Picture Books with Attitude

There are so many fantastic picture books available we are often spoilt for choice. But sometimes you could be looking for something a little bit different. Maybe to explore a particular issue or pique the interest of a child who is not an avid book fan. Here are three unforgettable books we discovered recently that celebrate all that is different and tackle some very timely issues.

Frockodile written by Jeanne Willis & illustrated by Stephanie Laberis is published by Hodder Children’s Books

Cliff is a little crocodile who really enjoys dressing up in pretty dresses and high heels. But when the sneery hyenas discover this they waste no time in threatening to tell Cliff’s rather macho Dad. To save face he tells them he’s rehearsing for a show which he then has to go ahead and perform. Although he worries about what his Dad will think, with the help and support of his froggy friends, Cliff decides to stage a show that celebrates his true identity (complete with dress and heels). But the biggest surprise of all is the absolute delight of his Dad who turns up in a pair of red stilettos!!

Cannonball Coralie and the Lion written & illustrated by Grace Easton is published by Lincoln Children’s Books

Coralie reminds me very much of Pippi Longstocking. She is a brave independent girl who lives alone in the woods. She has taught herself how to juggle, balance and do all sorts of tricks. One day a travelling circus passes through the wood and she decides to join. Coralie becomes very fond of the circus lion but the ringmaster is not impressed with her tricks and tells her she must become the human cannonball if she wants to stay in the circus. The ever brave Coralie takes up the challenge with the help of her new lion friend. But when the ringmaster is still not happy she leads a rebellion against his bullying ways. Soon the whole circus follows Coralie back to the wood and there they live happily together performing their tricks free from rules and bullies!

The Bandit Queen written by Natalia O’Hara & illustrated by Lauren O’Hara is published by Puffin

A group of bandits kidnap a little orphan girl and decide to turn her into their queen. She turns out to be more than they bargained for as ‘she screeched and roared and peed on the floor’!! But they love her anyway and use their thieving ways to lavish her with all the material goods she could possibly want. However when the bandit queen grows a little older she realises that she needs more than material possessions so she decides to run away to school where she can make friends and learn about the world. Meanwhile the bandits miss her so much they decide to do some growing up of their own and mend their raucous ways. Eventually the little girl misses her tribe of bandits too so she returns to the place where she belongs.

I have read all these books for Little P and although she was interested (particularly in Coralie and the Lion!) they are probably most suitable for older children, possibly right up to age 7 or 8.

Giraffe Problems written by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith

Anthropomorphism has been used as a story telling technique way back since Aesop wrote his fables. It has worked successfully for children’s authors from Beatrix Potter to Julia Donaldson. In the best stories it’s easy to forget that the characters are actually animals at all. Such is the case with Giraffe Problems. Edward the giraffe and Cyrus the tortoise practically leap off the page they are written with such personality.

Edward the giraffe is very unhappy with his neck. It’s too long and draws far too much attention from the other animals. He tries to hide it by covering up with neckties and scarves or camouflaging himself among the trees until sunset. But then he meets Cyrus the tortoise who has been admiring Edward’s impressive neck from afar. This little tortoise has his own body issues. His tiny, pathetic excuse for a neck! When Edward effortlessly picks a banana from the top of the tree, to give Cyrus his first taste of the sweet fruit, he is beyond impressed. They soon become firm friends and begin to appreciate the qualities of their own unique necks!

This is a witty, warm tale about self acceptance and how good friends can help us to appreciate our best qualities. Little P has completely fallen in love with Edward and Cyrus. They make her laugh out loud. She loves John’s conversational writing style and the gorgeous textured illustrations from Lane Smith. There is also a wonderful pull out page of Edward picking the banana from the tree to show off his impressive neck.

Giraffe Problems gets a big thumbs up from Little P and an impressive eight out of ten on the P-OMETER.

Giraffe Problems written by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith is published by Walker Books. ISBN: 978-1-4063-8316-4.

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

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.

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