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 ❤

Freddie and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson and Karen George

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I sat on the fence for a long time before deciding to write about Freddie and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson and Karen George. I mean, what more is there to say about the almighty Julia? She was the first author that Son would read in lieu of the Reverend Awdry’s The Railway Series and for that alone I will be forever grateful.

What I love about Freddie and the Fairy though, is that it’s the only book that I’ve found – so far – which includes a pink fluffy fairy and a little boy.

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The premise of this lovely rhyming story is simple – Freddie meets Bessie-Belle, the fairy, who offers to grant him a wish. Freddie mumbles his requests and as Bessie-Belle ‘can’t hear very well’, she misinterprets him.

Freddie’s wishes are met with lots of different rhyming alternatives, until Bessie-Belle – who has been valiantly trying to get it right all along – finally succumbs to tears of frustration. Freddie is encouraged by a more experienced fairy to speak slowly and clearly, instead of mumbling and everyone tries again. This time, Bessie-Belle gets it spot on and everyone is happy.

As I mentioned above, this is the only book I’m aware of which places a boy amongst a cast of fairies. That alone makes it awesome as far as I’m concerned… But I also really like the fact that it showed perseverance, frustration and resolution. It’s a great way of illustrating resilience, and growth mindset.

Plus, who doesn’t like super cute fairies?

Am I wrong – do you know of other books which feature little boys as the  protagonists of fairy stories? I’d love to know if there are!

Farn ❤

I’m Me! by Sara Sheridan and Margaret Chamberlain

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Our copy of I’m Me! by Sara Sheridan and Margaret Chamberlain is very well worn and loved. Gifted to Daughter shortly after she was born, this has been a firm favourite ever since.

The story follows a little girl called Imogen who goes to play with her Auntie Sara. Auntie Sara is very excited and has all sorts of ideas for games, but Imogen isn’t in the mood – she just wants to be herself, not a knight or a pirate or an astronaut.

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The premise of the book is incredibly simple – Auntie Sara suggests a game and Imogen says, “Not today,” until Auntie Sara eventually pauses long enough for Imogen to express herself. The prose follows a pattern which makes it easy for early readers to follow, and predictable enough for pre-readers to join in whilst listening.

Notes from our initial reading – a good six years ago – state that Daughter “really engaged … in a way I’ve not seen before. There’s something about the illustrative style which she found particularly appealing, pointing at ‘imagined’ Imogen and then at ‘narrative’ Imogen, identifying that they were the same character. What I also found incredibly exciting was the page in which Imogen is depicted as a witch’s cat – Daughter pointed at the protagonist in her costume, said ‘cat’ and then proceeded to point to the ‘real life’ Imogen whilst shaking her head and saying ‘cat’ again.”

Daughter was just over fourteen months at this time. That she still likes it as she approaches seven and is able to read fluently for herself speaks a great deal for what is essentially a list of make-believe games.

Do you have any books which have endured like this?

Farn ❤