Posts Tagged ‘usborne’

If there’s ever a series of books that bring back the fondest memories of my childhood, it’s the Usborne Farmyard Tales series. Celebrating 35 years of the series, the books have been there for so many children. It’s their timeless appeal and charm (all thanks to the little yellow duck of course!) which has meant the books are still in print today and boasting a huge interactive range from sticker to touchy feely books. I’ve always been very vocal in my love of Usborne books, they’re everything a children’s book should be. Here I’ll be exploring my fondest memories of the Farmyard Tales and what I would recommend for today’s young reader.

There are a few illustrators who evoke that strong feeling of nostalgia but none so much as Steven Cartwright, the creator of the Apple Tree Farm characters. His creations take me right back to childhood and of reading ‘Tractor in Trouble’…

Each story was new and exciting, following the Boot family around their farm. Of course the real joy came from spotting the little yellow duck on every page. He is always very well hidden and poses a good challenge in finding him.


The Farmyard Tales series has grown and grown over the years as we’ve seen new types of books involve and there has been the ever increasing need of ‘interactive’ books. I really think Usborne has got it right here. Whilst it’s wonderful that publishers have been able to create apps to coincide with print books, Usborne continue to cater to the demands of a young reader by producing books which engage the child in reading and activity, which I think is so important for development.

One of the most popular books I’ve noticed as a bookseller, and certainly a favourite of mine is Touchy Feely Animal Hide and Seek. It’s a lovely hardback book which introduces characters on Apple Tree Farm with texturised patches on every page, all whilst following a story narrative. It’s a fantastic book for children to explore themselves.

Of course there are so many books in the FarmYard Tales series – cookbooks, nature books, sticker books, touchy feely books, Christmas books. When I have children on my own, I’ll relish bedtime because it means I will get to relive some wonderful stories and introduce Apple Tree Farm to another generation. I really can’t recommend the cookbook enough. It’s visually pleasing and has some great recipes in there with all your favourite characters…


Congratulations Usborne and Steven Cartwright on 35 wonderful years of bringing little yellow ducks to little people!

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A Christmas book for the little ones today. A lovely, beautifully illustrated collection of five short Christmas stories for ages 3-5.

There’s a tale for each of the themes of friendship, appreciation, giving, sharing and love and features lovely woodland creatures who can’t help but warm your heart. Each page is loving full of colour illustrations and glitter which will just add to the magic of Christmas when this is being read.


Sam Taplin


£9.99 HB



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With the kids all finished for Christmas (lucky them) now is the perfect time to get in the kitchen, roll up those sleeves and start on your Christmas baking. And who shows them how better than Usborne?

Christmas Cooking is part of the Usborne Activties series and features lots of recipes; sweet and savoury to get you in the festive spirit. From crinkly Christmas pies to iced gingerbread hearts, this book has it all. It features step-by-step illustrated and photographed instructions on how to get the best result. If anything is considered too difficult or dangerous for a child to do, then in lets you know parents should help at that stage…brilliant.

I’ve tried my hand at the gingerbread biscuits and they came out beautifully. They were meant to be added to the decorations on my tree but not all of them made it…nom nom nom.

A fantastic activity cookbook to fill up those hours inbetwen The Polar Express and The Muppet Christmas Carol!


Rebecca Gilpin & Catherine Atkinson


£4.99 PB



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Customers often come in around Christmas asking for young children’s books which explain the religious aspect of Christmas, more specifically the story of the nativity.

This year, Usborne have gone one up on their Touchy Feely Nativity Books (9780746098349) and have published a Nativity sticker book.

It’s a fantastic, interactive way of teaching the story to children and allows them to create the Nativity scene for themselves and in my opinion, the best way of learning is by doing.

With tasteful stickers which honour the true nature and meaning of Christmas, this is a wonderful book for those looking to teach and inspire this festive season. It has a very grown up feel to it with some of the stickers but there’s a whole variety of stickers to please all tastes.


Jane Chisolm


£5.99 PB


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A festive edition of the hugely popular Sticker Dolly series. Usborne has built up a huge following for this series and with the fantastic ipad app released earlier in the year; things can only get better for the Dollies!

This festive themed activity book has the usual layout of the books and puts the characters in festive scenes such as ice skating and Christmas shopping and there’s a whole range of Christmas outfits to choose from with over 400 stickers to use. Little girls everywhere (and adults too I’m sure) will love getting into the christmas spirit. Perfect for when those snow days inevitably come.




£5.99 PB

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In a children’s book, the world can be anything you want it to be.

I think that’s part of what draws me back into children’s literature time and time again; why I go straight to the kids section when I walk into a book store, and why I spend far too much of my money discovering wondrous characters and fleeting adventures.

I was chatting with Kate Wilson the other day, MD of children’s publisher Nosy Crow and she asked if my interests were with fiction  or illustrated work – the answer was clear; illustrated. I so often recall a fond memory with the visual elements of a book. Thinking back…I do it all the time.

When I rediscovered Usborne’s First Experience series ‘Going to School’, it was the iconic illustration of the two children at school enjoying a break time snack of cookies and juice in amongst their craft making which brought everything back.  And when I found Jill Murphy’s ‘Five Minutes Peace’ in the loft, it was Mrs Large enjoying a huge slice of cake which brought the initial smile to my face.

Sometimes, a story needs pictures. That little something that connects us with what we’re reading- almost anthropomorphising characters which are otherwise just written text. That’s not to say that a story can’t hold it’s own just as a text…quite the opposite. It’s that a story can be so hauntingly beautiful or meaningful or just plain crazy, that it deserves to be forever animated, to honour its talent and imagination.

As Kate Wilson said, there’s a fine line between a picture and an illustration. The drawing has to go hand in hand with story being told. There are some wonderful successes with this notion. Just look at Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found…is there anything more iconic than that wonderful little boy and his friend the penguin?

Or the Gruffalo, oh yes that terrible creature with terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws (by the way, he’s not that terrible, he sits quite happily guarding my bookcase with his beady orange eyes). Julia Donaldson has said that she doesn’t really communicate with illustrator Axel Scheffler when they work together. She writes the story and hands him the script and he bring the story to life. It’s truly a wonderful thing to see books like The Gruffalo become so iconic that when children come into the store and see the Gruffalo toy, their faces light up and they shout out lines from the book.

Having household names in children’s books, in particular picture books, is important for children to discover their likes and dislikes and latch on to something they like and to progress from there. But it’s equally important to discover something new, something that stops you in your tracks because it’s different and can only be described as imagination.

And that’s where Book Trust’s ‘Best New Illustrator’s Award comes in. It is a celebration of talented new illustrators and the talent on show here is just astounding. Take a look for yourself on the Book Trust website http://www.booktrust.org.uk/Prizes-and-awards/Best-New-Illustrators-Award

There’s a complete array of style on show; from the graphic design inspired to exotic, abstract colourings- it’s all just wondrous to look at and many of the final 10 have already had their illustrations published.

This award is just an honest celebration of great talent, bringing even more imagination into the wonderful world of children’s books.

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‘Polly Plays her Part’ is the second book in the Star Makers Club series written by Anne-Marie Conway. ‘Phoebe finds her Voice’ is Anne-Marie’s first novel and was shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition.

Aimed at the 8-12 audience, this book and the others in the series appeals to boys and girls…especially those who like to be in the spotlight. Get the hairbrushes ready and mirrors polished; the spotlight is on you!

Each book in this series is self-contained but is based around the Star Makers Club. In this second book, Polly is having a few family troubles to say the least. She’s got a Mum who is more focused on sombrero’s than Polly’s spotlight, a Stepmum who is being a bit TOO nice and a leading part in the brand new Star Makers’ Production.

I think the cover is quite deceiving. Obviously produced to appeal to those who like Daisy Meadows and Cathy Cassidy; Anne-Marie’s books actually deal with some quite important issues around growing up. In this book, Polly must juggle her mum and Dad splitting up, a stepmum joining her family and she learns about internet safety the hard way. In these times when children are using gadgets and have the freedom to use the internet at such a young age, this book is testament to just how careful we should be. Of course, this book certainly isn’t serious throughout and relies on the dazzle of The Star Makers Club to lighten the mood. The result is an hilarious, often touching read about Polly, a young girl just trying to find her footing on the stage and at home.

‘Polly Plays her Part’ by Anne-Marie Conway is published by Usborne, £5.99     9781409520917

The third in the series ‘Sam in the Spotlight’ was published this month, £5.99     9781409521419




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