Picture Book and Play – Mini Rabbit Come Home

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

We’re big fans of Mini Rabbit in our house (you can read our reviews of Mini Rabbit Not Lost and Mini Rabbit Must Help here and here) so we were VERY excited when our copy of Mini Rabbit’s newest adventure arrived a few weeks ago.

Mini Rabbit Come Home by John Bond, published by Harper Collins

Even to someone as camping-phobic as I am as an adult must fondly remember the absolute thrill of ‘camping’ in a flimsy pop up tent in the garden (only to come in an hour later cold or scared or hungry etc), or just the forbidden delights of of staying up late or making indoor dens to hide out in. Mini Rabbit Come Home captures the essence of all of this perfectly!

Mini Rabbit is excited to be camping outside the house for the night (it’s going to be the best night ever!) There’s just a few more things they need – and quickly, the clouds are gathering…

As anyone who knows Mini Rabbit will guess, despite his (perfectly depicted) childlike enthusiasm for helping, things don’t go quite to plan for poor Mini Rabbit.

The marshmallows are too tempting, the logs too big and where is that rope?! And then there’s those rainclouds… As ever, so much of this is told through the visuals which I absolutely love and which really adds to the humour of the story.

Of course, Mother Rabbit is wise to it all and prepared for all eventualities, leading to the most lovely, completely relatable and believable, and utterly heart-warming ending.

Plus, we thoroughly approve of Mini Rabbit’s bedtime reading 😉 I can’t lie – I was so tickled to see what it was!

Well, there was only one activity we could do after reading this wasn’t there?

Unfortunately, I am not a natural den-maker! (All those of you who’ve already been there, done this – tips welcome!) But, we did our best and it was loads of fun.

Peapod loved it and was really excited about it in the day or so before we had chance to do it – he even asked for marshmallows from the supermarket (spoiling my surprise 😂) and was telling me all the things we needed (I managed to convince him building blocks would be OK in place of the logs for the woodburner for his campfire!)

It’s safe to say Mini Rabbit’s marshmallows would have been safe with him, as Peapod was not a fan! But he did enjoy getting in a thoroughly sticky old mess putting them on and off sticks to ‘toast’! He loved getting his instruments out for the rain too!

Are you a Mini Rabbit fan?

Are you a camper or a camp-a-phone like me?! How’s your den building?

What have you and your little ones been reading or playing this week?

The Supreme Lie

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read this on netgalley in exchange for an honest (but late – sorry!) review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Supreme Lie by Geraldine McCaughrean, cover art by Leo Nickolls, interior art by Keith Robinson, published by Usborne

I had high hopes for this after loving Geraldine McCaughrean’s Where the World Ends and, while WTWE is still my favourite, this certainly lived up to expectations; I loved the darkness of WTWE but for those who may have found it a little too dark, this provides a little more light relief and hope to balance out its heavier themes and events.

When a catastrophic flood hits Afalia and the Suprema (their Head of State) secretly flees, her maid Gloria is forced to step in and pretend to be her in order to cover it up.

With rising water levels, impossible choices deceitful politicians and an unhappy public, Gloria and Timor (the Suprema’s husband) must make some difficult and dangerous decisions which sees thousands of lives (their own included) at risk.

I loved the characters in this – they were without doubt its strongest feature for me. Gloria herself was a brilliant, believable main character who you couldn’t fail to empathise with and warm to. Her naivety and optimism were her strengths and a perfect tonic to the lies and treachery all around her.

The rest of the cast were fantastic too (I especially liked Timor) and the twists and doubts surrounding their actions, motives and intentions were very clever, with some truly despicable, though all too believable and familiar, villains.

Running alongside Gloria’s narrative is that of Clem, or more accurately Clem’s dog Heinz. Clem lives outside the capital; cut off and flooded out his family flee but are separated from his beloved dog Heinz, who we follow on his journey through the floodwater to reunite with his boy.

This was a really effective way of highlighting the damage and devastation caused by the freak rain and flooding, to both communities and to the natural world, which was so hard to read without a worrying air of ‘that could be us’ hanging over it.

Likewise, it served also to show the way those outside the capital were pretty much abandoned to their fates and left to look out for themselves (and each other). I won’t say much more here for risk of spoilers but the Rosies and were wonderful to read!

This was also a great way to provide that aforementioned light to balance out the dark. The use of both Clem’s dog, Heinz and Gloria’s dog, Daisy, was a great way to inject some hope, comfort and loyalty into a book otherwise filled with despair, discomfort and deception.

And their relationships with the children in the story was a heart-warming thing. Dog lovers everywhere will feel this in their hearts.

The use of newspaper reports throughout raised the very topical issue of ‘fake news’ and cleverly highlighted the way political agendas, and politicians themselves, can manipulate and manufacture what the public see and hear for their own gains or plans.

I loved the twist in the newspaper tale and the daily anagrams, and Keith Robinson has done a fantastic job of illustrating these articles, which feel real and perfectly in keeping with the rest of the book. They are a brilliant addition to the story.

Dark and darkly funny too, this is a sharp and witty social and political commentary that I thoroughly enjoyed – “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” has never felt so true or so timely.

WWW Wednesday 28/4/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

I still haven’t found my reading (and blogging) rhythm again since going back to work and it’s seen me reverting to just one or two book at a time rather than having a few on the go. Somehow I need to get to some sort of midpoint…

What am I reading at the moment then?

Harklights by Tim Tilley

Orphans is one of those tropes I really struggle to get past my eye rolls for. I’d hoped (am still hoping?)the nature themes and Borrower-esque Hobs would swing it for me, but a third of the way through I’m still unconvinced… I don’t hate it but I’m not loving it either.

Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury, audiobook read by Elle Newlands

I have been meaning to read this for the longest time! Charlotte and Lily both raved about it and I knew I’d love it from what they both said but somehow it’s remained languishing on the shelf. I found myself without a plan for my next audiobook and this popped to mind, a quick search and sample and I was sold – narrators really can make or break an audiobook and Elle Newlands had me from the first sentence.

I’m not far in, but I’m already hooked.

What have you just finished reading?

The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, audiobook read by Isabella Star La Blanc

This was such an up and down read for me, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I did like it overall, but I had a lot of conflicting views and feelings about it. I’m going to post about it soon.

The Supreme Lie by Geraldine McCaughrean

Dark and darkly funny too, this is a sharp, witty and warm political satire, with extra dogs for those of you that like them. Full review to follow.

What will you read next?

The Vanishing Half will be my next adult read. That is all I know!

Have you read any of these?
What are you reading at the moment?

Rainbow Grey

I was lucky enough to receive a free advance copy of this in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Rainbow Grey by Laura Ellen Anderson

From the creator of the brilliant Amelia Fang comes the start of another delightful series (OK I’m being a little presumptuous there, but no way will there not be another with that ending!)

This is a feast for both the eyes and the imagination – with sprayed edges to die for, vivacious illustrations throughout and a world in the sky to get lost exploring.

Ray Grey lives in Celestia, a city in the sky, with other Weatherlings who use their weather magic TO (amongst other things) help control the Earth’s weather and defend it against storms sent by ROGUES!

Ray has no weather magic, but she doesn’t let that bother her – she’s determined to be a Earth explorer just like her hero La Blaze DeLight.

So when she finds a mysterious map marked with a suspiciously treasure-y ‘x’ she can’t resist investigating, even though its forbidden to travel to earth alone… What she finds changes everything and is the start of a thrilling adventure!

This book is such a joy to read.

Ray herself is a great main character – it’s tough sometimes, but she’s no quitter and she’s kind and caring too. Best friends Droplett and Snowden are equally loveable and loyal, and the three together make a strong central cast.

But it wouldn’t be complete without Ray’s companion, cloud cat Nim. I know Nim is going to be the star of the show here (Amy you’ll love him!) – always at Ray’s side, his explosive landings and muddled up reconfigurings bring a touch of humour and a lot of heart to the tale.

Celestia and its magic system are unique and well-drawn too; immersive and absolutely bursting with imagination, it’s simply a delight! And the fabulous illustrations really bring it to life beautifully – it sings.

There is SO much pleasure to be taken from the word play too – the names of the characters are inspired (Eddie Blizzard is my personal favourite!); the use of rhyming double-acts for the thunder and lightning Weatherlings, and the voices of the Rogues and especially of our evil villain and sidekick (sorry, definitely NOT A SIDEKICK!) mean there’s lots of fun to be had reading this aloud!

The adventure itself is thrilling – exciting and dangerous with a brilliant twist, but with plenty of pants, farts and daftness to lighten the mood and keep it playful. Perfectly pitched for younger readers!

It’s a perfect adventure for young readers who are just starting to move onto longer chapter books; the perfect introduction to MG ‘proper’!

WWW Wednesday 21/4/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

Aa predicted, being back at work has been great but also tiring and has massively slowed down my reading and blogging.

I know I’ve missed many of your posts this last week or so, and in all likelihood I might for the coming weeks too until I find a new rhythm and routine. Bear with me 🙂

So, what am I reading at the moment then?

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, audiobook read by Isabella Star La Blanc

Still! My audiobook time has been massively cut now I’m back at work so it’s taking a long time to get through this.

I’m swinging between hooked and bored with the relationship stuff with it, but every time I get a bit “ugh, enough!” something good happens to pull me back in! And I love that I can’t figure out how it’ll end – I have one piece of the puzzle predicted, although I’m hoping I’ll be wrong as I demand more twists and less predictability than that!

The Supreme Lie by Geraldine McCaughrean

Remember how I put this in my current reads last week but said I hadn’t actually started it? Well…here we are again… I have at least read the first chapter now though!

What have you just finished reading?

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I enjoyed this, though I have to admit I liked the earlier parts better than the latter. Still though, the writing was wonderful and Agnes was a great character.

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom by Dominique Valente

Another fabulous adventure for Willow and co, with some great new, places and faces! These books are such a joy to read.

Rainbow Grey by Laura Ellen Anderson

Bursting with imagination, fun and adventure as well as fabulous illustrations – young readers will LOVE this!

What’s next?

I don’t know! I am once again overwhelmed by choices! Possibly Starboard, Harklights or Once We Were Witches…

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

Picture Book and Play – There is No Dragon in this Story

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

It was Peapod’s Dad’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and Peapod’s gift ‘for’ him were some Castle building blocks, so our downstairs toy shelf has been set up for all things castles and knights and dragons and princesses since then, along with some books to tie into it all.

One Peapod has really taken a shine to is There is No Dragon in this Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright.

It’s one I really love too, so I’ve been really pleased to see him enjoying it so much!

Poor old Dragon is fed up of being the bad guy, so he sets off in search of a story he can save the day in instead!

But no one needs a dragon in their story…until some rickly feathers, one giant sneeze and a blown out sun later, a fire-breathing friend might be just what they’re looking for.

Starring all your favourite fairy tale characters alongside a very loveable dragon, with expressive, repetitive phrases that are a joy for grown ups to read aloud and little ones to join in with.

Peapod loves it when we ‘be’ Dragon asking to be in the story and let him reply as the characters, with a brilliantly pitched “No, no! That’s not how it goes! There are no dragons in this story!” and he makes an impressive giant, putting on his best deep voice for “fee fi foe” – ing with!

He wanted to act the story out this week, so he began gathering figures then we read through the book and made a list of what else we needed, before gathering it together and setting it up.

I do love a story sack or invitation to play, and sometimes I’ll do these, but usually we find the props we need together; it’s a good way to get some writing in and I find it helps with both his engagement, imagination and independence. Also – less advance prep needed from me!

All set up, we acted it out and used a dark cloth to cover everything when the sun goes out. Peapod loved peeking under it and having it put on him to be in the dark.

However, our cloth kept knocking all the characters over so we popped them under his tri-climb instead – perfect!

We also made our own dragon and Peapod had a great time roaring him round the house!

Have you read this book?

What have you been reading or playing this week?

WWW Wednesday 13/4/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

First up my current reads:

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, audiobook read by Isabella Star La Blanc

I’m still enjoying this, though my listening has slowed down a lot this week. I really like the detail and background we get and the way things unfold pretty slowly – I feel like it’s really allowed me to step into it and I’m looking forward to seeing how the undercover assignment pans out…

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

This is another I picked up initially primarily for work, but I’m actually really enjoying it!

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom by Dominique Valente

I only started this yesterday but I’m loving being back with Willow and Oswin!

The Supreme Lie by Geraldine McCaughrean

I haven’t actually started this yet but it is ready and waiting to go…!

What have you just finished reading?

Grow by Luke Palmer

Sensitive, thought-provoking and moving. You can read my review here.

Rumaysa by Radiya Hafiza

People, I read it. In order to keep this positive and polite, that is all I’ll say.

What’s next?

Honestly, I don’t know! I think it will take me most of the next week if not longer to get through these so I’ll return to this question next week…!

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

Grow

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Grow by Luke Palmer, cover art by unknown, published by Firefly Press

There are a growing number of books exploring race and racism and/or extremism. For the most part, these are set in fairly multi-cultural areas and tell the stories at those suffering from prejudice, from racist behaviour and attitudes. And rightly so – they are important stories which need to be heard.

However, I was intrigued by this one coming at the issue from a slightly different angle. Set in a predominantly white British area, Grow is Josh’s story. Struggling to cope after his dad’s death in a terrorist attack, he finds himself targeted by white supremacists and is slowly sucked into a terrifying world of bullying, intimidation and fear.

The characters were really well drawn and I thought the way we are able to gradually learn more about their backgrounds and individual stories was so skilfully done, and so much of this opened up a plethora of other discussions and themes too.

At no point do you feel for the white supremacists targeting Josh, but the book does allow us to consider what has brought them to this point.

Likewise, Dana’s story is so hard to read, but so important and so sensitively told – both implicit and hard-hitting at the same time. The way it ties into the main plot works well too.

This was a really compelling but difficult read; there were so many points at which I was desperate for Josh to realise what’s going on/do something about it but it’s all too clear he won’t/can’t because of how angry or scared or stuck or ashamed he feels.

Indeed, Josh’s emotions were brilliantly depicted and never has the phrase emotional roller-coaster felt so apt.

On the surface Josh is coping well with his dad’s death, but underneath the grief is still raw and he’s unable to process it. Easily turned to anger and blame, we see him spiral through negative emotions which are fuel to the white supremacists’ grooming fire.

His growing realisation that what he’s involved with is wrong is perhaps the hardest to read – the sense of having nowhere to turn, of desperately wanting it to stop but feeling powerless and/or too scared to try to stop it.

And with good reason – there is real menace from the gang he finds himself caught up with, and the way they find a way into Josh’s life is insidious – it’s clear to see just how easy it is for this sort of thing to happen.

This is a bit pf a slow burner, but it’s characters are deep and the plot believable because of it. There’s a great twist at the end too. While I did see it coming, it took me a long time and I thought it was clever and brings an added level of tension to the closing chapters.

I also really liked the way nature and growth were used, through Dana and Josh’s Grandad’s gardening, both symbolically to reflect Josh’s journey, but also for the wider message of the benefits nature and the outdoors can have.

Overall, this is a moving book that will make you think. With themes of grief, loss, mental health, racism and pressure as well as thought-provoking social commentary, it’s one that should have a place in every secondary school library.

Picture Book and Play – Jack and the Beanstalk

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

We’ve actually not done a huge amount of anything this week after a busy Easter weekend finally being able to see family, hunting for eggs and going for walks.

So I’ve picked out a story that we return to often and some of our past play activities around it – Jack and the Beanstalk.

I’ve talked before (many times!) about the brilliant Campbell First Stories range (here or here for example). Peapod loves this edition of Jack (illustrated by Natascha Rosenberg), especially finding Jack hiding in the cupboard or chopping down the beanstalk and seeing the giant fall!

The moving parts remain a big draw and the simplified, rhyming version of the story is a great first telling for little ones.

We added the Peep Inside version to put collection too as it’s a slightly longer, more faithful version, including for example the essential “Fee Fi Fo Fum…” lines which are a must in our house! Peapod loves shouting them out when playing!

The rich illustrations and intricate cut outs of the peep through elements add a more grown up touch and make these a really attractive series to read and handle too.

I also really like the way there’s a lift-the-flap style to some of the pages and peep-inside parts, which helps retain an interactive feature that children always enjoy.

The Peep Inside books are the perfect follow on from the Campbell First Stories, and we’ll be adding lots more to our collection!

Obviously, there’s so much you could do with this story; it’s one we could (and no doubt will) return to repeatedly over the years adding in lots of different activities – planting, natural collage, painting, measuring, counting, as well as variations on what we did this time with sensory activities, role play and building/small world.

This was by far Peapod’s favourite – building the castle and beanstalk and using figures to tell the story!

He also used his climbing toys as a beanstalk – climbing up, stealing the gold and sliding down before chopping it down!

He’s been practising his cutting so we started making a giant beanstalk but he lost interest once it was time to add any leaves! Still, we cut and stuck a lovely, long, green stripe!

We made a tray using butter beans, gold coins and green covered cardboard tubes for filling, pouring, hiding, stacking, dropping…

… and building of course! It just wouldn’t have been the same of the builders and diggers didn’t get involved 😂

What have you been reading and playing this week?

MG Takes on Thursday – Songs of Magic

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

I’m cheating again this week (is there even a week when I don’t?!) and I’ve picked two books:

A Darkness of Dragons and A Vanishing of Griffins, Books one and two in the Songs of Magic trilogy by SA Patrick. Cover art by George Ermos. Published by Usborne.

I had A Darkness of Dragons waiting for an embarrassing amount of time. The only good thing about this is the fact that it meant I could go straight onto A Vanishing of Griffins when I finished it. (Only now I’m left desperate for book three with at least a year to wait!)

I love (almost) any book which draws on fairy or folk tales, so I was really drawn to the way this used the story of the Pied Piper as its base. And it works so well – all at once we have a brilliant take on a classic tale; a fantastically dark, powerful and mysterious villain; and a unique and believable magic system.

Our main characters – Patch, Wren and Barver – make an interesting and loveable central trio who find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly thrown together, but quickly develop strong bonds and an unshakeable loyalty.

Together, they set out to find and stop the villainous Piper, but each with their own journey to make too. The way in which their individual stories unfold and develop is woven into the main plot expertly, and with so many twists and unexpected turns, just when you think they’ve reached their goal, another obstacle appears, another mission is required or another chain of events set in motion.

No quest would be complete without a whole host of interesting characters met along the way, and that is certainly the case here – from noble to untrustworthy to those you can’t quite place; from sorcerers to witches to pipers in hiding and cut-throat pirates; from respectful and respectable elders to power-hungry leaders to, of course, a seemingly unstoppable enemy.

This is a fantastic adventure series, with breathtaking journeys through some well-imagined and depicted places (I am especially intrigued about where our story will pick up in book three!) Full of magic, friendship and excitement – highly recommended!

My favourite quote from page 11 (of A Darkness of Dragons) :

He thought for a moment, but all that came was that terrible, dark wall through the forest, one step after another with no end. His eyes widened.” I don’t even remember my own name!”

These books in three words:

Magic. Quest. Adventure.