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Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon

20 Oct

A group of children find a sloth snoring away in their garden. Not knowing what it is, they pile it into their wagon and set off to find out. Two of the children use their imagination to play out where the sloth could have appeared from, while the smallest looks to books to find out what the creature is and where it belongs. Once they have identified the sloth they need to send it home…

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This is a beautiful book that celebrates things close to my heart – children’s imaginations, the power of books, and the natural joy of animals.

Frann Preston-Gannon’s textured illustrations are just delicious. I love the sloth’s smiling sleepy face, the cracked paintwork for the trees and fences, and there’s something very loveable about these faces with their upturned noses and their squishy cheeks.

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She’s done a fantastic job of capturing childhood curiosity and adventure, and really celebrating their imagination and play. The hints hidden throughout the book suggesting where the sloth has come from, and the double page spread of sloth facts give the book an extra level of interaction. And the ending…the ending is delicious!

Sloth Sleeps On is also beautifully inclusive and gives more than a nod to equality. The children are wearing non-gender-stereotyped clothing and their imaginative play isn’t gendered. They ask Dad what he thinks but he is too busy cleaning. The other adult pictured is hidden behind a newspaper and is gender-neutral.

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I’m happy to see some diversity in the illustrations too- how refreshing to see children of colour in the book. These purposefully ambiguous characters leave it open to the reader, allowing them to find themselves in the book. This could be a family with two dads. It could be a foster family or family with adopted children. It could be a lot of different things because Frann Preston-Gannon has thought about diversity and thought about how children see themselves and their families in their books. Hurrah for her!

Source- kindly sent for review by the publisher, Pavilion Children’s Books.

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

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This book is a gift. A book that I want to share with all the children (and adults) I know so that they can experience the journey of reading it.

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The best books change you as you read them. They offer you a view of another way of life or a different perspective when looking at your own. You come out the other side refreshed, with new-found understanding of yourself, the world and the people in it. That’s what great literature can do, and why it is so important. That’s what Sarah Crossan does so beautifully.

I loved her debut Weight of Water. It made me think and look at the world through fresh eyes. It gave me a window into another way of life. And it sparked something in the year six children I shared it with too. So much so that I found myself having to buy another copy…and another…and another. I can see the same happening with Apple and Rain.

Apple has lived with her Nana since her mother walked out when she was tiny. All her life Apple has longed for her to return and answer her burning question – why did you go? But when her mother does return it is a bittersweet reunion. When Apple meets someone else who is feeling lost, Apple sees things as they really are and learns that you need to feel whole from the inside out, not just on the surface.

This is writing at its very best. Oh to be able to write as beautifully and intelligently as Sarah Crossan! Her characterisation of Apple is so spot on, so perfectly constructed, that you go on an emotional journey alongside her. Her emotions, thoughts, hopes and fears are explored and shown with such skill that you feel them with her at the same time as wanting to protect her from the inevitable crash. As a reader you become her friend and her helpless guardian. And thus you learn and grow alongside her. Her moments of clarity become yours, her realisations and growth fuel your own.

Throughout Apple and Rain Sarah Crossan demonstrates poetry’s power to heal and give strength. The joy of Apple and Rain is Crossan’s ability to write really great literature which explores and demonstrates the power of really great literature. It’s a perfectly constructed double whammy.

You need this book in your life. And so does everyone you know.

Source – bought from hive.co.uk You can get your copy (copies!!) here.

The Ghost Library by David Melling

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about The Ghost Library saving our week. After dropping my daughter to school today, full of smiles and eagerness to get back to her friends and beloved teacher after half term, I felt like a milestone had been reached. She is settled and happy and full of the joys of learning. I am settled and happy and full of the excitement of writing and passing on the joy of books. We have all settled in to this new life of school and new friends and new routines (for all of us). And we are happy. Books have played an enormous part in this settling in period, for me as well as for my daughter, and I am so thankful that they have been there to comfort us, inspire us, excite us and give us a hug after a long day.

The book that we keep coming back to, especially over hallowe’en half term, is The Ghost Library. It’s a book that makes me smile on so many levels and it feels like the perfect book to share on this milestone day. So without further waffling, here it is:

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It’s a beautiful glow in the dark reissue of a book that’s been loved by children since 2004. This version is the first time I have come across the story and I am in love! I love the glow in the dark cover that stands out on a front facing bookcase so beautifully (particularly at night time). I love the concept of a ghost library and the many ways that Melling plays with those images. I love that this is a book about a girl who loves books, it celebrates books and shouts out about the importance of reading and sharing stories. I love that this book appeals to everyone. Girls, boys, parents, teaching assistants, said teaching assistant’s junior school aged son. The cover hooks everyone in and the story, and the inventive way that it is told, entertains and delights all ages.

A book that celebrates reading and appeals to EVERYONE. What more could you want?

How about a book that also gets children actively involved with telling the story, helping them understand story structure and how to read and comprehend a story. Ok, no problem. The Ghost Library has that covered. The story centres around a girl called Bo who is happily reading in her room when her book is grabbed by a ghost and whisked away, with her still holding it. She is delivered to the ghost library where the ghosts explain that they have no books in their library so must borrow them from children while they are asleep. Bo reads them her book.

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Melling has used this double page spread to tell Bo’s story. The reader gets to tell the story themselves using the illustrations. This beautifully smashes down language and reading ability barriers, giving the children the power to interact with the book and tell the story in their own words. But wait, there’s more!

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The Ghost Library also encourages children to tell and create their own stories. Bo finishes her story and when the ghosts want more, she tells them to make up their own, that stories are everywhere around you. Imagine using this book in a classroom, imagine the stories that children could create with this as a starting point.

So The Ghost Library is a book that appeals to everyone, is accessible, is interactive, celebrates and supports reading, and encourages children to imagine and tell their own stories. And it is FUN!

Are you still reading this? Shouldn’t you be off to the library or bookshop by now? The Ghost Library is waiting for you!

Source: kindly sent for review by those lovely folk at Hodder Children’s Books.

Lulu Loves the Library and Lulu Loves Stories

28 Jun

Continuing the celebration of the ‘This is Me!’ book packs by Inclusive Minds and Letterbox Library, I am grinning with book-joy brought about by the Lulu books by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw.

I love a book about books. I love a book that celebrates stories and promotes reading and libraries. So imagine how happy I am right now…

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Three books that celebrate the joys of books in an effortlessly inclusive way. Hurrah!

Lulu Loves the Library is the first book in this gorgeous series. Lulu loves Tuesdays because on Tuesdays, Lulu and her mummy go to the library. We share Lulu’s excitement as she packs the books she borrowed least week, finds her library card and walks to the library with Mummy. Childhood joy jumps out from every page as Lulu joins in all the fun at the library, from singing time to choosing her books. Each page shows her leaning forward in anticipation, grinning with joy or in tongue-poking concentration. The illustrations really capture the way children live in the moment and see joy and excitement in every experience.

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A must for any book lover, Lulu Loves the Library is the perfect book to introduce young children to the library and all the fun it can offer. It’s also useful for nourishing the library habit. My daughter loved pointing at each picture and saying ‘we do that!’ Especially when it came to sharing the cappuccino froth! The book comes with a multi-language CD so that it can be enjoyed by families no matter what their reading level or what language they speak. A lovely touch that works towards making this book truly inclusive for all. My library copy has a stamp in it for every single month between March 2011 and now. This is clearly a well loved book that doesn’t get a moment to languish on the shelves.

Lulu Loves Stories is included in the early years ‘This is Me!’ book pack and also comes with a multi-language CD. This time it is Dad who takes Lulu to the library. Lulu chooses some books to bring home and the family share them together over the following week. Each book in turn prompts a day of imaginary play and we see Lulu dancing round as a fairy princess, travelling on an exotic adventure, working on a farm and building a house. A book’s power to inspire is explored as well as the importance of children’s imagination and play. This book is all about having fun and playing. There’s no gender stereotyping. Dad and Mum share time with Lulu, both reading and playing with her. She is equally happy dancing round as a fairy and fixing up her broken house. Lulu Loves Stories is inspiring and inclusive and, importantly, truly child-friendly.

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Chickens Can’t See in the Dark by Kristyna Litten

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Roll up, roll up! Pull up a chair, squeeze in, pass the sweets round, for I have a thing of wonder for you to behold! The fabulous Kristyna Litten has created a picture book with a female animal main character! Yes, it is true! Now hold on to your seats because there’s more…. She’s female, yes, but she doesn’t feel the need to wear pink, or be quiet and peck away in a corner, or to take the word of a cockerel without question. She dares to be different! In short, she is a feminist hen! I can’t tell you how excited I am by this! You may get a sense of it from my excessive use of exclamation marks. (!)

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Over the last few weeks I have been (over)analysing gender in picture books as I read them. I have been blogging about the lack of female animal characters in picture books and the potential effects on readers, and hunting for positive female animal characters. AND I HAVE FOUND A TRULY MARVELLOUS ONE! Chickens Can’t See in the Dark has jumped out as being different from the mould in many ways.

The story centres around our feminist hen Little Pippa, who has been told by her teacher Mr Benedict that chickens can’t see in the dark. Well, Little Pippa isn’t impressed with that at all! She wants to see in the dark more than anything. So she decides to find out for herself. She goes to visit Mr Owl who laughs at her seemingly ridiculous suggestion. But our plucky hen (oh dear) will not give in that easily. Off she goes to find out more. Her inquisitive mind leads her to the library where Miss Featherbrain the librarian tells her that seeing in the dark is merely an old hen’s tale. Still not prepared to give up, Little Pippa hunts for a book of old hen’s tales. And there she finds it – carrots help you see in the dark. Carrots! Off to the farm shop and the pantry she goes, laughed at all the way but determined to test her theory. Soon she has prepared a huge feast of carrot-based cuisine and the whole town arrives to witness Little Pippa prove them all wrong.

What a gal! Resourceful, inquisitive, resilient, determined, brave, sure of her own mind and more than prepared to use it. We could all do with a bit of Little Pippa’s self assurance now and then. Perhaps carrots are the answer?

I love that Kristyna Litten has created such a warm, positive book with a strong inspirational character. I think the message of believing in yourself, following your dreams and never giving up is a hugely positive one to get across to young children, and I think she has done just that beautifully. I’m particularly impressed by the nod to the power of libraries and by the gentle humour found throughout the book. And to be honest, who could possibly resist a chicken wearing glasses and thigh high blue boots? Chickens Can’t See in the Dark is a real winner and one I will proudly wave under the noses of children and adults for a long time to come. Bravo, Ms Litten, BRAVO!

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Oh, Dog, How I Do love you!

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I must admit, at the very start of this review, that I have a very heavy bias towards this book – It is a book about loving books! I am therefore genetically programmed to adore it and want to stroke it at regular intervals.

Any book that starts with this:

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immediately has a place in my heart. I challenge book addicts to look at this page without hugging the book to their chests and stroking it. In fact, I challenge anyone, book obsessive or otherwise, to read this book without falling completely in love with Dog. Look at him! His little feet-paws poking out from under the book. His pointy-floppy ears, his flashlight pose. Delicious!

Dog can’t get to sleep. He loves books so much that he just can’t stop reading. Dog tries counting sheep, but it’s not working – perhaps there are some other creatures he can count? Luckily, he has a book of curious creatures to hand and he is whisked off on an adventure, finding friends to count as he goes.

This is no ordinary animal counting book. No, among other exciting characters, Dog finds a Dodo, a three-toed sloth and a five-lined skink. Children will love to ask questions and find out about the wonderful creatures they come across as they count along with the numbered drawings.

Louise Yates is wonderful at sneaking in comic detail. Scroll back up to the picture of Dog reading… as if the poking-out feet weren’t enough, there’s a little sleep mask abandoned across a pile of books! It’s these little additions that make her books such a joy to read.

This is the third Dog book and fast becoming my favourite. I reviewed Dog Loves Books and Dog Loves Drawing last month. I love them both. But Dog Loves Counting is like the quirky uncle who whispers a fantastic fact into your ear, flicks you a coin and disappears into the sunset with a wink.

A wonderful book full of gorgeous and comical characters that will have children and adults oooing and ahhing and giggling.

Published by Jonathan Cape March 2013.

Source – kindly sent for review by the publisher.

Dog Loves Books and Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates

17 Mar

A book about books!!! Always certain to get my attention.

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Dog loves books! He loves them so much that he decides to open up his own bookshop so he can share his love with others. When nobody arrives for the Grand Opening, Dog is disheartened. But not for long as he realises he is surrounded by his favourite things and starts to read through his stock. As he finds friends and adventures in his books, customers start to appear and he knows exactly what books to recommend.

The perfect book for book lovers, librarians, book obsessives and book pushers, Dog Loves Books is a celebration of the comfort that can be found in books and the joy of sharing them with others. A lovely book to share with little ones to introduce them to the joys of finding friends in books.

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Dog Loves Drawing sees Dog happily settled and working in his bookshop, reading his books when a parcel arrives. A book! What joy! What excitement awaits! But hold on… This book has no words and no pictures! It’s a sketchbook and Dog knows just what to do. Out come the pencils and paintbrushes and Dog draws his way into an adventure, doodling some friends to accompany him along the way.

This is a great book for inspiring children to put pencil to paper and just doodle and let their imagination run wild. A perfect book to pop into the sight lines of an older child when they get to that awkward stage of losing the child-like freedom and becoming self conscious about their drawings.

These books also include my favourite ever dog illustrations. I give you exhibit one – ‘bored Dog’ and ‘really very fed-up Dog’:

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And exhibit two – ‘book-happy’:

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Inspiring stuff!

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Source:
Dog Loves Books – Our lovely local library.
Dog Loves Drawing – My bookcase.

This is my Book by Mick Inkpen

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I love books about books. Children love books about dragons and wolves, especially if they are misbehaving. And so, in a combination so delicious I could just eat it, I give you This is my Book by Mick Inkpen. A gorgeous book where a Bookmouse attempts to stop a Snapdragon doing nasty things to the words in his book. That is beautiful enough in itself- a Bookmouse! Wearing little glasses! But things get better and better in this book.

The story starts on the endpapers, before you get to the title page. In fact the title page is a part of the story.

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The naughtiness that the Snapdragon attempts to inflict on the book includes eating the letters, sucking up the dots from the i’s and blowing them out at passers-by. He is a very naughty dragon indeed! Before you know it he has swept in and bitten off the k and part of the B from Book. Older children who are starting to read will get an extra level of enjoyment here as they see for themselves that this theft creates the word ‘Poo’.

Luckily, the Bookmouse has a plan and a small gathering of friends to help him, including Clockwork Penguin, Little Horse, Blue Bear and the mysterious Blink Owl. Those names! Who wouldn’t want a Blink Owl as a friend to save the day?

They need to find some ‘O’s but the only place they can get them from is the Moonwood where the ghosts of the Woollywolves live. (Gulp!) Our brave hero grabs the ‘O’s and puts his plan into action. All his friends join in and when the Snapdragon returns ‘O’s are flying everywhere as they shout Boo in their biggest and loudest voices. Of course all ends well and the Snapdragon realises the error of his ways, returning the previously pinched k to the end of the book.

For me, this book is a thing of beauty. I love the inventive interaction with the typeface and the way it encourages children to look at the make up of the words and the book itself. The text becomes a part of the illustrations; the characters become characters.

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It is a wonderful introduction to playing with language, creating words from other words and messing about with the text. Mick Inkpen has created some really loveable characters that will inspire little imaginations everywhere. I’m so glad I stumbled across this book, it is a real beauty.

Source: Our lovely local library.

Published in 2009 by Hodder Children’s Books.

Footprints in the Snow by Mei Matsuoka

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Wolf is feeling offended and indignant – all the wolves he has ever read about are nasty, scary and greedy, so to set the record straight he decides to write a story about a nice wolf. But will his wolfish instincts get the better of him after all?

It is snowing outside so this book seems very apt. From one misunderstood creature to another, I can really understand where poor wolf is coming from. There he is, sat in his room surrounded by books and he still struggles to find a true representation of himself. So he decides to create his own book, about Mr Nice Wolf who follows footprints in the snow to try and find a new friend.

A book about creating a book! A book within a book! This is rhino reading heaven.

Footprints was nominated for the 2009 Kate Greenaway Medal and it’s clear to see why. The concept is brilliant and engaging. I love the way the illustrations explain the idea of a book within a book, with the wolf’s writing table used as the page border and the occasional paw or pen showing. We even get a glimpse of the wolf as author and illustrator, seeing the reference book he is using for research as he draws his duck.

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Matsuoka draws the reader in with lots of lovely details, like a mouse dipping its biscuit in Wolf’s coffee. Then, with a fiendish twist that will delight questioning children, we are left with an open ending. Perfect for children to examine and imagine. How will it end? What will happen to Wolf? And is he nice after all?

A huge rhino hurrah to Mei Matsuoka for a beautiful book.

Source: Our lovely local library.