Fair shares by Pippa Goodhart and Anna Doherty
A heartwarming, fun and colourful picture book, with an important message about sharing. A bear and a hare both want a pear, but neither can reach them. In their attempt to do so they learn that ‘being fair’ doesn’t always mean ‘getting the same’. I can see this being really popular with children aged 2 to 6 years and their parents/carers. The later whom will really appreciated the way it gives the reader more than one way to look at sharing. Great rhyming language, told in a way that young children will really be able to relate too, and an great twist at the end.
The pictures are vibrant and colourful, making great use of orange, green and yellow. Ann Doherty the illustrator explains at the back page that that the art work was produced digitally, but she scanned textures she had made in pen and ink for the animals fur. The contrast between the two works brilliantly. There are also the most delightful end-pages.
You can find out more about publisher Tiny Owl the publisher and buy the book here.
Thank you to Tiny Owl for a free copy of this book to review.
Oscar Seeks a Friend by Pawel Pawlak
Translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
A truly wonderful story about a friendship between a little girl and a Skeleton. The story has a delightful opening where a Skeleton has lost a tooth and is worried how he looks, then he finds a girl burying a tooth. It gently introduces the characters concerns and worries. As the story progresses they share experiences and show each other their worlds. The story is brought to life and transformed into a unique book by the colourful collage like pictures on every page. There are plenty of possibilities for children to be inspired to do their own art from these pictures. This book will help to open up conversations about friendship and encourage children to have the courage to reach out and ask someone for something or to do something. I am so glad that Lantana Publishing chose to translate this book from Polish so that English children can enjoy it too.
The book is published on 10th October. You can find out more about Lantana Publishing and buy the book here.
Also check out: Library Girl and Book Boys podcast interview with translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones. In which Antonia tells us that author and graphic artist Pawel Pawlak starts his ideas with the character and then the scene and the pictures usually come first before the words. And Antonia talks about some of the challenges she faced translating the puns and hidden assumptions about Skeletons from Polish, and coming up with a new name for the character that would work in English.
Thank you to Lantana Publishing for a free copy this book to review,
Thank Goodness for Bob by Mathew Morgan and Gabriel Aborozo
A story about a boy called Max, who has lot’s of worries and his dog Bob. In a way children will really relate to the story explores some of the things kids worry about. It makes imaginative use of bubbles to put worries in. One day Max discovered Bob the dog is great at listening. And that by talking about his worries to someone that listens they do not feel as big anymore. My favourites pages of the story is where the boy and the dog pop the worry bubbles together. A great book to open up conversations about feelings and worries, but also great for a child to read alone, helping them to realise they are not the only one with worries and that sharing them with someone can help.
All the books are available from me at Readers that Care. And Oscar Seeks a friend is one of the hardback books available to my £40 a term members in my 2 for £10 termly offer.
Promoted by a number of bookish discussions I have had on twitter recently (you will find me @melissacreate15), I have been reminded just how great reading aloud to my kids has been and continues to be, and how it is about far more than sharing stories, it’s also about sharing timing together, and creating memories.
I started reading aloud to my daughter every night when she was 10 months old, each night she would choose 3 book for myself or my husband to read to her. It was and still is one of my favourite times of day. When I was pregnant with her brother I was often tired and we would cuddle up on the sofa on my days off from work and listen to her favourite Barefoot Books sing along ‘The Journey Home from Grandpa’s’ and in the run up to Christmas we had a great Christmas carols CD which you could follow along with a book. We continued reading picture books at bedtime nearly every night until she was 3 and half, when our fairy loving pre-schooler decided she wanted the first 20 books of the Rainbow Magic series (we had acquired a box set at a nearly new Sale) read aloud to her. Afterwards we continued to read picture books to her nearly every night, and sometimes a chapter book. What we had established from a very early age was that quality time with mum or dad and sharing stories was part of bedtime, and lot’s of happy memories. It was only later that we realised that my daughter had aways been particular about the books she wanted read aloud, and that we had been a bit of luck that we came across in those first few years some stories she loved, but which were also the kind of story that grew with your child.
My son as a 1 to 2 year old sometimes enjoyed being read aloud a story with his sister, and in particular our all time favourite family read ‘Who Took the Moon for A Walk’ by Alison Jay. And his fascination with the moon and the night sky probably stems from this time. But, it took him longer to settle to the idea of regular bedtime story. The break through was at 2 and half finding a handful of stories and books which was specific to him. One of which was ‘Bear at Home’. This had a picture of keys on the inside of the front cover and at that point he was obsessed with keys. There was a period of several months I would sit on his bedroom floor and read him a book, and he would look at some of the pictures and then move around the room whilst I kept reading. One really useful thing said to me was that: ‘a child doesn’t have to be sitting still to be listening to a story’. At the age of 4 we gave him a Usbourne Lift the Flap book on Recycling, in theory the book was aimed at 7+ years but he absolutely loved it. He is now 7 and it is still his favourite non-fiction book. When my son was nearly 5 his sister was getting rid of her Rainbow Magic box set, and much to my surprise my son decided he wanted it (he had never shown the slightest interest in fairies). But, he did love numbers, so a set of books with numbers 1 to 20 in a box was a definite attraction. He absolutely loved the 5 books about the weather fairies and was fascinated with the idea that things could get so mixed up that it could snow in summer.
Over the next few years I started to realise that there were certain sort of picture book stories that both my children loved. To find book that: ‘lit up the eyes and curiosity of both my children in equal measure ‘ was not as simple as it sounds. But, by a process of trial and error we found a number of books that we all really enjoyed, this was helped by me being an independent bookseller which meant I found and stumbled across all sorts of books I might not have otherwise known about. You can read about some of the books here.
TV programmes and Film have also been a good way to introduce my children to stories. For my daughter it was the CBBC drama Hetty Feather, that enabled her to make a giant leap in her reading and got her reading books she wanted to read. See my blog post here. In the Summer of 2016 both my children loved watching the brilliant adaption of the BFG. Then on the way to our family holiday in Wales we listened to the entire audio recording of the BFG, I have never know my children be so quite on a long journey! This winter we went to see a great theatre production of the James and the Giant peach, as a result of which my son wanted the story read aloud to him.
Live author events attended as a family have also been an important way to introduce my children to new authors and to keep the magic of stories alive. You can read about a few of them here.
We have discovered some chapter books (that were new to both of them) that have made great stories to read aloud. Two of our favourite’s so far are: Dottie Blanket by Wendy Meddour and Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery. As my children get older our shared reading time is evolving. Last summer my daughter read me some of the Hobbit, which I had always expected would be the other way round! It was one of my favourite stories from childhood. A few months back my daughter took ‘Saving Sophia’ out of the library which she then decided she wanted me to read to her, it turned out to be an action packed story perfect for reading aloud. So this time my daughter was introducing me to a new story. The other weekend we were on our way back from a days biking and my daughter had brought a couple of the Diary of Wimpy Kid books in the Car, my son decided he liked the look of them too, so we had both kids reading a book on the way home. I am not sure where our next shared reading adventures together are going to take us, and as they get older this is a constantly evolving process, but I am looking forward to finding out.
Without realising that is what we were doing we have created a family reading culture, with many opportunities for informal book talk. All of which there is much evidence based practice that this helps create children that want to read. However, even in this context neither of my children made an automatic transition to reading independently, nor was or is it automatic that having found books they want to read that the will easily on their own find their next or subsequent reads. To help them find book they want to read they need introducing to a variety of stories, encouragement, support and space to find books that have meaning to them in that particular moment in time. Which has led me to the firm believe that all children both at home and in school should have a basic entitlement to support with reading for pleasure. In terms of motivation to read, one of the biggest difference that both reading aloud and sharing stories has made is that it has given my kids and me added determination to over come any difficulties they have faced and may face in the future on their individual journeys.
If you are parent reading this and thinking I wish I had read aloud more to my child or children. My advice would be don’t focus on the past, but start with the present and finding books to share with your child now in a way that works for you and your family. In the 10 years before my daughter was born I worked for Hertfordshire Connexions and Youth Service, mentoring teenagers. One of the most crucial things I learnt from that time, is it is never too late to make a difference, and there are multiple points in a child’s and young persons life in which with the right support they can change direction. The final point I want to add is I don’t think I would have kept reading as much aloud to my children as I have done if I hadn’t found ways to read and/or share stories with both my children.
My husband and I have enjoyed reading picture books to our children since they were very little. My daughter took to the idea quickly, whilst it took my son a little longer to get the idea. However, I realised recently that both my children have always been quite particular about which books they liked. I didn’t initially notice this about my daughter, as her favourite books as a young child were the kind of stories that have plenty more to explore as you get older. With my son we learnt early on that there is a ‘right time’ for some stories, when Wendel and the Robot’s by Chris Riddell sat ignored on his bookshelf for over a year and then became his favourite book for the next 2 years! My kids are now aged 6 and 9 years. I take particular note of any picture books that fully engage both of them, as it takes a special kind of book to do that. Here are 9 of our favourites, All are great for reading aloud to children of different ages.
The rhyming text, and the story of a child taking the moon for a walk make this a real winner. Put, that together with Alison Jay’s picture which are both bold and detailed and you have a story which is truly special. It is a story that flows beautifully, but where there is also lot’s to spot and look at in the pictures. It is one of our favourite of all time picture books, and has probably helped foster my children’s love of the outdoors.
Great for children aged 1 to 6 years
This is a beautifully illustrated animal encyclopaedia for younger children. What set’s it apart from other encyclopaedia’s is the innovative way it organises the Animal Kingdom, and the way it uses both pictures and words in it’s content pages. This means the very young can select which animals they want to learn about by looking at the pictures. The stunning illustrations, clear and concise text and fun way of organising the animals also make this appeal to older children too. My children love taking it turns to choose which group of animals they would like to find out about.
This is a simple story. It is about a Robot that looses his bottom and spends the rest of the story trying to find it. There is something endearing about a main character loosing his bottom on a park swing, and it is really amusing when he keeps thinking he has found it! Sue Hendra beautifully captures the emotions of the Robot and his friends that are trying to help him find his bottom.
The Day the Crayons Came Home, author Drew Daywalt, illustrator Oliver Jeffers
We love the Day the Crayons quit, but we love the sequel even more! It is great to have the story of the crayons continued and developed in book 2. I think this is one of the things my eldest really relates too. The stories are based on the great idea of a set of crayons which write letters or postcards to their owner Duncan. The story cleverly captures the emotions of the crayons and there are also different levels on which to relate to the story, which make it a great read aloud for children of different ages. On the last page there is a cardboard fort which Duncan has built for his crayons. My kids love identifying the different crayons and working out why they are shown like that and/or if their needs have been met. On one occasion it even inspired my children to make their own crayon forts!
Mr Postman’s Rounds by Marianne Dubuc
I only discovered this book because of the research I was doing into picture books as an indepedent seller of children’s books. I am so glad I did, as it’s such a unique book. The journey narrative is really important in keeping the listeners interested. We have had fun trying to remember which animal the postman is visiting next. The illustrations are great and provide plenty of detail to look at, talk about and things to count. We especially like that the animals homes are drawn as cross sections, and that you can make connections within the picture, whether it’s how the bear get’s to feed himself honey, how the crocodile heats his eggs or that the Magpie is a wanted bird for something that he is has hoarded in his nest. This is the additional story that only the pictures tell.
Edgar and the Sausage Inspector by Jan Fearnley
This is one of our new favourites which was published earlier this year, and which both my children love. Jan Fearnley is both author and illustrator. The story is about a cat called Edgar who every time he goes shopping bumps into the Inspector, who takes Edgar’s food claiming it has gone bad. Finally Edgar has had enough and it is great when he stands up to the Inspector. With a modern day freshness the illustrations capture the same magic as my daughters favourite stories as a young child by Clare Beaton and Alison Jay, but in a story that is aimed at older children. Jan Fearnley creates pictures that are bold and eye catching and which capture the journey and narrative well, and that have lots of detail to explore too. Including lot’s of food you want to pick right off the page!
Superworm by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
This is a wonderful catchy, rhyming story, which is the kind of story Julia Donaldson is popular for. It is about a worm who helps all his fellow insects, but one day he is captured by an evil wizard and his friends come up with a plan to rescue him. Axel Scheffler’s illustrations are spot on and brilliantly capture the worm and his relationship with the other insects. We especially like the cross-section picture of the worm underground trying to find treasure for the wizard. The way Superworm is rescued by his friends is pretty cool too! My son has been crazy about all things recycling since he was 3 years old, So for him the fact that the wizard is thrown in a rubbish dump is a great addition to the story and he loves identifying the different things you can find in the tip.
Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory by Elys Dolan
Another new favourite which was published this year, is by talented debut author and illustrator Elys Dolan. This story is based on such a great idea of a factory run by Mr Bunny, which produces chocolate egg’s that are laid by chickens. The detailed pictures of how the factory actually works really grabbed my kids attention.They love working out how the different parts are interconnected and what is about to go wrong. In the story Mr Bunny get’s greedy and makes some not so wise changes to produce even more eggs. This provides a great double layer to the story, of before and after, where my kids love comparing the two. It also prompted them to suggest some solutions of their own of what the chickens could do to deal with the increasing stock pile of eggs. I have a feeling we will be enjoying this book for many more years to come.
Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola
This beautifully illustrated story is an Italian twist on the traditional story of the Magic Porridge Pot, which is also one of my son’s favourite stories. Strega Nona, translates as “Grandma Witch’. The story is about an old woman who has a magic touch in healing people. One day she decides to go over the mountain to visit her friend and leaves her helper a young lad called Big Anthony in charge. He can not resist using Strega Nona’s magic pot, which magically produces something. Can you guess (what are the Italians famous for?) Spaghetti of course! However Anthony fails to overhear what Strega Nona does to stops the magic pot. Both my kids love it when the spaghetti starts to spread out of the pot and down the road of the village! Strega Nona arrives back in the nick of time. Some of the pages have beautifully illustrated sequences that help tell the story. As we have Italian relatives we also like that this tale sneeks in a few Italian words.