes (as is shown by the ending). Sometimes when you're so desperate for your child to do something you can lose sight of this!

The other book we got was 'Princess Polly's Potty' from Ladybird Books. The boy version 'Pirate Pete's Potty' was featured on Chris Evan's radio show after he found it helped his son. It's very thorough and guides the child (and parent) through what to expect and how to potty train. It also has a sound button with cheering noises which works well with the general reward approach that most parents use for potty training anyway.

There are lots of other potty based children's books out there but these were the ones which we found worked for us!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Orchard Toys - Shopping List, Old MacDonald's Farm and Incey Wincey Spider

A bit of an off-piste post but I consider the Orchard Toys games we have to be as good as many of the books we read! They offer consistent good quality and fun and are also very educational, what more could you want?

First up is Shopping List, according to their website it's their bestseller and it's easy to see why. It's packaged as suitable from three years although we got it last year for Rosie's second birthday and she found it enjoyable to play it as a one person game and fill all the trolleys herself rather than play it with other children. It's basically a matching game where you have to take a shopping list and trolley and then fill your trolley with the items you need from your list, it's good for extending a child's food vocabulary too.
Next we got Old MacDonald Lotto. It doesn't really feature Old MacDonald but has four different farmers with their various animals and tractors to collect. It's similar in concept to Shopping List but you can also make the animal noises! This is great with a child who can't quite get to saying the word yet but can make the animal noise to indicate what they mean. I would say it's a bit easier to play with a younger child making it definitely suitable from two years.

We have just bought Insey Winsey Spider which is aimed at three year olds to six year olds. It uses counting and shapes to help the spiders up the drainpipe and has added drama with a spinner which can wash them down again! We haven't played it that much yet but I can see already that it's going to be a game that we play over and over again.
So that's the games we currently have from Orchard Toys. I think we will be adding many more to our stock over the years! I have my eye on one of their new ones 'Where's my Cupcake?'!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Yoga Ogre by Peter Bently and Simon Rickerty

The Yoga Ogre is a very funny and charming book about an ogre who has got too fat and wants to lose some weight. Unfortunately because of his size everything he tries ends in disaster. His basketball slam dunks end with the town church missing its steeple. Yoga is a no-no when he tries to do a headstand and bashes the ceiling in.
The town people end up telling him that on no account is he to play any sport because of the damage he is causing and so everything quietens down... until he take up jogging!

The text is rhyming and nice to read aloud and the illustrations are lovely with lots of detail. A laugh out loud book to share together!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Jobs people do by Jo Litchfield and Felicity Brooks

This book is a fairly hefty volume with six stories of different people and the jobs they do. At the moment we only ever read about Daisy the Doctor and Tessa the Teacher with an occasional dip into Vicky the Vet. Frank the Farmer, Sam the Chef and Fred the Firefighter are left out in the cold!

We have a few other books which focus on vocations and what people do for a living. Ladybird used to do a series called 'Little Workmates' which also focused on this subject although more from a younger point of view and with less detail.

All the stories look at the average day of the person and include a little bit of drama to spice up the action. In Daisy the Doctor she has to treat a young boy who has cut himself quite badly and needs a big bandage. This always seems to go down well with toddlers. Mainly because they can empathise with it I guess.

Tessa the Teacher is the one I hear Rosie re-enacting the most. She lines up her toys and takes the register and goes through their day. It's not that dissimilar to her nursery day so I guess she also likes it because it's a familiar routine.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Princess Poppy by Janey Louise Jones

Princess Poppy is not my favourite book series to read to Rosie but she loves it and so I think it would be unfair editing on my part not to mention them on this blog!

We have several of the Princess Poppy's 'The Birthday', 'Twinkletoes', 'The Fair Day Ball' and 'The Play'. There is also one called 'The Wedding' which we must get since Rosie loves weddings! Possibly something to do with having been a flower girl four times in her short life so far!

Princess Poppy is a bit of a spoilt brat to be honest! She's impatient for her birthday presents on her birthday and gets in a grump that no one is up and about before breakfast to make a big fuss of her. She has loads of treats at the fair and then wants a pretty dress that she has no money for and doesn't want to work for it. She wants to boss everyone about during 'The Play' and watch them work while she does nothing. She gets impatient when she Twinkletoes the pony isn't well enough to ride. And worst of all she gets to do everything she wants in the end! Not without learning a few life lessons but she is indulged and spoilt most of the way! I think this might be why Rosie loves the books!

So not my choice but if you have a little girl then she'll probably love them!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Mog The Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr

Mog is a true classic children's picture book and instantly recognisable. We've been reading it non-stop recently and I can honestly say I don't really get tired of it. Rosie certainly doesn't!

The story follows Mog the cat who is a little silly and forgetful. She very often forgets that she has a cat flap and instead sits outside the kitchen window and meows to be let back in. This drives her owners a bit potty and they are constantly saying 'bother that cat'. One day she has a very bad day and ends up running outside to the garden after bedtime and getting locked out (although if she remembers she has a cat flap she would realise she isn't!). Then she notices a light moving inside the house and meows her biggest meow to be let back in. But it isn't a member of the family she's disturbed - it's a burglar! Mog ends up being the heroine of the hour and saves the day.

There are little touches which I really like throughout this book. The scene with the policeman, family and burglar at the end really makes me chuckle with the downcast burglar drinking a cup of tea alongside everyone.

It's one of our current favourites and I think it will probably stay that way! Pretty good for a book that was originally published in 1970!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie

The Worst Princess has become a firm favourite in our house in a very short space of time. Partly because it features a princess, a prince and a dragon. Good stock characters that tick all of Rosie's boxes! But also because it's funny, a good story and gorgeous artwork. It makes me wish I could draw half as well!

I love this book because it's about an anti-princess. She doesn't want to be pretty and sit around in dresses and wait for her prince to come back. She wants to be out having fun, preferably with her pal the dragon! With my darling daughter completely obsessed with the colour pink and wearing pretty dresses I'm glad there is a book to show her that being a bit of a tomboy can be a lot more fun. I'm sure she'll find that out for herself anyway but it's a refreshing read!

The rhyming text is great too, with lots of references to tea! It's really funny that the Princess is called Sue (it definitely helps the rhyme along!) and can't stand her prince who's rescued her - he is a rubbish prince, admittedly. There are quite a lot of picture books that turn the myth and legend of fairy tales around and I think this is one that really works!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Boris's Big Bogey by Paul Bright and Hannah George

I have to admit I'm writing about this one under duress! It really makes me shudder! Rosie loves it and even though I have told her to get her dad to read it she made me read it tonight. So it made me think I ought to mention it on my blog.

It's the tale of Boris the cabin boy and his adventures on the high seas with a ship full of pirates. As they look at an old treasure map they think they spy an island although in actual fact it's one of Boris's big green bogeys (eugh!). But strangely enough there is an island and as they draw near the telescope shows a cave (again a bogey - ugh!) and then a treasure chest is found (a reflection of a bogey on the side of the lamp - yuck!). And so it goes on until they are back on board ship with a proper treasure trove. But lo and behold the ship springs a leak! So they turn to Boris to plug the leak with the offspring of his nose but unfortunately he's out of fresh ones. I won't tell you how it ends!

Probably the reason Rosie loves reading this with me is because I am-dram shudder and sigh my way through it!!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

All about Fairytales!

We've been going a bit fairytale crazy recently and most of Rosie's playing involves being a 'charming girl' (Cinderella app - thank you Nosy Crow!), a billy goat gruff, a scary wolf who's going to eat everyone up and a handsome prince. It's all mixed up into one big fairytale of it's own!

Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Emma Chichester Clark is one of our favourite retellings. I really love the way that Emma Chichester Clark has breathed new life into this classic and I adore the house on the top of the hill in the forest that the bears live in. It's a Swiss dream!

For the younger child just starting out with stories the Ladybird Touch and Feel Fairy Tales are great. The text is very short and they have touch and feel bits for the young baby to explore. They work from when your baby is one year. They also have text which has extra bits to point out and talk about with your baby running along the bottom of each page.

We were give The Gingerbread Man by Father Christmas at Harrods and it's a great retelling with lovely artwork. The collection of Ladybird First Favourite Tales is quite extensive so you can generally find your favourite fairy tale amongst them. We intend to collect them all!

The Lift-the-flap Fairy Tales from Macmillan illustrated by Nick Sharratt and written by Stephen Tucker are funny, quirky and great for 2+ years old. The flaps add a great dimension to the stories and they're nice and tough too! The text is funny and rhymes making it great to read aloud.

We also have First Picture Fairytales from Usborne, illustrated by Jo Litchfield and written by Felicity Brooks. This contains eight different fairytales including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk. Because it only has room to tell the story in two pages the stories are quite short. I find that Rosie likes to 'read' this by herself and I grow impatient reading a whole story in just two pages so that suits me!

So that's our little collection, we also love all the 'take-offs' of fairytales you get as well. Mini Grey springs to mind! I'm sure there are many more great retellings of fairytales for this age group out there. What are your favourites? 

Friday, 25 May 2012

I will not ever never eat a tomato by Lauren Child

The title of this always gets me in a bit of a muddle. I'm sure it's supposed to! I suspect this book is really brilliant if you have a fussy eater for a child and you're at your wits end and can't see how they'll ever eat any vegetables. So far Rosie is pretty good with food so I don't love the book for that.

What I love about this is the funny characters and the contrariness of young children that is captured perfectly by Lauren Child. Of course it's a book that's been around a little while so everyone knows who Charlie and Lola are because they now have a very successful TV series.

This particular book tells the story of Charlie having to feed Lola and what a difficult job that is because she doesn't like - in no particular order: peas, tomatoes, carrots, fish fingers, potatoes (even mash), bananas, oranges, eggs and the list goes on. Charlie decides to entice his little sister to eat by calling the food exciting and mysterious names, so mashed potatoes become 'cloud fluff from Mount Fuji' and carrots are 'orange twiglets from Jupiter'. By the end Lola is enjoying herself so much that she even starts to eat tomatoes, or what she call 'moon squirters'.

It's a great book and I have no doubt that Rosie will be renaming all her food very shortly!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Cow That Laid an Egg by Andy Cutbill and Russell Ayto

We've been enjoying this wacky picture book a lot recently. I think it helps that Rosie's at an age to realise that cows laying eggs is a silly concept - I think she realises this! We'll see... the last egg related picture book had her dropping eggs onto the floor (thank you Mini Grey and Egg Drop!). So if she starts asking chickens to 'moo' I'll know it's all gone a bit wrong.
It's the story of Majorie the cow who is feeling a bit low. All the other cows do clever tricks and she doesn't feel like she can do anything half as clever. Cue a bit of plotting from the farmyard chickens and she suddenly discovers one morning that she's laid an egg! The other cows become very jealous and are convinced that it's not going to hatch into a cow. They're right, it hatches into a little chick... a chick that says 'MOOOO!'

A lovely story and I love the illustrations. They're full of life and humour and perfectly capture the whole story.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

This book doesn't need introducing. It's one of the best known children picture books ever and for a very good reason - it's a wonderful book! I have spent hours, days, weeks, possibly a year trying to think up a picture book as good as this. It covers days of the week, the life cycle of a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, different foods, numbers, I probably could go on!

And then there is the classic, timeless artwork. It has a naivety yet is brilliantly sophisticated at the same time. You can clearly see the influences of Picasso and Matisse in the line, texture and colours. It probably has the most spin-offs in terms of other product (crockery, stationery etc) that any children's book has and this is mainly due to the enduring appeal of the artwork.

We've been reading this since Rosie was tiny and it still is one of our favourites - proof of why it's a classic, it endures! When we read it we spend quite a lot of time on the food page with the cake, pickle etc and choose what we think everyone we know would like to eat off the page. I have also done some butterfly painting with Rosie (when you fold a piece of paper and paint half a butterfly on it and then press the other half of the paper onto it so it's a mirror image) but I think the joy of doing that is when you can do it yourself and she's still a little young.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Gorilla by Anthony Browne

We read Gorilla while at a friend's house the other night and Rosie fell in love with it so when we saw it in our local library (please support them everyone, we need to use them to keep them, and even then that's sometimes not enough, but I digress!) we checked it out straight away.

We already have one of Anthony Browne's classic gorilla stories Willy and Hugh which is about an unlikely friendship between a lonely chimpanzee and a gorilla but the story in Gorilla is far more poignant and captured Rosie's imagination.

Hannah is a little girl who loves gorillas but she spends most of her time on her own because her father is always too busy to take her anywhere or do anything with her. For her birthday the thing she wants most in the world is a gorilla. When she wakes up in the middle of the night and finds a small toy gorilla wrapped up on her bed she's disappointed and throws it into the corner of the room with her other toys. But then a magical thing happens. The gorilla grows and grows and takes Hannah on a wonderful adventure, to the zoo, the cinema and to a cafe. When Hannah wakes up she runs downstairs to tell her dad all about the exciting time she's had but before she can say anything he asks her if she'd like to go to the zoo. Hannah ends the story a very happy little girl!

The artwork is amazing in this book. The sense of perspective and wry touches in each drawing make it a feast for the eyes for both grown-up and child! Although most of us are probably not as guilty as Hannah's dad for not managing to spare enough time for our children it's a valuable reality check for anyone.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Dogs don't do Ballet by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie

We've recently discovered the wonderful partnership of author Anna Kemp and illustrator Sara Ogilvie.  We can't stop reading Dogs don't do Ballet! It could be to do with the fact that Rosie adores her Baby Ballet class! But it's also because it's a funny story and the illustrations are lovely.

The story features a little girl and her dog called Biff. Biff always wants to come when she goes to her ballet classes, in fact he even gatecrashes a class only to be told that 'dogs don't do ballet'. When she gets tickets to see the ballet for her birthday she wants to take Biff but isn't allowed. But while she's at the ballet the prima ballerina's place is taken by... you've guessed it, Biff! He wows the audience and proves everyone wrong by showing that dogs can do ballet.

It's a great quirky tale and there are more to look out for from this duo. We haven't read Rhinos don't eat Pancakes yet but it's on our list and The Worst Princess (not out until August but we've had a sneak peek) is wonderful.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Scruffy Bear and the Six White Mice by Chris Wormell

Scruffy Bear and the Six White Mice by Chris Wormell is a beautiful picture book, both in terms of the story and the artwork. It recently won the Red House Children's book award in the younger category and since this award is voted for by children it shows that it hits the spot! We've been enjoying reading this a lot although I think it is a little too old for Rosie and will resonate more with children three years and up.

Scruffy Bear is going for a walk at dusk when he hears a squeaking noise of some animals in distress from just inside the wood. He ventures inside and finds six white mice terrified that they are going to be eaten so he takes them under his wing. First they are stopped by Owl who wonders what the six white fluffy balls could be that Scruffy Bear has with him, snowballs, answers Scruffy Bear and Owl nods wisely and goes on his way. Next they are stopped by Fox and then finally by Snake. Each time Scruffy Bear comes up with an ingenious explanation for the six fluffy balls. But do they get away with it?! You'll have to read it to find out!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Peppa Pig Little Library

Now I'm not going to try and claim that Peppa Pig is up there with the best children's books but we do have a few of the books and I think that this format is a brilliant one for taking out and about.
Rosie has been going through the Peppa Pig stage for quite a while now. I've been told it's a stage every child goes through and you just have to wait it out. I must admit I don't mind too much. I quite like the TV series, although why can't they be longer than five minutes?! I even have a favourite episode!

The little library is a format that lots of publishers use, mainly for series that have already done well and especially for TV or film tie-ins. Because of the size of the mini books the content is usually pretty basic but they work and I find that kids really like the way the books are so tiny.

The Peppa Pig Little Library has six books: Peppa at Playgroup, Peppa's Friends, Peppa's Garden, Peppa's Favourite Things, Peppa at Home and Peppa's Family. I think Rosie's favourite is probably Peppa's Friends since she likes to name all the different characters. Favourite Things is a hit too. It signs off with Peppa's most favourite thing of all - muddy puddles! Rosie loves to shout this out at the top of her voice! The books can be flipped over and used as a puzzle to form a picture of the Peppa Pig family in a muddy puddle. All in all for £4.99 it's great value!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart

One of our current favourite books is You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart. I decided to get a copy when I noticed that Rosie was really enjoying commenting and assigning various things to people in her life. For example we read one book in which a character enjoys a plate of cakes and she likes to decide who would like the cream one and who would like the chocolate one etc.

It's a perfect book for interacting and talking about different things. But it's not a book to gently sit and read before bedtime. It can take a l-o-n-g time to get through if Rosie wants to assign every picture to a person she knows! It explores different environments to live, different people, different foods, different modes of transport and different hobbies. It really is a lovely mixture of all things fascinating to young children. One of my favourite pages is the 'jobs' page because it's fun talking about the jobs people do and Rosie has quite strong opinions on what she would like to do!

The illustrations by Nick Sharratt are witty and colourful and instantly recognisable. The text by Pippa Goodhart is gentle and compliments the nature of the book without being too intrusive. Because it's almost a catalogue of things the text doesn't really need to be descriptive and so it's more suggestive which is just right. I think this is a book that will grow with us and is also great for sharing with more than one child. We haven't done that yet but I can imagine that you could have a lot of fun with a couple of kids reading this.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Cinderella app from Nosy Crow

I haven't posted about apps as much as I would like but that's partly because I haven't managed to treat myself to an iPad yet!! But they do work as well on my iPhone (and other non-Apple devices I'm sure).

To my shame although I've read about the brilliance of the Nosy Crow apps for the past year or so it wasn't until World Book Day when they were all reduced that I managed to buy any. But I did make up for it by purchasing three in the same day. Bizzy Bear on the Farm, The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella.

Rosie loves all three of them but her absolute favourite is Cinderella. At the moment instead of bringing me a book to read in the morning she is requesting Cinderella on my iPhone. It's ok though - we just read five books instead of three in the evening!

The whole Cinderella app is just brilliant. It has three different setting so you can 'Read and Play', 'Read to Me' and 'Read by Myself'. We use 'Read and Play' the most. As you move through the story the text is read to you but you can then tap on the different characters to hear what they have to say. There are lovely interactive bits such as helping Cinderella to clear up, opening up the invitation to the King's ball, the user appearing in the mirror on the mantelpiece, collecting the mice for the coach and horses, choosing the colour of Cinderella's ball gown (always has to be pink according to Rosie - agggh!) and my personal favourite, changing the music the Prince and Cinderella are dancing to. Finally you can help the Ugly Sisters and Cinderella try on the glass slipper.

I like the voice-over by the child who reads the story and the other characters as well as the music that has been used. The artwork is beautiful too. All in all I think this sets a very high standard in story book apps. We love it! Although we are constantly acting out the wedding of Cinderella at the moment. And the app does nothing to dim Rosie's obsession with ice cream. But that will be lifelong if I'm anything to go by!!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Big Book of My World by Kali Stileman

We were given Big Book of My World a while ago and at first I didn't think that Rosie liked it that much but I think that maybe she was a little young for it and has grown into it now. Or maybe we're more used to reading hardback storybooks and we found the idea of a non-fiction book hard at first.

On the back cover it says 'It's a one-stop, fun shop to give every toddler the best start on the road to learning.' It definitely is jam-packed with content! First concepts are well covered and first words and pretty much everything really! Rosie calls it the 'Owl book' and there are a lot of owls in it, including one to find on every double page.

What I'm finding at the moment is that we're dipping into it every day and spending at least ten minutes looking at a couple of pages. It's not the type of book you would read from cover to cover but it's definitely our favourite to have a quick dip into at the moment! It's probably also worth mentioning that it won an award at the Right Start Best Toy Awards 2011.

I'm hoping there is an app on the horizon since some of the spreads must have been designed with them in mind. We're already trying to drag and drop some of the items from edges of the 'First Word' scenes to complete them. And I can totally see the artwork animated. Hurry up Random House!

Kali Stileman is also the author/illustrator of the lovely Peely Wally book which was shortlisted for the Red House Book Awards and is being distributed by Booktrust's Books for Babies scheme in 2012. I do believe there is a follow-up to Peely Wally coming later this year as well!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

World Book Day! My five favourite picture books for under fives.

In honour of World Book Day I thought I'd do a special post. I've just chosen a few of my favourite picture books for the under fives. There are so many brilliant ones and I'm hard-pressed to choose just five but I thought I ought to put a limit. Otherwise I'll be writing this all day!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I know this is everywhere and it's hard to escape it but there is a reason for that. The artwork is incredible and the book is brilliant. The life cycle of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly has to be one of the most incredible nature stories to share with children. This book manages to pack in counting and days of the week, not to mention food, as well. The little die-cut holes are perfect for small fingers wanting to explore. At the moment when we read this we tend to stop at the page with all the food and decide who out of everyone we know would like a pickle or an ice cream or a slice of cheese. It can take a while! I keep meaning to do some butterfly painting with Rosie to compliment this book. Painting half a butterfly and then folding the paper to reveal the other half is something I know she'll love!

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Is there anything better than hearing a classroom of children chant this story? It seems to ingrain itself into everyone's consciousness by the age of five! I've got great plans for a reenactment of the story when we're next in Norfolk although Rosie might still be a little young. I just need to find some long grass, a muddy place, a shallow river, a snow storm, a wood and a bear!

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This is such a lovely round up of classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes in one lovely rhyming story with gorgeous pictures. It's been read so much that we can now all chant it off by heart. And if you're feeling a bit gloomy and wintry is there anything better than looking at the lovely plum pie in the sun. Visions of English orchards and bygone days!

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

Who doesn't want to go to a cafe in their nightie and eat sausages and chips for tea? An exciting yet gently reassuring story that we read over and over. Part of it's charm is it's domesticity, I like seeing into other people's store cupboards! I would have put Mog the Forgetful Cat in here as well but I think Tiger wins.

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

The story of poor lost toy Dogger and his very worried owner Dave is one that every child can relate to. Although the text is quite long we always seem to get through it easily. It's a classic!

So there you have it. Probably a little bit too traditional and safe for some. What would you have chosen?

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Toddler Touch First Words and First Numbers

The Toddler Touch series has been developed to lead on from Ladybird's very successful Baby Touch series. There are currently two books: First Words and First Numbers. I've used them with Rosie and she's really enjoyed them but she's more into her stories at the moment and they are also slightly young for her. I think they are more suitable for 1-2 years old. It's probably also the format. Board books with touch and feels just don't hold Rosie's attention in the way they used to (she's now 2 and a half). It's interesting finding this out with your own child. When I was working in book publishing I would merrily propose board books for much older ages! She does like books with bits you can remove however! I hate them! They end up all over the house. Another thing I never realised when I was busy making books that had about 50 removable pieces in them!

But although they don't hold her attention as much as they would if she was a bit younger she definitely enjoys exploring the books with their lift-the-flaps and touch-and-feel trails. And she particularly likes to display her counting skills with the First Numbers. Each book has a trail to follow, apart from just being good fun they are there to encourage pre-writing skills, if you can follow a twisty line with your finger then it's one step towards using a pencil.

First Words follows themes and displays them in engaging ways. The Food theme is arranged as a teddy bears picnic and the Outside theme is arranged as a walk around a park. It works well since you can use them to generate discussions and ask your child what they like best and what they would choose etc.

I think the design and illustrations work really well for these books and they look fresh and fun. They're easy to use and clear in what they're setting out to do.

I do have to put in a small caveat here and admit they are written by me. So I am going to be biased towards them! I don't gain from any sale of them though so although it's slight self-promotion it's not for monetary purposes.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

We have Stick Man on loan from our excellent and thankfully so far untouched library but I think I might buy it since we both love it. The version we have has an audio CD with it which is really good as well.
It's the story of Stick Man who lives in a tree with his Stick Lady Love and his stick children three. One morning Stick Man goes out for a jog and ends up having an adventure that takes him far away from his family and home. Amongst other things he's picked up by a dog, played pooh sticks with, decorates a sandcastle and a snowman and eventually ends up on a fire. Will he ever get back to the family tree?

The audio is lovely. It's read by Imelda Staunton and because of the beautiful text is a joy to listen to. It also has activities after the story has been read which is a nice bonus.

The artwork is gorgeous (well you wouldn't expect anything else from Axel Scheffler!) and the rhythmic jolly text is lovely to read aloud. It has a christmas theme so is slightly unseasonal right now but we still enjoy it!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie On the Road by Joel Stewart

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie On the Road is a book that we return to again and again! For some reason we don't have the first book Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie. I must correct that very soon!

It's the story of Dexter Bexley and his friend the Big Blue Beastie. They're thrown out of town for hooting too loudly and so they start to wander the world. On their way they meet the marvellous Sir Percy Peckett and his love a sleeping beauty called Princess Phillipina. Sir Percy is desperate to wake Princess Phillipina up but she is sleeping soundly... until some loud hooting rouses her! When she wakes up she takes Sir Percy to task for not slaying the frightful dragon and Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie volunteer to do it instead. I mustn't give away the whole story but it ends with a travelling band and a lot of fun!

The combination of dragons and princesses is always irresistible to Rosie, add in a hooting boy and a big blue beastie and I can tell why she requests it again and again! I love the language in this book. It's delicious to read. It also has little offside bits of text in speech bubbles. The artwork is beautiful, it's so dreamy and has lovely detail to it. It's quirky and original. Love it!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig

I feel like we've come to Angelina a bit earlier than I expected but I think that's partly due to Rosie doing Baby Ballet and loving it. Therefore anything that involves ballet is a firm favourite. We started off with Angelina's Christmas (which is lovely) but have since bought the first book Angelina Ballerina.

Angelina is pretty well known. There's a new series on Milkshake with different artwork from the classic books. I haven't watched it with Rosie because I really prefer the classic books, I think there's an older TV series as well with the original artwork but we haven't watched that either.

The first book introduces Angelina and her passion for ballet. She can't think about anything else! As a consequence she's always late for school, never tidies her room and is always getting into trouble. Then her parents come up with the perfect solution. Ballet lessons! Angelina is suddenly a model mouse.

The artwork is beautiful with lots of detail and plenty of things to point out and discuss. The story is sweet, not too long to read to a two year old(!) and well told. We're looking forward to gradually collecting the rest of them!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen

Good Little Wolf is a great first picture book from author/illustrator Nadia Shireen. We've been reading it regularly for a while and I noticed last week that it is up for the Waterstone's Children's picture book prize.

It's a lovely twist on the age old wolf story with a surprisingly shocking ending that Rosie loves! Rolf is a good little wolf and friends with little old lady Mrs Boggins and a little pig but then he meets a big bad wolf and finds out that real wolves howl at the moon, blow little pigs houses down and eats up little old ladies. Rolf is no good at howling at the moon, he manages just a little whistle. And he can't seem to blow his friend's house down but when he's presented with Mrs Boggins, tied up in her own knitting wool by the big bad wolf, a strange sensation comes over him. AROOOO! He howls, frees Mrs Boggins and ties the big bad wolf up instead. Then they all sit down to tea and cake. "Will you stop eating people up, Big Bad Wolf?" asks Rolf. You'll have to read the book to find out what the big bad wolf answers!

The writing is lovely and the illustrations are beautiful, really clean and spare but with a great sense of colour. All in all we can't wait for Nadia's next book!

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Fairytale Hairdresser by Abie Longstaff

One of our favourite books at the moment is The Fairytale Hairdresser written by Abie Longstaff and illustrated by Lauren Beard. It's a twist on the fairytale story of Rapunzel.

I think Rosie is at a good age for this kind of book since it references other fairy tales and well known stories and she recognises most of them. Ultimately though the text is lovely and the illustrations are fab and that's what makes it so great.

Kittie is the fairytale hairdresser and she has some very odd jobs to do with some very varied clients. A whiskers and beard trim for a well known gentleman in a red suit with a white beard! A long consultation for a very fussy Goldilocks (too long, too short, too curly, too straight). But one day she is summoned by a wicked witch to her hardest task of all. High up in a tower under a river of messy golden hair is a beautiful girl called Rapunzel. It takes Kittie a whole day to brush her hair out and sort it into a plait. The witch brews up a 'forgetful' potion to make sure Kittie doesn't remember where she's been. But Kittie manages to climb out of the tower and down Rapunzel's plait. The fairytale ending comes when the prince appears, sees Rapunzel in the tower and falls instantly in love. Rapunzel jumps into his waiting arms and they live happily ever after!

It's a lovely story and very well done. There are a lot of 'different take of the classic tale' books around but they are successful because they bring new life to classic tales and are easy references for most children.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

I didn't think that I would be writing a post about Where the Wild Things Are just yet. I figured that it was an older picture book and that Rosie wouldn't really like it. But... she picked it out of the bookshelf herself and then demanded that we read it to her again and again. And I guess I can see why. It features the type of anarchy she loves and it's a relatively simple story, very simple text with incredible illustrations bringing the whole thing to life. I just thought it might be too scary!

It's the story of Max. He's been very naughty and sent to bed without any supper. But while he's in his bedroom a forest grows and a sea with a boat appears and he sails away to the land where the wild things are. He becomes king of the wild things and they have a wild rumpus - which looks great fun! But then Max starts to smell good things to eat and he decides to give up being king and sail back. When he gets home his supper is on his bedroom table - still hot!

I think it's one of the most successful picture books ever and I know it has legions of fans. The recent-ish film was hotly awaited, I did see it and thought it was beautifully done but I don't think it hit the mark with everyone.

What I really love about this book is that I know it will grow with Rosie and she'll probably love it for a good many years yet. The only thing I don't like about it is that it reminds me of the song Wild Thing by The Troggs. I have a very embarrassing memory of trying to sing it in a high school band having never heard the song before. Everyone just collapsed in laughter.