A is for Alice, an Alphabet Book with illustrations by John Tenniel

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Published by Macmillan Children’s Books, 2017.

A is for Alice is a gorgeous alphabet board book published by Macmillan, the publishers of the first Alice in Wonderland books. John Tenniel’s original pen and ink illustrations accompany the text and this lends the book a lovely vintage feel. This is an alphabet of the characters and objects from the Alice stories. It includes, for example, the Queen of Hearts, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat and the Dodo. There’s also a teacup, a pocket watch and a bottle labelled ‘Drink Me’. The book is easy to read and accessible; the layout is clear and unfussy, and the backgrounds are simple.

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I always look at alphabet books with my teacher’s hat on. Ideally, the words that have been chosen should begin with the letter sound not the letter name because children first learn the alphabet (and how to read) using phonics. I’m pleased to report that there are only two words, owl and unicorn, which fall foul of my requirements!

A is for Alice is a lovely way to develop early reading skills and a beautiful introduction to a children’s classic.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable from birth.

Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for sending me this book to review and to Toppsta for organising the giveaway.

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Sun by Sam Usher

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Published by Templar, 2017.

From the sparkling title font to the glistening sand on the front door steps, the cover of this glorious picture book draws you straight in to the shimmering heat of summer.

IMG_2512A young boy wakes up and it’s sunny: the hottest day of the year. He and his grandad plan an adventure: their mission – to find the perfect picnic spot. They pack their provisions and set off. Grandad has a set of very specific requirements for the perfect picnic spot. It must be picturesque, in the shade, and benefiting from a cool breeze. Their quest is long and punctuated with frequent rest stops (Grandad gets tired easily). They journey on across the desert and past an oasis until they finally find the perfect picnic spot, only to discover that some pirates have beaten them to it…

IMG_2508This is the third book in Sam Usher’s weather series. All three books are about the same young boy and his grandad, and an adventure that they share together. There are other, subtle links too: penguin and monkey (the boy’s cuddly toys) feature in all three books (it’s fun to spot what they’re up to in different scenes) and the toy ship in Rain bears a striking resemblance to the pirate ship in Sun. I love these subtleties and how all three books work so well together. Within the first half of Sun there’s also a gentle, playful foreshadowing of the book’s pirate ship denouement: the parrot perched on the lamp post, the Jolly Roger flag in the sandcastle, and the boy’s one-legged pirate doll. I love these touches because they give the story an extra depth.

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Sam Usher’s amazing watercolours seem to radiate heat. His illustrations capture the oppressive heat of a baking hot day perfectly. Many of the illustrations are incredibly detailed. There’s loads to look at and you can spend ages spotting everything that’s going on.

There’s a fun repetitive element to the text; it’s a bit like a chorus and it makes it really easy for children to join in with the story telling.

Sun is a joyful celebration of where your imagination can take you, and a heart-warming tale of the love between grandfather and grandson.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 2+

Thank you to Templar for sending me this book to review.

One Hundred Sausages by Yuval Zommer

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Published by Templar, 2016.

Scruff the dog loves sausages. He’ll eat any variety and his particular favourites are those on display in the butcher’s window. He spends his days seeking out sausages at barbecues, picnics and restaurants. At night time he dreams of sausages.

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One morning, as he stops for his daily sniff at the butcher’s window, he discovers that there’s been a break-in and all the sausages have been stolen. Unfortunately, Scruff’s predilection for sausages makes him the prime suspect! Soon there are wanted posters with Scruff’s face on them plastered all over town.

There’s only one thing for it – to prove his innocence Scruff must catch the real thief. So, with the promise of sausages, he enlists the help of his canine friends and they begin searching for clues.

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This is a gorgeous book – the sausage-packed endpapers alone are mouth-watering. The lively illustrations are really engaging and full of humour. From the scene where Scruff is relieving himself up a tree to the picture of Sidney the sausage dog disguised as a hot dog, children will find plenty to giggle about. It’s an exciting, light-hearted tale that’s great fun to read.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 2+

Thank you to Templar for sending me this book to review.

Really Feely Baby Animals & Really Feely Farm by Polly Appleton & Dawn Sirett

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Published by Dorling Kindersley, 2017.

These Really Feely books belong to a new series for pre-schoolers from Dorling Kindersley. Each book features five animals across five double-page spreads. Children are invited to pat, tickle, stroke and touch the different animals.

What I really like about these books is the variety and quality of the tactile elements. Dorling Kindersley have used materials that closely replicate the fur of each of the different animals. For example, the donkey foal has short tufty fur whereas the puppy’s fur is longer and fluffier. My absolute favourite page is the owl chick with its fuzzy, downy feathers – just gorgeous!

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As well as feeling the animals’ fur, children are encouraged to touch beaks, noses, snouts and ears. In addition to the fluffy patches, the feely parts also include bumpy patterns, felt, tactile glitter and high-shine smooth sections.

These fabulous touch-and-feel books are a great way to help  toddlers learn the names of different animals. The simple text introduces some basic information about the animals and will help young children to learn more about the world around them.

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Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable from birth.

Thank you to Dorling Kindersley for sending me these books to review.

100 First Words by Dawn Sirett & Charlotte Milner

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Additional design and illustrations by Rachael Parfitt Hunt.

Published by Dorling Kindersley, 2017.

As I’ve come to expect from Dorling Kindersley, this large format board book is beautiful to look at and produced to a very high standard. 100 First Words is aimed at babies and toddlers, and covers all the familiar things that little children are interested in from pets and toys to objects around the home and things that go. The words are divided into sections. Some focus on everyday routines: mealtime and food, bath time and bedtime. Other sections look at the world outside and include wild animals and life on the farm. There are also pages showing colours, clothes and the body.

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Each word that your child is introduced to has an image and a label. Some of the pictures are illustrations, some are photographs. Personally, I would have preferred it if all the images were photographs. I think these are easier for young children to recognise and relate to. The pages are colourful and eye-catching with bold backgrounds and a clear, easy to read font.

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Sam’s favourite page.

My 17-month-old son, Sam, really likes this book. He returns to it again and again, and it’s one that he chooses for us to read. He will bring it to me, sit on my lap and turn the pages. He points at the different pictures and grunts – this is his pre-talking way of asking me to name the object. He looks and listens and is taking everything in. We read the book most days in this way. The repetition is building his vocabulary and now when the process is reversed and I ask, for example, ‘Where’s the fire engine?’ he is able to point to the correct picture. He also makes links between the objects in the book and things that he can see in our house or through the window.

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This is a great book for early language development, and is lots of fun to read together.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable from birth.

Thank you to Dorling Kindersley for sending me this book to review.

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat by Coral Rumble & Charlotte Cooke

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Published by Wacky Bee Books, 2017.

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat is a lovely picture book collaboration between mother and daughter. It begins and ends with verses based on the Edward Lear poem, except in this story the owl and the pussycat are a little boy and girl (perhaps a brother and a sister) in fancy dress who have made a boat out of a cardboard box. They have a pair of pants for a sail and a broom handle for a mast. They set sail from their living room floor, and their imaginations take them on an exciting adventure. On their journey they encounter swashbuckling pirates, all sorts of sea creatures, and a particularly naughty seagull.

IMG_2433The lively illustrations are packed full of detail; there’s plenty to notice and smile about. I also loved spotting the little extra details in the illustrations. For example, the name of the pea-green boat is Petit Pois, and the puffin flying to the moon and back in an aviator cap and goggles is a nod to Amelia Earhart.

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat is great fun and a joyous celebration of the magic of imaginative play.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 2+

Thank you to Wacky Bee Books for sending me this book to review. I reviewed this book as part of The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat blog tour.

The Safari Set by Madeleine Rogers

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Published by Button Books, 2017.

This lovely rhyming board book introduces young readers to five different safari animals: lions, giraffes, elephants, zebras and hippos. For the most part, there is a only a single line of text per double page and so it’s incredible just how many fascinating facts are packed into the book! The Safari Set is pitched at just the right level and is a brilliant introduction to children’s non-fiction. In the inside back cover there’s extra information about the animals along with an environmental message about climate change.

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The book will really engage young readers – the pages are colourful, the animals cute and cartoon-like, and the sturdy pages with rounded edges are perfect for tiny hands. At different points in the book the reader is addressed directly and this will help them to connect even more with the text.

IMG_2420The book is beautiful to look at – bold and eye-catching. I really like the stylised, design-led illustrations and the use of patterns, in particular.

There’s some fabulously ambitious vocabulary for this age range, for example, ‘scorching hot’, ‘dazzling sight’, and ‘dusty plains’. This, combined with the jaunty rhymes, makes it a treat to read aloud.

There are a number of other books in the series, including The Polar Pack and The Jungle Crew. We’d love to collect them all!

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable from birth.

Thank you to Button Books for sending me this book to review and to Toppsta for organising the giveaway.