Toppsta - Childrens Books – Reviews


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Joined January 2016

Favourite book EVER is Pip and Posy
Samuel, 3 74 books
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Was read to me 20th November '18

The Fox on the Swing
Author: Evelina Daciute
The Fox on the Swing is a beautiful book. The vibrant orange fox on the midnight blue of the cover is really eye-catching, and I love the sparkling silver foiled stars too. The illustrations are like collages; Aušra Kiudulaitė has combined different textures, materials and mediums in her pictures. I really like the depth and detail that this provides.

The story is about a young boy called Paul who lives with his parents in a tree. Every afternoon, his mother sends him to the bakery to buy three bread rolls which they later eat together as a family. Paul takes the shortest route to the bakery but walks the long way home. It’s on these long walks home through the park that he sometimes sees the fox on the swing. Paul and the fox become friends. He gives her his bread roll each time they meet. They tell each other stories. The fox shares her wisdom. One day, Paul’s father comes home and announces that he’s got a new job and that they will be moving to another city. Paul is upset and troubled by the prospect of this move. He is happy where he is and doesn’t want to leave the fox. In the rest of the story, with help from the fox, Paul learns to adapt to change and find happiness again.

The book is a lovely introduction to the important concepts of gratitude and mindfulness. As Paul walks the long way home from the bakery, he takes time to notice the small things: strangely shaped stones, fascinating twisted roots, fancy birds, and puddles that glisten on the ground. He is living in the moment and taking pleasure from the little things in life. The fox teaches Paul how to find happiness in small things: carrot cake, marmalade and trees in autumn. These are valuable lessons for life.

Was read to me 20th November '18

I Really Want the Cake
Author: Simon Philip Illustrator: Lucia Gaggiotti
I Really Want the Cake is a delight – pure joy from start to finish. The rhyming verse with its cake refrain is great fun to read aloud and I can vouch that it stands up to repeated readings (my son always asks to hear the book at least twice on the bounce).

The story is one of temptation. Mom has made a magnificent chocolate cake and then gone out, leaving her daughter strict instructions: she must not eat the cake. This is too much for the little girl and her pet dog to bear. They try hard to resist. They leave the kitchen and employ all sorts of distraction techniques but the lure of the chocolate cake is too strong.

I absolutely love Lucia Gaggiotti’s illustrations; they are so full of energy and humour and really bring the story alive. She has given us a wonderfully expressive main character with many different guises. One minute she’s dancing as she smells chocolate cake wafting from the kitchen, the next she’s a gun-slinging Wild West hero (the gun in her holster replaced with a fork and spoon). She is also a Chinese warrior, explorer and superhero.

This is a funny, highly entertaining picture book. Grab yourself a copy – you’re in for a treat.

Was read to me 24th February '18

Oskar and Mo
Author: Britta Teckentrup
This is the second of Britta Teckentrup’s picture books about Oskar and this time we also meet his best friend, Mo.

As soon as you open the book, and see the end papers’ glorious repeating pattern, you know that you’re in for a treat. Britta’s illustrations are always so beautiful. As Oskar and Mo is a book for younger readers, the shapes are simple; the colours bold; and the scenes uncluttered.

This is a story of friendship. A loyal, supportive, life-affirming friendship. Together, Oskar and Mo play games, share secrets, overcome obstacles, and sing and dance in the rain. They comfort and strengthen each other. Sometimes they fall out but they always make up. Oskar and Mo is a fabulous exploration of the nature of friendship and it’s a great book for prompting discussions with your child about their friends and what friendship means to them.

My son and I are huge fans of Britta Teckentrup and Oskar and Mo is another gorgeous addition to our bookshelves. We recommend that you check it out too.

Was read to me 16th February '18

Author: Rob Biddulph
This is the story of Sid Gibbons and his imaginary friend, Kevin. Sid is in trouble with his mum. His dinner is upside down on the floor. In fact, Sid has been getting into trouble all week. Faced with another telling off, Sid hatches a plan. He decides to blame all his misdemeanours on Kevin. Mum is not impressed with this and sends Sid to his bedroom. While he’s there, the ceiling hatch in his room opens and a light streams through. Sid climbs the ladder and enters a world of make-believe where he meets Kevin, who is just as Sid imagined him. To his delight, Sid soon discovers that it’s him who’s imaginary in this world and he uses this invisibility to get up to all sorts of mischief. Unfortunately there are negative consequences to his actions and poor Kevin ends up getting the blame for all the trouble Sid’s caused. Sid realises that he’s not been a good friend at all to Kevin. He sets out to make amends.

The story is written in verse: a bouncy, toe-tapping verse that cries out to be read aloud. There’s quite a lot of text for a picture book but the rhymes and the rhythm make it trip off the tongue.

As usual, Rob Biddulph’s illustrations are fabulous. Kevin is a super cute one-toothed hairy monster. His Battenberg-hued pink and yellow fur make me love him even more. The world of make-believe that Sid accesses through the loft is in glorious technicolour: a golden sky, pink and purple trees…  In fact, the visual contrast between the dreary greys, greens and browns of the real world and the vivid multi-colour of Sid’s imagination is really striking. This contrast is mirrored in the end papers too; they are subdued at the start of the book but bloom into life by the end.

What I also really like is that there’s never any question that Kevin exists. Sid’s mum doesn’t have any problem with Sid having an imaginary friend, what she objects to is how Sid treats him.

I love Rob’s earlier picture books too (Blown AwaySunkGrrrrr! and Odd Dog Out) and, if you’re also a fan, it’s fun spotting characters from these previous books hidden in the illustrations of this one. I think these references are a really nice touch.

Kevin is a wonderful picture book about friendship, trust and taking responsibility for your actions.

Was read to me 12th February '18

Author: Matt Carr Illustrator: Matt Carr
I loved Matt Carr’s début picture book, Superbat, and his second book, Spyder, is also brilliant. I’ll admit that when I saw the cover I presumed that secret agent Spyder was a boy (). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Matt had cast a female spider in this daredevil role. The story follows Spyder on one of her top-secret missions. It’s Tom Webster’s birthday and his cake is under threat. There’s an evil villain on the loose. It’s up to Spyder to stop Bluebottle and save the day (and the cake). The story has it all: peril, daring escapes, special gadgets, disguises and traps.

It’s great fun and very funny. Children will chuckle at the witty puns and wordplay, and those who are familiar with the genre will love all the references to James Bond too: codename 008, Miss Money Spider, and the family’s address of 7 Fleming Road.

Aside from the humour, the book is also a visual treat. Matt is a graphic designer and this clearly influences his style. Matt’s use of bold primary colours is really striking and eye-catching. I also love how pages are divided with strong lines, giving the book a bit of a comic book feel.

My favourite illustration is right at the back of the book, after the end papers, and I missed it the first time I read the story. It’s hidden away – a bit like those extra scenes you get at the end of a film after the credits have started rolling. I won’t tell you what it is, because that would give the book’s ending away and it’s a great final twist, but it’s well worth looking out for. There are some cool spider-related facts at the back of the book too.

Spyder is another picture book hit for Matt Carr, who’s fast becoming one to watch.