Monday, 30 January 2012

The Fairytale Hairdresser by Abie Longstaff

One of our favourite books at the moment is The Fairytale Hairdresser written by Abie Longstaff and illustrated by Lauren Beard. It's a twist on the fairytale story of Rapunzel.

I think Rosie is at a good age for this kind of book since it references other fairy tales and well known stories and she recognises most of them. Ultimately though the text is lovely and the illustrations are fab and that's what makes it so great.

Kittie is the fairytale hairdresser and she has some very odd jobs to do with some very varied clients. A whiskers and beard trim for a well known gentleman in a red suit with a white beard! A long consultation for a very fussy Goldilocks (too long, too short, too curly, too straight). But one day she is summoned by a wicked witch to her hardest task of all. High up in a tower under a river of messy golden hair is a beautiful girl called Rapunzel. It takes Kittie a whole day to brush her hair out and sort it into a plait. The witch brews up a 'forgetful' potion to make sure Kittie doesn't remember where she's been. But Kittie manages to climb out of the tower and down Rapunzel's plait. The fairytale ending comes when the prince appears, sees Rapunzel in the tower and falls instantly in love. Rapunzel jumps into his waiting arms and they live happily ever after!

It's a lovely story and very well done. There are a lot of 'different take of the classic tale' books around but they are successful because they bring new life to classic tales and are easy references for most children.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

I didn't think that I would be writing a post about Where the Wild Things Are just yet. I figured that it was an older picture book and that Rosie wouldn't really like it. But... she picked it out of the bookshelf herself and then demanded that we read it to her again and again. And I guess I can see why. It features the type of anarchy she loves and it's a relatively simple story, very simple text with incredible illustrations bringing the whole thing to life. I just thought it might be too scary!

It's the story of Max. He's been very naughty and sent to bed without any supper. But while he's in his bedroom a forest grows and a sea with a boat appears and he sails away to the land where the wild things are. He becomes king of the wild things and they have a wild rumpus - which looks great fun! But then Max starts to smell good things to eat and he decides to give up being king and sail back. When he gets home his supper is on his bedroom table - still hot!

I think it's one of the most successful picture books ever and I know it has legions of fans. The recent-ish film was hotly awaited, I did see it and thought it was beautifully done but I don't think it hit the mark with everyone.

What I really love about this book is that I know it will grow with Rosie and she'll probably love it for a good many years yet. The only thing I don't like about it is that it reminds me of the song Wild Thing by The Troggs. I have a very embarrassing memory of trying to sing it in a high school band having never heard the song before. Everyone just collapsed in laughter.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Old Favourites - Rhyme Books from Ladybird

Some of these titles have been around for quite some time but they have really grown with us. I started using them when Rosie was a tiny baby and even now when she picks them out for me to read to her. I think it's the comforting familiarity of them and the fact that she now likes to shout sing them when we're out and about. I don't think these are in print any more since I couldn't find them on the Ladybird website but they are available on Amazon.

First up is a real classic Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Weirdly this book is called Twinkle, Twinkle but doesn't have the rhyme in the book. It doesn't really bother us though! It's pretty much a perfect example of this type of book in my opinion - and it's not called a playbook for nothing. It has tactile numbers on each double page and two rhymes, one classic (like Two Little Dicky Birds) and one made up by the author to compliment the rhyme. It also has a raised wavy line along the bottom to follow (in the case of Two Little Dicky Birds you follow the birds flying along). This is great because by helping your child to follow the line you're helping them to develop the fine motor skills needed for writing etc.

The Wheels on the Bus is another great playbook. All the rhymes included are action rhymes and show the actions you can do on each page. It includes the rhyme Dingle Dangle Scarecrow which is one of our favourites! The extra bits are meaningful as well. The touch and feel to follow the bus round and round. The hat that flaps up on the scarecrow. The peapod that flaps up to say 'Pop'.

Another rhyme book I want to mention, although you can now only get it second hand because it's out of print is Hey Diddle Diddle. It's full of bouncing rhymes for babies including Pat a Cake, Little Miss Muffet and Incy Wincy Spider. It's much more simple than the two above but because of that it's very easy to use with a much younger baby. I find myself acting out the rhymes on the page rather than doing the actions with my baby as suggested since it's much easier. So for Hickory Dickory Dock I run my fingers up the clock and then mimic a clock ticking with my hand. For Pat a Cake I just pat the page. But for This Little Piggy I do use Rosie's toes or fingers!

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Alfie books by Shirley Hughes

Ah Alfie! I remember him so well from my own childhood and was prepared for Rosie to turn up her nose at him and think the drawings far too old fashioned for her modern sensibilities. But how wrong I was. She loves the stories and the illustrations and we go in little Alfie circles where the different books reign favourite.

Our current favourite is Alfie Gets in First. I heartily recommend this for anyone with a toddler - mainly for the cautionary element of the tale. Alfie does indeed get in first, in fact he slams the door and no-one else can get in. And everyone in the street has to get involved in helping poor old Mum open the door. I've never left my keys inside the house with just Rosie for company since!

Alfie's Feet is lovely too. It speaks straight to the heart of any toddler who love stamping about in wellies and splashing in puddles (that would be every one of them - yes?!). Alfie buys some new wellies and Dad takes him to the park to try them out. Once at the park Alfie has great fun stomping but he can't quite decide what is wrong with his welly boots. Finally he and Dad realise that he's got them on the wrong feet!

I could go through every Alfie book there is since we've got them all but I'll stop at three! The last one is Alfie Gives a Hand. Alfie is invited to his friend Bernard's birthday party and to stop himself from feeling worried about going there without Mum and his little sister Annie Rose he takes his blanket with him. But his friend Mim is there and she needs his help since she is very nervous. Looking after Mim and his blanket and enjoying the party is a bit too hard. Alfie carefully puts his blanket somewhere safe. It's a lovely story and I really like just looking at the birthday tea laid out on the table. It's just how a birthday tea should look!

I have to give a special mention to An Evening at Alfie's since the whole drama of the water coming through the ceiling and the subsequent to-ing and fro-ing make it one of the most exciting Alfie stories!

The detail in the illustrations is beautiful and I really love the way Shirley Hughes shows how messy a house with children can get. It makes me feel so much better about the state of my house! The relationship between Alfie and his little sister Annie Rose is beautifully portrayed. But I think the thing which is most relevant and important about these books is that toddlers can relate to each story. They have a real universal appeal. Yes they are clearly set in West London and are slightly old fashioned but the stories are of a family with two young children and their day-to-day lives and pinpoints the big and little things that matter to little ones. We love Alfie!

Thursday, 5 January 2012


I haven't posted for a while, I got swept up in the Christmas fever and it's only really just set me down again! But having received two beautiful owl based picture books for Christmas I decided that they should be the topic of this post.

The first one was Owl Babies written by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson. It's a pretty well known classic but it's one that we didn't have before so I was very pleased to add it to my Rosie's collection!

It's a very sweet story of three baby owls, Sarah, Percy and Bill, waking up in the night to find their mummy has gone. They all wonder aloud where she can be. Sarah and Percy are very brave and reassure their smallest sibling, Bill. Of course Mummy Owl does come back and she soon gathers her little chicks under her wing. It deals perfectly with a child's worry that a parent won't come back and reinforces that they will. It's also a nice look at where owls live for a young child.

The second one was WOW! said the owl by Tim Hopgood. It was bought in the Book Hive bookshop in Norwich, it's a lovely bookshop and they lay books out in a way that just invites you to browse for ages. And the children's section is great!

WOW! is a book about colours and it tells the story of an owl who decides to stay awake during the day and see how it is different to the night time. He sees lots of different colours as he watches the day enfold, even a rainbow. But then night-time falls and he sees the stars come out and decides that night is best after all. It's a lovely blend of whimsy and non-fiction and great for talking about colours with a toddler. Also I LOVE the illustrations. It's very clear why Tim Hopgood won the Early Years Award for Best Emerging Illustrator.