Tag Archives: sleep

What a wonderful and colourful world

As it is feeling more and more like winter in London, we find ourselves going to either seasonal books (a selection of which I am working on) or really colourful ones. So to brighten up your Monday I’ve decided to review a colourful trio of books to be read with your loved ones.

Tom Hopgood is a favourite in our house, and since I’ve recently bought a bunch of books for the kids’ school including the first we enjoyed as a family, I thought it would be nice to tell you about it before we give it away.

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Wow! Said the Owl is a perfect book for babies and toddlers, but it also works with early readers who are keen to try reading bits of text since the font is clear and very kid-friendly.

When we are feeling tired and ready to go to bed, owls are just waking up, like the one in Hopgood’s book. But this little owl is very curious and therefore decides to take a long nap and stay awake until dawn. She can’t believe her eyes when she sees the wonderful yellow sun, the white fluffy clouds floating across the bright blue sky, and the pretty red butterflies fluttering over some gorgeous orange flowers.

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Not even the rain will dampen her enthusiasm, since it reveals a beautiful rainbow. As she catches the sunset and ponders over the magnificent colours that she has seen, she realises that “the night-time stars are the most beautiful of all.”

One of the last two pages of the book shows a circle of coloured dots and invites the reader to go back and find these on the pages of the book, a fun game my little boy likes to do. This is a perfect introduction to colour hunting, an activity that we regularly do and that can be adapted to be taken outdoors, as explained in this post by Valerie. All you need is a few paint samples and a perforator (or hole punch) and you’re good to go.

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Tim Hopgood’s blogs include lovely photos of school visits as well as tons of ideas to make craft projects, such as this nice little owl that I find adorable.

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Hopgood’s most recent publication is a joyous interpretation of  Louis Amstrong’s What a Wonderful World. A CD naturally comes with the book which includes a recording of Amstrong’s song and a reading of the book.

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Each page shows the same little boy enjoying the wonders of the world, from blooming red roses to the dark sacred night. Sometimes by himself, sometimes with his friends, the boy walks, flies and even rides a horse while inviting us to slow down and pause to enjoy our wonderful world.

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We are big fans of audio-books, but this is in a different league altogether from read-aloud recordings. It is not just a great way to get your child to flick through a book by themselves, it is an invitation to think about music and art as complementary means to appeal to our senses.

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I love Hopgood’s original idea which was “to capture the joy of the song in a picture book” and I must say watching my son chilling out on the sofa and enjoying the book makes me think he has thoroughly succeeded.

If you’re unconvinced by the idea of music as both a valuable and enjoyable element, and if you wonder why music delights not only our heart but also our brain, watch this fun little video.

NB: This educational clip mentions drugs so do not watch it with your little one unless you want to have a conversation about this particular topic.

Last but not least is Sarah Massini‘s If I Could Paint the World. In this funny story a little girl and her chameleon find a magic paintbrush which lets them paint the world. I wish she did not start by turning the world all pink (but this is me, my son did not object at all as he loves pink and yellow).

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After that things start to take a different and fun turn. For breakfast, she paints red juice, and purple cornflakes with orange milk, and brushes her teeth with black toothpaste.

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Once at school, she makes a few changes to the stories she reads and these crack my kids up. Meet little Little Lilac Riding Hood, and Pea Green and the seven dwarves! But there is a limit to craziness and after yellow tarts and blue baboons, the little girl declares: Stop!

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The reason she gives is the best of all: “when you really think about it, the world is perfect, exactly as it is”. In this story, mischievous changes and cheekiness go hand in hand. My children love the gorgeous illustrations and tried to paint blue bugs, peppermint puppies and purple pigs after reading this book, which shows you how inspiring it really is.

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For other ideas and activities involving colours, check this couple of suggestions, or go back to one of my post on diversity, which included several colour-related activities.

Look at this great lego game here, perfect for toddlers who very often go through a phase of filling in and filling out things. Perfect!

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For older ones, and future scientist or artists, here is a brilliant walking water experiment,  which teaches children about water, colours and science at the same time, a really wonderful trio, don’t you think?

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Finally, something that we have done many, many times but that keeps my children excited is the rainbow milk experiment. Check the tutorial and instructions at the Artful Parent, it is easy and worth a try!

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Des livres plein la maison pour les cocottes et cocos

Chez nous, il y a des auteurs comme Emily Gravett, Taro Gomi, Émile Jadoul, Jeanne Ashbé, et Ludovic Flamant qu’on ne se lasse jamais de lire. Même ma grande (qui a 8 ans) aime revenir à ces classiques surtout lorsque nous avons de jeunes visiteurs à qui elle peut faire la lecture.

C’est suite à une de ces récentes visites que je me suis dis qu’il serait temps d’ajouter quelques suggestions pour les plus jeunes. Et qui  choisir d’autre que Jadoul et Flamant?

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Des livres plein la maison est un petit album cartonné et coloré qui fait l’inventaire de tous les livres dans la maison d’un petit garçon, de ceux sans images pour papa et maman aux autres qui lui appartiennent. Le texte rime comme celui d’une comptine, les illustrations sont à la fois charmantes et drôles et les usages détournés que ce petit héros propose aux lecteurs montrent à quel point l’imagination des adultes peut être limitée.

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Les autres titres de cette collection sont dans la même veine et peuvent être lus au bébés sans problème. Alors si Des livres plein la maison vous tape dans l’oeil, essayez La soupe aux miettes par le même talentueux duo qui raconte comment préparer une délicieuse soupe aux miettes jusqu’à ce que maman s’en mèle biensûr.

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Dans ce billet, Élise vous conseille aussi On ne joue pas avec la nourriture parmi un florilège de livres qui aident à désamorcer les conflits autour des repas. Bref, vous avez le choix!

Pour finir, voilà un album tout court et tout tendre qui aide bien avec les petites angoisses liées au moment du coucher. Dans Bonne nuit, ma cocotte, maman poule, comme chaque soir, met cocotte au lit en lui faisant un gros bécot.

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Mais cocotte n’est pas rassurée, sa maman n’a t-elle pas mis son beau collier pour sortir? Est-elle encore là même si on ne l’entend pas? Que sont ces bruits bizarres, et pourquoi fait-il si noir ce soir? Tenant Lapinou, son doudou, bien serré contre elle, Cocotte questionne encore et encore, et appelle maman poule qui a, je dois dire, la patience d’une sainte et qui jamais ne se démonte.

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Pour les parents, l’heure du coucher c’est souvent le signal d’un peu de liberté retrouvée. On peut lire quelques pages tranquille sans interruption, siroter une boisson chaude sans devoir faire attention où on la pose, et même passer 5 minutes seul(e) dans la salle de bain!  Alors cet album qui met l’accent sur les petites angoisses des petits est un excellent rappel que ce qui nous semble parfois bénin ou trivial peut en fait avoir un impact beaucoup plus important qu’on ne le croit. Au final, cinq minutes de plus ou de moins, un bisou ou deux de plus, quelle affaire, ça ne nous demande pas un grand effort supplémentaire!

Si l’heure du coucher vous cause des soucis, pourquoi ne pas essayer de désamorcer la situation en l’apprivoisant plus tôt dans la journée? Il y a quelques années, on nous a offert le jeu Bisous Dodo, très sympa et simplissime. On l’a un peu mis de côté depuis, mais je suis sûre que si nous le ressortions, il aurait grand succès. Martine y consacre une rubrique qui vous explique tout dessus, c’est par là.


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Si vous êtes bricoleur ou bricoleuse, regardez les magnifiques marionnettes en feutrine faites par les bibliothécaires de St Brieuc pour la visite de Jadoul. Elles sont superbes mais ne semblent pas très compliquées à reproduire.

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Si vous ne vous sentez pas d’humeur, laissez donc vos têtes blondes s’y coller, avec des assiettes en papier, un peu de colle, de peinture, on peut faire des poulettes très convaincantes avec un tuto ici.

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Pour finir si vos enfants sont fans de poules et de poussins, quelques titres à la volée que nous aimons et qui pourraient leur plaire:

  • Le Poussin de Kimiko
  • Toute la série des P’tites Poules de deux Christians Jolibois et Heinrich pour les 3 ans et plus
  • Bébé Poussin d’Emily Bolam avec un super mini livre dans le livre que mes enfants a-do-raient.

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Émile Jadoul is a Belgian author and illustrator and I have come across quite a few of his books translated in English. Ludovic Flamant collaborated with him on several titles for very young readers. The two books I want to recommend today are great for babies and toddlers.

In the first Des livres plein la maison, we’re taken on a jolly tour of a house by a little boy and his dog. He shows us around and tells us about his books as well as his parents’s. I read this countless times with my daughter when she was a baby, because it is short, colourful and fun. It looks at books as reading tools but also as potential toys, building blocks, and even dens!

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This is a real celebration of books as material objects that need to be manipulated, played with, and not overly protected. We’ve always been quite relaxed about how books should be handled in our house. Apart from torn pages, there’s no ‘no-no’ really. We had quite a few books in plastic for the bath or for taking with us, and a smaller collection of lovely fabric ones that were great to play with. So of course Flamant and Jadoul’s playful approach is one that we endorse.

Bonne nuit, ma cocotte! although slightly longer is just as great for very young children. A little chick keeps calling her mother, finding funny excuses to make sure she does not leave her too soon. The book goes through a list of all the usual suspects: “the room’s too dark, my teddy needs a wee (and me too), what’s that scary noise? can I have a last kiss good night?”

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Mother hen’s patience is really impressive and may be something you aspire to. I remember reading this book during the day so that we’d get a chance to discuss bedtime and its routine before it happened. Maybe because we always read a story and spend a good few minutes cuddling and kissing, before turning the lights off, my kids have rarely made a big fuss about bedtime. But of course I know this is not the case for everyone. So if you are looking for additional bedtime related reads, go and read this post I wrote a while ago and good luck for tonight!

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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!

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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!

Need some sleep? You’re not the only one!

Sleep, that magic five letter word that parents and carers miss dearly in the first few weeks/months/years (choose the right answer) of their children’s life. Before I start this post proper, let me say first that it won’t contain any magic formula to make your little one sleep. It will however suggest a few  books you could read together before bedtime which are by their topic and nature excellent incentives to go to sleep and stop fighting about bedtime! No heavy preaching I promise, but gorgeous and inviting works to show your little ones how delightful sleeping can and should be.

We got Ill Sung Na‘s A Book of Sleep back in 2007 and it’s had a place by my kids’ bedside ever since. It is a charming and beautiful book describing how all animals  sleep at night, all but a little starring owl, who observes the sleepers, that is until the end of the book of course.

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Whether they sleep in peace and quiet like koalas against a tree, huddled close like penguins, or noisily like elephants, all seem so peaceful and happy once the sun comes up that ,after reading this book, no kid can possibly doubt the benefits of a good night sleep.

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The background is often a magnificent dark blue, the details on the pages like the fur, feathers, or skin of the various  animals are gorgeous, and the book is now available in a smaller and more study format so that the younger readers can handle it on their own with no risk of tearing a page. If your library does not own a copy, go on, give them a nudge and suggest they buy one.

Now Good Night Me, a collaboration between Andrew Daddo and Emma Quay, also focuses on one animal, a baby orangutan who, lying in bed, slowly but surely says good night  to his feet, his legs, his knees, etc, and thanks them for all the fun they provided during the day.

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This lovely routine and the little monkey’s monologue like ‘Shhh, mouth, no more questions. Just say goodnight’ perfectly match Quay’s tender illustrations. This is a wonderful celebration of this special moment when you tuck your child in bed and kiss them good night. If your child does not find Quay’s purple and blue pastels soothing, he will no doubt  relate to the typical childish poses adopted by this cheeky little monkey, like sucking his thumb and hiding under his sheets.

In brief, this is a perfect book  to learn how to relax before bedtime or to read curled up in bed together.

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The final book I want to present Susan Gal’s Night Lights is a also a visual treat! Written from the perspective of a little girl coming home from a bike ride with her mother, it describes her evening with one word per page, from their barbecue by the ‘firelight’ to the celebratory ‘candlelight’ of the dog’s birthday cake. The usual suspects are here again, like the ‘reading light’ and ‘night-light’ before the final starlight and moonlight shining over her bed.

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I love the 1950s retro vibe of Gal’s illustrations, and the fun and tender depiction of her adventures with her furry companion. My son loves the fact that with its one word per page (or double page) it takes no time to read, so I cannot use the excuse that it is too late to read. During the day, he loves making assumptions about the events and asking questions about the other creatures in the book including the raccoons and fireflies. It can trigger long conversations, believe me, so it’s better to read it a few times during the day before making it part of your evening selection! But give it a go, it is a lovely debut book and you can have a look by following this link if you want to.

If the science of sleep is something you’re interested in, I cannot recommend enough this brilliant post in Brain pickings and Rosie Blau’s article in Intelligent Life. Good night folks!