Book Review

PoP: Bug and Bear by Ann Bonwill & Lynn Marlow and Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster by Axel Scheffler.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Bug and Bear by Ann Bonwill & Lynn Marlow (illustrator). Oxford University Press.
BugAndBearThis is the story of Bug who wakes up happy,
Bear who wakes up grumpy,
and the day when their friendship is lost and found.

This is a really cute story about two friends who wake up with very different plans for how to spend the day. Bug is desperate to play but to his disappointment Bear is sleepy and wants to nap instead. Bear tries everything she can to get the message through to Bug that she doesn’t want to play, but instead Bug sees the potential for a game in everything that Bear does. Naturally both animals come Pthat will satisfy the reader. This book has great discussion potential, neither Bug or Bear are a particularly good friend at times.

I really liked Lynn Marlow’s art style. The illustrations use strong colours in slightly muted tones which makes for a very attractive end result. The text is arranged throughout the book in different ways that suits the art for the page really well. I was really interested by the one double page spread that required the book to be turned through 90 degrees. This is a lovely idea and with a quick practice would be easy enough if you were reading the book aloud to a group, it might be a little trickier to juggle if you were reading the book to a squirming toddler sat on your lap.

Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster by Axel Scheffler. Nosy Crow.
PipAndPosyPosy is happily baking cakes when a scary monster appears!

Poor Posy! She feels quite frightened – until she sees that it’s not a real monster after all, but Pip dressed in a costume.

A funny story for the very young, with gentle lessons about being brave and taking turns.

There is a whole set of Pip and Posy stories, this is the first one I’ve read. It’s a lovely, simple story that young children will really enjoy. It begins with Posy making a cake to alleviate the boredom brought by bad weather – I loved the way she started by washing her hands and putting on an apron! I had begun by reading the blurb so there was no monster reveal to come for me, I knew it was Pip, but I think young readers would like discovering it was him in a costume.

Axel Scheffler’s art is very recognisable and familiar, his work on hugely popular titles such as The Gruffalo has led to his art appearing on all manner of objects for sale widely in the UK. I liked getting to see some non- Gruffalo work, it’s just as enjoyable. His pictures are very vibrant, he manages to convey a lot of life and movement within them. I loved all of the little details in the pictures – I have a feeling many of them are nods to other books that Scheffler has illustrated but sadly I’m not currently familiar enough with his work to recognise them.

I’m really pleased to see that there are board book versions of the Pip and Posy stories, I think they will go down very well with friends to share with their young toddlers.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Book Review

PoP: Woolly by Sam Childs and The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Woolly by Sam Childs. Scholastic.
WoollyThe new baby mammoth is called Woolly, but she isn’t woolly. And she’s cold.

How will Woolly’s family keep her snug and cosy?

A mammoth tale of warmth and friendship.

Woolly a baby mammoth, born without the woolly coat her parents and brothers all sport. She’s born without a woolly coat – I must admit that my mammoth knowledge is minimal so I have no idea whether this was the norm or not. Woolly’s lack of woolly coat means she’s cold so her mummy comes up with different ways to keep her warm, but each one fails for one reason or another. My favourite of these was the beautiful feather coat.

The text is not a rhyming text, but I’d still recommend a run through before reading it aloud – there’s one sentence on the second double page in particular that is rather tongue twister like (Woolly’s brothers are called Willy and Wally…) There’s a nice familiar structure to the book that works really well for the type of story. The illustrations are nice, there are some lovely little details to spot throughout the book.

I enjoyed this book right up until the ending, I felt like I was missing a page of story. This was a real shame as it left me feeling a bit disappointed in the whole reading experience.

The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr. Harper Collins Children’s Books.
GreatGrannyGangHere come the fearless granny gang,
The youngerst eighty-two.
They leap down from their granny van,
And there’s nothing they can’t do.

I really don’t think you can go wrong with Judith Kerr, her stories are always entertaining, her rhymes make for lovely read aloud books and her illustrations are always warm and welcoming. The Great Granny Gang is no exception to any of these and it results in a gentle, entertaining read. I love that this book is about grannies who aren’t living boring lives – this bunch of octo- and nonagenarians are super cool and adventurous. I’d be really hard-pressed to choose a favourite granny, though Maud repairing roads with her pneumatic drill might take some beating!

I love the softness of Judith Kerr’s illustrations. The illustrations in this book are drawn and coloured using pencils, they’re truly lovely have a timeless feel, so in keeping with the age of the main characters. There are lots of action filled pictures in the book, these really do give the impression of movement for the characters. I liked spotting all of the little details in the pictures, there were so many things that made me smile.

A lovely read that definitely gets the thumbs up from me.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Book Review

Book Review: Squish McFluff: The Invisible Cat by Pip Jones & Ella Okstad.

imageAn imaginary friend is a wonderful thing.
What giggles! What games! What adventures they bring!
Well, Ava’s a girl who knows all about that…
Meet Squishy McFluff, her invisible cat!

This is an absolutely gorgeous early reader book. It is divided into three little chapters so is a little more in depth than a picture book (it’s also just over 70 pages long compared to the 32 most picture books are) but still has that utterly charming feel.

Each pair of pages contains just a few lines of dialogue, all rhyming, telling the story of how Ava finds Squishy McFluff and brings him into her family. Like all good imaginary friends Squishy McFluff is prone to a bit of mischief, causing a little havoc for Ava’s very understanding and welcoming parents. A few times I giggled out loud at the things they got up to.

Ella Oakstad’s illustrations are really very lovely. Their muted tones work very well, and they fit the text and feel of the book perfectly. To draw an invisible cat and convey its invisibility must be a challenge, but it’s one that is definitely achieved.

Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat is the first in a new series, I can see them becoming firm favourites. This trailer helps to show off the loveliness of the books:

Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat is published in the UK by Faber & Faber. Whilst I was provided with a copy of the book by the publisher all opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

PoP: Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew & Steggie’s Stammer by Jack Hughes.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew. Orchard Books.
KatieInScotlandKatie, Jack and Grandma are on holiday in Scotland! There’s lots to see and do, so where should they start? Loch Ness, of course! And when Nessie wants to join them on their holiday, fun is bound to follow!

Join Katie on her latest adventure as she discovers the wonderful delights that Scotland has to offer.

This is a fun, light-hearted read about Katie’s visit to Scotland. Within the first couple of pages she meets Nessie (for this is what the Loch Ness Monster asks them to call her) who proceeds to act as travel companion and sometimes tour guide. They take in the sights in both Glasgow and Edinburgh over the course of the book. It’s a good introduction to Scotland and could be a nice book to share before a family trip.

The illustrations in the book are lovely, they use a slightly soft palette which works well with the gentle story. I had a couple of favourite double page illustrations – early in the book there is a beautiful panorama of the Scottish landscape they are travelling through and then a little later there is a lovely night time view as they approach Edinburgh. The pictures have a timeless feel, whilst this book was first published only a couple of years ago it already has a classic feel to it.

This book is the twelfth book in the Katy series by James Mayhew, on the strength of this I’ll be looking out for the others on my future trips to the library.

Steggie’s Stammer by Jack Hughes. Wayland.
SteggieSteggie has a stammer and sometimes it takes her more time to get her words out. Her friends are in a hurry to play a game and they rush off without listening to her.

Before long, the friends get into trouble and it’s up to Steggie to rescue them. But will they listen to her advice?

I was drawn to this book both by its very appealing cover and it’s intriguing title. This book clearly was going to deal with stammering, something that affects lots of young children (about 5% of children go through a stammering phase with 1 in 5 of these being at risk of persistant stammering). I wondered how well it would manage the topic – there’s always a risk that books with such a specific purpose can be a little cheesy or worthy. Seeing that the Education Office for the British Stammering Association had acted as a consultant made me think it would probably avoid these pitfalls, I started to read with great hope.

The story is a simple one, Steggie and her friends are playing and her friends won’t give her the time she needs to speak instead interrupting and going off to do their own thing. This naturally goes wrong, and Steggie comes through to save the day with her friends learning that they need to listen to her and give her time to talk. The message is strong but does avoid feeling preachy, I think the book would definitely be enjoyed by its target age group. The illustrations are attractive, they often give the impression of being at least part done with wax crayons which gives them great child appeal.

Upon finishing the book I discovered that this is one book from a set of 4, Steggie’s 3 dinosaur friends all get their own book – I assume serving a similar purpose. I had noticed that Rex wore glasses and Dachy had a hearing aid, though must admit I didn’t spot Emmy’s eczema. I would imagine that these books would make a good addition to any childcare setting’s picture book collection.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Book Review

PoP: Captain Brainpower and the Mighty Mean Machine by Sam Lloyd & Black Dog by Levi Penfold.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Captain Brainpower and the Mighty Mean Machine by Sam Lloyd. Harper Collins Children’s Books.
CaptainBrainpowerHoley moley! There’s a new superhero in town!

Meet two very special toys: Captain Brainpower and Mojo Mouse. They’ve been thrown away at the rubbish dump where the Might Mean Machine has snatched Mojo for breakfast! Can Captain Brainpower activate his amazing super power and save Mojo from becoming mouse on toast?

3, 2, 1… Captain Brainpower to the rescue!

I really wanted to enjoy this book, its bright colourful cover had grabbed my attention and I loved the idea of having brainpower as a super power. Unfortunately I was left underwhelmed by the book, despite its short length it felt like the time spent reading it dragged.

The book is as colourful as its cover, if anything I found at times it was a little too colourful – the pages filled with bold colour shades sometimes felt a bit too busy. Some pages have a huge amount of detail, there would certainly be lots to talk about if reading it with just one or two children.

The story itself has all the elements that make a good picture book, the action starts straight away, there’s sufficient peril to keep the reader’s attention. I personally found that the middle section fell a bit flat – I would have expected to love seeing Captain Brainpower in action but unfortunately didn’t. I also didn’t like the name calling there was going on throughout the book and Captain Brainpower’s repeated utterances of “Holey Moley” and “Blooming Brains” – this made the character feel a little on the twee side.

All in all this was a book that sounded great but unfortunately failed to deliver for me. I have every confidence that it’ll work well for some young readers but it’s certainly not one I’d be rushing to add to my collection.

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold. Templar Publishing.
BlackDogAn enormous black dog and a very tiny little girl star in this offbeat tale about confronting one’s fears.

When a huge black dog appears outside the Hope family home, each member of the household sees it and hides. Only Small, the youngest Hope, has the courage to face the black dog, who might not be as frightening as everyone else thinks.

This book won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2013, awarded for distinguished illustration in a book for children. Having now read the book I can completely understand how it won, the illustrations are absolutely stunning. Every double page spread contains one large colour illustration and a number of small sepia toned illustrations. There is a real beauty and slightly unusual quality to the illustrations, they brought to mind the work of Shaun Tan – an illustrator whose work I adore.

The story is about a family who in turn see the black dog outside, each person who sees it describes it as bigger than the last person right up until Small, the youngest and tiniest member of the family, sees it and instead of hiding from it like her family members does exactly the opposite and goes to confront it. It shows how fear can be self generating, with each family member the fear of the dog becomes bigger and more exaggerated until Small refuses to be drawn into this, showing them that standing up to the thing they’re all afraid of is the way to conquer it.

Black Dog is a beautiful book which balances a big message with stunning illustrations, bringing a sense of whimsy to the whole reading experience. A definite new favourite book for me.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Book Review

PoP: When… by Emma Dodd & Where on Earth is the Moon? by Ruth Martin and Olivier Latyk.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

When… by Emma Dodd. Templar Publishing.
WhenIn ‘When’, a little bear shares his dreams of his future with his mother.

This is going to be a pretty short review, the book is a pretty short book. Coming in at 24 pages (many picture books are 32) and 76 words long this is a simple, beautiful rhyme that will work wonderfully as a book to share. The book is narrated by the little bear, and is him telling his mother what he wants to be when he grows up. These aren’t ambitions like wanting to be an astronaut or a hunter, they are instead ambitions of the type of bear he wants to be.

The illustrations are as simple and beautiful as the text. Every illustration is a double page spread featuring the mama bear and baby bear together, the colours used are restricted to a small number on each page and gold foil is used to great effect on every other illustration. The bears themselves have texture added to their fur (I think by use of a sponge but I’m not particularly arty) that works very well.

The copy of the book I read was a paperback copy but it also exists as a board book. I think as a board book it would make a lovely addition to a present for a new baby, it’s certainly a book I’m going to be giving away plenty of times.

Where on Earth is the Moon? by Ruth Martin & Olivier Latyk (illustrator). Templar Publishing.
WhereOnEarthA bedtime adventure for sleepy little explorers everywhere.

Luna loves to look at the Moon each night before she drifts off to sleep, but she wonders where it goes during the day. While she dreams, her imagination takes her on a journey as she searches far and wide for where the Moon could possibly go when the Sun is out.

This is a really lovely picture book that will be enjoyed by young children with the attention span to sit and listen to a slightly more detailed story. It’s about a young girl, perhaps Reception year aged, who is fascinated by the moon and wonders where it is when she can’t see it during the day. I really enjoyed her attempts to stay awake all night and watch where it disappears to, and the various places she imagined it might be hiding.

The text itself is very detailed, it’s laden with adjectives and alliterations which result in a pretty rich read (ignoring the temptation to drop lots of alliterations into this review is surprisingly hard). I think if you were going to be reading this aloud you’d probably need a few practice runs as a result of the very detailed text.

The illustrations work really well with the text. They’re very modern looking, the lines and colours are crisp. This paired with the more handwritten style of font balance the detailed text very nicely. I was interested by the way rich turquoises and teals are used as a result of the many night time scenes and yet the book feels warm. The only thing I wasn’t completely sold on was the double page spread that paired turquoise text with a black page. It looks very striking but I found it wasn’t so easy to read.

A final thought I must share is how pleased I was to see a space / science themed story with a female main character. This was a really nice change and made me love the book even more.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Book Review

PoP: Belle & Boo and the Yummy Scrummy Day by Mandy Sutcliffe and Cats Ahoy! by Peter Bently & Jim Field.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Belle & Boo and the Yummy Scrummy Day by Mandy Sutcliffe (text by Gillian Shields). Orchard Books.
BelleBooIt’s time to eat, but how can Belle convince Boo that fruit and vegetables are as tasty as cake?

Enter the charming world of Belle and Boo, a bob-haired little girl and her adorable bunny friend. Follow the adventures of this curious pair as they enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood, drawing us into a magical world of imagination and discovery.

Boo is hungry, but he only wants to eat cake. That is until Belle finds a clever way to convince him that fruit and vegetables are just as tasty, and can be a lot more fun. And because this is Belle and Boo, there is an adventure or two along the way.

This delightful tale with vintage-inspired illustrations is perfect for fans of Beatrix Potter, Winnie the Pooh and Milly-Molly-Mandy.

I’ve known of the Belle & Boo books for a while, but they’re always out on loan from my local library so when I spotted this one I grabbed it before anyone else could. The big draw of these books for me is the gorgeous illustrations. They’re described as vintage-inspired which is pretty accurate, I think I might add timeless too. The illustrations are very attractive, their somewhat muted colour palette adds a warmth to the book.

The story itself is a simple one. Boo (the rabbit) is a big fan of cake and doesn’t want to eat other things for a wonderful variety of reasons (I loved the description of the boiled egg as “too eggy” – this is one I’ve heard more than once from people). Belle encourages him to help to pick some tasty fruit and vegetables and slowly brings him round to the idea of eating them. The solution is a simple but entertaining one, I think it’ll please children and adults alike.

My only slight disappointment with this book came from the recipe print included at the end of the book. The whole point of the story is that Belle’s trying to encourage Boo to try foods that aren’t cake or cookies, she makes soup and baked apples. The recipe isn’t for either of these though, it’s for spiced biscuits – to me this doesn’t fit. I’m sure the biscuits are lovely, and the recipe card is illustrated beautifully but it isn’t what I was hoping for.

Cats Ahoy by Peter Bently & Jim Field (illustrator). Macmillan Children’s Books.
CatsAhoyWhen Alfonso the cat hears there’s a boat coming into harbour carrying its largest ever catch, he hatches a plan. It’s brave! It’s bold! And it involves a ghost pirate ship, some rather gullible fishermen, and cats … LOTS of cats. With an infectious rhyming text and laugh-out-loud illustrations, this book is set to become a firm favourite for fans of life on the high seas.

Winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2011: a swashbuckling tale of pirate plunder, derring do and a huge haul of haddock!

This is a really fun read, it is a rhyming text that lends itself brilliantly to reading aloud. The blurb above is a pretty comprehensive account of the story held within the book, I don’t want to add any more for fear of spoiling the reading experience. I loved the choice of cats for pirates, it makes a lot of sense and allows for some lovely word play towards the end of the book.

I loved the illustrations, they’re richly coloured and contain so many clever little details. I liked the variety of page layouts within the book, particularly one double spread that is divided into 4 vertical sections. The cats themselves are a wonderful bunch, lots of different shapes and sizes and colours, I’m sure readers who own a cat will be able to spy one the looks similar to their cat.

Having looked at the author’s website I see he wrote King Jack and the Dragon, a picture book very different to this one that I absolutely loved when I read it. Clearly this an author whose style I enjoy a lot, expect to see more of his books appearing in these posts!

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.