Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

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The Enormous Crocodile

The Enermous Crocodile

Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake…the magical partnership that beguiled so many childhood hours, and what better example to begin with than The Enormous Crocodile? It’s pitched perfectly at toddler level, but is MUCH longer than the average toddler book, so excellent for alleviating journey tedium, but not so good for bedtime, if everyone’s tired. Great introduction to the signature Dahl theme of gleefully foiled anti-child plots – you’ll be surprised how cheerfully your child absorbs the horrid idea that crocs eat kids if they get the chance.

The eponymous enormous crocodile sets off through the jungle to the town to catch some juicy children, and on the way he’s nasty to various charmingly named creatures and boasts of his “secret plans and clever tricks”. Quentin Blake ingeniously illustrates the croc disguised as a palm tree, a seesaw, and finally a picnic bench, before he gets his well-deserved comeuppance at the hands of the largest creature he mistreated – it won’t be any use telling your child that the croc is fine really after seeing the last, hilarious page. Lots more Dahl to enjoy after this: we’re going to try The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me next. And if this seems a little scary still, try Blake’s solo books for smaller children, such as Amazing Daisy Artichoke.

You should pick up a copy…..obviously, from Amazon:


Milo Armadillo by Jan Fearnley

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Milo Armadillo

Milo Armadillo by Jean Fearnley

Here is a charming book about a little girl who just wants a fluffy pink bunny for a birthday present. Alas, as you might expect from the title, she doesn’t actually end up getting a fluffy pink bunny. Instead she gets an armadillo. It seems that fluffy pink bunnies are pretty hard to find, and though she searched high and low, not a single bunny was to be found. So her gran decided to knit her one. Well gran knitted and knitted, but somewhere along the way, she lost concentration a bit and the bunny turned into an armadillo.

When the big birthday arrives, young Tallulah opens up a box from dear old gran….and the initial excitement at seeing a bit of pink tail poking out the wrapping turns to disappointment as she sees the cute fluffy little armadillo. She’s a well brought up little thing though, and she doesn’t want to hurt gran’s feelings (good job there mum and dad!), so she keeps a stiff upper lip and starts to play with Milo the armadillo.

Now Milo is a pretty talented fluffy animal – he can do the high jump…..he can play the saxaphone….he makes a good pirate and great companion at the tea parties. But Tallulah can’t help letting slip that a rabbit would be a better jumper and musician. One day Tallulah meets all her little friends….and let me tell you something….it’s no wonder she couldn’t find a pink rabbit for her birthday….all her friends clearly bought them up. (Demand for fluffy pink bunnies is clearly pretty high. Expect price rises soon in accordance with basic supply and demand). Well, they all think Milo is the bees knees, but Tallulah is still feeling hardly done by….

“He’s cute” said her friends.
“But he’s no pink fluffy rabbit,” sighed Tallulah.

Well of course Milo decides to run away to get himself unravelled and re-knitted as a bunny, and Tallulah, having lost him, suddenly realises how much she loved him after all. But, it’s too late. Nah, just kidding, of course there’s a happy ending and they are re-united, and presumably nary another disparaging comparison to a fluffy pink rabbit was uttered again.

I liked this book – it’s charmingly illustrated. My daughter like it too and grabbed a couple of stuffed toys to accompany the tale. If you like your books with a moral, then this one has it – a good reminder to the little ones that they should both be thankful for gifts and also not hurt other people or armadillo’s feelings. And of course that age old “you don’t know what you’ve got till you’ve lost it” type thing. A good reminder too for the adults, that children are brutally honest.

The book has an added bonus of linking you to a pattern for Milo Armadillo, should you be handy with the knitting needles yourself and wish to patch one together for your progeny. Luckily, you can also get the pattern right here

Milo Armadillo in the UK
Milo Armadillo in the US

The Magic Train Ride by Sally Crabtree and Sonia Esplugas

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The magic train ride

Magic Train Ride by Sally Crabtree and Sonia Esplugas

Oh, we’re on the train again, speeding down the rails again, quickly quickly down the tracks, clicketyclickety clack! This delightful book comes with a slightly less delightful CD featuring the story sung by a slightly tense-sounding lady. This is the story of a magic train ride (who’d’ve guessed?). A couple of kids get their magic tickets and board the train with assorted fellow travellers, stopping in places such as the jungle, outer space, fairyland and under the sea, rhyming their cheery way to the final destination (a seaside castle). At each stop a passenger hops off (the alien stays on Mars, for example) and a new one hops on, so to make the most of the book read it slowly a few times first without the CD to spot all the entrancing details. The singing on the CD is not quite up to snuff, but it does have a catchy little tune which will clicketyclack in your head for days. Well worth buying, for girls and boys, even if they’re not train-mad. My daughter likes to grab a bunch of tickets that we’ve collected from the miniature railway at Roxbourne Park as a little accoutrement to really get into the story.

Buy The Magic Train Ride in the UK
Buy The Magic Train Ride in the US

Inside the magic train ride

Inside the Magic Train Ride

Hedgehog Howdedo by Lynley Dodd

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Hedgehog Howdede

Hedgehog Howdede by Lynley Dodd

I chose this one at the library because the author is also responsible for the popular Hairy MacClary series featuring improbably named dogs. This one features, instead, a wholly improbable number of hedgehogs in one garden. We have provided all that a hedgehog could desire in ours, and yet, sadly, one has not moved in. Also, they are solitary creatures most of the time. But this book rollicks along, rhyming and counting, with pictures crammed with hedgehogs (spot the cat on most pages) all hibernating away while a little girl ponders the impending traffic jam in spring. Fun enough to re-read.

Hedgehog Howdedo at Amazon UK

Hedgehog Howdedo at Amazon US

Sally and the Limpet by Simon James

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Sally and the Limpet

Sally and the Limpet

This is both funny and fascinating – and I am happy to read and re-read it. Young Sally fiddles with a pretty limpet on the beach and it “makes a little sucking sound” (insert suitable noise, to much snickering) and sticks itself firmly onto her finger. Over the next couple of days many people try many different (some horrifying, some hilarious) ways of detaching it, but the only help comes from her teacher, who says that limpets like to stay on the same rock all their lives (up to 20 years, apparently). Sick and tired of having her finger and her limpet poked and prodded, Sally escapes back to the beach and offers the limpet the chance to unstick and rejoin its rock. Perhaps suitably accessorised with cockles and mussels (not alive-o), this story has much to offer, with something of an eco-message in there too. The illustrations are pleasant enough.

Sally and the Limpet for UK based readers
Sally and the Limpet for US based readers