If you’ve been reading Cardiff Mummy Says for a while you’ll know we’re a family of book lovers. Reading stories to my children has always been one of my favourite things to do and it’s been a big part of our bedtime routine ever since my eldest was a few weeks old. She’s nine now and although she’s an avid independent reader she still loves snuggling up and being read to. She and her seven year old brother now read their little brother (aged 4¾) bedtime stories and it’s the sweetest thing.
I’m often asked what books we recommend so I’m starting a new monthly series where we share the books we have loved reading that month. You’ll find all sorts here from new releases to old favourites: a mixture of fiction and factual as well as picture books and chapter books. Some we own ourselves; others are borrowed from our local library.
We hope it will provide inspiration if you’re looking for new reading material. We’d also love to hear about your favourite books so do let me know in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy
For more reading inspiration for children and grown-ups see the Books section of Cardiff Mummy Says.
Oi Frog by Kes Grey and Jim Field
(Hodder Children’s Books)
Cat tells Frog to sit on a log. Frog doesn’t want to. Cat tells him frogs always sit on logs. Just like cats sit on mats and hares sit on chairs and all manner of other creatures can only sit on things they rhyme with. Just don’t ask what dogs sit on… Filled with bright and bold images this imaginative book will have older toddlers and pre-schoolers laughing out loud. Children who are learning to read will also be able to join in with the rhyming sentences (with parents breathing a sigh of relief that these books are a lot more fun than the standard school reading books). Other titles in the same series include the just-as-funny Oi Dog! and Oi Cat! and the newest addition Oi Duck-billed Platypus! which questions where all the animals whose names don’t rhyme with anything are supposed to sit.
Good Night Everyone by Chris Haughton
My four year old is a huge fan of Chris Haughton with Ssh! We Have A Plan, Oh No, George! and A Bit Lost among his favourite and most-requested books. He was really excited to find Goodnight Everyone at the library, recognising the author’s distinctive purple and blue illustrations instantly. It’s not as funny and quirky as the other books although it does contain several cut pages inside which increase in size, which he loved. Rather it’s a gentle read about going to bed which would be great for families struggling with bedtimes. With a simple melodic tone and soothing pace it reminded me of the classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Perfect for toddlers as their last book before bed it’s a great stepping stone to Chris’s other books.
How To Be A Viking by Cressida Cowell
(Hodder Children’s Books)
My daughter is currently enjoying the How To Train Your Dragon series of books and all three of my children loved the films and are eagerly awaiting the new one out in the cinema this week – so they were keen to borrow this picture book from the library. They were thrilled to see it featured Hiccup – the main character from the books/films – and his father Stoick the Vast. The book follows Hiccup who is frightened about going to sea for the very first time. His father tells him that Vikings don’t get scared… but when their ship is caught in a wild storm and all the Vikings get seasick Hiccup has to face his fears, take charge and steer the ship home. The language is humorous and punchy but with an underlying message that while we all get frightened facing our fears and getting over them is what makes us brave.
Funny Bones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
First published in 1980, my seven-year-old middle child has loved this ever since we gave it to him on his third birthday. In fact he loves so many of the Ahlbergs’ books including Cops and Robbers, Burglar Bill and Each Peach Pear Plum. The opening lines “On a dark dark hill / there was a dark dark town / In the dark dark town there was a dark dark street…” set the scene for a slightly spooky take of skeletons causing mischief in the middle of the night. A dog skeleton gets put back together wrongly; they go to the zoo where they ride on a skeleton elephant; and then, unable to find people to frighten, they scare each other instead. The black backgrounds on the images makes it quite distinctive compared to other children’s books, while the repetition makes it good for children learning to read – my son now does a great job of reading us the story. Some from memory I’m sure but lots of it working out the words himself.
Pum Munud Arall? by Richard Dugworth, adapted by Tudur Dylan Jones
I featured this book previously in a round-up of bilingual Welsh and English books my children love. Two years on and it’s still a firm favourite with my pirate-loving kids. The book is about a group of pirate children who aren’t tired and won’t go to bed. “Just five minutes more!” they ask. The captain gives them lots of jobs to do on board the pirate ship in an effort to tire them out – but will it work? The repetitive rhyming text is very engaging and the refrain “Amser gwely, blantos!” (“Bedtime, children!”) has become one of our little family sayings. We have the Welsh language version which also includes an English translation at the back. The original English story is also available as Five Minutes To Bed.
To Wee or Not To Wee by Pamela Butchart and illustrated by Thomas Flintham
Another library find, my nine year old daughter loved this one so much she’d finished reading it by the next morning. Pamela Butchart retells four of Shakespeare’s plays (Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet) in a light-hearted, humorous and accessible way. The action is summarised in a chatty and fast-paced style with a few little liberties and embellishments to help the young audience understand the plots and themes of the famous works. The stories are re-told through the character of Izzy (the star of Butchart’s other books including The Spy Who Loved School Dinners and My Headteacher is a Vampire), who manages to relate them to every day situations. Her mum and her friend’s mum falling out, for example, leads nicely into the family feud of Romeo and Juliet. The pages are easy to look at with large text with some words in bold or in upper case letters and black and white illustrations dotted throughout.
Stig of the Dump by Clive King
I’ve just finished reading this one to my seven-year-old and was so pleased he loved it as much as I did as a child. Filled with plenty of adventure and imagination, Stig of the Dump is about a young boy called Barney who, while staying with his grandmother, discovers a cave boy living in the middle of the rubbish dump at the bottom of the chalk pit he’s been told not to go near. Despite not being able to converse with each other the two become firm friends. Barney helps Stig make windows and a chimney in his house while Stig scares off the local bullies and even infiltrates a children’s fancy dress party. The book is 242 pages and the chapters quite long with not many breaks in the text so it took us a while to get through. We’d usually manage around half a chapter a night. It’s a simple book but gives rise to a lot of discussion – like Stig’s reactions to modern inventions (or at least modern when the book was published in 1981 which in turn now seem dated to my son). The chapter on fox hunting hasn’t really stood the test of time but we had a long conversation about it. Equally the idea of children roaming around for hours on end without a grown-up every day of the summer holidays – which as a child of the 1980s I did plenty of – was something he couldn’t quite get his head around either. It was great to rediscover this one again.
For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George
My children first came across Malala Yousafzai in Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls a beautifully inspiring hard-backed collection about women and girls who have achieved incredible things against the odds (you can read our review here). When we saw this book at our local library my daughter was keen to learn more about the little girl who stood up for her right to have an education. The book contains beautiful illustrations throughout and small amounts of text on each page, however it’s much longer and more detailed than your average picture book, dealing with some quite complex issues. That said, I still read it to my nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son in one sitting because they were so gripped by this retelling of Malala’s experiences. The book doesn’t shy away from the realities of the Taliban’s brutal regime or Malala being shot for standing up for what she believed in – but everything is written sensitively and simply. The book lead to a lot of further conversations about girls being denied education and how militants can gain control. My daughter in particular was incredibly inspired by Malala announcing as soon as we’d finished reading it. “I want to do something amazing to change the world like Malala”.
Sir Tony Robinson’s The Worst Children’s Jobs in History
If ever you want your children to appreciate just how lucky they are to be born in the 21st century and why school isn’t that bad after all then this is the book to do it. Written in a really humorous style, Sir Tony Robinson recounts some of the most grotesque and dangerous jobs undertaken by children over the centuries before child labour was made illegal. A fuller’s apprentice, for example, spent all day standing in a barrel full of stale urine treading wool so that it tightened up; Victorian crossing sweepers spent all day clearing poo left by horse-drawn carts off the roads so that rich people had a clear path to cross. In the 18th century when people developed a love for sugar and their teeth started to rot children could earn some extra money by having their healthy adult teeth extracted (in the days before modern anaesthetic had been invented) and placed into the mouth of a wealthy adult. With quirky illustrations and colourful fact boxes breaking up the main text, as well as Top Trump style scores ranking the jobs on such factors as Danger, Filth, Boredom and Cash, this is a really engaging book that will appeal to fans of Horrible Histories and the like.