Peapod’s Picks – A Rather Blustery Day!

We’ve bought several new picture books recently and I’ll be trying to review them all in the coming weeks, but as September begins and Autumn settles in, it seemed fitting to start with two blustery books that both Peapod and I have instantly loved.

First up…

Jeremy Worried About the Wind by Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Kate Hindley.

Probably most well known for her early chapter books, Pamela Butchart is a brilliant children’s author who writes with bags of humour and really knows her audience.

Likewise, Kate Hindley’s illustrations are firm favourites in our house; her characteristic images always so expressive, fun and packed with detail.

And the two combined have worked magic here!

In Jeremy, they’ve created a tryly loveable character – a sensible and sensitive soul, he is worried about everything – from bananas to dinosaurs, zips to the wind.

But, being as caring as he is nervous, when carefree Maggie shows up throwing caution to the wind (geddit?!) Jeremy takes it upon himself to protect her, even when she decides to make the most of a wild and windy day!

We love the series of spreads with no text, set out in a comic strip style to showcase Jeremy’s adventure when he’s blown away. Kate’s style is perfect for this, with the perfect balance of disbelief, mild, pirate-y peril, wide-eyed panic and excitement!

This is a brilliant book that has broad appeal. Peapod doesn’t yet understand some of the finer points in the humour of the story, but older readers will. He does however love listening to it regardless (and I’d say holding a hyped up two year old’s attention is the biggest test of all in a picture book!) and thinks the visual humour and action is wonderful. And I agree.

A hilarious, ridiculous adventure that is heaps of fun and full of warmth and the joy of living dangerously! Love it.

The Leaf Thief by Alice Hemming and Nicola Slater

This is such a brilliant book. If you work in EYFS/KS1 (or dare I suggest it KS2) you need a copy of this immediately.

Full of the joys of spring autumn, this is a laugh out loud look at seasonal changes.

Squirrel wakes up one morning to find a leaf missing on their tree! Panicking, they go to ask seemingly long-suffering Bird what could have happened to it.

When another one vanishes the next day, no one is above suspicion – Mouse and Woodpecker and even poor Bird are all accused!

The characters in this are wonderfully written, with Nicola Slater’s energetic and expressive illustrations the perfect match. You can really feel Squirrel jittering and skittering up and down and round the tree and see the patient resignation in Bird.

I love the way Bird explains the leaves falling to Squirrel; beautifully described, with a touch of humour then explained more fully its the perfect introduction to the season for young children, as well as creating a brilliantly funny story in its own right.

We read this for the first time last night and it’s another that Peapod won’t understand ‘properly’ for a while yet, but he loved the pictures and listening to the story, giggling at Squirrel hunting for the leaves and suspecting Mouse!

But for older children there’s so much to love here and there’s even a double page of facts about how trees and leaves change in autumn at the end of the book, which I think is a great idea and again is clearly written – easy to understand without shying away from ‘real’ terms such as ‘deciduous’, ‘hemispheres’ and ‘hibernation’.

A brilliant book for the season, with wonderful characters, lots of laughs and a fantastic, funny twist that finishes the book superbly! I’ll be looking out for more from this duo!

Have you read either of these?

Do you have any favourite windy day picture books?!

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.

Mini Monday: 7/1/19

Kicking off 2019 with three snowy books (maybe it will bring the actual snow!)*

*The last of these reviews is a tweaked and slightly expanded version of one from WWW Wednesday last week – you can always skip it if you saw it first time round!

First up…

There’s a Yeti in the Playground by Pamela Butchart

Illustrated by Thomas Flintham

It’s snowing and Izzy and friends are hoping they’ll all be sent home early. But then they hear weird noises in the playground, and find a big footprint in the snow… And that’s when they know! There’s a YETI in the playground and it’s HUNGRY!

The young readers in work LOVE these books and it’s easy to see why with plots, plans and action aplenty – not to mention huge dollops of humour that adults will love too.

As a former infant teacher, so much of this made me properly laugh out loud – both supremely silly and totally believable at the same time! Anyone who’s ever been in a school will find plenty of familiar faces, recognisable rules and everyday events here, but bigger, bolder and funnier!

Snow, survival skills and being stuck in school – not to mention a seriously stinky scent! This is observational humour at its best – larger than life and laugh out loud!

Thanks to Nosy Crow for my copy.

The Missing Barbegazi by H. S. Norup

Cover design by Anna Morrison

Tessa knows that the Barbegazi exist because her beloved grandfather told her about them. So she sets out to prove to her family and friends that her grandfather wasn’t just a confused old man. But Tessa realises that uncovering the truth carries great responsibilities.

This was set on the ski slopes of Austria and is a great example of an author really knowing and loving their setting. It’s clearly well-loved territory, fondly described with little touches of the familiar that help to paint the picture for those of us who have never touched a ski!

Likewise, I enjoyed the fact that it was written from both Tessa and Gawion’s perspectives and the addition of the pages from the guide to Alpine elves was a really interesting and unusual way to add background information and detail.

With themes of friendship, loss and trust as well as protecting the environment and knowing when to keep a secret, this is a story of unlikely allegiances, cunning plots to foil the bad guy, wintry landscapes and daring late night escapades this is a great adventure, perfect for fans of Lauren St John’s Kat Wolfe Investigates or Jess Butterworth’s When The Mountains Roared.

Thanks to Pushkin for my copy.

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

Cover illustration by Rachel Vale

Clementine discovers a mysterious house full of snowglobes, each containing a trapped magician. One of these is Dylan, a boy who teases her in the real world but who is now desperate for her help.

So Clem embarks on a mission to release Dylan and the other magicians, unknowingly unleashing a struggle for power that will put not only her family, but the future of magic itself in danger.

I finished reading this on Christmas Day. I think this is the first Christmas Day I’ve managed to read since I was little! It was lovely (even if I did have to read stood up!) and the magical feel of this book was perfectly suited to it!

I really enjoyed the characters of Ganymede, Io and Clem especially and the way strong emotions are portrayed and played out through the magic of the book worked really well.

But what I really loved were the magical elements of the book and the world building – so imaginative and exciting.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m still marvelling at the Snowglobes and the setting – at the worlds within a world within a world. The whole concept was such a unique idea and brilliantly described – so tangible and memorable. It made me want to go in and explore!

Thanks to Macmillan for my copy.

Have you read any of these – what did you think?

What are your favourite wintry or snowy books?