Kids’ Books: bulk review

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Bathtime for Little Rabbit – Jörg Mühle
Published by Gecko Press – available February 2017

Another gorgeous board book from Jörg Mühle, featuring our friend, Little Rabbit. There’s something so appealing about the simplicity of this book; the illustrations are adorable, with clean lines and simple concepts that are beautiful and endearing. I love the interactive style (blow-drying Little Rabbit’s ears was a lot of fun!), and the gentle responses it elicits from my rambunctuous four-and-a-half-year-old. He loved Tickle My Ears, and Bathtime for Little Rabbit has quickly become a favourite. I know of a few little people in my life who will be getting this book for their birthday!

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The Lost Kitten – Lee (illustrated by Komako Sakai)
Published by Gecko Press – available March 2017

This book is, quite simply, a work of art. Sakai is considered one of Japan’s leading illustrators, and it’s not hard to see why. In The Lost Kitten, she has captured the innocent curiosity of a child, and of a small kitten, so perfectly that each page almost feels alive. My boys were both completely absorbed in this book, and I was in no hurry to turn each page; the story feels so real. As such, it’s also a story I don’t think we’ll tire of, it is such a pleasure to read. My youngest was a bit upset when we first read that the kitten was lost, but fear not, there is a happy ending!

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Bruno – Catharina Valckx (illustrated by Nicola Hubesch)
Published by Gecko Press – available March 2017

This is a delightful comic-like collection of six linked stories about Some of the More Interesting Days in My Life So Far. Bruno is a cat who makes the most of every day, always finding something good or interesting about them all. He has a hilarious little group of friends who bring joy and silliness to his days, and my boys think they are all wonderful. Tweety the canary is a particular favourite; “All done, cinnamon bun” is cackled a number of times each day in our house. I think the main appeal of this book is that it takes rather ordinary moments in time, and turns them into adventures that are always quirky and funny. The humour is aimed at kids, and my two found it hilarious. They get the jokes, and the silliness, and I love seeing what cracks them up about each different story. The lines are so dead-pan, but brilliantly delivered, and the illustrations are bold and perfectly detailed to enhance the text. One of my favourite books aimed at a wide age range, but especially enjoyed by four-and-a-half- and six-and-three-quarter-year-olds!

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Helper and Helper – Joy Cowley (illustrated by Gavin Bishop)
Published by Gecko Press – available February 2017

The thoughts of a six-and-three-quarter-year-old*:

“It’s a chapter book, but with pictures, which makes it interesting. The story is about some friends…some of them are best friends, and some of them are just ordinary friends, but they all want to help each other which is kind. Snake thinks she’s cleverer than Lizard, but they are best friends anyway. Squirrel is a bit nervous but I think she always tries her hardest to help. The book is called Helper and Helper because that’s the job Snake and Lizard do. They argue a lot but never stay cross at each other for long. It’s a good book.”

*At the time of writing, I hadnt actually read the whole book, as it was taken firmly from my hands by my biggest!

Review: Poo Bum Memory Game

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Poo Bum Memory
To be released by Gecko PressOctober 2016

Last night we could hear our children giggling to each other that they wanted to play “Poo Bum”. Before my husband could growl at them for saying inappropriate things, the six-year-old called out, “We’re going to play the Poo Bum card game!”

Crisis averted.

Poo Bum Memory is the classic memory card game, featuring illustrations from Stephanie Blake’s Poo Bum. It can be played at two different levels, with the cards differentiated with a star marking the “difficult” pairs.

As with any Memory game, this can be adapted to the abilities of your children – use less than 36 cards to make it easier, or use all 72 to make it trickier. The cards are a really good size and thickness, withstanding the rough handling of an excited preschooler very well.

My boys also like to play Snap! with these cards, so you’re really getting two games in one. It’s presented in a sturdy, easy to open box, which also makes for easy clean up too – phew!

Poo Bum Memory is a cheeky and fun version of the game we all played as kids, and has proved to be a winner in our house.

Thanks to Gecko Press for our review set.

Book Review: If I Was a Banana

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If I Was a Banana – Alexandra Tylee (illustrated by Kieran Rynhart)
Published by Gecko Pressto be released October 2016

I don’t know if I have adequate words to describe how much we love this book. If I simply said, “BUY IT! Buy it NOW!”, would that suffice?? No? Well then, I’ll do my best to convince you that this is a book your children need to own.

If I Was a Banana is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s beautiful to read, and the illustrations are sublime; Tylee and Rynhart are a talented duo and I hope they publish a gazillion more picture books together because they are a match made in heaven.

The story begins simply, and quite amusingly:

If I was a banana, I would be that one, all yellow and fat and full of banana.

and progresses through a wonderful train of thoughts that perfectly capture a child’s thought pattern. If I was a cloud…a spoon…a cat…a star…a fish… It’s a simple story, but packs a powerful punch, and each page offers the chance to talk about what your child would choose to be, and why. My six-year-old was able to express some really good ideas about his choices; he loved the book so much that he took it to school and read it to his class (in front of the school principal, no less!).

If I Was a Banana captures the poetic curiosity of a child, both through words and the hazy, dream-like illustrations. There’s a magic to each page, and it feels as though the reader is inside the head of the young boy as he lets his thoughts range where they will.

The ending of the story is rather poignant and quite beautiful; through all his imaginings, the boy doesn’t appear unhappy with who he actually is, and the ending shows that, sending a powerful message to little readers everywhere to be confident and happy within themselves.

This is a gorgeous story, and I’m already planning on buying it as gifts for a number of small humans in my life.

Thanks to the team at Gecko Press for our review copy.

 

 

Book Review: A Day with Dogs

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A Day with Dogs – Dorothée de Monfreid
Published by Gecko Press available October 2016

Nine funny dogs live their everyday lives in these pages where you can learn all about seasons, colours, food, town and country, night and day, school and work, and much more – including dog breeds, of course.

Dorothée de Monfreid is the author of one of Pickle’s favourite books, The Cake. He was pretty excited when he saw A Day with Dogs, and flicks through it almost daily at the moment.

He thinks the dogs are hilaaaaaaarious. He giggled like a maniac when they were getting ready for school, and then he pointed out all the things he has to do to get ready for kindy.

The illustrations are amusing, and the dogs possess a slap-stick humour that greatly appeals to both of my boys. This is the kind of book that is ideal for toddlers learning more about the world around them, but for slightly older children requires very little adult intervention as they can start to “read” it to themselves. They can go beyond the simple naming of things to the exploration of characters and relationships and the silly things these dogs get up to! Each page is full of fun things to discover, and the illustrations are very expressive.

This is a fun book that children of varying ages will get a lot from.

Thanks to Gecko Press for our review copy!

Book Review: Yours Sincerely, Giraffe

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Yours Sincerely, Giraffe – Megumi Iwasa
To be published by Gecko Press in August 2016

Giraffe is bored, as usual. He’d love a friend to share things with. So he writes a letter and sends it as far as possible across the other side of the horizon. There he finds a pen pal called Penguin.

Oh my. I don’t even know how to begin describing this brilliant book, so I’m going to use the words Gecko Press have used in their press release: Yours Sincerely, Giraffe is “absurd and endearing”. Perfect.

The day our review copy arrived, I sat down with my biggest and asked if he wanted me to read him a chapter. He was busy building something from Lego (surprise, surprise), and agreed to one chapter. One chapter only. As I read, he crept closer and closer, and soon he was reading with me, urging me to keep turning the pages.

He loved it. He loved the simple line drawings on each page, and the handwritten letters that the pen pals exchanged. He thought Pelican, the postman, was hilarious, and that Whale, the professor, wasn’t really as smart as he made out. He thought Giraffe and Penguin were appropriate pen pals, and we talked a lot about why Giraffe might not know what Penguin looked like. He was fascinated by this concept, and after we’d finished reading, spent a lot of time talking about how else Giraffe could have interpreted Penguin’s description of himself.

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe is so clever, and its humour is perfect for schoolkids. It’s a fun story, and the illustrations are great and very appealing.

Thank you to Gecko Press for our review copy – my six-year-old thinks it’s awesome!

Books for Kids: Tickle My Ears

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Tickle My Ears – Jörg Mühle
Published by Gecko Press

When Tickle My Ears arrived in the post, I thought I’d save it for my littlest one’s bedtime story. I unwrapped it, set it on the coffee table and set about doing some housework…until the littlest one found the book and basically launched himself at me, yelling, “I neeeeeeed you to read me this book!!!”

I turned off the vacuum cleaner (willingly. Oh, so willingly) and we sat down together for a look…and half an hour later, we were still sitting on the couch, turning back to the start for the umpteenth time.

Tickle My Ears is one of the sweetest, most delightful books I’ve seen in a long time. The illustrations are divine; Little Rabbit is adorable and charming, and each page is simple yet so very appealing. It’s a clever concept, which will appeal to a child’s sense of willfulness and determination; there is something very exciting about a book that encourages reader participation.

There are many interactive books available for kids (Help! The Wolf is Coming! springs to mind), but Tickle My Ears is different: even the smallest children will get a huge amount of enjoyment out of “playing grown ups”, being the one to put Little Rabbit to bed. This is the ultimate joke for a kid: role reversal at its finest.

Pickle, nearly four, has asked for this book every night since it arrived. He takes his role as Putterer to Bed verrrrry seriously; he has stroked Little Rabbit’s ears gently and kissed his cheek countless times, and takes great joy in turning out the light and then snuggling down in to his own bed – Herr Mühle, you are a genius, making bedtime just that little bit more pleasant for parents (and children!) everywhere.

Even Tiny, aged six, couldn’t resist putting Little Rabbit to bed, and while he merely air-kissed our cotton-tailed friend, he did so with a cheeky smile and asked if he could read the book to himself.

Eight times.

Thank you, Gecko Press, for another already-much-loved gem of a children’s book! When Pickle saw I was writing about this book, he said, “Tell them it’s a really funny story.”

Book Review: Have You Seen Elephant?

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Have You Seen Elephant? – David Barrow
Published by Gecko Press

There are two Gecko Press books on rotation in our house at the moment: Ko Wai e Huna Ana? and Have You Seen Elephant?

Since it arrived last week, David Barrow’s beautifully-illustrated Have You Seen Elephant? has been thrust under my nose at every opportunity, accompanied by Pickle’s huge brown eyes and a cheeky grin.

He loves it.

Scratch that.

We love it.

It is, quite honestly, one of the funniest children’s books I’ve read in a while. Elephant wants to play hide-and-seek. The boy is keen, but Elephant just has to warn him…he is very good at hide-and-seek.

Such a simple concept, yet Barrows has executed it with some of the loveliest illustrations I’ve seen in a long time. They are so witty, so appealing, and just…well…beautiful.

We laugh our way through it every single read-through. Elephant’s great hiding skills elicit the same giggles from Pickle each time, especially when I pretend I can’t see that Elephant is hiding under a lamp or behind an incredibly skinny tree.

The ending is a little subtle for my three-and-a-half year old, but my nearly-six-year-old got it straight away and I thought he was going to choke on his own laughter: Turtle asks if they want to play tag, but he has to warn the boy…

Yet another Gecko Press gem that is yet to make it on to a shelf; thanks team!