Better Late Than Never…

…I received these Christmas books to review and then got so snowed under (geddit?!) with all things Christmas and baby that time ran away with me and I didn’t manage it.

So, I know… I know…not much use now, but maybe some of you are ridiculously organised and want to go and buy next year’s books already! And I have scheduled it to repost in the lead up to next Christmas, so then it WILL be useful (I hope!) and I have a head start on 2019’s blog posts – winning all round!

First there were a few books I was sent that I did actually manage to review before Christmas arrived rather quicker than anticipated:

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Emily Brown and Father Christmas by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton

This was a brand new one to me. It was great and I loved the writing style. A thoroughly modern story, with hugely appealing, lively illustrations reminiscent of Lauren Child’s collage-y, textured appearance, and a very traditional twist. It takes all the magic of Christmas and delivers it by the sleigh load!

Originally reviewed here. Thanks to Hachette Kids for sending me a copy.

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Kipper’s Snowy Day by Mick Inkpen

I love Kipper and have really enjoyed reading this to ‘Peapod’ during our book advent this year (along with Kipper’s Christmas Eve).

OK, it’s not strictly Christmassy but everyone knows snowy books and Christmas books go hand in hand!

A classic character in a story so full of snowy fun you can’t help but smile – makes you want to go and play in the snow

Originally reviewed here. Thanks again to Hachette Kids.

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Snow in the Garden: A First Book of Christmas

This is a beautiful book, and will make a wonderful addition to a Christmas collection. The combination of activities and stories/poems/illustrations make it ideal for dipping into throughout the season and, while there’s a wonderful sense of nostalgia and old fashioned charm, there’s also plenty for new, young readers to love and relate to – playing in the snow, going for wintry walks and acting in the school nativity – and the activities are timeless: Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without paper decorations, homemade cards and gingerbread!

A cosy, nostalgic hug of a book and an absolute delight – it’s one we’ll be getting out year after year.

Originally reviewed here. Thanks to Walker Books.

Little Robin Red Vest by Jan Fearnley

This is the 20th anniversary of this book, but it’s not one I’d previously heard of, so I’m extra glad to have been given this as it’s definitely one we’ll be reading in our book advent each year!

It’s a lovely, heart-warming story that manages to convey the message of Christmas spirit and kindness without feeling didactic or sickly sweet (no mean feat – I’m a particularly harsh critic of books with a moral or message!)

Robin is utterly loveable and I loved the illustrations too which felt light and bright, with a touch of humour in the details.

Thank you to Nosy Crow for my copy.

Winnie the Pooh: The Long Winter’s Sleep by Jane Riordan

Drawing on the original stories and illustrations from The Hundred Acre Wood, this is a lovely introduction to the world of Winnie the Pooh and fans of the original (like me!) won’t be disappointed.

The story itself is a warming winter tale full of friendship and it captures both the season and the characters well.

Thank you to Egmont for my copy.

Ten Little Elves by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty

I’ve reviewed books on this Ten Little series before – they never disappoint and this festive outing is no exception!

Combining counting, Christmas and catastrophe, it’s as bold as they come – positively leaping off the page and demands a lively telling full of sound effects, actions and energy.

Thanks again to Hachette Kids for our copy – thrilled to have a board book version of it that ‘Peapod’ can handle (and inevitably chew!)

The Night Before The Night Before Christmas by Kes Gray and Claire Powell

We loved this – it really made us laugh and it has definitely earned a firm 23rd December spot in our annual book advent!

It retains a feel of its inspiration, Clement C Moore’s The Night Before Christmas, and is just as full of the building excitement the days before Christmas bring, but is a much more modern tale, taking Christmas preparation and tradition and depicting them with a huge dollop of humour that will be enjoyed by both children and parents.

Father Christmas is frantically trying to get through his last minute jobs in readiness for the big night and the story bounds along in a pace to match. The illustrations are busy, warm and detailed too – again, perfectly festive and funny. And the ending…well, I won’t spoil it, but…it’s guaranteed to raise a smile!

Thanks to Hachette Kids for my copy.

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Peapod’s Book Advent

So we lost our way with keeping the posts about our book advent up to date. (I have just counted up our Christmas books though and since we had 42 instead of 24/25 it’s maybe not surprising!)

BUT we loved doing it. We read so many wonderful books – from the wintry and snowy to the warm and fuzzy to the downright silly and laugh out loud.

So, while I may not have managed to post proper reviews of them all, here’s what we read this Christmas:

Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton

Grandpa Christmas by Michael Morpurgo and Jim Field

Snow in the Garden: A First Book of Christmas, Alfie’s Christmas and Lucy and Tom at Christmas by Shirley Hughes

The Snowman and Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs

Little Robin Red Vest by Jan Fearnley

Emily Brown and Father Christmas by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton

Humphrey’s Christmas by Sally Hunter

Maisy’s Christmas Eve by Lucy Cousins

Aliens Love Panta Claus by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Supertato: Evil Pea Rules by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Meg’s Christmas by Jan Pienkowski

Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

Paddington’s Christmas Surprise by Michael Bond and R. W. Alley

Santasaurus by Niamh Sharkey

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht and Jarvis

Mince Spies by Mark Sperring and Sophie Corrigan

Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allan

The Night Before The Night Before Christmas by Kes Gray and Claire Powell

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore and Eric Puybaret

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Alan Ahlberg

Just with these we had enough for a book a night leading up to Christmas, but I bought some as we went along (as well as being sent some for review) and already had some wintry, snowy ones:

Kipper’s Snowy Day by Mick Inkpen

The Storm Whale in Winter by Benji Davies

The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Snowball by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Snow is My Favourite and My Best by Lauren Child

One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth

Winnie the Pooh: The Long Winter’s Sleep by Jane Riordan

Harry and the Snow King by Ian Whybrow

So they went into the mix too and in the end we had enough for a seasonal book each bedtime throughout December.

But I’d also bought/received some lovely festive board books, so they went in the basket to be read/felt/flip-the-flapped during the days!

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

Dear Santa by Rod Campbell

The Snowman Puppet Playbook

Kipper’s Snowy Day and Kipper’s Christmas Eve by Mick Inkpen

That’s Not My… Reindeer/Penguin/Snowman

Where’s Mr Penguin/Where’s Santa Claus? by Ingela P Arrenhius

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from me and ‘Peapod’!

Rest. Reflection. Resolutions. Restarting.

So, it’s that time of year again.

I’m not a strict resolution-maker, but I do always like this time of year to start afresh, draw a line, make a change etc.

This morning, I went for my first post-baby run. It was bloody hard, but I did it. I’m not sure how I’ll manage it regularly, because of, you know, having a baby now! But it’s a start – if I can get out once a week most weeks, that’s something to aim for. If I manage more, even better.

The other thing I really want to improve on is my reading and the blog. Not in themselves, but in the way I’ve begun to approach them.

I started the blog as a way to spur me on to review the books I’m kindly sent by publishers and to keep a record of these reviews and books I’d read. It was very much for me, though obviously I’m thrilled when other people read and enjoy it or find it helpful too.

In recent months, I’ve found myself hopping from one thing to another, trying This Day and That Day, trying to add lots of photos and generally trying to keep up with it all.

I’ve ended up with such a huge ‘to read’ (and review) pile it’s overwhelming me, as my reading has slowed right down and – inevitably – taken a back seat to my new position as mummy. (I know there are loads of great bloggers out there who juggle both and I take my hat off to them, but I’m struggling to fit it all in!)

Added to which my anxiety means once I become slightly overwhelmed/behind etc I find it very difficult to reset and it generally spirals meaning I don’t do anything instead of being able to just do a little; no reviews up instead of the 1 or 2 I might have had time to do.

So…I’m paring it right back and remembering it’s ultimately for me.

I haven’t posted the last of our book advent posts, but that’s ok – WE loved doing it and that’s the important thing. Plus, next year I’ll have a head start! (I am going to try and post a summary of it though.)

I’m really behind on reviews and, though I feel bad, I’m going to draw a line under it and stop trying to catch up. I’ll make a determined effort to review as I finish before starting a new book from now, as that’s what worked last time, but can’t promise I’ll go back to review those I’ve missed. The alternative is to keep trying (and failing) to play catch up and failing – feeling pressured and miserable and reviewing nothing. And reading really isn’t meant to make you feel like that.

I’m keeping Peapod’s Picks, but the aim is to focus on one book we’ve enjoyed that week instead of cramming in everything we’ve read.

I’ll do WWW Wednesday every couple of weeks and I might throw in a Mini Monday every few weeks too, but I’m not going to feel bound to doing them every week.

Much of this will make the blog sporadic, hotch potch and inconsistent. If it was for others, for a living, for views and followers and likes and comments, that would be a problem.

But it’s not.* It’s for me. And I need to remember that!

*Although obviously likes, comments, followers and views are encouraged and enjoyed too!

Peapod’s Picks – Book Advent Days 6 – 13

So, after starting our Book Advent, I kept remembering, hearing about or seeing even more books I’d either forgotten or not heard of and adding to the pile! I have no doubt there’s still more I’ll think of too! So I’m addition to what we started with last week:

We now also have:

I think I need a bigger sideboard! A couple of the new ones were prizes and I was really excited to win board book copies of both Kipper’s Snowy Day and Ten Little Elves – although we had both as picture books, these will last us much longer and be much better for Peapod to look at himself!

This week, we’ve read:

That’s Not My Reindeer – Peapod loves the touchy feely bits in these books!

A lot of Shirley Hughes!

‘Alfie’s Christmas’ and ‘Lucy and Tom at Christmas’

Daddy picked both of these,and after his initial coolness towards Shirley Hughes’ books, I’m beginning to think he’s being won over! Though he’d never admit it!

Both are charming and relatable depictions of traditional Christmas celebrations, full of warmth, an observant humour and details which capture the moment perfectly.

Snow in the Garden – you can read a full review of this here. We just read the poems from it this week – wonderfully wintry!

‘Supertato: Evil Pea Rules’ – Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

I’m a big Supertato fan and, judging by the way he leaned himself over to look, so is ‘Peapod’!

Evil Pea is one of the best (worst?!) villains around and I love how dastardly he is. Bright, bold and laugh out loud funny and with some puns my dad would love! This series manages to be both brilliantly silly and brilliantly clever at the same time, and this is an excellent seasonal escapade from the veggie crew!

‘Father Christmas Needs a Wee’ – Nicholas Allan

I had hazy memories of how much a previous class had laughed at this years and years ago, but remembered very little of the story.

As it turns out, I had issues with some of the rhyme, but I thought it was great as a counting book and will definitely have very young readers in stitches as Father Christmas becomes more and more desperate for a wee!

One Snowy Night – Nick Butterworth

Ok, like a couple of last week’s, this isn’t strictly a Christmas book, but it’s one I love to read at this time of year. It never fails to make me smile. Percy the Park Keeper is a favourite anyway, but this book in particular is an absolute must-read for winter – cosy, atmospheric and humorous, it’ll have you wishing to be snuggled up in bed while the snow falls outside!

Humphrey’s Christmas – Sally Hunter

I wrote about how much I like the Humphrey books here and Christmas with Humphrey and family is as full of warmth as you could hope for. Perfect for younger readers, this simply told story depicts a wonderful family Christmas, not least through its lovely illustrations.

Emily Brown and Father Christmas – Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton

This was a brand new one to me – it had been recommended or reviewed or mentioned on twitter (I’m so sorry, I forget who by!) and caught my eye. Then, as luck would have it, we won a copy from Hachette!

It was great and I loved the writing style. A thoroughly modern story, with hugely appealing, lively illustrations reminiscent of Lauren Child’s collage-y, textured appearance, and a very traditional twist. It takes all the magic of Christmas and delivers it by the sleigh load! It’s jumped straight into my favourites and I look forward to reading more about Emily Brown.

Do you have any favourite Christmas books? Have you read any of the ones we’ve read this week?

Snow in the Garden – A First Book of Christmas

 

I was thrilled to receive a review copy of this in exchange for a review – Shirley Hughes is such a special author that has played a large part in so many childhoods; from Dogger (my sister’s favourite) to the Alfie stories (my own) via Lucy and Tom and her poetry – she has a style, both in her illustration and text, that is reassuringly warm and charming, so she is a surefire hit for a bookish Christmas treat!

In this book, her stories, poems and artwork are accompanied by plenty of traditional, but timeless Christmassy things to do: paper lanterns, shortbread and paper robins, for example and it’s a perfect match.

I was transported back to my own childhood by the activities: I could see the flour dusted kitchen counter, smell Christmas biscuits baking and feel the excitement of a rainy afternoon spent indoors with scissors, glue and glitter!

Likewise, the poems are incredibly evocative – seeing your breath on a cold, winter morning, bare branches and wrapping up warm for walks in the park; being cosy and warm when it’s dark and cold outside, and – of course – the magical build up to and wait for Christmas.

The stories also bring back plenty of memories – school nativities, snowy days and family life. And that is what Shirley Hughes is so good at, in both the text and the expressive and detailed illustrations – describing everyday, family life with warmth, honesty and humour.

This is a beautiful book, and will make a wonderful addition to a Christmas collection. The combination of activities and stories/poems/illustrations make it ideal for dipping into throughout the season and, while there’s a wonderful sense of nostalgia and old fashioned charm, there’s also plenty for new, young readers to love and relate to – playing in the snow, going for wintry walks and acting in the school nativity – and the activities are timeless: Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without paper decorations, homemade cards and gingerbread!

A cosy, nostalgic hug of a book and an absolute delight – it’s one we’ll be getting out year after year.

WWW Wednesday 12/12/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’, every Wednesday is ‘WWW Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson. I’ve only just started it, but I’m loving her writing style and the magic in the book. Plus, I just love the whole idea of the snowglobes.

What have you just finished reading?

I’ve finally read Wundersmith! Jessica Townsend’s follow up to the brilliant Nevermoor is just as imaginative and ‘wunder’-full (couldn’t resist!) as the first and I’m. Now impatiently waiting for book 3! Full review to follow.

What are you planning on reading next?

I’m stuck! On the one hand I still have a gazillion MG books I really want to read waiting for me to get to them – The Train to Impossible Places, Sky Circus, The Missing Barbegazi and so, so, SO many others.

On the other hand, I have some brilliant YA and adult books clamouring to be read to – Angie Thomas’ new one, On the Come Up, and Marcus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay especially.

And on the other hand again (yeah, three hands. And what of it?!), I keep promising myself a re-read of Harry Potter and what better time than Christmas?!

What do you think – what should I choose? Have you read any of the books here? What are you reading at the moment?

Peapod’s Picks – Book Advent Days 1-5

I decided to do a book advent for Peapod, so this week’s picks are all the books we’ve read so far.

This year, the books aren’t wrapped or hidden or anything – they’re just all out together.

There’s a few I’ve not yet read – Grandpa’s Christmas and The Night Before The Night Before Christmas are a couple – but on the whole I’ve read them so Dad is choosing one a night for Peapod’s bedtime story, which is nice as he’s not read most of them, and we’re just reading the board books whenever we fancy!

This week, we’ve read:

That’s Not My Snowman and That’s Not My Penguin – Peapod loves the touchy feely bits in these books!

Where’s Mr Penguin? – The felt flaps in these are ingenious and withstand Peapod’s eager grabbing. Plus he loves the mirror at the end!

Kipper’s Snowy Day – Mick Inkpen

OK, not strictly Christmassy but everyone knows snowy books and Christmas books go hand in hand!

A classic character in a story so full of snowy fun you can’t help but smile – makes you want to go and play in the snow.

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Snow is My Favourite and My Best – Lauren Child

Another book featuring favourite characters, this time Charlie and Lola, and more snowy day fun.

This book perfectly captures the building excitement of waiting for the snow, seeing it start and finally getting out to play in it…as well as the disappointment when it melts which is dealt with in a really fun and clever way!

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Maisy’s Christmas Eve – Lucy Cousins

Yet another well-known character! With bold illustrations, simple, bold text and a story combining preparing for Christmas, friendship and a mishap in the snow it’s a great book for younger readers!

Santasaurus – Niamh Sharkey

I first read this book at least 10 years ago with my first reception class in my very first teaching job. I’d forgotten all about it until I saw it in @FatherReading‘s book advent pic. It brought back such lovely memories that I had to order it. It’s the illustrations I love best – beautifully detailed and coloured!

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Aliens Love Panta Claus – Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

Another of everyone’s favourites – those Aliens who Love Underpants are back causing more mayhem (and, yes, saving the day!) in this pants-tastic Christmas tale. Guaranteed to make you giggle, I can’t wait to read this one with Peapod when he’s older.