November reads for children

Hi all. Well that’s it for November. It’s been a pretty mental month. We opened 3 new shows in work and I have been out pretty much every night working. As a chorister in a Opera company, the fact that I hate having a show every night is a major flaw. As a mum with young kids it’s pretty pants. I take the girls to school and nursery in the morning and am often gone before they get back . I feel like the worst mum at drop off saying “see you tomorrow morning Edie.” God knows what the teachers think I do for a living. Because I am not doing proper mothering during the day, my girls are constantly waking up at about 3 am and looking for some mum time. I feel and look a little like a zombie.

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker.
  • Bram Stoker born 8th November 1847.

A dramatic retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic horror story retold for children ready to tackle longer and more complex stories. Jonathan Harker has no idea of the horrors that await him in Castle Dracula. An ancient evil is alive and hungry for new blood. Can Jonathan and his friends defeat it? Part of the Usborne Reading Programme developed with reading experts at the University of Roehampton.

We read this at the beginning of the month when Edie was still on a high from Halloween. My daughter is all about the scares and I remember being similar at her age. Witches, ghosts, vampires all completely intrigued me. Edie is also a sucker (๐Ÿคฃ) for a love story and that is essentially what Dracula is about. I think if you want to introduce your kids to a little scary then as long as good triumphs over evil then all is well. I would also like to do a big shout out to the Usborne Young Reader books. They are utterly brilliant. The titles are very varied, the illustrations are fabulous and thanks to this range I have introduced Edie to some brilliant Classics which I hope she will love forever.

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman.
  • Neil Gaiman born 10th November 1960.

There is something strange about Coraline’s new home. It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It’s the other house – the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.

Gaiman is an author I only really started to get into last year. The Ocean and the End of the Lane was my favourite book last year. I think Edie is a little young for this (although I did read a review of a 4 year old boy who listened to it on audio and loved it). I think we will try it in a year or two.

Coraline is a great heroine and a great role model for kids…..

โ€œBecause,โ€™ she said, โ€˜when youโ€™re scared but you still do it anyway, thatโ€™s brave.โ€

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Coraline is quirky, independent, adventurous, intelligent and curious. Gaiman is a master at writing non-condescending books that appeal to adults as well as children. I also applaud the fact that he doesnโ€™t shy away from the creepy… I often feel that as parents we are so scared of our kids being scared. Edie definitely handles creepy things like a pro. I think as parent I am happy for Edie to read something a little scary as long as there is no gratuitous violence and also makes the point that good can conquer evil. I donโ€™t want her to feel that the horror can continue. In Coraline, Gaiman does just that.

  • Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough.
  • Jez Alborough born 12th November 1959.

All dogs walk and jump and run, but dogs don’t fly – it can’t be done…can it? Jez Alborough’s uplifting tale will fly off the page and straight into the hearts of anyone who has ever, just for a second, stopped believing in miracles.

Some Dogs Do is a fave in our house. When asking Ceci (3) what she likes about it, she said she likes it because itโ€™s sad. Morose little thing that she is. Itโ€™s not particularly sad but as Sid loses his self belief, he finds that he can no longer fly. ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

Edieโ€™s review was just as entertaining. โ€œItโ€™s a book of lies mummy. Dogs cannot fly.โ€ ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

Anyway, I guess that was Alboroughโ€™s point. Dream big little ones. Lovely book, lovely rhymes, pictures and message.

  • The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles M Schulz.
  • Charles M Schulz born 26th November 1922.

Celebrate Halloween with Linus, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang in this shaped board book with holographic foil on the front cover!

Linus loves one thing more than his cherished blue blanket: The Great Pumpkin! He believes that on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch to bring presents to all the kids in the world. Will Linus and his friends ever finally see him? Learn all about the legend of the Great Pumpkin in this adorable board book based on the classic Peanuts comic strips!

Thanks to Birthday Reads I am trying to make a real point of introducing myself and the children to authors born in the current month. As a result there have been some hits….The Secret Garden (Oct) and also some misses….The Selfish Giant which I loved but Edie thought was boring (Oct). There have also been some misses for me. I canโ€™t stand The Rhyming Rabbit by Julia Donaldson (Sept). My husband and I both try to scarper when Ceci requests this. ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ

Unfortunately The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles Schulz (Nov 26th) is another miss from me. Yes itโ€™s seasonal, but the story is utter pap. Schulz himself seems to get bored of his writing and finishes the book without resolving the already tenuous storyline.๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ Anyway, thanks to that Law of Sod, Cilla ADORES it. When asking her why, she says because itโ€™s scary (itโ€™s not) and exciting (itโ€™s not). ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ

Happy Birthday for the 26th Mr Schulz. ๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚

And the last book of the month and the biggest hit…….

  • The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith.

The book behind the viral internet sensation of “The Scottish Granny” reading this story to her grandchild, viewed over 3 million times.ย Based on the popular song, THE WONKY DONKEY has sold over one million copies worldwide.ย Who ever heard of a spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey?ย This hilarious picture book will have children – and adults – braying with laughter!

One for the grown ups more than the kids I think. Ozzie (my husband) would admit to not being a lover of books. For him to enjoy reading to the kids it has to be a funny one. I think the pic shows how much he enjoyed it. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

The Wonkey Donkey started out as a bit of a YouTube sensation of a Scottish grandma reading it to her grandson. It really is hilarious.

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Anyway thank you Craig Smith and Katz Cowley, this is utterly hilarious.

November Beauty

Where the hell has November gone????? It seems like Bonfire Night was yesterday. This month has been utterly crazy and the image of me on a hamster wheel definitely springs to mind. We have opened 3 shows in the last month and at the moment we have shows every night. As a self confessed product whore, I have to say I feel a little make-upped-out and I would definitely benefit from 3 consecutive days of not smearing it all over my face. Anyway Christmas is coming and during that happy time when everyone is piling on the glitter and shimmer, my poor husband is going to have to gaze at my make-up free face….poor bastard.

  • Patchology Flashmasque.

I was really pleased to receive these sheet masques from Patchology which is a company I had never heard of but stock in Space NK. You can buy them individually for ยฃ8 or a pack of 4 costs ยฃ28. The great thing is that each masque targeted a specific problem and the BEST thing is that they claim to work in only 5 minutes. This is perfect for me as sheet masques and I usually aren’t the greatest of mates. I very rarely (never) make time to just lie down with a masque on for 15 mins so a 5 min fix definitely had me intrigued.

  • Milk Peel.
  • This contains coconut and soy milk to moisturise, and soothing papaya, grapefruit and pineapple enzymes. Don’t let the word ‘peel’ put you off as it is suitable for sensitive skin. I really liked it. Skin looked glowy and felt moisturised after use and literally only 5 minutes!!!!!! There is tons of product on the masque so afterwards you can rub it in. I did it last thing at night and my skin looked great the next day.
    • Soothe
  • Contains aloe vera and cotton seed extract to calm inflamed skin and a lovely combination of lavender, rosemary and sage to soothe irritations. I kept thinking when I was using this that it would be wonderful straight out of the fridge onto sunburned skin .
    • Hydrate
  • So, as a bit of a beauty junkie I am slightly embarrassed to say that my discovery this year has been hyaluronic acid. How had I not used it before??? Shaming. Anyway if something contains it, I buy it. This masque is full of it and vitamin B5. I probably kept this on for about 15 mins: mum of two, full on job….I need all the help I can get right?!?!? Immediate results after using to the point that I almost felt tempted to take my primark pjs off and go out on the rave. Came to my senses pretty quickly but my skin felt like a baby’s bum (a clean one) and looked dewy and healthy.
    • Illuminate
  • Contains Licorice and grapefruit seed extract. Probably my fave out of the bunch. Honestly these masques are saturated with product to the point that they drip…really lovely. Skin looked glowing and hydrated after use and I actually had some comments!!!!
    • Skin Brilliance and Skin Revive by Beauty & Go. ยฃ3.99/bottle.

    When I was asked to review these drinks from beautyandgo I admit to being a little sceptical. Would it be different than all the other โ€˜healthyโ€™ juices out there??๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค๐Ÿฅค

    I think maybe they might be. I tried REVIVE and BRILLIANCE. Both tasted good, particularly having been in the fridge but BRILLIANCE tasted of Turkish delight which was particularly lush.

    They contain ingredients such as collagen, vitamin C and hyaluronic (honestly this stuff is everywhere at the moment) and aim to hydrate and combat wrinkles.

    Ok, so I only had two and the idea is to have 1 a day but I am definitely going to pop into Boots on my way to work and grab one of these instead of my usual Starbucks.

    Defo worth a try.

    • Max Factor Radiant Lift Foundation. ยฃ14.99.

    I frequently use Nars, Clinique and Mac foundations and this foundation stands up to any of these brands. I work in the theatre and this foundation lasted for a whole rehearsal and a show. The coverage was great, didnโ€™t sink in my pores and made my skin look glowy and radiant.

    • Max Factor Radiant Lift Concealer. ยฃ9.99.

    I loved the colour and consistency of this concealer. It was light enough not to sit, clogged in my fine lines but also did a great job at concealing my dark circles. My issue is with the applicator as I think it is imprecise and really wasteful. I have been using this concealer for a week now and already the tube is almost empty.

    Thanks for reading this month and ask for some Hyaluronic Acid serum from Father Christmas.

    Children’s Reads for September

    I have decided from now on to do something different with my blog. Each month, ย I am going to focus on books whose authors were born or died during that month. There will be some exceptions like when I have a specific book to review or I am just so excited to share a book with you all. I will also be doing this in my posts about adult books. One thing I have noticed, is that with a lot of modern book releases, it is hard to find a date of birth of some authors, so apologies that during some months, I may have to bend the rules.

    • Jane Hissey. 1st September 1952.
    • Ruff

    A woolly dog bounces into the playroom with no name and no home. But worst of all, he says he has never had a birthday! Luckily, Old Bear and the other toys are bursting with brilliant birthday ideas for their new-found friend.

    I remember reading these books with my sister when we were children. Picking them up again 30 years on and they haven’t aged at all. Both my girls enjoyed the books – Edith (5) more than Ceci (3). The pictures are absolutely stunning and Edie loved reading about Old Bear and Ruff to her school of toys.

    • Julia Donaldson. 16th September
    • The Snail and the Whale

    One little snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of an enormous whale. Together they go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it’s the tiny snail’s big plan that saves the day!

    I think The Snail and the Whale is one of my fave Donaldson books. I love the sentiment that no matter how small you are, you can still do amazing, brave things. Also how humbling it is to be aware of the size and magnificence ofย our planet. Its impossible to mention Julia Donaldson without a massive nod to Axel Scheffler. I say his name and a rock star image is conjured up…..Axl Rose. Scheffler is nowt like Axl Rose ๐Ÿ˜‚. His illustrations are completely epic. Really engaging and there are always lovely little details to spot. Ceci (2) loved looking for the tiny snail in every picture.

    • The Detective Dog

    There once was a dog with a keen sense of smell.
    She was known far and wide as Detective Dog Nell.

    Peterโ€™s dog Nell has an amazing sense of smell. Her ever-sniffing nose is always hard at work solving mysteries and finding all Peterโ€™s lost toys. But Nell has other talents too . . .

    When sheโ€™s not cracking cases, Nell goes to school with Peter and listens to the children read. Books about dinosaurs, books about space and even books about dogs โ€“ Nell loves them all! But one day Peter and Nell arrive at school to find all the books have disappeared! Who could have taken them, and why? Luckily, Detective Dog Nell, with help from the whole class, is ready to sniff out the thief!

    Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by the multi-talented illustrator and print-maker Sara Ogilvie, The Detective Dog is a fast-paced celebration of books, reading, libraries and the relationship between a little boy and his rather special dog.

    The story is about Nell the Detective Dog who helps a class hunt down a book thief. Ted (the thief) is overjoyed to discover that he can borrow books for free from his library. His stealing days are over!!!

    Any book that promotes the use of libraries is top banana! As children, my sister and I were taken to the library a lot. As a mum, I go at least once a week…storytime, rhyme time and just taking books out. I remember, as a child being so excited to take 8 books home. Playing librarians was a common childhood game. I used to be intrigued by the barcode scanner….this has now lost its joy when I am standing at the self checkout in Sainsburyโ€™s and the scanner goes on the blink.

    For a book to be a hit for Edie and Ceci, the story has to be fast paced, exciting, brilliant pictures with tons to look at and it is a massive bonus if the word โ€˜pooโ€™ appears. โ€˜Pooโ€™ makes an appearance on page 2 so my discerning girls are happy. Is is also important to say that Sarah Ogilvieโ€™s pictures are fab with tons to spot. Brilliant book. Happy Birthday Month Julia Donaldson!

    • Eric Hill September 7th.

    Eric Hill OBE. What a legend. Born in 1927. The Spot books have been translated into 60 languages. It is reported that he said “children have far more intelligence and style than many adults credit them with.”

    This book is a special copy for me. My dad bought it for my eldest daughter Edith, on a shopping trip. It means so much because it is always Nana who spoils my children, bringing them presses and cakes. This was a gift chosen by ‘Pampa’ with no input from Nana, so to me, it is very special.

    • The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield.

    One day, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before in the forest. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument, and eventually the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods. The bear goes with them on an incredible journey to New York, where his piano playing makes him a huge star. He has fame, fortune and all the music in the world, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind. A moving tale of exploration and belonging from an exciting debut author-illustrator.

    This book is very loved in our family. My sister bought it for Edith and it has been one of those books that I buy for all my friend’s children. The sentiment behind the story is beautiful: your true friends will support and encourage you in your talents without envy. Your true friends will let you spread your wings and fly and when your heart leads you home, your family will be there with open arms. Edie, Ceci and I had a funny chat about things that make us so happy you forget where you are….Edie – sweets and Ceci – her dummy. Nothing as profound as music. ๐Ÿ˜‚. As an over emotional musician, I find the book ridiculously moving. Edie tells me off for crying at the end! The illustrations are so beautiful. Can’t wait to read the next book The Bear, the piano, the dog and the fiddle.

    • Hide and Seek by Taro Gomi

    In the tradition of classic hidden pictures, international favorite Taro Gomi slyly infuses his dynamic original art with objects that don’t go where they belong. A crocodile’s grin is a toothbrush; a butterfly’s dots are hearts. Young readers will delight to find the unexpected treasures hidden in the brightly coloured illustrations.

    My little Cecilia/ceci/Cilla. I can’t say she lives in her sister’s shadow. Ceci is a force to be reckoned with, but when it comes to choosing the films we watch or the books we read, her older sister often overrules. At 3, she has grow out of the brilliantย That’s not my….series and the constant asking for Peppa does get a little boring. Ceci does however love this book by Taro Gomi. Gomi is a very famous Japanese author. Ceci loves spotting the everyday objects hidden in the animals . If you are ever looking for a good book for a little one, give this a go.

    • Dr Seuss. Died 24th September 1991.
    • Horton Hears a Who

    Horton the kindly elephant has his work cut out saving the tiny Whos who live on a speck of dust โ€“ no one else believes they are there! But Horton eventually convinces everyone that, โ€˜a personโ€™s a person, no matter how smallโ€™!

    โ€˜A personโ€™s a person, no matter how small..โ€™

    Horton the elephant sets out to save the inhabitants of a speck of dust, in this classic and hilarious tale about friendship and respect, from the inimitable Dr. Seuss.

    Born Theodore Seuss โ€œTedโ€ Geisel in 1904, he wrote and illustrated over 60 childrenโ€™s books. In our house Horton is a massive favourite. Edie loves the book and the Jim Carrey film. The message in the book โ€˜a personโ€™s a person no matter how smallโ€™ combined with the idea that if people work together as a group they have the strength to change things is so important and relevant to teach to our children.

    Hilariously, the Grinch cartoon is on our tv very frequently. It is watched at least once a month so we feel festive all year round. Edie is obsessed with the scene when the grinch does his massive smile. Dr Seuss you are a legend. Thank you.

    • T.S. Eliot. 26th September
    • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

    Happy 130th Birthday T.S. Eliot. Old Possumโ€™s Book of Practical Cats was written in 1939. Cats was one of the first shows I ever saw in the West End. I remember the band starting and literally just crying I was so excited. I remember really wanting to be the white cat. I found it on YouTube the other day and Edie was utterly entranced. She now knows all the words to Jellicle Cats. For me though, Gus is my favourite. I bought this book, illustrated by the legendary Axel Scheffler quite recently. Itโ€™s a brilliant way to get kids into poetry.

    Happy Birthday to Stan Berenstain. One half of the Stan and Jan duo who wrote the Berenstain Bears. I think these books might be relatively rare over here in the UK. My sister and I discovered them when we were children and we were on holiday in Canada. Our older cousins loved them. Interestingly, they were inspired by the Dr Seuss books. The Berenstainโ€™s wanted to write a series which focused on the issues parents faced. They were criticised for not moving with the times but I think this is part of the charm. Too Much Birthday has a very special place in my heart and is a phrase my parents used to use when we got a bit over emotional at our parties. Edie loved it as she is the same age as Sister Bear. She now wants a birthday party with ponies and a carousel. I remember feeling exactly the same after reading it at her age.

    Thank you so much for reading. See more updates on Instagram @ellamkpbooks. Next month, I am going to combine some birthday reads with some spooky favourites. Edith loves a good scare.

    Itโ€™s the little things…..

    Today I woke up with a funny feeling….positivity. Sadly and worryingly this is something I rarely feel. Granted it’s a Saturday and the day didn’t begin with the mad rush of school uniform, arguments about hairstyles and temperature of porridge but today I honestly feel good.

    Due to this mad feeling of euphoria, I think it’s important that I write down why it is that I feel good.

    So……..

    • I went out for a drink last night after the show. Usually I can’t be arsed and I just want to go to my bed but the key here is that it was a spontaneous drink. I happened to see a friend on my way out of the theatre who suggested a drink and I thought ‘yup.’ I didn’t have time to talk myself out of it by mentally listing the reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. I just went and I laughed and I had fun with my friends.
    • My children let my sleep this morning. Due to my inconsistent working hours my children definitely lack routine. Each week is different and my kids definitely suffer as a result of it. Sometimes I can pick them up from school, sometimes not. Sometimes I have a day at home, sometimes not. As a result, the girls are MEGA clingy. When I am home they want me. It’s lovely and I know there will be a time when they are indifferent but at the moment when they are both under 5 and struggling with the concept of sharing, I literally feel pulled in all directions. Today, however they went downstairs with daddy with no tears and I slept!!!!
    • I went for a run. Yet again this word spontaneous is going to pop up. I didn’t have time to talk myself out of it. I went into the sunshine and just ran. Maybe that is the thing….as a parent who works full time, spontaneity is word that is never used. Mums have no time for spontaneity. I know parenting is something we signed up for and I love it, but having the freedom to be spontaneous is really important. I could have spent the morning cleaning my fridge and hoovering (which was on my to do list) but I did something for me and it felt freeing and invigorating.
    • I went to the charity shop and bought tons of lovely books.
    • Today I have a matinee and no evening show. This is a major thing. Tonight I will have a ‘normal’ Saturday night with my husband. We will get a takeaway and watch a movie. This is not something to be sniffed at. There is something slightly depressing coming into work on a Friday night. Going up the escalator at Charing Cross and watching all the other people with that ‘Friday Feeling’ heading down the escalator to go home for their weekend is strange. I love my job and I am very lucky but weekends aren’t weekends when you are going into work. You miss your family and friends.
    • I found an unused ยฃ20 off voucher in my ASOS account. WIN.

    So as a result, occasionally being spontaneous is wonderful for my mental health. I will have to remember this but ironically I will have to remember that I can’t plan to be spontaneous.

    Have a lovely weekend.

    Four New Childrenโ€™s Books

    I have been lucky enough to have been sent 4 children’s books to review this month. I absolutely love reviewing kids titles as Edith (4.5) takes the job really seriously. She is in her first year of school and has just started reading so to ask her opinions on new books makes her feel really important. Ceci (2.5) doesn’t seem to understand a lot of the stories but she always seems to pick out something that Edith and I hadn’t noticed.

    The Wardrobe Monster by Bryony Thomson

    What’s that knocking sound coming from the wardrobe? Every night, it makes Dora and her toy friends afraid to go to bed and every morning they are grumpy through lack of sleep. Eventually, they summon up the courage to face their fear together and open the wardrobe door…what falls out provides a humorous and reassuring story for all children who imagine monsters in the darkness.

    Bryony Thomson is a Surrey based illustrator and writer. The Wardrobe Monster is her first book.

    Both my daughters LOVED this book. What’s not to love???? There is the scare factor….the monster in the wardrobe and there is pink. This shouldn’t put boys off the book but there is a fair bit of pink. Dora’s hair is a tremendous shade of pink which has caused a few arguments with Edith (4.5) who thinks she should now have pink hair. I have to say that the pink is a lovely addition to the pictures and it really makes the colours pop. As soon as Ceci (2.5) saw the monster, she decided that because he was green and pink he couldn’t really be scary.

    Edith was a big fan of the penguin who spends a lot of the book watching the proceedings and blinking. As the adult, the penguin was definitely my favourite character.

    This book deals with the ever present night fears in a brilliant, unpatronising way. Firstly, we all laughed at the excuses Dora uses to delay going to bed. ‘I do that mummy’ were the cries from both my girls. The idea that the Wardrobe Monster was scared of noises coming from outside his wardrobe was fabulous. Ceci ย was very concerned that he was lonely and now, the whole idea of night terrors has been turned on its head.

     

    Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords by Laura Ellen Anderson

    Amelia Fang is the biggest hearted vampiress you’ll ever meet. In this adventure, she and her friends Florence the yeti (DON’T CALL HER BEAST), Grimaldi the Death and Prince Tangine (reformed spoiled sprout), along with her pet pumpkin Squashy, must brave the journey to the terrifying Kingdom of the Light to try to find Tangine’s missing mother, Queen Fairyweather.

    But with unicorns, fairies and angel-kittens lurking around every corner, who can they trust? And will they finally uncover the real villain keeping the kingdoms of Light and Dark as mortal enemies?

    Join Amelia on her latest adventure. She won’t bite!

    This gloriously ghostly new series from the creator of EVIL EMPEROR PENGUIN ย is perfect for 7-9 year olds and fans of THE WORST WITCH and WITCH WARS. Amelia Fang is a modern Wednesday Addams – but much more loveable!

    This was a hit in our house with my 4.5 year old and her 7 year old cousin. Edith (4.5) loved the fact that it looked like a ‘big girls book.’ I thought it was beautifully presented with purple edged paper and shiny purple on the front cover. We all loved the very Tim Burtonesque illustrations. In fact, my 2.5 year old LOVED the pictures. Particularly Amelia’s teeth, Florence and Fabio.

    All the girls are massive fans of Hotel Transylvania so they are used to the idea of vampires as comedy characters but the addition of fairies, pumpkins and unicorns meant the girls were in magical heaven.

    I read the book aloud to my 5 year old. I made some simplifications but it is great to read to kids….ample opportunity for a funny voice. Emily (7) read it herself and she loved it. The chapter lengths are short enough to feel she is making progress and there is enough action and pictures to hold interest. Another massive hit were the fart, poo, sweat and pus gags. It shouldn’t be underestimated how much these appeal to kids….when Squashy pooed down the well, Edith cried with laughter.

    Erik the Lone Wolf by Sarah Finan

    Erik had had enough of the wolf pack and it’s silly rules. “That’s it!”he muttered to himself. “I’m going to be a lone wolf.” And when no one was looking, he walked away.

    Now nothing could stop Erik having fun…could it?

    This book is about Erik, a young wolf who is sick of being told what to do and always being surrounded by his pack. So one day he decides to go it alone. He has a great time until he falls down a crevasse (quite a complicated word for children). He realises that he can’t climb out and just when he was starting to get scared, the wolf pack show up and rescue him, proving that he no longer wants to be alone.

    Interestingly, on our initial reading of this book, Edith was very concerned that Erik had decided to leave his family. She seemed upset that Erik was on his own (even though in the beginning, Erik was quite happy). Edith is quite clingy so the idea that Erik would choose to leave his pack seemed totally alien to her. She almost seemed smug when Erik fell down the crevasse…..”see mummy…bad things happen if you run away.” She was really relieved when the pack arrived to rescue Erik. Ceci ย was the complete opppsite. She LOVED Erik on his skis, doing what he wanted with no one to stop him. I guess that just goes to show how independent younger siblings often are.

    Lovely, heartwarming story with beautiful illustrations.

    Baby Bird by Andrew Gibbs and Zosienka

    โ€˜All birds are born to fly,โ€™ thinks Baby Bird, watching the other hatchlings leave the nest. โ€˜I suppose itโ€™s now or neverโ€ฆโ€™ But one of Babyโ€™s wings is twisted and shrunken and not at all like the other one. Instead of flying, Baby plummets to the ground. There, Baby makes a new friend, and learns that sometimes you have to find unexpected ways to achieve your dreams.

    Both the girls enjoyed this story. Ceci (2.5) really enjoyed the pictures. Finding the caterpillar on the first page is her new game. She also loved the birds eating the worm. Ceci and I had lots of conversations revolving about Baby Bird hurting himself. “Ouch” has been a very overused word when discussing this book. Ceci fell off her scooter yesterday and she told me she was like Baby Bird.

    Edith got onto the deeper meaning of the story….we are not all the same, some are better at some things than others. However, she was sad that Baby Bird couldn’t fly with her brothers and sisters and I have to say that I agree with her. The idea that Baby Bird practised and practised and was still unable to fly was a little depressing, particularly when that was combined with his family flying away.

    Having said all of that, the illustrations are completely beautiful. We particularly liked the birds eye view of the countryside.

    Childrenโ€™s books

    FERGAL IS FUMING by Robert Starling

    A dragon with a short temper is not a good combination, as Fergal’s family and friends soon find out. He burns the dinner (literally), reduces the football goal to ashes and absolutely cannot play a nice, quiet board game. It is only when he starts to notice other animals have clever tricks to calm down that Fergal begins to win back his friends, especially when he discovers dragons can cool off in a very handy way.

    Robert Starling is a Bristol based author and teacher. He has been sketching characters since he was at school. This is his first book.

    I read this book to both my daughters. Ceci is 2.5 and Edith is 4.5. Both girls adored it and both of them, Like Fergal have VERY quick tempers.

    Firstly, they both loved the front cover. Ceci in particular thought is was hilarious that Fergal had burned a whole through the book. We had quite a fun discussion about what made Fergal so angry that he had to burn our copy of the book and if it was just our book he had burned or ‘every book in the whole wide world.’

    The pictures are lovely. The pages aren’t too busy which I often find can distract children when reading a new book. There is no feeling of sensory overload. Both girls were very interested in Fergal becoming angry when he was called to have his tea, and the cry of “it’s not fair” when being asked to eat their vegetables is very common in our house. As a result both girls identified with Fergal so the message of the story (finding a way to calm yourself down when things annoy you) was very pertinent. Edith decided she liked the idea of counting…”counting to 10 isn’t long enough for me mummy. I need to count to 70.” ย Ceci has now decided to dance when she gets angry.

    It is also worth mentioning that Ceci really liked the pictures of Fergal’s mum and dad. She was particularly affected by the picture of Fergal crying and his mum comforting him.

    Brilliant book and a new favourite in our house.

     

    TEACUP HOUSE. MEET THE TWITCHES by Hayley Scott. Illustrated by Pippa Curnick

    Meet the Twitches, four tiny rabbits who live inside a Teacup House.

    They belong to a girl called Stevie and she loves playing with them. But guess what? These toy rabbits have a secret. They come alive when Stevie isn’t looking!

    Open up the Teacup House – and meet four little rabbit heroes with big ideas!

    Meet the Twitchesย is the first book in the Twitches series by Norfolk based author Hayley Scott, published by Usborne. The Illustrations are by Derbyshire based illustrator, Pippa Curnick.

    I read this aloud to my 4 year old over a period of five nights and we both really enjoyed it. The book layout is fantastic. Loads of different fonts, lists, spacing which kept my daughter entertained. She is just learning to read, and enjoyed sounding out the words in bold print…jump, boom, bump, ouch, thwack etc. The illustrations are also absolutely brilliant. Lovely, bold and bright colours. We both particularly loved the pictures of the garden and the hairy spider.

    The story had just the right amount of magic and adventure. There are few things better than seeing a child excited by a book and each night we stopped reading, Edith really wanted to find out what was going to happen next. Edith really loved the heroine, Silver. She was very impressed that the little girl rabbit rescued her daddy. ‘She is very brave, grown up and clever.’

    Lovely book and perfect to read aloud.

     

    4 Very varied book reviews.

    It has been yonks since I put up some book reviews and the irony/impropriety of reviewing a children’s book, a parenting guide, a wine guide and a book of poetry based on depression is not lost on me. If this grouping of books offends you, please stop reading now. Interestingly, I did not plan to read these books around the same time but for me, they are beautifully linked. I am a parent to two girls under five, I have depression and I really like a glass of wine. There, all linked and packaged up with a nice bow.

    A LION IS A LION by POLLY DUNBAR

    Is a lion still a lion if…he wears a hat? And carries an umbrella, too?

    And is a lion still a lion if he says, “Oh yes, lunch would be lovely, thank you.”

    And he asks you for…a BITE?

    Firstly, I would like to say how much my daughters and I loved Polly Dunbar’s illustrations. My 4 year old told me ‘they were easy to understand.’ I think by this she means that the pages weren’t so busy that her 4 year old brain suffered with sensory overload. I often find books for children are so full of bright colours, big words, all singing and all dancing that children are so distracted that they lose the thread of the story. Not so with the book. The pictures are simple and beautifully drawn. My children and I particularly likes the ‘danger moments.’ This is when the lion decides he would quite like to eat the children in the story. Cleverly, Dunbar uses the colour red as a page background which prompted a lot of discussion with my 4 year old about red meaning danger. She is apparently steering clear of red food for a while. The message behind this book is also really empowering to children, particularly before bedtime. If something scares you/tries to eat you….chuck it out of your house and tell it ‘No! No! No! NO!’ This is a lovely book, really enjoyed by my 2 and 4 year old.

    My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book.

    I initially requested this ARC because I want to read more poetry. I am sorry to admit that I am a bit of a novice when it comes to reading poetry and my vision of it is fuelled by memories of plodding through A Level poetry which I often found tedious. So far, in my tasting menu of poetry, I am really enjoying modern poetry and I thought the subject matter of Benhaim’s new book of poems would definitely be something I could relate to.

    Benhaim, is not a poet I am familiar with so before embarking on her collection I sat down with a cuppa and got onto Google. I was hoping to find a Wikipedia post giving me some background. This was unfortunately not to be. Instead, I became immersed into the world of Slam Poetry. To Slam Poetry virgins like myself, Slam is a competition which originated in 1984 in Chicago. It was intended as a way to move poetry away from stuffy libraries and bring it out to audiences. Poets take to the microphone and compete against other poets. Slam poetry is Benhaim’s background. It is worth watching her perform her poem ‘Explaining my depression to my mother, a conversation.’ This video has been viewed 6 million times on Youtube.

    Having watched everything of Benhaim’s I could find, I embarked on her book. I loved these poems. So many of them spoke to me and even though the main subject matter is depression, a had a wry smile on my face as so much of what she said made sense to me:

    In some stories,

    the protagonist has to kill the bad thing to

    release its light.

    in my story,

    I am the protagonist & the bad thing,

    I have to learn how to bend the light out of myself.

    I can do that magic.

    So many beautiful thoughts and ways of expressing them. I think my favourite poems were ‘How to fold a memory’ – her words created such wonderful and fragile imagery. ‘Another plain truth,”poem for the moment after you left,”so my friend tells me she identifies as a mermaid,”feed a fever, starve a cold,’ ‘what I told the doctor, the second time,’

    These poems, short stories really came alive to me after having watched how she performs. I completely have her voice in my head and it really helped my to get used to her conversational style.

    A really wonderful book of poetry and I will definitely recommend it to others.

    Oh Helen McGinn where have you been all my life??? Thank god I have found you now. I feel as I am now in my late 30s (argh) it is time for me to get into the club. The club I talk is the Club of Wise Ones What Know About Wine. I had friends who joined this club in their early 20s and I thought it was all a bit pretentious. I just wanted to get pissed on whatever was cheapest in sainos. If something was on offer, I would buy it….as long as it was in the ยฃ6 and under price bracket. In the year before we jumped on the baby train my husband and I went on our last big holiday. We went to America and spent a lot of time in Napa. We hired bikes and I have slightly soft focused memories of us cycling around various vineyards, trying to pretend we weren’t pissed and that we knew vaguely what we were on about. We didn’t, and it made me realise I wanted to be part of this club whoย didย know.

    I live in South West London which is an area often referred to as Nappy Valley. Everywhere you look, there are pregnant people, Range-Rover priced buggies, sleep consultants, breast-feeding consultants, mothers who are wearing jumpers with slogans describing how they are just blagging motherhood (they aren’t. Their idea of blagging motherhood is to feed their kids chicken nuggets one night a week instead of organic bolognese). Controversially, i have found since living here, I am slightly allergic to this group of women ( by all means, it is not the women round here) who quaff prosecco whilst holding baby Zara (who is dressed in Bonpoint) wanking on about how knackered they are. As a result, i tend to veer away from blogs and books with the title ‘The knackered/yummy/ confused/baffled/hysterical mummy.’ Helen McGinn has without a doubt proved me wrong and made me realise that my prejudice is ridiculous.

    This book is so readable without being too easy. It is definitely a book which I shall keep and often refer back to. This does not read like an idiots guide to wine, but its simplicity in content makes you feel that you are getting to grips with how wine works without being bamboozled by the complicated stuff. ย For a wine beginner, this is definitely the book for you. Its humour, lack or pretension and brilliantly structured chapters make it a really fun read. The chapter about book clubs and wine has inspired me to start my own wine tasting/book reading club. Thanks Helen. Top work.

     

    My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

    In my review above I have already given my opinions on the trend that is self-deprecting parents writing books and blogs on how they bare winging parenthood. This phenomenon has really taken off in the last few years and I feel we are inundated with similar parenting manuals. Having said that, I requested this ARC because I hadn’t read anything from the father’s point of view.

    Sam Avery is a funny guy. He should be…he is a stand up comedian. He also has twin sons which will provide him with enough funny material for the next 15 years. His first chapter, entitled Diary of a Two-Year-Old made my openly guffaw on the train. I made my husband read it whilst we were trying to stay awake over a glass of wine last saturday. We did that knowing laugh, that parents do when we discover that we all go through the same thing. Also, his chapter on soft-play was brilliant.

    My only issue with this book, is that for me, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I read it a little more sporadically. Avery is hilarious but if you read it in one sitting you get slightly bored of the humour. Pretty much every paragraph has a simile or analogy which eventually become totally frustrating. I felt I was drowning in Avery’s need to make me laugh every 5 seconds and as a result, as the book continued, to became less funny.

    Having said that, it was really refreshing to read a man’s take on parenthood and it would be a great book to give to any soon to be dad’s.

     

    Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas people.