Billy and the Beast written & illustrated by Nadia Shireen

The test of a really good book, in my opinion, is how long it lives in a child’s imagination after the last page is closed. In this case Billy and the Beast passes with flying colours. Ever since we first read this story (and we have reread many times!) it has featured solely in Little P’s role play. She alternates between playing Billy (when my considerable acting skills are employed as the beast) or thoroughly enjoying her role as the fierce (but slightly dimwitted) beast.

Billy is our big haired heroine who sets off for a walk in the woods with her beloved pet Fat Cat. Along the way they meet their pals the hedgehogs, the fox, the mice and the adorable fluffy bunnies. But when they return along the path everyone has disappeared. Suddenly it all goes dark and Billy and Fat Cat find themselves in the cave of the Terrible Beast. Beastie is making his Terrible Soup and planning to use all of Billy’s friends as the ingredients! Luckily brave Billy is a quick thinker and comes up with plenty of clever tricks to deter the beast and save her pals. Finally the adorable fluffy bunnies trap the beast in his own soup pot and roll him off down the hill.

This story is full of wonderful surreal moments (Billy stores donut snacks in her big hair for Fat Cat) along with comforting familiarities (when their adventure is over they all head home for chips). Shireen’s illustrations are bold and full of character. It’s perfect for pre-schoolers who enjoy a gentle scare and the smart, unflappable Billy is super cool.

We have read this so many times and acted out the story everywhere from the playground to the beach. Little P even makes Terrible Soup for her Dad! Billy and the Beast has to get a 9 out of 10 on the P-OMETER.




Billy and the Beast written & illustrated by Nadia Shireen is published by Penguin Random House. ISBN: 978-1-780-08068-0

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.