A great big cuddle – poems for the very young

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I am yet to meet a child who doesn’t love poetry.

I think the rhythm of it and the almost musical nature of a poem when read aloud is what makes it so very appealing to little people, even if they don’t understand the content. As a result, it’s the ideal medium for introducing books and stories – the pattern of the reader’s voice providing as much enjoyment as the words themselves.

In A Great Big Cuddle – Poems For The Very Young, Michael Rosen manages to distil concepts such as anger and belonging into things a child might relate to, and creates verses about them using the bare bones of language. There’s an Edward Lear-esque element to some of the verses – whimsical and fun, full of opportunities for the reader and listener to play with the text.

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Coupled with Chris Riddell’s amazing artwork – did I mention I love his drawings more than a little? – and this is a book that’s very easy to read and enjoy.

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Which are your favourite poetry books for children?

Farn ❤

Lift-the-flap Periodic Table

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This morning, rushing to get out of the door as usual, I turn around and realise that Daughter is still in her nightclothes – stood with bags and coat in hand and utterly absorbed by the Usbourne Lift-the-flap Periodic Table book. Though she had completely forgotten to get dressed, she could now tell me – with no prior chemistry knowledge – that water was a compound of two elements.

All things considered, I’m going to call that a win.

It’s easy to see why Daughter was so focused on the book – it’s brightly coloured, easy to understand and who doesn’t love an informative flap?

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Information is broken down into small, manageable chunks and is presented in such a way that chemistry – a subject that even my nerdy teenage self couldn’t stomach for its dryness – is not only interesting, but compelling.

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This book strikes the ideal balance between fun and fact – it’s interesting without being heavy and fun without being patronising. For any child with even a passing interest in science, it’s a very worthwhile investment.

Which are your favourite science books for children?

Farn ❤

The Street Beneath My Feet, by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer

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The Street Beneath My Feet, by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer is an absolute gem of a book.

The format makes it exciting, the art makes it beautiful and the information is presented in such a way that it can be enjoyed by a huge range of ages (parents included).

We’ve had it for a week, and already it’s become a firm favourite.

The book itself is a giant cross-section of the earth, folded in such a way that you can lay it out on the floor…

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…Or look at it like a regular book as each side is printed on, showing different things you can see beneath the surface.

To give you an idea of scale, here’s a picture in which I managed to accidentally photograph my foot…

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I really love the way that the text draws your attention to different elements within the pictures, and how it’s not at all dry – there’s a lot of humour present.

Which are your favourite science books? I think this one might be mine!

– Farn ❤

Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

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One for slightly older children (me) this time – an amazing collaboration between two of my favourite booky people, Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell.

Odd and the Frost Giants is a coming-of-age story about a viking boy called Odd. His leg is injured during an accident and in a society of warrior-men, he’s very much an outcast. When his father dies and his mother remarries, Odd leaves his family home and makes his way to his father’s hut in the forest where he comes across three peculiar animals – a bear, an eagle and a fox (Thor, Odin and Loki) who have the power of speech.

Using his wits and a great deal of courage, Odd is able to help the trio of gods return to their home in time to save it. Then he returns to his, self-assured enough to deal with his step-father.

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I don’t know where to start in praising this book. The pictures are wonderfully detailed without being fussy, atmospheric without being sinister and so, so stylish in black and white. Gaiman and Riddell have worked on many projects together and though I’m sure the writing could hold up on its own, as could the art work, I feel like author and illustrator compliment each other to the point where both are improved in combination.

Truth be told, I bought this book for me and it was an accident that Daughter came to read it. I had it in the back of the car having finished it in the school car-park and on the way home, she pilfered it. Whilst the story itself isn’t an actual Norse myth, it triggered a great interest in the Aesir which we continued by reading Gaiman’s own retellings. Whilst the stories do have some darker sections, they’re not told in a graphic way and Daughter – a precocious reader and overly sensitive six year old – didn’t find them upsetting.

I think that’s what I love most about Gaiman’s work for younger readers – they strike the perfect balance between being suitable for the intended audience and interesting for adults (to the point where I buy them for myself).

Though I suppose that ultimately, that’s what marks a good story – everyone can enjoy it.

Which are your favourite books that have been written with children in mind?

Farn

 

There are NO Cats in this Book by Viviane Schwarz

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I was so excited when I learned about There are NO Cats in this Book by Viviane Schwarz. As a huge fan of the original – the aptly named, There Are Cats in this Book – finding this in the library was something akin to finding treasure.

In this sequel, the reader arrives on the first page just in time to see the three cats packing to leave on an outing into the world. But the cats are having trouble removing themselves from the book… The reader is then invited to use clever flaps and pop-ups to help the cats escape, and eventually, to resort to wishing.

When the cats do manage to leave, they send a postcard to let the reader know they have managed to break free.

A few artfully blank pages follow…

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…before the cats return with a whole host of friends.

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I love everything about these books – the breaking of the fourth wall, the unashamed pantomime narration, the interactive flaps and most of all, the glorious illustrations. They’re so colourful and full of cheeky character.

I mean, look at this guy! What’s not to love?!

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If you can get a hold of this and There Are Cats in This Book then I can’t recommend strongly enough that you do.

Which are your favourite ‘fun’ books – books which appeal to you as an adult as much as they do to your kids?

Farn ❤

 

 

The Fossil Girl by Catherine Brighton and Stone Girl, Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt

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Mary Anning was a pretty inspiring person – because who doesn’t love dinosaur fossils, right? – so it’s hardly surprising that there are a number of books for children, written about her amazing work.

The Fossil Girl by Catherine Brighton and Stone Girl, Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt are two examples.

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Both books tell of Anning’s early life as she gathered enough ‘curiosities’ to fill her shop.

The Fossil Girl by Catherine Brighton

Pictured above, this book tells Anning’s story using a comic-book format. The pictures are beautiful and light and have a real seaside-feel – to me at least, they’re reminiscent of the early railway posters.

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The format lends itself really well to early readers on account of the deliberate narrative, but manages not to be patronising. There is a wealth of information there – it’s just presented in a really concise, accessible manner. And though the words are few and scattered, the pictures really do tell their own story. I really love this detail from the cover – the clusters of swirling fossils, Anning’s practical shoes and her utilitarian apron, all help to tell us about her without actually saying anything at all.

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Stone Girl, Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt

Unlike the previous book, Stone Girl, Bone Girl lends itself well to being read aloud. Don’t get me wrong – I love a comic as much as anyone – but if I’m reading bedtime stories, comics just don’t have the same ‘flow’ as prose or poetry. I always feel the need to fill in the descriptive narrative myself and the book goes from being an elegant, well-considered series of plot-points to me, waffling about the pictures until the kids get bored and remind me to read the next panel.

The prose is nice, the pictures are rich and colourful, though it is heavily stylised so if realism is important for your family, this book probably isn’t for you.

I found that the two books worked really well in combination. Any differences in the two stories merited investigation – an invitation to further study the life of Mary Anning.

Do you have any favourite books about the science of palaeontology?

Farn ❤

Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different, by Ben Brooks

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I’ve had this book on pre-order since it was announced and was so happy when it arrived this morning, just in time for the spring holidays!

As a household, we’re big fans of the Rebel Girl books but I’m also very aware of the fact that in addition to showing my children strong female role models, I have to give them examples of men and boys who don’t conform to the stereotype that brute-force will always win the day. And despite the amazing resource that is A Mighty Girl , I’ve yet to find one which lists boys defying stereotypes in the same way.

Which is why I was so excited when I heard about Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different by Ben Brooks.

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We’ve only read a few of the pages so far, but there are some amazing stories about men I’d never heard of, and equally amazing stories about men whose works I know.

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The format is the same as Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – a beautiful illustration opposite a short text about the subject. So far there’s a few people I might not have included (Steve Irwin, for example, I thought was an odd choice), but disagreement on this sort of thing is never bad – just an opportunity for discussion about their deeds, both those chosen for the book and those which have been omitted. At the moment, Son is too young for these discussions but I’m sure Daughter will have some lively thoughts on the matter…

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Whilst the majority of the artwork is wonderful and quite ‘literal’ be aware that if reading to a younger audience there are a few stylised pictures which might cause upset. Son won’t let me read to him about Ai Weiwei as the illustration is a page of sunflowers with faces instead of seeds and he found this distressing. That said, as an adult I love the art – it’s detailed and interesting without being fussy.

Which are your favourite books about Boys who Dare to be Different? And which are your favourite books about Rebel Girls?

Farn ❤