Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Along a Long Road by Frank Viva

I saw the cover of this book online and decided I really had to have it.  This was more about me than E. I fell in love with the lettering, the illustrations and the general style of Frank Viva's work. Clearly I'm a little slow to the game as I've since learned that he's a designer and also a cover illustrator for the The New Yorker ... now it all starts to make sense.

Like a number of the books I've featured, this one uses the illustrations to propel the story forward and the text is an integrated part of the design rather than the focus of the book.  It's pretty abstract as far as children's books go, but lo and behold E cannot put it down. I think it's the bike, the recognizable landscapes and the joyous shiny yellow road that runs from start to finish and urges you back to begin again.

This book will get you talking with your little reader as you pass through the city, the seaside and the countryside and deal with the small matter of running into apples on your bike.  I recommend this one as some serious kids' lit eye candy with real substance. To see more of Frank Viva's designs and creations visit his website:

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Tumble Bee by Laura Veirs (audio cd)

This cd is such a big hit at my house right now that I thought it worth making an exception to champion a music selection instead of a book this week.

Laura Veirs is one of my new children's music heroines.  Tumble Bee is her first release specifically for children (inspired by the birth of her son), and it's a great album in its own rite. Beautifully arranged and lovingly produced, it brings together a melodic collection of American folk songs that appeal to both kids and adults. 

I've been known to play this on a loop for over an hour in the car while E naps. It's my soundtrack of the moment and when I lost it last week inside a Luna cd case I had a slight panic, but all is now right with the world again and Tumble Bee is back in the car.  It features a healthy mix of recognizable folk melodies -- some get E dancing and shouting 'Quack, quack, quack' along with the lyrics -- and others are soothing background music for reading. 

If you like American folk music then you really have to check her out ( And if you like Veirs then have a look at the multiple releases for children by another one of my music heroines, Elizabeth Mitchell (

Thursday, 15 March 2012

I-SPY London's Transport

These I-SPY guides from Michelin are a great find even for toddlers.  A good friend gave us the London Transport edition for E's birthday and he's been clutching it in his hands ever since. The miniature packaging is great for toddlers and they're lightweight and easy to carry.

The guides are intended to be interactive in the sense that kids collect points each time they spot something while they're out.  I imagine that it's a great way to get older kids interested in their surroundings and I was pleasantly surprised to see what a big hit it is with toddlers interested in trains, boats and buses.

In an odd way it's an ideal children's book as it stimulates conversation with your child and encourages them to remember objects and details that they see during the day.  E likes to flip through the pages pointing to the things he recognizes and it gives me a chance to ask him simple questions about our days out in the city.  He's learned the word for clock thanks to the section on tube station time pieces and he now finds it very exciting that he has a wall clock in his bedroom (he never noticed it until now). My child may still be learning to master his speech and numbers but he can spot a tube station from a mile away! These little books are available at WHSmith and on Amazon.

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Boy Who Hated Toothbrushes by Zehra Hicks

Hooray for author/illustrator Zehra Hicks and her debut book published by Macmillan.  Hicks' funky designs, unique illustrations and classic theme make this title an ideal contemporary children's book. 

Billy's got some attitude and we like him all the more for it.  He hates brushing his teeth and gets easily distracted by much more important things like playing with trains and flying paper airplanes.

His world is turned on its head when the tooth fairy refuses to leave him any money for his nasty tooth. Instead, she gives him an awesome new tooth sparkler (aka a new toothbrush) that does all kinds of things he could have never imagined.  In the end, Billy decides that brushing his teeth is pretty great and soon he has the cleanest teeth in town.  What I like best is that somehow Billy manages to keep just the right amount of attitude to stay cool even when he's got clean teeth.

E may not fully understand the clever twist in the story but we find lots to talk about in the different illustrations.  It serves a dual purpose by giving me a good excuse to make teeth brushing sound like fun (at the moment he's neck and neck with Billy for the toothbrush attitude award). The text is wonderfully uncluttered which is partly why I think it holds E's attention so well.  A four year old I know also loved the book and enjoyed it on a whole different level.  What kid wouldn't get a kick out of a picture of Billy hiding in the toilet!  I look forward to the next release from Hicks, The Girl Who Loved Wellies.  In the meantime, check out her website which is just as fun and clever as her book:

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett

This picture book feels like such a classic that I was a little surprised to see that it was first published in 2007. E's been enjoying this one since he was about 12 months old and finds new bits to delight in as he gets older. It started out as just a quiet read and it's escalated to a boisterous story time favorite as he shouts 'monkey' and anticipates the animals behind each page.

The story is about a little girl with her monkey friend, and their adventures before tea time.  They encounter a range of animals from penguins to elephants and of course, monkeys. Like most of the stories I find successful for the younger age group, it works in its simplicity.  The narrator doesn't need a name, nor does her monkey.  Instead, the engaging drawings and mantra like text draw you in so it becomes your adventure too.  Beautifully imagined and succinctly written, I foresee this one as a favorite on E's shelf for some time to come.