There’s a House Inside My Mummy by Giles Andreae

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Regular followers cannot have failed to notice that I haven’t posted to this page in quite some time. This is primarily because I have been falling asleep shortly after (and on more than one occasion during) bedtime stories.  The reason I have been so tired is that all my energy is being expended building a tiny new person and we couldn’t feel happier.

And what is a new baby if not an excellent excuse to share books with my firstborn?

So the second thing I did after that little pink line appeared was to drive over to my favourite indie bookseller (Simply Books in Bramhall if anyone is interested) and stock up on stories featuring a new addition to the family to help my little girl get ready for the biggest shake up of her short life.

Our absolute favourite of the large pile we bought has to be ‘There’s A House Inside My Mummy’. Illustrated in comfortingly warm tones, this explains in entirely toddler-friendly rhyme how a mummy can feel tired or want to eat funny things when she has a baby growing inside her. It covers the Mummy heading off to hospital and then coming home with a small, cuddly bundle. I love seeing the bump growing and the gentleness with which the child in the story talks to their new sibling through the ‘tummy telephone’.  I don’t particularly love the image of the baby taking a while to get out because the ‘door is rather tight’.

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My baby loves – cuddling up, looking at the bump in the book and pointing at my bump.

I love – ‘Look who Mummy made for us, a lovely little brother

There’s noone in her tummy now, until she makes another!’

 

 

 

 

Down by the Cool of the Pool, and Farmer Joe and the Music Show both by Tony Mitton and Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

wpid-img_20150211_085721568_hdr.jpgI am forced to break with convention and blog these two books together because in our household they are inseparable.  Thanks to Orchard Book’s cunning ploy of including pictures of their other publications on the inside rear jacket my toddler delights in pointing at the next book and demanding ‘read next!’.

So, two rhyming books, completely different stories, settings, rhythmic syntax but enough similarities between them to make a combined post possible.

Both feature bright, cartoonish animals, strong driving rhymes and sneaky clues on each page as to which animal is going to be next.  Both encourage action and movement and Farmer Joe positively demands to be sung in a bluegrass ‘Ballad of Jed Clampett’ style.  My toddler loves to dance and act out the actions of both books and neither would appear to be a calming influence before bedtime.  However they do wind down nicely and ‘Cool of the Pool’ in particular ends with the previously giddy frog drifting off into the sunset on a lily pad before hopping into the pond leaving only ripples in the water behind him.

If I had to pick a favourite it would be Cool of the Pool, mostly because I don’t have to sing it, but also because I love to act out the different actions ‘Pig went waggle, Duck went flap, Frog cried Weeeee!’.  In our house frogs don’t just ribbit, they fling their arms out in a rather flamboyant fashion.

I like – reading books so many times that I know them off by heart.

My baby likes – asking ‘Where frog gone’, pointing squeakily to the ‘Baby Pig’ on Joe’s farm.

The Tall Man and The Twelve Babies by Tom Niland-Champion & Kilmeny Niland, illustrated by Deborah Niland.

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In a big, big city,

in a tiny, tiny apartment,

lived a tall, tall man

and twelve babies.

All the boys were called Alistair.

All the girls were called Charlene.

A very odd start to what is a very odd, but very lovely book.  It is a fairly simple tale of a lone parent getting locked out of his flat with half of his children and the cat.  He corrals the babies into co-ordinating pushing and pulling to help him squeeze back in through the catflap and celebrates by kissing them all. What the simplicity masks is that this book is very very funny.  The ridiculousness of the situation combined with the motif of naming all of the babies the same thing combines to create a very enjoyable feeling of absurdity.

The book is digitally illustrated (by a renowned Australian illustrator, in fact the book is a team effort by what seems to by an Australian literary dynasty, somewhat similar to the Ahlbergs in the UK) but have a hand-drawn warmth down to the subtle differences between each of the twelve babies.  Of course there is a happy ending, and we are left with lots of questions, which I enjoy making up ridiculous answers to.

Watch this wonderful  Australian Librarian reading the book to recreate your own authentic story-time experience at home.

My baby likes – when he feed the babies mashed potato and one of them doesn’t have a spoon.  The final baby being found asleep in the cat bed (or, in her mind, on a giant cake)

I Like – My favourite expletive ever ‘Oh Pussywillow!’

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

This Moose Belongs to Me

This book has been something of a slow-burner for my baby and I.  Initially it struggled to catch her eye when competing with some of the giddier books on her shelf (although I feel the books which make their own animal noises are cheating, so it’s not really been a fair fight).  However in recent weeks this book has become a bedtime staple (ousting ‘Owl Babies’ from Number 1 spot, much to my relief) and now my baby regularly asks for ‘Moose Book’, as well as ‘Baby Man’ (see ‘The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies’)

I expect good things from Oliver Jeffers.  Actually I expect great things, he wrote Catch A Star,  Lost and Found and The Incredible Book Eating Boy, all of which are whimsical and beautifully rounded stories which leave you feeling warm and happy by the end.  This book is a little bit weirder, but no less wonderful for that.

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“Wilfred owned a moose. He hasn’t always owned a moose. The moose came to him a while ago and he knew, just KNEW that it was meant to be his. He thought he would call him Marcel

Firstly the illustrations.  They are an odd blend of pixelated vintage photographs with Jeffers’ familiar broad-stroke, slightly scribbly paintings laid over the top.  I didn’t love them at first, but the mash-up of old and new has really grown on me, I love the way they feel ‘big’, like how America is big, depicting a great Western frontier that might no longer exist, but with a moose.wpid-img_20150211_085459479.jpgThe story is about ownership and essentially whether it is even possible to own other living thing.  It is also about friendship and letting our friends do what they need to do, even if it doesn’t particularly chime with what you would like them to do.  A useful lesson for all of us, and especially toddlers who are constantly being entreated to share and take turns.  The language is glorious.  Jeffers doesn’t do talking down and neither do I.  He spatters the narrative liberally with great big words like ‘enraged’ and ‘perilous’ and ‘compromise’.

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Best of all is that there’s a whole secondary narrative going on which I didn’t event notice until I had read the book 5 or 10 times (I blame sleep deprivation).  The moose loves apples, really loves apples.  Everything he does is because he loves apples, Wilfred doesn’t even really come into it for him.

wpid-img_20150214_194105840.jpgMy baby likes… following the blue thread on the end papers of the book.  Pointing to the apples.  Calling the moose ‘Alex’

I like…Finding out about the photographer who took the pictures Jeffers used.  Spotting a sneaky Penguin.

Sleep Little Angel by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Stephen Gulbis

wpid-img_20150128_125739.jpgWhen my baby was given this book, I knew I knew the name Margaret Wise Brown from somewhere, but I couldn’t for the life of me recall where.  It was only when I peeked at the (incredibly long) ‘also by’ list that I realised it was that Margaret Wise Brown, of ‘Goodnight Moon’ and ‘The Runaway Bunny’.  I must confess, I do not like ‘Goodnight Moon’, I think the illustrations are weird, and not in a good way and the rabbit who is whispering ‘Hush’ is just plain creepy.  I know it is a classic in the States, regarded with the same reverence and love we might feel for Dogger and Spot but frankly I just don’t get it.

wpid-img_20150128_125636.jpgLuckily my baby is not inhibited by the same prejudice and so we have been sharing this beautiful pastel-coloured book most evenings.  The combination of melodic text, gentle repetition and soft-hued illustrations creates a dreamy, trance inducing book that is perfect for bedtime.  The narrative is faintly Christian, echoes of Ecclesiastes 3:1 (To everything there is a season) but the message of the turning of the seasons is delivered gently enough not to be a turn off to people who are not of that faith.  I have found this book incredibly calming and soothing over recent weeks which have been testing for us as a family.

wpid-img_20150128_125716.jpgMy baby likes – counting the animals, naming the ones she knows.

I like – tranquillity and rest, finding solace in my baby and the books we share together.

Ant and Bee and the Rainbow by Angela Banner

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Ant and Bee

I remember these books from when I was a child so I was delighted when my baby picked this up and demanded that I read it.  I never actually owned them myself but my lovely Godmother had them for her children who were 5 or 6 years younger then me.  There is a little-acknowledged pleasure in reading books aimed at a younger age than oneself which I have only learnt to celebrate as an adult.  I often felt embarrassed for choosing a ‘babyish’ book and would hide away with a title that I felt I should have grown out of by then. 

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Then Ant began to swing

I’m fairly certain the initial attraction of these books for my baby was caused by the bright cover and dinky size which is perfect for small toddler hands, but we have been reading this on regularly rotation for a few months now and I’m convinced that this book has fired my baby’s interest in colours and insistence on naming them at every opportunity.  She determinedly names the rainbow and enjoys shouting the colours that appear throughout the book.  The story is a slightly contrived, but no less enjoyable for that, day in the life of an Ant and a Bee.  They manages to introduce basic concepts of primary colours through the device of painting ‘make believe rainbow’.  Ant and Bee then play in the rainbow and fall in the pots of paint, thus creating secondary colours and having fun along the way.

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A colour called orange

Looking at the text more closely, these are actually quite weird books.  They are clearly written with the intention of facilitating learning to read, however unlike most early readers Banner doesn’t sacrifice a good story or quirky characters to the process.  What she does do is repeat key simple words so by sheer repetition these words become recognisable.

I particularly enjoy how Banner uses colour and font size to encourage reading independence.  Of course at 18 month my baby is too young to think about reading for herself but it is useful to know that these books are here for when she is ready.  For now we name the colours, laugh at Bee when he falls in the paint and is as yellow as Ant, and we shout ‘Ball’ when we see the ball.  Simple pleasures!

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As pretty as a rainbow

My baby likes… shouting ‘Rainbow!’, shouting ‘Yellow!’, shouting ‘Bee…Ant’ when Bee is as red as Ant.

I like… The repetition of the text, the simple morality ‘Bee was kind, Bee helped Ant make a swing’, seeing my baby enjoy identifying other rainbows around our house.