Max and the Lost Note

Jazz is an area of music that seems resolutely impervious to childhood, performed as it is almost exclusively in venues that require proof of age prior to entry. And yet children are not impervious to jazz. The instruments are intriguing, the tunes are engaging, the solos are an exotic adventure in performance possibilities, what’s not for a kid to like? Piano teachers (from all kinds of places on this planet) will tell you that students come to lessons wanting to ‘play jazz’ even though they aren’t quite certain exactly what jazz is. And this is where my latest children’s book discovery comes in: a story book that is an almost faultless introduction to the world of jazz, jazz musicians, listening and jamming, Graham Marsh’s wonderful Max and the Lost Note, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books in 2009. Max is a jazz cat who plays piano and makes up his own tunes, but on this particular day he’s unable to

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Tip Tap Went the Crab

So I’ve been impatiently waiting for the follow-up to Wow, Said the Owl because I am honestly totally in love with that book (see review from last year).  How could Tim Hopgood manage anything so wonderful ever again?  Excitedly I opened Tip Tap Went the Crab anticipating the same amazing surprises I had when first reading through Wow, Said the Owl.  And while it was beautiful, both in illustration and text, I did feel a little sense of, well it’s not quite as fabulous is it? The idea of the book is that a crab decides she’s sick of her rock pool, so she wanders into the ocean and in the process counts to 9 (one noisy seagull, two sleepy sea lions, through to a shoal of eight fish and nine silent sharks) and then on her return to her very own rockpool we get to count to ten (this is a cute plot development) and then it’s over, bar

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Happy I’m a Hippo

I can’t believe it’s been nearly three months since I last wrote about a children’s book.  Children’s books are a major preoccupation of mine, and I certainly have a backlog of great books to discuss. But one of the books that I’m being asked to read on a daily basis at the moment is the delightful Happy I’m A Hippo written by Richard Edwards with illustrations by Carol Liddiment, and published by Alison Green Books. While my now nearly 35 month old son has mostly been taken by books with one or two lines of text per page, this book has been a huge hit even with its copious text, detailed plot developments and pauses in the story for the hippo to sing. This is the story of a hippo who doesn’t want to be a hippo, so she tries her best to be a monkey, an eagle and a meerkat (each attempt is a notable failure) before a young

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Little Bo Peep’s Troublesome Sheep

Little Bo Peep can’t find her sheep (a common complaint), and sets off to find them. Little Boy Blue suggests there might be a book in the library that could help her strategise a means of locating her lost flock, so Little Bo Peep heads straight for her local library.  A local library which boasts Mother Goose as the head librarian.  A local library where books are browsed (and one would presume borrowed) by the Big Bad Wolf, the Queen of Hearts, the Three Bears (of Goldilocks fame), and Little Red Riding Hood. So, the perfect local library for the likes of Little Bo Peep. She’s unsure of where to look for the kind of book that might offer some guidance to finding sheep, and her hunt for exactly the right kind of book about sheep is where the real delight of this children’s book lies; for as Little Bo Peep wanders from section to section of the library, we

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Mr Pusskins: Best in Show

My two-and-a-half year-old son is completely obsessed with this latest addition to his library.  We have not previously discovered Mr Pusskins, so this is our introduction to Sam Lloyd’s ‘books with cattitude’. The latest book in the series has Mr Pusskins entered into a pet show by Emily, the little girl with whom he lives. Mr Pusskins finds the whole thing a yawn until he realises that he is competing for ‘the most fabulous thing he has ever seen’ – a trophy. The story is energetically realised, both in the telling and the illustrating, and I suspect that all toddlers going through potty-training will be thrilled with a pivotal moment in the plot which features a toilet. Each page has plenty of text, but it is written in a way that ensures we make it to the conclusion of the book every time. For my 31-month-old son this story has immediately become a favourite, with him asking for Mr Pusskins:

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Song of Middle C

Ever since I started my piano teaching career at the age of 14, I’ve  attempted to provide appropriate ‘waiting room’ materials for my piano students, things that are engaging enough to promote quiet waiting behaviour for the the 2 or 3 minutes (hopefully no more than that) that might pass between the student’s arrival and the start of their lesson proper. Good and well, but finding books or activities that fit the bill is actually quite a bit more difficult than it seems.  One solution, Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Cross-sections series, seemed ideal – lots to look at, an educational element, all the kinds of things that one looks for in this circumstance. But one day the students started giggling as they looked through, and giggled loudly enough that it was distracting to the student whose lesson was just concluding. Turns out Mr Biesty has incredibly included somewhere tucked away on every page of his cross-sections one poor soul caught in

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Big Bear Little Bear

This book came into our library as a gift a year ago, and to my way of thinking was far too advanced for our then 18-month old.  But it quickly became a favourite, and has remained so ever since. This is a tale about a little (toddler) polar bear who is keen to be as big and run as fast as his mother.  Each page is illustrated with the mother and child bears playing together, either wrestling in the snow, diving into the water, or stretching up to the sky.  And each charming illustration of the two bears is further enhanced by a velvet feely-touchy sensation wherever they have fur. It’s a simple story of how a child yearns to have mastered all the skills required for adult life, and how the parent is there to guide and teach. And to cuddle! I love a lot about this book, and the aspect I love the most is the depiction of

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Jasper’s Beanstalk

There are books that demand one’s attention on the shelves of the children’s section in the bookshops of the world, and then there are the books that, out of the blue, one notices already sitting on one’s bookshelf, a gift probably, maybe given in anticipation of the child’s changing tastes in reading material, so unread at the time of receipt, but now ripe for exploration. Jasper’s Beanstalk was one of these less noisy books that was given to my son when he was still much too young to appreciate or enjoy its charms. But one day, quite unintentionally, Jasper’s Beanstalk was pulled from the shelves, and we began to read. We read about a cat, Jasper, who found a bean and decided to help it grow.  Each day Jasper tries some new gardening technique to encourage the bean to sprout, until he despairs of ever seeing a beanstalk… The trick with any picture book is, of course, to have a

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Why I am such a fan of “That’s Not My…”

I’m almost a bit self-conscious about how much of a fan I am of the Usborne series “That’s Not My…”.  Learning that a new title has been released has me in a state of complete excitement, and I don’t know how much time I’ve spent poring over the series, figuring out which books will make the perfect customised collection for my son. If you’ve not heard of them before: “That’s Not My….” is a series of what they call feely-touchy books; the illustrations in these board books have textured inserts that are ‘rough’, ‘slimy’, ‘velvety’, ‘and so on. So in “That’s Not My Lion” (the first book I bought for my son) “its paws are too rough”, and in “That’s Not My Dragon” (the second book I bought, out of respect for my husband’s St George rugby league fixation) “its claws are too knobbly”, while in “That’s Not My Monkey” (a much more recent acquisition) “its feet are too smooth”, and

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WOW, said the Owl

Sumptuous illustrations and energetic (but not complicated) text are the order of the day when looking for great books to read with 2 year-olds, and WOW, said the Owl meets the brief to perfection. Subtitled A BOOK ABOUT COLOURS, this brand new book from Tim Hopgood could not be simpler – a little owl is curious about what the world looks like in the daytime.  And it is astonishingly beautiful, with each new moment in the day bringing the little owl a new perspective on what it is like to see the world (including ‘her’ tree) in colour. Each illustration has so much to explore that a patient parent or caregiver can happily spend twenty minutes with a toddler reading the story, while the text is equally well suited to a quick couple of minutes just before bed. Tim Hopgood has recently won an ’emerging’ illustrator award in the UK, and the inference I (excitedly) make from this is that

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