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Books My Toddler Loves

I Love My Birthday

Family fun Posted on 15 Oct, 2017 07:44PM

I Love My Birthday by Giles Andreae (words) and Emma Dodd (illustration), published by Orchard Books

“Happy Too Too” declares our two year old daughter, reaching for this marvellous celebration of a young child’s birthday. Her adaptation of the Happy Birthday to You song has already become one of her catchphrases.

This book is part of the excellent series written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Emma Dodd, which depict the unconditional love of a family for its littlest members. The smooth and light-hearted rhyme is perfectly matched to the pastel and primary palette of the bold and engaging illustrations.

The book follows the whole of the little one’s birthday, starting with the early morning wake up (at 6.05am according to the clock in the parents’ room) and morning cuddles (at 6.10).

Having recently hosted our daughter’s second birthday party with a large group of family and friends, we empathise with the parents’ effort of entertaining, clothing and feeding the children with one hand and blowing up balloons and hanging banners with the other.

But, as ever, it’s the small things that count – the child in the book is of course excited about his presents, but is most thrilled by helping to make the cake, with its “naughty treats” and chocolate flakes.

When it come to the page with the lit candles our daughter loves trying to help blow them out, while we adults join the boy’s mum in giving “a little sigh” when the front door closes as the last guests leave.

This brilliant book rightly celebrates a special annual event, but is a perfect choice to read throughout the year.

(You can find our review of I Love You Baby, from the same series, in our A-Z search)

My Busy Being Bella Day

Family fun Posted on 04 Nov, 2015 12:00PM

My Busy Being Bella Day
by Rebecca Patterson published by Random House Childrens

As our daughter approaches her third birthday, she has a growing interest in ‘big children’ and the exciting world they inhabit – their taller slides, faster bikes, louder voices, longer hair. Perhaps most intriguing of all is that big children go to school, a seemingly mysterious and wondrous place.

Since the arrival of her baby sister six weeks ago, she has adapted remarkably well to her new role as ‘big sister’, with a new air of maturity, greater confidence in her abilities, and a desire to show her new sibling (and us) how much she can say, do and help. Incrementally, before our eyes, she is becoming one of the big children.

It’s perhaps no wonder, with the recent addition to our family, that she and we are finding more and more to love about Bella, Rebecca Patterson’s wonderfully wilful ‘threenager’. In this book, we join Bella as she narrates a tale of a typical day at nursery – beginning with a reluctant farewell to her mummy and her baby brother, Bob. She tells us it will be a busy day, and speculates about all the fun mummy and Bob will probably be having without her.

The day doesn’t start well for Bella. Finding a banana with spots in her lunch box at snack time is bad enough, but when Sasha produces kiwi slices in a special pot, her inner turmoil is almost too much to bear. Then later, the tasks of colouring in a 2 and sticking pasta shapes onto card just seem unreasonably difficult (Sasha and the others make it look so easy!) and she’s sure Bob is at “that place with the curly slide” or in a cafe with mummy “licking foam”.

Yet Bella’s day takes a turn for the better when she is “praised” by her teacher for “singing” I’m a little teapot: “Margaret is right – I AM THE LOUDEST TEAPOT HERE!” Then, after literally riding above Sasha on the horse see saw, she asserts with pride that Bob wouldn’t be allowed on it at all as “he might wobble off”. During dressing up, Bella puts on all the clothes in the box and remarks that “Bob can’t even put on a sock”.

We enjoy a touch of schadenfreude when Sasha’s lentil shaker spills all over the floor and later, after Bella is the “special person who chooses the weather”, it’s time for mummy and Bob to collect her. Bella’s mum looks weary and Bob is elated to see his big sister, almost leaping from his pushchair into a big hug. What have you been doing all day? Bella asks. “Nothing much”, says mummy, as we see a flashback of mummy and Bob sitting by the washing machine trying to get through the never ending laundry. “Most of the time”, says mummy, “Bob was busy…missing you”.

This is a charming book with characters to whom we can all relate, both ourselves and our children. It’s lively, busy and fun – just like Bella’s day. The illustrations are full of colour, energy and detail. Most enjoyable is the humour and sweet pathos in the depiction of the push and pull of sibling rivalry, underscored by love. A highly recommended triumph.

Aunt Amelia

Family fun Posted on 15 Oct, 2015 09:30AM

Aunt Amelia by Rebecca Cobb
, published by Macmillan Children’s

Three weeks ago, our second daughter was born. In the run up to her arrival, and in the bleary-eyed days since, we’ve sought out a wide variety of books to read to our toddler that feature siblings – one of the ways we tried to prepare her for the tiny yet huge addition to her world.

Aunt Amelia has been a favourite for a long time (as are all of Rebecca Cobb’s other wonderful creations, such as Lunchtime and The Paper Dolls, also reviewed on this site). It is a fun, bright and charming book, which wonderfully captures the nostalgic joy of childhood. It now has a new resonance and relevance as a picturebook that depicts a sibling relationship.

Written in the first person by a young boy and his little sister, it tells of a day and night full of pure delight, when their low expectations are most happily confounded. In the opening line they tell us that “we were in a bad mood” – their Mum and Dad are going out, and ‘Aunt Amelia’ is coming to look after them. They don’t know who this is, but do know “we didn’t want looking after”. Worst of all, Mum and Dad have left a list of instructions for their mystery babysitter.

Little do they or their parents know, but Aunt Amelia – a matronly crocodile, with her a huge peach sunhat adorned by flora and fauna, equipped with a Mary Poppins-esque purse and umbrella – likes to bend, and even reverse, the rules!

The gorgeous tapestry of spreads that follow are accompanied by details from the list of strict instructions. Where mum and dad said “they can have an ice-cream, but just one” Aunt Amelia gives them each a cone with a dozen different flavours, flakes and wafers. With the command that “they help you with keeping the house clean and tidy” we see scenes of whole-room (and whole-face) painting extravaganzas, and a wild dressing up bonanza. Alongside the request that they eat a “sensible” dinner, we see them reveling in a child’s dream feast of berries, cakes and pizza, while the order that they have just one story before bedtime is contravened with a pile of 20 books apiece.

In the morning, when it’s nearly time for Mum and Dad to get home, the pair help Aunt Amelia get the house spick and span. “I hope they’ve been good?” asks mum. “Good as gold” Aunt Amelia replies, winning over the children as friends for life.

Owl Babies

Family fun Posted on 28 Jul, 2015 08:58PM

Owl Babies, Words by Martin Waddell, Illustrated by Patrick Benson, published by Walker Books

This heart-warming and beautifully illustrated classic tale, about three baby owls awaiting and celebrating their mother’s return, has always been one of our favourites. It’s a book that has been a part of our daughter’s life from her earliest months, when we first introduced her to the nocturnal grove of Sarah, Percy and Bill.

The owl babies snuggle together and await the return of their mother with varying degrees of confidence (Sarah: “She’ll bring us mice and things that are nice”), anxiety (Percy: “Or a fox got her!”) and longing (Bill: “I want my mummy!).

The mild peril lasts just long enough before finally their mother returns, and the owlets (and our toddler) express their relief and pure, wondrous joy (Mummy Owl: “What’s all the fuss? You knew I’d come back”).

In recent weeks it’s been a helpful book for reassuring our daughter that we will always be there for her, too. It’s also a good analogy for the range of emotions felt by young children, ideal for our daughter (now 2 and a half) as she starts to gain in confidence, shows an interest in increasing her independence, and then comes running back into our arms.


Family fun Posted on 14 Jul, 2015 12:27PM

Picnic by John Burningham, published by Random House

Since the recent arrival of some warmer days, our daughter asks, every weekend, to go for a picnic. She loves picnics: the novelty of having lunch outside, nibbling small pieces of lots of things from little boxes and running around afterwards, probably too soon after eating.

This warm, sunny, breezy and delightful picturebook, by the two-time Kate Greenaway Medal winner John Burningham, has become a firm favourite in our house. Our toddler loves to join Boy and Girl as they leave their house on the hill, hamper in hand, in search of the perfect picnic spot.

Accompanied on their way by pig, sheep and duck, boy and girl have many challenges along the way, such as fleeing a hungry bull, coping with a gust of wind, chasing a ball down a grassy slope and retrieving a hat from the lake. Finally they find their idyll, and enjoy a delicious al fresco feast.

This book is not just a charming tale with beautiful illustration, which it is, but also great fun. Several times we are asked to help boy, girl and their luncheon partners to find items that they misplace along the way, with readers posed the question “Can you help to find it?”.

In the final scene, making the book a perfect choice as a bedtime read, a golden sunset lights their way home, and before long all tucked up in their own bed, with the final question: “Shall we find your bed?”

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