Space Dog by Mini Grey

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

“We love it!” sums up Freya.

This intergalactic adventure in which Space Dog not only rescues the inhabitants of Cornflake 5 & Bottleopolis but also discovers how ‘sworn enemies’ Astrocats and Moustronauts can become ‘sworn friends’. A heartwarming romp in a fantastically zany world expertly crafted by Mini Grey.

The children were very taken with Dairy Quadrant map at the front of the book and use it for their own adventures. Like Space Dog they wanted to explore & rush to the aid of anyone needing help.

With every reading theres a new reference or joke to discover for both me and the children. A treat of a picture book for the whole family.

We also followed Mini Grey’s excellent advice on How To Draw Space Dog. I will leave you to guess the artists of the pictures below.


You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus 

We wrote this for the Guardian Children’s Books Family Reviews
You Can’t Take an Elephant on a Bus by Patricia Cleveland-Peck & David Tazzyman is a funny picture book where we see all sorts of animals riding unsuitable vehicles from an elephant on a bus, tiger on a train, pig on a skateboard to a hippo in a hot air balloon.

Just seeing the cover has Freya in stitches & she happily joins in pointing out the ludicrousness of each animal & their chosen vehicle. The animals need not despair as the last spread provides the perfect mode of transport for them as well as inducing huge grins for us.

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

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

Bryn described this as a book about rules & consequences. He felt the pictures were a funny way of describing the consequences.

With its sparse text & sometimes surreal pictures I wasn’t sure how the children would react but they were intrigued & transfixed. We read the book a few times & with each reading we found more things to talk about and to spot. I enjoyed seeing their reactions to the pictures and it was noticeable that they both became quiet & sombre when the pictures were darker in tone.

Looking at the illustrations Bryn was intrigued by the difference in scale with the depictions of large animals & food. Freya however was more interested in the pictures of the two children.

We enjoyed Rules of Summer, being introduced to something different and challenging was a great treat.

Abracazebra by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty

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

I liked this book because not only is it a great read aloud story with rhyming text & beautiful illustrations but it also has an important message about jealousy, fear and diversity. Freya loved this book because it features ‘Abracazebra’, a zebra doing magic tricks.
In a town called Yawnalot nothing much happens, and what passes as entertainment is visiting Goat on his boat. This all changes when Abracazebra arrives – a fabulous magician who brings colour, fun & stripes to the town. Jealous of the attention the new magician is getting, Goat decides ‘stripes are bad’, and it is only after Abracazebra has been driven away that Goat realises what they have lost and sets to work to get her back.
The rhyme helps the story be told at a good pace and there illustrations provide humour and warmth to create this great story.

Sir Lilypad by Anna Kemp & Sara Oglive

  We were very pleased to receive a review copy of Sir Lilypad, a tall tale of a small frog, from the publisher. We had high expectations of this new story from the talented duo that created The Worst Princess and we werent disappointed.

This is a fun tale of a teeny-tiny hero with big dreams who, with the help of two familiar characters, finds a happy ending.

We all fell in love with the brave and adventurous Sir LilyPad. His quest to become a hero finds him confronting an ogre, peeking under a witches hat and finally spotting a princess to rescue. Bryn & Freya would argue over who got to be Sir Lilypad when acting out the story. Swords (the cardboard variety) in hand they too were keen on defeating villains with a poke to the bottom. 

With it vibrant illustrations, witty rhymes and aspirations to dream big this is a glorious book to share with the children.


 Disclaimer: I received these book from the publisher. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the review represents my own honest opinion.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

It was about a year ago when Owen came home one evening having heard about this great cartoon for kids, Avatar. Having checked out the first episode & deeming it suitable viewing (although as the series progresses the level of violence was not so ideal) we settled down to daily episodes as a family (Netflix currently has all 3 series).

Its been a big hit in this household having finished it all the kids are now rewatching favourite episodes. Full of adventure, laughs, and plenty of battles this is a hugely entertaining cartoon series.


When not watching it the kids are generally playing games based around the cartoon. Who needs Elsa with her snowflakes when you have the kick-ass Katara doing her waterbending. We also have a few of the comic books which pick up the story after the cartoon finishes. Both kids love pouring over these comics.



I also painted some avatar nesting dolls, see this – avatar nesting dolls vine

I guess the only thing left to do is get our hands on the sequel – Legend of Korra.


We had a fantastic time yesterday at the #phoenixfest. Two of our favourite things, the amazing Story Museum & the fabulous Phoenix comic, collided creating an fun filled, inspiring and relaxing day. Look at all the things on offer. 

There was a great atmosphere during the day. It was even fun standing in line waiting to meet some of the comic book creators and listening to the excited chatter amongst the kids about favourite comics & their creations. (I also learnt of an extra puzzle in the Von Doogan puzzle book). Everyone we met was so friendly and taking the time to chat to Bryn & sign his poster.


We started the day up in Story Telling room with the gigantic bed. As on our previous visits to the Story Museum we love the magic they create and the kids loved choosing a dressing gown before entering the room. John Dickinson (writer of the Red Jack story and lots more) was reading some of his fantastical stories & this was Freya’s favourite part of the day. She enjoyed it so much she went back again later on in the day. 


Bryn went to a workshop by the creator of everyones favourite villain, Evil Emperor Penguin, Laura Ellen Anderson. He went in looking a little anxious & came our proudly showing his new villainous creation, Sir Dragon-Mare & his Raven Hunter minions, and humming the EEP theme tune.  


His current dragon obsession led to a request for a dragon drawing from the genius Etherington Brothers   


My highlight was finally getting to go inside the room with the antique printing presses (previously I’ve just peered in through the window like a kid outside a sweet shop). While Owen & Freya had a go at using one of the printing presses I enjoyed soaking in all the printing wonder.



Another highlight was meeting Paul Duffield who’s book is a lovely addition to our growing comic book collection.



The day ended with Bryn getting involved some secret shenanigans which involved racing around the museum finding clues, drawing pictures & solving a tricky Von Doogan puzzle to finally become part of the Phoenix Emergency Response Team. What happened after these two entered the room is ‘Top Secret’….I cant say anymore…


We all had so much fun & came home feeling a 100% more creative ready to make our own comics.

Thanks to all the organisers & comic book heroes.



Woozy the Wizard, A Broom to Go Zoom by Elli Woollard and Al Murphy

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


When Woozy the Wizard needs to replace his broom he finds a ‘shiny new shop’ selling hoovers that zoom. However, when he gets home he finds its a flat pack hoover and looks to his friends for help and finds that sometimes shiny new things don’t always live up to their promise.

This is a great story to read out loud because of its funny rhyming verse. The silly story, fabulous rhymes & bright illustrations also make it perfect for new readers. Within minutes of reading the book aloud Bryn had sneaked off to read it himself. Freya found Woozy’s pet pig hilarious & enjoyed looking at the illustrations in the book.

This is a wonderfully bright & quirky book in tone, language & pictures. I really enjoyed the zany humour in both the text & pictures and we were all left wanting to hear more Woozy Wizard stories

Doctor Molly’s Medicine Case by Miriam Moss and Deborah Allwright

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


Dr Molly’s Medicine Case is not only a fun read but also sparked an afternoon of imaginative play. Freya was really excited about this book with its beautiful illustrations, flaps,pockets & pull out pieces (which, after many readings, we still haven’t managed to loose). 

Freya loves pulling out the pieces from Molly’s bag & helping the animals feel better, whether its checking the polar bear’s temperature or putting cream on a sore crocs tail. As with Mary Poppins, whatever Molly needs to help her friends is somewhere in her bag, including a few spoonfuls honey (in this case). The book ends with some extra special treats from the bag for Molly & her friends.

This is a lovely book and the flaps & little play pieces are well judged. On the first reading, rather than being distracted by the flaps & rushing to open them Freya was absorbed in the story and waited to open the flaps at the relevant points in the narrative. It was also fun to see her rush off and invent ailments for us all so she could play doctors. 

What’s Your Favourite Animal? By Eric Carle and Friends

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


This book aims to inspire children ‘to create favourite animals drawings & stories of their very own’ which is exactly what Bryn did.

This is a sumptuous book in which 14 picture book artists draw their favourite animals accompanied with some text. As soon as we finished reading the book Bryn was keen to draw one of his favourite animals, the Axolotl a fish that walks.

Bryn recognised a few of the illustrators from their pictures such as Lucy Cousins, Jon Klassen with the most recognisable being Eric Carle. His favourite however was a guest appearance from Bad Kitty in Nick Bruel’s illustrations.

I thought the book was a great showcase for some amazing picture book artists and we are looking forward to discovering their books. It also provided a simple activity for Bryn who found the it a great source of inspiration.