We are half way through 2020. Can you believe it?! What with Covid, lockdowns and the general shambolic state of the world, the year seems to be churring by in perpetual disarray. Simultaneously, our family’s world has shrunk, with more time indoors and close to home. We are mostly (for now) enjoying our Covid-free (for now) bubble, and this has been helped along in no small part by the constant stream of great new books arriving on our doorstep. So now at the midway point of 2020, with no real sign that the second half will be any less bizarre than the first, we have compiled our favourite kids books of 2020 (so far). I hope that they give you the same little escapism and joy that they have brought to us.
Disclosure – these books were provided to Blog of Dad free of charge for the Children’s Book Roundup. For further information, please visit my disclosure statement.
Roly Poly – Mem Fox and Jane Dyer
“I didn’t want him then and I certainly don’t want him now!” When we got Roly Poly, our very own Monty was also still just a baby (and this book inspired his pseudonym on this blog!) Our Monty is now a toddler and although Hannah still rolls out this line every now and then, by and large she is very happy to have him. Perhaps Roly Poly helped her work through those thoughts and feelings, but in any case, Roly Poly is a good one.
Roly Poly tells the story of a little polar bear who suddenly has to deal with the arrival of a little brother he didn’t ask for. Roly Poly doesn’t want to share his favourite things with “Monty”. While Roly Poly’s parents think that one day he will adore Monty, Roly Poly just wishes him gone. Then, one day, as the ice cracks and Monty begins to float away, that wish becomes a reality. Roly Poly pretends not to notice. As Monty cries for help, Roly Poly pretends not to hear. But maybe Roly Poly is beginning to adore Monty after all…
Jane Dyer’s unique polar bears are created through a process of needle felting and they add an extra dimension of interest to this story.
Ollie and Augustus – Gabriel Evans
With a little apprehension at moving to preschool this year, at the start of the year The Pigeon has to go to School and Ollie and Augustus gifted to Hannah a little bit of validation of her feelings, making her feel a little better, a little less unsure. With preschool now a happy and integral part of her life, these books are simply fun to read, funny.
Ollie and his pet dog Augustus are best buddies. They do most things together. But what will happen when Ollie starts school?
Ollie and Augustus is the story of a small boy and a big dog. They do most things together, including digging (Ollie’s favourite thing) and stick collecting (Augustus’s favourite thing). Sometimes Ollie was annoying or Augustus was irritating. Sometimes they fell out, but they usually made up by lunchtime. When Ollie has to start school, he was worries. Augustus would be lonely. He tried to find a new friend for Augustus, but there was no one quite right. Ollie was sad. Augustus would be lonely. The next day Ollie went to school. He worried and worried. Augustus did not. He had plenty to do. And he knew Ollie would always come home. With exactly what he needed – a big hug.
Ollie and Augustus is a adorable story of a boy and his (canine) bestie. Beautiful literature with beautiful language. Ollie and Augustus is a winner.
The Pigeon HAS to go to School! – Mo Willems
Hannah was introduced to Mo Willems’ pigeon series at the library when they has a special school holidays Mo Willems themed Storytime session. She left that session clutching her pigeon craft and a heartfelt love of the books. Although The Pigeon HAS to go to School! did not feature in that library session, when it arrived in a package on our doorstep a couple of weeks later Hannah was thrilled, immediately recognising the pigeon on the cover.
Rambunctious and just a little belligerent, pigeon is very funny. Beneath his outrageous and over-the-top words and behaviour, his true feelings of apprehension and nervousness are apparent to all. “Why does the alphabet have so many letters? What will the other birds think of me?” and so on. “There should be a place to practice those things!!! With experts to help you. And books. And classrooms. And other birds to work and play with. Maybe a playground.” Pigeon thinks. “Oh! That is school.”
There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake – Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland
An oldies, but a goodie; this book speaks to Hannah. An imaginary hippopotamus that can do whatever he wants? Hannah is all in! The imaginary, the adversities; they all speak Miss 4’s language.
The roof is leaking. I know why there is a hole in our roof. There’s a hippopotamus on our roof eating cake.
The hippopotamus doesn’t like baths. He’s having a shower. The hippopotamus eats cake all the time. Special cake. And watches television. And no one growls at him when he’s naughty.
When the men come to fix the roof, they don’t see the hippopotamus. He climbed down the ladder while the men were having lunch. But he’ll be back tonight.
The Little Engine That Could – Watty Piper, reimagined by Dan Santat
Another oldie but a goodie in here. It just goes to show that they stand the test of time for a reason.
When a little engine breaks down on the tracks, she is unable to carry her load of food and toys over the mountain to the children waiting in the town on the other side. One by one, other engines come along but none will help to complete the task. The Shiny New Engine is above such lowly task, the Passenger Engine is too important too, the Rusty Old Engine is too weary. What about the Little Blue Engine? Well she is small and has never been over the mountain, but she will try. “I think I can, I think I can…” And she chugs right over that hill.
A classic tale showing the power of determination and kindness. This reimagined version has lovely illustrations to boot.
I Don’t Want To Be Quiet – Laura Ellen Anderson
Being noisy is so much fun! Food is for crunching! Feet are for splashing! Balloons are for popping! But when your noisy game wakes the baby and your chatting and laughing disturbs the class, well, people start to get upset. At the library, the whole room takes offence. “Shhh! No talking please!” Embarrassed, she picks up a book and gives it a look. Soon she is spellbound. Hours have passed and she’s not made a sound. Though inside her head there is lots of noise: magical quests, pirate girls and lost boys.
So what happens when you really take the time to listen to the world around you? She hears birds singing and tweeting and learns so much at school, about numbers and poems and the reign of great kings. She likes being quiet it means she hears more, and there are still lots of places and times to be loud.
Bright and colourful with fun illustrations, I Don’t Want To Be Quiet is fabulous story about taking notice of the quieter things in life.
Sometimes Cake – Edwina Wyatt and Tamsin Ainslie
A charming story of the sweet relationship between Audrey and Lion and the special ordinary times they spend together.
“What are you celebrating?” said Audrey.
“Tuesday’s,” said Lion. “Also, coconuts”.
And so it goes, two friends finding delight in the every day.
The illustrations are equally delightful as the story itself.
Ellie’s Dragon – Bob Graham
Ellie finds a newborn dragon. She names him Scratch. But there’s a catch: only kids can see him. As Scratch grows to become an enormous, affection house dragon, Ellie grows too. At her eight birthday party, Scratch eats the candles while they were still smoking. By the time she was twelve, Ellie could see right through him. Not long after that, he slipped quietly away into the night.
Ellie’s Dragon is a lovely story about the magic of childhood and imagination and the process of growing and changing and moving on.
Who Am I? – Philip Bunting
We love Phillip Bunting books. The fiction books are witty and also informative. The non-fiction is informative and also witty. They tackle deep and complex issues in an accessible and humorous way. Who Am I? is not different.
Who Am I? seeks to address one of life’s biggest questions. If I am not my name, my place, my stuff, my gender, my skin colour, my muscles, my bones, my guts and stuff, my senses, my thoughts or my feelings…who am I?
The books back cover puts it best: This is a book for anyone who has ever paused to wonder exactly who is wondering.
You can find Who Am I? here.
Coco Big City Kitty – Laura Bunting and Nicky Johnson
Coco has loved living in the city since the moment she was born. The bright lights made her purr, the bustle made her meow and the buzz made her whiskers tingle. As she grew, so did her love of the city, her ballet recitals at the theatre, watching the new year’s fireworks from the balcony, twirling like a ballerina on the long lift ride down to ground level. Coco loves it all. When, one day, Mum and Dad announce they are moving to the country for Dad’s work, Coco is distraught. On the drive there Coco’s eyes well with tears, but when the rainbow she spots on their journey ends in her new front garden, she realises that maybe, just maybe, everything will be alright.
This is a delightful first book in a new series by Laura Bunting. We know Laura as half of the Laura and Phillip Bunting duo: the author and illustrator of some of our favourite books (Liarbird, Kookaburras Love to Laugh and Another Book About Bears). Coco has a distinctly different style to these wonderfully witty books. Coco is completely different, much more feminine and equally as delightful. We can’t wait to read Coco’s next adventure.
You can find Coco Big City Kitty here.