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.