Book reviews - First Experiences

This is a new page which I hope will be beneficial for parents and teachers. Children face many changing and unfamiliar situations in their young lives and there are some superb books to help them understand new situations. Along with this, I have included books on handling emotions. I will be adding to this page, but you will find many more similar titles on the picture book pages as listed alongside. The most recent reviews are at the top of this page - so these are generally the most recently published books.

The Disappointment Dragon: Learning to cope with disappointment (for all children and dragon tamers, including those with Asperger syndrome) (Children's Colour Story Books) by K.I. Al-Ghani

This interesting series from Jessica Kingsley Publishers takes feelings commonly experienced by children and tells a story to help children manage their emotions. When things don't go our way, the Disappointment Dragon can come to visit and take us down to his home in the Valley of Despair. He visits Bobby when he is not picked for the school football team, he also finds Lucinda when she has to miss an exciting school trip because she has the Chicken Pox. He even tries to take the whole of Class Three down to the Valley of Despair when their favourite teacher moves away. I like the way the story addresses a range of issues, making it pertinent in many situations. Will the Dragon of Hope be able to chase away the Disappointment Dragon and help them see things more positively? The lively characters will appeal to children, and help them understan and express their emotions.

The Green-Eyed Goblin: What to do about jealousy - for all children including those on the Autism Spectrum by K.I. Al-Ghani

This is the story of the wakening of a Green-Eyed Goblin. When Theo sees his sister getting lots of attention for her birthday, his sleeping goblin wakes and he can't seem to stop himself from saying all the horrid things the nasty goblin's green mist is making him think. Will Theo learn how to send his Green-Eyed Goblin back to sleep in time for the party? The style of the text and illustrations is suitable for a wide age range, making the series good for 5 to 13 year olds. The series goes beyond the norm, by addressing specific learning issues children may have, thereby giving an added element of value and application.

Winston Wallaby Can’t Stop Bouncing: What to do about hyperactivity in children including those with ADHD, SPD and ASD by K I Al-Ghani

Winston Wallaby, like most Wallabies, loves to bounce. However, Winston can't ever seem to sit still and when he starts school he needs help to concentrate... Does this sound like your child? Luckily his teacher Mrs Calm shows Winston how to settle down and focus his mind in class, and he learns new ways to help him with touch, feel, attention and awareness. With colourful lively illustrations, this storybook will help children aged 5-10 with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) recognise their sensory needs and develop tools to support them. Children can readily identify with the animals who feature in the stories; this removes them a step and lets them feel in control of their reading of the story, able to identify as much or as little as they like with the storyline and characters.

The Red Beast: Controlling Anger in Children with Asperger's Syndrome by K.I. Al-Ghani

Anger lies within us all; the important thing is to manage it. Rufus is in the school playground when his friend John kicks a ball that hit him in the stomach, and wakes up the sleeping red beast: `I hate you - I'm gonna get you!'. The red beast doesn't hear the teacher asking if he's okay. It doesn't see that John is sorry - how can Rufus tame the red beast? The fun characters in this charming, fully illustrated storybook will help children to cope with, and discuss openly, their feelings. There are many creative suggestions in each book on how to cope with the situations, and an introduction for adults explaining children's feelings and how they can be helped. These hardback books are an excellent resource for school and nursery use; they stimulate discussion and foster understanding. Topics are sensitively handled and children will find the story reassuring.

You Make Your Parents Super Happy!: A book about parents separating by Richy K Chandler

Anything that helps young children cope with traumatic times in their lives is really valuable, and the simple approach of this reassuring book is perfect for 3 to 5 year olds. It shows, through straightforward text and attractive graphic images, why some parents have to live in different places. Despite that, children remain special to both parents; the story reassures them that both parents will keep looking after them, and love them just as before. The love parents retain for children is paramount in the book.

Flu Bug: Volume 1 (Life's Little Bugs) by T Stubbs

Life's Little Bugs is a series of small format story books which address a series of really important issues for young children. In Flu Bug, children learn that colds and coughs aren't much fun but Flu Bug thinks it's all in a day's work to share himself around! Find out why the pigs don't want to cough and the birds don't want to wheeze. Read his fun, rhyming story and find out how we can make life a little more difficult for him by following a few simple rules - these are practical and easy for children to follow, and well explained. Tummy Bug is another health-based story, and children will respond well to Tummy Bug and his swirling and rather unhygienic tummy of green and yellow. Jeff the cat and Mrs Beamer keep him away and in simple language, explain how children can prevent those nasty illnesses by reading where Tummy Bug Lives and then put into practice doing the things he doesn’t! The stories are fun and lively, and really encourage children to reason on what they are reading. Attractively presented, the illustrations are delightful. I like the approach, which is very child-friendly and effective.

Fitness Bug by T Stubbs

Another important concept, nicely explained in child-friendly language, Fitness Bug loves healthy eating and exercise. Join him in his story and read how he helps others, like ‘Stan the Frog’ who is too much of a ‘lump to jump’. Read how he helps change their sluggish ways for a more fun and happier lifestyle! It's very effective. Think positive! Not like Hum Bug, who is that miserable little bug who always says ‘I can’t!’ Enjoy reading how positive thinking helps Hum Bug to think ‘I can!’ and what a positive change it makes to his life and those around him. We've all seen Litter Bug, haven't we? Make sure your child isn't a Litter Bug with the gentle message in this book about Litter Bug, who is a silly bug that thinks it is fun to drop litter with his sidekick ‘Fly’ always close by. Read how PC Blue changes Litter Bug’s messy ways by making him understand the harm he is causing to the environment and how he can help. Doodle Bug is obsessed with drawing on ... everything! Always ready with a spare paint brush in his hat. Read how he upsets others through his disrespect of their things and how a little thoughtfulness gives a happy ending... and a positive way to doodle! An attractive series of books, ideal for both home and pre-school use, full of practical ideas and fun to read.

Why Do I Have To Say Please And Thank You? (The Life and Soul Library) by Emma Waddington

The subtitle of this book is 'Big issues for little people around behaviour and manners'. The book explores 12 issues focusing on behaviour and manners; the scenarios and questions have been devised by two child psychologists, and they provide the ideal basis for children to discuss their feelings and ask questions. So adults can use the book (as well as the others in the series) to the best advantage, there is an introductory section 'How to use this book' which explains four steps to using the book. Questions in this book include 'Do I have to say I'm sorry even when I'm not sorry?' and 'Why do I have to use a fork?' Each question is asked as part of a scenario, with additional questions to pose to children, as well as additional information for adults. The book really helps adults to understand how children feel, and offers practical answers.

Why Are People Different Colours? (The Life and Soul Library) by Chris McCurry

'Big Issues for Little People about Identity and Diversity' is the subtitle. Following the section on how to use the book, there are four pages of very useful advice for adults, including 'How will this book help you to talk to a child?', 'How is a child's behaviour connected to their developing brain?' and 'Why is what you say to a child important?' These are profound questions, with comprehensive answers that will really help; similar questions feature in each book of the series. Each fully-illustrated spread poses questions around the theme of identity and diversity, helping children to understand different ethnic structures, cultures, and ages and generations. Another excellent book which tackles an important topic.

Why Don't We All Live Together Anymore? (Life & Soul Library) by Emma Waddington

Big issues for little people after a family break-up explains the purpose of this book. I am really impressed with the questions asked and answered in this book - we may think we know what concerns children but here there are questions you may well not have thought of: 'Will I have to go to a different school?'; 'What about the cat?' and 'Why are you always being mean about Daddy?' Again, each question has a two-page illustrated spread. Speech bubbles give points for adults to consider - 'What do you think Ibrahim is thinking about?', 'What would it be like to have two homes?' and 'Who gets to decide where children live?'. There is so much in these books to help adults, whether at home or in a childcare setting.

Why Do I Have To Eat My Greens? (The Life & Soul Library) by Emma Waddington

Subtitled 'Big issues for little people around health and well-being' this book covers a wide range of subjects with the common theme of healthy lives. Each question in all of the books has a section which addresses the issues behind children's questions, and helps adults to understand the issues from the child's point of view - this is excellently done with well reasoned thoughts that will help adults to give effective answers. This really is an excellent series - it takes common issues and really helps adults to gain an understanding of what lies behind the questions children ask; and we need to encourage the asking of questions, which is a key part of growing up and learning.

Grandma Comes to Stay (First Experiences) by Ifeoma Onyefulu

Wherever you live, first experiences are universal, so the stories in this new series will encourage children to relate to new experiences and well as introducing the viewpoint of a different culture. Young children face so many new experiences in their lives, and the best way to prepare them is to discuss the situations and familiarise them with what to expect. The simple read-aloud words and beautiful photos in this series are an excellent springboard for discussion. In this story which is set in Ghana, Stephanie is getting everything ready because Grandma is coming to stay. When Grandma arrives, she has lots of exciting things to share with Stephanie - how to wear traditional dress, reading her favourite book and taking her to see real-life dancers at a festival. It's not all one-sided though - Stephanie shows Grandma how to kick a ball, ride a bike and play the drum. It's a delightful celebration of different generations and how they can learn from each other.

Deron Goes to Nursery School (First Experiences) by Ifeoma Onyefulu

Deron and his mum get ready for Deron's first day at a Ghanaian nursery school. Like all young children, he is rather apprehensive but when he arrives, he soon settles. He meets his teacher and the other children, does a bit of writing, sings and dances, has lunch and a little rest - and when he gets home, he can't wait to go back again and play with his new friends. It's a very different experience from a nursery school in this country, but with plenty of similarities too. An excellent way to teach about another culture as children enjoy the superb photos and spot the similarities and the differences.

Hello School by Angie Rozelaar

Big and bright, this colourful chunky board book is full of pushes,pulls and spins, all perfect for little hands. The bell rings, the children wave - welcome to a fun-filled day at school.  This big, beautifully illustrated board book has easy-to-handle mechanisms making it perfect for young, inquisitive fingers and minds! The board book format and the level of the content make this more suitable for children starting nursery rather than 'big' school and it offers lots of opportunities to talk about the activities that take place.

School (My New) by Jillian Powell

Starting school is a huge step for children and parents can't do too much to prepare them. This is one in a reassuring series which uses specially commissioned photography to introduce young children to common new and first experiences.  It's Aryan's first day at school and we follow him through a busy and eventful day.  The book gives parents plenty of opportunity and ideas for discussion, and there are hints on making the best of it. It's easy for children to identify with the story as it is told from a child's viewpoint and explains that how they feel is perfectly usual. At the end, there is advice for adults on handling difficult situations. An excellent series.

Can You Make Me Better? (Side by Side) by Ann de Bode

I am very enthusiastic about first experiences books, as they provide an excellent way to inform and reassure children when they, or their friends and family, face new situations. Rosie needs an operation on her heart, and despite the fact that mum stays with her and everyone is kind, she still feels scared. Sensitively written, the story shows children what to expect and reassures them that it is OK to be anxious. Make use of the pictures with your child - sharing and talking about these will give plenty of opportunity for your child to question. Look out for the rest in this excellent series.

Betsy Goes to School (A Betsy First Experiences Book) by Helen Stephens

Betsy is a lovely new character who is here to help children understand and cope with some of the many new experiences they face in their young lives. Making 'friends' with a friendly character like Betsy is a great way to show children what they can expect and how to cope with new experiences. It's Betsy's first day at school but she's a bit scared - it's big and noisy - but she soon fits in. Told from a child's perspective, this is reassuring and a good way to introduce children to the things they will encounter at school. She's not a girly girl, either, so I think boys will enjoy the books too. The illustrations have a nicely traditional feel and yet are bright and contemporary, with plenty of detail to explore and discuss.

Walter and the No-Need-To Worry Suit by Rachel Bright

This is the first in a new series from the Wonderful World of Walter and Winnie. First experiences - all children worry about at least some of them, and exploring and reassuring through the medium of stories is one of the best ways to address concerns. Walter is the arch-worrier and as the Seriously Competitive Sports and Funday approaches, Walter worries about all the things that could go wrong - they are both hilarious and unlikely. Luckily, Walter has the support of his fellow Woollybottomers to help, showing that, whatever happens if we have friends then we don't need to worry.  A gentle and reassuring story, strikingly illustrated, which is perfect for sharing both one-to-one and with a group of children.

I Didn't Do it!: A Book About Telling the Truth (Our Emotions and Behaviour) by Sue Graves

This is a very useful and practical series and it's good to see new titles introduced. Poppy doesn't always tell the truth at home - or at school either. Not only does she not own up, but she puts the blame on other children so they get into trouble - but they turn the tables and Poppy learns a valuable lesson. A simple storyline makes it easy for children to understand and encourages them to think about the consequences of not telling the truth. This series introduces young children to different aspects of our emotions and behaviour. A fictional story is backed up by suggestions for activities and ideas to talk about, while a wordless storyboard encourages children to tell another story, this time about Ellie and some plants.

Take a Deep Breath: A Book About Being Brave (Our Emotions and Behaviour) by Sue Graves

Josh doesn't like people looking at him and he's in the school play! Can Miss Button help him to be brave? And can Miss Button be brave when she is faced by something she doesn't like? The enjoyable story will help children cope with their fears - it focuses on everyday happenings in a reassuring way. The storyboard at the end gives children the chance to make up their own story based on the pictures of Jess and the big slide, and is an excellent way to encourage children to express their feelings. There are also useful suggestions for adults to extend the value of the book.

I'm Busy (Feelings) by Clare Hibbert

Young children's emotions seem to be a roller-coaster sometimes and it's hard to explain and help them. This friendly and approachable story with its pages concentrating on a series of emotions is perfect to stimulate discussion and to encourage children to vocalise their feelings. Children are depicted enjoying various everyday activities and the emotions they feel are expressed. Each emotion is shown on the bottom of the pages so it's easy to encourage children to discuss how each picture makes them feel. Feelings is a large-format, highly illustrated series for very young children which explores feelings and emotions, with an emphasis on expressing - and learning to manage those feelings.

My Busy Day (Busy Times) by Clare Hibbert

An interesting and unusual book which can be used on many levels - a story, all about my day, naming objects, telling the time (every page shows a clock or watch (although these are quite small) and spotting and discussing the small pictures in the circles. The lively pictures have a strong multi-cultural element making the book ideal to use in a variety of settings. It really opens up discussion and gives adults the opportunity to encourage conversation. The extremely useful Notes for adults at the end provide many ideas for using the book, themed around the EYFS Practice Guidance.

I Hate Everything!: A Book About Feeling Angry (Our Emotions and Behaviour) by Sue Graves

Sharing books like this with your child, or with a class of children, is an excellent way to get a message across without making the child feel upset or embarrassed - or as though he is being 'got at'. Poor Sam - everything seems to be going wrong but when Aunty Jen takes the time to talk to him, he soon feels better. At the end children are encouraged to tell the story of what happened when George got his hair cut. The books in this well thought-out series conclude with two very practical pages about sharing the book - full of excellent advice to maximise the value of the books.

But What If? A Book About Feeling Worried (Our Emotions and Behaviour) by Sue Graves

An excellent way to help your child understand her emotions. Daisy is moving house but she is worried about... well, everything really. When she confides in Grandpa, she learn that he used to get worried too and his positive approach is perfect to reassure Daisy. After the story there are four pictures showing Harry going to a party and the child is asked to tell the story. This is excellent for sharing and encouraging discussion, whether one to one or as a group. As adults, we can all learn from the approach taken in this series.

Childminder (My New) by Jillian Powell

This is one in a reassuring new series which uses specially commissioned photography to introduce young children to common new and first experiences. It's easy for children to identify with the story as it is told from a child's perspective and explains the way they feel. This story, about Jack and his new childminder Sarah shows children that is is perfectly OK to feel worried and gives parents plenty of opportunity and ideas for discussion. At the end, there is advice for adults on handling difficult situations. An excellent series.

Ife's First Haircut (First Experiences) by  Ifeoma Onyefulu

Introducing children to new experiences through the medium of books is invaluable - either read them as any normal story book so the situation becomes familiar long before it happens, or use them when a specific new experience is due, to give children the opportunity to become familiar and to ask questions. The time has come for Ife to have his first haircut and whether you live in Nigeria, like Ife, or in the UK, it can still be a slightly unsettling experience. Children will be reassured when they see Uncle Mike carefully cutting Ife’s hair with his scissors and a comb - and then there's a celebration afterwards. Very different to our culture and an interesting look at how things are done in other countries. Perhaps if you are looking at showing your child the experience of going to a hairdresser, though, you may want to read another book as well.

Vicky Goes to the Doctor (First Experiences) by Ifeoma Onyefulu

Poor Vicky - Mama knows she is not feeling well when she doesn't want to eat or play with her friends - so it's off to the doctor. Set in Nigeria, the backgrounds (depicted in excellent colour photos) \are different but the doctor does the same things. A reassuring story which soon shows Vicky restored to full health; it also provides a very interesting cultural insight and the chance to discuss the differences with your child. This series is an excellent way to introduce children to common experiences shared around the world, even though the background is very different.

Dear Panda by Miriam Latimer

Florence has moved house and, of course, she is anxious about starting a new school and making new friends. But then she has a very good idea, and writes to the panda in the zoo next door and soon she has her very own friend. And Panda helps her to get to know her new classmates and to make her own special friend. A delightful story which takes an unusual look at settling in to a new school. The delightful illustrations add to the reassuring message of the book.

Jellybean Goes to School by Margaret Roc

Like nearly all children, Jellybean is both keen to go to school and anxious as well. When Jellybean's mum leaves her at school, her nice new teacher introduces her to Alex and together the two have some wonderfully exciting and imaginative adventures. The story manages to introduce all aspects of the school day in a simple and reassuring manner and parents can make good use of the illustrations to expand on what happens at school.

Are You Sad, Little Bear? A Book About Learning to Say Goodbye by Rachel Rivett

A touching and emotional story aimed at helping young children to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. Grandmother Bear has gone for ever, so it's no wonder that Little Bear is feeling sad. His mother wisely suggests that perhaps the Wildwood can help him understand his loss. Little Bear's day of exploring and asking questions brings him comfort and hope. The autumnal setting of the book provides the perfect background, as in the Wildwood things are drawing to a close and changes are afoot. A sensitive way to explore a very difficult subject with beautiful illustrations by Tina Macnaughton..

Maisy Learns to Swim by Lucy Cousins

A swimming pool can be quite a noisy and bewildering place for a toddler, so give them the chance to talk about what happens as they share Maisy's experiences on her very first swimming lesson. There's lots of hustle and bustle in the changing room and – wow! – the pool looks SO big and it's ever so splish-splashy! But Maisy finds that all her friends are there and the teacher is great fun, so she can't wait to go back again. Sharing books like this with your child helps prepare and give the opportunity for discussion after the new experience. And Maisy is such a fun, friendly character!

Moving House (The Big Day) by Nicola Barber

In all the excitement and stress of moving house, it's easy to overlook how hard it can be for young children to understand what is going on. This colourful book, which is sensitively written, explores what will happen and by discussing the book together beforehand, you can explain what will happen and address your child's concerns to ensure the move is a happy one for all the family. There is a useful list of other books and websites to use, which adds to the value of this book..

Lulu Loves Nursery by Camilla Reid

This is Lulu's first outing in picture book format, and she's lost none of her charm. She's off to  nursery, and she is worried because she has such fun with mummy and she doesn't want to leave her. But Lulu is very brave when mummy leaves and soon she is having lots of fun and makes new friends. When mummy comes to collect her, there is so much to talk about - and even a special certificate from her teacher (there's one for your child too). It's a reassuring story, perfect to share before the big day comes. It would be great if Lulu had a twin brother, so we can have a similar series for little boys (although having said that, Lulu's Lunch is one of my grandson's favourite books!).

Not Giving Up: I Can Do it (A First Look At) by Lesley Harker

These are just two titles in an extensive series that looks at all sorts of situations young children may face.This  book helps children to understand why it is rewarding to persevere with a task. and that things that come easily are not the most worthwhile. It encourages children, through child-friendly language, to try things even if they go wrong at first and so builds confidence. Discussion boxes offer an adult opportunities to discuss the issues directly with their child audience. The illustrations are true to life and there is plenty in them to act as a stimulus to further discussion. Notes for teachers and parents, plus suggested further resources, help adults to make the most of the learning opportunities in the book.

Being Brave: Why Do I Feel Scared? (A First Look At) by Lesley Harker

This delightful picture book explores what it means to be brave. Bravery can take many forms - bravery means trying in even little things; it means not minding being different - but it doesn't mean never being afraid. The book really gets inside the way children feel so they will feel that they are understood. What I particularly like about this series is the fact that, as well as the common situations covered in books of this type, the books also look at less commonly covered situations - a parent in the armed forces, same sex parents and the death of a pet. An excellent series.

I Love My Daddy (I Love My...Picture Books) by David Bedford

A simple but very reassuring story, ideal for dads to share with their child at bedtime. Little Squirrel is having fun playing, but then he keep getting stuck and is worried that it might happen again. Daddy Squirrel reassures him and they have a wonderful game together. A lovely book to build confidence in a timid child and the illustrations are charming.

Too Small for My Big Bed by Amber Stewart

One of those milestones that are so pivotal in children's lives - the move to a big bed. Sometimes it is an easy transition, but pre-empt any problems by sharing this reassuring book with your child well before the big day comes. Piper is brave and fearless - by day, anyway. But at night he still wants the reassurance of Mummy close by. Sensitively, Mummy shows Piper that he is big enough and brave enough to do things on his own - including sleeping in his own bed all night.