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In this section we have brought together some of our favourite bedtime reads that we hope will become yours too.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Award-winning Oliver Jeffers will capture the hearts and minds of children and adults alike with this story of a father and daughter making plans to build a world that will keep them safe in the future. Brimming with hope but not ignoring the possibilities that the world and what happens next in it will present challenges, What We’ll Build is founded in the mundane (almost!) as the father and his daughter assemble building tools including a hammer, saw and drill – and a pig! What they go on to build including a place to store love, a hole to hide in, a wall to keep enemies out and a gate to let them, a tunnel to anywhere, a road to the stars and much more and the reasons why they may need them it is summed up in the briefest of texts and Jeffers magical, vividly coloured story- telling illustrations. Inspired by becoming a father, What We’ll Build is a childhood classic that will be shared over and over again.
Having suffered heatwaves and COVID anxiety, we can all empathise with the tired and grumpy Arlo who just cannot sleep. The hero of the Greenaway medal winner’s new book speaks to us all, but particularly to over-tired and over excited small children who do not know how to let go of the day. Luckily for Arlo, and for children, Owl is to hand with some useful advice on how he manages to sleep when everyone is awake during the day. The logic of receiving advice from a nocturnal animal will really register with this audience. “Have a good stretch from your nose to your toes/ Do a little wriggle, let your eyes gently close/Relax your whole body, slow your breathing right down/ Imagine you’re sinking into the soft ground". The gentle refrain that Owl teaches Arlo is the perfect antidote for us all- a little bit of mindfulness that would also be a lovely calm down routine in the classroom! Not only are the illustrations a visual feast, with a stunning colour palette marking the transitions between night and day, but Arlo and Owl are beautifully characterised. Another trademark from this hugely talented author is the warm humour. Arlo is so excited by his long and restful sleep that he must tell Owl- and wakes him up! The song is reciprocated with success and their joint celebrations at dusk wake the rest of the neighbourhood and a duet is required to restore calm. The repeated refrain will be one that is copied in homes and classrooms everywhere. Useful for mindfulness and as an introduction to Night and Day topics, this stunning book is a real triumph of beautiful words and images working in absolute harmony.
Best friends Betty and Maud love doing everything together. And they are sure that their favourite toys, Duck and Penguin do too. But Duck and Penguin do NOT! While Betty and Maud share playing in the sandpit, taking turns on the swings, painting and baking, Duck and Penguin push each other off the swings, crush each other’s sandcastles, and cover each other with paint and cake mix. Can they ever be friends? Luckily they can! Julia Woolf conveys this witty story about friendship – or not – most effectively through the venomous scowls and frowns and ferocious looks between the two soft toys in contrast to the brilliant warm smiles of Betty and Maud.
Bear and Squirrel are best friends and do everything together. Bear describes it beautifully: ‘Like peas in a pod, you and I fit/ Like strawberries and cream, we are a hit’. The pictures however are telling a different story and we can all see that sometimes – quite often in fact – Squirrel is more than a little irritated by Bear, not to mention squashed, bashed and accidentally knocked about! When it all gets too much, Squirrel tells Bear he needs space and Bear, being a really good friend, understands. Check the illustrations again though, and we can see that life without Bear just isn’t the same. Steve Small’s illustrations are full of humour but poignant too and Smiriti Hall’s rhyming text a delight to read aloud; this is a virtuoso portrayal of what friendship means.
There are lots of things Bear loves, and he tells us all about them in this charming picture book. From playing with friends, to reading with Daddy, to wearing his underpants on his head (surely to be a favourite image with readers!), all is described through a jolly rhyming text and accompanying lively illustrations. Even when he’s giving in to the naughty little voice in his ear and playing tricks, Bear still looks cute as a button, like any toddler. This will be a lovely book for grown-ups and children to share, with so many scenes and activities they’ll recognise.
Everyone with young children will recognise the two little Huffalots at the centre of this story, and the transformation that happens to them during their day. First thing in the morning, they are very grumpy, slow to get dressed and squabbling over breakfast. As the day goes on though, and they have fun in the park and more fun at home, they change into Huffalittles, and then into something different again. Just as well too, because it’s around the end of the day that Mum shows signs of becoming a Huffalot… Eve Coy’s gorgeous illustrations of Mum and her two children are full of movement, the ordinary moments of their day beautifully observed, and the story itself will have everyone smiling.
From the author of Seeing Stars which detailed all 88 known constellations for older children, this stylish and sturdy book introduces just six of the most familiar and recognisable constellations to the very young. Young children like nothing better than books which invite them to guess what is under the flap and here each constellation is introduced by the line-connected star cluster sparkling against the deep blue background of the night sky. As you read aloud the verbal clues, children are asked to guess the creature and the answer is revealed, with more lines filling in the details of the animal, under the flap, alongside more information about the constellation and its major stars. Flaps can be quite flimsy and often considered unsuitable for classroom use but, in this case, it is a solid full-page fold-out that will withstand multiple uses. Children will definitely be inspired to do their own star gazing and to investigate further. Personally, this has helped enormously to understand how constellations got their names and to see the animal properly revealed. I still wonder, however, at the imagination of the Ancients that first connected those dots!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2020 | February 2020 Debut of the Month | A celebration of the wonder of reading! Mabel HATES books. She gets given loads of them but has no interest at all in reading them. But, one night, the books piled up in her room come alive. The stories jump out of their covers and off the pages so that they can show Mabel their story worlds. She is intrigued by a detective adventure, excited by the chance to board a spaceship and take a trip to the moon, delighted by the thought of accompanying a knight on his quest to seek castles and to duel with dragons. But, there is no way she can find out what happens next in these stories unless she begins the read the books! An entertaining celebration of why reading is such fun. We were lucky enough to ask Emma a few questions about her debut picture book..find out more!
Spring is well and truly here in this bright, engaging board book. Based on the nursery rhyme Sleeping Bunnies, the text is full of bouncy rhyme and repetition, while sturdy flaps hide sleeping little animals, giving young readers the opportunity to shout, ‘Wake up!’ on every other page. There’s still more opportunity for joining in with animal noises as the crowd grows bigger. Laura Hughes’ animal characters are friendly and full of life, and the pages are packed with things to spot and count. Best of all, after a hop, hop, hop, and a mew, mew, quack, quack, everyone ends up quiet, sleepy and ready to sleep again.
January 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2020 | Charming Little Owl returns for a new amusing and reassuring story about an everyday occurrence that will be familiar to all: bedtime! Mummy Owl does everything she can to make sure Little Owl is all ready for bed. She’s read a bedtime story – and then one more on the promise that Little Owl will settle afterwards. And she’s tucked Little Owl in with all his favourite things. But Little Owl can’t sleep because it is too dark, too noisy and because he is too excited about seeing his Grandma and Grandpa Owl. Mummy Owl uses all her best powers of invention and story telling to make sure Little Owl can go to sleep!
December 2019 Book of the Month | ‘‘Twas the night before Christmas …’ but we’re on a snowy hillside where a lonely tree shivers in the cold. As it longs to be in the brightly lit little town below, suddenly footsteps suddenly approach. Somebody very important collects the tree and puts it at the centre of some special celebrations, before leaving with the familiar words: ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!’ Taking inspiration from Clement C Moore’s classic poem, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’ new book is filled with the joy of Christmas, and captures all its sense of magical anticipation. In a handsome small format, there’s a full page illustration on each right hand page and they tell the story with as much vivacity as the lines of verse opposite. It all concludes with a sparkling double page spread, the tree glowing in the foreground as St Nick flies off into the Christmas night silhouetted against the moon. If this doesn’t set you up for Christmas and its jollities, nothing will!
With its tongue firmly in its cheek, this is a book to delight parent and child alike. The opening pages remind us of the credentials of the Goodnight Laboratory whose staff have designed this guide: follow their advice and you’re guaranteed to see off all monsters. This advice includes things parents will thoroughly endorse like keep a clean room because no mess equals nowhere for monsters to hide, as well as things to make children giggle, such as telling silly jokes will send monsters rolling away laughing. And everyone will approve of the final bit of advice which says that closing the book will create a monster-free zone. Monsters have never seemed so silly and this will send everyone to bed happy and laughing.
Bedtime is a special time and we all have our favourite books that we love to read over and over....but sometimes we need new recommendations, and that is where we come in!
All bedtime routines are different. Some have a bath, others a warm drink but the best routines end with a cuddle and a good book.