The Big Book of Blooms

I was lucky enough to request and receive copies of these free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Big Book of Blooms and the Big Sticker Book of Blooms by Yuval Zommer

Yuval Zommer’s ‘Big Book of…’ range is such a brilliant series (you can read my review of The Big Book of Blue here) – gorgeous illustrations, bite-size facts and a touch which manages to be both light-hearted and quirky, but also to convey Yuval’s clear passion for and knowledge of his subject matter.

As the books all follow the same format, much of what I wrote about The Big Book of Blue also stands out here – the humour, vibrancy, and easy reading style, not to mention the choice of facts included.

While beasts and bugs may seem obviously interesting subject matter for children’s non-fiction, blooms could be seen as a less obvious, perhaps drier choice. Luckily though, we needn’t worry about that – we’re in safe hands here!

With weird and wonderful facts and figures encompassing dinosaurs, astronauts, Egyptian mummies, stinky plants, carnivorous plants, poisons, celebrations, fangs and traps…not to mention all the birds, bugs and beasts the plants co-exist with this is just as fascinating as all the others.

I always learn so much from these, as an adult, that while the use of short captions in and amongst the illustrations mean they are perfect for less confident readers, they will be just as appealing for keen beans and older readers.

With sections on different types of plants, as well as pollination and ecology, and finishing with a spread intended to get kids growing too (I especially loved that this was designed to be useful fo those with little or no garden space) there is huge scope here and plenty to both inform and inspire.

Likewise, the text itself is hugely accessible and engaging. The facts feel light and fun, but the language includes scientific vocabulary, explanations are clear and perfectly pitched and, as ever, there’s a brilliant glossary at the end. I especially love the spread showing the different parts of a flower – you’ve never seen a scientific diagram like it!

Which brings us, of course, to the illustrations. They are, in short, fantastic. Rich in texture and detail, and bursting with colour, life and a real sense of joy, I’m drawn into them and could pore over them for hours.

And with 15 golden bulbs to find hiding in the illustrations I have every excuse I need to do just that!

The accompanying sticker book is really so much more than a sticker book.

Packed with games, activities, colouring and, of course, stickers not to mention facts, it’s the perfect activity book for fact-loving youngsters. Ideal for journeys, holidays or rainy weekends there is loads to do, learn and see here too!

Hugely engaging, accessible and appealing, these books are written by a man who knows his audience remarkably well and which deserve a place on every child’s bookcase and in every classroom.

Picture Book Picks – If I Had a Unicorn

We were lucky enough to request and receive a free copy of this from the publishers. All views and opinions are my own.

If I Had a Unicorn by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow

Those of you who have been reading for a while will know how much we loved both If I Had a Dinosaur and If I Had a Sleepy Sloth from this duo (and if you don’t, you can read our thoughts here!) so I was very excited to hear there was a new one due and even more thrilled to get a copy sent to us from Thames and Hudson.

As soon as Peapod opened the post with this one in he was straight up to his bookshelf asking for the others and all three were brought in for bedtime!

Unicorn has since been read every night and usually at least once a day too – “yoo-corn!”

It’s just as much fun as the previous books, with our protagonist imagining all the fun and magic things possible with a unicorn for a pet – from granted wishes to unlimited candyfloss to cakes and cookies at every meal!

Of course as a unicorn book, there’s plenty of magic and glitter, but there’s also a visual humour which will appeal to parents just as much as children – the unicorn’s flight or – one of my favourite spreads – its effect on her sibling and their room for example!

In a similar vein, one of the initial spreads shows the littke girl’s unicorn coming out of a picture she’s looking at on a trip to a gallery. I love the magic and imagination if this, as well as the way it immediately brings galleries, art and museums into the realm of children.

The images on the gallery spread had a familiar feel and I’m wondering if they’re based on real pieces. After a little googling, I’d hazard a guess at The Unicorn Hunt tapestries but I’d be interested to find out for real!

As for Peapod, well, no-one with a small child will be surprised to learn that one of his favourite pages is the one with the rainbow poo on it! (From fine art to toilet humour in a matter of pages – there really is something for everyone!)

We love the way each of these books has a mischievous, funny or, in the case of the dinosaur, downright enormous poo or wee in them! The page in If I Had a Sleepy Sloth with the lifeguard getting his comeuppance for being a grumpy old spoil sport is still returned to, talked about (“Wee. Head. Grrrrr!”) and laughed at frequently!

He also loves the spread of the little girl’s birthday party in which everyone is eating ice creams (or as they are known in our house “Bear Snacks!”) He is ice cream mad so was delighted by this page and often now will just turn straight to this page to point out the ice creams and the astronaut who hasn’t got one yet and the little girl’s dad with his spoon and…

I think you can tell we love this just as much as its predecessors! It’s been an instant hit and will almost certainly be in the repeated reads and regular requests for some time yet!

Picture Book Picks – Quill Soup

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers. All views and opinions are my own.

Quill Soup by Alan Durant and Dale Blankenaar

Published as part of Tiny Owl’s #OneStoryManyVoices range, this is a telling of the African folktale “Quill Soup”, which will also be familiar to many from the European story ‘Stone Soup’ (and likely there are other versions too!)

When Noko the porcupine arrives in a village after a long journey he is tired and hungry, but it seems no one has any food they can share. Until, that is, Noko starts cooking up his delicious quill soup, which promises to be fit for a king. Then one by one, the other animal families manage to unearth some ‘forgotten about’ morsels to add to the pot.

A story bringing a message of community, of the importance of helping each other and of not turning a blind eye to the struggles of others, this is a timely and important tale.

Noko’s cunning, but also his natural warmth and generosity, are well conveyed by the text, as is the suspicious, self-interested nature of the other animals. There is a conspiratorial air to the tale too as we, the reader, begin to see and share in Noko’s clever plan.

But it’s the illustrations that really take this telling to another level. They are outstanding. Both captivating in their own right and perfectly suited to the story, each spread exceptionally well-matched to the text it accompanies.

I love how the images change as the story progresses. From a more almost urban feel to a more wild and natural one. From segregated, singular animals or groups of animals to a riot of beasts. From a more minimal, and predominantly cooler, palette to vibrant, colourful pages.

The textures, patterns and techniques are perfect for the story and its origins too and make this a truly stunning book to return to again and again.

If I had a…

We were lucky enough to request and receive a copy of If I Had A Sleepy Sloth from the publishers, which arrived with an unexpected bonus copy of If I Had a Dinosaur too! All views and opinions are my own.

We love both Samuel Drew Hasn’t a Clue and A Possum’s Tail by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow, so I was very excited when these arrived in the post.

Although If I Had a Dinosaur has been out for a while, I’ve somehow missed it, so it was a lovely surprise when Thames Hudson sent both books.

Both feature the same little girl dreaming of a new pet – first a very big one and second a very chilled out one! She takes us through lots of funny, charming and appealing scenarios showing what it would be like, why it would be brilliant, and what they’d do together.

I also thought it was really lovely to see the careful consideration the girl gives to how she’d need to look after her pets too – feeding them, walking them and grooming them, with often very funny consequences that are depicted brilliantly with carefully chosen phrases and lots of visual humour.

They have such a wonderful voice and sense of fun, it’s easy to picture a chlld imagining all these wonderful times with an unusual pet, and I loved the inclusion of the classic ‘pet at school’ scenario too!

We’re big fans of Alex Barrow’s illustrations from the duo’s previous books, and these retain that style but feel brighter and bolder. This matches the stories and their sense of fun so well and definitely went down a treat with Peapod who has pored over them repeatedly.

Keep your eye on this irate lifeguard, he comes up later on…

In If I Had a Sleepy Sloth there’s lots of facts about the creatures dropped into the story too which I thought was brilliant and done really lightly and with a sense of fun.

Going hand in hand with that sense of fun is a warning – if you’re not a fan of toilet humour, these may not be for you (though really if you are reading picture books, I’m pretty sure there’s already a healthy dose of toilet humour in your life!) Dinosaur does an ENORMOUS poo and sloth wees on that angry lifeguard’s head! Both of which are sure to tickle the funny bones of small children everywhere!

Indeed, Peapod’s favourite page is the one in which our unfortunate lifesaver gets a soaking. He’s too little to get the wee joke, but thinks the picture is brilliant and I made the mistake of doing a funny fist-shake-and-cross-noise while reading it the first time and he now delights in pointing at the picture and then looking at his dad and I expectantly!

I also really like the sense of home and family in the books. Many of the pictures feature scenes of family life and, as well as bringing lots of humour to the story, they feel comforting and happy and secure.

Even the endpapers are gorgeous and Peapod loves them – his favourite thing is to pretend to count all the sloths!

While he loves both of them, Peapod’s favourite is definitely Sloth and, while I love them both too, I think I have to agree (I also love that there’s a copy of If I Had a Dinosaur and a Samuel Drew toy in the bedroom picture in If I Had a Sleepy Sloth!).

Regardless of preferences though, they are both excellent – funny, warm and great to read with hugely appealing and engaging illustrations. We’ll be reading them often for some time yet and I have no complaints about that!

The Big Book of the Blue

The Big Book of the Blue (Hardback)

Meet all kinds of slippery, shimmery, powerful and surprising creatures from around the world in this first book of the ocean to share with young children.

 

Already a big fan of Yuval Zommer’s Big Books of Bugs and Beasts, I jumped at the chance to get hold of a copy of his newest book for review (many thanks to Thames & Hudson). And I wasn’t disappointed! As with the first two – it’s a beautifully illustrated, well-balanced, carefully laid out, polished book that you (and any young’uns!) will want to dive into (sorry, couldn’t resist!) again and again.

Each double page spread is illustrated from top to bottom with layers of detail, texture and movement; they are absolutely packed with things to spot and talk about – there’ll be something new each time you look at it! There’s also 15 sneaky sardines hiding among the pages waiting to be found, along with other ‘can you find’ challenges here and there in the book.

There’s also a humour to the illustrations – while they are accurate enough in appearance to learn from and recognise, there’s no scientific diagrams here – the creatures have wonderfully quirky facial expressions and a lightness of touch which I loved – they’re sure to really appeal to children, and grown ups alike.

Similarly, there’s a healthy dose of puns and humour in the text, especially in the sub-headings (“Claw-blimey!”…”Smell I never!”), appealing to both children’s sense of fun, but also the adults who’ll be reading it with them (“I wandered lonely as a…tuna” being a personal favourite).

The facts themselves are set amongst the illustrations and presented as short snippets of information. Immensely appealing to even the most reluctant reader in its brevity, and addictive enough to have keen beans reading through them all in one fell swoop, barraging you with a torrent of “did you know…” info as they go (ok, I admit I’m basing this on the fact that when I brought it home I sat at the kitchen table with it and did pretty much exactly this to my poor other half while he made tea!).

There’s a great balance too between a broad overview of ocean-life (including a double spread about the threats it faces) and more specific facts about particular creatures/species, as well as a simple index, contents and glossary (brilliantly titled “Fishy Phrases: How to talk like a sea-life expert” and laid out as the other pages are with each word/phrase illustrated nearby).

This is a playful, engaging and incredibly visually appealing book that’s sure to be a hit with children of all ages and deserves a spot on every bookcase in homes and schools!

Also highly recommended by Yuval Zommer (all of them also have sticker book versions!)

big book of yuval zommer