Category Archives: Picture Books

Fiction Fridays #32: My Daddy

FF#32
My Daddy: Curtis Jobling (2004)

Sophie and Sue and Molly (that’s me), we like to go to the park.

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It’s Father’s Day on Sunday, so a book about dads is essential. And a book about little girls and their daddy even more so in this household.

Molly and Sophie and Sue like to go to the park. Sophie and Sue talk and talk making up bigger and bigger fibs to impress each other, while Molly just listens. But in the end, Molly’s truth seems more outlandish than Sophie and Sue’s one-up-manship because her daddy really is the best in the universe.

Curtis Jobling is well known for being the designer of Bob the Builder, Raa Raa the Noisy Lion and Frankenstein’s Cat. He’s now also the author of a series of were novels (which I really must read!) but amongst all that, he also found time to produce some lovely picture books.

My Daddy is a lovely book celebrating the hero-worship small children have for their daddies. The pastel-looking art is just strokeable and the images alternate between the reality of playing in the park to the girls’ imaginations: “My daddy got bored with taming sharks,” says Sophie. “Now he tames DINOSAURS…”

Cute, funny and silly, this is a great book for little ones (girls or boys) to share with daddy (or to talk about daddy…) We love it.

Fiction Fridays #31: Ouch I Need A Plaster

FF#31
Ouch I Need A Plaster: Nick Sharratt (2009)

Ness the nurse has a nice, kind face.

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This book came in one of the Bookstart packs, MG’s toddler pack, and although it’s a board book I can’t bear to ‘retire’ it as MG loved it so much. I have already mentioned that MG has always (and still does) taken a liking to Nick Sharratt’s art. It’s one of the reasons she’s loved the Tracy Beaker TV shows for so long, as she didn’t understand most of it when she first discovered it (and probably still doesn’t…) but she loves the animated parts!

Ouch I Need a Plaster goes through a variety of children as they each get a plaster from Ness the Nurse for various scrapes and bumps, while at the top of each page the plasters are shown in a line disappearing as each one is used. For some reason “one, two, three for poor old Lee” has always been a favourite part!

The rhyming text and colourful pictures make this a perfect book for toddlers and it also subtly introduces counting backwards from ten as each plaster is used. But don’t despair, Ness has kept one last plaster just in case you need it.

A perfect gem of a book, especially for when toddlers get the inevitable bumps and scrapes that they pick up on an hourly basis… I think everyone in the Chaos house can recite this one from start to finish and it’s not been grown out of quite yet 🙂

It looks like you can only get this book pre-loved, and only in board format, but I still recommend trying to get a copy if possible if you have babies or young toddlers.

Fiction Fridays #30: The Pirate Cruncher

FF#30
The Pirate Cruncher: Jonny Duddle (2009)

My dear fellow pirate, Do ye want to be RICH?

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I was going to review The Pirates Next Door, also by Jonny Duddle but then I read The Pirate Cruncher and just had to review that first. Because I read The Pirates Next Door first, I thought The Pirate Cruncher would be about the same characters so the whole book was a lovely surprise. The Pirates Next Door deserves its own review as it’s also a wonderful book but I have totally fallen for The Pirate Cruncher and DG likes it best too so we’re doing that one first.

Jonny Duddle’s art is breathtakingly gorgeous. Forget picture book, this works as a (very short) graphic novel too and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to adults (in fact, I have: “You must read this!” I say, thrusting the book into unsuspecting hands…)

The first time I read this book, I didn’t concentrate fully as I was reading it to myself late at night so I was caught by surprise about a fact that now seems glaringly obvious. However, it is so subtly portrayed in the images that I shan’t mention what because it was lovely to go back and re-read with a different view the second (and third, and fourth, and many more…) time(s)!

MG loves pointing out all the little hints in the pictures to me: Is that a wave…? DG of course loves the book because it’s pirates and has a monster 🙂 There is a lovely large flap page where you get to see the Cruncher hidden under the water. Today MG was studying it and said “He’s a really good drawer, isn’t he?” She’s clever is that girl (of course I’m biased!)

The only slight negative (and it is very slight) is that because I read The Pirates Next Door first, I was expecting rhyming text but The Pirate Cruncher changes between rhyme and prose, mainly the fiddler sings in rhyme but some of the rest of the prose is rhyme too which confuses me slightly (I’m easily confused). It doesn’t bother the children and is probably just due to the slightly odd way my brain works!

Hilariously funny as well as beautiful, this is a book to be read again and again, and to pore over the pictures spotting all the little details that you missed the other times you read it. I utterly recommend it for all children who like their pirates or monsters, or just some fabulous artwork.

And if you want to read a review of The Pirates Next Door right now, there’s a lovely one at The Book Sniffer plus an unmissable interview with Jonny Duddle. There’s also a review, social commentary and great ideas for pirate activities over at Playing By The Book (this is a must read, off you go now!)

The New Jumper by Oliver Jeffers

As I said in my Fiction Fridays post for Stuck, we’re fairly new to Oliver Jeffers in the Chaos household. But his work is very easy to fall in love with so we’re already fans!

The New Jumper is the first in a planned four book series about The Hueys, egg-shaped characters who are ‘all the same’. This story follows Rupert, a Huey who does something different. It’s a story about individuality, and a good book to approach philosophy for children, posing interesting questions about what’s different or the same:

The pencil sketch style encourages children to have a go, and the use of occasional colour pages highlights the Hueys nicely. There is a surprisingly large amount of character and detail in the minimalist art and the book really is a joy to read over again. MG and DG think it’s good fun, MG calls it “the egg book” and loves that she can make her own Huey online too.

Because The Hueys is having a big launch, there are fun things online to play with. You can make your own Huey, here’s MG’s:

… and here’s mine:

Yesterday there was a PDF of Huey’s activity sheets to download from here, but I can’t get it work today so finger’s crossed it will because there was a Huey to colour in, to cut out, spot the difference and a maze.

The trailer for the book:

You can also download sample pages from Oliver’s books from LoveReading4Kids (registration needed).

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The New Jumper by HarperCollins for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Fiction Fridays #29: Stuck

FF#29
Stuck: Oliver Jeffers (2011)

IT ALL BEGAN when Floyd got his kite stuck in A TREE.

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Stuck isn’t the first Oliver Jeffers book we read, but it was the first one to be given proper attention as the other was borrowed from the library and ignored in favour of others borrowed that time so not fully appreciated. We got Stuck at the end of last year, and have been building up a small collection of his books since.

It seems everyone knows far more about Oliver Jeffers than I do so I’m probably ‘preaching to the converted’ but this is such a wonderful book. It is from the completely surreal stock of picture books which children either happily take for granted or laugh along at the absurdity.

In Stuck, a boy called Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree and tries to get it back by throwing a series of larger and more improbable objects into the tree to dislodge it. One of my favourite lines is: “A lighthouse to knock down the house no longer across the street…” It’s hugely imaginative, hilariously funny and ends with a quote from The Italian Job (1969). What more could you possibly want from a picture book?!

Here is a video of Oliver reading Stuck:

Blackwell’s Festival of Illustration 2012

One of the beauties of Twitter, for me, is that because I follow people / organisations I’m interested in, I find out about events that I would have missed otherwise because of not signing up to the right mailing list or looking in the right newspaper… One of these events was Blackwell’s Festival of Illustration, part of Oxford’s Art Weeks.

This was a whole day of author/illustrator workshops and other fun, which I planned to take MG and DG to as much as they could manage. We arrived just after 11am, with Emma’s talk starting at 11.30. She was setting up so we started to wander the children’s section and hit the Animation Station, where we got stuck for the next hour and a half!

MG loves drawing, although she is a little shy and takes a while to warm up. But once she got started, she was lost in the drawing and concentrated on it for over an hour. She got upset at one point because another girl drew a sun, but the point was to be a collaboration except because everyone was watching Emma she got the sole control until Emma finished! The video below is from the event, MG takes up the first 2 minutes 32 seconds with her drawing! The animation is a lovely idea, I find it fascinating how she approaches drawing and am thrilled to have this memory of part of her development.

I occasionally peeped in at Emma’s talk where she read the first Wagtail Town and a Blue Kangaroo book, plus drew pictures and there was colouring for the children. It looked like a great session from what I got to see!

It was now 12.30 so time to get food into MG and DG if they were going to manage any more of the day. Just as we were leaving we bumped into Clara and the lovely Rosi from Harper Collins who were about to set up for Clara’s session at 1.30. There’s a Wagamama just a couple of streets away from Blackwell’s and both girls love noodles so off we went. Yum 🙂

We got back to Blackwell’s in time for Clara’s session where she drew Martha, Monty and Pip (and Paws!) but having forgotten to bring a pink pencil, coloured their ears and noses with lipstick instead.

Clara then read Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Love School, which MG had to listen to all the way through despite being desperate for the toilet! I managed to get her away after the story so we missed the instructions on how to make bunny ears but it was straightforward and the girls picked it up in no time. Sadly I neglected to take any pictures as we were all too busy making, and then we left the bunny ears somewhere *sniffles* but they were lovely.

MG and DG are big fans of Clara’s books, especially DG so we were all thrilled to get to chat to her afterwards. The girls completely ‘adopted’ Clara and were genuinely upset when we had to part. It was an utterly fantastic day. We completely missed Louise Yates because MG and DG were too tired for more sessions and needed to stretch their legs more. DG had a great time twirling with Martha Bunny, and somehow my girls managed to charm Clara into taking Martha home with them 😉

A great day, and I hope there’s another festival of illustration next year.

Fiction Fridays #28: Meg’s Eggs

FF#28
Meg’s Eggs: Helen Nicoll & Jan Pienkowski (1972)

It was suppertime, so Meg got out her cauldron.

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Meg and Mog is a book I loved from my childhood, and one I included in my Six Books posts. But the others in the series are also fantastic. I love Jan Pienkowski‘s art, and MG honed in on him as a favourite artist from a young age (along with Nick Sharratt and Lucy Cousins).

MG at 5 months old, with Meg’s Eggs

Meg’s Eggs is a favourite of both MG and DG, and has been for a long time. We used to have a board book version but it was loved into bits 😉 No wonder this one is a favourite, it has dinosaurs!

Meg makes a spell to get eggs for supper but the eggs are too big and they can’t open them, but then… There is one small thing that annoys me about this book: at the end Meg uses bacon and eggs to make a spell to save them from the dinosaurs, but if she already had bacon and eggs why didn’t they have that for supper?! 😆

A lovely book, another essential along with the original Meg and Mog. We have nine of the stories plus two ladybird books with stories from the animated series and all are well loved. The animated series is well worth getting too: five minute episodes so they’re good pre-bedtime treats (who am I kidding, my two sit and watch the entire DVD…) or to get five minutes peace. Made by Absolutely in 2004 the series is available on two DVDs for around £3 each, a complete bargain.

I’ve just realised that there are seven out of print Jan Pienkowski books available to read online here, including Owl at the Vet. The Jan Pienkowski books we own probably deserve a blog to themselves one day… 😉

Six Months of Fiction Fridays

On 11th November 2011, my big sister turned 42; I failed my eighth practical driving test and I re-found a passion for picture books… It was week one of Fiction Fridays from @homedad and despite several late postings I’ve kept it up. Six months, 27 books…

Here are five favourites (although really they’re ALL favourites!)
The Bear With Sticky Paws
Ernest
The Ghost Library
The Tough Princess
You Can’t Eat A Princess!

In order of year of publication, the twenty-seven books I’ve chosen are:
Don’t Forget the Bacon! – Pat Hutchins (1976)
What-a-Mess – Frank Muir & Joseph Wright (1977)
Badger’s Parting Gifts – Susan Varley (1984)
The Tough Princess – Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson (1986)
Winnie the Witch – Valerie Thomas & Korky Paul (1987)
Dirty Bertie – David Roberts (2002)
The Wolves in the Walls – Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (2003)
Jack Frost – David Melling (2003)
The Ghost Library – David Melling (2004)
Just Like My Mum – David Melling (2004)
The Ravenous Beast – Niamh Sharkey (2004)
Mixed Up Fairy Tales – Hilary Robinson & Nick Sharratt (2004)
Uncle Alonso’s Beard – Emma King-Farlow & Anna Laura Cantone (2006)
Two by Two and a half – David Melling (2007)
The Bear With Sticky Paws – Clara Vulliamy (2007)
Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure – Kristina Stephenson (2007)
There are Cats in this Book – Viviane Schwarz (2008)
Shark in the Dark – Nick Sharratt (2009)
The Pencil – Allan Ahlberg & Bruce Ingman (2009)
Ernest – Catherine Rayner (2009)
You Can’t Eat a Princess! – Gillian Rogerson & Sarah McIntyre (2010)
Press Here – Hervé Tullet (2011)
The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man – Michael Chabon & Jake Parker (2011)
Muffin and the Expedition – Clara Vulliamy (2011)
Whiffy Wilson – Caryl Hart & Leonie Lord (2011)
Welcome to Alien School – Caryl Hart & Ed Eaves (2012)
Ella – Alex T Smith (2012)

All these books, and other fiction fridays entries can be found on the Fiction Fridays Pinterest Board – currently at over 130 books and counting…

Here’s to the next six months!

Fiction Fridays #27: Whiffy Wilson


FF#27
Whiffy Wilson: Caryl Hart & Leonie Lord (2011)

There was a wolf called Wilson
Who never brushed his hair.
He never washed his paws or face
Or changed his underwear.

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Rhyming books are lovely to read aloud, the rhythm carries the story along and they’re easier to memorise (I remember reciting the whole of the Gruffalo to MG to calm her on a trip out when she was younger, although I can’t any more!) I also like that it gives children the chance to guess the next word by working out the rhyme. Whiffy Wilson has a fantastic example of the word you’re *supposed* to guess being replaced by a non-rhyming word which makes me giggle (although my girls haven’t quite ‘got’ that idea yet but I’m sure the eldest will soon…)

Sadly there are several children’s books written in rhyme that just don’t scan and use words to force the plot that don’t rhyme, or make sense. I once said that I prefered prose books because a bad rhyme can be so awful but a good rhyme is perfect. Whiffy Wilson is on the perfect side.

Wilson is a wolf who doesn’t like to wash, but through the intervention of his good friend Dotty he learns that washing is good. As a parent I love the fact that the book distinguishes between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dirt. I do want my children to have fun, to splash in puddles, to play with mud, to climb trees, to get dirty because they were exploring and adventuring… So I love that there is a distinction made between this and dirt that can make you ill. Nice and educational 🙂

The artwork along with the verse is beautiful. Leonie Lord appears to use pencils for her art which give a lovely scruffy feel to Wilson. Wilson is an adorable character (despite being smelly in the beginning) and Dotty a great friend. The duo make a book suitable for boys and girls, and I love the non-sterotyped girl swinging through trees.

Between the wonderful artwork and the humourous verse, this book is a delight to read over and over again. I hugely recommend Whiffy Wilson.

Fiction Fridays #26: Muffin and the Expedition

FF#26
Muffin and the Expedition: Clara Vulliamy (2011)

This is Muffin, the yummiest small brown bear.

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This book has been a firm favourite of DGs ever since it arrived. She will request it again and again, she’s slept with it on several occasions and she knows exactly where to find it on the shelf even with only the spine showing. So I’m not quite sure why I’ve taken so long to choose it as a Fiction Friday (other than the fact that Nikki from Stressy Mummy already chose it!)

Fantastically fabulous Clara Vulliamy held a competition to win her artwork and sent all the runners up a book and mini picture, which is where we got this. Since then we’ve bought Muffin and the Birthday Surprise. For younger children, two Muffin board books are coming out in July.

These books are perfect for toddlers and small children. The pictures are huggable and uncluttered so as not to overwhelm small children, yet still packed with delicious details. Muffin really is yummy and would really suit being a soft toy. I can see him being many a small child’s favourite bedtime snuggle.

In Muffin and the Expedition (what a lovely word to introduce to small children, not talking down to them at all), Muffin um, er… goes on an expedition! He packs a snack and a cuddly friend and we travel with him to find his destination. But wait, what’s that noise? Nothing frightening, and nice repetition in the route back home. Promoting exploring your environment and time with friends, Muffin is just… edible! 🙂 You can make real Muffin muffins with Clara here, or print out a lovely picture to colour here.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Oxfordshire (like me!) then there’s another chance to see Clara at Blackwell’s Festival of Illustration on 19 May.