Jenny's Picture Book Review: 'The Paper Dolls' by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

I'll admit that I wasn't at all sure about this one from the behemoth that is Julia Donaldson, but it's really grown on me and my four year old daughter loves it.

It's also one of those great books that can inspire an activity on a rainy winter afternoon, so would recommend it as one to take out of the library.

 

 

 

The little girl makes paper dolls and has some great adventures with them. Rebecca Cobb's illustrations deftly transform the everyday items in her home to rich imaginative landscapes – where the tiger slipper becomes a real tiger and the crocodile oven glove tries to crunch the paper characters. Her innocent use of line perfectly matches the story of a little girl's creativity.

There is a great refrain throughout which my daughter always joins in with – 'You can't catch us, oh no no no! We're holding hands and we won't let go...'

Then comes a boy with a pair of scissors, and you expect the dolls to escape again, but they don't. This is where I wasn't sure at first – it seemed very harsh, brutal even.

The paper dolls then fly into the little girls memory. I thought this was a bit twee - but actually, it's quite a good lesson about loss, and about the power of memory, and without sounding too deep 'the impermanence of things'.

The story ends with the little girl growing into a mother herself, and making paper dolls with her own daughter. And so the dolls live on.

I'm not sure how this would play with a boy, but it's a great jumping off point for creativity for mum and daughter. We made these dolls on rainy day last year and, although battered, they're still proudly on her bedroom wall (despite her baby brother doing his best to destroy them like in the book!).


7 great Alphabet books

To celebrate our new kids alphabet (available as Ex Libris book stamps or Birth Announcement stamps), I thought I'd share some of my favourite alphabet books.

I tried to get the list down to 5, but each of these has something special, so in the end there are 7...

 

1. Alphabet by Alison Jay
Large board book – Templar Publishing

Not only in this ABC packed with Alison Jay’s unique crackled illustrations, but it’s stuffed to the rafters with detail. On the surface ‘F is for Frog’, but the image reveals fish and flowers and a fence and a fishing rod and two kinds of fly and, if you look really closely, a fork. There are also references to images and characters on other pages and taken together the alphabet is a loose story (or journey). You and your child will get a lot out of this – highly recommended.

Jane Foster’s ABC
Board book – Templar Publishing

In terms of simple, eye-catching design that babies will love, you can’t beat Jane Foster’s alphabet. A satisfying object in itself. (And then you can buy the mugs and tea towels and everything else!)

Dahlov Ipcar’s Wild Animal Alphabet
Board book – Islandport Press 

I’ve recently discovered Ipcar’s books and am slightly besotted with her illustrations. I am usually a bit wary of alphabet books that just piece together images from the author’s existing work (lazy!), but I’ve made an exception in this case because the images are so appealing, and because she’s made a good effort at creating some interesting rhyming text that is good to read out loud. 

Lucy & Tom’s a.b.c. by Shirley Hughes
Puffin books (out of print)

I know I’m always harping on about Shirley Hughes books, but it’s only because they are so good. This one is out of print, but copies are available cheaply. (I notice some of the other Lucy and Tom titles have been reissued, so fingers crossed.)

What makes this alphabet book stand out is that it does what Hughes does so well, by relating back to real life. The book is full of little stories and vignettes from Lucy and Tom’s very normal life – exactly how children really learn their alphabet, by looking at the things around them. There is loads to look at and engage with for young children. This is a current favourite of my 3.5 year old and always results in lengthy conversations.

Quentin Blake’s ABC
Red Fox Picture Books

Quentin Blake’s alphabet is as anarchic, entertaining and poignant as his other work. The quality of the text and illustrations means I couldn’t miss it off.

Eating the Alphabet
Board Book - HMH Books for Young Readers (USA)

This one is from the USA and so despite the inevitable Aubergine/Eggplant problem I think it’s a great idea, executed well. Lovely bright illustrations and as it’s all fruit and vegetables, a subject that would make Jamie Oliver very happy indeed.

Beautiful Birds by J. Roussen & E. Walker
Flying Eye books   

This book showcases publisher Flying Eye’s production values to nth degree – it’s stunning! – Rich colours and amazing neon. No mention of an alphabet on the cover, but it’s a true ABC of avian delights inside. The text rhymes and so is great to read to little ones, but this book is so gorgeous, I doubt you’ll want to let them get their grubby little paws on it. This is an alphabet book for all ages, but mainly for you. Get and it and treasure it.

Bloomfield & Rolfe's Top 5 Kids Books

It's Children's Book Week this week (an initiative of wonderful BookTrust) and this got us thinking about our favourite books from our childhoods.

The young Bloomfields enjoying some book time (drawing from Jenny's 'Drawing a day challenge' - click the image to visit her instagram page)

The young Bloomfields enjoying some book time (drawing from Jenny's 'Drawing a day challenge' - click the image to visit her instagram page)

 

Because everyone loves a list, here are both of our top 5s (in no particular order) - both of us went for nostalgia rather than anything more academically critical.

Holly

“Sadly, I have extremely patchy memories of pre-school picture books but very strong emotional ties to those of later childhood, the classic tales of adventure and imagination: 'The Secret Garden', 'Tom's Midnight Garden' and Helen Cresswell’s 'The Moondial' (are you sensing a theme here?!). Aside from these more 'grown-up' stories here are my five favourite bookish memories from childhood."

poems.jpg

1. 'I Like This Poem' - edited by Kaye Webb
“I loved poetry as a child, both writing and reading it. I remember Kaye Webb’s classic ‘I like this poem’ always being near at hand, so soft and tattered now after years of use. Eleanor Farjeon’s ‘Cats sleep anywhere’ that I read aloud in assembly and Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic ‘From a railway carriage' with its incredible pace and rhythm. I also really liked progressing through the chapters, based on age and delineated by beautiful monochrome illustrations. 12 seemed so far away…..”

2. 'No Time To Be Bored: Exciting things to make and do' - Eve Harlow
“Spending a lot of time alone especially pre-digital distraction meant even for a child who enjoyed her own company I would fairly often by heard exclaiming "I'm bored!" – only to be presented with the below; another retro classic, resurrected from the 70s by the looks of those stripes…”

3. The Adventures of Olga da Polga (series) by Michael Bond
“Guinea pigs traditionally have a sacrosanct place in our family as my sisters had them as kids so I'm assuming one of them must have given me the classic 'Olga da Polga' - all about a boastful and tall-tale telling Guinea pig.”

4. 'The Worst Witch' by Jill Murphy
"Who doesn't love the adventures of Mildred Hubble and magical pals? They were stirring cauldrons and rocking spells before Hermione’s parents had performed their first root canal.”

5. 'ANT and BEE and the Rainbow' by Angela Banner
"The one where they paint the old tyre to look like a rainbow! Just too cool – and ahead of their time when it comes to upcycling."

 

Jenny

“In contrast to Holly, I have very strong memories of my picture books, perhaps because I have rediscovered many of them with my own kids. Some of the images are so etched into my subconscious they epitomise what they depict (see the Lucy & Tom book below).”

1. ‘Lucy & Tom at the Seaside’ by Shirley Hughes
“I could have picked any of the ‘Lucy & Tom’ series (sadly now out of print) as I know them all inside out, but I picked this because the illustrations are particularly beautiful. Apart from a dated reference to ‘going for a bathe’ it is still completely relevant and something of a guide of ‘what to do’ when you’re at the British seaside. My daughter loves it too.”
(see my review of ‘Lucy & Tom’s Christmas’ here)

2. ‘The BFG’ by Roald Dahl
“Don’t need to say much about this. Roald Dahl (and Quentin Blake) dominated my childhood and I think this is my favourite (at least it is today).”

3. ‘White Boots’ by Noel Streatfeild
“I was a little obsessed with this, and ‘Ballet Shoes’ too. I was the least likely child to be able to figure skate (or ballet dance) so I guess it was pure escapism.”

4. ‘Johnny the Clockmaker’ by Edward Ardizzone
“I never actually owned this as a child, but repeatedly borrowed it from the library, and my mum then bought me a copy as an adult. It is such a gentle story about a boy who makes a grandfather clock, despite everyone laughing at the idea (I like someone who has an idea and follows through!). Ardizzone’s illustrations are brilliant too of course.”

5. ‘Mr Magnolia’ by Quentin Blake
“I reviewed this one this week! Nonsense at its best!” (see the review here)



 

 

 

 

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