Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson

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Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson is a really fun introduction to gardening, and is one of those books which call for a high degree of interaction between reader and listener – something I absolutely love.

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Told in verse and requiring lots of finger actions, this is a fantastically fun little gem of a book. Beginning with the page above and ending with a row of flowers, there are all kinds of things to giggle at in between.

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There isn’t a great deal more to be said about this book – lots of bright illustrations, few well-chosen words… it’s a delight to read to small people.

It’s definitely one I would recommend getting a copy of and just trying for yourself.

Have you read Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson? Did you like it as much as me?

Farn ❤

Rosy’s Garden by Satomi Ichikawa

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Rosy’s Garden by Satomi Ichikawa should be a classic. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, but bear with me…

I happened upon our copy in a charity shop when Daughter was around two and ever since, we’ve read it regularly. In itself, this isn’t at all unusual. The difference between Rosy’s Garden and just about every other book, though, is that I have never once thought, “Oh, not again…” Time after time, this has been eagerly brought to me and time after time I’ve said – just as eagerly – “Ooh, good choice!”

At its core, the book chronicles the titular character’s summer holiday at her grandmother’s house. There’s no singular main event, nor is it a series of Milly-Molly-Mandy- esque episodes as I had first presumed on finding the book. The best description I can think of to describe the layout is a journal-cross-scrapbook. There are little notes about flower names, the language of flowers, how to make rose water, how Granny and Grandpa met, how to gather seeds…

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I think that’s what I love most about the book – the little snippets of information that is genuinely new and interesting. There are so very many books about planting a seed that grows into a flower but so few about the culture that surrounds our gardens and the things we plant. This book perfectly fills that gap.

And perfect as the writing is, the illustrations still manage to make it even better. Some of them look like botanical prints, they’re so accurate. But at the same time there’s so much character and warmth in them – so many details to spot.

The more I write about this book, the more I could write so I’m going to leave things here, before I get carried away. I maintain what I said though – this really should be a classic.

What’s your list of ‘would-be’ children’s classics?

The Gifts of Autism by Katherine Uher

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The Gifts of Autism by Katherine Uher is a fairly rare thing – being one of only a handful of books I’ve come across so far which is both written specifically for children, and aims to highlight the positive aspects of autism.

Whilst other factual books exist about autism, they focus on parts of the condition which might result in a child feeling stigmatised or even inferior to their peers. This book, conversely, describes various autistic traits – as the title suggests – as gifts.

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I always feel that you can tell the quality of an alphabet book by the choice of word for the letter Q and this didn’t disappoint – the word ‘Queen’ doesn’t make a tenuous appearance and the alternative word isn’t something entirely un-Q-related with the word ‘quite’ whacked in front. Whilst this might not seem like big praise, but you’d be amazed at how often the above happens, so full marks there!

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The book also contains a section designed to encourage self-reflection with a focus on positive autistic traits – indeed, positive traits for anyone to possess. I really like this invitation to praise oneself in detail – whilst drawing in a book, or even drawing-at-all, might not be every child’s cup-of-tea, the art pages can still serve as cues to think about what makes us awesome. Autistic or not, self-praise is something that doesn’t happen nearly enough – particularly not in the UK, where we seem to be bound by some unwritten law to downplay our own achievements for fear of sounding like we’re boasting. I think we’d all feel a lot better if we took the time to acknowledge the things that make us great, whether we’re autistic or not.

I also feel like it’s important to add that this is an excellent book for any child. As I’ve said above, the vast majority books that I’ve found on autism focus on traits that are often perceived as negative, even if the book is trying to take a neutral, fact-based approach. If we want to live in a society which values everyone for the contributions they do make then we need to make sure we that we focus on this when we explain the world. By thinking about the gifts of autism, the condition becomes a lot less isolating and neurotypical children might begin to see their autistic peers in a more positive light. And a little understanding can go a very, very long way.

Do you know of any positive books on autism I might not have come across yet? I’d love to hear about them if you do!

Farn ❤

Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

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Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang is probably as old as I am, if not older. Whilst it could conceivably be argued that I’m reviewing it for nostalgic reasons, this isn’t one of the books that I (knowingly) enjoyed in childhood. For me, this was another golden charity shop find and has since been adored by both Son and Daughter for the past seven years.

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First of all, I love the artwork – the book’s blurb describes it as having, ‘rich, bold colours’ and I couldn’t agree more. I also love the language used – in all the (many) books I’ve read to my daughter in the last seven-and-a-bit years, this is the only one which has referred to a girl as strong in the physical sense of the word. Later books – intended for older readers – have used the adjective to describe personality but bodily strength is not a characteristic that’s normally attached to female protagonists. Which is an issue, when you’re raising a girl who happens to have the beginnings of a six-pack.

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I love the realism of the book – that there are seven shoes along the edge of the bed, one half of a pair temporarily misplaced. I love the detail in the illustrations – the cat that’s present in nearly all of the pictures seems to be up to something new in each one. I love that it’s Dad, tenderly putting his daughter to bed and that this isn’t a laboured point.

The poem that carries us through the countdown is simple and neat, but equally warm and affectionate. Whilst I can pretty much recite it from memory, I haven’t grown tired of it yet, which is always a good sign.

This is another older book that I really would urge you to go out of your way to find. As you can tell from the pictures above, our copy has been well-loved and though both children are, if I’m being honest, too old for it, I can’t imagine not having it in the house so I’m on the hunt for another copy.

Tell me I’m not the only person who can’t let go of books – which have you clung on to?

Farn ❤

Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers

I feel like Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers is the author’s love-letter to planet earth.

Full of Jeffers’ usual humour, beautiful illustrations and important information, this is a lovely book to share with very young, very curious people.

Jeffers talks about land and sea, the sun and stars and everything in between. Familiar characters feature …

… such as The Penguin and The Boy from ‘Lost and Found’, in addition to various other animated animals and people.

There’s not a vast amount that I can say about this book – beyond, “it’s fabulous and you should own it,” – because the subtitle does it all for me. Technically called Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, the book is just that – a series of notations about the world – this is what land looks like, and sea, this is the sky in the daytime and at night, here are constellations, here is a city, here is a forest, it can feel as though time can move slowly or quickly, people are mostly concerned with eating and drinking and staying warm…

There are so many things to like about this book, but they’re the sorts of thing that I can say about any of Jeffers’ works and the title of the book explains the rest, so I’ll just leave you with the above pictures and the promise that there’s a high probability your local library will have a copy you can enjoy…

Farn ❤

The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen

I first stumbled upon The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen by accident whilst rummaging through a pile of ‘3 for 99p’ books at our local charity shop. I picked it up solely to make up the numbers, but of the three I bought that day, this is the only one that’s still around.

At the time of writing this review (5/8/18), the book is out of print, but available second-hand in all the usual places you’d expect to find it. To my mind, it’s definitely worth going out of your way for.

The extract below pretty much sums up the book better than I could.

The twelve months each have a double-page spread, full of glorious illustrations which follow the inhabitants of Maple Hill Farm as they plant and harvest crops and work with livestock.

The book’s pace is sedate, but it isn’t lacking in humour. I really like the language – suitable for the very young but dry enough to leave me smiling.

And I love the artwork – I periodically toy with the idea of buying a second copy to cut up and hang on my walls.

This has been a favourite when my children have gone through phases of loving farm machinery and animals, and I usually bring it out again in the autumn (the season that speaks most of change to me). I use it to talk about where food comes from and about the months of the year – it’s a really rich book which covers many topics, making it ideal for home-ed libraries.

Which are your favourite books about the seasons? And where do you go to find your out-of-print books?

— Farn ❤

Lots by Marc Martin & Maps; special edition by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

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In addition to the lovely books we’ve been reading about migration, I also broke out these beauties – Lots by Marc Martin & Maps; Special Edition by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski.

Lots definitely lives up to its name. It is, essentially, a picture book of many things, grouped by country.

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It’s safe to say that the artwork is the book’s main selling point, but although the words are sparse, they still manage to convey a wealth of humour and information. I particularly like the page about Japan, featuring Godzilla.

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The detail present is magical, and the artwork glorious.

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I love which details the artist has chosen to highlight from each place, like these pretzels from New York.

I also really like the fact that this book isn’t British-centric. In fact, we don’t even feature. It really is about the wider world and for me, that adds to the feel of adventure.

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Coupled with the special edition of Maps, these books are a fantastic introduction to geography.

The format of Maps isn’t that dissimilar; the pages are divided into countries, and some aspects of the nation’s culture are overlaid on the map in the form of small pictures.

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I really love the selection of things that are displayed in this book. Despite having studied Danish for four years and living in Denmark for two years, this spread still taught me new things about the country.

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I really love the detail in the illustrations, the colours, and the beautiful writing. As with Lots, I feel as though this book would have been far poorer for having been type-set. The hand-written look makes it feel almost as though you’re paging through someone’s sketch book – something that I really enjoy.

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Although both of these books are classed as children’s books, I would feel good about giving them to an adult friend who appreciated good art and travelling. And to me, that’s the mark of great children’s books – they appeal to everyone and bring generations closer together.

Which of your kids books are your favourites?

Farn ❤