Ollie’s Valentine by Olivier Dunrea

Ollie's Valentine by Olivier Dunrea

Dunrea’s adorable birds are back, just in time for Valentine’s Day! Ollie’s friends Gossie, Gertie, Peedie, and BooBoo have all given each other Valentines, but where is Ollie’s? Never fear, there’s a special one waiting for him at the end of the book! The problem I often have with holiday books is that they’re just too long and wordy. This is a simple little story with eye-catching details for tiny folks. Each heart is shiny and a different colour – the Imp enjoyed naming the colours and he tried to see his reflection in them. He also liked that the geese wear boots. (Are all toddlers obsessed with rubber boots, or just mine?) But the best part is the ending – Ollie’s special Valentine is a heart-shaped mirror, so his Valentine is YOU! The Imp still loves books with mirrors and he was intrigued that this one was a heart. I agree with the Children’s Literature reviewer who pointed out that it’s nice to see a Valentine’s Day book that isn’t all frilly and pink. And not too mushy-gushy, either! This is a great book to read with your smallest Valentine.

Library Fairy by Rebecca BenderReviewed by The Library Fairy

(review copy borrowed from the library).


Treasure Island: A BabyLit Shapes Primer by Jennifer Adams, Illustrated by Alison Oliver

Treasure Island

Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of chocolate milk! It’s another book that I had to buy because the Imp loved the library copy so much. The Giant and I are quite into pirates and so we’ve been introducing them to the boy.

Like all of the BabyLit books, this one focuses on one concept – shapes. The Imp has learned such 2-year-old improbable words as octopus, diamond, oval, crescent and, his favourite, jolly roger. Each 2-page spread has a white picture of the shape on a coloured background with the word below on the left and a Treasure Island-themed picture using that shape on the right (treasure map, Long John Silver, ship, etc.).

While the style of the artwork isn’t my favourite (I’m a girl who likes super-cute), it’s bold and striking but simple, which makes it easy to point out the shapes in the picture and to find details like the various jolly rogers and octopi throughout. This book is a triple threat – exposure to a classic, colours practice and an introduction to shapes, including more complex ones.

Library Fairy by Rebecca BenderReviewed by The Library Fairy

(review copy personally purchased).

Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton

Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton

My library recently asked staff to help with a display for “Books That Changed Your Life.” Hippos Go Berserk! was one of my picks! It may be overstating it a bit, but I feel like this book brought us together as a new family.

We had received one of Sandra Boynton‘s other great books, Are You a Cow?, when the Imp was born. I had already known how great Boynton is, but the Giant hadn’t encountered her before. Even though we were exhausted and confused new parents, he said that we should go to our awesome local children’s bookstore and get some more of Boynton’s books. So that was one of the Imp’s first outings, at about a month old.

We purchased Hippos Go Berserk! and life would never be the same – the Imp loved it! We read it so often that we can recite it by heart, we’ve read it backwards, the Giant made up a jazzy, Sinatra-esque tune for it and we’d sing it in the car… Once I was back at work, the Giant was still reading it so often that he started noticing little details and making up back stories for the hippos – “Look at that one’s sidelong look, he’s thinking ‘Oh no, it’s the Johnsons again!'” He pointed out that the 9 hippos who come to work go about their jobs soberly and diligently, so therefore all the hippos do not, in fact, go berserk. And he’s concerned that the last 2 hippos have stolen hippo #1’s wheelbarrow. So it makes the two of us laugh together, too.

The Imp always, always smiles when we get to the berserk page and will sometimes turn the pages on us in mid-sentence to get there faster. Now that he’s starting to learn more words, he likes pointing to the numbers and also the page with the moon and the tree. I’m so pleased that the book is growing with him (most board books have a limited shelf life) and it’s been so well-loved that we recently had to buy a new copy, because the original looked like this:

A Well-Loved Copy of Hippos Go Berserk
Our well-loved copy of Boynton’s Hippos Go Berserk!

How about you? Do you have a favourite Boynton book? What are some fun ways you’ve jazzed-up story times? You’re comments are welcome!

Library Fairy by Rebecca BenderReviewed by The Library Fairy

(review copy personally purchased).

Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill, Illustrated by Charles Fuge

Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Paul Fuge and Vicki Churchill

Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball is a beautifully illustrated board book that’s both fun and sweet. Each page is a delightful exploration of all the things Little Wombat likes to do:

Sometimes I like to jump high as I can, to see how much noise I can make when I land… Sometimes I like to stand still as a tree, and watch everyone rush around about me.

The energy and activity in the story is fluid and fresh, moving with ease from one moment to the next, but not always in the most expected ways (“Sometimes I like to scream ever so loud, Not that I’m cross, I just like how it sounds.”) Little Wombat can get up to some busy, noisy, and messy play but it’s all good-natured, honest exploration and delight in new discovery. I like that Little Wombat finds equal fun in “standing still” and in “running ever so fast” and that Little Wombat acknowledges “I sometimes come first, but I sometimes come last.”

There’s one spot where I feel the text loses its strength, where I’ve often been thrown off rhythm when reading out loud, but I’ve learned to remedy this by omitting a word (“Sometimes I like to just walk round and round, I pigeon step, pigeon step, till I fall down.”) I must confess that I also say ‘until’ rather than ’till’. For me, this makes for a better read.

Apart from the text, the illustrations offer extra layers of story–particularly in the area of Little Wombat’s relationships. Here we meet his friends and see how they participate in– or are effected by–Little Wombat’s antics. Charles Fuge flawlessly infuses humour and beauty into the story bringing to life the most meaningful moments.

Whatever activity occurs in a day, when the sun starts to fall Little Wombat does what he does best of all: he “finds somewhere soft, somewhere cozy and small and that’s where [he] like to curl up in a ball.” And that, of course, is at home nestled in the arms of Mama.

My primary appreciation of this book is that it helped make a book-lover out of my resistant reader. Granted, my daughter was young–not yet two– but she would push away books whenever we tried to read with her. I began to wonder if this would be a long-term tendency and (honestly) became a little lazy with my efforts, waiting for her to be the one to express interest. Her dad, however, persisted. Instead of trying to simply read the book (which she’d push away) he had our son come and act out what Little Wombat did. As my husband read, my son would curl up, jump, land, scream, walk in circles, fall down, stand still, poke out his tongue, make funny faces, mime a mess of his hands and chest, run fast, and finally curl up in a cuddle. My daughter loved this! And it was our daily routine until she eventually opened up to all sorts of stories.

My kids have since grown beyond board books, but this one remains on our shelf and still comes out every once and a while. It’s a keeper.

Reading in the Woods by Rebecca BenderReviewed by K.C. Darling

(review copy personally purchased).



Put on Your Shoes by Dan Stiles


Put on Your Shoes by Dan Stiles

When I read a review of this board book that mentioned Stiles’ retro-modern art style, I knew I wanted to see it. I asked for it to be ordered for the library.

Bringing Put on Your Shoes! home, I suspected that I’d like it more than the Imp. I was ready for his signature shove-away move. But to my surprise, he loved it! It became such a favourite that we had to buy our own copy. He was in a shoe-obsessed phase at the time, so that made it even better! We’re still at the point where we put the Imp’s shoes on for him, so we don’t have the “Put on your shoes”/”No!” battle too much, but I’m sure that we will very soon and you can tell that Stiles has had this struggle himself.

As I expected, I do love the retro style and bright colours. It’s a very cool-looking book that appeals to adults as well as little ones. I love that it shows the child’s wild imagination (one of the reasons she can’t put on her shoes is that she’s caught in a tornado) and the parents’ patience with her. The big people in the family are shown from the toddler’s point of view, that is, only their legs and feet. The humour and here-we-go-again ending are such fun and there’s lots to see in the illustrations. The Imp loves to point out the rug (or rather, “wug”) on each page and little details like a frog and a tornado-tossed car.

Stiles has a new board book out called Today I’m Going to Wear… and I can’t wait to get my hands on it as well!

Reviewed by The Library FairyLibrary Fairy by Rebecca Bender

(review copy personally purchased).