Tag Archives: Picture Books

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.

Picture Book Giveaway

To celebrate over 500 Twitter followers (wow), as a pay-it-forward thank-you for picture books I’ve been very kindly sent, and to pimp this blog and facebook page I’ve decided to run a small giveaway.

Any regular readers may have guessed I’m a teeny bit addicted to books. I like to support local independent bookstores and charity shops, but acquire books from many different sources. I recently purchased a Martin Waddell picture book collection from The Book People but we already had two of the books. These are what I’m offering as a giveaway 🙂

Martin Waddell writes a huge amount of varied books, many of which are well deserved classics. The two books offered in this giveaway are definitely classics: Owl Babies and Farmer Duck.

Farmer Duck (1991) is illustrated by the amazing Helen Oxenbury. It tells the story of a lazy farmer who overworks the poor duck, until the other animals come up with a plan. Beautifully illustrated and a firm favourite with children.

Owl Babies (1992) is illustrated by Patrick Benson (they also collaborated on one of my Fiction Fridays favourites, The Tough Princess). It is the classic tale of separation anxiety – three baby owls wake to find their mother missing and wait for their return. It’s probably the scariest scenario for small children but fortunately all ends well and Mummy Owl reassures that she said she would come back.

In order to be in with a chance of receiving these two books, you must have a UK address for the books to be posted to, and:

  1. Leave a comment on this post
  2. Follow Child-Led Chaos blog
  3. Like Child-Led Chaos on Facebook
  4. Tweet about this giveaway
  5. Write a blog entry about this giveaway

That gives up to five (optional) entries per person. For each entry, please leave a separate comment on this post. I’ll write the names and get MG or DG to pick one out randomly – nothing but the highest technology here! The closing date for entering this giveaway is midnight Monday 7th May. The winner will have one week to claim the books. I’ve not done this before so bear with me if I make mistakes!

Fiction Fridays #25: Ella

FF#25
Ella: Alex T. Smith (2012)

Once upon a time there was a ladybird called Ella.

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This is a lovely re-telling of Cinderella with incredibly cute bugs! Cinderella is a ladybird, her step-sisters are wasps and the prince (in this case, Pierre the artist) is a spider. This is a gorgeous book with a sparkly cover and a pallette of mainly  reds, pinks and purples. MG loves fairy tales and I get to read this to her over and over again to drool over the art.

Ella is not a straight re-telling of Cinderella, it is its own story with elements of the fairy tale. Pierre the artist is looking for his muse; there isn’t a ‘fairy godmother’ or magical pumpkins, but a very good friend who secretly helps (get the children to look for her hiding throughout the story); and there’s no royal family in sight. It does have probably the most famous element: Ella leaves to get home before her step-sisters and drops her glasses as she rushes away!

The artwork is luscious, I wanted to take pictures of almost all the pages to put in this review. But I have chosen just this one: Ella and Pierre’s first meeting with Paris subtly in the background.

This is probably a book more for girls. And lovers of buttons: look how the antennae have buttons on them 🙂

Fiction Fridays #24: Mixed Up Fairy Tales

FF#24
Mixed Up Fairy Tales: Hilary Robinson & Nick Sharratt (????)

Little Red Riding Hood had a mum who was a washerwoman and fell asleep in Baby Bear’s bed after eating a troll.

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MG got this from one of her friends for her fifth birthday this year, funnily enough only a week after I’d read this review from Polly at The Little Wooden Horse and mentally added it to my “books to look for” list.

No extra review from me because I recommend reading The Little Wooden Horse. The book has been a huge hit here, hilariously funny. The kids love it too 😆

Fiction Fridays #23: Welcome to Alien School

FF#23
Welcome to Alien School: Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves (2012)

“Red-Five? Red-Five? This is mission Control. Get ready for countdown.”

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This is the third book in a series about Albie, a small boy with a huge imagination. In the first book, Albie went with his mum to the supermarket where the shopping list included reptiles, parrots, monkeys, lions and a very large surprise… In the second book, Albie planted some seeds with his mum and the next day his garden is a prehistoric jungle full of dinosaurs and jelly bean trees…

In this book, Albie’s mum drops him off at the wrong school – on a different planet! Here he has to cope with strange lessons, strange new friends and even stranger food. But by the end he’s had great fun and wants to take a friend home – but they can’t because he has to go swimming. And that’s another adventure…

Welcome to Alien School has really caught MG’s imagination. She requests it regularly (I had to prise the three books from under her as she slept in order to take a picture!) and she plays pretend school with alien teachers, bossing her little sister: “Time for Alien School!”

One thing that I particularly like in this book is the maths lesson at Alien School. It’s a pet hate of mine how it’s socially acceptable to say maths is difficult, which therefore becomes self-fulfilling as kids believe it is so don’t try so find it hard etc… But Albie loves maths! Yay! He may not be able to do Alien maths, but that’s because it’s Alien!

Fiction Fridays #22: The Tale of Jack Frost

FF#22
The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (2003)

There was once a group of trees who were fed up of living in a deep, dark and crowded valley. So they decided to move to the brow of a nearby hill.

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At Christmas 2009 (and probably since, but we recorded it then), the animated version of The Tale of Jack Frost (originally made 2004) was shown on television. MG was nearly three at the time and loved it so we watched it again, and again, and again…

I dutifully went to my local independent bookstore and asked if they could get a signed copy of the book for MG’s birthday (because they’re good like that) but the book was out of print! And wouldn’t be republished until the end of the year! Did I mention how fantastic my local independent bookstore and David Melling are? The shop asked, and got, one of his own copies of the book signed for MG in time for her February birthday. She even got a fantastic goblin sketch in the book just for her.

I had a problem with reading this book originally because I’d seen the animated version (several times) before reading so had that ingrained into my brain which meant the book didn’t seem ‘right’ at first (I know, terrible!) I still can’t read it without hearing Hugh Laurrie in my head…

Fortunately no such problem existed with MG (or DG, but she was only 9 months old when we bought it so didn’t really take much notice of the TV version) who took to the book instantly. Especially with the dedication. It is still one of her ‘special’ books and she takes very good care of it.

There are some great videos at davidmelling.co.uk, including the creation of this book and the Bing-Bong Bandylegs. Well worth watching for a behind the scenes look at the creation of a picture book and to see the amount of work that went into the pictures. There are lots of large paintings that have gone into this book, and the detail is wonderful.

The story is about a boy called Jack who is found in the enchanted forest, and about the goblins who think he knows the forest’s secrets so try to steal the magic from him. The goblins are smelly and not particularly bright and a bit scary but they get their comeuppance and Jack… Well, you might still see some of Jack’s work at winter, protecting you from the smell of boiled cabbage.

This is a lovely original work of fantasy, with imaginative creatures who deserve more books to themselves: beezles, bing-bong bangylegs, snow-beetles, Woodwind, Waffle and Cowslip… Lovely for curling up with on cold winter evenings, but also a great read all year round.

Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep by David Melling

Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep is published on April 5th but due to a (since corrected) early release at Red House I got my copy yesterday. Woohoo! The best place to buy this book would be your local independent bookstore of course but I’m afraid “early release” and “half price” got me (the next copy I get will be from my local bookstore, and there will be a next copy, I have a habit of giving David Melling books as presents to every child we know…)

This is the third in the Hugless Douglas series, the first two I partially reviewed here: Vote Douglas! (Or not…) I think it might just be my favourite of the three.

To recap: In Hugless Douglas (Hodder 2010), Douglas wakes from a long sleep and tries to find a hug that suits him, looking for big tall and comfy hugs in all the wrong places until Rabbit takes him to the best hug of all. In Don’t Worry [Hugless] Douglas (Hodder 2011) Douglas gets a new hat from his dad but in his excitement the hat gets ruined. He looks for advice about what to tell his dad, before finding out that telling the truth is the best option.

In Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep, Douglas is heading for a sleepover with Rabbit: “There’s plenty of room at Rabbit’s.” But not before choosing what to take with him, getting lost, picking up some friends along the way and ending sleeping not quite where originally planned…

The three Hugless Douglas books are wonderful. They’re not my favourite David Melling creations (shhh, don’t tell anyone) but that’s not saying much because frankly they’re all my favourites. For some inexplicable reason my daughters pronounce Hugless Douglas as “hug-a-lus dug-a-lus”, which of course I find utterly adorable!

It’s the attention to detail that make me love these books so much. This may be why I like Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep so much, because it brings themes from the original Hugless Douglas book: the honeybee pyjamas, the bush with eyes, the owl saying “Twooooo Twit!”. I also love how the sky subtly darkens throughout the book with a sunset sky before night falls – something that you can even see in the storyboard:

Kind permission given by David Melling to use storyboard sketch

This double spread also has that Winnie-the-Pooh trapped in Rabbit’s house feel, except in this case Rabbit is very happy for Douglas to visit and the problem is getting into her house, not out of it.

Mighty-Girl and Destructo-Girl both love Hugless Douglas, and the Douglas books are suitable for a wide age range. MG (just 5) gets a lot more of the humour (pointing out the sheep stuck on Douglas’ back for instance). DG (almost 3) loves the stories. I drool over the details! As I write this, MG has stolen Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep from me and is copying the words from the book while attempting to read as many as she can. Earlier she was using the pictures to read the story to her little sister.

The attention to detail really is just fantastic: there are always ten sheep (even when they’re just eyes in a bush), Douglas’ storybook front and back cover is an exact match to the first Hugless Douglas book, one of the sheep is pulling the pyjamas out of the bag before Douglas is shown wearing them (though how he gets them on must be a book in itself!)

The final double page spread of “things to take on a sleepover” is packed with humour (especially the cuddly toy), but I think my favourite has to be: a friend. Hugless Douglas can be every child’s friend so off you go now, grab yourself a copy and enjoy. And don’t forget to read it to your children once you’ve enjoyed it…

Don't forget to pack a friend...

You can read more about Hugless Douglas (and other things) on David Melling’s blog plus there’s a fantastic interview about the Hugless Douglas iPhone app (and other things) over at The App Puppy (wish I had an iPhone but shall just have to campaign for an Android version…)

Oxford Literary Festival: Clara Vulliamy and Emma Chichester Clark

Despite living in or near Oxford my entire life, and the festival running for 16 years, I’ve never been to an Oxford Literary Festival event before. I have truly been missing out. It was hard choosing just one event, but also a no-brainer: how could I turn down the opportunity to meet Clara Vulliamy? The day of the event dawned grey and dreary, after a week of lovely weather. It also came with a small child who whinged constantly about everything from the moment she woke at 7am until eventually cheering up slightly on the bus into Oxford at about 10.30am. Given that the event was at 12pm, we made a pit stop for snacks and drinks to minimise extra whinging. We arrived about 15 minutes early but there was already another family waiting and it wasn’t too long before we were all invited in.

I’d actually been so nervous at meeting Clara, and wondering how to introduce myself: “Hi, I’m Child-Led Chaos”?! But then I remembered she does know my name, so I ended up saying “Hello, I’m Anne-Marie.” and was greeted like an old friend before she had to rush off to find some pens!

Firstly, I must say that although Clara Vulliamy is lovely, friendly, amazing and welcoming on Twitter; she is even more lovely in real life, talking to everyone as if they were the only person there and yet taking the time to talk to everyone. I’d never actually heard of Emma Chichester Clark before (ooops) but I also managed to have a chat with her and she was also very lovely, talking to everyone. All the people involved in the event were friendly and approachable and I’d recommend anyone who gets a chance to go to an author event in Christ Church JCR to go, it’s a lovely intimate venue (I guess you can pack more in but because this event included crafts, half the room was taken with tables).

My daughters were in a clingy mood, so although there were cushions set out for the children at the front and chairs for the grown-ups, I had to sit with them on the floor. I wasn’t the only parent on the floor, but the others at least managed to get more than two inches away from their children! Sitting down, surrounded by bags (spare clothes, wipes, snacks and drinks) and coats I felt like I was taking up half the floor but wasn’t really, and there was plenty of room for everyone. The event started with the housekeeping notices, which started with “no photography”. So I dutifully put my camera away, only having the one picture of the front of stage. I wish I could have taken more.

The first person to talk was Emma Chichester Clark who went through slides of all the characters from Wagtail Town, which was really nice to see them all separately. There were a lot more characters than included in the first book, Lulu and the Best Cake Ever, but there is another book ready for publication next year and possibly a third in the works (I asked while she was signing our book). After going through the characters, she read the book (which I will review later in this post).

After Emma had finished reading, Clara came on with a large cardboard cut-out Martha which she hid behind the sign for the children to guess what it was. She then read her book (which I will review later in this post) and showed a felt rabbit that all the children could make.

During the readings, MG and DG were very well behaved. They did ask for drinks and snacks and I tried not to rustle too much as I got things out of my bag, but considering how whingy the rest of the day was, they were on their very best behaviour for the whole event.

MG's artwork on the left, DG's on the right.

The craft session was centred around making the felt rabbits, although there were also Wagtail Town badges for the children to colour in. The four tables were covered in felt shapes, buttons, ribbon and pens. I was in heaven 😆 I had to help DG quite a lot with her rabbit, but she did all the decoration herself. MG managed to follow the instructions more, but still needed some help. I was somewhat trapped behind a table with them, so saw David Melling getting books signed and leaving without managing to introduce myself (although it wasn’t his event, so a bit of an invasion of privacy therefore I didn’t try too hard!)

The rest is somewhat of a blur. I got to talk to Clara for a while, the girls ran around getting in everyone’s way, I got both books signed to both girls and I gave Clara a very silly little gift as a thank-you for how kind she is which she was very nice about! We were probably the last non-event people to leave the room, although I could have talked to Clara for hours!

The girls were fidgety so instead of going out for lunch as planned, we got the next bus home and DG fell asleep on my lap almost as soon as we were back and slept for three hours (she stopped naps seven months ago, so this is very unusual but explained the grotty morning). Sadly this meant we missed a live drawing event with Clara and Emma that afternoon, although apparently it wasn’t well advertised and I didn’t know about it until after it had finished.

The picture above was taken by David Melling who kindly gave me permission to include it in my post. He also tweeted finished pictures by Emma Chichester Clark and Clara Vulliamy, Chris Riddell, Korky Paul, Emily Gravett and Joe Berger. I am utterly gutted to have missed all of this, but MG and DG weren’t in the mood for being out that long on that day so it wouldn’t have been a good time even if we had managed to see.

Wagtail Town: Lulu and the Best Cake Ever by Emma Chichester Clark

The story is about Lulu, a little dog with big ideas who gets carried away with wanting to make the best cake and disappointed when the cake she makes isn’t a winner. But that doesn’t mean Lulu isn’t a winner in other ways and all ends on a happy note. Emma certainly seems to know her dog breeds and all the characters in Wagtail Town have accents befitting the country the breed comes from, for example Lulu is French and lives in a house that looks like the Eiffel Tower. There appears to be a huge amount of background to this book – each character has a name and personality, there is a map of the town at the front and a final page that feels like the end of an episode. I get a feeling that this could easily be adapted into a TV series and I wonder if there are any plans for this. I think it would be very popular. The book also educates because of all the different breeds and any child with an interest in dogs will love looking up more about them (I will have to get a copy to send to one of my nieces who adores dogs!)

Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Love School by Clara Vulliamy

I was so excited about getting to read this book (see I [Heart] Martha Bunny) that there was a chance it could have been a disappointment. I needn’t have worried, this is a lovely book and already a favourite with both my girls (especially DG who is already the biggest fan of Muffin and the Bear with Sticky Paws). Martha is a very sunny bunny who loves everything and is very excited about her first day at school. But she has to leave her two little bunny brothers behind which makes them all feel sad (bunnies put their ears down when sad, and Clara has captured this perfectly). The book is full of lists and side notes, and text that bounces around the pages. Each page has so much to explore, and cute little moments like Paws the puppy appearing in the corner of (almost) every double page. One of my favourite parts is the realistic breakfast with small children: all three have a different breakfast, one bunny brother will only eat his wearing a cardboard box on his head and the baby (toddler) is squeezing egg through his fingers delightedly saying “Mud!”. It’s a beautifully observed moment in a book full of such great observations of small children’s habits. It’s a book that children will understand because it speaks to them, and one filled with moments that parents will relate to. I still [Heart] Martha Bunny, her brothers and her creator.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of both Wagtail Town: Lulu and the Best Cake Ever and Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Love School by Harper Collins for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post and bought the tickets for the festival event myself.

Fiction Fridays #21: The Ravenous Beast

FF#21
The Ravenous Beast: Niamh Sharkey (2004)

“I AM THE HUNGRIEST ANIMAL OF ALL,” said the Ravenous Beast.

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The entire Chaos household loves this book. It’s one Daddy Chaos often chooses to read to the girls (and he can do the voices, I’m rubbish at voices) and we never tire of it. The book starts with the Ravenous Beast stating that he’s so hungry that he could eat “the big yellow house on the hill” then page by page another animal joins in with what they can eat (adding an extra item each time, ending with the whale listing nine items).

One touch I like is that often on one page, something from the next page can be seen in the distance (not always the case). The left hand page has text and the animals collecting together as each one joins in, the right hand page is a full picture with the animal and what it said it could eat (with bites out of each)!

The castle in the distance is one of the items on the next page...

Finally, the Ravenous Beast has had enough of the boasting, and proves that he is definitely the hungriest of them all by eating them! It’s a fantastically unexpected ending and an absolute hoot for small children. Although now my over-sensitive five year old does ask whether he really eats them and sometimes we decide that maybe they just all ran away very fast 🙂

Fiction Fridays #20: Dirty Bertie

FF#20
Dirty Bertie: David Roberts (2002)

This is Bertie. He used to have dirty habits.

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This is such a fantastic book. It might not suit every parent’s sensibilities but I love it (I taught my girls to say ‘fart’ instead of ‘wind’, I’m not the greatest example… :lol:)

The first half of the books lists all the different ‘dirty’ habits that Bertie has – eating food off the floor, picking his nose, weeing in the flowerbeds… and the response from various members of his family: “NO BERTIE! THAT’S DIRTY, BERTIE!” which is fantastic for children to join in as you read the book again (and again and again!)

The second half of the book shows why he stopped all these habits – being sick from eating off the floor etc… except for one last habit which is even worse than first mentioned! David Robert’s pictures are fantastic, and most children will find this book hilarious. To be gender stereotyped, little boys will love Dirty Bertie, and the sequel Pooh! Is That You, Bertie? But my little girls love these books and find them funny too, so ignore my lapse into gender stereotyping there!

This book does also technically do a serious job of explaining why not to do certain things (like eat random sweets off the floor) in a very humourous manner. Highly recomended.