Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl illustrations by Quentin Blake

wp-1469372593956.jpgFollowing on from my last post about the summer reading challenge and the discovery that this year marks the 100th year since Roald Dahl was born I thought I’d review another of his great books Fantastic Mr Fox.

The edition of the book we have is dated 2016 and was published by Puffin Books however it was first published in 1970 by George Allen and Unwin.

The story is about a fox family and the head of the family is Mr Fox or as Mrs Fox calls him Fantastic Mr Fox. They live on a hill in the wood under a large tree. Below is the valley where 3 farmers live farmer Boggis kept chickens, farmer Bunce kept duck and geese and farmer Bean was a turkey and apple farmer. All 3 were mean and no one liked them.


Mr Fox would go to each of these farms and have the best choice of food from each. However one night the farmers have had enough and wait for Mr Fox to try and shoot him dead. Here begins the story of how crafty Mr Fox and the other animals living in the wood find a way to outsmart the farmers and live in harmony together.

For the older reader the story could be used to examine how foxes are classed as pests for farmers stealing and killing their animals. It could also be used to talk about hunting and there is a great number of descriptive language used which could be useful for students studying this topic.

For the younger child such as 7 year old Monkey it was a great adventure to read what the farmers would try next and to see how Mr Fox would escape.

Monkey enjoyed this story and thought the farmers were “silly”. He rated the book as 7/10 as it wasn’t as funny as other Roald Dahl books.

I remember reading this when I was a child however I was older than Monkey and read it one wet Easter when I was about 9 or 10 therefore at that age I could understand the darker side of the Fox family being hunted and knew that Mr Dahl would have ensured this fox family would come to no harm unlike other foxes. As an adult reading this to Monkey I enjoyed it possibly more than I did as a child and as it had been a while since I had read it I couldn’t remember all of the story. The parts of the story about the farmers trying to plot to kill the family and in particular Mr Fox and the worried fox children in the below page “how will they kill us mummy” I didn’t enjoy but this was only because I know how sensitive Monkey can be thankfully he was enjoying the adventure and the sad parts like this are well balanced with the calmness of Mr Fox and the outlandish ideas the farmers have to capture him. I give this story 8/10.


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Summer Reading Challenge 2016

A selection of books you might find in your library

A selection of books you might find in your library for your own Summer Reading Challenge

It’s that time again with school summer term coming to a close and then a long hot (well we live in hope in the UK) summer. It’s a time where as a child I rarely went home only going home when playing outside with friends to either get something to eat or drink.

As summer goes on and friends leave for their holidays or you just want some quiet time, reading a book or several during the summer is perfect especially sitting out in the garden in the shade or in the sun.

Have you heard of The Summer Reading Challenge for children? This is the UK’s biggest reading promotion for children run by The Reading Agency and in library’s.

The challenge is for children to read 6 books throughout the summer holidays, the books don’t need to be specific titles they can be non fiction, fiction, joke books, comics, picture books, audio books basically anything your child enjoys reading counts towards the challenge but they must be borrowed from the library. The children need to be aged 4-11 years old. The Challenge started in Scotland on Saturday 25th June and in England and Wales it started on Saturday 16th July.

The Reading Agency states children’s reading practice can dip in the summer holidays, I know from experience my son last year lost interest as soon as school finished (he was only 6 at the time) and this year before he heads off to the junior school in September I want to ensure he reads during the holidays.

The website continues to say “The Summer Reading Challenge has helped get three quarters of a million children into libraries each year to keep up their reading skills and confidence. Because everything changes when we read”.

The Reading Agency have released a book collection list of 72 suggested books to read the list is divided into two – one for younger children and one for older children. A lot of these are new reads which will be published this summer, and many will be displayed in libraries. You can find the list here

There is a different theme each year. The theme for the 2016 Summer Reading Challenge is The Big Friendly Read as it’s the 100th year since Roald Dahl was born.

The Big Friendly Read, features some of Roald Dahl’s best loved characters and the amazing artwork of illustrator, Sir Quentin Blake. It highlights themes such as invention, mischief and friendship all of which appear in Roald Dahl’s most famous books.

Everyone who joins The Big Friendly Read will receive a fold up card wallet, which includes a range of fun activities and space for children to keep track of their progress and rate the books they have read. There are six limited edition Quentin Blake collector cards to collect; some are scratch and sniff!  These slot into the collector folder. Each card celebrates a popular Roald Dahl theme: mischief, invention, adventure, wordplay, child champions, and friendship.  Children will receive one card for every book they read and those who complete the challenge will receive a certificate.

For adults and carers there’s a Facebook page which you can find here

Another great website supporting this is the Summer Reading Challenge it tracks children’s reading all year round, children can enter competitions, has links to YouTube videos about the challenge and author reviews, children can review books, leave messages, it gives book suggestions children have recommended and can be searched by age/gender there are also recommendations from celebrities. The website also has book related games for children to play they include previous games from other summer reading challenges;

  • “Race against the clock to fill in the book title blanks with Title Dash game”
  • “Find unicorn friends as you race around Mythical Maze game”
  • “Chase bats and escape from ghouls in Creepy House”
  • “Help Jeremy save his books from Aesop in Story Lab game”

Visit your local library and join up to the challenge and get involved in the fun activities many libraries offer – there’s a chocolate challenge at our local library next week to celebrate Charlie and the Chocolate Factory you never know what you’ll find at your own library so go and investigate!

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The Jolly Rogers and the Monster’s Gold by Jonny Duddle

wp-1468389427861.jpgThis is a story about Matilda who has a pirate family for friends. To the pirates she is a ‘landlubber’ someone who stays on dry land but she is best friends with one of the pirates Jim Lad who often sends her notes in bottles whilst he’s out to sea.

One day she finds a treasure map in a bottle she has fished out of the sea but it’s not from her best friend. Matilda does know though that Jim Lad’s family would like to see the map. The pirate family consists of Jim Lad’s mum, dad, Nugget his sister his Grandpa, Bones the dog and Squawk the macaw.

On the treasure map there’s a message “Dear fellow private….Do ye want to be rich?” And so the adventure begins.

I bought this book for Monkey as a little Christmas present, I just seen it one day in a supermarket and as it was about pirates I picked it up to have a look.

I have to admit I stood in the supermarket aisle having a little read of it and was completely drawn into the story straight away. Not only did I find the way it was written intriguing as a lot of it is written the way a pirate may speak but it also has fantastic illustrations all in black and white but they are drawn so brilliantly and have a lot of detail.


We’d reached a point with me reading a bedtime story to Monkey where he still wanted me to read to him which I am more than happy to do but the picture books were too young for him but most books with chapters were too long or didn’t have many engaging pictures, so when I found this book I knew it would be a good starting point to move onto chapter books as although it’s in chapters they’re not too long for a child to become too bored or the reader to spend all night reading. The text is very clear, the size of the book is perfect and although being 159 pages long it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

The story is by Jonny Duddle who has written a couple more books in this series The Jolly Rogers and the Ghostly Galleon and The Jolly Rogers and the Cave of Doom. This story was first published in 2015 by Templar publishing illustrations by Jonny Duddle.

Well Monkey thoroughly enjoyed this book and was more than happy to go to bed just to have another chapter read to him and I too even got excited about reading to him again and reading a longer story meant I could enjoy the story too and feel like I wasn’t just reading to him for the sake of it.

Monkey without too much hesitation gives this book 10/10 as it’s about pirates, the story is exciting but not scary and the pictures are “really cool”.


I really enjoyed this book too. It has a believable story, the illustrations are fantastic and it got me enjoying reading again to Monkey. We were both in fact sad when it finished so we went and bought another of Jonny Duddle’s books the next day which I will review in another post. In the meantime I give this book 10/10.

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My First Words Let’s Get Talking! By Dawn Surety

wp-1467265397643.jpgAs you can probably see from my recent posts Boo is on a huge learning mission and she loves books with photographs in best which she can point to and ask “what’s that” age 19 months she is enquiring daily what everything is which I love and therefore we have a lot of these photograph books.

This book is published by Dorling Kindersley (DK) in 2008 and features an incredible number of photos each one categorised into the following areas;

wp-1467265464905.jpgAll about me – pictures of babies showing various actions, different faces, words with lines pointing out different parts of the body such as hand, nose etc

wp-1467265511721.jpgClothes and shoes – photos of various clothes for boys and girls it doesn’t distinguish whether certain clothes are only for boys/girls unlike a lot of similar books.

wp-1467265548688.jpgAround the house – this category has photos of things found in all houses such as kettle, sofa, table etc

wp-1467265592922.jpgFood and drink – this shows a variety of food not just fruit and vegetables it also shows fairy cakes.

wp-1467265616176.jpgPets – I like how this section shows puppies as well as dog and same with kittens and cat so this can start discussions of who the baby adult animal belongs to. It also includes other animals which are often pets like rabbits and goldfish it even includes pony!

wp-1467265636674.jpgPlaytime – this is Boo’s favourite at the moment it shows various toys, she keeps pointing to the ring tower which I’m currently trying to find something similar and she likes the picture of the teddy bear she points at this and correctly says teddy, aww.

wp-1467265653180.jpgThings that go – this section has many pictures of vehicles if my son had this book at her age this would certainly have been his favourite. It features a picture of a digger, fire engine and train. My only problem with this page is that the lorry is labelled as truck.

wp-1467265667210.jpgAt the park – this features items found in most parks such as bench, tree and even has a photo of a sparrow!

wp-1467265681858.jpgAt the seaside – photos included are deck chair,  seashells and crab.

wp-1467265692860.jpgOn the farm – as you would expect it has the usual animals horse, donkey but again includes photos of adult animals along with their young such as sheep and lamb, goat and kid. It also has photos of non animals such as tractor, wheat and scarecrow.

wp-1467265703562.jpgIn the wild – this section covers animals that most children will only ever see at the zoo such as penguin, lion and giraffe.

wp-1467265718797.jpgColours and shapes – this is a lovely little section to include it shows various colours but not as usual paint swatch type pictures but shows photos of items of a particular colour grouped together such as green is shown as leaves and a green apple. White is a group of white rabbits. Along the bottom of the page there’s shapes in various colours so for an older child you could ask them to match up the pink heart to the pink flowers for instance.

wp-1467265730580.jpgNumbers – this shows numbers 0- 10 with the correct amount of the same pictures with the number such as 7 fish with the number 7 and 9 bananas with the number 9. It also has a photo of 2 child hands so for older children this could be used as a first look at numbers and counting.

Each section is easily found as each section has a tab with a photo which is perfect for young children.

Boo really enjoys this book and I can see how much this will grow with her as her curiosity grows about things in the world. The book could be used to find same/similar objects around the child’s own house for instance as not everyone’s sofa will look like the one in the book as an example.

Given she’s too young to really give a proper rating I have to look how she reacts to similar books, in this case she does enjoy it however she appears to prefer another set of DK books which I’ll write about. I think this book although fantastic value for money and consists of many pictures is perhaps a little too big, heavy and even overwhelming at the moment which is why she seems to prefer the smaller books of a similar nature. On her behalf the rating would be 7/10 however in time I am sure this will change.

As I have mentioned before it really does have a fantastic number of photos, showing various objects/animals/babies displayed in an easy to understand format with lovely clear photos. It is a book which I can see grow with her and provide many future starting points of conversion and therefore I give this book 10/10.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s abc by Eric Carle

An abc book which adults will enjoy to look at too

An abc book which adults will enjoy to look at too

Very few people will not know who the character of Eric Carle’s famous book The Very Hungry Caterpillar is which is a childhood favourite of mine. This book explores the abc with help of the hungry caterpillar and lots of animal friends who I believe can be found in several other Eric Carle books.

The book was first published in 2015 by Puffin Books.

The very first page and last page has the letters of the alphabet set out in the same colours and style as you find throughout the book i.e. the letter ‘a’ is red with what looks like finger painted dots.

Each letter of the alphabet has a separate page on white background making a very good visual impact to all who read the book. Under each letter which are all lowercase letters there is a picture of an animal which starts with that particular letter which is then followed by the word of what the picture is, the first letter written the same colourful way as what the letter is first depicted as.



The alphabet doesn’t just concentrate on the animals most alphabet books have which as an adult certainly makes it more interesting. Below is the list of animals alphabetically used.

























There are a few in the list I’ve not heard of before which makes it interesting to both the adult reader but also perhaps to an older sibling reading the book to their younger brother/sister.

I've never heard of a narwhal have you?

I’ve never heard of a narwhal have you?

Boo is too young to fully appreciate this book yet and yet she recognises the picture of the Dog and bird the rest of the time she points at pages randomly and I tell her the letter, point to the picture and tell her what he picture is of which she enjoys doing a lot at the moment.

Since Boo is too young to review the book properly I have to go on what she thinks of this book compared to others and I have to say this is slowly becoming a favourite of hers, in fact at the weekend I put it in our bag to take out for the day and she happily looked through this book while I read my son’s comic to him. To make it even better my son when he became bored of the comic looked through this book with Boo it was such a lovely sight to see Monkey age 7 explaining to his baby sister Boo age 19 months what all the letters were and pointing out all the beautiful bright colours, I’m sure sure this will only get better as Boo grows so I think she would give this 9/10 at the moment.

I love this book, so many abc books concentrate on the boring and same suggestions such as b for butterfly and s for snake with usually boring illustrations but each illustration is a true piece of art which I would happily display and not necessarily only in a children’s playroom. On the back of the book there’s a website address for information on Eric Carle’s books, information about him, resources, ideas, lots of interesting information on how the illustrations are made – it’s certainly worth a look I was impressed with the amount of information available there. There is also a link to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art which I would love to visit one day. The website is:

I will give this book 10/10 as it will certainly grow with children and can be used for lots of things not just simply learning letters. It could be used to start a conversation, research on the various animals depicted especially the lesser known. The colours of the illustrations can be used for colour recognition. Some children might want to make a story up about the animals to help remember the alphabet. It can also be used as a way to learn how to do collages which is how Eric Carle creates these illustrations. This is just a few ideas I’m sure there are many more, have fun read learn and create.

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Spot Looks At Opposites by Eric Hill


As Boo loves dogs we appear to have a small collection of stories featuring dogs as the main character. I have already reviewed a couple of other Spot the Dog books –

Where’s Spot
Spot Says Goodnight
Spot Looks At Shapes

All great books and this is no exception.

This little book is a lovely introduction to the world of opposites for very young children ideal for pre-school children.

The edition we have has only 12 pages, it’s a lovely small square shape easy for young children to turn the board pages. This version was published in 2010 by Fredrick Warne however was first published by William Heinemann in 1986.

Like the shape book I reviewed, the concept of the same but different situation is spread over a double page the first pages for instance introduces the child to full and empty;

Full showing Spot’s food bowl full of food and the opposite page showing empty with the caption Now it is empty.



Other opposites are;

In and out
Over and under
Up and down
Fast and slow
Open and shut

Boo although she enjoys the other Spot books and in particular loves the shape book she’s not yet as keen on this book. Given that she is only 18 months I can see this book growing with her and I’m sure by the time she turns 2 she’ll be happily looking at the pages and it will help her understanding. Therefore at the moment and given her reaction to this book I would suggest she would give it 5/10. I on the other hand can see this books potential and really like the pictures of this lovely little book and would give it 9/10 only one point short because the fast and slow page relies on the young child understanding that Clare the tortoise would be slower to walk than Spot but this is only a small issue and once children understand this idea they can see why Spot would be faster.



Reviewing these Spot books has made me want to see what other Spot books I can find for Boo. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear from you.

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Spot Looks At Shapes by Eric Hill

img_20160527_0651190_rewind_kindlephoto-47828131.jpgThere can’t be many of us who don’t remember or know Spot the Dog. For those that don’t know Spot was created by Eric Hill who wrote many different Spot the Dog books. The books are aimed at very young children before school age.

Boo who is now 17 months old loves dogs even though as a family we have 2 cats. She is also fascinated by shapes showing a real interest in completing a simple Melissa and Doug peg puzzle so I thought this book would be good for her.

This book was first published by William Heinemann Ltd in 1986 however the copy we have was published 2010 by Fredrick Warne. The version we have is a lovely small square shape easy for little hands to hold and is a board book ideal for chewing when teething!

The book is on 12 pages long which is long enough to keep young children engaged and as it’s not a story a child can start in the middle of the book without really missing much.












Boo's favourite

Boo’s favourite











Each shape is introduced by an object that Spot is holding,playing with etc and the opposite page shows the shape with its name for instance the first page says “Spot’s rubber ring is a round shape. The opposite page says round with the rubber ring clearly showing on a plain white background. Other shapes are square, rectangle, star, triangle, oval. Boo’s favourite is the star.

Although Boo being 17 months can’t tell me how much she likes this book I can easily see she enjoys it as she often carries it around the house stopping briefly to sit and flick through the pages giggling to herself and asking everyone to look at it with her most days therefore I am going to suggest she would give it 9/10.

Being a fan of Spot from when I was a young child I love all things Spot the Dog and this is no exception. I love the brightness of the pictures, the simple to understand text and I particularly like how the shape is then shown isolated on a separate paper unlike a lot of other shape books therefore I give this little book 9/10 I would have given it 10/10 if they had put circle instead of round as this is the only shape that feels wrongly described – yes the ring is round however most children when learning shapes would say it’s a circle but it’s only a small issue.

I have reviewed other Spot books previously – Where’s Spot and Spot Says Goodnight. We have other Spot books to review so if you were unsure of who Spot the Dog was come back and see or if you know Spot come back and relive some old favourites.

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Usborne Baby Very First Play Book Animal Words

img_20160223_200413_kindlephoto-5146283.jpgThis book published by Usborne is a lovely lively book of animals for babies and toddlers to enjoy on their own or with parents/older siblings etc

The book was first published in 2016 and was written by Stella Baggott.

The front cover shows various animals and many have shapes cut out of them lovely for little fingers to poke through and makes it easier to turn pages. The fun part though is that for every animal which has a shape cut out of it underneath you can see the colour of the animal underneath the gap for instance the eyes of the owl on the page below become the spots of the ladybird on the page below. In addition to this there’s shapes which you can follow your finger along such as the worm you can feel the wiggly shape of it instead of just seeing it which adds to the interest but offers another way for young children to learn and understand.


Pages showing what may be found in a woodland

Boo who is now 17 months old loves looking at this book but also with me telling her what the creatures are. She also enjoys it when her older brother Monkey who is now 7 looks through the book with her and does animal sounds or pretends to be a snake or an elephant when she’s looking at those animals.

I really like the feel of this book and even though we’ve had it for a couple of months it still looks new despite it being read several times a day and eaten by Boo as she’s teething!

For a colourful lively book with cute cartoon animals this is a lovely little book. It gives enough information to small children with animal names and the pages of animals are grouped i.e. farm animals, forest animals, insects, sea creatures and jungle which can lead to further reading and understanding as the child grows.

As Boo is unable at this time to tell me how many out of 10 she’d give it I can only go on how much she looks at this book and requests it so I would suggest 8/10 as she has other books she enjoys more. I will give this 8/10 as it can grow with the child demonstrated even by my son being still interested in flicking through the pages with Boo and it has led to discussions with him regarding the many featured animals.

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James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl


This is a classic Roald Dahl book, it was first published in 1961 the edition we have is from 2001 published by Puffin Books. Illustrated as always by Quentin Blake, the illustrations in this book are outstanding and have a lot more detail than some other illustrations in Roald Dahl’s books.

The story starts with James living with his parents however something terrible happened one day which means James has to go and live with his 2 horrible aunts Spiker and Sponge who make James do all the jobs, never let him go and play, are always shouting at him and he’s not allowed to go further than the bottom of the garden so he never gets to see anyone other than his aunts.

That is until one day something magical happens and so begins the adventure of a lifetime with some unusual new friends.


I had tried reading this story myself several times when I was a young child but hadn’t got very far. I thought when I started reading it to Monkey it had just been because of some of the old fashioned words which I wasn’t familiar with at the time had put me off however I think it was in part also because within the first chapter there is talk of death. I started reading this story to Monkey before his 7th birthday and I will be honest I had completely forgotten what the story was about and had simply took it from his shelf one night to read at bedtime. It was only as I started reading it that I realised we’d never really read a book involving a death least of all one about the death of parents. I did consider putting it back on the shelf for some other time but after asking Monkey whether I should continue he told me to carry on. If you have a sensitive child the book does get happier after chapter 5 (which is how many chapters I read that first evening as I didn’t want to leave him with something sad).


The story unlike many other Roald Dahl books is less obviously funny and after reading it I suggest it’s perhaps more suited to an older child although Monkey did enjoy some of the story and thought the creatures were funny. Monkey gave the book 4/10 as he simply didn’t think it was as funny as previously read Roald Dahl books. I give the book 7/10 I’m pleased I finally got to read it all and was able to explain the old fashioned words to Monkey but I didn’t think it was as enjoyable.

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The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl


Roald Dahl books are characteristically funny and part of many people’s childhood, I for one have been a fan for many years and yet I have never read this story before so it was a great read to have at bedtime with Monkey just before his 7th birthday.


The story is about a boy called Billy who dreams of having a sweet shop One day the abandoned building he has past many times before had been bought when much to his astonishment a bathtub comes flying out of the second floor window crashing in the middle of the road. However more surprising than this more things follow the bathtub in the same manner through the window – lavatory pan, kitchen sink, empty canary cage, four poster bed, hot water bottles, rocking horse and a sewing machine! Then silence – Billy decided to visit again the next day to see what happened next!

The next day in the window of this bizarre building is a sign “The Ladderless Window Cleaning Company. Get your windows cleaned without a lot of dirty ladders leaning against your house”

Billy soon discovers the owners of this company are not people they are instead a singing Pelican, Giraffe and a monkey!

Billy helps this unlikely group and together become the best of friends having exciting fun washing windows for a Duke and becoming heroes.


This edition was published by Puffin Books in 2001 and was first published in 1985. The accompanying illustrations by Quentin Blake are as equally great as they are in all of Roald Dahl’s books.

Monkey thought this book was very funny and each night couldn’t wait for me to read the next instalment and I often found him sitting in bed looking through the book to see what was going to happen next! Monkey gave this book 8/10 as he thought George’s Marvellous Medicine was better. I give this book 8/10 only because I wished it was longer and I was expecting a different ending. My favourite quote though is at the end sang by the Monkey “All you do is to look at a page in this book because that’s where we always will be. No book ever ends when it’s full of your friends, the Giraffe and the Pelly and me”.

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