Reviews of a selection of children’s books

Not all bad came out of the disastrous trip to the library that caused Harry’s potty training set-back. While there, I picked up four books at random, the intention being for him to sit quietly and read them while I did what I needed to do on the computer. Obviously, this did not happen, so we ended up taking them home instead and for the next six weeks all four books were each read at least once a day. The favourite of these is currently on order using some of Harry’s Christmas money and no doubt the others will be once Harry realises as the four books are associated with one another in his mind. Just goes to show that sometimes it is worth choosing books blindly, something I really need to start doing as I am very much a creature of habit when it comes to reading.

Dinosaur Time by Michael Foreman

Tom’s Mum puts her new kitchen timer on the fridge and warns Tom that it is not a toy and he should not play with it. Of course, as any curious child tends to do when told not to do something Tom starts playing with the timer. And what should happen, but he is whisked away ‘a million nights and a million days’ to the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth. He disturbs a nest of hatching eggs and a chase begins. Tom reaches the edge of a precipice and through the timer’s help he escapes back to his own time. Complete with a dinosaur egg.

The illustrations of this book are, to me, old-fashioned and crude, in pastel shades. Although published in 2004 this book would not look out of place alongside the likes of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ and those by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Very different to many new children’s books that are full of bright, bold colours. The story too was unlike most of the children’s books we own/have read and that, in part, was why I enjoyed it so much. The adventure, the repetion of phraes like ‘a million nights and a million days’, the dinosaurs, made it very much a children’s book, but there was something quite grown up about it too. I particularly liked the very clever, unexpected ending (although I keep over-thinking it until it doesn’t make sense). As for Harry, it had dinosaurs in. I don’t think anything else mattered.

The Buttons Family: New Shoes by Vivian French and Sue Heap

The Buttons Family is a series of books that follow Cherry, Charlie and Baby Lou as they step out into the world and try new things. In this book, they all need new shoes but Charlie is adament he does not want any. His Mum convinces him to go into the shoe shop with them anyway, insisting that he does not have to try any on if he doesn’t want to. Enter the very helpful, clever shoe assistant who can hear Charlie’s toes talking.

The pictures in this book are lovely. Bold and real despite a cartoon-ish nature, as if drawn by a child but a child who is really good at drawing. I feel like I know each child, the mother and the shop assistant through the images. The story itself is great – perfect for parents with children who, like Charlie, do not like going shoe shopping, but also perfect for children, like Harry, who are obsessed with shoes and can’t walk past shoes in a shop without taking their shoes off to try some on. I blame his aunties.

Oh, and this book comes complete with stickers. Need I say more?

My Daddy by Julia Hubery and Rebecca Elliott

‘My Daddy’ is written in rhyme, each page depicting a different animal with its daddy and describing all the things they love about him. The message of the story is basically that all dads are different but it is your own dad who is the most special, and in an age when father-figures are a minority books like this are particularly special.

It is full of bright bold pictures of animals that any child would struggle to love. The rhyme is cute, funny, a bit cheesy. Harry thoroughly enjoyed it, especially if James was around to read it. Harry did not like me reading the title though before I began. If I said ‘My Daddy’ he would say ‘No, MY Daddy, not yours!’.

Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

‘When aliens come down to earth / they don’t come to meet you / they simply want your underpants / I bet you never knew.’

Aliens. Underpants. Big bold colours. Even a double-sided page where you have to turn the book on its side to read it. What’s not to love? Of all the books we choose at random, we happen to own this one, albeit as a board book. But as a big picture book Harry enjoyed it all the much more. Freedman and Cort have written and illustrated books along a similar line, including ‘Aliens in Underpants Save The World’ and ‘Pirates Love Underpants’. Even ‘Dinosaurs Love Underpants’. Something else we should put on our reading list!

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