Peapod’s Picks/KLTR – Bloomsbury Boards

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.

It’s a brief(ish) Peapod’s Picks this week as we’re away and I’m not organised enough to have pre-written anything!

But these board books we were kindly sent have been waiting patiently fir review fir a while and make a perfect quick-picks post!

We received these free from the publishers as part of a lovely bundle of books to share with Peapod as he gets bigger (they’ve all either been reviewed or will be in upcoming weeks!) All views are my own.

Funny Face by Nicola Smee

The toddler in the book goes through a range of emotions as he meets a bear who takes his ball in the park one day.

On one side of each double page spread is a picture of the whole scene – boy, ball and bear at various stages of their encounter – with a simple sentence explaining what is happening. On the other is a close up of the toddler’s face with just ‘happy face’ or ‘sad face’ etc.

We liked the large, simple features on the face illustrations – they clearly show how our faces change with different feelings and really drew Peapod’s attention. The story pages are great for adding some context, which is often missing from books on feelings aimed at the very young, and they give a good starting point for conversations about feelings with older children too.

Toddlers will also enjoy copying the different expressions, either straight from the page or by mimicking you. The mirror on the last page is a lovely idea – they can see themselves trying different expressions, seeing how their faces change and comparing to the faces in the pictures. The page next to the mirror has all the faces shown which is a great idea. There’s even space to stick a photo of your own which is a lovely extra touch.

My only sticking points are the inclusion of a ‘naughty face’, which didn’t sit well with me, and the age recommendation on the back for 10mths+ – undoubtedly older babies and toddlers will understand more and get more from it, but even tiny babies like looking at faces and mirrors so this could be shared much younger.

But overall this is a lovely introduction to our feelings and how we express them for little ones.

Olobob Top – Let’s Visit Big Fish’s Pond by Leigh Hodgkinson and Steve Smith

I try to stick to positive reviews only on here and so I didn’t know whether to include this one in this board book round up or not. I decided to put it in as there were things we liked, but honestly, we didn’t love it.

We did love the illustrations though. They are bright and beautiful, collage-like, poppy and fun. I loved the style and the colour obviously appealed to Peapod as he enjoyed looking at it.

We aren’t familiar with the TV programme, but found this a bit odd to read. I’m all in favour of odd books on the whole, but this didn’t work for me. I also found the way it approached comparing size to be a bit unhelpful/inaccurate at times – one of the characters declaring they’re bigger because they’re older, for example.

This is a book that’s sure to be popular with fans of the series dbd has plenty of visual appeal. It’s one we’ll continue to enjoy looking through, but we’ll talk and name and point and make up our own stories when we do.

Let’s Explore With Ted by Sophy Henn

This was undoubtedly our favourite of the three. Ted is off on an adventure around the world,each page sees him exploring somewhere new, from tall mountains to tropical jungles to slippery icebergs.

I love that on the left of each spread is Ted’s home, then on the right the place he’s decided to explore, where there’s always a little nod to his starting point – a trailing plant and sleeping plant in the kitchen before Ted heads off to find a leopard in the jungle for example. It’s a lovely celebration of make believe and imaginative play.

We also loved the ‘whole page’ flaps – sturdy and big enough for Peapod to handle and turn himself, they fold up or down to extend the page cleverly.

The text is bold and well-pitched, there’s enough of a story to make the book flow, but with repetition and description that invites older babies and Toddlers to join in – with noises actions or with the repeated “let’s explore”.

Likewise, the illustrations are really appealing and engaging. There’s enough to make an interesting scene but not too much going on. The home pages are familiar and the explorations exciting – both offering great talking points.

We really enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to sharing it with Peapod when he’s a bit older and can chat about and interact with it even more. We’ll definitely be trying some of the other Ted books by Sophy Henn.

Have you read any of these with your little ones?

Peapod’s Picks – A Suitcase, A Small Thing, Some Same Things, A Song

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 I’m sharing a few of the books we’ve read this week – two (The Suitcase and The Same But Different) I’ve bought and two (I Don’t Want To be Small and Hop Little Bunnies) we were lucky enough to be gifted by the publisher (honest opinions all our own though!)

The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

I loved Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’ first book ‘I Love You, Stick Insect’ so I’ve been very excited about this one. We bought it without opening it or reading the blurb so sure was I that I’d love this one too.

And I was right.

It’s completely different to Stick Insect, save for the fabulously free and expressive illustrations – the characters’ worries, doubts, thoughts and feelings are so clear.

The story itself though, has a more serious message – it introduces us to a tired and weary refugee at the end of his journey. It is beautifully told and not at all heavy or preachy.

This new creature has arrived with a big, old suitcase. When the animals ask what’s in it, they don’t believe the answer they’re given and sneakily break into the case to see. They then have to deal with what they find.

Throwing up questions of trust, conscience and respect, this is ultimately a story about kindness and the way we treat others. But it is also a story about the power of imagination, memory, friendship and home.

Beautifully illustrated (the ‘resolution’ scene has really stayed with me) and with echoes of Shaun Tan’s ‘The Arrival’ and Sandra Dieckmann’s ‘Leaf’, this is an evocative yet unsentimental book that every child (and adult) should read.

I Don’t Want to be Small by Laura Ellen Anderson

Along similar lines to Laura’s first picture book ‘I Don’t Want Curly Hair’, this one takes on an unhappiness with height (or lack of) and how being short is just not fair!

After explaining why it’s rubbish being small, our young protagonist throws a tantrum in which Teddy ends up in a tree. Now needing to be considerably taller to rescue Ted, they try various ways to grow taller, each only leading to some rather smelly, wet and muddy situations. However, they soon discover that it’s really not so bad after all, rescue teddy and find a new friend too!

I like that this doesn’t over simplify the feelings of not being happy with an aspect of yourself (in this case, height) – it’s not reduced to a simple ‘I wish I was bigger’ or made top funny. While it’s told with humour and warmth, the upset, unfairness and frustration of it is explored thoughtfully. Anyone who has felt like this is likely to relate and anyone who hasn’t is given plenty to think about when developing their understanding of others, our differences and feelings.

I also liked that the main character has no name, and while I’ve seen in a couple of blurbs they’re described as a ‘he’, I read it having not seen these and it struck me that they really could be either a boy or a girl. I like that we don’t need to know and/or can make up our own minds.

The Same But Different Too by Karl Newson, illustrated by Kate Hindley

I was instantly sold on Kate Hindley’s illustrations in You Must Bring a Hat (Simon Philip) and as soon as I saw them on the cover of this new book I wanted to see more!

They are lively, busy and detailed and just have a really fun style that’s full of character. There is so much going on in each image that you could pore over them daily and not get bored (always a bonus in a picture book!)

They are perfect for this book too, which shows a whole host of both children and animals in various situations demonstrating how they’re sort of the same but sort of different too!

I’ll be honest, it was the illustrations that made me pick this up. If I’d only known the title and nothing more, I might have given it a wide berth – I’m pretty hard to please when it comes to stories with morals or messages!

Fortunately I did pick it up, because it is a brilliant example of how to do this sort of book really, really well.

Written in short, fun rhyme, it makes great use of opposites and every day actions to highlight both similarities and differences in a matter of fact way that I really liked – “I am big, you are small. I am short, you are tall.”

It doesn’t feel the need to labour the point, keeping it punchy and letting the simple comparisons and images get the message across concisely, clearly but also subtly.

Sparse text with spot on rhyme and those wonderful illustrations together give a real sense of fun and humour to the story and I love the way it comes together at the end.

I really loved this and will be keeping my eyes peeled for Karl Newson’s next offering.

Hop Little Bunnies by Martha Mumford and Laura Hughes

We sing this song at nearly every one of our baby groups, so I have it hopping round my head at the best of times! This book has only added to that, but at least there’s extra verses to stop me going completely doolally!

It takes the Hop Little Bunnies song and adds to it with chick’s, ducklings, lambs and kittens, so there’s plenty of animal noises and actions to do too, as well as flaps to lift as you wake each of the animals so there’s lots of fun for little ones.

I really like the addition of a final verse where they “Shhhh!” quieten down and get ready to go back to sleep again too.

The illustrations are perfectly suited to the book and are simply alive with colour and movement. The flowers on each spread are bright and I love that, despite the loose style, they are clearly based on real varieties.

It’s a gorgeous book and one that will be going in our Spring book collection each year for definite – it is sunshine and spring in a book.

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.

Mini Monday 21/1/19

This week’s Mini Monday* features four picture books – two we were kindly sent (thank you, Bounce) and two we bought and read this week.

*I’m only halfway through and it’s turning out to be less mini, more mega – sorry!

First up, our free review copies:

The Lost Horse by Mark Nicholas

At a gallery in the city, the sculpture of a horse has disappeared. Meanwhile, in a village outside the city lives Lyra all alone…until one day a horse appears at her window!

This is a book I wasn’t sure about – little girl dreams of horse isn’t a story I’d normally go for! But the illustrations drew me in, with a unique style and unusual palette, they are detailed and expressive and complement the story well.

I also thought the ‘mystery’ of the missing horse sculpture, the two different starting points and the way the story was resolved (no spoilers here!) gave this extra depth and made it much more than a girl-dreams-of-horse story.

This would be a great book to read and use in primary classes across the curriculum, but especially to link with art/gallery visits and stories.

The Lost Property Office by Emily Rand

A little girl leaves her Teddy on the train. Luckily she and Grandpa come up with a plan to get him back!

I really warmed to the characters in this – they felt like real people, as did all the people in the background. In a similar way to Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books (though very different in style) this conjured very familiar places and faces very naturally and convincingly.

It was also good to see a BAME family as main CHARACTERS without that being a focal point of the book, and to see an urban setting too.

My absolute favourite thing about this though was the illustrations, which I loved. With a collage style, they were full of colour, shape and texture. And on each of the spreads (especially the ‘lost property’ ones), there’s so many different things to spot, find, talk about and notice – it’ll never get boring! One of those books you’ll see something new in every time.

Top marks for this one, we really enjoyed it and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more written or illustrated by Emily Rand.

And onto the books we bought…

Octopants by Suzy Senior and illustrated by Claire Powell

There’s all-in-ones for urchins and slipper socks for eels, but will Octopus ever be able to find a pair of pants?

I hadn’t heard of this one, but it caught my eye on a trip into work last week, so we picked it up straight away – it had an octopus and pants, what’s not to like?!

Delightfully silly, bright and fun, this rhyming story was thoroughly enjoyable, with lots of laughs and a pleasing twist at the end.

I’ll be buying more copies as presents for friends’ little ones as I know it’ll go down a treat with them too.

We Eat Bananas by Katie Abey

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All the animals are eating their favourite foods in their own hilarious way. We Eat Bananas invites children to choose their favourite foods and how they like to eat them across 12 spreads, packed with animals eating bananas, soup, sandwiches, sausages, ice cream, vegetables, spaghetti and more.

I wrote here about how much I loved Katie Abey’s first offering ‘We Wear Pants’ (yes, I have a thing about pants stories…) so when I spotted this on the table after storytime the other day I positively jumped for joy. We snapped it up!

Just as funny and fun as the first, and filled to bursting with animals doing all manner of unusual things as they cook up their favourite foods. And, as with the previous book, there is SO MUCH to spot, find, match, answer and talk about on each page, with speech bubbles, captions, questions and puns galore (plus a parp-ing penguin!) The cheeky monkey who refuses to do what everyone else is doing is back on each page too!

I also really like that there is both fast food and fruit, pancakes and peas – this is truly a balanced diet of a book, embracing the treats as much as the good for you stuff, making it perfect for fussy eaters to talk about food in a really fun and open way.

Both this and We Wear Pants are books to visit and revisit over and over again, there’ll always be more to find, spot, laugh at and talk about. I absolutely love this series and really hope there’ll be more where these came from.

Peapod hasn’t quite got past the cover yet – he wouldn’t let me open it to look at so fascinated was he!

Have you read any of these with your little ones?

Which picture books have you read recently?

The Afterwards

I’d seen and heard all sorts of good things about this on twitter before I received a copy from Bloomsbury for review (imagine my excitement at finding it was signed too!).

However, as is so often the case, I’d heard how great it was but didn’t actually know anything about it! Normally, I’d find out a bit about it before deciding to read it or not but in this case Emily Gravett decided for me! I’m such a fan of her picture books that I wanted to read this if only for the illustrations!

And I wasn’t wrong to – they are both very like some of her picture book work in some ways and much more detailed and with an older feel in others, which is as it should be for an older children’s book.

Her use of both incredibly detailed pencil sketches and bright colour images not only mirrored and matched the storyline but really enhanced it, adding extra atmosphere and bringing home what was happening.

The illustration felt really fresh and modern, whilst retaining a traditional method and style. The girls and Harry felt expressive and real and the cat in particular was (in my mind) a perfect representation of his character in the story.

Ah yes, the story:

Ember and Ness are best friends. There’s nothing more to say about it. It is what it is. It is what will always be. Ember and Ness. Then Ness dies.
When Ember finds a way into the Afterworld, she determines to bring Ness back. Because that’s what friends do isn’t it? They rescue each other. They help. They never give up.

 

This is ultimately a story about death – loss, grief, letting go and moving on; I can see it being a great book for a lot of children dealing with these things, with many aspects of death (finding out about it, the funeral, getting on with life) tackled head on, but in a very age-appropriate way.

I would say that due to the nature of the story – the mysterious afterworld and the way that works – it would probably be better for slightly more mature readers who’d be able to easily separate the fantasy elements of the story from the more real aspects.

However, this is also what makes it a universally good read with a wider appeal. Sensitively written, it takes an incredibly tough, real situation and everyday life and combines it with fantasy to create a story which is at once familiar and otherworldly. For those who are in, or have been in, Ember (or Graham)’s situation coping with loss, there’s plenty of subtly delivered advice and comfort; for those who (fortunately) have not had to deal with this, there’s a supernatural story firmly rooted in familiar settings, making this ideal for fans of a range of MG fiction – from Lisa Thomson’s ‘The Light Jar’ to Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’, for example.

I thought the relationships in the story were one of its strongest points – very believable and easy to relate to, with characters it was easy to warm to. Both the relationship between Ember and her dad, Harry, and her friendship between Ness and Ember were very well depicted, in both the text and illustrations, with little details giving them added depth and credibility.

Characters such as the cat and Ms Todd gave the book an extra dimension and the fact that their roles are left obscure and undefined I thought was very clever in giving the reader something to ponder and draw their own conclusions from. However, I would have liked a more definite conclusion to Uncle Graham’s role in the story, but that’s just me!

The real world felt, well, real – familiar and relatable in both text and image, while the mysterious, grey afterworld Ember follows Ness to is just that – an eerie place that’s easy to imagine but feels goosebumps-strange. The way it mirrors the real world in a warped sort of way was very clever: similar enough to keep the focus on the characters as they come to terms with their loss without getting lost in fantasy world-building, whilst being strange enough to provide interest, mystery and space away from that reality.

Overall, I thought this was an imaginative, personal and touching take on a difficult topic (I especially liked the way the scene was set in the prologue), which strikes a delicate balance between real life and fantasy. Harrold and Gravett have previously collaborated on ‘The Imaginary’, which I’ll be keen to read after this.

The Beasts of Grimheart

When the first Five Realms book, The Legend of Podkin One-Ear, was announced as Children’s Book of the Month way back in June 2017 I wasn’t sure. But, as it was Book of the Month, I read it anyway and I am SO GLAD I did!

I was absolutely hooked from the get go and book two, The Gifts of Dark Hollow, was just as good (so good that I forgot to take it to work with me mid-read so bought it again on my lunch break as I couldn’t wait to keep reading!) and left me waiting with bated breath for this one:

As with the first two, both the cover (Fernando López Juárez) and interior (David Wyatt) illustrations are stunning and perfectly matched to the book. The cover had me so excited about what this installment would bring and felt so in keeping with the story so far, while David Wyatt’s soft pencil sketches inside are full of detail and atmosphere.

The story itself picks up where The Gifts of Dark Hollow left us:

The bard and and his young apprentice Rue are taken to Spinestone, the temple warren of the bonedancers. It is here that the bard is ordered to retell the tale that has got him in so much trouble . . . and so to the next instalment in the astonishing tale of Podkin One-Ear . . . Podkin, Paz and Pook once again find their home under threat, but this time they are ready to fight!

It is, like the first two books, told through the tales of this travelling bard, which is inspired and works wonderfully. The majority of the book is his telling of Podkin’s ‘legendary’ adventure, we are simultaneously told his story through odd chapters set in the present day.

The old characters are back and there are some interesting new faces too – I particularly liked meeting the Guardians, I thought they were so imaginatively described and Pook’s counterpart Pocka made for lots of fun (I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t seen the last of him just yet either…) I loved reading more about the Bonedancers too and David Wyatt’s illustration of them was spot on.

The relationship between the three siblings – Podkin, Paz and Pook – has always been well-depicted with plenty of humour and warmth, and it is lovely to see how Podkin, particularly, is growing and changing with each book. And, of course, there’s the rest of the old gang too. There’s a part of the book that describes the rabbits from Dark Hollow as:

“…a tatty lot…made up of all sorts… Every colour of fur, every length of hair and shape of ears… It would be easy to look down on them… But Podkin believed they had something no other tribe had… Every rabbit was welcome at Dark Hollow, no questions asked.”

and, alongside the strong, positive message of inclusion and togetherness that is evident both here and throughout the books in general, it’s this quality that endears the group to me – Crom, Brigid, Mish and Mash…not to mention Podkin, Paz and Pook of course!

The world-building in the series as a whole is fantastic, and this instalment is no exception. I’m always completely transported to the centre of the action, whether that be a warm and busy warren, the bonedancer’s temple or the heart of the forest.

There’s a particularly well-written battle which pulls no punches and makes no attempt to hide the sorrows and losses of war. It’s quite a skill to depict a battle in this way – on the one hand exciting and nail-bitingly tense, on the other senseless, confusing and sad, and all the while remaining firmly age-appropriate

This series has it all – magic, adventure and folklore, as well as danger, humour and hope by the bucketload. If you haven’t read it yet, start with book one (The Legend of Podkin One Ear)- you’ll be clamouring for more as soon as you’ve finished! And if you have read the first two, you’ll be as enthralled as ever by book three. Personally, I’m already getting impatient for book four!

Thanks to Faber Children’s for my copy.

The Restless Girls

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When I was younger, Twelve Dancing Princesses was one of my favourite stories. Something about the midnight trips out, the worn out shoes, the boats to magical forests and dancing maybe.

As a huge fan of Jessie Burton’s adult novels ‘The Miniaturist’ and ‘The Muse’, I was very excited to hear she was writing a modern version of this.

Especially since I revisited it myself last year as part of some artwork, and was struck by how little autonomy the Princesses have.

Twelve Dancing Princesses

And it is this lack of autonomy, and the sexism that dominates traditional fairytale kingdoms, that is put right in The Restless Girls.

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There’s a real energy and spark to both the girls and the story – with some fantastically impossible events (a dance hosted by a lioness and a peacock with a wild animal band for starters) alongside some fantastically important ones – namely the girls being in charge of their own choices and futures, and being a force for change in those around them too.

Rather than just stumbling across the party in the woods, the girls use their skills, talents and knowledge to find it – each demonstrating their unique personality and strengths, from science to languages to sports.

There is an inspiring sense of determination and loyalty in the sisters and their relationship with each other is portrayed with warmth and understanding; youngest sister Agnes is described affectionately as “their little walking popcorn” which I loved!

It is little phrases and details like this which I really enjoyed in the book – adding depth at times (“The dark was simply the beginning of new things. The dark was necessary.”) and humour at others (the excuses they found for the holes in their shoes are brilliant and there’s a perfectly placed “It’s bloody freezing!” which made me smile too.)

Truly a fairytale for modern times, this keeps all the magic of the original, with midnight feasting and dancing in glittering forests, but throws in a large helping of adventure, independence and resourcefulness too.

Wonderfully detailed illustrations from Angela Barrett complete the package and make this a stunning book to give, gift and keep!

WWW Wednesday 3/10/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’, every Wednesday we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

Last time, I snuck an extra W in there too with what Peapod and I had read that week, but I’ve decided to do a regular “Peapod’s Picks” post each Friday instead – picture books/board books new and old!

This week’s WWW, then:

What are you currently reading?

I’ve only just opened this, so no idea about it yet, though it begins with a poem that I thought was beautiful so it’s a promising start…

What have you just finished reading?

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I finished The Lost Magician by Piers Torday. I’ve been meaning to read his ‘Wild’ books for quite some time and still not got round to them, but if this is anything to go by the hype surrounding them is justified!

It’s a fantastic, modern take on ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ and the perfect homage to libraries, librarians and all things bookish!

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Talking of modern takes on classic books, I’ve also read this beautiful modern version of ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’ which was one of my favourite fairy tales growing up.

Full reviews of both will follow…

What are you planning on reading next?

These are the most pressing of my TBR pile:

But I also have this which I’ve been waiting months for…

Which would you choose?

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

The Storm Keeper’s Island

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Once in a generation, Arranmore Island chooses a new Storm Keeper to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for Fionn’s grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new Keeper will rise.

But deep underground, someone has been waiting for Fionn. As the battle to become the islands next champion rages, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling an ancient war.

This was sent to me at work as an advance copy of July’s Children’s Book of the Month. I loved the look of it – exactly the sort of MG book that I’d pick up and want to read – but I’ll also admit to being a little apprehensive – partly because, hand on heart, I haven’t been crazy about the last couple of books chosen for our Books of the Month and partly because while it is exactly the sort of MG book I’d pick up and want to read, this automatically makes me worry it will be another book trying to do what others have done before, but failing to come up with anything special enough to make it stand out.

I needn’t have worried.

I liked the writing style immediately. Like my favourite of the characters (Fionn’s Grandfather), much of the day-to-day events and conversations were witty, full of humour and, importantly, realistic – Fionn and Tara’s love-hate sibling relationship was perfectly depicted through their bickering, one-upmanship and silent seething at each other!  Conversely, the more magical elements of the story and its setting were described with a wonderful sense of wildness, mystery and legend. This juxtaposition gave the story a brilliant balance between the fantastic and the everyday, making it both reassuringly familiar and thrillingly unknown.

The book draws inspiration from Catherine’s own grandparents, their home on Arranmore and sea-faring history, as well as Irish legends and history. Her passion for these things runs through the book as much as any of the magic she creates in the story, giving it a real sense of history and depth and transporting you right into the thick of it. I won’t say any more than just – The Lifeboat Scene.

The magical elements of the story feel fresh and unique – with weather, candles, time and memories being its key players. Again, written with subtlety, understanding and an incredible talent for merging real-life with fantasy, it is by turn joyous, heart-breaking, uplifting, nostalgic, hopeful… I could go on!

A highly original and moving adventure, set in a wonderfully well-built world – I can’t wait for the follow up!

Pants!

When we were looking at which picture books we wanted out on the table in work this month, this one jumped out. “Pants!” the 4-year-old inner me cheered. Of course, we had no way of knowing at this point if it would actually be any good, but the illustrations looked promising (how can anyone resist a book featuring a raccoon dressed as a superhero and a penguin with pants on his head?!) So between the pictures and the pants we decided to give it a go…and I was delighted when it came in!

We Wear Pants (Paperback)

Pandas wearing PANTS? Surely not!
And what about wombats wearing wellies, sloths in socks or even…giraffes wearing scarves?Find all your favourite animals in this hilarious book about getting dressed.What will YOU wear today?

On each double page spread we see a variety of animals donning various items of clothing: pants, wellies, hats, glasses, pyjamas, coats… with a cheeky monkey to find on each page proudly declaring that whatever everyone else is wearing “I’m not!” as he’s one step ahead each time. Until, as we reach the final page, everyone is dressed (even Monkey!) in an assortment of outfits.

On the surface a book about getting dressed, this will have much wider appeal than the very youngest who might be reading it with that aim. Bursting with life and bright and busy illustrations, there is so much to spot on each page: “Look at the bee in his frilly knickers!” I exclaimed….”He’s got banana shoes!”… and so on. If I get this excited about it, little ones will love it.

There’s also questions and captions in the form of speech bubbles from the animals giving prompts for specific things to find: “Count the rubber ducks”…”Who has odd shoes?”…”Who has the same scarf as me?” which would be easy to use a springboard for other observational/matching/sorting type questions, as well as for plenty of discussion about likes/dislikes.

Perfect for fans of Pippa Goodheart and Nick Sharratt’s ‘You Choose’ range (You Choose, You Choose in Space and upcoming You Choose Your Dreams), this is one to return to time and again (no doubt finding something new each time!), this is a colourful, funny and interactive book.

Other favourite pants-themed picture books:

Brilliantly silly, rhyming books featuring all sorts of pants! Check out the youtube video here too!

9781471169533-Aliens-Love-Underpants-Collection-7-Books-In-PVC-Bag-2

The hilarious ‘Aliens Love Underpants’ series from Claire Freedman and Ben Cort.

Don't Put Your Pants on Your Head, Fred! (Paperback)

Some more rather chaotic attempts to get dressed in this hugely funny, rhyming book.

Any other pants-themed gems I’ve missed?!