Peapod’s Picks – Book Advent Week One

We’ve done a book advent with Peapod both last year and the year before, for his first Christmas, but this year is the first year he’s really been aware of what’s happening and excited about it.

It’s lovely to see him all eager to open his “advent bag” each night, and of course to see him loving the stories that are inside!

I’ll be posting each week with the Christmas stories that we’ve found hiding inside!

Day 1 –

I had to cheat here and pop two in! Countdown to Christmas by Adam and Charlotte Guillan, illustrated by Pippa Curnick was always going to be the first book in the bag…until Peapod came home from nursery asking for Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allen which I knew we didn’t have as I’d foolishly given our copy to nursery last year because I’m not a fan but knew they’d enjoy it…didn’t think about Peapod seeing it there then wanting it though! So I ordered a new copy and that went in the day one bag too!

Peapod was very pleased to have his own copy of Father Christmas Needs a Wee again and has decided we’ll tell Father Christmas he can have a wee at our house on Christmas eve if he needs one.

I’m mostly enjoying his retelling of the end which sees FC dash home to relieve himself, ending WITH the line “merry Christmas we hear him roar” which becomes “open door…run upstairs…shut door…ROOOAAAR!!”

I’m really pleased though that Countdown to Christmas has become a firm favourite that we’ve been reading every night. Peapod loves to pretend to be Mouse poorly in bed – “I’m poorly…stay in bed” – and seeing her get the star for the tree at the end, as well as opening all the advent calendar doors at the end of course!

Day 2 –

Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr We love Mog in our house, so this was always a safe bet. Peapod thinks the “tree walking” is hilarious and tells everyone all about it (the women in the green grocers were rather bemused!) This is another that we re-read most nights.

Day 3 –

Little Robin Red Vest by Jan Fearnley. This was one of my favourites from last year and we all enjoyed it again this year – Peapod especially likes all the birds and animals in it.

Day 4 –

I didn’t manage to get any pics of him this eve, but he was thrilled to find Winnie in his advent bag and we had to go and get his other Winnie and Wilbur stories to read with it too!

It’s also had us singing “When Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney” all week!

Day 5 –

How to Hide a Lion at Christmas by Helen Stephens. This has probably proved Peapod’s favourite so far. He’s straight up and into his playroom each morning to set it up and act it out with all his toys! He especially likes the part where the lion joins the carol singers round the tree – “shalalala!” but retells pretty much the whole story with relish!

Day 6 –

Paddington and the Christmas Surprise by Michael Bond. Paddington is another favourite of ours, so we knew this one would go down well too. We read it about three times in a row yesterday and he loves the part where they lose Paddington who has gone off to repair the lighthouse in the department store’s Winter Wonderland, so our trip round tesco yesterday mostly involved me ‘losing’ him and him then ‘reappearing’ having fixed some lights!

Day 7 –

Ten Little Elves by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickety I really rate this series for young children – rhyme, counting, bright colours, bold images, action, humour… – and thought he’d be all over this too. He did enjoy it, but it didn’t grab him the way the longer, more traditional style stories have.

And that’s it ’til next week!

Are you doing a book advent?

Have you read any of these Christmas books, or got any favourites to recommend we include?

Peapod’s Book Advent Days 19 – 22

You can find out more about our Christmas Book Advent here.

Playing catch up again! Friday was another night where Peapod crashed out before we’d even looked at a book, but on Saturday we read

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards, illustrated by Shirley Hughes

Yes, Shirley Hughes again! Although she didn’t write this one!

I loved My Naughty Little Sister when I was little so it was lovely to revisit this story in picture book form with Peapod.

I still got that thrill of disbelief and laughter that My Naughty Little Sister biting poor Father Christmas elicits and she still brings back fond memories of my own little sister, who also disliked Father Christmas for a short spell (though she never bit him!!) and also took such a shine to a doll that had to be hers that she stole it from playgroup!

For his part, Peapod was fascinated by the illustrations of the Christmas tree and especially of My Naughty Little Sister – painting to her face and body parts for us to name them and finding his!

Yesterday, we went for something much more modern and silly, but it’s another we really enjoyed last year…

Mince Spies by Mark Sperring and Sophie Corrigan

All the tasty Christmas treats in the supermarket are under attack, but who could be behind it? The mince spies are here to find out!

With a fuzzy, warm Christmas message at its core, this has enough humour – both in the story and visually – to still be lots of fun and not at all a ‘message’ book.

Peapod really only cares about the reindeer at the end, but just like with Oh Christmas Tree, I think its one he’ll enjoy more as he gains understanding in years to come.

And I’ve missed a day but I can’t figure out what I’m forgetting so it’ll have to stay missed for now!

Christmas books with bits!

I was lucky enough to receive copies of Meerkat Christmas and The Crayons’Christmas from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

I love a book with bits! So I was really excited to see two new interactive books featuring some favourite characters this year! But I couldn’t review them without first reviewing the one that started them all…

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Having said that I should start with this, what is there I can say about it that hasn’t already been said?! It’s a classic!I think what I like best about it is firstly, the way it includes the reader – little asides, comments and witticisms that feel almost like in jokes – and secondly, following on from this, the humour – it’s everyday and for everyone, but incredibly clever and quick too.

“Shut up you soft bears” – I just love the familiarity and ‘of the people-ness’ of this! I can’t imagine seeing something quite so well pitched, phrased or placed in a similar book today!

The ‘bits’ are just as clever and well-chosen too – from a Humpty Dumpty jigsaw to the Get Out of the Woods game for Red Riding Hood

Again its all in the details – the rules are full of that tongue in cheek humour that understands people so well!

With well-known and loved characters, plenty to pull out, read and do, humour by the bucket load and a brilliantly festive ending, this is a classic for a reason!

And now, onto the new!

The Crayons’ Christmas by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

The Crayons are back and guaranteed to make you smile.

If you know them from their previous books (The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home), there’s plenty of nods to those books here, but even if you don’t this is a fab book filled with Christmas tradition, cheer and fun things to do!

As the Crayons enjoy the build up to Christmas, we’re treated to cards, dressing ups, tree decorating, a map, a board game and even a dreidel from Grey who’s off home celebrating Hanukkah instead (I thought it was great to see that mentioned and celebrated too!)

As with the other books, so much of the humour is all in the voice and the little details in the illustrations, and the way these two marry up so well. From paper and scissors playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to the Crayon’s asides and utterings, this is a simply brilliant book with both silly and sophisticated humour that parents will enjoy just as much (if not more!) than the kids!

And finally, another interactive Christmas special from a favourite character of mine – I was SO excited when I heard about this and very grateful to receive a copy to review!

Meerkat Christmas by Emily Gravett

This follows a similar structure and idea as the original Meerkat Mail book, in which Sunny heads decides his home is too crowded and sets off around the world, sending postcards home til he realises that perhaps home is best after all, busy though it may be.

In Meerkat Christmas, Sunny has been reading about the perfect Christmas so sets off again determined to find it. However, after visiting beaches and BBQs, hanging lanterns in trees, getting wet singing carols and cold in the snow will Sunny ever find the perfect Christmas?

Of course, just as he seems to have found it, he realises a real perfect Christmas would be with those he loves! Luckily, there’s a special someone on hand to see him home for Christmas!

With the detailed, lively illustrations you’d expect from Emily Gravett – the end papers alone are worth it! – and a card home from every stop, this is a gorgeous gift of a book for Christmas. The images tell much of the story and contain loads of humour too, which I always love to see in picture books.

I love Sunny’s voice as he writes his letters home, which is endearing and full of character and the little notes and cracker jokes on each page add to the fun feel of the book as a whole.

A funny and warm reminder not to forget what really makes Christmas special for you at a time when panic buying, stressed out shopping and frazzled food prep can take over!

A fantastic, fun book filled with festive spirit!

Peapod’s Book Advent Days 16 and 17

You can find out more about our Christmas Book Advent here.

Two very different books in a row here!

Lucy and Tom at Christmas by Shirley Hughes

Another we read last year, and very much along the same lines as Alfie’s Christmas that we read a few days ago, this is another astute and nostalgic portrayal of a family preparing for and celebrating Christmas.

Peapod spent ages poring over the illustrations in this one, which is no surprise with the amount of detail and life Shirley packs into them. He especially liked the pictures of the Christmas tree and of Tom mixing pudding and looking out the window!

Oh, Christmas Tree! by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

This one is new this year from the creators of Supertato, and is full of the rhyming humour you’d expect from them.

Peapod wasn’t as enamoured with this one but I think it’s one he’ll love when he’s a bit bigger and can understand a little more of the story.

We thought it was a funny idea, cleverly done and had a good chuckle at the ending!

Peapod’s Book Advent Days 13, 14 and 15.

You can find out more about our Christmas Book Advent here.

I’ve got a bit behind with posting, so it’s three days at once today!

On Friday, we read

Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr

I love this one. Poor Mog is entirely befuddled by the whole Christmas thing (and quite frankly who hasn’t felt like that at one point or another?!)

There’s humour and the chimney scene is of course superb, and like with the Alfie books, I like the everyday-ness of Mog.

Peapod enjoyed it too – he had a good look at the cover before listening while he has his milk and dozed off!

On Saturday, we read

Kipper’s Christmas Eve by Mick Inkpen

Peapod loves his Kipper books at the moment – mostly because he has one that’s a box you can open and tuck a toy Kipper up to sleep in, so our poor Kipper gets put down to sleep and woken up a gazillion times a day (a bit like someone else around here!)

Anyway, I digress! Peapod is really into Kipper and was excited to see him in a new book (OK, we got it last year but he doesn’t remember that!) He really enjoyed pointing at things in the pictures for us to name.

I really like the Kipper books too so I’m pleased to see him enjoying them!

And last night we ended up reading two Christmas books! First was

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Christmas Eve by Eric Carle

A lovely lift-the-flap book with dog, cat and mouse hiding in the house and a special visitor at the end! With simple rhyming text, lots of clues for who might be coming and a caterpillar on every page, this will be one I think we’ll go back to a lot over Christmas.

and, since that was short we followed it with another short one –

Humphrey’s Christmas by Sally Hunter

There are elements of these books I’m not bad on – it’s a very gender stereotyped, ‘traditional’ family set up (if they weren’t elephants I’d get on them being white) and, while it’s only a small mention of Baby Jesus and the rest, I’m not mad on books that bring in the religious side of things (yes, I know technically it’s a religious holiday, but that was stolen from the pagans and appropriated and it’s as secular as it is religious these days so I don’t see a problem with celebrating it in a non-religious way as we do).

That said, this is a heartfelt and tender look at a family Christmastime, simply told with really sweet, warm illustrations that Peapod liked looking at and pointing to, so I can get past my minor irritations!

Just ten days to go now! Going to have to make some final book advent choices!

Peapod’s Book Advent Day 12

You can find out more about our Christmas Book Advent here.

Last night we read…

Alfie’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes

This is another we read last year and another we’re likely to bring out every year – as much because of Peapod’s Dad’s ongoing teasing that they’re boring when really he quite likes them now as anything else!

True to form, there was a theatrical eye roll and a secretly pleased “oh, it’s Shirley!” when we opened this last night. He then went on to read it, every so often slipping in his own version of events – Dad’s response to the missing batteries on Christmas Day was a bit different shall we say?! And ended with “Nothing happened again!”
Of course, it did – Christmas Day happened. Stories of Christmas adventures, disasters, magic and mayhem are brilliant and we love lots of them, but this is a book that is about the magic and treasure that is a ‘normal’, uneventful family Christmas.

Cosy, nostalgic and gently told, we (all!) love the Alfie stories and this is no exception!

Peapod’s Book Advent Day 10

You can find out more about our Christmas Book Advent here.

Last night we read…

Little Robin Red Vest by Jan Fearnley

This is one we received and reviewed last year, but I was very happy to get it back out again today and enjoyed it even more this time around.

It’s absolutely over-flowing with Christmas spirit as Little Robin shares his vests with the other animals to keep them warm before being found by a rather jolly man and his wife who make him a special red vest to keep.

Peapod loved looking at the front cover for ages, then looking at the animals in the story and signing bird for the Robin as we read through, even while semi-distracted by milk!

Peapod’s Book Advent Day 9

You can find out more about our Christmas Book Advent here.

Last night, we read…

How to Hide a Lion at Christmas by Helen Stephens

I have to admit I have only flicked through the others in this series and not read them in full (we’ll be rectifying this!), but I knew this had to be part of our book advent thus year as Peapod loves to “ROOOOAAR” when he sees a lion.

Sure enough, this book was greeted with grins and roars and much pointing at the lion so it was a hit before we’d opened it really!

It’s a warm story with funny moments to raise a smile. I love it when the humour is shown through the illustration, and as we see Lion trying to blend in with some carol singers or be wrapped in Christmas paper, that really is the case here!

Peapod dozed off during this last night, but as soon as he saw it on his bookcase this morning was pointing and roaring to read it again, so we got it back down and he was fascinated from start to finish as we read it to his lion Lionel (who he lay down to sleep when the lion in the story fell asleep!)

I suspect this will be getting many outings over the Christmas period this year. Luckily, it’s a lovely story to read so I’m more than happy with that!

Peapod’s Book Advent Day 8

You can find out more about our Christmas Book Advent here.

Last night, we read…

The Tree That’s Meant to Be by Yuval Zommer

We were lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

We are big fans of Yuval Zommer’s beautifully illustrated non-fiction books (my review of The Big Book of the Blue is here) so I was really excited when I saw this.

It takes Yuval’s enthusiasm for nature, so clear in his non-fiction, and transfers it to fiction in this tale of a tree who’s a bit short, a bit crooked, a bit imperfect…or so it seems.

As the other trees are chosen for Christmas, cut down by excited families and taken away, our tree is left alone. Until the animals of the forest appear with natural decorations to celebrate.

And unlike those Christmas trees taken away, we see our tree has made friends and found a place for life. It’s lovely to see our tree over time as seasons change in the story, and would be a nice way to talk about seasons with little ones too.

Peapod is mad on woodland animals, so loved pointing at all the animals for us to name and the story feels so warm and hopeful.

With the characteristically gorgeous illustrations and reverence for nature we’ve come to expect from Yuval, this is simultaneously full of Christmas cheer and the joys of the wild. One we’ll be returning to annually!

Peapod’s Book Advent Day 7

You can find out more about our Christmas Book Advent here.

Last night, we read…

We were sent this last year to review and thoroughly enjoyed it – Emily Brown was totally new to me but we’ve since read her other adventures and highly recommend them too (I think Emily Brown and the Elephant Emergency is our favourite!).

This is a fun story with a message not to lose sight of the magic of Christmas and that newer isn’t always better.