A Mouse Called Julian

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

With traces of The Mouse and The Lion fable, this is like The Gruffalo’s Big Bad Mouse grown up – older, cooler, wiser…and luckier! – but still trying to avoid bring eaten by owl and fox.

But here any similarity ends, this is most definitely not a wannabe Gruffalo in any way at all. It’s something quite unique and would be perfect to whip out in response to the ‘you’re too old for picture books’ line. I can see this being very popular with all ages, but feel that it would be especially popular with those just on what is traditionally ‘the way out’ of picture books, around 6-8.

The illustration style is very different to most picture books, having more in the way of a comic or anime style, which I can see appealing greatly, especially to older children.

Equally appealing is the visual humour and expression which fill the pictures. There is also great detail to them, with plenty to pore over; my favourite spreads were the underground ones where I did just this.

The story itself is a clever and amusing tale of friendship which avoids the sometimes smushy ground such stories tread by keeping the animals very true to nature, the humour deadpan and the telling matter of fact.

I also like that, while Julian may adjust his viewpoint slightly, he remains happy in his own company – there’s no great turn around. He doesn’t suddenly ‘realise’ a life of quiet and solitude is not the way its done and become a more sociable mouse. Rather, he retains his personality but finds that a spot of company and friendship occasionally is a welcome change. I found this a refreshing and more inclusive take on friendship than is often the case – it was nice to see the quiet life validated.

Add to this an unexpected twist in the tale and it becomes a real winner, which fans of Barnett and Klassen especially are sure to appreciate.

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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?

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?

Six for Sunday: Bookish Loves

#SixforSunday is hosted by Steph at A Little But A Lot. Each week she gives a book-themed prompt for a list of six and this week that prompt is

Bookish Loves

I’m sure this should be books I love, things I love to see in books etc and it should almost definitely be older books, but 🤷‍♀️

Today I’ve chosen 6 of my favourite picture books on the theme of love.

First off three funny ones – these are always my top choices for a Valentines Day display/table at work (in the case of the first two, I’m not sure what that says about me…)

Both I Love You Stick Insect and Tadpole’s Promise have brilliant twists/’punchlines’ at the end. I love them both and they crack me up.

This one’s a little more tender but still very funny and relatable!

Next up a true story. I’m. Not one for squishiness, but this really is an ‘aaaw’ kind of book!

Mr and Mrs Large are probably one of my favourite fictional couples and the Large family stories represent the love of a family with enough humour to feel much more believable than some of the soppier offerings!

And finally an antithesis to all those romantic happily ever afters. Long live Princess Smartypants!

I promise some more MG/YA in my #SixforSunday choices soon!

What would your bookish loves be? What do you think of my choices? Have you taken part in #SixforSunday? Leave a link to your post in the comments!

Peapod’s Picks 11/1/19

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 more in depth review of at least one of them – this week a classic- Jill Murphy’s On The Way Home.

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

What did we read this week?

  • Oi, Duck-Billed Platypus by Kes Gray and Jim Field
  • You’re Called What?! by Kes Gray and Nikki Dyson (inspired by the un-rhymable creatures in Oi Platypus!)
  • Snow Bears by Martin Waddell (After watching Gordon Buchansn with the grizzly bears in Russia!)
  • Ten Little Dinosaurs by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty (Daddy loves this series!)
  • The Wolf, The Duck and The Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (I love anything this pair do!)

and

On the Way Home by Jill Murphy

This was one of my favourite stories when I was little, thanks in no small part to the fact that it was one of my mum’s favourites too! (We are huge Jill Murphy fans – The Worst Witch, The Large Family, Peace at Last…)

So it was lovely to read it to Peapod and look ahead to all the times we’ll read it as he gets older – it’s one of those great books that crosses a wide age range.

Peapod loved the illustrations, and I really like the comic strip style layout and design, as well as the repetition which older children will enjoy (my favourite bit to read is the “Well…!” on each page – it’s the small things!)

It’s a scenario that will resonate with parents and older children – Claire’s hurt her knee and is on her way home for a plaster. But did she get her bad knee falling from a witch’s broom or being dropped by a giant? Has she hurt it bring knocked down by an alligator or a gorilla? Her amusing and imaginative tales are great for some really expressive and dramatic reading, and offer the perfect opportunity for older children to come up with their own ideas too!

First published in 1982 and first read to me just a few years after, this remains a favourite over 30 years later and I’m looking forward to plenty of re-reads with Peapod!

Are you a Jill Murphy fan like us?

Which stories have you read at bedtime this week?

Peapod’s Picks 4/1/19

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 more in depth review of at least one of them – this week Claude All At Sea by Alex T. Smith.

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

What did we read this week?

The start of the week saw the end of December, and the last of our Christmas books (you can see all the books we read here).

On Tuesday, we read Claude. Then, on Wednesday, Daddy chose ‘Laura’s Star’ by Klaus Baumgart and yesterday we read The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith(after ‘From Baby to Bronte’ read The Worm and the Bird earlier in the week and reminded me of her books!)

Claude All At Sea by Alex T. Smith

This was one of Peapod’s Christmas presents. And it was a total surprise (after all, who buys the bookseller books?!) which made it even better! I (I mean *he*) was thrilled! Even more so when I found out it was signed!

So, what better way to kick off the new year and a return to non-Christmas books than with this one?!

Firstly, Claude as a character is totally brilliant – expressive, funny and just quite happily doing his thing. With a beret full of useful stuff and trusty sidekick Sir Bobblysock, Claude can cope with anything that comes his way!

Which is just as well, because being swept out to sea in your bath then eaten by a sea monster called Kevin (oh, the warning signs 😂) is quite something!

The illustration is full of life too – no mean feat when only using a restricted palette in this way. But there’s texture, movement and a big, bold character to it all which rather captured ‘Peapod’s attention!

It’s an imaginative, pacy and above all FUN read that somehow manages to be creative, funny and matter of fact. We very much enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to reading the other Claude books with ‘Peapod’ when he’s bigger!

Have you or your little ones read any of these?

Which stories have you read at bedtime this week?

Peapod’s Picks: Alfie

I’m conscious I’ve not posted a Peapod’s Picks for a few weeks now either! Best laid plans… Speaking of which, the next few weeks of Peapod’s Picks will be the books from our book advent (as long as I can get my act together and post!) For this week though, it’s an old favourite…

This week: Alfie

I loved the Alfie series when I was little and, after receiving Snow in the Garden by Shirley Hughes (review to follow during our book Advent in December!) last week, I chose An Evening at Alfie’s as our bedtime story.

I’d been reminded of the wonderful way she depicts the little hiccups and triumphs, the daily events that make up family life and the little details of our everyday surroundings and happenings.

So we read An Evening at Alfie’s, where Alfie hears a drip drip drip and discovers a leak from a pipe while Maureen’s babysitting. When we finished, Peapod’s Dad said “Hmm. Well, that was an unusual one wasn’t it?” When I asked what he meant, he replied “Well, nothing happened.” which totally threw me.

To me, these stories are nostalgia and warmth; gentle tales full of the familiar. There’s no dragons or monsters or robots here. Nothing here of the ridiculous, crazy or wild. Here are children playing, shopping, having baths, going to parties, getting new shoes, losing toys – the events that are seemingly, well, uneventful but that are a child’s world.

But to his Dad, who’d clearly never read them as a child, they were books about the mundane, lacking excitement or adventure. He didn’t dislike it as such, just found it a little dull. I’m hoping to convert him…!

Have you read the Alfie books (or indeed any of Shirley Hughes’ others)? What do you think of them?