Posted in picture books

Review: Father Christmas Comes Up Trumps, by Nicholas Allan

Tonight’s book review is of Nicholas Allan’s Christmas special: Father Christmas Comes Up Trumps.




Image courtesy of


What it’s about (from the book): Father Christmas has lots of presents to deliver and he MUST NOT, MUST NOT make a sound. But he has stuffed himself with sprouts, and now there’s a rumble in his tummy and a naughty noise that’s bursting to get out! Find out whether Father Christmas manages to hold it in, in this trumptastic festive treat from the creator of Father Christmas Needs a Wee!

Holly’s review: This book is about farting. It’s a picture book for little children. I think it is about farting because often little kids find toilet stuff funny but it all depends on the child. Because I’m older I personally find this book more ‘rhymy’ and disgusting than funny. That’s because it rhymes and I am paying more attention to the rhyme and the rhythm. I can understand why younger kids would like this book and I think it’s a perfectly good reason.

I liked all of the pictures apart from one which I found quite disgusting as an older child. I liked the technique of drawing very much. I think it was watercolour style?

I do think one of the words might have been a bit advanced because even I wasn’t sure of it but the picture helped me. Otherwise the words were very child friendly.

In conclusion, I think this book is a good book especially for younger children and unadvanced readers. But I don’t think this was the book for me. I found it a bit too young for me.

Sam’s review: The title of the book gives the game away a bit really but it’s a very clever play on words and a good way actually of getting children used to colloquialisms. I think ‘trumping’ anyway is much more ‘cuddly’ than ‘farting’ which is why Father Christmas is always interrupted before he utters the dreaded F word by his head elf. I’ve never quite understood the coyness around the word – yes, it’s rather crude and Anglo Saxon in sound but trumping and tooting and various other cringeworthy things I used to hear at toddler groups (‘windy pops’ come to mind) are tiresome euphemisms. But I’ll take trumping as the best of the lot.

Anyway, linguistic debate aside, I think Holly has hit the nail on the head with regards implied reader. This book will get some chuckles from people of any age but it’s definitely going to be popular with those kids firmly entrenched in the toilet/potty humour stage of development. I did smile throughout the story and wince in empathy with Father Christmas (as would anyone who has ever suffered the after effects of Brussels Sprouts) but that’s probably as far as I would go in my reaction. The image that Holly refers to is quite funny in its way but I can see why she might find it disgusting – won’t spoil it for you though!

Potty humour isn’t really our thing but I do appreciate this will be a popular book with many children and I think it’s a fun title for Christmas.

What do you think about potty humour? And Santa? And the two combined?!

Posted in general and welcome

Review: When it Snows, by Richard Collingridge

Tonight’s review is the second of our seasonal Christmas picture books and is of When it Snows, by Richard Collingridge.


image courtesy of 


What it’s about (from the publishers): When it snows everything stops. But one small boy and his teddy will not let it stop them. Join them on their magical adventure…

Holly’s review (contains a spoiler!): This book is about a little boy who tells a story about snow. And at the end it turns out he was reading his favourite story.

I think the story was very good and I particularly like the bit at the end about him reading his story book. I think the words in this were good too but for me there was not enough lines and I think that’s because I read bigger and older books now. But I think the story line was a brilliant one and it’s a good Christmas story. 

The drawings in this book were amazing. I can’t describe how beautiful they were. They were so vivid to me and the way they were painted was wonderful. To me, these pictures seemed real and were so calming.

In conclusion, I think this book was really good, especially for younger children, but for me I would have liked even more story. The pictures were amazing and I think they really compliment the story.

Sam’s review: The cover of When it Snows is just so inviting. The soft pastels and warmth that leap from the page do feel comforting, as Holly has said, and give the impression that this story is one about magic. And indeed this is the case, as it soon becomes obvious that the world in which the boy lives is quite surreal. The reader takes this in unquestioningly – the boy and his friends ride polar bears and other animals to get around because the normal modes of transport are stuck. They venture ‘to the place where the snowmen live’, and the two worlds mingle in a wonderful and magical way. Interestingly, as night falls, the boy finds himself alone, and no mention is made of where his friends are. In traditional fairytale style and imagery, he is lured into a dark forest by a bright light. Because children and adult readers will be familiar with fairy tales the expectation is set that he will find this a threatening place, and a wolf is waiting for him in the shadows. However, this is not a land to be feared, as he meets the Queen of the Poles, who takes him to a land of glowing fairies, elves, a giant reindeer and Father Christmas. So it’s a fantastic amalgamation of traditional tales, both with a Christmas theme and without, that culminates in the statement that this is all possible ‘because my favourite book takes me there’.

I loved this book. I know Holly would have liked more words because I think she is at that age where it’s quite a status thing to read longer novels and picture books might be seen as a little bit too young. However, in picture books, each word must count in a way that is more important, arguably, than in novels. With such a limited amount of text, each word must have a place and this book feels almost poem-like in its narrative.

Alongside that are Collingridge’s stunning illustrations, full of soft palettes and blurred lines, all adding to the dreamlike quality. Apart from the brief moment in the dark forest, the pages are filled with warmth and comfort which children will delight in. This is a truly individual style of illustrating and one that I look forward to seeing more of in the future.

A lovely Christmas present for any child!

Please note that while we were sent a review copy of this book, we were under no obligation to read or review it, and all opinions are entirely our own. 

Posted in picture books

Review: The Nativity – The Story of Baby Jesus, by May Eliot and Richard Johnson

Today sees the first review of three Christmas-themed books just in time for your shopping! This is The Nativity – The Story of Baby Jesus, written by May Eliot and illustrated by Richard Johnson.

image courtesy of


What it’s about (from the publisher): A classic yet simple retelling, perfect for little ones discovering the nativity for the first time, with stunning illustrations from award-winning Richard Johnson.

Holly’s review:

This book is about the birth of Christ. I wouldn’t call this book non-fiction but neither would I call it fiction. To me, it is a cross between the two. I also don’t think the sentence structure is that good. But don’t get me wrong – I think this is a good book because it is trying to teach little kids about the birth of Christ but it feels like it is missing something.

The pictures in this book were brilliant and very pretty. The brush work was beautiful so the pictures were very good.

If I was rating this book out of 10 I would give it a six. This does come across as a Christmassy book so it would definitely be a good Christmas story for children.

Sam’s review:

It is interesting that Holly mentioned the writing style in this book because it was one of the things I was also going to comment on. The author has combined an easier style of narration for the young intended audience with smatterings of Biblical phrasings, such as ‘King Herod decreed’ and the favourite about how shepherds ‘were watching their flock by night’. However, sometimes the sentence structure was rather hard to read and felt a little unnatural (eg ‘a beautiful angel shining brightly appeared’), which is quite an important element of children’s stories, and of picture books in particular. There needs to be a natural rhythm to lull the child into listening and unfortunately this book seemed to miss that lyrical quality.

The press release we received with the book strangely didn’t mention the author and focused on the illustrator – Richard Johnson – which perhaps explains the feeling we got that this book is more about the pictures than the text. The illustrations are stunning – soft and gentle with a pastel-like effect that provides a comforting feel to the book. The anthropomorphism of the animals in the stable leads us into familiar picture-book territory and grounds the story of Jesus’ birth within it. I was a little surprised at one picture though – I have always assumed the manger that Jesus was born in was adjacent to the inn but this book has them travel outside of Bethlehem to reach it. This of course won’t disturb a young child but as an adult familiar with this tale I was just a little taken aback!

Overall I think Holly and I both thought this was a suitable introduction to the story of the Nativity but I wasn’t quite sure what it added to other stories that already exist, apart from Johnson’s illustrations.

Please note that while we received a review copy of this book, we were under no obligation to read or review it, and all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Posted in poetry

Holly’s Remembrance Sunday poem

image courtesy of

No one will need reminding that today is Remembrance Sunday.

Each year we talk about what it all means and why we wear poppies. This year, Holly showed a sign of her growing maturity by using the last 10p she had at school to buy me a second poppy instead of a cupcake, when both were being sold on the same day. I was incredibly moved by this action and have worn my poppy with even more pride than normal.

Today we watched the Remembrance Sunday Parade and Service from London on the television. This always moves me to tears, thinking about the sacrifices so many brave men and women have made to help fight for our rights and our freedom. And it’s not just about the people who have died – it’s also about those who have been left behind to mourn them. Today there was a mother talking about her son and how her loss is forever symbolized by a set of photo albums. She had left three in the set to record the next steps his life would take, including getting married and having children. These albums will always remain empty, and the tears she cried were terrible to witness.

I hope that we continue to give this day and tomorrow the respect and gravity it deserves. The nature of war is changing but the sacrifices and bravery of all of those who try to keep us safe still remain great and humbling.

Holly felt sufficiently moved by the last few days’ events to write a poem, so I will end this post with her words.


Poppies they come in the colour of red

To represent the blood that was shed

We remember today

As the war ended this day.


We sit in silence and wait

and think of people who died like fresh bait.

They fought for us

And were loyal as be they must.


Some remember their family

Who have died, which is a tragedy.

Innocent lives that could have been spared

Went into war to fight as they dared.


image courtesy of

Posted in general and welcome

9 Book Recommendations For People You Hate

This is a hilarious post from a fellow WordPress Blogger (Robert) that I had to repost:

9 Book Recommendations For People You Hate.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject:

What are the worst book recommendations you’ve been given and why?

What are the best, and why?

Would you recommend a book for revenge purposes?!

I am going away now to try to think about this…