Blog Image

Books My Toddler Loves

Edgar and the Sausage Inspector

Cats, dogs and dinosaurs Posted on 17 Sep, 2017 07:36PM

Edgar and the Sausage Inspector by Jan Fearnley, published by Nosy Crow

Authority is often found in a hat, a badge and a notepad – this is true in many situations and certainly is true in this tale of an alleyway cat called Edgar. When Edgar sets out to get a treat for his sister, he’s delighted to find her favourite – a string of tasty sausages.

But as he heads home a rat in a hat declares he is The Inspector. Furthermore, he states that the sausages are required for testing as he suspects them to be “bad” (there have been “reports”). Off scampers the scrawny rat, squeeeeeeezing through a hole in the wall, and Edgar returns to his house empty-handed, much to the disgruntlement of his hungry sister Edith, who is not impressed by his story of the hatted rat.

The next day, the rat requisitions Edgar’s cakes, and Edgar feels unable to challenge The Inspector’s authority – as he’s now added a badge that states his title for all to see. The rat, plumper than before, scoots away.

The third time, rat has added a notebook and pen, and demands Edgar hands over his latest hamper of goodies. Edgar is impressed, but the rat’s successes as an inspector have made him large and juicy now, and Edgar is less interested in his credentials and more in his taste…

This is a gloriously funny tale, with great set pieces and a delightfully acerbic ending of cat comeuppance. Fine double page spreads are packed with detail (can you spot the pair of tiny birds in every scene?) and we are treated to a mouth-watering series of Parisian patisseries and boucheries.

The words are lively and some are given extra emphases to help with dramatic retellings, alongside memorable characters that are full of expression. ‘Edgar’ is a big hit with us and is sure to become a long-term household favourite.

Three Feline Favourites for International Cat Day

Cats, dogs and dinosaurs Posted on 07 Aug, 2017 08:57PM

As our nearly two year old discovers an adoration for books and being read to, our four and a half year old is starting to explore a new dimension – recognising letters and reading words for herself.

Books that suit them both are therefore ideal for quiet story times, where engaging illustrations are matched by easy read font and clear language.

Here are three favourites, featuring feline friends to mark International Cat Day.

Lulu Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn (words) and Rosalind Beardshaw (illustrations), published by Alanna Books

Published today, the latest in the delightful series of Lulu stories describes the responsibility and reward of caring for a pet. Lulu really wants a cat. Her mum has told her how much work looking after one would be. Together, they find out more, borrowing a book from the library, reading up about them and practicing good pet care.

After finding out about pet adoption, Lulu is chosen by a little grey kitten when she visits a cat rescue shelter. Her dad helps Lulu get the house ready and, once home, kitten Makeda (named after an African Queen) cautiously shrugs off her shyness and comes out to play.

We see Lulu having lots of fun, and keeping track of her responsibilities with a wall chart of duties. A final spread shows them both enjoying a read of Puss in Boots. The words are charming and clear, ideally matched to warm, happy and colourful illustrations – perfect for engaging young readers.

Jaspers Beanstalk
by Nick Butterworth (words) and Mick Inkpen (illustrations) published by Hodder Children’s

In this instalment of the ever-determined Jasper we follow his efforts to nurture and grow a giant Beanstalk. We see he’s been inspired by the tale of Jack. Taking on a different task each day, we watch him dig a hole on Monday and then plant a bean, water, rake, hoe and mow.

When Sunday arrives he waits all day but nothing seems to be happening. But, “a long, long, long time later”, after being distracted by a good book, sure enough the beanstalk grows and on the final page we see Jasper disappearing up the stalk and out of the book.

This story of how patience reaps rewards is told with a minimum of fuss (in fewer than 100 words), through a simple and engaging narrative that highlights the passing of time through clear references to the days of the week. Mick Inkpen’s illustrations are light, fun, and as distinctive as ever. This is a perfect choice for both new listeners and early readers.

by Linda Newbury (words) and Catherine Rayner (illustrations), published by Orchard Books

We’ve written before that Catherine Rayner is our favourite illustrator of the natural world, and our view that her depictions of animals are second to none. Here, her distinctive watercolour and ink artistry brings to life a tiny kitten called Posy, who is discovering a new world of fun and mischief.
A light and breezy narrative tells us of Posy’s alliterative adventure as a whiskers wiper and sofa scratcher. Gentle rhyming informs us that she’s also a mirror puzzler and an ice cream guzzler, a sandwich checker and a board game wrecker.

A final spread shows her curled up in her mother’s embrace, sound asleep, making this a lovely choice for bedtime.

National Dog Day!

Cats, dogs and dinosaurs Posted on 26 Aug, 2016 10:52AM

It’s National Dog Day, so to celebrate here are our
five favourite canine picturebooks, all previously reviewed on

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates, published by Red Fox

A few years ago, our toddler’s grandparents opened a small antiquarian
bookshop. Many of her Granny and Grampa’s bookselling joys (and occasional
travails) are beautifully reflected in this celebration of reading and
imagination by Louise Yates.

At the start of Dog Loves Books, we meet a small canine bibliophile as he
prepares for the Grand Opening of his new bookshop. When the initial public
reception is less than he’d hoped for, a cup of tea and a good read takes him
away from his temporary disappointment to the lands of dinosaurs, kangaroos and
space travel.

When at last a real customer arrives, he knows just the book to recommend – the
mark of a true booklover – for, as we learn on the final page, the one thing
dog loves more than books is his love of sharing them.

Louise Yates’ distinctive, charming and expressive characters bring to life this
well-told story. Dog Loves Books is one of our favourite reads, and a perfect
choice any time of the day.

Hickory Dickory Dog by Alison Murray, published by Orchard Books

As our daughter gets older, she takes an increasing interest in the concept of
time: The pattern of the day, the appearance of the moon, ideas of tomorrow and
yesterday. Part of her intrigue has been in relation to clocks, asking us what
they are for and how they work. Recently, we discovered an effective method for
indicating to her that it’s time to go upstairs for sleep, asking her “what’s
the time on the clock”, to which, so far at least, her answer has been:

The traditional children’s verse that starts ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ was first
recorded in ‘Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-Book’, an anthology of English-language
nursery rhymes published in 1744. In Alison Murray’s playful adaptation, we
accompany Zac and his dog Rufus on a sunny Autumn day, first at home then at

As well as its two main protagonists, ‘time’ features throughout the book.
Scenes are cleverly announced by a clock, striking the next hour of the day,
accompanied by a rhyme to match: “Hickory, lickery, lunch. Some yummy
crumbs to munch. The clock strikes noon, Zac’s dropped his spoon! Hickory,
lickery, lunch.

Their day is packed with activity: Getting dressed and ready to go; dancing,
painting and gardening at school; returning home for bathtime and storytime,
before snuggling down to sleep.

Oh No, George! By Chris Haughton, published by Walker Books

We think this may have been the first book that made us, and our toddler, laugh
out loud at the same time. Chris Haughton’s unmistakable, bold and brilliant
illustrations are combined with perfectly timed dead-pan humour and superb
character expression in Oh No, George!, the tale of a dog trying so very hard
to make amends for instinctive and opportunistic mischief.

After coming home to find that George has been digging soil and eating cake,
his superbly-named owner Harris is placated by the offer of George’s favourite
toy. They set off for a walk, which proves to be filled with temptations.
George refrains from more trouble and stays on his best behaviour:

“George doesn’t even try to chase Cat. Even Cat is a bit surprised”.
The look on Cat’s face, of simultaneous relief and disappointment, is one of
the best expressions I’ve come across in picture books to date. Can George
resist a final Siren-like pull, presented by his favourite thing in life, a bin
full of rubbish?

With intermittent opportunities to say “Oh No, George!”, this has
become a frequent bedtime treat.

Smelly Louie
by Catherine
Rayner, published by Macmillan Children’s

Our older daughter,
who is nearly three, is a big fan of baths. She enjoys creating bubble beards
and has mastered the bubble clap – taking a large clump of foam and clapping
her hands together to create a flurry of bubble snow.

Catherine Rayner’s
Louie does not like bubbles, and he detests baths. Worst of all is “The
Noise” – that awful sound of running water – and most of all, that most
hated aroma: “roses and apple blossom!” Why? Because Louie is a dog
who has worked hard to finesse his unique stink, and he doesn’t like to give it

We meet Louie just
after he’s had a bath, mourning the loss of his radiantly rotten aroma. He is
determined to regain his scent – seeking out its key ingredients, with a little
help from a filthy fox and some whiffy flies. Along the way, he befriends an
old boot, delights in dustbins and rolls in sticky sludge. Something is
missing, though…Of course! The pongy pond!

We share in his
delight as Louie reclaims his special smell and marches proudly home. We feel
his pride as the impressed fox looks upon him. And we share his horror on
hearing “the noise” and on smelling that terrible, revolting,
perfumed smell and the call “Louie, come here”. “Surely, it
couldn’t be?”

A beautiful book
with a most lovable lead, Smelly Louie is a family favourite, full of fun,
humour and brimming with colour and life. An aromatic treat for all the senses.

Time for Bed, Fred! by Yasmeen Ismail, published by Bloomsbury

This is a book filled with fun, with wonderful illustration and strong, clear
language that is perfectly suited to be read from the earliest months and still
enjoyed years later.

The playful, mischievous and loyal Fred is one of our daughter’s favourite
characters from her picturebook collection. It’s a great option for
helping young toddlers who are just starting to talk to learn about emphasis and
tone – “That’s not your bed, Fred. That’s my bed”.

It’s a book that also helped our toddler to develop an understanding of the
bedtime routine and that, after a day of digging soil, chasing cats, having a
bubble bath, and getting cosy, it’s time to settle down in your own bed for a
lovely night’s sleep.

On turning to the final page, our toddler always joins us in saying “night
night” to Fred and wishing him sweet dreams.

The Lion Inside

Cats, dogs and dinosaurs Posted on 21 Jul, 2016 11:52AM

The Lion Inside
by Rachel Bright (words) and Jim Field (illustrations), published by Orchard

It’s a very helpful life skill to be able to find
your inner roar and act like a brave lion, whether it’s your first time in the
big class at nursery school – or indeed if it’s your first time dropping off
your three year old daughter for her first day in the big class.

We’ve written before about our daughter’s love of
picturebooks that feature lions – notably Lionheart and Lion Practice – and The
Lion Inside is certainly worthy of joining this pride.

It’s a pitch-perfect tale of a teeny, meek mouse that
goes in search of its inner roar. Fed up with being unnoticed and living alone
in a house under a rock, mouse sets out to learn how to roar like the loudest
lion in the Savannah, the King of the jungle, the envy of all the animals.

We accompany mouse’s quest, its large ears drooping
by its side, clutching its tail for comfort. Mouse’s journey is set against
sweeping landscapes and pages filled with eye catching details – from the pot
plant on the window sill of its ‘tinyful’ house to the ‘How to Roar’ book by A
A Mouse.

Jim Field’s beautiful illustrations are perfectly
matched to Rebecca Bright’s fun, lyrical narrative. There are enjoyable moments
of genuine suspense as mouse climbs to the top of the rock where lion lays
sleeping, and asks with a squeak for help, expecting to become the lion’s
lunch. They come nose to nose, and a tremendous double page spread reveals the
scale of lion’s enormous face and mane towering over mouse.

But lion’s quiff and expressive eyebrows suddenly
become limp and instead of a roar he lets out a huge “EEEEEEK!”; for
lion, we learn, is afraid of mice. Realising they each have something to offer
the other, they overcome their fears through friendship:

“Yes, that day
they BOTH learned
that, no matter
your size,
we all have a mouse
AND a lion

Lion Practice

Cats, dogs and dinosaurs Posted on 31 Mar, 2016 05:44PM

Lion Practice by Emma Carlisle, published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Our first read of Emma Carlisle’s wonderful Lion Practice coincided with the development of our daughter’s keen interest in lions. This week, after mentioning we might take her to London Zoo, she asked “Can I feed the baby lions and pat their manes? I promise I will be very careful.” Looking at my hesitant expression, she pointed at her mum and exclaimed: “Mummy fed lions when she was a little girl, didn’t you?”

Make-believe play is probably our three year old daughter’s favourite pastime. She can spend hours engaged in preparing feasts for elaborate parties with her cuddlies, rescuing Anna and Olaf from Hans while trapped in an ice palace, or nursing ‘sea-otters’ and baby owls back to good health.

Lion Practice is a celebration of a young child’s imagination. Emma Carlisle’s warm and bright crayon and pencil illustrations are perfectly matched by a sweetly precocious first-person narrative, spoken by a small girl called Laura who tells us she loves to practice.

She enjoys nothing more than practicing the behaviour of a diverse range of animals, and we see that is accompanied in her imagination by an energetic, swirling menagerie. She bounces alongside kangaroos, splashes in the swimming pool with a crocodile and squawks in the supermarket like a hungry parrot.

She scoots past her mother’s hopeful suggestion that she practices being something quiet, like a mouse – for nothing is as fun as practicing your ROAR and today is the day for lion practice.

What exactly do lions do? According to Laura they walk on all fours, have a very messy mane, pounce on daddies and roar very loudly. So loudly in fact that Laura wakes up her baby brother, causing him to cry and her parents to get cross.

Forlorn, she sits plaintively on her garden swing until her mum and dad come out to find her. Laura is sorry, and her parents offer her a ‘big bear hug’. They persuade her back inside with the offer of an extra big dinner and lots of bubbles in her bath, essential requirements for a lion.

After her bath, Laura declares that lions don’t wear pyjamas and her parents tell her she can be a cheeky monkey sometimes. Hmmm……a cheeky monkey? “I’m going to practice being one of those tomorrow”.

Next »