Peapod’s Picks/#KLTR – Morag Hood

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.

This week, we’re celebrating the release of a new book by one of our (my) favourite author/illustrators and making our claim to fame that we almost, nearly met her (we were in the same room anyway!)

On Saturday, we hopped in the car to Rochdale Children’s Literature Festival as I’d booked tickets for Morag’s event.

I was a bit apprehensive that Peapod would be too little, but reasoned that he always enjoys storytime groups and stories with us, plus it would give me chance to get our books signed – eek!

As it turned out, it was somewhere between the two. Peapod enjoyed listening to Morag read I Am Bat, and seeing her draw Bat. He just about made it through Brenda is a Sheep too, before heat and tiredness won out and we had to give in and leave for a nap and fresh air.

It meant no book signing for me, which I was gutted about, but also a little relieved because I’ve never met an author whose work I love before and I wasn’t really sure what you were supposed to do or say! (Social situations are not a forte!)

What we did see was fab though and we all loved listening to the stories bring read by their creator before we had to leave!

And so to today’s review(s) First a recap of some of her other books…

There’s the incredibly loveable, expert of everything Sophie Johnson of course, written by Morag and illustrated by Ella Okstad. You can read our reviews of them here and here.

Next is the book that introduced me to Morag Hood. It appeared on a trolley not long after I started at Waterstones, intrigued I flicked through and chuckling away instantly loved it and read it to everyone ekse (un)fortunate enough to be working with me that day.

Colin is a carrot. Lee is a Pea. They may be very different, but they’re still the best of friends. And it’s Colin’s differences which make him so much fun to be friends with. A quirky celebration of difference and diversity, deftly done.

Incidentally, I really wanted to get our copy of this signed to Peapod, because you know – peas, but it wasn’t to be…

Bat is such a brilliant and expressive character. Very Barnett-Klassen. Somebody (or, indeed, somebodies) are stealing his beloved cherries and it just won’t do. I love the way little readers can see what’s going on and guess at who’s stealing them through the illustrations while poor bat is left in the dark.

I think The Steves might be my favourite of Morag’s books so far (though picking a favourite is tough) I love the sulky, stroppiness of it, the funny name-calling and the ending that negs to start all over again. Such a fun book to read aloud too. My full review of it is here.

This is a close contender for my favourite too though, and Aalfred and Aalbert are definitely my favourite fictional couple.

I thought I’d reviewed this, but apparently not. Let me remedy that – it’s full of humour and heart and is just wonderful.

Aalfred and Aalbert are aardvarks who live right next to each other but have never met, as Aalfred sleeps during the day and Aalbert at night. Bird decides to play matchmaker with some brilliantly, we’ll, bird-brained plans. Luckily one of them backfires and *spoiler alert* they all live happily ever after!

I love the way their favourite things (broccoli, cheese, flowers, stars…) play into the story and become shared interests by the end, I love the funny little details in the illustrations and how very much their personalities and manners shine through despite its deadpan style. A masterclass in the understated and truly heart-warming and joyful.

Which brings us to Brenda.

Brenda may not look much like a sheep, and when she’s busy chasing her wooly friends and brewing up batches of mint sauce while planning a feast for them, she doesn’t seem to act much like one either.

But the sheep don’t mind. They love their Brenda. So much so that they try to be more like her and plan a surprise of their own for her…

Deliciously dark at times, despite being zingy neon and popping in colour, this is full of a wicked humour and dramatic irony that means little readers will delight in seeing what Brenda is up to way before the poor sheep have a clue!

The ending is fantastic too, happy enough to avoid any nightmares or tears but funny enough to stop the likes of me groaning and grumbling!

I would say I can’t wait for what Morag Hood does next (and this is true) but luckily I don’t have to, because somehow this…

…somehow passed me by, so I shall be ordering it in work this week!

Have you read any of these? Or will you be giving any of them a go now?

Have you ever met one of your favourite authors – what do you do and say?!

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?

Peapod’s Picks/KLTR – Bloomsbury Boards

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.

It’s a brief(ish) Peapod’s Picks this week as we’re away and I’m not organised enough to have pre-written anything!

But these board books we were kindly sent have been waiting patiently fir review fir a while and make a perfect quick-picks post!

We received these free from the publishers as part of a lovely bundle of books to share with Peapod as he gets bigger (they’ve all either been reviewed or will be in upcoming weeks!) All views are my own.

Funny Face by Nicola Smee

The toddler in the book goes through a range of emotions as he meets a bear who takes his ball in the park one day.

On one side of each double page spread is a picture of the whole scene – boy, ball and bear at various stages of their encounter – with a simple sentence explaining what is happening. On the other is a close up of the toddler’s face with just ‘happy face’ or ‘sad face’ etc.

We liked the large, simple features on the face illustrations – they clearly show how our faces change with different feelings and really drew Peapod’s attention. The story pages are great for adding some context, which is often missing from books on feelings aimed at the very young, and they give a good starting point for conversations about feelings with older children too.

Toddlers will also enjoy copying the different expressions, either straight from the page or by mimicking you. The mirror on the last page is a lovely idea – they can see themselves trying different expressions, seeing how their faces change and comparing to the faces in the pictures. The page next to the mirror has all the faces shown which is a great idea. There’s even space to stick a photo of your own which is a lovely extra touch.

My only sticking points are the inclusion of a ‘naughty face’, which didn’t sit well with me, and the age recommendation on the back for 10mths+ – undoubtedly older babies and toddlers will understand more and get more from it, but even tiny babies like looking at faces and mirrors so this could be shared much younger.

But overall this is a lovely introduction to our feelings and how we express them for little ones.

Olobob Top – Let’s Visit Big Fish’s Pond by Leigh Hodgkinson and Steve Smith

I try to stick to positive reviews only on here and so I didn’t know whether to include this one in this board book round up or not. I decided to put it in as there were things we liked, but honestly, we didn’t love it.

We did love the illustrations though. They are bright and beautiful, collage-like, poppy and fun. I loved the style and the colour obviously appealed to Peapod as he enjoyed looking at it.

We aren’t familiar with the TV programme, but found this a bit odd to read. I’m all in favour of odd books on the whole, but this didn’t work for me. I also found the way it approached comparing size to be a bit unhelpful/inaccurate at times – one of the characters declaring they’re bigger because they’re older, for example.

This is a book that’s sure to be popular with fans of the series dbd has plenty of visual appeal. It’s one we’ll continue to enjoy looking through, but we’ll talk and name and point and make up our own stories when we do.

Let’s Explore With Ted by Sophy Henn

This was undoubtedly our favourite of the three. Ted is off on an adventure around the world,each page sees him exploring somewhere new, from tall mountains to tropical jungles to slippery icebergs.

I love that on the left of each spread is Ted’s home, then on the right the place he’s decided to explore, where there’s always a little nod to his starting point – a trailing plant and sleeping plant in the kitchen before Ted heads off to find a leopard in the jungle for example. It’s a lovely celebration of make believe and imaginative play.

We also loved the ‘whole page’ flaps – sturdy and big enough for Peapod to handle and turn himself, they fold up or down to extend the page cleverly.

The text is bold and well-pitched, there’s enough of a story to make the book flow, but with repetition and description that invites older babies and Toddlers to join in – with noises actions or with the repeated “let’s explore”.

Likewise, the illustrations are really appealing and engaging. There’s enough to make an interesting scene but not too much going on. The home pages are familiar and the explorations exciting – both offering great talking points.

We really enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to sharing it with Peapod when he’s a bit older and can chat about and interact with it even more. We’ll definitely be trying some of the other Ted books by Sophy Henn.

Have you read any of these with your little ones?

Peapod’s Picks – Spring has Sprung

It’s time for another Peapod’s Picks/KLTR mash up!

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.

This week, ahead of Easter, with the sun finally showing its face and daffodils, bluebells and tulips brightening our walks out, I thought we’d look at some of the spring-themed board books we’ve been reading.

Clockwise from left:

Ten Little Ladybirds by Melanie Gerth and Laura Huliska-Beith

A lovely rhyming, counting-down book with big bold numbers; bright, bumpy ladybirds to count or simply feel; and illustrations which fill the pages with colour.

Where’s Mr Duck by Ingela P Arrhenius

I’ve written before about this brilliant, bold, felt-flapped series – we love them. Simple, stylish and – most importantly – able to withstand a good deal of chewing and pulling!

Five Little Ducks by Yu-hsuan Huang

We love this song, which is a good job as its sung at pretty much every baby group we go to (though with so many variations on the ending!) and this book is lovely too. There’s a whole series of these from Nosy Crow and I think they’re great – simple but sturdy push and pull slides that are within the pages so can take a good bit of man-handling (Peapod’s not quite up to doing them himself yet, but he gives it a good go!). The illustrations are sunny and detailed with lots going on in the background to talk about and name. And there’s even a qr code link to a video of the song too!

Hooray for Hoppy by Tim Hopgood

I’m such a fan of Tim Hopgood’s illustration style – the textures, layers and print methods are really effective and the use of colour is stunning, something shown off brilliantly with all the flowers and rabbits here.

We enjoyed looking at it but this is one of those books that will last and last – covering the senses, spring time, seasons and nature there’s loads for older readers too! Perfect for reading before/after a springtime walk outdoors!

Are You There Little Bunny by Sam Taplin, Emily Dove and Nicola Butler

This is another lovely series for little readers, with peep through holes and tactile trails to follow with little fingers, as well as busy, bright illustrations it’s engaging and interactive but still durable (spot the recurring theme!)

On each page, there’s repetition of a phrase as we look for little bunny and think we’ve spotted him through the peephole, only to find it’s someone else when we turn over. Enjoyable now while Peapod’s little, but perfect for giggles and joining in with older little ones too.

Humphrey’s Garden by Sally Hunter

I have a real soft spot for the Humphrey’s Corner books. I can’t lie, the gender stereotyping is horrendous – lottie plays tea parties and dolls, daddy goes out to work while mums at home etc BUT I reassure myself that we have plenty of books that give balance to this and let it be – the soft, gentle and calming illustrations and familiar characters and everyday activities are still charming and we really like them.

The Secret Garden by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver

I’m a huge fan of this Baby Lit series of books. Each takes a classic and turns into a sharp and stylish primer book. Thoroughly unique and absolutely gorgeous. The Secret Garden is a flowers primer, with a quote from the book next to an image of the flowers it mentions. I love the printing technique used in this one.

Outdoors by Mel Four

You can read my review of this one here. We’re big fans of the beautiful images and the way the shiny, colourful parts contrast with the black and white.

That’s Not My… Bee/Bunny/Chick/Lamb by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells

While we love all the other books mentioned, That’s Not My… are definitely Peapod’s favourites. He LOVES this series! We have about 20 now and it’s a god job there’s so many as we read them all the time! You can read a more detailed review of them here.

Peapod’s Picks/KLTR – Classic Collection #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!

This week it’s also time for another #KLTR post, hosted by Book Bairn, Acorn Books and Laura’s Lovely Blog.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Peapod has really taken to his Hungry Caterpillar toy this week, he’s been commando-ing over to get it from the shelf and playing with it loads, so of course we’ve been reading it loads too!

Our only copy was this one:

It’s absolute treasure – it was mine and my sister’s when we were little. It also still has mum’s name inside from when she used it in school teaching, which is then semi-crossed out and replaced by mine from when I did the same.

So, we will keep it and read it too, but I wanted a more durable one for him to enjoy (read: eat) too, so we bought the board book version too.

It’s been a big hit already. To say he’s turning the pages would be a huge exaggeration but it’s lovely seeing him flip through the fruits and open and close it…in between chews of course!

When we bought it, I couldn’t resist getting the finger puppet book too. And I’m really glad we did – it’s a board book too so ticks all the handling/chewing/chucking boxes and he loves the caterpillar puppet (you guessed it, mostly he loves chewing it!). I really like that it’s a simple 1-5 counting primer using the fruit from the story but with added description – juicy oranges, tart plums etc – which makes it more interesting to read and will add to its longevity.

He’s had the cloth book for a while but has been looking at that more this week too. I love how soft and light it is – nice to hold and feel, chewable, hard to damage and even more hard to damage himself with! He also really likes grabbing the caterpillar’s head on the front!

Buying this in board book format made me think about which others we should have like this too. Obviously there’ll be those books that become favourites as he grows that we might choose to get, but I’m going to get some ‘classics’ too.

Which classic (or newer!) picture books would you add to his board book collection?

Peapod’s Picks/Kids Love to Read

Some of you will know that on a Friday (or more frequently recently, a Saturday – just like to keep you on your toes) I usually post ‘Peapod’s Picks’ – a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read for his bedtime story each week plus a review of at least one of them.

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

However on Monday I came across the Kids Love to Read (KLTR) link up on both Book Bairn and Acorn Books blogs so I’m doubling up this week to join in with that too!

With that in mind, I thought I’d kick off our KLTR posts (we hope to join in every month!) with a Q&A of sorts as an intro to us and our reading, rather than our usual round up and review – back to usual next week!

Introduce yourself and your chid(ren)

I’m Rachael. I’ve been a children’s bookseller for just over 2 years and before that I spent 8 years teaching early years and key stage 1. ‘Peapod’ is a six month old boy – he’s really easy going and desperate to be on the move! Peapod’s Dad also reads lots with us.

Did you enjoy reading as a child?

Yes! I could read before I started school and have always been a big reader.

Why? Or why not? (and if not, what changed?)

I think there were so many factors – talk, pretend play, books and stories at home…weekly trips to the library with the loveliest librarians…a school which nurtured my bookish side and encouraged my love of both reading and especially writing stories…

I’m short, being surrounded by reading, readers, books and imagination made me a reader.

What were your favourite books as a child?

This list could go on forever, but I’ll just choose a couple of picture books since that’s what Peapod Picks is about:

On the Way Home by Jill Murphy

Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski

The Timbuctoo books by Roger Hargreaves

Hedgehog and Mouse books by Gilly Meredith

And I’m counting this since my mum and I ADORE it and, although I had the chapter book version, is now available as a picture book too –

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson

What are your favourite picture/children’s books to read aloud now?

I’m not sure we have any favourites yet – Peapod is still too young to want anything on repeat! But I love anything by Barnett and Klassen, especially Triangle.

Daddy and I both find anything that needs voices doing hilarious – cavemen and pirates are apparently our favourites despite being awful at them!

You can’t beat a decent bit of rhyme and rhythm in a read aloud – I love Pants/More Pants by Giles Andreae and Nick Sharratt or 100 Dogs by Michael Whaite for this.

Or anything that makes us laugh – the Oi! books by Kes Gray and Jim Field, Simon Philip’s books You Must Bring a Hat and I Really Want The Cake or John Bond’s Mini Rabbit Not Lost spring to mind.

When do you read – for yourself or with your kids?

I read whenever I can find the time! Usually I manage to squeeze a few pages in around jobs during naptime, and audiobooks during pram naps or housework naps have been a recent revelation! I manage to read a few pages most evenings too.

Peapod has a bedtime story every night and it’s my favourite time of day. The three of us snuggle up on the dark and his Dad or I alternate nightly who chooses and reads the story.

We often read a board book in the morning too before we get up for the day. The That’s Not My… books are his favourites!

On a Friday we go to storytime at our local Waterstones (it’s been a nice change attending one rather than running one!) which we always enjoy and this term we’re starting a sensory story class too – I’ll post about that soon!

He has cloth books in his toy basket and change bag and we often look at a book during the day if we’re at home too.

And finally, if you could only read one bedtime story every night for the next year, what would it be?

Ooi, such a tough one. Either Triangle by Barnett and Klassen because I don’t think I’d ever get tired of reading that or Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton because it’s such a perfectly sleepy story.

I’d love to read your answers to these questions too – blog it and link back to me or let me know in the comments!

Which picture books or bedtime stories did you read this week?