Tag: Kids Books

The ‘Twelve Books of Christmas’ list I compiled last year proved to be so popular that I’ve decided to do it again this year, looking at a completely new set of brilliant children’s Christmas books.  To get onto my list, they have to be written by seriously good storytellers, be either a classic Christmas story or a newer book that is likely to stick around and the illustrations must be something I think children will adore and will capture the essence of the season.

Here’s my ‘Twelve Books of Christmas


Michael Morpurgo ‘Christmas Stories’

Michael Morpurgo has, over the years, established himself as an eminent author of children’s fiction. His most famous book, of course, is the internationally acclaimed, 1982 novel ‘War Horse’ which has now also become a massive hit on both stage and screen. However, he has written over 100 books in total, ranging from traditional retelling of young children’s stories like ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel’, to gripping teenager page turners like the brilliant ‘Private Peaceful’.

This collection of Christmas stories shows Morpurgo at his very best. It includes the marvelous, ‘The Best Christmas Present in the World’ which on it’s own made it into my 2013 list. Here is an incredible Christmas story, told by a soldier on the front in WW1, which is found many years later in a secret drawer. ‘On Angel’s Wings’ tells of a heavenly visit. Could it be from the Angel Gabriel himself? ‘The Best of Times’ is a tale of a Prince and Princess.  Soon after they marry, joy fades away and a shadow hangs over the royal palace. As Christmas approaches, the Prince, Frederico, has to find a way to warm his new bride’s aching heart. The fourth story, ‘The Goose is Getting Fat’, tells of Gertrude the goose who is getting fatter by the day as Christmas approaches. Can her keeper, little Charlie, save Gertrude from the Christmas dinner table?

In addition to superb storytelling there a brilliant range of illustrators. Each Christmas story  is illustrated by a different artist all of whom are among the  biggest names in children’s books:  Quentin Blake, Michael Foreman, Emma Chichester Clark and Sophie Allsopp.

Buy from Amazon


 Enid Blyton Christmas StoriesEnid Blyton ‘Christmas Stories’

Enid Blyton might seem a little old-fashioned these days, but that’s exactly what makes this book perfect for the Christmas list – it’s evocative of that bygone era when you imagine family Christmases were everything they should be and everything they still ought to be.

Originally entitled ‘The Christmas Book’ and published in 1944, the stories follow a family as they prepare for Christmas. What makes this a really interesting read is that each story deals with a different Christmas tradition and as the children in the stories take part in the traditions, they and we learn about the origins of the traditions too.

As we move through the stories we learn about how Christmas began; why Christmas pudding is called plum pudding; how mince pies began; and why we eat turkey.  The inquisitive children in the stories ask all the questions about Christmas that your own children want to know: how did Christmas cards originate? Where do we get mistletoe from? What is a Yule log? Why do we have holly and Ivy?

The family in the story show us that the activities leading up to Christmas can be as exciting as the day itself and that ‘family’ itself is what makes Christmas perfect.

Buy from Amazon


Emma Thompson ‘The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit’

Although Emma Thompson is best known as a double Oscar-winning actress, she is also widely respected as a children’s author after taking up the mantle of Beatrix Potter and writing several new Peter Rabbit tales.

The latest in this edition and only published in September 2014 is ‘The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit.’Thompson has gone to great lengths to write in a style that is perfectly in tune with the original Beatrix Potter stories so that this one can fit almost seamlessly into the collection.

It tells the story of Peter Rabbit and his comical little cousin Benjamin Bunny. As Christmas is getting near Peter and Benjamin bump into a turkey called William who tells them that Farmer McGregor is ‘Having him for dinner.’

William, of course, doesn’t fully understand exactly what this means, and its up to the two rabbits to think of a plan to convince William that he’s wrong and find a way to save him.

The book is beautifully illustrated throughout in exactly the style you’d expect from a Peter Rabbit story.

Buy from Amazon


James Mayhew – Katie’s London Christmas

James Mayhew is the creator of the much-loved Katie and Ella Bella Ballerina series and many other books, including Koshka’s Tales, Miranda the Explorer and Boy. He’s been writing and illustrating Katie books for over 25 years and this latest version is ideal for young children this Christmas.

In their latest adventure, Katie and Jack are woken up late on Christmas Eve by a loud sneeze. Little do they realise that they are about to embark on the most amazing evening! Soon they are flying high across London, over snow-dusted landmarks, through the star-scattered sky with the one and only Father Christmas, in his sleigh, with his magical reindeer! But can they help Father Christmas to deliver all his presents and be back in time for Christmas morning?

This is a fabulous story with amazing illustrations and an ideal setting for a Christmas story.

Buy from Amazon


Francesca Simon – Horrid Henry’s Christmas Cracker

You can’t get away from Horrid Henry these days, he’s in book shops, on the TV and  has even made films. In the 20 years since he first came out he has become a bit of a phenomenon. One reason for this has to be his appeal to younger kids who love to read him and getting kids to read has to be a good thing.

Interestingly enough, he appeals to both genders. My two daughters, 6 and 7, both love to read his books and even I occasionally sit in on the cartoons. I even confess to having watched the movie too.

For this reason, I suspect that one book that many children will put on their own Christmas list this year is ‘Horrid Henry’s Christmas Cracker’ and for the reason that they are well written and thoroughly enjoyable stories, I’ve put them on mine too.

As you would expect, things never go to plan when Henry’s involved and in these four funny stories we find every family’s worst Christmas nightmares, as Horrid Henry sabotages the school play, tries to do his Christmas shopping without spending his pocket money, attempts to ambush Father Christmas and endures Christmas dinner with the guests from hell. Kids will love it.

Buy from Amazon

Donaldson Stick ManJulia Donaldson ‘The Stick Man’

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are the Lennon and McCartney of the picture book world. Their collaborations are fabulous examples of what children’s books should be. She creates magical stories using fabulouss rhyme and he brings them to life in a way that truly evokes childhood.

‘The Stick Man’ tells the story of a stick-like creature who gets mistaken for a real stick. We see him thrown to a dog, used as a Pooh-stick, put on a sandcastle as a flag pole, and each time he is forced further away from his family tree.

When winter begins and we see him sad and shivering on the snowy pages, we begin to wonder whether he will ever make it back to the safety of family tree. But Santa comes to the rescue and there’s a perfect Christmas ending.

Buy from Amazon


AA Milne ‘Winnie the Pooh Christmas Stories’

Winnie the Pooh has had somewhat of a revival over the last few years, especially since he made his film debut. This year, however, sees the release of a new book in which some of AA Milne‘s incredible Christmas stories are put together into one fabulous collection. Now we can join Pooh and his entourage of friends building a house in the snow, constructing the perfect snowman and receiving some mysterious Christmas letters. You’ll find kids will love these three stories set in the enchanting Hundred Acre Wood.

As usual, you will find all the stories wonderfully illustrated in the traditional Winnie the Pooh style. Perfect to read to your little ones in front of the Christmas fire.

Buy from Amazon


Walter de la Mare ‘Snow’

Walter de la Mare was a renowned British poet writing mainly in the first half of the 20th century. This beautifully illustrated book brings to life one of his most evocative poems, ‘Snow’.

As the day draws to a close, a family prepares for Christmas – decorating the tree, hanging stockings by the fire, putting out a plate of mince pies, whilst outside winter rolls in and the world turns to white.

Perfect for a winter and Christmas read for younger children.

Buy from Amazon

Claire Freedman and Ben Cort ‘Aliens Love Panta Claus’

If you have young children you will no doubt have come across the very funny books ‘Aliens Love Underpants’, ‘Dinosaurs Love Underpants’ and ‘Pirates Love Underpants’. These are tremendous fun for kids as they are full of silly rhymes all dealing with the even sillier subject of underwear being stolen, played with and fought over by pirates, dinosaurs and aliens – the perfect recipe for a good giggle, especially as the books are as humorously illustrated as they are written.

Now it seems Claire Freedman has taken her underwear fetish one step further and created the amazing ‘Aliens Love Panta Claus’. I bought this when it first came out last Christmas for my then 5 year old daughter to add to her collection. She loved it and still does and because of it’s sheer joy it gives my little girl, I’m going to add it to this year’s list – it’s a real winner.

Buy from Amazon


Susan Cooper ‘The Dark is Rising’

I first read this Susan Cooper story many years ago as a 9 year old and loved it. It’s not a typical Christmas story but it is ideal for older children who want something less traditional that is, at the same time, dark and mysterious.

It’s Christmas-time in the Stanton family house: presents, carol singing, good cheer. But for eleven-year-old Will Stanton something sinister has begun, inching round his subconscious, shouting silent warnings he can’t decipher. Then on Midwinter Day Will wakes up to a different world – silent, covered in snow and ancient forest, a world of another time. A world where evil lurks.

Because Will is not the ordinary boy he always thought he was. He is the last of the Old Ones and the power to vanquish the evil magic of the Dark lies within him.

Buy from Amazon




Jonathan Emmett ‘The Santa Trap’

This seriously wicked story introduces us to Bradley Bartleby. Bradley is bad, exceedingly bad. He’s greedy and naughty and selfish and spoilt: and Santa Claus knows it!

So, when beastly Bradley empties his Christmas stocking to find nothing but a pair of socks, he does quite the baddest thing he has ever tried to do. He builds a trap, a SANTA TRAP! With guillotines, dynamite and a tiger or two.

This Christmas it looks like Santa doesn’t stand a chance. Or does he?

This is a really fun read for youngsters that has an interesting Tim Burton-esque feel to it. It’s not your usual sweetened Christmas story, but it is a morality tale for all those children on the naughty list. Imaginatively and  brilliantly illustrated by Poly Bernatene, this is an excellent book for younger children.

Buy from Amazon


Steve Smallman ‘Santa is Coming to …( your town)’

Before I explain how good this book is, I first of all want to talk about the fact that there are hundreds of versions of this book available, each of them personalised to a place near you. For those of us in the UK , USA or Canada, you can get titles such as ‘Santa is coming to Halifax’ and ‘Santa is coming to New Jersey’. If you can’t find your town, you’ll certainly find a version in which Santa travels through your county, state or province.

Last year we bought the ‘Santa is coming to Yorkshire’ version and my daughters loved not just reading about local towns and villages that Santa went to, but seeing illustrations of those places as well.

The plot of the story is good too. It’s Christmas Eve. Santa’s packed up all the presents and set the Santa-nav to your house. So what could possibly go wrong? Discover how Santa dashes from here to there, visiting all the places in between, while you are safely tucked up in bed and fast asleep! Then the snow begins to fall and the Santa-nav stops working. How will Santa get his presents delivered?

Well written and very attractively illustrated, kids will love these, wherever they are from.

Buy from Amazon


Read Full Article

Romeo and Juliet AbridgedThere is a new abridged Romeo and Juliet available for pupils and teachers. ‘Romeo and Juliet: Abridged for Schools and Performance ‘ is specially for teachers and students of English and drama. It’s is a pacy and engaging version of the Shakespeare play that maintains the coherence of the plot and contains all the essential elements needed for classroom study and dramatic performance.

It’s ideal for the updated National Curriculum which requires teachers to move away from focusing on one or two scenes to actually engaging with the play from start to finish. This version of the play does this by carefully removing extraneous scenes and editing the text to ensure that it is easier to follow and understand than the original.

Drama teachers can use it in a number of ways. The abridged version is just over an hour in length and it is perfect for using in drama lessons for working on short scenes in small groups.

The book is also ideal for children who want to have a go at reading the original text for the first time but who may struggle with it’s complexity and wordiness.


From Amazon.co.uk

Very Vest for Kids USA

From Amazon.com





Read Full Article

Suitable for children aged 2 to 8 

Reviewed By Catherine Friess

The Mixed Up ChameleonI discovered Eric Carle’s stories when I first started teaching. As well as being enjoyable and entertaining they include lots of wonderful opportunities for learning.

The Story: The chameleon changes colour depending on where it’s sitting or whether it’s warm or cold and when it’s hungry it catches a fly. It doesn’t have a very interesting life but one day it sees a zoo full of animals. It wishes that it could be like a polar bear and its wish comes true. Then it wishes it could be like a flamingo. As well as gaining flamingo wings it also retains some polar bear characteristics. The chameleon carries on wishing and ends up with characteristics from nine different animals and a human but it runs into trouble when it gets hungry and can’t catch a fly. Its last wish is to be a chameleon again so that it can catch the fly, luckily for him that wish also comes true.

The Mixed Up Chameleon is a simple story supported by Eric Carle’s wonderfully colourful illustrations. I have read this story to so many children and they always laugh at the ‘creature’ that the chameleon turns into. With a deer’s antlers, an elephant’s trunk and a giraffe’s neck it looks quite bizarre (and also very colourful) by the end of the story. The text is simple and repetitive, it is the pictures that tell the story and children love spotting each new animal characteristic as the chameleon makes its next wish. The message that The Mixed Up Chameleon portrays is very simple, ‘be yourself’ and enjoy your uniqueness, you won’t necessarily be any better off if you are different. It’s a great book to stimulate discussion about similarities and differences between yourself and others and also to talk about similarities and differences between different animal species.

Nearly forty years after it was first published The Mixed Up Chameleon is timeless and I have used it in so many ways in the classroom, particularly with Reception and Year One children. With its simple repetitive text and picture clues it’s a great book for beginner readers. It introduces ten different animals including the chameleon and explains a chameleon’s colour changing characteristics in a way that young children can easily understand. Each of the animals is a different colour and a beautiful rainbow at the end of the story provides opportunities for consolidating colour recognition. I have used The Mixed Up Chameleon with Year Two children who have chosen their own animal characteristics to make their own mixed up chameleon stories and I’ve also made a wall display using pictures that Reception children have drawn with their own mixed up chameleons.

As well as being entertaining, Eric Carle’s stories introduce a lot of learning. They’re also great books to introduce basic vocabulary to non native English speakers and I’ve often used them in the EFL classroom. Other Eric Carle favourites of mine include Little Cloud (weather and the water cycle), From Head to Toe (parts of the body and movement), The Secret Birthday Message (shapes and position words), Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see? (animals) and the classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar (days of the week, lifecycle of a caterpillar and food).

Find The Mixed Up Chameleon at Amazon

Author Bio

Catherine Friess is an Early Years teacher who also has EFL experience with adults and children. She recommends her favourite picture and early chapter books on Story Snug. You can also follow her on Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter.

Read Full Article

Getting Older Children to read

Getting reluctant readers back into books

For reluctant readers, using technology can be an excellent way to improve children’s reading and overall education. One thing I’ve noticed in the classroom in recent years is that whilst many children are reluctant to pick up a book and read it, hand them a gadget with a screen and they can’t keep their hands off.

Why don’t older children want to read books?

There is a psychological barrier that many children, particularly as they approach their teens, have with reading a book. It’s not an aversion to reading, but more to do with social acceptance.

In their teenage years, they are at an age where being socially acceptable is more important to them than at any other time of their lives. They have a need to fit in with their peers and the trendy kids at school.

This is why they demand only certain brands, have to style their hair in a particular way, listen to specific types of music and dress in similar ways to each other.

Truly, life can be devastating if they feel cast out of their social group for not conforming – and reading, unfortunately, is not seen as cool. It’s geeky, it’s what the swotty kids do. Not reading books can be part of the norm they have to conform to. So, to improve children’s reading we need to find a way around this problem.

The modern solution for reluctant readers

Thanks to technology, there is a solution. If you are the parent of a reluctant reader, then dangling an Amazon Kindle Fire HD in front of your child’s nose might be the perfect answer to improving their reading skills. Why? Well, although it has many of  the same features as an iPad or other tablet PC (they can surf the net, download thousands of apps, store and play all their music as well as play videos and watch movies) the primary function of the Kindle is as a book reader.

Improve children's readingThe Kindle makes reading cool. It removes the social barrier as there’s no turning of paper pages. Children see it more as ‘surfing a book’ or using a ‘book app’ rather than ‘boring reading’.

Of course, being made by Amazon, there are an almost endless number of books to be downloaded and read – and frequently cheaper than the physical version – all of which can be stored on the device itself. These include not only novels and stories but also graphic novels and other similarly formatted texts that your child might feel more comfortable reading. There are many educational and school textbooks available on Amazon, too. With an Amazon Fire, your child can carry around a whole library with them in one small package.

This might seem like an odd approach to improving children’s reading, but it works. I have seen it working in schools. Kids who wouldn’t be seen dead in a library will sit engrossed in the classroom, almost unaware that what they are doing is reading. E-readers remove the social barriers and at the same time provides a medium that young people prefer to use to read. This allows parents to help their children form good reading habits though those vital teenage years.

The Kindle also has one more trick up its sleeve – it allows children to listen to audio books. Whilst not as beneficial as actually reading a text, this can be extremely useful for older children who have to work their way through longer texts for school. A child who might take several weeks to get through a 200-page novel might find it much easier and quicker to listen to it through an audiobook. There are thousands of suitable audiobooks available for download, at very reasonable prices, from Audible, another Amazon company.

Like all good devices, the Kindle Fire HD offers you parental control over what your children can and can’t have access to. And the other big advantages? It’s significantly less expensive than an iPad and as it can also be used as a tablet PC there’s no need to buy another device. There’s also a new larger version available too.

Find out more about Kindle Fire HD here


All opinions in this review are our own, however, we may be compensated should you make a purchase through the links provided.

Read Full Article

books for advanced young readersI’ve just come across a perfect selection of books for advanced young readers. The Usbourne Young Reading Classics are a collection of beautifully illustrated classic novels rewritten for younger readers.

What makes this collection excellent is that it includes many of the great texts from the English literary canon that high achievers would be expected to read. There are many traditional older children’s books, such as Robinson Crusoe, Heidi and  Pinocchio and then there are some really grown up classics from writers such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen and the Brontes.

Whilst these are suitably challenging books for advanced young readers, they are ideal for younger children because they have been rewritten especially for them and are heavily illustrated with lots of colourful pictures which young children still love to lok at no matter how well they can read.

If you have a four to eight year old who is a good reader, needs challenging to the next level and is running out of suitable books aimed at their age group, then these are the books for you. The books come in several difficulty levels, so once your child improves their reading skills you can move them up to the next one.

To see the full collection, visit here

Read Full Article

Sophie's SquashMy latest kids’ book review has turned out to be very exciting indeed. The book I have chosen is ‘Sophie’s Squash’ by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf – and not only did I manage to interview Pat, she also kindly agreed to giveaway a signed first edition copy to one of our lucky readers! ‘Sophie’s Squash’ is an endearing story, about love, friendship and  just a little bit about growing up. The story centres around a little girl called Sophie who chooses a squash on a trip to the farmers’ market with her parents. When she get’s home, instead of letting her mom cook it, she adopts it. She even gives it a name: Bernice. From that moment, a wonderful friendship is born and Sophie and Bernice are inseparable. This certainly clicked with me, having one daughter with an imaginary friend and another who crafts characters out of various bits of odds and ends and then has to take them out shopping with us and ride them in the trolley. It certainly was a story that they would love. As the story continues and winter begins to near, Sophie, who failed to heed her parents’ gentle warnings that Bernice will begin to rot, start’s to notice that changes are taking place. Nature is running its course. This is the touching and growing up part of the story. What can a little girl to do when the squash she loves is in trouble? ‘Sophie’s Squash’ is a delightful story, well told and perfect for reading to the kids – especially now as winter approaches. It’s beautifully illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf who manages to create a perfect setting and atmosphere for the tale as well as creating some very funny pictures to compliment the text and bring the characters to life.

What the critics have said about ‘Sophie’s Squash’

Booklist, August 1, 2013: “In a perfect blend of story and art, the humorous watercolor-and-ink illustrations are bursting with color and energy on every page… This is a paean to love and friendship, which can come in all species, shapes, and sizes.” School Library Journal, July 2013: “With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children, and their parents will be happy to read it to them often.” Publishers Weekly, May 27, 2013: “Sensitive but funny… Miller’s easygoing storytelling taps into the familiar scenario of children making fierce attachments to favorite objects.”   Buy Sophie’s Squash from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com


Pat Zietlow MillerHere’s what Pat Zietlow Miller had to say when I interviewed her:

What inspired you to write SOPHIE’S SQUASH?  My daughter, Sonia, fell in love with a squash when she was small. It was so sweet. She wasn’t as dedicated as Sophie is in my story, but she was definitely the inspiration for the book. I took what happened to her and asked, “What if she hadn’t wanted to give the squash up?” “What if she kept it so long it began to rot?” Tell us a little bit about Bernice, the squash.  Bernice is the perfect friend. She loves unconditionally, listens to secrets but doesn’t tell them, and is always up for whatever Sophie wants to do. Plus, as Sophie says, she’s “just the right size to love.” Really, who wouldn’t want a friend like Bernice? Is there a message in the book that you want children to understand?  I didn’t write the book with a message in mind, but as the book evolved, I think the message became: “Friends come in all shapes and sizes.” And that’s what I write in every book I sign. You never can tell who will matter in your life – especially at first glance.  The illustrations are fantastic, what attracted you to the work of Anne Wilsdorf?  I just adore the illustrations. I hold Anne Wilsdorf in a special kind of awe. Interestingly enough, we’ve never met and I had nothing to do with her being chosen to illustrate the book. The folks at Schwartz & Wade matched us together, and I don’t think they could have done a better job. Anne made Sophie and Bernice and their family come to life in the most wonderful way. I understand you have several other books in the pipeline, what are they about? I have three books that are in the process of being published.

  • SHARING THE BREAD is a celebration of food and family and togetherness as seen during one down-home Thanksgiving dinner.
  • WHEREVER YOU GO is a poem about all the different paths you can take in life.
  • THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE is the story of a little girl in 1960s Clarksville, Tennessee, who dreams of being the fastest girl in the world – just like her hero, sprinter Wilma Rudolph, who made history as the first woman from the United States to win three gold medals at one Olympics.

They’re all quite different from each other, but that’s one of the things I like best about being a writer. There are so many different stories to write and so many ways to write them. You also review books for children on your own website, ‘Read, Write, Repeat’. What’s your favourite book you have reviewed?  Oh, that’s a hard one. I am a huge reader and book lover, so I have lots of favorites. Two I especially remember enjoying are STAND STRAIGHT, ELLA KATE by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise and IMOGENE’S LAST STAND by Candace Fleming and Nancy Carpenter. The first is the true story of Ella Kate Ewing, a young woman who grew to be 8 feet tall. It tells how she embraced her differences to enjoy life. The endpapers feature the actual size of her shoe and her gloves. The second is a fictional account of a young girl who saves her town’s historical society from destruction. It features quotes from lots of famous people artfully woven into the story. Both are wonderful, wonderful picture books.

You can buy Sophie’s Squash from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Read Full Article

Here are Amazon’s top new children’s book releases for October and November 2013  – and there’s some awesome titles in there you’re kids will love.

Demon DentistThe Demon Dentist

Top in both new releases and the most wished for category is David Walliams’ The Demon Dentist. The comedian and Britain’s Got Talent Judge seems to have many strings to his bow.  This is his sixth novel and after the ‘The Stink’ was made into a film recently, the appeal of his books has spread much wider.

Described as a ‘jaw-achingly funny novel’,  Demon Dentist is a thrilling tale about an evil dentist who has an over-the-top devotion to teeth extractions and how one special boy and his dreamer dad finally stand up to this drilling-crazed villain.

Publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, calls it an ‘original and flamboyantly dark new tale, with a super-villain so rotten, fans will get hooked from page one.”

Released 26th Sept

Find at Amazon.co.uk  Find at Amazon.com

diary of wimpy kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Hard Luck

Another of the top new children’s book releases in both the UK and the US is Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Hard Luck, the 8th book in the best-selling series by Jeff Kinney.

The story follows Greg Heffley’s who’s on a losing streak. His best friend, Rowley Jefferson, has ditched him, and finding new friends in middle school is proving to be a tough task. To change his fortunes, Greg decides to take a leap of faith and turn his decisions over to chance. Will a roll of the dice turn things around, or is Greg’s life destined to be just another hard-luck story?

Ideal for children Aged 8+ Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Hard Luck is released on November 6th

Find at Amazon.co.uk  Find at Amazon.com



diamondDiamond (Hetty Feather)

Internationally acclaimed children’s author Jacqueline Wilson’s newest novel ‘Diamond‘ is another feature of both the Hot New Releases and  Most Wished For lists.

The Hetty Feather series is set in Victorian England. This book follows the adventures of Diamond. Born to penniless parents who longed for a strong, healthy son, she was a dainty, delicate daughter – and a bitter disappointment.

Discovering she has an extraordinary gift for acrobatics, Diamond uses her talent to earn a few pennies but brings shame on her family. Then a mysterious, cruel-eyed stranger spots her performing and makes a deal with her father. Diamond is sold for five guineas and is taken to become an acrobat at Tanglefield’s Travelling Circus.

The crowds adore Diamond, but life behind the velvet curtains is far from glamorous. Her wicked master forces Diamond to attempt ever more daring and dangerous tricks until she is terrified to step into the ring. But there are true friends to be found at the circus, too: the gentle Mister Marvel; the kindly Madame Adeline; and the glorious Emerald Star, Tanglefield’s brand-new ringmaster, and Diamond’s heroine.

When life at the circus becomes too dangerous to bear any longer, what will the future hold for Diamond? And will her beloved Emerald be a part of it?

Diamond is released on 26th Sept

Find at Amazon.co.uk  Not yet available at Amazon.com


dragonHow to Betray a Dragon’s Hero

How to Train Your Dragon was a hugely successful novel and film and the latest book from Cressida Cowell continues with the folklore of her magical world in How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero. This story concentrates on the character of Hiccup who begins the novel hiding high up in the treacherous mists of the Murderous Mountains with the Company of the Dragonmark. The witch’s Spydragons are guarding the shores of Tomorrow – but Hiccup is determined to become King of the Wilderwest.

Can Hiccup dodge the dragons and steal the King’s Things back from Alvin before the Doomsday of Yule? And is there a traitor in Hiccup’s camp who in the end will betray them all?

It sounds like a real good old fashioned tale that kids can get stuck into.

Released 26th Sept

Find at Amazon.co.uk  Find at Amazon.com


dmincreaftMinecraft: The Official Annual 2013

My kids were introduced to Minecraft by an older cousin and have fans ever since. Although its name makes it sound like a fighting game, it’s actually, its a game where children can build entire worlds of their own. They can build landscapes, undergrounds, buildings, vegetation, all manner of things. They can also use wifi  to connect devices, build worlds together and explore them.

The Minecraft Annual 2014 might not be a literary read, but for the thousands of kids out there who play the game, this could be quite a clever buy. Once again, it comes very high on the Amazon Hot list and Wish Lists, coming number 3 in both!

The description says it all really: ‘This annual celebrates the limitless possibilities of Minecraft. Packed with step-by-step instructions for exciting builds and projects, tips from the experts, including the game’s creator Notch himself, cool things to make, games to test your brain power and codes to unravel, it’s everything Minecraft fans have been waiting for.’

Released 10 Oct

Find at Amazon.co.uk  Find at Amazon.com

Read Full Article

Childrens Book GiveawayKids Book Giveaway

Congratulations to Jenny Q who has won our first ever giveaway on VerybestForKids.com. She is now the proud owner of a copy of Jonny Duddle’s ‘The Pirate Cruncher.’

Thanks to all who entered.

Read about all 3 Jonny Duddle Books

About ‘The Pirate Cruncher’

Our daughters adore this fantastic book by Jonny Duddle. His illustrations are absolutely fab: highly detailed, bright, funny and colourful with lots of hidden things to spot every time you read it – and your kids will want you to read it with them a lot.

Written in rhyme with a real sea shanty feel to the rhythm, the story is about a  mysterious fiddler who shares a treasure map with Captain Purplebeard and his crew of greedy pirates.

After they set sail to find the treasure, the fiddler gives them a fearful warning about a pirate-eating monster, but Captain Purplebeard carries on on his quest, regardless.  As they sail across the seas the crew become increasingly unnerved by the fiddler’s terrifying song. The crew, as to be expected  eventually come to meet the dreaded pirate cruncher – but there’s a very unexpected twist on the spectacular fold out page at the end!

There is so much to learn, see and here in this book that it has to be one of our very best reads of all time.


ukicon  find at Amazon.co.uk

Very Vest for Kids USA  find at Amazon.com

Giveaway verybestforkids.comOther books by Jonny Duddle

Pirates Next Door

Jonny Duddle’s second book Pirates Next Door is illustrated in the same fab way as The Pirate Cruncher – lots of highly detailed, fun illustrations with lots of hidden things to spot as you look at them and the wonderful fold our page with the story’s twist at the end.

This book, again written in roll off the tongue rhyme is the hilarious story of  the Jolley-Rogers – a pirate family, who have decided to move to Dull-on-Sea, a too quiet seaside town where nothing ever happens – until of course the pirate family move in! Whilst waiting to  mend their ship, this quirky family get the whole town gossiping and spreading rumours.

Against the wishes of the grown-ups, Matilda, from next door befriends with the youngest pirate son. And when the Jolly-Rogers finally have their ship repaired and leave,  the townsfolk discover their rumours were wrong – the Jolly Rogers had buried treasure in everyone’s gardens. This makes Matilda feel very sad until she discovers her own treasure!.

Again, my girls thought this book is absolutely fantastic and is a brilliant addition to your collection that will certainly rival the Gruffalo.


ukicon  find at Amazon.co.uk

Very Vest for Kids USA find at Amazon.com

Book Giveaway verybestforkids.comKing of Space

Beautiful, detailed illustrations abound once more in Duddle’s latest book that has another fun story with a moral to be learned just like the previous pirate books. With aliens, warbots, dung-blasters, and more, this is truly imaginative intergalactic adventure – and this time there is more text to be read with a slightly longer tale.

The story follows Rex, who although he may look like your usual six-year-old, living on his parents’ moog farm and attending the mini intergalactic citizen school, knows he’s destined someday to become the King of Space!

With the aid of his unsuspecting friends, Rex disobeys his parents and begins his conquest of the known universe. But, and here’s the moral of the story, he goes too far, kidnapping the Emperor’s daughter and bribing her with ‘choco-goo’. Now the tables turn and the might of the Galactic Alliance come after him. Who can rescue Rex now?


ukicon find at Amazon.co.uk

Very Vest for Kids USA

find at Amazon.com


The Pirate Cruncher Kids Book Giveaway Competition

The competition will be open until midnight 30 Sept. Open to adults in any country, only one entry per household permitted. The winner will be informed by email. For full details see our terms and conditions on the entry form. Winners are picked at random via the Rafflecopter giveaway software.

All opinions in this review are our own, however, we may be compensated should you make a purchase through the links provided.

Read Full Article

If you have kids who have begun reading early here are some really fun books to get them started.  As both a parent and a teacher, I’m only going to mention books that my own children have enjoyed and which I think have helped them improved their reading – and for very early readers this basically boils down to books from two sets of publishers.


Oxford Reading Tree Books for Early Readers

best early readers for childrenThe first is the Oxford Reading Tree set of books, published by Oxford University Press. These are excellent books for early readers which follow the funny lives of a group of children, their parents and a daft dog named Floppy.

The stories are written at different grade levels and become more challenging books as your child develops their reading skills.

The first books use very simple vocabulary and short sentences and the higher level books are written with more complex sentences and vocabulary and with a lot more words to read on the page.

They are delightfully illustrated on every page and, because they are in hardback, last a long time which helps when they get read over and over again. Ours have lasted through both children.

The first books use very simple vocabulary and short sentences and the higher level books are written with more complex sentences and vocabulary and with a lot more words to read on the page. They are delightfully illustrated on every page and, because they are in hardback, last a long time which helps when they get read over and over again. Ours have lasted through both children.

From a teacher’s perspective, I like them because they focus on keywords for reading development and the lower level books start with the phonics sounds your child will need to tackle first and before move to more complex sounds.

The illustrations give good guidance to what is happening in the story and because they follow the same characters it leads to the child having a better understanding of the story. There is also a book for parents which gives good ideas of how to use the books for developing reading at home and lists the kinds of activities you can do.

There must be a couple of hundred books in the range so it’s impossible to list them all here. However, you can buy them individually, in small packs of 6 or 8, which is how we started, or even in jumbo packs of 78, if you want a library full (which you may get through over a couple of years or so as your child improve’s their reading skills.

Get Oxford Reading Tree Books Here

Amazon.co.uk store

Very Vest for Kids USA


Early Reading


Usborne Books for Early Readers

The other publisher I have chosen for very early readers is Usborne. There are two sets of books we liked from this publisher. The first was their Usborne Phonics Readers which are funny little stories written in rhyme and which again focus on particular phonics sounds which children need to learn to read.

These too are beautifully illustrated and have opening flaps on some of the pages. The collected stories, ‘Goose on the Loose and other Tales’ and ‘Fat Cat on the Mat and Other Tales’ are the ones we have at home. These come with hard covers with padding, so they can withstand a bit of throwing around.

First reading booksThe other set of Usborne books is the Usborne Very First Reading Books. Like the Oxford books, they too are very well written and fun to read.

They are illustrated too and also get more challenging as children rise through the different levels. However, they use rhyme more frequently in how a story is told and unlike Oxford Reading Tree, not all the stories follow the same characters. Again, there are a lot of books to choose from, they can be bought individually or in box sets.




Get Usborne Books here


Very Vest for Kids USAAmazon.com



All opinions in this review are our own, however, we may be compensated should you make a purchase through the links provided.

Read Full Article

As a former English teacher, one thing I can tell you is that early readers do much better at school. They understand their books better, have superior writing skills, can express their ideas more articulately and they have a wider understanding of the world than non-readers. In addition, they enjoy learning, are highly motivated and are a step ahead of the class from day one.

But how do you get your kids reading early? Well, here are some helpful tips for you to try that have been proven to work.


1)      Use foam bath letters

kids reading earlyFoam bath letters are a great way to teach the alphabet and to learn the spelling of simple words. We used with our daughters from about 12 months old and within 6 months they could arrange the entire alphabet and write their name.

The best way to start is to let them play with the letters, but each time they pick one up, tell them what letter it is and the sound it makes. After this, begin to ask them to find letters. Once they can do this, the next stage is to sequence the letters on the side of the bath.  It’s a fun way to learn and children really enjoy taking part.

Very Best for kids UK  Cuckoo Alex Rub A Dub ABC And 123 Shapes For The Tub

Very Vest for Kids USA Alex Toys Shapes For The Tub – Abc & 123


2)  Reading with your kids

If you want to encourage early reading, it’s important to read with rather than read to your kids. To do this, make sure your child can see the book and trace the words with your fingers as you read out aloud. Although they won’t understand the words at first, they will begin to realize that the sounds are linked with the marks on the page and that you read from left to right and from top to bottom. Both of these are essential things to grasp before children can learn to read.

Once your child has learned a few letters, you can get them to spot them as you read. ‘Can you find the b?’

Another helpful hint is to use colourful books with lift up flaps or textured illustrations. These increase children’s pleasure and fascination with the books and help motivate them to read. As you read, remember to ask questions or get them to interact with the story. ‘What’s under the flap?’ ‘Can you find the rabbit?’ ‘What letter does that word begin with?’

3)      Join the library

A library is like an Aladdin’s cave for young children learning to read. Let them go and explore, open books, look at pictures and find books for you to read with them. If you can, don’t just take the books home, read them in the library too. It then becomes a world of adventures.Joining a library will also give you a better idea of what to buy for your home collection too.

4)      Choose the right books

There are countless children’s books available and choosing the right ones for your child can often seem an improbable task. However, here is a list of some things to look for:

  • colourful picture books
  • interactive designs
  • rhyming stories
  • phonics stories
  • relatively easy vocabulary (gradually getting more challenging)
  • good stories (this is a personal opinion)
  • books which tell a story in a few hundred words

For more ideas read our article Great Books for Early Readers

The more your child enjoys stories and books the sooner they will want to be able to read them for themselves. If they love one particular story more than others and keep asking you to read it, you may eventually find they know the opening off by heart. This is a great opportunity for you to ask them to read it to you. They won’t actually be able to read at first, but if they know they words and you point at the written word whilst they say it, they will soon associate the two, and this is one of the first steps to real reading.

5)      Book talk

Talking about books goes a long way to develop kids’ reading. Asking questions helps them understand the book and lets you know how well they are learning the stories. You can ask them about their favourite characters, what they think will happen on the next page, whether they like or dislike what has just happened. You can get them to tell their own stories based on the books you have read. All this will help develop an interest in books and learning and keep your child wanting to read.

6) Get to grips with phonics

Read our article about how to use phonics to help your kids start reading and find out how teachers do it.

Here’s some more tips:

8 Tips for Teaching your Child to Read

Read Full Article