My Big Book of Outdoors

My Big Book of Outdoors by Tim Hopgood, published by Walker

This is every bit as gorgeous as you’d expect of you’ve either encountered Tim’s previous books or even just seen that cover.

Even the endpapers are stunning

First things first – this is an absolute feast for the eyes, with it’s rich, riotous and colours and expression; with the way it depicts flora and fauna with such accuracy and detail yet retains a real sense of freedom and vitality; with the lush layers and a depth which draws you in.

But this is much more than that too; split into seasons, this takes us through a year in nature and is packed with facts, poems, information, activities, categorisation, feelings… all of which inspire, inform and engage with precise text and vibrant, observant images.

Whether in picture books, non fiction, MG or indeed adult fiction, it’s always clear when there’s a real passion for nature behind the book and this is a case in point. Tim’s appreciation for the wonders of nature both big and small shine through this and are nothing if not infectious.

My favourite pages are those detailing different sorts of the same thing – pine cones, shells, leaves, feathers, berries… There is something so aesthetically pleasing, intellectually stimulating and linguistically lovely about them. I’d happily buy a book full of nothing but pages like these!

That said, I love the other pages too! The poems are evocative; the activities appealing (and, perhaps most importantly, easy to do); the facts pitched perfectly – minimal text but maximum relevance.

There’s enough to both teach you something and that be that or to hook you in and become the catalyst for further reading, investigating, exploring…

This is a book which engages all the senses, asking what you can hear, see, feel… there is so much to enjoy on the page and to take outside with you too. It is beautifully presented and finished, an absolute gift of a book for young nature-lovers (or nature newbies ready to nervously dip in their toes!)

Visually stunning, with a perfectly balanced blend of poetry, fact and feeling, this is an absolute joy to read and a book to return to repeatedly as the seasons come and go.

Picture Book and Play on a Rainy Day

Picture Book and Play is a weekly(ish) post featuring books Peapod has been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

This week, it’s a topsy-turvy post as the play came first and the books came later! I don’t know what it’s been like where you all are but we have had A LOT of rain this week!

We did some rainy day painting using watered down poster paint and droppers (colour mixing, science, creativity and fine motor all rolled into one 😂) Peapod loves ‘process painting’ like this, he had a great time!

We also played lots of Spiders and Spouts (I’m in no way affiliated with Orchard Toyd, we just like them!) We swapped outvthe dotty die included though to use a numbered one for practicing number recognition.

On Monday, it threw it down all day. We’d stayed in all morning but by the afternoon, we very much needed a big of fresh air so it was on with the waterproofs and wellies and out hunting for puddles!

We had an absolute blast – stomping splashing and jumping in, over and through puddles. Then Peapod decided to float his umbrella in one (don’t get too excited – it really just sat in the inch of water but he was happy pretending!) and after this wanted the umbrella to blow us away, so we ran home with it stretched out ahead of us – “aaaargh! We’re being blown away! Come back umbrella!”

I’ve never enjoyed the rain so much!

Well, after this there were two bedtime stories I picked out. Neither of which had anything to do with rain but reminded me of our play – Lost and Found with its umbrella-boat and Blown Away with Penguin Blue and friends being swept away by the wind (this will no doubt also feature in a windy day post at some point!)

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers is an old favourite of mine and our copy is tattered and battered and worn from years of use in school.

A little boy finds a penguin on his doorstep one day. He goes to extraordinary measures to try to find out where its come from and get it home, eventually embarking on an epic rowing boat ride to the South Pole, only to realise that perhaps the penguin wasn’t lost but lonely…

Sparse text lets the illustrations do the work with buckets of gentle, dry humour and warmth. Oliver Jeffers books are modern classics for a reason!

Blown Away by Rob Biddulph is a very funny, rhyming tale about Penguin Blue’s kite flight across the sea to the jungle (with the friends he collects along the way!)

Bringing to life the joys of travel… and that unbeatable feeling of coming home again, it’s a feel good story of friendship and adventure, with a brilliant ending!

We’re also in the throes of a “why” epidemic currently, so comments like “it’s raining” are frequently met with “why?” With this in mind, I bought this book for us to look at…

What Makes it Rain? by Katie Daynes and Christine Pym

This is a gorgeous non-fiction book for little readers. Usborne do loads of this sort of lift the flap information books on a variety of topics for a variety of ages and they do them SO WELL.

This one has a double page on each type of weather, with questions children might ask peppered across the bright, cheery illustrations of things we might see or do in that sort of weather.

Lift the flap under each question to reveal its answer – perfectly pitched with just enough detail and information for little ones to understand.

It’s perfect for dipping in and out of on different weather days or to read little and often with those whose attention drifts! We’re big, big fans.

Have you been enjoying the rain this week?

What have you been reading or playing?

The Big Book of Blooms

I was lucky enough to request and receive copies of these free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Big Book of Blooms and the Big Sticker Book of Blooms by Yuval Zommer

Yuval Zommer’s ‘Big Book of…’ range is such a brilliant series (you can read my review of The Big Book of Blue here) – gorgeous illustrations, bite-size facts and a touch which manages to be both light-hearted and quirky, but also to convey Yuval’s clear passion for and knowledge of his subject matter.

As the books all follow the same format, much of what I wrote about The Big Book of Blue also stands out here – the humour, vibrancy, and easy reading style, not to mention the choice of facts included.

While beasts and bugs may seem obviously interesting subject matter for children’s non-fiction, blooms could be seen as a less obvious, perhaps drier choice. Luckily though, we needn’t worry about that – we’re in safe hands here!

With weird and wonderful facts and figures encompassing dinosaurs, astronauts, Egyptian mummies, stinky plants, carnivorous plants, poisons, celebrations, fangs and traps…not to mention all the birds, bugs and beasts the plants co-exist with this is just as fascinating as all the others.

I always learn so much from these, as an adult, that while the use of short captions in and amongst the illustrations mean they are perfect for less confident readers, they will be just as appealing for keen beans and older readers.

With sections on different types of plants, as well as pollination and ecology, and finishing with a spread intended to get kids growing too (I especially loved that this was designed to be useful fo those with little or no garden space) there is huge scope here and plenty to both inform and inspire.

Likewise, the text itself is hugely accessible and engaging. The facts feel light and fun, but the language includes scientific vocabulary, explanations are clear and perfectly pitched and, as ever, there’s a brilliant glossary at the end. I especially love the spread showing the different parts of a flower – you’ve never seen a scientific diagram like it!

Which brings us, of course, to the illustrations. They are, in short, fantastic. Rich in texture and detail, and bursting with colour, life and a real sense of joy, I’m drawn into them and could pore over them for hours.

And with 15 golden bulbs to find hiding in the illustrations I have every excuse I need to do just that!

The accompanying sticker book is really so much more than a sticker book.

Packed with games, activities, colouring and, of course, stickers not to mention facts, it’s the perfect activity book for fact-loving youngsters. Ideal for journeys, holidays or rainy weekends there is loads to do, learn and see here too!

Hugely engaging, accessible and appealing, these books are written by a man who knows his audience remarkably well and which deserve a place on every child’s bookcase and in every classroom.

A First Book of Animals

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

A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horáček

Polar bears playing on the ice, tigers hunting in the jungle, fireflies twinkling in the evening sky and nightingales singing in the heart of the woods – there are animals everywhere. From blue whales to bumblebee bats and everything in between, A First Book of Animals takes you all over the planet to visit all kinds of different creatures.

This is a beautiful book of poetry, with many of the poems also containing many animal facts, making it a perfect book for animal lovers old and young.

Split into categories such as ‘Big and Small’, ‘Colours and Shapes’ or ‘Animal Homes’, the poems are thematically grouped within the book and contain a range of facts and styles.

There are short, easy to join in with and repetitive poems, like ‘Why Are Zevras Stripy?’ There are verses with wonderful word choice and/or rhyme detailing facts and characteristics of a particular animal, such as Chameleon Song.

There are comparative poems, such as ‘Song of the Biggest and the Smallest Bird’ and there are poems which work with the illustrations to teach us something, like the wonderful ‘Dragonfly Babies’ whose words create a vivid impression of the growth, emergence and behaviours of the tiny dragonflies and whose illustration serves to help visualise this and show young readers how this would look.

Likewise, there are poems who give nothing more than an impression of the animal, less fact and more feeling, accompanied by illustrations who capture the look and character of the animal perfectly, giving more than enough information without the text – Whale Shark, for example.

Which leads me to pause for a moment to simply admire the illustrations. They are in turn textured, light, colourful, dark, rich, playful, layered, bright… each is wonderful, realistic and detailed and in perfect keeping with both the animal it portrays and the text it accompanies.

In short, both the words and pictures are stunning. The poems are hugely accessible – with fantastic feeling and varied vocabulary, but not overly long or wordy, they’re perfect for children of all ages. Likewise the range of styles is brilliant for showcasing to young readers poetry’s versatility.

This is a gorgeous book that we are loving dipping in and out of at random each day. I can’t recommend this enough for both home and school.

Mini Mondays

As I may have mentioned (you know, just once or twice..) I’m finding it hard to find enough time to read, let alone review anything since Peapod made his entrance into the world.

Last week, I saw this post from BookBairn and it gave me the idea of ‘Mini Mondays’ – can’t promise I’ll manage it every week, but I’m going to try!

mini mondays

So every (most/some) Monday(s) I’ll do a ‘Mini Mondays’ review post where I’ll try and give a briefer than usual (cheer here) review of a few books. If you fancy doing your own Mini Monday reviews, leave a link in the comments (feel free, but don’t feel obliged, to use my rather amateurish little logo thing!) 🙂

This week…


First Facts and Flaps: Giant Dinosaurs, illustrated by Naray Yoon

Campbell’s range of board books are always a hit – bright and bold, informative, with just the right amount of text and plenty of interactive features this is no different.

Each Dino is introduced with a full page illustration and rhyme, with lots of short, simply-worded, interesting and unusual facts clearly laid out on the facing page, accompanied by bold subheadings to draw you in.

There’s plenty to keep young fingers busy too with flaps to lift, a wheel to turn and change the pictures with and a brilliant fold out spread at the back.

Fun and engaging, with attractive illustrations with just the right level of detail – this is a fabulous book for young dinosaur fans. There’s an Amazing Animals in the series too, which I’ll definitely be picking up and hopefully there’ll be others to follow!

Thanks to Macmillan Kids for my copy.

All About Families by Felicity Brooks

With cheerful, detailed and appealing illustrations from Mar Ferrero and a clear, uncluttered layout, this is a lovely look at families in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Both in illustration and text, care has been taken to make this a truly diverse and inclusive book. Not only does it feature a wide range of family set ups but people from all walks of life – there’ll be someone in here that every reader relates to.

Good use of labels, speech bubbles and captions crams in plenty of clear, concise information in an engaging way that stops it from feeling overloaded.

Perfect for ks1 ‘about me’/’family’ topics or PSHE work, as well as a great resource to encourage talk (the pictures alone give a wealth of things to chat about) when read independently at school or shared at home.

Thanks to Usborne for my copy.

Oi Duck-Billed Platypus by Kes Gray and Jim Field

If you don’t already know how much I love this series, see this post on Oi Cat! I was so excited for this 4th installment and was a fan before it even arrived (it’s pink and it has a platypus in!) Even better – I won my copy (thanks Hachette Kids!)

Here we meet a selection of animals with very hard to rhyme names causing quite the headache for Frog, Dog and Cat as they dish out the rules on where everyone should sit! With the usual combination of Jim Field’s characterful illustrations and Kes Gray’s hilarious text, it’s as clever, fast and funny as the first 3 and an exuberant addition to one of my favourite picture book series.

Grandma Bird by Benji Davies

Benji Davies is another author/illustrator I love (I thought I’d reviewed his last picture book ‘The Grotlyn’ but haven’t – such an oversight, it’s wonderful!) His newest book, Grandma Bird, is a return to Noi (of The Storm Whale)’s world and is just as gentle, cosy and warm as both Storm Whale books.

Noi is off to stay with Grandma (who is fantastic – she’s guaranteed to make you smile!) on her tiny, isolated island. With imagination, freedom, wild adventure, dark caves and island life, this is a hug of a book full of accepting things we’re unsure of and of friendship, love and family.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for my copy!

The Big Book of the Blue

The Big Book of the Blue (Hardback)

Meet all kinds of slippery, shimmery, powerful and surprising creatures from around the world in this first book of the ocean to share with young children.


Already a big fan of Yuval Zommer’s Big Books of Bugs and Beasts, I jumped at the chance to get hold of a copy of his newest book for review (many thanks to Thames & Hudson). And I wasn’t disappointed! As with the first two – it’s a beautifully illustrated, well-balanced, carefully laid out, polished book that you (and any young’uns!) will want to dive into (sorry, couldn’t resist!) again and again.

Each double page spread is illustrated from top to bottom with layers of detail, texture and movement; they are absolutely packed with things to spot and talk about – there’ll be something new each time you look at it! There’s also 15 sneaky sardines hiding among the pages waiting to be found, along with other ‘can you find’ challenges here and there in the book.

There’s also a humour to the illustrations – while they are accurate enough in appearance to learn from and recognise, there’s no scientific diagrams here – the creatures have wonderfully quirky facial expressions and a lightness of touch which I loved – they’re sure to really appeal to children, and grown ups alike.

Similarly, there’s a healthy dose of puns and humour in the text, especially in the sub-headings (“Claw-blimey!”…”Smell I never!”), appealing to both children’s sense of fun, but also the adults who’ll be reading it with them (“I wandered lonely as a…tuna” being a personal favourite).

The facts themselves are set amongst the illustrations and presented as short snippets of information. Immensely appealing to even the most reluctant reader in its brevity, and addictive enough to have keen beans reading through them all in one fell swoop, barraging you with a torrent of “did you know…” info as they go (ok, I admit I’m basing this on the fact that when I brought it home I sat at the kitchen table with it and did pretty much exactly this to my poor other half while he made tea!).

There’s a great balance too between a broad overview of ocean-life (including a double spread about the threats it faces) and more specific facts about particular creatures/species, as well as a simple index, contents and glossary (brilliantly titled “Fishy Phrases: How to talk like a sea-life expert” and laid out as the other pages are with each word/phrase illustrated nearby).

This is a playful, engaging and incredibly visually appealing book that’s sure to be a hit with children of all ages and deserves a spot on every bookcase in homes and schools!

Also highly recommended by Yuval Zommer (all of them also have sticker book versions!)

big book of yuval zommer