“A year in our new garden” by Gerda Muller

After my last postings and the longer downtime you might have realized that we just moved. Our new home does not only have more rooms than the previous townhome (including an office!), but also a big yard. Almost an acre, to be honest – an acre, that has to be mowed and cared for, but also promises lots of fun for Finja and us. Finja jumped in right away: Armed with kid-sized garden utensils she started to seed, plant and organize right away. She loves to feed the squirrels and already set up an insect hotel with rooms for hibernating lady bugs, butterflies and bees. And sure, we got tons of kids gardening books as presents from family and purchased some ourselves.

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While unpacking the moving boxes I also discovered a wonderful book in my review copy box – „A year in our new garden“ seems to be written especially for Finja! So we finally read the book tonight after watering the recently planted herbs.

A year in our new garden” by Gerda Muller was published by Floris Books. Floris books is the largest children’s book publisher in Scotland, producing international picture books, activity books and the Kelpies and Picture Kelpies ranges of Scottish children’s books. You might remember our review of „Thistle games“, „Harris the hero“, „Otto and the secret light of Christmas“ and „Little fairy makes a wish“. “A year in our new garden” was first published in 1988 under the German title “Ein Garten für die Kinder aus der Stadt” – “A yard for the children from the city”.

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The story: Anna and Benjamin just moved into a new home with their family. Although in the middle of a busy town, the house featured a beautiful, big garden. Although the garden is “a mess”, the family has plans to make the place beautiful: Their mom wants a patio, Benjamin wishes for little plot with lots of flowers and a pond, Anna dreams of a vegetable patch. Soon the family starts mowing, seeding, pulling weeds and planting. With some helpful hints from neighbors and friends Anna and Benjamin’s yard starts to grow and flourish. The family has a busy, interesting and motivating year in the new garden!

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“A year in our new garden” is not just a goodnight story. It offers children and adults the opportunity to learn about plans, gardening and the different kinds of flowers and gives practical tips how to sow seeds, planting flowers in the right season, crafting with chestnuts and acorns and spotting wildlife. And did you know that you can make a crown from leaves? The book is the perfect companion for children who love to discover nature year around. I can’t imagine a child who wouldn’t be ready for gardening after reading the delightful story!

Finja already loves “A year in our new garden”, recognized lots of plants, can’t wait for collecting acorns in fall and has plans for a little pond, too. It seems Gerda Muller’s book is just the right fit for her! In general I would recommend the book for preschool- and elementary aged children. With lots of things happening on every page Gerda Muller’s book is great for toddlers, too!

The timeless illustrations of “A year in our new garden” are just like the book designs I remember from my childhood. They are gentle, but full of detail – different from today’s picture books, but in a good way!

More information:
A year in our new garden
Written by Gerda Muller
Publisher: Floris Books
ISBN-13: 978-1782502593

„Gus’s garage“ by Leo Timmers

There are some books we don’t read once or twice, but three of four times – per evening. „Gus’s garage” by Leo Timmers is one of them.

Guss-Garage-cover-LROne of the reasons: Main character Gus is instantly likeable. The friends pig stores lots of curious things in his garage. Curious children will discover metal bins, an old fridge, a goldfish glass, a bathtub, some old piping, an old grandpa chair. What will he use them for? The next page brings the answer: Rhino Rico is complaining about the too small seat of his scooter. Gus has the answer: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Soon a happy Rhino leaves Gus’s garage on a completely remodeled scooter, sitting comfortable on his newly designed grandpa-chair-seat.

Will Gus find a way to help his other customers? Giraffe Gina is freezing her long neck off in the chilly air, while penguin Mrs. P “needs refrigeration”. Walrus Walter on the other hand is suffering what is, in his opinion, a too dry car… When the last customer of the day, rabbit Henry, is speeding away in his newly tuned up car, there is nothing more to do for Gus. Except: Inventing something for his own comfort…

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Leo Timmer’s story about going out of your way to help others features friendly Gus, who creates unique gismos to help his customers. Gus uses old garbage to invent something new, tailored to his friends’ needs. The colorful pictures by the author show how the pile of square parts in front of Gus’s garage slowly shrinks with each customer. Curious children will re-discover the abandoned parts in the newly renovated cars of Gus’s friends! The rhyming text is catching and Finja loved to read it with me: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Although the book is recommended for children age 5 to 7, it is a fun read for younger children, too.

Leo Timmers is one of Belgium’s most popular children books authors and we are glad Gecko Press brought „Gus’s garage“ to the US!

More information:
“Gus’s garage”
written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Gecko Press
ISBN-13: 978-1776570928

“Bear’s house of books” by Poppy Bishop

You probably already saw a picture of Finja’s bookshelves on this blog. I’m really jealous of her, because I don’t have a bookshelf anymore since my office was turned into Finja’s room in 2012… Well, we are trying to change that and in the process of cleaning and staging our home so we can finally move into a bigger home and the days of working on the dining room table are over. Yeah! Moving always means throwing away and donating lots of stuff. It’s always hard to prioritize, I even recycled my old diaries… There is one thing that we won’t throw away though: Our books. Finja always enjoys when we bring some copies to one of our local “Little Free Library”, but in general her bookshelf keeps growing and growing…

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It’s kind of interesting how real life and the books you are reading sometimes come together. The reality of how much work staging a home has just sunk in and I started dreaming of an office with a huge bookshelf when we received “Bear’s house of books” as a review copy. And bear has exactly what lots of us book lovers are dreaming of… But let’s start at the beginning.

Not everyone can enjoy a huge library of hundreds of books like Finja. Fox, rabbit, mouse and hedgehog are good friends and as they all enjoy stories they read the same worn-out storybook repeatedly. It’s they favorite book, although the pages are a bit sticky after years of reading. The friends would like some new books to enjoy. But where do you find new books? Do they grow on trees or do they fall from the sky like shooting stars? Do you dig them out like potatoes? So fox, mouse, rabbit and hedgehog set out on a book hunt. Heavily armed with sandwiches and the eagerness to discover new stories they start their adventure and search the woods high and low. Just before they are ready to give up they find – a book! The fantastic story catches they attention right away, but the book belongs to someone else: A label on the first page says that their new favorite book belongs to bear, who lives at the other side of the woods… Although the friends would love to keep the book a little longer they start their way to bear’s home. After a long hike, they finally arrive – and discover a wonderful library in bear’s abandoned home… A book lovers dream! The friends start reading right away, until bear arrives back home.

“Who left sticky paw prints on this cover?” “And a sandwich in the middle!” “Who’s been reading my books?”

These quotes may remind you of the story of snow-white and the seven dwarfs – and just like in this fairytale bear and fox, mouse, hedgehog and rabbit become good friends after discovering their shared love for books. After bear learns that the friends just have one book to read at home he allows them to read one more book – and soon the animals are cuddled together, enjoying one story after another. And they have a wonderful idea about how to share the love of books with other animals in the woods!

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“Bear’s house of books” by Poppy Bishop is a great book about sharing the love of reading. The board book features a friendly fox, rabbit, mouse and hedgehog and makes it easy for preschoolers to identify themselves with the protagonists. Even the grumpy bear comes over as extremely likable and his decision to open a library for other animals sends an important message about sharing. After all, a library is wonderful – but isn’t it even better to spread the joy of reading and discovering new stories? Another great read by “Tiger Tales”!

“Bear’s house of books”
written by Poppy Bishop
illustrated by Alison Edgson
Publisher: Tiger Tales
ISBN-13: 978-1680100389

The „Quack and Daisy“ series by Aileen Stewart

Author Aileen Stewart works in my dream job: She not only writes books and markets them herself, but also organizes children’s writing workshop. How cool is that?

"Quack and Daisy" are an unlikely duo!
“Quack and Daisy” are an unlikely duo!

Her series around duck Quack and cat Daisy shows that Aileen knows what children want. Quack and Daisy are an unlikely team – but they are inseparable from the moment they literally bump together on the farm’s meadow. Both of them like exploring the magic of the meadow, but soon thez have to discover that cats can’t swim and ducks are not good at catching mice. Does their friendship have a chance anyway?

Aileen Stewart’s book is fun to read aloud, my daughter loved the colorful illustrations of the big eyed cat Daisy and her funny friend Quack. The heartwarming friendship story has an important message: You can be friends with everyone – even with someone who is not like you!

Finja immediately wanted to know how Quack and Daisy’s story continues. Luckily she didn’t have to wait long: “Quack and Daisy – Beyond The Meadow”, the second part of the story, continues with another adventure. Mama Quack cautioned her duckling about going beyond the meadow. Sure this warning just motivated the adventurous duo to explore the outside world… Quack and Daisy start on a new quest, they admire wildflowers on their way out of the meadow, enjoy the breeze – and Quack finally gets to swim in a real river! But when the duckling isn’t able to come out of the ditch again the unlikely friends know they are in trouble…

“Quack and Daisy – Beyond The Meadow” comes with lots of action and cautions children to listen to their parents. Anyway, as an adult I also had the feeling that Quack and Daisy’s hunger for adventure was a little bit dampened in this second part of the story… Well, as parent of a four-year-old I know that there is no end to seeking adventures for our daughter though. She just started to explore the “outside world” without waiting for my permission to leave the house. So this story just came to the right time… 😉

What I really liked in both part of the story was the unlikely friendship of the grey cat Daisy and her yellow friend Quack. Friends are important for toddlers and preschoolers – and the books around “Quack and Daisy” put friendship in the focus!

The “Quack and Daisy“-books aren’t Aileen’s only publications. She loves writing about animals – a passion that she explains with growing up on a farm: “The fact that I chose to write about farm animals is directly related to the fact that my childhood friend lived on a farm. It was a magical place to visit and the place where I became a big fan of chickens and gathering eggs. The characters and events in Fern Valley are loosely based on people I knew and events my brother and I experienced growing up.” So make sure to check out her collections of short stories and other books!

More information:
Quack and Daisy” and “Quack and Daisy – Beyond the Meadow
by Aileen Stewart
ISBN: 978-1681877488
ISBN: 978-1682934869

Both books can be ordered on the authors homepage and on Amazon.com