Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Matilda’s book reviews (page 2 of 4)

Matilda’s book reviews – Is that you wolf?

Is that you wolf?We’re having to choose very carefully the books we read to Matilda at the moment, particularly at bedtime. I don’t know if it’s just an age thing as her imagination develops but she gets scared very easily. So gone are the 3 little pigs, the Gruffalo’s child (scary big mouse) and room on a broom (scary dragon and monster). In their place we have a cow in the cabbage patch  and any of the farmyard tales books.

I don’t want to avoid the scary things completely because some of the best stories have an element of being scared to them but I also of course don’t want her to have nightmares. Would love to know if any of you have been through this before and how you dealt with it. I can’t wait to start reading Roald Dahl books but have no chance if she continues to get scared like this.

Given all that it might seem a little weird that I am doing a review here for a book that features a wolf (a pretty big wolf, but more of that later), but I love this book and so does Henry so for now we’ll ignore the fact that Matilda finds it a little scary.

Is that you wolf? was a Christmas present and is just perfect for toddlers with the touchy feely bits on each page. The story follows a little pig who keeps thinking he’s spotted the wolf around the farm and can feel it’s claws or fur etc but it turns out to be just one of the farm animals. On each page you also get to feel the claws or fur like the pig does by putting your hand under the flap, but you can never see what you are feeling.

Is that you wolf inside page

This does of course mean if you are a toddler called Henry who is as delicate as an elephant that some supervision is needed to avoid the book getting trashed within 30 seconds! Apart from that it’s a great read, the suspense builds up until the last page when a great big wolf pops out from the page. Which incidentally is scary enough to have made the lady of the manor jump when she first read it.

The wolf!

Matilda as mentioned isn’t really a big fan of this book, maybe she’s going to be like her mum and hate being made to jump? Either way I think it may well stay on the shelf unless it’s just me and Henry reading stories, one to keep for those lovely 5.30am wake ups…

Matilda’s book reviews – Mr Wolf and the enormous turnip

This is a review post

mr wolf and the enormous turnip 1

We’re fast becoming big Jan Fearnley fans in this house; it all started with Little Robin’s Christmas and then I bought Watch Out Wilf for the princely sum of 75p from a charity shop without noticing it was one of her books. Now Egmont Press have kindly sent us this book and it’s become one of Matilda’s favourites.

Part of it I think is the fact there is a wolf in the book, she’s completely obsessed with the three little pigs so having a wolf in this book probably appeals to her. Although in this case the wolf is the hero not the villain!

The style of this book has a little bit of Roald Dahl about it, both in terms of the illustrations but also the fact the wolf ends up gobbling up some princesses. That certainly is a big tick for me as a big Roald Dahl fan (where do you think the name Matilda comes from?) and adds to the appeal of this book.

mr wolf and the enormous turnip 2

The basic premise of the story is that the wolf tries to help a prince who has been turned into a frog by persuading a princess to kiss him. In return the prince has promised to help the wolf pull up an enormous turnip (hence the title) but then double crosses him and gets eaten up!

My only issue with all this is that the wolf constantly tries to sell the fact he’ll share some turnip stew with people if they help him. Surely it’s no surprise that they’re not interested, it’s no beef and ale stew is it? Not sure I’d call an enormous turnip delicious.

mr wolf and the enormous turnip 3But if we ignore that minor point this really is a very nice book and Matilda most definitely agrees. She loves that the wolf eats up the princesses with a ‘snappety snap snap’ and also does all the kissing sound effects as the princesses kiss the frog.  However like me she doesn’t seem entirely convinced that a turnip stew is that attractive.

We’ll definitely be on the look out for some more Jan Fearnley books and if you spot either this one or Watch out Wilf somewhere I do recommend you give them a try.

Matilda’s book reviews – Little Robin’s Christmas

My favourite thing about reading this book is getting to this page:

 Little Robins christmas inside

What you can see on this page is a hedgehog and I have no doubt this is exactly what the artist wanted you to see. However when you are 18 months old and called Henry what you see is a Gruffalo. And when you see a Gruffalo you of course also have to do you very best ‘growl like a Gruffalo’ impression. Which of course sounds much like a baby lion trying to growl, definitely more cute than scary.

It’s hard reading when you’re laughing your head off I can tell you.

Little Robins christmas coverI really quite like this book though, it’s a cute little story about a robin who has 6 vests and gives them away one by one to other animals that need them. Then when he’s got none left and is all cold that fine fellow Father Christmas turns up, whisks him off to Lapland and gives him his very own red vest. All with beautiful illustrations making it perfect to get you and the little ones into the Christmas mood and not a single mention of TV ad’s or special lorries turning up in towns.

Matilda of course loves it, although she does give Henry a disapproving look with his Gruffalo impression “it’s a hedgehog Henry, a Hedgehog, silly Henry”. She also makes sure to point out the moon on one of the pages and not just any moon “a crescent moon daddy”, where does this stuff come from?!

We haven’t got any other books by Jan Fearnley in our collection so I’m off to have a look now at what else she’s written. If anyone has any recommendations for books by her or similar ones then do please let me know.

Disclosure: I was sent this book free of charge but as you can see the opinions here are clearly my own

Matilda’s book reviews: Usbourne touchy feely – The nativity

Two things changed in our bed time routine when we were on holiday in Scotland; first Matilda and Henry became obsessed with this nativity book which has bits you can touch and feel like furry sheep and secondly we started all sitting on one bed to read a bed time story.

Usbourne touchy feely nativity

We’ve been doing bed time all together for a while now but perched on a chair and a stool in Matilda’s room which isn’t so comfortable. But in Scotland there was a double bed in the room Henry was sleeping in so we started sitting on that and it was just lovely.

The lady of the manor and I sat at either end with 2 little monkeys wrapped up in their grobags between us (or on top of us of course). We’d get all snuggled up with some cushions and the duvet before reading the 2 books for that evening. The babies drank their cups of milk and then blew kisses to everyone as we took them off to their cots.

Now we’re back home we’ve carried on the same routine except using our bedroom, which actually is quite nice because it’s neutral territory and being a king bed has lots of room! We all read together on there and we take a baby each into their room for a quick cuddle before it’s sleep time.

Now for those of you that don’t know this story it’s about a little baby who is born in a barn and as happens today lots of people pop over and give him some presents. Which if you’re a parent you’ll know means you’ll get a bunch of white clothes that’ll probably only fit for a week and will never be white again. Plus you’ll now have enough gift bags to keep you supplied even if every person you know has a baby in the next year.

Usbourne touchy feely nativity

Matilda and Henry certainly seem to like it, they love touching all the different textures and as there aren’t that many words to read I then use it as an opportunity to test out their vocabulary of farm animal noises. Matilda does always take time to point out to me the one solitary sheep in the whole book that isn’t furry. It seems to offend her for some reason, not entirely sure why and why it surprises her every time we read it that it hasn’t changed.

I do actually quite like this book, it amuses me that Matilda and Henry have no idea of what this story is really about and how important it is to many people. They just like the fact that there is a baby and some animals. But it is well written and as we approach Christmas is a nice way to start to explain to them what Christians believe that time of year is about. I may not be religious but I don’t want that to prejudice them against religion or understanding what people believe in.

However I may just hide it away with the Christmas decorations once we’re past December 25th, there are only so many times you can read a book.

Matilda’s book reviews – Goodnight tractor and Ladybird books giveaway

I was sent a copy of Goodnight Tractor free of charge, but all words and opinions here are my own. Besides have you ever tried to force a toddler to like something?

I recently wrote a guest post for Ladybird books about what it’s like being a dad and reading to your children. As you may have guessed from these book review posts it’s a topic I’m quite passionate about and reading to both Matilda and Henry is definitely one of my favourite bits of each day. Not only is it good for their development it’s also a lot of fun telling a story and interacting with them.

Following that post Puffin (who are also part of the Penguin group with Ladybird) have kindly sent Matilda a new book called Goodnight tractor and perhaps more importantly for you some books for me to giveaway. You can find all the details at the bottom of the post, but first the review!

Goodnight TractorI’m always wary of new books, many seem to fall short of the high standards set by the classics and seem to often be a bit simple or basic. But we all actually really like Goodnight Tractor, it has a really simple story of a child putting his toys to bed but actually creates a lot of fun and interaction when read. It has a nice rhyming lilt to it which always pleases me for these sort of books, that sing song style of reading you fall into simply feels nice.

What Matilda particularly likes is that it features lots of animals on the farm so she can practise her moo and oink oink each time. She is also a bit obsessed by tractors, not least because there is a farm 30 metres from our garden and she can spend all day stood on the slide watching them. I’ve also been reading this book with Henry who is starting to say a few words and can make a clip clop noise for a horse with his tongue.

Inside goodnight tractorThe final piece to the jigsaw is the illustrations which thankfully are not bold and brash colours, in fact they almost remind me of a Raymond Briggs book in the colourings and style. This is a big book so you get great full double page spread pictures with the words overwritten rather than separate. I think this makes for a great reading experience for the age that Matilda and Henry are and ensures that they keep engaged.

Now I’m sure you are all dying to know how you can get your hands on some books of your own. Ladybird sent me a big pile of books so I’m going to split it into 2 prizes. The books are aimed at children aged around 2-3 but of course no reason you can’t use for slightly older or younger. In order to win one of the prizes all you need is to leave a comment answering the question below before the competition closes on Monday 1st July at 8pm, (please include your twitter ID or email so I can contact you if you win). Simple! Of course if you enjoy these posts and you want to subscribe to my blog via email or RSS I’m not going to complain. I’ll then pick 2 comments at random to win a pack of books each.

If you could read books to your children by only one author who would that author be and why?

Note this competition is open to UK entrants only, competition closes on Monday 1st July at 8pm where 2 comments will be chosen at random to win the prizes. No cash alternative is offered.

Pile of Ladybird books

Matilda’s book reviews; Shirley Hughes

One of the rights of a parent is to indulge their own childhood memories a little and this most definitely applies to choosing books. I love rediscovering books that I read as a child and introducing Matilda to them, however we both know that there is no guarantee she will like them. She won’t hesitate to tell me ‘no daddy’ and push a book away with a look of disgust when she doesn’t want to read something.

One thing we both agree on though is that Shirley Hughes rocks. If we were limited to just one author to read I think we’d both agree that Shirley is the best choice. Sure Janet and Allan Ahlberg might push her close (remember the Jolly Postman obsession?) but there is something about her books that have us coming back again and again.

For me it could be the nostalgia or that the stories that don’t involve TV characters, computers or mobile phones. They tell stories about a simpler time, perhaps a bit idealistic but definitely close to the Darling Buds of May way of life I dream of. But more than that the illustrations are beautiful, no need for the bold brash colours you often find in children’s books these days. They challenge the child to spot the details, revealing new things each time you read them.

A collage of Shirley Hughes

One particular favourite is Alfie gets in first, I love how she uses the spine of the book as the door he gets stuck behind. Which leaves him on one page and his mother outside on the other page. A simple concept but one that shows the story so well.

The prose is eloquent, understandable for a child without being dumbed down. Sometimes rhyming and rhythmic, others classic fiction. For me the rhyming books are probably her best but both are interesting to read which is always important.

Matilda loves Alfie, we have 2 or 3 books featuring him and they are extremely well read, some of them she can now tell you the story as we’ve read them so much.  There is one book where his sister Annie Rose is crying in her cot, for some reason this always bothers her and we have to talk about how she’s really ok and he parents are going to see her.

Matilda reading

The other favourites are the nursery collection which are more educational teaching things like colours and numbers. What I love is that colours are taught by showing a scene with lots of things in that colour. Yellow has a sun and a cat in the scene for example. It seems to really sink in with Matilda and she loves spotting each of the things in the picture.

We’ve now started moving onto the Lucy and Tom books which have a few more words to the story and so work well now she is a bit older. Looking at the other books she’s written it seems like we have more to come for older ages too.

So now you know who our favourite author is tell me about yours. Who do you like reading and more importantly who do your children like? Any tips for slightly older books also much appreciated.

Matilda’s book reviews – The Jolly Postman

Matilda reading on sofaMatilda is a book worm. This pleases me. A lot. A love for books and reading before she’s even 2 can only help her when she goes to school. As soon as she’s finished her breakfast in the morning she heads for the sofa with a book in hand and ‘reads’.

But there is a problem. There are books on her shelf that she will never pick up, there are some that are firm favourites that get she never bores of reading and then there is sometimes a book that she gets obsessed with.

Ask her now at any point of the day, at home or out visiting someone what book she’d like to read and the answer is always the same.

Postman. More Postman daddy.

The Jolly bloody Postman. Except after reading it every single night for 3 weeks (not an exaggeration) it’s more like the stupid annoying far to perky for his own good Postman.

I loved this book as a kid, such a great concept with a new envelope and letter on each page, we even had the Christmas version. I thought it would be too old for Matilda still but she seems to love it. Sure some of the humour is clearly lost on her but few books will keep her sitting for as long.

The detail in the book is incredible, each letter carefully designed and thought out. The imagination of Janet and Allen Ahlberg is something to behold, thinking to write a letter from the 3 little pigs to the big bad wolf of Red Riding Hood fame threatening legal action? A postcard from Jack to the giant he stole the hen from? Amazing, simply amazing.

Jolly Postman

Then you have the artwork, the beautiful illustrations of each character and small details dotted around the page. Even after reading it so many times I’m still noticing new things.

I’m sure though that they can’t have made a penny in profit from it. It must take so much time to create each book and slot all the letters in. You can’t do all of that cheaply. But I would hazard a guess that the Ahlberg’s didn’t have money making as a top priority when writing this book.

I can see us reading this book for a long long time and not just due to Matilda’s obsession, as she gets older and understands the stories more she’ll enjoy it even more.

For now though we may well have to lose it down the back of the bookshelf for a while otherwise I may go insane.

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