Our Top 5 Books for Bedtime

What is the perfect recipe for a bedtime story? In my experience it’s loveable characters, a gentle story, not too much action and a reassuring and comforting conclusion. Here are five of our favourites that send Little P to sleep with happy thoughts every time.

Lily is a little bunny who is finding it difficult to sleep with all the noises in her farmyard home. Her mother manages to quiet all the distracting sounds while Lily gets some help from her animal friends. A lullaby from duck, a bedtime story from cow and some nice soft straw from the hens. Eventually Lily falls fast asleep and makes quite a bit of noise herself (snore snore!!).

Hushabye Lily is written by Claire Freedman, illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello and published by Little Tiger Press. ISBN: 1-85430-811-4

Twinkling stars, a cosy underground home and gentle woodland creatures. Mole’s Star even leaves me feeling wonderfully relaxed at bedtime! Mole loves the stars so much that when he finds a shooting star he makes a wish to bring them all inside his dark underground home. But when Mole realises just how much the other woodland animals miss the stars in the night sky they all work together to get them back up there.

Mole’s Star written & illustrated by Britta Teckentrup is published by Orchard Books. ISBN: 978-1-40834-282-4



This is a perfect book for establishing (and maybe reinforcing!) a bedtime routine. Everything from bathing to the brushing of teeth is part of this comic and affectionate story. Little P‘s favourite part is the selection of ‘cuddlies’ to take to bed. But when the friends find a lonely little creature hiding under their bed with no cuddly of his own they’re all willing to share. This is a great book for children who love to bring their own special cuddly toy to bed.

Once Upon a Bedtime written & illustrated by David Melling is published by Hodder Children’s Books. ISBN: 978-0-340-98970-8

We return to Winnie the Pooh at bedtime time and time again. Our favourite stories are: In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place, In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents and In Which Christopher Robin Leads an Expotition [sic] to the North Pole. A.A. Milne’s writing is so fluent and easy to read. The characters are gentle and friendly and every story has such a heartwarming ending. The stories are just the right length for bedtime and sometimes a paperback, with only a few pictures like this one, works well at bedtime because Little P just sits back and listens to the story.

Winnie the Pooh written by A.A. Milne & illustrated by E. Shephard is published by Penguin Modern Classics. ISBN: 978-0-14-240467-6.

There’s nothing like a magical story before bedtime to make sure that little heads have sweet dreams! Two adventurous girls discover a bog baby on a fishing trip to the woods. He is such a cute little thing they decide to keep him as a pet. But when the bog baby starts to look sad their Mum teaches them one of life’s great lessons. Sometimes if you really love something you have to set it free. This is a wonderful story for nature lovers and the illustrations of the woods are almost dreamlike they are so beautiful.

The Bog Baby written by Jeanne Willis & illustrated by Gwen Millward is published by Puffin Books. ISBN: 978-0-141-50030-0.

Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems

While I was reading this to Little P the author’s voice and the tone of the book felt so familiar to me. I did some research and discovered why! Mo Willems used to be a writer and animator on Sesame Street. I adored Sesame Street as a child and this book is imbued with the same wonderful optimistic, cheerful, slightly zany and friendly spirit.

Nanatte has been given the awesome responsibility of going to buy the baguette. The warm, delicious baguette. She can’t resist the temptation (who could!) and soon the baguette is no more. Nannette is obviously very worried about returning home empty handed. When she does eventually muster up the courage her Mum’s reaction is one of those heart warming moments that will make every child smile. Reminiscent of when mother Owl returns home in Owl Babies! But what her Mum does at the end of the story will make every child howl with laughter!!

Little P loves Nanette. Like all children she’s a funny impulsive and excitable character. Using illustrations that are a combination of 2D drawings on 3 D backgrounds Willems creates a colourful French village that’s just as inviting as Sesame Street.

We have read this book many many times and each reading brings more laughter from Little P so it has to be an eight out of ten on the P-ometer.

Nanette’s Baguette is written and illustrated by Mo Willems and published by Walker Books. ISBN: 978-1-4063-7621-0

Is New Year’s Eve the New Christmas?

The final day of 2018 was pretty perfect. A morning swim, an afternoon stroll and a child friendly firework display. The Christmas lights were sparkling and that special holiday feeling was still in the air. It was relaxed, stress-free and very enjoyable. In a way it was more enjoyable than Christmas Day. There was no pressure, no expectation and we didn’t need to spend lots of money.

There are many reasons why New Year is a more obvious celebration for a non-religious person like me. Christmas is hugely significant for christians but for everyone else it’s really become a celebration of consumerism (and too much food!). But New Year is for everyone. Muslim or jew, christian or atheist once the clock strikes midnight on December 31st the new year begins for us all. It’s a purely secular celebration and a truly egalitarian one. The earth’s journey around the sun affects us all in the same way young and old, rich and poor. As the old saying goes; “Time waits for no man”. New Year celebrations are about time, seasons and nature. Tangible things and earthly things.

Things that are essential for all of us. Things that can’t be bought in shops. That’s why New Year feels like the real event to me. A celebration not just for the humanists, the atheists, the environmentalists and the non religious, but for everyone. The earth rotated around the sun one more time and we’re still on it. Now that’s a reason to be joyful!

Children’s Book Series Recommendations

There’s something special about falling in love with a set of characters in a book and then discovering there are even more of them to enjoy. Christmas is the perfect time to introduce a new book series as a gift. Once the collection is started then it can be added to by anyone in the family looking for a gift idea. We’ve discovered eight series that are perfect for pre-schoolers and some are even suitable for ages up to six or seven. These are the ones that have really captivated Little P.

Olivia

A precocious little pig who lives in New York and loves ballet and fine art. What ‘s not to love about Olivia?! She is fiercely independent and gets up to all sorts of antics. From circus adventures to spying on her Mum and even recreating a Jackson Pollock in the living room! Olivia makes Little P laugh out loud and she loves the unusual illustrations. There are some very witty lines that will have the adults giggling along too.

The Olivia books are written and illustrated by Ian Falconer and published by Simon & Schuster

There are 11 books in the original series and then 8 more activity/colouring/board books based on the TV series.

Squishy McFluff. The Invisible Cat.

Ava has the cutest fluffiest cat called Squishy McFluff but he is always getting her into hair raising scrapes. The trouble is that the only person who can see Squishy is Ava because he’s a very special invisible cat! Pip Jones has the remarkable ability to write stories uniquely from a child’s perspective. Little P adores these books even though they are quite a long read. Squishy is every child’s fantasy pet and every parent’s worst nightmare!!

Squishy McFluff. The Invisible Cat is written by Pip Jones, illustrated by Ella Okstad and published by Faber & Faber.

There are currently 6 books in the series and a new one on the way in 2019!

Mr Men and Little Miss

The Mr Men books were first published in 1971 but they are continually adding new books to the series. The sheer variety of characters and the ridiculousness of the stories means they’ll always appeal to children (that’s definitely why they appeal to Little P!!). With their pocket money prices they are perfect for collecting.

Mr Men & Little Miss are written by Roger and Adam Hargreaves and published by Egmont.

There are 52 Mr Men books and 40 Little Miss books. But there are many many more special editions, new adventures, board books and activity books in the series. You could build up quite a library of these!

Early Readers

These are ‘stepping stones from picture books to reading books’. Perfect for preschoolers who are looking for a more substantial story and for older children taking their first steps learning to read. There is a huge variety available including characters like Horrid Henry, Poppy the Pirate Dog and Emily Mouse.

Early Readers are written and illustrated by a variety of authors and published by Orion Children’s Books.

There are over 100 books in the collection categorised into blue (reading together), red (reading alone) and green (facts and non-fiction).

Pip and Posy

This little mouse and rabbit are the best of friends. They help each other through all the trials and tribulations of being a preschooler. Such as sharing, making new friends, using the big toilet and scary Halloween monster costumes. These stories are written by the illustrator of The Gruffalo so the illustrations tell a story in themselves.

Pip and Posy is written and illustrated by Axel Scheffler and published by Nosy Crow.

There are 8 Pip and Posy books available as well as board/activity books, an activity website and an app.

Hugless Douglas

This little bear just wants to be hugged, especially by his friends the funny bunnies and the friendly sheep. Douglas often gets into bother when he’s out and about but everything comes right again with a little help from his friends. He is a lovely comforting character and makes for perfect bedtime reading.

Hugless Douglas is written and illustrated by David Melling and published by Hodder Children’s Books.

There are 20 Hugless Douglas books available.

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant

Elmer is an elephant who is a little bit different. Unlike his friends and family who are elephant coloured Elmer is multi-coloured and very proud of it too. Little P loves animals and so these books, set in the jungle full of monkeys, lions and tigers, really appeal to her. Elmer is a fun loving little character who loves playing practical jokes and the stories have plenty of laughs. Not to mention the wonderfully subtle message that it’s good to be different.

The Elmer series is written and illustrated by David McKee and published by Anderson Press.

There are 40 books available in the Elmer series.

Hairy MacLary and Friends

Hairy MacLary

If you have a child who loves cats and dogs then this is the book series for them. Hairy MacLary is a little black terrier who lives on a dairy farm. Along with his other canine pals they must contend with the local cat gang led by ‘the cranky and crotchety Scarface Claw’! There are plenty of chases and high jinx in these action packed stories. They are written in rhyme and with great character names like Bottomly Pots, Slinky Malinki and Mushroom Magee. Very useful for young children learning the more difficult phonic sounds and early readers.

The Hairy MacLary series is written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd and published by Puffin.

There are 21 books available in the series.

Christmas is different now that I’m a Mum

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Before I became a Mum I was all about the Christmas excess. I started my shopping in November and kept going until Christmas Eve. I used to spend a small fortune on gifts. Banjos, helicopter rides, expensive perfumes, cashmeres and computer games. Every Friday during November and December was Black Friday to me. So, naturally, I thought that if I ever had children I would go into festive overdrive. Santa pyjamas, selection boxes and Elves on the Shelves to beat the band!

But something funny happens when you have a child. Things that were once important suddenly don’t seem to matter anymore. Now Christmas shopping, Black Fridays and the endless stream of buying more stuff just rings hollow for me. Little P is only small so she doesn’t want loads of ‘stuff’ (a teddy bear is the only thing she has asked for this year). But at this point in her young life I know that I have the power to make her think that she wants loads of stuff. I could show her toy catalogues and TV ads, bring her to shops and turn her into a mini consumer. But why would I do that. She deserves more from Christmas.

When I think back to my childhood Christmases I get all misty eyed because they were very special indeed. But what was it that made them so special? It certainly wasn’t the amount of toys or presents. I can only remember two Santa presents in detail. One was a Wendy House and the only reason I remember is because there’s a photo of me in said Wendy House looking very pleased with myself after one too many Curly Wurlys. The second one is Crystal Barbie and let’s face it who could ever forget Crystal Barbie! It wasn’t the old cliche about family time that made it so special either. I was very fortunate to grow up with all my extended family living close by so I saw them all almost every day, not just at Christmas.

For  me the really special thing about Christmas, the one quality that set it apart from every other time of the year, was the magic. The kind jolly man in a red suit who visited every child on Christmas Eve to deliver presents. We couldn’t even stay up late and meet him. He was almost too good to be true but we knew he had to be real because all the adults talked about him too. The magic began with the ‘Shop’ Santa visit in early December. it had to be the Dunnes Stores Santa because he definitely wasn’t one of the helpers. He was obviously the real Santa because he had a real beard.

On Christmas Eve we watched the news (even the news people knew about Santa!). We had to check if he had left the North Pole on schedule and had good weather conditions for his round the world trip. They even had official satellite pictures. Then the ritual of leaving out a carrot for Rudolph, a mince pie and a bottle of beer for Santa. Peering out into the stars before we went asleep and straining our ears to hear the sleigh bells. My parents were always just as excited as we were.

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Then in the morning scrambling around in the dark for the lumpy stuffed stocking at the end of the bed. The bedroom filled with the scent of satsumas. We always waited patiently at the top of the stairs for Mum and Dad to fully wake up (there was no way we would dare to go down on our own). There were always tiny bits of white fluff that had fallen off Santa’s coat in the hallway. Finally, after plenty of build-up, Dad would open the sitting room door. The Christmas Tree lights sparkled and each one of us would make a dash to whatever surprise had been left under the tree. The half eaten carrot was left on the fireplace and mince pie crumbs on the plate. Santa had actually touched one of our plates. Imagine that!?

You see it didn’t really matter what we got under the tree, because the real magic was in how it got there. And that’s what I want to pass on to Little P. The magic of Christmas. A special and rare kind of magic that can be shared between adults and children alike. As Dr Seuss wrote way back in 1957:

‘Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, he thought, means a little bit more’.

‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’, Dr Seuss.

Mole’s Star by Britta Teckentrup

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I love children’s books to have a positive message that’s well hidden within a wonderful story. Such is the case with Britta Teckentrup’s Mole’s Star. It’s only when I was writing this review that I really teased out the beautiful messages about sharing, community spirit and empathy that are contained within this magical bedtime book.

Mole loves to come out of his dark underground burrow every night to stargaze. One lucky night he spots a shooting star and wishes he could have all the stars in the sky. But when his wish is granted Mole discovers that his gain is also a big loss for all the other animals in the wood. He soon realises that deer, mouse, bear, fox and owl love the stars just as much as he does. So, with the help of the other animals, Mole sets about getting the stars back up into the night sky where they belong.

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This is a gentle and comforting tale just right for reading to little ones before they fall asleep. Teckentrup’s print effect illustrations capture perfectly the contrasts of the matte dark night sky and the sparkling illuminations of the stars.

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Little P loves to hear about Mole as her bedtime story. The illustrations really capture her imagination and she especially loves the way he manages to get the stars out of (and back into) the sky! This scores a SEVEN out of TEN on the P-OMETER.

Mole’s Star by Britta Teckentrup is published by Orchard Books. ISBN: 978-1-40834-282-4

Foclóiropedia by Fatti & John Burke

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If you’re like me you probably don’t have very fond memories of your English/Irish dictionary or Fócloir from primary school. But if I’d been lucky enough to own a copy of Foclóiropedia with Fatti Burke’s eye poppingly gorgeous Illustrations then learning Irish would have been a completely different experience altogether!

This father and daughter team have covered every word and phrase you’re likely to need  as Gaeilge and as an adult I’ve found really useful phrases that I didn’t know, for example: ‘Is math mar a tharla’ means ‘The story had a happy ending’. Everything is easy to find in the usual categories such as Numbers, Colours, and The Weather along with some creative new ones like Similes, Telling a Story and Small Talk!

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It’s very intuitively categorised so you’ll find useful phrases such as ‘Tá sé timpeall an chúinne’ (It’s around the corner) in the Around the Town section with words for Bank, Traffic Lights, Post Office etc. Or ‘Á, nach bhfuil sé gleoite?’ (Ah, isn’t it cute?) beside the illustration of the red panda in The Zoo section.

The illustrations are a delight and sprinkled with familiar cultural references throughout. My personal favourites are the Loop the Loop, the Aisling copybook and the bag of Siúcra in The Kitchen!

Little P just loves this book because it has pictures of all of her favourite things. Children, playgrounds, farms, zoos, food, vehicles….the list goes on. It functions as a picture book for now and when she starts to learn Irish it will be a valuable resource. This is one of those special kinds of books that can be brought into a home and used by everyone, no matter what stage they are at in the learning process, for many years to come.

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The illustrations are so detailed and there are loads of them on every large page so Little P gets totally absorbed in her favourite categories (currently Ar an mBóthar, Ceol and An Zú!). And I know she’s going to get years of value out of it so this scores an EIGHT out of TEN on the P-OMETER.

Foclóiropedia by Fatti & John Burke is published by Gill Books. ISBN: 978-0-7171-7554-3