Childhood Unplugged

I have a passion for children’s books and have always made sure that my two children have a bookshelf full of well-written and beautifully illustrated books. As part of my childhood unplugged features I make lots of children’s book recommendations to help busy mums find books their own children will love, or which will make lovely gifts for friends.

Each book is reviewed with information about the story, illustrations and a link to where it can be purchased. This is usually an Amazon link.

I am lucky enough to work with children’s publishers and have a great working relationship with Bloomsbury, who kindly provide some of the books for my reviews.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books – Autumn 2017

Both my 8 and my 6 year old are becoming fluent readers, and recently both have taken a step away from their ‘reading books’ into the world of real literature. They are ready for texts which require more reading stamina.

This is a tricky time as their confidence is riding high and they want to read lengthier books. However, sometimes this results in them becoming a little over ambitious in their choices! I applaud my son’s desire to read the Harry Potter novels, but the simple truth is he’s not quite there yet!

Bloomsbury kindly sent me their new autumn and winter releases, and they are perfect for my children. The text is manageable yet also develops their vocabulary and comprehension as they become immersed in more complex stories.

Here are just a few of their current favourites:

Bloomsbury Children’s Books – Autumn 2017

Witch Snitch

Perfect for Halloween! Tiga and friends are famous throughout Sinkville for their part in the Witch Wars competition. Now they have been asked to make a TV documentary about the most interesting witches in town. Whilst Tiga enjoys making the documentary, she can’t help but feel there’s something going on behind her back …

This is a hilarious companion story to the main Witch Wars series. It is, however, a great standalone title, full of character profiles, facts and activities to give children everything they need to create their very own Witch Wars party.

Click here to order your copy – Witch Snitch: The Inside Scoop on the Witches of Ritzy City (Witch Wars)

On trend witchy mayhem!

 

Curse of the Werewolf Boy

Sticking with Halloween… Mildew and Sponge don’t think much of Maudlin Towers, the blackened, gloom-laden, gargoyle-infested monstrosity that is their school. But when somebody steals the School Spoon and the teachers threaten to cancel the Christmas holidays until the culprit is found, our heroes must spring into action and solve the crime!

Who is the ghost in the attic? What’s their history teacher doing with a time machine? And why do a crazy bunch of Vikings seem to think Mildew is a werewolf?

Hugely funny, deliciously creepy and action-packed by turns, this brand new series from Chris Priestley is perfect for 8+ readers who like their mysteries with a bit of bite. Fans of Lemony Snicket and Chris Riddell will love Curse of the Werewolf Boy.

Click here to order your copy – Curse of the Werewolf Boy (Maudlin Towers)

An action-packed mystery!

 

Safari Pug (moving away from Halloween!)

My son is a huge fan of the Pug and Lady Miranda stories! He has both the previous two ‘Pug’ stories and whenever he gets the latest book he has to look and see what the next story to be published will be called!

When Pug and Lady Miranda have a scary run-in with a lion one night (he might be hiding under the bed), Lady M decides Pug needs to face his fears and go on safari. Pug goes a bit wobbly when he finds out he’ll be coming nose to nose with Florence, the rare white lion cub, but he soon realises that lions may not be the most dangerous thing in the wildlife park… Safari Pug didn’t disappoint!

Click here to order your copy – Safari Pug (The Adventures of Pug)

Pug faces his fears!

 

These books have bought much joy to my children, and their reading journey!

Happy reading!

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Up, Up and Away: A Review

What does it take to build your very own planet? Orson is about to find out… He takes:
A cup full of rocks
A dash of water
A sprinkling of metal
A lot of nothingness
A big bang …
And before long, BOOM! He has it – a tiny planet with rings around it, right there in his bedroom!

Building a planet is the easy bit…

 

Up, Up and Away

Up,Up and Away is a heart-warming story about life’s possibilities and disappointments with an uplifting ending that will resonate with all fans of Oliver Jeffers’ work. For it seems that BUILDING a planet is the easy bit; taking care of it is a different thing altogether. Over time, Orson realises that his planet needs to be free and that sometimes you have to let go of the things that you love the most …

The author, Tom McLaughlin, is the author and illustrator of the fabulous books The Story Machine and The Cloudspotter, and his third book, Up, Up and Away does not disappoint. As with his previous books, it shows off Tom’s incredible talent and unique style of drawing and storytelling. I always enjoy the understated gentleness of Tom McLaughlin’s work. He always approaches challenging or sensitive issues with gentleness and positivity. Another uplifting read and which we’ll enjoy returning to again and again.

Many thanks to Bloomsbury Books for sending me a copy of Up,Up and Away to review.

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Bloomsbury Children’s Books – New Titles Spring 2017

I love March, it’s the first month in a new year when I really get a sense of spring’s imminent arrival! Everything seems to come into life, and new interests and hobbies seem so much more attractive as the days get longer and slightly warmer!

My children both love books, and whilst they have old favourites which they return to again and again, it’s lovely to inject a few new titles into their reading repertoire at this time of year.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books – New Titles Spring 2017

Bloomsbury Children’s Books have some great new titles which I thought I’d share with you…

The Naughty Naughty Baddies

Once there were four Naughty, Naughty Baddies. And each one was as naughty as the next. When Four suggests a cunning plan to STEAL all the spots off the Queen’s Little Doggy Woof-Woof, they all grin fiendishly and chuckle evilly! What will the Queen do? Will the Naughty, Naughty Baddies get away with it? This is a very funny and deliciously naughty story from the bestselling pen of Mark Sperring and the bestselling brush of David Tazzyman.

The Butterfly Dance

Caterpillars Dotty and Stripe do everything together. They play, they eat leaves and do all sorts of caterpiller-y things, and then one day, after spinning themselves into snuggly cocoons, they wake up as beautiful butterflies! But soon they realise that, for the first time ever, they look different. Should Dotty only play with butterflies that look like her? And Stripe only play with butterflies that look like him?

The Butterfly Dance is a stunningly illustrated story about friendship and and being happy with who you are, from the author/illustrator of Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlisted The Dawn Chorus.

Bloomsbury Children’s Titles

 

We’re Going on an Egg Hunt – Activity Book

Can you find all the Easter eggs and help the Easter Bunnies get through the maze to escape from the wolf? Join in the fun with the Easter Bunnies and shout ‘Hooray for Easter Day!’ This super activity book is bursting with colouring, puzzles, games and over 100 lovely stickers.

Based on the bestselling We’re Going on an Egg Hunt, the little ones will have plenty to keep them occupied over the Easter holidays. Laura Hughes’ beautiful illustrations jump off the pages of this adorable activity book.

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting

Do you dream of seeing some real, live bears? Then this essential guide to bear spotting, filled with offbeat humor and quirky illustrations, is for you! It’s now out in paperback too!

In this perfect read-aloud, a young aspiring bear spotter ventures into bear country . . . But coming face-to-face with the furry creatures themselves, whether black or brown, can be dangerous, and our protagonist–accompanied by a trusty teddy bear–might need to use some unconventional means to stay out of trouble and avoid being (gulp!) eaten.

This book has been a family favourite since we received the Hardback copy last year!

I Don’t Want Curly Hair

NO! I do not want this BIG CURLY HAIR!
It’s messy and silly and just plain unfair.

All Curly Haired Girl has ever wanted is straight and luscious locks, but when she meets a little girl with the smoothest, silkiest hair, who says all she’s ever wanted is spirally, squiggly hair, they are BOTH confused!

A hilarious tale about loving what we have. And hair, lots and lots of hair.

I Don’t Want Curly Hair! is glorious new picture book for little people who always want what they can’t have! From the brilliant Laura Ellen Anderson – illustrator of the bestselling Witch Wars series. This book is visually stunning and the striking illustrations and colour palette used throughout are gorgeous!

Henry and the Yeti

Another superbly and simply illustrated picture book! Henry is sure yetis do exist, and he sets off on an expedition to find one. He has packed everything he needs, including a camera to take photos for evidence. But can he find a yeti? And will anyone believe him when he returns home?

A funny story about believing in yourself (and yetis) from a bestselling illustrator who has turned author too. (Titles include The Witch’s Children and Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs.) Children will love the twist ending in particular.

Happy reading!

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A special thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing who kindly sent me copies of the above books for review. 

The Butterfly Dance: A Review

Keeping with my recent ‘Spring’ focus on the blog, I thought I’d share a beautiful new book which I received from Bloomsbury this week! My daughter, aged 6, fell upon it as soon as I took it out of the envelope! She somewhat prematurely thanked me for treating her – such was her enthusiasm for this beautifully illustrated book!

The Butterfly Dance: A Review

 

The Butterfly dance by Suzanne Barton - A review
 

Caterpillars Dotty and Stripe do everything together. They play, they eat leaves and do all sorts of caterpiller-y things. Then one day, after spinning themselves into snuggly cocoons, they wake up as beautiful butterflies! But soon they realise that, for the first time ever, they look different. Should Dotty only play with butterflies that look like her? And Stripe only play with butterflies that look like him?

This is a stunningly illustrated story about friendship and and being happy with who you are. It is by Suzanne Barton, the author/illustrator of Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlisted The Dawn Chorus.

Suzanne’s artistic influences include Japanese prints and illustrators she remembers from her childhood. Her artwork is a beautiful combination of collage, drawing and painting. With a love of patterns and prints, Suzanne often searches through vintage paper shops for inspiration.

My daughter loves all things butterfly related, and she is also very creative and artistic. The appeal of this book lies in the fact that so many of the images on this page could be mounted and framed. The story itself also contains some important messages about the nature of friendship.

Please see the Amazon link below to order your copy of this beautiful book!

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Debi Gliori Autumn 2016 Bloomsbury Publications

Debi Gliori is the creator of many wonderful books for children, including the Mr Bear series (with Orchard Books), Bloomsbury’s publication No Matter What, The Trouble With Dragons (nominated for the 2010 Kate Greenaway Medal) and Stormy Weather. Debi lives in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland and she has twice been writer in residence in the Shetland Isles.

This autumn saw the publication of two new Bloomsbury books, both completely charming and captivating!

Goodnight World

Goodnight ice and goodnight snow.
Goodnight lights above, a-glow.

As soon as you start to read this book you’ll want to join in the list of important things to say goodnight to – ships, animals, plants, toys and, of course, the sun. This is a beautifully illustrated rhyming text, and seems to magically induce calm and comfort after a busy day – just perfect for a cosy bedtime story! The final page of the book shows a small child tucked up next to mummy, who is clearly expecting a baby. It’s very cleverly left to the reader to decide who is the narrator, ‘curled around her heart’.

Debi Gliori  

Little Owl’s Egg

I’m your baby owl. You don’t need a new one.

Little Owl isn’t pleased to hear that there’s a baby owl in the egg Mummy has laid. So Mummy pretends it might be a baby penguin … or crocodile … or elephant. In the fun of imagining different kinds of siblings, Little Owl realises that a baby owl might just be the best thing of all.

A gentle, lovely story about the arrival of a new sibling (in many ways a perfect compliment to Goodnight World), addressing fears that a Mummy’s love will stop. Beautiful, simple -and as a family of owl lovers, irresistible!

Debi Gliori  
Happy reading!

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Rosa Parks, the Ordinary, Extraordinary Lady on the Bus

Sometimes a book comes along which totally blows me away… and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World is just such a book! Kate Pankhurst, descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst, has created this wonderful and very readable picture book about women who really changed the world.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World
 

Bursting full of beautiful illustrations and astounding facts, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is the perfect introduction to just a few of the most incredible women who helped shaped the world we live in.

List of women featured: Jane Austen, Gertrude Ederle, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Amelia Earhart, Agent Fifi, Sacagawa, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks and Anne Frank.

Today I’m thrilled that Kate Pankhurst has written for Muff and Teacake about Rosa Parks, over to Kate for a fantastically fascinating story…

Rosa Parks, the Ordinary, Extraordinary Lady on the Bus

My research into the great women involved going Pinterest crazy gathering references to inform the design of each starring woman’s double page spread. I wanted every detail in their clothing, pose and setting to give readers an insight into that particular great woman’s life.

Something that struck me looking at the iconic police mugshot of Rosa Parks that was taken in 1955 after her arrest for refusing to move out of her bus seat to make way for a white passenger, was that with a small pale flower tucked in her pinned up hair and smart buttoned up coat, Rosa really didn’t look like the sort of person to get herself into trouble with the police. The point, and the remarkable thing about Rosa, is that she really wasn’t.

Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks mugshot (C)1955 Universal History Archive—UIG via Getty Images

 

Before working on Fantastically Great Women I didn’t know the whole story about what happened on that Montgomery Bus in 1955. I found out that Rosa was an everyday women travelling home from work until, in the split second after being told to give up her seat for a white passenger, she decided enough was enough.

What I love most about Rosa is that she didn’t shout or scream or use any sort of violence in her legendary protest. She simply refused to move, because why should she? As Rosa sat waiting for the authorities to arrive, with the eyes of the whole bus on her she could have quite easily relented. By making such a stand she wasn’t just breaking the law, she was putting herself in danger.

rosa-on-the-bus-c-kate-pankhurst
 

Making that decision in the moment made me think about the fact Rosa had no clue about how her actions would change the world or about how she would rouse thousands of other black people to boycott the buses in Montgomery. She had no idea that her actions would be a massive step towards a fairer more equal society.

More than sixty years later there’s, sadly, still a long way to go, but without ordinary people like Rosa taking that first terrifying step things can’t change for the better. It makes you think – the next person to start a change could be an ordinary person sat next to you on the bus. Or you.

Now that I look at that photo of Rosa after her arrest I can see past the sweet looking lady with a hat and glasses. There’s a definite determination in her eyes, a glimmer that she wasn’t going to take anymore nonsense from anyone, I hope my illustrative version of Rosa captures that.

(Although, had I been in her shoes on that day I’m not sure I would have been able to resist using that neat little handbag I’ve drawn her holding to take a swing at that guy who told her to move. But of course, calm protest will always achieve far more.)

Kate

Wow Kate, such a great testament to the power of peaceful protest! Thank you!

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Odd And The Frost Giants: A Review

As I’m typing this we’re expecting a heatwave! It therefore seems a little odd to be writing a review today about a thrilling, wintry Nordic tale of frost giants! This is no ordinary text though – it is a thrilling wintry Nordic tale, beautifully written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. When Bloomsbury kindly sent me this book I was completely taken away by the illustrations and astonishing front cover… They say never judge a book by its’ cover, but in this case both the cover, metallic ink illustrations and the story which lies within won’t fail to disappoint!

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Odd And The Frost Giants: A Review

Odd’s luck has been against him so far. He lost his father on a Viking expedition, his foot was crushed beneath a tree, and the winter seems to be going on for ever. But when Odd flees to the woods and releases a trapped bear, his luck begins to change. The eagle, bear and fox he encounters reveal they’re actually Norse gods, trapped in animal form by the evil frost giants who have conquered Asgard, the city of the gods…Can a twelve-year-old boy reclaim Thor’s hammer, outwit the frost giants and release the gods?

This story quickly transports the reader to another world and slowly reveals a life lived bravely through a humorous and wonderfully rich narrative.

Neil Gaiman is an amazing creative talent. He is the bestselling author of Coraline and Stardust (two favourites of mine!), both of which are major films. Neil also co-wrote the script for Beowulf starring Anthony Hopkins and Angeline Jolie. He is the creator/writer of the award-winning Sandman comic series and has written several books for children. His official website now has more than one million unique visitors each month, and his online journal is syndicated to thousands of blog readers every day.

A link to buy your own copy of Odd and the Frost Giants can be found below…

Happy reading!

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The Arty Book

If you’re anything like us, the holidays are now half over and finding activities to keep children interested (especially if you’re trying to work from home!) can be a challenge!

Bloomsbury recently kindly sent me a copy of their new publication The Arty Book, and it’s certainly come to my rescue this week as we’re back from holiday and trying to catch up with a few work related things!

The Arty Book

Whether you are a doodler or a drawer, a colouring expert or a painter, you will find plenty in this visually stunning and very innovative art book to extend your children’s artistic imagination.

A fantastic and highly recommended creative book for kids!

As you open the book you get to spend time with ‘Arty’, your creative buddy, who on every page will give you a starting point for simple yet extraordinary art activities. You can add stripes and spots, lumps and bumps, tape, paint, pencil and so much more to the pages of this book, to make your own ‘Arty’ creations. The colour palette for the ‘Arty’ pages is bold black and red, which provides the perfect backdrop for children to add their own colourful designs.

We took the book out for a couple of days to keep our children busy during long car journeys, and they both loved completing some of the activities. Some pages, however, require paint and glue and collage materials – so you just have to be selective about what you choose if you are out and about!

The Arty Book is simply perfect for a rainy day, for enjoying alone or with friends and family, and will supply hours of creative adventure. The book has the added benefit of Including lots of amazing Arty stickers too!

Thank you bloomsbury for a wonderful book and for saving my sanity on a number of occasions!

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The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth: A review

‘I’m so famishing I’m vanishing!’

The famishing vanishing mahoosive mammoth is a hairy beast who simply can’t think of anything but his tummy. So how, then, can his friend Bug distract him?

The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth: A review

The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth is a bright, bold, and completely hilarious rhyming picture book about one hairy mammoth with a ridiculously large appetite (he’s hungry all day!), and one loyal friend with a series of clever plans to help the mammoth. Essentially Bug tries different ploys to distract the mammoth, with very limited success – until he comes up with one final idea!

Book review for Bloomsbury Children's Books
 

The author, Hollie Hughes, is clearly a talented new picture book author. Having three children of her own, she is undoubtedly tuned in to the reading habits and tastes of younger children. The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth is Hollie’s debut picture book with Bloomsbury Publishers, and I’m sure there’ll be lots more to look forward to! Hollie currently lives in Essex with her family.

With oodles of rhyming fun and laughter, this is the perfect picture book for all fans of similar texts written by Julia Donaldson, Neal Layton, Alex T. Smith and Lauren Child.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me a copy of this lovely post!

Happy reading!

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Wolfish Stew: A Review

Little Grey rabbit has to be constantly on his guard as he skips through the woods, and must always keep a look out for the bushy tail, knees, snout and feet, that belong to Blue. Blue is a sneaky and hungry wolf who enjoys making WOLFISH STEW!

Wolfish Stew: A Review

When Grey is distracted (‘Oooo Berries!’) the reader automatically fears the worst, but behind his super cute and fluffy exterior Grey is just as ruthless as Blue, and (without wanting to spoil the ending…) the wolfish stew served up on the last page has an unexpected ingredient!

A review of Wolfish Stew

The pacy text of Wolfish Stew is well matched by the illustrations which are full of witty details and this funny, original story will have younger readers giggling with surprise and delight. Who doesn’t enjoy a story with a twist at the end!

The author, Suzi Moore was brought up in Manchester but now lives in Somerset with her husband. She is well-tuned in to what children like to read, having worked as both a nanny and a teaching assistant. Wolfish Stew is her second book for Bloomsbury, the first being Two Little Bears.

Thank you Bloomsbury for sending me such a lovely picture book to review!

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Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton: A Review

When Bloomsbury Books sent me a copy of Introducing Teddy, complete with a multicoloured bow tie, I was immediately intrigued! The key to this delightfully written and illustrated picture book lies with the attached advice which stated that the best way to wear a bow tie is however you like!

Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton: A Review

Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it’s riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do together…

A story about friendship...
A story about friendship…

 

One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas the Teddy is sad, and Errol can’t figure out why. Then Thomas the Teddy finally tells Errol what Teddy has been afraid to say: ‘In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly.’ And Errol says, ‘I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.’

introducing-teddy-by-jessica-walton-a-review
Friendship

 

Error reacts with kindness, acceptance and warmth – all he wants is for his beloved bear to be happy! This truly is a sweet and gentle story essentially about being true to yourself and being a good friend!

introducing-teddy
Being true to yourself…

 

Yes, Introducing Teddy is about a transgender bear, but it is written in such a way that it can be used to simply tell a story about friendship and being true to yourself, or it can provide a gentle way to enter into a discussion with younger children about gender identity.

I look forward to reading more from Jessica Walton!

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Captain Pug by Laura James: A Review

‘Thank you for my new book Mummy! Can we read it tonight?’ That was the immediate reaction from my seven year old son when I opened a parcel from Bloomsbury Publishers and pulled out a copy of Captain Pug!

It must say something about the visual appeal of this book that my son instantly thought it had been purchased specifically for him, and wanted to make sure it was part of his bedtime reading session that night!

He has a huge selection of books, and the gorgeous bookends we bought for him are gradually getting further and further apart, so a new and instant favourite is quite special!

A review of Captain Pug by Laura James
Captain Pug

 

To be truthful, I was as delighted to receive this book as my son was! I have thought for some time that there is still a gap in the market to be filled when it comes to providing books for children who are independent readers but are not quite ready for the challenge of chapter books. My son loves reading and is past the ‘early reader’ stage but in order to maintain that enjoyment of reading I often feel the need to provide books which act as a bridge between the simpler structured books his school provided and more challenging chapter books.

Captain Pug by Laura James: A Review

We have previously enjoyed the series of Claude books, and Captain Pug falls neatly into that book bracket… The text provides some challenge, but the illustrations are very powerful, anintegral part of the book and presented in a beautiful, bold limited colour palette. They are a real joy and capture the fun and adventure of the story. Pug’s expressions are captivating and there lots of details in the background to draw the reader in as Pug moves from one ‘incident’ to another.

captain-pug-by-laura-james-a-review
Lady Miranda

 

This story is essentially about Pug’s seafaring adventure with Lady Miranda, his passion for jam tarts (which my son loved!) and his fear of the water!

Captain Pug is the first book in a glorious new illustrated series, and we can’t wait for the next instalment!

Happy reading!

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