Book reviews (Part 1)- Autumn Reads with She Narrates

Book Reviews of Autumn good reads picture books for children- The Bumblebear by Nadia Shireen, The Color Monster by Anna LLenas, Beans on Toast by Paul Dowling,  Tiger by Nick Butterworth, A book of Hugs by Dave Ross

I wait for the books as if the books are for me. When the books arrive, I am the first one to read. I keep drooling for these books, a bib wouldn’t be enough for this Mommy, trust me! I like these colourful creative rhythmic books so much, that the music of these words adds to the parenthood joy-ride I enjoy living. Having said that, I want to add that some of the children’s book have nuggets for parents also, I feel.
Mommy gets to relive her childhood days with the little learner Pratham, what better, isn’t it?
I am sure, you would enjoy the book reviews as much as I enjoyed writing them for you. Yay!
The age group for these books: 3 – 6+ year young children

‘The Color Monster’ by Anna Llenas

Autumn reads for children and Book review of The Color Monster by Anna Llenas

The International bestseller and first-ever book on emotions ‘The Color Monster’ by an art therapist Anna LLenas is a go-to storybook for young children. Parents reading this book to their children would help them understand and identify their emotions, help them learn the names of different emotions and share their feelings. This would eventually help them learn to take charge of their feelings on their own. It is a good starting book on introducing a subject like emotions and feelings. The book has colourful, attention-grabbing collage with 3-D artworks on every page.

This story of the color monster who wakes up confused and jumbled in the mix of his emotions is helped by the author. She takes the color monster by the hand helping him sort out his feelings in different fictional jars. She helps him understand how the emotions like Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Calm feels, what colour associates to each of these emotions and how we respond when we are feeling any of the above emotions intensely. For me, as a parent, learning how to handle the intense emotions likes Anger, and Fear for myself as a parent and individual was empowering. It has an exciting twist to the tale, in the end, read it and tells us what does the last color in the book feels to you. To Pratham, I have told him it’s a color of self-love. 🙂

We can take the help of the questions mentioned on the book jacket to ask our little ones a few open-ended questions after reading the book. We can also on our day to day interaction or experiences encourage them to share their feelings and ask if their feelings connect with any of the color, the color monster in the book feels. This way, we would be reinforcing their understanding of identifying their feelings and helping them express easily with us and others.

As kids are naturally connected to their stream of wellbeing/inner consciousness, then the question you may ask is do they need this book, knowing and learning to name their feelings. I say, ‘Yes’ because growing up they observe contrasts and varieties, learning and modelling the behaviours and actions of people around them, just as they pick up any object around them to sense and to learn the behaviour and functions of the objects, same goes for the people and environment around them. So, as early as they start learning to identify, share and sort out their feelings with the help and support of parents and caregivers the better it is, and earlier they would learn to bounce back easily.

Also, just as how important we as parents feel that our toddlers or young ones should know, learn and be able to identify numbers, alphabets, colours, animals and bird names, knowing about emotions is equally important, and I completely agree with the reason I had read on ‘Goodreads’ about the importance of teaching a child to identify their emotions.

Please don’t forget to share your interesting inputs on the last color with us.

‘The Bumblebear’ by Nadia Shireen

Autumn good reads picture book for children and Book review of The Bumblebear by Nadia Shireen

The children’s picture book ‘The Bumblebear‘ by Nadia Shireen published by Penguin Random House is one of the most loved Autumn reads in England and is circulated as an Autumn term book to every primary school-aged child there, to encourage the love and joy of reading in children.

You know what makes this book a fascinating read for children: the perfect combination of vibrant, eye-catching illustrations, intriguing title, relatable school setting, dramatic effects with words, honey-grabbing plot and a lovely message of friendship and loyalty makes it an endearing experience much like watching an animated movie. So, to inspire the love of reading, I found this as a great resource. Also, children who have begun writing stories, the plot (or story arc) of this can be a useful reference for them to get better at narration, encouraging natural evolution of the skill of storytelling and writing.

A little about the Bumblebear story…

There are four main characters in the story, a sneaky bear named Norman, a clever little bumblebee named Amelia, a Queen bumblebee, and a big nasty bear. Norman, who loves honey disguises himself when he runs out of his honey stock as a new bumblebee student at bee school to trick the bees and get hold of honey from their honey stores, gets tricked himself. But when he rescues the bees and the honey store from a big nasty bear, he gets a special award, read the story to find out what that award is. He is also rewarded as a HERO for his conducts and gets a new name Humble-bear*, oops! Bumblebear. 

Did you know?

  1. Bumblebees are also known as humblebees. So, the question in the blurb ‘Will Norman get his paws on the bees’ honey or will he fulfil his true destiny and become a Bumblebear?’closing perfectly with a moral message of inclusivity and the bear finding his true destiny of becoming a Bumblebear; rather a Humble-bear* more perfect way to say is enchanting. The above mistake is intentional.
  2. Bumblebees are different from honeybees. Their colony of bees is relatively smaller than honeybees.
  3. Bumblebees are social insects, and they form colonies with a single queen. Isn’t it fictional?

Pratham and I thoroughly enjoyed our time reading this book together. A tip from me: Read aloud in a lively manner, follow the dramatic effect of words when you are reading the story modulating your voice as the font size of repeated or unrepeated words rise, fall and split. For example, the word- ‘really’ to emphasize the love Norman has for honey can be modulated to make the reading time a joyful experience for the child. ‘After all, he really, really, really loved honey’.

You can plan an art and craft activity after the storytime. Give equal shaped small bumblebees cut-outs, and they can then paste the cut-outs, ask them to draw small eyes and mouth just as the picture on the book cover, and for the Bumblebear Norman- larger cut-outs, Amelia wears a red round spectacle, so ask your child to draw accordingly.

Enjoy reading!

‘Tiger’ by Nick Butterworth

Autumn reads for children and Book review of Tiger by Nick Butterworth

A simple, fun and moral read for children and parents in the picture book ‘Tiger‘ by Nick Butterworth published by HarperCollins Children’s Books is a valuable asset to cherish.

In one of our parenting posts that we’ve shared in the past and would like to take the opportunity to repeat in this book review: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! But how about, all work with ‘role play’? Studies support that children engaging in pretend play while performing mundane or difficult tasks can have enhanced focus and better attention span. While they role-play Batman or any fictional character or anyone, they tend to engage longer and be more focused. They tend to mirror the qualities they admire in their favorite characters or adults (maybe) and take steps towards building perseverance.

I found this book to have the same relatable theme. It encourages the power of imagination and role-plays in young children can bring about. First few opening lines of this book which mentions about a kitten who enjoys the role-play of a real fierce tiger sometimes. He feels all-powerful and controlled as a grown-up in doing so. The opening lines are ‘This is Tiger. He isn’t a real tiger. He’s a kitten. But sometimes when he plays, he pretends to be a real tiger’.

In my observation, with Pratham and his friends, there are three things that kids like doing, most of their time. They are either 1) Building something or 2) Role-playing or 3) Storytelling. So, if we encourage that which our children already like doing (such as role-playing in this context) easier, fun-filled and effortless our parenting journey can become, wouldn’t it? And haven’t we all enjoyed playing teacher-teacher, Mummy-daddy role plays, wearing our mom’s Prada heels and Gucci sunglasses 🙂 so let us let them just Be!

The creatives are eye-catching and appealing and Pratham found the picture of the tiger in the collective last two pages captivating, his eyes grew big and round in wonder.

A follow- up book that I’ve planned for winter reads with Pratham is “Tiger in the snow”, again by our favourite Nick Butterworth. I highly recommend reading this book to and with your little one, making it a positive, lively experience with funny noises and actions. Enjoy the tigery miaow and roar, jumping, creeping up. Have fun-time together!

P.S.: Prada and Gucci are only to add lightness and humour.

‘Beans on Toast’ by Paul Dowling

Autumn reads for children and Book review of Beans on Toast - The story of Beans by Paul Dowling

Let’s get our hands on some healthy good read. What say!

One of the quotes from Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” or one of the writing techniques all writers use in their narratives “Show, don’t tell” can become a parenting tip. Let me explain to you how… If we tell our children, protein is an important nutrient and beans is a protein-rich food and they need to eat protein-rich food; maybe they would not understand the importance of it as much or may not feel inspired as much. But if we showed our children and incorporated the important lessons into our reading activities in a fascinating, comical way to explain to them how a protein-rich food has been sourced or presented the life cycle of a food item in a creative manner, they would be one step closer to understanding the importance of a healthy nutritious diet and follow it eagerly too. So, one such children’s book “Beans on Toast- The story of Baked Beans” by Paul Dowling, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books is a great read to children. The beans on their plate would not be the same; it would have a story, a life cycle coming to life on the toast at their platter.

A simple and informative book conveys a beans’ journey in a uniquely creative manner, from stalks >> legs >> racks >> trucks >> the roads >> the cranes >> boilers >> tins >> the trucks >> the shelves >> the trolleys and then >> our home then in the cooker and finally on the toast at our plates.

The intriguing cover picture is enough to excite the young children to know more about the book. Pratham pulled me to his reading time after I had showed him the next planned book for reading. There’s only one line on each page and more than 3/4th to a full page dedicated for a relevant comical creative, isn’t that great way to explain and involve young children (less than six years of age) about the life cycle of beans?

To reinforce his learning, I ask my son to share a little about the life cycle of beans, randomly from any phase. Pratham likes beans and the story of beans has made the eating time more enjoyable, interesting and palatable. Enjoy the healthy ‘Beans on Toast’ with your little ones too! 🙂

‘A Book of Hugs’ by Dave Ross

Autumn reads for children and Book review of A Book of Hugs by Dave Ross

Before I share anything about this book, I’d urge you to name a few hugs, you know. C’mon! Think of all the hugs, you know! Treasure hunt your mind!

To your surprise, I did not know of any, until I read them from this book. I only knew the word ‘Hugs’, a way to express affection. And my parents were shy in expressing their emotions, one time that I remember receiving a hug from them was at the time of my Vidaai. Yeah! That’s it!

So, this book ‘A Book of Hugs’ by Dave Ross published by HarperCollins was like an ‘AHA’ book for me. And it was one of the books I wanted to share with Pratham, share our time together reading and exploring all the kinds of hugs we could acquaint ourselves with.

It is a children’s picture book on hugs, of course. This book brings up all the kind of hugs in the world that a person can think of. You can also make one of yours. We felt inspired to come up with one for ourselves, and that is ‘Book Hugs’. So, moving forward Pratham and I have decided to give a book hug to the books we read together. You may challenge yourself and come up with one or may choose to spread the ‘Book Hugs’ we’ve come up with at She Narrates.

There are many different kinds of hugs- Body part hugs, Family members hug to different animals and fish hugs. Also, there are different feelings hugs.

Now, naming a few hugs from this book are- Mommy Hugs, Daddy Hugs, Brother Hugs, Sister Hugs, Baby Hugs, Grandpa, Grandma Hugs, Arm Hugs, Knee Hugs, Hand Hugs, Tree Hugs, Lamppost Hugs, Puppy and Bear Hugs, Porcupine Hugs… Are you breathless reading them? There are a lot more- Ice-cube hugs, Report card Hugs (A, Bee, and Sea Hugs), Hurt Hugs and a few more. Buy the book and dive straight in and have fun reading time with your little one. This book is full of adorable and exciting illustrations, post-subscript notes and warnings under a few hugs make this book an interesting read.

Pratham liked ‘Great-Aunt Mary Hugs’ because of the lipstick imprints he noticed on the cheek of the baby hippo 🙂 under the above-mentioned hugs page. I got a big Great-Aunt Mary Hug when I was reading the book to him. Well! He pouted and hugged me a ‘Great-Aunt Mary Hug’, Great-Aunt Mary kiss rather. It was fun reading this book together. We didn’t miss our ‘Book Hugs’ at the end.

So, you may ask your little one to name the Hugs they liked the most after reading the book. Or wait for a surprise hug from them. 🙂

Now, I’d close this write-up by extending a warm ‘Sandwich Hug’ to my She Narrates’ family reading the book review of ‘A Book of Hugs’ by Dave Ross here.

Thank you! Hugs again! We would love if you read these books with your little one! Do share your experience with us!

If you want to get some tips for selecting books for your children, read our blog: ‘HOW TO SELECT THE RIGHT BOOK FOR YOUR LITTLE ONE?

You may also find the Part – 2 of this book review, in our ‘Autumn Reads Extended Cut‘ by She Narrates, here.

Disclaimer: The reviews expressed in this blog is to provide helpful information. It is entirely based on my (Pallavi Prakash Kumar) book reading experiences with my child, Pratham. The information contained is to help parents; you may consider the one mentioned above as per your significance. All the external links have been provided for informational purposes only. ‘She Narrates’ does not bear the responsibility for the accuracy/legality on content on external sites or the subsequent links. Contact the external site to find answers to questions concerning their content.

How to Select the Right Book for your Little One!

How to select the Right Book for your child by Pallavi Prakash Kumar at She Narrates

Let us read more
Let us read to the little ones more,
Let us inculcate the habit of reading
Let us gift the little ones the comfort of reading,
Let us all thrive
Let us all help the little ones thrive,
Celebrate, it’s Autumn, the season of pumpkin spice!

If you already don’t know, we are hosting Autumn Reads from 1-7 October as all the book-lovers across the world celebrate the Book Reading Week, 2020.
With Autumn Reads, we are inviting parents and caregivers to read to their children books for the entire week. If you have been connected with us for a while now then you know I am a mother to a 4-year-old, Pratham. 

For our book reading week, Pratham and I together have curated a list of books we will be reading. While designing the entire reading activity for him, I had in mind quite some dimensions. So if you want to join us for Autumn reads, or simply are looking for some suggestion on how to select the right book for your child, these are some of the things I had in mind and might help you curate yours:

  • Look Around for Inspiration: As the autumn season kicks in right in time with the World Book Reading Week, it inspired me to come up with Autumn Reads, signifying comfort reading. And Autumn Reads for me would be incomplete without a pumpkin story and to add to the momentum and the joy of reading in my little learner Pratham, Peppa one of his favourite cartoon character, in fact, the favourite character of almost all children including Pratham and me ☺, ‘Peppa’s Pumpkin Party’ was our first choice. So, just look around and you will find something you and your child can relate to!
  • Align with the Stage of Learning: Pratham is in his phonics building years, so any book that would stimulate his learning while he enjoys it would be a winner for me. ‘Anna Banana’ by Treehouse Tales written by Delyth Owen was our next pick. It has many consonant cluster/blending words and to reinforce his phonics learning (especially the grapheme-phoneme correspondence words). Treehouse Tales books- Oliver onion, Oriol orange, etc. are extremely useful and effective, I feel.
    Further to tap into the fun of Onomatopoeia Julia Donaldson’s (illustrated are by Axel Scheffler) book ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’ would be Pratham’s fifth book read, after ‘Room on the Broom’, ‘Charlie Cook’s Favorite Book’, ‘The Gruffalo Song and Other Songs’ and ‘The Snail and the Whale’.
    Look for what your child is currently learning and then find the books that complement his/her learning.
  • Go Straight to What They Already Love: Pratham’s love for animal and bird books is something I keep in mind before beginning with the book list curation. To name a few of his favourite animal and bird books are Bears, Tigers, Dogs, Owls, Toucans, and Pelicans. This time we have ‘Tiger’ by Nick Butterworth (@harpercollinsch) and ‘The Bumblebear’ by Nadia Shireen (@penguinkids @penguinrandomhouse), power-packed with colourful illustrations and creative narration. When our children already love an idea, a book on similar lines encourages their creativity and imagination many folds.
  • Include Daily-Life Lessons: One of the dietary requirements keeping in mind the little learners’ age, high protein is vital because kids on their feet, full of life are running around, jumping, playing, cycling, etc., so high protein is a must in the diet. I know you are wondering, how in the mid of the name of book lists, we are talking about high proteins! Because the theme for my next pick was to take Pratham one step closer to understanding the importance of a healthy nutritious diet. The next choice of the book in our bookshelf for Autumn is ‘Beans on Toast- The story of baked beans’ by Paul Dowling. And yes, Pratham likes beans, so to help him understand how it is sourced and how it comes to our plate in a story yet creative format, this was my pick for the reading week.
  • You can Never Go Wrong with Values: To encourage positive behaviour and moral values with the concept of invisible bucket my next book choice was ‘Have you filled a bucket today? – A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids’ by Carol McCloud. Along the lines of emotions and to encourage Pratham to express his feelings, be able to name his feelings, and associate with a colour, I am introducing ‘The Color Monster’ by Anna Llenas. ‘A Book of Hugs’ by Dave Ross to introduce him to various kinds of hugs there is. Let reading help you sow the seeds of positivity and good values!
  • Look for More Than Just Books: All books can form a basis for various fun learning activities beyond reading! Eric Carle’s ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, one of the favourite books of all kids opted by young parents, is our pick also. I have planned a Lego creative activity for Pratham to be done after we’ve read the book. Activities like these double his excitement and help him remember and relate to characters and their stories for long!
  • A Power-Packed Book: Last but certainly not the least ‘The Wonderful Things You Will Be’ by Emily Winfield Martin would help me encourage thinking, listening skills and let his imagination run riot by asking some open-ended questions found in the cover page of the book “What will you grow up to be?”, “Will you tell a story that only you know?” and others mentioned in this book.

Learning needs to be fun and to encourage the love of books, consequently, the love of learning in my little learner, I curate books keeping in mind his interests first and then the activities that I can tailor the book reading time with, especially Lego building activity. I also look for ways to encourage his thinking and listening skills. Asking him open-ended questions helps him remain focused, which therefore helps in developing his concentration. I prefer storybooks because stories are the best way to kindle creativity, curious learning, build imagination, and create a natural curiosity about the wider world.

There’s one last tip, and probably the best one (save the best for last as they say!), team up with your little one while you choose the books. Let them take the lead if they are comfortable doing that. If they aren’t, then show them the book and ask questions and look at what they are naturally drawn towards. Building fun activities can be a fun activity itself!

Here’s the list of books for ‘Autumn Reads’ for Pratham:

  1. Tiger by Nick Butterworth
  2. Anna Banana from Treehouse Tales
  3. Beans on Toast: The story of baked beans by Paul Dowling
  4. A Book of Hugs by Dave Ross
  5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  6. A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
  7. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
  8. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
  9. The Color Monster: a story about emotions by Anna Llenas
  10. Peppa’s Pumpkin Party

We await to see yours; Join us for Autumn Reads!
Happy Reading!