Monday, 29 April 2013

Hooray for Bread by Allan Ahlberg & Bruce Ingman

Hooray for Bread is a ryhming treat about the life of a loaf ... slice by slice.  From the first crusty piece cut by the baker's hand to the final two run away slices, it's a story of the people and animals who make the most of this scrumptious loaf.

There's a fun two page intro before the title page that sets the tone for this book.  E starts to get excited at this point as he knows the title page means a chance to shout the refrain: 'Hooray for bread!' ... and so it begins.

Each page introduces us to a new member of the baker's family and a new meal.  From toast with jam at breakfast to boiled egg and soldiers (that's little rectangles of toast for the non Brits) we join the baker's family for a day.  And their day includes, of course, lots of bread.

Every few pages there's a glorious scene where they feed their crumbs to friendly animals (dogs, ducks and birds). In response the animals bark, quack and tweet back with the chorus, 'Hooray for bread!'. The final crumb is consumed by a tiny mouse in a dark and quiet corner of the house: 'Hooray, squeak, squeak for bread!' it says. And those run away slices make an appearance in the very last two pages along with a symphony of other foods who in unison shout: 'Hooray, hooray for bread!'.

We've been having such fun with this book. The rhyming text gives it a nice singsong quality and reminds me a little of the 'Miss Susie had a steamboat' song we used to sing as kids. E identifies with the illustrations of feeding the ducks and birds and he spends a long time talking about the food on the final two pages. Each read he asks me what my favorite foods are and we have a good laugh over the illustration of the baked beans and their tiny little legs. And as an added bonus he's now curious about how bread is made and wants to bake a loaf of our own.

There's lots of joy in this simple story and I'll forewarn you that trips to the grocery store may never be the same if your little reader is at all like E. He now feels the need to shout 'Hooray for bread!' as we go down the bread aisle and he can spot a bakery in London from a mile away.

Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman are the talented duo behind this book.  You may be familiar with some of their other titles including The Runaway Dinner and The Pencil.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer

Half term at our house has finally finished, London temperatures are starting to rise and I'm back with a fresh treasure trove of books for you. Over the break we had a very special visit from one of E's older cousins.  There was lots of playing with trains, piano and puzzles and more than one tussle over books and balloons. One book was a particularly contentious little number,  A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer with illustrations from the famed P. D. Eastman.

I remember this book vividly from my childhood and added it to E's collection sometime when he was first born. We started reading it when he was about 2+ years old and yes, the fish book, is still a popular choice. E's ever changing infatuations seem to breath new life into familiar titles and this time it's the fire truck scene that he waits for each read.

Otto is a seemingly innocent little goldfish that our young narrator purchases from one Mr Carp. Warnings not to overfeed him go unheeded and Otto soon grows out of his bowl, not stopping until he's bigger than the town pool. It's a wild frenzy of activity that takes places moments after Otto finishes his last nibble of food. He grows out of his bowl and is transferred to a vase, he grows out of the vase with alarming speed and is transferred to a giant pot. There's no rest for the wicked, however, and Otto is almost immediately too big for the pot. He's finally hoisted up by a fire engine in a final mad dash to get him to water and the last resort is the town pool. He's still growing though so Mr Carp is called in to save the day. He jumps in the pool and all we can see is the swirling, swooshing water and Otto's bright orange tail as it disappears beneath the waves. Finally, Mr Carp emerges, triumphant, with a gold fish bowl and Otto returned to his original size.

Originally published in 1961, this is a great story of a fantastical series of events that really gets children engaged. 'Look at that great big fish mommy!' is E's typical outburst when we get to the pool scene. The illustrations are detailed and effective, using a limited palette that makes Otto's bright orange stand out page after page. Otto's expressions are a study in the stages of worry and surprise and do much to bring him to life. This book was reissued more recently as an 'I Can Read It All By Myself' book and in my house it was haggled over by both a 3 year old and a 6 year. I can't help but feel as though E is a bit like my own little Otto, growing out of each pair of shoes, pj's and trousers almost faster than I can keep up!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

a collection of books from Anthony Browne

I'm more than a little late to the game when it comes to Anthony Browne. I wish I'd learned about him decades ago but I've at least cottoned on to his books while E is still 'of age'. My introduction to his work is mostly based on my local library and charity shop availability, however, I've enjoyed learning about his impressive body of work while researching for this post. What a national treasure he is for the Brits!

A few things you need to know about Anthony Browne: he's an internationally celebrated author/illustrator, his text is simple but injected with irony and emotion, he loves gorillas (really loves them), and E love his books.  The three titles we're reading at the moment (How Do You Feel, Willy and Hugh, and Silly Billy) all have a common thread: feelings.  Feelings are a complex area when it comes to a toddler and Browne tackles them with a deft hand and gentle illustrations. Each of these titles is unique in its approach so here's a little summary to get you started:

How Do You Feel: Each page features a different emotion from angry, to guilty, to confident to shy. The emotions are illustrated by a charming little monkey and his various scenarios. E is especially fond of the guilty monkey who's drawn a picture on the wall. He regularly remarks that the monkey was naughty and then smiles a smile that promises much trouble in future!

Silly Billy: Billy is a worrier.  I found this one interesting because I've not spoken with E about worries but clearly they are starting to develop as he gets older. Willy worries about seemingly everything but with help from his grandmother and a set of worry dolls he's able to overcome his fears and get a good night's sleep.

Willy and Hugh: I'm a big fan of this book and it's due in part to the successful narrative. Small, wiry Willy needs a friend and he finds an unlikely companion in Hugh. They each have something to offer the other and delight in one another's company.  E and I both have a good chuckle over the final image of Hugh dressed up in his own version of Willy's trademark outfit. They're on facing pages with their arms outstretched and innocent looks of pure joy on their faces. It's worth the whole book!

Do yourself a favor and get to know Anthony Browne's work while your little readers are still of age. He has some wonderful things to say about reading and picture books and his illustrations are worthy of many a look. You'll find more on the children's laureate website and at Walker Books.