BookBairn’s bedtime habit

If you have found your way to my blog you will no doubt follow plenty of fantastic book bloggers and enthusiasts. Today I would like to introduce one of my favourites and my first guest blogger, Kim aka Book Bairn, whose instagram is full of great recommends and LOADS of exciting book parcels! Here she shares what works for her little family at bedtime. Enjoy!

I think most parents will have heard the old adage that perfecting your bedtime routine will help your child sleep well. Well… in our experience your child probably needs to be sleeping well before the consistency of a bedtime routine really means a whole lot. But that is a much longer story!

BookBairn is now two and we have been doing the same bedtime routine for about a year now and most nights she falls asleep well. Having said all that we are expecting a new baby in April and I’m sure her routine will be disrupted and will change to accommodate her little brother too!

Daddy Arrives Home

IMG_6042BookBairn’s Daddy works an hour’s commute from home and usually walks in the door just in time to warm some milk and snuggle with his girl on the sofa in front of one her favourite Cbeebies shows. We usually watch TV or something on the iPad for fifteen minutes or so and then BookBairn tells her Daddy about that day’s highlights (with less and less input from me as she learns to say more herself!).

Toothbrushing and PJs

We used to do bath every night before bed but as BookBairn suffers from eczema we have cut her baths to an afternoon activity a couple of times a week. So instead, Daddy takes her to wash her face, brush her teeth, apply her coconut oil/eczema cream and get into her PJs.

Favourites Shelf

IMG_6041If you pop over to our blog or follow our social media you will see that BookBairn has two long shelves packed with her favourite and current reads. I try to change this regularly because whilst I know reading the same story over and over again is beneficial for her development it can get a bit tiresome for Daddy and I. We always let her choose from the shelf, and choose who is to read the book. More often than not, it’s ‘mummy’s knees’ but sometimes Daddy gets a turn and sometimes now she reads ‘on her own’. We usually read two stories and then have cuddles and night night kisses.

Cuddles and Song

Usually, BookBairn cuddles her favourite toy in her daddy’s arms and he sings her a lullaby of her choice. He then says something along the lines of “Mummy and Daddy love you and we are right next door if you need us. Sweet dreams” and then sings Edelweiss. Daddy then switches on the mobile above the cot which also plays Edelweiss.

Drifting off to sleep…

Usually there is then a little chat between BookBairn and her toy lion, Louis (who goes everywhere with her). And more recently we’ve heard her singing Twinkle Twinkle to him over the baby monitor.

 

And that’s it! We cross our fingers and even now (after she’s slept through the night nearly every night for over a year) I still pray that she will drift off and sleep all night.

To see our current favourite bedtime reads please check out this link: http://bookbairn.blogspot.co.uk/p/favourites-shelf.html

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Thanks Kim! It’s so lovely to hear about how other people enjoy this special time of the day (and then, all being well, breathe a huge sigh of relief and get ready to enjoy some grown up time!) If you have enjoyed this, make sure you pop over to her blog and have a read through some of her other posts, she’s a great blogger and you are sure to find loads of great picture book recommendations (there are some links below to help you find her).

About Kim: Kim lives in Scotland with her daughter, nicknamed BookBairn, husband and much-adored pet rabbit and is expecting baby number two in Spring. She has always enjoyed reading books, a passion inherited from her librarian-mother, and hopes to pass on this love of books to her little BookBairn. A teacher on career-break to spend more time with BookBairn, she is passionate about baby-led reading where little ones have free to reign to choose what they read and make mountains of book mess throughout the house.

http://bookbairn.blogspot.co.uk/

Social media links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BookBairn/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/BookBairn

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bookbairn/

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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!

 

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!

 

 

 

January: the perfect time to buy books!

It’s a new year. Our houses are bursting at the seems with all sorts of gifts that we received over the festive period and we know we don’t need any more stuff. But what about all those people with birthdays in January? What about your friend who needs a pick me up but is trying to ‘eat clean’this month? What can we do about our resolution to cut down on screen time and spend more time interacting with our kids? The answer to all of these questions is of course- get your hands on the perfect book!

I am that Auntie that ‘always buys you a book for Christmas/ your birthday’. If you are thinking of buying some books this month, here is a list of some of the books I bought as Christmas presents for my friends and family. You can even see a couple of them being enjoyed. I am confident that every parent of a child receiving a book as a gift will be over the moon that it isn’t a bulky/ plastic/ novelty item and if you match the right title to the right person then you will be onto a winner.

‘Animals’ by Ingela Parrhenius

img_8465Who I bought it for: My one year old niece

Why I chose it: It’s a huge hardback (I have my hand on the photo to give you an idea of scale) so it has the feel of being a ‘special’ book. This also means she can crawl all over it and get up close with the animals- and she does! She is at that age where she is learning lots of animal sounds so it fits in well with her interests but goes beyond the everyday animals and has some more unusual ones in there too. Plus it will grow with her as she becomes interested in letters and the alphabet. And it is unbelievably beautiful and stylish so it looks great propped up in the corner of her bedroom. Perfect!

 

‘Under Water/ Under Earth’ by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

fullsizerender-10Who I bought it for: My three and a half year old nephew.

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Why I chose it: My nephew is the most curious boy and is full of questions about everything. He also loves anything to do with building and construction. This book is a beautiful hardback so like the one above it feels really special. It is also clever because you can open it from either side- there is no front or back. One half is Water and the other is Earth. I did say to my sister that I thought it might be a bit old for him but he has loved all the cross sections and finding out about what is doing on down there (she says she has learnt a fair bit reading it with him as well!) I love that this book will be as relevant for him in five or six years time as it is today, there are not many gifts you can say that about. (Side note- He will be getting this author/illustrator duo’s other beautiful best seller ‘Maps’ for his birthday. Ssssh don’t tell!)

‘Kitchen Disco’ by Clare Foges and Al Murphy

Who I bought it for? My daughter (age 4)

img_8462Why I bought it: I had heard about it from some literary consultants and thought I’d give it a try. I’m so glad I did! It’s a really silly story about fruit partying in the kitchen at night but the beauty is in the rhyme and repetition that make it so easy to join in with. It is a real ear worm and after reading it I will find myself walking around the house reciting it to myself! The upside of this is that she had it memorised after a few reads and now ‘reads’ it to us, her Grandparents, herself and her toys making her feel good about reading independently. I’m sure this is going to be very popular so watch out for it this year, I think it’s going to be everywhere (unless you already have it and in that case I bet you love it as much as I do!)

‘The Building Boy’ by David Litchfield

img_8461Who I bought it for: originally my nephew but he is going through a very sensitive phase so I gave it to my daughter instead

Why I bought it: I’m a huge David Litchfield fan, ever since reading ‘The Bear and the Piano’. I absolutely love his illustrations. They are just phenomenal and make me want to dive into the page. Pair this with heart warming, emotional stories and you are onto a winner. However, I bought this without reading it first and as beautiful and senstive as it is, it does deal with the loss of a grandparent and my lovely senstive nephew would not enjoy that right now. However, my daughter, who is going through the phase where she is asking all sorts of questions about death, has enjoyed it and it has lead to some interesting discussions. I would not hestitate to recommend it but just makes sure it suits the person you are buying for.

So there you go. A few pieces of inspiration if you are struggling for a treat. And remember, children’s books can sometimes be the perfect present for big kids too so don’t rule them out for the adults in your life, especially if there is a sentiment you are trying to express. Sometimes kids books just do it best (Remember that scene in Friends where Chandler buys The Velveteen Rabbit for Joey’s girlfriend?)

Now I will leave you with the proof, if proof were needed, that these books are well loved… My sister sent me a couple of message of them enjoying there books. One said ‘This is not a set up!!! He is absolutely loving your book today. Never heard him say wow so much. Best Auntie EVER xx’ Well, I’ll take that…

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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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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.

Continue reading “Learning about friendships”

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.”

 

 

 

 

Best books for babies

I don’t know about you but it seems to be getting to that time of year again where everyone is having babies. And with that comes the task of buying presents for the little bundle of joy. It’s something I love to do but as the mountains of baby clothes and toys pile up isn’t it nice to be the person who picks out something that will last beyond the first twelve months? That’s where books come into their own as a well chosen book, even a board book, can be treasured long after the first birthday. In fact the chosen few may even be passed on to younger siblings or even generations of children and grandchildren. My mum saved a couple of my old favourites and I love sharing them with my little girl.

But what should we be looking for in a good book for a baby? Well, it needs to be visually appealing, have some element of the familiar about it (either the setting, characters or something else that the baby can start to recognise and relate to) and some element of playing with words. This may come in the form of rhyme, repetitive phrases or fun words that they can gurgle along to and try to imitate. Most importantly, it needs to be fun for the person who has to read it aloud (many, MANY times) so that they want to keep reading it and the baby gets to hear it over and over again.

Feeling inspired? Well, I have done some pretty extensive research and here is my guide to eight of the best books for babies. Every one of these can be found on my own bookshelves and my reviews are not sponsored, they are just books that I know babies love. All you need to do is pick your favourite, buy it, wrap it up beautifully and then open up the world of books for the next age of bookworms…

 

Part 1- The classics

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle.

This book will always have a special place in my heart as it is the first book I ever read to my baby when she was just a couple of weeks old. When I was changing her nappy I used to wedge it between the changing mat and the wall for her to look at and, due to the high contrast pictures, she was mesmerised. The sentences are repetitive which make it easy for children to join in with and repeat (once they are a bit older!) and it also focuses on key vocabulary building with colours and animals. Perfect for a sibling to read to their new baby brother or sister. No wonder it’s still going strong almost fifty years after it was first published.

 

We’re going on a bear hunt. Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Every child will associate with the excitement of going on an adventure with their family and whether you choose to believe it was all in the imagination or you think there really was a bear you will find yourself sucked into the story. It has beautiful, atmospheric illustrations, lots of opportunities for making pre-language sounds and a repeated verse to join in with. A staple of any nursery book shelf.

 

The tiger who came to tea. Judith Kerr

A whimsical tale of what happens when Sophie and her mother open the door one day and find a hungry tiger there. (Don’t worry, this tiger isn’t frightening- unless you count the cost of the food it makes its way through). It has a lovely gentle tone and the illustrations are classically beautiful which is part of the reason it has stayed a favourite with young children for decades.

 

Each peach pear plum. Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This was one of my favourites as a young child and if I really think about it I can still recite most of it by heart, so it gets a big tick for repetitive, rhyming, memorable language! It cleverly weaves a tale using familiar fairy tale characters so that children can transfer what they know from one book into another. The illustrations are really detailed so that as the child gets older they can start to spot different things in them and it ends with everyone on a big finale page so you can recap what happened and who everyone is. It was tough to pick just one of the Ahlberg books but this one just shades it for me because it grows with the child as they get older and will be read and loved for many years.

 

Part 2- The Quirky

 

What a wonderful world. Illustrated by Tim Hopgood

This is the book I have recently been giving to new babies, including my new baby niece. It is different enough that they probably won’t be given it by anyone else, beautiful to look at and really embodies all the sentiment you feel when a new baby arrives. It uses the lyrics from the famous song sung by Louis Armstrong (written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss) and has such a feel-good, positive message that no one will be able to resist it.

 

Orange pear apple bear. Emily Gravett

In my opinion a work of total genius. Each page contains the same four words in different orders to tell the story. The illustrations are so clever- comical, sensitive, beautiful. I don’t know how she came up with the idea but its perfect for tiny ones and their limited attention span as it can be read very quickly or you can linger over each page, depending what mood your baby is in! The epitome of short but sweet.

 

Part 3- Recent finds

Shh! We have a plan. Chris Haughton

Stunning to look at with a simple, pared back style of writing and a repeated phrase, this one is a winner with the littlies. This book also has the added appeal of making the smallest character the cleverest. I also loved that the moral of the story is that kindness and quietness is often the best tactic. Again, it was hard to pick just one book from this author, any would be suitable as a baby gift but this one just shades it for me because it is soooo eye catching!

 

Where bear? Sophy Henn

High contrast illustrations aplenty in this gorgeous book about a bear and his boy. There is lots of repetition, plenty to talk about within every picture (many of which you may want to pull out of the book and frame for your walls) and if you happened to have a white teddy to go with it, this would be a perfect gift. Also great for when little fingers are able to point as they can find the bear and the boy on every page. Stylish enough to grace any nursery bookshelf and one that I am always happy to read aloud again.

Well, now you’ve seen my pick of the books for babies, I’d love to know what you think. Is there something glaring that I have missed out? Comment below, I’m always excited to read your recommends and add them to my reading list.