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Ann-Marie_B

Ann-Marie_B
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      03.09.2012 22:03
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      Troublesome

      After a few minor issues with our previous washer and dryer, the door latch eventually snapped off. Having to open the appliance carefully with the end of the spoon levered underneath the latch was quite simply the final straw and so we began our search for a new model.

      We purchased the Hotpoint Aquarius WDL40 from Argos around two years ago. It is however no longer available from Argos. This particular model is rather difficult to find online now, although I did eventually track it down on a website www.appliancehouse.co.uk. This appliance is priced at £440, though it is currently reduced to £410.00.

      The Aquarius WDL540 is white in colour. I am not entirely sure if there are other colour options available but as ours is nicely tucked away this colour suited us just fine. It does unfortunately show marks and stains which seem to appear from nowhere, though with two very young children in the house this is inevitable. It is easily wiped clean with a damp cloth or with an all purpose cleaner. The crevices can however be a little tricky to keep clean. Using an old toothbrush is quite effective for this.

      The dimension of this machine are as follows H85, W59.5, D56.5cm.

      The Aquarius WDL540 has a total of 16 washing programs. Despite the features and options available, the appearance is not too daunting as some appliances can be. We don't all have the time to meticulously read through the manuals of such machines but my husband and I managed to operate this without too much confusion.

      All of the controls are situated on the top front panel. The detergent draw has details of all the wash and dry options available and the relevant number to use on the dial in order to utilise them. There are three categories, 'Essentials', 'Specials' and 'Drying'. Next to the draw is a simple power button adjacent to a dial with all of the numbers correlating to those detailed on the detergent draw. The dial is simply turned to the option desired. Next is one more dial which controls all drying options. This can be set to simply not dry if you have clothes which must be hung dry or maybe it's a sunny day and you'd prefer to hang them on the line to save a little energy.

      I cannot boast to have used all of the features available on this washer and dryer, I have used only those relevant to us as a family and some are indeed still unknown to me. Some of the features however have been a great convenience to me and my family. This machine has a 'Fast Wash' option which takes only 60 minutes. This is ideal for those items you've forgotten to put in and need quickly.

      Another option which I have found very useful and another which is very prompt, is the 'Ready to Wear' option. This washes but does not over dry items, so long as the drum isn't under loaded. I have found that items I would usually hang dry are fine on this feature because they are not overly dried. If however the machine is overloaded, the laundry can still be a little damp so getting the right amount in is key.

      The downside of owning the Hotpoint Aquarius WDL540 is that we have experienced a few problems with it. The capacity of this machine is 7kg, though when the load is full, items still regularly come out damp. Towels in particular are near impossible to dry. It has a tendency to get rather hot and steamy, meaning that even after a further dry, items are just as damp, sometimes even more so.

      There is also a recurring fault where the lights begin the flash when drying and the machine stops its cycle. Being a rather busy family we have simply not had time to try to find any other solution to this issue than simply switch to the option for drying wool items, where this does not occur. The issue comes and goes at random intervals, though searching online I can see it is quite common with this model.

      The WDL540 boasts a sensor drying technology which automatically stops drying when clothes are dry. I have yet to experience this and often have to pause the machine and open the door in order to manually check how dry my laundry is.

      Other issues have been with the filter being blocked a little too often, a random leak which somehow stopped and a crack appearing in the door with no known impact on it.

      My husband and I have owned a few models of washer dryers and have come to the conclusion that some issues are common and maybe a separate washer and dryer would be more effective. We will continue with this machine until it comes to the end of its life and then perhaps look for two separate machines.

      EAN/MPN/UPC/ISBN: 5016108646564.

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        03.09.2012 20:22
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        Recommended

        I recently signed up my two year old daughter with our local library. My son is already a member via his school and both of them absolutely adore books. Their enthusiasm for new stories never tires. However just about every storage area they have available to them is dominated by masses of books. I thought therefore that the library would be a good compromise, allowing us to return them rather than hoard them!

        The Trouble with Dragons by Debi Gliori is our most recent choice from the library. My daughter chose it not for herself but for her four year old brother who is fascinated by the world of dragons.

        This book is currently available from Amazon at just £4.49 for paperback or £11.13 for a sturdier hardback book.

        The story is a rather metaphoric one. The trouble with dragons is indeed not with dragons but rather with humans. We are shown how our world is slowly being damaged and even destroyed. For instance points are made such as "Dragons chop down forests, which melts both the poles, and puncture the atmosphere full of big holes". Towards the end of the book the animals of the world give advice to these dragons on how best to treat the Earth, such as "Eat food that is grown much closer to home and leave the wild places and ice caps alone".

        The story is written in rhyme and has a good rhythm. I do prefer to read books to my children which are written in rhyme as I find them rather enjoyable to read aloud. The text is large, clear and is spaced out, with some words being positioned on their own to give particular importance to them.

        The illustrations, I presume, are also by the author Debi Gliori, as there is no mention of a separate illustrator. The rather muted colours which are used give the book a slightly dated feel, though this is not an old publication (2008). I personally feel that bolder colours would enhance the images a little more. Regardless, the dragons are rather whimsical and endearing. The silhouettes used throughout create an enchanted feel which sits well with the story. The tangled ivy, home to various birds, which is seen on the front cover and towards the end of the book is rather reminiscent of a William Morris piece. Again, this gives the impression of an enchanted forest.

        Both my four year old son and my two year old daughter enjoyed this book. They seemed to understand the message rather well despite their age and they were dawn in to the dragon's turmoil as I read the story to them. I personally enjoyed this book too, in fact I can honestly say that this is one of the few books, as we have read so many, that will stay in my mind and be recommended to friends who have similar aged children. I may even buy a few copies as gifts towards the end of the year. Overall this really is a very enjoyable story which has a very important message and states it very well too.

        ISBN 978-0-7475-9540-3

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          25.03.2011 22:14
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          My cat does LOTS of things!

          My son was around two years old, maybe a little younger, when his grandparents bought him the book My Cat Just Sleeps by Joanna Partis. At the time it was a big hit with him, a book that he enjoyed reading with us over and over again. As he grew a little older it was eventually put away in one of his toy boxes. Recently it has resurfaced and is usually found in the hands of our 17 month old cat enthusiast daughter.

          My Cat Just Sleeps is a relatively small board book. To be exact, it measures 18.2 x 18 x 1.8cm. In my opinion this is just the right size for an older baby or young toddler to explore, not too big and not too small. The pages are made from thick cardboard and it is a very sturdy book.

          This book is available from Amazon through a number of various sellers, however their prices leave little to be believed at £10.50 and even £15.19! The recommended retail price for this book is just £4.99. Amazon do however have this book on sale direct from themselves which appears to be the very same book with an updated cover. This one is priced at £4.13. I presume therefore that this book has been somewhat updated since it was purchased for my son just over a year or so ago.

          My Cat Just Sleeps follows the woes of a little girl and her cat. Her friend's cats all seem rather interesting and fun, whereas her cat just sleeps. One by one we are introduced to her friend's cats and told about their interests and what makes them fun. For instance George's cat climbs trees, Harry's cat digs up worms in the garden and Molly's cat plays with the fish in her pond. But this little girl's cat does none of those things, he just sleeps. We are shown illustrations of her friend's cats carrying out these activities and on the following page, the main character encouraging her cat to do the same while her cat blissfully sleeps.

          "My cat just sleeps" is used repetitively throughout the book, a technique which is used in many books to enable the young reader to join in and engaging them further in the story.

          As the story resolves, the little girl thinks of all of the things that her cat actually does. She realises that actually her cat does lots of things, he is just a little different to her friends' cats. She ponders however over why her cat is always so sleepy. We are then shown in illustrations only with no text just why her cat is so sleepy during the day. As night falls, he climbs off her bed, leaves the house via the cat flap and has a big gathering with all of the neighbourhood cats. The last illustration is spread over two pages and depicts the cat dancing on a wall while lots of other cats look on. I particularly like this illustration because, as a family who have cats, it is easy to pick out cats similar to ours in the picture and to point them out to our children as though our cats are in the book.

          There is no mention on this book as to who the illustrator is. Maybe it is Joanna Partis herself. Nonetheless the illustrations throughout are simply fabulous. Each page is filled entirely by the picture, there are no blank spaces left around the edge. This encourages us to explore the illustration in more detail. The bold and bright use of colours makes the illustrations all the more appealing. Each cat is rather childlike and very cute indeed. Each is a different breed or colour, with an endearing expression on their faces and teddy bear-like paws which flail out as they run, jump and play.

          As aforementioned my son adored this book for quite a while. He is now three years old and has moved on to the world of fire engines, construction vehicles and factual books about animals and the environment. My daughter is now the main holder of this book. I have mentioned in previous reviews that she is simply cat mad and as she has grown she has become a shadow to our pair of Siamese, letting out an excited squeal and an "Awwww!" whenever one crosses her path. This book engages her interest in all things cat and she will very often pick it up and bring it to myself or her father to read, plonking herself on our laps in readiness.

          This book has been very much loved in our household. It has now withstood a small amount of damage, a crease to the front page where it opens and a scuffed spine. This is minimal in comparison to some others however and considering the amount of use it has had over a long period of time, it has in fact fared quite well indeed.

          My Cat Just Sleeps is an integral part of my children's vast book collection. It is certainly in the leaders list, along with just a few others in terms of a favourite. I would very much recommend this book for an older baby or younger toddler, a boy or a girl. Both of my children have certainly given it their approval.

          ISBN-10: 019279146X
          ISBN-13: 978-0192791467

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          • Baby Touch Animal Book / Junior Book / 32 Readings / 31 Ratings
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            25.03.2011 12:17
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            Hello, swirly snail. Hello caterpillar!

            I mentioned in a couple of my previous reviews that our local library have begun regularly selling off some of their older or slightly damaged books for just 10p each. My children, three and one, love books and it has become routine for us to pop into the library on our way home from nursery to see what they have to offer for their ever-growing book collections.

            Last week we visited to find a rather familiar book sitting on the shelf, Baby Touch Animal Book. My son and I attended Baby Signing classes when he was just 9 months old and mixed in with toys and instruments on the play mat was this very same book. It was a hit with all of the children back then, which is why I remember it so vividly. Seeing it on the shelf on sale at just 10p, I just had to buy it for my daughter.

            The Baby Touch Animal Book from Ladybird is written by Justine Smith and illustrated by Fiona Land. It has a recommended retail price of £6.99 and the best price I have found is currently in WH Smiths where it is priced at just £5.59.

            This is a board book with very sturdy pages made from thick cardboard. Each page is a different shape and is positioned in a similar fashion to a fan, so that all edges of each page are visible when looking at the book face on. This inevitably makes it much easier for young children to turn each page. I have often noticed that with regular shaped board books, my children will try to turn the pages and mistakenly turn two or three instead. Another benefit of the unusual shape of this book is that finding the edge of each page to turn it will aid hand-eye co-ordination.

            The predominant aim of this book is to promote sensory awareness in young children. This is achieved by the use of many touch and feel elements throughout the book. There are panda bears which furry tummies, ducks with squishy wings and elephants with rough ears amongst others. There are not only different textures, but also plenty of bright, vivid colours and metallic sections in many of the illustrations. To add further intrigue there are then cut out sections on all pages but the last, where an illustration from the previous or following page is visible.

            There is no storyline as such to this book. We are rather simply presented with some fabulous illustrations and invited to touch them as we go along. We are also asked to find things at certain points throughout the book. For instance we begin with a very lovely stripy cat. We are told that this is 'mummy cat' and asked to feel her furry tummy. We are then asked 'Where is the kitten?' The interactive element to this book is just wonderful and makes it very enjoyable to read to young children. In fact, it feels more of an activity, or a game, than simply reading a book to them.

            The Baby Touch Animal Book is part of a series which we are reminded about on the back page. If this is a hit with your child then there are others to collect too. The series consists of Play Book, Rhyme Book, Picture Book, Colours, Shapes, Busy Book, Noisy Book, Cot Book and Peekaboo Book. Some of these are available in WH Smiths as well as on Amazon.co.uk.

            Also mentioned on the back page are three beneficial points to this publication. It encourages interactive play, helps to develop sensory awareness and is perfect for sharing and talking. I would certainly agree with all of those points.

            My daughter really does love this book. It immediately became her favourite. In fact, after purchasing it from the library I needed to go and get some shopping from the supermarket. She insisted on carrying it around for the whole time we were out and then explored it eagerly once we reached home. It is not a small book by any means, to be exact it measures 26 x 25.4 x 0.4cm, and so I was sure that her little arms would soon be tired, but she proved me wrong. As I have mentioned in a previous review, the sight of any animal, either while out walking or in a book or magazine, is always met by a shriek of excitement and an "Awwww!" from my little girl. After a week of owning this book, she still lets out those excited sounds when flicking through the pages. My son is not as interested in it and has simply given it a few quick glances, though he is three now, whereas my daughter is just 17 months old.

            In summary, this is a wonderful book. There are so many things to look at, to find and to feel within that is really is very engaging. It was adored by my son at our signing group when he was small and is now equally adored by my young daughter. This was a very good find at just 10p, it is a marvellous addition to my children's book collection!

            ISBN-10: 1846467225
            ISBN-13: 978-1846467226

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              23.03.2011 22:59
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              A tough little fire truck

              My three year old son adores fire engines, as many boys his age do. In fact for a while he had set his mind on being a fire fighter "When I grow massive", though now he is toying with the idea of other career paths, either a rescue helicopter pilot or a construction site worker!

              Sometime last year, probably around the time he wanted to be a fire fighter, my parents took him to a large warehouse type superstore in my home town called Hooty's. He was quickly drawn to a Tonka fire truck from the Toughest Mini's range and so they bought it for him as a gift.

              The Tonka Toughest Minis Fire Truck is available on Amazon for just 12p! Though take a closer look and you will see that this price is evened out somewhat by a delivery charge of £4.62. This particular truck is either sold singularly or as a pack of three where it comes with a pick-up truck and a police truck. The pack of three vehicles is available from Amazon at £20.64 and so it is actually much cheaper to buy all three separately.

              The vehicle measures 7.5 x 2.5" and so it is a good size toy. Despite its size however it does feel rather light, weighing just 200g.

              The recommended age for this product is from three years onward.

              In terms of appearance it is bright and attractive, red of course with a metallic silver bumper, grill and steps at either side beneath the doors. The doors themselves do not open. Around the back there are tools which are simply raised plastic, painted grey to enable them to stand out.

              The only working parts on this fire engine are three buttons at the very top and a red flashing siren just in front of them. The first button makes the sound of an engine starting up, the second sounds a siren and the third sounds the horn. Just what a little boy (or a girl of course) needs to operate their fire engine. These sounds are very clear and very loud.

              To the bottom of the vehicle is a battery case should the batteries need replacing. This product takes three AG13 button cell batteries which are included. Ours are still going strong after lots of play.

              This is a pull-back toy and when pulled back and released it does travel a very good distance across wooden floors and our rug too.

              The overall feel of this toy is rather flimsy with all parts made from lightweight plastic and no steel as found on some similar toys. Despite this it has proven itself to be very durable indeed. It certainly gets plenty of play and is stored away afterwards in a large storage box designated for toy vehicles. It has I'm sure had plenty of opportunity to withstand damage but has so far received none.

              The Tonka Toughest Minis Fire Truck encourages imaginative play and role play. The sound buttons and pull back action aid hand-eye co-ordination. There is also an educational benefit when teaching young children about the role that the emergency services carry out.

              My son is very fond of this fire engine. He does indeed have many fire engines, at a guess I would say around 15 of them. This one however is still picked up and played with regularly. When his box of toy vehicles is taken down from the shelf he is guaranteed to pick this one up and play with it. My one year old daughter is very fond of it too as she simply loves noisy toys with buttons!

              In summary, I would recommend this product for any young budding fire fighter. It makes a strong and reliable addition to any fire engine collection. Do not be put off by its plastic appearance and lightweight feel as it really is a tough little truck!

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              23.03.2011 15:50
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              Attractive, reliable and illuminating too!

              After a rather long life, our previous kettle became obsolete when the lid at the top completely broke off, making it very hazardous when pouring out hot water. It was then that we began a search for a new one. In all honesty we didn't look too far for a new kettle, just as far as the electrical appliances section in Tesco while doing our weekly shop.

              Our new choice of kettle was the Russell Hobbs 18249 Brushed Savannah Kettle. As mentioned it was purchased from Tesco and it cost £32.97.

              This model is available in two finishes, a stainless steel and the brushed steel which we purchased. The brushed steel is a very shiny steel whereas the stainless steel is a dull silver colour. At the time only the brushed steel was available in stock. Had the stainless steel had been in stock then we would have opted for that one, as it is less prone to smudges and smears.

              The Savannah Kettle is a jug kettle and is 24.4cm in height. It is rather basic in appearance. It bears the Russell Hobbs logo at the bottom, just above a small illuminating section. The side of the kettle, where the water level is read, also illuminates. When switched on and boiling the two sections light up a very lovely bright blue. This colour does not change throughout the boil as I have seen some appliances do.

              The body of the kettle is brushed steel as is the top of the lid. As aforementioned this is very prone to finger prints and smears and does need a regular wipe clean to keep it looking nice and attractive. The edge of the lid is made from black plastic and behind this protrudes the black plastic handle with a silver plastic button at the top. This button operates the opening of the lid. It is a spring mechanism and the lid opens quite swiftly. It is not prone to sticking, as can happen with some products.

              The kettle is boiled by pressing down a switch just at the bottom of the water level strip.

              The base of the kettle has a chrome strip around the middle, the rest is again made from black plastic. This is circular in shape with a raised circular stem at the middle which the kettle fits onto. This means that the kettle can be placed onto it at just about any angle, making it ideal of course for left -handed people as well as right-handed. I have found the base a little tricky at times when trying to align the hole at the base of the kettle with the circular stem. It often takes a lot of wriggling about to get it to sit correctly.

              This is however very easy to grasp and to pour. I have never experienced any spillages from the spout and the handle is comfortable enough to get a firm hold of.

              The Savannah Kettle is 1.6 litre in capacity which is adequate to fill six cups. This is probably the most I have ever needed it for at one time. It has a concealed element, a limescale filter and a 3KW rapid boil system.

              This is a very adequate kettle which is doing its job just perfectly without any problems. The only slight drawbacks are as aforementioned, the finish is rather prone to smudges and quickly looks unsightly and the base is sometimes a little tricky to align the kettle with. These however are merely niggles and in terms of operation and durability, this model is proving itself to be far greater than our last.

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                21.03.2011 14:16
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                A basic book of all things cute

                There is little more that my daughter loves than to spot an animal, either while out on a walk or a picture in a book. Both get the same reaction, an over-excited squeal as she points out her finger and wriggles in anticipation. She is 17 months old now and her unique little personality never fails to make us smile.

                After dropping my son off at his nursery, I was doing the usual mundane chore of picking up items from Morrison's that had been forgotten with the weekly shop, when she suddenly let out one of her 'I've spotted an animal' squeals, pointing excitedly towards shelf of magazines and books. When I took a closer look, I saw exactly what she had spotted, a range of books called Baby Loves. I picked up one which I thought would appeal to her, with a rather cute puppy on the front cover, Baby Loves Baby Animals. I placed it into her outstretched hands before making my way to the till.

                This book has a recommended retail of price of £3.99 and although I can't be certain, I do think that I actually paid £2.99 in Morrison's. It is available from Amazon at the RRP of £3.99 with free delivery.

                The back page states that this book is suitable for children from 0+ and so this is a good safe choice as a first book. It does say that parental guidance is needed, as is with any book or toy.

                This is an almost circular book which measures 15 x 14.8 x 1.5cm. It is a board book and a rather robust one too. It feels nicely sturdy and chunky and each page has a shiny surface. I can confirm, having done this a few times now, that this does indeed make it very easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth or baby wipe.

                Each page has a colourful circular shape protruding from the edge. These, being different colours and sizes, act as tabs which make it much easier to turn the pages. The back page is also larger in size than the pages before it so although it all looks slightly miss-match, it is quite easy to flick though. Much easier for little hands too of course.

                The format inside is very simple. Each two page set displays two photographs of one type of baby animal. We begin with ducklings, then kittens, puppies, rabbits and finally foals. The photographs selected are bright, clear and very endearing. Each one has received an excited squeal and point from my little girl, in some case followed by a full-on hug of the page!

                The back cover states that this is 'A lively series of books to stimulate very young children and promote their development.' It also says that this book promotes hand-eye co-ordination. The colourful tabs on the edges I presume are good practice for this. Apart from this, in terms of educational benefit, there is little else here other than teaching the names of different animals. Though as it is clearly aimed at very young children there is perhaps not much more that could be taught. Still, if it encourages young children to pick up the book and look through the pages, then that is a good start on the right road.

                In terms of durability this book is almost perfect. Although we have only owned it a few months, due to its popularity, it has not yet left the downstairs toy box and has been picked up, carried around and read numerous times since its purchase. Other books have not fared as well so I would say that the quality of this one is very good.

                In summary, this is a simple little book but very robust. It is priced well, although in my opinion the reduced price of £2.99 is probably more suitable due to its size and simplicity. It is attractive and has some education benefit, though not as much as some books. I would recommend this for any young child who is beginning to explore first board books and has a love for animals as my daughter does.

                ISBN-10: 184879777X
                ISBN-13: 978-1848797772

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                  18.03.2011 19:21
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                  Great book for a little dinosaur fan

                  My mother works a number of different roles across two schools, one of which has a book club which the staff place regular orders with. She is therefore very often poised with a number of books for our children whenever we pay a visit.

                  Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs Magnet Book by Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds was the ltest gift for my son. He is three years old and very much interested in everything boy-related, including of course dinosaurs.

                  This is a rather large book measuring 330mm x 258mm. It is a board book with a lovely raised, padded cover which gives the impression of being very good quality.

                  I have looked around on the internet for this book and have found it at a good price at www.thebookpeople.co.uk. It is currently available at just £4.99, with an RRP of £12.99 this is a very good price. The recommended age for this product is from three years onward, most likely due to the magnets that are inside.

                  The front cover displays a clear plastic compartment where there are nine magnets, seven dinosaurs, one football and one bucket to be exact. Next to the brightly coloured picture of Harry and his dinosaurs is a sign which reads 'With 9 RAAAH-tastic magnets!' These magnets can be accessed by opening the cover and simply lifting off the top part of the plastic compartment.

                  We have owned a number of magnet books in the past and more often than not a number of these magnets go missing, often to be found under the rug or settee or hidden away in the bottom of a toy box. This book however has just nine and they are of a rather large size too, making it far easier to keep them safely where they should be. The sign on the front cover of course is also a good reminder as to exactly how many should be in there!

                  This is a board book, although the pages inside are not as thick as some. It has not suffered any damage however and it has been played with by my one year old daughter as well as my son.

                  The illustrations throughout are brightly coloured and attractive. The text is written in small and large fonts in order to emphasise certain words.

                  This book does not have a specific story as such, it simply details the places that Harry goes and calls for us to place on certain magnets at different points along the way. The dinosaur magnets have the names written on them and so we can match up the correct dinosaurs to those that are asked for on the page. This would obviously be rather difficult for a very young child to grasp as the names of the dinosaurs are rather long and complicated. Scelidosaurus, for example, is one that I struggle to get my tongue around! My son does however know the names of some of these dinosaurs already and seems to manage quite well in finding the right one with a little help.

                  Overall this is a lovely book and one of very good quality. It could perhaps be a little better if there was more of a story to it. Both of my children however have had a lot of enjoyment from it so far and the use of the magnets encourages them to open the book and ask for it to be read to them. It is maybe not as intriguing as some but does make a lovely addition to the bookshelf of any young dinosaur fan.

                  978-0-141-33257-4

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                  18.03.2011 17:31
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                  Five little bugs disappear one by one

                  Further to one of my previous reviews, my son recently asked for a book about ghosts. He was promised one on the condition that he received a good behaviour sticker at nursery. He did this and so we quickly ordered one. As I simply cannot buy a gift for one of my children and not for the other, I browsed Amazon to find a suitable little book for my one year old daughter too. It was then that I found the book Five Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth.

                  This book is available on Amazon at just £3.11 and with free delivery. An absolute bargain I thought at the time. The recommended age is from three years onward. This is I presume due to the plastic ladybirds, although they do seem rather sturdy within the pages. My daughter is 17 months old, though when you have two children, they will inevitably play with their older sibling's toys anyway. Nonetheless they are always well supervised when playing.

                  Online this book looked very attractive, though when it arrived I was a little disappointed as to its size. This is detailed under the description on Amazon, but as I have done previously, I did not read the actual size before purchasing it. The book measures 13.4 x 18.7 x 1.2cm.

                  Five Little Ladybugs is a board book and so is suitable for younger children who may accidentally rip the pages. The front cover is very nicely illustrated with a garden scene depicting a bird, a bumble bee and a caterpillar. Through five small holes in the book there are five plastic ladybirds peeking through. One ladybird is positioned on each page so that as each page s turned, the number of ladybirds decreases.

                  Despite being a board book, the pages within are a little flimsy as they are made of only thin cardboard. The cover is however very sturdy.

                  The ladybirds are brightly coloured, three are red, one is orange and the other is yellow. They also have a different amount and different sized spots. Good counting practice for children perhaps.

                  The illustrations throughout, by Laura Huliska-Beith, are again rather lovely and give the book a bright and cheerful feel. At the bottom of each page is a strip in a contrasting colour where the text is displayed. This looks a little too squashed up in my opinion.

                  The story is a rather basic one which has been done many times with many children's books. To begin with there are five little 'ladybugs' and one by one the number decreases as a number of different situations occur. This is a little lacking however as we are not told exactly what does happen to each ladybird. For instance we begin with 'Five little ladybugs sleeping by the shore, along came a fish and then there were four.' We have not been told where the fifth ladybird went, did he fly away, was he scared, was he even eaten?

                  The next page leaves us even more confused as we are told there are 'Four little ladybugs climbing up a tree, along came a turtle and then there were three.' The illustrations show the ladybirds sitting on blades of grass, not a tree. Then begs the question, what would a turtle be doing up a tree anyway?

                  As the story concludes, the final 'ladybug' is blown away in a breeze (at least we know what actually happened to this one!) and then he is home. The final page depicts the word 'Home!' and a scene where all of the ladybirds are playing with each of the creatures they have met throughout the book. Perhaps they all went to play then?

                  Five Little Ladybugs has an educational benefit of teaching young children to count back from five. Each number is displayed large and clear on the relevant page which also aids the visual recognition of numbers. The plastic ladybirds draw in the young reader and encourage them to take an interest in the story. Elements like this promote sensory awareness in very young children. As aforementioned, the spots on each little bug also make good counting practice.

                  It is a slight bugbear of mine that the ladybirds are called ladybugs in this book. I understand that ladybugs is a word often used, but I always prefer to use 'ladybirds' and this is what I have taught my children. I overlooked this when purchasing the book as I was drawn in by the little plastic ladybirds and simply saw it as a book that my daughter would enjoy.

                  My daughter does indeed enjoy this book. It has pride of place in our living room toy box and she will often fish it out and bring it to me or her daddy to read to her. She loves to feel the little bugs on each page and she is also rather taken with the illustrations, letting out the occasional squeal of excitement as she points to the creatures on each page.

                  Despite the pages within being rather thin, there has been no damage to it as yet, in fact not so much as a crease.

                  In summary this is a sweet little book. Though the concept of the story has been done many times before and often better. In particular, both the concept of the story and of the little plastic characters which decrease page by page, have been done with a very good book called Ten Chuckling Ducklings by Sally Crabtree. This book also has a sound chip to further engage young readers. Please see my earlier review of this one if it is of interest. I am however pleased that I paid such a good price for the book and most of all that my daughter enjoys it and has picked it up time and time again.

                  ISBN-10: 1581172184
                  ISBN-13: 978-1581172188

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                  18.03.2011 13:52
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                  A must for fans of trucks and diggers!

                  My three year old son is a huge fan of trucks, diggers, big machines and building sites. If we are out walking and he spots any construction work we simply must make a detour to go and have a look at the machines in action. His toy boxes are full of excavators, diggers, steam rollers and other such toys, amongst all of his cherished fire engines of course.

                  At Christmas last year I bought him a Caterpillar board book titled Big Noisy Trucks and Diggers. I purchased this from Amazon where it is currently available at £8.09, a slight reduction from the RRP of £8.99.

                  When the book arrived I was slightly disappointed in its size. Although not particularly small, it is not as big as I would have expected measuring 22.1 x 18.5 x 1.8cm. Nonetheless the description on Amazon notes this size and I simply did not read it before buying.

                  The pages of the book are quite sturdy and the surface has a glossy finish. To the right hand side are five sound buttons which we are encouraged to press as we read the story. When we need to press these, there is a small image of the relevant button within the text making it very easy to follow.

                  In terms of quality I am not completely impressed by this book. On arrival it was already slightly scuffed down the spine and across the top edge. I toyed with the idea of returning it for another but decided instead to keep it. Three months on however and it is now very scuffed indeed. The majority of the damage is to the front and back covers and the pages inside are almost completely unaffected. This has been well cared for, as well as two young children can care for a book, as my children have other books which are still in very good condition despite being read plenty of times.

                  Another fault in terms of quality is that despite the sounds being very loud and clear on Christmas day, after just a week or so they suddenly became muffled and quiet. The battery can of course be changed and this is something which I plan to do shortly.

                  Big Noisy Trucks and Diggers introduces young children to a selection of Caterpillar big machines. When turning each page, we are presented with one photograph of a particular machine which fills an entire page. Beneath the photograph is the name of the machine. The opposite page has text and images to prompt us to press the buttons. The text is written as though we are operating these trucks ourselves. For example it begins with "Climb into the cab of your tractor and get settled in the driver's seat."

                  What I like so much about this book is that we are not presented with child-like illustrations of diggers and such like. Instead we are shown actual photographs of these machines in action. This makes it all the more attractive for young children who love diggers and construction sites. Each photograph is bright and clear and shows the machine doing the job it is meant to do, a great way of giving a visual description of what it is used for.

                  My son adores this book and talks eagerly about the pictures and what the machines are doing. My one year old daughter has also taken a liking to the book. She adores any book with sound buttons but is also rather intrigued with the subject of the book too. Having an older brother to guide her, one of her first words was actually "Digger!"

                  Despite its flaws in terms of quality it is nonetheless rather sturdy. It has a great educational benefit and demonstrates the work of big machines with words, sound buttons and actual photographs. I would highly recommend this book for any digger fan.

                  ISBN-10: 0811831736
                  ISBN-13: 978-0811831734

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                  • Chicco Fun & Music Bag / Baby Toy / 32 Readings / 31 Ratings
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                    16.03.2011 21:30
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                    Bags of fun!

                    At my daughter's first Christmas she was just two months old and so most of the gifts that she received were either clothes or soft toys. My parents however did buy a selection of things that could be enjoyed during her following year, one of which was the Chicco Fun and Music Bag.

                    This is essentially a toy in the form of a handbag. It does not open like a handbag, but is packed with features to keep young children entertained.

                    Beginning at the top, the chunky grip of the handle is made from white plastic. Housed inside this are yellow and red lights. When the toy is activated or when a tune is played, these lights flash intermittently in time with the music. Attached to the side of the handle is a keyring and from that hangs a large green plastic key and a teddy bear of around the same size.

                    At the very top of the handbag is a pop up section which is revealed when pressing the centre of a pink flower just below it. Inside the pop up section is a plastic Mp3 player and headphones, housed in transparent plastic. When this section is revealed, a tune is activated and the lights on the handle flash in time to the music.

                    On the left hand side of the main body of the handbag is puzzle where four pieces can be rotated to create three different images; a butterfly, a little girl and a cat. Next to the puzzle is a circular mirror, with a plastic flap to cover it. When the flap is opened, again a tune is activated and the lights on the handle flash. Next to this is a plastic coin purse shape which has a little window at the bottom. When twisting it around it emits a clicking sound and visible though the window are images with the number 1, then '1, 2' and then '1, 2, 3'.

                    There is also a button to the front which enables the user to switch off the toy or choose from two different volume settings. Ours is usually set to the highest level as I generally let noisy toys be noisy toys.

                    Finally on the right hand side of the handbag is a little pocket which holds a removable chunky toy mobile phone. When the phone is inserted into the pocket, it presses on a button which activates a ringing sound. This also activates the lights in the handle.

                    The Chicco Fun and Music Bag is available at the following prices:

                    Toys R Us £19.99
                    Amazon £18.83
                    Argos £17.67
                    Tesco £16.97

                    It is suitable for children of 9 months onward.

                    When my daughter first received this I did introduce her to it, despite the fact that she was still a very young baby. I would lie her on her activity mat and activate the sounds myself. It always caught her attention and she seemed to very much enjoy the flashing lights.

                    As she has grown older, she has gained more interest in it and is of course now at 17 months able to carry it around herself and operate the features. This toy tends to get put away in the toy box for a few weeks before re-surfacing and being played with again for a while.

                    My daughter is able to operate the button which reveals the Mp3 player. She can also flip the puzzle pieces (though not solve the puzzle), open the mirror and rotate the coin purse shape. She can also remove the mobile phone and place it back in again with ease. She is very intrigued by the lights in the handle but most of all loves the music. My little girl has always loved music and will dance away merrily at any tune she hears.

                    This product is not too heavy and so she can carry it around with ease.

                    My three year old son has also played with this toy, as have a few of my children's little friends who are boys. He is able to complete the puzzle as well as use all of the features. He will usually activate a sound and pass it to his sister saying "Here you go Perdy" before moving on to one of his own toys.

                    Chicco also make this toy is a backpack shape with blue colours for anyone looking to buy it for a little boy who does not fancy the feminine colours of this one.

                    The Chicco Fun and Music Bag aids hand eye co-ordination and sensory awareness. The puzzle teaches problem solving skills and the twisting coin purse teaches numbers to slightly older infants. This toy could also be used to encourage young babies to crawl when the light and sound is activated and it is placed just out of reach. There are many benefits of such a feature-packed toy, though above all it is lots of fun and this is what has drawn both my children and my friends' children to it.

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                      14.03.2011 19:52
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                      Frightful!

                      My son is three years old and has a rather impressive imagination. After being read a story about ghosts at nursery one day he quickly developed an interest in all things spooky. I wasn't as impressed however when one evening he told me there was a ghost in our garden and went into great detail about it too!

                      As an incentive for him to do well at nursery, my husband promised him a book about his latest interest if he received a good behaviour sticker in nursery that week. It didn't take him long to come home proudly sporting a gold star sticker and so my husband ordered a suitable ghost book. This book was Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O'Connell.

                      This is a paperback book and is priced at just £2.48 with free delivery from Amazon. It is a relatively small book measuring 19.9 x 19.9 x 0.4 cm and has 32 pages in total.

                      In my opinion the quality of the book is rather flimsy. The cover has a shiny surface but has little strength due to just how thin it is. The pages within are also very thin paper. Despite this, there has been as yet no damage to it, although we have only owned it for around a month.

                      The illustrations inside also overlap a little at the centre of each page, as it has been stapled a little too far over. I think that the price reflects the size and quality and I would not expect to pay any more than this.

                      The story itself is written in rhyme. I love books that are written this way as they are simply a joy to read. Once read a few times, they are also easy to remember, allowing children to join in and also adults to know which line comes next should an over enthusiastic child turn the page too quickly, something that happens very often with my children!

                      The story is set in a haunted house where ten timid ghosts live. One day a witch decides to move in and she wants all of the ghosts out. She scares each one away rather easily using props such as a skeleton, a toy bat, a stuffed cat and a remote controlled mouse. The actual text does not mention that these props are not real, for instance one page reads 'One saw a bat and didn't wait. She flew to the woods and then there were eight'. It is only evident that this is a toy bat when looking at the illustrations.

                      The ghosts are gradually reduced from ten to none and once all ten of them are in the woods, they plot revenge and go back into the house together to scare the witch away, a little too easily I think!

                      This story is too simple for my liking, it does not have much substance or humour. My children have lots of books and this one is barely picked up since the first time it was read. It does have a slight educational benefit in that it teaches counting back from ten to zero a well as teaching rhyming words. Overall however I was rather let down with this and very glad that I only paid £2.48 and no more. I am now on the look-out for a much better ghost related book to buy for my son so any suggestions are very welcome!

                      ISBN: 0-439-15804-4

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                      11.03.2011 13:47
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                      A wonderful story to share and act out with your children!

                      Our little local library have begun to have a sale of some of their older or slightly damaged books. My children, who are three and one, adore their book collections. They love nothing more at the moment than to visit the library and search through the books on sale for suitable ones to buy. At just 10p each I always oblige. Earlier this week, we purchased eight books for a grand total of 80p and one of them, which has proven to be a favourite, was We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

                      The version of this book that we have is in paperback format and the language is in both English and in Urdu. Being only English speaking, this has no immediate benefit to us, but as this was the version on sale, my children promptly snapped it up.

                      As well as being available in 17 dual language editions, we're Going on a Bear Hunt is also available in both paperback, hardcover and board book formats as well as versions which come with either a CD or a DVD. The basic paperback version, in English only is currently on sale on Amazon at just £3.49. The board book however is priced a little lower at £2.19. The paperback with a DVD is priced at £4.42 and with a CD is currently £3.50. The copy which we have, which has both English and Urdu is priced at £7.50, as is another which has Gujarati and English. It seems somewhat unreasonable that these should be priced far higher than those with CD's and DVD's. Maybe there are less of them made and a higher publication cost?

                      We're Going on a Bear Hunt is a classic tale of a family who set out to find a bear. Along the way they encounter many obstacles such as long grass, a river, squelchy mud, a dense forest and eventually a cave where the bear is discovered. The family then race back home and vow to never go on another bear hunt.

                      The format of the story is very repetitive which is beneficial to young readers who can predict what is coming next and join in with the words. Each page begins with "We're going on a bear hunt. We're going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day. We're not scared!" We then encounter an obstacle and decide "Oh no! We've got to go through it!" The following page is then rather simply a picture of the family going through their obstacle and the sound each one makes. For instance as they venture through the tall grass the book reads "Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!"

                      The illustrations throughout the book, by Helen Oxenbury, are not particularly attractive. The front page is so plain that it does not stand out in any way and does not draw the reader in. This book was initially overlooked as the cover just did not stand out as a good and interesting children's book. The use of colour within is also very dull, in fact, there is only colour on every other page, the illustrations on the pages in between are simply black and white. The pictures are sketch-like and those that are in colour are watercolour paintings with rather muted colours. I personally feel that better illustrations would do such an endearing story far more justice.

                      As mentioned previously, from the eight books that we chose yesterday, this particular one has been a favourite with both my son and my daughter. They seem to very much enjoy the repetition of the story and my eldest child, my three-year-old son, happily joins in with the words. We have also acted out our own bear hunt around the house, cue much hysterical giggling from both of them! Very few books can be played out in such a way as this one.

                      Being available in so many formats, as well as in 17 dual languages is also a huge benefit which makes this book accessible to far more children.

                      My eldest has not yet questioned the presence of the Urdu writing in this book. Though that is a subject that I can broach with him at some point as he already understands to some degree that there are different spoken languages.

                      This story is in my opinion faultless. It is beautifully written and highly engaging. It is also interactive as the story can be played out without the book afterwards. The only slight drawback for me is the illustrative work, which in my opinion is somewhat of a letdown for the wonderful story within.

                      ISBN-10: 1852697210
                      ISBN-13: 978-1852697211

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                        07.03.2011 22:05
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                        Love this!

                        During the school holidays, our local library was having a sale of some of their older or slightly damaged books. My children, who are three and one, love being read to and although their book collection is now very extensive, they still get very excited at the prospect of buying more. I took them to the library almost every day last week and we picked up quite a selection of books for just ten pence each.

                        What's a penguin to think when he wakes up pink! by Lynne Rickards was first discovered by my son who promptly pulled it down from the shelf at the library. Noticing that the pages were quite damaged I suggested that he should maybe look for another. His response however was "That will be fine for me", quite an endearing thing for a three year old to say and I could not resist but to buy it for him. He then decided that his little sister Perdy should have this book and gave it to her as we made our way to the till.

                        After a little repair work with a roll of sellotape the book was good to go and I passed it to my husband who read it out to both of them.

                        What's a penguin to think when he wakes up Pink! has a recommended retail price of £10.99 for the hardback version which we have. It is available on Amazon in a paperback format at just £4.49, reduced from its original price of £5.99.

                        This is rather a large book. It is just over 11" in width and a little over 9.5" in height. The cover is very eye-catching and makes it stand out amongst others. The title is partly written across the top of the book with the last word 'Pink!' in very large letters at the centre. The colour is predominantly pink with a white snowy mound at the bottom where a rather cute pink penguin sporting a blue satchel dances merrily. The back cover depicts an icy scene where young penguin school pupils gather around the main character, the pink penguin.

                        The illustrations in this book are by Margaret Chamberlain. They are rather childlike but attractive nonetheless and the use of bright and vivid colours really does draw the reader in.

                        The story follows Patrick the penguin, who one morning wakes up to find that he is pink. His mother takes him to the doctor who cannot help him and suggests that he should simply get used to being pink. His father shows him a book about pink flamingos but he is still very unhappy and is teased at school for being different. He decides to go away and live with the flamingos but soon finds that he does not belong there and comes home to find that he has been dearly missed by his friends and family.

                        The final line in the book sums up the moral behind the story "Being different wasn't so bad after all". This is an issue which most children at some stage will be able to relate to themselves. The story gives reassurance that it is fine to stand out and to be a little different. A statement at the back of the book summarises this "Patrick soon realises that real friendship is never black and white, but that real friends will accept you whatever".

                        This is a wonderful and easily accessible story with a good moral behind it. With such vibrant illustrations, humour and a rather endearing lead character, it is a book which I'm sure would be enjoyed by most children.

                        My children have enjoyed this story and we have read it many times since. I certainly got my 10p worth! This book is one that I would highly recommend.

                        ISBN-10: 1905294743
                        ISBN-13: 978-1905294749

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                          14.02.2011 14:37
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                          Bounce, giggle, bounce... ah it's all over!

                          We have two Fisher Price Bounce and Giggle Animals in our house, both of which were given as gifts, though I'm not entirely sure if both were given to my daughter or if one of them belongs to my son. Having two very young children means that toys in our house are usually shared between them.

                          Our Bounce and Giggle Animals are the pig and the cow. The range consists of four in total with the other two being an elephant and a cat.

                          These toys are available from Amazon. However there are a number of sellers listing them and prices do vary. With shipping costs included, prices range between £20 and £25. In my opinion these prices are too high for such a small and rather basic toy. I would say the actual value is somewhere around £10.

                          Fisher Price Bounce and Giggle Animals are essentially a vibrating ball. The ears, nose, arms, legs and tail protrude from the ball. The arms are made from the same plastic as the main spherical body, however all other parts are made from soft rubber.

                          There are textured patterns to the back of the ears and the ends of the arms and legs. The bottom half of the body also has a textured pattern and is made from a contrasting colour plastic, giving the impression that the animal is wearing pants. I'm not sure if this is intended but it certainly looks like that to me! These textures are aimed to encourage young children to feel them, promoting hand and eye co-ordination and sensory awareness. In addition there is also a ribbon to the top of each toy, curled in order to look like hair. This is possibly another touch and feel element.

                          Each animal has a heart shape to the front with the Fisher Price logo visible on a metallic sticker. This looks very much like a button but it isn't. It is actually the nose of the animal which activates the vibration in the toy. Just beneath the heart shape is the speaker, underneath is the battery compartment and just above the top of the tail is the power switch.

                          In my opinion these toys are rather heavy and together with the shape and size of the toy, they can prove a little difficult for youngsters to grasp and carry around. The boxed weight is 499g and the product dimensions are 13.3 x 13.3 x 19cm. They are however very strong and seemingly very durable.

                          When my children received these endearing little animals I expected them to be similar to a toy which was around when I was a child, a ball that continuously vibrated and moved across the floor. This is not the case with the Fisher Price Bounce and Giggle Animals. When pressed initially the animal emits the relevant animal sound, a giggle and a very short burst of vibration, I estimate this to be around 3 seconds. When pressed for a second time the animal giggles, emits a tune and gives a longer burst of vibration, though still rather short at around 10 seconds.

                          My son is three years old and he is able to press the nose to activate the vibration and sounds, however he does find it a little tricky as he needs to hold the toy securely while he puts pressure on the nose. My daughter is one year old and is unable to press the nose, she will try to tweak it, pull at it and then get rather frustrated and pass it to me. This is somewhat of a disadvantage given that the target age for this toy is 6 months. As the burst of vibration and sound is very short, if your child cannot press the button you will inevitably find yourself pressing it over and over again.

                          The concept of this toy seemed a very good one, however in reality it does not live up to expectation. I do have many bugbears when it comes to Fisher Price toys in general and have only really been satisfied with their Imaginext range of toys where the only flaw is the price!

                          Our Fisher Price Bounce and Giggle Animals have had very little play. They seem to have been abandoned at the bottom of the toy box and rarely have the chance to surface. This is personally one toy that I would not recommend.

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