‘Oliver’s Kitchen’ and ‘Oliver’s Kitchen -Seconds’
Both of these lovely books feature the cooking adventures of Oliver and his sister Mia and in doing so, raise vital funds for the Neonatal Unit at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and the Stroke Association.
Oliver experienced a neonatal stroke and the first book tells the story of his progress alongside recipes and photographs. Oliver’s Kitchen-Seconds is 150 pages of recipes and cooking fun. Simple, child and family friendly meals that you will all enjoy.
There is also a website packed with more features.
Three classic books about Mexican cooking in one volume, you will find the purest distillation of regional and national cuisine in here with an updated ingredient, technique and terminology glossary. Diana Kennedy is an American who went to live in Mexico and like Julia Childs, sought to understand her adopted country through its food. Don’t expect Tex-Mex (as delicious as this is) but instead, an authentic journey through the complex regional specialities to be found in this much misunderstood land.
There is a glorious Pico De Gallo made with peaches that justifies the purchase price alone and by home cooking, you can eliminate the more fattening oils that characterise some of the dishes. Drinks are covered too but there are no glossy food porn photos- this is a cooks book.
‘Creole’ by Babette De Rozieres (Translated by Nicola Young)
Creole is a lively cookbook featuring food from the Caribbean, where influences from Asia, Africa, India, France and Spain blend in a refined and colourful cuisine. It includes 163 recipes by Babette De Rozieres who learned the complexities of Creole cooking from her Grandmother and from there began her love affair with West Indian cuisine. Now a celebrity TV chef in France, she is the owner of the famous restaurant Le Table de Babette in Paris, where she offers her customers the delights of Creole cooking.
The recipes look complicated but they are not and are characterised by the big flavours, bright colours and seasonality of Caribbean food. However many of the ingredients are not easily found outside of large towns and cities with groceries that cater to Caribbean cooks. So it might require a cook with some understanding s to how best to substitute the more obscure ingredients.
I am a particular fan of American food writing and here are some of my favourite books by authors from the U.S, some well-known, some less so.
But Mama Always Put Vodka In The Sangria by Julia Reed
Mississippi born, New Orleans resident and often writer for US Vogue, Julia Reed has written several books all soaked in Southern charm yet cognizant of its underbelly of oft-unpleasant history and torpid heat soaked Summers that can make people act a little crazy.
Julia Reed takes the reader on culinary adventures in places as far flung as Kabul, Afghanistan alongside her native Mississippi Delta and the Gulf Coast. Along the way, Reed discovers the perfect Pimm’s Royale at the Paris Ritz, devours delicious chuletons in Madrid, and picks up tips from accomplished hostesses ranging from Pat Buckley to Pearl Bailey and, of course, her own mother. Reed writes about the bounty – and the burden – of a Southern garden in high summer, tosses salads in the English countryside, and shares C.Z. Guest’s recipe for an especially zingy bullshot. She understands the necessity of a potent holiday punch and serves it up by the silver bowl full, but she is not immune to the slightly less refined charms of a blender full of frozen peach daiquiris or a garbage can full of Yucca Flats. And then there are the parties: shindigs ranging from sultry summer suppers and raucous dinners at home to a Plymouth-like Thanksgiving feast and an upscale St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
LA Son- My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi
From twice cooked duck fat fries and Chile Spaghetti in Koreatown; Horchata in Grove St through to Carne Asada and fried ribs in South Central and the Borrego Springs Desert, Roy Choi takes us on an autobiographical wild trip on the food side through culinary Los Angeles.
This is the story of Choi’s love of food and his evolution from LA Low Rider to chef. Choi returns to his childhood afternoons at his parents’ Korean restaurant, his nights in L.A.’s illegal gambling halls, and his pizza-fueled studying at the Culinary Institute of America before making his way into some of the best restaurants in America. These recipes punctuate his life story and symbolise the great cultural melting pot that is modern USA at its best.
The Glory Of Southern Cooking by James Villas
One of our favourite ever Southern food writers is James Villas who has had a long and esteemed career ranked equivalent to his peers- James Beard, Craig Clairborne and MFK Fisher (who were all his friends). This is THE definitive guide to Southern cooking by a Tarheel (Northern Carolinian) who is bursting with pride over his roots and heritage and whose writings teem with Southern vernacular, history and traditions. It includes traditional favorites, delicious regional specialties, and new recipes from some of the South′s most famous and innovative chefs, like Louis Osteen and Paul Prudhomme. Comprehensive and authoritative, the book features favorites like buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken, grits, cornbread, and pecan pie. Carolinian Low Country seafood are strengths as are his knowledge of Kentucky Burgoos and the regional ‘debates’ surrounding what a true Brunswick Stew is comprised of. And like all good Southern boys, James loves his Mama whose culinary legacy grounds his often amazing life experiences (crossing the Atlantic with Dali and his pet Ocelot on the Queen Mary) with a dose of down home.
‘Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi and David Chang and Momofuku by David Chang
The phenomenon that is Momofuku and the Milk Bar in New York City comes to your home in the form of these two amazing books. In Momofuku, David Chang (who is behind the steamed pork bun resurrection) makes sexy recipes out of much berated and neglected ingredients. Roasted Brussel Sprouts? David Chang. New wave Korean quick dishes? David Chang. You will need to have access to some Korean ingredients so unless you either live near a city or are happy to shop for them online, some of the recipes may not be for you. But confident cooks can use his techniques and adapt his recipes or substitute other ingredients.
The Milk Bar features Tossi’s insanely good and mindblowing sweet confections- cakes and patisserie, drinks and ice creams. Tosi is at the vanguard of new Wave Patissieres resurrecting what was considered to be an expensive and Cinderella speciality and combining low brow with high end turning out fresh interpretations of old diner favourites.
Recipes combine Pretzels, potato crisps, cereal flavoured milk, marshmallows, apple crumble- you name it, in towering Southern style layer cakes, plate pies and giant cookies. Ice creams made from cereal milk are both nostalgic and fresh. Sweetcorn or crack pie anyone?
Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth by Jill O’Connor
We bought this book quite a few years ago and it is quite the most indulgent orgy of chocolate, sweet and unctuous you will ever read. When the most minimal recipe you can find is called Giant Coconut Cream Puffs you know you are in for a blood sugar Roller Coaster ride. The author is a skilled Patissiere and cook (although her assertion that us Brits traditionally eat Sticky Toffee Pudding on Christmas Day is a bit way off the mark) meaning the text is sprinkled with how-to’s on classic techniques such as Ganache making. Your Chocolate Caramel-Pecan Souffle Cake should turn out perfectly under her guidance. Just make sure you have a good dentist.
Sweet Eats for All: 250 Decadent Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes–from Candy to Cookies, Puff Pastries to Petits Fours by Allyson Kramer
If you have food allergies or have to cook for somebody with them, it is extra useful to be able to make classic recipes as opposed to some esoteric concoction that sets the allergic person even farther apart by dint of weird and spooky ingredients.
In ‘Sweet Eats for All’ Allyson Kramer keeps the promise of the title by offering safe alternatives to classic recipes such as Key Lime Pie, German chocolate cake and puddings such as pots de creme, albeit made with fashionable chocolate butternut. The person with allergies can once more enjoy the cakes, candies and puddings they always saw as denied them.
No food lover likes to be out of gastro-fashion and Kramer nods to the current ur ingredients such as Matcha and the canny use of vegetables to add moisture and texture. Clever techniques and substitutions, cool ingredients (smoked salt topping!) plus childhood nostalgic favourites such as lollipops and ice creams are included and all are underpinned by Kramers fifteen years of experience in cooking and recipe development.
A great book that belongs on the shelf of anybody with a food allergy or those seeking a new way of eating.
Juniors Cookbook by Marvin & Walter Rosen
Famous for its classic American Diner food and bakery, Juniors is one of NYC’s most famous and iconic restaurants. The cheesecake recipes alone make the cover price worth it; we have baked probably hundreds of these over the years and the Juniors cheesecake has been voted NYC’s best. Baked on a classic sponge base, flavoured with a little lemon peel and a whole lot of vanilla, we have never eaten better. The recipes are interspersed with the history of the restaurant and Brooklyn with downhome Jewish cooking well represented. Recipes for cheese blintzes, the classic Black n White cookies, Macaroni Cheese, all manner of cookies and mains are all easy to follow but you will need to buy USA style measuring cups.
The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes From the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman
One of our favourite ever chefs, recipe creators and cookbook writers, Rebecca Rather is a distinguished pastry chef and restaurateur in the Texan Hill Country town of Frederiksburg. Rebecca was proprietor of ‘The Rather Sweet Bakery’ and ‘The Pink Pig’ and her books are packed with stories and photographic essays that act as testimonies to just how good and reliable her recipes are. Who would have thought that adding fresh mashed potato to Jailhouse Cinnamon Rolls would make them light and airy?
Her Tuxedo Cake has been requested for every child’ birthday we know- three layers of luscious chocolate sponge drenched in chocolate and frosted with Creme Chantilly. The giant PB&J cookies are the size of dinner plates (everything is bigger in Texas) and chicken pot pies made and baked in pastry topped dishes look and taste superb. We have made nearly all her recipes and they range from super indulgent cakes ‘Mexican Tres Leches Cake, to yeast baking such as Kolaches- pillowy sweet yeast buns stuffed with either savoury or sweet fillings. Main courses and snacks are well provided for too with King Ranch Casseroles and vividly coloured bowls of soup packed with Tex Mex flavour.
The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman
One of THE best and original Christmas baking and cooking books, jam packed with table dressing and serving ideas, this book is undoubtedly what gave Nigella some of her ideas regarding her own Christmas book. Rebecca Rather is a trained pastry chef, caterer and restaurateur and her recipes always, always work without being faffy and cheffy. She is fond of family style meals, eschewing individual portions and you will find wonderful tall layer cakes spiked with alcohol, fruit and inventive flavourings. Cocktails and party drinks are a strength too.
Our favourites? Whiskey Glazed Eggnog Cakes, In-the-bag Chile Frito Pie, Cranberry Margaritas, Cowboy Coffee and Olive Beef Tenderloin. Oh and don’t forget to try the Warm Pear Ginger Upside Down Cake with Amaretto Whipped cream.
Classic Spanish Cooking: Recipes for Mastering the Spanish Kitchen by Elisabeth Luard
Elisabeth Luard is an ‘insiders’ choice. Not backed by a mega bucks publicity campaign, her books sell steadily to people who appreciate beautifully understated, knowledgeable food writing underpinned by accurate recipes that work. This is a trans-regional ‘Greatest Hits’ of Spain with foolproof recipes for Gazpacho, Tortilla, Albondigas and Paella. Luard once lived in Andalusia and knows of what she writes, speaks and eats.
Best Food Writing edited by Holly Hughes (2000-2013)
One of my favourite food writing anthologies, Hughes collates and edits the best food writers from around the World in each yearly collection. The latest edition features NYC chef and restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton (Guess who’s coming to dinner), Jonathon Gold on Hawaiian food trucks, Carole Penn-Romine on ‘Coke and Peanuts’ and a very moving meditation on feeding ice cream to her dying Mother by Sarah DiGregorio. Previous editions feature well known British food writers too but the stories told are of events and emotions common to all nationalities. Everybody eats!
Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater
Returning to the format of his first books and updating it for the Twitter generation, Slater has produced reams (over 600) of user friendly non faffy recipes that I think parent and other time pressed cooks will find both invaluable and intelligent. The book alone is a joy to possess being chunky and beautifully designed with its cloth covers and text-economical recipe descriptions. Yes it presupposes that you have some cooking experience; I wouldn’t buy it for a teenager who did not know what ‘braise’ means for example. But for those cognizant of the basics and keen to experiment, this book would make a great gift or leaving home present.
A Tale of Twelve Kitchens by Jake Tilson
Infused with the artists sensibility of its author, this is a book about living, travelling and cooking as you go. An inveterate collector, Jake Tilson’s book has something of the scrapbook about it but it is not scrappy. Moving in a linear fashion from his English countryside youth through London and marriage which led him to Scotland and then kitchens and cooking in far flung places – Santa Fe, Tuscany and LA, this book is filled with achievable recipes with a sense of place. Try Dominican Black beans, Secret Garden Mulberry Sauce and Butteries.
The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook by Lynn Hill
Across the UK and beyond, thousands of home bakers have been meeting covertly in hidden locations with the same simple mission: bake, eat and gossip about cake. These are the members of the phenomenally popular Clandestine Cake Club and here are their recipes. From Smoked Chile Chocolate Cake to the lovely Citrus section, these cakes are reliable. They work, they look good but do not require Peggy Porschen levels of expertise in the decorating department and they taste superb.
The Clatter Of Forks And Spoons by Richard Corrigan
Companion volume to his ‘Made In Italy’ and both books are huge, all encompassing tomes. This volume focuses on the regional cooking of Sicily, an Italian island with a cuisine bearing the imprint of its many invaders. Locatelli intersperses memoir and food writing with intelligently compiled recipes base upon a love for the island kindled in him aged ten. Simpler in ingredient and preparation than his previous book ‘Made In Italy’ which is reflective of the Sicilian way, this book should be used in tandem with seasonal produce where possible. Broccoli, Chile and Almond Salad, Lamb with Broad Beans and Cassatta (Ricotta Cake) are all favourites of ours.
A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
Molly’s blog ‘Orangette’ was one of the earliest and exists to this day. This book is both food memoir, an account of life and family and full of excellent modern recipes. Her writing is poignant, sharp and never strays into food hyperbole. Favourites? Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges and Creme Fraiche and Doron’s Meatballs with PineNuts, Coriander and Golden Raisins. The titles alone make us swoon. Molly now has her own restaurant in Seattle called ‘Delaunay’ and a new cookbook due out this May 2014. We await this eagerly and encourage you all to follow her wonderful blog http://orangette.blogspot.co.uk/
How To Eat by Nigella Lawson
Is it hyperbolic to describe this as a seminal food and cooking text? We don’t think so and are proud to declare ourselves as very early Nigella adopters, being fans of her early ‘Vogue’ food columns that went onto become this book. Nigella’s first book is written with such love, warmth and longing for memories of past meals that it will resonate forever. This is the kind of food book to hunker down with and read as you would a work of fiction. You will be guaranteed to want to cook from it too as it is jampacked with useful achievable advice for everyone. Personally we found the weaning and infant feeding chapters full of useful advice- like having a Health Visitor, Mother, friend and champion cook rolled into one and standing by my side whilst we agonised over what to feed our children. For us the cover price alone is justified by Nigella’s tip on how to prep large amounts of kids party Marmite sandwiches. Simply beat butter and Marmite together in a bowl until soft and incorporated and then spread the bread with it. Amazing. Simple.
A Girl Called Jack- 100 delicious budget recipes by Jack Monroe.
Her writing is superb, she is socially and politically moral and her recipes are not runners up in taste and style. Jack is a cash-strapped single mum living in Southend. When she found herself with a shopping budget of just £10 a week to feed herself and her young son, she addressed the situation with immense resourcefulness, creativity and by embracing her local supermarket’s ‘basics’ range. She created recipe after recipe of delicious, simple and upbeat meals that were outrageously cheap. Learn with Jack Monroe’s A Girl Called Jack how to save money on your weekly shop whilst being less wasteful and creating inexpensive, tasty food. Recipes include Vegetable Masala Curry for 30p a portion, Pasta alla Genovese for 19p a portion, Fig, Rosemary and Lemon Bread for 26p and a Jam Sponge reminiscent of school days for 23p a portion. We loved the Gigantes Plaki- tomato-ey Greek style large Butter Beans scooped up with whatever bread you have or versatile accompaniment to grains, rice or pasta.
Xanthe Clay calls her sassy and was an early champion of Jack Monroe’s blog. Xanthe Clay knows her stuff.
Go forth and buy this book. Unlike Jamie, she hasn’t priced her ‘budget meal’ book at a ridiculous price (Jamie ended up being shamed into donating large quantities of his book to libraries) nor does Jack Monroe make rude, disparaging remarks about poorer people in order to generate publicity.
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya von Bremzen
In 1974, when Anya was ten, she and her mother fled to the USA, with no winter coats and no right of return. These days, Anya is the doyenne of high-end food writing. And yet, the flavour of Soviet kolbasa, like Proust’s madeleines, transports her back to that vanished Atlantis known as the USSR in this book with its wide ranging writings covering seven decades of Soviet Russia seen through a prism of one families meals.
A Slice Of Cherry Pie by Julia Parsons.
The first book by a well regarded food blogger, ‘A Slice Of Cherry Pie’ melds food with beautifully compositions of the places, people and memories underpinning her recipe creations: a mix of modern rustic dishes inspired and inflected by a love of eating and sharing. The stylish scrapbook effect, mixing text, photographs, family memorabilia and montages makes this book a visual and tactile pleasure. From chocolate cakes to more unusual risotti, the recipes work.
How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
Rarely has a book title been more (wilfully) misinterpreted. The original tongue in cheek intentions of Lawson when she named the book have been distorted into an anti Feminist ‘Get back in the kitchen’ edict far from the original intention. Indeed what this book suggests (as do all of Lawson’s) is that the kitchen can be another source of pleasure and comfort in the multi faceted like that many women today lead.
This is one of our favourites of Lawson’s books being published just after ‘How To Eat’ when she still felt like a relatively undiscovered treasure. Her narrative is impregnated with all five senses, evoking your own memories through the recounting of her own. Lawson sets the scene before each recipe often crediting others for their creation. Rosebud Madeleines, Granny Boy’s Biscuits, Schnecken, Boston Cream Pie, Cheese Blintzes and Joe Dolce’s Cheesecake- Lawson journeys through France, Ireland, North American and her beloved Italy bringing a combination of faithful adherence and culinary reinterpretation. One of our favourite ever baking recipes is found in this book – Mini Lime Syrup Sponges. They are super cute and tiny mouthfuls of sharp sweet heaven.
The Hairy Dieters Eat for Life: How to Love Food, Lose Weight and Keep it Off for Good! – Dave Myers & Si King
The feedback was positive from the many Mumsnetters who have cooked from this book with comments along the lines of ‘tasting not like diet food’, ‘easy’, ‘family friendly’. Their motto is ‘Flavour has no calories’ and these recipes certainly pack the former in full of fruit, vegetables and lean meat and fish. Traditionally high fat and sugar foods such as Cornish Pasties, pancakes, Pork Schnitzel and chicken Bhuna are reformatted as low fat versions sacrificing none of the pleasure. Warm Nectarine Tart got our attention.
Roast by Marcus Verbene
From the award winning restaurant in London’s Borough Market comes this sumptuously designed but down to earth book. Making full use of QR technology with its embedded film clips of culinary techniques and step by step photo guides, this book will guide you through each meal of the day using British and local ingredients and time honoured techniques brought up to date. From Anchovy rubbed roast mutton to wonderful fish and shellfish recipes as befits a former chef at J Sheekeys (the famous seafood and fish restaurant), this book captures the best of modern British cookery.
Reducing your carbohydrate intake is proven as not only the fastest way of shedding those unwanted pounds, but keeping them off in the long-term. Here is a book that shows you how to achieve that without giving up any of your favourite dishes. Award-winning food writer Annie Bell approaches the Low Carb diet as a food lover and passionate cook, which is reflected in her approach to this way of life throughout the book.
Annie Bell is a favourite of ours and probably bears some responsibility for a few extra poundage because of her amazing and seductive looking baking. This book is packed with creative savoury recipes such as salt and pepper duck (not something that tends to be seen as ‘diet’ food) that won’t make us feel deprived plus some puddings- a crustless mango cheesecake has been earmarked for making sooner rather than later!
Kitchen Diaries II by Nigel Slater
Includes over 250 recipes, many from his BBC TV series Dish of the Day, Simple Suppers and Simple Cooking. From Nigel Slater, one of our best-loved food writers, a beautiful and inspiring companion volume to his bestselling Kitchen Diaries. Slater has maintained an eating & food diary for years and this is the second anthology of entries- a composite of a year of eating. From grilled things in juice and cooking fat smeared rolls to pork rib ragu (worth the cover price alone) this book is rammed with simple and delectable ways to eat.
The sequel to the award winning culinary memoir “Rose Petal Jam ” and as its predecessor, sumptuous in its design, this could be seen initially as one of those ‘Gastro Porn’ books destined only for the coffee or bedside table to be read in greedy furtive spurts and never to be cooked from. Sugared Orange continues Beatas touching story of a childhood in rural Poland, with 50 new recipes and treats, plus a winter journey that takes in the cities of Lublin, Warsaw, Kraków and ód, as well as some of the oldest forest in Europe and the frozen Mazury Lakes.
However the recipes beg to be made. Like much of Mittel to Northern European cookery, the flavours, techniques and ingredients are warm, comforting and designed to keep the body and soul working. From St. Nicholas’ Day to the vigil of Christmas Eve and the mid-winter revelry of a Sylwester New Year’s Eve Ball, the major festivals and timetable of Christian Human life is set out alongside the more everyday task of feeding a family in a memoir format that tells me so much about a country, relatively unfamiliar.
My favourite recipes? Gingerbread cake made with chocolate; dark, dark chocolate and honey. Ebony deep, sticky and Wintery this is grown up Gingerbread. Usefully another pleasing meal can be made in the main from leftovers and is not costly- Beef Rissoles with chili and breadcrumbs: the chili cuts across any tendency to denseness.
This scholarly book exploring the cuisine and culinary traditions of Morocco is the result of more than forty years of experience of world travel and gustatory exploration. Interspersed with glossaries of ingredients and techniques are essays about Morocco, its history and people. The recipes are comprehensive and even easier to achieve now because of the wider availability of the ingredients; when we first bought this book, living in a large city with an expat population was a must. Wide margins make it a book for scribbling in, adding thoughts and comments – it invites this and is definitely a book to hand down as it deliberately ignores culinary fashions for hard core exploration and is the perfect companion to Wolfert’s classic, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.
PAULA WOLFERT, a resident of Sonoma in California, is the author of eight previously published cookbooks, all considered classics. Among them: Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, The Cooking of Southwest France, and five books on Mediterranean cuisine including the much praised Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. She has won the Julia Child Award three times, The James Beard Award five times, The M. F. K. Fisher Award, The Tastemaker Award and been a finalist for the British Andre Simon Award. She is the creator of the open Facebook Moroccan Cooking Group, an invaluable source of support, enquiry and information.
Some of our favourite recipes in this book are the blood orange and almond lettuce salad which is redolent with the colours, tastes and scents of this magical country. The Berber Couscous for Spring is a perfect distillation of the early season bounty- Broad beans, Courgettes, Spring Chicken meat, Cinnamon, early Tomatoes and the first of the years cream as cows start giving milk again. Wolfert ensures we understand why certain ingredients are the herald of their season meaning these recipes earn a place in the home of the local and seasonal food lover.
These gorgeous books come in a series- crab cat, spider cat etc and were much loved by my daughter. Crab Cat is a cat who wants to be a crab. He imagines lurking in a rock pool waiting to pinch children’s toes (which would make my daughter squeal and curl her toes up), the illustrations are rich in detail providing plenty to point at and talk about. These tiny little books are perfect.
Aviary Wonders Inc: Spring Catalogue & Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth
This might be the weirdest picture book published this year although its central premise- that in the future (2031 to be exact) birds will be extinct, or at least, birds as we know them- isn’t that left field, sadly. It begins, “Whether you are looking for a companion, want to make something beautiful, or just want to listen to birdsong, we’ll supply everything you need to build your own bird.” The next 30 pages are an illustrated catalog of wings, legs, tails, combs, and feathers for kids to choose from. In the back are “Assembly Instructions” (“Step 2: Attaching The Beak.”) The illustrations are serious art — full-color paintings that would look at home in a museum. At its heart the book is a warning about habitat destruction, but mostly, it will make you laugh, and children with a sense of whimsy will be delighted to imagine building a bird. (For ages 9 to 12)
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
How could we possibly leave this wonderful series of books off our review pages? Recommended by the Local Editor from Leicestershire who writes- “This book is perfect for Christmas, for children aged anywhere from 3 to 11. With beautiful illustrations, it’s the first of the famous stories of this pioneering American family. It has a wonderful Christmas scene in it that is guaranteed to make you cry. And the best last lines of all: ‘She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.’ I’m off to weep right now..”
My Big Shouting Day by Rebecca Patterson
OK, here’s a good one for small children – and especially good for their parents. My Big Shouting Day, by Rebecca Patterson. This book tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about having a toddler and a baby at home at the same time.
Superworm by Julia Donaldson
The wiggly, squiggly superhero is now available in paperback. Never fear, Superworm’s here! He can fish Spider out of a well, and rescue Toad from a busy road. But who will come to Superworm’s rescue, when he’s captured by a wicked Wizard Lizard? Luckily, all of Superworm’s insect friends have a cunning plan. With impeccable rhythm and rhyme, wonderful illustrations by Axel Schleffer, this book is a must for the bookshelf.
The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden
Thankfully newly reprinted, this book was made into a wonderful yet disturbing children’s TV series in the late 70’s. Telling the story of Kizzy, a little girl badly bullied because she is half Romany Gypsy, the themes are of even greater relevance today. Full of cultural detail cleverly woven in, the book has held up well and treats its subject with dignity.
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden
Another beloved book from my own childhood with themes of being far from home both in distance and culturally, explored sensitively. When little Nona is sent from her sunny home in India to live with her relatives in chilly England, she is miserable. Then a box arrives for her in the post and inside, wrapped up in tissue paper, are two little Japanese dolls. A slip of paper says their names are Miss Happiness and Miss Flower. Nona thinks that they must feel lonely too, so far away from home and Nona has an idea – she will build her dolls the perfect house! It will be just like a Japanese home in every way and will even have a tiny Japanese garden. And as she begins to make Miss Happiness and Miss Flower happy, Nona finds that she is happier too.
Crammed with creepy-crawly doodles to create and complete, Doodle Bugs also includes fascinating facts about the insect world – a perfect gift for any budding ‘bugologist’. Let your imagination run wild. These doodle books are so popular with every child I have bought them for. There are every permutation of subject available (including some less appealing gender stereotyped editions ie pink for girls) so finding one to suit your child’s tastes won’t be hard.
Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah
Suitable for children aged thirteen and up. Alem is on holiday with his father for a few days in London. He has never been out of Ethiopia before and is very excited. They have a great few days together until one morning when Alem wakes up in the bed and breakfast they are staying at to find the unthinkable. His father has left him and it is only when the owner of the bed and breakfast hands him a letter that Alem is given an explanation. Alem’s father admits that because of the political problems in Ethiopia both he and Alem’s mother felt Alem would be safer in London – even though it is breaking their hearts to do this. Alem is now on his own, in the hands of the social services and the Refugee Council. He lives from letter to letter, waiting to hear from his father, and in particular about his mother, who has now gone missing…A powerful, gripping new novel from the popular Benjamin Zephaniah.
Vikings Sticker Book
Delve into the past with this extravagantly designed sticker book, packed with over 100 stickers of amazing artefacts from the Viking World. An interactive way of finding out about Vikings’ everyday lives: their clothes, food, homes, weapons, culture and their legacy. For children interested in history, for reluctant readers and to back up school history, this is a great choice for over 8’s.
Duck, Death and the Tulip
This book will break your heart. I read it in the bookstore and sat weeping in the corner of the store. Death and broaching the subject with our children – any children- is always going to be difficult but this book does it beautifully.
Duck strikes up a friendship with Death, a slightly sinister skeletal figure that lurks nearby. Death is treated as a normal part (or consequence) of life as Duck learns to first tolerate and then accept its presence eventually finding a kind of solace in its proximity. Finely drawn illustrations and gentle leading prose means the moment when Duck grows tired and lays down is not such a shock. The only problem with this book is wondering how on Earth you can read it without bawling.
Architecture According to Pigeons
One of those books that makes me think ‘why didn’t I think of this?’ so cool and clever is its central premise – that pigeons make the best guides to the basic principles of architecture with their birds eye view. Speck Lee Tailfeather, the pigeon in question reveals that pigeons are great aficionados of architecture and delivers an account of a journey around the globe with fun facts about each of the iconic buildings he visits. The book features the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and dozens of other buildings in a non didactic and engaging manner. I loved this book and will be adding it to the list of books bought for all the children in my life.
Wow Said the Owl
This super cute little board book is a great budget buy for babies and toddlers and will help them learn their colours. The extremely alluring thought of being awake when you are ‘supposed’ to be sleeping is brought to life when Owl decides to stay awake all day, only to be wowed by the colours and sights. The idea of not taking for granted that which is most famliiar is emphasised by Owls realisation that the stars that light up the night sky are, to her, the most beautiful of all.
Owls big eyes will be appealing to babies who tend to focus most upon these. The illustrations we felt, would be more suited to older toddlers with their melded shades and less defined outlines.
“In the belief of the Gond tribe, the lives of humans and trees are closely entwined. Trees contain the cosmos; when night falls, the spirits they nurture glimmer into life”
The Night Life of Trees
Created by hand and illustrated by tribal artists of India, each page tells the folklore that surrounds a different tree. The tree artwork is silk screened onto black paper, creating vibrant images that would make beautiful art works in themselves.
Follow that Line by Laura Ljungkvist
One single line carries you through every spread of the whole book forming the shapes for illustrations along the way. Kids run their finger along the line tracing their way around the World. By bus, helicopter and ship (among others) we discover the glories of both the natural and man made world. This is just one of a whole series too.
This is London by M Sasek
With the same wit and perception that characterised his quirky and gorgeous little books on Paris, New York, and San Francisco, M Sasek presents stylish, elegant London in This is London, first published in 1959 and now updated for the 21st century. Highly stylized and loving in its depiction, with some of the landmarks no longer in existence, this is still a relevant book to own and share with a child (or just for you!)
Oh, the Places You’ll Go Pop Up by Dr Seuss
Or how to find your own pathway through this life… In celebration of its 20th anniversary, this classic bestseller has been transformed into a pop-up book by master paper engineer David A. Carter. Fantastical, breathtaking and glorious paper constructions retain the whimsy and deep deep emotional intelligence of the original text. Apparently this book is bought for many a graduating young person and is then filled with written messages from family and friends. A treasure in the making.
Tiddler, the Story Telling Fish by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
In which the tiniest fish can tell the biggest, tallest tales. Every day Tiddler’s lateness at school is explained away by increasingly fantastical tales involving flying rays, mermaids and Gruffalo fish. Children will enjoy the rhythmical flow of the story which encourages chanting of the dialogue and the ever captivating, vivid and alive illustrations of Schleffler.
The Sea Witch by Annie Stewart
Ellie and Lucy are twins holidaying with their Grandmother in Devon; a holday which is about to take a strange turn after their discovery of a seashell on the beach. Their newly struck friendship with a sea witch called Mia comes to their assistance when another friend goes missing and is feared kidnapped.
Full of fun, suspense, witchery and drama, this novel reflects a long tradition of child as detective aided by the mystical. As limitless in imagination as that of the children who will read it and suitable for ages 8 plus.
Shh! We have a Plan by Chris Haughton
‘Shh! We have a plan’ follows four hapless characters in the woods, looking for birds. The smallest, quietest one is ignored by the other three who are determined to get the bird by brute force. The story shows that diplomacy and understanding wins the day. Chris Haughton is a fantastic illustrator and clever storyteller and Oh No George is a huge favourite of my many children. A fun story that is perfect for reading aloud, predicting events and is open ended, giving you the opportunity to explore what might happen next.
My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards, Illustrated by Shirley Hughes
Lovely, timeless stories with great illustrations. A favourite of mine when I was young and my daughter and son loved them too. Lovely language and great stories about the naughty antics the little girl gets up to.They are quite old fashioned but this seems to add to the appeal and the description of the birthday trifle that Bad Harry and naughty sister end up devouring after they find it in the larder has stayed with me since first reading about it over forty years ago.
Cosy Classics : Jane Eyre / Moby Dick / Huckleberry Finn and others by Jack Wang & Holman Wang
The Cozy Classics board books retell “cozy” versions of hefty stories like Les Misérables, War and Peace, and Jane Eyre. Better yet, they’re illustrated with lovable photographs of painstakingly needle-felted scenes from classic literature. Classics never go out of style and the concept for this series of booksis simple: every classic in the series will be condensed to 12 child-friendly words, and each word will appear alongside an illustration. Each word is carefully selected to relate to a child’s world, such as “friends”, “sisters”, “dance”, “muddy”, “boat”, and “leg”. The books work as word primers, even without any reference to the original stories. If you, as a parent, can fill in some of the original tale as part of the reading experience, so much the better.
Cozy Classics are not intended to provide babies with any kind of academic leg up and unfortunately, in the minds of many, classics are associated with academics. However, no classic was written for the classroom; every one was written to give pleasure and these books offer a fresh and simplified (but not dumbed down) take on these timeless stories.
Haiku Baby by Betsy E Snyder
This totally adorable board book introduces infants to the ancient Japanese art of haiku poetry, as well as key early literacy and education concepts like sounds, seasons, and nature. All in a baby-friendly format.
Haiku Baby follows a tiny bluebird, the book’s would-be protagonist, as it visits its various animal companions–from an elephant that shades the bird with a parasol to a fox in a meadow and a whale in the ocean. The little bird’s story is told primarily in pictures, and through the book’s six haiku: rain, flower, sun, leaf, snow, and–of course, it would not be a board book without–the moon, making it ideal for the bedtime line-up. Adorable collage-cut illustrations work nicely with the haiku form to give the book a whimsical, yet serene, feel. And the haiku are light and fun without being too cutesy. Index tabs on the right margin, with pictures that tie to each of the poems (leaf, raindrop, snowflake, etc.), create a unique look, and make it easy for toddlers to flip through the pages on their own without having them stick together like they can with other board books.
Babylit Series by Jennifer Adams & Alison Oliver
The BabyLit series uses literary classics as loose inspiration to teach subjects like colors, numbers, and counting, and includes gorgeous riffs on Alice in Wonderland, Anna Karenina, Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, Jabberwocky, and others. In ‘Moby Dick’ Little Master Melville teaches little ones the language of the sea: from ships and sailors to squawking gulls and moody good captains, Alison Oliver’s brilliant illustrations and Jennifer Adams’ clever, simple text will make a sea dog out of any young shipmate.
One of the most inspired adaptions of this series is Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Tattle Tale Heart’ in which the plucky, mischievous toddler Edgar the Raven is at it again in a spirited story with some important lessons. What will Edgar do when he accidentally breaks a statue sitting on a dresser? Will his sister, Lenore, tattle on him? Will Edgar tell his mother the truth? Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” little lit lovers will delight in this new adventure with characters illustrated in a most “poe-etic” way and without the appalling Gothic darkness of its original tale which is most definitely NOT for tiny readers.
Andy Warhols Colours by Susan Goldman Rubin
In the vein of fine art for babies, Susan Goldman Rubin’s awesome board books use classic and modern art to teach infants concepts like colors and counting. In Andy Warhol’s imagination, horses are purple and golden monkeys wear pink baubles on their tails and the simple text “Big Red Dog Barks Bow-Wow-Wow,” and such is the kind of repetitive funny wording that appeals to babies and toddlers. Other featured artists in the series include Jacob Lawrence, Wayne Thiebaud, Matisse, Magritte, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Touch Think Learn Series by Xavier Deneux.
I really like the way the stylish die-cut illustrations in this board book series teach shapes, numbers, and colors in a hands-on, multi-sensory way — babies can experience what a circle actually feels like by touching the shapes while hearing the words and seeing the pictures. Such a clever way to translate abstract concepts.
Wiggle by Garo Tomi
I’m a total sucker for Taro Gomi’s whimsical, playful doodles, and was stoked to discover that he’s authored several board books just for babies. I love the interactive element ofWiggle!, which features illustrations that are incomplete without a wiggling finger — including an elephant’s trunk, penguin’s beak, chameleon’s tongue, and robot’s nose. And it’s up to young readers to help them out. Kids can finish the illustration by wiggling their fingers through suitably placed die-cuts. Children are sure to giggle at the silliness of turning their fingers into elephant trunks and chameleon tongues—and learn a bit about animal features on the way.
The Quiet Books by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska
What does “quiet” mean? From “Top of the roller coaster quiet” to “First look at your new hairstyle quiet,” The Quiet Book looks at all kinds of quiet with the help of impossibly sweet bears, rabbits, fish, birds, and iguanas. With its soft covers, rounded corners, and sturdy board book pages, this is a perfect addition to baby’s first library.
Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
This adorable board book has received tons of reviewer and librarian accolades, and it’s easy to see why. A box is just a box . . . unless it’s not a box. From mountain to rocket ship, a little bunny stars in this story that puts an updated spin on the timeless idea that you can be transported wherever your imagination will take you. In addition, anything that encourages children to play with toys that don’t cost hundreds of pounds from Rip-Off-Parents-R-Us is a bonus. Just read this with them and then give them a big ‘ole cardboard box.
The title of one story, ‘Nettle Spinner’ is enough to transport the adult imagination let alone that of a child. This book is bursting with magic castles, enchanted forests, fairies, trolls (not the Internet kind) and magic aplenty. Some lesser known tales will keep the story reader interested. This book is definitely for older children, the lack of illustrations making it perfect for independent readers or a bedtime story read by an adult. Definitely one to be dipped in and out of and to keep for future generations.
“An utterly believable world that is very much like ours but different” in which Lockwood & Co exists as an agency set up to tackle the very real problem of ghosts. Lucy, the narrator has recently to London in search of an exciting career and she certainly finds it when she joins this ramshackle ghost management agency! For older readers, this book delivers what Roald Dahl always knew children needed- a good scaring!
“Something was approaching the burrow. Something deadly. Something that made Sylvan’s fur bristle with fear . . . ”
Tom Moorhouse is an ecologist and it shows in his accurate and mesmerising depictions of animals in this adventure. Sylvan and his brothers embark upon an epic journey after their water burrow hole is threatened. Beautiful illustrations make this a great ‘show and read’ book and the non Anthropomorphic treatment coupled with a non preachy ecological message makes this a wonderful choice for those nostalgic for Ratty and Mole.
Jonathon is half-angel, half-demon, and the only one of his kind. But he has no clues as to his true identity, and now a rogue archdemon wants him for his own sinister purpose….For older readers of around 10+, this book covers love and loss, issues of good and bad and of finding your real place in a World that is not what you thought it to be. Exciting, fast paced and with enough meat on its bones to challenge avid readers.
Using the fresh and popular technique of paper cutting, Sarah Dennis has designed an exquisite version of the old favourite ‘Cinderella’ by The Brothers Grimm. As pleasing to adults as it will be to children, this is one to keep well out of the hands of toddlers for safekeeping until they can be careful. Definitely a book to buy as a special gift- for a christening or from a Godparent although this perennial story will never tire in the retelling.
Picasso doesn’t want to conform. Picasso has his own ideas about what his art should look like. “‘You can’t paint faces from the front and the side at the same time’ they said. ‘No, no, no Picasso’. But Picasso said, ‘Yes’.
Full of colourful pictures and a special surprise fold out, children will be both inspired by and identify with Picasso’s need to determine himself. This book has rave reviews down to its blend of art education, fabulous illustrations, simple repetitive rhymes and themes that appeal to children. Art is for all and Allan’s book breaks down any sense of loftiness and inaccessibility. This book is fun!
Set in the near future, one beset by massive tidal surges because of global warming which has forced humanity to take great steps to reduce their impact and emissions, Twinmaker follows Clair Hill on her mission to save her best friend.
Readers will confront important themes – technology; the power it wields and whether it is in itself inherently bad or the way in which we choose to apply it. The ability to use technology to ‘improve oneself is another theme which has resonance in this age of photoshopping, plastic surgery and illusion. Young Adults are increasingly exposed to and immersed in a multimedia world of instant gratification and to a certain extent this novel taps into this with its vivid chases, gunfights and action packed scenes. Yes it does ask the reader to engage in a moral process, but it does this via stealth and is devoid of that preachiness much detested by children.
Described by young reviewers as speaking in an authentic voice of a 10-15 year old (ish), Tallulah Casey is the madcap cousin of the author’s other popular heroine, Georgia. Tallulah Casey is putting all thoughts of wild boy Cain behind her. He is literally an animal in trousers….Not like nice boy Charlie (who she’s totally not thinking about either). The Tree Sisters are chasing those golden slippers of applause at performing arts college but Dr Lightowler seems hell-bent on spoiling everything for Tallulah.
And with all her mates loved up, can Tallulah resist the call of her wild boy?
Another exquisitely designed book that doesn’t dumb down the epic nature of the great explorations it retells. Each journey of discovery, whether it be by sea, air, space or land is inspiring and is explained by detailed technical drawings, fold out cross sections, maps and panoramic storytelling.
The imagination of a child knows no bounds and I would argue that this characteristic is retained by many great explorers. I would have loved to own a book like this when I was growing up although there is also a market for books that highlight the great discoveries of Females too and gives some background about why women weren’t so celebrated or encouraged to be explorers.
This photo novel, described as perfect for lovers of ‘Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children’ is thrilling, unsettling and creepy, packed as it is with photographs of real abandoned asylums. This new format for fiction is one I find exciting and definitely appeals to more visual readers.
For sixteen-year-old outcast Dan Crawford, the summer program at New Hampshire College Prep is a lifeline. Finally, a chance to make some friends before college. Even if that means staying in a dorm that used to be a old asylum. Soon Dan’s hanging out with Abby and Jordan, and summer is looking up. But then he learns that the asylum was not just any sanatorium – it was a last resort for the criminally insane. As Dan, Abby and Jordan explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. And that some secrets refuse to stay buried…
Perfect for young adults and advanced readers of ten plus.
Love is a complicated, addictive, volatile, scary, wonderful thing. Many of the stories in this collection started out as gifts for the author’s friends. From the happy-ever-after to the unrequited, they explore the many aspects of the emotion that has at some time turned us all inside out and upside down. A collection of stories about love, full of ‘Meet-Cutes’ and other whimsy. From coming out on a prom date to being fixed up by a 6 year old, these short stories are ideal YA material and will suit readers who like to dip in and out of a book.
“But just what can a boy, a dog and a dinosaur play together?”
True friendship transcends physical differences in this tale of a dinosaur who swoops in and wants to play. Energetic, clear and lively illustrations reinforce the can do message. We have always loved the work of Martin Waddell and in Leonie Lord, he has a fresh and lively collaborator.
Zebra is absolutely certain he’ll be able to direct everyone to appear on the correct page, at the appropriate time, without any mishaps, unnecessary drama, or hurt feelings. It’s an ABC book, for goodness’ sake. How difficult can it be? Oh, dear. Zebra forgot about Moose. Any parents of toddlers and preschools will recognise that sense of frustration when things don’t go to plan….
A witty and madcap reinvention of the classic alphabet book full of suspense, zaniness and anticipation- something young children adore.
Elizabeth Brown doesn’t like to play with dolls, and she doesn’t like to skate. What she does like to do is read books. Now that she’s grown up, her collection is so big all the shelves are collapsing. Her front door has disappeared entirely. What in the world will she do? The reclusive Elizabeth Brown surprises everyone with her splendid solution.
How do private libraries come to exist? This book is infused with a love of books themselves. A book to treasure indeed which should resonate with every book lover contemplating being pushed out of their own home by their growing book collection…..