Category Archives: Books

Quick Book Review: “Basics to Brilliance” by Donna Hay

Editor writes: “This book is TOTALLY my sort of cooking; basically, learn one skill then blag your way through 5 or 6 dishes that utilise it. So, you learn to make basic minced meat, then suddenly you can produce kick-ass meatballs or make Asian chilli jam to bring some magic to crab or prawns. Once you’ve mastered spelt loaf the world of fancy pizza or calzone making is your oyster… And the images in the book are inspiration itself; imagine the best #foodporn Insta feed you follow and triple it…Glorious!”

Basics to Brilliance is available on Amazon, RRP £17

‘A Clockwork Orange’ helps kids to learn languages… No, really!

Fear not, your children won’t be electrocuted… One Third Stories – a new series of paperback storybooks, audiobooks and activity materials – is shaking up language learning with its unique approach to introducing children to the wonders of foreign languages.

The books work by utilising a learning method coined by founders Alex Somervell and Jonny Pryn, known as the Clockwork Methodology™. By taking inspiration from Anthony Burgess’ iconic novel A Clockwork Orange – in which words from the fictional Nadsat language are gradually introduced to the reader throughout the narrative – One Third Stories’ books begin entirely in English, before progressively bringing in foreign words in context with the story.

An example of the Clockwork Methodology™ in action is: “The little boy looked into the sky at the bright, round, yellow soleil.

Co-founder Alex Somervell says, “The new word gets used many times throughout the story in different contexts and through this repeated exposure the reader has learnt the French word for ‘sun’. Introducing new vocabulary in this way allows us to create stories that start in English and end in a different language.

“The inspiration for this methodology may seem odd or controversial due to the nature of the original novel, but we’ve found it to be an incredibly effective way for children to learn languages, as well as enjoyable.”

Accompanied by an audiobook to teach pronunciation, and beautiful illustrations to provide a visual element, the books enable children to become competent in a foreign language in a way that is entertaining while having a lasting positive impact on their learning.

Aimed at children between the ages of four and nine years, One Third Stories’ offerings are currently available in French and Spanish on a monthly subscription service, where children receive a new storybook, activity book and activity cards each month.


Fearne Cotton’s tips for busy parents

Upfront of her book launch this week, Fearne shares some parenting tips:

1)   Try and look after yourself! As parents, we put ourselves at the bottom of the list and we look after our kids, our families and friends and then we get exhausted and are no use to anyone. Finding a little time in the week which is just for you seems impossible but is very important.

2)   Eat well! Again, sometimes when you are busy and on the run you forget to eat meals or you eat whatever is in the fridge. I think taking a bit of time in the evenings when the kids are asleep to look at what you are going to eat the next day, maybe make a packed lunch for work or when you are out with the kids. Make sure you’re fuelling your body so that you have the energy and the stamina to keep up with a really busy family life.

3)   Don’t beat yourself up. I say that for myself as well because sometimes when you’ve got kids you feel like you are doing everything wrong and you sort of end up cursing yourself and thinking ‘why did I do that?’ or ‘why didn’t I do that?’. We are all going to have good days, bad days, tough days, easy days, so don’t beat yourself up.

4)   Treat yourself! I think it is really important in the week, or even every day, to have a little treat or little moment that is just for you to celebrate being a parent and give yourself a pat on the back. For me it’s having a really nice coffee, or whether it’s having a chat on the phone with a really great friend, just little moments when you take time to give yourself a well done.

5)   Buy yourself a really good hat because I don’t think I have ever had time to brush my hair before taking my kids to nursery or school. So, get a good hat and pop it on your head – job’s a good’n!

Television and radio presenter and renowned yoga enthusiast, FEARNE COTTON, is releasing her first ever children’s book YOGA BABIES, this Thursday 7th September 2017.

Complete with fabulous images from highly respected illustrator Sheena Dempsey, Yoga Babies is a charming children’s picture book featuring a group of loveable yogi pre-schoolers; the beautiful illustrations highlight a range of yoga poses the characters are trying. As children are being read the book, they can either have a go at copying the poses or simply enjoy the story and spot the funny details in the pictures.

Publisher: Andersen Press, RRP: £9.99

Yoga Babies is released as a hardback on Thursday 7th September 2017, RRP £9.99.

(guest post)

Quick Book Review: an A-Z of Monsters and Magical Beings

‘An A-Z of Monsters and Magical Beings’ by Rob Hodgson and Aidan Onn is published by Laurence King and is an imaginatively illustrated guide to mythical creatures (from aliens and banshees to zombies).

“I really like monsters so I thought this book was cool. It tells you about how vampires sleep in coffins and dragon’s blood makes your breath smell bad if you drink it. My favourite is the werewolf cos he looks a bit like my Dad…” 

(Reviewed by Luke, aged 4)

Quick Book Review: ‘The Giant Jumperee’ by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury

With a winning combo of author and illustrator, The Giant Jumperee is available in hardback and published by Puffin.

“The Giant Jumperee is as scary as can be. But he’s not actually scary, he’s just funny. I liked Rabbit the best and Mummy Frog the next best in the story. We have read it every day.”

(Drummond, aged 3)

Daddy Pig announced as Book Trust Ambassador

It might be a day for celebrating the women of the world, but Book Trust has chosen to honour a porcine parent of the male variety as their new Ambassador. That’s right, none other than avid reader of newspapers; Daddy Pig.

Whilst some might choose to tut about the time Daddy Pig kept a book about concrete out of the library for ten years, the big-tummied happy hog gave the following encouraging statement:  “With two little piggies of my own, I know how important reading and sharing stories are and I’m oink oink overjoyed to be working with BookTrust.”

CEO of BookTrust Diana Gerald said: “We’re thrilled to have Daddy Pig on board. Having him support our core message of reading for pleasure is wonderful and influencing better reading habits is something we’re incredibly passionate about. Families love the Peppa Pig books and television programme and we know that they will benefit from his sage advice and words of wisdom.”

Fearne Cotton announces her new book ‘Yoga Babies’

Remember how we all ‘oohed’ when Fearne Cotton posted that ‘Kitchen Yoga’ snap?

Well now, TV and radio presenter (and renowned yoga enthusiast) Fearne has announced the launch of her new children’s book entitled Yoga Babies.

Complete with fabulous images from highly respected illustrator Sheena Dempsey, Yoga Babies will be released by Andersen Press on Thursday 7th September 2017.


The book features loveable yogi pre-schoolers, and the beautiful illustrations highlight a range of yoga poses the characters are trying. As children are being read the book, they can either have a go at copying the poses or simply enjoy the story and spot the funny details in the pictures.


On writing her first children’s book, Fearne said:

“One of my favourite times of day is cuddling up with my kids at bed time for a snuggle and a read.

Yoga Babies combines the joy of reading with my love for yoga, which I like to practise with my children at home.

Yoga is such a wonderful activity for all the family and has a hugely calming impact all round. It’s great for coordination as well as health and wellbeing.

I hope that Yoga Babies is enjoyed by parents as well as kids and that the book brings lots of joy and fun.”

Yoga Babies is released as a hardback on Thursday 7th September 2017, RRP £9.99 – preorder here

SM reviews…’Bella and Bentley’ by Suzanne Lees

SM reviewer writes: ‘Bentley wanted to sit on Mummy’s lap and kiss the baby, but was told ‘No’. Bentley felt lonely and sad…he just wanted Mummy…’

Does any of this sound familiar? 

Yes – except that in this case, Bentley isn’t a hipster older sibling, but an adorable French bulldog, hereby exemplifying that a) a new arrival can be explained to a toddler via the medium of lapdogs and b) the family pooch needs love too. 

This is a lovely story and a wonderful alternative to many of those ‘new baby’ titles (which my sons, for example, found a little ‘sappy’) and the ending is delightful. 

In our own case, the family dogs preceded the children, so this book served as an apt reminder to my husband and I that once upon a time our world was theirs alone… Which was enough of an incentive for us to get our hiking boots on and take the dogs out to the woods whilst the kids were at school…

Bella and Bentley is published by Suzanne Lees and is the first of a series. 

Splitting up: a child’s guide to a grown up problem

scan13-jpg-191397-lowA new book giving an insight into the impact of family separation from a child’s perspective has been released this week. Splitting Up – A Child’s Guide to a Grown Up Problem is a joint project by London-based law firm Mishcon de Reya and children’s mental health charity Place2Be. 

The book is comprised of six chapters:

–     Breaking the news: the shouting and the silence

–     When a family falls apart: pain, loneliness and worry

–     Torn in two: caught in the middle

–     New home, new family, new routine: living a double life

–     Take it from me: advice for children of separated parents

–     The way it should be: advice for separated parents

At the end of each chapter, Dr Stephen Adams-Langley, a Senior Clinical Consultant at Place2Be, offers insight and practical guidance on how to address some of the issues the children raise in each chapter.

Mishcon de Reya is calling for fundamental change to the way we approach divorce. Litigation should be the last resort for resolving disputes involving children as it can be a divisive and traumatic experience for all parties involved. Court proceedings also do not address the underlying issues in a way that enable parents to work together to reach solutions that are in the best interests of their offspring. Given the low impact of compulsory mediation, Mishcon de Reya is calling for greater therapeutic input to resolve disputes funded by the public purse. Instead of focusing on the destructive nature of court proceedings, parents would engage in focusing on their child’s needs before their own.

Commenting on the book, Dame Benita Refson DBE, President of Place2Be, said:

This book has been created to give children’s voices a platform. We believe they are not heard soon enough. The children who contributed represent the views and experiences of other children in our society who find themselves caught between parental conflict and separation.”  

“We want to encourage adults to engage with their children to really understand how their actions affect them, both in the short and long term.”

“Here, we are offering a necessary insight into what children of separated parents are going through, advice on how to help them and an opportunity for parents to start a dialogue with their children. Without an outlet for their pain, young people will continue to suffer, and often this suffering will be in silence.”

Sandra Davis, Head of the Family department at Mishcon de Reya added:

Taking into account the welfare, wishes and feelings of children during a family dispute is an enshrined legal principle, but without the concerted effort of parents to prioritise their children over their difficulties with one another, the law can only do so much.”

“It is only through listening to children that we can begin to develop a long term mechanism to ensure they are protected during and following their parents’ separation. And never has this been more important. According to data released by the ONS at the end of last year, almost half (48%) of couples divorcing in 2013 had at least one child aged under 16 living in the family. And that’s just married couples. Cohabiting families are the fastest growing family unit – the number of children living in opposite sex cohabiting families has more than doubled, from 0.9 million in 1996 to 2.1 million in 2015 according to a House of Commons briefing paper published earlier this year.”

“Society no longer follows the traditional structure for which the law was developed, and yet we continue to see courts being forced to make decisions for modern families that will inform the lives of the children within them. Alternatives to litigation such as therapy or mediation have been shown to deliver better outcomes for children and their parents.  Public finances should be more widely used in supporting these services.” 

“Confusion, loneliness, worry and the multitude of other feelings that accompany the breakdown of a family don’t have a gender, class, race or religion. It is not just our parental responsibility to our children that is vital, it is our societal responsibility to listen and seek to understand what children tell us about how we can serve their needs better in the event of a family breakdown.”

Dr Stephen Adams-Langley of Place2Be epitomises this debate in his advice to parents that they “have to put more effort into the love they have for their children than into the animosity they may have for each other.”

Writer and long-time Place2Be supporter Sophie Dahl has written the foreword for the book – of which all proceeds will go to Place2Be – and input was provided by the Voices in the Middle project.

Splitting Up – A Child’s Guide to a Grown Up Problem is available on Amazon