Tag Archives: children’s book review

Tap The Magic Tree by Christie Matheson


wp-1470776046903.jpgHave you ever fell in love with a children’s book as an adult the quick way a young child does? Where you have to read the story no matter who is around or what is going on. This is what happened to me, we were in a small independent bookshop and there was only myself and Boo (and the man at the till not far away). I read it out loud, smiling and doing the actions the way I knew I would at home. Have you ever read a story and at the end know that even if it wasn’t going to be your child’s favourite book….yet it was now yours! This is truly what happened when I bought this book for Boo.

Tap The Magic Tree shows a tree going through the season’s showing a child how one bare tree at the start of the book can change, have leaves, blossom, the tree has fruit, the leaves change colour, the leaves fall off and then the magic starts again. This is all lovely and simple and has been shown in many books but its the words and the actions which go through the book that even a very young child can join in. A couple of examples are shown below;

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“Brush away the petals (swish!) and blow the tree a tiny kiss.”

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“Pat the leaves be gentle please.”

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“Aha! Now blow a whooshing breeze.”

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The illustrations are beautiful, they tell the story even without the words, step by step a child on their own could easily read and understand just by looking at the illustrations alone.

The story was written and illustrated by Christie Matherson, it was first published in 2013 but first published as a board book edition in 2016 (which is the edition we have). The information in the back of the book says collages were used to prepare the artwork.

Boo really loves this book which is fantastic as I previously said I fell instantly in love with it so I don’t mind reading it several times a day! Boo at only 20 months has already started doing many of the actions which shows she’s not only looking at the pictures she is now listening to the story which I find fascinating. She claps her hands, taps on the tree, wiggles her fingers and blows like the wind. This is set to be a favourite for quite a while as I can see it easily growing with her especially since there is a lovely blossom tree you can see from her bedroom window which looks similar to the tree in the book so when she’s older we can look at the book and decide which picture it looks like in the book. I think Boo would easily give this 10/10 it’s one of only a handful that she brings to me daily and has to have it read all the way through sometimes more than once or sometimes I read it to her and then she sits on my knee turning each page and pointing to the changing pictures.

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I give this book 10/10 as I’m sure you can gather by now I adore this book I don’t often use words like that to explain my love for a book but this really is a delight, it has reignited my love of good young children’s books and as Boo likes the actions so much I am now looking for other beautiful books with actions (any suggestions would be greatly welcomed), I am already hunting out another book by Christie Matherson called Touch the Brightest Star.

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Jemima Puddle Duck by Beatrix Potter

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Probably one of the best known stories written by Beatrix Potter about a duck called Jemima Puddle Duck who wants to find somewhere suitable to lay her eggs but Mr Tod a fox has other plans when supposedly helping her.

The edition we have is dated 2007 published by the Penguin Group. As with the Jeremy Fisher book this is a board book which is a lovely shape to hold.

The original story was first published by Fredrick Warne & Co in July 1908. She wrote the story on her farm which she bought in the Lake District. The characters are based on real people she knew at the farm.

The illustrations are the original Beatrix drew not the newer versions I have seen. I bought this at the same time as Mr Jeremy Fisher on a day trip to the Lake District with Boo when she was about 9 months old. I knew instantly shed like this book as she loves ducks. The illustrations have completely drawn her in and she loves this book more than perhaps some of her other books as she really takes the time to look at the illustrations in detail and has started pointing at Jemima when I ask her where the duck is.

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I would therefore suggest Boo would give this story 10/10 I too would give it the same 10/10 I remember my mam reading this to me one Christmas morning when I received it aged 5/6 I think it was one of the first of Beatrix Potter’s books read to me and I was hooked straight away and remain a fan even as an adult.

On a slightly different note today marks the 150th year since Beatrix Potter was born and strangely today of all days my son and I came across a hedgehog Mrs Tiggy-winkle in the middle of the road shuffling around, which thankfully a kind stranger rescued. If you follow my Instagram feed you may have seen the picture already if not you can find me @ccrainbowflowers

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Mr Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter

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I think this may be one of a few Beatrix Potter stories which is less known.

The story is about Mr Jeremy Fisher who is a frog who wants to catch some minnows for supper as he’s having friends round. However instead of catching minnows he has a narrow escape from a trout!

The edition we have is dated 2007 published by the Penguin Group and is a board book which is a lovely shape easy for young children to hold and yet it still retains the original illustrations which Beatrix drew.

The original story was first published by Fredwick Warne & Co in July 1906. The origin of the story as with most of her stories was written in a letter she wrote to a child in 1893. She revised it in 1906, and moved its setting from the River Tay to the Lake District.

I bought this book in the Lake District on a day trip with Boo when she was about 9 months old. She’s loved the pictures since I bought it and will happily sit smiling turning the pages back and forth looking at the illustrations with their great detail. Boo now aged 19 months has started to listen to me as I read the story.

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Although she finds it fascinating looking at the illustrations she is more drawn to the Jemima Puddle Duck story which is in the same style of book. Therefore I would suggest she gives this book 9/10. I too would give this 9/10 it’s not my favourite story but I can’t help but love the illustrations.

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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.

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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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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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Spot Looks At Opposites by Eric Hill

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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.

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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.

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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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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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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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Children’s Book Review: A Dog Day by Emily Rand

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This is the first children’s book the author Emily Rand has written published in 2014 by Tate Publishing.

The story is about a Terrier dog being taken on a walk and is written in the perspective of the dog. The dog thinks he’s  going to be taken straight to the park but his owner has a few other stops to make first. You can feel the excitement of the dog at the start of the story but you also feel his disappointment when he’s not taken directly to the park.

Unlike most children’s books the illustrations (also by Emily Rand) are all black and white and yet there is a depth to them with the details for instance the bricks in the wall are not just black they have some variation in the colour and pattern and the dog isn’t simply plain, you can see his curly fur.

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My son, Monkey wasn’t too sure of the book at first because of the lack of colour however once I’d read the the story which has a lovely rhythm and rhyme he actually really liked it. His favourite part was when the dog got to the park as he liked the illustrations of the other dogs.

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Monkey gave this book 7/10 as he prefers colour pictures but he enjoyed the story.

I give this book 8/10 I loved the way the story was from the dogs perspective taking you on a lovely journey.  It made me wonder if perhaps it’s how young children feel too when you don’t take them directly to the park so it would be a lovely story to share with perhaps a toddler to help explain that sometimes adults have to do other jobs first before going to the park.  I also liked that despite it being a children’s book the author has not used any colour.  I showed some of the illustrations to Boo (who is 10 months old) and she sat clapping with a grin on her face so clearly a winner for her.  I have put the book on my wishlist as this copy was from the library and will look out for future stories from the author.

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Seashore by Lucy Beckett-Bowman published by Usborne

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We borrowed this book from the library as Monkey has been learning about the seaside at school so we thought it would be perfect to look at in the quiet space at home.

I hadn’t realised it was an Usborne book at first, it’s actually part of their Beginners series for children to read by themselves so there is not as much text but as you would expect from Usborne still very informative and there’s still beautifully detailed illustrations mixed in with stunning photographs.

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There are in fact 45 beginner books in this series covering topics such as space, Romans, weather and penguins amongst other things so definitely something to look out for the next time we go to the library.

This book covers topics such as high and low tides, seashells including creatures who live in the shells, seaweed and had information about the coral reef.

Although it is an easy reader it is 31 pages long. At the back of the book it suggests going to the following website Usborne Quicklinks (follow the link choose the country you are in) which has links to other websites suitable for children to access further information, games and colouring in.

For this book the websites suggested have the following fun activities:

*Watch a video clip of scallops swimming.
*Print out and colour in pictures of seashore
*Find snails and sea urchins in a rocky pool
*Spot shells on the seashore then print out and colour in pictures of shells.
*Watch a video clip of baby turtles leaving their nest and scurrying to the sea.

I have reviewed this site separately as I feel it’s a fantastic online resource, you can find my review here

Anyway back to the book review…

Monkey really liked this book giving it 8/10 as he would have liked to have seen more about each topic (so I’m going to have to find another book for him) but he enjoyed looking at it and especially liked the photo of the Puffer fish.
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I enjoyed the book in fact I actually had a quick read of it before looking at it with Monkey and found it fascinating as it has many little facts and for such a small book it really does fill the pages with quick bite sized bits of information, ideal for young children to look at to find something they want to look at further online or with a book which covers the topic in more detail. It is an early reader but perhaps one for a confident reader. I will score the book 9/10 simply as it does cover a lot of topics and I even learnt a few fun facts such as when seabirds swallow too much seawater they get rid of it through their nose!

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