Book Reviews

Kitten Corner: Non-fiction For Babies!

For this instalment of Kitten Corner I wanted to highlight some of the beautiful non-fiction books we’ve been enjoying recently. While I do love a good story, there are some wonderful books out there that look at interesting topics like wildlife and history, and they can be just as gorgeously designed and illustrated, and just as captivating, as fiction!

As always with these posts, books marked with a * were sent to me free of charge by the publisher.

The Castle The King Built by Rebecca Colby, illustrated by Tom Froese*

Published 14th January 2021 by Nosy Crow

This reworked version of ‘The House That Jack Built’ explores all about the workings of a castle – and it’s been published in collaboration with the National Trust, so you know the history’s accurate! I’m really looking forward to when we can visit castles again, and I think this is a great picture book to get an introduction to the basics of what they would have looked like when they were functioning. My one complaint is that the book really sidelines women – a few appear in the different scenes, but there’s a spread at the end which has little images of each kind of person in the castle (blacksmiths, servants, knights, etc) and it lumps all the women, from the queen to the maids, into one category, with the text ‘We wash all the clothes and bedding by hand, look after the babies and clean the castle’. What, even the queen? I understand from the historical side of things they wouldn’t have been in some of the other groups, but I found this summation of women’s roles to be quite dismissive. That aside, I think this is a lovely little read. I really enjoyed the blocky pastel artwork, and even better, there’s a cat on every page to look out for!

I Am A Fish by Isabel Otter and Fernando Martín*

Published on 4th March 2021 by Little Tiger

This delightfully bright picture book looks at everything you could ever want to know about fish, from their life cycles to their anatomy to their huge range of shapes and sizes. The information is laid out simply and accessibly, with small chunks of text that explain things in age-appropriate vocabulary, and the illustration’s neon touches are eye-catching, so even if this seems daunting, it should still be entertaining for very small kids. I loved the beautiful pictures of all the different fish, which have really excellent little faces, and it even taught me a few things (did you know rays have no bones?)!

Above and Below: Sea and Shore by Harriet Evans illustrated by Hannah Bailey*

Published on 4th March 2021 by Little Tiger

I love the beautiful artwork of this book – it feels really special and strangely nostalgic, though I don’t remember having a book like this myself as a child! Each page has a beautiful picture of a seaside or undersea scene with a clever half-page overlay that you can pull back to reveal the hidden depths; two pictures in one! There’s a great array of wildlife and plants shown off here, and little fact-files about each one make it easy to dip into (pun intended). The vocab is a little higher-level, so this might be one for more confident readers, but it will be a lovely one to spend an afternoon poring over.

Switch-a-picture: Day and Night by Harriet Evans, illustrated by Lirios Bou*

Published on 4th February 2021 by Little Tiger

This fun interactive board book has stylish, bold art, and really cool sliders that take each wildlife scene from day to night. Each two-page spread has a different habitat and a selection of animals that live in it in the daytime, and then the sliders transform part of the page to nighttime, revealing the nocturnal creatures that share the space. It’s a clever concept and one I really enjoyed discovering, plus the slider is simple enough for babies to use themselves (and I can tell you, mine always looks delighted by the switch!).

I Can Learn: Dinosaurs by Lauren Crisp, illustrated by Thomas Elliott*

Published on 4th February 2021 by Little Tiger

This is one of the most intricate books with flaps I’ve ever seen! There are only three spreads (for the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods), but each one has three layers of flaps and cut-outs that make this an incredibly fun book to investigate! It might be a little delicate for very tiny hands, so it’s one that might need some adult supervision, but the sweet art and overall gorgeous design will keep even an adult interested! I loved that it included phonetic pronunciations for each of the names of the dinosaurs, as they can be super daunting to read even for a grown-up and this makes it really easy to sound out (I even learned I’ve been pronouncing Anklyosaurus wrong!). This is one I will be buying for any dinosaur-obsessed kids I come across – it’s probably my favourite of all of these!

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