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.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Olivia by Ian Falconer

Olivia is a bit of a modern classic (especially in the States where it was originally published) and we've come to it quite late really. She was first published 15 years ago and Ian Falconer has had numerous other Olivia titles after the first and original 'Olivia'. I think there is even a tv series as well. 

It's quite an arty picture book in that the colour palette is limited and a lot of the backgrounds are white. The insertion of two famous paintings by Degas and Pollock help to elevate it slightly too! My two seem to really enjoy having it read to them and find the many parallels between them and Olivia hilarious. Especially the wearing people out bit. Rosie was particularly impressed by the elaborate sandcastle (Chrysler building in New York) and incredulous and then decided it would be impossible. I think our beach trips might get interesting this summer!

The text is simple but succinct. It works so well and it all feels so familiar (the irritation with the younger sibling, wanting to decide exactly what to wear, decorating the walls, I could go on!). But over and above all that is the incredibly beautiful and wonderful line drawing that makes the artwork. Gorgeous! 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Meet the Parents by Peter Bently and Sara Ogilvie

I saw a lot of people saying how funny and fantastic Meet the Parents is last year so when I saw it in my local library today I picked it up straight away. 

It's a simple idea beautifully realised with the wonderful artwork of Sara Ogilvie. We love her books with Anna Kemp (Dogs Don't Do Ballet) as well. 

The premise begins with a description of all things parents tell kids to do, brush teeth, tidy up, wash your hands, say please! But then it starts to outline the things parents are great for, covering them with sand at the beach, carrying everything, wiping all types of fluids on! 

Sara Ogilive is particularly good at showing expressions on her characters faces and there is a lot of brilliant funny detail. The text is great, really funny with a wonderful ending. This book worked really well with both my girls, which is always handy at bedtime! 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Paddington's Picture Book

I have always looked forward to sharing books with my children that I loved as a child and my two have a special interest in Paddington since seeing the film at Christmas. 
We have occasionally got the current Paddington picture books out of the library but they've never been that excited by them. 

On a visit to my parents a while ago I suddenly saw my old edition of Paddington's Picture Book and quickly stowed it away to bring home. It even has writing in the front with my name, address, the last three digits of my phone number (was that all that was needed in the 80s?) and a picture of a bird with the word 'bird' written next to it. Priceless! 

I remember the stories in this book so well. I must have read them a lot when I first started reading properly. It has seven stories: Paddington Bear, Paddington's Garden, Paddington at the Circus, Paddington Goes Shopping, Paddington at the Tower, and Paddington at the Sea-Side. My girls particularly like Paddington at the Circus when he goes to rescue the high wire acrobats and then drops his ice cream on the Ring Master's hat. 

One of my favourites is Paddington's Garden where each of them get given a section of the garden and Paddington ends up making a rockery out of some cement from the builders after losing his marmalade. I can remember trying to make my own rockery as a child after reading that story. 

The Sea-Side is probably the most funny when Paddington thinks the Punch and Judy show is someone hurting the Brown's Judy and ends up with the show in the sea. 

The illustrations are beautiful and to me, because I grew up with this version, this is the definitive Paddington (I know Peggy Fortnum was the original illustrator for the paperbacks!). In fact Fred Banbery didn't do many of the Paddington illustrations and is probably one of the least known artists. It's got a very seventies feel to it but the detail and artistry is just lovely. It's wonderful having a trip down memory lane and enjoying sharing it so much. I'm not sure my kids are going to love all the books I loved as a child but so far so good! 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The First Hippo on the Moon by David Walliams and Tony Ross

We've had The First Hippo on the Moon out of the library for ages now. It's gone down a treat with both my girls and we've all been really enjoying reading it. So much so that I've been meaning to buy the Comic Relief book that David Walliams and Tony Ross have done called The Queen's Orang-Utan. That one looks fab too!
I did approach these with slight caution. I didn't want to be swayed by a celebrity name! It helped that I'd heard along the grapevine from trusted sources that these books are funny and also have a great style about them, not a million miles away from the comic twist of Roald Dahl. 

Anyway back to the Hippo on the Moon! Hilda (yes her name is Hilda!) has a dream and her jungle friends set about helping her to make it come true. It's a race to the moon for a very ordinary hippo and a rich, 'money will buy everything', hippo and guess who wins? It's full of little jokes and asides and some great bottom burps which really endeared it to my two year old and five year old. The typography is great as well. The 'BOOM' for the rocket really reverberates through the page! 
Dream Big everyone! 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

World Book Day 2015

Well I haven't done anything extraordinary for World Book Day this year but we did dress a potato up as Sleeping Beauty, a thing of absolute wonder I'm sure you'll agree. We love the Fairytale Hairdresser series where Kitty Lacey the hairdresser saves numerous fairytale characters. They are lovely twists on the original fairytales and the series seems to be going strong!

I was all ready to send daughter number one to school dressed as a jampire but the school announced it was doing 'decorate a potato as a book character'. We could have kept to our original character but the clock raced on and at 7.30am this morning Sleeping Beauty seemed easier.

Rosie took an extra book into school to show everyone. 'Help We Need a Title' by Herve Tullet is a brilliantly interactive and fun book and we've been enjoying reading it at home very much. The characters in the book talk to the reader and tell them that they're not quite ready to be seen because the author hasn't finished yet. Then the author appears! It's a great, imaginative read and I'd highly recommend it.

Finally I went into daughter number two's nursery and read them a story as part of their World Book Day celebrations. I couldn't decide what to read until I remembered Monkey Nut and how much fun we've all had reading it together. It has two spiders fighting over a monkey nut with a surprising conclusion. The main fun is reading the noises aloud and enjoying it together!

I also took Wow! said the Owl which is a lovely gentle book about colours. They seemed to enjoy it. They all sat still and shouted out when I asked them questions!
 So that's World Book Day from me. Keep reading!!

Monday, 19 January 2015

In praise of book tokens

This is a slightly different post in that I'm not going to focus on one particular book but I wanted to concentrate on drawing attention to the fabulous gift that is a book token. Rosie won one from her school last term for entering a writing competition. She did a wonderful job and came up with a character called Ferdie the Fox, she came up with the concept, the words and the drawings all by herself (so proud!).

We took Rosie to our local Waterstones (it was a Waterstones token otherwise we would have gone to an independent!) and she was able to choose something all by herself. Given that most children's books are under a tenner she was able to have the pick of the shop. If you gave a child a ten pound token for a toy shop it would be a very different story.

I wasn't that keen on the book she chose for herself and did try to steer her in a different direction but she was adamant that she wanted this one:

It's a very nice book, my main reason for being reluctant for her to buy it is that she already has a few of them (it's a series) and I thought she might find something with a bit more longevity in the story section. However I think the thing that I've learnt most from this whole process is the pride that Rosie has in having chosen something for herself (and knowing she earned it). She's shown it to everyone and has spent hours looking at it and placing the stickers.

We did also get the latest Kitty Lacey book - which we both love and has had many readings at bedtime already.

So I guess the message from this post is, get a child a book token and give them the gift of a book and freedom of choice!