Monday, 21 September 2015

Jill & Dragon

Jill & Dragon

By Lesley Barnes
Published by Tate

Sometimes at the end of a story, not every character gets a happily ever after and that’s the case in Jill & Dragon, Lesley Barnes’ debut book.  Lesley Barnes is an illustrator and animator, based in Glasgow, who has worked in fashion, music, children’s literature, film and product design and has truly created a stunning illustrated book and one that actually achieves a true happy ending after all.

“The king and his knights captured the terrible dragon and they all lived happily ever after” said the last page in Jill’s story book but Jill notices that the Dragon doesn’t look very happy. Asking the Dragon why he is sad, Dragon informs Jill that the King hates him because all he can do is burn and scorch everything in the Kingdom. So Jill suggests that Dragon come live with her and that she will teach him to do all of her favourite things. Jill tries to teach Dragon how to flower arrange but Dragon is just too big and knocks everything over. Jill then teaches Dragon about fashion but that doesn’t work out so well and when Jill tries to teach Dragon the trumpet, he creates fireworks. While trying to teach Dragon how to host a tea party, Dragon looks sadder than ever and knows he doesn’t fit in anywhere but something catches Jill’s eye at the table and she has an idea.

The next morning, armed with a fork, Jill and Dragon fly back in to the huge story book where Jill demands to be taken to the King. Jill wants to show everyone what Dragon can do and holds up a piece of bread where Dragon carefully begins to burn and char the bread to create a flattering portrait of the King. The knights pass the toasted portraits back to the King where he nibbled a corner or two and proclaims it truly fit for a King. Dragon is invited to live in the castle and make the King toast. Dragon moved in and made toast portraits for everyone and lived happily ever after. Jill was very happy with that ending!

Jill & Dragon is a lovely book with a heart warming tale, reminding us that everyone has a talent, however well hidden. But what really stands out within this book is the impressive and beautiful illustrations.  There’s a medieval fairy tale feel what with the patterns used, the screen printed effects and the choice of colour palette. Even the texture of the paper works well with the story. There is also an extendable page which shows the Dragon’s mighty fire while creating the toasted portraits. 

Jill & Dragon is a lovely new take on a fairy tale that any adult or child will love. This magical book is available in all good bookshops or online here.

Pirates in Pyjamas

Pirates in Pyjamas

Written by Caroline Crowe and Illustrated by Tom Knight
Published by Little Tiger Press

Ever wondered if Pirates wear pyjamas? Well jump on board for this delightful and very funny book by new author, Caroline Crowe. Illustrated by the talented illustrator, Tom Knight, this is a great bed time picture book for any little pirates of your own.

When getting ready for bed, have you ever wondered if pirates wear pyjamas? Well these two little boys do. Would they wear stripy ones with a skull and crossbones on? Oh no, that’s not at all what they wear. We’re taken onto the Leaky Parrot, where these pirates wear brightly coloured pyjamas, some are knitted with pom-poms on, some have spots, some are fluffy and have frilly sleeves. But before they wear their pyjamas, its time for a bath where the crew make shark fins with shampoo in their hair. 

And when they’re dry and dressed in their pyjamas, they throw pyjamas parties every single night which is of course followed by pillow fights. All tired out, its time for bed where they drink their milk with their curly whirly straws. It’s not long before peaceful pirate snores can be heard. So if you want to be a pirate, you just need your pyjamas and a bed to climb aboard.

This is a lovely first book by Caroline Crowe -It's a hilarious rhyming romp and goes wonderfully with the large page filled illustrations that are bright, colourful  and filled with cheeky pirates. I really enjoyed this bed time story and children and adults alike will definitely laugh out loud at these pirates’ bedtime antics. Recommended for ages 3+, jump aboard this pirate book for the funniest pirate pyjama party ever! Available in all good bookshops and online here.

Alain Grée series: Colours + Numbers

Colours + Numbers

By Alain Grée
Published by Button Books


Button Books have recently released a range of board and hardback books that feature the talented Alain Grée’s stunning archive of vintage imagery. You may recognise these illustrations from the 1960s and 70s, his distinctive style of using bold colours and a simple naivety of form. 

The hard back range covers the following titles: Nature, Transport, Alphabet, Colours, Exploring, The Farm, Numbers, Seaside and Seasons. I was fortunate enough to receive the two titles, Colours and Numbers, which are both filled with stunning illustrations and are wonderful introductions into those subjects for young children.

In Colours, the book introduces the primary colours and what colours can be achieved by mixing a combination of those colours. Examples of everyday objects are given per colour. It also covers colour and safety which looks at emergency vehicles, signs and traffic lights. Other sections include dark and light, coloured clothing, maps and plans, spot the difference and which is followed by a quiz. The book is informative and offers facts and little activities, great for introducing children into the amazing world of colour. There is also a lovely addition of a colouring-in poster on the back of the dust jacket.

In Numbers, there are exercises throughout the book to help reinforce what the child is learning. Starting with the topic, Can you count? Which covers counting creatures under the sea. Other topics include, how many? equal numbers, adding, taking away, missing numbers, counting in twos and multiplying. There is also a nice introduction into shopping and using money. Sharing, division and 3d shapes are also covered.  There are plenty of sums and a quiz at the back. With beautiful illustrations throughout, it definitely makes learning and simple maths a joy. The back of this dust jacket offers a lovely number chart from 1 - 10.

These books certainly bring back childhood memories and would make a lovely gift to any new parents or for children from the ages 2+. Though being such beautiful books, I don’t think I want to leave these books alone with my little one just yet. For younger ones, there is also a board back range of My First Book Of… Sounds, Nature, Letters, Colours, Numbers, Vehicles and Animals. Button Books also offer a range of flash and activity cards.

If you’re a fan of Alain Grée, then you’ll love these beautiful books. Available online from Button Books here.

Pom Pom the Champion

Pom Pom the Champion

Written and illustrated by Sophy Henn
Published by Puffin

Pom Pom is back! Soppy Henn returns with her third book featuring the adorable Pom Pom. Her previous book, Pom Pom gets the Grumps, was reviewed here if you’ve not met this little panda before. (  Pom Pom the Champion features more toddler drama where Pom Pom discovers just how much he likes to win.

One morning Pom Pom didn’t know what to do with himself until his mummy suggested that they play a game. Pom Pom wins and realises just how much he liked being the winner. He won at not being the tallest or the  shortest, the first to finish his food and the first to get ready to go out. At the supermarket he packed the shopping bag the fastest and read his book the fastest at the library. 

When he gets to the playground, his friends ask Pom Pom to play scooters with them but Pom Pom warns them that he’s winning everything today. But Pom Pom doesn’t win that game as his friends fly pass him. Another friend suggests playing on the swings and Pom Pom bets he can go the highest, but his friends swing higher. Pom Pom has had enough and wants to go and win on his own but he soon realises its not that fun playing by yourself and he isn’t very happy at all. His friends join him once again and suggest a race but a race that they can all win together - a four legged race! 

Sophy Henn returns with her trademark bright, contemporary illustrations and her adorable cute characters. And like her previous two books, I love her colour palette, her pages are filled with colour and not a white background in sight. This funny and sweet book will strike a chord with parents and young children alike, about how its not always about being the best! 

I love Pom Pom and I hope this in not the last we’ve seen of him! Available in hardback and paperback, you can find Pom Pom the Champion in all good bookshops and online here.

Clangers: The Brilliant Surprise

The Brilliant Surprise

Written by Daniel Postgate
Published by Ladybird Books

Slide whistles at the ready, as the Clangers are back for a nostalgic space trip! Unfortunately I can't remember the original Clangers (their first appearance was over 45 years ago!), but luckily for a new generation, a new revamped version of the Clangers has appeared on our TV screens. And The Brilliant Surprise is their first ever picture book, written by Oliver Postgate's son, Daniel Postgate. If your noggin needs a refresher here's a trailer for the new series.

In The Brilliant Surprise we find the Iron Chicken looking out to space for interesting things. Then she spots something, something very INTERESTING. Tiny Clanger receives the news on her special radio hat that 'It's coming'. She tells her brother, Small and he rushes around telling everyone of the great news and they all get excited by what's on its way. But Tiny is confused at what they're all getting excited about, and her brother Small won't tell her. 

The Clangers, soup dragons, Froglets and other creatures all gather to sing, hoot and moo 'It's coming! It's coming' but poor little Tiny is none the wiser until a huge comet whizzles over the Clangers planet. Tiny is told to make a wish as her brother Small had done when the last comet had visited. But what had he wished for? A lovely little sister just like Tiny.

I was pleased to find that this first picture book was hand drawn rather than being stills of the puppets. The illustrations here are by illustrator Irina Golina who does a great job of capturing all the familiar characters an scenes. With a useful spread introducing all the characters (helpful for a new fan like me!) and a note at the beginning of the book from Peter Firmin, co-creator of the show. There's plenty for young and old alike to love here, with a warming story that is reminiscent of what the TV show is known for. 

Their picture book debut shows the Clangers do work brilliantly in a picture book format, being a joy to read (slide whistle optional) and stunning to look at - a lovely gift for any Clangers fan. Clangers: The Brilliant Surprise is out now at all good bookshops and available to buy on the Ladybird website.

Hey Duggee: The Best Scarecrow Ever

Hey Duggee:
The Best Scarecrow Ever

Published by BBC Children's Books/Ladybird Books

If you're not familiar with this pooch, Hey Duggee is a pre-school animated series on CBeebies, featuring the voice talent of comedian and presenter Alexander Armstrong. The show follows a big friendly dog called Duggee, who runs 'The Squirrel Club' a place where kids take part in all kinds of activities, have adventures & earn activity badges all along the way. Duggee teaches the kids about being responsible, working as a team, taking acceptable risks and most importantly ... having fun! The show has a rather catchy theme tune so if you don't want this in your head for the rest of the day don't watch the trailer below!

This debut Hey Duggee picture book follows the same format of the show, with an emphasis on completing a task to earn a badge. In this story the squirrels want to grow some corn, but some sneaky birds keep stealing all the seeds! So they devise a plan to create THE BEST SCARECROW EVER! 

Much like the show, the squirrels figure out how to solve a problem with lots of laughs along the way. The book is brightly coloured and younger children and fans of the show will love the bold illustrations and eye popping text. And of course the book concludes with the squirrels earning their badge and getting the all important DUGGEE HUG! 

And if that wasn't enough Duggee fun for you, there's also a fab Squirrel Club Sticker Activity Book to get your hands on. The book is full of fun games and activities to allow your little squirrels to earn their own badges! The centre of the book is crammed with lots of fun stickers - a must for any Hey Duggee fan!

If you want to know more about the show check out the Cbeebies website and follow Duggee on twitterHey Duggee: The Best Scarecrow Ever and the Squirrel Club Sticker Activity Book are out now and can be bought in all good bookshops and the Ladybird website.

Monday, 7 September 2015



By Patricia Hegarty and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Published by Little Tiger Press

Tree is the stunning, illustrated book by the award winning illustrator Britta Teckentrup. The book explores the beauty of the changing seasons shown by following the life cycle of a tree. 

It starts in winter, and we see Owl watching from his home, high in the trunk of a tree. Snow is falling and the trees are bare but with Spring on the way, the ice begins to melt and bear cubs begin to play. Blossom begins to fall, leaves are growing and squirrels scamper all over the tree. The forest is now abloom with flowers and summer is on it’s way with the tree now filled with birds singing (more animals are joining Owl in his tree). Its summer time now and bees are humming.
It starts to get cooler and apples tumble to the ground. The autumn leaves turn red and gold and nights are getting cold. It isn’t long before Winter returns when the North wind begins to blow and brings the snow. Once again Owl is left alone in his tree but he has seen it all before.

Tree has die-cuts on ever page and creates a layered effect throughout the book, allowing animals to appear on the tree as the seasons change. There is a hole showing Owl, starting with the cover and throughout the whole picture book, this makes it look like Owl is looking out from his home, a hole in the trunk. The illustrations are truly lovely within the book, and the pages are filled with lots of activity for children to explore. There is so much to discover in the backgrounds and in the trees and the beautiful illustrations work really well with the lyrical rhyming text.

This book is recommended for ages 3-5 and would make a lovely gift for any child. It would also make a great first introduction in learning about the seasons and how they may affect nature and the trees around us. This peek-through picture book will be available from the 10th September, available in all good bookshops or online here.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Katie McGinty Wants a Pet!

Katie McGinty Wants a Pet!

By Jenna Harrington and illustrated by Finn Simpson
Published by Little Tiger Press

Jenna Harrington’s debut book, Katie McGinty Wants a Pet! will resonate with any child who has ever wanted a pet and for any parents who have been nagged for one! This debut book is funny and concerns a little girl wanting a very unusual pet though the front cover does give it away.

Katie McGinty desperately wants a pet, more than anything in the whole wide world. Finally she's big enough and drags her Daddy, excitedly, to the pet shop. Her Daddy wants to know what kind of pet she wants and suggests normal pets, such as a hamster, or a cat, or even a little dog like granny’s, but no, no, no, that’s not what Katie McGinty wants at all. What Katie McGinty wants more than anything is a ZEBRA! 

Katie’s Daddy shakes his head in disbelief and explains to Katie that they can’t have a zebra because they live in Africa where it’s hot and it’s far too cold here. But Katie has it all thought out and replies that Granny can knit the zebra a warm, wooly jumper and he can wear Mummy’s ski boots. Daddy doesn’t think they can buy a zebra in a pet shop and asks Katie what they would feed him, where would he sleep and how would they wash him, as they have too small a garden and he can’t sleep in the shed.. but Katie has thought this through and replies that the Zebra will eat their dinner; fish fingers and spaghetti with them at the table. He will sleep in her bunk bed and she knows he won’t fit in the bath but she can wash him at the swimming pool. 

When they reach the pet shop, Katie’s Daddy explains that he knows she really, really wants a zebra but they just can’t have one… However we notice that on the pet shop window are signs that read "special sale", and when they exit the pet shop, they exit with not just one zebra but two zebras!! Lucky Katie, it was a buy one zebra, get one free day!

Katie McGinty Wants a Pet! is a funny and fantastical tale about wanting a pet. It’s filled with lovely, warm and fun illustrations with a charming feel to the book. Jenna Harrington has captured the characteristics of children so well, as children always have an answer for everything and especially when they want something very much. This book is recommend for ages 3+ and is perfect for any animal loving child. Available in all good bookshops and online here.