Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz!!! Dr. Seuss's ABC

Author                                     : Dr Seuss
Illustrated by                              : Dr Seuss
Age range recommended         : 3 to 7 years (though we think  you can start even earlier!)
Theme                                      : Introduction to alphabets, imaginary characters and words



Opening lines –
Big A. Little a. What begins with A? 

Introduction and Synopsis –
This is quite simply an alphabet book, but with a difference. If you are familiar with Dr. Seuss’ books, you’d know what we are hinting at. He introduces the letters of the alphabet with his wacky, preposterous way of writing. The book is full of crazy alliteration, repetition and rhymes which tiny tots will find delightful. The book introduces both upper case and lower case letters and also introduces words in a basic phonics format. Dr. Seuss’s inimitable creative use of language is the high point, a feature consistent in all his books (really, we are yet to find another author who writes like this).


Why did my caterpillar and I like this book? 
Unlike my regular posts, I'm giving a joint review for this book between my baby and me- simply because we think similary on this book and love it just as much!

So, correction - We loved this book. And we can illustrate why with some pictures.




You see? Only Dr Seuss can get away with lines like Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz (my little A is in love with the word!) and inventions like duck-dog (there’s even a picture of a duck-dog!). Some might find this a little outlandish, especially if you are new to Dr. Seuss’s writings, but take my word for it – kids will love it. We think it is because although the words are completely made up, they make the reading fluid and interesting at the same time. There is a lot of imagination used, with lines made up (David Donald Doo dreamed a dozen doughnuts and a duck-dog, too) and even characters (four fluffy feathers on a Fiffer –feffer-feff). Each page has a dominant background colour and so the illustrations are fun to watch and details, hard to miss.

The winning feature of this book, in our opinion, is truly in its absolute nonsense – I cannot think of something more ridiculous than ‘Oscar’s only ostrich oiled an orange owl today’!!! And there is actually a picture for the child to connect it to! In fact, every such statement is supported by a picture depicting the phrases on the same page. It is truly delightful.

Online link -
We found this online link which we frequently watch and enjoy.


The cocoon rates it -

5/5

We cannot really think of any flip side to the book, except that the very points mentioned above that make this book such a must-have will not appeal to everybody (read grown-ups). There is no way a child of 2 or 3 is going to reject this book. We totally recommend.

Yertle the Turtle and other stories

Author                                 : Dr Seuss
Illustrated by                       : Dr Seuss
Age range recommended  : 4+
Theme                                : Arrogance, pride, greed; alternatively - humility, kindness)



Opening lines –  
On the far-away Island of Sala-ma-Sond, Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond. A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat. The water was warm. There was plenty to eat. The turtles had everything turtles might need. And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed. 

They were... until Yertle, the king of them all, decided the kingdom he ruled was too small. "I'm ruler, " said Yertle, "of all that I see. But I don't see enough."






Introduction and Synopsis –
The book has 3 stories, Yertle the Turtle, Gertrude McFuzz and The Big Brag. We look at the first story here.

In this tale, Yertle, the King of all the Turtles, is dissatisfied with the stone that acts as his throne and  with the size of his kingdom, which was restricted to how far he can see. So he decides that he wants a throne so high up that he can see far and thus become a bigger ruler. He ruthlessly decides to make his throne by asking all turtles to climb one on top of another, with himself perched on top. He spares no thought to his subjects who are gettting crushed in the process.What happens to the poor turtles? Does Yertle become a great king at the expense of his subjects? Or, do the other turtles defy their king, to stand up for themselves?

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME -
I thought this was a very good story to show children what happens when you are overcome with pride and when power goes into you head. Though you don't really have to use these words with your little one, it is a pretty simple story to read to your child and give her a lesson in humility. I read somewhere that Dr Seuss based the character of Yertle on Adolf Hitler and used this story to demonstrate the rise of fascism in Europe! Is there any other author who has done such incredible work? I mean, this is political theory brought out in a book for a 4 year old! Brilliant! Dr Seuss was against writing stories with morals in mind, but he was not averse to writing about issues.

Check out the last lines of the book, pasted below, where his intent and his thoughts are expressed beautifully -


All turtles, and maybe all creatures should be free. Isn't that a simple, yet profound idea to teach your child? And extremely important as well?

An interesting trivia that I got to read about the author on this  book was, when questioned about why he wrote "maybe" rather than "surely", Dr. Seuss replied that he didn't want to sound "didactic or like a preacher on a platform", and that he wanted the reader "to say 'surely' in their minds instead of my having to say it. Isn't that a deep thought?

Yertle is the absolute monarch. He is ruthless. Greedy. Selfish. Corrupted by power. And that is exactly what brings about ultimately his fall from the top, like it should. The other way of looking at the story is - Be kind and humble. Put yourself in others' shoes and see how it feels to be there. Think about others. Be happy where you are. Don't aspire for something you don't really need, especially at the cost of happiness of others.

The illustrations are typical of Dr Seuss's style and the pictures of all the turtles on top of one another is done well.


The writing style is lucid, there is extensive use of rhyme. The simple-to-understand sentences, broken into meaningful phrases, ensure that kids dont get lost during the reading. Interestingly, all through the story, other than black and white, the only 2 colours used are blue and green.

MY TINY CATERPILLAR - 
She was a little bored as I read on because, unlike the other Dr Seuss books that we have read, this one had longer sentences and tinier pictures. She loves rhymes, so they kept her entertained. Thundered, mile, mule, beyond - there were quite a few new words that she learnt; the book has ample scope for that. She did not enjoy the illustrations as much in this one, though she was extremely amused with the lengthy 'turtle throne' with Yertle perched on top!

Online link -
We found this online link to the story on You Tube. Do check this so you know about this very interesting story. 

The cocoon rates it -

4/5 

Though I would rate the book highly myself, the book is a a bit tough for the young reader or listener. I'd say it is a little long for a 4 year old, but you can still manage reading. I wouldn't really recommend it for the under 4 kids.

The book was written in 1958, but I believe the book will stay on and be relevant to future generations to come.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Mrs Christmas

Author                           : Penny Ives
Age range recommended : 4+
Theme                            : Christmas spirit


Opening lines – 
Last Christmas, there was a near calamity. One morning in late December, Father Christmas woke up and found that he felt quite ill.

Introduction and Synopsis –
In the run up to Christmas, Mrs Christmas finds to her horror that Father Christmas and his reindeer have fallen  sick! They are all covered in spots and it doesn’t seem like they would be able to deliver all the gifts to the children that Christmas. Luckily Mrs Santa Claus is around and decides to take things into her own hands. A multitude of letters to read, toys to be made and delivered on time - would she be able to do it all in time? 




Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME -
There is a Mrs Christmas and she is a hero! It has all the feel good ingredients – beginning with everything poised for a catastrophe, Mrs Christmas works systematically and tirelessly from reading all the letters to getting the toys ready in the workshop. When faced with the bigger predicament of how to deliver all the toys without the reindeer, she beautifully creates a flying machine out of resources available at home. Brilliant! Multiple illustrations are shown for the litter reader to notice and marvel at the efforts taken by Mrs Claus to ensure that Father Christmas’s hardwork all year do not go to waste and innocent children are not deprived of their Christmas joy. The story ends with Father Christmas giving his lovely wife a wonderful surprise the next morning!


The book captures the Christmas spirit beautifully. By way of pictures, the author hasn’t really left out any details -  there are picture frames of Santa and his reindeer in Santa’s house, Mrs Claus wears furry slippers at home and  lipstick too, and of course, there are lots and lots of toys everywhere. Children will be in awe of Father Christmas’s home. What appealed to my little one the most was that Mrs Christmas worked around a solution and helped Father Christmas at his job when he couldn’t. What can be a better judgement of the spirit of giving and sharing?


MY TINY CATERPILLAR - 
She loved the pictures and Santa's house. She generally loves listening to Christmas stories and Santa Claus is her favourite person. It was precious for her to see that Mrs Christmas worked so hard to ensure that all children get their gifts on Christmas day. It also amused her to see how Mrs Christmas made a contraption to fly on, using her bi-cycle, a vacuum cleaner, an umbrella and other everyday stuff!



Online link -
We could not find any online link to the story. 

The cocoon rates it -

3/5  

It is a story which spreads joy in the festive season. In that it succeeds well. It might not be a spectacular Christmas story in itself, but what gave it an edge was the introduction of Mrs Christmas as the heroine who saves the day. We recommend.


Sunday, 27 April 2014

We're going on a bear hunt

Author                              : Michael Rosen
Illustrations by                    : Helen Oxenbury
Age range recommended  : Under 6s 
Theme                              : Adventure, Jungle, Rhythm, Bears

Opening lines –  
“We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day. We’re not scared.” 

Introduction and Synopsis –
A family sets off on a bear hunt on a beautiful day. On the way, they explore different sounds, environs, weather conditions – snow storms, thick oozy mud, tall grassy land, a deep river, a dark forest and finally the cave of the bear. What happens when they finally come face to face with a huge, scary bear?? Read it yourself to discover how the bear hunt ends.


Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME -
Read the book. Read it alone, if you can. You will find yourself singing it! It’s a perfect book for reading out aloud, even singing it with enactments and sound effects. It has adventure, alliterations, repetitions with charming text and beautiful illustrations alternating in colour and black and white. There is an element of fear in it, sure, but I believe it’s just the right amount, which is promptly quelled with the amusing end to the tale. Anyway, there is much more in the book to giggle upon and delight in.  



MY TINY CATERPILLAR -
She loves to sing it. She is never done with just a single reading -  the repetitive text is enchanting. She loves the illustration of the little girl in the blue dress who walks with tippy-toes and a bounce. It paints a cheerful picture of a family's day out on a picnic or an adventure. And she’s quick and eager to warn the family of the open door in the end – she urges them to go back and shut the door, lest the bear should come in! :-)



Online link -
We found this link online which is terrific – your little one will never tire of it! 

Some information about the author – Michael Rosen was the fifth British Children’s Laureate from 2007 to 2009. The same is awarded in the UK every 2 years for outstanding achievement in the field of children’s literature. The illustrator, Helen Oxenbury has also won awards for the book.

The cocoon rates it -

4/5

Simple, amusing and entertaining. We recommend. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Very Hungry Caterpillar


Author                                  : Eric Carle
Illustrated by                          : Eric Carle
Age range recommended : Under 5s (if you ask us, it goes from new-born to old age!)
Theme                                  : Colours, Numbers, Days of the week, Food, Nature, Life (This one has it all!)




Opening lines –  
In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf. One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.





Introduction and Synopsis –
The book is the most famous work of Eric Carle, and the most loved as well. The book is simple in its story. It follows the journey of a caterpillar from birth to its metamorphosis into a butterfly. It talks about food habits and the time taken by the caterpillar on its journey to becoming a butterfly. 

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?

ME -
I have to say – I have a lot of respect for this author and all his works. His ideas are so simple yet his story telling is magical. In many ways, this is story is just that – magical. The author presents the natural phenomenon of metamorphosis in a way that is likeable and understood by little children. I picked this book at a book store where I had entered to kill some free time when I had not even heard about it. Little did I know my baby and I would be so captivated by it.

As said earlier, the story takes us through the entire life cycle of a butterfly. A very tiny caterpillar is born out of its egg, is ravenous and starts eating  immediately. It eats everything that it can find and one day has so much of junk food that it ends up with a tummy ache. It becomes a fat caterpillar and builds a cocoon for itself. After two weeks, it pushes its way out of the cocoon and flies out as a beautiful butterfly!

Eric Carle's trademark illustrations, his deft brushstrokes of acrylic, are very colourful and eye-catching. The book is formatted very cleverly to accommodate fingers of tiny children and amuse them. Toddlers can indulge in some counting; day one to five, the caterpillar eats a whole bunch of wholesome fruits - one red apple, two green pears, three purple plums, four strawberries, five plums. [It amuses me to think what foods would Eric Carle have chosen if he were to write the book today ;-) LoL! ]  The book also talks about the days of the week. And in the storyline is woven the science of metamorphosis.

It opens up avenues for a lot of discussion with your little one – healthy and junk foods, why does a caterpillar eat so much, how does a caterpillar weave his cocoon and so on. You learn the story of life’s ups and downs and its big surprises - a very fundamental lesson to live by. Transformation is a part of life. In many ways, I'd also say its like a fairy tale; a boring, tiny caterpillar lives patiently to find itself transformed into a beautiful butterfly. Only, this one is scientifically true.  You would want to tell your little one - we are all beautiful if we allow ourselves to be. 


MY CATERPILLAR -

It is among her all-time favourite books. Like every little child, she was mesmerised with the grand transformation. She loves the drawings and can now recognise Eric Carle books with  his trademark illustrations. She calls him 'The caterpillar storywriter'. :-)

She learnt healthy foods keep you well and junk food, especially too much of it, will make you unhealthy. She knows all the lines in the book by heart. We have a tiny board book version but she still hasn't tired out of it; it regularly keeps surfacing in our readings. I guess some books are like that; they never stop making you smile from within.

We actually got an opportunity to visit an exhibition of butterflies at the Natural History Museum sometime back. We learnt and saw everything from caterpillar eggs to chrysalis' to different species of butterflies brought in from all around the world. You can read my post about it on my mommy blog, Amma Knows Best.

Online link -
We found this link online which has the author reading out his story from a book – enjoy!

The book is extremely popular even today though it was first published way back in 1969. It has won many popular literature awards and many different versions of the book, toys, and educational resources have been made. In fact, Google honoured the book with a special doodle on the 40th anniversary of the book in 2009. This is what it looked like –



The cocoon rates it -

5/5 

I wish I could rate it higher than 100%. It totally belongs in that league. We would recommend it to even little kids, maybe over 6 months. It will stay in their hearts for a long time to come. This is a keep sake. An absolute necessity in your private collection. In fact, the name of our blog has been inspired by this book. :-) 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Under the Harvest Moon

Author                               : Stella Gurney
Illustrations by                   : Maggie Kneen
Age range recommended   :  4+
Theme                              : Meadow animals, harvesting, friendship, moving home



Opening lines –  
It had been a long, hot summer on Worthy Farm. The golden wheat shimmered and swayed in the September sunshine, whispering to the small animals who bustled amongst its warm, dry stalks as they gathered berries and nuts for their winter stores.

But before long, the calm of the autumn afternoon was broken by a rumbling, grumbling noise that got louder and louder before fading away again. In Furthest Field, it was so noisy that it woke Dormouse, who stretched and poked his head out of his nest.




Introduction and Synopsis –
It’s harvesting season and the animals in Worthy Farm are alarmed when the farmer begins harvesting the wheat using his tractor (The Big Red Monster) to cut down all the wheat. The animals all get together to decide on the next course of action before their homes are all pulled down the next day. Dormouse, ( from the mouse family, which hibernates for 6 months of the year, or longer), comes up with a daring idea – migrating to the nearby woodshed! The animals are scared, but faced with no other choice, they brace themselves for the night plan. They sadly pick up their belongings and set off into unknown territory. They are encountered by a badger, who kindly enough does not trouble them and a frightening white owl, who luckily does not spot them. When they come to a stream which they need to cross, help comes in the form of a friendly otter who gives them a lift on his back across the stream. Finally the group reaches the wood shed where a family of house mice are waiting to welcome them!

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME -
It’s a feel-good story with a little bit of adventure packed in. It talks about the dangers that rodents on a meadow face due to seasonal impacts. It’s a touchy-feely book with textures on the bodies of the furry animals. It talks about the idea of not panicking in times of adversity and structured thinking. It also drives home the point that even rodents, who are considered pests to farmers, are also living beings like us and fight hard for food and survival. Migration can be a tough thing to do, but there are difficult situations when you just need to leave in search of a new home. 


MY TINY CATERPILLAR -
Touchy-feely books are never boring, are they? :-)

Though I struggled to keep A interested in the reading, she liked the pictures a lot. They look almost real. There is a lot of information in the book. The animals are actually shown moving with backpacks, sleeping bags, food stores and satchels of other belongings. It was interesting to point out to her that everyone has a home with their own set of precious belongings. We spoke about seasons and how the farmer harvests the crop in autumn and this puts the animals in danger. We also spoke briefly about migration. The book opened up avenues to talk about these points for the first time in our home. But when we were finished with the last sentence, A was quick to close the book and rush to the library to fetch another book! I realised she did not enjoy the story much.

Online link -
We could not find any online video link for this story.

The cocoon rates it -

2/5

The book did not live up to our expectations. There are no regular aspects like rhyme or rhythm, repetition or even humour. Though it is a good story of survival against odds,  it is way too wordy; there were a number of sentences that were long, with use of commas. We feel the author should have thought a little more about aspects to keep the young ones interested in the story. There is information, but no entertainment.



Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Gruffalo

Author                              : Julia Donaldson
Illustrations by                   : Axel Scheffler
Age range recommended : 3-7
Theme                              : Quick thinking, Overcoming your fear, Humour



Opening lines –  
A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood. A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.

“Where are you going to, little brown mouse? Come and have lunch in my underground house.”

“It’s terribly kind of you, Fox, but no –
I’m going to have lunch with a gruffalo.”







Introduction and Synopsis –
A little mouse, walking through the forest in search of nuts, is accosted by sly predators who try to trick him into going with them to their homes for refreshemnts and friendly chat. The quick witted mouse outsmarts them by telling each one of them that he is on his way to meet his scary, monster friend, the gruffalo. The predators, so much more mightier than the mouse, meekly retreat at the mention of the gruffalo’s horrible features. The mouse continues on his way, feeling smarter than ever, having fooled the others by creating a creature out of thin air. Imagine his surprise – or horror -  when he comes face to face with a real gruffalo. What happens next? Does the mouse become the gruffalo’s little snack?

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME -
By far, this is among the best books I have come across in picture books. The best out of the amazing team that is Julia-Axel, undoubtedly. There are lots of things in this book to be fascinated with. The story line, for one. Then there is the free flowing, rhyming text, Axel's illustrations of the forest and the Gruffalo. And then, there is the adorable, brave little mouse – in the entire story, the mouse is threatened repeatedly by a series of animals who want to eat him, but there is not a single situation where the mouse looks afraid. Even the tiniest tot who is listening to the story would not fear for the mouse's safety - such is the cool headed demeanor of the little mouse. That’s the beauty of the story telling and the amazing artwork. Kids and grown ups alike would be rooting for the mouse from start to end. Julia, as usual, with her rhymes and easy flowing ‘prose-poetry’ wins us over.  The story is great to be read aloud and also for role-plays. A very interesting point that you will note is the 1-2-3 order of meeting the fox, owl and the snake while the mouse goes along and the 3-2-1 order when he return again on the same path. Very interesting point which doesn’t miss the attention of the children.


Another outstanding feature of the book is the creature itself – a gruffalo. Julia creates a mystical animal with physical features so beautifully detailed and illustrated, that your child will love and mildly fear at the same time. Use of humour throughout the book alleviates any feeling of fear in your baby’s heart. A big lesson imparted here is, might is not always, well, mightier! Brain is stronger than brawn. 

MY TINY CATERPILLAR - 
It is her most favourite book ever. She has all the illustrations imprinted on her head. The words just flow out of her mouth when she begins her retelling. It is tough for me to say which character is she enamoured more with – the mouse or the gruffalo. Though she roots for the mouse’s safety, the gruffalo is also dear to her! This book is going to be around for a long, long time to come.


Online link -
We found a video upload of The Gruffalo, the link is provided here. I wouldn’t really call it a great video, it doesn’t do justice to the story. There is an animation short film made on the book in 2009 which was nominated for the 83rd Academy Awards. A short link of the trailer is posted here : The Gruffalo - Trailer. We totally recommend watching the complete video. Its out-of-the-world awesome! 

The cocoon rates it -

5/5 

If anything better than 100% was possible, we would rate this book at that level. It’s a must read, must-have book. 





We at the cocoon are huge fans of Julia Donaldson, more so of the Julia-Axel team. There are very few books of theirs that we wouldn’t recommend, or rate lesser than 5/5. The sequel to this book, ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’ will be reviewed here soon. Another gem!

Here’s something about the author we love so much - She used to write songs before becoming a story-writer and this talent of her’s comes across abundantly in her writing. In 2011, she was appointed the Children’s Laureate, a position awarded in the UK for two years to a writer or illustrator of children's books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field. And she richly deserves the honour!


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Snow Bears

Author                              : Martin Waddell
Illustrations by                    : Sarah Fox-Davies
Age range recommended   : 3 to 6 years
Theme                              : Bears, family, Snow play


Opening lines –  

Mummy Bear came out to play with her baby bears. They were all covered with snow. “You look like snow bears,” Mummy Bear said. 
That’s what we are,” said the three baby bears. “We are snow bears!”








Introduction and Synopsis –
On a cold, winter day, mummy bear comes out to look for her 3 baby bears. They are covered in snow and try to playfully convince their mummy that they are not her dear children, but snow bears. Mummy wants to know where her baby bears have disappeared to. Mommy has fun snow-balling and sliding in the snow with the 3 snow bears but can’t help wondering where her baby bears are. When it gets too cold, Mummy Bear invites them into her snuggly home and the snow melts, revealing the mischevious baby bears. 

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME -
It’s a simple, lovable story with no surprise in the end. When the littlest bear says ‘I’m too cold to play games. I want to go home’, your heart just melts as you smile and cuddle your baby tighter and plant a kiss on her. The pictures are perfect for a snowy day and you can feel the warmth of mommy’s love in them. The characters are sweet-natured and playful. The story and the text is predictable and you realise that mommy is just playing along and that adds to the charm of the story.







MY TINY CATERPILLAR - 
My little one has been waiting for some snow ever since we moved here. This winter was disappointing in the sense that we didn’t get to see any of that. I’d attribute a good deal of reason on this fact for A loving the story. My little reader is waiting for an invite for snow-play. The story is most endearing and she wants to be a part of it. And of course, the story is perfect for cuddle-time with mommy!





Online link -
We couldn’t find any online link on this story.

Some information on the author is given below –
Martin Waddell is a British writer of children’s books and is best known for the Little Bear Series. His other brilliant work is “Owl Babies” and we plan to have our own copy of it soon and post a review of it too as soon as possible. 

The cocoon rates it -

4/5 

Simple story. No surprises, no morals. A very nice read with extra cuddle time! 



Monday, 21 April 2014

Room on the Broom

Author                             : Julia Donaldson
Illustrations by                   : Axel Scheffler
Age range recommended : 4 – 7 years
Theme                              : Witches, Fantasy, Friendship, Rhymes



Opening lines –  
The witch had a cat
      and a very tall hat,
And long ginger hair
      which she wore in a plait.

How the cat purred 
      and how the witch grinned, 
As they sat on their broomstick
      and flew through the wind.



Introduction and Synopsis –
A witch sets off on a journey on her broom and takes in a cat for company. One by one her accessories keep flying off in the wild wind (hat, bow, wand) and different creatures help her to find them (dog, green bird, frog). In return they all want a lift on her magical broom and she complies. Finally the broom snaps into two, unable to bear the cumulative weight, sending all the travellers flying down in different directions. The witch tumbles downwards into what seems like a bog. To her horror, it turns out to be smoke from the fire spewed out by a horrific dragon, who was planning to have ‘witch and chips’ for tea! What happens next? Is the witch doomed? Or do her friends step up and return the kind gesture she bestowed upon them?

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME - 
Another gem from the Julia – Axel dream team. The book is a delight in rhyme. There is repetition (is there room on the broom for a  ____  like me?) to ensure little readers and listeners keep up with the story. New words are introduced with clever usage of rhyme and song– (ear-splitting shriek/bow in her beak, licking his lips/witch without chips, yowl and a growl). Axel Scheffler’s illustrations, as usual, are charming. He actually creates an appealing, smiling witch!  The message depicted is lasting friendships can be formed in the most unlikely of places and among the most unlikely of persons. It is for this reason that I feel that the book will appeal to older children in the range as well. It also gives opportunity for pretend play among friends and early and level two readers also would find it interesting.



MY TINY CATERPILLAR -
A loved the idea of a kind witch. The book breaks the stereotype in this matter. Even in the illustrations the witch is shown with a kind face, wearing a skirt and a full-sleeved top, a bow on her fully braided hair and a smile on each page. That is fascinating to a little child who has only seen evil witches in conventional fairy tales. The drawing of a brand new broom with seats for everybody ( believe it or not, with a running shower for the frong and a cushioned nest for the bird too) was especially delightful for her!


Online link -
We found this delightful video of the story here. Enjoy!

The cocoon rates it -

4/5 

For the unconventional idea of a kind witch and to put across the message that what goes around, comes around, in eager little minds.

Quick as a Cricket

Author                                : Audrey Wood
Illustrated by                       : Don Wood
Age range recommended  : 2 – 6 years
Theme                                :  Celebrate your individuality, similes 



Opening lines –  
I'm as quick as a cricket,
I'm as slow as a snail.

I'm as cold as a toad, 
I'm as hot as a fox,

I'm as weak as a kitten, 
I'm as strong as an ox.







Introduction and Synopsis –
This is a beautiful 'all about me' book, where a young boy compares himself with different creatures to describe himself. The book uses a lot of similes to describe the boy and his qualities. The book celebrates individuality in as simple a way as possible to connect with the young reader.

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME - 
The book is beautiful. The illustrations are simply superb and will not fail to captivate the young mind. I loved the idea of using different similes to describe so many traits in a restless young child full of energy. The author has done a fabulous job with the book and putting across the emotion that life is so simple for a young mind - they love to live the moment to the fullest. The idea that you are a person with many traits - good and bad, weak and strong, quiet and loud and it is all these traits that make a person is brought out so beautifully by the author. The feeling put across by the book is - I am me. I can do anything I wish and can enjoy myself. Now, isn't that a great thought to introduce your child to? Also, a lot many creatures are shown and the book is great to increase vocabulary as well. 

MY TINY CATERPILLAR -
The pictures! She loved them. They are absolutely wonderful and she also loved the concept of similes - she uses it regularly at home to convey her thoughts - 'Amma, Am I not as nice as a bunny?' :-) Her favourite is 'as tame as a poodle' which she insists she is and I most certainly think she is not! The last picture is her favourite where the boy's happy picture is shown, introducing himself as 'me', the one with all these personality traits. The book conveys a happy, feel-good factor throughout, which is just apt for describing childhood and growing up.


Online link -
We found this online link to this amazing book. Do check it out.

The cocoon rates it -

5/5

We would surely recommend reading this book. With all the factors mentioned above, the book is great to build confidence about oneself in the child. It is a superb idea presented in a simple but beautiful way. 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Peter’s Pebbles

Author                              : Cherie Zamazing
Age range recommended : 3 – 8 years
Theme                             : Jungle animals, hobbies, fantasy, adventure

Opening lines –  
Peter loved collecting pebbles – large ones, small ones, thin ones, fat ones, round ones, flat ones! He painted his pebbles to look like all sorts of different animals. 

One day, as Peter was putting his newly-painted fish pebble on the shelf, he slipped and the pebble SPLOSHED in to his fish bowl. 

Suddenly, there was a flash of light and a BUBBLE and a FIZZ! Peter jumped back and saw a new colourful fish swimming around the fish bowl. 

Peter’s pebble had come to life!



Introduction and Synopsis –
Peter has a very interesting hobby – fashioning creatures by painting rounded, shapely pebbles. One day, he discovers that his pebbles are magical – they come to life when put in their natural environment – fish in a fish bowl, parrot in the air, monkey among bananas and a crocodile in the bath tub. Peter has a lot of fun playing with the animals and leaves them with the other painted pebbles in his room to go down for supper. When he races back to his room hearing a commotion in there, he is in for a surprise – the other pebbles have also been brought to life (kangaroo, zebra, giraffe, leopard, panda) and his room is a zoo! Faced with the immediate prospect of finding a place for all of them to live, Peter comes upon a brilliant idea. Another adventure in the night follows and with his creativity and imagination, Peter conjures up the perfect place to live for each of the animals.

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME - 
I loved the book!! The book has everything – wild imagination, fantastic creativity, bewitching illustrations, lovely text. The author has done a wonderful job with the book. It’s a great idea for a read-aloud option and also serves in generating interest in a new, different hobby activity. It talks about different animals, their habitats and also can serve as a talking point for different natural habitats in the world for exotic animals. The end, with Peter sailing till the middle of the ocean and creating a wonder habitat for the animals, is perfect for this fantasy adventure story.



MY TINY CATERPILLAR -
The pictures are what caught her fancy first. As I read on, her eyes widened with each animal or bird coming to life!  Painting images on pebbles is something new with A and she couldn’t really imagine how pebbles could be in the shape of a sitting monkey or a swimming fish. It took me a while to explain the hobby to her. She was quite interested to know on the map (Peter is shown educating the animals where on the map each come from) the different continents where the animals are found. She also revelled in the happiness knowing that all animals had a magical place to live. In her own words – ‘And they lived happily ever after!’



Online link -
We could not find any online video link for this story.

I personally loved the book so much that I looked up the author, Cherie Zamazing. Cherie has a degree in illustration. She works with a company in as an illustrator for a lot of children’s books, but this seems to be the only book that she has authored herself. A very impressive start, I’d say. You can see more of her works Cherie Zamazing.

This mother-daughter duo also practiced some pebble painting at home, taking inspiration from the book :-) We had collected pebbles from the beach on our visit there, but hadn't really done anything about it. Check out our artwork here. :-)

The cocoon rates it -

5/5

Highly recommended.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

One Snowy Night

Author : M Christina Butler
Illustrations by                    : Tina Macnaughton
Age range recommended : 3 -7 years
Theme : Christmas, snow, friendship, giving and kindness

Opening lines –

The cold wind woke Little Hedgehog from his deep winter sleep. It blew his blanket of leaves high into the air and he shivered in the snow. He tried to sleep again, but he was far too cold. Suddenly something fell from the sky….
… B U M P !

It landed right in front of his nose. It was a parcel, and it had his name on it.

Little Hedgehog opened the parcel as fast as he could. Inside was a red woolly bobble hat… hedgehog size!




Introduction and Synopsis –
Just as the cold winds were getting too harsh for Hedgehog, Father Christmas send in his gift -  a warm, soft, bobblehat. His prickles render the hat useless for him so the generous hedgehog gifts it to his friend rabbit, who in turn, gifts it to his friend, beaver and finally in this manner, the hat ends up with fox. The fox dons the hat and goes out searching for supper when he finds the poor little hedgehog buried under a pile of snow, rendered numb with cold. Fox puts the hedgehog in the wooly hat and takes him to his friends. With hedgehog warm and snug in the hat that had now doubled up as a blanket for him, he falls fast asleep even before the others had a chance to tell him that it was the hat that was originally his’!


Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME -
It’s an adorable story. There are lots of reasons you should read the story. It’s a perfect Christmas story, to be read aloud on a cold, snowy night, or even otherwise. There is sharing, giving and kindness, all of which perfectly encapsulate the spirit of Christmas. The book is richly illustrated, beautifully detailed and the touchy-feely soft hat makes its appearance on each page. It introduces to kids the idea of hibernation (“What’s a hedgehog doing out at Christmas time? He should be fast asleep!”).  A very interesting aspect of the story is the relationship shown between the rabbit and badger, and badger and the fox; these animals don't generally get along well with each other. It is seen in the surprise shown by the fox when he is gifted the hat - ‘Time to be nice to each other!’ smiles the badger to the puzzled fox. It is charming!


MY TINY CATERPILLAR -
It is a touchy-feely book so that is the first thing that caught her attention. The Little Hedgehog with his baby features and generous heart charmed her heart. When she saw the fox wrapping up the hedgehog in the hat that originally was meant for him, she gave a warm, satisfied smile. Kids really love to see kindness all around! :-) That, I guess, is what clicked with us in this story.


Online link -
We found this you tube link to the beautiful story. 

The cocoon rates it -

4/5

We cannot think of a reason to not like the book. There are many endearing books written on the spirit of Christmas, but this one stole our hearts. The book is a little wordy, yes – but the author has spaced it out enough in the pages. We would highly recommend the book especially in the 3-5 years age group.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

No Place Like Home

Author                              : Jonathan Emmett
Illustrated by                      : Vaness Cabban
Age range recommended : 3-7
Theme                             : Home, Belonging, Friends


Opening lines –  
“Hot-diggerty!” said Mole, as he climbed out of the ground one morning. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. And there were flowers everywhere. 

Suddenly Mole’s burrow seemed very small and dark and dull. 

“Why should I live underground,” Mole said to himself. “when I could live somewhere BIG and BBRIGHT and BEAUTIFUL instead!”

And Mole set off in search of a new home.

He hadn’t gone far when he came across Hedgehog.



Introduction and Synopsis –
Mole sets off to look for a bright, big home for himself. His friends, Hedgehog, Squirrel and Rabbit try to help him on his quest, but their ideas do not appeal to Mole – a hollow hole that is too big and open, a bird’s nest that is dangerous or a hollow space beside a waterfall. It begins to get late and still they had not found the perfect home for Mole. As a storm approaches, he begins to wonder if he would find any place to call a perfect home for himself. And then, it hits him - he had found just the place! It’s just the way he wants it – warm and snug, safe and dry and comfortable!

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME - 
It’s a sweet little story that is just right for reading to young children. The idea of home where everything is perfect just for you. The characters are cute and furry and the illustrations, warm and inviting. It’s a nice little story to read aloud. 


MY TINY CATERPILLAR -
For the very reasons mentioned above, A liked the book. The water colours like soft illustrations caught her attention and drew her to the story. 



Online link -
We did not find any online video link for the story.

There is another book by the author that we have reviewed earlier on this blog, 'FOXES IN THE SNOW'. 
The author has a home site too - http://www.scribblestreet.co.uk.


The cocoon rates it -

3/5 

It can be best described as a read-aloud story. We wouldn’t think it offers much encouragement as a reader book. The writing is more prose, especially the first page, which we found quite long. We would say it’s a good read, but not a spectacular book. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Monkey Puzzle

Author                             : Julia Donaldson
Illustrations by                   : Axel Scheffler
Age range recommended : 3 – 8 years
Theme                             : Rhymes, Humour

I don't really think Julia Donaldson has to be introduced to any of us. She is a magical story teller, someone who knows her little readers very well and knows exactly the stories to tell and the entertaining way in which to tell them. She is a British playwright, song-writer and even a performer. 120 of her 184 published works are intended for school use, including her phonic reader scheme.

She started off as a song-writer and used to busk (street performances) in various places after which she regularly started composing songs for various performers and children's plays. Her major breakthrough came with 'The Gruffalo', an endearing children's picture book which was an immediate success and won a great many awards. She went on to write many more beautiful books for children. Her books, in partnership with illusrator Axel Scheffler, are the most popular and favourites with children.

We, at the cocoon, are huge fans of this author and have read a great many books of hers'. 'The Gruffalo' remains our absolute, anytime favourite.

Here, we look at another gem from her collection, 'Monkey Puzzle'.



Opening lines –  
“I’ve lost my mum!”

“Hush, little monkey, don’t you cry. I’ll help you find her,” said Butterfly. 

Lets have a think. How big is she?

“She’s big!” said the monkey. “Bigger than me”.







Introduction and Synopsis –
A little monkey has lost his mum. A butterfly offers to help in the search. When asked how his mum looks, little monkey says that she is big so the butterfly leads him to an elephant. When said that she's furry, butterfly leads him to a bat. The butterfly takes the monkey across the forest showing him one creature after another based on the baby’s description of his mother – except he does not take him to a monkey. The little monkey finally gets exasperated with the obvious mistake that the butterfly is making. But, why is the butterfly behaving so? Is it mocking the monkey in his problem situation…. or is there something that the butterfly doesn’t really know about monkeys?

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME - 
An absolute delight, a gem of a book from the Julia – Axel dream team, as expected. Julia's background as a song-writer before she started writing children’s books is quite evident in her writing style. It is effortless, soft and fluid. Combined with the vibrant illustrations of Alex Scheffler, this book does full justice in entertaining the young reader/listener with the funny lines that bring about the miscommunication between the two characters. There is the beauty of nature (or science, if you may call it so) so beautifully captured in the essence of the story. Again, the beautiful rhymes are the charming feature of this book – “Butterfly, butterfly, can’t you see? None of these creatures looks like me!” :-)



MY TINY CATERPILLAR -
My little one loved the poor little monkey at first sight. She doubled with laughter at every turn of the page, amused with the butterfly’s silly imagination. She loved the book so much she gave a full detailed retelling to her dad the same day! It has great descriptions of different animals which help keep the child engaged in guessing the butterfly’s analogy of the monkey’s description of his mum. And of course, the endearing and very logical (to the butterfly, that is) explanation for the butterfly’s misinterpretation brought a dear smile to her glowing face.



Online link -
We found this delightful video of the story here. Enjoy!

The cocoon rates it -

5/5 

A must-have in your collection for the sheer simplicity of the story. 
And a simple but profound message to reach across to you and your child’s young mind – Different people can have different perspectives about the same person/thing/place based on what they imagine or experience. And each of those people would be right from where they look at it! 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Little Penguin Learns to Swim


Author                              : Dubravka Kolanovic
Illustrations by                   : Eilidh Rose
Age range recommended : 3-7
Theme                              : Courage, penguins, overcoming the fear of the unknown, belief in oneself


Opening lines –  
It was an important day for Little Penguin. He was going swimming for the very first time. 

Little Penguin was nervous about learning to swim, but he wanted to splash and play with his friends. 

So, he started to slowly waddle along the icy path towards the big, blue ocean.







Introduction and Synopsis –
As Little Penguin nervously makes his way towards the big, blue ocean for his first ever swimming experience, he looks at other baby creatures like a seal, a bird and a whale all taking their big plunge with nervousness and excitement. As he looks at them one by one trying to succeed and finally do so, he conquers his inner fear of the unknown and slips into the water. Once inside, he ‘takes to water like a fish’ (or rather a penguin? ;-)) and realises that there was nothing to fear about. Trying was everything and when you muster up the courage to do that, you realise that it can be fun and thrilling too!

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME - 
It’s a well written book. Though I would call it a bit wordy for a 4 year old to be read to, it is still good enough for the child to be interested to know if Little Penguin does succeed in the end. The illustrations of all the baby animals are very endearing and capture the trepidation of Little Penguin very well. The varied hues of blue and white of the frozen ocean is also illustrated vividly. Little Penguin is impressed by the ability of the other young creatures to conquer their fears and is encouraged to go ahead and take his plunge. This is a book with a message that learning new skills can be daunting at first, but required and sometimes necessary. 



MY TINY CATERPILLAR - 
The illustrations are the strongest attraction for the book. A admired the book page after page and it took her a long time to be done with seeing the pictures. She liked the story and was very pleased that Little Penguin was brave to take the plunge on his own in spite of his fears.


We had a similar incident at home when A fell off her bike in the park. She wasn’t hurt anywhere, but it shook her up enough to announce that she never wanted to ride a bike again. It took us a good amount of cajoling and encouraging to instill in her a sense of not giving up and to go ahead and give it one more try. Once she did it, there was no looking back. It’s no wonder that she could identify with Little Penguin. 

Online link -
We couldn’t find any online video links for this book.

The cocoon rates it -

4/5 

The book is a little wordy, we think, for a child less than 4 years, though this could be a plus point for 5+children. So for younger kids, even if you are not looking to encourage them in anyway, this could be a sweet little bedtime story. We recommend. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Kiss the Cow

Author                                  : Phyllis Root
Illustrations by                     : Will Hillenbrand
Age range recommended     :  3+
Theme                                   : Kindness, giving


Opening lines –
Mama May lived where the earth met the sky, and her house was as wide as the prairie. It needed to be.

Mama May had so many children she couldn't count them all. Among Mama May's children was one called Annalisa. She wasn't the youngest and she wasn't the oldest, but she was the most curious and the most stubborn. 

Every day Annalisa followed Mama May as she carried her two shiny milk pails to the meadow where she kept Luella, her magic cow with the beautiful brown eyes and bright curving horns. 


Introduction and Synopsis –
Annalisa watches everyday how Mama May sings a magic song for Luella to give them 2 pails full of milk so that the children can have milk for breakfast and soft, chewy cheese for supper. And she also watches with disgust how Mama May kisses Luella on the end of her nose everyday to express her thanks for the milk. One day, her curiosity gets the better of her and off she goes with a tiny bucket to see how it feels to milk a magic cow. She does everything that Mama May does and gets her milk - but, oh-oh - she does not kiss Luella on her nose, making the kind cow very sad. The next day, when Mama May fails to get any milk from Luella, it doesn't take her long to guess what would have happened. In spite of repeated pleas from Mama May and even after all the children go hungry at breakfast and supper that day, Annalisa refuses to kiss 'a slobbery, bristly cow'.

Do the children go hungry the next day as well? Does Annalisa realise that it is as important to give than to just take and leave?

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME -  
I loved the girl's name - Annalisa. The water colour illustrations are beautiful. Luella with tears in her eyes, waiting for some love from Annalisa makes an endearing sight - animals, like us, also crave for love. I guess somewhere the message also is sent across that children have to take responsibility for their doings. It might take a larger attention span to go through the whole story but the little ones will still appreciate it. I guess somewhere the idea of Mama May is of a woman who by herself cares for so many children, shown across race and colour.        




MY TINY CATERPILLAR -
She was very surprised about one Mama having so many children and all of them living in such a 'long' house!! But she liked the pictures. Somehow, the story was a little confusing for her - she couldn't really answer why Luella wouldn't give milk. I then explained to her the reason and in the end told her that you have to be responsible for what you do and when Annalisa did not do that, she had to learn it in due course. She was happy in the end when Annalisa kissed Luella and the sight of the happy, smiling cow brought a smile to her own face and a a big kiss on mommy's. :-)



Online link -
We found this link to the story on You Tube, though it doesn't have the entire story.

The cocoon rates it -


3/5

The book is a very good read-aloud story. Little children might need some guidance around the story.  The story is one that we feel can be read over a long time, as it would be appreciated by younger children and older, understanding better as they grow bigger.