Thursday, 15 December 2016

Five fab picture books

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel is an absolute gem of a book that introduces the idea of different perspectives through illustrations and a simple narrative.  A cat walks through the world, everyone sees it but they all see it differently. So simple yet completely genius because of the illustrations and clever repetition. This is quickly becoming once of our favourite reads of all time.

Pass it On by Sophy Henn
I wish I could get this cover image as a print. What a lovely collection of illustrations with a vintage feel. This is a charming book that celebrating the little joys in life. A perfect pick for the Christmas season. 
Dogs in Cars by Felix Massie and Emmanuelle Walker
This is not your average counting book. Dogs in Cars is full of fun and, of course, a menagerie of dogs. With this many lovingly illustrated canines it's just a little bit on the absurd side which makes it a delight to read.
How to Find Gold by Viviane Schwarz

A story of friendship, adventure and shared experience. I'm particularly drawn to each characters' voice and it was a joyful thing to read their conversations aloud to E. And the best part, this pair really does find gold!
Dogs don't do Ballet by Anna Kemp & Sarah Ogilve

To me this is a feel good story of diversity and dreams triumphing over stereotypes.  Children may simply see it as a funny story about a quirky dog with big dreams who manages to save the day.  Whatever your take on it I think it's a fantastic pick.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Celebrating women and their work

As I try to make sense of what's happened in the US over the past 72 hours it's quickly become apparent to me that I need an injection of positive energy and a reminder that women's contributions to the world at large are massive. In this spirit I've compiled a list of 10 children's books (in no particular order) about women in history that I hope to share with E:

Susan B Anthony 
Women's rights advocate, inspirational leader 
and American social reformer, 
founded the National American 
Woman Suffrage Association:

No man is good enough to govern any woman without her consent.

Martha Graham
Dance pioneer, choreographer, teacher:
You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, then something has been lost.
Maya Angelou 
Writer and civil rights activist,
wrote the first nonfiction best-seller
by an African-American woman, 
'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings':

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. 
Jane Goodall
Scientist and trailblazing animal rights activist:

The greatest danger to our future is apathy.

 Eleanor Roosevelt
American politician, activist and
United Nations spokeswoman:

The future belongs to those who 
believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Rosa Parks
Pioneering civil rights activist:

I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.

Amelia Earhart
Aviation pioneer and author:
Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail their failure must be but a challenge to others.
 Dorthea Lange
American documentary photographer and photojournalist:
The words that come direct from the people are the greatest... If you substitute one out of your own vocabulary, it disappears before your eyes.
Read more at:
The words that come direct from the people are the greatest... If you substitute one out of your own vocabulary, it disappears before your eyes.

The words that come direct from the people are the greatest... If you substitute one out of your own vocabulary, it disappears before your eyes.
Read more at:
The words that come direct from the people are the greatest... If you substitute one out of your own vocabulary, it disappears before your eyes.
Read more at:


Zora Neale Hurston
Writer, civil rights activist and anthropoligist: 
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Josephine Baker
Civil rights activist, dancer and singer: 
Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one's soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Two Things You May Not Know About Prague

I visited family in Prague over half term and learned two new things about what's become a very familiar city to me. Number one, Prague is home to an ace children's book publisher called Baobab.  They produce a range of seriously beautiful books and I'm particularly fond of one titled This Is Prague by Michaela Kukovicova & Olga Cerna.  Part guide book and part picture book, it captures the city's eclectic architectural styles in fun collage illustrations peppered with factual little anecdotes.

And while I got excited about the books E and his cousin went completely ape over the 'traffic playgrounds' in the city. A little known fact is that dotted around Prague and other Czech cities are these brilliant little traffic parks called dopravní hřiště in czech.  Implemented during Communist role and often in the shadow of tower blocks, these playgrounds mimic miniature city streets with working stoplights, model gas stations and proper road signs.  

The traffic parks give kids a rare opportunity to feel like they're powering through city streets on their bikes and scooters in a car free zone. E's favourite location had battery operated jeeps for hire and the tangle of vehicles proved to be quite challenge much for the lone right hand side driver in the crowd.  All in the traffic parks were a major hit and though they may have been originally designed to teach the rules of the road they provided a wild few hours of fun for our crew.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds & Peter Brown

Full disclosure: I'm re-posting this previous Halloween review b/c we're still enamored by Creepy Carrots! at our house and I think it warrants another look:

Well, it's almost time for Halloween and our annual search for the perfect book for the season is on.  We've settled for a tried and true favorite this year: Creepy Carrots! (words by Aaron Reynolds and pictures by Peter Brown).

Jasper Rabbit is the little tyke in charge of this tale. He can't get enough of the carrots from Crackenhopper Field and in time convinces himself that there are creepy carrots following him around... everywhere.

The illustrations are just that little bit film noir and they work in tandem with the words to create a slightly spooky, unpredictably crackin' tale. Jasper Rabbit's road to gluttony is paved with paranoia and eventually he has to put an end to those creepy carrots once and for all.

E thinks the three main carrots are hysterical and has a ritual of inspecting the illustrated end papers with each read.  I think it's a perfect book to get you in the Halloween spirit.

And for an extra treat check out this awesome little film.

Happy Halloween! 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright & Jim Field

This is a gentle picture book with an important message.  Mouse is overlooked by the rest of the animals who are all much bigger and louder than him.  He's fed up at being ignored, forgotten and even stepped on.  So one day he decides his only option is to ask the biggest, baddest beast of all to teach him to roar. The animal with THE most ferocious roar is the Lion King and he spends his days upon a high rock.  How in world is a tiny mouse going to take him on?  By digging deep, thinking like a winner and being strong is how.  Mouse gathers up enough courage to approach the lion and to his complete surprise discovers that this enormous beast with the powerful roar is actually, well, he's actually scared of mice.  So while Mouse discovers something new about himself he also learns that even the biggest beasts have fears to face. Together the two forge an unlikely friendship and the concluding sentence sums this book up perfectly:

"Yes, that day they both learned that, no matter your size, we all have a mouse and a lion inside."

With sing song ryhme, a quick paced storyline and engaging illustrations (check out Mouse's ears!) this is a winner that E and I have shared together.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Keep those kids reading!

 My book searches have changed some since E started reading. I now spend a lot of time looking for books that are pitched at his reading level but still have a story and characters that interest him. Every kid is different but through trial and error I've found that reading at our house works best when E picks up a book in his own time and reads at his own pace. I leave little book piles around the house so that he can 'discover' new titles without the pressure of thinking he has to read it or even has to like it. And slowly over the last year I've begun to notice him picking up more and more books and sitting down to read them independently.

It's taken me quite a while to find the right books to fit a kid who could be described by any of those trendy labels depending on the day or the hour (early/developing/confident/reluctant, etc, etc). Currently the most popular titles are the Early Reader series from Orion, the Project X Alien Adventure series from Oxford University Press and the Penguin Young Readers books. Penguin is especially good at capturing the nuances of difference reading levels and once E finishes these three series next up my sleeve is the brilliant 'Who Was ...." nonfiction series also from Penguin.

And for anyone who's wondering, I do take E to the library to pick out his own books but sometimes it's just good for everyone to have a little break from Beast Quest now and again.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Robo-Sauce (words by Adam Rubin, pictures by Daniel Salmieri)

I love a book with a good surprise when it's designed well and adds to the overall story. This is certainly the case with Robo-Sauce.  Not your average title, and thankfully not your average book.

We meet a boy pretending to be a robot who decides life would be better as a real robot. He would have loads of playmates and never have to go to bed or take baths. The nameless, faceless narrator then tells him about a magic robo-sauce.  So the kid makes the sauce, gulps it all down and then bam; in a two page spread bursting with colour and chalkboard style illustrations he turns into an actual robot.

He wants to do cool robot things like activate his 'robo-rocket blast' and 'robo-tornado'.  Unfortunately, it's just not that simple.  The kid, turned out of control robot, invents a robo-sauce launcher and then the trouble really begins. He starts turning everyone into robots, even his family and his dog. By the end he can't help but turn the book into a robot and that's when you get to do something very clever that leaves this book standing out from the crowd.