Peapod’s Picks – Holiday Reads 2

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read each week.

*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

Last week I posted the first of our Holiday Reads posts looking at the picture books we read on holiday. This week, it’s a round up of the board books we took.

That’s Not My Plane by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells

Of course we had to take this one for the plane! This series remains a firm favourite, and with its shiny windows, sparkly propeller and lumpy, metallic engines this one was lots of flashy fun!

Busy Holiday by Sebastien Braun

With scenes showing a family packing and getting in the car, at the beach, on a campsite and at a funfair, there’s something for all types of holiday here and plenty to spot on each page. There’s so much going on in the illustrations, older children will have fun spotting the yellow bird on each page as well as being able to notice some of the smaller, background activities too – things that have been dropped or forgotten or animals peeking out from unexpected places, for example.

There is of course the ‘push, pull, slide’ moving parts too, perfect for toddlers – more interesting and trickier than simple lift the flap or touch and feel, but durable and sturdy enough to withstand young reader’s handling! It’s a bit hard for Peapod still, but he’s starting to give it a go and likes it when we make them move.

This will be coming on many more holidays in the future!

Baby’s Very First Slide and See – Under the Sea by Stella Baggott and Josephine Thompson

We love the bright colours, bold illustrstions and bumpy textures in this one. Peapod loves hearing us make the noises on each page – “wheeeee!”, “click, click”, “wobble, wobble”, “swoosh!” etc. – and is just getting the hang of moving the sliding parts.

With minimal text, including “hello…” and simple questions, this series is perfect for Peapod now. A big thumbs up from us!

My First Touch and Find – Sea by Allison Black

This was another big hit. The illustrations are bright and appealing, with lots of colourful underwater goings on.

There’s a touch and feel element to each page, reminiscent of the That’s Not My… style, but with more going on in the book overall – there’s simple, repetitive text “Flip the flap. What’s that?” that older toddlers will be able to join in with and older children could read themselves, as well as a question on each page about something from the page before encouraging lots of observation and talk.

The lift the flap element is brilliant as the ‘flaps’ are actually shaped pages with cut outs to peel through too. Sturdier than normal flaps and creating extra interest with the holes these went down really well with Peapod. Brilliant.

This is another series we’ll be buying more of.

Squeaky Baby Bath Book – At the Beach

Its waterproof pages mean this is perfect for taking with you on a trip to the seaside. With things you’re likely to see (dolphin aside), it’s good for vocabulary and naming things and the squeaky seagull on the last page is lots of fun. This was pretty much the only thing Peapod enjoyed about the beach!

Peapod’s Picks/Library Love – Holiday Reads 1

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!

Peapod went on his first holiday last week. It got mixed reviews – the pool/paddling pool were fine if attempted at exactly the right time, the beach was a flat out no, the mealtimes and people watching firm favourites and staying somewhere that wasn’t home was quite frankly an outrage.

Luckily, his holiday reads were better received. I’ve split this into two posts (we took a fair few books!) Today’s is all about the picture books we took for bedtime and we’ll follow it with a board book post next week.

Julia Donaldson ended up with quite a monopoly on our holiday reads – we took What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday and Sharing a Shell (both illustrated by Lydia Monks) as well as one of my favourite JD books The Snail and the Whale (illustrated, of course, by Axel Scheffler).

Peapod had a right giggle at Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len!

What The Ladybird Heard on Holiday was Peapod’s Dad’s book of the holiday, though I confess that while I don’t mind it, it’s not a favourite of mine. Peapod seemed to like the bad guys too, giving them a good chuckle here and there. They’re out to steal the Queen’s crown, with the help of a kidnapped monkey, but the ladybird hears their plan and puts a plan of her own in place to try sbd thwart them…

I much prefer Sharing a Shell – 3 friends, one shell. All bring their unique talents to the mix to live harmoniously…until the shell gets too small! It’s a lovely tale of friendships and fall outs, as well as a nice way to start finding out more about sea creatures.

In related news – we saw two tiny hermit crabs while trying to tempt Peapod (unsuccessfully) into the sea for a paddle!

I love The Snail and the Whale, it was always a favourite while teaching. A snail hitches a ride around the world on the tale of a whale. I always enjoy seeing and reading about their journey and Snail is an inspiring character – small but brave and determined, she uses her strengths and follows her dreams.

We found out recently that The Gruffalo appears in all the other Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler collaborations too so I (I mean Peapod, obviously…) had fun finding him in this!

We also took some library books. We looked last week for any with a holiday theme, but didn’t come up with much.

We did find one though – Harry and the Dinosaurs on Holiday by Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds. This was my favourite library book that we took away with us. Harry and the dinosaurs are off to Australia. This is a brilliant book for young children going on holiday, especially their first – it looks at all the things Harry and the Dinosaurs are excited about seeing and doing, as well as their nerves; we see them at the airport and missing Nan who stayed at home; there’s snaps of all the things they do and then we see them home again, Nan there to meet them at the airport. We’ll be buying this one and reading before/on future holidays!

Having to broaden our search to sea, sun, sand rather than strictly holiday, we took two pirate themed ones – Peapod’s Dad loves having a chance to do a pirate voice!

Pi-rat by Maxine Lee was a short but enjoyable read about an imaginative and playful bathtime. Ideal for encoursging more reluctant bathers, it’s one I’d happily read again but I wouldn’t go out of my way to.

Captain Beastlie’s Pirate Party by Lucy Coats and Chris Mould gets much the same reaction personally, but I know kids would really enjoy it. Captain Beastlie is stinky, yukky and downright dirty, but his crew are the complete opposite. We follow him and his filthy ways in the lead up to his birthday and the surprise the crew have in store. I can see it being a popular one with slightly older kids as the descriptions of Captain Beastlie’s disgusting ways are sure to thrill and disgust in equal measure.

Three By the Sea by Mini Grey is a tale along the lines of Helen Cooper’s Pumpkin Soup. Three friends live together in a hut by the sea, splitting the chores between them happily until a stranger blows in and stirs up bad feelings. The illustrations are lovely and I liked mouse, dog and cat, but the way they all fell out felt a bit contrived and the stranger just seemed, well, strange. It’s nice enough, but no one does this better than Helen Cooper, buy Pumpkin Soup instead!

The other book I wanted to get but was too disorganised to buy in time was Winnie and Wilbur at the Seaside – next time!

Do you have any favourite holiday themed picture books?

Holiday Reading: East of Eden

A brief note: this is NOT a brief post! It began as one, but soon became half a post on this year’s holiday reads and half a review of one of them: East is Eden. Dip in and out as you like!

Before I go on holiday, I like to make sure I have plenty of books: I can manage somehow if I forget/run out/lose toiletries, clothes and the like, but books?! I’m not taking any chances.

I also find holidays a great opportunity to read more ‘grown up’ books. Working in the children’s section, I get to read a lot of kid’s books and I love that – I love reading them, talking about them, recommending them, sharing them – some of the books I anticipate the release of most are children’s books (see this post on Square if you don’t believe me). But I do like to read adult fiction too, and often find that it’s these books that are forever being put to the bottom of my TBR pile in favour of new children’s releases, so on holiday I make a point of reading them.

Which always throws up the inevitable: which books to take?!

This year, I’d been saving my ARC of The Map of Salt and Stars (thank you Orion books, full review will follow!) and I’d bought The Bear and The Nightingale as that was one I’d had my eye on for a while. An ARC of Whistle in the Dark had arrived not long ago for me, so I took that as an easy-ish plane read for the start of holidays (review here) and Alice came up on a #banterwithbooksellers twitter chat and, as another book I’d often umm-ed and ah-ed over, but still never actually picked up, that went on the list too. I picked up The Refugees on impulse (maybe it’s because I’m not as keen on short stories, maybe not, but I just didn’t get into it.) After that I got a bit stuck.


My manager and I started on one of those “have you read this?”…”but you must have read this?!”…”you haven’t read this?!” conversations around some of the classics/must-read type books. From this I picked up The Road (another book, like Alice, that I’ve deliberated over reading for years but never actually read) despite being warned not to take it as a holiday read since it’s so bleak (I compromised and put it to the bottom of the pile!), Jonathan Strange (which didn’t actually make it on holiday with me: it was just TOO big!) and finally, East of Eden.

east of eden

I was warned not to come back to work if I didn’t like it, so highly regarded was this book, so it was quite a relief to find I enjoyed it! It did take me a chapter or two to get into, though I suspect more from my moving from one style of writing to a very different one than because of the book itself (does anyone else find this? I often get it when I switch from MG/YA to adult for example) but once I was into it, I was completely immersed.

It’s an epic, a saga, a multi-generational family drama: all descriptions which make me think of a soap opera in book form. Luckily, that’s not the case. It is first and foremost, a retelling of the story of Cain and Abel; I wasn’t sure at first how I’d feel about this, but the way it was done won me over. I loved Steinbeck’s writing for so many reasons.

Firstly, the characters: there are many. And to write so many characters, crossing so comprehensive a time period, whilst retaining their distinct personalities, as well as highlighting their inevitable similarities that feed into the Biblical ‘re-telling’ of the book is no mean feat. As with any family, there will be characters you identify with, those you’d like to have a drink with and, of course, those you want to shake some sense into or avoid altogether. I think part of what I enjoyed so much about this as the warmth each of them was written with and how real they felt – none perfect, all flawed, all individuals. Personally, I loved Samuel Hamilton, Lee and Caleb and, while she’s not likeable by any stretch of the imagination, I defy anyone to think Cathy’s not a fantastic character!

The picture Steinbeck draws of the Salinas Valley area is rich and detailed and the homes there, as with their owners are distinct and feel well-suited to their various inhabitants but what I liked best about it was how I could feel it changing throughout the years over the course of the book.

Then there is the writing itself – at times sharp and to the point and at others more philosophical; at times full of warmth and humour and love and at others despairing and bleak and cold. There were many passages, sentences, phrases and thoughts that I could have noted down to repeat here, but I won’t, because I suspect that as with the characters, everyone reading this will come away with their own favourites.

It took up most of my holiday (I came back having only read 3.5 of the 7 books I took!) but it was a perfect read for long, sunny spells of reading and I really benefited from being able to spend long stretches reading it and getting drawn into it rather than stopping and starting like I have to when I need to fit reading in around ‘real life’.

It has also made me determined to keep up reading a classic/must-read every now and then amongst all the lovely new books I get sent/pick up. Which would be your must-read recommendation? Which classics do you love/hate/want to read?