Thursday, 27 June 2013

Bubble & Squeak by James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy

Bubble & Squeak is the story of an unlikely friendship between a performing elephant and a curious little mouse. Bubble is the star of Mr Magnifico's famous traveling show.  She's celebrated the world over for her Pyramid of Peril act, but despite the praise and adulation Bubble is lonely. She has fun with the other performers in the show but they're too busy to be the kind of friend that Bubble is looking for. She's acutely aware of her situation and when a brave little mouse turns up to save the day, Bubble decides to ask him to stay.  They soon become a very happy pair of loyal friends and Mr Magnifico seals the deal by asking Squeak to join the show.

This story excels as a longer narrative with well paced text. It doesn't skimp on the details and provides a distinct beginning, middle and end. E is uncharacteristically quiet when we read this book and he has requested it 5 nights running now. 

The illustrations are truly marvellous. Vulliamy's colour palette appears void of green or orange, and the irresistable result is a bubble gum feel that creates a dream world where bears run travelling shows and human beings perfom alongside a menagerie of animals.

James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy are each established in their own right and I hope that they'll team up again for another creation in future!  Bubble and Squeak is published by Orchard Books in the UK and Sterling in the US.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Madeleine the City Pig by Karen Wallace & Lydia Monks

Madeleine the City Pig is a tale of life in the fast lane from an unlikely high flyer, a pig called Madeleine. She lives in a penthouse, she has a big job and she attends lots of fancy cocktail parties.  But something just isn't quite right, and Madeleine decides to take a much needed holiday to try and sort herself out.

She drives her fancy, fast car until it runs out of petrol. When it stops, Madeleine realizes that she's now very far from the city indeed and for the first time she has a chance to see the countryside, a pond and most importantly, a field full of other pigs. There and then she decides to change her life for good. She quits her job and with gay abandon takes the plunge to join the other pigs in doing what pigs do best, rolling in muck. Clearly, no fancy car, big job, expensive penthouse or exclusive parties are enough to keep Madeleine from returning to her natural state.

 E's papa loves reading this book and openly admires Madeleine's hutzpah. E has fun with it too though I'm not sure how much of the irony he understands. It's interesting to me that the anthropomorphic animals in the book mix seamlessly with humans in the illustrations.  The illustrations are modern and childlike at the same time and the collage style does much to bring Madeleine's human characteristics to life.


In doing my research I've just learned that sadly, this book is now out of print.  However, there are still copies to be found online and I suspect your local library may have a few copies on the shelf as well.

Monday, 10 June 2013

My Dad by Anthony Browne

 Regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of Anthony Browne's books. I hadn't realised that he had written a book just about Dad's, but when I spotted this one at the grocery store last week I decided it was the ideal gift for E to give his Pop.

Filled to the brim with Browne's whimsical illustrations, it's a sweet story (though not sappy) of a child's admiration for their Dad. It's told from the child's perspective and wonderfully catches that innocent, unconditional admiration with lines such as: 

'My Dad is bigger than a house' 


'He's strong as a gorilla'

I love that it starts off so simply with the claim that 'He's all right, my Dad.' And true to Browne's playful nature, the Dad in this book spends the entire story dressed in striped pj's and an old plaid robe (aka tartan dressing gown). 

This is a great read for your little reader and I think a great gift book as well.  To hear Anthony Browne talk about the book click on this link:

Happy reading and happy father's day!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Apps, ebooks and traditional books ... can they coexist?

Little Red Riding Hood from Nosy Crow

I attended a panel discussion this week about apps, ebooks and picture books for children. Our speakers came from three different strands of the publishing industry: Oxford University Press, Nosy Crow and Me Books.

It may seem a bit strange for someone who is such a champion of traditional books to attend such a discussion. However, I found it refreshing to talk about books and their digital counterparts as part of the same conversation. I do feel that apps, ebooks and traditional books can coexist.  For me, it's about managing screen time and not allowing it to compete with traditional books.

We live in a digital age and fortunately, we all get to make our own choices about how much, if any, screen time we allow our kids. I take E on a long haul flight at least once a year to see family and friends back in America, and even if I could sustain his attention for 9 hours straight with traditional books, I would never be able to carry all the materials needed in one airline approved bag. I make use of an ipad in these situations and seek to include as many well produced, creative and hopefully educational apps as possible. After this week's talk I'll also be looking at ebooks as another option for content on the tablet.

My hesitation with apps and screen time in general is that I don't want books to suddenly pale in comparison. E's fascination with books is precious to me and it was therefore reassuring to hear industry representatives agree that traditional picture books are not in danger of being replaced, but rather the market is widening to include other platforms. The panel was quick to impress upon us that regardless of the format, the story is still the most important component and is still what drives things. Whew!

Fiete by Wolfgang Schmitz (app)

The panel came up with a number of good recommendations for companies producing apps and ebooks that they like.  I've combined their picks with serveral recommendations of my own:

And here's a savvy website and blog that I also go to for app recommendations:

And for further reading have a look at this April 2013 article from Booktrust in the UK:

Children's Books Apps: What's Next?

 Are there other children's apps and or app makers that you'd recommend?

I'll be back next week with a traditional picture book!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Duo Press counting books and guest post from Lattes & Juice!

I’m very honored to be doing my very first book post for my good friend over at Mrs. Brown’s Books.  Mrs. Brown is our go to children’s book guru and always knows exactly what book to recommend.  I love how excited she gets when she finds a new book to obsess over. 

Unlike Mrs. Brown’s 3 year old boy, mine still has a hard time sitting still for a whole entire book.  Bedtime is about the only time where he is patient enough to let us read to him cover to cover because he is trying to buy more time.  My son is a complete numbers fanatic and I can get him to pay attention for longer periods of time when counting is involved.  We were gifted a New York City Cool Counting Book by Duo Press when he was a baby and it is definitely one of his favorite books of all time.

Duo Press do a series of Cool Counting Books from the numbers 1-10 with each book featuring a different city, state or theme.  For each number there is a fun graphic illustration of something iconic from the title place.   For example there are taxis, the Statue of Liberty and subway trains for New York City.  I love reading these books to my son because many of the places are very personal for us.  I am originally from New Jersey, my son was born in New York City, my brother lives in Brooklyn, and my husband used to live in Seattle so there’s a book for each one of these places.  It’s nice for us to come up with our own stories each time we read the book while reinforcing numbers and quantities.  We will definitely be adding California to our collection for our summer trip to West Coast.  Definitely worth picking up a copy an introduce a little piece of the States to your little one.
Here is a list of the books currently in the Cool Counting Books series:
123 Beach
123 Atlanta
123 Baltimore
123 Boston
123 Brooklyn
123 California
123 Chicago
123 Hawai’i
123 Minnesota
123 New Jersey
123 New York
123 Philadelphia
123 San Francisco
123 Seattle
123 Texas
123 Toronto
123 USA
123 Washington D.C.

For more ideas from Lattes & Juice visit her blog!