Help! My child loves dinosaurs! - Some of the Best Dinosaur Picture Books

My 3 year old son loves dinosaurs - REALLY loves them. It was his obsession that inspired our new Personalised Dinosaur Ex Libris stamp.

It is rare bedtime that he will let us read him any story that doesn't feature a dino in some guise. For that reason that I have been searching high and low for some great picture books about dinosaurs - not really for his sake, but because reading the same one over and over again was driving us mad. I'm sharing them here as an act of mercy for any other families who are similarly afflicted.

The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar
(Flying Eye)

A sumptuous book from a picture book master. Flying Eye have lovingly recreated this edition by labouriously recreating the original colour separations used to print back in the 1960s, and this attention to detail really pays off in the print quality and colours. These details will please the design-savvy parent and the simple story, introducing all kinds of dinosaurs big and small will delight little ones. The 'science' might be a bit dated and pedants may protest, but I think it's a lovely way to introduce the concept of evolution.

If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most (Houghton Mifflin)

A great hit with my son, this book imagines how dinosaurs would help us in the modern world if they came back. A refreshing change from the usual emphasis on roaring and scaring people, and pleasingly whimsical in places.

Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton (HarperFestival)

Perfect for little ones with bright naive artwork, this introduces different dinosaur characteristics with text that is easy and quick to read at bedtime. My son loves the 'white poos' at the beginning (a triceratops laying eggs).

Gnash, Gnaw, Dinosaur by Tony Mitton & Lynne Chapman (Kingfisher)

A book of dino poems with a real WOW factor when it comes to the fold out pages, creating BIG dinosaurs, generating lots of 'Ooooh's. This one seems to be out of print, but is definitely worth seeking out.

 

    

Pop-Up Dinosaur abc by Robert Crowther (Candlewick Press)

I have fond memories of Crowther's animal abc book from my childhood so was thrilled to find this dinosaur version. The pop-ups and design are simple but effective, and the abc format means you're introduced to some less common dinosaurs.

Dino (a pet unlike any other) by Diego Vaisberg (Templar Publishing)

Print-enthusiast parents will definitely want to get their hands on Dino, with it's spectacular Risograph artwork. (Speaking as a picturebook geek this has one of my favourite page-turns ever).  The story about the problem of having a pet dinosaur is sure to please young ones too.  From googling I can see that this title started out as a risographed zine and am glad to say the energy has transferred to conventional book - LOVE IT!
(For those who don't know, a Risograph is like a cross between a photocopy and a screen print).

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What the Dinosaurs did Last Night by Refe & Susan Tuma (Little, Brown Young Readers, US)

From skimming (the excessively long and self indulgent introduction) this book was born out of two parents messing around with toy dinosaurs so that every morning their children discovered new mischief around their home. The photos are very amusing, as are the captions (which young children won't get at all, but good for the grown ups). We tend to just look at the pictures and talk about them.
Whenever this one is chosen I briefly flirt with having a go at doing this myself with our toy dinosaurs... then realise how much time and effort that would take and revert to sitting on the sofa in a post-bedtime exhausted haze.

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs by Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart

I include this one with the caveat that it is not for small children - unless under very strict supervision. But I had to include it because it is the most spectacular pop-up book you can imagine, with multiple pop-ups per spread (35 in total) and packed with information. It's now out of print, unsurprising as I have no idea how such a piece of complex paper engineering was ever made for under £25. You can get functioning second hand copies for about £35 and I think this still represents excellent value.

 

 

 

 

 

World Book Day 2016 - New Ex Libris stamps inspired by Great Literature

World Book Day - on Thursday 3rd March this year - celebrates the joy and value of books and reading. You couldn't really get more Bloomfield & Rolfe than that! So, to celebrate we've come up with some smashing new Ex Libris designs, inspired by great literature...

Clockwise from top left: 'Whale' stamp (inspired by Moby Dick); 'Train' stamp (The Railway Children); 'The Owl & The Pussycat' (the nonsense rhyme by Edward Lear); 'Wuthering Heights' stamp (Wuthering Heights).

All stamps are priced at £25 and can be personalised with a name of your choice. Perfect for stamping ownership on your own favourite books. 

You can read about World Book Day and events and activities here

Wondering where the lovely background images come from in the photos above? 

Every child in the UK get's a £1 book token this Thursday. Any of these books would be a great addition to their library.

Clockwise from top left: 'A River' by Marc Martin; 'Oi! Get off our train' by John Burningham; 'We're going on a Bear Hunt' by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury; 'The Storm Whale' by Benji Davies.

Out and about: Children's Book Illustration Summer School at Anglia Ruskin

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a week long Children's Book Illustration summer school in Cambridge. A week away all by myself to be nothing but creative! 

The aim of the week wasn't to perfect illustration technique, but to create a dummy picture book that we presented to tutors and peers at the final crit (the ultimate 'storytime').  This would be a starting point for us to go away and create a finished book. 

It was an international affair with fellow students travelling from as far as Japan and Brazil just for the course (made my trip down the A1 seem a bit tame).

The week was a whirlwind as we were guided at speed through the process of creating a character, storyboarding and creating final roughs of our own story. This is something that would usually take months and was intensely challenging at times. Tutition was via one-to-one tutorials and created confidence-shattering lows when (inextricable) problems were exposed, and yippee-inducing highs as I found visual and narrative solutions and things fell into place.  The pace of progress was at times breathtaking and all 58 of us who attended came away with a very different story to the one we arrived with, and a totally new understanding of what makes a picturebook work.

Storyboarding and character developement - all at no-time-to-stop-and-procrastinate speed

Storyboarding and character developement - all at no-time-to-stop-and-procrastinate speed

The course was run by Pam Smy of Anglia Ruskin, who was ably assisted by Marta Altes (Author/illustrator of 'The King Cat', 'No!', 'My New Home' and 'My Grandpa'), Birgitta Sif ('Oliver' and 'Frances Dean'), Ness Wood (book designer who has worked with the greats) plus Dave Barrow and Natalie Eldred who are current MA students.  Their feedback was always insightful (and often cut deep!) and usually contradictory, leaving us, ultimately, to choose our own path. 

In addition to studio time, we were treated to lectures on different aspects of picture book production by the tutors and also a guest speech by Chris Haughton ('Oh No! George', 'A Bit Lost' and 'Shh! We Have a Plan').  

Chris Haughton delivering a lecture about his work

Chris Haughton delivering a lecture about his work

Some (!) of the books I brought home with me as souvenirs and inspiration.

Some (!) of the books I brought home with me as souvenirs and inspiration.

Did I see much of Cambridge? Nope - barely left the campus! 

All in all the week was intellectually exhausting, but incredibly rewarding. The range of stories (from the silly to incredibly profound) was fascinating and the inspiration from fellow students can't be underestimated. 

And I shall never look at a 'simple' picture book in the same way again!

(Wondering what my book was about? Ha ha, watch this space! One of the things we learned was not to give away our stories on social media ;))

Jenny's Picture Book Review: 'Counting Birds' by Alice Melvin

As a relatively new parent I have been appalled by the quality of some children's books. It seems people will buy anything if it says 'counting' or 'alphabet' on the front. You might have decent illustrations (although not necessarily, a travesty given the talent that exists in the world), but the text often smacks of being knocked up without thought on a Friday afternoon, often dull and engaging neither child nor parent.

Stunning endpapers!

Stunning endpapers!

Counting Birds  by Alice Melvin

Which is why Counting Birds by Alice Melvin is such a revelation. I picked it up in the Tate bookshop last summer, seduced by the illustrations and subject matter (Bloomfield's bird obsession again!). The images are beautiful - and the endpapers exquisite - but, less expected, the text is brilliant.

For once an author has had an idea and executed it with aplomb - I applaud her for it. Melvin takes us from a one solitary cockerel at dawn, through the day, to twenty birds on a pair of red patterned curtains shutting out the night; imaginatively weaving accounts of real birds with the images of birds that surround us. 

C  ounting Birds   by Alice Melvin

'The China's been laid out for afternoon tea.
Look - there are ten bids on the white crockery!

Eleven small chaffinches fly down to find
the raisins and crumbs that have been left behind.'

C  ounting Birds   by Alice Melvin

In a word it is 'charming' and not in a 'nice', dull sense of the word.  The language is flowing, satisfying to read and has real substance: Melvin doesn't shy from using 'big' words (Lynley Dodd's books share this trait) and has real way with a rhyming couplet.

'Nineteen black rooks flock in tumbling flight,
returning to roost in the darkening night.'

( I love this page)

Many many children's books end with a 'good night' page, often with promise of the new day to come, but this is my favourite to read aloud at bedtime:

C  ounting Birds   by Alice Melvin

'All are asleep now, so none of them see
the solitary barn owl awake in the tree.
With soft silent wings he slips into the night,
while the house waits once more for the dawn's half-light'

Jenny's picture book review: 'This Moose Belongs to Me' by Oliver Jeffers

As a mother to a 9 month old I have had the pleasure of rediscovering the picture books of my childhood, poring over images familiar and evocative. I also strongly believe that giving birth has given me unlimited licence to 'invest' in Baby Bloomfield's library,

I hope to share some of my favourites here, with a big emphasis on beautiful illustrations. 

First up is a new title  This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers, who is somewhat of a heavyweight on the modern picture book scene. It's hardback and was bought at the Salts Mill book shop on Saturday (a BEAUTIFUL book shop if you're ever in West Yorkshire).  

This Moose Belongs to Me  by Oliver Jeffers

I don't think enough superlatives exist to describe the illustrations in this book -  grand American mountain landscapes form the backdrop for the errant Moose and his 'owner' Wilfred: they are sumptuous and witty and the use of colour and light almost made me weep. I'm not going to say much more but let the pictures speak for themselves:

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It's going to be a while before Baby Bloomfield will understand this delightful story of self-determination (although the parallels with our cat and her 'friends' next door is striking and should make the themes easy to grasp when the time comes). I'm hesitating whether to stamp my Ex Libris stamp or hers in the front - am I terrible selfish mother? Probably. But the thought of sticky fingers gets me very tense indeed!