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?!

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Peapod’s Picks – Billy

It’s a briefer than usual Peapod’s Picks this week as I try to fathom a new routine around work.

And this is really more of a Mum Picks. But Peapod did enjoy it too when we read it at bedtime last night, so I’ll take that!

But before we get to that, let’s go back to last year and this absolute gem:

Billy and the Beast by Nadia Shireen

I thought I’d reviewed this at the time, but it’s either vanished, my search bar is failing me or somehow I never did. But we loved this book and have since given it to every child we know as their birthdays or Christmas rolled around.

Billy and Fat Cat set off on a walk through the wood only to find their friends are missing. They son discover a terrible beast is planning to eat them up, and must find a way to save them!

Billy is an absolutely brilliant character, not to mention a clever, brave, takes-no-bullshit, BAME girl. Her Mary Poppins bag of a hair do is genius, there’s nothing she can’t did out of it when needed – donuts for Fat Cat (her permanently hungry, grumpy but loveable sidekick), or pine cones, crayons, feather dusters and masks for saving the day with.

The tone of the text and expressive illustrations are wonderful, and mean you will enjoy this as much as kids do, even on the twenty billionth read. The imagination behind Billy’s plans is fab and Fat Cat is just ace.

Fast forward to yesterday again and behold…

Billy and the Dragon by Nadia Shireen

This appeared on my shelving trolley at work yesterday to my delight! Needless to say, I snapped it up before it came close to a shelf (but only after reading it, chuckling to myself first!)

This has all the daring, deadpan drama and humour of the first, but this time with added dragon and dressing ups – yessss!

With echoes of ‘Where’s My Teddy?’, Fat Cat, while (begrudgingly) dressed as a dragon is snatched from the fancy dress party (I love, love, LOVED that Billy was a Knight – genius on do many levels!) by a real dragon so Billy and her (rather less willing) friends set out to save him…only to find its all just a bit of a mix up. Phew!

Fat Cat is grumpier than ever, Billy is braver and smarter than ever (and has her trusty stash of useful stuff on hand in her hair again of course!) and their woodland mates are back too – hurrah!

Just as fantastic as the first book, I cannot wait for our Billy and the Dragon fancy dress storytime in work over the summer now!

Library Love 28/6/19

Library Love is a new regular post with short reviews of the picture books we choose from the library each week.

There may be a bit of stop-starting and moving about of Library Love over the coming couple of weeks as we settle into a nursery and work routine and figure out where library trips best fit into it all – please bear with us!

What we took back

  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman I’ve written before about how much I love Karma Wilson’a Bear books, so I was pleased to find this one we’d not read. Just as lovely as all the others, with nods to sharing, friendship and giving what you can not necessarily the same as everyone else. A lovely, warm, rhyming tale. I’ll be buying all of these, though they sadly seem to be out of print so I need to get them second hand.

  • The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman. Firmly rooted in the everyday and familiar lives of children, this is a fun example of imaginative yet relatable storytelling and testament to Allan Ahlberg’s skill as a children’s writer. I won’t buy it now, but I’d re-read and and would happily buy it if Peapod wanted it further down the line.

  • Twoo Twit by Kes Gray and Mary McQuillan Mixed reactions with this one. Peapod seemed to enjoy it, as we had to read it twice, his Dad wasn’t overly keen and I loved the beginning and some of the names used (affectionately I’d hoped) for poor old Twoo Twit – mushroom bonce being my favourite. Though I wasn’t keen on the end. Twoo Twit’s neighbours seemed unnecessarily unkind and I wasn’t convinced by his about turn of character. That said, I’ve ordered a second hand copy just for “mushroom bonce”.

  • Hide and Seek by Il Sung Na We loved the way the colours mix, run and blend in the illustrations, which suit the chameleon’s starring role perfectly. He suggests a game of hide and seek, so there’s both counting and hunting on offer as we search for the chameleon on each page as the other animals are all found. This was lovely and I’ll probably get a copy.

  • #Goldilocks – A Cautionary Tale by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross You only have to look back at my thoughts on the other books from this duo to know I’d have high hopes here. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to them. This is part of a series of 3 books helping children understand online safety and I can definitely see this working, especially in schools, in helping children negotiate the pros and cons and safe use of the Internet/social media sonin that respect it serves its purpose well. The humorous rhyme is as well-written as you’d expect from Jeanne Willis, and Tony Ross’ illustrations are in his usual funny style. It just didn’t do it for us as a bedtime story.

What we took out

Nothing! We haven’t had chance to get back to the library to choose new books yet this week, with nursery settling in taking over. Not sure what will happen next week either, so we may well have a week away from Library Love, but it’ll be back once we’re settled into our new routine!

What do you think of our choices? Have you read any of them?

Have you been to the library recently?

Library Love 21/6/19

Library Love is a new regular post with short reviews of the picture books we choose from the library each week.

There may be a bit of stop-starting and moving about of Library Love over the coming couple of weeks as we settle into a nursery and work routine and figure out where library trips best fit into it all – please bear with us!

What we took back

  • The World-Famous Cheese Shop Break In by Sean Taylor and Hannah Shaw A family of rats are on a mission to break into the fancy pants cheese shop, but they don’t make the best burglars. After several failed attempts, they hit upon a new plan. Honestly, this wasn’t really for me. The Dad rat is called Daddypops which really grated on us and while the story started well, I couldn’t get on with ending. I did like the lively illustrations (there’s definitely something a bit Pesky Rat about these rodents) and I’d read it again if Peapod chose it, but otherwise I’d give it a miss.

  • Kiss the Crocodile by Sean Taylor and Ben Mantle. This was the second Sean Taylor book we borrowed, albeit accidentally (we hadn’t realised Cheese Shop was by him too). This is one I’d been meaning to read so was pleased when we found it. Three friends play lots of different games until one day little crocodile wants to join in with his favourite game of kiss the crocodile. There was lots to like – I thought the illustrations were lovely, fun and full of character and I thought the way the suspense was built and built as the friends dared to kiss the crocodile was fantastic. Overall though, I can’t lie, I think I’d have liked a darker, more surprising or subversive ending. It was all a bit too nice. One I’d happily read again if asked but won’t be rushing out to buy.

  • Oddly by Joyce Dunbar and Patrick Benson Three creatures wondering who, what and where they are are surprised by the arrival of an upset little boy who provokes more questions about life and love and feelings and family. I had high hopes for this one, the creatures were, as the title suggests, odd and I liked them, but honestly it felt like it was trying a bit too hard. It drew heavily on Where the Wild Things Are, but lacked the subtlety, the unanswered questions, the darkness and the magic. I’ll stick to Where the Wild Things Are.

  • Poles Apart by Jeanne Willis and Jarvis I liked this one a lot more (you’ll be relieved to hear!) A family of penguins set out for a picnic, only to end up at the other end of the world! Mr White, a very wise polar bear (“Don’t think of it as a mistake. Think of it as a big adventure.”) agrees to help them home, but they stop for adventures on various countries on the way. With lots of repetition, humour, a sense of place which should not be taken too seriously, and a very satisfying ending children will love this is a very enjoyable story that I might buy and would definitely read again.

  • Little Owl’s Orange Scarf Peapod’s Dad wasn’t taken with this, but what foes he know?! I loved it, definitely my pick of the week and one I’ll buy. Little Owl’s mum has given him a scarf. He’s not keen and does his best to misplace it. Understated text with simple but expressive illustrations, this is a warm and humorous story that will no doubt ring true to many a parent, with a gentle and well-pitched message of give and take.

What we took out

What do you think of our choices? Have you read any of them?

Have you been to the library recently?

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/Library Love – Holiday Reads 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!

Peapod went on his first holiday last week. It got mixed reviews – the pool/paddling pool were fine if attempted at exactly the right time, the beach was a flat out no, the mealtimes and people watching firm favourites and staying somewhere that wasn’t home was quite frankly an outrage.

Luckily, his holiday reads were better received. I’ve split this into two posts (we took a fair few books!) Today’s is all about the picture books we took for bedtime and we’ll follow it with a board book post next week.

Julia Donaldson ended up with quite a monopoly on our holiday reads – we took What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday and Sharing a Shell (both illustrated by Lydia Monks) as well as one of my favourite JD books The Snail and the Whale (illustrated, of course, by Axel Scheffler).

Peapod had a right giggle at Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len!

What The Ladybird Heard on Holiday was Peapod’s Dad’s book of the holiday, though I confess that while I don’t mind it, it’s not a favourite of mine. Peapod seemed to like the bad guys too, giving them a good chuckle here and there. They’re out to steal the Queen’s crown, with the help of a kidnapped monkey, but the ladybird hears their plan and puts a plan of her own in place to try sbd thwart them…

I much prefer Sharing a Shell – 3 friends, one shell. All bring their unique talents to the mix to live harmoniously…until the shell gets too small! It’s a lovely tale of friendships and fall outs, as well as a nice way to start finding out more about sea creatures.

In related news – we saw two tiny hermit crabs while trying to tempt Peapod (unsuccessfully) into the sea for a paddle!

I love The Snail and the Whale, it was always a favourite while teaching. A snail hitches a ride around the world on the tale of a whale. I always enjoy seeing and reading about their journey and Snail is an inspiring character – small but brave and determined, she uses her strengths and follows her dreams.

We found out recently that The Gruffalo appears in all the other Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler collaborations too so I (I mean Peapod, obviously…) had fun finding him in this!

We also took some library books. We looked last week for any with a holiday theme, but didn’t come up with much.

We did find one though – Harry and the Dinosaurs on Holiday by Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds. This was my favourite library book that we took away with us. Harry and the dinosaurs are off to Australia. This is a brilliant book for young children going on holiday, especially their first – it looks at all the things Harry and the Dinosaurs are excited about seeing and doing, as well as their nerves; we see them at the airport and missing Nan who stayed at home; there’s snaps of all the things they do and then we see them home again, Nan there to meet them at the airport. We’ll be buying this one and reading before/on future holidays!

Having to broaden our search to sea, sun, sand rather than strictly holiday, we took two pirate themed ones – Peapod’s Dad loves having a chance to do a pirate voice!

Pi-rat by Maxine Lee was a short but enjoyable read about an imaginative and playful bathtime. Ideal for encoursging more reluctant bathers, it’s one I’d happily read again but I wouldn’t go out of my way to.

Captain Beastlie’s Pirate Party by Lucy Coats and Chris Mould gets much the same reaction personally, but I know kids would really enjoy it. Captain Beastlie is stinky, yukky and downright dirty, but his crew are the complete opposite. We follow him and his filthy ways in the lead up to his birthday and the surprise the crew have in store. I can see it being a popular one with slightly older kids as the descriptions of Captain Beastlie’s disgusting ways are sure to thrill and disgust in equal measure.

Three By the Sea by Mini Grey is a tale along the lines of Helen Cooper’s Pumpkin Soup. Three friends live together in a hut by the sea, splitting the chores between them happily until a stranger blows in and stirs up bad feelings. The illustrations are lovely and I liked mouse, dog and cat, but the way they all fell out felt a bit contrived and the stranger just seemed, well, strange. It’s nice enough, but no one does this better than Helen Cooper, buy Pumpkin Soup instead!

The other book I wanted to get but was too disorganised to buy in time was Winnie and Wilbur at the Seaside – next time!

Do you have any favourite holiday themed picture books?

Library Love 17/5/19

Library Love is a new regular (ok, as regular as my posts ever are) post with short reviews of the picture books we choose from the library each week.

Our Twinkleboost story at the library this week was Aladdin. I think you can definitely say it was the abridged, adapted, rewrite! But Peapod had a nice time.

Then we swapped our books.

What we took back

  • The Tickle Ghost by Brett McKee and David McKee David McKee (Not Now Bernard, Mr Benn, Elmer) has illustrated this and the illustrations are unquestionably his. Sadly, the story is not. Dad is playing at bedtime. Mum gets in a nark about it all. Comes up to have a go and do it herself. Ends up being won over. I didn’t get on with this. I mean, I probably *am* that mum, and it was probably written based on their own sons bedtimes, but it just felt so stereotypical and…clunky. One to pass on.
  • Pig and Small by Alex Latimer So, there’s a long and convoluted story as to why we picked this up and why we liked the end so much. It has to do with a stuffed sock pig (Piggy) and his ceramic elephant friend (Heffalump) who live on my desk. Basically we chose this for the Pig and were tickled pig pink by the end! The story itself is quite sweet and written and illustrated with lots of humour – considering the main characters are a pig and a bug, you really invest in them! Pig and bug want to be friends but struggle to find things they can enjoy together because of their Suze difference (‘pig’ and small, geddit?!) – could it be the end of their blossoming friendship?! (spoiler alert – it’s not!) We’ll buy this one.

  • Sing a Song of Bottoms by Jeanne Willis and Adam Stower We really enjoyed this – good rhyme, great pace and lots of fun. Perfect for fans of Pants, 100 Dogs and other ‘list-of-types’ sort of books! The only bit I wasn’t so keen on was the end. Borrow regularly. I’d buy it if he likes it when he’s older.

What we took out

What do you think of our choices? Have you read any of them?

Have you been to the library recently?