Peapod’s Picks – Too Much Stuff

We are still reading A Pipkin of Pepper, and The Tiger Who Came to Tea has made a reappearance in our bedroom reads, but two new books in the post have also edged their way into Peapod’s oh-so-slow-to-change bedtime book basket!

The first of these is ‘Too Much Stuff’ by Emily Gravett, who I’m such a big fan of.

We’ve written before about Tidy which we love and Too Much Stuff returns to the woods with some familiar faces (I love Badger’s cameo in this!) but this time our main characters are Meg and Ash, a pair of magpies building a nest and preparing for their eggs to hatch.

In a move that will have parents everywhere smiling (they don’t call it nesting for nothing!), our pair start to fret about what their hatchling will need, each finding more and more ‘stuff’ their chicks just can’t do without, until their nest is lost under it all and one final addition might just be a step too far…

Just as Badger’s battle to balance his love of order and cleanliness with his natural wild surroundings saw us reminded – subtly and gently – about our impact and reliance the world around us, Too Much Stuff just as gently reminds us of quite literally that – the amount if stuff we buy, use and importantly throw away.

It’s a call to consider before we consume, and to reuse, recycle or pass on what we’re done with.

Of course, it’s also just a very funny story with a wonderful cast of characters! Reminiscent (but essentially very different from) Oliver Jeffers’ Stuck, it’s a hilariously daft scenario filled with warmth and such a pleasing resolution.

The addition of the vintage style magazine adverts in the end papers is glorious – funny and astute and perfectly delivering the message of the book.

They’ll raise a smile with adult readers and would be absolutely brilliant to focus on and use alongside the book in schools too, especially as a way of bringing picture books to slightly older readers.

It has everything you want in a story – drama, excitement, humour, warmth, friendship, a message that’s carefully woven into it and the gorgeous illustrations you’d expect from Emily Gravett.

Peapod’s Picks 15/7/20

A weekly(ish!) round up of some of the books Peapod has been enjoying recently.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

This is never one to sit and collect dust and has been back at the forefront of his choices at bedtime for the last couple of weeks.

He likes to tell us the story now too – “Noooo. Noooo. Yes! Noooo. Rock. Sad. You!” – which is the best! You can read my original review here.

Mini Rabbit Must Help by John Bond

Our other regular bedtime read, this has been chosen almost every night since we got it too. He loves telling us what’s happening in the pictures here too, you can read our review here.

This has been another popular bedtime or pre-bath pick too. We’re big Hairy Maclary fans and I’d love them to do more of the stories in board book format as while Peapod is able to carefully handle a paperback, he finds these much easier and prefers them.

He loves seeing Hairy Maclary hiding from Zachary Quack in this one – “hide!” and giggles away as we do “pittery pattery, skittery skattery, zip” up and down his arms!

It’s a really sweet story of friendship, playing with and helping each other, all set in Linley Dodd’s wonderfully energetic and linguistically pleasing rhyming text. Lots of fun and great to read.

We’ve also been having something of an Emily Gravett time of things recently, which I am not complaining about in the least, as she’s a real favourite of mine.

In Monkey and Me, we see a child visiting the zoo with her toy monkey, pretending to be all the animals (which of course its also lovely for little readers to do too).

It’s got lovely, simple repetitive text that’s absolutely perfect for little ones to join in with and finish the phrase with the animal, which Peapod loves to do.

I love the layout and how it so carefully matches the animals as well as the images themselves. I also love the very last spread which perfectly sums up the evd of a lovely day out (with an extra bit of fun little ones will love!)

In Where’s Bear? Bear and Hare are playing hide and seek, but Bear is too big to find a good hiding spot…or is he?!

This might just be the perfect book for us at the moment! Peapod LOVES hiding things then we all have to pretend to look for them everywhere shouting out hammed up “noooo”s when we can’t find it.

He’s also loving counting all the time and can get to 6 (to ten if you don’t mind missing 7 and 8!) so the counting element of the book is perfect too.
This is a fab book with plenty of warmth and humour. We love it. I’ve bought him the other Bear and Hare books too, but he hasn’t got them yet!

Ketchup on your Cornflakes by Nick Sharratt

A delightfully daft classic to finish. Peapod has this one in his basket of books by his kitchen and chooses it regularly, loving making odd or awful combinations with the flap style pages and reacting with a loud “ugh!” or “noooo!” Lots of fun!

Have you read any of these?

Which picture books have you read this week?

Peapod’s Reading Round Up 20/6/20

A weekly round up of some of the books we’ve enjoyed over the past week. It should be on a Wednesday, who knows when it will turn up at the moment!

As I’ve mentioned in recent weeks, Peapod is very much in a phase of getting stuck on certain books and wanting them over and over again.

Trying to sneak new books into this is no mean feat; it takes careful selection, timing and suggestion and more often than not fails!

But this week I did manage to get a few new books into our regular rotation…

Mog and Me and other stories by Judith Kerr

Peapod loves the original Mog book and its one we return to regularly, so I ordered this one and he’s taken to it immediately. I think he might even prefer it, seeing himself in Nicky and enjoying the simpler, shorter text.

Almost primer-like, this is a collection of four short Mog stories – one about a typical day, another about Mog’s kittens, another about being in the garden and one about Mog’s family.

Peapod loves to join in with this – “streeeeetch!” – and point out things that are familiar to him either from. His day to day life or other books (he loves that there’s a cat called George who plays in a dustbin because of the dog George who does the same in Oh No George!)

We’ve even ended up ordering him a bed because Nicky in the story has one and he’s so taken with the idea!

Peapod has had a thing for cleaning up for as long as he’s been old enough to show an interest in things. So I used this to add the next two to our regular bedtime reads.

Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

This is a Donaldson favourite of mine and Peapod loves it too. A hermit crab is convinced to share their shell with an anemone (“memnee”) who can scare off potential predators and bristleworm who keeps it clean. Life is peachy til the shell becomes too small and crab and anemone fall out over it. Luckily bristleworm is there to play peacemaker.

Donaldson’s way with words and rhyming skills combine with Lydia Monks’ vibrant, fun illustrations to create a thoroughly enjoyable book that’s great to read and re-read with a warm theme of friendship that uses humour and pace to avoid becoming saccharine. It’s a big hit here.

Tidy by Emily Gravett

I also managed to get him switched on to this one thanks to Pete the badger’s cleaning obsession. Trying to make the forest perfectly ordered and clean and neat, Pete soon realises he may have gone too far.

I’m a big Emily Gravett fan and I really love this one. With her trademark detail and well-balanced realism and humour in the illustrations alongside perfectly rhythmic, rhyming text which is equally amusing and very enjoyable to read.

Playfully put, it’s a warning to us all to look after nature and embrace its messy and unbridled ways, but it’s also just a very good story with wonderful illustrations.

This is one that can stay in the repeated reads pile indefinitely as far as I’m concerned, which is lucky as Peapod loves it too.

If you know of any other cleaning and tidying picture books, I’d love to know what they are?!

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!

WWW Wednesday 28/11/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’, every Wednesday is ‘WWW Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Wundersmith – finally! I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to read this, especially considering how excited I’ve been about it.

The follow up to last year’s Nevermoor, I’ve been transported straight back there. It’s such an immerdive world, so we’ll written and with such imagination. I’m loving it.

What have you just finished reading?

I was drawn to this because it was illustrated by the fab Emily Gravett, and I have to say the illustrations really made the story come alive for me (excuse the pun) You can read my full review of it here.

What are you planning on reading next?

My plan to read one of these and start Wundersmith last week seemed to go well, so I’ll attempt to read Magical Myths and Legends at some point over the coming week or so as well.

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

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.