Peapod’s Picks – Spring has Sprung

It’s time for another Peapod’s Picks/KLTR mash up!

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (often, but not always, for his bedtime stories) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

This week it’s also time for another #KLTR post, hosted by Book Bairn, Acorn Books and Laura’s Lovely Blog.

This week, ahead of Easter, with the sun finally showing its face and daffodils, bluebells and tulips brightening our walks out, I thought we’d look at some of the spring-themed board books we’ve been reading.

Clockwise from left:

Ten Little Ladybirds by Melanie Gerth and Laura Huliska-Beith

A lovely rhyming, counting-down book with big bold numbers; bright, bumpy ladybirds to count or simply feel; and illustrations which fill the pages with colour.

Where’s Mr Duck by Ingela P Arrhenius

I’ve written before about this brilliant, bold, felt-flapped series – we love them. Simple, stylish and – most importantly – able to withstand a good deal of chewing and pulling!

Five Little Ducks by Yu-hsuan Huang

We love this song, which is a good job as its sung at pretty much every baby group we go to (though with so many variations on the ending!) and this book is lovely too. There’s a whole series of these from Nosy Crow and I think they’re great – simple but sturdy push and pull slides that are within the pages so can take a good bit of man-handling (Peapod’s not quite up to doing them himself yet, but he gives it a good go!). The illustrations are sunny and detailed with lots going on in the background to talk about and name. And there’s even a qr code link to a video of the song too!

Hooray for Hoppy by Tim Hopgood

I’m such a fan of Tim Hopgood’s illustration style – the textures, layers and print methods are really effective and the use of colour is stunning, something shown off brilliantly with all the flowers and rabbits here.

We enjoyed looking at it but this is one of those books that will last and last – covering the senses, spring time, seasons and nature there’s loads for older readers too! Perfect for reading before/after a springtime walk outdoors!

Are You There Little Bunny by Sam Taplin, Emily Dove and Nicola Butler

This is another lovely series for little readers, with peep through holes and tactile trails to follow with little fingers, as well as busy, bright illustrations it’s engaging and interactive but still durable (spot the recurring theme!)

On each page, there’s repetition of a phrase as we look for little bunny and think we’ve spotted him through the peephole, only to find it’s someone else when we turn over. Enjoyable now while Peapod’s little, but perfect for giggles and joining in with older little ones too.

Humphrey’s Garden by Sally Hunter

I have a real soft spot for the Humphrey’s Corner books. I can’t lie, the gender stereotyping is horrendous – lottie plays tea parties and dolls, daddy goes out to work while mums at home etc BUT I reassure myself that we have plenty of books that give balance to this and let it be – the soft, gentle and calming illustrations and familiar characters and everyday activities are still charming and we really like them.

The Secret Garden by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver

I’m a huge fan of this Baby Lit series of books. Each takes a classic and turns into a sharp and stylish primer book. Thoroughly unique and absolutely gorgeous. The Secret Garden is a flowers primer, with a quote from the book next to an image of the flowers it mentions. I love the printing technique used in this one.

Outdoors by Mel Four

You can read my review of this one here. We’re big fans of the beautiful images and the way the shiny, colourful parts contrast with the black and white.

That’s Not My… Bee/Bunny/Chick/Lamb by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells

While we love all the other books mentioned, That’s Not My… are definitely Peapod’s favourites. He LOVES this series! We have about 20 now and it’s a god job there’s so many as we read them all the time! You can read a more detailed review of them here.

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Peapod’s Picks – A dragon, a mole and a monster, a lullaby, a book and a music show.

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (often, but not always, for his bedtime stories) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

We bought all our books this week.

This week we’ve read

  • Farmer Joe and the Music Show by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees

Soon to feature in a musically themed Peapod’s Picks!

  • Pea Pod Lullaby by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King

We bought this at Christmas and I know I’ve mentioned it before, but a proper post featuring it will happen soon. Definitely.

  • Alfie and Dad by Shirley Hughes

It was Peapod’s Dad’s birthday this week so,in honour of his love of Shirley Hughes, Peapod bought him this!

  • Love Monster and the Scary Something by Rachel Bright

I’ll be honest, I’m one of the seemingly rare picture book readers/parents who’s not a huge Rachel Bright fan – too much of a message. But we really liked the original Love Monster book so tried this one too.

I really liked the start and the build up, and the ‘scary something’ but the end was all a bit too ‘typical Bright’ for my tastes!

  • It’s a Book by Lane Smith.

We all loved this one.

Jackass is fascinated by Monkey’s book – what is it? How does it tweet, scroll or charge? Monkey, in turn, is increasingly frustrated.

Sparse, well-selected text and expressive illustrations make up some of my absolute favourite picture books and this gives that box an enormous tick.

This is one of those brilliant ‘conversation’ books – deadpan, dry, very funny (with an ending adult book lovers in particular will appreciate) and great for a ‘joint read’ at bedtime.

  • Have You Seen my Blankie? by Lucy Rowland and Paula Metcalf.

I wasn’t sold on this from the title and cover, I thought it was going to be a bit cutesy (stay with me!) But Lily highly recommended it so we gave it a go and it’s BRILLIANT!

Reminiscent of Jane Hissey’s Little Bear’s Trousers, everyone has seen and used Princess Alice’s blankie but they’ve given it to… This makes for plenty of imaginative scenarios and interesting characters, leading up to the loveable and misunderstood dragon who just wanted something to help him sleep.

Determined to help, but unwilling to give away Blankie, Princess Alice takes us back through various possibilities until a solution that keeps everyone happy is found.

Written and illustrated with warmth, a touch of humour and imagination this is (as Lily quite rightly said before me) a brilliant, well-paced and expressively illustrated story of sharing, compromise and friendship.

  • Rocket Mole by Matt Carr.

I might not have picked this up if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d read and loved Spyder at storytime last year. It went down a storm with kids and parents alike and Rocket Mole is in the same vein.

It’s longer and wordier, but no less funny or engaging. Like Spyder, it’s full of puns (“it’s out of this world”, “boring” moles) which will keep adults amused as well as visual humour and a lively, fun story kids will love. It’s bright, bold, comic strip style has universal appeal.

Inspirational without being preachy or twee, this is a story which encourages you to dream big and think creatively whilst recognising the importance of friends, familiarity and sharing successes.

It has both mole and moon fact files at the end – brilliant for non-fiction fans or, conversely, perfect for those a little unfamiliar or unsure about non-fiction to dip their toes cautiously in!

Have you read any of these?

What bedtime stories did you read this week?

Peapod’s Picks – Happy Mother’s Day

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (often, but not always, for his bedtime stories) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

This week it’s some of our favourite ‘mum’ books (and I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a cheat post as most are links to previous reviews – everyone’s allowed a best bits/recap type post once in a while, especially on Mother’s Day, right?!)

A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton

Little Owl falls out of his best, but luckily Squirrel is on hand to help find the way back to mum. A classic ‘have you seen my mummy?’ story.

You can read my original review here. And if you haven’t seen Tchéky Karyo (BBC’s Baptiste) read this on CBeebies Bedtime Stories, give it a watch – the voices are first class! I’m still hoping he’ll read Chris Haughton’s other books too!

On the Way Home by Jill Murphy

Claire has a bad knee. On her way home, she meets lots of friends and tells them all exactly what happened…or does she?!

This is not strictly a very mum-ish story at all. Her mum only features on the last couple of pages and doesn’t even have a face. But even in this bit part, she’s such a mum – comforting, understanding and reassuring, all the things a mum should be, fetching Claire the very biggest plaster in the box!

You can read my original review here.

The Large Family Books by Jill Murphy

Yes, it’s another Jill Murphy, but I couldn’t possibly mention picture book mums without a huge shout out to Mrs Large!

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Large Family’s warmth, observational humour and realism and nowhere is this more evident than in Mrs Large, often harassed (Five Minutes Peace captures this perfectly!), the struggle is real but her love for those little elephants is abundantly clear – she’s my mum hero (especially when she caves in to the cake in A Piece of Cake!)

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson

Sarah, Percy and Bill wake up to find their mum gone. Sarah is reassuring – convincing herself as much as her brothers that mum will be back, Percy is doubtfully reassured, and Bill…well, Bill just wants his mummy!

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, I know but it’s a favourite and it’s probably the book that resonates most with me, as I definitely have a Bill! This is a go-to bedtime story when we’re having a particularly clingy time (resulting in us reading it most weeks!)

Happy Mother’s Day to you if you’re celebrating!

Do you have any favourite picture book mums?!

Peapod’s Picks/KLTR – Classic Collection #1

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (often, but not always, for his bedtime stories) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

This week it’s also time for another #KLTR post, hosted by Book Bairn, Acorn Books and Laura’s Lovely Blog.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Peapod has really taken to his Hungry Caterpillar toy this week, he’s been commando-ing over to get it from the shelf and playing with it loads, so of course we’ve been reading it loads too!

Our only copy was this one:

It’s absolute treasure – it was mine and my sister’s when we were little. It also still has mum’s name inside from when she used it in school teaching, which is then semi-crossed out and replaced by mine from when I did the same.

So, we will keep it and read it too, but I wanted a more durable one for him to enjoy (read: eat) too, so we bought the board book version too.

It’s been a big hit already. To say he’s turning the pages would be a huge exaggeration but it’s lovely seeing him flip through the fruits and open and close it…in between chews of course!

When we bought it, I couldn’t resist getting the finger puppet book too. And I’m really glad we did – it’s a board book too so ticks all the handling/chewing/chucking boxes and he loves the caterpillar puppet (you guessed it, mostly he loves chewing it!). I really like that it’s a simple 1-5 counting primer using the fruit from the story but with added description – juicy oranges, tart plums etc – which makes it more interesting to read and will add to its longevity.

He’s had the cloth book for a while but has been looking at that more this week too. I love how soft and light it is – nice to hold and feel, chewable, hard to damage and even more hard to damage himself with! He also really likes grabbing the caterpillar’s head on the front!

Buying this in board book format made me think about which others we should have like this too. Obviously there’ll be those books that become favourites as he grows that we might choose to get, but I’m going to get some ‘classics’ too.

Which classic (or newer!) picture books would you add to his board book collection?

Peapod’s Picks – A Brilliant New Book Haul!

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (often, but not always, for his bedtime stories) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

We have had a bumper haul of brilliant new books recently, so thought we’d share these with you today. (It’s a long one because we loved them all so much – sorry!)

Dinosaur Department Store by Richard Merritt and Lily Murray

Eliza Jane wants a REAL dinosaur for her birthday, so a trip to the Dinosaur Department Store is in order…

This is the only book we bought where the author and illustrator were new to me, but they’re definitely ones we’ll be keeping our eyes on in the future!

I think it’s fair to say Eliza Jane is a handful! She’s a great main character – fiery, fun and full of confidence, this is a girl who knows what she wants and most importantly, how to get it – we loved how the story ended (and the lead up to it in the illustrations throughout!)

This book has huge appeal on so many other levels too.

Its a must-read for Dino fans with wonderful descriptions and illustrations of all kinds of different prehistoric pets, not just your standard fare, as well as a handy pronunciation guide at the back (I don’t know about you but I am awful at knowing how to say dinosaurs’ names!)

The illustrations are beautifully bright and colourful, with a touch of magic in simultaneously making the dinosaurs fairly realistic and utterly absurd (bowler hats and bow ties, hot dogs and stargazing, not to mention the glam rock theropods!)Absolutely fantastic.

The story itself zips along with enjoyable rhythm and rhyme and LOADS of exciting and interesting vocabulary and opportunities for expression and ‘sound effects’ when reading aloud.

In short – brilliant.

Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Most of you will already know how much I love these books. I was so excited for this one that we read it on the bus home from the shop (and again when we got home, and again at bedtime, and…)

Circle was definitely worth the wait!

I never fail to be amazed at the depth and expression in Klassen’s illustrations considering the limited pallette and facial features. Indeed there are several double pages that are dark save for eyes yet they say so much – there’s not many books that could get away with that!

Likewise, the text is carefully considered and had us cracking up.

Just as dry and funny as the first two books – Circle has retained her cool, Triangle is as sneaky as ever and Square is still, well, square.

And surely with that ending there’s a glimmer of hope that we’ll see these guys again?!

The Steves by Morag Hood

Meet Steve. And, erm, Steve. This book ain’t big enough for the both of them!

Aside from giving me a Sparks earworm every time I read the back cover, I love this!

Morag Hood is fast becoming one of my favourite, favourite picture book authors – if you don’t know her other books either, I highly recommend rectifying that!

The Steves is hilarious. And it has puffins in and I love puffins.

With bold, print-like illustrations against bright but plain backgrounds, the illustrations really pop off the page and with nothing else going on you can really home in on the expressions and body language of The Steves which capture their feelings perfectly.

The text is simple and short and all the more effective for it – it has all the energy and exuberance of a child’s sulky strop!

And it’s fantastic for reading aloud – even better if there’s two of you to do it (Daddy and I read this one jointly for bedtime, each taking on the role of a Steve and it was great fun! We laughed a lot!)

Loved it! (And I’ll be sending a copy to my friend Uno, another Rachael, to whom I am Dos…!)

In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon by Frann Preston-Gannon

Frog is singing in the swamp one night, but singing alone isn’t much fun so he heads off to find others to join his swampy-song!

Perfect for anyone who ever played the triangle at school, this is the tale of Frog’s search for all the sounds of the swamp to make his song complete. He has a crocodile and mice, fish and birds but something’s still missing – it couldn’t be the tiny firefly who thinks their song isn’t good enough though, could it?

It’s quite different to Frann Preston-Gannon’s other books (I think) but no less charming. The illustrations are immersive and it feels like a lazy, summer evening.

A lovely, lyrical, rhythmic book with plenty of repetition that children (ok, not Peapod just yet!) will love to join in with and which lends itself brilliantly to inspiring other musical activities!

Have you read any of these?

What picture books/bedtime stories have you enjoyed this week?

Peapod’s Picks – World Book Day

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (often, but not always, for his bedtime stories) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

Unless you live under a rock (ok, or you don’t have kids or read kids’ books) you’ll know that this Thursday was World Book Day, so it’s a WBD themed Peapod’s Picks this week.

Peapod had a very early start on Thursday so Daddy got up with him while I had “5 more minutes” (half an hour!) So he’s already kicked off his WBD reading with a couple of books before I even got up.

Can you guess who I am in my previous bookish outfits?!

Between teaching then bookselling, this is the first year in over 10 years that I’ve not been dressed up and running something for World Book Day! The whole dressing up thing could be a post all of its own but debates aside, I love an excuse to dress up so I was very disappointed to be missing the WBD costume action this year!

And the worst part is…I didn’t need to! We found out last minute that the lovely Heidi at Waterstones Trafford was doing a story session that we could have dressed up for but I couldn’t very well dress myself up and not Peapod, so we settled for a book dress for me and a Gruffalo top and trousers for him!

We had a lovely time listening to Mini Rabbit Not Lost (which we love) and Heidi has brought lots of extra props to make it a multi-sensory story which was a great idea and really added to the fun. We sang some nursery rhymes then headed home, leaving older little readers making playdough cakes for Mini Rabbit!

We’d already bought our books the day before. I was really happy with the selection this year – some top quality authors (not a celebrity in sight!) and a better age range too, with teen books back in the £1/free selection too.

Our World Book Day books.

We were most looking forward to Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty’s Ten Little Bookworms (Dad especially is a big fan of this series!) so that was our World Book Day bedtime story.

It’s every bit as good as the others in the series. Better in fact, because it’s about books and all the wonderful adventures they can take you on!

From jungles and space to aliens, robots and fairytale favourites, it’s filled with the usual dramatic and fast-paced countdown from 10, as page by page we lose a bookworm. Accompanied as ever by those bold and lively illustrations from Simon Rickerty and wonderfully energetic descriptions of sounds that beg to be read out loud, enthusiastically and noisily – perfect for little bookworms!

Cadpig and Cruella by Peter Bently and Steven Lenton has now also had a good chew read too and we really loved the illustrations in this one too.

I attempted to start Everdark by Abi Elphinstone (my own WBD choice that I’d been very much looking forward to) at naptime on Thursday but Peapod was having none of it and woke up 2 pages in! I’ve nearly finished it now though and IT’S BRILLIANT!

So that was Peapod’s first World Book Day! Next year he’ll be a bit bigger and hopefully we can do a little more, but he enjoyed the books and sharing stories and that, after all, is the point!

Did you celebrate World Book Day too?

That’s Not My…Peapod!

After quite a week (busy first half, sick second) I thought we’d do a non-bedtime Peapod Picks this week (and yes, I have moved it to Saturdays!).

Usborne’s fantastic That’s Not My… series from Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells celebrates its 20th birthday this year and it’s safe to say they’ve stood the test of time, kept up with current trends (That’s Not My Unicorn anyone?!) and are likely to still be going strong in another 20 years.

We have a mere 18 of the 55 (!!) That’s Not My… books (including a couple if Christmas ones packed away in our christmas book box) We were given several second hand by a friend before Peapod was born, and I was already a fan so we’ve been gradually adding to our collection too.

3 month old Peapod reading That’s Not My Bee.

We’ve been reading these since he was tiny and they are a firm favourite. He has always loved feeling the different textures and the big, bright, bold illustrations.

Now he’s a bit older, he’s starting to smile when he hears our, by now familiar, “That’s not my…” begin and we can play games looking for his ears/nose/feet etc as we read.

I’m a big fan of the use of the deceptively simple ‘No, it’s “part” is too “adjective”!’ response alongside the feely pages too – what better way to aid understanding and language development as he grows? He already giggles as we ask silly questions like “are your cheeks fluffy?!” and give them a squeeze or a tickle ‘to check’!

There’s also the background illustrations to talk about – whilst simple, there’s still always one or two things to spot, count or name (bugs, shells or plants for example).

And of course there’s the mouse! The mouse appears on every page (does he own all these creatures?) and will be fun to spot when Peapod’s bigger.

Likewise, as he gets older, it’ll be nice when he starts to join in with the repetition and we can talk more about the colours, textures, animals.

He was particularly taken with the sheer sparkle of this 20th anniversary edition of That’s Not My Mermaid – sprayed shiny edges, sparkly tails and jewels plus a mirror (spoiler – there’s an actual mirror at the end!) and it is winning! You can’t beat a mirror in a baby book!

So, you can see (though I can’t imagine you didn’t already know!) just how much there is to get out of these seemingly similar, repetitive books. I can’t lie – I’m aiming to collect them all before he out grows them, but with so much mileage in them, I think I stand a pretty good chance!

We were lucky enough to request and receive a celebratory edition of That’s Not My Mermaid for free, in exchange for an honest review.

All views are our own (we really do LOVE this series!)