Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mog and the Vee Ee Tee

Keeping with the cat theme this week, Mog is an energetic, athletic little moggy but when she hurts her paw, her owners decide to take her to the dreaded "Vee Ee Tee". 

In this delightful addition to the Mog series, children find out what happens when their beloved pet becomes ill or injured. Again, the whole book will have a ring of familiarity about it for any cat (or pet) owner (Cats seem to be innate masters of avoiding being put in transit baskets and seem able to glue themselves to the inside of said baskets when you finally get to the Vee Ee Tee itself!).

Charlotte's best bit: Mog meowing her head off in her transit basket
Daddy's favourite bit: The vet's surreal wild animal dream

Rating: 5 out of 5

Six Dinner Sid

Anyone who has ever owned a cat must suspect that at times, their beloved Tiddles or Tiger is known by a series of aliases and probably cadges meals from a number of neighbours. This is the story of Six Dinner Sid, known obviously for his knack of wheedling food out of the various residents of the lane where he lives. 

Sid is sneaky and sly, and play-acts his roles for his "owners". Naturally such sneakiness can't go on forever, and Sid gets his comeuppance in a rather amusing way. 

Fabulous illustrations by Inga Moore and an amusing twisty cat-tail tale. Fabulous. 

Charlotte's best bit: Sid's face when he coughs and sneezes. 

Daddy's favourite bit: The fact that Sid is the living embodiment of any cat I've ever owned. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

Baker Cat

Baker Cat is an odd little tale. Far from being cute and cuddly for the major part of the story, poor Baker Cat works in a Bakery (naturally) for a pair of mean and nasty characters who could've been ripped straight out of a Roald Dahl book. The Baker and his Wife work their poor moggy half to death, and refuse to feed him unless he can catch mice. 

Naturally the mice aren't too happy with the deal, nor is poor little Baker Cat so a cunning plan is devised. 

Posy Simmons perfect text and illustrations break into comic-book style in places, but the larger panels are deliciously detailed and drawn. 

A fabulous book though and a wry tale of what happens when a particularly talented moggy is taken for granted. 

Charlotte's best bit: Making the mouse tails
Daddy's favourite bit: The nasty baker and his wife getting their comeuppance. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Winnie!

Happy Birthday Winnie!

Written by Valerie Thomas

Illustrated by Korky Paul

Amazon Link: £3.55

Published by Oxford University Press

Finding a Winnie the Witch book we haven't read before at the local library is always a treat as they seem to be hotly fought over by toddlers there.This book was a bit battered and worn but we checked it out anyway. It's Friday the 13th and Winnie's birthday, which means it's time to throw a huge party. With the aid of her magic wand, Winnie sets about creating a birthday to remember. 

Of course, the book would be a bit boring if everything ran smoothly, so with Wilbur in tow, Winnie's day turns out a little bit stranger than expected. 

Great book and has one of the best foldouts I think I've ever seen in a kid's book (which was probably the reason the library copy was a bit damaged - you'll see what I mean if you borrow it / buy it). 

Charlotte's best bit: Can't tell you that, it would spoil the surprise. Oh alright then, CAKE!

Daddy's favourite bit: Same as above

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Big Bad Mole is Coming

The Big Bad Mole is Coming

Written by Martin Waddell

Illustrated by John Bendall Brunello

Amazon Link: Various used prices

Published by Walker Books

The big bad mole is coming! Quick hide! Quite who the big bad mole is, or why he's so menacing is never really made clear in Martin Waddell's story of farmyard menace. Still, the narrator of the tale (a mischievous little boy) spreads enough panic to ensure that everyone takes refuge in the barn for the day. 

An odd book, didn't strike a chord with Charlotte at all which could be down to the sketchy illustrations by John Bendall Brunello - or just the fact that the story never seems to actually get anywhere. 

Charlotte's best bit: None

Daddy's favourite bit: Some of the sketchy pics were OK. Weird art style though. 

Rating: 1 out of 5

The Shark in the Dark

The Shark in the Dark

Written by Peter Bently

Illustrated by Ben Cort

Amazon Link: £3.87

Published by Macmillan's Children's Books

Not to be confused with "Shark in the Dark" by Nick Sharratt, Peter Bently's book features a big fat bully of a shark who spends all day trawling the oceans for small fry to eat. The fish have had enough, and thanks to a wily squid they come up with a plan to put the bully firmly in his place. 

"The Shark in the Dark" is great, there's acres of mileage in any story set under the sea and Ben Cort's illustrations pick out the various sea life effectively. 

I do personally prefer "Shark in the Dark" but Charlotte prefers this book instead. Kids eh? What can you do with 'em!

Charlotte's best bit: Nemo!!

Daddy's favourite bit: The bully getting his comeuppance. Always good to see in a book. 

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Delicious! A Pumpkin Soup Story

Delicious! A Pumpkin Soup Story

Written and Illustrated by Helen Cooper

Amazon Link: £4.49

Published by Picture Corgi

Helen Cooper's Pumpkin Soup books are charming and delightful. In "Delicious", the tale picks up with Duck, Cat and Squirrel finding that their well-farmed Pumpkin patch is completely empty. Only green unripe Pumpkins remain. Try as they might to come up with an alternative, the three would-be animal Gordon Ramsays can't find an adequate substitute for good old Pumpkin Soup with a Pipkin of salt and a pinch of pepper. 

Duck goes on a hunger strike, Cat and Squirrel struggle to maintain the status quo. Will they win out in the end? You'll have to read the book to find out. 

Charlotte's best bit: Duck going to bed with hunger pains

Daddy's favourite bit: The enterprising back story with insects struggling to claim the wasted soup for themselves. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog

The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog

Written by Sue Eves

Illustrated by Ailie Busby

Amazon Link: £5.39

Published by  Andersen Children's Books

What happens when a quiet lady with a noisy dog meets a noisy lady with a quiet dog? This charming tale is a fun book of opposites for your toddler. With text reflecting the quiet and the LOUD throughout, this is a really good read to get your toddlers joining in with. 

Ailie Busby's illustrations are quite simple and child-like but work well with the text. The characters are bold and amusing. Great stuff. 

Charlotte's best bit: Quiet doggy looking sad

Daddy's favourite bit: The road rage man in Noisy Town

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Dog who could Dig

The Dog who could Dig

Written by Jonathan Long

Illustrated by Korky Paul

Amazon Link: £4.38

Published by Oxford University Press 

Another Korky-Paul-illustrated book that explains some of the doggy cameos in Winnie the Witch books. Here's Jonathan Long's tale of a dog who loses his bone one morning, and decides to dig up the garden looking for it.

As you'd expect from any book involving Korky Paul, the humorous illustrations are superbly detailed and full of crazy chaos. The characters are larger than life, but engaging with it. Do you know what's under your garden? Read this and you might be able to convince your other half that digging a new ornamental pond in the back yard might not be such a great idea after all. 

Charlotte's best bit: Dine-saw! RARRRR!

Daddy's favourite bit: Cats systematically failing to scrounge food at the end of the book. Serves 'em right for laughing at the dog. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pizza Kittens

Pizza Kittens

Written and Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Amazon Link: £9.89

Published by Walker Books

Mealtimes are chaos when you've got children. No matter how hard you try to make the perfect meal that everyone will enjoy, and have everyone sitting at the table without fidgeting or messing about, it never quite goes according to plan. As the long-suffering chef-come-father to a couple of finicky eaters at home, I can identify with mummy and daddy cat's struggle to get their three kittens eating sensibly in "Pizza Kittens" as Charlotte is now at the age where she's becoming extremely picky. 

Charlotte Voake's loose but excellent illustration style fits the book's mix of dialogue bubbles with normal text, giving the book a feeling that at any moment, complete chaos will ensue. 

It's quite hard to track down a copy of this (unless you're willing to pay a pretty hefty Amazon price for it) but it's a superb book and worth picking up secondhand if you can. 

Charlotte's best bit: Naughty kitten falling off his chair and spilling water all over the dinner table

Daddy's favourite bit: Daddy cat's plaintive plea to the kittens to "just try a little bit, it's really good!" (oh I've been there, I've so been there)

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, December 6, 2010

A boy wants a Dinosaur

A Boy Wants a Dinosaur

Written by Hiawyn Oram

Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura

Amazon Link: £1.29

Published by Red Fox Picture Books

When I was a kid, we used to go to the Natural History Museum in London a lot. A short tube-train ride was all it took to be among those massive fossilised skeletons adorning the Great Hall. 

Nowadays I'm similarly fortunate that the University Museum of Natural History is just down the road from where I work, so I can go in and check out dinosaurs with Charlotte with ease. 

In "A Boy Wants a Dinosaur" we learn about a child's wish for a pet, but not just any old pet, a huge hulking great big swamp-loving pet dinosaur. 

Chaos ensues when the young lad gets his wish and brings his new acquisition home to meet the family. 

If you've ever wished you had house room to hide a 200ft long Diplodocus, or you'd give house room to a Pterosaur, then this book will tickle your fancy. 

Charlotte's best bit: The dinosaur taking a bite out of next-door-but-one's cat. Poor cat. 

Daddy's favourite bit: The massive Dinosaur emporium that looks like a diney version of Toys 'R' Us

Rating: 3 out of 5

Friday, December 3, 2010

Olivia forms a band

Olivia forms a band

Written and Illustrated by Ian Falconer

Amazon Link: £7.14 (hardback)

Published by Simon and Schuster

Olivia the pig is the slightly more annoying antithesis to Peppa Pig and anyone who's seen the Channel 5 show based on Ian Falconer's rather cool books will probably know what a precocious little piggy she is. 

In "Olivia forms a band", Olivia does not go punk. Olivia does not stage dive. Olivia wants to form a marching band to accompany a family trip to the Firework Show. 

As ever, the real stars of this book are the background characters (particularly William the baby pig who manages to completely steal the show in pretty much every scene). 

Ace book, but oh my if ever there was a pig who needed turning into a string of sausages...

Charlotte's best bit: Olivia's unique ideas on makeup and beauty. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Olivia's statement about "sounding like 5 people" has an air of familiarity about it. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Fifi and the Flowertots: Jelly Good Fun!

Fifi and the Flowertots: Jelly Good Fun

TV Tie-in

Amazon Link: £3.99

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

Whether you like Fifi and the Flowertots or not, the TV programme seems to be insanely popular with toddlers. I find it all a bit sugary and sweet but there are a series of book tie-ins to accompany the programme and Jelly Good Fun is probably the best of a fairly mediocre bunch. Fifi and the twins make three jellies but forgetful Fifi forgets the vital accompaniment for Jelly at tea time - ice cream. 
Naturally no Fifi story would be complete without some interference from resident naughty person Stingo and his slightly dim assistant Slugsy. Will Fifi remember the Ice Cream in time to thwart Stingo's plan to keep the jellies to himself? You can probably guess the answer. 

If your children love the Channel 5 / Fiver TV show, they'll probably love the books. 

Charlotte's best bit: Wobbling the jellies

Daddy's favourite bit: None

Rating: 2 out of 5

Love, Splat

Love, Splat

Written and Illustrated by Rob Scotton

Amazon Link: £4.99

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

We last saw Splat having a nervous first day at school in "Splat the Cat", now he's experiencing the first pangs of a schoolboy crush in "Love, Splat" - the sweet little tale of a valentine's day card and a cute kitten who likes to prod Splat's tummy, twist his tail and laugh at his silly noises. 

But all does not go as smoothly as Splat expects. His love rival, the annoyingly smug Spike out-does Splat in just about every department including producing a bigger and better Valentine's card. Oh dear. 

How does the story end? Well you'll have to read it of course, but like Splat the Cat it's Rob Scotton's superb illustrations that really make the story come alive and give it bucketloads of appeal to my little girl. 

Charlotte's best bit: Kitten tying splat's tail in a huge tangled knot

Daddy's favourite bit: Spike's heartfelt message in his valentine's card.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tatty Ratty

Tatty Ratty

Written and Illustrated by Helen Cooper

Published by Corgi Children's Books

The imaginative flights of fancy of a child are the subject of Helen (Pumpkin Soup, The Baby Who Wouldn't Go To Bed) Cooper's book Tatty Ratty. When a little girl loses her favourite pet rabbit on the bus one day, she tells her parents what is happening to Tatty Ratty, the beloved bunny in question. Tatty Ratty's adventures are picked out in Helen Cooper's warm and knowingly self-referential illustrations with characters from popular nursery rhymes cropping up in the most unlikely places. 

Great little book, proving that Helen Cooper can pretty much write her own cheques when it comes to being a children's author whose books are worth visiting and revisiting. 

Charlotte's best bit: The cow who jumped over the moon appearing in one frame

Daddy's favourite bit: Knowing and identifying with the angst any parent goes through when a child's favourite toy is lost, and a brand new identical replacement just isn't good enough. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Splat the Cat

Splat the Cat

Written and Illustrated by Rob Scotton

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

Who remembers their first day at school? Most adults probably won't but if you've got preschool kids who are a little worried about their first day in class, Splat the Cat is probably more worried than any of them put together. 
After failing to come up with a decent excuse to not go on, Splat, along with Seymour his pet mouse, soon finds out that school isn't such a bad place after all. 
Rob Scotton's lovely fuzzy but superbly crisp artwork is excellent, and though the world doesn't exactly need another cute fuzzy cat character, Splat is a welcome addition. 

Charlotte's best bit: All the other cats trying to eat Seymour

Daddy's favourite bit: Scotton's artwork. Fine stuff. 

Rating: 4 out of 5