Picture Book and Play – Easter Bunnies!

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

As Easter approaches, Peapod and I have begun some Easter themed activities, starting with our Easter cards.

I totally cheated for this one and found it on a good old g**gle search.

I have tried to find the original source to credit here, but I’m just on an endless Pinterest-Google cycle so just please know: this isn’t my own idea and I’m not being asked to use it, but I did love it. If it’s yours, shout and I’ll credit you 🙂

We had a good laugh getting the footprints done and it was a great sensory experience for Peapod!

And once we’d done the spaced out ones for the cards, he had a great time stomping round (with me holding on!) shouting “fee fi fo fum…smell blood man…be dead…grind bones make my bread!” so a bit of a bookish bonus there too!

That said, between tickly brushes, slippery paint and a wriggly toddler I’m glad there were two of us on hand to help…and even then it wasn’t without mishap 😬! Definitely one to do on the grass outside next time!

We also did a quick bunny craft which he really surprised me with.

I put out bunny templates, cotton wool balls, pritt stick, sticky eyes and scissors and, honestly, I was expecting two bits of cotton wool half-heartedly stuck to it with several mismatched eyes and probably a severed head.

But (obviously with guidance!) he carefully covered the whole bunny, stuck some eyes on in about the right place (miraculously with no help) and (with me turning the card and doing the inside fiddly bits) followed the lines to cut it out too.

He even chose to do another independently…although that did end up de-furred and with eyes on its ears some time later!!

We’ve also got some bunny painting to do at the weekend to use up the last often footprint paint! We’re going to use cotton wool to splodge, stamp and probably spread the paint over our bunnies for some colourful Easter pics!

Of course, with all these Easter bunnies on the go, we had to get some of our best bunny books out to read too.

We read Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit by Lorna Scobie which I’ve reviewed before here and absolutely love.

(Incidentally – I was made up that our copy of Lorna’s new book ‘Duck, Duck, Dad?’ arrived the other day but had to resist the temptation to read it as it’s Peapod’s present for his dad’s birthday so we’ll review after that!)

Next up was Hooray for Hoppy! by Tim Hopgood, another enduring favourite we’ve read for the last couple of years at this time. Read more here.

And finally, Hop Little Bunnies by Martha Mumford and Laura Hughes, which again we have reviewed before but remains a favourite.

Peapod very much enjoyed dancing his newly made bunny around the room singing “hop little bunny” too!

And just because we couldn’t possibly get to them all yesterday, here’s some more of our favourite bunny books that we’ve got in our basket at the moment!

Have you got any favourite bunny books?

Will you be making any Easter cards or crafts?

What have you been reading or playing this week?

The Swallows’ Flight

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review, but will be buying the finished copy too! All views and opinions are my own.

The Swallows Flight by Hilary McKay, cover art by Dawn Cooper, published by Macmillan

Hilary McKay’s The Skylarks’ War shot into my favourite books ever when I read it back in 2018, so I was incredibly excited to hear there’d be a follow up, and even more thrilled to be able to read an advance copy on netgalley.

Let me tell you now – it has more than earned a place alongside Skylarks in my all time faves, being every bit as wonderful, and has cemented my opinion of Hilary McKay as one of my most highly-rated writers for children today.

So much of my feelings about Swallows echo those I had about Skylarks, with much of what I wrote there standing true for this book also.

And, somewhat inevitably, there will be many comparisons and parallels drawn between the two as I write this review as I loved the way the books link and follow on from each other.

Written as a companion novel to Skylarks, The Swallows’ Flight could easily be read without having read the former. However, I’d urge anyone planning to read Swallows to first read Skylarks; not only because it’s an absolutely outstanding book, but also because it really does add to Swallows to have read it.

It’s in the little references to past events, in the clever parallels and symbolism in the writing and, of course, in the characters.

We see several familiar characters return (later in life) alongside their families and I absolutely loved being able to rejoin some of the characters who I felt I’d got to know so well and who brought me so much joy to read in Skylarks.

I don’t know how much of a spoiler it is to say who reappears, so I’ll keep my lips tightly sealed other than to say that Grandfather in particular was the absolute star of the show here for me. His dry wit, stubbornness and, yes, his penchant for a drink allow for some wonderful comic moments (if these books ever became films and he wasn’t played by Richard E Grant it’d be an outrage).

But he also made for a very thought-provoking character, as I reflected on Skylarks as I read. And interestingly, it was him that helped other characters develop in some ways too, notably Kate, one of the new faces in the family and another of my favourite characters.

There’s a feel of I Capture the Castle’s Cassandra as she quietly notes down all her family and friends’ comings and goings, seemingly from the sidelines, as she is repeatedly overlooked and underestimated. But she’s stronger than she seems and I loved seeing her blossom in this.

I also loved her younger brother Charlie and new friend Ruby Amaryllis (and the story behind her birth and naming which was pitch-perfect for what we know of her mum already and for what we see of Ruby herself as she grows).

In fact it’s safe to say that all of the characters are an absolute joy to read; Hilary McKay is a writer who understands family dynamics and can bring her characters to life like no other. As in Skylarks, it is their depth and credibility their relationships and growth and our investment in them that really makes the book.

With Skylarks set around the First World War, Swallows takes us to a Europe on the brink of war once more, as World War Two approaches.

And this leads us to two more new characters I loved – Hans and Erik. They are an absolutely adorable double act, best friends with grand plans to run the zoo and nearby coffee stall. They are a delight to read – warm and loving and with that true spirit of carefree youth – and they complement the rest of the cast of characters superbly.

And, of course, they’re German.

I love the way that Swallows not only uses the multiple perspectives Skylarks does, but also the way it switches between Hans and Erik in Berlin and the families in England.

It created such tension and really added something to the way we see the war, encouraging the reader to consider it from all angles and helped us to learn more about its effects on ‘both sides’, with everyone just ‘doing what they can’.

As with Skylarks, this at no point shies away from the uncertainties and tragedies of war, nor its staggering, inconceivable scenes and events (Dunkirk for example), but they are always written about with such incredible deftness and sensitivity; its almost understated in its approach and hits so much harder because of it.

Quietly powerful, perceptive, funny and full of heart, this is a book to savour and to treasure.

As soon as its out (27th May – get it ordered!) it will be joining Skylarks on my shelf as a book that I will turn to for comfort, for escape…and for a chance to spend time once more with characters who now feel like old friends.

Picture Book and Play – Construction Site

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

Peapod has been mad on playing with his builders recently so this is the first of a building site double over the next two weeks!

Yes, that is a Tool Station catalogue – nothing like a bit of ‘real life’ print! In fact, it was that rather than one of his picture books that triggered this interest in his building toys again, as he went and got his toolbox after seeing the hammers and drills in here!

He’s also enjoyed the Let’s Pretend Builders Toolkit which has pop out tools that he likes to get out and pretend to use.

I pushed plastic golf tees a little way into a box then left them out with his hammer.

This is one of those activities though that requires a bit of realism on our part; Peapod enjoyed it but it’s very much a short-bursts, short-lived one – he returned to it a few times a day over a couple of days for a few mins at a time. So don’t go expecting it to fill an hour, but since it takes no time at all to set up it’s all good, and great for hand-eye coordination and motor skills too!

A more long-lived activity, and probably Peapod’s favourite of those we’ve done, was his construction site tray. Peapod loved playing with “Orange Bear” when we had the snow in his tray, so I ordered a couple more of the diggers in that range and set them up in his tray.

We had this out for a good week and it was probably the most played with thing in that time. He spent hours here (and although the tray’s changed now, he is still playing with the diggers).

We used lots of modelling and his books to help extend his play and language in here. His favourite book to use was definitely Busy Building Site – he’s looked at this over and over again! He loves the flaps and the central character of ‘Builder Barney’ who takes us through a build from start to finish.

It’s a great book with lots of flaps to lift that help show the processes on the site; simple rhyming text to help talk us through it; ‘sound effects’ written on to engage and join in with; and, most importantly, lots of age-appropriate technical vocabulary labelling items on the pages.

Peapod has loved finding out what everything is called, matching it to his own toys where he has them, finding out what the builders are doing abd acting it out in his tray – he particularly likes digging foundations!

We adapted it as we went, adding in this ‘rubbish chute’ and ‘skip’ for example, and while he loved the pebbles and corks, he didn’t touch the bobbins despite us modelling them so I took those out. And Peapod chose to bring his other builders and people into it.

We’re also reading ‘Dig, Dig, Digging’ by Margaret Mayo and Alex Ayliffe most days and he likes to match the vehicles in the book to his own toy ones.

While it doesn’t explicitly say its poetry, I don’t know what else you’d call each short rhythmic passage – one for each vehicle, filled with onomatopoeia, repetition and action. A perfect, slightly surreptitious introduction to poetry!

As well as matching his vehicles to the images in the book, he also likes to bring them over to match to his jigsaws!

And of course, it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t include one of the duds – this week play dough!

I made playdough and put it out with his tools, with the idea of making prints – hammering, drilling, screwing into it etc. – and while he did do this for all of two minutes, the dough quickly became a cake and the screws candles! He enjoyed it and that’s the main thing 😂

Join us next week for more building-themed stories and play!

What have you been reading and playing this week?

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.

20 Books of Summer #2 – Kidnap on the California

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Kidnap on the California Comet by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

We first met Hal and his Uncle Nat in last year’s first ‘Adventure on Trains’, The Highland Falcon Thief (you can read my review of that here) and I have been looking forward to this second adventure ever since!

It was well worth the wait.

This time, Hal is accompanying his Uncle Nat on The California Comet, travelling from Chicago to San Francisco.

Nat, a journalist, is there to cover an announcement bring made by billionaire August Reza, but when August’s daughter is kidnapped during the press conference, Hal once again finds himself at the centre of the investigation trying to get to the bottom of what’s happened, who has Marianne and where they are…

This was every bit as good as book one! If you haven’t read the first, I’d strongly recommend starting there but this would read perfectly well if you started here instead.

As with the first book, the passengers are an eclectic bunch, many of whom raise suspicions in one way or another from the secretive Mr Hart who refuses to part with his briefcase to the bold Adie with bearded dragon in tow to the no nonsense, no niceties Vanessa and curious fellow journalist Zola.

I think the characters are very cleverly drawn, both metaphorically and literally. Everyone knows that a good mystery absolutely demands a few key ‘types’ in the mix, but of course you don’t want them to feel tired or like caricatures of themselves; Maya, Sam and Elisa walk the line wonderfully here with plenty of knowing humour, a lightness of touch and only allowing us the small glimpses of each of them that Hal himself gets.

Once again, Hal is lucky enough to find some help on board, this time in the form of siblings Hadley – an aspiring magician – and her brother Mason – a keen impersonator and performer.

I wasn’t sure about them when we first met them, but grew to love them in no time at all and Marilyn Mason sealed the deal. (Honestly, this was my favourite thing in the whole book, I am still chortling now, and as with book one’s Diamond Dogs I’m looking squarely at Maya!)

I really loved the way each of their skills came into play in solving the mystery too. In Hal’s case, this is through his observation and drawings, which are once again brilliantly brought to life by Elisa Paganelli (I especially liked the ransom note’s Easter egg!)

Likewise, the train and scenery (both of which were totally unfamiliar to me and likely would be to most young resdeds) are made real through both the attention to detail in the text and made even easier to visualise through Elisa’s accompanying illustrations, which really do feel like they bring everything together.

As with The Highland Falcon Thief, this had me on my toes right to the end! While I was correct in some of my guesses, other things I just couldn’t piece together and I was constantly changing my mind or coming up with new theories and suspects.

All of which builds to a dramatic ending that will have you on the edge of your seat too as it really ramps up the pace, and throws even more last minute twists in there. An absolutely brilliant finale!

This is a pacy and immensely enjoyable mystery, with plenty of humour that has friendship and home at its heart. I absolutely could not put it down and am already looking forward to finding out where Hal and Nat will go next!

Shadows Of Winterspell

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review (bloody ages ago – I’m so sorry it’s taken so long!) All views and opinions are my own.

Shadows of Winterspell by Amy Wilson

This took me far too long to get round to reading! I’d requested it because I really enjoyed Snowglobe by the same author last year, but knew next to nothing about it until I read Lily’s review of it earlier this month. Like Lily, I was uncertain about the contemporary aspects, but trusted that if she’d still enjoyed it I probably would too! And I did!

Stella lives with her (ghost) Nan and Nan’s familiar Peg in a house protected by multiple charms just outside the forest of Winterspell.

The dark and dangerous shadows set loose in Winterspell by Stella’s father mean its not safe to venture in there, do Stella is cut off from the other Fae that live there. And she has no contact with the human community nearby either.

Lonely, and with a streak of almost-adolescent rebellion, Stella enrols at school to try to find her place, to fit in and find friends.

Amidst the PE bags and pencil cases, assemblies and awkwardness of being the newbie, Stella finds all is not quite as it seems and soon her and her new friends are battling to save Winterspell from her father’s shadows.

I thought the way the contemporary school setting and themes of friendship, loneliness, change, growing up and rebellion were merged with the magical elements of fairy folk, spells, Ghost Nan and glamour was expertly done and both ‘sides’ really complemented and balanced the other.

The way Amy Wilson has captured the spontaneity and determination of a child just starting to rebel, the uncertainty of new friendships and the anxiety and fierce protection of parents/guardians shows real perception and understanding.

Likewise, she utilises the fantasy elements of the story to gently explores loss and grief really effectively, unobtrusively and with great use of symbolism, imagery and metaphor.

And the fantasy elements really make the story come alive, whether through an action-packed, spell-slinging battle, or the humour brought by mischievous imp Peg, or the magical creatures we meet in Winterspell. The Centauride, Rory, especially is magnificent – she seems to embody the power and importance of nature and is one of my favourite characters despite being only a minor one.

This is a story with a fantastic sense of atmosphere and place. The characters are rounded and immensely likeable and believable; Zara especially is brilliant. The pace is kept up, and the balance between fantasy and legend and modernity and real-life is perfect.

A magical story of family and friendship that is full of feeling and gets everything spot on.

The Time of Green Magic

I requested and received a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay. Cover art by

Hilary McKay’s Skylark’s War was one of my favourite books of last year.

And this has leapt straight into my favourites of 2019. I wrote on twitter when I finished it that it felt like “a duvet day of a book” and it absolutely does. Released this week, it is the perfect read for cold but cosy autumn days as the evenings draw nearer.

Unlike The Skylark’s War, The Time of Green Magic is set in the present day. But, like Skylark’s, it deals with the thorny issues of growing up – friendships and fallings out and first crushes and family.

It specifically focuses on changes to the family dynamic, as Abi’s Grandma – who until now has helped bring her up – returns to Jamaica and she and her dad move in with his new partner and her sons, Max and Louie.

I was really pleased (but not at all surprised) to see the ‘everyday-ness’ of the difficulties in this change. You’ll find no wicked stepmother here, no cruel or tormenting older siblings, no-one ignored or bullied or mistreated. This is very much a book about the fact that change, especially a change in home and family dynamics, no matter how positively or lovingly handled, can be hard. And that that’s ok.

The way Hilary McKay writes families is both hugely perceptive and filled with warmth. Both here and in Skylark’s, her characters have a depth and reality that’s rare to see, and their relationships feel incredibly familiar and believable too.

The characters themselves are immensely likeable, especially little Louie who brought bags of humour to the book and utterly stole my heart!

Alongside these contemporary themes, it also ‘stars’ a wonderful old house, brimming with atmosphere, ivy and, it seems, magic.

This atmosphere is helped wonderfully by Hilary McKay’s masterful use of language. The description, phrases and vocabulary used are beautiful, funny, observant and detailed.

This combination of old and new, real and fantasy and the way nature and magic are intertwined with the way the characters cope with everyday struggles is very clever and well-balanced and gives the book a modern-but-not sort of feel. If it was a dress, it would be vintage but bang on trend today.

Abi is struggling with the upheavals in her life and we see her retreat into books. So immersed does she become that they almost feel real – she can smell, taste and touch it all, its almost like she’s there…

Meanwhile, six year old Louie is finding the change hard too and we see him cope with a new (imaginary?) friend Iffen – an increasingly big, cat-like something.

But is it all in their imagination? Or is there something else at play?

I loved the way this book took the ideas of imaginary friends and the way books can be an escape and made it real with an incredibly subtle and unique sort of magic. The best sort that leaves you questioning if it’s real, magic, imagination or a mix of the three.

This is an absolutely wonderful book and one of my favourites of the year. Full of humour, warmth and a magic all of its own.

Peapod’s Picks – A Collection of Cobb

We were lucky enough to win this collection of books from the publishers. Opinions and views are all my own.

We are brand new to Rebecca Cobb’s books, so were thrilled to win this copy of her new book ‘Hello Friend!’ along with some of her other books.

We loved all of them. The everyday situations are familiar and are written and illustrated with warmth and humour.

It’s a testament to how highly we rated them that, while I normally take one photo of a spread from the book, I found myself taking loads of each book, unable to choose which part I wanted to share most, which we liked best or thought funniest or cleverest!

Hello Friend!

Perfect for reading in those first few weeks at school or nursery (though it is emphatically not a starting school book and would be just as enjoyable at other times too) this is a book full of heart.

We see a lovely, confident little girl take a (rather uncertain) boy under her wing. Her efforts to include him, cheer him, share with him and help him – in short, to befriend him – are written written with wit, insight (as a former teacher, I had to smile as the characters were so real!) and care.

The ending is wonderful too and made me smile and smile.

Aunt Amelia

Reminiscent of Jill Murphy’s skills at depicting family life, there’s an understated, observational style to this which will resonate with parents/carers.

Aunt Amelia has come to babysit and the children aren’t happy…at first! We see her carefully *ahem* following Mum and Dad’s (very sensible) instructions…

I have very fond memories of staying up too late colouring and playing with my aunt when she babysat, and of being plied with treats whenever I stayed at my grandma’s.

This book sums up brilliantly those unspoken rules of babysitting – that any actual rules will be ignored and fun will be had, treats will be eaten and bedtime will be late, then everyone will pretend otherwise in a rather knowing way the next day. Funny and perfect for that first night away from young children.

It’s lunchtime but our young protagonist is just too busy to eat! Mum insists. Luckily for our rather cross little heroine, interrupted at her work, some rather fierce looking creatures turn up to eat it for her.

There’s a few reviews pitching this as perfect for fussy eaters. I don’t have one of those (at least not yet 🤞) but I’d say it’s less a book to teach children about eating and more of a much-needed reminder to grown ups about the power of imagination, time and creativity.

Like Lunchtime, this is a story fuelled by and showcasing splendidly the power of imagination.

When a ball falls down a random hole in the garden, everyone speculates about what could be down there – from mice to moles to dragons!

This woukd be a great book to start imaginative play or conversation. Even Peapod’s dad and I were sat debating what it might be after we’d finished reading it for bedtime!

The other thing I liked about this was that dad was shown doing the washing and being a bit frightened of frogs while mum was busy having a good look. It’s small, incidental things like this addressing inequality/misconceptions/stereotypes etc that I love to see and prefer to the all singing, all dancing books *about* it (though of course there’s a place for those too!)

This is a book of imagination, of possibility, of what ifs. It is magical and I absolutely loved it.

So did Peapod!

In short, these books were the best surprise. I’d expected to read them, quite like them/think they were sweet and pop them on the shelf for another day…but they were just fab and have really stayed with me.

Rebecca Cobb is an unsung talent and a firm new favourite in our house.

Return to Wonderland

I requested and received a copy of this free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.

I love Alice in Wonderland. I love its eccentricity, its cleverness, its humour, its playfulness, its wit, its off-its-head-off-with-their-head-ness. And so, I was really excited to see some of today’s best children’s authors revisiting it in this short story collection.

Each story has something of the original that fans of Alice will love, it’s a real treat for those who’ve already read (and re-read) the original.

But each also brings with it its modern author’s distinct style, voice and choice of direction and theme, making it perfect for fans of these authors and/or as an introduction to Wonderland for a new readers.

I think Pamela Butchart’s ‘The Queen of Hearts and the Unwritten Rule’, for example, is a great story for new readers, and sits well in its position early on in the book. It gives a brilliant broad impression of Wonderland and brings it bang up to date at the same time with the introduction of Lil Queen, the Queen of Hearts tech-savvy, ultra-modern, next-big-thing-loving daughter.

Likewise, stories such as Patrice Lawrence’s ‘Roll of Honour’, Maz Evans’ ‘The Sensible Hatter’, or Lisa Thompson’s ‘The Knave of Hearts’ are great for honing in on particular characters/events from the book in new ways.

Just as it reconnects familiar readers with their favourite characters and events, it’s a great way to introduce these characters and Wonderland’s weird ways to newcomers.

I think the biggest surprise for me was Chris Smith’s ‘The Tweedle Twins and the Case of the Colossal Crow’, which I found myself chuckling all the way through.

I really enjoyed the way it was written, with lots of asides to the reader and a combination of both daft and dry humour – all of which made it perfect for a Wonderland tale.

So, I reached the end thinking “but who is this Chris Smith? What else have they written…and why haven’t I read it?” I googled of course and couldn’t believe what came up – Kid Normal! Co-authored with Greg James, I admit I’d always just dismissed it as popular, celebrity unfunny funny stuff…but I suspect I may have been…*whispers it*…wrong. Certainly if its written like this is, I was and it deserves a closer look!

Anyway back to Wonderland. Being a collection of stories, it will of course divide readers on which are the ‘best’. Everyone will have their own favourites, just as everyone will have their own favourite moments and characters from the original (and this will no doubt play into which of these we like most).

My own favourites, alongside The Tweedle Twins, were:

  • ‘The Missing Book’ by Swapna Haddow I thought this really captured the absurdity and contrariness of Wonderland, as well as Carroll’s love of word play. Wonderfully Wonderland-ish.
  • Plum Cakes at Dawn by Lauren St John I loved how Lauren St John evokes brilliantly the weirdness of Wonderland, while at the same time getting a very timely and urgent environmental message across. Those familiar with her work will appreciate how ‘her’ this is.
  • Ina Out of Wonderland by Robin Stevens I loved the back story to this and how Robin drew on not just Alice, but it’s creation and creator, focusing on Carroll, the Liddell girls (the ‘real’ Alice and her sisters) and their Oxford home. I thought she very cleverly and creatively tied this to the original (I feel sure if you’re an Alice fan, you’ll absolutely what she does) but made it something new and brimming with a fiery, mould-breaking determination too.

That is the other thing I really liked about the collection – each story has a short introduction from the author detailing, for example, their inspiration, memories and favourite moments from the original book and setting the scene, which I found really interesting.

Again, Alice fans will likely recognise the sentiments in many of them while new readers may be encouraged to read or at least dip into the original to see what all the fuss is about!

This collection is perfect for old fans and new visitors to Wonderland alike. With a fabulous balance of nostalgia and modernity, there are plenty of old favourites with some new gems as well. It’s a collection that is a more than worthy tribute to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and is every bit as weird wondrous.

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!