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Books My Toddler Loves

The Go-Away Bird

Friendship Posted on 05 Sep, 2019 07:45PM

The Go-Away Bird by Julia Donaldson (words) and Catherine Rayner (illustrations), published by Macmillan Children’s Books

This collaboration between two of the most eminent contributors to the picture book world is a pure delight from start to finish. The combination of Julia Donaldson’s alliteratively amusing and charismatic tale of the unique “Go-Away bird” with Catherine Rayner’s beautiful, colourful and wonderfully characterful illustrations is an absolute treat.

We first meet the “Go-Away bird” sitting primly in her nest and sternly surveying her surroundings. When her isolation is interrupted by the bright green and yellow “Chit-Chat bird”, then the flame-coloured “Peck-Peck bird” and last the tiny blue “Flip-Flap bird”, her response each time to their offer of friendship and fun is simply to squawk: “Go away! Go away! Go away!”.

It is only when the Go-Away bird takes on more than she can handle in the form of the “Get-You bird” with his big threatening beak and his angry eyes that she realises that some support from the other birds would come in useful.

Luckily, the helpful, cheerful yellow “Come-back bird” implores the other birds to return and together in a “noisy mob of fluff and feather” they chase off the big bully. The Go-Away bird is humbled by their efforts, realises she does “want some friends to stay”, smiles brightly and tells them “you can stay, you can stay, you can stay!”.

Not only is this book visually delightful and a captivating tale, it also contains an important message for modern times: Isolation is not as attractive as it first may seem. We’re better off together, where the colour, fun and laughter is – not alone, sqwaking from our lonely branch.

Two tantalising tales of mild peril

Adventures on land and sea Posted on 20 Jul, 2019 02:02PM

Our girls have both loved picture books that involve some sort of mild peril and we’ve reviewed lots of examples here before (such as Little Red, Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo and Edgar and the Sausage Inspector).

These are two of our three year old’s favourites.

Billy and the Beast by Nadia Shireen, published by Jonathan Cape (Penguin Books)

This is the tale of fearless Billy and her slightly grumpy side-kick, Fatcat. Billy and Fatcat are having a “perfectly lovely day” of all the usual forest shenanigans, stomping, crunching, splashing and saying hello to their forest friends, when they are rudely interrupted by a “TERRIBLE RUMBLE”.

We turn the page, fearing the worst, but discover that it was only Fatcat’s tummy. Billy rummages in her fabulous hair and pulls out some delicious looking doughnuts to satisfy Fatcat. Thinking all is fine, the duo re-trace their steps but are alarmed to find their forest friends are missing. All of sudden everything goes dark and the pair are swiped by a fearsome “Terrible Beast”.
However, brave Billy is not impressed and even less so when she hears of the Terrible Beast’s plans to make a Terrible Soup using her pals as the ingredients. Billy embarks on a cunning plan to trick the Terrible Beast into using less brutal alternatives for his soup. Billy cleverly uses all sorts of things she’s stashed in her hair to fool the not terribly clever Terrible Beast and with the help of the “adorable”, yet surprisingly strong, little bunny rabbits she sees the beast off for good.

This has the perfect mix of humour and mild peril that children seem to love and is beautifully illustrated in bold colours. We love the expressive eyes and facial expressions on all of the characters. Billy is just the sort of kick-ass, female heroine that I love our girls to see in their picture books.

I Want to be in a Scary Story written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien, published by Walker Books

Since our very first read of this great book, it became a regular request at bedtime.

The story takes the form of a conversation with Little Monster, who really wants to be in his own scary story. The narrator dutifully creates scary scenes for Little Monster, but it’s all a bit too frightening for the little guy. Our daughter delights in joining in with Little Monster’s exclamations at each new addition to the story, gleefully shouting “oh my goodness me” and “oh jeepers creepers!” as we turn the pages.
In the end, Little Monster gets his own back on the narrator, with an ending that is funny and scary – the perfect combination!

The clever format of the book and the bold, not very scary, illustrations keep little ones captivated, read after read.

The Girls

Friendship Posted on 26 Apr, 2019 09:16AM

The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jenny Løvlie, published by Caterpillar Books (Little Tiger Press)

Now that our youngest daughter is 3 1/2 and our eldest is 6 going-on 16, the name of this blog should perhaps be changed to “Books my young girls love”! Raising strong, independent girls with ambitions to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be, is very important to us and luckily, there are some great books, such as this to help us out.

The Girls is a heart-warming and uplifting tale of the life-long friendship between four young girls, that begins when they meet whilst playing under an apple tree, “their Secret Meeting Place”. The Girls each bring their own strengths and unique personalities to the group, “they were as different as they were the same”. There’s Lottie “the adventurer”, Leela with her good ideas, practical and kind Sasha and Alice whose important talent is “for making everyone laugh”.

The follows the girls as they grow older, sharing “secrets, dreams, worries and schemes” beneath their tree. It demonstrates how good friends both “celebrate successes” and are there to build you back up after failures. The girls become women, who go on to climb their own mountains, find love, dazzle crowds of people with their knowledge and in Sasha’s case, use her inherent practicality and kindness to become a doctor “looking after bruised apples”. There are highs and lows along the way, of course, but the women are rooted together in a support network that gets them through.

The characters’ diversity is welcome, and should be seen in far more picturebooks. The message of this book – of the strength and support that can be found in female friendships and of what can happen when that is harnessed to help girls achieve their dreams – is such an important one and is beautifully told and illustrated.

The Girls won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Illustrated Book of the Year 2019

Have You Seen Elephant? and The Big Race

Friendship Posted on 15 Apr, 2019 02:03PM

Have You Seen Elephant? (Gecko Press) and The Big Race (Hodder Children’s Books) by David Barrow

We recently had the pleasure of attending a kids workshop by author illustrator, David Barrow, as part of Northamptonshire Children’s Book Group’s fantastic inaugural event at the wonderful Delapre Abbey (find NCBG on Twitter @NorthantsCBG and Facebook).

Have you seen Elephant? was David Barrow’s first picture book and we were delighted to have a masterclass from David in how to draw, and how not to draw elephants.

The book has a simple, yet charming premise – a baby elephant, that is nevertheless much larger than it’s small friend, claims to be ever so good at hiding.

Although as the reader, we can easily spot the elephant with its ears or trunk or feet poking out from under a blanket, from either side of a too narrow tree, or from behind Dad’s tv, the little boy is stumped as to where elephant might be.

Thrilled when elephant finally reveals himself, the boy and the elephant are then greeted by a sporty looking tortoise keen for a game of tag.

A delightful read from beginning to end, the illustrations are vibrant and the animals are alive with wonderful characteristics, from the tufts of hair and smiley eyes of baby elephant, to the pricked up ears and inquisitive snout of the family dog.

The Big Race was published last year and is an uplifting tale of a brave and determined little aardvark. Little aardvark refuses to be intimidated by “fast” cheetah, “big” buffalo and “strong” crocodile and, despite their sniggers, she determines that she will complete “The Big Race”.

Aardvark starts well, “hot on the heels” of her fast, big and strong competitors, showing great courage as she scoots up a steep hill, plunges down a waterfall and tight rope walks across a valley. Aardvark starts to feel very tired, but won’t give up and with a little help from a friend she finds herself about to cross the finish line. In the end, it’s not clear who has come first, but for little aardvark she is over the moon to have completed the race and had lots of fun.

This book is great for encouraging little people to have a go and take part, even when we’re not the fastest, biggest or strongest. The illustrations wonderfully capture the movement and efforts of the animals, together with their expressive faces and each page bursts with colour.

Goat’s Coat

Friendship Posted on 30 Apr, 2018 09:34PM

Goat’s Coat
by Tom Percival (words) and Christine Pym (illustration), published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

As spring arrives, so does the transition in outerwear for our girls from warm winter coats to bright, lightweight macs. It’s perfect timing, therefore, to have a book about a special coat.

Alfonso the goat’s coat is not just special because it does its job well and looks beautiful, but because it becomes his means to help others, and receive kindness by return in his own time of need.

Alfonso is super proud of his magnificent gingham, and sets off to strut his stuff. En route he meets a menagerie of animals in various states of peril – from a family of homeless frogs, to a cat with a trapped tail, to a forlorn hen.

For each, Alfonso offers improvised assistance, utilising his coat’s practical potential to come to their aid. Piece by piece is offered to others, and the coat becomes nothing more than threads. When a sudden snow storm arrives he risks a frozen fate. Happily, karma prevails and his new friends bring him a warm, patchwork present.

Tom Percival’s smart and amusing rhyme is perfectly matched by Christine Pym’s bright, colourful and innovative illustrations. Her use of space and angles are eye-catching – particularly the “chick’s eye view” from atop a tree. Goat’s Coat is a real winner – great to look at and with a feel-good factor to match.

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