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.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

2 Mother's Day picks from Mrs Brown's shelf

It will soon be Mother's Day in the UK so I've picked two books that feature Moms.  There are lots of lovely tender books about Moms and kids out there, but E and I tend to favor the ones with a little discord.  I've selected two from our shelf that aren't new but are well loved and well read.


Llama, Llama Mad at Mama is another popular title by Anna Dewdney.  Little Llama accompanies Mama Llama on a shopping trip (at the shop-o-rama of course), and he just about manages to hold it together while she runs errands.  Somewhere between the cereal aisle and the bread aisle, however, he loses complete control in one of the best meltdowns I've seen in a picture book.  Once his tantrum subsides Mama Llama helps him to understand his anger. Llama llama then calms down and helps clean up the mess he's created.  E loves Llama's break down and thinks it's hilarious.  I just wish I had Mama Llama's magic touch.

Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy features The Large Family of elephants.  Mrs Large just wants five minutes to sit in her bath and drink a cup of tea.  Is that too much to ask?  Apparently so according to her three little elephants. One by one they make excuses to come into the bathroom and by the end all of them join her in the tub! She responds by quietly retreating to the kitchen where she manages forty-five seconds of peace before the sopping wet elephant kids find her again. E loves the baby elephant who gets in the bath fully clothed and I love the honesty in the title. We've had a lot of fun reading it together.

For anyone celebrating Mother's Day next week ... enjoy!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain by Edward Ardizzone

Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain is the first in the Tim series of books from the legendary artist and children's book creator, Edward Ardizzone. It's also a crackin' good adventure to borrow a British phrase!

I left this book on a table for E to discover on his own, and within minutes he was quietly turning the pages, fully engrossed in this adventure of a little boy, a brave captain and the high seas. It was a little bit of a test, I admit, because the drawings are a mix of incredible water colors and black and white drawings. He took to it immediately and demanded it be read again as soon as we'd finished it ... high praise!

photo credit:
Tim is a little boy desperate to go to sea.  He manages to stow away on a steamer and after working for his passage becomes almost one of the crew. A fierce storm threatens his adventure after the steamer crashes into some rocks, but Tim and the captain are saved just in time. After some hot cocoa and a good night's sleep Tim returns home to his parents with his new friend, the brave captain, in tow.

First published in 1936, there are few facets to this adventure that might not get passed by the censors today (one of the things I like about it).  It was Tim's running away from home that confused E the most but we got around that with a little conversation.  I'm just waiting for him to ask what 'Davy Jones' locker' means any day now.

Our whole house loves this book and we'll devour the rest of the Tim series as soon as they're safely back on our local library's shelf.  Edward Ardizzone had an incredible life and career. He was the first ever winner of the Kate Greenaway medal and he was appointed Official War Artist in Britain in 1940.  He was a prolific author and illustrator and I found it fascinating to read about him.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Hello ladybird! by Chloë Inkpen and Mick Inkpen

Zoe and her dog Beans are searching for a little lost ladybird (that's a ladybug for the Americans), in this new title from father and daughter team, Chloë Inkpen and Mick Inkpen. Hello ladybird! lends itself to the board book format; it's a simple little story with marvelous illustrations of Zoe, Beans and the hodgepodge of treasures they collect in effort to find the runaway ladybird.

This story begs you to ask questions of even the smallest child as Zoe finds a snail, a pencil, a coin and a party popper as part of her hunt for the ladybird. Finally, she spots the elusive ladybird on Beans' nose and in a lovely sequence it alights from her finger, opens its wings and flies away...a perfect ending.

Zoe and Beans are a charming team and luckily for us there are loads more books about them just waiting to be read.  Their new website is also full of free activities and colouring pages so do check it out

Many thanks to Macmillan children's books for the review copy of Zoe and Beans.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A Possum's Tail by Gabby Dawnay & Alex Barrow

Hello sunny London and hello to a brand new offering from Tate Publishing: A Possum's Tail. I got carried away with the weather today and splurged on this richly illustrated rhyming tale about a boy called Samuel Drew and his little dog. I'm a sucker for books that include a walk with city landscapes and A Possum's Tale is all that and more.

 Samuel Drew takes his dog (who is actually a pull toy but I don't dare spoil Samuel's fun) for a walk through London town and all the way to the zoo. While at the zoo he inadvertently picks up a little family of possums who tag along behind Simon's dog, out the zoo gates and all the way back through the city streets. Only when he stops for a picnic does Samuel discover that he and his little dog have company. Samuel quickly makes a place for them on the picnic blanket, but they can't resist his bunch of balloons and before he can pour a cup of tea the possum family has taken to the air. I won't spoil the end for you but rest assured, no one goes hungry.

This book is lovely to behold and lovely to read.  E's not yet even seen it but I think he's going to be quickly swept away by Samuel Drew, the cheeky possums and the vibrant scenes from London town.

Visit the Tate's website for more on the book and the amazing team behind the story and illustrations.

All images: Tate Shop online

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

I'll start by saying there's surely a bit of Mr Tiger in all of us.  Peter Brown, known for another great book Creepy Carrots, has brought together a wicked little story and stunning illustrations to create the fun and infectious, Mr Tiger Goes Wild. 

Mr Tiger is stuck in a world of proper animals who all act as 'they should'.  He bores of this existence over time and in a fantastic display of pure abandon he slowly gives in to his wild side and returns to the jungle.  The grass is not always greener, however, and he realises that he misses a lot about his old life.  He returns to the city determined to navigate it as a new Tiger, one who knows what it's like to go wild and one who won't ever really be the same again. He adopts a new perspective that quickly spreads and liberates the animals around him.

I'm loving this story and E requested that it be read again immediately when I first showed it to him. I've actually had my eye on it for some time and my local library only just managed to get their copy this week... which I snagged straight away (apologies to anyone who has to share my local with me).

Happy Valentine's Day all. For something to love give Mr Tiger Goes Wild a try!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin. E. Stead

Happy belated new year readers! It's been a busy time at our house with grandparents visiting from North Carolina, a side project of mine that just launched and master E's 4th birthday which seems to have come out of blue this year. Though it's been a time for reading lots of old favorites, there is one new title in the basket that we've both kind of fallen in love with: If You Want to See a Whale.

The narrative is much like a thought, a poem or a conversation depending on how you read it.  All three approaches work well! The story is driven by a little boy with just a hound and a little grey bird for company as he searches for a glimpse of a whale. Like a young child retelling something they've learned firsthand, he speaks directly to the reader as he dispenses his wisdom. Above all you must not get distracted if you want to see a whale.  Things that might divert your attention such as a pirate ship, a field of roses or a pelican must all be ignored. You must wait, quiet and alert, and you might, you just might see a whale.

The illustrations are drawn with a deft hand and the blues and greens of the sea are endlessly dreamy against the bright yellows. Without being didactic, the story is a lesson in perception and patience. E is really big on whales at the moment so this one went down a treat at our house. His interest in the subject matter, coupled with the incredible illustrations, opened the door for a revealing bit of quiet conversation... just as a good book should.