New stories for the boys: Discovering Nicola Parkhouse and Rachel Jane.

One of my highlights of Woodlands Festival in June was being able to introduce the boys to some wonderful new picture books and meet the authors behind them.

Kent children's author Nicola Parkhouse read her four rhyming stories to the children at the festival and my toddler Jude was particularly enthralled with her latest book 'Where's Maggie's Moo?', about poor old Maggie at Tumbledown Farm who wakes to find she's lost her moo, and asks her farm animal friends for help. Jude had great fun joining in with all the animal sounds, and loved the rhyming that kept his attention throughout.

Nicola kindly #gifted the boys two more of her books, 'The Rat and The Cat' and 'Morris, The Stealing Magpie' to read at home, and they've been well read these past few weeks. The illustrations by Joseph Hopkins are gorgeous but it's the rhymming that makes Theo and Jude want to hear them again. Theo has just started reading and is determined to read the books on his own which he's managing with help from me - the rhymes are certainly helping him, and they're making him laugh too.

In 'The Rat and The Cat', Cat arrives at Tumbledown Farm to capture a rat that the farmer's wife spied. "They chased around the kitchen, faster than lightening. For the poor scruffy rat, it really was frightening". When Rat sits on Cat's mat, Cat starts crying - Rat takes pity on him, offering him friendship.

Morris the Magpie lives up to his reputation stealing from everywhere and anywhere, until something happens that makes him think twice - returning everything he's taken back to their rightful owners. "That feathered black and white magpie, he doesn't steal anymore.  And now he has a conscience, so builds his nest with twigs and straw."

The boys enjoy Nicola's books but I also like them because they end with a little moral. Cat realises that he doesn't have to chase Rat after all, and Morris's conscience wins through in the end.  So the boys are learning a bit about life while they're having fun reading.

Last year Rachel Jane wrote and created her first series of picture books with the help of illustrator Jamie Flack. Rachel bought her stories 'Milo goes to the Seaside', 'Lil's Cupcake Delivery' and 'Tallulah goes to the Festival' to Woodlands to share with the children and generously #gifted all three books to the boys afterwards to take home.

Rachel's stories centre around her Campervans. In "Milo Goes to the Seaside", Milo has always dreamt of going to the seaside but never managed to find his way there. We follow Milo as he tries again to reach the sea with the help of his bird friend Billy. In 'Lil's Cupcake Bakery', campervan Lil helps her friend in trouble by helping her to deliver cupcakes to all her customers. If she can just deliver them in time and in one piece.

And in the boys' favourite story, 'Talullah Goes to the Festival", Talullah gives a musician a lift to Festival of Love when she sees his car has broken down on the way, saving the day! "He climbs onto the stage To the cheers of the crowd. Whose laughing and singing Echoes so loud".

Jude's really into Rachel's stories as he's obsessed with vehicles at the moment - I keep finding him sitting in his bedroom looking at the books on his own, pointing at everything. The illustrations are bright and colourful for him and the stories are simple enough for him to follow.

Theo and Flynn are enjoying the books too. Theo's had a taste of festival life this year and is loving being able to revisit festival life with Talullah. And Rachel Jane's books are just happy: bright and cheerful to look at and with lovable characters and happy story lines - I just wish there were more tales about her lovely Campervans for them to read.

Thank you to Nicola Parkhouse and Rachel Jane for introducing us to your wonderful new stories.  I hope we see you both again soon and will be looking out for your next installments from our friends at Tumbledown and Red Hatch farms.

Disclaimer: Nicola Parkhouse and Rachel Jane gave us books in return for an honest and impartial review. All thoughts and opinions are of myself and the boys. All books featured are available on

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