Tag Archives: nature

Autumn books we love

Yes, the weather has turned to wet and miserable, but we can still rejoice at the thought of hot chocolate and biscuits, or whatever treat warms both your belly and your heart. Autumn is almost certainly my favourite season and Jane Porter‘s gorgeous illustration seemed to perfectly illustrate the joy this time of year summons in me. Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I love summer with all the opportunities it offers to spend time outside, but I like the fact that summer is precious because it is short lived.

If you don’t feel like braving the rain and wind, or if your kids need to be convinced that autum is a great season, then read them these two lovely stories. The first of these will explain to them why leaves fall, and the second will encourage them to be patient and understanding, so really, what’s not be liked?


When we picked up Leaf Trouble written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church at the library recently, I wondered why it looked familiar to me. Then once home, I realised that Caroline Jayne Church had made a series of books that my son adored as a baby and toddler whose main character is a fun little puppy called Woof.


Now in Leaf Trouble there is no dog, but a family of squirrels who lives in an big oak tree. Pip when he realises that the leaves are not only changing colours but also falling from the trees, starts to panic.


He calls for his sister’s help and hopes that they can save the tree which is “falling to pieces”. After making a huge pile on the ground, this spontaneous rescue team tries to stick the leaves back on the branches, but of course this fails, and thank goodness their mum arrives and asks them what they’re doing!


She then explains to them that the tree needs a rest and that when spring comes, the leaves will all come back again.

Relieved to hear this, they play beneath the old oak tree until sunset, collect some leaves to take back to their nest, and watch the gorgeous colours of the sunset which perfectly match the ones on the leaves. Seeing them happy and soaking in the scene contrasts nicely with their frantic panic and makes for a nice ending.


This story gave us a chance to think about the change of season and what happens to trees and animals who live outdoors. If your child has ever wondered why it is that leaves change colour in the fall, read this great post by an expert who has tons of ideas to make this tangible and fun with experiments and activities.

Now for a visual feast you can’t really beat the lavishness of Helen Cooper‘s work. “Deep  in the woods there’s an old cabin with pumpkins in the garden. There’s a good smell of soup, and at night, with luck, you might see a bagpiping Cat through the window, and a squirrel with a banjo, and a small singing Duck.”


Each of them has a special role in making this yummy soup: Cat slices the pumpkin, Squirrel stirs in the water, and Duck adds the right amount of salt. But one morning Duck wakes up early and decides to borrow Squirrel’s special spoon and to become the Head cook. Of course this is not going to work and not only because he is too short. The three friends start squabbling and arguing until Duck walks out, annoyed that no one will let him help.


Contrary to what the Cat and the Squirrel thought Duck does not come back for breakfast, not even for lunch. The soup they make is not tasty and they don’t feel hungry anyway. So they start to look for him and to worry about where he has gone.

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After looking for a long time, they decide to go back home, see some light from a distance, and run to the house where they are finally reunited.


My kids love pumpkin soup and understand all too well falling out with friends, so when the Cat and Squirrel decide to let Duck make the soup for the sake of their friendship, they understand why it is, believe me! And they love the look of the messy kitchen too.


For another visual automnal feast, watch Co Hoedeman’s Ludovic who has been a favourite in our house for years. We have a DVD with several of this cute teddy’s stories but you can watch Magic in the air on the National Film Board’s website for free.

For more activity ideas, have a look at our seasonal pinterest board!

Finally here is some inspiration for those of you who like making yummy snacks together. Look at these maple roast pumpkin seeds or apple pie cups on Weelicious, don’t they look nice? I also love improvising with date-nut bites, there’s a good recipe here, but feel free to try your own combination. We like date+cocoa+walnut+almond butter, rolled in dessicated coconut to make them a bit less sticky. As long as you’ve got a good food processor, they are easy and kids love these energy balls.


Just in case you get thirsty, why not try THE drink that says autumn: apple cider, a good old classic which makes the house smell like heaven. Here’s a link to a foolproof recipe with an option to make it plain, decadent, or even boozy.



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!


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.



Les sanglots longs du violon de Carotte, or how a carrot learns that the violin is really not for her

Si on en croit le dicton français ‘la musique adoucit les moeurs’ mais la pauvre carotte, héroine de cette collaboration entre Isabelle Jacqué et Jacques Leroy, a bien du mal à voir les fruits de son labeur refléter cet adage.

Tous les mercredis, elle prend des leçons et une fois rentrée chez elle, elle pratique religieusement mais rien n’y fait, quoi qu’elle fasse, son violon ne produit que le même grincement affreux. Triste et à bout d’idées, Carotte tombe un jour sur Petit Pois qui lui aussi ne tire que des sons affreux de sa clarinette. C’est alors que Petit pois curieux suggère un échange et qu’un miracle survient. Je ne vous en dit pas plus, si ce n’est que cet album se termine en fanfare et sur une fin heureuse.

Ce livre de petit format est parfait pour les petites mains dés 2 ans. Il est très résistant, et l’histoire n’est ni trop longue, ni trop courte avec juste une à deux phrases par page. Le jeune lecteur a amplement le temps de profiter des jolies illustrations colorées et de rire des mésaventures de ces deux musiciens en herbe.

Si votre petit bout aime bien cette histoire de couacs et les personnages de Carotte et Petit Pois, il peut les retrouver dans d’autres titres de la série intitulée Tomate, Cerise et Companie qui se passe au pays de Fruigume. La maman de Julie et Laura propose sur son blog un résumé enthousiaste de Framboise fait sa princesse. Nous ne l’avons pas lu mais aimons bien les soeurs jumelles Cerisette et Cerisa qui apprennent dans Les cerises veulent tout faire ensemble à profiter de leurs expérience en solo.

Envie de prolonger le plaisir? Une superbe idée de peinture sur cailloux, adaptable à tous les ages, vous attend par ici!


Today, my objective is not to discuss the reasons why French children supposedly don’t throw food, this polemic is old news and anyway not that interesting. What I’d like to do however is to show you how vegetables can be really cute characters in children’s  books.

In this short and sweet little book, Carotte  attends music lessons every single week. She also practices the violin regularly in a desperate attempt to make music. But her determination is useless, and it is only after meeting Petit Pois that she realises that maybe she’s just chosen the wrong instrument. Thanks to his simple suggestion to switch instruments, Carotte discovers that she is a talented oboe player! What a surprise! The end is, as you would expect, a joyful symphony and the cacophony preceding this happy ending is guarantee to make your kids laugh.

We’ve only read three books out of this short series but they’re all very colourful and full of funny rhymes or lines. This is a nice alternative if you are looking for books in which animals are not protagonists. And who knows, they might subtly turn your picky eater into a little foodie? One can always dream, right?!

Finally, if you’re looking for a crafty activity that can easily be adapted to all ages, I cannot recommend enough Liska’s idea in this post and her excellent blog. Go and have a look!

Hey you, did you poo on my head?

I bought Werner Holzwarth and Wolf’s Erlbruch’s book The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it was None of his Business well before any of my children could read. If I remember well I bought it when pregnant with my first child based on the recommendation of my Norwegian friend, who said it was one of her daughter’s favourites.

The version I have is in French, but it’s been translated from German into many languages as it is considered one of the classics of ‘crap literature’. One day as the little mole pops her head out, she gets pooped on by an unidentified animal. Indignant, she goes on a quest to find the culprit and get revenge. Her quest leads her to question a pigeon, a horse, a rabbit, a goat, a cow, a pig, and finally two expert flies who confirm that she needs to look for a dog.

Now this story is fun and engaging, not only because all kids from the age of say approximately two to six love talking about poo, but also because it is a great way to discuss strong emotions like frustration, anger, and relief. I am sure this book played a role in having my kids going on poo hunts when walking in the nearby woods, they would look and try to identify which animal had done their business by the trees or on the leaves.

We have several nature guides that honestly we only use from time to time, but it never occurred to me to search for a proper poo chart, and what a mistake! Woodland trust has wonderful resources if you’re hoping to enjoy the outdoors this summer, whether you’re planning a picnic or building an obstacle course!

So if you’re looking for a funny book, a story where the little one outdoes the big, or if you want a break from the didactic books you usually get around your child’s potty training years whose message is: ‘be a good boy/girl and do a poo-poo where your parents tell you to’, then read this one!