Peapod’s Picks 20/1/21

Our weekly round up of (mostly bedtime) reads!

It’s been a week of classic characters here…


Peapod absolutely loved Dogger’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes when we read it as part of our Book Advent, but I couldn’t find my copy of the original…


I finally ordered it, along with This Is the Bear by Sarah Hays and Helen Craig, as he loved seeing Dogger being rescued from the bin just before the bin men came in Dogger’s Christmas, and its safe to say they’ve both proved huge hits.


I think his Dad and I could recite This is the Bear in our sleep now and I’m in a constant loop of “be[ing] the little girl mama” acting out the end of Dogger during almost every waking moment.


We could probably also recite Paddington by Michael Bond now as well, as this is a perennial favourite that rejoins our bedtime basket often. It’s back on the nightly reads and I’ve ordered a couple of new Paddington stories in an attempt to branch out…!

He’s been enjoying Kipper’s Toybox by Mick Inkpen for a while too, so he chose a couple of new Kipper books which arrived this week too. We’ve only read Kipper’s Monster so far, but that’s gone down well!

Peapod’s Picks 14/1/21

The first Peapod’s Picks of the year, and the first of the new, shorter version!

Here’s his favourite bedtime reads from the last couple of weeks:

More Mog books by the wonderful Judith Kerr – he got these for Christmas and has loved them. Mog is a firm favourite in our house, as is The Tiger Who Came to Tea which is pretty much always in the mix and which he can pretty much tell himself now!

Morag Hood’s Spaghetti Hunters has been read closely at least twice a night and is our choice for Picture Book and Play this Saturday so watch this space for more on that!

Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen and Kipper’s Toybox by Mick Inkpen were happily added to the mix after Peapod loved the snakes in the spaghetti and I desperately (but pretty unsuccessfully) tried to find other books we had with snakes in – anyone got any good picture books featuring snakes?! They are both likely to feature in PB&P in the coming weeks too.

It might be a very

Peapod’s Picks – Picture Book and Play Saturdays

As ever at this time of year, I’m tweaking and rethinking the little details and whats, hows and whens of the blog.

One of the things I’m planning to try is a shorter Peapod’s Picks – making it almost just a weekly list of the main books we’ve read rather than reviews of them all, but with this new weekly post ‘Picture Book and Play’ focusing in on one of the books he’s got hooked on and ways we’ve used it in our play.

I ummed and ah-ed doing it – I don’t want this to become some glossy-seeming, unrealistic, pinterest-parenting blog after all! Especially not when I spend most of most days convinced I’m failing.

Many of my most regular readers are all about the MG not picture books, so I worry it’s going to be irrelevant too.

And it is a book blog, not an early years or childcare blog, so does this really have a place?

Well, ‘I hope so’ is essentially the answer I ended up with!

This blog began as a personal way to record my reading, and then by extension Peapod’s. I’m enormously grateful to have been welcomed into the book blogging community, a more supportive and friendlier bunch I couldn’t ask for. But primarily, I need to remember that the blog is my space, our reading memories, and these activities are big parts of that in our house.

Peapod loves stories. He loves acting them out and retelling them, referring to them in our day to day happenings and in his play, and so much of what we do comes back to them.

And in the last 6+ months especially, as naps have disappeared, toddler groups been cancelled, visits to/from friends and family halted and – most recently – nursery hours reduced, I’ve found myself using stories as a stimulus for our play more and more.

So, I’m going for it.

Hopefully others finding themselves similarly housebound and desperately trying to keep toddlers, preschoolers and newly at-home-all-day eyfs/ks1 pupils entertained might find it useful and those of you who are really just here for the MG and/or some good old blogger support will at least get a smile out of it!

We’ll post a Picture Books and Play every Saturday (or that’s the plan!) starting tomorrow.

If any of you who also read and review picture books fancy joining in with it, I’d love to see your ideas too! And I’d really like to hear all your thoughts (good or bad, just please be kind!) on the posts as we get going too.

Happy New Reading Year…and a return (of sorts!)

Firstly, Happy New Year to you all. I hope 2021 is positive, healthy and bookish for you wherever it can be.

As I’ve done for the last couple of years, I like to start my blogging year with a bit of a reflection on the year before and some reading goals or hopes for the year ahead.

So, I’ve been quiet/entirely absent for a while now. Sorry. I’ve not been writing posts, reading, posts, commenting or keeping up with you all as I normally would, and I’ve missed all your posts and book chat a lot, but between my work must-reads and their deadline, christmas and a toddler I found myself struggling increasingly towards the end of the year.

I’m still not feeling fully on top of things, so if my posting and visiting continues to be a bit sporadic, please bear with me. I’m hoping to be back into a routine of sorts soon.

Other than that final dip, I did pretty well with my reading goals last year.

My Goodreads challenge was 100 books, which according to Goodreads I missed by ten. However, this doesn’t include the 35 audiobooks I listened to or the two books I re-read, so I actually beat my target by 27!

I’ve switched to The StoryGraph instead of Goodreads this year (you csn find me here if you’re on there and fancy following!) but I’ve kept my Reading Challenge target set at 100. I was tempted to make it a hit higher but with all the ups and downs and stops and starts this year brought that look set to continue, I’d like to keep it achievable. (I’d also like to beat it comfortably though!)

Last year, I also aimed to read more YA and adult fiction which I did do, but want to continue to work on next year. I’ve been aiming for at least one of each a month and have achieved the adult fiction more often than YA, but that’s no bad thing – it’s more of a change to MG than YA is and I’ve really enjoyed getting back into adult fiction which I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed.

So for 2021, I’ll be continuing to aim for one adult fiction and one YA a month in amongst my MG too.

I also wanted to read some children’s classics and my audiobooks were great for helping me achieve this. Almost all of the 35 were children’s classics or modern classics.

So this year it’ll be more of the same – more kid’s classics, more YA and adult and (hopefully) more regular blogging again too.

Have you met or set any reading challenges as 2020 became 2021?

WWW Wednesday 16/12/20

I’m still frantically trying to finish everything I need to read by the end of December for work, so continued apologies for my sporadic posting, visiting, commenting etc. Normal service will resume in the new year!

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

I’m enjoying this more than I expected to and, as I embark on part 2, I am definitely intrigued to see where it goes next!

Last Lesson by James Goodhand, audiobook read by Alex Roberts

I’m not loving this but I think my overall opinion will hinge on the ending. A lot feels like it could go in one of two really obvious ways, so I’m judt hoping for something unexpected to save it. I’m liking the idea of having a main character who is pretty unlikeable but so much feels self indulgent, tired or stereotyped… I’ll reserve judgement though as I’m keen to see where it goes even if I’m not 100% invested in it yet.

What have you just finished reading?

Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy

I really loved this! I will review at some point…!

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Froxfield

This was a hit of nostalgia in many ways, taking me back to my adolescent Point Horror addiction. In that resort, it was a quick, easy and fu read that I know younger me would have enjoyed. That said, I’m no longer younger me and I definitely enjoyed it more for the Point Horror feel tan anything else and I wasn’t 100% sold on the ending.

What will you read next?

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann – This will be my next audiobook (of I ever finish Last Lesson!)

The Wolf Road by Richard Lambert – I’m looking forward to this as my next physical book.

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

WWW Wednesday 8/12/20

I missed last week’s WWW amidst the hustle and bustle of reopening after lockdown to Christmas craziness, and both posts and comments to you all are sporadic as I go into panic mode trying to read everything I need to for work by my January deadline! So apologies if I’m less present than usual!

But here’s what I’ve been reading since I last posted a WWW…

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy

I am absolutely loving this! History, magic, intrigue – it’s rich and atmospheric and brilliant!

Last Lesson by James Goodhand, audiobook read by Alex Roberts

I’m not loving this but I think my overall opinion will hinge on the ending. A lot feels like it could go in one of two really obvious ways, so I’m judt hoping for something unexpected to save it. I’m liking the idea of having a main character who is pretty unlikeable but so much feels self indulgent, tired or stereotyped… I’ll reserve judgement though as I’m keen to see where it goes even if I’m not 100% invested in it yet.

What have you just finished reading?

Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm

I admit I had reservations about this, but I ended up really enjoying it. My review is here.

That Time i Got Kidnapped by Tom Mitchell audiobook read by Jot Davies

Not my usual fare, but a welcome and enjoyable addition that injects some humour to the current teen offerings.

The Space We’re In by Katya Balen

I loved this. It utterly broke me. Review to follow.

Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

This was pretty good, though it didn’t blow me away, but a bit like That Time i got Kidnapped it was good to read something a bit different. I liked the concept and the setting, tension and horror were well written. I wasn’t sold on the ending though.

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando

It took me a, while to get really into this, and I HATED the use of ‘wot’ throughout. But I really liked Nate and Megan, as well as the fact that it’s set near me and I thought it took on a sensitive subject well. Perfect for fans of Patrice Lawrence.

What will you read next?

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann – I love a verse novel so I’ve high hopes for this!

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

Children’s Books North Autumn 2020 Blog Tour – Sara Ogilvie and The Hospital Dog

I was so excited to be asked to join Children’s Books North’s Autumn Highlights blog tour – celebrating new books from CBN members with a tour of Northern and Scottish book blogs.

Children’s Books North aims to connect children’s book professionals living in the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Scotland. The network seeks to promote our members’ work, new books and events. Additionally, CBN is keen to bring focus on the importance of regional diversity in children’s books and the industry.

You can find Children’s Books North here on twitter or check out their website here.

The Hospital Dog Cover

The Hospital Dog © Julia Donaldson and Sara Ogilvie 2020 — Macmillan Children’s Books

For my stop on the tour, I was thrilled to be asked to share Sara Ogilvie’s work with you, having loved her illustrations in Andy Shepherd’s The Boy Who Grew Dragons books and, of course, in the book which precedes this one – Detective Dog.

Her most recent book then is a new collaboration with Donaldson – The Hospital Dog – which we were really lucky to be sent a copy of, and which Peapod has absolutely loved! You can read our review of it here.

Here’s Sara to tell you a bit more about the book and how she works…

Tell us about your new book
It’s The Hospital Dog, written by Julia Donaldson, about a friendly Dalmatian called Dot and her owner Rose, who visit sick children on the Wallaby Ward at their local hospital. While it is a standalone book it’s a companion to The Detective Dog which came out in 2016.

Julia wrote this text a few years ago, inspired by meeting a real-life hospital therapy dog and her owner. It took some time to find the space to fully work on the text in amongst other projects. I ended up doing a lot of the final illustrations during lockdown over March, April and May to meet the deadline in early summer.

The Hospital Dog © Julia Donaldson and Sara Ogilvie 2020 — Macmillan Children’s Books

Share your favourite spread/passage from the book

I think it would be the spread with Dot and Rose having a dip in the sea. Rose is definitely a woman who owns one of those old-school pink flowery swimming caps with the loose rubber petals on it.

There’s also the view into the number 78 bus window, with the standing teenagers peering at a phone. I like to bring a bit of recognisable reality into this kind of scene!

The flow of the text is also very satisfying on this spread:

After their breakfast of porridge and tea, Rose and her dog always swim in the sea.Then they hop onto bus number seventy eight, And the bus drops them off at the hospital gate.

If only real-life travel was that effortless!

What/who/where inspired this book?

Julia had first-hand experience doing a ward round with a real hospital dog, Nala and her owner Sandy, inspiring her text. What inspired me about the text, from an illustration angle, was the range of emotion to contend with through the characters – bored, crying, cross, shy, nervous. It was a good challenge to have and I was inspired by the children in the book, ultimately with the help of Dot, being brave.

When I was nearing the end of the final spreads, I got an email from Macmillan to say Julia had received a fan letter with a request from a little girl. In her letter she had asked, ‘In your hospital dog book please could there be a girl with a bald head because I have alopecia and I look beautiful’.

Coincidentally I had already sketched a little girl with a bald head in the early roughs for the Wallaby Ward spread layout. Her letter was very timely as it was the last spread I worked on, so I made sure she was more prominently at the front, with a little string of ducks.

The Hospital Dog © Julia Donaldson and Sara Ogilvie 2020 — Macmillan Children’s Books

Nominate one children’s book by a northern or Scottish creative to read this winter.

Last year I was a mentor on the Picture Hooks mentorship programme 2019. I was lucky to have illustrator Anna Gordillo as my mentee. She is from Terassa in Northern Spain…Northern but Spain! (Check out her lovely work!)

But the overall winner of Picture Hooks illustrator of the year was Helen Kellock from Glasgow (mentored by Maisie Shearring), whose work has a lively warm glow of inks, and lovely movement in the compositions. Her book, The Star in the Forest, published by Thames and Hudson, is one to watch out for.

Where do you like to draw – is there anywhere you go to for inspiration or that you know you’ll spot something interesting to draw?

When I’m not sitting in the middle of a sprawl of paper on the floor in my studio, I think the best thing is just stepping out of your front door. Then it is just all around you for the taking really. You always see characters that you could never imagine in your head – how people stand, odd clothing combo’s, aloof cats in windows, bored teenagers on street corners, etc.

I have lots of little quick drawings on the back of envelopes and receipts (if I can’t find my sketchbook in my bag fast enough), lots of little scraggy bits that I stow away in folders. Like most folk I often grab things with my phone camera when out and about, but it isn’t the same. Drawing makes me focus, take the time and see better.

Some of the people in the hospital gate illustration are drawn from little sketches made in a hospital waiting room in Newcastle.

Thank you so much to Sara for taking the time to answer our questions, and to Children’s Books North for having me take part in the tour. I’ve loved being part of it

Don’t forget to read our review of The Hospital Dog here, and check out the other stops on the tour below!

The Hospital Dog

We were lucky enough to be sent a free copy of this to read as part of our participation in Children’s Books North’s Autumn blog tour.

You can read our Q and A with illustrator Sara Ogilvie later today.

Written with the flawless rhyme and cadence you’d expect from picture book master Julia Donaldson, The Hospital Dog tells the story of Dot – a dalmatian who visits the children in Wallaby Ward at the hospital each week.

One day, after leaving, she saves one of the children from a passing car but finds herself knocked by it instead and now it’s her that needs looking after. Luckily, her friends from Wallaby Ward rally round.

Peapod helped me open this when it arrived and we’ve not stopped reading it since.

He’s been utterly taken with Dot and loves poring over Sara Ogilvie’s busy, observant images talking about what’s happening and how Dot and the children in the hospital are feeling.

Sara’s ability to portray such an array of people and emotions so clearly is wonderful; Peapod is really drawn to their faces, examining their expressions and situations. Some he names himself – “happy” or “sad” or “crying”, but I can see him really looking and considering other more nuanced expressions such as nerves, boredom or worry too.

Sara really captures everyday life brilliantly. There’s a vitality to the images and a realism to the people – they’re recognisable; they’re the people we pass on the street or sit next to on the bus, our neighbours and neighbourhoods – there’s a familiarity to the scenes and people that will appeal to young children.

Peapod has been most taken by the dramatic accident in the book, in which Dot is knocked over as she saves one of the young patients she’s been visiting when they wander into the road.

We have re-enacted this in so many ways recently (yes, that was me walking through the wood shouting “be careful Dot, there’s a car!”) and I loved seeing him yesterday, completely independently, set up his small world toys as everyone coming to visit Dot at home while she recuperates.

They say (correctly) that children learn about their world and take reassurance from both stories and play, and this book is a fine example of that.

A story about a children’s hospital ward a visiting dog and a car accident has every risk of becoming something mawkish, condescending or banal. But, of course, this doesn’t stray into anything of the sort thanks to the vibrancy and energy that Donaldson’s repetition and rhyme alongside Ogilvie’s engaging and relevant depictions of daily life bring.

Written and illustrated with gentleness, warmth and a touch of humour, this is a lovely addition to a child’s book shelves and one we’ll be returning to (along with its predecessor The Detective Dog) often.


Pop back later today to read our Q&A with illustrator Sara Ogilvie as part of the Children’s Books North blog tour!

WWW Wednesday 25/11/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm

I admit I had reservations about this. I not a sci-fi fan. But I’m about a third in and really enjoying it.

That Time i Got Kidnapped by Tom Mitchell audiobook read by Jot Davies

This isn’t my usual cup of tea either but I do think Tom Mitchell’s books have been much needed in finding something for fans of funny books to move into as they move out of MG and into teen. It may not be the sort of thing I’ll ever love but I’m glad to see it available and I’m still dying yo see how it ends!

What have you just finished reading?

Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby

I didn’t dislike this but neither did I love it. I wanted to with its mythical inspirations, and I did enjoy elements of it, especially as the real action and stories began, but I don’t know…it just felt a bit lacking in parts; I can’t quite put my finger on it but it didn’t quite do it for me.

Taylor and Rose – Secret Agents: Villains in Venice by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I really enjoyed this, and while I coukd see certain revelations and twists coming from two books ago, I didn’t mind! A great setting and an even better ending!

The Mask of Aribella by Anna Hoghton.

I didn’t think I was going to like this, but in the end I really did! And I loved the Venice setting (especially as it completely coincidentally dovetailed with my reading of Villains in Venice!)

Full review coming, hopefully later today.

What will you read next?

Up next is Katya Balen’s The Space We’re In. I really enjoyed October, October by her so I have high hopes for this.

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

WWW Wednesday 18/11/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?


Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby

I have read the prologue and nothing more so can’t really comment yet!

Taylor and Rose – Secret Agents: Villains in Venice by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I’ve only just started this, but I think it might be the best yet (despite the awful narration!)

What have you just finished reading?

A Clock of Stars: The Shadow Moth by Francesca Gibbons, illustrated by Chris Riddell


I loved this! You can read my review here.

Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray

This has been on my tbr for ages and I know lots of you loved it and expected me to as well. And I did really enjoy it, though I perhaps didn’t come away as blown away as others have. There was lots I loved, nothing really I didn’t like, but at the same time it didn’t leave me desperate for book two or yearning for it to last a bit longer the way the best books do. That all sounds very negative and it shouldn’t – I thought it was a brilliant book, it just didn’t give me the book hangover I was hoping for! You can read my review here.

Taylor and Rose – Secret Agents: Spies in St Petersburg by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

Another very enjoyable adventure in such a fun mystery series.

What will you read next?

Next up in my Believathon picks is The Mask of Aribella by Anna Hoghton.

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