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The Monster Books of… – book review

Over the Christmas holidays we were lucky enough to receive two books from My Little Big Town (MLBT) to review, both of which are perfect for early readers.

‘The Monster Book of Colours’ and ‘The Monster Book of Numbers’ are from a series written and illustrated by MLBT’s founder, Calvin Innes, who’s a dad himself. The publishing house, based in Yorkshire, prides itself on producing books children WANT to read, so you’ll find lots of monsters and creepy crawlies, along with the odd pirate, in their books.

Nicholas loves both his ‘The Monster Book of…’ books. They’re a good size for small hands (16cm x 16cm), with lovely thick glossy paper. I love how the wonderfully fun illustrations take up the whole page (actually it’s a double-spread for each colour or number) with their vibrant colours.

My Little Big TownThe monsters in both books have fantastic names such as Squiddlepuss and Twiddlypuff, which Nicholas loves repeating. They’re more silly-looking than scary and sometimes even cute.

The books are a quick read (perfect for readers with short attention spans!), but also have lots of scope for engaging your little ones in more than just identifying the colours or counting. I love the double-spread of monsters at the end of ‘The Monster Book of Colours’ which has monsters from the other books in the series; we’ve had lots of fun trying to remember their names and find them in the other pages, and make up names for those we can’t.

I like that ‘The Monster Book of Colours’ also includes navy, lilac and maroon, while ‘The Monster Book of Numbers’ not only has 1-10, but also 15, 20, 25 and 50 (although two of the 50 eyes are tucked away in the spine, unfortunately).

These two books are dedicated to Calvin Innes’ son Cohen. Calvin was unable to cuddle Cohen when he was a newborn because Calvin was going through treatment for thyroid cancer which made him radioactive. Thankfully they can have lots of cuddles now.

‘The Monster Books of…’ (RRP £4.99) are currently on sale on the MLBT website as well as on Amazon, and you can enjoy more of Calvin Innes’ wonderful illustrations on his website.

If you’re a budding writer or illustrator, and not just of children’s literature, MLBT want to discover and nurture new talent – go to their website to submit your work for review.

I’ll leave you with Nicholas’ favourite monster which I think is probably mine too. Can you guess what his favourite colour is?!

My Little Big Town, Calvin Innes

Disclosure: We were given a free copy of each book to review; my opinions are my own.

We're going on an adventure
I’m linking up with Tried and Tested Tuesday, a weekly round up of reviews hosted by the lovely Kate at Family Fever and Colette at We’re going on an adventure.

Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am? – book review

Nicholas hasn’t yet hit the ‘why’ stage, although he does ask lots and lots of questions. I actually love his curiosity and I figure it’s good practice for when he starts asking tougher questions.

A little more than a year ago I reviewed the wonderful ‘Big Questions from Little People’ book which not only provided the answers to lots of real (and tough) questions from primary school children, but also raised money for the NSPCC. To date it’s raised more than £100,000 for the charity. It’s now available in paperback called Why Can’t I Tickle Myself?

Gemma Elwin Harris had so many questions left over after compiling Big Questions that she couldn’t resist finding answers to those as well and so there is now another book to help parents out.

Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?

‘Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?’ has more than 300 questions from the amazing and inquisitive minds of primary school children with answers from a wide range of experts. There’s Sir Richard Attenborough answering ‘Will monkeys ever turn into men?’, Bear Grylls responding to ‘Why can’t we drink wee?’, Miranda Hart explaining ‘Why is it funny when someone farts?’, Noam Chomsky replying to ‘Is new technology always good?’, and Annabel Karmel answering ‘Could I survive on just bananas?’, and Alexander Armstrong gives a brilliant answer for ‘Should we always be nice to mean people?’.

The range of questions is just as broad as in the first book, including the philosophical ‘What are humans for?’ and ‘Why do we have feelings?’, the scientific ‘Why do my fingers go wrinkly in the bath?’ and ‘Why do onions make us cry?’, the creative ‘How long would it take a tortoise to run round a football pitch?’, and ‘Why can’t I keep a penguin in my bath, and the more bizarre ‘How do people squirt milk out of their eyes?’ (answered by a champion milk squirter!).

Overall the answers are easy to understand and explained in a way I think children would be satisfied with, although I’m not sure the one-sentence answer to ‘What is the whole point of science?’ given by the nobel prize-winning biologist Sir John Gurdon would satisfy an inquisitive child.

The team behind ‘Does My Goldfish…’ have also put together some super infographics such as this one (look out for others on my Facebook page):

Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?
Whereas ‘Big Questions…’ has a section of joke answers at the back by famous comedians, ‘Does My Goldfish…’ has eight short multiple-choice quizzes. All the quiz questions come from children and each answer comes with a short explanation. I can imagine this would be great for families with primary-aged children.

My only (slight) disappointment with ‘Does My Goldfish…’ is that it doesn’t have the same contents page as ‘Big Questions…’ where every question and it’s answering expert is listed, so perfect for quickly looking for a specific question or topic.

With Christmas around the corner, ‘Does my Goldfish…’ would make a great and different present for new parents, a lovely book for a child or just to support a fabulous charity who do invaluable work protecting and supporting vulnerable children across the UK and the Channel Islands. Why not buy both of the books? 🙂

Published by Faber, ‘Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?’, is available now from all good bookshops, and online from Waterstones and Amazon.

Disclosure: I was given a free copy to review; my opinions are my own. I made a donation to the NSPCC.

Big Questions from Little People – book review

So your child asks, ‘Are we all related?’ What do you say?

I’m already thinking about the difficult and awkward questions that Nicholas undoubtedly will ask in the not too distant future, and wondering what I’ll do. Will I pretend to be an expert on all matters? Will I pass the job over to hubby, who always gets more questions right when we watch University Challenge? Will I concede that I don’t know everything and teach Nicholas how to use Wikipedia?

Imagine if you could ask Dr Richard Dawkins to help you out (“Let’s give Uncle Dick a call. He’ll know!”).  But then if I think about how many ‘why…?’ questions I’ve heard from nieces and nephews over the years, and think of all the different subjects they’ve asked about, I’d need a huge array of expert ‘phone a friend’ lifelines!

Fear not, Gemma Elwin Harris has come to our aid. Inspired by her own son’s and nieces’ questions, Gemma came up with the brilliant idea to get the best possible answers from the UK’s most knowledgeable experts to more than 100 real questions from primary school children, aged from 4 to 12. So Sir David Attenborough answers ‘Are there any undiscovered animals?’, Heston Blumenthal answers ‘Why do we cook food?’, and Professors Chris Stringer, Gary Marcus and Michael Rosen all answer the extremely tricky ‘What makes me me?’.

‘Big Questions from Little People… Answered by Some Very Big People’ covers a vast range of subjects, from bodily functions to space, from food to sport, from animals to history, from music to philosophy. The brilliant experts include Noam Chomsky, Sister Wendy, Tracey Emin, David Crystal, Jessica Ennis, Philip Pullman, Annabel Karmel, Derren Brown and Bear Grylls.

It seems as if all the experts have tried to write their answers using language a child could understand, but of course some subjects are easier to understand than others. Quite a few, but not all, of the experts clearly answer the question in the first sentence or first paragraph and then go on to further explain it. It perhaps would have been good for them all to answer in this way, even having the concise answer clearly separated from the rest of the text, so even young children get a clear answer while older children can read more about the topic.

The font is a good size for children and there are some black and white illustrations throughout, breaking up the text. The book has a thorough index at the back, making it easy to find the answers you need, all the questions are listed in the contents with the corresponding expert, and you can also read more about each expert.

I love the fact that the questions are unedited (there’s the very cute ‘Why is space so sparkly?’ to the very bizarre ‘Did Alexander the Great like frogs?’). There are also some hilarious joke answers to the book’s questions at the end by comedians including Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig and Clive Anderson (Why are the grown-ups in charge? Because they got here first!).

But probably the best thing about ‘Big Questions…’ is that it’s in aid of the NSPCC, raising vital funds to help vulnerable children and young people across the UK and the Channel Islands. Over half of the advance and royalties from the book are going to the charity.

This is a brilliant book to buy for your children, a wonderfully different present for new parents or buy it just to support a great charity. I’m going to start seriously studying now, with the hope that by the time Nicholas starts asking me these types of questions I’ve memorised the answers and I’ll be Super Intelligent Mummy!

Published by Faber, ‘Big Questions from Little People’, is available from today from all good bookshops and selected supermarkets, and online from Waterstones and Amazon.

And by the way, the answer to the first question is yes, we’re all related.

Created by Faber and Faber for the book Big Questions From Little People. INFOGRAPHIC: What Big Questions are on Your Child’s Mind?

Disclosure: I was given a free copy to review; my opinions are my own. I made a donation to the NSPCC.