4-7 books, Brilliant Books


‘Monkey has found a bicycle! And luckily, giraffe knows how to ride it… sort of.’


This gorgeous book was bought by ‘Nana’ in a local independent children’s bookshop. It’s a perfect, quick read for reluctant toddlers and the appealing illustrations will keep them captivated throughout.

Monkey finds a bicycle and doesn’t know how to ride it, fortunately Giraffe does, or so he thinks… They ride off together on a journey through the jungle collecting passengers along the way, including a sleepy tiger, a slithering snake and our favourite – a friendly flamingo. Picking up even more enthusiastic creatures, their vehicle becomes a little crowded and… well you can maybe guess what happens next…?

My son loves this book and never fails to laugh out loud at the animals as they wobble and wriggle to ride the bicycle together. Powerful verbs and adjectives describe the animals and their movements but are also excellent for developing a child’s wide vocabulary. The use of simple alliteration makes the story sound wonderful when read aloud too. The illustrations are beautifully vivid and there are little details to spot and talk about on every page. I love that the illustrations make up the bulk of the story allowing it to tell itself. My little boy is just at the point of beginning to re-tell stories and make up his own, and the nature of the pictures really lend themselves to this.

Young children adore humour in stories and this picture book is brilliant for keeping little ones (and older ones) amused. On finding a crocodile “Up you come,” and “Make it snappy” giggles the monkey. The ending keeps the reader guessing, and the hilarity continues right up to the double page spread on the back cover.

I don’t know any many children who don’t love wild animals and moving vehicles! Add the two together and you have a hit! This book has made itself a firm favourite on our bookshelf.

You can find out more about Julia Woolf and her other books and beautiful illustrations on her www.juliawoolfillustration.com

Brilliant Books, Reading Adventures

How to have family day out for all ages. Teddy bears, tree houses and terrific fun! Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a classic at the V&A

Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a classic at the V&A


The stories of Winnie-the-Pooh have delighted both children and adults for over 90 years and now, you and your family, can re-live your fond memories of the funny, tubby, honey-loving bear. If you happen to be in London and are searching for some family fun during the Easter holidays, do not hesitate to pay a visit to the Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a classic expedition – oops! sorry, ‘exhibition’ at the V&A Museum. The exhibition is aimed at ages 0-100 and if you are looking for something that everyone will enjoy then it will not disappoint. The exhibition is running now until Sunday 8th April 2018.

Now, I was lucky enough to have some child-free time so visited the museum alone. This meant that I could actually spend some quality time actually reading the descriptions of the exhibits, pore over the hand-drawn sketches and inspect the wide variety of memorabilia on display without chasing my toddler over the Pooh-sticks bridge or supervising numerous goes on the slide! However, I will absolutely be trying to find some time to bring both my children here before the exhibition ends. My two ‘Bitsy Bookworms’ have a 3 1/2 year age gap, and although in the scheme of things this is not very large, I do sometimes struggle to find organised activities that they can both enjoy together. But this would be ideal and I really hope that I get a chance to visit again so they can both share in the love for all things Winnie-the-Pooh.

Immediately I was made aware of how child-friendly the V&A museum and the exhibition was. It was made clear that buggies were not allowed into the exhibition itself, but a spacious and relatively secure buggy park was set up just outside the exhibition, with nearby seating for any last minute feeds or to rest a toddler’s (or parent’s) weary legs. Baby hip carriers were also provided in a basket just inside the exhibition itself and step-stools were available so that little ones could reach to peer up at the exhibits.


Since childhood, I have always been a HUGE fan of the rotund little bear and his friends, but it was evident as I went round that there was so much that I didn’t know. I’d never really thought about the stories in a social context before, but in the aftermath of WWI Winnie-the-Pooh provided a safe haven for children from the horrors of the war and is perhaps one of the many reasons as to why the stories were so popular.¬† I loved reading the history behind the stories and how story, word play and illustration came together. My favourite artefacts on display have to be copies of the original bears owned by A.A.Milne and E.H.Shephard that the stories were based upon – simply adorable!


In terms of interactivity for children, this is possibly one of the best exhibitions I have ever been to. Long gone are the days when exhibits were banned from curious, sticky little fingers. As, already mentioned, if children do want to look a bit closer at the artefacts on display, there are children’s stepping stools provided. Immediately as you go in, children are tempted by the staircase that Christopher Robin notoriously¬† ‘bump’s his teddy bear companion down the stairs. Children are invited to explore their senses and curiosity and imagination throughout the exhibition. There is a small slide which seemed very popular (if it hadn’t had been so busy, I may have been tempted to have a little go myself!) On a rainy day, sit under the over-sized umbrella and see what you can hear, take a walk over the famous ‘Pooh Sticks’ bridge, ring Winnie-the-Pooh’s treetop bell to see if he’s at home and at a smart dining table, create a little something artistic. There are many other surprises too, all presented in a stylish yet inviting way.

All good museums/exhibitions end in a gift shop, and if you are a Winnie-the-Pooh fan then you won’t be disappointed with the offerings. There are of course Winnie-the-Pooh books galore including special editions and old favourites. There are toys, pocket money objects and postcards as well as gorgeous prints to purchase. I came home with this incredible story which I promise to write a review about soon. It’s absolutely fabulous and a must-read for anyone who is even just a little bit of a fan of bear named Winnie!


On my return home, I just had to dig out my own much-loved and well worn copy of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh. Slightly faded and previously hidden on my daughter’s bookshelf, I am pleased to say that it has now made a re-appearance again and we have since enjoyed sharing some of our favourite stories once more.


For more information on prices and how to book your tickets to the exhibition, visit the V&A website. I visited during term-time and booked online the morning that I went, but lots of slots were already fully booked so I would recommend booking in advance especially if planning to visit in the school holidays. Any questions then please ask! If you have already visited or get to visit, I’d love to know what you think too.

Thanks for reading, Emma x



4-7 books, Brilliant Books

WEEKLY ‘WHAT’S ON THE SHELF?’ THE BOG BABY by Jeanne Willis and Illustrated by Gwen Millward

‘Do you believe in Bog Babies?’

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I first came across this magical story when I was a teacher. I attended an amazing course run by the CLPE and ‘The Power of Reading’ Project. The CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) is a charity working to improve literacy in primary schools. ‘The Bog Baby’ is a winner of the Booktrust Early Years award and it is not hard to see why.

This story is about two little girls, who on hearing a rumour of a magic pond in Bluebell Wood, go exploring in the hope of catching a newt. However, they catch something much more exciting than that! They find a Bog Baby, carry him home in a jam jar and decide to keep him a secret. They fall in love with him, share him with their friends and take care of him the best they can. All goes well until their new ‘pet’ takes a turn for the worse and falls ill. After confiding in Mum (who as it turns out isn’t a complete stranger to this delightful creature), they learn a valuable life lesson and discover that sometimes if you really love something you have to set it free.

I introduced the story to my nearly three year old and six year old in the same way that I did to my Year 2 Class when I read the book to them. I disguised the front cover and read to just past the initial description of the Bog Baby. I then provided them with a box of goodies containing:

  • Blue soft dough – I got ours from the ELC (with added glitter and sparkle!) but any brand would do, or you could make your own.
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Mini Pom-poms
  • Googly eyes
  • Sequins

I explained that we were going to make some Bog Babies of our own and excitement took over! This is a great activity for a rainy (or snowy day) and afterwards my daughter asked what other book characters she could make out of dough.


Jeanne Willis’ descriptions of the Bog Baby are just so perfectly pitched at the imaginations of young children. My daughter carefully ensured that her Bog Baby had ‘ears like a mouse’ and that he was the exact ‘size of a frog. I’ll think you’ll agree that they captured his ‘boggly eyes’ perfectly. Now, please don’t think that just because I am a ‘teacher Mum’, that everything in my mission to get my children reading runs perfectly! In the process of us being creative and using our ‘visualisation of a character’ skills the two year old squashed and flattened the six year old’s Bog Baby at least twice (and yes he is wearing a hat indoors – it was a ‘snow day’ and therefore a woolly hat was essential attire at all times!).

After they had made their creations, I continued reading the story and finally showed them the illustrations. Their faces lit up as they realised that they had produced their very own Bog Babies, just like the one on the pictures (well almost!). Inspired, my six year old drew us a map of where her Bog Baby could be found. We discussed how we were going to look after him and what kind of habitat he might like to live in. We are now in the process of creating a shoe box habitat for him to reside in.

The illustrations by Gwen Millward are beautiful. My daughter studied the landscape of the Bluebell Wood in detail, spotting all the woodland bugs and creatures hiding in the foliage. The Bog Baby is quite possibly one of the most adorable fictional creatures I have ever seen portrayed in a children’s picture book. His comical yet cute expressions show his loveable personality and when he begins to get ill, we feel it with him.


Just when you think that the story has finished, there is a delightful surprise ending. which I shall not spoil for you if you haven’t read it. There is also the most brilliant page at the back of the book entitled ‘Notes about your Bog Baby’ for your child to complete, with the invitation to make some notes and a small sketch and send them to S.O.B.B (Save Our Bog Babies) at Puffin Picture Books. I’ll keep you posted as to whether we receive anything back!

This is a story of magic, childhood, love and loss with a lovely underlying theme of nature and keeping living things where they belong. I would recommend this story for 2-7 year olds, with so much scope for imaginative play and further activities. I would love to see some pictures of any Bog Babies that you find!


4-7 books, 7-11 books, Brilliant Books, Young Adult books

WEEKLY ‘WHAT’S ON THE SHELF?’: THE STORY OF LIFE EVOLUTION Illustrated by Katie Scott and Written by Fiona Munro and Ruth Symons

‘Welcome to The Story of Life….’


This quite possibly has to be one of the most beautiful books on our¬† book shelf. Part of the ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series by Big Pictures Press. Big Picture Press books describe themselves as ‘objects to be pored over and then returned to, again and again…created and made for the incurably curious’. My daughter is certainly one of those people! Full of questions about life on Earth and with an already encyclopedic knowledge of animals and creatures, she asked Father Christmas for this book and he delivered!

‘The Story of Life Evolution is a non-fiction book which tells the story of life. Spanning algae to Archaeopteryx, the first mammals to the first men. We have both enjoyed sharing the book together, reading it chronologically, sharing known facts and discovering new ones. The book itself reminded us both of a wall panel at The Eden Project which we were lucky enough to have visited last summer. This told us the story of evolution from the very beginning of time, not just from ‘The Dinosaurs’ which can be a common misconception of children of all ages. Dinosaur fans however, will not be disppointed as they take their place in the book in vivid detail. The Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods are all represented plus a double page spread on the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex!

I love that the book is presented as being ‘Curated by Katie Scott’ (the illustrator), and the first chapter is entitled ‘Entrance’, giving the reader the feel of entering a real life museum. Each ‘life phase’ then becomes a new ‘gallery’, an inventive and inspired theme which draws the reader further into the ‘museum’.

The illustrations by the amazingly talented Katie Scott are simply stunning, full of minute detail to be studied time and time again and give a real feel of museum artefacts waiting to be explored. Each page of illustrations also comes with a simple key, a great opportunity for children to read and explore different text types.

This truely is a book for ALL ages. My two year old son enjoys the illustrations of the plants, butterflies and dinosaurs as much as my eldest. The facts and descriptions are complex enough for adults yet also understandable for youngsters. New observations can be made with return readings, this certainly is a book for life!


4-7 books, Brilliant Books, Preschoolers

REVIEW: MATHIMALS by Jon Hales and Illustrated by Charlene Mosley

‘Do you find it hard to add? You tried but it just makes you mad?’


Hot off the press! This brand new picture book by author Jon Hales and illustrator Charlene Mosley is sure to fly off the shelves. This quirky book is engaging, entertaining and full of humour. Aimed at 2-6 year olds, this book is the perfect for anyone who finds maths a bit of a struggle but it would be equally as readable for children who enjoy maths too!

This rhyming story revolves around a professor who has some rather cheeky animals to deal with. With the help of his invention, we gain a wild lesson in addition as some weird and wonderful animal combinations present themselves. My daughter giggled away as we read this story together and she enjoyed making predictions about what wacky creatures would be invented next. The whimsical illustrations further add to the comedy as well as give children visual clues to assist with their adding skills.

I can see this book being used as a tool in the classroom. It lends itself well to being a useful teaching resource. There are many teaching opportunities within these pages for both teachers and parents. The illustrations make great talking points, not only for addition but for all four number operations. Before we reached the end of the book, my six year old was already coming up with her own ideas for ‘Mathimals’ and using the vocabulary of number and adding without even thinking about it. In my opinion, anything that gets children thinking about maths and numbers in a fun and non-threatening way has got to be a positive. It differs from the normal ‘counting’ type books for toddlers as there is an added problem solving element that evolves from the inventive word play and creative creatures.

There is a reassuring and inclusive tone throughout the book which I liked too. Do you find it hard to add? No problem, this can be worked through together but in a fun and imaginative way.


Enjoy meeting the ‘Mathimals!’. Available to buy now from Amazon.

4-7 books, 7-11 books, Brilliant Books


‘What silently waits in the shadows at night? What’s under your bed, keeping just out of sight?…What makes all the creaks, cracks and clangs in your house?…’


So, it turns out that Tom Fletcher is not just a pretty face! This book is genius! I have to be honest, I bought this book not long after starting this blog, after being swayed by all the hype around its release. But we were not disappointed. I was a bit dubious that this might be a bit too ‘old’ and subsequently too scary for my six year old but I thought we’d give it a go and perhaps miss out the scary parts if need be – but why would you want to?!! It has just the right balance of scariness and humour and oh my goodness does Tom Fletcher have writing for children down to a ‘T’! ‘T’ for Terrific!

Children’s fiction is crying out for strong female heroines and in this story, the second of Tom Fletcher’s solo novels, we are presented with Lucy Dungston. She awakes one morning to discover that not only are her parents missing but ALL the grown-ups in the town where she lives. While the rest of the children in Whiffington relish in their independence and get up to all the things you would expect children to get up to if their parents vanish, Lucy along with a couple of unlikely sidekicks try to find out what is going on. Enter – ‘The Creakers’, four mysterious creatures who are discovered creeping around the bedroom. What follows is every child’s nightmare as the ‘things’ that lurk under the bed become a reality.

Tom Fletcher creates a magical ‘underground’ world in which these creatures thrive. When the two worlds collide, all sorts of calamity and horrors present themselves. There are hugely scary moments, laugh out loud funny bits and perfectly poignant parts. Tom Fletcher’s voice is prominent throughout and we loved the play on words and helpful warnings from the author when things might start to get a little creepy!

The book also has a strong (but no so much that it’s in your face) environmental message about rubbish, litter and what we do with it. This is presented very cleverly and prompts thinking in both adults and children alike.

Neither of us wanted to put this book down (and I have to admit that I sneakily read ahead more than a couple of times!). On more than one occasion, my daughter woke me up, the book clutched in her hand, begging me to read ‘just one more chapter’ before the day had started!

This is Tom Fletcher’s second solo novel, the first being ‘The Christmasaurus’ which is also pretty amazing (so amazing in fact that plans are in the pipeline to turn it into a feature length film).

Thank you Tom Fletcher for a brilliant read! We absolutely can not wait to read what you come up with next.