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

Cáca don Rí written by Ailbhe Nic Giolla Bhrighde and illustrated by Steve Simpson

We weren’t specifically looking for a book as Gaeilge but when we spotted Cáca don Rí by Ailbhe Nic Giolla Bhrighde Little P was instantly drawn to Steve Simpson’s vibrant illustrations. Rúbaí Rua is a star baker bunny and people come from miles around to sample her macaroons, her meringues, her pancakes and her pies. She has some special mouse pals who love living in the bakery with Rúbaí but they don’t get much chance to help because she insists on doing everything by herself.

Rúbaí is particularly famous for her birthday cakes and when she gets a visit from the king himself looking for one of her special cakes for his birthday there is great excitement in the bakery. Rúbaí creates a real showstopper for the king’s birthday on her own of course as she refuses all help from the mice. After bedtime the mice can’t resist coming out of their hole for one last peek at the cake. But as they climb onto each other’s shoulders disaster strikes! They take a tumble and knock the king’s birthday cake onto the ground in smithereens! Rúbaí hasn’t got enough time to make a new cake by herself so she finally accepts some help from the mice. They all work together right through the night to make an even more impressive cake just in time for the king’s birthday.

This is a wonderful story about the benefits of cooperation and learning to work as part of a team. If you have decent Leaving Certificate Irish you will have no problem translating the story for little ones who are just learning. Meanwhile primary school children will enjoy the easy to read Irish (not to mention parents like me who want to expand their cúpla focail). The illustrations are so vibrant and full of detail. Little P spends ages poring over them. She loves hearing the story over and over again particularly when disaster strikes and the cake crashes to the ground! Cáca don Rí scores an eight out of ten on the P-OMETER.

Cáca don Rí written by Ailbhe Nic Giolla Bhrighde and illustrated by Steve Simpson is published by Futa Fata. ISBN: 978-1-910945-29-2

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.