Thursday, 29 September 2016

366 Books in 366 Days: The Paper Dolls - Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb

"The Paper Dolls" is a beautiful book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. It was first published in 2012 by Macmillan. I have decided to review this book now as it is one of my four year old's current favourites and it brings me such joy to read it to her. The story is a real reminder of the magic of childhood and the power of little imaginations and our memories.


A young girl makes a string of five paper dolls with the help of her mother. They are called Ticky and Tacky and Jackie the Backie and Jim with two noses and Jo with the bow. We follow them as they dance and jump and sing. They encounter a dinosaur, a tiger and a crocodile. They stargaze, sniff flowers and even chat to a ladybird but their adventure is abruptly ended by a boy with a pair of scissors. Snip! Have the dolls gone forever? Of course not, they simply fly into the little girl's memory where, we are told, they join "white mice and fireworks, and a starfish soap, and a kind granny... and more and more lovely things each day and each year."

We then see the little girl grow up and become a mother. She helps her own young daughter to make a string of five paper dolls called Poppy and Pinkie and Binky the Blinkie and Fred with one eyebrow and Flo with the Bow, who also jump and dance and sing!

This gentle story is very different from some of Julia Donaldson's better known books. It is incredibly moving and whenever I read it, I admit, I come close to tears! It shows that a little imagination can take us all on amazing adventures and highlights the true power of childhood memories. It could also be a useful story to introduce the concept of loss to young children.

Rebecca Cobb's lovely and almost child like illustrations fit so well with the text. This really is a great book to share together. The ending makes it a perfect book for mums to read to daughters or grandmothers to granddaughters, or in our case, on occasion, all three generations together!

It even inspired us to make our own paper dolls.


Why not make your own paper dolls and take them on an adventure? Where would they go? What would they see and do? Who would they meet?


Read With Me

We're going on an adventure

Monday, 26 September 2016

A 3 MONTH BLOGGERVERSARY?

When I started blogging in June to keep track of our family reading challenge, I had no idea what I was about to embark on. Three months later and, although I remain very much a novice blogger, I wanted to mark Along Came Poppy's bloggerversary by reflecting upon my experiences so far.

So, what have I learned?

  • I am a bit (OK very) technically inept! I was very proud of myself when I initially set up the blog but three months on and I am yet to go self hosted and still have daily issues with formatting. Navigating the blogosphere has itself been quite challenging too but with a few pointers from some brilliant bloggers, I am starting to find my feet. The following posts have been particularly useful:
  • Top Tips for a Successful Blog from A Mum Track Mind
  • Bamboozled by Blogging from Over Heaven’s Hill
  • Blogging is incredibly time consuming. I quickly discovered that writing content is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blogging. I spend a lot (probably too much) time on social media. I also join in with linky parties to share my posts with other bloggers and read other blogs for inspiration. I confess I don't have much spare time with two little ones at home all the time so it is a good job I am a night owl!
  • There is an amazing and supportive network of bloggers out there willing to share their own tips and technical knowledge. I have found these linkys particularly encouraging to join in with:
  • KCACOLS hosted by A Moment With Franca  
  • Word of the Week hosted by The Reading Residence
  • Read With Me hosted by Mama Mummy Mum

Our achievements:

  • As well as reviewing a vast number of children's books and sharing our recommendations on the blog, I also decided to share a little about our family life. I have particularly enjoyed raising awareness of Ectodermal Dysplasia, Jeans for Genes Day and National Eczema Week. 
  • I have been amazed by the number of visitors we have had to the blog and I have been completely overwhelmed by the positive feedback we have received. I am thrilled each time someone tells me they have enjoyed a book we have recommended and I love reading your comments!
  • Our three most popular posts so far have been:
  • Word of the week: Kindness
  • 366 Books in 366 Days: Miffy’s Birthday Review and Giveaway
  • Review: H is for Haemodialysis
  • However, the post that makes me smile the most is: A poem to my daughter on her first day of school
  • Pre-blogging I was already fairly active on Twitter and Instagram. I continue to post our daily book choice photos to Instagram. We now have over 880 followers on IG and 1,640 on Twitter.

Looking to the future:

  • I aim to continue to post at least one bookish post a week and a Word of the Week post, which may relate to family life, parenting, days out or blogging (a bit of everything). I will continue to do product reviews as and when the opportunities arise.
  • I intend to go self hosted but I am currently slightly terrified by this prospect. I wish I had chosen to be self hosted from the start - why didn't I listen to all the experienced bloggers out there?!
  • I would like to build relationships with authors, illustrators and publishers, and perhaps, join in with a Book Blog Tour at some stage (if we are very lucky).
  • We do have a few other product reviews in the pipeline and I hope to do a bit of vlogging with the Mini Reviewers as they enjoy making little videos!
  • Most importantly I hope that we continue to enjoy our #366booksin366days reading challenge and everything the blog brings. Here's to the next three months!

Thank you for reading and for your continuing support.
Kate and the Mini Reviewers x

The Reading Residence
Word of the Week: Bloggerversary!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Review: Childs Farm Toiletries #NationalEczemaWeek

Did you know that 17th - 25th September 2016 is National Eczema Week? Well what better time to share our thoughts on some fantastic toiletries suitable for sensitive and eczema prone skin?

The two eldest Mini Reviewers suffer from eczema and we have to be very careful when choosing products to use on their skin. I am always on the look out for new toiletries and in particular bath time products. I recently came across Childs Farm, a UK brand, that claims to supply a range of toiletries for babies and children that are suitable for sensitive and eczema prone skin. After a quick exchange of emails, the lovely people at Childs Farm very kindly agreed to send me some of their products to try out.


We received this fantastic bundle of goodies:


Hair and Body Wash with Blackberry and Organic Apple

Bubble Bath with Organic Raspberry
Baby Oil with Organic Coconut

Baby Moisturiser with Shea and Cocoa Butter

We have been testing all these products over the last ten days. The first thing that struck us about the toiletries is the fantastic, yet very different smell of each one. The Bubble Bath with Raspberry and the Hair and Body Wash with Blackberry and Apple smell particularly delicious! Let's just say the Mini Reviewers were very excited for bath time to come.

Bath Products
At bath time I was quite liberal with the Bubble Bath (it does say to add a generous slug) and it produced some fantastic froth! This delighted the Mini Reviwers as they usually have an oil based bath additive, which is nowhere near as much fun and makes them very slippery to handle!
Theo, the bath Pixie!


I used the Hair and Body Wash on all three children’s hair. It was great. There were no tangles or tears even when faced with my four year old’s wild mane! I have found in the past that combined hair and body washes are not that effective on long hair so I was really impressed when Izzie's hair was left so shiny and soft, or as she would say, shimmery! We also used the Hair and Body Wash in the shower after her swimming lesson this week as the little bottle was the perfect size to pop in her Paddlepak.


I am pleased to say there was absolutely no skin irritation from these products. Unfortunately I cannot say that their eczema drastically improved but what I was really looking for was products that do not irritate their delicate skin further. I will certainly use these two in the future. (Please note that we continued to use their eczema creams during the testing period).


Baby Products
Poppy, our now 10 month old, got the lucky job of testing the baby products after bath time. I used the Baby Moisturiser and the Baby Oil alternately. The Baby Moisturiser with Shea Butter smells gorgeous and can be used all over to protect and hydrate skin. I found that it really did leave Poppy’s skin very soft and smooth. However, the Baby Oil with Organic Coconut was by far my preferred product as I found the oil to be perfect for baby massage. The spray bottle means it is difficult (I would even go as far as saying impossible) to dispense too much product. I just sprayed my palms a couple of times, warmed the oil by rubbing my hands together and then started the massage. I then used more oil as necessary. The oil went on beautifully and left Poppy’s delicate skin very soft and supple.

As this product is suitable for use on newborns, I would certainly recommend it to all new mums who want to introduce baby massage into their bedtime routine. I have found baby massage to be a very calm and relaxing way to settle little ones, I just have to avoid Poppy’s ticklish feet otherwise she gets the giggles!

*Disclaimer: I was sent the products by Childs Farm free for the purpose of this review. All opinions are, as always, my own.
We're going on an adventure

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Wear Jeans, Change Lives #JeansForGenesDay

Tomorrow it's Jeans for Genes Day in the UK. You may think (like I did) that genetic conditions are very rare. In fact 1 in 25 children born in the UK have a genetic disorder. That is an astounding 30,000 babies each year. The money raised from Jeans for Genes Day helps over 500,000 children living in the UK and this year one of the charities to benefit from the money raised is The Ectodermal Dysplasia Society.

Some of you may know that Ectodermal Dysplasia (ED) affects my family. I have previously written a little about the rare condition here. I have already received very helpful advice from The Ectodermal Dysplasia Society about obtaining treatment for my little boy as well as genetic testing during my last pregnancy. Our family will certainly need further support as our children grow up. Therefore this is a cause very close to my heart and I'll be wearing my T.Shirt in support! #JeansForGenes #JeansForGenesDay


To find out more about Jeans for Genes Day or to donate click here.

Monday, 19 September 2016

366 Books in 366 Days: Dog on a Train

We were recently sent a copy of “Dog on a Train, The Special Delivery” to review. Illustrated by Kate Prendergast, this picture book was first published in 2015 by Old Barn Books. The paperback version was released in July and Kate's second book, "Dog on a Digger" will be out in October 2016.
Here's the blurb:

“Boy is late for his train. Rushing out of the house, he drops his favourite hat. Luckily, Dog is there to pick it up. But will Dog catch Boy in time? Follow the plucky Dog on this wordless adventure through the streets in rush-hour crowds. Charming and humorous, Dog on a Train is a book to delight dog lovers and tired commuters alike.”

Our thoughts...

This is a wordless yet moving picture book about friendship and loyalty. Mini Reviewer, Theo (2) loves trains and dogs so this book was always going to be a winner in our house. What I didn’t appreciate was the impact a wordless book would have on our story time together.

When I first opened "Dog on a Train" I was struck by the unique style of the beautiful pictures, which are softly drawn in black, white and grey. Red is cleverly used to accentuate the boy’s trainers and hat. This makes it easy to pick out the dog with the hat and the boy throughout the story.

After initially admiring Kate's artwork, I realised that without words I didn’t know how to begin to tell the story. However, I quickly saw this as the perfect opportunity for the Mini Reviewers to take the lead in the storytelling. Izzie (4) was in her element and Theo quickly joined in. Not only describing what they saw in the pictures but adding their own thoughts. When they lost their flow I simply asked them a few questions and this was enough to encourage them to continue with their stories.

What I love about this book, and wordless books in general, is that re-telling the story is never quite the same. You never know what the children may add or where their focus will lie. Izzie made up a whole story about why the boy was late and Theo was fascinated by the dog's train journey. We have had lots of fun with this book together and we would certainly recommend giving wordless books a chance.

We are now compiling a list of other wordless books to include in our 366 books in 366 days reading challenge. So far these titles have been suggested to us:

  • Dog On a Digger by Kate Prendergast - available October 2016
  • Footpath Flowers by JonArno Lawson
  • Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
  • The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
  • Journey, Quest and Return (Trilogy) by Aaron Becker
  • Bee & Me - Alison Jay

Do you have any wordless recommendations we could add to our list?

*Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of this book through Toppsta to review. All opinions are, as always, our own.


Read With Me

Friday, 16 September 2016

366 Books In 366 Days: Axel Scheffler's Flip Flap Pets

We recently received a copy of "Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Pets" to review. Published by Nosy Crow, this is a new book for children ages 2-5.

It is no secret that, as a family, we love Axel Scheffler’s illustrations (especially Pip and Posy) but when I first saw this new book online I confess I was a little underwhelmed. I thought it just looked a bit gimmicky. However, now having had the pleasure of exploring it with the Mini Reviewers, I am delighted to say my first impressions were entirely wrong!


Flip Flap Pets is a fantastic interactive book for little ones. It is tough and spiral bound so will withstand being pulled around by sticky little hands. It has simple rhyming text and animal pictures that you can mix up to create new crazy new creatures.
It's a GOLDFARD!
It's a BUDGERBIL!
Have you heard of a Goldfard? How about a Budgerbil? No? Well neither had we until we read this book. There are apparently 121 possible animal combinations. We haven’t kept count ourselves but we have tried them all. There is certainly plenty in this book to ignite imaginations and keep little (and not so little) ones occupied for a very long time. The crazy creature combinations, bizarre names and funny rhymes have caused a lot of giggles in this house. We would definitely recommend it.


Flip Flap Pets has become a particular favourite of Theo (2) who is fascinated by the different animals he can make. There is also Flip Flap Farm, Flip Flap Jungle and Flip Flap Safari in this series. So if Theo's a good boy, perhaps Santa will bring him a few more!

Did you enjoy this review? Then why not check out our Pip and Posy reviews:

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of this book to review through Toppsta, however, all opinions are as always our own.


Read With Me

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Celebrating 100 Years of Roald Dahl #RoaldDahl100

Today marks 100 years since the birth of the world’s most imaginative storyteller, Roald Dahl. Like so many, I have such fond childhood memories of Dahl’s whimsical and sometimes pretty gruesome tales. I think we all have our own favourites, mine are “Matilda” and “The Twits” and I admit I was always a little (very) scared of The BFG!

At the moment my own children, the Mini Reviewers, are too young to fully appreciate the greatest of Dahl and so we have only read a couple of his shorter books together. The first story we read was “The Magic Finger”. This may seem like an unusual choice but we picked it up when we were on our summer holiday and we read it straight away. Then last week we borrowed a selection of Dahl books from the library and yesterday we read “The Enormous Crocodile” together.

I was concerned that even these books may still be a little long and, perhaps, a little scary for the Mini Reviewers. However, there was no need to worry. Both Izzie (4) and Theo (2) have been completely captivated and amused by Dahl's stories so far. They found “The Enormous Crocodile” particularly hilarious and are now really looking forward to reading the other books we borrowed from the library: “Revolting Rhymes”, “Esio Trot” and “The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me”.




As many people are familiar with Roald Dahl’s books, instead of reviewing one of his stories today, I would like to share three of my favourite Dahl quotes and raise a glass of Willy Wonka’s “fizzy lifting drink” to their gloriumptious author!

The Twits

Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator

Do you have a favourite Roald Dahl book? 
Are you celebrating 100 years of Dahl?

The Reading Residence
Word of the Week: Dahl

Friday, 9 September 2016

366 Books in 366 Days: Amelie and the GREAT OUTDOORS

Today we are reviewing “Amelie and the GREAT OUTDOORS” a picture book written by Fiona Barker with illustrations by Rosie Brooks and published by Matador earlier this year (2016). We have recently included this book in our 366 books in 366 days reading challenge. You can read more about our challenge here.


The story is a real celebration of all the fun you can have when you simply step outside. The main character is a little girl called Amelie. We are told that she lived at the top of a tall, tall tower and always stayed indoors. With no computer games, no toys and no telly, what could the great outdoors really offer her?

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A poem to my daughter on her first day of school

Izzie started school today and we all managed to get through it without any tears - hooray! As Izzie LOVES to rhyme I wrote this for her. Another example of my very bad but love-filled poetry!

The day has come, it’s finally here,
The wait is over, the school gate is near.
Over-sized uniform, navy blue,
Looking so grown up, is it really you?

Almost five, a baby no more,
Excited yet anxious, we open the door,
Book bag in hand, we step in together,
Side by side, a moment to treasure.

A quick kiss and a cuddle as we say goodbye.
I quickly head home and try not to cry.
For I could not be prouder of you,
All that you are and all that you do.

Independent. Determined.  A right chatterbox.
My little genius in knee-high white socks.
I love you sweetie more than you’ll ever know,

But it’s your first day at school so off you must go.
(KE September 2016)

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Word of the Week: Squeeze

So this week we have tried to SQUEEZE in as much as possible before Izzie starts school on Tuesday.

We kicked off the weekend with a family trip to the wonderful Rainbow Factory in Leeds for some storytelling fun. The children got to dress up, listen to stories, sing songs and play lots of games. They also had an action packed tour of the displays which currently feature models of well known Heroes and Villains such as the BFG, the Big Bad Wolf and Captain Hook. There were also plenty of craft activities in Goldilocks’ Kitchen to keep them busy. The staff (as always) were fantastic and did everything possible to ensure each child had a truly magical experience. If you are near Leeds, it is well worth a visit!

Rainbow Factory Fun
Next we managed to complete Izzie’s summer list (remember that rainbow day?!), well this week we had a quick trip to the local airfield for some plane spotting and then a brilliant Fimo modelling session. Having Izzie make her own summer list was so successful and really does prove that kids have the best ideas!

Fimo Models
Midweek we met up with Izzie’s best buddy and visited York Maze. They have been friends since they were babies and it was our last trip together before they both start at different schools. The weather was glorious and we had a really great day. It was our first trip to the maze and this year’s fabulous design was inspired by Roald Dahl to commemorate 100 years since his birth (1916). We might have got a little lost around the Enormous Crocodile’s teeth. The maze closes next week but the global celebration of Roald Dahl’s birthday will take place on 13th September 2016. You can find out more about other Roald Dahl events here.


Photo: York Maze


We now have a very exciting week ahead of us as Izzie is going to be Flower Girl at a family wedding. Then it is her first day at school. I think we might be ready, well the uniform is, but emotionally perhaps not! I will certainly be packing some tissues.

The summer really does seem to have flown by. I hope you have all enjoyed the holidays as much as we have.



The Reading Residence