Fairytale Hairdresser and Beauty & the Beast by Abie Longstaff & Lauren Beard

We wrote this for the Guardian Children’s Books Family Reviews 
I have to confess that Freya loves the Fairytale Hairdresser series of books. On seeing this latest one, Beauty and the Beast, she squealed with joy and kissed the cover. Her excitement didn’t abate as we read the book.

The book stars Kitty Lacey ‘the best hairdresser in the land’ and is set in a world full of fairytale characters. Having read the others in the series Freya enjoys spotting familiar characters including Snow White and Jack Frost as well as working out characters from other fairytales she knows such as Puss in Boots.

In this retelling of Beauty and the Beast we get to hear more from the Beast with Kitty on hand to offer sensible advice about beauty being on the inside. A bright & clever reworking of this tale with all characters on an equal footing & the all important happy ever after.

A common spread in the books in this series is when Kitty provides a makeover offering a number of alternative looks. We always enjoying looking at the selection & picking our favourites. Often this changes on every read but this time Freya was very taken with the Ziggy Stardust look (as was I).

Freya declared that ‘I love this book because I like all the different styles Kitty does & think the pictures are very beautiful especially the last page’.

A great addition to this fun series. Freya’s enthusiastic joy for these books is contagious, making them a household favourite.

Welcome to the Symphony by Carolyn Sloan and James Williamson

We wrote this for the Guardian Children’s Books Family Reviews  
A fun and noisy introduction to classical music. This book has plenty of buttons to press to accompany short introductions to what a symphony is, the different instruments in an orchestra & key vocabulary such as theme, harmony etc.

The book focuses on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 which is being performed at the concert that 3 mice are attending. The questions the mice ask, such as “What’s a Beethoven” and “Who’s that guy coming on the stage?” provide the perfect starting point to explore the nuts & bolts of classical music.

Freya loved pressing all the buttons which play snippets of the symphony with the sound of the trumpet proving her favourite. We all enjoyed looking at the pictures of the different instruments & pressing the matching buttons to the string, woodwind & brass instruments.

I think this is a great introduction to classical music and imagine it will be a very helpful before going to a concert to help Freya understand what she will be seeing & hearing.

Jill & Dragon by Lesley Barnes

We wrote this for the Guardian Children’s Books Family Reviews I am completely smitten by this sumptuous & stylish book. Jill spots that its not ‘happily ever after’ for all the characters at the end of the story and so invites the captured dragon to live with her. However her attempts to cheer Dragon up by showing it how to do all her favourite things don’t go to plan. Luckily she discovers that Dragon has a hidden talent and manages to arrange a truly happily ever after for everyone.

From the picture on the title page of a girl sitting on a pile of books with her head in a book, Freya and I knew we would like this book. Freya especially loves Dragon and the exciting fold out flap when Dragon is breathing out fire. I adore the striking artwork and also have a soft spot for Dragon whose large frame is often spilling off the edge of the page. Having a pet dragon is one of Freya’s ultimate dreams so this was a perfect read in our house.

T-Veg by Smriti Prasadam-Halls & Katherina Manolesso

We wrote this for the Guardian Children’s Books Family Reviews  
Both kids were instantly drawn to this book with its vibrant illustrations & charming story. They happily pored over the cover & end papers spotting the different vegetables and chuckled at the idea of a t-rex not eating meat. However my hope that seeing their favourite dinosaur eating a massive slice of avocado pie would entice them to be more adventurous has not been met!

T-Veg a ‘carrot crunching dinosaur’ is teased by his friends for his vegetarian ways and runs away to make friends with some herbivores but this doesn’t go to plan. Its not long, however, before his friends begin to miss him & when he reappears to save the day everyone learns the important lesson of ‘being happy being you’.

This jewel of a book exploding with colour & warmth has been a hit with the children. The story told in rhyme is a joy to read aloud. The pages, teeming with brightly coloured dinosaurs, are captivating and the heartwarming message is an important one to remember.

The Zoomers’ Handbook by Ana & Thiago de Moraes

We wrote this for the Guardian Children’s Books Family Reviews  
This hilarious books has become a regular bedtime favourite. Not only does it leave the kids rolling on the floor laughing but has sparked their imagination.

The book opens with declarations of how easy it is to be a zookeeper & farmer and so begins our first introduction to the fun of mashing up words & ideas. Zoomers look after these ‘animals-in-between’ each of which is a combination of a farm & zoo animal.

What we all love about this book is not only how funny the pictures of these strange animals are but also their odd names & characteristics. For example it warns you against letting a Shicken eat corn from you hand, a cross between a chicken & a shark means they are some sharp teeth to deal with.

The kids’ favourite creature was the ‘polar cow’ who had the perfect ability of making ice cream. Reading about such strange & funny creatures led to the children (with the help of some animal pictures and some tracing paper) making their own amazing creatures including a Pibear & a Jellurkey. Now the hardwork of being a Zoomer and looking after them can begin.

Make & Do Ninjas by Marion Billet

We wrote this for the Guardian Children’s Books Family Reviews
  This is the perfect activity book for half term. It is jam packed with pages to colour, mazes, puzzles, stencils, stickers, drawing activities & models to make. Such an appealing book that Freya takes it with her everywhere dipping into it whenever we have a spare moment.

The illustrations are adorable & with such a variety of activities its a great source of entertainment. In between stencilling & colouring in her own ninjas Freya also likes jumping up & copying the poses of the ninja characters in the book.

A fabulous book full of engaging activities.

National Library Day 2016


It’s National Library day and I have blogged previously here & here exactly how important libraries are to me and my family.

Here are our library highlights of the year:

This was Freya’s first year to try the summer reading challenge & she loved it, getting the stickers and having a chart just like her big brother was great fun.  

Freya’s current favourite library read is the Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywelt & Oliver Jeffers and is one she is struggling to return. She is also a fan of the Rainbow Magic Fairy series and I am very glad the library is able to support this habit.

The library’s regular code club is a highlight of Bryns week, an uninterupted hour on the computer with a new scratch project each week, what’s not to like. He has also joined the children’s book group & looking forward to today’s Harry Potter themed event.

My 2015 new years resolution was  to read more graphic novels so was happy to discover a few new favourites in the library collection including El Deafo by Cece Bell. 

The ebook service is proving to be invaluable especially when we are away for the weekend & I have forgotten to pack bedtime stories. 

Over the summer my nieces recomended the Ascendance Trilogy, having discovered the first one as an ebook I recommended the library purchase books 2&3. A speedy response meant I was able to race through this exciting trilogy, perfect holiday read.

Having only just discovered the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch we were really pleased the library had the whole back catalogue, we are now caught up & waiting for the next one.

At Christmas cookery books from the library proved an inspiration for Bryn who cooked macarons (with a little help from his Dad) as a Christmas present for me.

We are very grateful for our library service and would be lost without it.

photo of books 

You Are An Artist by Marta Altes

We wrote this for the Guardian Children’s Books Family Reviews

You Are An Artist by Marta Altes is a jam packed activity book which has kept me and Freya amused for days.

It is based on the picture book I Am An Artist and we are fortunate enough to have the “artist” be our guide in the book helping us to think creatively.

Activities in the book include drawing a self portrait, creating patterns, using shapes to make pictures, turning scribbles into pictures etc.

Initially I was worried that these might be too challenging but actually Freya really enjoyed the variety. It was great to see her confidence grow as she tried out new things. The hundreds of stickers in the book were a great way to help finish some of the activities when we started to run out of steam.

One of our favourite spreads was filling in a picture of a cat with patterns, lots of fun to do together & feel proud of our efforts.

A fun and inspirational activity book.

Book-O-Masks by Donald Lemke & Bob Lentz

We wrote this for the Guardian Children’s Books Family Reviews 

  This book makes a fabulous addition to the dressing up box. A brilliantly designed wearable book with each double page spread offering a new mask, such as super hero, wrestler, ninja etc.

There were peals of laughter from the kids as they tried out the different masks. They also spotted that there were others in the series, Book-o-Beards, Book-o-Hats & Book-o-teeth which they were keen to try out. The Superhero mask was a favourite with the children & provided plenty of fun photo opportunities.

A fun novelty book which we all enjoyed playing with.