Peapod’s Picks: The Pigeon

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, we’re looking at ‘the pigeon books’ by Mo Willems.

Some of you will probably be familiar with this one – it’s a classic and popular in schools too (especially when looking at persuasion with older classes – imagine that, a picture book being read to older children 😏)

For those of you who don’t know it, it begins with a bus driver addressing the reader:

Then, along comes the pigeon, and he is desperate to drive the bus!

Using every persuasive phrase and technique known to toddlers man, he cajoles, pleads, tantrums and bargains. He begs, sulks, sneaks and bribes. And as its all addressed to you, the reader, kids can have great fun being the ones to say “No!”!

Peapod’s not quite at that stage yet, but he loves listening to us read this one. Luckily, it’s as much fun to read as it is to listen to (it’d be a great one for older children to try out changing their tone, expression, pitch etc while reading too) and it’s only quite short, so bears repeated reads well!

He even rooted past the toys in the basket to get to the book at the back and bring it out to read!

That’s my boy!

When I went off work on mat leave, my amazing colleagues (who know me and my love of this book so well – special tip of the hat to Michelle and Brian) got me this pigeon as part of my pressie. It actually shouts “Let me drive the bus!”

He let him drive the bus!!

Anyway, we recently found out there were others in the series (and I call myself a kids bookseller! For shame!) We’ve had The Pigeon Needs a Bath for ages but only just found out about/ got hold of the others.

They all follow a similar pattern – the pigeon either wants or doesn’t want something and employs his best persuasive techniques to get his way.

Hot dog and cookie move away from the mould without entirely breaking it, offering insight into Pigeon’s thoughts on sharing and fairness as well as introducing us to Duckling, who is a great character and a perfect counter to Pigeon.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! is hilarious. It’s a perfect picture of injustice as seen through the eyes of a tiddly one, and the twist at the end is brilliant.

Peapod’s Dad likes The Pigeon Needs a Bath and if you’ve ever needed to bath a reluctant child, you’ll likely appreciate it too. Likewise, any of you who’ve ever been around a small child at bedtime can’t fail to smile as familiar argument after charming phrase is played out in Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late.

We love these books. They are SO funny and have such a fantastic understanding of children at their heart! (I recently learned that Mo Willems worked on Sesame Street and it suddenly all made sense).

If you haven’t read these yet, start with Bus – you won’t regret it!

We saw this sign randomly hanging in a pub a couple of years ago. It still both baffles and amuses me!

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Peapod’s Picks – Happy Mother’s Day

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 some of our favourite ‘mum’ books (and I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a cheat post as most are links to previous reviews – everyone’s allowed a best bits/recap type post once in a while, especially on Mother’s Day, right?!)

A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton

Little Owl falls out of his best, but luckily Squirrel is on hand to help find the way back to mum. A classic ‘have you seen my mummy?’ story.

You can read my original review here. And if you haven’t seen Tchéky Karyo (BBC’s Baptiste) read this on CBeebies Bedtime Stories, give it a watch – the voices are first class! I’m still hoping he’ll read Chris Haughton’s other books too!

On the Way Home by Jill Murphy

Claire has a bad knee. On her way home, she meets lots of friends and tells them all exactly what happened…or does she?!

This is not strictly a very mum-ish story at all. Her mum only features on the last couple of pages and doesn’t even have a face. But even in this bit part, she’s such a mum – comforting, understanding and reassuring, all the things a mum should be, fetching Claire the very biggest plaster in the box!

You can read my original review here.

The Large Family Books by Jill Murphy

Yes, it’s another Jill Murphy, but I couldn’t possibly mention picture book mums without a huge shout out to Mrs Large!

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Large Family’s warmth, observational humour and realism and nowhere is this more evident than in Mrs Large, often harassed (Five Minutes Peace captures this perfectly!), the struggle is real but her love for those little elephants is abundantly clear – she’s my mum hero (especially when she caves in to the cake in A Piece of Cake!)

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson

Sarah, Percy and Bill wake up to find their mum gone. Sarah is reassuring – convincing herself as much as her brothers that mum will be back, Percy is doubtfully reassured, and Bill…well, Bill just wants his mummy!

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, I know but it’s a favourite and it’s probably the book that resonates most with me, as I definitely have a Bill! This is a go-to bedtime story when we’re having a particularly clingy time (resulting in us reading it most weeks!)

Happy Mother’s Day to you if you’re celebrating!

Do you have any favourite picture book mums?!

Peapod’s Picks – A Brilliant New Book Haul!

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!

We have had a bumper haul of brilliant new books recently, so thought we’d share these with you today. (It’s a long one because we loved them all so much – sorry!)

Dinosaur Department Store by Richard Merritt and Lily Murray

Eliza Jane wants a REAL dinosaur for her birthday, so a trip to the Dinosaur Department Store is in order…

This is the only book we bought where the author and illustrator were new to me, but they’re definitely ones we’ll be keeping our eyes on in the future!

I think it’s fair to say Eliza Jane is a handful! She’s a great main character – fiery, fun and full of confidence, this is a girl who knows what she wants and most importantly, how to get it – we loved how the story ended (and the lead up to it in the illustrations throughout!)

This book has huge appeal on so many other levels too.

Its a must-read for Dino fans with wonderful descriptions and illustrations of all kinds of different prehistoric pets, not just your standard fare, as well as a handy pronunciation guide at the back (I don’t know about you but I am awful at knowing how to say dinosaurs’ names!)

The illustrations are beautifully bright and colourful, with a touch of magic in simultaneously making the dinosaurs fairly realistic and utterly absurd (bowler hats and bow ties, hot dogs and stargazing, not to mention the glam rock theropods!)Absolutely fantastic.

The story itself zips along with enjoyable rhythm and rhyme and LOADS of exciting and interesting vocabulary and opportunities for expression and ‘sound effects’ when reading aloud.

In short – brilliant.

Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Most of you will already know how much I love these books. I was so excited for this one that we read it on the bus home from the shop (and again when we got home, and again at bedtime, and…)

Circle was definitely worth the wait!

I never fail to be amazed at the depth and expression in Klassen’s illustrations considering the limited pallette and facial features. Indeed there are several double pages that are dark save for eyes yet they say so much – there’s not many books that could get away with that!

Likewise, the text is carefully considered and had us cracking up.

Just as dry and funny as the first two books – Circle has retained her cool, Triangle is as sneaky as ever and Square is still, well, square.

And surely with that ending there’s a glimmer of hope that we’ll see these guys again?!

The Steves by Morag Hood

Meet Steve. And, erm, Steve. This book ain’t big enough for the both of them!

Aside from giving me a Sparks earworm every time I read the back cover, I love this!

Morag Hood is fast becoming one of my favourite, favourite picture book authors – if you don’t know her other books either, I highly recommend rectifying that!

The Steves is hilarious. And it has puffins in and I love puffins.

With bold, print-like illustrations against bright but plain backgrounds, the illustrations really pop off the page and with nothing else going on you can really home in on the expressions and body language of The Steves which capture their feelings perfectly.

The text is simple and short and all the more effective for it – it has all the energy and exuberance of a child’s sulky strop!

And it’s fantastic for reading aloud – even better if there’s two of you to do it (Daddy and I read this one jointly for bedtime, each taking on the role of a Steve and it was great fun! We laughed a lot!)

Loved it! (And I’ll be sending a copy to my friend Uno, another Rachael, to whom I am Dos…!)

In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon by Frann Preston-Gannon

Frog is singing in the swamp one night, but singing alone isn’t much fun so he heads off to find others to join his swampy-song!

Perfect for anyone who ever played the triangle at school, this is the tale of Frog’s search for all the sounds of the swamp to make his song complete. He has a crocodile and mice, fish and birds but something’s still missing – it couldn’t be the tiny firefly who thinks their song isn’t good enough though, could it?

It’s quite different to Frann Preston-Gannon’s other books (I think) but no less charming. The illustrations are immersive and it feels like a lazy, summer evening.

A lovely, lyrical, rhythmic book with plenty of repetition that children (ok, not Peapod just yet!) will love to join in with and which lends itself brilliantly to inspiring other musical activities!

Have you read any of these?

What picture books/bedtime stories have you enjoyed this week?

Peapod’s Picks – World Book Day

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!

Unless you live under a rock (ok, or you don’t have kids or read kids’ books) you’ll know that this Thursday was World Book Day, so it’s a WBD themed Peapod’s Picks this week.

Peapod had a very early start on Thursday so Daddy got up with him while I had “5 more minutes” (half an hour!) So he’s already kicked off his WBD reading with a couple of books before I even got up.

Can you guess who I am in my previous bookish outfits?!

Between teaching then bookselling, this is the first year in over 10 years that I’ve not been dressed up and running something for World Book Day! The whole dressing up thing could be a post all of its own but debates aside, I love an excuse to dress up so I was very disappointed to be missing the WBD costume action this year!

And the worst part is…I didn’t need to! We found out last minute that the lovely Heidi at Waterstones Trafford was doing a story session that we could have dressed up for but I couldn’t very well dress myself up and not Peapod, so we settled for a book dress for me and a Gruffalo top and trousers for him!

We had a lovely time listening to Mini Rabbit Not Lost (which we love) and Heidi has brought lots of extra props to make it a multi-sensory story which was a great idea and really added to the fun. We sang some nursery rhymes then headed home, leaving older little readers making playdough cakes for Mini Rabbit!

We’d already bought our books the day before. I was really happy with the selection this year – some top quality authors (not a celebrity in sight!) and a better age range too, with teen books back in the £1/free selection too.

Our World Book Day books.

We were most looking forward to Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty’s Ten Little Bookworms (Dad especially is a big fan of this series!) so that was our World Book Day bedtime story.

It’s every bit as good as the others in the series. Better in fact, because it’s about books and all the wonderful adventures they can take you on!

From jungles and space to aliens, robots and fairytale favourites, it’s filled with the usual dramatic and fast-paced countdown from 10, as page by page we lose a bookworm. Accompanied as ever by those bold and lively illustrations from Simon Rickerty and wonderfully energetic descriptions of sounds that beg to be read out loud, enthusiastically and noisily – perfect for little bookworms!

Cadpig and Cruella by Peter Bently and Steven Lenton has now also had a good chew read too and we really loved the illustrations in this one too.

I attempted to start Everdark by Abi Elphinstone (my own WBD choice that I’d been very much looking forward to) at naptime on Thursday but Peapod was having none of it and woke up 2 pages in! I’ve nearly finished it now though and IT’S BRILLIANT!

So that was Peapod’s first World Book Day! Next year he’ll be a bit bigger and hopefully we can do a little more, but he enjoyed the books and sharing stories and that, after all, is the point!

Did you celebrate World Book Day too?

Peapod’s Picks: late and lazy!

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (usually for his bedtime story) each week plus a review of at least one of them.*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

This week has been a long one. Peapod and I have both been full of cold. So, I’m a day late and it’s a round up rather than a single review this week. Please take pity on my poor knackered self and let me off!

What did we read this week?

Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland

After reading Dinosaur Roar last week, we bought this one too. We enjoyed it, but as a Dino book we’d stick with the original Dinosaur Roar book, and as a counting book, we’d go for Ten Little Dinosaurs from Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty.)

I Totally Don’t Want to Play by Ann Bonwill and Simon Rickerty

We bought this after reading about Hugo and Bella’s fancy dress antics in I Don’t Want to be a Pea, which we thought was fab. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite match it – it was still an enjoyable enough read, but it lacked some of the humour of Pea.

Pants! by Giles Andreae and Nick Sharratt

Who doesn’t love a pants-themed picture book?! See more here!)

Delicious! by Helen Cooper

I am such a huge fan of the Pumpkin Soup trilogy. It always upsets me that every child at some point will do Pumpkin Soup at Halloween/Autumn in nursery or school but they never seem to read the others. If you only know the first book, please give Delicious and A Pipkin of Pepper a read too!

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

I’d heard great things about this, and it’s been shortlisted for the illustrated category of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize so I had high hopes. I wasn’t disappointed – it’s wonderful; simply told with beautiful illustrations that are a brilliant mixture of the fantastic and the realistic, this is an empowering, positive and joyful read.

A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton

We ended last week reading Owl Babies because of Bill’s cries of “I want my mummy!” which feel very apt at the moment! So we followed it up with A Bit Lost in which baby owl falls off his branch and has to find his mum again with the help of a keen but not overly perceptive squirrel.

I’m a big Chris Haughton fan (Shhh! We Have a Plan is my favourite and Goodnight Everyone is our afternoon nap read) and this has all the things you’d expect – fab, slightly quirky illustrations with his unique style and palette (which Peapod loved), a repetitive pattern and humour especially in the ending. Also owls serving biscuits.

Have you read any of these?

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

Peapod’s Picks: Dinosaur Roar

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (usually for his bedtime story) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

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

This week:

Dinosaur Roar by Paul and Henrietta Stickland.

Dinosaurs of all kinds are out on parade in this fun, rhyming book focusing on opposites.

I first met this book a good 10 years ago with my first reception class. Thomas was a quiet, shy, happy little thing who loved dinosaurs and loved this book. The day he came in and proudly told me he could read it then proceeded to recite it stood in front of the class is still one of my fondest memories of teaching.

And I still love this book. Deceptively simple, it is hugely enjoyable. On each page are beautifully textured and coloured dinosaurs illustrating two opposite characteristics with plenty of visual clues to aid understanding and even more humour.

Peapod loved it too – captured completely by the illustrations. So today we bought the board and sound version (durable and noisy – bonus points!) for him to look at during the day and increasingly independently, and Ten Terrible Dinosaurs, featuring the same wonderful illustrations, which we’re looking forward to reading one evening this week.

What else did we read this week?

  • Dave’s Cave by Frann Preston Gannon (so much fun – read more here!)
  • There’s No Dragon in this Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright (I really thought I’d reviewed that but I haven’t – it’s brilliant!)
  • Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman (The Bear… books are just wonderful!)
  • There’s a Bear on my Chair by Ross Collins (A fantastic book for reading aloud with plenty of expression!)
  • The Bear Who Stared by Duncan Beedie (touching but quirky enough to get away with it!)
  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson (I totally have a Bill at the moment!)

Have you read any of these?

Do you have a dinosaur picture book you love?

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

Peapod’s Picks: You’re Not a Proper Pirate, Sidney Green

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (usually for his bedtime story) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

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

This week:

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

You’re Not a Proper Pirate, Sidney Green by Ruth Quayle, illustrated by Deborah Allwright.

Sidney Green loves going on rip-roaring adventures with his dog, Jemima. Together, they race cars, sail all the way to Africa and build an enormous castle, complete with a moat full of crocodiles. But Captain Shipshape and his pirate band are NOT happy. They think it’s time for Sidney Green to become a Proper Pirate – right now, not “in a minute”. What will Sidney Green do?

Daddy spotted this one when we were out the other day, and luckily for him I’d been sent a copy to review!

I have to admit I’m a bit funny about pirate books, so it’s not one I’d have picked out but I did enjoy it more than I expected to.

An ode to imagination and imaginative play, this is guaranteed to bring a smile to any parent (or teacher or relative or..) who’s heard that phrase “in a minute”. Sidney is so wrapped up in his exciting adventures that everything else (including Captain Shipshape’s demands that he get pirate-ing) must wait!

The illustrations work perfectly with the text and are full of the joy and excitement a make believe adventure can bring.

There’s a great pace to it too, which as well as highlighting the impatience of Captain Shipshape, also serves really well to evoke those whirlwind “and then this happened…and you did…and I said…and then a…” stories children create.

Likewise, the way everyone sent to get Sidney ends up joining in with his adventure instead both adds humour and wonderfully captures those games that snowball, with more and more children joining and adding their ideas and voices to them!

I thought this was a cleverly written, visually appealing story that is an absolute champion of imagination and the importance of play, as well as a reminder to us grown ups to make time for play, make believe and adventure too!

I had only one small dislike, and its a personal, nit-picky and easily remedied one: the phrase ‘a rip-roaring time’. But I just substituted various other phrases and then we were all happy! It definitely wouldn’t put me off reading it again…which is a good job as it was a definite hit with both Peapod and Daddy, and we were absolutely cracking up, crying laughing trying to do pirate voices (farmer pirates anyone?!) – lots of fun!

Other pirate books we like:

What else did we read this week?

  • Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (a classic!)
  • Night Monkey, Day Monkey by Julia Donaldson and Lucy Richards
  • Mr Bump by Roger Hargreaves (Who doesn’t love the Mr Men?!)
  • Lemur Dreamer by Courtney Dicmass (I’m all about the illustrations in this one, the story itself is a bit odd, but you know…lemurs!)
  • Little Red by Bethan Woolvin (I love this series of books – read more here!)

Have you read any of these?

Do you have a pirate picture book you love?

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