Children’s books we love :: June

children's books we love june

As usual, we spent a lot of sunshine house time reading children’s books. It makes me happy to share what’s captured our hearts this month. Click on the images to go to the store.

the man with messy hair

The Man With Messy Hair by Pamela Allen

We grew up on Pamela Allen. Reading I Wish I Had a Pirate Suit and Guess Who Sunk The Boat? are among my strongest childhood memories. And still, Pamela Allen has appeal. Endless appeal it seems. The Man With Messy Hair is Pamela Allen’s 50th book! And she hasn’t lost is. My girls literally read this twenty times over in one sitting. As with all Allen’s stories, this book has bounce. It is easily memorised, and the illustrations are so simple, yet captivating. It’s not in book stores yet, I believe, but keep your eye out for it.

the cow tripped over the moon tony wilson

The Cow Tripped Over The Moon by Tony Wilson & Laura Wood

We also loved this silly little story about the cow attempting to jump the moon. Apparently, the cow didn’t get the jump first time. With the support of his friends, spoon, dish and dog, cow spends the night trying, but faces more than one aversion. It’s a fun twist on a very familiar nursery rhyme. And great illustrations.

hungry caterpillar cookbook and cookie cutter kit

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cookbook & Cookie Cutter Kit

The Very Hungry Caterpillar has got to be about the only merchandise I don’t get sick of seeing. When this book arrived from Penguin, I put it where I put all my books to review. Quickly, it was swiped from my special spot by my five-year-old, who began trying the recipes. Her first was a vegemite butterfly-shaped sandwich painted in food dye. Then, with some help, she made the green caterpillar. We made the salami pockets and a couple of other fun things inspired by the book. It’s a good way to get kids interested in food, and there are some healthy options, like the fruit butterfly.

once upon an alphabet oliver jeffers

Once Upon An Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

This isn’t exactly a new book {we got this for Christmas} but, Olive Jeffers! I love all his books – who doesn’t? This is a lovely big hardcover book. Oliver gives the alphabet a refreshing new expression. L for instance, stands for ‘the lumberjack’s light’. You don’t know where this little L story might go, do you?

If you love Jeffers, or even if you don’t know him that well, have a listen to him talking on Design Matters about his art, his books and his philosophy. He even tells you how to go about getting published, because he seems like a lovely man who is happy to share this sort of information. It helps that he’s very talented. Thanks Pip for the tip-off!

clive eats alligators

Clive Eats Alligators by Alison Lester

This really isn’t new. But we still love it. And read it continuously. Again, this was a favourite of mine as a kid, and some of my early memories are strongly linked to the images and characters in this book. For whatever reason, it’s seeped into the next generation, and my girls adore this book. It’s the sort of book they will sit on their own and mouth the words to.

What have you been reading this month? Any old books you’ve resurrected? 

Hello, Too Busy Sleeping. It’s awfully nice to meet you.

zanni meets too busy sleeping

zanni louise meets too busy sleeping2

zanni louise meets too busy sleeping3

zanni louise meets too busy sleeping4

zanni louise meets too busy sleeping5

zanni louise meets too busy sleeping6

Nearly two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a story. It was about the tender moment of a sister meeting her baby brother for the first time. The excitement she feels. The anticipation. At last, she has her own little playmate. But newborns aren’t quite ready to play. Mostly, they are too busy sleeping…

I sent away the story to the managing director of Hardie Grant Egmont. She liked it! She sent it to Margrete at Little Hare. She liked it too! There was some back and forth, and then there were months of nervous anticipation – waiting for the final go-ahead.

It came – champagne was popped, and swiftly drunk.

More champagne was drunk when I found out the details. Anna Pignataro, a well-known and celebrated illustrator agreed to do the illustrations.

Over the last year or so, we’ve seen pictures from the story. My story – just words and ideas – started to come to life. Anna gave big sister Eleanor the sweetest face and character imaginable. The baby is adorable. The colours! The setting! Everything about it.

Then I saw the cover, designed by Hannah Janzen. Apparently, her first cover design was the one, which is really unusual.

Eleanor and Reuben, the characters from the story, have been like siblings for my girls. They talk about them all the time. My youngest calls the story the ‘Enalore’ story, and they both coo with pleasure over cute little Reuben.

I wrote a picture book, but there are so many more threads to this tapestry than that. Anna illustrates it, Margrete and Alyson edit it, Hannah designs and puts the book together…then it needs to be printed. And then posted. The postman takes it to my house, and puts it in our letter box.

Two-and-a-half years after sending away my little story, I held it in my hands… and the feeling was just as I imagined it might be.

‘Can we read it again?’ asks Rosie, after the first read.

‘Let’s read it again, and again, and again, and forever!’ says Elka.

We read it again.

‘Again!’ they both cry.

‘It’s the only book I am ever going to read for the rest of my life,’ says {the never-dramatic} Elka.

After the third or fourth read, the parents have to get on with the serious business off the day.

too busy sleeping inscription

‘Okay,’ Elka says to Rosie, ‘you be Eleanor, and I’ll be Mummy. Dolly can be Reuben.’ We have closed the book, but the girls continue to play the story into the afternoon.

The happiest day of my life? Definitely one of them.

Children’s books we love :: May

children's books we love May

A few lovely books landed in our laps this month. Click on the image to purchase the book.

home carson ellis


Home by Carson Ellis

This is the most gorgeous gorgeous book by American illustrator, Carson Ellis. For adults and kids, really, Home is rightly a New York Times’ bestseller.

Carson takes us on a gentle and imaginative journey through different homes – beehives, palaces, shoes and barns. The perfect coffee table book, maybe?

mr huff by anna walker


Mr Huff by Anna Walker

I follow Anna on Facebook, so saw images of Mr Huff in his early conception. I couldn’t wait for this book to come out. It was worth the wait. This is a tender story of a boy called Bill and his Mr Huff, who follows him around for a day, like a dark cloud. Bill works out how to befriend Mr Huff. Mr Huff begins to  feel less like a cloud, and more like sunshine. I like this book on many levels – visually, as a story and psychologically. The girls loved it to. This lovely story is available 24 June.

pig the fibber Aaron Blabey

Pig the Fibber by Aaron Blabey

We LOVED Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey when it came out. I tagged it to be shortlisted for a CBCA award – and I was right! Such a funny, cohesive story, and Aaron’s illustrations are fantastic. This is a sequel, of sorts, and it’s just as funny as the first book. Pig is a really detestable pug. Horrible. His ‘friend’ is Trevor, and Pig is constantly trying to get Trevor to take the blame for his wrong-doings. Thankfully, Pig gets his comeuppance.

You can watch Aaron reading Pig the Pug here.

teacup rebecca young

Teacup by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley

This is a magical and beautifully illustrated tale of a boy who searches for a new home. He carries a teacup with soil from home in a boat, and rows across the ocean. He grows his new home in his teacup. It’s poetic and moving. And deep. It’s a story that definitely lingers.

cloudspotter by tom mclaughlin

The Cloudspotter by Tom McLaughin

I tried to write a story about clouds recently. I rewrote it a hundred times, but it never sat quite right. Tom McLaughlin though found the perfect story to tell about clouds. It’s also about imagination and friendship. And is gorgeously illustrated.

Have you come across any good children’s books this month? Please share with us!

Touching your past:: How children’s books become part of who we are

how childhood books become part of who we are

When we arrive at my dearest friend’s house on the weekend, my girls go straight to the vintage suitcases stacked in the sunroom. They are full of dress-ups, toys and books from my friend’s childhood.

The children don themselves in wigs, glasses and capes. Then, one by one, they pull out the books.

‘Read this,’ my two-year-old says, snuggling in next to me. My five-year-old tucks under my other arm. We know this seating arrangement well.

‘Read this.’

‘Read this.’

‘Read this.’

childhood books

Book by book, we excavate my friend’s childhood. Mr Magnolia, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, I Read With My Eyes Closed, Octopotamus, Something Absolutely Enormous and others.

It felt strangely intimate reading my friend’s childhood books. Turning each page was like opening a page of my friend’s history. These books would have forged her early memories, and lay the blueprint for who she is now.

See, recently, we found a stash of my childhood books in Mum’s storage. The books that formed by childhood included The Jolly Postman, Geraldine’s Blanket, The Secret Garden and Clive Eats Alligators.

zannis childhood books

As I opened the pages of these books with my children that evening, I was sucked back in a vortex to a time when I read these books as a child. I could feel the carpet under my knees, and smell the atmosphere of the room as I read. I remembered clearly the imaginary games I played, which were filled with characters and images from these books. I could feel the same emotion these books provoked in me when I read them, or was read them, years and years ago.

It was like touching a memory with my fingertips. Smelling it. Feeling it all over again.

Those books I read and re-read as a child were so integral to the person I became. My life was founded on their images, words and feelings, just as my friend’s foundation was built from her childhood books. Reading her books was almost like touching her memories; if such a thing were possible.

I think of our own little sunshine house, buried, almost, in books. Some, though, are read over and over. Often, the stories and characters leave the pages, and come to life in my daughters’ games and conversations.

My oldest is particularly taken with Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, and has been for a long time. She spends literally hours talking about her ‘sisters’ or sometimes ‘cousins’ Varuca and Violet. The other day, she was Mrs Salt, and I was Mrs Beauregarde, and the girls were having a sleepover. The game lasted from about 3pm in the afternoon, to about 3pm the next day.

Just as I can clearly remember my own imaginary games from that age, almost better than my actual, lived memories, my daughter will probably remember hers.

Children’s books, especially our favourites, are powerful. And totally important to who we become.

What books became part of you? Feel free to share a picture of your childhood collection here, or on Facebook #mychildhoodbooks ~ I would love to see. x

Linking with Essentially Jess

Children’s books we love :: April

children's books we love april

It’s nearly the end of another month. Like most months in my parenting career, time has flown.

And like all other months, we have paused each evening, slumped down on the couch together, and read. Book time can last over an hour some nights, and it is only through sheer parental insistence that the Lucky Last book is closed and put away.

These are our favourite books this month. Click on the image of the book to go to the store.

that's what wings are for

That’s What Wings Are For by Patrick Guest and Daniella Germain

If you are part of my Facebook community, you will already know how much this book moved me. Patrick Guest wrote this story for the Duchenne Foundation. His son has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The mascot for the Duchenne Foundation is a blue dragon. Bluey the blue dragon became the protagonist in Patrick’s story. Bluey doesn’t fit in. He has floppy wings, and worse, he likes to give hugs. He is sent to talk to the wise Bearded Dragon, who helps Bluey find his purpose in life. It’s hard not to cry, or at least burn in the throat, reading this.

A friend ask whether kids too would appreciate this book. Yes, definitely. Sad, but beautiful, and almost funny – they will definitely love it. And Daniella’s illustrations are so gorgeous.

Wendy and the wallpaper cat

Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat by Jason Hook & Ilaria Demonti

I love quirky stories, and evidently so do my girls. We all loved this story about little Wendy who cannot fall asleep, but eventually finds inspiration for sleep in the wallpaper of Grandpa Walter’s mansion. The wallpaper takes Wendy through dreamland.

The illustrations are divine. It stands to reason that this book is published by the V&A in Britain.

our love grows anna pignataro

Our Love Grows by Anna Pignataro

Okay – I am a little biased. Anna has illustrated by book Too Busy Sleeping, so naturally I want to promote her. But I – we – really loved this little tale of love. It’s almost a poem – a sentiment about how love grows through a lifetime. Anna’s illustrations are so tender and sweet.

Billie's Great Desert Adventure

Billie’s Great Desert Adventure by Sally Rippin and Alisa Coburn

You may have already met Billie B. Brown. There is a Billie B. Brown series for early readers, and then a series for older readers: A Billie B. Mystery. 

The latest Billie series is targeted towards preschoolers. Billie takes an ordinary situation, then lets her imagination run wild. Her adventures take her underwater and on magic carpet rides across the desert. My oldest – who is 5 – loved Billie’s Great Desert Adventure. She pretends to read them herself, the recreates Billie’s adventures in our little sunshine home.

the miraculous journey of edward tulane

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Admittedly, I haven’t read this to my kids yet. I will, I will – when they are a bit older. Or maybe they will read it themselves. This is the tale of a little china rabbit – precious in body and heart – who is displaced from his comfortable life and is forced to reassess what is important to him. Like all good classics, this is a story that appeals to children and adults. There is such depth of character, and psychological intrigue, as well as an honestly good story.

kumiko and the dragon

Kumiko and the Dragon by Briony Stewart

Kumiko and the Dragon is suitable for readers 7+, though I read it to my 5 year old, and she loved the story. Kumiko is a sweet little girl, who fears the dragon living on her roof. But she summons the courage to talk to the dragon, and learns there is nothing to be afraid of.

Have you read any good children’s books this month? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.