There are some books that absolutely jump off the shelves at you. And in my case, as far as Daddy BookBairn needs to know, they literally ju...

Touch Think Learn

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 BookBairn 6 Comments

There are some books that absolutely jump off the shelves at you. And in my case, as far as Daddy BookBairn needs to know, they literally jump off the shelves, pay for themselves and magically land in my shopping bag.

When browsing in our favourite bookshop, (see our blog post here, but, in short, they have a great collection and they give you free tea or coffee - what's not to love, right?) I discovered a beautiful series of books and couldn't help but get my hands on them*.

There are many different versions of touch and feel books out there: the Usbourne 'That's Not My...' series being incredibly popular (and seriously good fun) as well as books with die-cuts like the My Little World series, as well as many other variations of books with holes, flaps, fluff, glitter and all other manner of sensory stimuli. But these books from Xavier Deneux are a format unlike any of the others, and therefore are incredibly special, amongst their peers.

Featuring spreads that have one page with raised shaped objects that neatly fit into the scooped cutouts on the opposite page, they are such a wonderful multi-sensory books with key vocabulary of essential concepts. BookBairn loves looking at the bold, bright illustrations and tracing her fingers over the raised and cutout shapes as well as beginning to say the names of the pictures (the farm animals and vehicles are her favourites). We have the 'farm', 'homes' and 'vehicles' books and BookBairn adores turning their pages. The books are super-sturdy but this also makes it much easier for her to turn the pages by herself.

Not only do the pages feature a fantastic multi-dimension illustration that is incredibly dynamic for little readers, each page is focuses on a key piece of vocabulary depending on the primer. This format allows little ones to discover the connections between the words and objects by exploring them with their little fingers. If you think I'm overstating these books' potential for language learning, watch BookBairn in the video below. Here she is reading the 'Vehicles' book and is looking for her favourite page with the hot air balloons on it (she can also say 'car' and 'boat' but I didn't capture that unfortunately).

A video posted by BookBairn (@bookbairn) on

What a great way for little ones to explore vocabulary! Each page also has a small cluster of other words related to the picture that allow parents, and consequently children, to explore related vocabulary and encourage further language learning and enabling children to connect appropriate vocabulary.

BookBairn is, unsurprisingly, more interested in the animal and vehicles book because she can already say some of these words and has had lots of exposure to books, as well as real life experiences, about them. The 'Homes' book is one she will most likely grow into, but for the moment, I would recommend the other two books higher. There is also a fourth book in the series 'Baby Animals' which I lusted after in the bookshop but alas it has not launched itself into my shopping bag.

These books really put the world as the tip of a tiny finger!
Mummy and BookBairn xx

*  For the first time, I decided to try requesting books directly from the publisher and was delighted that Chronicle Books agreed! *DISCLAIMER* I was given our books for free for review purposes, however, all words and opinions are my own.


You can see several of Emma's books on the bottom shelf alongside other favourites. If you are a picture book lover, or at least ha...

The World Is Big And I am Small

Saturday, June 25, 2016 BookBairn 12 Comments

You can see several of Emma's books on
the bottom shelf alongside other favourites.
If you are a picture book lover, or at least have an avid little reader of picture books in your house, there is a good chance that you will have already seen some of Emma Dodd's illustrations. In fact, if you have read some of previous posts we have already reviewed one of her books (here) and even after this post is written I have another series of books (though quite different) that I only recently realised were also illustrated by this versatile artist.

There are some books which simply touch your heart when you read them and that's why I wanted to share these books with you. When BookBairn was six months old and she first moved into her own bedroom, we created a 'favourites shelf' on which I place some of the books we are reading regularly, or recently borrowed from the library, or have just acquired. And the first book she chose from it, and subsequently chose over and over again was 'Me' (also titled 'I am Small') by Emma Dodd. It was also the first book that she properly engaged with by hunting out the little penguin on every page. I have now read this book so many times that I could easily recite it for you now without peeking at it's pages. "The world is big and I am small", it begins. In fact, you can see from the video that even BookBairn can recite the ending!

A video posted by BookBairn (@bookbairn) on

This is a beautiful story that will pull on the heart strings of any reader, even now, if it's been one of those days, my eyes fill with tears as we read this story. It is the story told by a baby penguin of all the things in this world that challenge it: things that are big and long and deep and strong and high and far and steep. And the penguin is small. But there is one thing bigger than all these things, the parent penguin's love. Magical. To make this fabulous story even more magical, the pages of the paperback* are embellished with foil, making the pages truly beautiful.

The other wonderful thing about these books is that there is a whole series of them (see them all here)! We have borrowed most from our library and loved all of them. The illustrations are sweet with the parent and child characters at the centre of each page spread. The foil is simply used to highlight and glimmer.

The series has recently moved to a different publisher (here) but the beauty of these little books continues. Similar formatting, with Emma's wonderful illustrations alongside her magic-touch with rhyming couplets that are truly charming, these books capture that indescribable relationship between a parent and their child. We have only managed to read two of the new series and the only difference that I have spotted is that the use of foil has been reduced to every other page spread. I think this is a shame, but the magic of these books still shines through.

Please, I implore you, go out and look for these books. Beg, borrow or ... I can't condone stealing. I draw the line there. If you know someone with a new baby, they should have these books: gift them. We have given them twice now as gifts. They are truly lovely. Beautiful. Magical.

They are picture book perfection. 
I cannot recommend them higher than that.

Love Mummy and BookBairn x

*though not the board books, unfortunately.

We have not been sent any of these books, we own two of the board books and we borrowed the others from our local library service and for those of you living locally who would like to read them, we have since returned them. Reluctantly. x

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To quote the national Bard: "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men Gang aft agley" And my plans for this week were...

The Perfect Picnic

Sunday, June 19, 2016 BookBairn 10 Comments

To quote the national Bard:

"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men
Gang aft agley"

And my plans for this week were well and truly scuppered but the British summer weather. Believe it or not this week was National Picnic Week - I know, perfect weather for a picnic. BookBairn and I had a little indoor picnic to celebrate and read a lovely recent book release.

What makes the perfect picnic? Personally, I would like a little bit of sunshine so that I don't have to eat soggy sandwiches! BookBairn happily settled for a plate of her favourite nibbles on our picnic rug and a fabulous new story book all cosied up inside.

In 'The Perfect Picnic' by Ciara Flood, Mole and Squirrel are planning a fabulous picnic with perfect sandwiches and perfect cake in the perfect spot. Mole and Squirrel are unlikely best friends. Squirrel likes things neat, tidy and perfect. Mole doesn't care about those things. Whilst preparing the picnic, Squirrel is preoccupied by making sure everything is perfect, right down to the butter on the sandwiches. Mole doesn't mind, he just wants to have a fun picnic. When they set off to find the perfect picnic spot, neither notices the hole in the backpack and their lunch gradually falls out all over the woodland. Returning to the very first spot they considered (this is all too reminiscent of Daddy BookBairn and I trying to choose restaurants whilst on holiday: we wander round and round and then return to the first menu we considered, having wasted half an hour, feet hurting and me developing a mean case of 'hangry'), they soon discover the hole in their plans. But will they manage to salvage their picnic? Fortunately, help is at hand and all the forest animals rally together to rescue the picnic.

This book is beautifully illustrated using a soft colour palette, perfect for a gentle summers day picnic. The pages are packed with details and much of the story is told through the illustrations: you would only realise about the hole in the backpack if you spotted it in the illustrations. I love the opening pages that show inside each characters house and take me back to my days pouring over the Jill Barkley's Brambly Hedge books. There is so much for little readers to explore! My favourite illustration has to be when Squirrel discovers the picnic treats have fallen out of the backpack: it is clearly based on Edvard Munch's The Scream. It made me laugh out loud: I love it when authors/illustrators add a little something to appeal to adults sense of humour too! The end pages of the book feature the map that Squirrel and Mole use to find the perfect picnic spot, which I think slightly older readers would love. You could follow their picnic trail and act out the story whilst on your own picnic. The characters are adorable and wonderfully expressive, especially Squirrel: you can see what he is thinking, it's written all over his face. Quite honestly, I love this pair! I would quite happily join them for their picnic.

It seems as though the sun may be returning, so perhaps we will actually enjoy a real outdoor picnic in the next week!
Happy picnicing, Mummy and BookBairn xx

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*DISCLAIMER* I was given our book for free for review purposes, however, all words and opinions are my own.


It is National Smile Month! Smile! Looking after BookBairn's teeth has provided many many smiles, as she giggles her way through too...

Smile: Big Scary Teeth

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 BookBairn 2 Comments

It is National Smile Month! Smile!

Looking after BookBairn's teeth has provided many many smiles, as she giggles her way through tooth-brushing songs, sooks the toothpaste off the brush and gives it a good wiggle around. I love that she is beginning to look after her teeth by herself, thanks to this magic little toothbrush with a special grippy handle.

BookBairn has generally been quite good when it comes to teething. Her first tooth was one awful night of no sleep for the whole household but after that she's handled each new tooth like a pro. She's not a dribbler, or a chewer of any actual teething product, but boy does her bedtime buddy suffer with being chewed and sooked whilst those little pearly whites push their way through. The only real interruption to her routine is that she majorly goes off tooth-brushing, and I can't blame her. If my teeth were sore and gums were inflamed I wouldn't want anyone poking a toothbrush. But now we finally have those first molars.

Someone else who strives to look after their teeth is Alan the alligator. In 'Alan's Big Scary Teeth' by the wonderful Jarvis, Alan begins each day in the same way: polishing his scales, sharpening his nails and brushing his teeth. Coming from a long-line of very scary alligators, Alan loves spending his days rampaging through the jungle, scaring all the other jungle animals with his razor-sharp teeth. But what they don't know is that when he gets home every evening, Alan takes out his false teeth. Yes, false! When the other animals happen upon his secret, they pinch his precious falsies and hold them to ransom, insisting they he stop terrorizing them. And, from that the leopard learns to change his spots. Well, alligator changes his scales! Well, alligator finds a new purpose! Finding a great compromise between being friendly and still providing a few scare, despite his very not-scary smile!

This is a fabulous story that is filled to the brim with humour! I love the way Alan's speech is changed by his gummy smile: "Good night teeth. Thweet dweams my thscary thnappers". And that his snap becomes a pathetic "thnap thnap!"Jarvis's storytelling is perfectly pitched, written in an engaging way that makes it the perfect read-aloud story. The pace is fast and action-filled, with the big-reveal being perfectly timed so that little readers will enjoy the surprise!

But, for me, it is the illustrations that really make this story. Jarvis is an accomplished cartoonist and it is no surprise given the visual storytelling in this book. Layering pencil, chalk, paint and digital colour, each page is layered in lush colours, textures making the jungle feel deep and dense. The characters are cute and expressive and filled with humour.

I love the message in this book is that appearances can be deceiving! Alan thinks that his teeth are what make him important but when the animals discover the truth behind the teeth, Alan finds a way to be accepted for who he truly is. Growing up in a world full of instagram filters, make-up contouring, hair extensions, tooth whitening, veneers, plastic surgery and all other manners of falsely improving our appearance, this book is a lovely message that people will love you no matter what your appearance so long as you are true to yourself.

If you're looking for a book to make you smile, 'Alan's Big Scary Teeth' will certainly do the trick!
Mummy and BookBairn xx

We won our copy of 'Alan's Big Scary Teeth' in a Toppsta Giveaway. If you are interested in free books for younger readers, I highly recommend signing up to Toppsta where you enter to win a book in exchange for a short review. Click here for more information.


Father's Day is just around the corner and it seems like the perfect time to mention the many campaigns at the moment encouraging dads ...

Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016 BookBairn 3 Comments

Father's Day is just around the corner and it seems like the perfect time to mention the many campaigns at the moment encouraging dads to read with their children.

Recent research from Harvard University revealed that children benefit more from their father reading bedtime stories as they spark more "imaginative discussions" and discuss the stories in such a way that leads to better language learning and development. (For more information on this, the original article I read is here.) You can see from the video below that reading with her daddy has certainly improved BookBairn's language skills. To be honest, I think children benefit from listening to stories no matter who read them but it is interesting research nonetheless. Daddy BookBairn has fully embraced our BookBairn-y household and we almost always read bedtime story as a family all together.

A video posted by BookBairn (@bookbairn) on

With Father's Day approaching we have been collecting a lovely pile of books that are perfect for celebrating how wonderful dads are (whether they read aloud or not!). I shared one of our favourite dad books and we still love this story: 'I Love My Daddy' by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Emma Dodd is a beautiful ode to dads.

'Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada' by Jimmy Fallon with illustrations by Miguel Ordonez has been an instant hit in our house! Not only is it completely true that BookBairn's first word was "Dada" (her second was "book"!! Mama came a pitiful third - I know my place!) this book is a hilarious take on all fathers' secret campaign to ensure that their babies' first word is "Dada"! Each page features a daddy and a baby animal with the daddy saying "dada" and the baby responding with their appropriate animal sound, I won't spoil the end, expect to say that it's not a huge surprise whether this campaign is successful! (At least it wasn't to me). The absolute charm of this book is in the illustrations! They are beautifully simplistic with strong colours set in pastel backgrounds making each creature stand out on the page. The variety of expressions will appeal to grown ups from pleading dads to grumpy dads to desperate dads to angry dads, its fabulous! I must admit I was originally skeptical about this book as it was written by a celebrity I thought it might be 'lacking' for want of a better word but I have been proven wrong. This book is cute, funny and bang on point. Perfect for dads of little people who are yet to say their first word or for dads who love doing animal impressions (and we all know ones that do!).

 The ' My Little World' series have done it again and again! This time, they have produced the wonderful 'I Love My Daddy' by Jonathan Litton and Fhiona Galloway. I have mentioned before how much we love these books with the finger-holes to add a fantastic textural element. Each page features a die-cut star that gradually gets smaller and smaller as you turn the pages, BookBairn loves to touch and play with this star using it to lift the pages in order the turn them by herself without skipping a page (which happens often when she is turning pages by herself). The characters in the story are adorably illustrated using bright colours and soft lines, each with large smiles! The children in the book are all enjoying spending time with their dad and celebrate their dads by sharing why they deserve a shiny star. This is a cheerful and rhyming tale of why children think their dad is special: an ideal story for celebrating dads on Father's Day!

I think all dads strive to be 'cool', at least in their kids eyes, which is why the title of our next book might make for the perfect gift for Father's Day (giving mums a good giggle in the progress). 'My Dad Used to Be so Cool' by Keith Negley flawlessly captures the relationship between a father and his young son. This is the story of a father who used to be a rock star (at least that's what the son believes) and therefore used to be 'cool' who has now traded in his rockstar lifestyle to raise his son. Of course, the little boy doesn't quite see it that way. He sees rock concerts, motorbikes and tattoos traded in for hoovering, the school run and the park. What could have possibly prompted such a change? The graphic illustrations use a bold colour pallette and have a retro/vintage feel to them that are truly striking amongst the picture book illustrations that you usually see. Featuring a fantastic fold-out spread, this is a beautifully emotive tale of the sacrifices of parenthood told in a way the children will understand with illustrations that will appeal to dad and kiddies alike!

For all those dads who love reading with their kids, there are several campaigns on the go at the moment to encourage dads to read with their children that might be worth checking out:
  • Penguin Books are running a competition under the hashtag #realdadsreadpicturebooks where you can win a prize pack of picture books and a $100 gift card (open internationally) by uploading a picture of your wee one reading with their dad to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter or uploading on the linked website. For more information click here.
  • On Instagram, @chickadee.lit and @storyaday are collating a book list and photos of dad's reading aloud under the hashtag #readalouddads.
  • BookTrust have a fabulous 'book finder' option with lots of suggestions for books to read and they have a special list of 'Great Picture Books for Dads to Read Out Loud' linked here.
Hope you all have a lovely Father's Day this weekend, we will certainly be celebrating with a bedtime story! Mummy and BookBairn x

*DISCLAIMER* I was given our copy of 'My Dad Used to be Cool'  and 'I Love My Daddy' for free from the publisher for review purposes, however, all words and opinions are my own. I won a copy of 'Your Baby's First Word Will be Dada' on  Toppsta.

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BookBairn has a little book-obsession at the moment. It's Hamish McHamish in my 'I Love St Andrews' book by Carly Brown and Gi...

Nomadic Cats

Thursday, June 02, 2016 BookBairn 6 Comments

BookBairn has a little book-obsession at the moment. It's Hamish McHamish in my 'I Love St Andrews' book by Carly Brown and Gillian Gamble.

For my Christmas my mum gave me a copy of this beautiful book and, quite honestly, I cried when I first read it. It more or less depicts the story of my life.

A young girl who spends her childhood holidays in St Andrews, who then goes on to study there and gets married in the incredible beautiful St. Salvator's Chapel, and at the end who promises to return soon (for those of you that know me, you will know that we returned over and over again until I convinced Daddy BookBairn to move as close as possible!). This book lives on my bedside table and I read it often to remind me of how grateful I am to have been so lucky to have lived a fairytale. Just to prove that I actually lived this book here are some illustrations from the book side by side with family snapshots.

BookBairn often comes in to our room and commandeers my precious book, enjoying flipping through the pages. She is hunting for the page featuring Hamish McHamish, a ginger cat, famous locally for his nomadic nature, spending his days exploring local business and homes, making many friends along the way.

We decided to go and visit the Hamish statue in the town square and read 'I Love St Andrews' making "miaow" noises as we read.

We also enjoyed the tale of 'Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius' by Katie Harnett. This is the endearing story of a cat who spends his days nomadically exploring his neighbourhood, Blossom Street. Each neighbour has a different name for the cat, hence the title of this story and each is oblivious of the others that the cat visits each day, thinking of him purely as 'their cat'. But there is one neighbour who has never been visited by the cat, or anyone else for that matter until one day she receives a parcel (of wool!!) which the cat has perched atop. To all the other neighbours, 'their cat' is now missing and each makes a poster and heads out in search of their furry friend. Soon they realise that they are all searching for the same cat! They all bundle onto the doorstep of number eleven and are greeted by a confused Mrs Murray, She lets them in and tells them all about the fun that her and the cat have been having and they decide that he has finally found his permanent home, so long as they are allowed to visit.

This is a sweet tale about loneliness, communities and friendship. Beautifully, illustrated with a diverse cast of characters, the story is set in a street that will look familiar to us all (we all know a Blossom Street). The cat in the story has some semblance to internet sensation, grumpy cat but with more fun and warmth. This is such a heart-warming story, and with subtle touches of humour, that will appeal to adults as much as children.

There are many similarities between this heartfelt tale and the story of Hamish McHamish, and I wonder if they wouldn't have made a cute furry couple!

Mummy and BookBairn xx

*DISCLAIMER* I was given our book for free for review purposes, however, all words and opinions are my own.