Monday 27 June 2011

I'm me!

Apologies for the sporadic updates to this blog of late but Charlotte has been doing her best impression of a braying walrus. For those parents who have toddlers or youngsters with a chest infection, you'll be only too familiar with the horrible noise kids can make when they cough, and how horrible it sounds over a baby monitor in the middle of the night. 

Thankfully she's coming out of it now and so I remembered that there was one book we didn't review in our last library grab - I'm Me. 

This fun tale of a little girl called Imogen and her imaginative auntie is an excellent jolly little read. Imogen's auntie wonders what her niece would like to be today. A princess? A mermaid? A monkey swinging from a tree? 

Margaret Chamberlain's illustrations are superb and sketchy and make every panel look busy and full of movement. Sarah Sheridan's text is fun and easy to digest for youngsters. It's a girl-centric book I guess, but whatayagonnado!

Charlotte's best bit - Definitely dressing up as a mermaid

Daddy's favourite bit - Yup, I'll agree on the mermaids though Auntie's coconut bra as a monkey was quite stunning too

Rating: 4 out of 5

Read More

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Julia Donaldson is the new Children's Laureate

Following in the footsteps of several other successful children's authors, the new Children's Laureate is Julia ("The Gruffalo") Donaldson. 

Glasgow-born Donaldson is one of the biggest-selling children's authors for preschool books and her work features in just about every 'top ten children's books of all time' list you could care to name. 

An absolutely fantastic choice, well done Jules!
Read More

Monday 6 June 2011

What's that noise?

A tiny puppy goes to stay at his Grandma and Grandad's house, kicking off a night-time adventure (and a cute story possibly reflecting exactly what happens when Charlotte goes to her Grandma and Grandad's house for the night). 

Alone in a strange bed, the young pup listens to all the sounds that go 'bump' and 'clonk' in the night. Naturally the pup doesn't merely listen, but makes a huge fuss and noise all of his own every time he hears something. 

A delightful little story and definitely one I'd recommend to any grandparents wanting to pick up a book for their grandchildren. Great fun and a rather neat little ending (which I won't spoil, of course). 

Charlotte's best bit: Radiator noises

Daddy's favourite bit: Rather enjoying the fact that the pup in the story snores like a walrus (rather like Charlotte!)

Rating: 3 out of 5
Read More

Please don't torment Tootsie

Oh dear. This book was clearly a case of a hit-and-hoper. Picked out as part of our library grab this week, "Please don't torment Tootsie" encourages children to be kind to their pets through a series of rhymes and illustrations. 

I thought this would be an instant hit with Charlotte, who loves animals and seems to have completely fallen in love with some of the neighbourhood cats. 

Alas it was not to be. She didn't get on with the book at all, and part of the reason could just be because it's not 'busy' enough for her (she seems to share my love of tiddly little details in books and illustrations). 

Sorry Margaret. 

Charlotte's best bit: A tiny tiny little glimmer of a smile about one of the dogs in the story

Daddy's favourite bit: Identifying with children who think their pets share the same 'bendiness' that their toys do!

Rating: 2 out of 5
Read More

Polo and the Dragon

Reviewing a book without words is tough, but in the case of Polo and the Dragon, a book without words can often unlock a child's imagination in a more powerful way than something that has a clearly defined story. 

The 'Polo' series of books by Regis Faller are cute comic-strip-style books that beg adults (and their fidgety toddlers) to make up the story as they go along. 

Laid out like a set of proper 'funny comics' panels, Polo and the Dragon weaves a mystical tale of the dog Polo and an adventure on his cute little boat. 

Getting stuck in the snow, Polo discovers a parallel world through a magic door. Searching the mystical land beyond it, Polo soon encounters a dragon. But is he friend or foe?

Lovingly drawn and an instant hit with Charlotte, it just goes to show you don't always need words to conjure up a fantastic story. 

Charlotte's best bit: Making her own little stories up using the pictures as a reference

Daddy's favourite bit: Dragon-flamed Kebabs!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Read More

Friday 3 June 2011

George and the Dragon

Did you know that all dragons are secretly terrified of mice? This charming tale (with some absolutely stunning dragon artwork by Chris Wormell) reveals the deepest darkest secrets of the mythical creatures that once ruled the world. 

The dragon in this particular tale is red, scaly and thoroughly mean (and of course children of all ages love a good rotter!) He burns down forests, he smashes castles and he kidnaps fair maidens to snack on between terrible deeds. 

Of course all big bullies are all bluster and no courage, and this particular bully gets his comeuppance in the tiny form of a mouse named George, who moves in next door to the dragon's cave one day. 

George only wants to borrow a cup of sugar, but with a tiny squeak and possibly even a cute little shuffle of his whiskers, George puts paid to the dragon's evil reign. 

Masterfully put together with minimal text to interrupt the fabulous painted illustrations, a cracking book that's not too scary for a bedtime read. 

Charlotte's best bit: The dragon peeking over the mountains, absolutely terrified

Daddy's favourite bit: Who doesn't love a damsel in distress?

Rating: 4 out of 5
Read More

Three Monsters

I'm often chastised by my long suffering other half when I bring home books about monsters, but this tale doesn't set out to scare little girls and boys - rather teach them a valuable lesson about tolerance, and treating others as you would be treated yourself. 

Adults will read between the lines of David (Mr Benn, Elmer, Two-Can Toucan, Not Now Bernard) McKee's book and instantly recognise the themes within. Two lazy monsters rule their habitat until one day an 'outsider' comes along, with a simple request for somewhere to live as his own land has been destroyed. 
What follows is a rather neat moral tale that is as relevant now as when the book was originally written. Some readers have taken offence to this book, saying that the themes are possibly too grown up and rather too much to stomach for most children, but there's never a wrong time to teach your youngsters that we're all the same under the skin. 

Charlotte's best bit: The magical island that Yellow Monster makes
Daddy's favourite bit: Blue Monster - the Daily Mail reader. 

Rating - 5 out of 5
Read More

The Spider and the Fly

"Step into my Parlour" said the Spider to the Fly. 

Even if you don't know Mary Howitt's original dark poem warning of the dangers of falling for a silver tongued devil, you must have heard it paraphrased so many times in popular culture. This book takes the text of the original poem and laces it with some of the silkiest monochrome illustrations I've ever seen in a children's book. Tony DiTerlizzi has called on various artistic references and sources, but his work mostly seems to riff on 1920s and 30s Hollywood movies. 

The spider is your typical brylcreem-haired moustachioed movie baddie, the fly a dainty and beautiful flapper. We follow their tale as Spider uses his charm and wit to tempt the fly to join him for dinner. Her last dinner. 

Does he succeed? Does Fly come to her senses at the last moment? You know what I'm going to say - you'll have to read the book and if you do, you're in for a feast for the eyes. This week I let Charlotte choose 7 books from the library and in all but one case she opted for something slightly macabre or sinister (this book, 3 about dragons, 2 about monsters and one lonely book about a girl who wants to be herself - stay tuned for more reviews soon...!)

Charlotte's best bit - The Ghost Flies

Daddy's favourite bit - The artwork - so good you'd love it on your wall. 

Rating - 5 out of 5
Read More