A Recap of Some of Our Favourite Books We’ve read in 2015

There’s nothing better than at the end of a year to look back at what has happened before and I believe that the same can be said about previous books we’ve enjoyed.

So let me take you on a little journey back in time, sit back and enjoy :-)

Brown BearBrown Bear What do you see? By Bill Martin Jr illustrated by Eric Carle

Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner

Santa is Coming to…. by Steve Smallman illustrated by Robert Dunn

That’s Not My Mermaid by Fiona Watt

A Dog Day by Emily Rand

Seashore by Lucy Beckett-Bowman

Happy New Year, may 2016 be a successful year for you and your family xx

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Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

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It seems another classic Roald Dahl book passed me by as a child as I hadn’t read Esio Trot until I read it to Monkey.

This edition is from 2001 published by Puffin Books however was first published in 1990. As usual the illustrations are by Quentin Blake.

The story is about how two neighbours Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver are brought together by a tortoise, yes you read that right a tortoise!

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Mrs Silver lives in the downstairs flat with her tortoise who is quite small, Mr Hoppy suggests a way to make her tortoise larger and so he begins to secretly get Mrs Silver’s tortoise to grow but you’ll have to read the story to find out how he does it.

Monkey wasn’t too sure of this story, he was fascinated how Mr Hoppy made the tortoise grow but didn’t particularly like the growing relationship between the two neighbours – as like most young boys the thought of love just didn’t interest him, however he gave the story 7/10.

I on the other hand picked up on some of the subtle love interest of Mr Hoppy for Mrs Silver and enjoyed another fantastic simple idea for the story and although having only read this story as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s quite clear that on the most part Dahl’s books are not just for children but perhaps the young at heart too. I give this story 8/10.

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Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon illustrated by Tony Ross

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This is the first book in the series of Horrid Henry written by Francesca Simon. This book was first published in 1994 by Orion Children’s Books.

Monkey had received this as a birthday present and although I had heard of the series of books I wasn’t sure what they were about.

This story introduces Henry to the reader and also to his family Mum, Dad and his brother Peter (who is always perfect in everything he does and therefore he is referred to as Perfect Peter throughout the book.  Every character in the book has a nickname such as Moody Mary, Lazy Linda and Vain Violet.

There are 4 chapters which with the illustrations by Tony Ross which although in black and white show great detail and helps the reader imagine what the characters look like.  The chapters are short enough to keep the reader interested but not too long to induce boredom.  The chapters are:

Horrid Henry’s Perfect Day
Horrid Henry’s Dance Class
Horrid Henry and Moody Margaret
Horrid Henry’s Holiday

Monkey’s favourite chapter was the second chapter Horrid Henry’s Dance Class as Henry likes to dance but not the way the others in the class dance he likes to stomp stamp stomp his elephant dance rather than tap tap tap the raindrop dance which of course causes a bit of chaos on stage.

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Monkey enjoyed this book, especially chapter 2 he actually got out of his bed to show me what the elephant dance looked like to him and couldn’t stop laughing at many of the situations.  He gave this book 10/10.

It’s quite clear throughout the book Henry doesn’t like to conform and would much prefer to do whatever he pleases to do. Although I liked the book and it has some quite funny situations which you can imagine happening in real life I couldn’t help but feel as though Henry shouldn’t always get his own way all of the time  but maybe that’s just me as the parent.  I give this book 7/10 as I said it was funny and it kept Monkey interested.

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Book Review: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr illustrated by Eric Carle

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A classic story which somehow both myself and Monkey have never read before. First published in 1984, this edition was published in 2007 by Puffin books.

The rhyming story begins with:

“Brown Bear,
Brown Bear,
What do you see?
I see a red bird looking at me”

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And so the rhyme continues with a red bird, yellow duck, blue horse, green frog, purple cat, white dog, black sheep, goldfish, teacher and the pupils.

The book is aimed at young children who are first learning about colours however it’s also perfect to discuss different shades of these colours ie the bear has shades of light and dark brown.

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The illustrations are quickly recognised as being drawn by Eric Carle and as it is a classic many people may have some of these illustrations as artwork in children’s bedrooms and nurseries.

Monkey being now 7 is a little too old for this book but he still enjoyed the rhyme and looking at the different shades of the animals. Monkey gives this book 8/10.

I enjoyed the rhyme and I wasn’t expecting the inclusion of the teacher and pupils at the end. I love Eric Carle’s artwork in this book which perfectly shows the different shades of the colours described. I give this book 9/10.

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Book Review: Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner

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Sometimes when helping Monkey find a book in the library I can’t help but look at the cover and decide whether it looks a good read or not, the cover on this one made me smile instantly and a quick look through assured me it would be a good read.

Published in 2014 by Macmillan Children’s Books and written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner. I haven’t came across Catherine Rayner’s work before but she won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2009 for another book she wrote called Harris Finds His Feet

This story follows a dog called Louie in search of regaining his smell, the smell of Louie after he has had a bath.

The bath has made him smell of roses and apple blossoms which I’m sure would smell nice to Louie’s owners all clean and fresh but poor Louie is not impressed, he doesn’t want to smell like that. Louie starts his search for his smell in the garden where he finds a fox who suggests he look in the brambles as there’s something smelly there. Louie takes the advice from the fox and starts sniffing where he finds a smelly old boot – not his smell. The snails suggest the alley where he finds stinky bins, the flies suggest the sticky sludge which after Louie has rolled around in he feels he’s starting to get his smell, but not quite. Louie then remembers the pongy pond and of course any dog owner will know Louie splashes about in the pond and his smell is back. Happy Louie goes home smelling of him, but will it last long when his owners smell him?!

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I read this to Monkey at bedtime and he thought it was very funny how Louie the dog was trying to get smelly again after having a bath as so far Monkey likes the clean smell after bath time. When I asked him which was his favourite picture in the book he said all of them although he did like the picture below of the Fox. Monkey gave this book 8/10.

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I enjoyed the story and having bathed my Grandparents dog after a pongy pond incident I can relate to the owner of Louie wanting a clean dog (why do dogs have to find the worst ponds to jump in)?! I loved how the illustrations seemed to pull you in and even after I had read the story to Monkey we looked at the pictures and retold the story using the beautiful illustrations, I give the book 9/10 and will be looking for other titles by this author.

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Santa is Coming to…. by Steve Smallman illustrated by Robert Dunn

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Apologies my cat decided this was the time he wanted to play with some ribbon!

Christmas is coming, there’s no stopping it now that it’s November sorry but it’s true and my son and I like a good Christmas book so we’re starting early this year with this one.

This is part of a series of books about Santa doing his Christmas Eve deliveries in various UK locations such as Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Milton Keynes etc each book in the series has localized place names mentioned to make it feel extra special.  As with the usual kind of personalized stories you can see the story would be the same in each book with just local areas, landmarks etc changed.

The basic story starts with Santa looking through his list of children’s names for the location the book is about to see whether the children have been good. They set off to deliver the presents but the new reindeer has wandered off and can’t be found oh dear!

When the reindeer returns they are ready to get to their destination, Santa has gone hi-tech and has a Santa-nav to help him find the correct place. After a bumpy ride with an almost wrong turn Santa finds the correct town and gets to work delivering all the parcels making sure to take a bite out of each mince pie, taking a sip of what has been left (milk in our house), and picks up the carrots for the reindeers. Once all the presents are delivered Santa rewards his trusted reindeers with the carrots he’s collected for them.

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The illustrations by Robert Dunn have a lovely fun quality, with Santa and the reindeer taking centre stage on each page. Monkey enjoyed looking at the reindeer illustrations particularly the one below.

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Monkey enjoyed this story mainly because it was all about Christmas Eve and Santa however didn’t seem to notice the place names and landmarks mentioned even though it was for somewhere near us this is perhaps something only older children would take more note of or perhaps it’s because the areas of the city mentioned are not near us and therefore the connection wasn’t made. It certainly didn’t affect the story for him as he gave it 10/10.

I on the other hand did notice all the landmarks and sometimes it felt like there was too many mentioned. The story is simple ideal for children of all ages as the place names may interest the older children and younger children will love having the place they live mentioned in a book which could help young children learn where they live and lead onto discussing where the other locations are on a map perhaps (something I will try with Monkey).  The illustrations really capture the story and it certainly feels like a lovely read for Christmas Eve therefore I will give the book 9/10 only losing a point because it felt the name of the city was mentioned too many times and didn’t always naturally fit the story ie it didn’t need mentioned 13 times! A good read nonetheless, merry Christmas (nearly)!

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Lego Ninjago Masters of Spinjitzu Secret World of the Ninja

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My son Monkey is obsessed with Ninjago so we bought him this book as a birthday present. His face kit up when he saw it and he’s been looking through this book on his own quite a lot since his birthday.

If you’re not aware of this craze it’s another Lego creation with the characters all made from Lego. This book tells the reader about all the different characters (useful for me as I need to learn all their names), the weapons they use, the vehicles they drive – basically if you have a Ninjago fan then they’ll definitely want this book.

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Just a few characters names

It’s quite a long book with 94 pages and also has an index. Each page has colourful pictures with lots of facts/information for the fans. Contents include:

What do Ninja wear?
Where do Ninja live?
Building Zane
Ninja vs Snakes
Find your paths

Along with separate pages for each of the Ninjas

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Sword of Fire ouch that's what I stood on!

In addition to the book you also get one of the Lego character’s an exclusive Sensei Wu Minifigure. Due to the small size figure the publishers DK have said it’s for ages 6+

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Monkey loves this book and gives it 10/10 I will also award this book 10/10 for fans of Ninjago this is definitely a good buy possibly a Christmas present or birthday present at least now when I stand on one of the Ninjas weapons I’ll know what it’s called and who uses it!

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That’s not my mermaid by Fiona Watt

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This is another Usborne touchy feely book which Boo my 10 month old daughter loves at the moment.

The Usborne touchy feely series of books is aimed at the very young child but is suitable for toddlers. Each picture has varied patches of texture to develop sensory awareness and language.

This story is about finding the correct mermaid and as with all the books in this series the illustrations each have a little white mouse hidden in the page.  The illustrations in this title are by Rachel Wells and capture the story perfectly. The illustrations are bright but not garish and the textures are inviting to both children and the adult reading the story.

Boo particularly likes the below page and is often found with the book over her head or her curled up in front of it sticking out her tongue to feel the bumpy texture of the mermaids hair clip.

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During the summer I took this book along to the beach for Boo to look at while my husband and son went looking for crabs in rock pools. However in my haste to try and stop Boo eating a handful of sand I put the book front side down onto the sand only to realise later that as with all of these books in the series the story starts on the front cover including texture. The front cover (as you can see at the top of this post) has a lovely illustration of a mermaid with flowing hair the texture is fluffy! Yes our poor little mermaid got a lot of sand in her hair but thankfully being a robust made little book I managed to rub the sand out of her hair and it still looks lovely and fluffy.

Given Boo is very young she can’t really score the book however as she often asks for this book and often sits quietly mesmerized by the pictures I can see she really loves this book.

I will score this book 10/10 I love the illustrations and is perfect for both boys and girls (this book was originally my son’s which I kept for Boo). The words are simple but explain the illustrations lovely. Next time I take it to the beach I’ll remember about her hair!

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