Saturday 28 August 2021

Summer Reads: Picture Book Round-Up

I can't believe I haven't posted a book review since the 10th June!!! The summer has flown and the kids have grown and even though most of our summer has been spent outdoors with our new family of rabbits, we've also been hopping happily through a host of new books: Picture books, chapter books, non-fiction and middle grade. 

The most satisfying thing for me this summer has been watching my children take independent steps in their reading journey. They jump on book post, they are excited about going to the library, they're asking me to read, asking questions about what I'm reading and reading to themselves or each other. They've watched TV adaptations, acted out stories in role-play and written their own stories. And no one more so than my eight-year-old reluctant reader who moaned and fussed incessantly about reading, deliberately interrupted her brother's bedtime stories and has now just devoured Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Tom Gates and numerous Rainbow Magic books as part of the library's summer reading challenge.

A total result! And yet all I've done is fill the house with books, show them that I read constantly and offered to read a story of their own choosing (with some suggestions) each day. There's no pressure on them to read to me, although I always encourage it. What always makes the real difference, however, is having an amazing array of exciting books to share with them. Books that are visually exciting, books that tap into their interests and imagination and books that make them laugh. 

Picture books are still as popular as ever. Even though my children are now 10, 8 and 6, I will never stop buying them and they have not stopped asking for them. This summer has seen some fantastic releases and, needless to say, our first trip to an actual bookshop in months nearly bankrupted me. 

So below is a round-up of our favourite picture books of the summer. 

I'm Not Cute, I'm Dangerous by Bruna de Luca and Benedetta Capriotti

Link to publisher

Published by: Maverick Books

Release: 27th August 2021


Brilliantly plotted, with a great twist, this picture book made us laugh out loud. It has a catchy repetitive twist and beautifully vivid illustrations. 

Fifi is furious! She looks far too cute for a crocodile and no matter how hard she tries she just doesn't look dangerous. But when she attracts a crowd of admirers, Fifi realises that being cute has its advantages...

This is a simple, short and snappy story with a bite at the end. Fifi makes for a strong and memorable picture book character and is distinctive in both appearance and personality. The story has fluffiness and cuteness in abundance which runs alongside a poweful cautionary message: Don't be fooled by appearances. The famous song says 'Never Smile at a Crocodile' but maybe the danger is being smiled at by a crocodile.

'I'm not cute, I'm dangerous,' is available to buy from today.

The Viking Who Liked Icing by Lu Fraser and Mark McKinley

Link to publisher

Published by: Bloomsbury, 5th August


Following on from the brilliant success of Lu Fraser's debut, The Littlest Yak, The Viking Who Liked Icing offers readers a completely different but equally fabulous story with a similar message: Celebrate who you are. The fantastically vibrant front cover gives us the perfect taste of what's to come inside the pages - a fun and energetic Viking story full of yummy deliciousness.

Nut is completely different to his sister, Leaf the Brave and all the other vikings. He likes baking not sports and makes the best icing EVER! So when Viking Sports Day arrives, Nut is dreading taking part. But can things ever go badly when you're armed with cake?

This story has all the ingredients to be another roaring success; great characters, an historical setting, action and pace. But the icing on the cake is...well...the icing itself. Alongside that, there is a lovely portrayal of siblings and when it comes to sibling rivalry, Leaf and Nut have it cracked: It's okay for them to be different and they love each other for who they are.

Making the story even more enjoyable, is the fact its told, once again, in marvellous bouncy rhyme. There's some great page turns and a rather delicious ending. The illustrations make this book leap off the shelf and little ones are sure to want to read this story again and again. Just make sure you have some cake at hand...or a recipe book!

How to Grow a Unicorn by Rachel Morrisroe and Steven Lenton

Link to publisher

Published by: Penguin, June 2021


I'd heard great things about this upcoming debut and it certainly doesn't disappoint. The title is intriguing and the story delivers. Told in gorgeous rhyme, this is fantasy at its best. I mean, what child wouldn't want to grow a unicorn?

When Sarah visits Mr. Pottifer's Parlous of Plants to find a birthday gift for her grandmother, she enters a magical and mysterious world. Here there are plants and seeds of a wondrous kind, including seeds for growing unicorns. 

But when Sarah gets carried away, the consequences are chaotic. Can she solve her rather large unicorn problem? And has she ruined her gran's birthday?

My son and daughter (8 and 6) both loved this book. The delight that grew on my son's face as he watched the plants grow page by page was a picture and he loved seeing the funny consequence of Sarah's actions. The pictures by Steven Lenton literally mesmerised him and every page is like stepping into a magical world - a feast for the senses! The story rattles along with a galloping pace and the characters, particularly Mr. Pottifer, are ingenious.

Due to its length and wordiness, this is a perfect story for the older end of the picture book market, although I can't imagine any reader not being wowed by the visuals and the imagination of this story. What's even more exciting is that I've heard this might just be the start of a series. We certainly hope so!

I Spy Island by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Link to publisher

Published by: Simon and Schuster, July 2021


I Spy with my little eye something beginning with S...yes, that's right, you've guessed it...a Successful Series!

The champions of inanimate objects have done it again! Following on from the success of Supertato and many other humorous tales such as Cake and I Need a Wee, comes the first book of a brand new series...'I Spy Island'.

When a happy island and its friends start playing I-Spy, they spot something unusual washed up on the sand. What is it doing there? Why has it come? Their attempts to get to know the new arrival leads to lots of fun and games and...storms. Can they possibly find a happy end to their story?

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet have done what they do best here-created yet another group of highly original, fun and memorable characters and combined them with an upbeat, sunshiney setting. Island, Glove, Banana, Bottle and Bird are deliciously silly but most importantly of all, they are friends. 

The theme of friendship runs all the way through this book, making it something truly heart-warming and special. The ending has a brilliant twist and is incredibly thought-provoking but, as always, is executed in a wonderfully humorous and light-hearted way. This whole book is simply drenched in 'S's: sunshine, silliness, slapstick comedy, smiles, sand and really does have 'Successful Series' written all over it. 

Meet the Oceans by Caryl Hart and Bethan Woollvin

Link to publisher

Published by: Bloomsbury, March 2021


Following on from Meet the Planets comes Meet the Oceans, a rhyming narrative non-fiction book that's perfect for every bookshelf and classroom. 

Hop onto the submarine and travel through the mysterious worlds of our planet's oceans and seas. There's plenty of creatures waiting to greet you and lots of interesting facts too...

Underwater really is a wonder to behold.

These books are both fun and educational and have been particularly brilliant for my daughter with special needs who learns very well through the medium of rhythm and rhyme. Enabling her to embed facts into her memory, she can now name the planets and oceans, as can my other children.

By journeying through unknown waters with two characters on a submarine, there's a real sense of exploration and discovery to these books, which make them exciting. They link in fantastically well with the primary curriculum and could easily be used to kickstart a whole host of learning activities. Not only are all the oceans covered in this book, but some seas too. We really hope the series continues- there's still lots we can learn!

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