Sunday 26 July 2015

Are you a boy or are you a girl?

Written by Sarah Savage and Illustrated by Fox Fisher

Publisher: TQUAL Books
ISBN-10: 0993192505
ISBN-13: 978-0993192500

Review of digital version kindly sent to me by author, Sarah Savage (July 2015) in exchange for an honest review. 

The Book:
Are You a Boy or are You a Girl?is a story narrated by Tiny, a young child whose Dad has changed jobs, so the family have moved to a new area. Tiny is excited about having a beautiful new house with a bed built like a castle and looks forward to making new friends at school. In the story we read of Tiny's play activities- a trip to the park, dressing up as a pirate or a fairy and playing football at school. Sometimes Tiny is asked "Are you a boy or are you a girl?" 
In the new school, Tiny is bullied by a peer but thankfully the teacher and a new friend are there as a support. In the final pages, a new friend Mia says,  "Tiny are you a boy or are you a girl?" and the smiling Tiny replies ......

Book Are you a boy or are you a girl?
"I am me!"
(pdf, provided courtesy of author)
More from Missus B
Oh I do love a book that generates discussion and reflective thinking! Are You a Boy or are You a Girl?does just that- it's an excellent tool for circle time discussion.

The book is deceptively simple- written from the perspective of a child,it describes typical play activities, family interactions and social scenes that many children will relate to and understand. The narrative is uncomplicated and Tiny talks in a straight forward, factual way about play and social experiences.

Tiny loves pasta, football and dressing up.Tiny is also excited about living in a new home.But, apart from that, we don't hear about the thoughts and feelings Tiny has .
The text doesn't explain what it's like to be asked  "Are you a boy or are you a girl?" And we never know how Tiny feels or responds to that question. 

Also, Tiny doesn't share the feelings experienced when Buster bullies and says....
Book Are you a boy or are you a girl?
"Tiny is not a he. Tiny is not a she. Tiny is an it!'
(pdf provided courtesy of author)

And this is what I love about this book- its an excellent talking tool.The readers have to come to their own conclusions and consider what's happening.The story doesn't reveal whether Tiny is a boy or a girl, it's up to you to decide. The simple narrative and illustrations invite listeners to engage in meaningful discussion about gender roles, stereotypes, feelings and social behaviour.

We learn lots about the personality, interests and life roles which are the essence of who Tiny is. And we see other characters with different roles and personalities e.g. Tiny's Dad is a bus driver and likes to cook pasta dinners.... Fire Fighters visit the school and their truck is driven by a female.....When Buster shouts that girls can't play football, the thoughtful Charlie says:

"I don't think it matters who plays, as long as we're all having fun."

There's lots to consider and reflect on, and the  book includes a page of questions to stimulate discussion between you and the listeners
Book review Are you a boy or are you a girl?

Are You a Boy or are You a Girl?can open up a new type of dialogue amongst you and the children you read it with. By sharing this book, there are opportunities to  explore and consider feelings,  while discussing gender stereo types & roles. Importantly, this book can also offer support to children who may identify with the challenges faced by Tiny.

An excellent resource for teachers, parents and carers, this book fits well into the PSHE/SPHE curriculum.                                                                   

Happy Reading, 
Missus B

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Friday 24 July 2015

The Huge Bag of Worries

Written by Virginia Ironside
Illustration by Frank Rodgers
Hodder Childrens Books 2004
(reviewed copy is shop bought/personal collection)

Back of book: Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her-in a big blue bag! They are then when she goes swimming, when she is watching TV, and even when she is in the lavatory. Jenny decides they will have to go. But who can she get to help her? This funny and reassuring story from Virginia Ironside will appeal to all children who have occasional worries of their own.

The Story
Jenny has felt like a happy girl til recently. Lately, she has begun to worry about all sorts of things...... 
What if her dog catches fleas?
What if her friend moves away?!
What if there's a BOMB?!!  

There's more worries.... oh yes... there's more....these worries are like buses- there's always another one on the way.

It seems there's no escaping her fears, until one day Jenny's elderly neighbour encourages her to open her worry bag and tackle what's inside. Jenny then realises that fears aren't so bad once they're shared and out in the open. Some of them disappear, some belong to other people and some are a whole lot smaller when separated from the rest.
Poor Loftus! How does he sleep at night?! At any moment he could be attacked by a swarm of fleas
or a missile for goodness sake!!
More from Missus B
The Huge Bag of Worriesis an excellent support tool and one I have used for several years in both educational and social care settings. If you have a little (or big!) worrier in your life, this is an ideal read. Many children will relate to Jenny's everyday worries, learning that a problem shared is a problem halved.

Jenny's bag is filled with worries of all shapes and sizes. We see their cheeky monster faces as they squirm and wriggle about. For most of the story, the zipper is tightly closed, but as the story progresses,those little monsters just get bigger and bigger. Worries are reliable like that, aren't they?  
Jenny kept her worries to herself and decided not to ask
for help. She thought her Mum would tell
her 'You've got no worries. You're a lucky girl. You've got your health, your
friends, your family-what more do you want?'

Jenny's worries take on a life of their own. They toss and turn at night, chase her to school and even scurry up a drain pipe to sneak into her bedroom. The text and illustrations perfectly show how our negative thoughts can overwhelm us and become out of control. We even see her worry bag lifting weights, with poor Jenny helplessly standing by.
Poor Jenny. All this emotional baggage is exhausting!

Thankfully, Jenny's sensible neighbour steps in. She tells Jenny she ought to open the bag and deal with it's contents. But Jenny is fearful- what ELSE could happen if she takes those worries out?! Don't open the bag! Surely we shouldn't open the bag?!

"Nonsense", said the old lady firmly. "There's nothing a worry hates more than being seen. If you have any worries, however small, the secret is to let them out slowly, one by one, and show them to someone else. They'll soon go away."
 Jenny's fears are put into perspective. By talking with an adult & getting help,
her mind is less of a muddle as the old lady 'sorted the worries into groups.
Jenny learns that, its normal to carry some worries but important not to take on too many.
....and of course, some worries belong to other people!
In short
This is an excellent book for opening up discussions about anxieties, fears and how to manage emotions. Feelings are illustrated in a concrete way with comical images and expressive little monster characters. An excellent circle-time read, this book fits well in a PSHE/SPHE curriculum. 

For more support/info about anxiety in children check out or these 12 helpful tips written by Amy Przeworski in Psychology Today
You may also be interested in What to Do When You Worry Too Much and Worries Go Away
Happy reading, 
Missus B. 
Get the book at the below  affiliate links.

You may also be interested in the collection of books I have compiled on my 'Feelings/Emotions' Page
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery           

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Daddy, Papa, and Me

Written by Leslea Newman. Illustrated by Carol Thompson

Tricycle Press 2009
ISBN 978-1-58246-262-2
(reviewed copy is from my personal resource library)

'Daddy, Papa, and Me' is a short, rhyming, board book narrated by a young toddler.
A variety of parent-child interactions are described, all of which are play based and represent a warm and caring family.
Simple, rhyming text makes for a lovely  read-aloud in 'Daddy, Papa, and Me'
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
Dressing up, flying paper planes, baking or painting- each page describes an activity and has a brightly coloured, corresponding illustration. 
The playful scenes capture interactions that all children can relate to, no matter what their family type. And that's the beauty of this book- it shows how play, love and together-time are the essence of family. The story high lights how parental love is universal, no matter what the sex of a parent may be.
An important book for a classroom library which represents diversity .
Check out 'Mommy, Mama, and Me' also.

Happy reading, 
Missus B
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Saturday 18 July 2015

Mommy, Mama, and Me

Written by Leslea Newman
Illustrated by Carol Thompson
Tricycle Press 2009
ISBN 978-1-58246-263-9

'Mommy, Mama and Me' is a rhyming board book which describes typical day-to-day, family interactions in the home of child with same sex parents. 
(check out 'Daddy, Papa, and Me' from the same duo)
In warm water colours, fifteen parent and child interactions are shared in 'Mommy, Mama, and Me'
Told from a toddler's point of view, the book describes familiar parent and child activities like- sharing a book together, having snuggles, preparing meals or going to the park. Every child who experiences nurturing, care and love will relate to the family experiences described in the book. 
Mommy gently combs my hair. Mama rocks me in her chair.
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews: 'Mommy, Mama, and Me'
The story is told in rhyming text, each line directly corresponding with an image. Simple and predictable, it is perfect for a read-a-loud story time. 

In short:
'Mommy, Mama, and Me' describes a loving and warm family unit, with interactions and activities that every child may be familiar with. It shows how the principles of parental love are universal, no matter what the make up of a family may be.
If you want to represent diverse family types, or the non-traditional, this book is a must for your class-room collection.

Happy reading,
Missus B.                                                     

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Wednesday 15 July 2015

Whiffy Wilson The Wolf who wouldn't go to school

The story of a little wolf who learns that school is definitely NOT boring!

Author: Caryl Hart, Illustrator: Leonie Lord  
Published by Orchard Books 2014   

Reviewed copy: library, hard back but  as far as I know, this book has just recently  become available in paperback.

The Story
Whiffy Wilson has absolutely NO interest in school. He'd much rather stay at home watching the telly. Then one day he calls round to play with his friend Dotty and she encourages him to come along to school for the day. Wilson realises that learning can be fun - he gets stuck into painting, cuts dough shapes, makes new friends and becomes a hero on the football field. 
A funny & heart warming story written in fantastic rhyming text with adorably cute Illustrations.
More from Missus B 
Oh I do love this book!
I was immediately drawn to it's front cover and the image of a scraggly grey wolf dressed in red dungarees. Whiffy is a deliciously cute and lovable character. I just want to pluck him out of the pages and give him a squeezy hug- even if he is a bit on the pongy side. 

Wilson looking a little unsure when Dotty suggests he should come to school....
(holding a twig instead of his stripey teddy)

Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
Overall, the images in this book are wonderfully cute. Even the cover pages are illustrated with a lovely blackboard and chalk effect.

Spot the little wolf amongst these lovely chalk doodles
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
The characters are  brightly coloured and have a chunky look. Their faces are simply drawn, yet expressive - Wilson looks suitably confused as he tries to count with his fingers, and later slightly alarmed, as Dotty shoves him in the door of the classroom. The child characters have smiling faces and bright, circular eyes -  I love how we can see joy, excitement and trepidation during the football when Wilson scores  a surprise goal!

The main characters are Dotty, Whiffy and the other school children who are either in the foreground or background of each scene. Whiffy Wilson is the only animal in school, but his wolfiness doesn't seem to phase the other students (like I said, he is utterly cute.) There are some other little characters too- like Whiffy's blue teddy, the ladybirds flitting in and out of pages, the bees or the bug who sits on the floor at story time.These are the cute little extras that we adults often miss, but which little readers love and appreciate. 

There are plenty of visually pleasing images- like Wilson splodging green paint on his toenails instead of the paper, his absent minded stare at the TV as he sits in it's blue hue, the collection of child drawings displayed in the classroom or the mobile creations hanging from the ceiling. Lots of lovely details to admire! At the end of the story, Wilson enthusiastically dresses for school in floral knickers, quickly brushes his hair and in his haste buttons up his duffle coat unevenly (oh, the bother of those big triangular buttons!) 

Whiffy Wilson the wolf who wouldn't go to school
What a perfectly lazy, dead-pan TV face!
Missus B's Picture Book Reviews
'Whiffy Wilson the Wolf who wouldn't go to School'

The story is written in a chirpy, upbeat rhythm making it an excellent read-aloud book. My little listeners loved the fact that it's catchy beat allowed them to join in almost spontaneously. 

Here's a taster:

There was a wolf called Wilson

Who couldn't count to ten.
He wouldn't learn to write his name.
He never used a pen.

He didn't know his ABCs.

He couldn't paint or cook.
He wouldn't learn his two-plus-twos.
He never read a book.

So, we hear about Wilson's fear that he could get things wrong at school while the confident Dotty assures him that learning is fun. The little lady takes the lead, gently pushes Wilson  through the door and shows him what this school business is all about. First things first though- Wilson needs to know where the toilet is (oops, he has mistakenly used the girls room!) and where he should put his coat. After that, it's all about painting, play dough, joining the dots and playing outside. 

Or, maybe it's not such a gentle push judging by Wilson's startled expression.
 Either way- it's a nudge in the right direction. Once Wilson starts at school, he realizes
he's been missing all the fun!

This book is a comforting and fun read for any child who is preparing for school. In it's jaunty rhythm we see how Wilson makes the transition from being  an uninterested, slightly nervous pupil to a happy-go-lucky school child with a bunch of new friends and a lovely teacher. In fact, Wilson loves school so much, that he even wants to go on a Saturday!

A Missus B favourite!

Happy reading, 
Missus B

                                       See my video review here:

See a child talk about the book here:
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Saturday 11 July 2015

Meet the Parents

Scroll down
for video review

A celebration of the glorious and the grubby side of parenting!

Book Details 
Author: Peter Bently-winner of the Roald Dahl funny prize

Illustrator: Sara Ogilvie, illustrator of ‘Dogs Don’t Do Ballet’

Published by Simon & Schuster 2014

Reviewed copy-library copy


Back of  Book: 'Parents are surprising. You think that they’re just there to boss you about, but did you know they are also targets for ketchup? And tent poles for dens that are wonky? And towels for wiping your grime on? In this book you’ll discover many other handy uses for your parents-and find out what they love best. Apart from you, of course.

As described in it’s blurb, this book is a humourous reminder of the perks of having a Mum or Dad.

With rhyming text and charming, funny illustrations, this books celebrates all that parents do (and put up with!

I tucked into this book after our son’s bedtime- and I type this with his porridge from this morning still caked on my sleeve (I bet there’s snot on there too- hopefully his, possibly mine). My husband is on the sofa opposite- with a slightly swollen eye/recovering stye from when said son lovingly poked him two days ago.

And, here, in every page of 'Meet the Parents’, I see a little bit of us.

In comical rhyming fashion & hilarious illustrations, Bentley & Ogilvie have captured both the glorious and the grubby side of parenting.

Feel like you’re being physically assaulted when you share the sofa with your toddlers? There’s a page for you.

Your little one INSISTED on bringing their scooter & teddy to the shops- and on the way home you  get stuck with carrying  the shopping…the scooter….the teddy and finally the little one-  LIKE  A  DONKEY?! Yes, there’s a page for you my friend.

All dressed up and ready to leave for that dinner/wedding/important meeting (any event that requires matching or clean clothing) Then  SMUDGE - that grubby toddler hand print on your lovely attire? Yup- you’re in this book.  

But, oh the sweet stuff is in here too!

Getting home from the office, loosening your tie and being 'Horsey’ for your little ones….

Taking your child to the game, putting him up on your shoulders and feeling his warm hands on your head , neck, ears as you enjoy it together….

Watching your child laugh as you whirl and twirl them about….


Bedtime stories……


It’s all in this wonderfully entertaining read for both children and parents. No doubt, both readers will relate to and appreciate the lively depictions of family life.

The rhythm is perfect . I LOVE LOVE  rhyming books- how lovely is it to almost sing a story with your child? What a fun way for a child to build their literacy skills e.g. memorizing words & making connections between similar sounding words.

Ogilvie’s illustrations are bright and engaging, with details you and/or the child reader will enjoy lingering over.  The pictures simply and beautifully capture a range of facial emotions - stress , glee and everything in between.We can even interpret the feelings of the household pets (see cat on cover for perfect example.) Ogilvie has fantastically captured funny family moments with comical detail.

In short 

This book is a warm tribute to all Mums and Dads out there and and it’s illustrations comically capture a diverse group of children and adults engaging in typical day to day activities-a Missus B favourite.

Lovely rhyming text with wonderful illustrations make this a joy to read!

Happy reading,

Missus B

Video review from a child here:

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Thursday 9 July 2015

Back to School Tortoise

A comforting read for little worriers.

Author: Lucy M George
Illustrator: Merel Eyckerman
Published by Meadowside Children's Books 2010
reviewed copy-library copy

Back of book
It's time to go back to school. But Tortoise is worried...What if he falls over? What if he doesn't like lunch? What if he doesn't make any friends? The perfect back-to-school book about being brave, with a surprise at the end!

The Story: Summer is coming to an end and Tortoise gets ready for the first day back at school. But, on his way he starts to worry- what if he falls over , doesnt like the school lunch or what if the the children are mean? Cute, soft illustrations show Tortoise visualising the worst. He feels glum and wonders if he can face his first day at all. Thankfully though, he decides to think positive and hope for the best. It all works out fine in the end and Tortoise enjoys a lovely day back at school. This is a simple story with a surprising twist at the end.
On his way to school, Tortoise starts to worry about what might go wrong.
Missus B's  Picture Book Reviews

'Back to School Tortoise'

More from Missus B
This is a sweet and simple tale of a character who, like many children, is a little worried about his first day back at school. I certainly recall that excited, nervous feeling on my first day back, along with the many questions- will I make new friends...what will teacher be like?
As Tortoise makes his walk to school, his mind takes a little wander also and we see his very real fears about not enjoying the food, feeling clumsy and being treated badly by the children. With just a few negative thoughts, we see tortoise's body language change from confident and happy, to despondant and glum.
The story then gives readers a subtle message about exchanging negative thoughts for positive ones. After taking a few moments to reflect, Tortoise decides to put his worries aside and instead visualise a fun filled day with nice food and new friends. With these positive thoughts in mind,he  steadies himself takes a deep breath, opens the school door and bravely says hello. And, thankfully, he receives a warm welcome from the class.

                             ******SPOILER ALERT********

But hang on?! The children reply 'Good morning, Mr. Tortoise!' and he stands in front of his students. Ha! Now- that's an ending you didnt expect did you? Well, it certainly surprised me.
I LOVE the surprise ending in this book. The story allows children to see that, even a class teacher can feel a little nervous about the first day back to school and that adults can sometimes have worries. Although, Mr. Tortoise's worries are child-like and some older children may question this- would a teacher really cry if the school children were mean? Would a teacher really wish for a school lunch which is only made up of cakes and muffins? (o.k. that bit could be a pretty realistic wish!)
The illustrations are cute with a variety of animals the child reader may want to name and discuss. In soft, muted colours, the animals each have cute round faces and a chunky look (I particularly like the cute chick & robin.) The pictures softly sit in a white background with lovely details like tortoise's tea & toast breakfast, a little squirrel scurrying to school, insects & mushrooms in the woodlands. The animals are humanised as they are partially dressed, wear shoes and carry school satchels (Robin tucks her bag under her wing- what a lovely little lady!) Throughout the book the variety of soft patterns bring intricate details to the illustrations.

This is a simple and short story with an unexpected twist at the end.Children who are little worriers may relate to Tortoise's thought patterns, and can learn something from his strategy to manage his worries- pause, reflect and exchange the negative thought for a positive one. Overall, it gives a comforting, reassuring message to children who are nervous about school. This simple story can offer opportunities to discuss fears, worries, social behaviour and positive thinking.

Here's a bit I didn't like:
The opening of the story doesn't seem to flow well- except for the book title, there is no proper introduction to Tortoise. On the first page we read that Summer was almost over and 'It was time to go back to school' and the second page reads 'He got up. Got dressed and had breakfast.' As I had borrowed my copy from the library, I found myself checking the the binding of the book to see if a page had fallen out! To me, it seemed like a somewhat blunt beginning to a story.

But, overall I enjoyed this sweet story.

Happy reading, 
Missus B :)

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'Little Monster Did It'

A new baby and a little monster under one roof can mean only one thing- trouble!

Book Details

Author/Illustrator: Helen Cooper

First published in 1995, this edition 2007 by Picture Corgi Books (library copy)

Reviewed copy from my personal library

Book Description:
There's a new baby brother in Amy's house....and that new cuddly toy her parents gave her just can't keep himself from being naughty!

This  story beautifully illustrates how a new baby may result in behaviour changes for older children and/or their teddies!

Amy, the narrator describes stinky nappies, baby wailing, restless nights and busy parents. Neither she, nor Little Monster is happy….and we see both getting up to plenty of mischief! Amy's excuse? -'Little Monster Did it'  (every...single...time)

Disillusioned with this wailing, pooping, time-consuming sibling, she wonders aloud if the baby could be given back......

Mum then asks Amy what might baby do all on his own?Now that's a serious question and Amy  starts to wonder....... 
Deep in thought, she visualises her little brother alone on a raft, drifting away and exposed to danger. Oh the guilt she suddenly feels! 

On reflection, Amy realises that she really does care for this little man and she discovers that playing with him and reading stories is fun. But, oh dear, jealousy can linger and Little Monster has one more episode of naughtiness, deciding to create some chaos in the kitchen. FED UP with his shenanigans, Mum and Dad finally  say 'Little Monster has to go…..Right Now!’

There's only one thing for it- HIDE!!

We see Amy and Little Monster scurrying through the house, until they find the best place of all- in the cot with baby (now that's clever- Bravo Amy! Or- probably Monster.)  With baby happily playing with his cute new toy-how could Mum and Dad be so cruel as to take Little Monster away? Even better- Amy gets brownie points for 'sharing'

 At last, Amy's good behaviour is rewarded with a story and a cuddle with Mum and Dad. Meanwhile... upstairs, we see that crafty look on Little Monster's face, as he and  baby are playing with crayons. Oh dear....he really is a Little Monster.

Why I like this book:
While it’s been 20 years since it’s first publication, the story line in 'Little Monster’ is a timeless one. The illustrations are a delight – the striking resemblance between Amy, Mum & her little brother, the frazzled and stressed faces of Mum and Dad, the wailing baby faces and the leering expressions of Amy or Little Monster when naughty stuff is going on. Helen Cooper captures it all- we can see the worried, almost guilty expression of Amy when she visualises her brother all alone, and the unsure face of baby as he drifts away on a floating raft, dressed just in his nappy.

The child reader sees that Little Monster certainly is the leader in all this naughty business…he breaks the video player* , overflows the bathroom, opens the hot-water-bottle wetting the bed etc. At the same time, Amy is always there with him, either doing the same thing, or watching close by……maybe they are equal partners in crime?!

A funny story, with a sweet ending and a book that comes full circle- Amy feels upset about changes at home, resents her little brother, but comes to love him and enjoy him in the end. And , the sight of baby snuggled with Little Monster, results in Amy getting some much wanted Mummy & Daddy time.

This is a lovely story to read to a child when a new sibling has arrived at home- they will relate to much of the general activities- busy parents, crying baby, sleepless nights. More importantly, in my opinion, its a lovely book for a parent to read at this same time- it can give a parent a chance to reflect on how family change can impact on a young child, and can be a subtle reminder that it’s definitely worth investing in together time with older siblings!

*Okay, the 20 years show just a little…

I think that overall, the illustrations and story line are pretty much timeless, but  your child may ask you about the video/vcr!

And they may wonder about the very large rectangular black object in the kitchen scene…

It’s probably one of these…..
Happy reading! 

Missus B

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Helen Cooper writes about ‘Little Monster Did It’

A lovely inside scoop from Helen Cooper- read how she planned the writing and illustrating of this delightful story HERE