We Are Family – Claire Freedman & Judi Abott

We Are Family

Families come in all different shapes and sizes and as many of you will know, my family has changed shape considerably over the last couple of years. No matter what size or shape your family is though, the simple message of “We Are Family” is what trumps everything and that’s what comes across in this delightful book from Claire Freedman and Judi Abbot.We Are Family

Focussing on the bond between siblings it talks about all the fun things that brothers and sisters do together and how they stick up for one another. They may be some fallings out, but they always make up fast as underneath everything they are best friends.

Little Miss C and Master C certainly have their ups and downs, but I know that deep down they do love each other and that becomes clear when you look at how they look out for each other and how they’ve stuck together through the ups and downs of the last year. Earlier this week Master C had a session with a speech and language therapist and one thing that melted me in the de-brief afterwards was when she said she spoke to him about friends and his understanding of friendship. She said that he talked happily about his friends from school, but particularly said that he wanted more friends like his sister. I still well up thinking about that.

Bringing We Are Family into our home comes at a perfect time really as the pair of them will be welcoming a new half-brother or sister in the next couple of months. I know that it will mean changes to the family dynamic once again, but I’m hoping that reading this together will help them both see that it is an extension of their family rather than anything else.

We Are Family really is perfectly pitched for children who may not have had a brother or sister before and are wanting to understand how much fun siblings can be. It’s beautifully written and Judi Abbot’s accompanying illustrations are gorgeous.

We’ve recently shared a Claire Freedman book before, when we reviewed How To Nab A Rabbit, but this is a totally different style of book. That to me shows her versatility as a children’s writer, but also how having a range of books to read with your children is so important. Picture books can be shared not just for enjoyment, but also as a way of helping children understand different things happening in their lives.

We Are Family was published by Simon & Schuster on 12 July 2018. Paperback ISBN 978-1-4711-1716-9 Priced at £6.99. It can be bought online via Amazon here

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of We Are Family for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Romeo Explores The Garden – Alain Gree

Over the years I have totally fallen in love with Alain Gree’s beautiful illustrations. I’ve found gorgeous stationery with them on and also various factual books and the Romeo the dog series. Romeo was first created in France back in the 1960s, but he’s now also having adventures in English and is as delightful as ever. Romeo Explores the Garden is the latest title in the series.

Romeo Explores The Garden

Aimed at 1 to 3 year olds, this board book follows Romeo as he explores the garden and looks at all the things there are to see and find. Each double page spread ends with a question, with the answer being revealed on the next page.

It’s one of those books that is educational in that it teaches children about the garden throughout the year, but at the same time it is also a perfect book to share with a little one.

Reading with children is so important, and I’ve always found that it’s a lovely bonding experience. Some of my fondest memories of Little Miss C and Master C when they were small is sitting sharing a book with them before bed. Books like this are perfect as the vintage-style illustrations have plenty to look at together and talk about. The questions help lead you from one page to another, but there are plenty of other things to talk about too, as well as things to spot and lots for little talkers to ask questions about.

I’m starting to build up a little library of books for the new baby when he or she arrives. Both kids are already desperate to share stories with their brother or sister and I’m really hoping that penny of books like this one will make the cut. Adorable, cute, and educational. What’s not to love?

Romeo Explores The Garden is published by Button Books in September 2018. Hardback priced at £4.99. Available to buy online here.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Romeo Explores The Garden for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Saying Thank You with Create Your Own Happy

Thank You.

Two words that can mean so much, yet two words that so many people don’t use properly.

When was the last time that someone said thank you to you? I don’t just mean for holding a door open or handing them something, but thank you for something bigger.

I’m a stickler for manners, especially with my kids, and make sure that they always say please and thank you for things. The bit that has taken a little more work is getting them to say proper thank yous for bigger things.

When was I last thanked?

I can tell you exactly the last time I was thanked. Mainly because it means so much to me. I’m a school governor and each year our head teacher makes a point of saying thank you to all her governors. Not only does she say it at our last meeting of the academic year, but she also makes a point of writing each of us a personalised little note saying thank you for a specific thing that we’ve done over the year. She manages to pick up on something that I may consider small, but that when I stop and think about it has had an impact on her or the school.

I love her little thank you cards. They make me feel so valued as a governor and also as a person. And I know talking to other governors that they feel the same.

Making others happy by thanking them

It’s this feeling of making someone else happy by saying thank you is what Becky and Penny pick up on in their AMAZING book Create Your Own Happy. Part two of the book is about making others happy, and one of the first sections in there is about saying thank you.

Create Your Own Happy Thank You CYOHappy

In the words of William Arthur Ward:

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

Tree of Gratitude

In the book children are asked to create a tree of gratitude. It’s a simple thing. Children are asked to find two people to thank. One a family member or a friend, and one someone else like a teacher.

Create Your Own Happy Thank You CYOHappy

When children thank them they should not only say thank you, but also to say why they are thankful. To think about how it makes them feel when they say thank you. They can then add their names to leaves on a tree of gratitude. Giving them a reminder of all the people that they are grateful for. Just looking at your tree can then make you see how many people have done nice things for you so that you’ve wanted to thank them. Which in turn makes you happy.

Research has shown that people who “regularly show gratitude are definitely a lot happier, healthier and have more friends than those who don’t”.Well, if that isn’t a good reason to say thank you to people then I don’t know what is!

Thank you as a two way thing

Little Miss C sat down to do her tree of gratitude and was actually quite secretive about who she wanted to say thank you to. She came and thanked me for being her mum, and picked out some specific things that I had done for her over the previous week that she wanted to thank me for. I feel incredibly touched, especially as I hadn’t realised just how much some of those things meant to her.

We then had a lovely chat about how it makes people feel to be appreciated and thanked. I thanked her for various things that she does for me around the house too. I think it opened her eyes a little bit to the two way feelings that it creates.

My thanks

The last week of my life has been a whirlwind, but there are some people that I definitely want to say thank you to, and working through this section of CYO Happy has made me more determined than ever to do so properly.

My main thanks here though has to go to Penny and Becky – authors of Create Your Own Happy. Ever since they first told me about their book being published I have been so eager to get my hands on a copy for Little Miss C. She’s had a tough 18 months and can’t always see how amazing she is. I knew though that with the right guidance I could help address that, and it’s exactly what the book has done for her.

Create Your Own Happy Thank You CYOHappy

Ever since she first sat down with it and started reading and working through the exercises she’d told me how it has helped her with understanding how to be happy. Even just reading the introduction had her in fits of laughter and telling me how the people who had written it “got her”.  It seems a picture of a sad pair of pants swung it!

CYO Happy CYOHappy Thank You Pants

So, thank you Becky and Penny for writing such an amazing book and for helping Little Miss C to be happy again. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

For now though I’m off to go and say a few more thank yous, and then I’ll be back with a full review of the book!

Disclaimer: We were sent a review copy of Create Your Own Happy for the purposes of taking part in the blog hop. As a result of how amazing it is I then ordered my own copy so that LMC could work though one and I could use the other for myself. A third copy will be making its way into our home at Christmas as a gift for my step-daughter. I’m keen to spread the happiness! This post also contains affiliate links.

Thank You blocks photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash

Lunch on a Pirate Ship – Caryl Hart and Kristina Stephenson

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only parent out there with a fussy eater. Even if you’re blessed with a child who is prepared to try most things put in front of them, all children still go through phases of refusing to eat something they’ve been given. Even if they ate the same thing happily the day before. That’s what makes Lunch on a Pirate Ship ring so true.

Lunch on a Pirate Ship

Jack is so busy playing with his toys in the garden that he doesn’t hear his mum calling him in for lunch. By the time he makes it to the kitchen his chips were cold and his baked beans had gone hard. He understandably doesn’t want to eat that, so instead turns his imagination to what it might be like to eat with his pirate friends.

Here begins his food adventures on the high seas. But he soon learns that life as a pirate isn’t necessarily all that great when it comes to food. Pickled crabs and rotten fish aren’t everyone’s first choice at mealtime, so imagine Jack’s delight when he finds cupcakes, jelly and ice cream. But life’s not as simple as it first looks and Jack and the pirates soon realise that they’ve been lured there by a troll who is planning to eat them all for his lunch!

Jack and the pirates return home, realising that mum’s cooking is actually pretty good after all!

Lunch on a Pirate Ship has some lovely, fun illustrations from Kristina Stephenson which go alongside the fast-paced rhyming text by Caryl Hart. It’s a brilliant book to read aloud, either at bed time or to a group of children. It’s also perfect for kicking off discussions with children about food and the different things that they like (or hate) to have served up for lunch or tea.

Lunch on a Pirate Ship was published by Simon & Schuster on 5 July 2018. Paperback ISBN 978-0-85707-942-8 Priced at £6.99. It can be bought online via Amazon here

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Lunch on a Pirate Ship for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Visitor’s London – a vintage alphabetical guide by London Transport

There haven’t been anywhere near enough vintage books on here recently so let me try and rectify that situation with one of my recent car boot sale finds – Visitor’s London.

Visitor's London

Whenever I go to a car boot sale or charity shop there are certain things that I am always looking out for. Ladybird Books is one such category, but not at all the only one. B and I have numbers collecting habits so we’re just as likely to be seeking out vintage toys and games or transport related bits and pieces. The further away from London you get the less you see with the familiar London. Transport (or TfL) roundel on it, but there is still treasure to be found and Visitor’s London is one such gem.

Visitor's London

It was the roundel under the title on the front cover that first drew my attention to Visitor’s London, and then I spotted the slightly jazzy roundel used as the background on the rest of the book.

Written by Harold F. Hutchison Visitor’s London describes itself as “an alphabetic reference book for the visitor to London who wishes to also see something of London’s countryside”. Published by London Transport it seems that the first edition of this came out in 1954, with the 13th edition that I have found being published in 1967. In fact, it seems that a new edition was brought out in every year except 1961.

Visitor's London

The book itself is split into two sections: London and London’s Country.

Visitor's London

The first being an alphabetic list of places in London and the second being tourist attractions further afield.

Visitor's London

Possibly the most exciting part for me is the How to Get There booklet that is inside the back cover – again in perfect condition.

Visitor's London

Dated clearly on the cover as 1967 (and priced at 1/-) this little booklet contains the addresses, opening hours, prices of admission and routes for all the destinations featured in the main book. At the back is a fold out colour version of Beck’s Underground map showing the network as it was at the time.

Visitor's London

The Victoria line, Hammersmith and City line and Jubilee line obviously didn’t exist back in 1967. Although you can see the second branch of the Bakerloo line, which went on to become the northern section of the Jubilee line and also the Baker Street to Hammersmith section of the Metropolitan line. Also marked as a branch of the Northern line is the section from Moorgate to Finsbury Park, that is now sometimes known as the Northern City Line and no longer part of Transport for London’s infrastructure.

The book as a whole is a gorgeous slice of London Transport history. There is reference to an earlier edition of such a book on the London Transport Museum website where there is a catalogue entry for a poster called Visitor’s London and the text there talks about an alphabetical guide which I am guessing is an earlier version of the same book.

It might have been the only bit of London Underground treasure that I found at this particular car boot, but bearing in mind that it, and a pile of six vintage cook books cost me only £3 I’m pretty damn pleased with my find!

Tom’s Magnificent Machines – Linda Sarah & Ben Mantle

As soon as I opened the package containing Tom’s Magnificent Machines I just knew that Master C would be excited by it. He loves making things and has such a brilliant imagination and combined with that a fantastic understanding of how things work.

Tom's Magnificent Machines

I’m going to start with a warning though. Tom’s Magnificent Machines is one of those pictures books that you read and suddenly find yourself with a lump in your throat and something in your eye. It’s beautifully poignant.

Tom lives with his Dad and together they have a pretty special life – sharing a love of making things. Especially things that move. They started simple, but soon moved on to bigger and better inventions which almost took over their house. A house that was full of giggles. Lots and lots of giggles.

But then Tom’s Dad lost his job and everything changed. Gone was the funny, smiling dad that he was used to. The machines that they had made together started to gather dust. When he thought that things couldn’t get any worse Tom’s Dad told him that they could no longer afford to live in their home and they were going to have to move house. Tom was heartbroken.

He knew that he had to do something. Had to come up with a plan to change things. Luckily after lots and lots of thinking he came up with an idea. Something that would make the most of all the inventions that Tom and his Dad had made and hopefully allow them to stay in their home. He just needed to convince his Dad that his plan was worth trying.

Tom’s Magnificent Machines works so perfectly on two totally different levels. Simplistically there’s the amazing inventions that Tom and his Dad have come up with – and Master C absolutely loved these and the way that they are illustrated by Ben Mantle. On a second level there is the partnership between father and son. The two-way love and support between them. It’s simply beautiful. Even if it did have me reaching for the tissues.

Tom’s Magnificent Machines was published by Simon & Schuster on 23 August 2018 Paperback ISBN 978-1-4711-2246-0 Priced at £6.99. Available to buy online here.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Tom’s Magnificent Machines for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.

How to Nab A Rabbit – Claire Freedman & Monika Filipina


Kids love the idea that all the different world’s that they encounter in books are all linked together. Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks are friends. Harry Potter has met Ben and his Gangster Granny. The logic that the Big Bad Wolf would therefore feature in another book came as being totally normal to Master C. And that’s exactly what happens in How to Nab a Rabbit.

How to Nab A Rabbit

In How to Nab a Rabbit, the Big Bad Wolf himself provides some foolproof tips as to how to get yourself a rabbit for the pot. In the words of the wolf himself:

For hungry wolves, this book is a winner,

It shows you how to catch your dinner.

Love bunny pie and rabbit stew?

They’ll soon become your dream come true.

The Big Bad Wolf covers off all sorts of different tactics, from stalking rabbits to creating holes for them to simply fall in to. He even addresses the most daring tactic of them all – The Love Lure.

Despite his fictional reputation, it seems that the Big Bad Wolf isn’t actually all that successful in nabbing a rabbit. So much so in fact that by the end of How to Nab a Rabbit the Big Bad Wolf has come up with a new idea for a book: How to be a Vegetarian!

I guess it just goes to show that it’s always worth having a back up plan for when things don’t go according to plan.

How to Nab a Rabbit is a proper laugh out loud kids book. With its rhyming verse it’s perfect for reading out loud at bedtime and Master C was chuckling along as I read. Author Claire Freedman knows exactly how to make kids laugh, and Monika Filipina’s accompanying illustrations capture the Big Bad Wolf’s attempts perfectly.

If you’ve enjoyed How to Nab a Rabbit then why not check out some of Claire Freedman’s other books that I’ve reviewed:

How to Nab a Rabbit was published by Simon & Schuster on 9 August 2018. Paperback ISBN 978-1-4711-4451-6 Priced at £6.99. It can be bought online via Amazon here

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of How to Nab A Rabbit for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.

The Night Watch Ninjas – Lilly Roscoe, Lisa & Damien Barlow

Night Watch Ninjas

Master C has been a huge fan of Supertato recently, and so it came as no surprise when the first book that he picked out in the latest pile sent from Simon & Schuster was The Night Watch Ninjas.

He instantly fell in love with the idea of Stinker the Stink-Meister Smellykins Skunk being on the loose, although to be honest he didn’t really seem that concerned with capturing him. Instead he was just getting excited about how smelly he was. I guess that’s boys for you!

The Night Watch Ninjas are concerned though. They make it their mission to capture him, despite the skunk’s best attempt to put them off his scent. Stink Bombs and Smelly Cheese won’t beat the ninjas, although a supermarket full of skunks does slow them down a bit. Luckily they remember their training and try to get inside the mind of their opposition. That’s the best way to success in a situation like this.

This is a fantastic, action packed book that Master C absolutely loved. The addition of the membership test for being a member of the Night Watch Ninja Club was a fantastic final part. Master C jumped out of bed and took the test incredibly seriously, jumping around his bedroom like a proper ninja. Well as much as he could in a bedroom that was reading about 28 degrees at the time! He just now wants to know what his first ninja assignment will be.

The Night Watch Ninjas is a great book to appeal to children who love a bit of action in their bedtime stories. Lily Roscoe has done a fantastic job in writing a story that really is packed full of action (and smells) and this is accompanied wonderfully by husband and wife team Lisa and Damien Barlow’s great illustrations.

Watch out for the Night Watch Ninjas (probably with Master C in tow) keeping your town safe from night-time mischief!

The Night Watch Ninjas was published by Simon & Schuster on 12 July 2018. Paperback ISBN 978-1-4711-6467-5 Priced at £6.99. It can be bought online via Amazon here

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Night Watch Ninjas for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Peter’s Railway Hits the Jackpot – Christopher Vine

Anyone who knows Master C from one of my other blogs or my social media accounts will know that he is train obsessed. Totally!

He’s also a little boy with an eye for detail. One who likes to know exactly how everything works and why it does so in the way it does. And asks lots of lots of questions about things. Especially when it comes to trains. Luckily for me I’ve got an engineering background, so can work out answers to many of his questions. And when I can’t Bonn can usually provide an answer.

As much as he loves books he’s always been on the lookout for books about trains. When we take him to the supermarket and his sister is busy choosing a magazine I can usually find him sat on the floor. carefully working his way through a copy of one of the many train magazines that they seem to stock. He might not be able to read independently yet, but that doesn’t stop him looking at the pictures and trying to work things out from them.

His little mind was blown somewhat when we recently took him to Bekonscot model village. He’s been several times before and fondly remembered all the trains going round, but I think he’d forgotten just how much there was of interest to him in the gift shop afterwards.

As parents we all know what it’s like having to run the gift shop gauntlet before you can get out of a tourist attraction these days. Whilst I draw the line at some of the pieces of plastic that my kids seem insistent on buying I’m a soft touch when it comes to books. At Bekonscot I told both of them that they could choose a book to take home as a souvenir of the day and Master C spent quite a while choosing exactly which one he wanted.

Peter's Railway Hits the Jackpot

Now, we’d come across Peter’s Railway before now. I think he may have been bought one of the books as a gift once, and I’d certainly found a couple in a charity shop, but when we read them with him originally I think he was still just a bit too young to take them in properly.

This time though at Bekonscot he was drawn to the selection that they had in the gift shop and was determined that one had to make its way home with him. With his preference for diesel and electric engines over steam ones his eye was drawn to Peter’s Railway Hits the Jackpot and I’m so glad it was as I don’t think the pair of us have ever enjoyed a book together quite so much.

The thing about Peter’s Railway books is that they are so much more than “just” a train story. Each book combines a train based story with loads of historical and engineering train related facts.

Their strap line is that they are for “children who love trains and engineering” and that’s why they are just perfect for Master C. Written by a chartered engineer they are packed full of accurate information, which fits in beautifully to each story. With separate pages for the “information bits” as Master C calls them it means that when we’re reading together at bedtime we can opt to either just stick with the story or to focus on some of the engineering bits. It’s also given me a better understanding of some of the railway engineering that Master C is so interested in.

As for the Peter’s Railway Hits the Jackpot story – it’s a wonderful tale about how Peter and his Grandpa manage to convince the Minister for Transport to fund an extension to their railway, so that they can help children travel to and from the local school. It’s basically a school boy’s dream come true, but written in such a way that the adults reading with them can also have a bit of a laugh in the process.

We’ve spread this book out, a chapter a night, as bedtime reading for when Master C is staying at my house for a couple of weeks and I’ve never seen him look forward to a bedtime story quite so much. Each evening (and a few mornings) he would eagerly appear clutching it and asking for another chapter. We’ve sometimes stopped mid-chapter to go and look something up or talk about some of the engineering behind what’s going on in the story, and it’s been a beautiful bonding experience too.

I’m a tad sad that we’ve finished, but it means that tonight I can find the other ones from the series on his bedroom bookcase and make a start on those. He’s also got a birthday next month and has already asked if he can have one of the others in the series as a gift. I just need to persuade him that us building his own private railway line from my house to his school (about 12 miles away) might be a tad ambitious. So far his only concern about the plan is whether or not he should tunnel under the M1 or design a fancy bridge over it!

Peter’s Railway Hits the Jackpot is available to buy online here. You can find other Peter’s Railway titles either on Amazon or on the Peter’s Railway website.

The Secret Sky Garden – Linda Sarah & Fiona Lumbers

There’s a whole range of emotions that go with pregnancy. The thing I found myself sobbing over the other day though was the fact that it means I’ll still be able to keep enjoying picture books with my kids. It’s a stage of parenting that I love. Little Miss C is definitely an independent reader now and somewhat beyond picture books. Master C though is still a huge, huge fan and usually chooses a couple every bedtime. Books like The Secret Sky Garden are ones that I particularly love though. The messages in them are just perfect.

The Secret Sky Garden

Funni loves playing in the old airport car park. She goes there most Saturdays and either takes hire kite or recorder with her. She loves watching the planes take off and land. She’s learnt to imitate the notes from the tannoy system in the airport terminal on her recorder. She loves looking out over the city.

But, something was missing.

In that beautifully innocent way that only a child could, Funni decides to make a difference. Over the weeks she turns that disused car park into gorgeous garden. She tidies up, plants flowers and creates something really, really special.

But still, something was missing.

One day Zoo is flying into the airport and spots the garden from the aeroplane window. He decides that he needs to find the garden and visit and that’s exactly what he does.

He finds Funni and the beautiful world she has created. They fly kites together and he also brings his harmonica to play alongside her recorder.

Now, nothing is missing.

The Secret Sky Garden is one of those books that really can only be described as beautiful. Linda Sarah’s story, combined with Fiona Lumbers’ gorgeous illustrations are the perfect match. Just like Funni and Zoo. It’s beautiful to see a book celebrating the environment, kindness and friendship like this. It’s the perfect launchpad for a discussion with children about how we can all make a difference in life. An important message for everyone.

The Secret Sky Garden. Written by Linda Sarah and Illustrated by Fiona Lumbers. Published by Simon & Schuster on 28 June 2018. Paperback £6.99 ISBN 978-1-4711-1926-2. Available in bookshops and online.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Secret Sky Garden for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.