Books about love

With Valentine’s Day just a week away I thought it would be a good time for a post about books which explore different types of love. We all want our children to feel loved but sometimes it is hard to explain exactly what love is. Enter books, which show love in all its many forms. Family love, friendship, the idea of loving yourself and romantic love are all explored in picture books and can help children to understand the idea of love better. Plus, with International Book Giving Day 2017 falling on Valentine’s Day this year, there has never been a better time to find, give, read about and spread a little love…

FAMILY LOVE

‘Guess How Much I Love You’ by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

fullsizerender-21Okay, I know that this is not the most innovative choice but it is a classic for a reason- amongst other things, it gave us the phrase ‘I love you to the moon and back’! The relationship between Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare is very sweet but it’s the way that way they try to quantify how much the love each other which I find really interesting. Sometimes big feelings like love are hard to describe and this book gives children the tools to be able try and do this. The first few times I read it, I wasn’t sure about the almost competitive element of Big Nutbrown Hare always loving a bit more, but when I tried to see it through a child’s eyes the message I got was that a parent’s love is enormous and never ending and that’s a message I’m happy for my child to hear many, many times. A sure fire winner (and also a great shout for a baby shower if you have one coming up).

‘More People to Love Me’ by Mo O’Hara and Ada Grey

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This book explores the fact that all families come in different shapes and sizes. The main character is asked to draw her family tree but because she has so many people in her family- parents, step parents, half brothers and sisters and various assortments of grandparents she becomes upset because they don’t fit nicely into a family tree. With the help of her teacher, she is able to see that she is lucky to have so many people that love her and that she loves in return and eventually she draws herself a whole family forest! It’s a lovely way to look at families which is different to the picture book norm and celebrates family love and relationships in a funny and thoughtful way.

FRIENDSHIP

‘Max and Bird’ by Ed Vere

fullsizerender-20I’m a huge fan of Ed Vere’s books- they are so bold, colourful and exciting and this one is no exception. Max (the cat) agrees to teach Bird to fly and in return Bird says he will let Max eat him. As it turns out, flying is not an easy thing to master and they become great friends, leaving Max with the dilemma of whether to eat Bird or not. Happily, he chooses not to (although he takes quite a while to decide on this!) and his love for his friend overcomes the ‘rule of nature’ that Cats have to eat birds. This is heart-warming without being mushy and is also really funny at the same time but what I like best about it is that it gives a great example of how being friends with someone is sometimes more important than following the rules.

‘Oliver’ by Birgitta Sif
img_7891Oliver is a solitary boy. He enjoys playing by himself and having fun with his own imagination. He doesn’t seem to have any ‘people’ friends but that suits him just fine- he doesn’t even know he needs them. And then one day, a chance accident happens and leads him to meet someone who has been there all along and a beautiful friendship is born. I love the way Birgitta Sif uses the illustrations in the story to do most of the storytelling and the way her characters’ quirky natures are always embraced rather than made an issue of. This book is perfect for showing children that the right friend is out there for them- whether they are looking for one or not. A different take on friendship and one I love.

LOVING YOURSELF

‘I’m Special, I’m Me!’ by Ann Meek and Sarah Massini

fullsizerender-22Milo is upset because everyday the children at school tell him he can’t be what he wants to be at playtime. Not strong enough to be a lion, not tall enough to be a pirate captain, not handsome enough to be a prince. However, Milo’s mum looks at him each day in the mirror and helps him to see all his positives and eventually Milo starts to see them himself. One day, when he is playing, instead of being given a role to play he comes up with his own and it’s so fantastic that everyone joins in with his game. This is a great book for teaching children the power of knowing their own strengths and believing in themselves and can lead to some really interesting conversations about how they see themselves. Just be ready to shower your child in compliments when it’s over- they will almost certainly want to know what you see in them when you’re finished.

‘Odd Dog Out’ by Rob Biddulph

 fullsizerender-19Odd Dog is upset. Where she lives everyone fits a certain mould and she stands out so she decides to find somewhere she will fit in. She travels the world and eventually finds a place where everyone is just like her. But then she spots someone else who really stands out and when she sympathises with him she discovers that he likes being different and he encourages her to stand out from the crowd as well. After his epiphany, she jets off home only to discover that everyone in her hometown has been really missing her and when she looks a little closer lots of them are starting to behave a little bit differently too. This is such a clever book, encouraging children to embrace themselves and not feel tempted to blend in with others but in a really accessible way which even young children will understand. We love it and it is perfect for encouraging children to love and be proud of themselves.

ROMANTIC LOVE (with a twist)

‘Prince Cinders’ by Babette Cole

FullSizeRender(19)Of course, there are many fairy tales available which give children a rosy image of romantic love. However, if you are after something a bit different, this one is worth a read. Prince Cinders is a Cinderella story for modern times, featuring a bumbling Fairy Godmother, big hairy brothers, a Prince who wants to meet a girl but gets turned into gorilla, a missing pair of jeans and just enough of the original story to still be recognisable. I won’t explain too much more than that for fear of spoiling the fun but what I will say is that this is a fairy tale which is equally enjoyed by girls and boys and has  an emphasis on humour rather than the lovey dovey stuff.

Well, that’s a bit of inspiration to get you going. What will you be reading in the run up to Valentine’s Day? And will you be giving a book for International Book Giving Day? I’d love to hear all about it. Happy reading!

 

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Spread a little kindness…

After a tumultuous week of world politics that has left a lot of the people I know feeling confused and a bit helpless, it seemed only natural to write a blog post about kindness. As always, I turn to my ever-expanding collection of picture books to find the comfort I am looking for and happily I find it everywhere. I think it is part of my job as a parent and a teacher to make sure that children are not frightened of diversity, that they looks out for people who are having a hard time and, most important of all,  that they spread kindness wherever they go. I know most people reading this will feel the same. So if you are looking for a starting point and some positive role models look no further. Here are my favourite books for modelling kindness.

Pass it on by Sophy Henn

fullsizerender-16This book starts with the notion that not every day will be perfect but with a positive attitude you can find a silver lining. It also gives children the really powerful message that that their behaviour can have a positive effect on others and help them to have a better day. It has a short repeated phrase ‘Pass it on’ giving children something to join in with even on the first time of reading. As with everything she does, Sophy Henn’s illustrations are vibrant and beautiful and by the end of reading it you will be smiling. I have read this with pre-schoolers and with much older children. My class are 7/8 years old and when we launched our acts of kindness this was the book we started with and they loved it. It really is a fantastic way to introduce to children (and adults) to the notion that they can make a positive difference to others.

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

fullsizerender-14Elephant is in a seriously bad mood until he discovers a surprise package at the front door. Inside is a hat. This instantly cheers him up and he decides to take them to his friend, Zebra’s house but when he gets there Zebra is also feeling grumpy. So Elephant shares his hat with his pal to cheer him up and they move on to visit the next friend (also grumpy) and the next and the next, each time cheering up their friends by sharing the many-layered hat with them. By the end of the book everyone is taking part in an informal hat parade, their grumps long forgotten because of the actions of their friends. This book beautifully illustrates that small act of kindness make a huge difference.

The Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton

img_8920This book tells the story of Bear who is feeling unwell. Bear is a pretty dramatic chap and does not cope well with being ill so when his friend Mouse finds out he’s poorly, he decides to pop round and try to help. It is not easy to help Bear. He wants the situation to be treated seriously and does not feel like being cheered up. (It is worth mentioning that Bear thinks he may be dying and there is a conversation about leaving a will in case your child is sensitive to these issues. The tone is quite light hearted and it is clear that neither the mouse or the author thinks he will die and that bear is over-reacting but not every child will respond well those issues). Eventually all mouse’s good intentions wear Bear out and he falls asleep and wakes up feeling much better, but now it’s Mouse’s turn to feel ill. Luckily Bear knows just how to look after his friend and is happy to reciprocate. This is probably best suited to slightly older children as the storyline and language is quite mature in places but it is a really interesting look at the tricky side of friendship and illustrates the importance of looking after each other, even when it’s tough, perfectly.

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

fullsizerender-15I have seen lots of lists lately which give ideas of books which should be staple reads during childhood an in my opinion, this should be on every one. I can still remember the first time I read this story and the way I felt about the completely selfless act Bella performed so that her little brother could be reunited with his favourite toy. One of the things I like best about this story is that it showed that this wasn’t an easy decision- sometimes doing things for others is hard. However, if Bella was ever in any doubt that she had done the right thing her brother’s reaction more than makes up for it. I believe everyone’s book shelf should have a bit of Shirley Hughes’ magic on it and this is a great place to start.

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

fullsizerender-13The Little Gardener is a tiny figure who works all day but he is so small that he feels that, no matter how hard he works, he cannot make a difference to the place where he lives. Eventually, when he is exhausted and almost ready to give up, he makes a wish that he might have a little help. The Little Gardener falls asleep for a month, during which time some children see a flower in his neglected, overgrown garden and decide to start tidying things up. When he wakes there has been a dramatic change and the Little Gardener’s life is changed forever. This message in this book is so strong because children can see things from both sides- that it’s okay to be like the Little Gardener and ask for help and have hope, but also children have the power to help others every day through small acts of kindness even when they don’t know who they are helping. Emily Hughes is one of my favourite author-illustrators and I love everything she does. This was the first book of hers that I read and I still return to it regularly- sure sign of a winner.

 

I hope you have found something here that will help you to share the idea of kindness and positivity with your little readers. As always, I love to hear what you are reading at the moment so if you have any good suggestions, let me know below and happy reading…

Bookhabit bedtime

We all know that reading our children a bedtime story is seen as a good way of settling our children down for the night and a cozy way to build up a bond at the end of what is often a frantic day’s activities. But that’s not to say that there is only one right way to do it. Today I will share our routine with you and then over the coming weeks I will welcome guest posts by lots of other parents from around the world. Enjoy!

Little Miss Bookhabit’s bedtime stories

fullsizerender-12It’s worth saying that she is four years old and has no siblings. Although the timings have changed a little with age, the routine has been pretty much the same since she was in her cot.

Time to go upstairs…

Bathtime is usually with Daddy unless he is working late as it gives them a bit of time to play and chat together. Once she’s out of the bath I take over with the drying and dressing shenanigans (this part can take a while!) and try to get a comb through her hair…

Then…

Storytime. She chooses two books, one for Daddy to read and one for me to read. She decides who reads what and then we settle down. She sleeps in a bunk bed so we have storytime on a beanbag which rests up against a radiator. It’s not on full blast but it’s enough to get us nice and cosy. Usually she climbs onto the lap of the person reading so she gets a good look at the pictures. Daddy reads first and then me, unless it’s one of the days he is working late and then I get to do both. Very occasionally she will let us choose our own stories but it’s rare!

After that…

She chooses a song to sing. It’s usually a Nursery Rhyme/ Counting song type of thing and I do the singing unless she’s still feeling wide awake. Sometimes I get requests for a disney theme which can be interesting as I only really know the chorus of most of them and it turns into more of a humming/ lalala-ing type of thing. Recently she has started to go without the song because she’s been really tired but I’m hoping it will make a come back when she’s ready.

img_8858Finally…

She climbs into the bunk bed, we get plenty of cuddles and kisses and Molly the mouse ready with her (she’s still a label sucker and loves the toys from ikea with the super long labels) and then it’s lights out. Well, except for the grow clock, night light and the landing light outside her door so it’s darker rather than fully dark.

Usually that’s enough to get her off to sleep and then I can get on with the task of being an adult again!

Tips and Tricks?

I find having a dimmer switch very useful so we don’t have to have the light on at full strength. Other than that we just try to keep it pretty similar most nights. This is one of my favourite times of day and so if she’s being tired and a bit difficult I try to just slow down and remember that these story times won’t last forever.

Favourite Five Bedtime Stories

Quick Quack Quentin by Kes Gray and Jim Field

Anything with Angelina Ballerina in it (Katherine Holabird and Helen Craig)

Any of the Winnie the Witch stories (Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul)

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright and Jim Field

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

And there you have it. That’s how we do bedtime stories in our house. I’d love to know how you do yours and of course, if you fancy collaborating and sharing your bedtime stories with us, send me an email or contact me on instagram. Happy reading!

 

 

 

A taste of childhood: A year in Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

img_7911Recently it was my little magpie’s birthday (she is known as the magpie because she is constantly hopping around and has always had an eye for anything sparkly). It had been an exceptionally busy week with me going back to school after the summer holidays and her starting at her new school nursery and so I had had to be very organised with all the birthday planning and it wasn’t until less than a week to go that I realised I had almost forgotten something very important- her birthday book. She couldn’t have a birthday without a book so I started to think about all the things on my ‘To buy’ list which she might like and scrolling through instagram and all my favourite book accounts to see if there was something she would love. As a looked down my feed I saw the ‘Brambly Hedge’ account pop up with ‘Autumn Story’ and I knew it would be perfect.

img_7915As it happened I bought the ‘A year in Brambly Hedge’ box set. The little magpie is very interested in seasons at the moment and so the fact that there is a story for each season is perfect. But also there was a little selfish part of me that wanted the books for myself because I remembered reading them and being in love with the intricate illustrations when I was little. For anyone who has not come across these books before they are as quintessentially British as any Beatrix Potter or AA Milne story. They follow the lives of a community of mice, shrews and voles who live in the hedgerows, trees and bushes of the English countryside.

img_7910The author has taken time to give each of the characters its own personality and they are often featured across the different books so you feel like you get to know them a little bit. They have quite a lot of text in each book but all the stories are exciting- a surprise birthday picnic for Spring, a riverside wedding in Summer, a little mouse lost in the woods in autumn (my favourite) and a Snow Ball in winter- but it’s the illustrations that really draw you in. They are so detailed and as a result the more you look at them the more you notice. What I loved when I was little, and still love now, are the intricate cross sections of the trees where you feel like you can look inside their houses and see the little creatures busy in their homes. I spent many hours looking at these and they still fascinate me today.

img_7911As English animal stories go, these books have all the warmth of a tea party at Pooh corner, mixed in with the adventures of Peter Rabbit but because they were written much more recently (the 1980s) the language is easier for our modern day children to understand. If you are a fan of AA Milne and Beatrix Potter, these should be on your radar! It’s also worth mentioning that they are the perfect size for little fingers as they are small hardbacks which all come in a presentation box. They look so lovely on their shelf- is it just me or does everyone find a set of books like this really satisfying?

Does anyone else have fond memories of these books? My favourite of all was ‘The Secret Staircase’ (I think I might have to save that for ‘book of the week’ one week) but I find them all captivating. I’d be really interested to know if these books ever made it further afield than Britain. Did anyone growing up in another country read these as a child? Drop me a comment below, I love hearing from you!

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Travelling with books

The summer holidays are always an exciting part of a teacher’s year, and this year has been no exception. One of our first adventures was a road trip from Manchester , where we live, to Sligo on the west coast of Ireland to see one of my oldest friends get married (we have been friends since brownies!) We hadn’t done a major road trip as a family like this before but we thought the ferry would make a nice change from a plane plus we could pile the car up with all sorts of stuff rather than the rather poultry suitcase allowance we would get on a short flight. All good so far. But just how many books could we fit in a family car and how may would we need to get us through a week of hopping around B’n’Bs and hotels? Eventually I whittled it down to ten books and they had to be versatile enough to be read many times. You’ll be glad to know we made it through the holiday, had a great time and read all the books on the list several times so if you are doing something similar soon this might come in useful.

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Learning about friendships

It is my unwavering belief that picture books help children to make sense of the world around them. If they are finding something difficult there is almost certainly a book that will help them out with it. Friendships can be one of the most difficult things for our little ones to navigate through. One day someone is your best friend, the next they don’t want to know you, the day after that they want to be your friend and it’s your turn to play it cool. Its all so tricky. There are gazillions of books about friendships and it’s a theme I plan to revisit many, many times but for today I thought I would champion some of the most interesting books I have recently discovered that show the reality of friendships and could help children to view friendship in a new way.

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Back to School Books

If you, like me, have a little one going to nursery or school for the first time this September (blub), or if they are starting a new school, or if the summer holidays have been so long and lovely that your children have just forgotten all the fun things about school and seem a bit reluctant to go back then broaching the subject can be a tricky. Why not try one of these books to help them reflect on their feelings about school, start a converstaion about what they are looking forward to and give them the opportunity to share anything they might be nervous about.

Continue reading “Back to School Books”

Weekly pick: The Little Gardener

I really love instagram but there are times when I feel like I’m not really doing the books justice when I feature them on there, so I have decided that I’m going to try something new. Enter the new hashtag #bookhabitweeklypick.

It was tough picking which book woud go first but after a weekend where I finally felt like we were beginning to see some signs of spring I chose Emily Hughes’ beautiful ‘The Little Gardner’.

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When I bought this book it was just a chance encounter. I didn’t flick through the pages, I hadn’t heard of it before or read anything by the author I just saw the cover and thought it looked interesting. I’m so glad I did. It has become a well-loved book in our house for both me and the little Magpie (my daughter, currently 3 and a half).

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The text is simple, repetitive and gentle. It guides you through the story of a tiny gardner (perhaps some kind of fairy folk, although he doesn’t seem to possess any magical powers) and his friendly worm. Between them they try everything to keep the garden beautiful but it is just too much for them. After realising that the job is too big, the gardner wishes for help and then falls into a deep slumber for a month. When he awakes he finds that the universe has granted his wish (nearby children have cleared and planted while he slept). Where once it was overgrown and dangerous there are now flowering plants and new wildlife.

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Part fairy tale, part fable, this story puts a great emphasis on the qualities of trying hard, perseverance, asking for help and most of all having hope. The text is used sparingly and all the emotions and extra details come from the intricately beautiful illustrations. Every time we look at them we find another hidden detail that we haven’t spotted before and this helps to keep the book exciting for little ones. The colour palette is more muted than many children’s books but it really adds to the atmosphere of the story and makes the garden transformation more visual and exciting at the end.

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Emily Hughes is a really special talent and has a style which is instantly recognisable. If you haven’t given her books a try yet I would urge you to track them down and give them a whirl. They are truly magical and timeless and would easily earn their place on the most beautiful bookshelf.

If you have already enjoyed ‘The Little Gardner’ or would like to look out for more of her work, Emily Hughes has also published ‘Wild’ and has recently illustrated ‘A Brave Bear’ written by Sean Taylor.

Reading: a gift for life

A lot of the time, when people read with their children they do it to help them with their literacy skills and there is no doubt that works but to me reading is so much more than that. Reading benefits every part of who they are. Social skills, problem solving, patience, motivation, empathy, understanding of relationships can all be developed by simply picking up a book and diving in. And if you manage to help your child develop a love of reading then it is something that will be with them for their entire life, and that’s not something you can say about a lot of things. Being a child can be hard work but when they immerse themselves in a book they can really switch off. Not just the older children either. If my three year old is having a bad day a book can really break into her mood and it can be like pressing the reset button. This does not always work but is well worth a try! Below are just a few of my thoughts on what books can do for us and our children and not one of them is anything to with literacy. (Please remember that all of these also apply to adults reading books as well!)

Books can cleverly take something scary and make it funny.

Books can make you feel as though you are not alone.

Books can make you laugh when you want to cry.

Books can transport you to a million places when you can’t leave the house.

Books can make you see things from a different point of view.

Books can help you find an answer to a question noone else can answer.

Books can make you believe in magic.

Books can make you think for yourself.

Books can give you goals and dreams.

Books can turn an ordinary day into a magnificent adventure.

Books can be something different each time you read them.

 

 

Favourite Fairy Tales and Terrific Traditional Stories

With all the amazing choice in the picture book market these days, it is sometimes easy to forget the stories which have been around for hundreds of years. While some people believe that an over reliance on fairy tales might lead our children to develop some negative stereotypes, I’m sure that as part of a well balanced selection they can be taken at face value as the magical, exciting stories that they are. Once children get to school there is no doubt that they will be exposed to lots of them, the repetition and simple structures make the traditional story an important tool in a developing a child’s literacy. I think there is also a case to be made that many of these stories have become a part of our culture, in an age of technology where the latest fad may seem quite alien to other family members, a story like these can sweep aside age differences and give different generations a common narrative that they can enjoy together.

That being said, there are so many versions of each story that the qualiy can vary massively; some are whittled down to their bare bones or are produced without much thought or feeling while others are beautifully and thoughtfully written. It can be difficult to find a really good quality edition of some of the favourites we want to share with our children. Below I have selected books that I own which I feel really bring the traditional story to life in some way, be it through illustration, the use of language or giving a twist on the original story. I hope that you find something new here to look out for and if you know of a good one that’s been missed off the list please fill me in- I’m always on the look out for a new book!

Traditonal and Wonderful

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Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Emma Chichester Clark

Those of you familiar with the Blue Kangaroo books will recognise this author/illustrator but I have to confess that this book is my absolute favourite of hers. The illustrations are so beautiful and rich with detail that they will straightaway catch your eye and capture your imagination. Emma has also put lots of thought into the story adding interesting vocabulary and extra little repeated phrases which makes it really enjoyable to read aloud, especially the dialogue she creates for Goldilocks. The text is on the long side but never boring and I’m sure it is a version which will have you revisiting it again and again. Oh and the endpapers have to have a special mention because they are just amazing!

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The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone

This book could not be more different from the Goldilocks above. It is illustrated in a very simple way whoch reminds me a bit of a woodcut. It uses mostly muted colours and has a rustic, countryside feel to it. However, it really does capture the spirit of the Gingerbread boy for me. Some people find it a bit more challenging to read as ‘Gingerbread Boy’ doesn’t fit into the rhyme quite as well but the children I have read it to (in school and at home) have never seemed to mind. Add to that some extra characters on the cast list eg a barn full of threshers and a field full of mowers, and there is plenty of discussion to be had about when this story is set and what those words actually mean. However, the stand out page for me is the one where the fox eats the the gingerbread boy and the illustration shows the gingerbread boy’s head peeping out from between his jaws as it’s being swallowed. I have never met a child who doesn’t love that combination of wicked and funny and it really gives the end of the story an extra bit of excitement.

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The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksei Tolstoy and Niamh Sharkey

I’ve owned this book for a long time and I still get excited about looking at it because the illustrations are so good. The text is faithful to the traditional story and really repetetive which again reinforces the structure for the children listening to it and gives them plenty of opportunities for joining in and being actively involved in ‘reading’ it. The old man and the old woman are completely adorable which has you rooting for them from the beginning and the muted colours are used really cleverly to create a slightly dark atmsophere around the farm. I enjoy lots of the stories published by ‘Barefoot Books’ but this one has really stood the test of time for me and I’m confident it would do the same for any little bookworm.

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Hare and Tortoise Retold by Alison Murray

I recently went on a book binge and this is new to my collection but I already love it. The illustrations flick between anatomical style pages labelling the features of each animal, maps and more traditional layouts which contribute towards telling the story. The text is gentle enough that you feel sorry for hare rather than totally disliking him and each animal has their own little refrain which gets the children joining in quickly. I also love the care she has taken over the verbs she has chosen to describe each character and can imagine it boosting vocabulary if read several times- tootle, race, chase, wander are just some of the examples. All in all a big thumbs up for this one, a lovely retelling of a classic that everyone should know.

Classics with a twist

These have been around for many years (as a child my sister and I were obsessed with Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and could recite many of them off by heart after a particularly bookish summer holiday) and are a fun way to mix things up and explore the stereotypes which can make us wary of this genre of books. Best read once your child has a solid understanding of the original, they are usually given a comic slant and are great fun for both the reather and the audience.

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The Fairytale Hairdresser series by Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard

My daughter chose this one and it has to be said it didn’t appeal to me straight away. Firstly, it is super girly with glittery pages and the theme which links all the books together is a hairdresser/ matchmaker from what I can tell (I have to admit I have only read two of them so far- the Rapunzel one and the Beauty and the Beast one) with quite a lot of mentioning of make overs, styling and such. However, the characters do seem to be more diverse than the usual stories. Also, it did emphasise the message of looking at the person inside rather than external appearances with the beast. Anyway, if you have a daughter of a certain age they will probably love this. Plus, as I said in a previous post, it’s important to let them make their own book choices as well as feeding them the ones we love and for my daughter this fitted that criteria perfectly.

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The three little wolves and the big bad pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenberry

This works equally well with a class full of children or as a bedtime story. It is quite wordy but so fun that even quite young children can keep going to the end without losing concentration. The big bad pig is just about as mean as a picture character can get, the houses the wolves build become more and more elaborate (think concrete, steel girders and all manner of equipment, appealing to those children who love a construction theme) and so does the pig’s method of getting in. While the beginning is quite dark, the ending is truly magical and actually a lot less hair raising than the original and carries a great message of thinking about things in different ways to solve problems. The illustrations are detailed and beautiful- it’s Helen Oxenberry so you can just imagine how perfect they are. It will also appeal to children who might think they have grown out of the traditional stories genre as the vocabulary is challenging and clever. Big thumbs up for this one!

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Prince Cinders by Babette Cole

Of the books I’m featuring, this one is furthesy from its original form and it’s a real breath of fresh air. It features a wimpy Prince Cinders, a rubbish fairy that gets the spells wrong, a proposing princess and three hairy big brother princes who are eventually turned into house fairies and bare more than a passing resemblance to Freddy Mercury in the music video where he’s doing the hoovering. Children of all ages will enjoy this book but it’s probably best aimed at slightly older children so that they get the full force of the humour behind this book. A classic for a very good reason and perfect if you want to do something to balance out the stereotyping in the classic version.

I’d love to know what your favourite traditional story was as a child and whether you enjoy reading fairy tales to your children or intentionally steer them away. My final thought is from Albert Einstein:

“If you want your child to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”