BookTrust – Learning about What they Do.

Book Trust Logo

We recently visited the BookTrust offices to learn about them, and what they do.

So who are the BookTrust? Chances are you’ll have come across them at some point. For me, my first time was getting H’s first bag from our Health Visitor, which had an Elmer book in it. It was read constantly – we’d seen Elmer but didn’t have any of the books, and this led to more purchases. The idea of getting a bag with free books and activities was amazing to me. Up until then, the only thing I’d come across which was free were the bags you get when you’re about to give birth.

Finding out that you could get more free books as my child grew up was INCREDIBLE. We knew she loved reading and being read to, and discovering new authors or ones we hadn’t yet read opened up a world of adventures, stories, great things. Needless to say, when anyone who had a child of a similar age said they had a new BookTrust bag, we all made a point of getting them. Once H was at school she got her Booktime pack in reception.

Book Trust BookBuzz

And that, I thought, was that. But no – you see, BookTrust have loads of different schemes, and on the 1st April we headed to their offices and met with them to learn about what they do.

The Letterbox Club is a fantastic service for children aged 5-13 that provides books to children who are in care. Often it can be the first thing they receive which is theirs. The packs are tailored and have books, maths games, stationery and more.

They’re designed to encourage reading and learning at home. There are five levels – Letterbox Orange (5-7 year olds), Letterbox Yellow (7-9 year olds), Letterbox Blue (7-9 year olds), Letterbox Red (9-11 year olds) and Letterbox Green (11-13 year olds).

The books are carefully selected, each child gets a new book every six months. This will build up to their own collection of things that is truly theirs to use and keep. I think it’s a fantastic scheme.

For more information head here.

Book Trust Letterbox example

At BookTrust they believe in a society where nobody misses out on the life-changing benefits that reading can bring. They want to get children and families reading. I know we’re extremely lucky with H and how much she loves and enjoys it.

The Letterbox Club isn’t the only service for older children. BookTrust also have a service for schools to sign up, as well as a new service launching later this year, Story Hunters – and while it says which children these packages are targeted towards, it’s open to everyone.

Book Trust Story Hunters Book Trust Story Hunters

There’s a lot on the BookTrust website too. You can search for books based on ability and age; something which has always confused me with H as she’s such an advanced reader; what exactly would make a book suitable for an 8 year old, when she’s only 4? I’m going to be using this section a lot!

I love the Bookbuzz scheme too – a fantastic choice of books, and for students in years 7 & 8 at school!

At the networking event on April 1st, a lot of bloggers were also authors – and it was great to chat to them. We met the author Sita Brahmachari and received a copy of two of her books. See, this is the other fantastic thing about the BookTrust; they’re working with authors all the time, reviewing books and encouraging children to read. It’s wonderful – and, in case you didn’t realise, they’re a charity.

I knew this, but didn’t realise we could raise money for them – so we’re now thinking of a way to do something. Maybe have H see how many Harry Potter books she can read without sleeping or something! You can also buy Christmas Cards at Waterstones which help raise money, something we’ll be doing this year.

I came away from our meeting knowing that working with the BookTrust was a really positive thing. They’re really making a difference for many children. I have so much more I could write about, but I’ll save that for a follow-up post – and instead direct you over here, where you’ll find so many things.

We are delighted to be BookTrust bloggers!

The Book of Everyone – A Personalised Book

We were given the opportunity to create our own book from The Book of Everyone – a unique book personalised to suit the recipient. In our case, it had to be H – so what does the book hold for a six year old, and how easy is it to create?

The Book Of Everyone - Book of H

The Book of Everyone is a unique personalised book which you create using the recipient’s name and date of birth, gender and name. Because I don’t use H’s name on here I’ve edited it out on the pictures, but rest assured her full name is used! You have an option to produce a book based on current age or the one coming up as well.

How easy is it to create? Very! Because the book is facts-based rather than the kind you would add photos to, it knows important stuff like star signs (we’ve never really known as she’s on the cusp, though I’m happy I’m right and she is a Virgo) and the number one record when you’re born (which I wish I could edit as at the moment she sees the word ‘bitch’ as a swear word, it’d be nice to censor it with an asterisk in the book – but that’s not a fault of the book, it’s a fault of the potty mouthed David Guetta ft Akon).

The Book of Everyone - tv and number 1

We were given a code to order a hardback book, which arrived a week later (not bad, as we’re in Christmas post times). I also opted for the Christmas book which includes a Rodeo Santa dedication page (Here’s a treat that’s special, unique the whole book through, and although Christmas shouldn’t be, this is all about you!), a festive cover and various Christmas bits throughout.

You get to choose your colour scheme, so knowing H loves blue I opted for this. The book has ‘The Book of H’ on the cover and spine, and my name (as I created it) on the spine as well.

The Book of Everyone - Ant stamps

The Book of Everyone is bright and colourful with loads of facts and things which relate to H’s life so far. It’s funny having the Ant Farm page, where you can follow H the ant – although the camera isn’t working at the moment. I know that’s something she’ll find funny! There are pages you can edit which helps customise it – you get this icon when you’re previewing it.

The Book of Everyone edit page

The Book of Everyone has things I know H will be able to relate to. The personalisation aspect is something which makes her feel like it’s for HER, than a general book. For that alone it gets a thumbs up!

The Book of Everyone Quotes

Now, the important stuff. How eco-friendly are the books? From their website – We picked our printers because of their exemplary approach to minimising the environmental impacts of printing. Our UK print partners Pureprint were the first CarbonNeutral® printer in the world. Also, do you need to be in when the book is delivered? Our book fitted through the letterbox fine, so you don’t need to worry about that either!

The Book of Everyone Christmas version costs £29.50 – though there are other options available. You can create a digital version for £7.50, and a softcover for £19.50. You can view your book online once it is created too, and once you’ve bought a physical edition you have access to a free download version by using a unique code. Their website is here

The Book of Everyone personalised snowflake

It’s also worth mentioning, you can create your own personalised snowflake on their website for free – I’ve enjoyed playing around with it. You can find that here. You can order a print of your snowflake which goes towards helping conserve polar bears at

The Book of Everyone logo

We received a code to review this book, all opinions are our own! 

BookTrust Digital Advent Calendar!

BookTrust, Britain’s largest reading charity has launched the BookTrust Digital Advent Calendar featuring the very best children’s books that families might want to share this Christmas.

BookTrust Digital Advent Calendar

The BookTrust Digital Advent Calendar is launching very soon, and visitors will also get the chance to win all 24 books featured, and have them delivered in time for Christmas!

The BookTrust team chose the books that they feel children would most love to find under their Christmas tree or in their stocking. The selection, which is aimed at children up to the age of 12, features both classics and new stories and picture books from the very best authors and illustrators.

Each day leading up to Christmas Day, a picture of a specially selected book will appear behind a calendar window, along with the reasons it was chosen.

BookTrust Chief Executive, Diana Gerald, said: “This is good festive fun with a serious edge to it, we know that developing a love of reading brings enormous benefits and is linked to children doing very well at school and living balanced lives.

“Exposing children to fantastic authors and illustrators at a young age will encourage them to enjoy reading so we want to help parents by pointing them in the direction of books their kids will love.”

Included is Matt Haig’s fantastic new story, A Boy Called Christmas, [Canongate] illustrated by Chris Mould. Matt brings his signature wit and warmth to this seasonal chapter-book, which is sure to delight young readers.

A Boy Called Christmas

Another title, this time for younger readers, is Judith Kerr’s picture book, Mog’s Christmas [HarperCollins]. This classic picture book celebrates the joys of preparing for Christmas, although it all seems rather strange from a cat’s point of view!

Also hiding behind one of the windows is a beautiful non-fiction title, Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill [Flying Eye Books]. This marks the 100th anniversary of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition, with informative text and a wealth of beautifully detailed coloured pencil drawings.

The calendar also features the nation’s favourite storyteller, Michael Morpurgo, with his new book, An Eagle in the Snow [HarperCollins]. Michael, who is also the BookTrust President, teams up with illustrator Michael Foreman for this short but immersive novel. Based on a true story of a highly decorated World War I soldier, children will love this thought-provoking tale. Another inclusion is the The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton [Walker Books] about Princess Pinecone who wants a warrior horse for her birthday but gets a short, fat, farting pony instead. This is a hilarious book with a feminist message that shows girls can be strong and creative.

The calendar goes live on December 1st, and will be found here: or on Twitter #BookTrustAdvent

How to be a Cowboy Activity Book by Alice V. Lickens

There comes a time in a little girl’s life when she needs some help. Sometimes it’s help that mummies and daddies can’t give, even though we try. Sometimes she likes to think she’s independent and doesn’t need us parents. When it comes to being a Cowboy, well, she’s going to need a bit of help, and this wonderful book from Alice V. Lickens is a very good place to start.

How to be a Cowboy by Alice Lickens

How to be a Cowboy is packed with fun illustrations and activities – and is ideal for any aspiring cowboys or girls. Inside you can find a map of Cowboy States, information about what is On The Ranch, and most importantly of all, information about Cowboy Boots.

As the book says, “A cowboy needs a ranch name to be shouted across the prairie. What would yours be?” – and there are plenty to choose from!

How to be a Cowboy by Alice Lickens

How to be a Cowboy also has a page on stetsons, so you know one from another. Add to that a page of stickers and at the back, a dress up cowboy doll, and it’s a fun book packed with information – and one H is really enjoying reading.

how to be a cowboy doll by Alice Lickens

I love the illustrations by Alice V. Lickens – they’re all very clear and bright. We’re familiar with her work, as we have her ‘Can You Dance to the Boogaloo’ book. There are maps (H LOVES maps) and trails, including some Cattle Trails marked out too. Have you ever wondered what each cowboy has job-wise when they’re on the trail? You can find that out in How to be a Cowboy too!

how to be a cowboy stickers

Of course, no cowboy is truly complete without being taught how to speak like a cowboy. Fortunately this book has plenty of phrases, including ‘Jackaroo’ which Shaun says is an Australian Cowboy. See! I’ve learnt something too.

Finally, when you’re at home on the range you need to have some basic meals to cook – and luckily, How to be a Cowboy has four of them you can try. I’m not convinced about Sock Coffee though!

how to be a cowboy food

All in all, the How to be a Cowboy activity book is lots of fun. Published by Pavilion Books, and with a RRP of £9.99, it’s available on 12th November – perfectly timed for any Cowboys who need something to read this Christmas!

Alice V. Lickens is a freelance illustrator, author and designer based in London. She has worked with Lonely Planet, National Trust, Random House, Pavilion Books, Walker Books and The Guardian. Alice is also one of the first illustrators in the UK who was chosen for the Sendak Fellowship, and went to work at Maurice Sendak’s residence in Connecticut in 2012. Her website is here. We also love that her site links to Maggie Li and Frann Preston Gannon – both are favourites of ours here!

We were sent the book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own. 

Professor Murphy Metal Puzzle Set

As Parragon Book Buddies we’re sent a different book every month, targeted at older readers. This month’s book is the Professor Murphy Metal Puzzle Set.

Professor Murphy Metal Puzzle Set box

The Professor Murphy Metal Puzzle Set consists of the kind of puzzles you occasionally find in Christmas Crackers – you know the ones. You have two pieces of metal and you have an objective – to get them to link together in a certain way.

The set also comes with a 16 page booklet explaining how the puzzles are solved, as well as 30 Insanely Baffling Puzzles – and they are too! Some are obvious, and some take a bit of thinking about. Try this one – ‘A man sits by a window reading. No light is switched on in the room, there is no moon outside and he has no torch, lamp or candle, yet he can still see to read – how is this possible? I got this one straight away (phew, I’m not losing my common sense just yet then!).

Professor Murphy Metal Puzzle Set open box

I like that this isn’t just for kids – the puzzles can be just as tricky for an adult, and I have to be honest, I’m the kind of person who ends up going to the solution when it comes to the metal puzzles – and the Professor Murphy Metal Puzzle Set has six of them!

I know this is the kind of activity book I’ll be getting out when I want to make sure H stays off the Wii U or her tablet – I like that it makes you think about things, and that you can recreate some of the puzzles too (the kind where a shape is built from toothpicks, and you have to remove two to create another shape, sort of thing). Definitely one which will be living on the games shelves and will be getting a lot of use!

Professor Murphy Metal Puzzle Set book and shapes

The Professor Murphy Metal Puzzle Set has a RRP of £6.99 and is suitable for age 6 and upwards.

We were sent a copy of the book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own.

Pamela Butchart Joins Blue Peter Book Awards 2016 Panel

A school teacher, Pamela Butchart who won last year’s Blue Peter Best Story Award will join a brilliant panel of judges for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2016.

The Spy Who Loved School Dinners collage

Pamela Butchart, who teaches philosophy at secondary school, and last year won Blue Peter Best Story with her book ‘The Spy Who Loved School Dinners’ (H’s favourite from the shortlisted books), will join television and radio presenter Angellica Bell, National Literacy Trust’s programme manager Jim Sells and Blue Peter editor Ewan Vinnicombe.

The enormously popular Blue Peter Book Awards, which are managed by the reading charity Book Trust, celebrate the best authors, the most creative illustrators and the greatest reads for children.

Former winner Pamela Butchart, who spent much of her wedding day last year at a book signing, said: ‘I’m thrilled to have been asked to judge this year’s Blue Peter Book Awards. It really is an awesome honour – thank you. It was a dream come true to win the award in 2015 (I rarely take my badge off!) I can’t wait to help find this year’s winning books.
‘As a teacher, author and lover of children’s books I’ll be on the lookout for fantastic books that encourage reading for pleasure.’

Blue Peter editor, Ewan Vinnicombe said: ‘This year we’ve got a fantastic panel to judge our Book Awards and I’m looking forward to seeing which titles they shortlist, in what looks like an impressive year for children’s literature.’

The Blue Peter Awards 2016 will celebrate children’s books published in the last year in two categories: Best Story and Best Book with Facts. There will be three shortlisted books for each award chosen by the panel of judges and announced on Blue Peter on 3 December 2015.

At least 200 children from ten schools across the UK will then read the shortlisted books and vote for their favourites in each category. The two winning books will be announced on the Blue Peter programme scheduled for World Book Day on 3 March 2016.

The judges for this year’s awards are:

• Angellica Bell – TV presenter, mum and blogger
• Ewan Vinnicombe – (non-voting chair) Editor, Blue Peter
• Jim Sells – National Literacy Trust Programme Manager
• Pamela Butchart – winner of the Blue Peter Story Book 2015

Blue Peter Book Awards Judges 2015

The Blue Peter Book Awards have been celebrating children’s literature since 2000. The reading charity Book Trust has managed the Blue Peter Book Awards since 2008. The 2015 winners were Pamela Butchart who won Best Story with ‘The Spy Who Loved School Dinners’, illustrations by Thomas Flintham; and Andy Seed, a former primary teacher and deputy head for 17 years, who won Best Book with Facts with ‘The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff’, illustrated by Scott Garrett.

Keep up-to-date with the Awards at and on Twitter by following @Booktrust and #BPBA

Star Wars Reads Day 2015

Have you heard of Star Wars Reads Day? It’s to encourage children to read, and of course, it involves Star Wars. We were invited to take part this year, and so organised a treat for H and her Star Wars loving pals after school!

Star Wars Reads Day lightsaber practice

Star Wars Reads Day happens once a year, with events happening all over. Our local library had an event in the lead up to the big day too. We were sent a selection of books from Disney to celebrate it ourselves – and celebrate we did! Attending were the Star Wars Kid, Clone Trooper Commander Cody, Darth Maul and of course Darth Vader (pictured above, l-r). The afternoon started with a spot of lightsaber practice.

What do you need for a good Star Wars Reads Day? Well we were sent a fine selection of books – which almost didn’t get out of my workplace in one piece. There are some fantastic books for learning – as one workmate said “I wish maths had been like this in my day” – they’re all published by Scholastic Press and are available from Amazon and all good bookstores. As well as this we were sent some activity packs, door hangers, bookmarks, badges and cards to collect (looks like H has a new hobby to spend her pocket money on!)

I liked the Writing Skills book – H is doing really well with her reading, and I felt this would help enhance her writing – and it’s only £5.99 at Amazon too.

Star Wars Reads Day has a fab workbook – as all too soon budding Jedi’s (and Sith’s) need a bit of a rest after playing with their lightsabers. You can download it here – and our kids got working through them, doing a spot of colouring in Yoda. See, it may be a reads day, but you’re still reading the instructions to find out what to do.  There’s a maze, wordsearch, colouring – plenty to do!

Star Wars Reads Day Activity Kit

No Star Wars fan’s special Star Wars Reads Day is complete without the chance to build a TIE fighter – and that involved team work, each child working on an individual part, before us adults stepped in to help at the very end. Pretty impressive too!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Luckily we were sent this excellent Star Wars Starfighter Workshop book – you can build a TIE Fighter and an X-Wing, and there are plenty of activities inside. All the kids wanted to make the model, and it was a good bit of teamwork putting it together. As well as Star Wars, there’s Star Wars Rebels – and we were sent a jigsaw puzzle which Darth Vader got on with straight away! Star Wars Reads Day Darth Vader doing jigsaw In fact, we all popped by to help her, they were nice big pieces, suitable for age 3 and up, with enough going on that it wasn’t too tricky. You can’t beat working on expression with a joke book – and the Star Wars Joke Book doesn’t disappoint. My favourite one – How does a Jedi make a call? On his Yodafone (I may have told this several times). H enjoys joke books and bagged this one straight away – to then tell us them all in a day, pretty much! She’s telling Commander Cody a few in this picture. Star Wars Reads Day joke book However, Commander Cody is way too busy checking out everything he needs to know about Star Wars. He knows a LOT. Now he knows even more, thanks to Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know. This book would make a fantastic present for a big Star Wars fan – especially with Christmas coming! Star Wars Reads Day Commander Cody Commander Cody loves reading! Star Wars Reads Day Lightsaber break There was just enough time for Commander Cody and Darth Maul to take on the Star Wars kid – think she needs to work on her lightsaber technique… Finally, to end a hectic day, the Star Wars kid decided she really needed to swot up on the Star Wars story – luckily there was Star Wars In 100 Scenes which she settled down to read.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

We were sent a selection of books, trading cards, activities, and many other Star Wars things for the purpose of having a Star Wars Reads Day. All product images are affiliate links. All clothes the Jedi/Sith/Kid’s own.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

For our latest book review, we were sent Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach, published in September 2015 by Pavilion Books.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

Apple Pigs which is written and illustrated by Ruth Gary Orbach was originally published in 1978, and has a long-overdue reissue by the National Trust via Pavilion Books.

The story of Apple Pigs is a timeless classic, a beautifully illustrated tale of an apple tree which grows too many apples. A little girl finds a withered apple tree surrounded by rubbish. In order to help the tree grow and to not be chopped up for firewood she clears the rubbish around it. When spring arrives the tree bursts into blossom and produces many apples.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

In fact, it produces MANY apples. Too many apples, more than the family needs. They cook and hide the apples but they keep growing – so they have an annual apple feast! Almost everyone I know with apple trees seem to be giving us bags of apples which is wonderful, so I can relate to this, having had some delicious apple crumble recently!

The back of the book also has a guide ‘How to Make Apple Pigs’ – with nice easy to follow instructions – and is something we’ll be having a go at. The National Trust website has some activities too over here.

Did you know that October 21st is the 25th anniversary of Apple Day? It was first initiated by the UK charity Common Ground and is celebrated with Apple Day and weekend events all over the country. Our local National Trust place (Morden Hall Park) had an apple day this weekend with local varieties to try.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

Apple Pigs is a much-loved book – and a classic story told in rhyme. It is based on a true story – Ruth Orbach’s editor listened to the tale over dinner, and said it must be written down – and here it is! Warning – make sure you have plenty of apples at home while reading, as you may well end up dashing into the kitchen afterwards, finding yourself suddenly inspired by the mention of some of the apple-based desserts!

Apple Pigs is available now, with a RRP of £9.99, available from Amazon and all good bookstores.

We were sent the book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own. Post contains affiliate link.

Maggi Li – Big City Sticker Book

We are big fans of Okido Magazine, and their Art Director Maggie Li – and we were sent the Big City Sticker Book, an accompaniment book to her previous Big City Explorer book which H enjoys reading.

Big City Sticker Book Final

Big City Sticker Book is a wonderful book packed full of stickers. Anyone familiar with Maggie Li’s Big City Explorer will recognise the cities on display. It is often said that one of the best ways to keep a small person amused when you’re travelling is to get them a sticker book – so why not go one better and get one which may even feature the place you’re visiting?

As with Big City Explorer, the Big City Sticker Book has a page for each city, with stickers towards the end of the book. There are over 350 stickers, and within each page you can learn about cities of the world.

Inside Big City Sticker Book by Maggie Li

There’s also a little 4×4 Sudoko puzzle with stickers on each page – something which I know appeals to H as she recently got into doing the puzzles herself. The stickers can all be found at the back of the book – and once you’ve completed a page you can award yourself a penguin sticker to go inside the front and back covers, which is your passport.

We’ve recently been to Amsterdam, and several of the places we saw feature on the Amsterdam pages – H enjoyed identifying the buildings and placing the stickers on the correct space. I liked that it captures the buildings there perfectly – quite often I was amazed how they managed to fit it all together (some of those buildings are seriously wonky)!

Big City Sticker Book Sydney page

Big City Sticker Book by Maggie Li has a RRP of £9.99 and is available now!

We were sent Big City Sticker Book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own.

The Isle of the Lost – A Descendants Novel

We’re Parragon Book Buddies, and received The Isle of the Lost – A Descendants Novel by Melissa de la Cruz for our book this month.

The Isle of the Lost

The Isle of the Lost is a prequel to the Disney Channel film ‘Descendants’ – where all of the evil villains from Disney movies are banished from the Kingdom of Auradon to the Isle of the Lost. Now, by villains, we’re talking Maleficent (which I think the ‘Maleficent’ film itself would disagree she’s a villain, but hey!), Cruella de Vil, the Evil Queen and more.

Mal, Evie, Jay, and Carlos are their descendants, the children of the Isle’s characters who are now coming of age. They’ve been stripped of their magical powers and now live in total isolation, forgotten by the world.

To escape from The Isle of the Lost the children must find a Dragon’s Eye, hidden in the Forbidden Fortress – but only the cleverest, nastiest villain can find it.

Lots of Disney characters make an appearance in the book, and while H started to read it, I felt the content may be a little bit grown up for her, so we’re holding off for a little bit longer (she has only just turned six). Goodreads says its approximate age guide is around age 9-12 – so while the size of the book isn’t an issue, the content might be – so I’ll be having a read first!

The start of the book was enjoyable for her, and she did read a few chapters, but again, because of her age I’m going to be checking it carefully first.

With The Isle of the Lost being a prequel, it sets up the film well – anyone who is a fan of the movie will enjoy this, and I liked all the Disney cross references too.

The Isle of the Lost is available in all good bookstores now, including Amazon (click the image below to get there – affiliate link)

We were sent this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.