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Monday, 12 January 2015

Linus and the knock knocks

Linus was teaching me all about knock knock jokes:

Linus: Knock knock
Me: Who's there?
Linus: Linus
Me: Linus who?
Linus: Linus meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Now you say knock knock

Me: Knock knock
Linus: Who's there?
Me: Daddy
Linus: Yes, daddy, that's right.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Who Am I?

January 10 2015

Who Am I? is the story of a "strange little creature" that pops out of an egg. Gervase Phinn is quite a prolific writer, in children's fiction he tends to write for older kids than Linus. This one has been quite  hit. The creature wanders along asking different animals if they know what he is, the odd thing is that he looks like every creature he asks (Linus: "look, he's changed colour again!"). It has a nice educational element to it. Tony Ross' illustrations are quite simple in style and that works well with the story. It's an often used format in picture books but this one stands out from the crowd. Spoiler alert: he's a chameleon!
Here's a CBeebies bedtime reading of it, by Dan Walker.

Maisy Goes on Holiday is another in the endless Maisy series by Lucy Cousins. She is another favourite illustrator for Linus, there is something endearing in the pictures that seem to fit exactly with their target audience. It has some educational parts to it, we had a chat about what else we'd need to take with on holiday. There's also lots of friendship within the stories too, all in all, a tick in the win column.

My Mum and Dad Make Me Laugh is a popular one by Nick Sharratt, not least because we're the most hilaarious (sic) parents on the planet. I'm still trying to work out if Linus is too old for this now, or if he was just a little too tired. There are younger books that he still gets enjoyment out of, so I'll say it was tiredness for now.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Not Now Norman

January 8 2015

Driver Dan's Story Train: Not Now Norman is a book based on the TV series Driver Dan. It is essentially a book within a book. In the tv show, Driver Dan reads stories on his story train, in the book he does the same. An anthropomorphic lion reading a story within a book is a little weird, especially with the commentaries by Driver Dan and friends along the way. Anyway, the story itself, Not Now Norman is quite good, a family of ducks out for a bike ride and the littlest one tries to get his family's attention, who, in turn, reply "not now Norman". Driver Dan was one of the first programmes that entranced Linus, it isn't on much of late, it would be interesting to see how he reacts to it now. There's a little Driver Dan trailer below.

Anna Kemp's The Worst Princess is another picture book that has been made into a stage show. It has all the right ingredients for a stage show. It's a modern take on the traditional Prince Charming meets Princess and they live happily ever after story. Unlike in real life, picture book princesses are no longer happy to look pretty, live in a castle, wave and churn out babies. Picture book princesses now want to go on adventures, befriend dragons and behave how they like. Sara Ogilvie's illustrations fit neatly with the story having both a traditional yet modern feel. It's probably a little old for Linus but he seems to get it and the rhyming story makes for an easy read.

Margaret Wise Brown's Sunshine and Snowballs was our last book of the night. Despite being by an author who died in 1952, this is a relatively new book. Charlotte Cooke's illustrations were added to make an adorable bedtime read. There are additional stories to tell within the pictures of a little boy and girl throughout the seasons. A calming and charming picture book.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Keith the Cat and The Man From The Land Of Fandango

January 9 2015

Margaret Mahy's The Man from the Land of Fandango is reminiscent of some of the uentin Blake books we've been reading lately. It has a similar sense of fun and is jolly and upbeat. Polly Dunbar's illustrations add sparkle to the story. It fuels imagination and is a lovely little book. Linus happily agreed that he liked it.

Keith the Cat with the Magic Hat is quite a surprising book, the 'hat' is neither magic or a hat. Keith, in a remarkably British fashion covers for an ice cream cone landing on his head by telling his pals that the ice cream was a magic hat. It's a funny book by Sue Hendra, the larger illustrations add to the humour. It is quite refreshing and unique, I look forward to reading more from this author.

 Little Miss Contrary was first published in 1990 and written by Roger Hargreaves. Linus still loves all things Mr. Men and Little Miss. I'd quite like an update to the series to put the men and women on equal feet, the French versions seem far more equal amongst the sexes. I've never quite understood why the Misses are all little. The characters themselves are equally smart/dumb/bizarre (delete as applicable). Miss Contrary is in the fine tradition of Hargreaves' quirkier characters, she does have many similar characteristics to Mr. Topsy Turvy. It's a pleasant story and reveals Mr. Happy's birthday (March 14th), although not how old he is.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Mister Magnolia and friends

January 6 2015

Quentin Blake won the Kate Greenaway medal for the illustration of Mister Magnolia in 1980. I'll admit to not having been aware of it until a little before Christmas. It is very silly and has a very British sense of humour. Mr. Magnolia only has one boot but he doesn't let that deter his every day spirit. His one booted bravery is rewarded in the only way possible, a new boot. Linus was very excited with the arrival of the new boot, even though it is a total mismatch to the other one. Personally I'd rather go one or no booted than odd booted but I have high boot standards.

The 2014 Greenaway Medal was won  by Jon Klassen (for This is Not My Hat), he was also nominated for Lemony Snicket's The Dark. Personally I'd have given it to Oliver Jeffers for Drew Daywalt's The Day The Crayons Quit. The illustrations in that are excellent, a little different to Jeffers' usual work though still in line with his quirkiness.

In our second book of the night, we continued with silly humour, with another of Jeffers' books, Stuck. As with several of our books, Linus has taken to spotting things out of the ordinary. Jeffers likes a penguin and a spaceship, Linus spotted those unmentioned items also stuck in the tree. Stuck is a joyously eccentric and charming story. Here's Oliver Jeffers reading a shortened version of his own book.

It Takes Two to T'wit T'woo is Paula Knight's romantic story of Olive the Owl searching for love. It also explains that the female owl says "t'wit" and the male says "t'woo", owls don't ever say t'wit t'woo. This remains a firm favourite of Linus'. There is something engaging in Guiliano Ferri's illustrations and a unique short story. This deserves to be a classic but is probably not destined to be.

Monday, 5 January 2015

A Great Big Grey-Blue Humpback Whale

January 5 2015

It's safe to say we're a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler loving family. The length of the stories and the stories themselves are ideal and seem to be peerless. There are very few comparable authors and the illustrations are wonderfully unique. Linus had spent the morning at a playgroup, impressing with his knowledge of animals, the humpback whale being a speciality. In fact, courtesy of the animal atlas we have, he has an impressive repertoire of obscure animals.

The great big grey-blue humpback whale is the co-star of The Snail and the Whale, if you can't guess, the snail is the other half of the duo. I have noticed Linus seemingly drifting a bit at story time over the last week or two, tiredness is often an issue, as well as other excitements. So I've been making an effort to engage more. Scheffler's pictures are so full of detail that there is always something we can look for. Getting the balance between finding things and keeping the story going is a tricky one, especially when there's an over familiarity with it.

Maisy Goes Camping features Lucy Cousins ever popular Maisy character. It's a simple tale of Maisy and her friends going camping. The plot centres on getting 5 friends in a tent, when one of the friends is an elephant, things prove a little tricky. There's a little segment in the story where 4 of the characters "pop" out of the tent. Linus was highly amused by my pop sounds, not as amused as by my plop sounds the previous evening (vocally of course!).

Nancy Tillman's On the Night You Were Born is a lovely bed time book. It's exactly how the title goes and how most parents would want their child to think of themselves. "Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvellous night you were born". The illustrations are delightful and much more artistic than most picture books. The poetic verse is really pleasant too. This isn't just a book made to sell as a new parent gift, it is lovingly written and artistically illustrated.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


January 4 2015

Allan Ahlberg has had several books using existing children's characters. One of our favourites is Each Peach, Pear, Plum. Previously is a more recent offering. Illustrated by Bruce Ingram, Ahlberg weaves a story starting with Goldilocks arriving home and then taking it back to what happened previously. He then manages to incorporate several other characters, I never even knew that Jack of Beanstalk fame was the same Jack who was Jill's brother, now we know what they needed that water for.

It is a very clever book, and fabulous illustrations. It  has probably introduced Linus to several characters that he isn't familiar with but should be. There are few traditional books around with close to the proper stories of Cinderella,  Jack & The Beanstalk and others. We tend to only see variations on them, be they elephant versions of Cinderella or appearances with the Mr. Men. I can see Previously being a great reading book for early schoolchildren, there's so much to get out of it and it's lots of fun.

Next, keeping the traditional theme we read a version of The Elves and The Shoemaker. We have a fairly abridged and corrupt version of this Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the original dating back to the early nineteenth century. In the version we have to reward the elves for making them great shoes, the shoemaker and his wife make the elves some shoes, hardly a great reward.
Here's Kermit The Frog in a better version!

Our final book was a Nick Sharratt/Sally Symes lift the flap book, A Boot, a Hat, Now Who Is That? After a run of reading younger books, Linus seems to be done with this one. We did try reading some of the words, which he was getting, I managed a couple too. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Knick Knack Paddywack

January 2 2015

Our first book for story time was Port Side Pirates!, it's a song by Oscar Seaworthy, illustrated by Debbie Harter. We've not got round to reading/watching the attached CD yet but the song is fun. It has a chorus on every page "we go this way, that way, portside, starboard", so we had a lot of fun with the movements. It's by Barefoot Books who seem to have quite a different way of promoting books, using a more traditional approach of party-type selling and using "ambassadors" to sell their goods. They do seem to have a good selection of interesting and educational items.

One of Linus' favourite things in reading is the occasional end pages that tell you other books by the same author or publisher. In the back of this one was Knick, Knack Paddywack. I then started to sing the first lines of "This Old Man". Linus requested more of the song, instead of reading Superworm, so I obliged. According to reviews of the book, the song in it is slightly different to the traditional version.
For those not in the know, it starts;

This old man, he played one,
He played knick-knack on my thumb;
With a knick-knack paddywack
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

It then carries on with each number rhyming, some of the rhymes are fairly standard and some I invented anew, as is tradition with a folk song. 

We ended with Gemma Merino's The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water. Linus declared that he "reayyy reayyy yikes dragons", although he didn't want one as a pet.

Friday, 2 January 2015

What do you see?

January 1st 2015

Linus adores What Do You See?, it has a magnifying glass with touch sounds, so what's not to like? I had thought this was an Eric Carle book, on closer inspection it is a "World of Eric Carle" book written by Jennifer H. Keast. It's a lot of fun and there are words to read, pictures to look at and plenty to see and do. It is also quite educational and a good introduction to insects. It isn't the best bedtime story book though. The lure of the magnifying glass makes it a little too distracting.

The Scarecrows' Wedding is, at time of writing, the most current Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler book. It's so new, no one has made it into a stage play yet. I'm sure they'll get there at some point, it has all the ingredients, a love story, a bad guy, drama and a tale of the perils of smoking, especially if you're a scarecrow.

I Love You When is by Annie Baker, it's a short rhyme, beautifully illustrated by Barroux. As with many picture books, it's the illustrations that lead the way. The poem is witty and fun but it does feel a little short. I'm not familiar with Barroux but he appears to be a prolific illustrator, with quite a unique style.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A stick, a star, a ladybird and a Happy New Year

December 31 2014

I thought I'd round out the year with some of our favourites.

I never tire of reading What the Ladybird Heard. It's our most interactive book, Linus shouts out the animal sounds that occur three times throughout the story. Here's a live event with Julia Donaldson reading the story to a group of school kids, together with signs for the noises.

Stanley's Stick isn't an immediate choice as a book for interactivity.  It's the tale of a boy and a stick, Neal Layton has gloriously illustrated John Hegley's poem. In the book Stanley imagines the stick as a saxophone and plays a tune for his friend, I usually hum a little tune. Tonight Linus decided to conduct the music! So we had an extended play, it was truly wonderful. He was also asking more of the detail of the pictures, something he's only recently started doing. I've often tried to point out things beyond the stories

There probably isn't much I can say about  Oliver Jeffers' How to Catch a Star that I haven't said in previous blogs. It's witty, charming, surprising, endearing, imaginative, playful, and so much more. This should be required reading for any child. Every child should want to have a star of their very own. As parents we need to teach them to keep fuel in their spaceship!

So we had a great end to 2014. Wishing you a happy 2015.