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.

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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?

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?

Peapod’s Picks/Kids Love to Read

Some of you will know that on a Friday (or more frequently recently, a Saturday – just like to keep you on your toes) I usually post ‘Peapod’s Picks’ – a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read for his bedtime story each week plus a review of at least one of them.

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

However on Monday I came across the Kids Love to Read (KLTR) link up on both Book Bairn and Acorn Books blogs so I’m doubling up this week to join in with that too!

With that in mind, I thought I’d kick off our KLTR posts (we hope to join in every month!) with a Q&A of sorts as an intro to us and our reading, rather than our usual round up and review – back to usual next week!

Introduce yourself and your chid(ren)

I’m Rachael. I’ve been a children’s bookseller for just over 2 years and before that I spent 8 years teaching early years and key stage 1. ‘Peapod’ is a six month old boy – he’s really easy going and desperate to be on the move! Peapod’s Dad also reads lots with us.

Did you enjoy reading as a child?

Yes! I could read before I started school and have always been a big reader.

Why? Or why not? (and if not, what changed?)

I think there were so many factors – talk, pretend play, books and stories at home…weekly trips to the library with the loveliest librarians…a school which nurtured my bookish side and encouraged my love of both reading and especially writing stories…

I’m short, being surrounded by reading, readers, books and imagination made me a reader.

What were your favourite books as a child?

This list could go on forever, but I’ll just choose a couple of picture books since that’s what Peapod Picks is about:

On the Way Home by Jill Murphy

Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski

The Timbuctoo books by Roger Hargreaves

Hedgehog and Mouse books by Gilly Meredith

And I’m counting this since my mum and I ADORE it and, although I had the chapter book version, is now available as a picture book too –

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson

What are your favourite picture/children’s books to read aloud now?

I’m not sure we have any favourites yet – Peapod is still too young to want anything on repeat! But I love anything by Barnett and Klassen, especially Triangle.

Daddy and I both find anything that needs voices doing hilarious – cavemen and pirates are apparently our favourites despite being awful at them!

You can’t beat a decent bit of rhyme and rhythm in a read aloud – I love Pants/More Pants by Giles Andreae and Nick Sharratt or 100 Dogs by Michael Whaite for this.

Or anything that makes us laugh – the Oi! books by Kes Gray and Jim Field, Simon Philip’s books You Must Bring a Hat and I Really Want The Cake or John Bond’s Mini Rabbit Not Lost spring to mind.

When do you read – for yourself or with your kids?

I read whenever I can find the time! Usually I manage to squeeze a few pages in around jobs during naptime, and audiobooks during pram naps or housework naps have been a recent revelation! I manage to read a few pages most evenings too.

Peapod has a bedtime story every night and it’s my favourite time of day. The three of us snuggle up on the dark and his Dad or I alternate nightly who chooses and reads the story.

We often read a board book in the morning too before we get up for the day. The That’s Not My… books are his favourites!

On a Friday we go to storytime at our local Waterstones (it’s been a nice change attending one rather than running one!) which we always enjoy and this term we’re starting a sensory story class too – I’ll post about that soon!

He has cloth books in his toy basket and change bag and we often look at a book during the day if we’re at home too.

And finally, if you could only read one bedtime story every night for the next year, what would it be?

Ooi, such a tough one. Either Triangle by Barnett and Klassen because I don’t think I’d ever get tired of reading that or Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton because it’s such a perfectly sleepy story.

I’d love to read your answers to these questions too – blog it and link back to me or let me know in the comments!

Which picture books or bedtime stories did you read this week?

Peapod’s Picks: You’re Not a Proper Pirate, Sidney Green

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (usually for his bedtime story) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

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

This week:

I requested and received an advance copy of this free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.

You’re Not a Proper Pirate, Sidney Green by Ruth Quayle, illustrated by Deborah Allwright.

Sidney Green loves going on rip-roaring adventures with his dog, Jemima. Together, they race cars, sail all the way to Africa and build an enormous castle, complete with a moat full of crocodiles. But Captain Shipshape and his pirate band are NOT happy. They think it’s time for Sidney Green to become a Proper Pirate – right now, not “in a minute”. What will Sidney Green do?

Daddy spotted this one when we were out the other day, and luckily for him I’d been sent a copy to review!

I have to admit I’m a bit funny about pirate books, so it’s not one I’d have picked out but I did enjoy it more than I expected to.

An ode to imagination and imaginative play, this is guaranteed to bring a smile to any parent (or teacher or relative or..) who’s heard that phrase “in a minute”. Sidney is so wrapped up in his exciting adventures that everything else (including Captain Shipshape’s demands that he get pirate-ing) must wait!

The illustrations work perfectly with the text and are full of the joy and excitement a make believe adventure can bring.

There’s a great pace to it too, which as well as highlighting the impatience of Captain Shipshape, also serves really well to evoke those whirlwind “and then this happened…and you did…and I said…and then a…” stories children create.

Likewise, the way everyone sent to get Sidney ends up joining in with his adventure instead both adds humour and wonderfully captures those games that snowball, with more and more children joining and adding their ideas and voices to them!

I thought this was a cleverly written, visually appealing story that is an absolute champion of imagination and the importance of play, as well as a reminder to us grown ups to make time for play, make believe and adventure too!

I had only one small dislike, and its a personal, nit-picky and easily remedied one: the phrase ‘a rip-roaring time’. But I just substituted various other phrases and then we were all happy! It definitely wouldn’t put me off reading it again…which is a good job as it was a definite hit with both Peapod and Daddy, and we were absolutely cracking up, crying laughing trying to do pirate voices (farmer pirates anyone?!) – lots of fun!

Other pirate books we like:

What else did we read this week?

  • Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (a classic!)
  • Night Monkey, Day Monkey by Julia Donaldson and Lucy Richards
  • Mr Bump by Roger Hargreaves (Who doesn’t love the Mr Men?!)
  • Lemur Dreamer by Courtney Dicmass (I’m all about the illustrations in this one, the story itself is a bit odd, but you know…lemurs!)
  • Little Red by Bethan Woolvin (I love this series of books – read more here!)

Have you read any of these?

Do you have a pirate picture book you love?

Which picture books or bedtime stories did you read this week?