Captain Sparklebeard written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Sam Lloyd

I have to admit that I was not quite taken with Captain Sparklebeard at first. I found the Cinderella style opening a bit old fashioned and I thought it all might be too wacky for Little P to understand. But I could not have been more wrong! This is one of those special books that immediately engages preschoolers.

By day Peg works hard for her wicked step great grand Auntie (!) but at night she reads books filled with pirate stories. She dreams of heading off on her own pirate adventure and when the pirates come to town she sees her chance of escape. But when Peg asks Captain Hairy Ears if she can join his crew he just laughs. Who ever heard of a small, polite pirate who reads books! And she doesn’t even have a beard!! This makes Peg more determined then ever so she gets to work making a pirate costume from curtains and a beard from the sweeping brush. A little extra sparkle from her Auntie’s jewellery box and Captain Sparklebeard is born.

When Captain Sparklebeard turns up in her boat made from books Captain Hairy Ears and his crew are unimpressed. Who ever heard of a boat made from books?!! But Peg is certain she will find the treasure before the pirates. Using her ingenuity and her reading skills she makes her way through whirl pools, past sea monsters and over underwater volcanoes. Finally she reaches Treasure Island where X marks the spot. Captain Hairy Ears and his crew are so impressed, even when they find out that Captain Sparklebeard is really a little girl, they beg her to teach them to read and let them join her crew. And so a small little girl who reads books becomes the greatest pirate that ever was!!

Little P LOVES Captain Sparklebeard and so do I. It’s a truly child-centric book with so many positive messages that never interfere with the fun of the story. The illustrations are brilliantly bold and provide another element of the story with perilous maps and cheeky sea creatures. This has to score a ten out of ten on the P-OMETER. OOH-ARR!!

Captain Sparklebeard written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Sam Lloyd is published by Egmont. ISBN: 978-1-4052-9131-6

Bedtime Picture Books

My initial reason for choosing Firefly Home was the fact that it is illustrated by Britta Teckentrup. Little P has already fallen in love with her beautiful night time images in Mole’s Star.

Here her night illustrations tell the story of a little lost firefly in this wonderfully interactive book by Jane Clarke. Firefly sees lots of different lights in the night sky, including a lighthouse and a speeding train, but none of them take him home. The reader must encourage firefly along his journey until at last the sparkling lights of other fireflies appear to finally guide him home.

This is a gentle bedtime story perfect for reading aloud. It encourages plenty of chat and interaction with a lovely comforting conclusion.

Firefly Home written by Jane Clarke and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup is published by Nosey Crow. ISBN: 978-1-78800-490-9

It may be bedtime but Ella, Barney and Olive are getting ready for a night time adventure. Barney wants to see pirates and Olive is hoping to visit the jungle but all that Ella wants is to meet a real live dragon. They travel to faraway magical lands but when their hot air balloon crashes a huge shadow swoops down from the sky to help. Finally Ella finds her dragon.

This story has a wonderful dreamy quality and although it is exciting there is a gentle wind down to a sleepy ending.

Wishing for a Dragon written and illustrated by Becky Cameron is published by Hodder Children’s Books. ISBN: 978-1-444-93623-0

The Light in the Night is the ideal picture book for little ones who may feel nervous in the dark. Cosmo, the bear in Betty’s storybook, is afraid of the dark. When he pops out of the book and into Betty’s bedroom she decides to take him on a little trip to soothe his fears. Into the darkest cave they go to see the most spectacular light show from the fireflies. ‘We need the dark’, explains Betty ‘to see the light’. But when Betty can’t remember the way home through the dark forest it is brave Cosmo who leads her back home. Together they find the light of courage that shines within.

Cosmo and Betty are charming characters and the illustrations capture the magic and beauty of the night perfectly. This book would certainly help to allay any night fears.

The Light in the Night written and illustrated by Marie Voigt is published by Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 978-1-4711-7326-4