Picture Book Picks – If I Had a Unicorn

We were lucky enough to request and receive a free copy of this from the publishers. All views and opinions are my own.

If I Had a Unicorn by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow

Those of you who have been reading for a while will know how much we loved both If I Had a Dinosaur and If I Had a Sleepy Sloth from this duo (and if you don’t, you can read our thoughts here!) so I was very excited to hear there was a new one due and even more thrilled to get a copy sent to us from Thames and Hudson.

As soon as Peapod opened the post with this one in he was straight up to his bookshelf asking for the others and all three were brought in for bedtime!

Unicorn has since been read every night and usually at least once a day too – “yoo-corn!”

It’s just as much fun as the previous books, with our protagonist imagining all the fun and magic things possible with a unicorn for a pet – from granted wishes to unlimited candyfloss to cakes and cookies at every meal!

Of course as a unicorn book, there’s plenty of magic and glitter, but there’s also a visual humour which will appeal to parents just as much as children – the unicorn’s flight or – one of my favourite spreads – its effect on her sibling and their room for example!

In a similar vein, one of the initial spreads shows the littke girl’s unicorn coming out of a picture she’s looking at on a trip to a gallery. I love the magic and imagination if this, as well as the way it immediately brings galleries, art and museums into the realm of children.

The images on the gallery spread had a familiar feel and I’m wondering if they’re based on real pieces. After a little googling, I’d hazard a guess at The Unicorn Hunt tapestries but I’d be interested to find out for real!

As for Peapod, well, no-one with a small child will be surprised to learn that one of his favourite pages is the one with the rainbow poo on it! (From fine art to toilet humour in a matter of pages – there really is something for everyone!)

We love the way each of these books has a mischievous, funny or, in the case of the dinosaur, downright enormous poo or wee in them! The page in If I Had a Sleepy Sloth with the lifeguard getting his comeuppance for being a grumpy old spoil sport is still returned to, talked about (“Wee. Head. Grrrrr!”) and laughed at frequently!

He also loves the spread of the little girl’s birthday party in which everyone is eating ice creams (or as they are known in our house “Bear Snacks!”) He is ice cream mad so was delighted by this page and often now will just turn straight to this page to point out the ice creams and the astronaut who hasn’t got one yet and the little girl’s dad with his spoon and…

I think you can tell we love this just as much as its predecessors! It’s been an instant hit and will almost certainly be in the repeated reads and regular requests for some time yet!

If I had a…

We were lucky enough to request and receive a copy of If I Had A Sleepy Sloth from the publishers, which arrived with an unexpected bonus copy of If I Had a Dinosaur too! All views and opinions are my own.

We love both Samuel Drew Hasn’t a Clue and A Possum’s Tail by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow, so I was very excited when these arrived in the post.

Although If I Had a Dinosaur has been out for a while, I’ve somehow missed it, so it was a lovely surprise when Thames Hudson sent both books.

Both feature the same little girl dreaming of a new pet – first a very big one and second a very chilled out one! She takes us through lots of funny, charming and appealing scenarios showing what it would be like, why it would be brilliant, and what they’d do together.

I also thought it was really lovely to see the careful consideration the girl gives to how she’d need to look after her pets too – feeding them, walking them and grooming them, with often very funny consequences that are depicted brilliantly with carefully chosen phrases and lots of visual humour.

They have such a wonderful voice and sense of fun, it’s easy to picture a chlld imagining all these wonderful times with an unusual pet, and I loved the inclusion of the classic ‘pet at school’ scenario too!

We’re big fans of Alex Barrow’s illustrations from the duo’s previous books, and these retain that style but feel brighter and bolder. This matches the stories and their sense of fun so well and definitely went down a treat with Peapod who has pored over them repeatedly.

Keep your eye on this irate lifeguard, he comes up later on…

In If I Had a Sleepy Sloth there’s lots of facts about the creatures dropped into the story too which I thought was brilliant and done really lightly and with a sense of fun.

Going hand in hand with that sense of fun is a warning – if you’re not a fan of toilet humour, these may not be for you (though really if you are reading picture books, I’m pretty sure there’s already a healthy dose of toilet humour in your life!) Dinosaur does an ENORMOUS poo and sloth wees on that angry lifeguard’s head! Both of which are sure to tickle the funny bones of small children everywhere!

Indeed, Peapod’s favourite page is the one in which our unfortunate lifesaver gets a soaking. He’s too little to get the wee joke, but thinks the picture is brilliant and I made the mistake of doing a funny fist-shake-and-cross-noise while reading it the first time and he now delights in pointing at the picture and then looking at his dad and I expectantly!

I also really like the sense of home and family in the books. Many of the pictures feature scenes of family life and, as well as bringing lots of humour to the story, they feel comforting and happy and secure.

Even the endpapers are gorgeous and Peapod loves them – his favourite thing is to pretend to count all the sloths!

While he loves both of them, Peapod’s favourite is definitely Sloth and, while I love them both too, I think I have to agree (I also love that there’s a copy of If I Had a Dinosaur and a Samuel Drew toy in the bedroom picture in If I Had a Sleepy Sloth!).

Regardless of preferences though, they are both excellent – funny, warm and great to read with hugely appealing and engaging illustrations. We’ll be reading them often for some time yet and I have no complaints about that!

Peapod’s Picks/KLTR – New Picture Books

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.

We’ve had an influx of brilliant new picture books over the last week or two, so we’re sharing those today.

With the exception of Samuel Drew, which was a gifted copy we requested from Tate, we bought all of these. In both cases, opinions are all honest and all our own!

Abigail by Catherine Rayner One of our last library books was Catherine Rayner’s Ernest. I loved the illustrations and design (you can read my review here) so when I spotted Abigail at the back of the book, I knew we had to buy both!Abigail is a lovely book about counting, loving to count, finding it tricky, and helping your friends. It’s one of those ‘there’s a message but not in neon lights’ books – it’s mostly just a lovely story about a giraffe who loves to count!

As with Ernest, the illustrations are beautiful, ‘splodgy’ watercolours and I really liked the numbers dancing over the pages too – perfect for little ones learning to count/recognise numbers themselves.Peapod’s dad preferred this to Ernest, but Ernest still just tips it for me! Peapod was very happy with both, but did seem to take a shine to Abigail in the pictures so 2-1 to her I think!

Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad

The first Sophie Johnson book (Unicorn Expert) was brilliant and this one is just as good, packed with wit and visual humour.

Here, Sophie has turned her hand to detective work, with the help of her “not very good” assistant, Bella the dog, who is “no help at all”.

True to form, Sophie wearily tries to show Bella the tips and tricks of the trade as she attempts to investigate a lion’s missing tail. Meanwhile, in the illustrations we see Bella is, of course, busy solving the crime and catching the criminals.

As with the first book, Sophie will bring a smile to everyone’s lips – children will love her and adults will recognise her! These books are an absolute joy – full of a dry humour and with text and illustrations working in perfect harmony. I can’t wait to see what Sophie gets up to next!

Samuel Drew Hasn’t a Clue by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow

We were kindly sent this to review and it’s lovely. Samuel Drew has a parcel and everyone wants to know what’s inside!

Written with a lovely, rhythmic rhyme, this feels very reminiscent of Hairy MacLary from Donaldson’s Dairy, while at the same time being completely unique in its style and subject.

As Samuel Drew walks along the street with his parcel, various animals see and sniff and follow in the hopes of finding something tasty inside! What’s clever is the way their guesses actually reflect what’s happening in the shops they pass.

Likewise when we reached the end, the last page suggests there are clues right through the book as to what is actually inside (hence the title I suppose!!) They’re well hidden, merging into the scenes of everyday life seamlessly, so I’m not sure you’d guess before it’s revealed (but maybe I’m just not a very good guesser!) We (and yes, I do mean Peapod’s dad and I) had lots of fun poring back over the pages looking for hints once we knew what it was though.

And that is one of the best things about this book – the details and the opportunities for looking at, hunting, finding and spotting in, observing and talking about the pictures.

And the pictures are great, I really liked the style. With a flat, almost childlike, papercut pencil look about them, they reminded me of David McKee’s wonderful Mr Benn illustrations. And they are if course, full of detail. I really liked the high street setting too – there’ll be plenty that’s familiar in this walk by the shops and park, but with a butchers, fishmongers and florists on the street there might be something new for many children too.

Penguinaut by Marcie Collins and Emma Yarlett

A lovely tale of friendship, being brave and following your dreams. Orville the penguin’s friends all have BIG, exciting adventures, but he is only small. He doesn’t let that put him off though as he works through failures and setbacks to achieve his goal of flying to the moon and having the BIGGEST adventure yet.

The illustrations have a touch of Oliver Jeffers about them, indeed there is a feel of his Up and Down throughout, but this is no bad thing (I love Oliver Jeffers!) and it very much goes in its own direction too.

They are full of energy and movement and the way the font style, size and layout is designed to enhance all the sound effects and onomatopoeiac descriptions is really effective and engaging.

I’m looking forward to our Penguinaut Read and Make session over the summer, I think it’ll go down really well as a read aloud book and as a stimulus for our rocket making!

I Really Want to Win by Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti

This is another of the books I’ve chosen to read at one of the summer storytime at work and I’m really looking forward to it. We read their first book, I Really Want the Cake, and it was really popular so I’m hoping for a similar reaction to this one!

And I’m sure I won’t be disappointed! With the same fantastic pace rhythm and rhyme and expressive illustrations as the first book, our young protagonist is back; this time it’s Sports Day and she’s determined to win! But things don’t quite go to plan…

A hilarious, relatable story of a young girl who really wants to be the best (and is in fact pretty confident she is…at least at first), this is also a gentle, non-threatening way to explore losing, having different strengths and skills, supporting each other and process over result.

I loved this just as much as the first book and really hope she’ll be back for more adventures. Also, I’m loving the reappearance of the cake – brilliant!

Have you read any of these?

What picture books have you enjoyed recently?