Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

A Vulpes Libris round-up of fun and fabulous picture books

goodlittlewolfGood Little Wolf, by Nadia Shireen.

How to be a Real Wolf:

1) Howl at the moon.

2) Blow houses in.

3) Eat people up.

Once upon a time there was a wolf called Rolf – a good little wolf who liked baking cakes and was always kind to his friends. But real wolves aren’t supposed to be good – they’re supposed to be big and bad. Will Rolf discover the Big Bad Wolf inside him?

Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen is the newest addition to our library and is already a favourite. When little Rolf meets a much bigger, badder wolf, he is forced to ask some questions about his own identity, his need to fit in, and his desire to meet societal expectations; big questions for a little wolf. Rolf does not fit the Big Bad Wolf’s definition of a “real wolf” but instead discovers his own brand of wolfish activism. However, there is a twist in the tale and at the end of the book the reader is confronted with the very real possibility that Rolf might have been eaten, which some children will find hilarious, and others will … not. Also, a big thumbs up for the wonderful South Park-esque illustrations, which serve to make the story even more dramatic and amusing.

Good Little Wolf: Random House Children’s. Paperback, £5.99 ISBN 978-1-780-08001-7.

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen.


Another picture book with a dark side: I Want My Hat Back is a weird and wonderful tale about a bear who quite simply wants his hat back, and who can blame him? It’s a great hat.

The bear approaches the other animals he encounters with one question: “Have you seen my hat?” Nobody admits to having seen the hat in question, and the bear is disconsolate, until he remembers that he has in fact seen his hat, because a certain dishonest rabbit was wearing it. The reader is left to interpret the ending of the book, with the sneaking suspicion that the rabbit’s dishonesty had severe consequences for the rabbit.

I Want My Hat Back is a book with a huge adult following, but I’m not sure how popular it is with very small children. My own three-year-old doesn’t seem particularly interested in the book, even though her mother is very keen to read it and giggle at it every single night. I suspect the moral complexity is a little advanced for her and she doesn’t see humour in something that she mentally marks as “very bad behaviour”. Perhaps it is, then, as others have suggested in reviews, more fitting as a picture book for adults or even teenagers? The book apparently has an internet following and made a splash on Tumblr, and I can appreciate how reading this in a group setting whilst drunk and/or stoned would be an exercise in hilarity (although I cannot confirm this impression).

I Want My Hat Back: Walker, £6.99, paperback. ISBN 978-1-4063-3853-9

The Littlest Bird, by Gareth Edwards and Elina Ellis.

thelittlestbirdThere were seven green birds

in a beautiful best

at the top of a tree

where the view was the best.

But the Littlest Bird

didn’t like it at all

for the beautiful nest

was incredibly small.

This is probably my daughter’s favourite bedtime story at the moment. There’s something about a fed-up little bird, squashed in a tiny nest and desperate to make a break for freedom and space, that appeals to my daughter (and perhaps I shouldn’t analyse that too closely…). In addition to a family of the cutest birds you’ve ever seen, the book also features a nice mother dragon, an adorable baby dragon and a happy ending, because the Littlest Bird quickly realises how much she misses her mother and siblings – even if the nest is crowded – and on the final page there is a wonderful family reunion. The illustrations are soft and appealing and not too intense before bedtime. Definitely recommended for preschoolers.

The Littlest Bird: Piccadilly Press, 32 pages, paperback, £6.99, ISBN-13: 978-1848123335.

Troll and the Oliver, by Adam Stower.

trollandtheoliver_ Every day, Oliver goes to the shops and every day, Troll tries to eat him. But catching an Oliver is not as easy as it looks.

Troll and the Oliver is a story about a devious troll and a clever young boy locked in a recurring lunchtime battle of wits. It’s quite an exciting, tense book, and even though the story ends happily with a delightful cake picnic (two of my favourite words right there), there are some hairy moments throughout and at one point things look very bleak for Oliver. I find this story works better as a day read than an evening one, as certain parts of it are a little alarming.

The book’s illustrations have a cool, cartoony style and on its final page the book even features a recipe for blue Troll Cupcakes, which we will be making for a Halloween treat.

Troll and the Oliver: Templar Publishing, hardback, £10.99. ISBN 978-1-84877-352-3.

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

stickmanThe world is a dangerous place for Stick Man. A dog wants to play with him. A swan builds her nest with him. He even ends up on a fire! Will he ever get back to the family tree?

Stick Man is one of those picture books that I’d heard about from other parents but, for some reason, I hadn’t bought it. I don’t know why, either, because Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are a wonderful team and we have several of their other books at home, including The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale and Tiddler, which are all great. But Stick Man…something about it put me off, possibly because of all the sticks I’ve seen crunched up by dogs over the years. Wouldn’t Stick Man be a bit sad?

Well, it is a bit sad, at first, as Stick Man falls into the hands and jaws of various individuals who only see a stick and not a stick man. But thankfully there is a happy resolution to the tale and the book even ends with a Christmas scene and an appearance from Santa Claus, which cheers things up a great deal.

For the Vulpes Libris interview with Julia Donaldon, please click here for Part One, and click here for Part Two.

Stick Man: Alison Green Books – Scholastic, £4.99, paperback. ISBN 978-1-407132-32-7.


Again! by Emily Gravett.


Again! is the tale of a mother dragon reading a bedtime story (“Cedric the Dragon”) to a very small dragon, who just can’t get enough of Cedric’s story and exclaims: “Again!”

The mother dragon wearily reads the story again, only to be confronted with another “Again!” and so on until she is absolutely exhausted and falls asleep. Meanwhile, the little dragon becomes more and more irate, until the colour of his scales changes from green to red, and fire begins to brew in his throat…

I enjoyed the ‘story within the story’, as the fairytale of Cedric the Dragon was silly and fun. The possibility of tedious repetition was completely avoided as the mother dragon changes the story with each reading, in line with her own mounting frustration, which is rather amusing. The book ends with some pages scorched right through from dragon fire, which is a funny touch and emphasises just how heated (ahem) the situation has become between mother and child, but the point about children driving tired parents to their wits’ end with persistent demands, is neatly made, and I could see my daughter beginning to understand how reading the same story over and over could be tiresome.

Again!: Macmillan, £6.99, paperback: ISBN 978-0-330-54403-0.

If that hasn’t satisfied your picture book cravings, I’ll be back again with a further round-up of picture books next month.

7 comments on “A Vulpes Libris round-up of fun and fabulous picture books

  1. Megan
    October 9, 2013

    I Want My Hat Back has definitely been a huge hit in this household – I think it has more to do with the ridiculous way in which I read it than the actual substance of the story. It’s definitely one of my favourites too though!

  2. Lisa
    October 9, 2013

    Oh, it’s blooming brilliant, isn’t it? I would read it every night if I could. I think I just need to wait for my daughter to get a bit older so she can appreciate the humour more. I love reading the “Thank you anyway” line with increasing resignation and despair. Come to think of it, I Want My Hat Back is probably one of my favourite books of all time, and I imagine I’ll still be reading it in a decade or so. That’s the thing about picture books, though: even if you don’t have small children you can still enjoy them, and they’re usually cheaper than adult books and can be read with enjoyment over and over, whereas most adult books I’d only read once. Do you have any other favourites? I’m always on the hunt for excellent new picture books!

  3. Lisa
    October 9, 2013

    In fact, if anyone has recommendations for great picture books, please feel free to post them here, either with a line of summary and/or a link to a bookselling site. Authors are welcome to do this, too! Yes, please feed my book-buying habit…🙂

  4. Kate
    October 10, 2013

    You asked for it, but these may be a little elderly … Owl Babies, Each Peach Pear Plum, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, anything by Eric Curle, anything by Shirley Hughes, and I’ll hold a family memories summit at the weekend to see what else worked for us.

  5. Jackie
    October 10, 2013

    Oh my, what variety. That is a sorta scary troll, but the cupcake recipe is an amusing touch. I’ve never thought about sticks as having personalities, so that’s an interesting angle. That little dragon is adorable! I’d like to see more pictures from that one. Wonder if Google would have more? I like how they added dragon-y touches like the scales changing colors, etc.
    Not having kids(er, children), I had no idea of the sort of reading material that was out there, so I always enjoy your posts about picture books.

  6. Lisa
    October 11, 2013

    Owl Babies! Yes, that is on my list. Been meaning to get that one for ages. We have Each Peach Pear Plum and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, but will look up the others. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Jackie, it IS a cute baby dragon, isn’t it? Honestly, the artwork in some of these books is so wonderful that they’re worth buying for that if nothing else. And I’m with you on the sorta scary troll. I like him, but yes, he means business…

  7. Pingback: Poo Bum by Stephanie Blake | Vulpes Libris

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This entry was posted on October 9, 2013 by in Entries by Lisa, Fiction: children's.



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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