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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Review: "H is for Haemodialysis" Written by Anita and Simon Howell and Illustrated by Sue Roche (2016)

“H is for Haemodialysis” is Anita and Simon Howell’s first book and is a little different from the stories I am used to sharing with the Mini Reviewers. This picture book has been specifically written to help children whose families are affected by kidney problems and it has been inspired by Anita and Simon’s own experiences of dealing with kidney failure as a family. Simon, a doctor, has required both haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis and he has also been through an unsuccessful transplant. The couple decided to write this book when unable to find any appropriate literature to explain the situation to their own children.

H is for Haemodialysis
The story is told by Lucy who is eight. Lucy has a younger brother called Jack. In the book Lucy explains that their daddy has kidney problems and needs a new kidney. While he is waiting for a kidney transplant, he has to have regular dialysis. She describes their family life and how their daddy can’t do all the things he used to do. She talks about everything from dialysis and fistulas to his special diet. She also shares how she hopes once their daddy has had a transplant, he will feel a lot better and they will be able to go out for the whole day together.

The book is a simple introduction to the issues surrounding kidney failure. It also illustrates how living with chronic illness can impact the whole family. The information provided is easy to understand and the medical terminology is clearly explained. Most importantly the tone of the book manages to remain relatively light despite the serious nature of the content. This is down to the story being told from a child’s perspective as well as Sue Roche's charming illustrations of a such a caring family.  I can see how this book would be incredibly helpful for families affected by kidney disease.

If you would like more information about this book please see:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All opinions are, as always, my own.

Word of the Week: Emotion

Last week my thoughts were primarily focused on Izzie starting school. A momentous occasion for her, not only the start of her formal education but much more importantly, she will be joining a new community and (fingers crossed) making lots of new friends. However, for me as a stay at home parent looking after two younger children, I hadn’t really thought about how my life would change and I certainly hadn’t allowed myself to get too emotional about the whole thing.

An Interview with my 4 Year Old - A Back to School Tradition

For a while I've been meaning to introduce a tradition of asking my children the same questions each year and keeping a note of their answers. In theory it seems like such a simple idea but in reality things always get a bit manic around their birthdays and I forget. So with Izzie starting school next week, I thought that this would be the perfect time to begin.

I made a list of 15 really straightforward questions and it was lovely to sit down with Izzie and go through them together. She is normally such a chatterbox so it was quite a surprise when she gave me such brief answers!

  1. Can you write your name for me? Of course...
  1. How old are you? 4
  2. What makes you happy? Being with my Mum and Dad. Apparently we are no longer Mummy and Daddy.
  3. Tell me something about yourself? Like what? Anything about you. I’ve got brown eyes like Daddy and you’ve got blue eyes.
  4. Who is your best friend? Harry. She is going to marry Harry.
  5. What would you like to be when you grow up? A fire lady (firefighter) and an author.
  6. What is your favourite thing to do? Aquabeads. She did these yesterday.
  7. Where is your favourite place to go? To Lotherton. Lotherton Hall is only a short drive away from our house and she loves visiting the flamingos.
  8. What is your favourite song? Let It Go!
  9. What is your favourite colour? Pink.
  10. Do you have a favourite animal? Cows. I literally have no idea where this answer came from.
  11. What do you like to eat and drink? Apple juice and ham sandwiches. I feel this indicates just how rubbish I am in the kitchen!
  12. What is your favourite book? The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl.
  13. What do you like to watch on TV? Elsa and Anna (Frozen).
  14. What would you like to learn or do at school this year? How to read books. Actually no, how to write books because you know I’m going to be an author so I’ll need to know. This is obviously my favourite answer and it is the answer she thought about the most.

Now all I need to remember is to ask the same questions at the start of each school year and of course take the obligatory first day photographs! Do you have any back to school traditions?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Sunday, 28 August 2016

366 Books in 366 Days: Delightful Dragons

The Mini Reviewers really enjoy stories full of adventure and nothing compares to the tale of a fire breathing dragon. However, we have already learned that not all dragons are scary, in fact most seem to be very friendly, delightful even. Here are five endearing stories featuring some of our favourite scaly friends.

Sylvia and Bird, written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner and published by Little Tiger Press (2009).
This is a gentle story about an unlikely duo. Sylvia, a giant and “shimmer-shiny” dragon, is lonely. She is the only dragon is the world. Then she meets bird. Bird is rather small. Together they have lots of fun and discover the true meaning of friendship. Catherine Rayner’s exquisite illustrations are full of tenderness and her chosen colour palette is simply delightful. A truly fabulous book.

Little Wizard, written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara and published by Macmillan (2010).
Little Wizard can’t fly and no-one wants to play with him. He feels sad and alone until one day he meets a bread-baking dragon. The dragon tries to teach Little Wizard to fly but he just can’t get the hang of it. Then Little Wizard encounters a knight who is on a dragon hunt and he realises he must fly to save his dragon friend. This is a stunning picture book. The stylised illustrations are bold yet the story is surprising touching. This is a great book about finding friendship in an unlikely place.

Again, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett and published by Macmillan (2011).
It’s nearly bedtime and so it's time for a story. It is such a good story that little dragon wants it again and again. Mummy dragon is very tired (I sympathise!) and when she falls asleep mid-story, naughty little dragon gets more than a little bit cross! Emily Gravett’s stunning illustrations truly bring this funny tale to life. The Mini Reviewers love the ending and enjoy peeping through the hole that little dragon makes in the book!

Marmaduke The Very Different Dragon by Rachel Valentine and Ed Eaves and published by Bloomsbury (2014)
Marmaduke is a very different dragon with enormous ears and very special wings but like all dragons, all he wants is a princess to protect. Meg is a loud un-princessy princess with a crazy dress and messy hair. One day Meg gets lost in the dark, will anyone hear her cries for help? Perhaps a dragon with enormous ears? This is a fun book celebrating friendship and individuality. Full of colour, it even sparkles in places. The Mini Reviewers really enjoyed it, especially the sparkly pages!

The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight by Helen and Thomas Docherty and published by Scholastic (2016)
This story is about Leo, a gentle little knight, who would rather read than fight. Just how will he manage when his parents send him off with a new shield and sword to tame a scary dragon? And what about the griffin and troll he encounters on his way? Well, this little knight proves that fighting is not always the answer. Instead he relies on a pile of books and his love of reading. A fantastic rhyming book with whimsical illustrations that really appeal to both young and old imaginations! I was worried it may be a bit long for Theo (2) but as soon as he saw the front cover he wanted me to read it. He loves the part about dragon poo (obviously) and listens right until the end. It’s one we have read over and over again.

Have you met any delightful dragons?

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

366 Books in 366 Days: Douglas, You Need Glasses!

Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit about this brilliant new book, “Douglas, You Need Glasses!” written and illustrated by Ged Adamson and published by Random House. I have already included the book in our Top 10 Picture Books of 2016 (so far) but we enjoyed it so much, it really does deserve its own write up.

I am a spectacle wearer and I am married to a bespectacled fella so it is probably inevitable that at least one, if not all, the Mini Reviewers will need glasses in the future so I am always on the lookout for appropriate books.

By chance I came across “Douglas, You Need Glasses!”, the story of a nearsighted dog, who struggles through life due to his poor eyesight. Douglas gets in the way of things, misses important signs and even ends up at the wrong house for dinner. Then one day, when a game of fetch ends in disaster, Douglas’ friend Nancy, decides that enough is enough and takes him to get his eyes tested. Of course Douglas needs glasses and, once he is wearing the perfect pair, he quickly realises just how amazing everything looks!

Coincidentally, the book dropped through our letterbox on a day when we had been to the opticians. We opened up the package and had to read the story straight away. The Mini Reviewers were incredibly enthusiastic and we all found it to be a fabulously funny story. The main characters are so very expressive and their friendship is made clear through Ged's witty yet heartwarming artwork. It is a brilliant read for both children and grown ups, and it is especially perfect for those of us fortunate enough to wear specs!

We were also sent some glasses and an eye chart with the book and we couldn’t resist setting up our own opticians. By the end of the day most of the dolls and soft toys had seen "Optician Izzie". She was most definitely in charge!

If you would like to learn more about Douglas, there's a great interview with Jed Adamson here:

Books can be great at helping children adjust to or deal with new situations. Do you have any special recommendations for us?

Disclaimer: We won our copy of this book through a social media competition. All opinions are, as always, my own.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

366 Books in 366 Days: The Greedy Goat - Petr Horáček - Walker Books (2016)

We are very lucky to have won a copy of this new book, The Greedy Goat, through Toppsta. I've probably mentioned Toppsta before but it is a great website which gives away children's books in exchange for reviews. If you sign up to the website you can enter the giveaways and Toppsta will also send you regular emails with book recommendations. This is perfect for a little "book-spiration" and another reason why our reading wishlist is getting very long!

When I first saw "The Greedy Goat" I was extremely keen to review it because, not only am I a fan of Petr Horáček's work, but growing up we had our own very greedy pet goat. Our greedy goat was called Tilly and she used to enjoy nibbling the clothes on the washing line. She was particularly partial to bed sheets and my long white school socks! I thought this book would be great to share with the Mini Reviewers, as they are already familiar with my tales of Tilly.

In this story goat, fed up of eating herbs and grass, goes in search of something a bit different. After stealing the dog's food, the cat's milk and the pig's potato peelings, she greedily gobbles up some more unusual things she finds in the farmyard. First she eats the farmer's wife's plant, then their daughter's shoe and even the farmer's pants which were hanging on the washing line! (Sounds very familiar!)

Well, this goat has been so greedy, that she becomes rather unwell. She is so ill that it takes her a whole week to recover. Will she have learned her lesson during this time? Or will the farmer's wellies simply prove too irresistible? I'm not going to spoil it for you, but you can probably guess what happens!

As expected, this is a fantastic and funny book with superb, colourful illustrations. The pictures of the poorly goat are particularly amusing!

The story includes the days of the week as well as some basic colours in a way that is reminiscent of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which makes it perfect for little ones.

The Mini Reviewers found the story hilarious and, as well as lots of giggling, there were also gasps of disbelief and shakes of the head especially at the end! Their highlights were definitely when goat eats all the strange things; the pictures of the goat when she is unwell; and of course the ending. This is definitely a book that will be treasured in our house and we highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: We won a copy of The Greedy Goat through Toppsta to review. All opinions are, as always, my own.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Review: The Happy Book Club - A Premium Book Subscription For Little Ones

This week we were thrilled to receive the August subscription pack from The Happy Book Club to review. The Happy Book Club is a new book subscription service for pre-schoolers and young children, which provides themed book packages.
A neatly wrapped package arrived!

Take a little look at our brief unboxing video below:

As you can see the Mini Reviewers were very excited to see what was inside the neatly wrapped package!

We discovered that the theme for August is “Fish!” and the package contained two beautiful picture books (see our reviews below) and a sheet of activity suggestions. The subscription also includes access to an online community and competitions; and a monthly donation is made to a relevant charity.

We have not received a book subscription pack before, so I didn’t know what to expect from the books themselves but I was pleasantly surprised. Both books are relatively new publications (2015/6) and we have not come across them before.

The Happy Book Club - August Package
The River An Epic Journey To The Sea - Illustrated by Hanako Clulow with text by Patricia Hegarty - Caterpillar Books (2016)
A gentle rhyming story, which tells the tale of a small fish’s journey down river. Starting in the snow-capped mountains she travels through pine forests and finally reaches the sea. This is a high quality, hardback picture book. The illustrations of the wildlife and scenery surrounding the river are stunning and are accentuated by a small holographic fish that appears to be swimming down the river. Also the final double page of the book has some lovely fish with foil detailing. The Mini Reviewers were very excited by the moving fish. They also liked talking about the wildlife on each page.

Tiny Whale A Fishy Tale - Text by Joshua George and illustrated by Puy Pinillos - Top That (2015)
Gerald, a little goldfish, feels unimportant and is fed up of being one of many. He sets off on an adventure and when he discovers a reef full of blue fish he reinvents himself as a whale! With its bright pictures and humour, this book is very different in style to the first. It makes a great story to read aloud and the Mini Reviewers loved it.

The activity sheet provided details of a website where colouring sheets and puzzles can be printed off; and a Pinterest board with lots of relevant craft ideas. There was also a link to a fishy song; an outing suggestion; and the details of this month’s charity, The Marine Conservation Society.

As my printer is out of action (don’t ask!), I was unable to print off the colouring sheets so we tried the “celery stamping fish activity” off the Pinterest board. This was a huge success!
We also had a good sing-a-long to the song and checked out the Marine Conservation Society’s page, which has lots of educational games and activities to explore.

The Mini Reviewers were super excited to receive the surprise package in the post. It was fun to unwrap together to discover what was inside. Receiving a themed box was really novel for both me and the children. The books were excellent and the activity sheet gave me lots of age appropriate ideas to keep the little ones entertained.

The Happy Book Club offers  1, 3, 6 or 12 month packages ranging in price from £14.99 to £139.99. The combined RRP for the books in the August pack amounts to more than the cost of a month’s subscription so it is good value for money. The packages can also be tailored for children aged 0-3 years or 3-5 years.

For more information or if you would like to sign up to The Happy Book Club do visit the website. If you use “HAPPYKATE” when placing an order you will receive a 15% discount.

Disclaimer: We received the August Subscription Package for free from The Happy Book Club, all opinions are, as always, my own.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Friday, 19 August 2016

Word of the Week: Upbeat

I have desperately tried to remain UPBEAT this week and, in all honesty, it has been incredibly tough. Things began to unravel for us on Saturday lunchtime when we had to cancel a weekend of celebrations due to illness. We were utterly deflated and basically this set the tone for the rest of the week.

As I’m often branded a pessimist by my own father (thanks dad), I am determined that my blog, for the most part, will be a whinge free zone. So don’t panic, I am sparing you the gory ins and outs of our week. Instead I have chosen to share the things that made me smile and got me through to Friday...

  1. SLEEP - Poppy moved into her own room and finally dropped the night feeds so I have had my first full nights’ sleep (yes multiple) in almost nine months. Hooray!
  2. DISNEY - I managed to take all three little ones to see Finding Dory at the cinema and we also watched lots of classic Disney films at home. Thank you Walt.
  3. A PLAN - Theo had a very positive appointment at the dental hospital. He is going to be reviewed again in six months with a view to commencing treatment. You can read more about our family’s dental issues here.
  4. MILESTONES - Poppy started pulling herself up and cruising the furniture. Is this a good thing? I’m not so sure, but it certainly made me smile!
  5. SIBLING BONDING - We played lots of games, read lots of books and did some drawing. It was great watching Izzie and Theo play properly together. He learns so much from her and he teaches her the need for patience and understanding!
  6. DISTRACTIONS - I won’t lie, my new phone together with blogging, reading and watching the Olympics have also been fantastic distractions from the grim realities!

I’ve got everything crossed that this week will be better but, if its not, I’ll take Dory’s advice and “just keep swimming”!

A photo posted by Kate (Along Came Poppy) (@kate.eccles) on

Thursday, 18 August 2016

10 New Picture Books (2016) #pb10for10

I have enjoyed reading so many #pb10for10 posts this year that I thought I'd join in the fun. I am late to the party (as always) but here is my own selection of books:

My love of picture books has truly been re-ignited this year through our family's #366booksin366days reading challenge and all my chosen books were recently published. We have already included these books in our challenge and they have quickly become some of our favourites.

My children (The Mini Reviewers) are all under 5 so these are the perfect stories to share with toddlers and preschoolers. Of course, they are great for older picture book fans too! I have added the links to our reviews (where applicable) below. The lovely Kim, who blogs at Bookbairn has written two superb reviews for Oi Dog! and Bee and (with her permission) I have also included links to her posts for these books.
  1. Douglas You Need Glasses - Jed Adamson
  2. Little Red - Bethan Woollvin
  3. Tiger in a Tutu - Fabi Santiago
  4. Superhero Dad - Tim Knapman and Joe Berger
  5. 123 A Walk in the Countryside - Rosalind Beardshaw
  6. Oi Dog! Kes and Claire Gray and Jim Field
  7. A Brave Bear - Sean Taylor and Emily Hughes
  8. Pip and Posy: The New Friend - Axel Scheffler
  9. Bee - Britta Teckentrup
  10. Tidy - Emily Gravett
For other picture book inspiration check out #pb10for10 on twitter. Or why not have a little look at our other book posts?

You Baby Me Mummy

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Changing Bag Essentials

Last week I got caught out without the changing bag. I won’t go into details but let’s just say it was fairly messy and, luckily I found a spare nappy in the car. Phew! Normally I am prepared for every eventuality. Take a look at what I can fit in my fantastic “bottomless” Cara bag from Babymel

Monday, 15 August 2016

366 Books In 366 Days: Funny Birds!

We love a book that makes us giggle and I’ve previously shared some of our favourites. Here are another couple of excellent picture books that have really tickled us recently. It just so happens one features an owl and the other, a seagull, you could say they are a couple of funny birds!

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise
Written by Sean Taylor and Illustrated byJean Jullien (Walker Books)

Hoot Owl Master of Disguise

We all know owls are wise, but did you know they are also masters of disguise? Well Hoot Owl thinks he is anyway. A totally melodramatic tale of a hungry owl searching for his dinner. But what will he catch? A rabbit, a lamb, a pigeon? Or maybe even a pizza?

The Mini Reviewers found this story absolutely hilarious, particularly Hoot's disguises. They were incredibly relieved each time Hoot failed to catch his dinner. I could literally hear them holding their breath, waiting to see what would happen. Also the fabulously bold illustrations fit brilliantly with the drama of the story. This is a perfect picture book to share. Just have a go at reading it through a few times first to get the comic timing right!

Steven Seagull Action Hero
Elys Dolan (Oxford University Press)

This is Steven, probably the most confident seagull you will ever see! He is a retired cop but his ex-partner, a goldfish called Mac, wants him back on the force to help clean up Beach City. Steven knows “a gull’s gotta do, what a gull’s gotta do” so joins Mac in his search for the Sand Thief. They waste no time in rounding up suspects at the beach. But will they be able to solve the mystery of the missing sand once and for all? Or will Steven’s renegade ways get the better of him?

Sorry there are no spoilers here! Let’s just say that we have read this book over and over again and it never fails to make us giggle. Both the text and the almost comic book style illustrations are very funny. Give it a read, you won't be disappointed!

Disclaimer: I won Hoot Owl from a Toppsta Giveaway and Steven Seagull from a competition run by OUP on Twitter. All opinions are, as always, my own.

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