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!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mini Scientist - In the Kitchen by Lisa Burke

Rosie was taken to a science event for kids by my husband earlier this year and was completely bowled over by it. As he commented 'she thinks it's all magic and a show' (two of her current loves!) but we're keen to foster this interest and so when I saw Mini Scientist - In the Kitchen at the library yesterday I decided to get it out. 

It's a DK book and similar to a cookbook layout with good explanatory text and helpful photos to show you what to do. There are some really fun experiments and a lot of them don't require many materials. We tried making an egg float yesterday and all you need for that is a container, an egg, water and some salt. There's another good one using balloons to learn about static electricity. 

It's nice to see a book like this out on the shelves (although since this particular title is out of print then it won't be everywhere!) because as the parent of an inquisitive four (nearly five) year old this gives some great ideas about things we can do together and hopefully is going to make her think of science as an exciting and interesting subject as she grows up. 

Unfortunately the Mini Scientist In the Kitchen is no longer in print (although you can get it second hand), they do have a few titles in the series though In the Garden and Water Fun and My Body are on their website and I think we might give them a try next! There's also a book called Science Experiments by Robert Winston which I'm going to keep an eye out for, although I think it's probably better for older children. Happy experimenting!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Pip and Posy: The Big Balloon by Axel Scheffler

Pip and Posy are lovely characters and great favourites in our house, they are good at holding both my one year old's attention and my four year old's (only just these days, mind you!).
In Pip and Posy: The Big Balloon Pip has a lovely red balloon that he is very proud of and takes to show Posy. But he accidentally lets go of it and they follow it until it eventually bursts. Thankfully Posy has a bright idea and saves the day by bringing out some bubbles. They have fun blowing them and watching them pop, as they are meant to! 

This is of particular interest to us because we have recently lost two balloons to the great outdoors. And there really is no greater sadness for a child than losing an exciting balloon that you have been clinging to and then watching it float up into the air. (My sadness is more that it is very bad to let something plastic and rubbery float off into the environment and add more to the mounds of plastic that litter our world.) But anyway we all felt very sad. So this book is wonderful and next time we lose a balloon (probably soon!) I'm sure my four year old will suggest we get the bubbles out!

Of course you'll recognise the artwork on this - it's the wonderful Axel Scheffler. The illustrations are lovely with gorgeous little details and lots to spot and talk about. 

This series is lovely for children who have started to want a bit more of a story and can sit down to listen (but wouldn't survive a full picture book text). Perfect from 18 months I would say!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Hey Presto! by Nadia Shireen

We are into magic tricks at the moment! Rosie's nanny found a magic set at a car boot for 10p or something and although it's in French (Rosie's daddy is a whizz at that) it hasn't set her back.
So when we dug out our copy of Hey Presto! it was even more of a hit than it was when we got it last year. It's a very sweet story of Presto and Monty who decide to set up a magic show together but Monty likes the limelight so much he hogs it, even though Presto is doing all the tricks behind the scenes. Presto eventually gets fed up and leaves and Monty realises the error of his ways. They reunite and all is well!

I particularly like the use of Presto as a name in this, it always makes me smile when Monty says 'Hey, Presto'. The artwork is great and I love the comic touches that Nadia brings to this. We also like to read Good Little Wolf which has a great (possibly shocking?!) twist at the end.