The Little Ones’ Books ~ Pt 2 ❤️

I’ve been meaning for a while to write about some more of the favourite books of the young team here in our little house! I have always had such a love for children’s books, some of the favourites from my childhood treasured and re-read over and over; and I’ve loved getting to know some beautiful books for very young children ever since my oldest daughter arrived. I did write one post away back at World Book Day a couple of years ago that I had always meant to be the start of many but never quite got round to it. Now, though, I’m so enjoying writing about all my own reading on here that thought it would be a lovely time to start writing about our very favourites just a few at a time.

Last time had a look at Carson Ellis’s Home, Julia Donaldson’s The Highway Rat, Jonathan Emmet’s Mole series and Janet & Allan Ahlberg’s classic Peepo!

They are all still very well-loved additions to our bookshelf. Our Julia Donaldson collection has grown and definitely now have more of hers to cover! The Mole books and Home still make for lovely quiet reading and Peepo! especially has been a frequently-selected bedtime story for the last couple of years here and is one of the many our biggest girl loves to recite from heart after so many readings. It’s become even more special to us too since our littlest daughter arrived – we love the sister squabbling for the baby on her knee, all the chaos around the littlest member of the Peepo family, and most of all that he finds so much love and security in it despite its noise and bluster. ❤️

Old Bear books, by Jane Hissey

Starting with an absolute favourite of mine, and a collection so well-loved by us all, Jane Hissey’s Old Bear books are so very special thanks to the perfectly drawn characters, the warming stories and the detailed and simply beautiful illustrations. Although like so many others we’ve got really into, these are favourites from my own childhood (my copy of Old Bear dated to me at Christmas when I was one, and a story I’ve never forgotten), it is actually some of the more recently written books that are the best loved here. The All-Together Painting, published in 2013, is a really lovely one, and the newest addition to our bookshelf is the most recent, Happy Birthday, Old Bear, a beautiful 30th anniversary special, with all the old favourites and a new character, Elsie the little grey elephant, too – who has become as much of a hit as Old Bear, Little Bear, Bramwell Brown and all the rest.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram

This is a simple and lovely bedtime story that I never get tired of and that both girls love. Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare’s lovely exchanges as they move gradually closer to bedtime are just perfect, and it’s a beautiful little book.

Baby, I Love You – illustrated by Helen Stephens

We have two copies of this very special book and I’m actually going to keep them both so both girls have one – this is a UNICEF books created and published to support babies and new parents in those blurry early days and is just so beautifully done – the illustrations are perfect. I love that there’s mess, there’s imperfections, but there’s so much love in every drawing. These are gifted here as part of babies’ first Bookbug bags, and I loved receiving them both times, a really lovely, calming and reassuring gift for all the family to mark such a big moment.

Alfie: The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook by Shirley Hughes

This is one that arrived with us in lockdown – our biggest girl got a wonderful birthday present from her grandparents of the chance to choose a book a month through the year. We have had a great time doing it (mostly having them delivered as it’s turned out instead of bookshop browsing as planned!) and it’s been so nice that it can grow with her and be the perfect book for now. All our outdoor play in lockdown – gardens and tents and exploring the world on our doorstep – lent itself perfectly to being completely swept up in Alfie’s adventures, and all his games with his little sister Annie-Rose were wonderful too as we adapted to sibling relationships here. Shirley Hughes’ drawings bring nature to life in such a beautiful way, and this is a lovely collection.

There are so many books we’ve come across and loved, will definitely write with some more soon!

Hope you are all having a good weekend. X

World Book Day ~ The Beauty and Joy of Children’s Books

I have blogged before about how much I love books, especially children’s books, and really enjoyed writing about my favourite pony and animal stories from childhood – and confessing (as I absolutely don’t mind doing!) that I still keep and re-read them now. I loved looking at the Anne of Green Gables series too, which I’ve fallen in love with even more as an adult than as a child and count some of (Anne of Green Gables, Anne’s House of Dreams, Rilla of Ingleside ♥️) as my very favourite and most sustaining reads.

I really believe that reading can form such a huge part of growing and developing – and one of the things I’ve always looked forward to about having children of my own is being able to share stories with them.

We’re very lucky in Scotland to have a real focus on the importance of reading from birth onwards and even before. In antenatal classes we were encouraged to get used to reading aloud during pregnancy, Scotland’s Baby Boxes have cloth books and ideas for learning and playing from the Play Talk Read government initiative, and across the country free “Bookbug” classes are available for children from birth to school age in local libraries, run by the Scottish Book Trust, and age- appropriate books are gifted at every stage from a month on through the health visitor scheme, along with a calendar full of ideas for learning and developing.

In our short parenting journey so far we have discovered so many beautiful books for all ages through these recommendations, gifted to us by friends and family, passed down from our own childhoods or found in book shops and libraries; and are loving reading them to our little daughter. As so many of them are so special, I thought I’d love to write about them here, just a few at a time – and World Book Day seems the perfect day to start!

Home by Carson Ellis ~

The simple concept of this treasure of a book is the focus on all the many places different people call home; and it is the intracacy of its beautiful illustrations as much as its few well-chosen words that tell these stories so relatably and capture the imagination.

The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler ~

Couldn’t possibly have failed to include The Highway Rat as it fits so perfectly with the theme of this blog! It was a book I chose to add to our collection as it featured characters so similar to our own pets – the swashbuckling “baddie” the Highway Rat and his obliging horse! Its rhythmic verse, humour and eclectic mix of animal characters make it a book I know will become well-loved in our home, as I’m sure so many other of Julia Donaldson’s will too!

Peepo by Janet & Allan Ahlberg ~

This is a truly timeless book, documenting with such poignancy a day in the life of a baby in the 1940s. One of the things I love most about Peepo is how it somehow mirrors the events of the same even in the modern day – the rhythmic simplicity of playtime, bathtime, bedtime and family values are the same, just with the rich historic backdrop of life in that era.

Little Mole books, written by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Vanessa Cabban ~

This is a lovely little series of books featuring Mole and his woodland friends, with a strong focus on relationships and morals woven into simple and engaging tales. From the classic Bringing Down the Moon to the vibrant autumn colours of The Best Gift of All, they are a warm and appealing collection. I actually came across this blog post by the author when writing this, and see we have one, Diamond in the Snow, still to discover!

These are just a few of our very first picture books and would love to write about more so probably will. There are so many we’re just discovering as well as so many classics – Winnie the Pooh, Old Bear, Spot – who could have a chapter all of their own and who I’m just itching to pass on.

A very happy World Book Day all, hope you are all having a good week. X

In praise of Pony and Animal Books… Childhood Favourites <3

Aside from my animals, another of my major passions in life – and one which has similarly been a constant throughout my childhood and adulthood alike – is reading. From as far back as I can remember I have loved to read, and some of my earliest memories are of my earliest books. I remember finally reaching the stage of being able to read by myself as the beginning of a magical era where I could just become lost in another world while I breathed in a whole story from start to finish. From the heart-thudding dashes I made through the caves of Kirrin Island with the Famous Five to the memorable day I was right with Harry, staring wide-eyed at Diagon Alley and Hogwarts for the very first time, I fell fully into the worlds on the pages before me and dreamed of them in games, daydreams and my own stories scribbled in jotters long after they were over.

Some of the books I loved most however, especially in my earliest days of reading, were animal and especially pony books. It’s a genre sometimes belittled or viewed as frivolous or unimportant; when in fact nothing that inspires a passion for reading in any child should be. Reading about animals or children relating to their pets and ponies drew on both my love for those themes and my growing love for being swept up in stories, and some of those books from my primary school years are the very same ones I find myself plucking off the shelf now when I need an  escape or want to revisit the long ago worlds I loved so much and that children’s authors took the time to create.

The Hodgeheg – Dick King Smith

This little story was of the first I can remember reading for myself, a beautiful book aimed at maybe ages 6-8ish and with large print but – so excitingly to me and I’m sure so many other children – in “novel style”, a paperback book with that real book smell, thin rustling pages and hidden within them a wonderfully endearing tale of Max, our unforgettable hedgehog-turned-Hodgeheg hero.

Animal Ark books – Lucy Daniels

The Animal Ark books came along at just the right time to be a firm favourite in our house, swapping them between us as children and always marvelling at who would be in what next – Goat in the Garden, Badgers in the Basement and Pony on the Porch becoming contenders for favourites, but nothing comparing to the first discovery of Puppies in the Pantry and Kittens in the Kitchen – the Hope family’s valiant efforts at helping and treating animals over and over again in the small village vets’ surgery as untiring as our appetite for the next book to appear. I remember being more disappointed than I should have been to learn in this modern Wikipedia world that “Lucy Daniels” was in fact a team of writers churning out these titles faster than any one person could – but in the end all that mattered was that, whoever it came from, we were gifted the ammunition for years of imagination-stretching vets’ surgery games in dens with our friends and entranced Christmas holiday reading.

The Animals of Farthing Wood – Colin Dann

The Animals of Farthing Wood – dashing Fox, wise Badger, poor Mole with all his self-esteem issues, Pheasant ever in a flap, and all the rest – had me utterly captivated as a child as they banded together to make their perilous journey onwards towards White Deer Park. In addition to reading first an abridged version of the book and later once I could the full one – and watching the TV show of course – , I collected the weekly Farthing Wood Friends magazines, and learned so much about wildlife as a result. They were always so educational, teaching about animals’ habitats and behaviour in great detail, and had me so interested in the world around me and engaged with all and any wildlife and nature that might cross my path.

The Jill Books – Ruby Ferguson

books2

Jill Crewe, like the Famous Five had before her, arrived recommended from the older generation in my family, and had already been the pony-book heroine of my mum’s childhood when she became mine. Headstrong, kind in spite of her flaws and not afraid to challenge the sometimes elitist world of horse ownership, Jill had me onside from the word go and made me laugh, swell with pride and smile as she navigated school, gymkhanas, ill-fated money-making ventures and general adventures with her faithful ponies Black Boy and Rapide.

The Midnight Fox – Betsy Byars

s-l225

In The Midnight Fox, Betsy Byars brought to glittering life for me the night sky on the farm, the uncertainty of Tom’s emotional turmoil at the beginning of the book giving way to first the lessons this unfamiliar rural life had to teach him and later completely to his desperate desire to save the black fox from her fate. An absolute treasure of a book, I learned with Tom that if you can find a passion that surpasses everything else, something to believe in and to strive for, you can find courage amidst self-doubt and make a difference against the odds.

Midnight Dancer books – Elizabeth Lindsay

Possibly my very favourite of all, Elizabeth Lindsay’s Midnight Dancer series truly had my heart, in spite of only being six short and relatively uneventful books. Mory and Josh’s childhood and upbringing by their parents and extended family closely resembled my own and I loved the familiar warmth of life at Black Rock. Mory always battled with her worst self but somehow managed to come out on top, appreciating and – when the situation merited it – fiercely defending her family, friends and pets alike. I liked her instantly, before even the world-changing moment when she looked up to the hill and saw the black pony standing there. Mory’s Dancer was everything I dreamed of in a pony and when a few years on I was lucky enough to come to own Charmer, my own midnight black pony, I shared her lack of ability to quite believe it – and in fact still do to this day, the best part of two decades on, often marvelling as we amble out on a post-work hack at how my trusty pony ever came to be mine. The Midnight Dancer books were being published annually in my later years at primary school and were the reason I waited for the book fair to roll in to school, always so excited to pre-order the next adventure, count down the days until the delivery arrived and trace my fingers over the red and gold embossed lettering that stood out on every cover throughout that long school day before I could run home to start reading.

All of these stories – poured into well-thumbed paperbacks, most of which I hold onto tightly to this day – made up such an inspiring chunk of my childhood. They taught me valuable lessons about the world around me, gave scope to my love of the animal world and inspired so many dreams of the future; and I will be forever grateful for them.