November was a cracking month for children’s books. Several of my absolute favourite authors, illustrators and author/illustrators apparently all tried to outdo each other by releasing the picture book of the year! Which one is best…? I’ll leave it up to you to decide. Welcome to the November 2020 Children’s Book Roundup!
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.
Macca and Al, Super Pals – Matt Cosgrove
It is always an exciting day when a new Macca book arrives on our doorstep! With his best mate, Al, these two hilarious alpacas always elicit laughter and joy from our four year old.
Macca and Al love playing superheroes. As is their way, they eventually decide that they should become real-life superheroes. At first, their attempts at good deeds go well enough (helping a sloth move faster, unravelling an anaconda and helping everyone’s favourite yaks find their missing sax). However, with Macca and Al it is only a matter of time before things… unravel.
The Tree – Graeme Base
For anyone in the know, the name “Graeme Base” is probably all that needs to be said. Animalia was a vividly memorable part of my childhood – I distinctly remember the way those incredibly detailed pages took me to a different world. The Eleventh Hour, The Amazing Monster Detectoscope and Moonfish are all incredible, unique picture books that I absolutely adore.
The Tree is stunning. Each page is packed full of Graeme Base’s instantly recognisable artwork and simple-but-powerful text. A page with just four words can take minutes to absorb. A page with no words at all can take even longer.
For our four year old beginner reader, The Tree is incredibly motivating to read. The simplicity of the small amount of text on each page is inviting and there are several words she can easily decode by herself.
Wombat – Philip Bunting
Okay, I know I’ve just raved about Matt Cosgrove and Graeme Base, but I’m going to do it again because Philip Bunting is another absolutely incredible author/illustrator that I can’t get enough of.
Prolific is an understatement. Our shelves are quickly filling with books that he has authored and illustrated, or jointly written with Laura Bunting. Then there are the books of other great authors that he has illustrated. Philip Bunting’s style is instantly recognisable and his adorable animals are packed full of personality.
Wombat is clever in its simplicity. Each picture is accompanied by a single word that is a play on the word “wombat”, from the obvious “twobats” and “threebats” to the absurd (and funny) “fallendownaholebat”.
Naturally, the single word aligned to a simple picture format is engaging for our beginner reader. She already knows most of the words in this book. Even the 1 year old shouts out some of his favourites!
You can find Wombat here.
How to Make a Bird – Meg McKinlay and Mat Ottley
I have to be careful here because soon you are going to stop believing me when I sing the praises of all these authors. But in this case, I’m afraid I have no option, because How to Make a Bird is a collaboration between two of the best in the business. Unsurprisingly, it is brilliant! Meg McKinlay has a wonderful way with words. We have several of her books on our shelves and she has made me laugh out loud more than once, but she has also made me think, made me wonder and (I’m not ashamed to say) brought a tear to my eye.
Matt Ottley’s illustrations are always superb. I love the details in his illustrations and his mastery of light and shadow. Somehow his worlds always feel so real, even with the obvious exaggeration that emphasises the point.
Together McKinlay and Ottley have created something truly unique and special. As is usually the case in Meg McKinlay’s books, there is just as much for the adult reader to get out of it as there is for the child. I dare you to get all the way through without shedding tear.
History Atlas – Thiago de Moraes
Human history is fascinating, but it is not always easily accessible for curious young minds. Thiago de Moraes recognises that and his History Atlas is designed to grab hold of young, curious minds and take them through some of the key points in human history.
There is a huge amount of information in this History Atlas and it is presented in a very visually appealing way. My four year old loves matching the numbers on each map with the corresponding paragraph of information. There is a healthy dose of humour and de Moraes himself encourages young readers to view this resource as just one possible way of viewing history. I really admire this approach to encouraging critical thinking in young minds.
Best of all, as we sit and read together, I’m learning plenty about our world that I had never known, or even thought about before. For example, I now know how ice blocks were invented. Important stuff!
You can find History Atlas here.
Shine You Magic Torch: Magical Creatures and Mythical Beasts – Professor & Millie Mortimer and Victo Bhai
Life is better when there is a bit of magic around. Professor Mortimer and his daughter, Millie, take us on an adventure around the globe to discover magical creatures, mythical beasts and the histories and stories behind them.
If that wasn’t already enough, hidden in the beautifully detailed illustrations are the actual magical creatures – only viewable with the assistance of the included special light. If that doesn’t grab the attention of a young mythical beasts hunter, I don’t know what will!
You can find Shine You Magic Torch: Magical Creatures and Mythical Beasts on the Walker website.
I’m a Hero Too – Jamila Rizvi and Peter Cheong
Today, Arty is feeling sad. He likes going to kinder, visiting Granny and going to the playground with friends, but now everything has changed. Mum started talking in whispers behind closed doors. Dad stopped wearing a suit and catching the train and works in the study now. Oh yes, Covid is here.
Today, Arty feels cross. The grown-ups cry now and Arty thought grown-ups weren’t supposed to cry. It makes his tummy go all swirly and bubbly inside. Dad says ‘The world has changed a lot, hasn’t it, Arty?’ Arty’s tummy doesn’t like all of the changes. Arty has an idea ‘Maybe the world should change back to the way it was!’ Somebody they know if helping to do just that, Dad explains. Arty’s mum is a scientist. She still goes to work because her job is making medicines. And she is going to make a brand new medicine to fight the virus. His mum is a hero.
Now Arty is excited. He is going to be a hero, just like his mum. Heroes wash their hands for twenty seconds, scrubbing front and back because the tricky virus is invisible. Heroes try very hard not to touch their faces or put their fingers in their moths, because that sneaky virus can hide just like a ninja. As well as fighting the virus, Arty has other jobs as well. He gets dressed quickly so that mum doesn’t have to ask twice. He listens to dad when he uses his important voice and waits patiently until his video call is done to finish their puzzle. Arty knows the virus won’t last forever.
Hannah really enjoyed this book. She asked be to read it to several nights in a row and said that she was a hero too. She liked that. I’m a Hero Too helped her to make a little more sense of the world in the crazy year that is 2020. I think it made her feel a little less alone, knowing that the kids in books are going through the same things, and she felt a little prouder of doing her bit. I recommend this book to anyone with pre- and primary school aged kids.
Wreck This Picture Book – Keri Smith
Put on your brave pants because things are about to get uncomfortable. For the adults, I mean. Not the kids. The kids love it.
The jacket cover if this books states: The truth is books are not meant to sit on shelves. They are meant to be used and read and carried and taken on adventures. A book on the shelf is not living the life it is meant to live.
And so it begins.
The rubbing, the shaking, the looking, the listening, the knocking, the smelling, the tasting (Brave pants! Remember your brave pants!). Can the book fly? Can you roll up the pages? (Arrrgghh!!! All of my sensibilities!) Can you hide a secret message in the book. Can the book make waves? How many different positions can you read the book in?
I think a need a calming hot tea and a lie down…
There is No Magic In This Book – Michelle MacWhirter and Sophie Beer
Do you like magic? Well, you’ve come to the wrong place because there is definitely no magic in this book. Or is there?
In this interactive story there are enchanted surprises for eagle-eyed readers to discover on every spread. It is a fun story that encourages young readers to look for magic even in the most ordinary places.
The Wizard in my Shed: The Misadventures of Merdyn the Wild – Simon Farnby
What happens when the world’s most ordinary girl (with the world’s best pet guinea pig) encounters the world’s most badly-behaved wizard who has been banished to the 21st century for bad behaviour?
When Rose discovers what Merdyn is, she agrees to help him navigate the confusing ways of the modern world if Merdyn gives her a spell to fix her family in return. Fun fact: the lidded bowl in the bathroom is not a sink, it’s a toilet, so definitely don’t wash your face in it. Now they just need to hide Merdyn in the shed without Rose’s mum noticing, track down Merdyn’s magic staff and find a way to send Merdyn back through time to the dark ages.
You can find The Wizard in my Shed: The Misadventures of Merdyn the Wild on the Hachette website.
There’s Only One Friend Like You – Jess Racklyeft
There’s Only One Friend Like You is filled with stunning illustrations and rhyming text, true to Jess Racklyeft form. It captures some powerful messages about friendships.
“Friends for life or just a day – we move about and grow. Friendship isn’t stuck in place… It’s there, wherever we go.”
Chicken Little: The Real and Totally True Tale – Sam Wedelich
Chicken Little is not little, he is petite. Little implies young and small. He is not a baby. Babies are easily scared and he is not afraid of anything. Bonk! What was that?! Is the sky falling? Probably not, but chicken will investigate.
When his coop mates see him investigating whether the sky is falling, pretty soon things spiral WAY out of control.
Hold on to your hats, you’re in for a funny old ride.
You can find Chicken Little: The Real and Totally True Tale here.
Weather – Scholastic, John Farndon, Sean Callery, Miranda Smith
Hannah loved looking through this book with me. She finds the weather interesting and so liked looking at the pictures and hearing more details about interesting weather events. Things like what all the different types of clouds are called and what a blizzard is. The true or false section is fun too!
You can find Weather here.