James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

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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.

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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).

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl books and the accompanying illustrations of Quentin Blake don’t need much of an introduction as they have been part of most people’s reading at some point or other either as a child or to your own children. George’s Marvellous Medicine is one such book. I remember quite well being 7 years old and having this story read to my classmates and I by a very enthusiastic young student teacher.

The story is about a young boy who lives on a farm with his mum, Dad and his Grandma. His Grandma is not the cuddly rosy checked Grandma that bakes cookies and knits thick woolly jumpers. No George’s Grandma would not be described like that at all. She was instead a grumpy little old woman who didn’t like people, wasn’t interested in playing board games and never smiled. She spent her time sitting by the window grumbling and complaining.

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His Grandma doesn’t seem to like children and George is no exception. One day she says some truly scary things to George whilst he is alone with her “some of us have magic powers that can twist the creatures of this earth into wondrous shapes”… “some of us have fire on our tongues and sparks in the tips of our fingers”. “Some of us know secrets that would make your hair stand on end and your eyes pop out of their sockets”. “We know how to make your nails drop off and teeth grow out of your finger nails instead”.

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Scary…

To this George come up with a plan to replace the medicine given to Grandma 4 times a day with his own concoction which has some fantastic results. I won’t say more on that as for those of you who either haven’t yet enjoyed this book or perhaps you can’t remember it from your childhood you will be fascinated and surprised at the extraordinary results of George’s truly marvellous medicine.

The edition we have was published in 2001 by Puffin Books however it was first published 35 years ago in 1981!

Monkey enjoyed this story more than some previous stories. I read this to him just before his 7th birthday which seemed the right sort of age onwards to enjoy this story.

Monkey particularly enjoyed the parts of the story that focuses on the ingredients used for the medicine (as they are quite unusual) and also enjoyed what happened to those who have the medicine.

There’s many extensions you could do after reading this story such as make your own potion with water and food colouring, write your own marvellous recipe, or bake some cookies like we did adapting the recipe but adding extra chocolates chips and marshmallows (delicious)! There’s also some great activities I found via Pinterest just search George’s Marvellous Medicine activities.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this as I had forgotten some parts of the story and looked forward to the bedtime story as much as Monkey did which is the best sort of bedtime story to have.

Monkey gave this story 10/10 and I also give it 10/10. Superb writing a true children’s classic which is still enjoyable to adults.

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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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