Peapod’s Picks – A Collection of Cobb

We were lucky enough to win this collection of books from the publishers. Opinions and views are all my own.

We are brand new to Rebecca Cobb’s books, so were thrilled to win this copy of her new book ‘Hello Friend!’ along with some of her other books.

We loved all of them. The everyday situations are familiar and are written and illustrated with warmth and humour.

It’s a testament to how highly we rated them that, while I normally take one photo of a spread from the book, I found myself taking loads of each book, unable to choose which part I wanted to share most, which we liked best or thought funniest or cleverest!

Hello Friend!

Perfect for reading in those first few weeks at school or nursery (though it is emphatically not a starting school book and would be just as enjoyable at other times too) this is a book full of heart.

We see a lovely, confident little girl take a (rather uncertain) boy under her wing. Her efforts to include him, cheer him, share with him and help him – in short, to befriend him – are written written with wit, insight (as a former teacher, I had to smile as the characters were so real!) and care.

The ending is wonderful too and made me smile and smile.

Aunt Amelia

Reminiscent of Jill Murphy’s skills at depicting family life, there’s an understated, observational style to this which will resonate with parents/carers.

Aunt Amelia has come to babysit and the children aren’t happy…at first! We see her carefully *ahem* following Mum and Dad’s (very sensible) instructions…

I have very fond memories of staying up too late colouring and playing with my aunt when she babysat, and of being plied with treats whenever I stayed at my grandma’s.

This book sums up brilliantly those unspoken rules of babysitting – that any actual rules will be ignored and fun will be had, treats will be eaten and bedtime will be late, then everyone will pretend otherwise in a rather knowing way the next day. Funny and perfect for that first night away from young children.

It’s lunchtime but our young protagonist is just too busy to eat! Mum insists. Luckily for our rather cross little heroine, interrupted at her work, some rather fierce looking creatures turn up to eat it for her.

There’s a few reviews pitching this as perfect for fussy eaters. I don’t have one of those (at least not yet 🤞) but I’d say it’s less a book to teach children about eating and more of a much-needed reminder to grown ups about the power of imagination, time and creativity.

Like Lunchtime, this is a story fuelled by and showcasing splendidly the power of imagination.

When a ball falls down a random hole in the garden, everyone speculates about what could be down there – from mice to moles to dragons!

This woukd be a great book to start imaginative play or conversation. Even Peapod’s dad and I were sat debating what it might be after we’d finished reading it for bedtime!

The other thing I liked about this was that dad was shown doing the washing and being a bit frightened of frogs while mum was busy having a good look. It’s small, incidental things like this addressing inequality/misconceptions/stereotypes etc that I love to see and prefer to the all singing, all dancing books *about* it (though of course there’s a place for those too!)

This is a book of imagination, of possibility, of what ifs. It is magical and I absolutely loved it.

So did Peapod!

In short, these books were the best surprise. I’d expected to read them, quite like them/think they were sweet and pop them on the shelf for another day…but they were just fab and have really stayed with me.

Rebecca Cobb is an unsung talent and a firm new favourite in our house.


Peapod’s Picks – Billy

It’s a briefer than usual Peapod’s Picks this week as I try to fathom a new routine around work.

And this is really more of a Mum Picks. But Peapod did enjoy it too when we read it at bedtime last night, so I’ll take that!

But before we get to that, let’s go back to last year and this absolute gem:

Billy and the Beast by Nadia Shireen

I thought I’d reviewed this at the time, but it’s either vanished, my search bar is failing me or somehow I never did. But we loved this book and have since given it to every child we know as their birthdays or Christmas rolled around.

Billy and Fat Cat set off on a walk through the wood only to find their friends are missing. They son discover a terrible beast is planning to eat them up, and must find a way to save them!

Billy is an absolutely brilliant character, not to mention a clever, brave, takes-no-bullshit, BAME girl. Her Mary Poppins bag of a hair do is genius, there’s nothing she can’t did out of it when needed – donuts for Fat Cat (her permanently hungry, grumpy but loveable sidekick), or pine cones, crayons, feather dusters and masks for saving the day with.

The tone of the text and expressive illustrations are wonderful, and mean you will enjoy this as much as kids do, even on the twenty billionth read. The imagination behind Billy’s plans is fab and Fat Cat is just ace.

Fast forward to yesterday again and behold…

Billy and the Dragon by Nadia Shireen

This appeared on my shelving trolley at work yesterday to my delight! Needless to say, I snapped it up before it came close to a shelf (but only after reading it, chuckling to myself first!)

This has all the daring, deadpan drama and humour of the first, but this time with added dragon and dressing ups – yessss!

With echoes of ‘Where’s My Teddy?’, Fat Cat, while (begrudgingly) dressed as a dragon is snatched from the fancy dress party (I love, love, LOVED that Billy was a Knight – genius on do many levels!) by a real dragon so Billy and her (rather less willing) friends set out to save him…only to find its all just a bit of a mix up. Phew!

Fat Cat is grumpier than ever, Billy is braver and smarter than ever (and has her trusty stash of useful stuff on hand in her hair again of course!) and their woodland mates are back too – hurrah!

Just as fantastic as the first book, I cannot wait for our Billy and the Dragon fancy dress storytime in work over the summer now!

Library Love 28/6/19

Library Love is a new regular post with short reviews of the picture books we choose from the library each week.

There may be a bit of stop-starting and moving about of Library Love over the coming couple of weeks as we settle into a nursery and work routine and figure out where library trips best fit into it all – please bear with us!

What we took back

  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman I’ve written before about how much I love Karma Wilson’a Bear books, so I was pleased to find this one we’d not read. Just as lovely as all the others, with nods to sharing, friendship and giving what you can not necessarily the same as everyone else. A lovely, warm, rhyming tale. I’ll be buying all of these, though they sadly seem to be out of print so I need to get them second hand.

  • The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman. Firmly rooted in the everyday and familiar lives of children, this is a fun example of imaginative yet relatable storytelling and testament to Allan Ahlberg’s skill as a children’s writer. I won’t buy it now, but I’d re-read and and would happily buy it if Peapod wanted it further down the line.

  • Twoo Twit by Kes Gray and Mary McQuillan Mixed reactions with this one. Peapod seemed to enjoy it, as we had to read it twice, his Dad wasn’t overly keen and I loved the beginning and some of the names used (affectionately I’d hoped) for poor old Twoo Twit – mushroom bonce being my favourite. Though I wasn’t keen on the end. Twoo Twit’s neighbours seemed unnecessarily unkind and I wasn’t convinced by his about turn of character. That said, I’ve ordered a second hand copy just for “mushroom bonce”.

  • Hide and Seek by Il Sung Na We loved the way the colours mix, run and blend in the illustrations, which suit the chameleon’s starring role perfectly. He suggests a game of hide and seek, so there’s both counting and hunting on offer as we search for the chameleon on each page as the other animals are all found. This was lovely and I’ll probably get a copy.

  • #Goldilocks – A Cautionary Tale by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross You only have to look back at my thoughts on the other books from this duo to know I’d have high hopes here. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to them. This is part of a series of 3 books helping children understand online safety and I can definitely see this working, especially in schools, in helping children negotiate the pros and cons and safe use of the Internet/social media sonin that respect it serves its purpose well. The humorous rhyme is as well-written as you’d expect from Jeanne Willis, and Tony Ross’ illustrations are in his usual funny style. It just didn’t do it for us as a bedtime story.

What we took out

Nothing! We haven’t had chance to get back to the library to choose new books yet this week, with nursery settling in taking over. Not sure what will happen next week either, so we may well have a week away from Library Love, but it’ll be back once we’re settled into our new routine!

What do you think of our choices? Have you read any of them?

Have you been to the library recently?

Library Love 21/6/19

Library Love is a new regular post with short reviews of the picture books we choose from the library each week.

There may be a bit of stop-starting and moving about of Library Love over the coming couple of weeks as we settle into a nursery and work routine and figure out where library trips best fit into it all – please bear with us!

What we took back

  • The World-Famous Cheese Shop Break In by Sean Taylor and Hannah Shaw A family of rats are on a mission to break into the fancy pants cheese shop, but they don’t make the best burglars. After several failed attempts, they hit upon a new plan. Honestly, this wasn’t really for me. The Dad rat is called Daddypops which really grated on us and while the story started well, I couldn’t get on with ending. I did like the lively illustrations (there’s definitely something a bit Pesky Rat about these rodents) and I’d read it again if Peapod chose it, but otherwise I’d give it a miss.

  • Kiss the Crocodile by Sean Taylor and Ben Mantle. This was the second Sean Taylor book we borrowed, albeit accidentally (we hadn’t realised Cheese Shop was by him too). This is one I’d been meaning to read so was pleased when we found it. Three friends play lots of different games until one day little crocodile wants to join in with his favourite game of kiss the crocodile. There was lots to like – I thought the illustrations were lovely, fun and full of character and I thought the way the suspense was built and built as the friends dared to kiss the crocodile was fantastic. Overall though, I can’t lie, I think I’d have liked a darker, more surprising or subversive ending. It was all a bit too nice. One I’d happily read again if asked but won’t be rushing out to buy.

  • Oddly by Joyce Dunbar and Patrick Benson Three creatures wondering who, what and where they are are surprised by the arrival of an upset little boy who provokes more questions about life and love and feelings and family. I had high hopes for this one, the creatures were, as the title suggests, odd and I liked them, but honestly it felt like it was trying a bit too hard. It drew heavily on Where the Wild Things Are, but lacked the subtlety, the unanswered questions, the darkness and the magic. I’ll stick to Where the Wild Things Are.

  • Poles Apart by Jeanne Willis and Jarvis I liked this one a lot more (you’ll be relieved to hear!) A family of penguins set out for a picnic, only to end up at the other end of the world! Mr White, a very wise polar bear (“Don’t think of it as a mistake. Think of it as a big adventure.”) agrees to help them home, but they stop for adventures on various countries on the way. With lots of repetition, humour, a sense of place which should not be taken too seriously, and a very satisfying ending children will love this is a very enjoyable story that I might buy and would definitely read again.

  • Little Owl’s Orange Scarf Peapod’s Dad wasn’t taken with this, but what foes he know?! I loved it, definitely my pick of the week and one I’ll buy. Little Owl’s mum has given him a scarf. He’s not keen and does his best to misplace it. Understated text with simple but expressive illustrations, this is a warm and humorous story that will no doubt ring true to many a parent, with a gentle and well-pitched message of give and take.

What we took out

What do you think of our choices? Have you read any of them?

Have you been to the library recently?

Library Love 17/5/19

Library Love is a new regular (ok, as regular as my posts ever are) post with short reviews of the picture books we choose from the library each week.

Our Twinkleboost story at the library this week was Aladdin. I think you can definitely say it was the abridged, adapted, rewrite! But Peapod had a nice time.

Then we swapped our books.

What we took back

  • The Tickle Ghost by Brett McKee and David McKee David McKee (Not Now Bernard, Mr Benn, Elmer) has illustrated this and the illustrations are unquestionably his. Sadly, the story is not. Dad is playing at bedtime. Mum gets in a nark about it all. Comes up to have a go and do it herself. Ends up being won over. I didn’t get on with this. I mean, I probably *am* that mum, and it was probably written based on their own sons bedtimes, but it just felt so stereotypical and…clunky. One to pass on.
  • Pig and Small by Alex Latimer So, there’s a long and convoluted story as to why we picked this up and why we liked the end so much. It has to do with a stuffed sock pig (Piggy) and his ceramic elephant friend (Heffalump) who live on my desk. Basically we chose this for the Pig and were tickled pig pink by the end! The story itself is quite sweet and written and illustrated with lots of humour – considering the main characters are a pig and a bug, you really invest in them! Pig and bug want to be friends but struggle to find things they can enjoy together because of their Suze difference (‘pig’ and small, geddit?!) – could it be the end of their blossoming friendship?! (spoiler alert – it’s not!) We’ll buy this one.

  • Sing a Song of Bottoms by Jeanne Willis and Adam Stower We really enjoyed this – good rhyme, great pace and lots of fun. Perfect for fans of Pants, 100 Dogs and other ‘list-of-types’ sort of books! The only bit I wasn’t so keen on was the end. Borrow regularly. I’d buy it if he likes it when he’s older.

What we took out

What do you think of our choices? Have you read any of them?

Have you been to the library recently?

Peapod’s Picks: The Pigeon

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, we’re looking at ‘the pigeon books’ by Mo Willems.

Some of you will probably be familiar with this one – it’s a classic and popular in schools too (especially when looking at persuasion with older classes – imagine that, a picture book being read to older children 😏)

For those of you who don’t know it, it begins with a bus driver addressing the reader:

Then, along comes the pigeon, and he is desperate to drive the bus!

Using every persuasive phrase and technique known to toddlers man, he cajoles, pleads, tantrums and bargains. He begs, sulks, sneaks and bribes. And as its all addressed to you, the reader, kids can have great fun being the ones to say “No!”!

Peapod’s not quite at that stage yet, but he loves listening to us read this one. Luckily, it’s as much fun to read as it is to listen to (it’d be a great one for older children to try out changing their tone, expression, pitch etc while reading too) and it’s only quite short, so bears repeated reads well!

He even rooted past the toys in the basket to get to the book at the back and bring it out to read!

That’s my boy!

When I went off work on mat leave, my amazing colleagues (who know me and my love of this book so well – special tip of the hat to Michelle and Brian) got me this pigeon as part of my pressie. It actually shouts “Let me drive the bus!”

He let him drive the bus!!

Anyway, we recently found out there were others in the series (and I call myself a kids bookseller! For shame!) We’ve had The Pigeon Needs a Bath for ages but only just found out about/ got hold of the others.

They all follow a similar pattern – the pigeon either wants or doesn’t want something and employs his best persuasive techniques to get his way.

Hot dog and cookie move away from the mould without entirely breaking it, offering insight into Pigeon’s thoughts on sharing and fairness as well as introducing us to Duckling, who is a great character and a perfect counter to Pigeon.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! is hilarious. It’s a perfect picture of injustice as seen through the eyes of a tiddly one, and the twist at the end is brilliant.

Peapod’s Dad likes The Pigeon Needs a Bath and if you’ve ever needed to bath a reluctant child, you’ll likely appreciate it too. Likewise, any of you who’ve ever been around a small child at bedtime can’t fail to smile as familiar argument after charming phrase is played out in Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late.

We love these books. They are SO funny and have such a fantastic understanding of children at their heart! (I recently learned that Mo Willems worked on Sesame Street and it suddenly all made sense).

If you haven’t read these yet, start with Bus – you won’t regret it!

We saw this sign randomly hanging in a pub a couple of years ago. It still both baffles and amuses me!

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?