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

The Hug written by Eoin McLaughlin and illustrated by Polly Dunbar

It’s very special to read a picture book to a child and watch the emotions play out on their faces as the story unfolds. The Hug had that very effect on Little P. It contains two stories, one at the front of the book and one at the back, read separately but both coming to the same heart warming conclusion in the centre of the book.

The first story is about hedgehog who really needs a hug but all the animals that he meets find an excuse not to give him one. Then he meets Owl who explains that maybe the other animals are put off by hedgehog’s prickles. ‘But don’t worry there’s someone for everyone’ Owl tells the sad little hedgehog.

The second story is about tortoise who ALSO really needs a hug but all the animals that he meets find an excuse not to give him one. Then he meets Owl who explains that maybe the other animals are put off by tortoise’s hard shell. ‘But don’t worry there’s someone for everyone’ Owl tells the sad little tortoise.

Finally destiny intervenes and brings hedgehog and tortoise together in the warmest, cuddliest, happiest of hugs. Owl was right there really is someone for everyone!

Polly Dunbar brings all the characters to life with her vivid illustrations in Eoin McLaughlin’s wonderful story about emotions, love and empathy.

It was a joy to watch Little P get lost in this book. She fell in love with hedgehog and tortoise, full of sympathy when they had nobody to give them a hug. When they finally meet and hug each other she has the widest smile on her face every time we read it! She also gets a lot of fun from the two stories in one book. The Hug scores a nine out of ten on the P-OMETER.

The Hug written by Eoin McLaughlin and illustrated by Polly Dunbar is published by Faber & Faber. ISBN: 9780571340019

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.

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.