Magazine, Parents

Lunch Lady Magazine

Mums & Dads. Trust me. You need to get your hands on a copy of this luscious new magazine. Inspired by the Lunch Lady blog, Kate Berry has teamed with Louise Bannister & Lara Burke (founders of frankie magazine & Smith Journal) to publish this quarterly publication about family, food and other great stuff. 

I was lucky to get an early copy of Issue one and it is filled with all things fantastic - children's book reviews, fantastic family recipes, funny opinion pieces and interviews with the founders of two of my favourite instagram feeds - Anorak Magazine & The Indigo Bunting. Every page is a different kind of patterned deliciousness. And did I say there are stickers? To decorate your fruit of course!?!

A yellow cloth spine holds together a textured cover and thick matte pages. This magazine is truly beautiful. And lucky for us all - they ship worldwide. 

Vintage Books, 3 years +

The Snowman

Illustration by Raymond Briggs


I grew up where it was meant to snow every Christmas. It didn't. The countryside around London would only have its overdue (but uncontrollably exciting) fall every few years. As a young one this was not enough, the disappointment of another cold but snowless and probably rainy Christmas Day was deep. This extreme expectancy for snow, and eventual let-down was only ameliorated by one thing - The Snowman.

Raymond Briggs' gorgeous and graceful work is an exceptionally beautiful book. The softly crafted story is a wordless ode to winter, companionship and loss.

My first introduction to this magical friendship was the TV special aired to coincide with Christmas. This is a slightly extended tale told gently with the same graphic style of coloured pencils with large strokes overlapping to bring the subtlest of colour to every view. The attention to detail that Briggs can weave into the simple pencil strokes is also shared by the animated version, that went on to be nominated an Academy award for best short film.

I remember feeling the cold when in both book and animation the boy is building the Snowman.

I remember the heat and fear when the snowman begins to melt near the fireplace, and the relief when he gets in the freezer.

But above all, I remember the slowly building anticipation and eventual elation when the Snowman takes the boy by the hand and runs into the night sky.


If it never snows again for me on Christmas Day, I can still be happy as I will always have that feeling when I remember the pure, peaceful joy of 'The Snowman'.

A must read for every family at Christmas. 

3 years +, Little Tiger Kids, Contemporary Books

Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Illustration by Britta Teckentrup

Words by Patricia Hegarty

Pubilshed by Little Tiger Kids

A simple peek-through picture book using rhyming couplets to describe the changing of the seasons. The same tree is depicted in the same location on every page. With every turn of the page, the seasons change and the tree comes to life with new cutouts revealing different animals, birds, insects, fruit and colours. 

Central to the tree is an owl that is the central figure of the story as he experiences all seasons. "Owl sits watching in his tree... No one see as much as he." Each page is filled with colourful details and has something new for children to discover such as a spiders web, birds nest, animals hiding, new plant growth, fruit falling. The clothbound cover is solid and high quality, pages are thick and this book will survive the poke of many little fingers as they reach out to touch the numerous cutouts and revealed animals. 

Britta Teckentrup's illustrations are bold, colourful and have been created with a wood block print style, though most likely digitally created. In my opinion this book is created for a younger audience than some of her other books and the illustrations are not as detailed as her spotting books. 

I am a big fan of Britta Teckentrup's work and I have previously reviewed The Odd One Out: A Spotting Book. Be sure to check it out if you are new to her work. 

Seasons books are fairly common but very few are worthy of a special mention. Another favourite of mine is Jenny Bower's book Little Tree which I have reviewed previously. Similar in concept, the little tree is shown in the same location on every page of the book, however it starts as a seed and grows and changes with each new season. Flaps are incorporated in to the illustration on each page to reveal hidden details within the tree such as insects, rain, nest, seeds. 

3 years +, Contemporary Books, Tate

A Lion in Paris

Words and illustration by Beatrice Alemagna

Published by Tate

An oversized book with a surreal story of a lion curbing his boredom by touring the streets of Paris. Upon arriving in Paris to find "a job, love, and a future", the Lion is disappointed that despite his size (and the volume of his roar!) that no one seems to take notice of him. The simple story sees the Lion visit the many sights of Paris including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and River Seine. As the lion explores, he becomes more at ease and eventually finds his place within the city.

The story was inspired by the statue of a lion in the Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris and a curiousity to know why the Parisians are so fond of him. What a charming idea!

The absolute highlight of this book is the surreal and panoramic illustrations combining mixed media with collage and a great variety of drawing techniques. Alemagna's use of colour is very restrained but used beautifully to highlight the lion and a small number of features such as baguettes, rosie cheeks, River Seine and sparkling facade of the Centre Georges Pompidou. Distorted perspective, rough pen and pencil strokes, shading and photographic collages. The intensely detailed illustrations are charming and at times retro, reminding me of the work of Pop Art collage artists such as Richard Hamilton. 

The sheer size of this book and landscape orientation makes it really special and possibly a little awkward to hold. The book opens upwards and young readers will find themselves very up and close to the panoramic illustrations as they stretch to turn each page. This is a fantastic experience. Text is kept on the upper page of the book and the intensely detailed illustration is on the lower page.  The minimal text and clear focus on the illustration allows for the story to be enhanced in the minds of readers.

This oversized gem of a book conveys the feeling of being a stranger in a new city and is perfect for your imaginative little reader. This book is really quirky. I love it!  

Board Books, Chronicle Books, Contemporary Books, 0 - 2 years

Hide and Seek

Words & Illustration by Taro Gomi

Published by Chronicle Books

Another fantastic board book from Japanese Author-Illustrator Taro Gomi. Playful and absurd, this seek and find book is full of ultimate cuteness that only the Japanese can pull off. I love this book! Gomi's illustrations are colourful and all of the animals are elegantly captured with a soft paint effect.  

Children will delight in the challenge of finding objects hidden in plain sight and will laugh at the absurdity of some of the illustrations. Each page has one additional animal so as well as finding hidden objects, readers can practice their counting. 

A toothbrush in a crocodile's grin, a cap on a bird's head, and hearts on a butterfly's wings. A small illustration of the hidden object is shown on the left hand side of the page. This clue or preview will assist younger readers to be able to read this book on their own during playtime. This book will challenge most 18 month olds so is best suited to children over 18 months.

If you like the look of this book, I have previously reviewed Gomi's Peekaboo - a fun and interactive board book that remains a strong favourite in our house. 

Gecko Press, Contemporary Books, Bilingual Books, 3 years +

Ko Wai E Huna Ana? (Who is Hiding?)

Words and illustration by Satoru Onishi

Te Reo Maori translation by Paora Tibble

Published by Gecko Press

My husband brought this bright coloured book home for my little one after a recent work trip to New Zealand. Bright and simple, each page has 18 cute animals posing with a question. Who is hiding? Who is crying? Who is backwards? Who is who? This book is fun and interactive and little ones will learn to name animals, colours, count and recognise expressions. 

Released to celebrate Maori Language Week in New Zealand, this book introduces beginner level Te Reo Maori. It is a great book for children and adults to learn Maori with the naming of animals. 

I love to include foreign language books in our little library. I don't for one minute kid myself that my little one will become a fluent speaker of another language because of the bilingual books we include in our library. However, I do believe that it is really important to introduce little ones to other languages at a young age so that they can start to think about their own cultural identity and their place within the world. And our indigenous cultures should be a part of this education. 

Originally published in Japanese, this book is also available in English and many other languages. With simple sentences and the focus on finding the odd one out on each page it did not matter that we can't read Maori. The question posed on each page was fairly obvious for the adult reader. However, I did check the english translation of each sentence just to be sure. Thank you google translate! 

This book is fantastic fun for young children but is just as suited to anyone who wants to learn Te Reo Maori. 

3 years +, Contemporary Books, Hatchette Children's

Please Mr Panda

Words and Illustration by Steve Antony

Published by Hachette Children's Group

If your little one forgets to use please or thank you then this might just be the perfect book for your little library. Simple and amusing, Mr Panda carries a tray of doughnuts and offers them to a number of animals including a penguin, skunk, ostrich and orca. As you would expect, all of the animals say yes but the panda changes his mind and does not give them away. It is not until an upside down ring tailed lemur uses the word 'please' that the panda decides to give them away.

Little readers will be reminded of the importance of manners and they will love it when they realise why Mr Panda is not sharing his doughnuts.  Adults will love the deadpan expression on the panda's face. 

I love the restrained use of colour in this book. All of the animals in this book are monochrome. Generally, the page background is grey and the only vibrant colour on each page is the tray of doughnuts that tempts each animal. The endpapers of this book are filled with hundreds of doughnuts and are delicious! Make sure to look out for the lemur hidden amongst the doughnuts in the front endpaper.

3 years +, Contemporary Books, Bloomsbury Publishing

The Dawn Chorus

Words and Illustration by Suzanne Barton

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

A beautiful story about self discovery and the anguish felt by a little nightingale as he tries to find his place in the world. 

'Peep' wakes to a beautiful song and decides to follow the tune. The story introduces a number of animals including an owl, mouse, frog before he finally finds the Dawn Chorus - a tree full of birds that sing together every morning. 'Peep' is very excited to audition to join the group but is so disappointed to find that he can't stay awake to perform at his early morning audition. Feeling sad and alone, 'Peep' finds another bird who likes singing in the night and discovers that he is a Nightingale and has his own beautiful song to share.  

Using a combination of collage, drawing and painting, Barton has created the sweetest illustrations. Bird wings, feathers, tree leaves, flowers, music notes and the insides of the various animal's ears have been illustrated using collage and an exquisite range of textured and patterned papers. The muted colour palette and vintage charm of the papers used in the collage perfectly complements this gentle story. And the book itself must be mentioned, I loved the textured cover of the book and the metallic copper lettering of the title. 

My little one loves to listen to birdsong in our garden. This book is a great introduction for the many types of birds that we will see and hear together. The story also introduces the concept of nocturnal birds. This gentle tale is a perfect bedtime story for little ones. 

0 - 2 years, Tate, Vintage Books


Words & Illustration by Oili Tanninen

A sweet story about a mouse called Hippu that invites a homeless dog called Heppu to stay with him. Together with many baby mice and a random chick, they enjoy a day filled with many simple and everyday activities. Little readers will be able to identify the ordinary activities on each page and relate to Hippu & Heppu as they go shopping, eat, play dress ups, go for a walk, watch television, have a bath, sleep and drive a car. 

Originally published in 1967, this book was republished by Tate Publishing in 2014. This book is so fresh and modern that it could easily have been created today with computer illustration. There is a lovely blurb at the rear of the book written by Tanninen that describes her inspiration and process for the book. It is lovely to read that the bold illustrations were created with collage, using torn and cutout  pieces of Japanese origami paper and Tanninen then filled in the images by drawing. 

The Finnish author and illustrator's three objectives for the book were as follows: The book had to be small and square and easy for a one year old to hold in their hands, cheap to print using only two colours (red and black); and the book had to tell a story with ordinary, everyday events that all children could relate to. 

Similar in size and equally bold, this book will sit well next to your Dick Bruna classics. A simple story with a sweet message and seriously cute illustrations. Perfect for the littlest of readers. 

3 years +, Contemporary Books, Tate

Grandma's House

Words & Illustration by Alice Melvin

I was so excited to buy this book as my little one loves to visit her grandparents and I am a massive fan of the British Illustrator Alice Melvin's work. 

Exquisite. This book is so rich with colour and detail that it is an absolute joy to get lost within its pages. We really enjoyed exploring the various rooms within Grandma's House and I am sure that your little readers will too. The book follows a little girl who often visits her grandmother after school. She moves through the house looking for her grandmother and every spread is a treasure trove of detail and it was hard for me not to feel nostalgic with every page turn. I could relate to so many of the details contained within an old period style home and the collection of objects contained within a home that has so clearly shared so much family history. 

At least one cut out window is included on every spread with a glimpse in to the room where you have come and a peek in to the next room. Children will love to peek through these doorways and guess what room is next. The attic is particularly special with a page unfolding twice to reveal an attic and a gloomy space filled with family heirlooms.

The level of detail captured by Melvin is extreme. It is wonderful to see beautiful stained glass windows, mosaic tiles, lush plants, and patterned rugs illustrated alongside the mundane details such as light switches, power points, rubbish bin and broom, wallpaper patterns, a metronome on top of the piano, downpipes and a garden hose. 

Melvin's illustrations reminded me of the work of my favourite Australian artist Cressida Campbell. Like Campbell's painted woodblock prints, Melvin's illustrations are so detailed that I get the sense that I am privy to the inside of their own homes or their childhood memories. This beautiful book is a special treat. 

6 years +, Pop-Up Books, Tate

Madame Sonia Delaunay

Paper Engineered by Gerard Lo Monaco 

Published by Tate Publishing

A couple of months ago, I spent an inspiring afternoon in London admiring the fabulous 20th century work of the late great Sonia Delaunay. A critical figure in modern art, and sadly under-recognised for her talent, Delaunay explored new colour theories to create the colourful, abstract and energetic paintings, textiles and clothes. 

Gerard Lo Monaco has created 'Madame Sonia Delaunay' - this sophisticated pop up book to coincide with the 2015 exhibition of Sonia Delaunay's work. The pop up illustrations are based on Sonia Delaunay's original work and have been reconfigured with additional illustration and text to create this playful new publication. For reference, the original artworks are reproduced at the rear of the book. 

Gerard Lo Monaco is an Argentinian illustrator, art director and paper engineer based in Paris. The book is really clever and his reconfigured illustrations convey the gusto and colour intensity of the original works. A physically small book with thick matte pages, it is so exquisite that it feels like an artwork in itself. 

This book is a lovely introduction for children in to the world of art and critical thought. Each image is accompanied by a rhyming verse that is both insightful and funny. Using poetry and pop-up illustrations, children are encouraged to critique the artwork and use their imaginations to interpret the illustrations.

Join me for a treasure hunt
in Africa’s wild continent.
Searching for the crocodile -
can you see his eyes and smile?
And those other wriggling shapes,
do you think they might be snakes?

The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay continues at the Tate Modern until 9 August 2015. 

0 - 2 years, Vintage Books, Babalibri

Il Palloncino Rosso

Illustration by Iela Mari

Published by Babalibri

Simple, minimalist and elegant. A wordless Italian children's book that follows the transformation of a red bubble as it morphs in to a balloon, apple, butterfly, flower and finally into an umbrella. All objects commonly depicted in children's books. The perspective and size of the red object constantly changes throughout the book. 

Originally published in 1967 by the Italian artist, Iela Mari. The small green hardcover book is detailed using only black pen lines and one block colour of red on each spread. The hand drawn black lines capture large areas of detail such as fields of flowers and apple tree branches. The detailed black lines contrast beautifully with the heavy block of red colour. The rain has been beautifully depicted with very fine, black parallel lines offset very close together across the page. A superb contrast to the large red umbrella.  

The book starts with a young boy blowing a red bubble and ends with this same boy holding a red umbrella. Perhaps Mari is trying to convey a deeper meaning by reintroducing the boy at the end of the book. This is very subtle and a bit lost on me but others may read something in to this. 

A short and sweet wordless book. It is graphically bold and superbly simple. Kids will be amazed by the transformation of the red bubble. 

Contemporary Books, 3 years +, Thames & Hudson

Stripe Island

Words & Illustration by Tupera Tupera

Published by Thames & Hudson

As the name suggests, everything on Stripe Island is stripy. The book starts with a stripy sun rise and describes a stripetastic day. The story is a detailed description of a day in the life of a striped boy called Stanley and his experience visiting his town's spectacular Festival of Stripes.  While the story itself is fairly unremarkable, the details described are quirky and fun and the colourful illustrations are an absolute treat. 

As you would expect from a local fete or circus, the book details many and varied stripy acts and sideshows. Everything from a striped strongman and a snoozing striped elephant to the teeniest tiniest stripy bug. My favourite being the "stupendously long, spiralling stripy beard" and the stripy children measuring its length with a stripy tape measure. It is all very absurd and quite funny.

I think that kids as young as babies will enjoy the stimulating and chaotic details contained within the pages of this colourful book. It is quite the treasure trove of funny illustrations including singing bears, babies, acrobats, cake and many different animals.  Adults will enjoy the kooky details such as Stanley's father who "adds up stripy sums and solves stripy problems". 

It is a little bit hard to tell exactly what the artist has used to illustrate these colourful pictures (I wish I could read Japanese!) but I think they have used mixed medium with a combination of crayons, pencils and/or pastels? The hand drawn pictures appear like cutouts and are absolutely charming. The bold black and white endpapers are fabulous and beautifully set off the chaos of the detailed coloured illustrations inside the book. 

Tupera Tupera are a husband-and-wife design team based in Japan. They have created many great titles in Japanese but unfortunately only a handful have been published in English. Chronicle Books released an hilarious title called Polar Bear's Underwear earlier this year. Other Tupera Tupera works include a great variety of playful and interactive faces and animated fruit and vegetables. I hope to see more of their colourful books released in English soon!

This is a fun bedtime story - "sweet stripy dreams, everyone!"

Reviewed by Georgia White

0 - 2 years, Board Books, Macmillan Children's Book

Orange Pear Apple Bear

Words and Illustration by Emily Gravett

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

Emily Gravett has perfected simplicity with this delicious board book for babies. 

Simple, funny and playful. The four words in the title are rearranged and repeated to create a playful series of sweet illustrations that depict an orange, pear, apple and bear. The order and punctuation of the words change the meaning depicted on each page of the book. Imagination is ripe with the changing appearance of the cuddly bear and his lively and mischievous antics with his soon-to-be devoured lunch. The varied combinations and accompanying illustrations make this book a great primer for the introduction of colours, shapes and simple language.

The book's illustrations are perfectly minimalist. Softly outlined sketches are filled with the muted watercolours of orange, green and brown and a crisp white background makes each of the illustrations stand out. 

Using only five words (orange, pear, apple, bear and there), the repetition and rhyming of these words creates an enchanting tempo and spoken rhythm. 

This book is a little surreal and really funny! It is wonderful to find a board book for babies that is just as amusing for adults and children alike. To enliven the imagination of your little one, this book will certainly bear fruit! (Sorry about the pun.) 

0 - 2 years, Pop-Up Books, Walker Books

I'm Shy

Words and sculptures by David A. Carter

Published by Walker Books

This charming pop-up book is read on repeat in our household. Like no other, my little one is completely entranced. "Who is in the hole?"

The bashful octopus needs a little bit of encouragement, but with each turn of the page he slowly reveals a little more of himself. And just as he introduces himself as "shy" he slowly disappears back in to the hole. 

The paper sculptures have been meticulously designed by the talented David A. Carter so that the octopus literally moves in an out of his hole as he slowly reveals himself. The sweet little octopus exudes so much character that he really does appear to be alive.

This book is very sweet and perfect for the littlest of readers. While it will be necessary to restrain little fingers to avoid losing any tentacles, the movement of eyes and tentacles as they dart across the page or pop out of the book are fascinating for babies and toddlers. 

Midweek Shelfie

Midweek Shelfie

Universe Publishing, 3 years +, Vintage Books


Words & Illustration by William Wondriska

Published by Universe Publishing

Puff is a reprint of a rare 1960s children's book by the acclaimed American illustrator and writer William Wondriska. This rediscovered classic is the story of a small steam engine that lives in a train yard and dreams of one day travelling and having grand adventures to places like Egypt, Italy, India, Paris and even a space station. Puff gets the chance to broaden his horizons and do something important when a modern engine breaks down in a snowstorm and circus cars filled with animals need his help.   

Similar to his other classic children's book A Long Piece of String, Wondriska uses only three colours (black, white and red) to illustrate this lovely underdog story. The graphics appear like woodblock prints with the details carved by hand. The illustration of the steam engine is identical on every page, like a stamp. The only change to the engine is that the illustration of the engine's steam (using the letter 'puff') differs according to the activities of the steam engine. 

Text is used as part of the book's illustration in the most wonderful and playful way to document the steam of the steam engine, convey the contrasting level of noise created by a small steam engine ('puff') and a big modern engine ('DING DING DING DING DING DING'), capture the echo of the small steam engine in a deep canyon, convey the strain and large amount of steam produced by the small engine as it climbs the highest mountain and the speed with which it rides down the mountain. The sound of the wet and cold animals is also documented using the letters that make up "howl and yowl and screech" in a range of sizes, font types and colours. The enormity and randomness of these letters is a clever way to convey the animal's distress and the seriousness of the situation. 

There has been a lot of mid-20th century children's book released recently by publishers such as Tate Publishing and Chronicle Books. I have reviewed other classic children's books that have recently been reprinted including Dick Bruna's The Apple and Celestino Piatti's The Happy Owls. It is wonderful that the work of classic designer's such as William Wondriska has been reprinted so that it can be shared with a new generation of kids and graphic designers. 

3 years +, Edizioni Corraini, Vintage Books, Bilingual Books

Bruno Munari's ABC

Words & Illustration by Bruno Munari

Published by Edizioni Corraini (Italian edition) and Chronicle Books (English edition)

I purchased this classic children's alphabet book from Present&Correct on a recent trip to London. The Italian edition of this book is a little bit harder to find than the English version but is worth hunting down as it includes all text in both Italian and English. I love to find bilingual books for my little library so I was very happy to find this one! 

Illustrated by the late great Italian artist & designer Bruno Munari, the book starts with an Ant on an Apple, and continues with a Blue Butterfly, Banana and a Book. As to be expected, the entire alphabet is illustrated. The book features many predictable items such as a dog, elephant and fish but there is also many fun and random inclusions such as a vertical violet violin and a watermelon on a wagon with a wooden wheel. The book is filled with lots of gorgeous details. Some of the illustrations do appear a little dated now (such as the Ticket & Telephone) but I think that they still remain easily recognisable. 

The letter 'F' is beautifully illustrated using a Fly, a Flower, a Feather, more Flies and a Fish. There is a pesky fly that breaks free of his own 'F' page and reappears throughout the book in the Green Grass ("still another fly!), under a Hammer ("look out, fly!") and close to an Icecream ("shoo, fly!"). Just as you think that the fly has disappeared, it reappears to the amusement of little readers on the letter 'V' as "a fly on a Voyage". The book ends with the fly making the final sound for the letter Zzzzzz.

Each letter of the alphabet is printed large and black and contrasts sharply with the crisp white pages. The book illustrations are bold and detailed using a great variety of gorgeous colours. Bright illustrations sit confidently within large areas of white space and Munari uses paint brushstrokes and gradients of colour washes to provide detail.  

Originally published in 1960, this classic alphabet book is funny, witty and beautifully illustrated. I love to include classic books by great artists in my little library and a children's book by Bruno Munari is definitely one to be shared with our littlest readers.

Reviewed by Georgia White