Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Millie's Marvellous Hat by Satoshi Kitamura

Millie's Marvellous Hat by Satoshi Kitamura proved a hit last week and also provided us with a fabulous half-term activity!
It's the lovely simple tale of Millie who goes into a hat shop after spotting a hat she likes in the window, but when she opens her purse and looks to see if she has enough money to pay she finds it totally bare and so the shopkeeper comes up with an imaginative solution. The text is spare but beautifully written and the illustrations are gorgeous with wry funny touches that mean going back again and again (and again!) is a joy rather than a chore.

We had a lot of fun making our own marvellous hat, although it proved hard to wear for very long! I'm sorry it's not a brilliant photo but you can see the kind of thing we did.

Satoshi Kitamura is actually appearing very soon at the South Ken Kids Festival at the Institut Francais which runs from the 17th to the 23rd November. I wish we could go to this festival, there are more than 50 events on the programme including Quentin Blake, Judith Kerr and Axel Scheffler. You lucky London people!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Woolly and Tig: I Love Mummy

I didn't really expect to be writing a post about Woolly and Tig: I Love Mummy. We picked it up in the library a couple of weeks ago and I grudgingly said my kids could bring it home. I have nothing against Woolly and Tig, I like to watch the programme. I just prefer to read original picture books when possible and I find that sometimes the books that tie-in to a TV programme tend to just be retellings of an episode (nothing that wrong with that of course, heaven knows I've been responsible for a fair few myself!).

But when we read this story I was pleasantly surprised (and not for a totally honourable reason!). It is a book about Tig and her mummy and delves into the relationship between a working mother (from home) and a child who wants constant attention. I can more than relate to this because it's very much how I work, although I tend to do most of my work when my two year old naps or when they are both at school and nursery. Anyway the message that sometimes mummy needs to concentrate on other things and can't play all the time was an interesting and helpful one. And both my kids loved reading it, although I think it was partly the novelty of seeing the faces from the programme on the page!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Knight School by Jane Clarke and Jane Massey

Knight School has been a very handy book for us recently. It tells the story of two friends Little Knight and Little Dragon who are starting school.
But... they go to different schools! Little Knight goes to school in the daytime and Little Dragon goes to school in the nighttime.
Little Knight and Little Dragon love going to school but they get a bit fed up that they never see each other anymore - until they concoct a plan to have a mini adventure out of school time! They disappear off and find a brand new friend to watch some stars with. Their daddies eventually catch up with them and after the initial worry realise that the friends just want to spend some time with each other again. 

This is a particularly good story for us right now because Rosie has just started school but she is going to a different school from her best friend. They have gone from spending at least two days a week together to virtually not seeing each other. So reading a picture book which helps to explain this, and also points out that you need to make time to see your friends, is very helpful. We just have to hope she won't plan to meet her friend after dark for an adventure!

The illustrations are very sweet and there are lots of gentle funny moments. My two year old has been enjoying reading this with us as well so it bridges the age gap from two to five pretty well. I particularly like the scene at the end where they hold a big fete/summer party. I'm hoping to emulate it for my daughter's birthday party!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Toys in Space by Mini Grey

We invariably love Mini Grey's fabulous picture books and Toys in Space is no exception. It's conceptually brilliant and we've been enjoying it a lot recently. It's similar in style to her Traction Man series (which is also completely wonderful) but the story is more rounded and less wacky (I do love both though, the 'wacky' is not a criticism!).
It's essentially the story of some toys left out in the garden overnight and the adventure they find themselves on, or the story they tell themselves - does it really happen?!. They get beamed up into a space rocket and meet Hoctopize, the very sad alien. He looks like a glove wearing pyjamas(!) and has lost his toy, Cuddles. He shows them all the thousands of toys he has collected in his quest to find Cuddles and they are slightly horrified by all the children that have lost their toys and must be feeling bereft. So they help him to send them back to their homes (handily Hoctopize labelled them by their addresses as soon as they were beamed up!) and then to cheer him up they throw him a party. All too soon they have to go and they float gently back to the garden leaving Hoctopize to continue his sad search. But as Hoctopize prepares his spaceship to leave he spies a little someone. Can you guess who?!

The artwork is amazing and as I mentioned at the beginning the whole concept of this book works really well. It almost has a filmic quality to it which draws you in, I think it's partly the way it is laid out.

The funny thing is that since reading this story Rosie has not liked to leave her toys out in the garden. So she's tidying up a bit more. It can only be a good thing!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

What can you see Spot? by Eric Hill

My (just) two year old is loving What Can You See, Spot? at the moment. It's perfectly pitched for her and is working really well at giving her new vocabulary and also has a lovely repetition. It's quite a simple concept, placing Spot the dog in different places (countryside, beach, farm, home) and then asking the question 'what can you see?' The thing about it is that all the objects to spot are fun to look at, interesting to say and help to expand my toddlers vocabulary. I really think it's a pretty perfect example of a book of this kind!

Spot the dog is well known and we have enjoyed many of his books but this one is a real stand-out for us. Sadly the author Eric Hill died earlier this year but because he produced such a huge variety and quantity of books with Penguin, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of Spot. And of course so many of them are great backlisters which will stick around for many moons to come.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Jampires by Sarah McIntyre and David O'Connell

This one is a bit personal because I have been a tiny bit involved in the publication of it. But have no fear, I wouldn't blog about it unless I thought it was BRILLIANT! And it's also been road-tested by Rosie and pronounced as 'Yummy!' and a few seconds later 'Can we get some doughnuts? Will there be any jam in them?' (Rosie loves jam doughnuts - who doesn't?!)

Anyway it's a great picture book about some loveable characters called 'jampires'! These naughty little creatures are stealing the jam out of everything and one day a little boy, Sam, decides he's had enough and sets out to discover what is happening. He catches the jampires and they take him to their land (note - make sure you're not hungry at this bit, it will have you reaching for the cake tin!) and introduce him to their mummies. After making such great friends the jampires take great care never to leave Sam jamless again and even make sure they provide him with extra. But the thing is they have to get their jam from somewhere so make sure YOU check your doughnuts carefully!

I think this will really come into its own over halloween, I think we might download the masks and do some kind of jam doughnut bobbing (instead of apples). But let's not run away with autumn too quickly, it's great to read now as well!

There is a lovely website with a few activities on it and a guide to making your own comic-jam which is how the authors came up with the whole concept. And Sarah McIntyre has a wonderful blog which has a great post on it at the moment about how the book was created.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Elephant Wellyphant by Nick Sharratt

We've been having a lovely time with Elephant Wellyphant. It's hilarious and perfect to share with mixed age children. The link above is for the publisher's website but I don't think there is a link to buy so here is another one!

There are a few bits inside the book that mean you can't really leave your toddler alone with it - spinning wheel and pull out tabs etc but the whole premise is beautifully suited to 18 months plus although I'm sure you could use it with younger children too.

It's a very simple play on the word elephant. There's Smelliphant (pull a tab and out pops a 'parp' - greatly loved by my four year old!). A poorly, spotty Unwelliphant. A Cinderellaphant (turn the flap and there she is ready for the ball). And of course as the title suggests an elephant wearing wellies - a Wellyphant.

Nick Sharratt's fantastic artwork is perfect for this format and style of book and his sense of humour and the ridiculous can be seen to great effect here. Love it!