A Children’s Book Institution

I wanted to pay homage to a children’s book institution – Spot the Dog by Eric Hill.

These books are so clever and engaging to children of various ages. A couple of Spot books are an absolute must for your children’s book collection (that is, if you don’t already have at least one!).

I grew up with Spot and am getting just as much joy sharing various Spot books with my kids. A real classic with timeless enjoyment.

We have a couple of Spot books at home which had fallen a bit out of favour. When I say “fallen out of favour”, I by no means meant that my daughter no longer enjoys them – they just got buried under the current favourites (ie Olivia by Ian Falconer mainly).

Some of the first books that I bought my daughter was a set of 4 Spot the Dog board books (colours, numbers, shapes and first words). They were very small, containing only one word per page, and just perfect for little hands. I picked these up at my local post office and they were fantastic for teaching her first words.

On a recent trip to the library, my daughter picked up two different Spot books – Spot’s Opposites and Happy Christmas Spot. When we got to reading them, I was reminded about how good these books are and why they have stood the test of time. She is now using these larger Spot books to learn reading and expand her vocabulary.

If you have never read any of the Spot books, they follow a playful pup (with his family and friends) through day-to-day activities. The illustrations are bright and depict objects/stories to which children can relate. The language is clear, direct and simple – making them a fantastic teaching tool for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

The Spot stories are gentle and story lines relatable for many everyday activities and situations. Even though most of the Spot books are appropriate for a wide age and learning variation, some of the books are tailored better for different audiences.

The beauty of the Spot of the Dog series is that Hill uses various techniques to engage with and teach language skills to young children:

  • Clear, simple and bright illustrations,
  • Direct and clear language,
  • Bold text, often high contrast too,
  • Relatable stories and characters,
  • Lift-up flaps and pull tabs,
  • Use of teaching language tools and reinforcement built in to the story (eg one page showing a single word accompanied with an illustration of that word, then use of the word in a sentence).

If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend getting a couple of Spot books for your children’s book collection. You can find many of these books in libraries and in bookstores alike. It’s great to see that stories I enjoyed as a kid are still as popular as ever.



Hello Fish!

Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins

A beautifully bright and cheery book, fantastic for teaching children about colours, descriptors, and rhyme.

I have a soft spot for books that end with cuddles between mummy and baby (eg Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you see? and Hello Baby!) – this book is just that with the addition of a fun rhyme and engaging illustrations.

Available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local library too!) and for purchase at Big W and Dymocks.


“Little fish has lots of fishy friends. Stripy fish. Spotty fish. Happy fish. Grumpy fish. So many friends, so many fish, splosh, splash, splish!”

This book is appropriate for babies for the engaging graphics and simple language, but also appropriate for teaching rhyme and furthering language skills for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

What I love about this book

What I love most about this book is the illustrations. They are quite simple – but this is what makes them so effective. It looks as though they were done with a big, thick paint brush and with the kind of paint that you would find at any school/kinder. The bright, bold colours are wonderfully engaging, particularly for youngsters. They give the book an uplifting and whimsical tone.

As the perfect accompaniment to the illustrations, the language used in the story is simple, direct and rhyming. This combination makes the story extremely engaging for a wider age group – your preschooler can enjoy this book as much as a toddler, or baby.

The book works on various levels teaching rhyme, as well as interesting ways to describe the different fish.

This book is a lot of fun and offers many good teaching points. It also conveys the message of beauty in diversity. What makes the book particularly clever is that it is a seemingly simple book, but does a whole lot of teaching!

Storytime Activities and Tips

  • Run your finger over each word as you read them.
  • Read the book slowly, the rhyme will still allow a slower pace. Take the time with each word to help with letter and word recognition.
  • Point at each of the relevant fish and to what the describing word refers. For example, “Grumpy fish…Oh, look at the frown on that fish’s face!”, “fin-fin fish…look at all the fins on that fish!”
  • Create some suspense at the end with “But where’s the one I love the best, even more than all the rest?” and give your little one a big hug and kiss when you get to the last page.

Who is my treasure?

Hello Baby! by Mem Fox

This book holds special sentimental value for me. It was the first book I read to my daughter and is also written by my favourite children’s author.

A sweet book which is perfect for cuddling up with your baby while learning about animals and body parts.

The book is written such that the person reading asks a series of direct questions to baby. Wonderfully interactive and engaging.

Available for purchase at Dymocks, Angus & Robertson and for borrow at Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!).


“Clever monkey babies, dusty lion babies, sleepy leopard babies, hairy warthog babies. But which is the most treasured one of all?”

Suitable for babies in particular, but also great to use as a teaching tool (word and letter recognition) for pre-school age children.

What I love about this book

The language used in this book is clear, simple and repetitive, making it a fantastic first book.

This book is best with baby on your lap, so you can touch baby’s nose, “paws”, toes, eyes, etc as you read. You can then end with a big cuddle when you work out who is the most treasured baby of all!..

The illustrations are textural and realistic looking due to the use of a paper cut-and-paste effect.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Read this book cuddled up on a chair with baby.
  • Point to baby’s body parts as you read them.
  • Take the time to go through identifying each animal and making the sound they make.
  • Build up the suspense on the second last page (“Then who are you, baby? Wait, let me guess…Are you my treasure? The answer is…”), with a resounding YES at the end.
  • Place your hand on top of the parent’s hand at the illustration at the end, with baby’s hand on the other to show togetherness.

Follow the Leader

Can You Make a Scary Face by Jan Thomas

I would strongly recommend not reading this one to your kids right before bedtime! It is not a relaxing book. Rather, it is a whole lot of fun that will have the kids playing a silly game of follow the leader with a rather bossy lady bug. This book is high energy.

Available for purchase at Dymocks and to borrow at Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check you own local libraries too!).


“What kind of a face would you make if a tickly green bug were sitting on your nose? Or if it were eek inside your shirt? Could you make a scary face to frighten it away? Or, even better, stand up and do the chicken dance? Yes? Then better get to it!”

This book is suitable for:

  • Babies – bright and simple illustrations to capture their interest.
  • Toddlers – fun interacting with the lady bug’s questions/requests.
  • Preschool – fun interacting with the lady bug’s questions/requests and simple language for letter/word recognition.

What I love about this book

The book is written such that the lady bug is talking directly to the reader. The ask-and-respond nature of the book is engaging for children of various ages.

The requests given by the bossy-boots lady bug will get your children acting silly and are highly entertaining.

While the storyline or ideas presented in the book were not particularly complex or educational, it was a nice to have a light-hearted shake up to storytime. Good, simple, silly fun.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Try reading this one during the day as it may wind your children up a bit.
  • Follow the lady bug’s instructions with your child.
  • Have fun reading this with an “over-the-top” voice and have a laugh with your child at the silly actions that the lady bug will have you doing!
  • If you want to make this book a bit more educational – run your fingers over the words as you read and play letter/word recognition with your child.