Monday, 28 April 2014

Owl At Home by Arnold Lobel

I've been reading the Frog and Toad books for a few years but hadn't heard of this one by the same author til about a month ago. Its called Owl At Home.

You could say its nothing special, just a few little stories about Owl, but oh my goodness its really, really great.

Owl lives alone. He's a bit of a thinker, pretty neurotic actually, but in the end he figures things out. For example, his little house has two storeys. Which is great. But how does the ground floor manage when he is upstairs? And are things ok in his bedroom when he is sitting by the fire? So Owl races up a down the stairs trying to figure this out. Its nice to read a book that brings up stuff like this. Daft but still, who hasn't thought about it?

Theres another story where Owl, in order to make some Tear Water Tea, has to think about sad things, to make himself cry. 

"Chairs with broken legs," said Owl. His eyes began to water. "Songs that cannot be sung," said Owl, "Because the words have been forgotten."...
"Mashed potatoes left on a plate, because no one wanted to eat them. And pencils that are too short to use."

In the end he had a full pot and sat back in his armchair and enjoyed it. Which is exactly what we did with this book. Highly recommended, for ages three to six.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt, illustrated by Dan Santat

I spotted this when I was buying Sidekicks, which was both illustrated and written by Santat. I had never heard of R.A. Spratt and thought the name sounded pretty pseudonym-ish, but I was wrong. She lives in Bowral, Australia and has written nine Nanny Piggins books. She also has a new series on the way, Friday Barnes, Girl Detective the first of which is due out in July. I'd say its definitely worth a look.
My eleven year old loved The Adventures of Nanny Piggins. Once he saw it was a series, he immediately requested the second one, but I delayed. I know its always nice to have the complete set of anything, but this time he had to actually finish the first book before we thought about getting the second. That was no problem at all and within three days I was clicking on The Book Depository and ordering Nanny Piggins and the Wicked Plan.
As you can see, there are some illustrations, and the text is a nice size. I think this another good one for weaning on from Wimpy Kids. And its funny which in my view is the most important thing at all. Is there a nicer sound than a child chuckling quietly, absorbed in a book?

Friday, 18 April 2014

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson, again.

My kids tell me that I have reviewed this before. I had completely forgotten. However, I think Rabbit Hill is good enough to warrant two mentions.
All I have to add to what I said the last time is that if you have spent the day at home with your children, fighting the urge to tell the lot of them to shag off, spending twenty minutes reading this aloud is a balm for the soul. By the time I had finished a chapter I liked them all again! A really wonderful book. Perfect read-aloud for ages five or six and up and for independent readers I'd say nine and up. Happy Easter!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

For the past week I have been asking my eleven year to give me a little review of D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths. He always says, "But its not mine!" and I remember that when I was evening things out under the tree one Christmas Eve, I moved it from his pile to his brothers. Oh dear, I keep forgetting that. Because this book is most definitely for a child who is into myths and monsters, and he is our one of those.

I do know his brother read it, he just didn't reread it, so for those who aren't mythology nuts, it might be a good one to read aloud together. It is both fascinating and beautiful. Here are just a few of the illustrations. I got my expert to interpret them.
Three brothers defeating an Ice Giant whose body parts then became Earth. I think those rocks are his teeth.
The first people, who used to be trees.
 These guys ate a special apple that made them younger. Before is above and after is below.
Highly recommended. This is one that will eventually be a family heirloom. For ages seven or eight and up.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Moomin comics and Laurie Graham

My eight year old couldn't get to sleep the other night and I took out these old favourites.
They did the trick. These little Moomin comicy books are Tove Janssons comic strips, one story at a time. We love them. Perfect for Christmas stockings, hospital waiting rooms, flights, ferries and reluctant sleepers.

Age seven and up. 

And what the grown ups are reading. This is our kitchen table.

Laurie Graham is hands down my favourite author so I have all her books. I've just finished re reading The Future Homemakers of America, moved straight onto Gone With The Windsors , and my husband is reading Life According to Lubka. I constantly hear him chuckling quietly when he gets to one of the many,many funny bits. Anyone who hasn't read any of her books yet is lucky. They have such a treat in store! Her books are, as I said, funny, fantastically well written, fascinating and brilliant. Each and every one of them. Whey there isn't a special section for her in every book shop, I don't know. And in every airport. They are just so,so enjoyable. 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Presents for an eleven year old. Perplexus and Here Comes Science.

Velocity is speed and direction. I know this (and quite a lot more) thanks to John and John of They Might Be Giants. I mentioned their album Here Come The 123's after Christmas here and should add that it is still listened to regularly. Well, my second eldest turned eleven a few weeks ago and Here Comes Science was in his pile. Danzel of Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes had mentioned it to me and I'm so glad I took note.
If you are at home these Easter holidays with kids who mooch around the kitchen claiming there is nothing (nothing!) to do other than Xbox or Playstation or Nintendo ds, stick this cd on. (It is of course available in in more modern formats but if you get the old fashioned cd, you also get a dvd with the songs plus their videos, which are great.) If nothing else I guarantee they will shut up for a little while. There's also a good chance this blessed silence will be following by singing.

We also got him this.

Called Perplexus, its a puzzley thing that I got on It cost about €30 including shipping and I had to get it sent to a Northern Irish Parcel Motel Address as the seller wouldn't post to The Republic. Needless to say I read quite a few reviews before buying and found it received glowing notices on every kid blog out there. Erica on What Do We Do All Day pointed out that as it is 3D, it's the opposite of screentime. That sold me, making the rainy trip up the Parcel Motel where it got stuck in the post box and I had to enter our code about ten times as the rain did something to the touch screen, worth it.

And they have all played with it. As have I, actually. It's not too easy, which is a good thing and if it hasn't gathered dust by the end of the Easter break then I will consider it a success. So far, all activity indicates this will be the case.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

I am a Bunny by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry and Paul Thurlby's Alphabet(board book version)

One of the many great things about giving books as a new baby present is that size doesn't matter. It's not like when you buy a beautiful 0-3 month babygro and hear that the baby is ten pounds and the mother is too exhausted for visitors. By the time you drop it off it'll be way too small. Or the baby is six half pounds and the cute Summer outfit you bought won't fit until next Christmas.

I think this present would be perfect whether its received Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter, any time up until the baby is two or even three. My son will be four in August and we still read his board books regularly. Although as one of them is a bunny book, around now is especially apt.

These two board books are slightly oversized. (I have artfully placed them beside a Playmobil figure below.) My point is that they are not tiny and a lovely size to look at with a cuddly baby on your knee.

They came to just over twelve euros, which the price of a fancy sunhat that will lie at the bottom of a baby bag forever, or a pair of useless booties that will never stay on.
I've raved about Paul Thurlby's Alphabet here, so I won't repeat myself. Heres a few pictures to remind you how cool it is.

I first saw I Am A Bunny on Dinner A Love Story. I'm working my way through all the books mentioned there and love each and every one.
But this was still a bit of a revelation. I mean, I knew it would be nice and cute but I didn't expect it to be so beautiful.

This is how it begins.
  I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.

Just lovely. Each page follows him through his year, rain and shine, Summer and Winter. It's pretty perfect.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Ugly Egg by Lou Kuenzler, illustrated by David Hitch

If you are planning on an egg hunt on Easter Sunday, this one would be nice to add to the mix. The Ugly Egg is one of those read it yourself books that also happens to be a lovely read aloud. The words just roll of the tongue.
So just right for an early reader, or someone younger. Even three is a great age for this one.
It's cold in the North Pole and Posy doesn't have any eggs to sit on to keep her warm. The Snow Goose isn't very sympathetic. 
"No eggs?" said the Snow Goose. "But this is a nest site. Everyone here has eggs!" 

But Posy does find an egg. It just happens not to be a Puffin egg. (Puffins only lay one egg a year, which is why Posy doesn't have one. And baby Puffins are called Pufflings, which is lovely.) 

Anyways, despite the jeering of the other birds and the cold wind, she sticks with the ugly egg until it hatches. And her loyalty and resolve is rewarded.

This has been read on and off in our house for the past six or seven years. I think its €3.66 well invested. 

P.s. The Book Depository can take up to a fortnight to deliver, so Amazon might be a better bet to order this one, just to guarantee getting it by Easter Sunday. Or even a book shop.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop, illustrated by Kurt Wiese

This is a good one. I dug it out last night and decided that its one of those that would be nice to have in hardcover. Written in 1938, it is easy to get a cheap edition (I think this one cost about four euros) and it was one of those Book Depository orders I did on a wet Wednesday morning just to treat myself. I had no idea it was so excellent. Like my last post, this is also one for kids who have a taste for the grim and gruesome.
Once upon a time there were Five Chinese Brothers and they all looked exactly alike. They lived with their mother in a little house not far from the sea.
The First Chinese Brother could swallow the sea.
The Second Chinese Brother had an iron neck.
The Third Chinese Brother could stretch and stretch and stretch his legs.
The Fourth Chinese Brother could not be burned.
And The Fifth Chinese Brother could hold his breath indefinitely.

I like it for the same reasons that I like Heckedy Peg and Strega Nona. Its has that traditional fairy tale feel(it is a retelling of an old Chinese tale) with grim characters, threats of death and wonderfully resourceful hero/ines. "Fairy Tale" is really quite a misleading title for the genre. 

It starts with a drowning. You see, the First Chinese Brother is going fishing. And he does this by sucking all the water in the sea into his mouth, gathering a few fish and then spitting the sea out again. But on this occasion a little boy asks to come along too. He is allowed to go as long as he does what he is told.
In goes the water.
And the little boy gets to play on the sea floor. So exciting!
But does he come out when he is called? What do you think? 
And the little boy who did not "obey promptly" drowns.

My kids were a bit surprised, its not something that happens often in their bedtime stories, but I read on. 

The First Chinese Brother was jailed and condemned to have his head cut off. (I know! And there's more!) He is granted permission to leave prison to say goodbye to his mother and his brother comes back to jail in his place. The one with the iron neck. The beheading doesn't go according to plan and it is decided that he will be drowned. He is again granted permission to go home and say goodbye to his mother and the third brother returns in his place. The one who cannot be drowned. See whats happening?
Nope, he doesn't drown..
and he doesn't burn..
and he doesn't suffocate in the oven.

And in the end they all live happily ever after. With their mother.

For ages four and up.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Lio by Mark Tatulli

We got Lio Making Friends during the week in the library and it has been in someones hands ever since. Here is one brother waiting for the other one to finish it.
Its graphic, but not a graphic novel, as its not all one story but a series of comic strips about Lio (sorry, I can't find the right key to do that thing over the O) who has a pretty dark sense of humour. We all like dark here, so that's a good thing. I don't think it's really about making friends and it has no dialogue and the minimum amount of words, but listen, its not on a screen and you need to use more than a thumb to turn the page. I think its really great. Here's what happens when he loses a tooth.

That's one of the longer stories, some of them are just two pictures, but they are all pretty funny. At 224 pages, its a pretty nice deal for under eight euros. I'd say its good for ages 8 and up. An interest in the macabre a plus.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

books for the flight

We took a two hour flight with our kids last week. This is what I had in my carry-on bag.
These were really purchased for my three year old who I had a hunch I'd be stuck sitting beside, but my eight and ten year olds swapped them around too during that period when d.s.'s have to be switched off. And thankfully beyond it too. They are all getting  a bit older and the necessity of having sticker albums and occupying stuff on journeys isn't as vital as it used to be but still, a few previously unseen books come in very handy. Never underestimate the power of "new". 

Toilet, how it works is a good one, and all three who read it liked it. The title is pretty self explanatory and I got it really because of my youngests' constant questions from his perch in our downstairs bathroom. The diagrammy illustrations are a bit odd, see below..but my boys enjoyed them.
A person wearing crocs who is invisible except for guts, hands and glasses? Love the way the toilet paper is used up though!
You know you'll have to lift the lid off the tank after looking at this, right?

In the same series there's Eye: How it works, which, excuse the pun, I like the look of too.

Arthurs Halloween is I know, not appropriate for this time of year but in our house scary stuff is always popular and Halloween is still a cause for more excitement than Christmas. My youngest loved this one. Its a fairly predictable story but Arthur and his sister D.W. are really very likeable. And I always love illustrations of messy houses. 
The Big Orange Splot is a 1970's classic that I had never heard of until I saw it mentioned in What do we do all day, a lovely kids blog.
Its about a row of houses all the same, and the people who live in them, who like it that way. Until one day a seagull drops a pot of orange paint on the roof of Mr Plumbeans house.

Somehow, when he goes to clean it off, he can't bring himself to do it, and ends up decorating his house with his dreams.
You can imagine what the neighbours thought. 

One by one they all visit Mr Plumbean to change his mind and paint it plain again and one by one they leave, their minds expanded in a very 1970's way. A groovy story which will definitely be on steady rotation here.

Owl At Home is more of a read in bed than a read on a plane book. That's not to say it wasn't wonderful, it was and also my favourite of them all. But it really deserves a blog post of its own. I'll get that done over the next few days and thank you everyone, for checking in and reading this blog.