Birds of a Feather (and other books) by Francesco Pittau Gervais

Birds of a Feather Cover
Birds of a Feather inside 1
Birds of a Feather inside 2

All three of my kids fell in love with books when they first ‘read’ Dear Zoo – the definitive lift-the-flap book (in my view). In fact lift-the-flap books were always a hit in our house and that’s why this book by Francesco Pittau Gervais was a perfect gift for them last Christmas.

Whilst I am a big fan of one of Pittau Gervais’s earlier books – Elephant Elements (which I wrote about here), this series of lift-the-flap books aimed at older children – Birds of a Feather , Out of Sight , The Open Ocean are more sophisticated in their style. In ‘Birds of a Feather’ the flaps give you a hint to the bird hiding behind – maybe a silouhette of a particular feature of the bird, a detail of the markings on their feathers or the egg they came from, and the illustrations of the birds are really beautiful.
The book takes that which babies and young toddlers love about a lift-flap – the element of surprise – and uses it to educate in a playful but informative way. It is really a treasure of a book – but beware of young lift-flappers – the books are made using thinner card then the normal board-books and so are not as robust!

NB: the photo shows the German version of the book – the English cover is actually a lot nicer (in my view).

-Mo  x

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau
Madame Chapeau inside
Madame Chapeau inside 2

Beaty & Roberts are a pairing akin to Donaldson & Scheffler – if I see a new book from the duo I buy it without thinking, without reading the sleeve, without anything – it WILL be good.
OK, so unlike the latter pair these guys have only produced 3 books together (so far) but those 3 books are just soooo good – we have written about Iggy Peck Architect before and Rosie Revere Engineer and now I’d like to introduce you to Madame Chapeau … I’m sure you will fall in love with her!
Unlike Iggy & Rosie, Madame Chapeau is not in Lila Greer’s 2nd grade class but rather owns a hat shop in Paris and makes the most beautiful hats for her chichi Parisian clientele. But Madame Chapeau is a lonely lady until on her birthday a thieving crow gives Madame Chapeau the chance to see how many people are eager to be her friend.
The story starts with a pang of sadness for this lady who is quietly unhappy and lonely but how powerful the message is that there is love out there for all if you seize it and a birthday is always a good time to ‘seize’!

Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

-Mo x

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

Once upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
Once upon an Alphabet inside 1
Once upon an Alphabet inside 2

A – Astronaut, ages, adventure, aliens, although, anything, air, accurate
B – Bernard, Bob, bridge, battling, burning, between, back
C – cup, cupboard, cold, closed, clear, counter, concrete

Leave it up to Oliver Jeffers to take the concept of an alphabet book and raise it. This book of short stories works its way through the alphabet avoiding all the obvious phonetic examples – no apple, ball or cat in this book! Whilst some of the examples may be a little tricky for a first reader (see M for Marvellous, Mattresses, Mountains, Microscope and Molecule) the stories are a great way to introduce children to letters and each story is (in typical Jeffers style) hilarious (I LOLed!!!), surprising and beautifully illustrated.

Once Upon an Alphabet is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

-Mo  x

Cinderella App

We’ve often talked about ‘apps’ here on Babyccino and I definitely fall into the camp of loving them for my kids but I do have some rules …

1.  I want them to be beautiful
2.  I want them to be imaginative and to use the media to its best advantages (so not JUST being a book or a TV show – it has to be interactive so the kids have a different experience then they would in another media)
3.  I don’t like them being part of a big corporate machine promoting some already huge kid’s brand (I realise this is highly hypocritical from a lady whose career was spent in advertising but this is mainly because they rarely satisfy points 1 and 2 and are seemingly lazy/cheap way to expose children to a bigger brand — I am all open to be shown I’m wrong on this!)

I really love the ‘Peekaboo’ (Peekaboo Barn, Peekaboo Wild and Peekaboo Forest) apps for my 2-year-old but my 4-year-old needs something a bit more. Enter the new Cinderella App from Nosy Crow (the same people who made The Three Little Pigs app I wrote about a while ago).

Nosy Crow’s 2nd App, Cinderella includes dazzling extras that my kids can not get enough of: helping Cinderella with her chores, stacking the king’s invites to the ball, dressing the ugly step-sisters, building the carriage, choosing Cinderella’s dress for the ball and even the music she dances with the prince too (our favourite bit!). All beautifully illustrated (tick!) and narrated by child-actress, Freya Wilson (who you may recognise from The King’s Speech).

Operation Alphabet

I am having quite the most perfect morning and there is one reason responsible …. After a long wait, my lovely friend Al’s first children’s book, Operation Alphabet , finally plopped through my letterbox.

You might remember I mentioned Al and his book a while ago here (along with his Top Ten list of children’s books). I was lucky enough to be introduced to The Ministry of Letters over a year ago and even then, whilst the i’s were still being dotted and t’s crossed (literally), I knew that this book would not only become the children’s book of the year but one of those books that will be passed down and loved by generations to come.

Operation Alphabet is the first story from The Ministry of Letters, published by Thames and Hudson last week, and tells the tale of Charlie Foxtrot, a day-dreaming boy who just doesn’t have any interest in learning the alphabet for his homework.  To the rescue comes an army of charming letters — sent on their mission by top secret government department, The Ministry of Letters.  In their plight to help Charlie with his ‘alphabet-a-heebiegeebies’ and show him how brilliant letters, words and reading can be, they incur great adventure – speeding through a fabulous London landscape, escaping a hungry cat (cats like to eat letters!) and even getting a helping hand from Royalty!  Other then just being a great story, I also love the underlying message about how learning can be fun and that letters and words are more then just school-work.

Al’s day-job is as a (splendid) Creative Director for the much-acclaimed Advertising Agency, Mother.  And I think you can see his expert creative eye in his partnering with Barcelona based illustrator, Luciano Lozano and Mother’s own Head of Design Jim Bletsas.  The genius-team have created a truly, truly beautiful book.  You can also see their consideration for the readers on The Minstry of Letters website, where you can download some MoL extras — bookmarks, book-plates, ‘keep out of this room’ signs and the Letters themselves are bought to life.

After receiving my copy this morning I have already ordered 5 more for upcoming birthdays of children I know.  As you know from me already, I think books are the best thing you can give a child and this is now my favourite, favourite picture book.  You can buy Operation Alphabet in most good book shops or from Amazon (UK or US ).

PS – You can also actually see the letters on YouTube here — my kids LOVE watching this over and over.

Taro Gomi’s Play All Day

I love Taro Gomi’s illustrations and we’ve always enjoyed his books (My Friends, Bus Stops and Everybody Poos) so I was really interested when I discovered Taro Gomi’s Play All Day activity book.  Since then, I have bought it for everyone I know — I feel like I’ve found treasure!  The book is basically the BEST book in the world for a rainy day (which we are prone to over here in Blighty).

It is cram-packed with things to make and pretty much everything you need is already in the book.  There are more then 100 innovative ‘punch-out’ pieces for making games, cities, landscapes, sculptures, hats, finger-puppets, picture frames and all in Gomi’s distinctive style.  All the ideas are simple enough for my 4-year-old to construct with a little bit of guidance.  But what I love (other then the end result actually looking good — unlike our ‘start-from-scratch’ craft ideas) is that all the ideas inspire play — we made the ring-toss game last night and once made my kids played with it for 45 minutes. It’s available from Amazon (UK and US ).

Mo. x

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

I just asked Courtney if I could please write about this book.  I was worried she’d pip me to the post and write about it before I did, and I just love it so much that I really wanted to be the person to enthuse about it.

Courtney and I both spotted A Sick Day for Amos Mcgee on Brooke Reynold’s site a few weeks ago and had both noticed how cute it looked.  Courtney then bought it for me and gave it to me last weekend at her birthday party (just a side note — how nice is it to have a friend who gives YOU presents at HER party!).  I read it to the kids the next morning and afterwards I had to sit quietly (sans kids) and read it again to myself.  Reading this book (or even just looking at it because the illustrations are so off-the-scale beautiful) feels like eating hot-buttered-toast or smelling freshly cut grass on a warm summer’s day.  It makes me smile just thinking about it.

Why?  Well, as mentioned, the illustrations are exceptional and don’t trust just me on that — Erin E. Stead won the Caldecott Medal for them — not bad for her first book!  But, for me, the key to this book’s brilliance is Amos — a supremely wonderful character, a character who oozes kindness in every detail of his make-up from how he prepares his breakfast, to the way he spends his time with each of his animal friends, how he understands their individual personalities and how he suffers sickness — I love him.  Oh!  And a sweet detail — the red balloon … It’s never mentioned in the story, but this illustrative bit of narrative is so graphically endearing, it somehow touched me.

If you want a really good idea of what to spend your pocket money on this month then I’m sure you, your kids, your future grand-kids and in turn their grand-children would all love A Sick Day For Amos McGee. Available from Amazon (US and UK ).

Mo. x

Silver Jungle Books

If you didn’t know the name of Lisa Jones, you’d recognise the style of her studio’s illustrations — influenced by 1950’s design they are wonderfully vibrant and optomistic.  And now Lisa and her partner Edward Underwood have collaborated with Joanna Skipwith of Silver Jungle Books to produce 2 delightful little books about animals for little ones. I’d Chew Yew and I Choose You.

All the books published by Silver Jungle have the ambition to share enthusiasm and concern for wildlife and each one therefore helps raise money for chosen charitable conservation projects.  Sales of I’d Chew Yew will help plant Aspen and Silver Birch in the Caledonian Forest in Scotland, which hopes to help the reintroduction of Beavers into Britain, extinct since the 18th Century. I Choose You supports CERCOPAN, which aims to protect monkeys in the wild.

Aside from the fantastic work they support, Silver Jungle Books are all beautifully produced and illustrated — I really love the look of the books for older children (9+) – Rhino: Animals in Art and Tiger: Animals in Art. A great way to start getting our kids aware of protecting the world they live in.

A high-tech classic

I don’t know about you but my i-phone is becoming an increasingly important tool in retaining my sanity as a parent. It now holds a dozen or so children’s Apps which get us through those boring, frustrating daily-life melt-down moments. As boredom levels peak whilst my 2-year-old is pushed around in the Supermarket trolley, I whip it out and let her paint pictures, guess the animals (in Peekaboo Barn or Peekaboo Wild which we wrote about here) or just blow up some balloons with the fabulous Balloonimals.

These games are perfect entertainment… but can a book work as an App?  I guess you all know by now that I love children’s books and don’t mind telling you I was a touch conservative about the idea of a book being on my phone or i-pad.  However Nosy Crow’s Three Little Pigs App has totally converted me and I’m now so excited what new technology can bring to brilliant stories. (more…)

Al MacCuish’s Top Ten Books

I have been itching, itching, itching to tell you all about the children’s book my very dear friend Al has written.  It is still a little too early to tell you much, but above you can see a very exclusive sneak peak at the first page of his first book for children called ‘Operation Alphabet’ — a fabulous story told with the most beautiful illustrations which I know you and your children will love in a big way (but more on ‘Operation Alphabet’ at a later date).

Al is a top creative for a top advertising agency, a huge lover of children’s books and a very, very nice man to sit in a pub and eat breakfast with (as I know well from being a member of a ‘breakfast club’ with him once, not so long ago).  ‘Operation Alphabet’ is published by Thames & Hudson and will be in the book stores (in the UK & US) in the Autumn, and you can expect many more stories from Al in the future.  Here is his top ten list of kid’s books ….

Five Minutes’ Peace — Jill Murphy
As a new parent, this book really resonates! Such a simple story, beautiful artwork, full of clever touches that you might easily miss the first few times.

Zozo — H.A Ray
I just love the context — it’s ‘Curious George’ of course, but in his original, original form. He had intended to be ‘George’ but the publisher felt that it was disrespectful to King George. Displacement is such a clever way to introduce a character  — we sympathize immediately. The artwork is just amazing.

Babar’s Travels — Jean de Brunhoff
This is like a movie in your hand! The large format, the strange colour combinations the screen throws up when you get really close and of course that beautiful hand written text — it’s perfect.

Orlando the Marmalade Cat — Kathleen Hale
This is the only time when I think I’d like a cat! (I’m a dog lover) Kathleen Hale’s illustrations are just incredible — there is such a dreamy feel to the whole book, palette, language, everything…

The little red engine gets a name –Diana Ross, Jan Lewitt & George Him
It feels such a period piece, almost a historical artefact, which it is of course. I romanticise Britain in that era, I can’t help imagining it being read to a little Lord, in a nursery in a grand house overlooking Eton Square by a nanny as a glamourous dinner or reception goes on many floors below…the language is beautifully evocative of that era.

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street — Dr. Seuss
Is such a great premise — kids are always being told not to exaggerate — I spent my childhood doing it. It’s such a good example of an author knowing his or her audience – Dr. Seuss thinks like a kid. The illustrations too have such penmanship, real draughtsman-like quality. A lot of the detail is geographically accurate. I also love looking at his first work and trying to connect elements to his later stuff.

Eloise — Kay Thompson
This was the book that inspired me to begin writing. It’s such a rich world — the hatched illustrations, the period detail and Eloise’s waspish mimics — you dread to think who her parents were!  It’s unique.

Madeleine — Ludwig Bemelmans
Much simpler, less detail, but just as evocative. You really sense Bemelmans has based this on a real little girl — a niece or Goddaughter perhaps — I always feel that it’s been written with love when I read it.

Paddington Bear — Micheal Bond
Not a picture book of course but the illustrations come along at just the right time in this wonderful story. Similar premise to Zozo, the displacement theme, Paddington always made me want to come to London when I grew up which I eventually did.

Hug — Jez Alborough
This is such a hit in our house. In fact it’s read daily at the moment. I love the illustration so much and that story — perfection. Great too of course for inspiring hugging which is always a good thing.

A real Fireman’s water bottle

I know it is gimicky but I just loved it… and so now my son has this as his water-bottle at Kindergarten.  He feels so cool —  like a real fireman!

Available online here.

-Mo. x

Fjallraven Kanken

When my son was still a babe in arms I bought him a Fjallraven Kanken rucksack for when he started Kindergarten.  I bought it from an uber-cool kid’s boutique in Berlin (Le Petite Boutique on Auguststr. in Mitte if you happen to be in the area), and just thought it was the cutest thing to imagine my little boy carrying it on his back to and from school some day.
His rucksack (in colour ‘Putty’) is now very well used, and we also have a navy blue one ready in waiting for my daughter, who starts kindergarten this year.  If I have any more children I want to add a Grasshopper Green and a Warm Yellow one to our collection. I think it is the perfect kid’s rucksack. Big enough for a lunch-box and water-bottle and with a pocket in the front for treasures (torches, sticks, string etc).  The back is kept sturdy with a removable foam pad which is handy for  impromtu picnics when the ground is a bit too cold to sit on.  They come in a great range of colours and are really durable. You can buy them at the very cool Austrian webshop, Der Kleine Salon.

-Mo. x

William & Catherine fever!

I love a wedding as much as the next person but I have to say I must be one of the few who hasn’t quite got into our imminent Royal Wedding … yet, I’m sure I will.  And maybe this is the start for me.  I saw these in a card shop yesterday and couldn’t resist — the comedy photo opportunity was just too strong to resist.  And looking online for them I realise there is endless fun to be had — a mini Brad & Ange, Cheryl & Simon or how about John Travolta and Lady Gaga? Available here.

-Mo. x

Black for a Kid’s Room

Here are some pictures of the first room we have decorated in our new house.  Of course it was the kid’s bedroom!

Since I was a little girl I have wanted to have my own home to decorate and since we started dreaming of owning this house (nearly 3 years ago — it’s a long story!) I have been spending my day-dream moments designing the kid’s room. From the off-set I knew which colour I wanted to go for and most people I told were not too keen on the idea. Thankfully my husband liked it and 2 weeks into having finished painting I can tell you that I am so happy with the choice.

We painted the walls in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Down Pipe’ with ‘All White’ ceilings and wood work.  Whilst some people might have thought we were mad as March Hares I knew that the kid’s endless array of colourful toys and their bed-linen would be set off really well against the dark back-drop. Other room details:

  • Music Box: My Son & daughter have one each as their Christening presents from us, they were bought at Pollocks in Covent Garden.
  • Bunting: From a shop in Stockholm but I saw some lovely bunting here and Etsy has some great bunting.
  • Balloon: Given to us by friends who bought it in Brazil but I found these which I think are beautiful..
  • Cloud Lamp (daughter has orange, son has blue): from Ikea.
  • Maileg red wooden pram with Maileg mouse in: My daughter so loves her Maileg mice in matchboxes.
  • Old train: from my local antique market.
  • Apple crates (which hold (most) of our kids books): I bought some from antiques markets and some from e-bay.
  • Owls: Big one was from Mia Wood in Kew Village (but about a year ago) and the small one was from Zara Home.
  • Son’s Bed Linen: Orla Keily Home.
  • Monkey cushion on Son’s bed: by Blabla.
  • Daughter’s bed: my Dad made (!!!) but it is painted in ‘Elephant’s Breath’ also by Farrow & Ball.
  • Daughter’s bed linen & quilt: Both from Zara Home.

Mo. x

Marc Boutavant’s Books List

Marc Boutavant’s Mouk is one of those children’s books that simply must grace your bookshelves.  The illustration is so brilliantly vibrant and engaging.  Often compared to Richard Scarry, so it is interesting to see a Scarry book in his Top Ten list of children’s books.

Marc is not only a children’s book illustrator but also an illustrator for comics and he kindly sent pictures of some of his favourites which feature in his list.  I find this list particularly exciting as all of Marc’s books are French (we have listed the English as well where possible) and so there are lots of new ones to me ….

Trois Tours de Renard — Paul Francois & M. Beuville
From Beuville — such a great painter/drawer, such an elegant guy.

L’Infernal Petit Lapin — Richard Scarry (English: Naughty Bunny )
Of course I was keen on this book by Richard Scarry! My taste for drawing hairy things comes from him I guess…

Archilbald Razmott et Sinistroreur, in comic book ‘Journal de Micky’ — Leo Baxendale (English: Eagle Eye Junior Spy which appeared in comic book Wham!)
I was crazy about Archilbald Razmott et Sinistroreur!

La Foret — Alain Gree (English: I think this might be ‘Keith & Sally in the Woods’, which is out of print)
As a child there was always something illustrated by Alain Grée around me. I remember it didn’t speak to me as a little boy but his splendid work obviously fed my own work.

M Le Magicien — Massimo Mattioli (From comic book Pif Gadget)
This fascinated me even or especially because of nonsense. But through his strange stories his art clearly spoke to me.

Joachim a des Ennuis — Rene Goscinny & Jean-Jacques Sempé (English: This book was the start of the Nicholas stories)
I’ll always have a kind of regret for not having grown up with the books of a fantastic man, Jean-Jacques Sempé.

As an adult reader I discovered masterpieces, the unforgettable text flavour from Toon Tellegen, and lovely illustrations, the first one was:
Lettres de L’écureuil a la Fourmi — illustrated by Axel Scheffler (English: Letters to Anyone and Everyone )

And the second one was:
L’Anniversaire de L’écureuil – illustrated by Kitty Crother (English: The Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties )
Kitty Crother and Axel Scheffler are great …

And closer to me, as friends and life and work mix every day and it appears in what I do, there are a few books I’d recommend for children :
La Faim des Sept Ours Nains — Emile Bravo (English: This book doesn’t seem to be in English but you can see Emilie’s work with Goldilocks and The Seven Squat Bears)

Le Diner Surprise — Pauline Martine and Astrid Desbordes (English: Again can’t find this one in English but Reflections of a Solitary Hamster and Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster are by the same authors).

Hortense au Plafond — Aurore Callias

Le Chevalier Courage — Delphine Chedru (this is the wonderful author who did ‘Spot It’, which I wrote about here).

*To read other book lists, click here.

Everyone is doing them … cake pops!

I’m in Starbucks the other day with my kids and my daughter and I decide to share one of their new Sparkle Cake Pops — seriously … SO delicious.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Starbuck’s food offerings but these things were heaven on a stick.

As a keen baker I’ve been reading about cake pops for a while, starting on one of my favourite blogs, Bakerella.  But tended to find it a bit of an American phenomenon with tricky to find ingredients over on this side of the pond (most recipes call for ‘candy melts’ to cover the balls which are something I’d never heard of before).  However we seem to be catching up — I have recently seen quite a few recipe books for Cake Pops, like this one by the Bakerella queen herself or this one which I recently had a flick through.  As for ingredients, candy melts are in fact easily available online, even Amazon sells them or good old Cakes, Cookies & Crafts, who also sell the white lollipop sticks for them.

I have given up cake for lent (boo!) so I will be trying my hand at actually making some after Easter and in the meantime I will try and avoid their tempting stare when I go into Starbucks!

-Mo. x

Why pancakes?

As my eldest goes to a German kindergarten, he and his friends will be celebrating Karnival today — going to kindergarten dressed up in their favourite fancy-dress (I think we can expect a fair few pirates, policeman and princesses!).

I love how our family combines the traditions from both our cultures — I think it is providing us with a very rich life and so I cannot let the day slip without what Shrove Tuesday always meant for me growing up …. pancakes!

Quite a few of my German friends, who will join us for pancakes, had never heard of our tradition before so I thought I better check out why it is we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?  Although our traditions seem quite different they stem from the same idea.  During Lent you would abstain from parties and celebrations and certain foods.  From what I can work out, in continental Europe the week before lent starts is all about extravagant celebration (hence the dressing up) knowing that there will be no more celebrations for 40 days.  Whilst here in the UK we focus on eating up all the foods in the house that will not be allowed during lent, typically fats, dairy and eggs — hence pancakes were made as they used up these ingredients. (more…)

A Cops ‘n Robbers Party

I asked Elias what type of birthday party he wanted.  Like a shot he came back with ‘Pirates’.  “Oh No!  Really?”, I replied.  Not that I have any particular objection to Pirates but we must have been to ten pirates parties in the last year — there was absolutely no scope for originality!  So I spent the next few weeks flashing alternative ideas at him and the one that finally got him was ‘Cops ‘n’ Robbers’.

  • I’m no big-shot with Adobe so designed a simple invite based on the Metropolitan Police logo.  I got the invites printed by Moo Print, which is a hot little discovery as they use ‘Printfinity’, a technology that allows you to print a different image on every post-card, business card or sticker you print with them — I didn’t use this on the invites but couldn’t resist printing some Police logo stickers in different colours to slip in with the invites (well, all kids love stickers in my experience!).
  • I then ordered some Police tape to wrap in front of the house (it got our neighbours talking at least!), a police costume for my son and cake icing printed with the ‘new’ police logo from here.
  • My daughter already had a cute Katvig B&W striped top and black leggings so all she needed was some dodgy stubble and I had my first robber. (Other cute B&W striped ideas I like were from Bob & Blossom, P.O.P online &  gorgeous Ivana Helsinki).
  • We served food in our cellar (which we tried to make feel like a jail canteen).  My husband and mum cooked fish and chips (for 20 kids!) and I bought these brown food boxes for ease of serving (the kids found these pretty special too) and just printed some stickers labelled ‘Cell Food’ to seal them.
  • I stole another great idea from Brooke Reynolds for the place-mats — using her idea for Valentine’s Day, I adapted it to make ‘Wanted’ posters with the outline of a face and laid the table with a pencil for each kid to ‘design a robber’ (there were some fantastic results from this!).
  • I made simple draw-string ‘Swag’ bags as party-bags but also love these black and white striped paper bags for something a bit less maintenance.
  • We played ‘Cuff The Robber’ — which was basically ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ and ‘Rob the Piggy Bank’ — which was a version of the magnetic fishing game.  I used these Mighty Magnets and attached them with string to bamboo sticks.  Then we emptied all our old coin boxes into 3 large clear boxes (with Piggy Banks on them) — the children then had to use the magnets to rob as much money as they could from the piggy banks in 20 seconds.
  • For prizes we gave away Playmobil cops ‘n’ robbers and cool Lego policeman torch keyrings.

I have to say it was a really fun theme!

Mo. x

Alison Jay’s Top Ten Books

When my daughter was born Courtney bought my son a present (she’s so good like that!). It was a book illustrated by English artist, Alison Jay (I Took the Moon for a Walk ).  It was my first introduction to Alison’s work and (just as Courtney told me I would) I fell in love with her illustrations.  They have a sort of old-fashioned charm about them, which is partly because they often have a cracked varnish look to them (she works in a quick drying oil paint which sometimes gives this effect). I also love how she often ‘hides’ details in the pictures so each time you read the book, you feel like you are finding new things.  My children particularly love that.  (Also check out her Alphabet and Counting books — beautiful details on every page!) We’re thrilled that she took some time out to give us her top ten children’s books…

1. The Children’s Wonder Book
This book belonged to my dad or even my granny — it is a huge book stuffed with classic fairy tales, poems, adventures stories, and amazing illustrations by many different illustrators of the past. I loved this book —  it has some very atmospheric and almost menacing illustrations. The illustrators include, Edmond Dulac, John Tenniel and Arthur Rackham . Also in the book are the limericks and illustrations by Edward Lear which I love, and a poem about a poor boy who died because he wouldn’t eat his soup. (Take note)

2. The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher — Beatrix Potter
I loved the Beatrix Potter illustrations as a child and still do. I especially love seeing inside the animals’ houses and shops. I have chosen Jeremy Fisher as my favorite as I grew up with frogs — my dad had a very soft spot for them and got furious with the cat for chasing them. Again, I really like seeing inside Mr Fisher’s house with the snails– I must have been a nosey child, now a nosey adult.

3.Dwindling Party — Edward Gorey
This is a pop-up book, now out of print, I found a copy at a boot sale. It is wonderfully dark but funny! The illustrations are fantastic, and I also love Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies —  I think children love creepy, scary things (I know I did).

4. The Cat in the Hat — Dr Seuss
I loved this book as a child and also “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back”.  I was always a bit worried about the mess the cats made and felt really sorry for the goldfish.

5. The Hidden House — Martin Waddell & Angela Barrett
I adore this book — it is quite sad but has a happy ending, and the illustrations are beautiful with tiny details. I like to put details into my pictures and sometimes little stories or events within the main story– it is amazing how children spot everything.

6.The Great Dog Bottom Swap — Peter Bently & Mei Matsuoka
This book is mad but hilarious! The illustrations are perfect for the text– I love quirky things and this is high on the quirky-o-meter.

7. Maths Curse — Lane Smith Jon Scieszka
I think Lane Smith is such a fantastic illustrator; his imaginative compositions are incredible. I love all Lane Smiths books but as I had such a problem with maths as a child I have chosen this one. The Stinky Cheese man is wonderful too.

8. James and the Giant Peach — Roald Dhal
My Brother was given the second edition for Christmas one year and my Mum read it to us over a few days. I love the cover illustration by Michael Simeons — it shows Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge’s house high in a hill.

9. Haunted House — Jan Peinkowski
My mum was a school teacher and she used to lend our books to take to school for her class, often they never came back or were damaged. Luckily, my copy of this book survived! I think this book again appeals to my sense of humor. I really like pop-up books as they give another dimension — I am hoping to illustrate one quite soon.

10. Ant and Bee and the Doctor — Angela Banner
I really like the simple drawings of these books and that the scale is so weird — I think Bee was almost as big as the Doctor. I like painting insects as characters when the opportunity arises and strangely, weird scale.

(Photo of Alison, aged 5)

To see other top ten book lists, click here.

Dala Baking Tins from Ikea

I have visited Ikea quite a bit recently — something I both love & hate.  I love that you can fill a trolley, spend a £100 and really feel like you’re getting your home in order.  I hate that every time I go I lose someone (last time I lost my Mum for 45 minutes — imagine, if you will, a thirty-something woman approaching the info-desk with the words “I’ve lost my Mum!”).

Anyway, are they stepping up their bakeware or am I just slow on the uptake?  I was really impressed with their baking accessories, cupcake papers and doilies.  I couldn’t resist these Dala horse (Mama & Baby) bake tins – so cute! I baked Courtney’s famous carrot cake in them over the weekend, which has become a favourite recipe in our household.  However, my only problem was getting the cake out in the end — does anyone have a great cake recipe that is meant to be baked in a tin like this and therefore slips out?

-Mo. x

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