Our top 5 space related picture books

After seeing Larry fly in a gorgeous and shiny looking rocket in The Secret Life of Suitcases at the Unicorn theatre, we had a good look at our shelves and re-read many of the books  we have about space and rockets.  It then occurred to me that it would be fun to select our top five picture books about space and-or aliens. I won’t be doing a detailed review for each of the titles we selected, but I will tell you why the kids and I like each of them in particular. And of course I will point you in the direction of other writers who may have reviewed them on their blogs, because isn’t sharing the love of books as well as recommendations the objective of this blog?!

*Lerry Korda‘s Little Nye is an adorable and resourceful character who likes nothing more than playing with bits and bobs and building things. After asking questions about space to his bookish friend Lester, he starts building a rocket with pots and pans. My 4 year old son loves all of little Nye’s friends: Nella, Grace and Lester, and he finds Little Nye’s stubborn clumsiness very funny! The character’s determination, the book’s bright colours and the happy ending with cupcakes adds to the magic of their imaginary trip to space. After all, why should you simply build a den when you can go for a rocket?!


If building a rocket is not your thing, and you much prefer the idea of cupcakes, you should try Nathasha’s lemon muffin recipe inspired by Korda’s book. They look yummy and would make a lovely tie-in activity.

*Simon Bartram‘s Man on the Moon describes Bob’s daily routine. The wonderfully detailed and lush illustrations are a real pleasure and Bob’s obsession with perfection is fun to watch. He has an extraordinary job since everyday he is the one who keeps the moon nice and tidy, and  needs to make sure that tourists have a great experience. The only problem with Bob is his denial that aliens exist. This is, you will have guessed, the book’s most comical aspect, as on many pages you can play ‘spot the alien’. Bartram has made several other books with the same character, so if your child is sold on Bob, give the others a try.



*Both my children love Oliver Jeffers‘s books and The way Back Home is no exception.  A  little boy decides to take a plane he’d forgotten about for a spin, but he unfortunately runs out of petrol and ends up all alone and afraid on the moon. Soon he is joined by a martian whose spaceship has also decided to stop working. So they decide to join forces and design a plan to fix their machines. The plan involves going back to earth and getting the right spanner and petrol. Once their machines are back to normal, they decide to go home, but keep wondering whether they will ever meet again. As usual with Jeffers, the images are both poetic and charming, and the characters very sweet.


There is no rocket in this book but if you are crafty, you could try to make lovely finger puppets like these? How cool are they?


Now our last two favourites both involve silliness and aliens. They are Colin McNaughton’s Here Come the Aliens 


and Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort. Both these books include aliens of all shapes and sizes, some scary, some silly. The details of their anatomy and their fashion sense are often outrageous but also hilarious!


I have no idea how much time we have spent discussing the various details of the longed after underpants, but it probably adds up to a few hours! Maybe that tells me I should write a post on pants.


I know I said we’d do a top 5, but since limiting ourselves to five was really difficult, I’ve decided to add a little bonus title, last but not least of our recommendations: Toys in Space. We’re big fans of Minnie Grey’s Traction Man and Biscuit Bear, and this one is also a winner. So if you’re curious, read a detailed review here.

Now if you want an alternative to our selection, check Steve Cole’s Top 10 on the Guardian, or the awesome selection about spaceships made on the blog Orange Marmalade.

If you want a break from reading, but are happy to indulge your little space fanatic, try Orchard’s Rocket game, perfect for kids from 2 to 4-5.


Finally, for a fun film night at home watch Moonman, the animated film based on Tomi Ungerer‘s brilliant book, who was one of my favourite authors as a kid!


Why we love magic suitcases, rockets and quarks

Today my two kids and I went to the Unicorn theatre, a venue we regularly visit for its wonderful seasonal shows like Nosferatu,  its modern versions of classics like A Thousand and One Nights and its generally fun shows for audiences as young as toddlers.

I decided to take both my children (aged 4 and 8) after checking the theatre’s website which indicated that the show was in its S category, i.e. suitable for 4 to 7 years old. In my experience, the Unicorn has always been accurate in terms of age range, but on this occasion, maybe I should have checked the poster more carefully since it clearly said 5+.


Don’t get me wrong, we all really enjoyed ‘The secret life of suitcases’ but there is no doubt that my 4 year old missed some of the show’s subtleties.

Larry, the protagonist, is a diligent office worker whose world seems to revolve around work, and work only. From time to time Larry’s colleagues come and knock on his door, but they know that whatever they offer, his work will always come first, until he receives a rather mysterious suitcase. This suitcase is like a magic trigger which will take Larry on a journey away from his desk and from his usual duties, even if he is originally quite puzzled because he suddenly finds himself not so ‘busy-busy-busy’.


Ailie Cohen, who is one of the puppeteers and part of the creative team behind The Secret life of Suitcases, is a master when it comes to performing Larry’s routine. She also excels at mimicking his surprise and confusion. Once he opens the magic suitcase and the bright green leaf is out, there is no turning back. Larry will have to deal with a cascade of adventures, taking him on distant shores, as well as through the sky. He will meet Quarks, fluffy looking creatures quite aptly described by my oldest ‘fixers of the universe’.



I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but I can tell you that the return of Larry to his office is a joyous rather than a studious finale. The brown tones and classic leathery furniture of his office testify of his former life, but we are given proof that he has finally decided to embrace rather than fear chance, play, and adventures as they come.


If your children love rockets, aliens, or boats, you’re in for a real treat with this charming story. Do not be surprised if they ask you to make a quark, a rocket or a magic suitcase as soon as you get home. To help you, the creative team kindly provides these tutorials so take out the glue gun, have ago and enjoy! And if you’re still in doubt, watch this trailer which also gives a glimpse of the great work of sound designer-composer Niroshini Thambar.





Pomelo est bien sous son pissenlit, or how a tiny pink elephant can make your day

Pomelo est un petit éléphant charmant et un peu peureux qui vit tranquillement sa vie dans un potager au milieu des escargots, fourmis et autres insectes locaux. L’album Pomelo est bien sous son pissenlit est un florilège de trois histoires. Dans la première, on apprend à connaître Pomelo. Par dessus tout, il aime sa tranquilité, mais aussi faire des grimaces, bricoler et essayer d’épater les fourmis en faisant la fontaine avec sa trompe géante.


Sa trompe gigantesque lui cause d’ailleurs quelques soucis, elle se coince au moment les plus inopportuns, l’empêche de respirer s’il veut la discipliner en s’en faisant un collier, et lui vaut l’affection indésirable des bébé escargots. Les yeux de merlan frit des bébés escargots ne manquent d’ailleurs jamais de nous faire rire!


Même l’histoire  dans laquelle Pomelo nous raconte ses frayeurs a de quoi faire sourire ses lecteurs. L’ombre des poireaux la nuit et leur raideur menaçante saura peut être émouvoir vos plus petits, mais je vous défie de résister à Pomelo en petit chaperon rouge (qui a peur de se retrouver dans la mauvaise histoire), ou à l’image qui illustre sa peur de voir sa trompe ne jamais s’arrêter de grandir!


Le ton des trois histoires a beau être changeant, on ne peut que sourire et se dire que vraiment Pomelo est un attachant petit personnage. La preuve en images? Regardez ces petits bouts de chou de maternelle approcher et caresser le modèle réduit de Pomelo que la bibliothèque de Liévin avait mise à disposition pour une super expo l’hiver dernier dans le Pas de Calais! Quel potager! Un vrai régal pour les yeux, et quelle bibliothécaire, vraiment!


Les plus grands aimeront sans doute dans d’autres albums comme Pomelo grandit la myriade de questions et réflexions philosophiques sur le fait de grandir.

En bref, à mettre entre toutes les mains de 3 à 7-8ans de préférence.


Pomelo is a tiny pink garden elephant, so tiny that he likes nothing more than sitting under a dandelion. Pomelo likes his freedom and enjoys his own company. At times, he feels cheeky and makes cracking faces, at other times he prefers riding his Italian snail-friend Gigi across giant carrot fields.


Ramona Bădescu and Benjamin Chaud render the ever changing mood of Pomelo with both tenderness and accuracy. For toddlers who often struggle with their emotions, it is very reassuring to see this little elephant being upset, and clumsy. With my older daughter we talked about his utterly funny yet irrational fears like when he finds himself in the wrong story.

Pomelo’s books have been translated in several languages including English, and the various titles in which he stars range from simple picture books for the youngest to more elaborate ones where Pomelo questions growing up and changing.


Here is a link to a review and pics of one of his translated stories where Pomelo explores colours. If you want something more detailed and you’re curious about the illustrator Benjamin Chaud, go and see this page where you can see him in action in New York last spring. My advice is, do give this adorable elephant a try, you won’t regret it!


Can we have the same school library please?

I am a sucker for great reading spaces and this library is a really exciting space which is sure to fill the students of Nelson’s Whitefield Infant School and Nursery with joy and trepidation! Just look at these faces, they don’t lie. Steve Hutton has done a great job!

libraryNelson’s Whitefield Infant School and Nursery

Giant books? Tick. Comfy reading nooks? Tick. Happy staff? Tick. So many school libraries sadly close, or worse get forgotten because budget cuts sometimes mean that the head decides to let the librarian go. This really is a shame since school librarians are unsung heroes of literacy.

This article in the local paper gives details about the new library and the rest of the school. At 7 millions pounds the redevelopment of Whitefield Infant School and Nursery is not cheap, but there is no denying that this is now a great looking school, and surely the envy of many other schools in Lancashire and beyond.

Benoît Charlat: un sacré magicien!

Benoît Charlat, ça fait un moment que nous le lisons dans notre maison! Ça a commencé, il y a 7 ans lorsqu’on nous a offert son album aux couleurs pétantes en forme de coeur intitulé:T’as d’beaux yeux! Autant prévenir les cinéphiles, en dépit du titre, cet album n’a rien à voir avec le duo Gabin-Morgan qu’il évoque, même s’il s’agit d’une longue histoire de séduction entre deux petits lapins. La chute n’est pas aussi romantique que le titre de la série ‘Les Amoureux’ le laisse supposer, mais tout à fait réaliste quand on a 2, 3 ou 4 ans et que les transactions sont souvent l’occasion de frictions ou malentendus.

Ensuite nous avons lu et emprunté à la bibliothèque, Où je l’ai mis? qui de nouveau nous a bien fait rigoler. Une maman kangourou qui sort de sa poche objet après objet, du plus simple au plus farfelu, pour finalement trouver le plus essentiel, ça ne vous rappelle pas quelque chose?! Moi ça m’arrive tout le temps de fouiller dans mon sac en panique (à la recherche de mes clés, ou de ma carte de transport) et je peux vous dire que mes enfants on adoré voir une maman kangourou dans la même situation mais avec une poche vraiment pleine de surprises!


Mais les deux albums dont je veux parler aujourd’hui sont ‘Ti lapin magicien et Super Bobo, des albums colorés, au pages cartonnées et solides qui se lisent volontiers au coucher (ou à toute heure de la journée) avec les plus petits (1 an et plus).


Le premier ‘Ti Lapin Magicien est parfait comme livre avant le coucher parce qu’il mèle surprises, suspense et tendresse à mesure que les pages défilent. Il se lit en vertical, et laisse l’enfant dévoiler l’image finale. Un tour de magie comme cela bien des parents en manque de sommeil en rêveraient. Je ne peux pas vous garantir que ce livre fera des miracles, mais c’est un bon ‘préparateur’ au repos. Une fois que ti lapin a tout ce qu’il lui faut: doudou carotte, têtine, oreiller, Abracadada, abracadodo, miracle voilà un gros dodo!


Quand à Super Bobo, l’éléphant cabossé, il séduira les plus coquins de vos lecteurs. Pauvre super Bobo, il n’arrête pas de se faire des bobos horribles! Sur la tête qui l’empêche de se laver, sur la jambe qui l’empêche d’aller à l’école, quel plaie ces bobos qui le gardent au lit, ils vont jusqu’à l’empêcher de manger de la brioche au chocolat.


Seulement voilà, notre petit hypocondriaque est aussi un incorrigible gourmand et la brioche au chocolat, ça ne se refuse pas! Ici encore, graphisme simple et style BD, couleurs vives et expressions au poil, moi j’avoue que j’y rajoute quelques onomatopées  du style aie, ouille, histoire d’amuser la gallerie et ça marche à tous les coups.


Si vous avez envie de prolonger le plaisir et de faire quelques activités manuelles, pourquoi pas faire un masque de lapin comme celui d’Alba sur le blog de sa maman?masquelapin

Ou alors pastouiller joyeusement dans la peinture en suivant ce lien pour faire un éléphant? À vous de choisir…



Charlat specialises in books for very young readers and has a knack for finding situations that they can relate to and laugh about. ‘Ti Lapin Magicien is a lovely, sturdy and colourful book, perfect for reading before bedtime, as it shows that there is no reason to worry about this  particular moment. Indeed once you have everything you need like your favorite soft toy and blankie, your bed, and your dummy, then you are good to go and will have a good night sleep, no doubt. The little rabbit is cute beyond words and the oversized top hat he is in emphasises this. After a couple of readings, my kids loved saying the magic formula that sends him to sleep, and they also reveled in taking charge of someone’s bedtime routine.


Super Bobo, the second book I’ve decided to present is equally funny but also very true to life with toddlers and young children. Bobo, who seems to be a very clumsy elephant keeps on hurting himself and is, as a result, unable to do many things he should have. My four year old son, like him, has recently become particularly good at finding excuses to avoid tidying up his room or doing what he is told. Does that ring a bell for you too? But this book is really taking things to a new level since Bobo can neither wash himself, nor get dressed because of his injuries! Poor Bobo! What a disastrous day!



But when bedridden, Bobo hears that he won’t be able to have any of the yummy chocolate brioche that’s for breakfast, suddenly all his ailments disappear! His sprint to the kitchen is a joyous occasion to laugh and it could also become an excuse for you to try making brioche with the little cooks in your house? Dan Lepard (a baker we trust in our house) has a lovely recipe in the Guardian, but if you are no cook, you could easily assemble a yummy brioche pudding together with store bought items!

A growing collection of charming dragons

We spent the summer enjoying the resources of our local library, but I must admit that I got lucky with books in charity shops too, hence our growing collection of dragons…

Guess what I Found in Dragon Wood by Timothy Knapman and Gwenn Millward is the story of a very special friendship. Benjamin is a cute little boy with blond curls and big red wellies, but he is not like in many other books the narrator of the story. A young dragon who comes across Benjamin on one of his walks through the woods is the one who tells us about his wonderful discovery.


Surprised and curious, the young dragon decides to bring Benjamin home and then to school to show him to everyone. Imagine what a wonderful show and tell session this will be!

As you would expect, Mr Rockface,the teacher, decides to cancel the volcano sitting class and to give all the little dragons a lesson in biology and anatomy.


But the lesson quickly takes a different turn since  it appears that Benjamin is both home sick and sad. Kindly, to take his mind off his family, the little dragon asks Benjamin what he can do if he can neither fly nor breathe fire. This is when the magic happens since Benjamin decides to teach the  whole class how to play football and this turns out to be a fantastic and eventful match.


But at the end of the day Benjamin still misses his mum and dad, so his new friend, interested in discovering the land of the Benjamins decides that he will help him to get back home. Together they fly over the quiet city and finally land in Benjamin’s front garden to the surprise of all the neighbours. When the dragon comes back to school and tells his friends what he has seen, they are amazed and ask whether he will go back. To which he replies of course, since he is going to be the subject of a lesson at Benjamin’s school.


My kids found this book to be great fun not only because it is told by a dragon but also because it shows how the ideas of make believe and stories are not set in stone. Benjamin and the little dragon get on very well in spite of their differences and look happy together.


The difficulties they face are often created by the fear of their respective communities. In short, this lovely story shows how young minds are often more open minded than adults who can come with a seriously detrimental set of prejudice and baggage. So hip hip hurray to curiosity, consideration and courage and long live dragon football matches!

If your kids are into dragons, there are tons of crafty activities to do with them, my favourite list is here, but I also love this array of projects using loo rolls.


Now if they love music and dragons, Eric Puybaret’s gorgeous paintings in Puff the Magic Dragon and the CD that comes along with songs by Peter Yarrow are a real treat, so try to find a library (or charity shop) that has them, and read this excellent post by Adam Mason on the theme song accompanying the book!



Mazette quelle aventurière cette Zipette!

Autant être claire dés le début, mes enfants et moi adorons les dessins et histoires de Jeanne Ashbé.  Nous avons lu L’heure du bain un nombre incalculable de fois mais je le relis avec plaisir chaque fois qu’un tout petit nous rend visite.


Pour un excellent billet sur ce titre en particulier, je vous conseille d’aller lire les trucs de Myrtille. Mais aujourd’hui, je délaisse Lou et Mouf pour vous parler de Zipette, une sacrée coquine de souricette!

Zipette est certes une petite souricette, mais elle ne manque ni de courage, ni d’énergie. Fatiguée d’être toujours considérée comme la cinquième roue du carrosse, elle décide de profiter du petit matin pour partir à l’aventure.  Mais avant ça il faut se préparer et elle décide de prendre certaines choses et d’en laisser d’autres de façon assez cocasse: ‘Mon parapluie? Fi! S’il pleut, je cherche un abri! Ma paire de bottes? Mais non, quelle sotte!’ Au final, on peut dire que Zipette voyage léger! Hormis son doudou souris, pas de lourd bagage pour cette excursion mais juste un petit sac.


Malheureusement  à mesure que Zipette progresse, elle se rend compte qu’elle aurait pu utiliser son parapluie, ses bottes et un goûter! Quand la nuit se met finalement à tomber, elle est bien affamée et frigorifiée. Heureusement pour elle au loin apparait une lueur, celle de la lanterne de Pigolin, le pingouin, qui la recueille et au final change tout le sens de son voyage.


Mon fils de 4 ans adore les petits cris ‘Aie, aie, aie’ de la souricette Zipette, mais il comprend très bien aussi son envie d’indépendance et d’aventure. Cette fin heureuse lui plait bien parce qu’elle efface les mésaventures de la petite souris. Quant à moi, je dois dire que je trouve les rimes superbes, les illustrations (y compris celles du doudou de Zipette) charmantes et le format parfait.



Tous les titres de la collection des ‘Belles Histoires des tout-petits’ sont plastifiés et résistants à la fois, un atout certain si vos enfants aiment lire et relire. Et puis une héroine un peu rebelle, faisant preuve de ténacité et de courage, et prête à reconnaître ses erreurs, je trouve que c’est vraiment un cocktail réussi.


Zipette is a tiny mouse who’s decided she wants to go on an adventure, and even if she is small and the baby of the family, nothing will stop her. So quick, quick, she packs up her essentials and leaves the house before anyone wakes up!


But as she soon realizes, she really could have used some of the items she discarded like her wellies and brolly. I don’t know whether it is because we often need our wellies too, or because of her endearing enthusiasm , but my kids love Zipette. Because in the end, she is ‘saved’ by Pigolin a kind penguin, you get the benefit of a happy ending, which looks almost as good as a sunny picnic.