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!

Not so scary after all!

Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman

This is a very entertaining read for toddlers and pre-schoolers alike. It helps to take the fear of the “monster-under-the-bed” away when your little one sees the monsters in their silly underpants.

The book is available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!) and for purchase at Booktopia.


“There are prowly monsters howling loudly and drooling monsters from the steamy swamp. There are wild, woolly mountain monsters and spiky, spooky monsters from outer space. And they all have one thing in common – they LOVE underpants!

This hilarious Underpants story is hairy, scary – and silly! You’ll never think of monsters in the same way again!”

This book is best suited to a preschool age, but would also be suitable for toddlers. It would even be appropriate for younger school age children.

Although the book deals with monsters (which some younger children may find frightening), they are certainly not portrayed in a scary manner.

What I love about this book

The illustrations in this book are fantastic – bright, detailed, creative and engaging. Each page tells its own story and the illustrations deserve their own explanation in addition to the story text.

What I really love about this book is the theme with which it deals – taking the fear out of the unknown and the perception of “scary monsters”. It picks up on the notion of vulnerability and that things aren’t always as they seem.

The way that the theme is presented is perfect for little ones. Talking about brightly coloured underwear on a monster is humourous and silly. A lovely light-hearted book that can also help teach children about their emotions.

The monsters in the book are bright and full of personality. They are not dark or creepy characters; rather a character who could be be-friended.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Take the time on each page to go through the illustrations with your children.
  • Talk about the patterns and colours that your child can identify.
  • The rhyme in this book is a little strained. Try reading each paragraph slowly and uninterrupted (if possible!). This will help your child take the words in and so that the flow of the story is not broken.
  • The way the sentences and words are arranged are not as simple or as direct as other rhyming books, so it doesn’t not lend itself well to word/letter recognition for younger kids. Try take the focus to the illustrations once you have read each paragraph in its entirety.
  • Read in a light hearted manner to reinforce how “silly” the monsters look in their colourful underpants.
  • At the end of the book, take the time to discuss fears with your children. Explain how sometimes things seem scarier than what they really are. When we take a look at and tackle what scares us, it takes away the fear-of-the-unknown. This is often what scares us more than the “scary-thing” itself. Sometimes we can even have a laugh at what used to scare us!


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.



A bit of individuality please!

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

So far, this is my favourite in the Olivia series (see my reviews also of Olivia and Olivia the Spy).

As with the other books in the series, the illustrations are fantastic and little Olivia is full of personality. She is extremely intelligent, confident and inquisitive, a great character for young daughters in particular.

What I love most about this book is the message that it conveys – individuality is important, and that just going along with “normal” is really very boring. This is an important notion for both our sons and daughters.

In this book Olivia is having an “identity crisis” and explores the various options she sees available to her. She questions why other young girls would want to all look the same as princesses with pink ruffly skirts and tiaras, when there are so many other alternatives out there.

As with Falconer’s other Olivia books, Olivia’s grasp of language is better than a lot of adults (I know many adults who wouldn’t be able to use the term ‘corporate malfeasance’ in a sentence). This is how Falconer cleverly caters to the parents who are reading the book. He engages them by creating a level of relatability to their own children. We feel the mother’s exasperation with Olivia’s persistent questioning, we relate to our children coming out with sentences and thinking “where on earth did you hear that!”…I love the opening line “Olivia was feeling depressed” – how many young children truly understand the notion of being depressed? She uses the term in such an exaggerated manner, very reflective of her expressive character.

Another great read by Ian Falconer. A sweet and humourous book which delivers some complex and important discussion points to have with our children around socialization and behaviour.

You can’t catch me!

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

I will be honest with you – I am in two minds about this book. At first I found the theme quite dark and maybe a bit too mature for my 4 year old (who also found the illustrations a bit creepy). However, I do also see a more goofy side to the book. All the other reviews that I have read online tend to agree the latter take on the book. Maybe I’ve just read a little too much into the storyline….

Shh! We have a Plan can be borrowed at Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!) and purchased through Angus & Robertson.

After having read Oh No George! by Haughton, I was a little surprised by this story. The illustrations are as fantastic and unique as Oh No George! but uses deeper shades of blue instead of bright oranges and reds. The shades of blue perfectly represent the sneaky, darker tones to the story. The first thing my daughter asked me when she saw the book was, “Mummy is this a scary story?”

No, the story is not scary. Where I feel that the story has some darker undertones is that it follows a crew of people dressed like “robbers” who are trying to capture a bird, squirrel, etc in the dark. It is only the little one who is able to encourage the birds (who ultimately turn on the group anyway) by giving them some feed. What may have led me to the more serious conclusions of this book is the Einstein quote that Haughton includes on the dedication page – “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding”. A bit too deep for my pre-schooler I think.

On the other hand, this book could be read with a more slap-stick interpretation. You essentially have the three stooges who cannot execute a plan successfully. It takes the littlest one (who keeps being shh’d) to come up with a strategy that actually works.

The book has minimal text and lets the illustrations do most of the talking. This is part of the reason why there is a bit of a variance to the interpretation I had on this book.

While I do appreciate this book, I can’t say that it was a real hit in our household.

I’d love to hear from others who have read this book and enjoyed it more than we did. Maybe you have a different take or some other suggestions?


Lucky Frog.

Oi Dog! by Kes & Claire Gray

Further to my review of Oi Cat! (see my post When you really should have put your foot in your mouth), we went back over to our local library and took out Oi Dog!

Despite reading these books out of order (should have been Oi Frog – Oi Dog – then Oi Cat last!), this book in the series was as big of a hit as Oi Cat!

The book is full of hilarious and detailed illustrations – you get a little more out of them every time you look at them.

The premise of the story and the rhyme is similar to Oi Cat!, but looks at a new set of animals that sit on various things. This further extends the vocabulary that is being taught in the books. There does also appear to be an added layer of repetition in the book, reinforcing what the words your youngster is learning.

The book ends with a very lucky frog who can sit on whatever he likes!

A great series of books for pre-school and young school age children, and a whole lot of storytime fun for the family.

Spying v Eavesdropping, a subtle difference…

Olivia the Spy by Ian Falconer.

Due to my daughter’s absolute love of the first book in the series Olivia (read my review here), we recently borrowed Olivia the Spy.

This book in the series is as great as the first.

While Olivia does appear to have grown up a bit in this book, her character is just as endearing as before. As a parent of an inquisitive and cheeky pre-schooler, I can relate to the mother’s exasperation to “No mummy, I know how to…..[insert daily assisted activity here]” and it all going a bit pear shaped.

Olivia is a bright child with a vocabulary that would challenge some adults. While somewhat unrealistic for most children, the book does work to push an expanding vocabulary. The storyline and premise can easily be understood by preschoolers, but cleverly introduces these more difficult words (eg suspicious, insecure, etc).

The illustrations in this book were fantastic. Falconer uses the signature black, white, red drawings and also super-imposes them onto photographic images.

Another great story to add to the collection. I love this book for pretty much the same reasons as the original Olivia story, but also for the added complexity to character and storyline. This story teaches children (and adults!) about the concept of eavesdropping and how a poorly informed understanding of a situation can lead us to some crazy conclusions.