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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.



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.



Star in the Jar

Friendship Posted on 15 Jan, 2018 01:26PM

Star in the Jar by Sam Hay (words) and Sarah Massini (illustrations), published by Egmont

We’re starting 2018 with this real treasure of a book. Both our girls love to collect miscellaneous bits and pieces that they find in all sorts of places and become completely attached to. Our eldest daughter has her own “treasure chest”, a special tin where she stashes her precious finds and often whiles away an afternoon with emptying its entire contents and carefully sifting and sorting them.

Star in the Jar is a lovely read that really captures this ability of small children to find pleasure and beauty in the smallest things. Narrated by his big sister, this is the story of a young boy who loves to find all kinds of treasure, “tickly treasure” from the park, “glittery treasure…even litter bin treasure”.

One day, whilst kite flying with his big sister, he comes across “something extra special”, his very own twinkle star. The wise older sister counsels that something so precious must belong to somebody else. So, they check with all the likely owners of a sparkly star; the big girl at school who hands out good work star stickers, the dinner lady with her 5* food hygiene rating, the sheriff, the fairies and the wizards, but none have lost a star.

The little boy is initially gleeful that he gets to keep his star and stows it safely in a jar, which he takes everywhere with him. It’s only at night that he notices the star looking a little sad. A message sent from the star’s friends reveals the true home of the star, up in the twinkly night sky. The siblings join forces to try to come up with a way to return the star to his friends.

Eventually the big sister has the bright idea of shining their own message back to the stars in the sky. In a wonderful double page spread, we see the stars join together in a “long, whirly, sparkly silver chain” to rescue their friend. The delightful ending that follows makes this a particularly good read at bedtime.

We love the illustrations throughout – the depictions of the sparkly night sky and the use of light and shade work really well – which perfectly accompany the tale, adding extra details for the reader to enjoy.



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