Thursday, 17 September 2015

I'll Catch You If You Fall by Mark Sperring & Layn Marlow

"We all need someone to keep us safe" is the publisher's tag line for this book. It's a fitting way to introduce this title about a little boy, his adventures at sea and a friendly star who guides him home. This is one of those gentle books that reads like a lullaby and is whimsically illustrated. All the makings for a perfect 'last thing to read before bed' on those very hectic days. 


The story unfolds like a poem:

The boy is out at sea but who will keep him safe? 
'I will' said his mother.
But who will keep them both safe? 
'Me' said the captain. 

And so the story continues in this pattern, each scene overlapping seamlessly into the next thanks to the soothing text and illustrations. The ending slowly unfolds with the boy promising to look after the star.  And in this last moment it becomes an even more poignant story about the world at large and how important it is to look out for one another.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Grandad's Island by Benji Davies

Well hello readers!  Mrs Brown is still here and I'm finding it hard to believe that it's been such a long time since my last post. There's one stand out book that travelled with us this summer from London to South Carolina to North Carolina and back. It's the latest title from long time favourite author/illustrator Benji Davies and it's called Grandad's Island.

As E and I start to have slightly differing tastes in books it was a joy to discover that we were both happy to read this one over and over again. I was hooked by the pictures. E was hooked by the boat.  Neither one of us expected that Syd and Grandad's adventure would end with Grandad staying behind and Syd sailing home alone. And somehow, through the palpable sensitivity of the words and the lovingly portrayed characters neither one of us felt overwhelmingly sad.

Some retailers have marketed Grandad's Island as a book about a difficult subject [death] but that seems a bit limiting to me. There's a lot about life in this book; from relationships with loved ones, to coping with change, to independence and cherishing memories. And the inevitable goodbye happens so gently and the adventures Syd and Grandad have beforehand are so wonderful that, well, it all just seems like it's going to be ok... and I think it will be.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds & Peter Brown

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, 25 September 2014

There's a Dinosaur in My Bathtub by Catalina Echeverri

Now that E has started school, and we're honing in on teaching him to read, it's nice to pick up a book and enjoy it with him just because it looks like fun. There's a Dinosaur in My Bathtub is just that sort of book.

Amelia is privileged to be in on a very special secret.  A special secret about a dinosaur hiding in her bathtub.  A dinosaur that no one else can see, a dinosaur who comes from France and a dinosaur who just happens to be fabulous in my opinion. Pierre and Amelia are very good at hiding him from her family and in return he takes her on one glorious adventure after another. Every Tuesday they go to the moon and on a Thursday they eat giant ice cream.  Sometimes they go sailing to distant lands and sometimes they just dance around inside and have a magical time in each others company.

Pierre reminds me of a boss I had each summer while at university who made every little job a mini adventure. We followed him around like he was handing out gold dust.  And like Pierre, we had to say goodbye to him at the end of each summer when the leaves started to fall off the trees.

This is a fun read and the illustrations are as charming as Pierre. Read more about Catalina Echeverri here.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem (words by Mac Barnett & pictures by Adam Rex)

It's all about Big School at our house and E marks the milestone from toddler to boy when he starts next week. I'm trying, for everyone's sake, not to make too much of a fuss and instead we've been drowning ourselves in books ... and superheroes.

image from Adam Rex Books

Our favourite book at the moment is Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett (illustrations by Adam Rex). With a title like this you need to deliver big and this one surely does.  From the endpapers designed like old medicine man ads, to the cinematic illustrations, it goes big and beyond. I have my sister in Prague to thank for telling me about this title and now I'm now very happy to pass it on to all of you!

image from Mac
Billy Twitters is a regular kid who doesn't always like to do what he's told. A regular kid that is until his parents buy him a blue whale as a consequence for not listening. Billy soon learns just how difficult life can be when you're responsible for a blue whale. With fantastical scenes like the midnight whale delivery truck to the whale at the playground, it keeps E mesmorised from page to page as we wait to see the absurd situations awaiting Billy and his companion.

This book is great fun and reads like a more mature narrative while still being suitable for my four year old.  I think it's the humour that lifts it from the crowded picture book pile. As a bonus E and I've learned a few new facts about blue whales and had chats about what might happen if he got a blue whale (mainly that our cat probably wouldn't like it). Enjoy Billy Twitters' escapades and let's hope he gets himself into a pickle again in future so we can hear more of his adventures!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell

Hello readers!  Where in the world is Mrs Brown's Books you may ask? It's been a hectic spring for reasons too boring to mention but I'm happy to be back and ensconced once again in the land of picture book exploration.  My first choice out of the bag is the brilliant Thank You, Octopus by fellow North Carolinian Darren Farrell. The quality of the cover illustration prompted me to take this one off the shelf in a local bookstore and I only had to read a page before I was handing over money to take it home.  This one is really funny and E can't get enough of it.

One little boy is being cared for by a loving but overly mischievous octopus (think cheeky older sibling here). Octopus is trying to put the boy to bed without much success.  However, in a new twist it's the one in charge who's causing all the chaos. Octopus promises to  make the boy a nice warm bath ... but it turns out to be made of egg salad!  He offers to help him put on his pj's ... on the stature of liberty that is! From suggesting they read a favorite bedtime story (in robot language) to reassuring the boy that he's removed the monsters from under his bed (and stashed them in the closet) octopus is unstoppable when it comes to his bedtime antics.

The illustrations are lush matte color tones and the expressions on the boy's face are priceless.  He's so desperate to believe that the octopus means well. The boy goes along blindly with the octopus until he finally reaches the end of his tether and gives the octopus a taste of his own medicine.

We're reading this one constantly at the moment and running through the dialog taking turns playing the boy and the octopus.  I don't think we could get more interactive with a book, and with such playful illustrations it's a fun read all around.  For more on the talented Darren Farrell visit

Friday, 4 April 2014

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

In case you haven't heard, Chris Haughton has a new book out ... and it's good. Shh! We Have a Plan follows his other titles with its trademark illustration style and layers of saturated color. It's a bundle of storytelling magic packaged in just under a hundred words.  Oh, to have his talent!

Shh! We Have a Plan tells the story of four characters traipsing through the wilderness on a harmless hunt to capture a bird. The three biggest ones set out with nets and an elaborate plan to catch the bird unaware.  The littlest one, oblivious to any scheming, keeps calling 'hello birdy' each time they spot it in the trees. The other three 'shush' him loudly but alas, the bird remains elusive. Finally, the littlest one holds out his hand and offers some bread crumbs.  One by one he's joined by a flock of birds until the pages are awash with colour.  His companions can't believe their eyes and attempt to capture another bird but are forced to retreat; dragging their littlest friend with them.  Then they spot a squirrel.  What will happen next?

E howled with laughter each time the group failed to catch the bird and instead ended up stuck in a clumsy heap, the river or falling out of a tree.  We read it three times at breakfast yesterday and by bedtime he was trading lines with his Papa, both of them 'shushing' in unison.  This morning he insisted on 'reading' it himself and took us both by surprise as he recited the words and 'shushed' accordingly with a sneaky little smile on his face. We then had a chat about how the bird was scared of the nets but not the littlest one with the bread crumbs.  It turned into a whole lesson on how we treat creatures.  I was slightly taken aback as it was just past eight in the morning but that's the beauty of a successful picture book.

E later asked me if this was a book we could keep forever  (thus differentiating it from a library book).  I assured him that yes, Chris Haughton's books are definitely ones we keep forever.

And if the book is not enough check out Chris Haughton's website for free printable activity sheets and short videos about how he made the book.