Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: book review (page 1 of 2)

Matilda’s book reviews – The Faery’s gift

The lady of the manor and I love Roald Dahl, you’d never guess with a daughter called Matilda would you? (Who incidentally would have been George if she’d been a boy) I can’t wait until Henry and Matilda are old enough to start reading some of his books, in the mean time we’re making do with some of Quentin Blake’s books which are a bit more suitable. But if you love Road Dahl as much as me then you might be interested in the Marvellous Costume make (note this isn’t a sponsored post, just thought you’d be interested). Although having read all the tweets about world book day maybe you won’t all be so excited about making costumes?

I wonder if I can enter just by dressing Matilda in her normal clothes? Although she definitely isn’t opposed to a bit of dress up so we might have to get our thinking caps on. I think Henry mike make a rather good Fantastic Mr Fox and Matilda, well she’ll have to be Matilda won’t she?

This week we have been mainly reading The Faery’s gift 

Faerys gift coverThis is a really lovely book published by Barefoot books who if you haven’t checked out you really should. They make some of our favourite books, books that are original and a little different in terms of style (Bear on a Bike is another firm favourite). What I also like about their books is they often have a moral story in them or some educational message, all wrapped up in some beautiful words.

The Faery’s gift is a simple story; a wood cutter and his family are poor, cold and barely sustaining a life when one day he does a good deed and saves a faeries life. In return the faery grants him a single wish, which sounds great but he has to decide what to wish for (here comes the moral bit). Does he wish for the baby that his wife so desires or for his mother to get her eye sight back or for lots of money? I won’t spoil the surprise of what he does but I will say that he fails to wish for 3 more wishes which surely is the obvious answer?

Faerys gift picture page

Matilda loves this book, she seems to really like fairytale style stories especially when they involve some magic. She also likes the illustrations, which I think you can see from the photos are just beautiful, so full of colour and covering a whole page each time. As a bonus the book also comes with an audio CD where the story is read by Niamh Cusack, I like to think I’m good at reading books but not sure I can compete with her voice.

If you want something a little different to read do have a look at The Faery’s gift and the other books from Barefoot Books.

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: 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 – 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.

Matilda’s book reviews – Stormy Weather by Debi Gliori

I do apologise for the lack of book reviews in the last 2 weeks, it’s not that we haven’t been reading any, Matilda would definitely not allow that. But my brain was truly too full with up with ‘stuff’. However we’re back this week with a new favourite book and something perhaps a little more unusual.

This beautiful book is a bit different to your everyday big sellers like spot or Mr Men. It’s a really simple concept as all good childrens books are, telling the story of parents tucking up their children in bed and how they will protect them. With the parents and children in this case being animals which Matilda of course loves. “Bunny daddy” Yes Matilda that is indeed a bunny. What is particularly cute is this week she figured out that animals could be mummy and baby too. Amazing watching her reach that conclusion.

There aren’t a huge amount of words but they are really well written, simple, comforting, cosy words even. Ones that at least from my perspective provide some calming reassurance at bed time that can never be a bad thing right?

The art work is also great, quite quirky and different but completely filling the pages. I like how each page has a different parent and child animal on it and how the words are integrated into the picture, not always standard straight lines of text.

Matilda seems generally enthralled by it, sitting taking in all the colours and pictures on a page. The detail on the drawings means that if we want to we can talk about what’s on the page and spot the animals etc. It’s also a nice size book, which may sound odd but at her age I think it’s nice to have a book of a decent size rather than trying to peer at some small A5 sized book.

All in all a fab book that I would definitely recommend, perfect for bed time when you don’t want to be lifting up flaps in a book.

Matilda’s book reviews – Bear on a bike

This book came in a big bag of books as part of my prize for winning a BIB award back in June, they all come from a company called Barefoot Books who I’d never heard of but are now firm favourites with the wee girl. So much so that some of them may have been put in a high place for ‘safe keeping’, there are only so many times you can read a story in one day isn’t there?

I do like this book though, it’s bright and colourful  and I love the style of the art work. It has a simple repetitive story as most classic books for this age do. The story involves a small boy or girl chasing after a bear asking him where he’s going, the bear then replies and describes where he’s going. It has lovely rhyming phrases like “I’m going to the forest where fearsome creatures prowl, where racoons play and bobcats snarl and hungry foxes howl.”

Oh and of course it allows me to do a bear impression with a big deep voice.


Matilda I think quite enjoys the way the words bounce along and trip off the tongue. She also most definitely enjoys finding things on each page, pointing to the bear, spotting the dog and the fish. She’ll often sit on her own and flick through the pages exclaiming as she spots things. Plus if you take her rating as the amount of times she takes it out of the bag to read then this definitely gets 5 stars!


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