We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

I’m sure you have the song stuck in your head already just by reading the title! A timeless classic book and absolute must read to your kids.

This book is available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!), and for purchase at numerous stores – Kmart, BigW, Dymocks, etc.

The ABC are also showing an adaptation to a short 30min movie – see here.


“Brave bear hunters go through grass, a river, mud, and other obstacles before the inevitable encounter with the bear forces a headlong retreat.”

Suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and young school age children.

What I love about this book

By far what I love most about this book is the sing-song style in which it was written. The repetition of phrases being similar to that of the chorus in a song “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!” It really is a joyous read.

The illustrations are also beautiful. Oxenbury captures the sense of adventure through the use of alternating black-and-white and colour watercolour images. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed and really captures the imagination.

The powerful combination of language and illustration make this an extremely engaging book. I suspect this is why it has been such a popular book since its first publication in 1989.

The story is also a great aspect of the book – it is adventurous and engages all of the senses to draw you in.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Try as best as possible to read the story uninterrupted to get the best effect from the sing-song language.
  • Put on your storytime acting hat! This story is best read with lots of good intonation, sound effects, variations in volume and appropriately placed pauses.
  • Get carried away with the story, but also take the time afterward to go through some of the illustrations with your child to further explain what the family is doing.
  • You can use the story as a song to enact your own bear-hunt at home!

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.

Beautiful Minimalism

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

This is a beautifully illustrated book. Despite the minimal text, it tells a wonderful story of friendship between a lion and a bird.

This book deals with some important and relevant themes about emotion – a great teaching tool for young children when dealing with friendship, happiness, loss and loneliness.

Available for purchase at Angus & Roberston and to borrow at Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (Check your own local libraries too!).


“One autumn day, a lion finds a wounded bird in his garden. With the departure of the bird’s flock, the lion decides that it’s up to him to care for the bird. He does and the two become fast friends. Nevertheless, the bird departs with his flock the following autumn. What will become of Lion and what will become of their friendship?”

This book is best suited for preschool and early school age children.

What I love about this book

The illustrations in this book are magnificent and do the most part of conveying the story. Many of the pages contain illustrations only. Some pages are even intentionally blank. Where there is text, it is minimal,  but powerful.

I started reading this book to my daughter a bit too young (ie toddler age). I did find the lack of text a bit tedious at this stage. I had to keep flicking through pages to get to reading the story to her and she didn’t have the attention span to appreciate the pauses in the story. However, being a bit older, storytime with this book is much more enjoyable.

The blank spaces offer appropriately placed opportunity to discuss the complex emotions with which the book deals. It also offers space to discuss what is happening in each illustration without really distracting from the story itself. Each time we read this story it changes a little – it allows flexibility in the storytelling to adjust to the needs of the child who is listening.

A very cleverly arranged book.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Read the book in its entirety first without stopping, then take time to pause at the blank spaces for the subsequent reads. This book needs a couple of reads to be effective.
  • Talk about what the child sees in the illustrations as you go – fill in the blanks with your own story to accompany the text.
  • Talk about the seasons that you see changing throughout the story – what is happening here?
  • Talk about how each of the characters may be feeling and why. Draw this back to some of your own child’s experiences.


Illustrations Alive!

I love the artistry of children’s book illustrations. They are engaging, skillful and an essential component to storytime. They give us the all important supporting visuals.

However, a good children’s book does not necessarily need drawn illustrations – photography is also often a tool used to convey a story.

I have found that books with photography appeal to a wider age group and engage on a different educational level than illustrations.

When my daughter was about 6 months old, I bought two books from our local discount book store. They were Splish Splash and Hop, Skip & Jump by Nicola Tuxworth. I didn’t think too much about the purchase at the time. The books cost me $3 each.

It was the best $6 I think I have ever spent. My daughter is now 4 and I am still reading the books to her. They are also getting a second run on my 4 month old son to whom I have just started reading.



Why are photographic visuals different from illustrations?

While drawn illustrations are great for capturing your child’s imagination, photography is highly appealing to:

  • Babies who are hard-wired to recognize and prefer faces.
  • Toddlers and pre-schoolers who begin to relate with the children/objects and recognize daily activities.

What to look for in photographic books?

Photography is particularly well suited to books that depict daily routines, activities, and experiences. Children can better connect and relate the story to the images they are seeing.

Good photographic books also have:

  • Bright colour schemes.
  • Simple images with white backgrounds for contrast.
  • Simple and direct language.
  • A diversity of representation.
  • Pictures of everyday objects as well as children and adults.

While the simple language may be better suited for holding the attention of babies and toddlers, it is a great introduction for teaching letters and identifying words for pre-schoolers.

An example of storytime with a photographic book.

I use either Splish Splash or Hop, Skip & Jump for joint storytime with both my son and daughter before my son goes off to sleep first (my daughter gets her own storytime before she goes to bed later on too).

During the storytime, my daughter often re-enacts what the children in the book are doing. This is much to my son’s delight, who has a good chuckle at his sister’s acting – jumping, hopping, dancing, etc.

I make sure to spend a bit of time on each page for the older child to talk about what they see the children doing and for the younger one to take in the colours and pictures.

I also get the kids (toddler and pre-school age) to count the ducks, buckets, cars, etc they see and identify the colours.

abc books chalk chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Photographic books are a great way to get both kids involved and interacting with the book and each other. They’ve also been a fantastic tool to teach words, numbers and colours.

There are a whole heap of different photographic books on the market – keep your eyes peeled at your local library or bookstore. If you interested in Nicola Tuxworth’s books (she’s published a range in addition to Splish Splash and Hop, Skip & Jump), they are also on sale at Dymocks.