Kids Love to Read #49 & Giveaway

Wow!! First Kids Love to Read of 2020! Does anyone else feel like January is flying by super fast? I had all the best intentions of maki...


Wow!! First Kids Love to Read of 2020! Does anyone else feel like January is flying by super fast? I had all the best intentions of making sure that I got two blog posts up every week but that has already faltered with everyone being really poorly with a virus last week so I didn't manage to post at all. Will try to get back to it though!

If you share or review children's books or are raising a reader whilst writing a blog then our co-hosted monthly linky with  Laura's Lovely Blog and Acorn Books is perfect for you! Kids Love to Read is a link-up to share blog posts written by other bloggers that star wonderful children's books. It's a great way to find new blogs to read and new book recommendations too, as well as invite people to come and read your own blog.

So if you write about your favourite children's books I would love it if you link-up your post! And I'm looking forward to reading them all!


Last Month's Favourites

My favourite post last month came from Mumma Scribbles who shared a bundle of superb stories that her kids were loving at the time (I'm sure they still do!) and it featured one that we had borrowed from the library at the same time - The Smeds and the Smoos by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler as well as one of my all time favourites - Mixed by Arree Chung.

Laura's favourite came from Rainbows are Too Beautiful who wrote about mindfulness with children, a topic you know that I love, and shared a book that we had been sent for review in the past but didn't really use that much because my kids are quite good at drifting off to sleep themselves so it was nice to read her perspective.

And Acorn Books is back from her maternity leave with a very adorable new baby to boast about and she enjoyed Raisie Bay's post about the Magical Mermaid Underwater Activity book and the Roman Adventure Activity book, which I recently featured too in an Instagram round of of amazing activity books.



Linky Rules:
– Write about reading with children, share your love and your children’s love of books, what do you love to read together, how do you encouraging reading and books with your little or not so little ones? Books you love or book reviews.
– This Linky is open every 3rd Monday of the month for one week.
– Grab the Kids Love to Read badge and pop it in your post. It's linked at the end of the post for you.
– Use the #KLTR hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
– Share the love – try and read & comment the host’s posts and on 2 other blogs listed on the Linky.
We look forward to reading your posts! And don't forget to enter the competition below!
Kim and the #KLTR team x


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Giveaway


We have a fabulous giveaway this month of Bad Dad by David Walliams and although it's not one I've read it is one that I know lots of kids love!

*Terms and conditions: Entries are open to UK and Ireland residents. The competition closes on the the 16th February 2020. Winners will be announced on social media and contacted via email. If the winner does not respond to the email in two weeks, a new winner will be randomly chosen.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Grab the Button:





Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML

My Best Reads 2019

As you know I am an avid reader and I managed to read 105 books this year. So I wanted to share my absolute favourites. I did re-read...


As you know I am an avid reader and I managed to read 105 books this year. So I wanted to share my absolute favourites. I did re-read The Northern Lights Trilogy and some of the Harry Potter series as well as some of my other favourites but I'm not including those as they were re-reads.

Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegel: Having read this book at the beginning of the year, I realised that simply recycling some of the plastic that we bring into the house isn't enough anymore. We need to try to stop it crossing the threshold. And we have made big improvements, which you can read about in my blog post 'Reducing our Family's Plastic Consumption'. This book was a huge influence on how I tackled the plastic in our home and I found the way it blended fact and advice that I could learn from and put into action a really easy (though in some ways troubling) read. If you are interested in this topic this is a great book to read to get you motivated!

Fierce Fairytales by Nikita GillI was so moved by this book I got literal goosebumps whilst read, cried tears and think it is perhaps the most powerful collection of poetry and best thing I have ever read! Putting a feminist twist on fairytale characters as well as empowering poems about life. I am going to re-read this one again and again. I have downloaded the audiobook too so that I can absorb a poem every once in a while when I have five minutes here or there although I think the power of reading this was being able to sit down and read them all in one or two sittings. So perfect for a child-free indulgent morning, afternoon or evening! 

The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde: this book is probably not a book that I had particularly high expectations of but I found it fascinating and gripping! It's a Middle Grade (ages 8-12) dystopian story where the vocabulary of the population is limited to fewer and fewer words. Following an ecological disaster, the people who survived and gained entry to the 'Ark' are controlled by a enigmatic leader who sees language as a huge problem and sets out to limit words in order to limit protest, expression, and even free-thinking. And he's planning something even bigger. I loved this and found the way the story unfolded truly masterful. I enjoyed the sequel almost as much making it a worthy read too!

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport: Reading this book changed my life. Completely. It totally changed my perspective on how I use screens and technology and how I spend way to much time on my phone and how easily I let myself pick it up and waste my time on it. But only using your time to add value to your life rather than spending so much time on social media, etc. The book describes digital minimalism as "a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else." There are few sections that are a bit 'dry' that I would recommend skimming but the overall message is something that I really needed to hear and found it really helpful.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - one that I probably should have read much sooner than I actually did! After I read it I reviewed on social media saying: "I'm not sure that I'll ever recover from this one. This story has changed me somehow. Irrevocably." I'm glad I read this at the time that I did because it really resonated with me. If you haven't read this one yet it's well worth it.

No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton - my lovely friend BookLoverJo sent me this for my birthday and I cannot wait to read it! An important book with a powerful message for young readers and a subject area that I find myself extremely concerned about at the moment. I found the weaving of the story, the building of the characters and the community to be masterfully done and I think that's probably the reason that I enjoyed it so much! I really felt like the characters were real and I could relate to them. I particularly enjoyed the way the author wove together the stories of the main character and her family who are Syrian refugees and the story of the ballet teacher who was a world war two refugee. I think drawing this comparison for children is a powerful connection. A similar book that I read this year was The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf but I preferred the subtlety of this story and it was a better connection for me. (This one is not pictured in the bundle as I leant it to a friend!)

Some Kids I Taught and What the Taught Me by Kate Clanchy - as a teacher-on-hiatus I am all to aware that the children I have taught have taught me many things over the years and I really enjoyed this memoir come social observational book written by an English teacher. It was so well-written and the observations so well thought-out and stories woven and connected together. The author's observations of society and how some things have changed over time were truly fascinating. I also loved some of her observations about educational changes, government cut backs and policies as well as the way society treats teachers as professionals to be spot on. A superb read for teachers (and everyone else)!



I've set myself the same overall reading goal as the previous year of 72 books - which works out as six a month but I'm hoping to read over 100 again as it seems like such a huge number to me. I'm delighted that over 60 of the books I read this year were library books (as well as some other library books that I borrowed, started and didn't enjoy so I abandoned them) and intend to do the same this year - in fact the library already have two requests waiting for me. I also cleared 15 off my To Be Read list by actually reading them, though I did get rid of others as I realised I had no intentions of actually reading them. So my plan for this year is to tackle that ever growing pile of unread books before I buy anymore. I figure it's pretty unrealistic for me to read all of them before buying any new ones but I would like to adopt a policy of reading two old books for ever new one I buy.

If you're looking for advice on how to read more books, you might like my post Finding Time to Read as a Busy Mum.

What were your favourite reads last year? And do you have a goal for this year?

Happy Reading,
Kim





BookBairn's bookshelf: read

Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me
The No Spend Year: How you can spend less and live more
Wild Embers: Poems of rebellion, fire and beauty
The Amber Spyglass
The Familiars
The Book Thief
Adèle
The Library of Unrequited Love
My Life in Lists
The Thirteenth Tale
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k
Owen and the Soldier
Convenience Store Woman
A Pinch of Magic
Practical Magic
Guardians of Magic
No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference
Life after Life
No Ballet Shoes in Syria
The Librarian


BookBairn's favorite books »



Disclaimer: these are all my choices and bought with my own money or borrowed from the library. If you click on the image of the book below you will be sent to Amazon.co.uk using an affiliate link.  This means that if you choose to purchase on Amazon.co.uk, I will receive a small sum (around 20-90p per book) from Amazon at no extra cost to you. I understand that you may not want to use an affiliate link, but if you like reading our blog post please just think of it as a small tip for a tip-off to an awesome book. And know that your support means I can buy more books! For more information check out our For Readers Section.


     

Most Anticipated Picture Books 2020

One of the posts that I enjoy writing each year but the one that is without a doubt the most work is my Most Anticipated Books of the ...



One of the posts that I enjoy writing each year but the one that is without a doubt the most work is my Most Anticipated Books of the Year posts! And I always find it extremely interesting to see what books are planned for the next six months or so (much research after that becomes a bit tricky as their isn't always information available or, critically for picture books, there is no artwork available). I also find it really interesting looking back on the previous year's post (2019s list can be found here) and seeing which books lived up to their expectations but also which ones we decided not to buy in the end. The other thing that has changed quite a lot in the last year is that BookBairn is now interested in reading early chapter books and The Wee Page Turner has definitely moved away from baby books and primers to more books with an actual story (thank goodness - I much prefer a story book!). So the sorts of books we are thinking about adding to our collection have changed quite a lot and it will be interesting if the books I'm listing here are ones that really capture our imaginations as I think they will or whether our book pennies will be spent on different titles. Without further ado, here are the books that I'm excited about... 

Vote for Our Future by Margaret McNamara (14 January)



There is definitely a strong theme in the release of many picture books this year about democracy and elections which is no coincidence given that this is the year of the American presidential election. So having looked at quite a few titles, this one really appealed to me. Every two years, Stanton Elementary School closes so that it can transform itself into a polling station. People can come from all over to vote for the people who will make laws for the country. Sure, the Stanton Elementary School students might be too young to vote themselves, but that doesn't mean they can't encourage their parents, friends, and family to vote! After all, voting is how this country sees change--and by voting today, we can inspire tomorrow's voters to change the future. And the illustrations look utterly charming. Not long to wait for this one!

Everybody Counts by Kristin Roskifte  (4 February)



I was definitely drawn to this one thanks to the striking cover art! It's a book about teaching you to count from 0 to 7.5 billion, but it's also pitched to be so much more. Follow the characters’ stories through the book and see how their lives collide with those of others. There are a lot of secrets to be discovered for the sharp-eyed! You’ll see that everyone is different, everyone has their own life, and that – most importantly – everybody counts. At the end, a spotting section allows you to go back and have even more fun. Everybody Counts is critically acclaimed for its unique approach to visual communication, and has been awarded some of the world's highest honours for children's literature. So I can't wait to see a copy!

My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan & Francesca Sanna (25th February)



I absolutely adore the artwork of Francesca Sanna and have found her previous books to be quite hard-hitting so I'm hoping that this one is a slightly gentler read to enjoy at bedtime (although I do think it addresses environmental themes). Our friend Earth does so many wonderful things! She tends to animals large and small. She pours down summer rain and autumn leaves. She sprinkles whisper-white snow and protects the tiny seeds waiting for spring. Readers of all ages will pore over the pages of this spectacular book. Its enticing die-cut pages encourage exploration as its poetic text celebrates everything Earth does for us, all the while reminding us to be a good friend in return. Well that sounds right up our book street! 

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima (5 March)




This is a book that you might well have seen before but I discovered that it was finally going to be available in the UK! I think I flipped through this one in a bookstore in the States whilst on holiday and I regretted not picking it up (although I'm note sure it would have fit in our baggage allowance!). Growing up in the ocean, Kelp has always assumed that he was a narwhal like the rest of his family. Sure, he’s always been a little bit different—his tusk isn’t as long, he’s not as good of a swimmer, and he really doesn’t enjoy the cuisine. Then one night, an extra strong current sweeps Kelp to the surface, where he spots a mysterious creature that looks just like him! Kelp discovers that he and the creature are actually unicorns. The revelation leaves him torn: is he a land narwhal or a sea unicorn? But perhaps, if Kelp is clever, he may find a way to have the best of both worlds. And isn't Kelp just adorable looking? BookBairn loves all things unicorn and is quite fascinated by narwhals so I think this will be a fun story for her.

The Song of the Tree by Coralie Bickford-Smith (5 March)



This is one for me! One of my favourite books (I have it listed in my picture books for grown ups section) is The Fox and The Star so when I saw that Coralie Bickford-Smith had a new picture book coming out this year I just know I will be desperate to get a copy! Her artwork is truly stunning and the poetry of her writing and the deeper symbolism are just a joy to read. Bird loves to sing in the towering tree at the heart of the jungle. It feels like home. When the season changes she must say goodbye, but she isn't ready to let go. As she listens to the other animals, Bird learns to sing a new song. Sounds magical!

The Seedling That Didn't Want to Grow by Britta Teckentrup (5 March)




If you've followed my blog for a while you will know that I really adore the artwork of Britta Teckentrup and she is treating us to multiple new books this year but this one looks particularly charming.This story about a reluctant seedling packs a powerful message about the benefits of being different. It's early spring and below the earth's surface seeds are just starting to sprout. One by one they stretch through the dirt and towards the sun, extending their shoots and leaves and growing tall. All except for one seedling, who isn't quite ready. Each page of this gentle but powerfully evocative book demonstrates how some of us are different. As most of the seeds transform into strong flowers, they block out the sun from the one left behind. But the little seedling persists, twisting and turning until, with the help of bird and insect friends, it finds its own place to grow and blossom. In the end, this little seed turns into a flower that's just as beautiful and healthy as all the others. I am excited to see anything new from this talented artist and I love the idea of a story with a plant as the main character! And sounds like it might also teach a little something about the plant life cycle.

Hello Scottish Animals by Kate McLelland (19 March)



We really enjoy Kate McLelland's books about life in Scotland for little ones - Weather, Colours etc - but I'm delighted that she has created a book for slightly older children. Starring leaping red squirrels and hungry highland coos, to jumping dolphins and playful otters, the bairns are just going to love this! children will love the fun and friendly illustrations. And who could be splash, splash, splashing in Loch Ness? This bright and bold picture book, packed with lively pictures and simple, clear words, is the perfect memento of a trip to Scotland. Kate McLelland brings Scotland's animals to life in bright, dynamic illustrations and we can't wait to add this to our shelf!

The Perfect Shelter by Clare Helen Welsh & Asa Gilland (14 May)




One of my favourite books last year was The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh dealing with the emotional topic of having a loved one living with dementia. So I'm sure this new book from her will be equally as delicately dealt with: a beautiful, powerful and uplifting story, exploring the complicated emotions we feel when someone we love is diagnosed with cancer. A story that will be a difficult read for some, but as it is reality for others, it's one that is essential and will, no doubt, help children understand and build empathy.

Don't Wake the Dragon by Bianca Schulze & Samara Hardy (19 May)



We love a dragon story! And we love a story that goes beyond it's pages and becomes one we can interact and play with. This bedtime story features a sound-asleep dragon who under no circumstances is to be woken up! Children are tasked with checking in on the sleeping dragon as the castle cook drops his pots and pans and when the knights throw a loud birthday party. It isn't until the whole kingdom settles down that the dragon wakes up. What is the kingdom to do? Designed to be read aloud and interacted with, parents will take pleasure in the playful text as much as children will enjoy gently rocking the book from side to side as they sing the dragon a lullaby. When the story finally comes to an end, and the gentle lullaby is repeated, the dragon (and the child!) is encouraged to drift off to sleep. This sounds like a delightful bedtime read and I know the bairns will enjoy tucking a dragon in at bedtime.

Disney Block by Peskimo (28 July)


Unfortunately, there is no cover artwork available for this one yet but as it's by the team behind the previous 'Block' books and it features Disney characters it's bound to be good! Disney’s classic animated films come to life in the latest title in the Abrams Block Book series! Each magical spread showcases beloved characters and unforgettable moments every fan should know, making this book perfect for the youngest Disney fans as well as seasoned collectors. I just wish it would have been released before our family trip to Disney World - so basically what I'm saying is I can't wait for this one!



When doing my research, there really were so many great books being released next year and doesn't the 5th March look like a great date for new picture books? With lots of work from old favourites adn ones from new creators I'm excited that we will certainly have our work cut-out to blog about as many of these great new releases as we can in 2020!

What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

Happy New Year, 
Kim, BookBairn and The Wee Page Turner xxx

*Release dates are for UK release provided by publisher but may be subject to changes.


Sections in italics from Amazon description.




Books to Kick Start the Year

It's that time of year where people are resolving 'to do better' or 'to do less' or 'to do more'.  Last y...



It's that time of year where people are resolving 'to do better' or 'to do less' or 'to do more'. 

Last year I spent quite a bit of time working on reducing our family's plastic consumption with quite a lot of success! I did a crude (guesstimate) survey of our original output of plastic and what we regularly consume now (Christmas excluded - though I did purchase quite a few second hand gifts for the children in order to cut down and opted for toys that would get lots of play value such as lego) and I think we have cut our plastic consumption by about half. Becoming more conscious of plastic has also made me think about some of the other decisions we make in more of an environmentally conscious way; the big one being we opted to replace our car with an electric model. And I love it!

On a similar note, I also became really interested in minimalist lifestyles - sparked off, of course, by Marie Kondo and her life-changing magic of tidying up. Now I'm not a minimalist in the strictest sense but I think I have probably always been a 'less is more' sort of person and now I have cut down our family belongings of unnecessaries and am also very conscious of the types of things we choose to buy.

Which leads on to my resolution for 2020: to make the most of what we have. We are very fortunate and live a very privileged life (that we work hard to provide for ourselves and our bairns) and I want to take more time to be grateful for that. As well as making what we have work better. For example, I, for quite some time, really wanted an extension on the back of our house to make a 'family room' but we have decided instead of spending all that money and no-doubt coming up against a lot of technical issues (which are par for the course in our 1760 built cottage), we instead are going to make the ample rooms we have work better. So I am currently typing this in our 'spare room' which has been a part-office and part-extra bed but we have decided to see if we can make this space work as out 'family-play room'. We still need a spare bed so we will look at replacing it with a day-bed or a sofa bed instead. Creating the space we want with little upheaval.

I am also conscious that I want to make our money work better for us too. I know some people find discussing money crude but the long and short of our money situation is that we have enough that I don't need to work but if we want to add to our savings pot I need to stop frittering away money on little treats for the bairns, myself and the house. I find it too easy to pick up a £3.99 magazine for each of us and, as if by magic, thats £12 that I could have put towards something more useful, like a new sofa bed, for example.

And the other thing that I want to make the most of is my time. This year, BookBairn will start school and therefore my time with her suddenly seems more precious. The Wee Page Turner will be start council-provided nursery which means we will have the option of him being in funded nursery for a 9am-3pm day (whether I will choose to fully uptake on this is a different concern I have) and therefore my time with him seems more precious too. I want to make the most of our time together. Not just me trying to get jobs done around them as they play, but much more of 'mummy on the floor' play. Which I am fortunate to have lots of time to do.

So that's what I've decided to go with. A vague and non-measurable goal. To make the most of what we have. Of what I have. And to enjoy it more.

I thought I would share a bundle of books that have helped me with resolutions in the past and present (as well as mentioning one to avoid!) to get those goals off to a flying and informed start.



Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegel: Having read this book at the beginning of last year, I realised that simply recycling some of the plastic that we bring into the house isn't enough anymore. We need to try to stop it crossing the threshold. And we have made big improvements, which you can read about in my blog post 'Reducing our Family's Plastic Consumption'. This book was a huge influence on how I tackled the plastic in our home and I found the way it blended fact and advice that I could learn from and put into action a really easy (though in some ways troubling) read. If you are interested in this topic this is a great book to read to get you motivated!


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: I wanted to read this one for quite a long time as I'm a bit of a neat-freak and I enjoy decluttering but I feel like my job is never done. And following the TV show I picked up the book and got reading and organising. It's something that I feel I can do to make our home a tidier, cleaner and calmer space. And has made me think about what I value and what 'sparks joy'.


The No-Spend Year by Michelle McGagh: This might seem a strange one to recommend as to be honest I thought there were lots of things that weren't all that great about this book. It was a bit overly long, self-indulgent and London-centric. However, it has motivated me to make a change with the way I value our finances. And the way I will look to plan our financial future. And so I plan to embark on a low-spend January. (To call it a no-spend would be inaccurate as I do plan to buy the children new shoes as the old ones don't fit and I have an appointment booked to get my eyebrows tamed which I don't intend on cancelling. I also want to plan a fifth birthday party for BookBairn. All of which are not necessities and could be avoided but I don't feel it's too extravagant to plan for these lapses so long as I cut back on spending on other things.) So in short this is an interesting book and a simple place to start if you are looking for motivation to save some £££.


Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport: Reading this book changed my life. Completely. It totally changed my perspective on how I use screens and technology and how I spend way to much time on my phone and how easily I let myself pick it up and waste my time on it. But only using your time to add value to your life rather than spending so much time on social media, etc. The book describes digital minimalism as "a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else." There are few sections that are a bit 'dry' that I would recommend skimming (using my time wisely there!) but the overall message is something that I really needed to hear and found it really helpful.


The Happiness Project / Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin: I previously read The Happiness Project and found it to be so readable and enjoyable that I plan on starting off my year by reading it again! So just a brief recommendation as I can't remember all the details but I do remember that it's really about choosing to build a life that makes you, and your family, happy. So a good one for me to start the year off by reading. Last year, I started the year by reading Better than Before which is really a guide to changing your habits for the better so that you maximise your good habits and eliminate your bad ones. So whether your are planning on eating better, or exercising more, or spending more or less time on something this is a great book to start of your year by reading as you can use the advice to fit your life. I also really like Gretchen Rubin's writing style which mixes academic research with engaging storytelling making it an enjoyable as well as informative read.


And finally one not to read:


168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam: I chose to read this book for a couple of reasons: firstly because I want to make better use of my time; secondly I thought that it would be good for this blog post; and thirdly because it came recommended. But I hated it. I thought it was an extremely poor book. Firstly, it's totally out of date. She doesn't even mention phone/screen time which in a book about time usage these days seems to me to make it totally redundant. It is also quite dismissive in places. And although she occasionally acknowledges that not all people have the same opportunities, her regular response to 'if you don't have time to do something and it's not something you enjoy' then outsource it and pay someone else to do it. How unrealistic and privileged does that sound? She also seems to think that everyone has endless supply of childcare options and therefore everyone has time to work. Now I know I am speaking purely from my own experience and that's probably why this goaded me so much, but childcare where we live isn't cheap (and I know it's still a lot cheaper than elsewhere) but until my children are old enough to be applicable for state-funded childcare (which in Scotland is about to get a huge increase in number of hours which will help many people with working and childcare arrangements but even then, for most, it doesn't start until aged 3-3.5). The only useful information in this book was the title: the realisation that I have 168 hours in a week which is actually quite a lot, even once you deduct for sleeping and the suggestion that you do a time-log to see how you actually spend your time. But in short I would not recommend this book and if you know of a better book on the subject I would love to read it.


So there you have it! Some books to kickstart your new year (new decade) resolutions!

Good luck with your resolutions,
Kim x

(I'll let you know how I get on with mine as the year goes on!)

Disclaimer: these are all my choices and bought with my own money or borrowed from the library or from friends. If you click on the image of the book below you will be sent to Amazon.co.uk using an affiliate link.  This means that if you choose to purchase on Amazon.co.uk, I will receive a small sum (around 20-90p per book) from Amazon at no extra cost to you. I understand that you may not want to use an affiliate link, but if you like reading our blog post please just think of it as a small tip for a tip-off to an awesome book. And know that your support means I can buy more books! For more information check out our For Readers Section.

Best Picture Books 2019

Every year this is one of my favourite blog posts to write but it also one of the ones that I find the most difficult as ultimately i...


Every year this is one of my favourite blog posts to write but it also one of the ones that I find the most difficult as ultimately it means I can't talk about all the books. I have to select just a few of our absolute favourites.
So just a little disclaimer:
- these are all 'new' books that our family discovered this year. They were either published this year or ones that we only read for the first time this year.
- we have read many many books from lots of great publishers so whilst many of these books have been sent by the publishers, I have chosen to include the books we love best!
- I'm all for having a balanced bookshelf with books sharing mighty girls and diverse characters and stories from around the world and we really do read a wide variety. But these are a favourites list and therefore it would be dishonest and disingenuous to share books that weren't actually the ones we read the most for the sake appearing more diverse or more feminist or more contrived in some way. (Having said that, there is a number of books here that have sustainable and environmental themes as that it something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about this year.)

Anyway...
We have read lots of great things this year. BookBairn has started to enjoy reading chapter books - we are currently halfway through reading Matilda which is a joy - although I haven't included any here yet as I feel like we still predominantly read picture books and enjoy them the most (maybe it's the nature of re-reading them). The Wee Page Turner has moved on from those baby and toddler board books to predominantly choosing picture books and is a firm fan of Julia Donaldson stories as well as The Tiger Who Came to Tea and his favourite reading position is stretched out at full length on his tummy. And they enjoy reading and discovering books together - side by side! You will notice here that quite a few of these book shave powerful messages beyond just a good story - and I think that's what makes these ones special. And probably why I chose them for this list.  Here are the books that we have read the most this year:

Nell and the Circus of Dreams by Nell Gifford & Briony May Smith



Sometimes you get a picture book where the words are beautiful poetry. And sometimes you get a picture book where the illustrations are exquisite artwork. But rarely do you get a picture book where both poetry and art come together to create real magic. This is the story of the little girl called Nell, who goes a-wandering one day through the fields behind her farmhouse, only to discover a circus. A story of a magical world that really draws you in. The cover artwork took my breath away. I adore Briony May Smith’s illustrations (Stardust is another favourite book of mine) and I knew straight away that Nell’s world was somewhere I wanted to visit. Each page is so stunning and the use of light and shade in the illustrations is so delicate that it feels like you are in the room. The warm shades of the lights and the whole cast of characters are so evocative of a circus it feels like you are inside the big top. And to top it all off, the story has a magical and ambiguous quality to it. Was the circus real, or did it spring from Nell’s imagination? Magical. 



Chicks Rule by Sudipta Bardham-Quallen & Renee Kurilla



Written in the most wonderful rhyme and packed full of humour and fun, l love reading this one aloud! From Maker Chick to Baker Chick to Soccer Chick and Rocker Chick, all the chicks in town are horrified by and standing up to the “No Chicks Allowed” rule! Nerdy Chick isn’t standing for this senseless rule and won’t let it stand in their way to achieving her dreams of launching a rocket into space! She turns to her fellow chicks for help. And together they lift each other and prove once and for all that chicks are truly out of this world! The illustrations aren’t the kind that I’m usually drawn to but we love the bright colours and cartoon/comic style. I am totally won over by them! Showing you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And you shouldn’t judge a Chick by her feathers! I cannot say how much love I have for this book! 


Kindness Grows by Britta Teckentrup



This is one of the most clever and poignant and powerful picture books that I have ever encountered. Now I am already a huge fan of Britta Teckentrup’s work but I think this is her best yet. Cleverly using die-cuts that work across both pages, the left-hand side of the book tells of a growing chasm between friends who disagree, argue, say unkind words, abandon, get angry. And the right-hand page tells the story of a growing tree, flourishing through friendship, love and support. Showing the contrast between the two ways of interacting. When the children on the left-hand page look across the those on the right, they see hope and how to heal their rift. The words are poetry. And the illustrations convey the message so beautifully. In our current climate, this is a book that should be widely read and shared among children and I hope that parents, teachers and any book-givers get it into the hands of as many children as possible.


Nibbles and the Monster Hunt by Emma Yarlett





Nibbles is perhaps my all time favourite book character! I know there are so many great ones to choose from but BookBairn and Nibbles (or Dimbles as she calls him) have been best book buddies since that very first turn of the page. He’s an adorable little monster with an insatiable appetite for books. In Nibbles and the Monster Hunt, Nibbles has a human friend whose bookshelf he can ravage! Nibbles Is nibbling his way through some serious tomes of non-fiction: fact books, colour books, counting books, you name it and he’s nibbling it. Like the previous books in the series, this conceptually clever book works on so many levels that it’s great for a wide audience of readers. 

In Nibbles Numbers, little ones can count along with Nibbles as he chomps his way from one to ten! From the first page flap, to all the delightful little finger-sized cut-out holes in each page (corresponding to the number of bites Nibbles has taken), there's so much for little ones to explore. With bright and inviting colours and tactile holes to count together this is a number book that provides more than simple number teaching. The rhyme scheme makes it enjoyable to read aloud and allows little ones to predict the next number in some pages. 

I’ve written a full blog post as to why Nibbles is our favourite book character if you want to read more about him.


The Green Giant by Katie Cottle



If you are looking for a book whose illustrations will literally take your breath away, then you have to get your green fingers on a copy of The Green Giant. It is truly truly spectacular. It tells the story of a young girl, Bea, who is visiting her grandfather in the countryside, far from the big grey city that she lives in. And she finds it rather slow and boring, until she finds a new and unexpected friend in the Green Giant who is hiding away on an old greenhouse. A giant made entirely of plants! The giant opens Bea's eyes to the wonders of nature and the magic of greenery and together they set off on a mission to make the city (and the world) a greener place. This fits with everything I want to share with the bairns about being concerned about our environment but in a way that little children can understand. And the illustrations are so striking - the contrast between the grey city and the greenery is incredibly poignant. It's just beautiful. 


Clem and Crab by Fiona Lumbers



The little girl in this story - Clem - loves nothing more than a day out at the beach. She loves spending her weekends combing the beach for treasure with her big sister. On one day treasure hunting on the beach, she stumbles across Crab with his claw stuck in a plastic bag. Clem things Crab would be much happier with her in the city but everyone tells her that he belongs on the beach. After a show and tell presentation to her class, she spreads the word about cleaning up our beaches. When returning Crab to the beach the following weekend Clem finds her classmates all helping to clean up the beach and they find the perfect rock pool for Crab. The illustrations are so evocative of the seaside and the characters, particularly Clem and Crab, are just adorable. I particularly love that the opening endpapers feature a beach littered with, well… litter and the closing endpapers feature Clem and Crab gazing out on the ocean standing on a natural litter-free beach! Such a timely tale about cleaning up our beaches and and underlying message that every small action helps. In fact, I got a lump in my throat when I read Clem shout: “I made a difference… We can all make a difference!” Isn’t that just such a lovely message for children to hear and at the heart of all efforts towards sustainability we need to believe that we can make a difference.


Alba the 100 Year Old Fish by Lara Hawthorne



Another book about sustainability and human impact on the environment is this story of Alba the Hundred Year Old Fish, which will help little readers understand the effects of pollution on our oceans. Alba the fish has spent her entire life collecting precious and beautiful objects that drift down to the ocean floor every year on her birthday. But as each birthday passes, and one more item is added to the collection, Alba notices that her collection is losing it's sparkle and treasures are becoming harder and harder to find. But for her 100th birthday she spots a pearl in a strange plastic shell. And she gets trapped. Fortunately not for long as a little girl comes to her rescue. This book is packed full of so many wonderful things - a visual feast of the natural world that will make little one's appreciate the beauty and the need to protect it.
(When checking details for this post I noticed that this book is now completely sold out and will be re-released in March under the new title: 'Alba and the Ocean Clean Up'.)


Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz & Eda Kaban



If there are two things in a book that are guaranteed to make it a hit with The Wee Page Turner it’s animals and vehicles. So this new board book edition couldn’t be more perfect for him. Using the familiar tune Old MacDonald had a Farm and giving it a new and hilarious twist with Old MacDonald having a variety of vehicles from an excavator to a steam roller to a cement mixer all of which are being used to convert. Space on the farm for Mrs MacDonald to perform a stunt show in her Monster Truck! The illustrations in this book bring a real magic to the funny song showing all the animals on the farm working together (in hard hats and hi-vis vests of course - safety first!) getting themselves into some hilarious situations. Honestly this is a truly fun book and I know we sing this one over and over at bedtimes!


All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman



This is certainly a book to experience as well as read. It's a celebration as much as it is a story! Following a group of children in their school and throughout their day in school, this book shows a school where diversity it's at it's heart. Everyone is welcome no matter their race, religion or background. this story shares an uplifting celebration of cultural diversity and belonging where all children are welcome in the classroom. With children wearing hijabs, patkas, baseball caps and yarmulkes playing and learning side-by-side the illustrations in the book create a world where all the children belong. With scenes of the children pointing to their family's countries of origin, and the children gathered on the floor in a circle drawing illustrations of families of all sizes and colours and a playground full of happy children having fun together this is a really welcoming book! You will want to jump into the illustrations. The accompanying poem (it's definitely more a poem than a story) lets readers know that what they see in the illustrations is reinforced by the language of the school and community: everyone is welcome, they all have a place, they all have a space, no matter what. The school also has children of a variety of abilities including a blind child who carries a whitestick and a child in a wheelchair, reinforcing the lovely message of inclusion. That, for me, sums up what I want a school, and a wider community, to be and to cherish. This book is so wonderfully executed and really lives up to it's important message!


The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh & Ashling Lindsay



Stories can be an excellent way to talk about difficult to understand things with children. And this book truly is a wonderful way to share with children the difficulties of living with dementia. It tells the story of a little girl and her Grandad on a day out at the beach. Grandad is excellent at building sandcastles and finding shells, and rock pooling. But sometimes he gets confused. And buries the sandwiches. The little girl talks about her feelings too - how sometimes she gets cross at Grandad when he does odd things. But also that she tries to remember that it must be scary to forget. And especially frightening to forget someone you love. And no matter, even though Grandad doesn’t remember things like he used to, she loves him as much as she always has, and knows that he loves her too. A deeply sensitive book with beautifully imagery of memory ebbing like the tide, this book will provide enormous comfort to children struggling to understand something as intangible as memory and memory loss. The illustrations are magical and gentle and bring to life the beauty of the small moments. A truly heartwarming and touching story.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts



The latest book in The Questioneers series continues to celebrate little heroines that children can look up to. Along with Rosie Revere, Ada Twist and Iggy Peck, new classmate Sofia Valdez is out to leave her mark by following her dreams. When Sofia's abuelo hurts his ankle at the local landfill sight on their journey to school, Sofia decides to take on 'Mount Trashmore'. She gets the idea to turn the dangerous and disgusting pile of trash into a park! She brainstorms and plans but when she goes to City Hall she finds that she is moved from office to office until she is finally told by a clerk that she can't build a park because she is just a kid! But with the help of her friends, classmates and neighbours, Sofia sets out to prove that one kid can move mountains (trash ones at least) and do something to make a difference. Written in rhyming verse, giving brilliant pacing and momentum to the story these books and with mixed media illustrations, this newest release is a delight and captures the magic of what it is like to be little and to imagine and to create. They really are perfect inspirational stories for children about pursuing their own passions.


The Bad Seed by Jory John & Pete Oswald



These are two of my ultimate favourite picture books, and fortunately BookBairn loves them too! So I get to read them over and over and they grow on me more with each reading.These two books are packed full of wit, humour and puns but also a subtle poignancy that mean show us to see another point of view. Maybe that ‘Bad Seed’ has suffered some trauma that has affected his outlook on life, his behaviour and the way he connects with others, maybe he needs a helping hand and love and support? Maybe that goodie-two-shoes ‘Good Egg’ is cracking under the pressure and needs support and rest from looking after others? The illustrations bring to life these two colourful characters and add to the wonderful storytelling and humour of the stories. They are perfect for widening little readers’ perspectives and building their empathy.



What a fantastic year of books! If you are looking for more of our very favourite repeat reads check out my Amazon shop and click on the section favourite books!

Here's to a great year of reading in 2020
Kim and the bairns x

If you are interested you can find last years list here: 2018 Favourites
And 2017 list here: Best Reads of 2017

Disclaimer: We were sent some of these books free for review purposes by the publishers. Words and opinions are my own. If you click on the title of the book or use my amazon shop link you will be sent to amazon.co.uk using an affiliate link. This means that if you choose to purchase on amazon.co.uk, I will receive a small sum (around 20-70p per book) from amazon at no extra cost to you. I understand that you may not want to use an affiliate link, but if you like reading our blog please just think of it as a small tip for a tip-off to an awesome book. And know that your support means I can buy more books! For more information check out our 'For Our Readers' section.