One Thousand Things, by Anna Kövecses

One Thousand Things 1

One Thousand Things 2

I knew as I approached the stand this was going to be a dangerous meeting. I had ‘eyed’ up the Wide Eyed Editions stand at last year’s Babyccino ShopUp event from across the room, and eventually gave in to temptation. I already had the Atlas of Adventures book and as soon as I looked through their catalogue I knew this would be the stand where I’d spend my Christmas presents budget.

One Thousand Things 3

One Thousand Things 4

Otto (aged 3) found One Thousand Things by Anna Kövecses in his stocking. I love books that simply help encourage first words and conversation with young children. Here a little mouse takes us on a journey to learn 1000 words – split into 7 sections. The images look almost like cut-out images with flat and bold colours which are very beautiful.

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I have also found this book great for helping to teach my older daughter to read her first words and I have ordered this book a couple of times for new babies – I always like to buy a book for newborns and the simple graphics in this book make it a lovely book to look at with very young children. The book is available from Amazon (US and UK).

-Mo  x

Vriendenboek (A Friends’ Book)

Esther van de Paal vriendenboek Snor vriendenboek Esther van de Paal Julie Summerbelle Snor(All photo credits: Yvonne Eijkenduijn of Yvestown)

I’m super proud to announce a little project I’ve been working on with my friend Julie Marabelle (the super talented lady behind the well known brand Famille Summerbelle) and Snor, the coolest publishers here in the Netherlands: we made a Friends’ Book!

vriendenboek Esther van de PaalNow, if you’re not Dutch (or Belgian, or German) you probably have no idea what a Friends’ Book is… Our ‘Vriendenboek‘ (Friends’ Book) consists of 31 double pages with pre-printed questions — one to be filled out by the owner of the book (the ‘This is me’ section), the rest is meant for 30 friends and/or classmates. There are passport-like questions (like name, address, length, hobbies, sort hair, favourite school subject, etc), but also more creative questions such as ‘What is the nicest thing you and I did together’, ‘Draw your dream house’ or ‘This is what my bed looks like’. There’s  space for a photo, which is carried by a character in underwear that can be dressed with the cool clothes stickers that come with the book.

vriendenboek Esther van de PaalThe book is typically aimed at children of the age of 4 to 12 (primary school age), and the idea is that it’s a record of a specific year in your childhood, a record of your friends, but also of the zeitgeist of a specific era. My dad just emptied out his basement and he dropped of some boxes of stuff my mum had kept for me, and coincidentally I found my own friends’ book from 1984/85. It’s just brilliant reading the answers! Some examples: best film: Annie, E.T., Ghost Busters, First Blood (!). Best pop group: Wham, Duran Duran, UB40. What I want to be: Farmer, Housewife, Truckdriver, Horse Stall Cleaner. And goes on. So good! I wonder what has become of all of those childhood friends. I hope they are living their dreams! : )

vriendenboek friend's book vriendenboek06 vriendenboek friends' bookJulie and I have been brainstorming and designing to come up with a modern, cool and good-looking friendship book filled with fun and interesting questions, and it is finally here. And I’m so happy with how it turned out! The way the paper feels, the way the colours turned out, the quality of the stickers in the back — it’s all beautiful!

vriendenboek13 vriendenboek friends bookAt the moment, the Friends’ Book is only available in Dutch… You can get it here for shipment in the Netherlands, or here for international deliveries. And hopefully it will soon be available in English, and other languages as well!

xxx Esther

PS All the beautiful photos above are by my friend Yvonne from Yvestown. Thank you Yvonne (and your neighbours Josefien and Pauline, such sweet models)! And a big thank you to my Dutch blogging friends Bubbelmint, Oh Marie!, Moodkids and UrbanMoms for their lovely reviews. Julie also wrote a nice blogpost about our book, with great photos, here.

My Dad’s a Birdman by David Almond

My Dads a Birdman 1
My Dads a Birdman 3

My kids are aged 8, 6 and 3. They still all enjoy picture books but the two older ones really like me to also read chapter books to them before bed. It can be quite a challenge to find ones they like – they really hate anything scary and are sensitive to creatures, monsters, even some kinds of wizardry – basically any stories with evil as well as good are just not up their street. It can be tricky to find stories aimed at their age-group without any baddies!

My Dad’s a Birdman is a great find.

Set in the North of England, Lizzie’s Dad is preparing to enter the Great Human Bird Competition and her Auntie Doreen is getting cross about it. You see Lizzie’s Dad is taking his entry quite literally – building wings of feathers, eating flies and feathering his nest. You see Lizzie and her Dad are getting over the death of Lizzie’s ‘Mam’ and that can be tough on grown-ups as well as kids.

The story is funny and silly but the grown-up reading this will see a sadness in this story of grief, how we deal with it and how sometimes, just sometimes, kids become the grown-ups.

My Dads a Birdman 2

Lizzie is a wonderful character with a huge empathy & understanding. Whilst she has the intelligence to understand her father’s actions she can also see the love of her Auntie Doreen condoning them. She is accepting of other people’s coping mechanisms and the book is great at demonstrating our differences with dealing with difficult situations.

But have no fear of worrying your children with stories of a mother no longer there – my children didn’t really pick up on this ‘back-story’ until we had nearly finished the book, they were too engrossed with the story of this fantastical competition.

Polly Dunbar (who illustrated the lovely Penguin ) provides soft and gentle illustrations, which make this book perfect for children (like mine) moving from picture to chapter book. Available from Amazon (US and UK).

-Mo x

So Awesome Wallet cards

So Awesome wallet flash cards so awesome alphabet cards These So Awesome wallet cards don’t just looks beautiful, they’re also super practical. A selection of cards the size of a credit card, made from durable, easy-to-clean, biodegradable and kid-safe (non-toxic, food-safe) plastic, are kept together by a re-closable ring. The size makes them super easy to throw in your handbag or nappy bag. They can be kept together and read as a book, or they can also be played with individually. So fun! I have found them especially handy when we’re traveling, or in restaurants. Casper and I like to play with the Color and Shape cards — I ask, what colour, and he says ‘blue’. For all the colours. ; )

xxx Esther

 

 

‘Smartypants: Pete in School’ by Maira Kalman

Smartypants book

There is so much I want to tell you about Maira Kalman. She is my current ‘book-creator-crush’ – I have loved everything I have read by her – adult books or kids books.

Maira Kalman was born in Tel Aviv but moved to New York aged four. She is an author, an illustrator, a curator and just a brilliant, brilliant voice and mind. She has a style and stream of consciousness like no other author I have ever experienced and as everything she writes is also illustrated the whole experience of looking through a Maira Kalman book is an energizing joy – her books always make me laugh but can be thought-provoking and also touching to draw a tear.

Smartypants 2
Smartypants 3
The stories often don’t follow a clear path – you need to commit to her style and prepare to jump around a little but when you do you go on a journey which is just about as delicious as a salt-beef and pickle bagel – which brings me back to her Jewish / Bronx routes – which gives her work such a rich tone – I’m not sure you can be funny like Kalman unless you are Jewish and from the Bronx (but I may be wrong on that?).

So to choose a book to review was the hard thing here – I’m sure I’ll tell you about some more soon but I picked Smartypants: Pete in School because it is the book that makes my kids laugh loudest and what better reason to spread the love?

Pete is the dog of Poppy & Schmookie Wise – he eats everything. One day he turns up at school and starts causing havoc by eating his way through Poppy and Schmookie’s classes – until, called to the principal’s office, he eats a Big Book of Everything and ends up really smart …. The story is funny but the characters – Poppy, Schmookie, the teachers and of course Pete you will just love. Kalman, talks in asides (if she was on Instagram she’d be the hashtag queen!) and goes off on tangents, which lets us get to know these characters in a deeper way.

Smartypants 4

You can buy Smartypants: Pete in School here, but I warn you it could spark a book-buying-spree!

-Mo x

PS: If you want to know more about Maira Kalman you can hear her 2007 Ted Talk here (it’s perfect!) and books for grown-ups by her are The Principles of Uncertainty, which is a compilation of her columns for The New York Times. And the Pursuit of Happiness  is her year-long investigation into American democracy and lastly (my personal favourite) is My Favorite Things which was created to accompany her curation of the artifacts at the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The book explores the significance of objects in our lives and combines personal objects and artifacts from the exhibition. Lovely.

A Bell for Ursli by Alois Carigiet & Selina Chönz

A Bell for Ursli 1
A Bell for Ursli 2

We talk a fair bit about social media in our house – my husband really hates it whilst I love a bit of Instagram and this can lead to some interesting debates, but this is a story of how social media got me to discover a wonderful book I didn’t know about but which was already on my bookshelf….

One of Esther’s Insta-friends posted a picture from the book ‘A Bell for Ursli ’ and she messaged me to ask if I knew the book – it just looked so lovely. It looked familiar but I couldn’t place it. Esther’s friend revealed the title and so I looked it up and by the front cover I knew it was on our bookshelf somewhere. My husband is German and so we have lots of kid’s books in German – I always look at them when we buy them (in fact I buy a lot of them purely based on their illustrations!) but then they go on the ’German Shelf’ for him to read. ‘Schnellen-Ursli’, ‘Der Grösse Schnee’ and ‘Flurina und das Wildvöglein’ – all by the same author / illustrator were all on our shelf having been bought for our eldest son when he was born by friends.

Noticing some of the titles were also in English I bought them and feel like I found treasure – what lovely stories! You see these books are real classics – beautiful tales of idyllic childhoods in the Swiss mountains accompanied by equally idyllic pictures.

A Bell for Ursli 3
A Bell for Ursli 4

A Bell for Ursli is a perfect story for this time of year – based on the Swiss tradition of children ringing cow-bells through the streets of the villages during the Spring Festival. Each child carries the biggest bell they can and ring it loudly to drive the Winter away and welcome the Spring. The village people then fill the children’s bells with treats – but only the big children can carry big bells, the smaller children must carry the smaller calves bells – the story of Ursli is of a small boy wanting to be bigger and the adventure he goes on to be so.

I think this book would make the perfect Easter present (and paired with this super-brilliantly-kitsch Playmobil set it beats almost any chocolate egg I know!).

-Mo  x

6 Easter Book suggestions

Easter books
1. The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown
Margaret Wise Brown is probably best known for Goodnight Moon but I prefer this story for Easter – a young bunny finds a curious object (an egg) and can hear some tapping inside it – what is it? The bunny sets to investigations – some of which are quite disruptive but the little duckling that emerges is also an inquisitive little thing … a sweet little story of curiosity and friendship and of course its right in keeping with this time of year.

2. I am A Bunny by Richard Scarry
An old Babyccino favourite (see here) and if you don’t have it already this story of Nicholas the Bunny would make a perfect gift for Easter for a baby or toddler.

3. The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith
I’m a big fan of Brian Wildsmith’s books and this book is a good way to introduce children to the more difficult religious story of Easter time. Like his other book, A Christmas Story, Wildsmith uses an outsider to the story to tell it – in both cases a donkey. The donkey in The Easter Story carries Jesus into Jerusalem and sees the whole story unfold – how he is bought before Pontius Pilate, how he is crucified and how he comes to life again with the resurrection. Wildsmith uses bright colours, which evoke a Middle-Eastern landscape and gold to show that this is a very special, precious story. Whether you are religious or not it gives a good overview to what the festival of Easter is about. Good for children aged 4 – 7.

4. Hare and the Easter Eggs (Little Grey Rabbit) by Alison Uttley & Margaret Tempest
For those of you unfamiliar with the stories of Little Grey Rabbit – Hare is quite a cheeky, brave character and here he uses his boldness to get a most special Easter treat for his friends on Easter Sunday. A sweet little story with pretty, pastel drawings. The books are in small hardback format (reminiscent of another ‘rabbit’ book which doesn’t feature here as I figured it was just too obvious) so it makes a neat little package to hide as part of an egg hunt!

5. Rabbit School by Fritz Koch-Gotha and Albert Sixtus
We have this book in German but I double-checked that it is available in English! Fritz Koch-Gotha and Albert Sixtus are both Children’s Literature legends in Germany and this book is a lovely example of why. The illustrations are lovingly detailed whilst the rhyming story tells of 2 rabbits who are off to school. At school they learn what plants are tasty and good and how to make them grow. They learn about the evil fox and how to avoid him and of course they learn how to paint Easter Eggs so they can be Easter bunnies!

6. Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood
Released at the beginning of March, this is Ciara Flood’s first picture book. The story of annoyingly nice new neighbours and a grumpy bear who is just not into being disturbed (even by niceness!). Of course those ‘peskily nice rabbits’ win in the end and we all feel rather happy that bear turns over a new leaf to not be such a grump. Not an Easter story as such but rabbits felt enough of a link to get this one in this little list!

Have a great Easter – Mo. x

Storytime Magazine

girls reading storytime magazine
My kids are really into the idea of receiving their own subscriptions in the mail, whether it’s a packet of stickers from a sticker club or the comic book magazine that arrives for the boys every Friday, they literally run home from school eager to get their mail. The girls were feeling slightly left out, so we recently signed them up for a subscription to Storytime Magazine, and now they receive their own mail once a month.

Storytime is a monthly magazine for kids filled with beautifully illustrated stories, fairytales, folk tales, fables and funny poems (and no adverts whatsoever!). Each issue also includes story-inspired games, puzzles and activities which appeal to kids of different ages. (The activities are a bit too old for Marlow, but she still really enjoys the stories and loves that the magazines come in HER name!)

Marlow reading Storytime
Ivy reading Storytime
Ivy reading Storytime magazine
Ivy_reading_storytime
Storytime Magazine_three little pigs
girls reading storytime

What I especially like about the magazine is the selection of different stories, some of them classics which I remember from my own childhood and others which are completely new to us, and they’re all written in a way that really appeals to kids (I was reading the girls some original fairytales by the Brothers Grimm recently, and the language was a bit too difficult for them to follow).

Storytime is now offering UK-based readers the chance to try out the magazine by calling up and ordering a magazine for free. All you have to do is call them on 0843 504 4183, mention you’re a Babyccino reader, and they’ll send you one issue for free (or the chance to get three issues for just £3!). So easy! And remember to put the subscription in your child’s name — so they get their own post in your letterbox!

Courtney x

 

This post was sponsored by Storytime Magazine, a longtime member of our portal and a company we love and recommend.

Where’s the Pair? by Britta Teckentrup

Where's the Pair
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Courtney wrote about The Odd One Out by Britta Teckentrup and I bought it immediately – Otto loves ‘looking’ books and particularly ones where he can get involved. I love them too – these moments sitting and chatting to my 3-year-old over a book are all too precious. How they chat at this age is so great isn’t it? And these moments are made even more enjoyable when the book is as pleasing to the eye as with Ms. Teckentrup’s illustrations. That’s why I was happy to see this new book Where’s the Pair? released.

Where's The Pair 3
Where's The Pair 4

As with ‘The Odd One Out’ each page is adorned with a vibrant pattern of animals and a little rhyme questioning us to find the pair. And it’s not too easy — I even found the pairing a bit tricky. After Otto and I had read it I found him later sitting with his older sister trying to find the pairs – maybe she also enjoys these quiet moments and chats with our little one?

The book is available from Amazon (UK and US ).

-Mo x

A Rock is Lively by Dianna Aston & Sylvia Long

A Rock is Lively

My eldest son, Elias, has a love for stones and rocks (or as he calls them, crystals). Our house is full of stones he has found outside of our house, in the garden or in the park – to me they are just stones but to him they are all wonderful – he looks at them for ages finding the sparkling bits or fossilized fragments. He cleans them and studies them and keeps them in boxes and old printing trays in his bedroom.

So when I found this book I knew it would make the perfect birthday present for him.

A rock is lively_inside
A rock is mixed up
A Rock is Lively book

The title itself captures the special thing that people like Elias see in ordinary stones: A Rock is Lively … well I was yet to be convinced but as Mother and Son sat down to read this book – this Mama slowly became a convert. It turns out that stones really rock (if you’ll excuse the pun).

The book is written in such a way that it opens up the world of Stones, rocks and crystals and demonstrates just how interesting they are with bite-size nuggets of facts and stunning drawings to illustrate.

I really loved reading the book with Elias and by the end of the book I was proud that he was so interested in such a subject. Never having been one for Geology as a kid, it was great for me to learn (or re-learn as I’m sure is the case) how different rocks are made up, how old they can be and just how beautiful they can be. Maybe as a result I will be more patient about the piles of stones I find in my washing machine after washing Elias’s trousers! Maybe ….

-Mo x

p.s. A sweet story for younger kids about a ‘special’ stone is the Shirley Hughes Alfie story, Bonting (found in The Big Alfie Out Of Doors Storybook ) – Elias loved that as a little boy – I should have known then that stones are special to some kids!

Matisse’s Garden by Samantha Friedman & Cristina Amodeo

Matties's garden
matisse's garden_inside
matisse's garden book

If you are anything like me you can’t resist a museum shop. I found this book on a recent trip to the Tate Modern and bought it as semi-compensation for missing their exhibition of Matisse’s Cut-Outs last year.

I really love taking my kids to art exhibitions, even if it is not always their bag yet. My eldest (who is nearly 8) is starting to be interested in his own perceptions of what he is looking at and I love those dialogues with him. My middle one (the girl) loves drawing and painting and is often inspired to do an art-project as the result of a visit, and my youngest (3) is … to be honest … really, really horrible to take to museums!!!

So we missed the exhibit but … we found this book! Surely the next best thing? The book, published by MOMA, unfolds the artistic process that Matisse went through to develop some of his famous Cut-Out works. Told, as a story, we learn about Matisse, the curiosity and experimental nature of artists and, of course, some of his most famous works.
The book has been illustrated in a cut-out style, which nods to Matisse but still has its own individual look and then the pages unfold to reveal some of Matisse’s finished work which example that part of his artistic journey.

Lioba doing Matisse art project
henri matisse art project
Lioba and art project

We really enjoyed the book and it was also fun to have a go at producing a cut-out ‘art-piece’ with my daughter (a few phone-pics here to see). You can pick up a copy of ‘Matisse’s Garden’ from Amazon (UK and US ).

-Mo x

Pelle’s new suit, and some thoughts on clothing production

Pelle's New Suit children's book by Elsa Beskow Pelle's New Suit Courtney and I just came back from a little trip to New York, where we scouted venues for a NY ShopUp event (more later!), where we had lots of meetings with friends in the business (we’re so lucky to call so many of the brands and boutiques we work with our friends!) and where we visited the US edition of the Playtime fair, where we met even more wonderful friends. It’s always so fun to spend time in this bustling, busy city — I came back feeling full of great memories and inspiration! One of the friends we met in New York was Kirsten Rickert, an amazingly talented lady originally from Australia, who now lives in the US with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Kirsten is such a beautiful, pure lady; just have a look at her blog and her Instagram account. It was Kirsten who recommended the darling book ‘Pelle’s New Suit’  to us.

Pelle's New Suit‘Pelle’s New Suit’ is written by Elsa Beskow and was first published in Sweden in 1912. It’s a simple and sweet story with beautiful illustrations, taking place in a time before ready-to-wear clothing existed. Pelle is a little boy who owns a little lamb, and one day shears off all its wool. He then visits different relatives and neighbours in his small community village, asking them to help him with the different steps that are needed to transfer the lamb’s wool into a new suit (carding, spinning, dying etc.). In return, he will help his friends with different chores. For example, when his grandmother cards the wool for Pelle, he pulls the weeds from her carrot patch. When his mother weaves the cloth, he takes care of his baby sister. And when the tailor finally makes his suit, Pelle rakes the hay, brings in the firewood and feeds the tailor’s pigs. At the end of the story, when wearing his new suit, Pelle visits his lamb to show it his new suit and to thank it.

Pelle's New SuitIn our modern, consumer society, a piece of clothing is often mass-produced and simply picked up from a store. Sometimes the amount of money that is paid for clothing is so impossibly little, or so incredibly high… and many times it is discarding after a season, after a certain fashion is over. Or it is just valued for the brand it displays on its front. Clothing is often taken for granted, and there’s no ‘respect‘ for it — no real knowledge of the effort it took and the actions that were needed to create that piece of clothing. I love how this book describes the various steps of making a wool garment, the understanding of where the clothing actually comes from. I also love how it shows that when you don’t have the specific skills that are needed to do something yourself, you can ask others in your community to help you, and offer your help or skills in return.

Pelle's New SuitI hope that with the help of this little book (and trying to sew and knit as much as possible with my kids, passing on the skills that my mother and grandmother taught me), one day my children will be able to make a sensible and conscious decision when they will buy their own clothing… and that they will respect it and use it for what it entails. Anyway — so many words about fashion, reflection and values, all because of this sweet, beautiful little book. Thanks Kirsten, for the tip!

xxx Esther

PS Available through Amazon UK or US . I couldn’t find a large edition of the book, but if you can get your hands on that, Kirsten told me it’s so much better!

Henri’s Walk to Paris, by Saul Bass and Leonore Klein

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Henri's Walk To Paris 2
Henri's Walk To Paris 3
Henri's Walk To Paris 4
I’m a list maker – normally the ‘to do’ variety but occasionally more interesting – my Desert Island Discs (you never know I might one-day end up on Radio 4 and I better be prepared), my top recipes if I were to write a cookery book (they are all sweet) and of course a variety of book lists – kids books that make me cry, my favourite books to give a new baby, kids books for grown-ups and kids books that would make nice wallpaper. Yes you read it correctly. Some kids books are real works of art and I often thing they would be great on a wall – for example: William Bee’s ‘And the Train Goes… ‘ (imagine spreading out the whole length of the train around a kid’s room – super cool!), ‘Who’s Hiding? ‘ By Satoru Onishi – the graphic animals in their stand-up grid would be so great as a wallpaper and so much fun to see which ones are hiding! But top of this list is ‘Henri’s Walk to Paris by Saul Bass.
For those who don’t know, Saul Bass is considered by many to be the greatest Graphic Designer ever – he is famed for his film-title sequences (Pyscho, North by North West, The Seven Year Itch etc) and designing some of the most recognisable corporate logos in America (United Airlines Tulip being one of the most famous). Henri’s Walk to Paris is the only children’s book he created. It is gorgeous.

The story, written by Leonore Klein, is that of a boy from a small town wishing to visit the big city – Paris. It is simple and sweet and provides the perfect vehicle for Bass to work his magic. For years it was a hard-to-get-hold-of collector’s item but thankfully it was reprinted in 2011 and so is once again available to all – and all should have it! It is a study of design – so rich and vibrant yet simple and clean – colour and form are here in perfect harmony. C’est Magnifique!

-Mo x

Secret Garden, an intricate colouring book


secret garden inside

My mom bought this Secret Garden colouring book for my kids last year and it was recently rediscovered when we went through our crafts cupboard last week during the move. My kids (especially Quin) have enjoyed colouring in the intricate colouring pages, and the end result is so pretty I’ve started hanging up all of their coloured pages on our walls. Even I have enjoyed colouring in the pages with the kids — it’s one of those colouring books that appeals to kids and grown-ups alike (probably best for kids aged four and older — you’ll see from the top photo that Marlow took it upon herself to colour the cover and it’s not really the desired result you’re looking for with a book like this).

The Secret Garden colouring book is available from Amazon (US and UK ) and I’ve just seen that there is also a set of colour-in postcards  in this same series. So pretty!

Courtney x

Lucky by David Mackintosh

Lucky by David Mackintosh
Lucky book
Lucky 3
Lucky 4

This book is for my son, Elias. No seriously … it is. I met David Mackintosh at a friend’s place recently and when I sussed out he was the Author/Illustrator responsible for Marshall Armstrong Is New To Our School – I had to tell him about how Elias loved that book – he even slept with it by his bed for quite a long while, which in Elias’s world means it was VERY special (and probably a bit magic)! So David (very sweetly) sent Elias his newest book, Lucky , and it is a book we all really enjoy and laugh out loud to!

David combines illustration with photo-montage and bold typesetting for a distinctive look which is pacey to fit with the story-telling – you can’t help but go into character when you read this book and when you go back to read it again you spot quirks and little jokes in the illustration that first time round you missed.

But what David does so well is capture a child’s voice and way of thinking. The story, told by our hero, is about how a kid’s imagination can play Chinese-whispers with itself. One idea turns into another and before you know it imagination has turned into reality. There is also an underlying story here of brotherly love and maybe even a question of what ‘lucky’ is? At least the grown-up in me can see that this boy – disappointed by his ‘luck’ not paying off as he imagined it would – is really a very lucky boy indeed.

-Mo  x

I like Animals by Dahlov Ipcar

i like animals
I Like Animals book
I Like Animals 4

I like vintage kid’s books – one day I’ll write some more about that, but suffice to say it’s quite a habit. I always argue with my husband that I’m cheaper then other wives – I don’t need Jimmy Choos! I spend literally NOTHING on cosmetics! But he argues that we need to buy a bigger house to store the books and so it turns out that even a penny-book obsession can get out of hand.
You see there is a snowball effect with my purchases – when I stumble upon an illustrator (usually) or author that I think is brilliant I start trying to track down more and more of their books and so one purchase can turn into 3 or 4 or more!

I discovered Dahlov Ipcar when I stumbled upon a copy of My Wonderful Christmas Tree and thought it might be good for our Advent Book Calendar. I loved her illustrations so much that I searched for more and discovered that a few of her books had recently been republished and bought back to life with remastered artworks by Flying Eye Books, and so I bought I Like Animals for a little boy who does.

What hit me first is the use of colour – this book feels right in keeping with today’s fashion – a coral pink, khaki-mustard, forest green and petrol blue – Some pages printed with all and others using just one – the result is striking. Not so much of a story but rather lists of the different animals and where you’d find them. It’s a really lovely book to look through.

Mo x

Favourite snow-themed children’s books

Snowy Richmond Park
Otto in the snow

favourite snowy books

favourite snow books

Finally it happened. Finally it snowed here in London. As it is the way of the Englander – it seems we have been discussing this possible event for weeks – the postman, the lady in the supermarket, my next-door neighbour, my Mum – we do like to talk about the weather in this country and SNOW is a rare and exciting event. Apart from halting all forms of transport the bare splattering of snow transforms our landscape and of course for children … well there is nothing quite so heart-warming as their excitement as they look out of their windows when woken to the words of ‘it’s snowing”.
As we have been waiting for the snow (which sadly only lasted a few hours) I dug out the snow-themed books we had on our shelves and I thought I’d share them with you:

Snow by Roy McKie & P.D. Eastman
This is a ‘Beginner Book’ from 1962, which means it is simply written using short, repetitive words that a child just learning to read can manage. The main focus is on pictures, which have a bright and bold primary palette and really express the fun of kids playing in the snow.

Immi by Karin Littlewood
We’ve written about this beautiful story here but the pictures are so lovely that a snow-themed read-athon was a great excuse to pull it out again.

The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Olfers
I’m a big fan of the art of Sibylle von Olfers and this story of the Snow Children is (I think) one of the most enchanting examples – the story of a little girl called Poppy, who is tempted by the fairies of the snow to visit the Snow Queen. The berry-red of Poppy’s coat and mittens ping of the page against the tealy blue, gold and crisp white of the fairies snowy world. It is remarkable that a book published 110 years ago feels so fresh.

One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth
This is a story from Percy the Park Keeper – a gentle series that my children really like. The story sees Percy taking in the park animals one-by-one as they shiver and suffer from the cold one snowy night. I think I like this one as it reminds me a little of our own household with my children creeping into our bed one-by-one at various stages of the night (except in our house it doesn’t need to be snowing!)

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
I can’t believe I haven’t written about this book yet! It is one of my favourite books. The story itself is a simple tale of a boy going out to play in the snow and worrying it won’t be still there when he wakes the next morning but what makes this book special is the bold colours and graphic layouts – each page is a surprising piece of art. I only recently learned that the book was also groundbreaking. Published in 1962, The Snowy Day was the first full-colour children’s book to feature an African-American protagonist. Keats had previously only illustrated other Author’s books and it occurred to him that his own minority was never featured so he changed it and he won the prestigious Caldecott Medal for doing so!

I’d love to hear what your favourite snow-themed books are? I’m optimistic that we’ve not seen the end of the snow – we still have some tobogganing to do and a snowman to build!

-Mo  x

Shakleton’s Journey by William Grill

Skakleton's Journey Cover

I loved this book before I read it – my friend, Clem, had just bought it and I knew I’d love it – she is always right about these things. I flicked through it sitting in her garden and first fell for the illustrations – in a naval palatte of blues, browns, gold and a dotted journey-line of red they were so tender — I was instantly drawn in. Then I came to page 7 – about how many dogs were aboard Endurance (Shakleton’s Ship) drawn more like an infographic (I’m a stats geek with a love of graphic-design so an infographic is my idea of heaven on a page).

Shakleton's Journey inside 1
Shakleton's Journey inside 2

William Grill uses so many illustrative techniques to bring the story of this remarkable adventure alive. On one page we are in a picture book, the next is more like a cartoon built up of lots of small pictures showing scenes from that particular part of the story, then a storyboard page and then we have the pages that feel like they are from a deliciously doodled notebook – it is a truly gorgeous book and it was the perfect introduction to a fascinating story, which I knew very little about. I love it that my kids have got to an age where their learning is teaching me too!

The book is shown here with my late Grandfather’s nautical flags from when he was a leader of the Sea Scouts in the 1960s – they now hang in my son’s room!

Shackleton’s Journey is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

-Mo  x

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

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