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Novelty Books

A quick look round any children's bookshop will reveal a variety of novelty items.  There are flaps, split pages, holes, pop-ups and even, in a few cases, wheels. All of them are supposed to make the books more interesting for children but they have varying degrees of success.

Some are so complicated that they completely swamp the words and produce a toy rather than a book. Others work well but cannot overcome the problems of poor quality writing as no amount of novelty will turn a bad story into a good one.  But in the very best ones, the words, pictures and novelty elements blend to produce a book which will children will want to look at again and again.

Lift the flap books     
Peep hole books
Pull tabs and pop-ups   
Other novelty books   

Lift the Flap Books    
(for board books with flaps, see Books for Babies and Toddlers)

Pass the Parcel
by Annie Kubler and Sue Baker
(Child's Play)
Based on the favourite game of pass the parcel, each character in turn finds the parcel and the reader helps them tear off a layer by opening the double flap. Inside is a parcel of a different shape until finally the final layer comes off and out pops mouse. The bright, clear pictures and the flaps appeal to the very young while older children can enjoy spotting and naming the different shapes.
Buy from Amazon

Peekaboo Friends by Lucy Su
(Frances Lincoln)
All babies like playing peep-bo and the flaps in this book lets them do it over and over again as they help Robbie find his toys. There's a little piece of each toy showing to encourage children to guess who's there before they lift the flap.
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Where's Spot? by Eric Hill
This is the classic lift the flap book. It's a simple story about a search for a lost puppy with flaps to lift to check the different hiding places. There's a lovely  moment  when you're sure he must be under the carpet because there's a puppy-shaped bump but lifting the carpet reveals a tortoise. For 0-5.
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Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
The zoo are keen to help a child who asks for a pet and send him a succession of crates. Each one is a flap to lift which reveals a highly unsuitable animal until finally one arrives with a pet that's just right. There's also a more elaborate version with pop-ups behind the flaps. For 0-5
Buy from Amazon
Buy pop-up version from Amazon

Peep Hole Books
This popular format uses  holes in some right hand pages to give a tantalising glimpse of the next one and includes text to encourage children to guess what's coming. It works well with cleverly planned stories and is particularly useful in non-fiction books.

Eye Spy Colours 
by Debbie MacKinnon and Anthea Sieveking  
(Frances Lincoln)
This is the best book on colours I have ever seen. For each colour there's an introductory double page spread with a suitably eye-shaped hole to the next one.  When you turn over, you find both pages filled by an amazing photograph where everything is different shades of the same colour. For instance, the yellow photo has a child in yellow clothes playing with yellow toys on yellow sand while the green one has  two children  in green  clothes gardening with green tools amongst a mass of green plants. This clever idea is a fantastic help in teaching children what you mean by blue, yellow, red. green and orange. Ideal for ages 0-5 at home or in the nursery class.
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Look's! There's Elmer by David McKee
(Andersen Press)
A cleverly designed book where the reader helps Bird play a game of hide and seek with Elmer, the patchwork elephant. Each peephole shows a tantalising glimpse of what could be Elmer but all but the last one turn out to be something else. 0-5
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Guess who my mummy is by Anni Axworthy
Guess what I'll be by Anni Axworthy
Guess what I am by Anni Axworthy
Guess where I live by Anni Axworthy
:This series of non-fiction books combine a peep hole game with bright, simple but accurate pictures to teach children facts about animals. It increases the breadth of their knowledge by  including some more unusual creatures (beavers, reindeer and flamingoes) and breaks away from convention by showing crocodiles as good mothers. Guess what I am contains a rather fierce shark who may frighten nervous children (but delight others). Children as young as two could understand Guess who my mummy is while children of 3-6 should enjoy the whole series. All the titles are suitable for older children with special needs although some may feel the use of the word "mummy" is too babyish.
Buy from Amazon Guess who my mummy is    Guess what I'll be    Guess where I live

Pull tabs and pop-ups   
Pull tab and pop up books are great fun but also the least durable type of novelty book They need protection from the onslaught of tiny fingers so, if you want them to last, keep them for looking at with you.

Hen goes to Market
by Mark Birchall
(Andersen Press)
Hen takes her shopping list with her but she still has decisions to make. Should she buy red flowers or blue? Apples or bananas? Young readers can pull the tabs to see which goods go into her basket and there are also flaps to lift to discover a secret on every spread.
Ages 2+
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Robert Crowther's Most Amazing
Hide-and-seek Alphabet Book 
by Robert Crowther

This classic pull-the-tab book is a lovely  introduction to the alphabet for any young child. Each letter has a tab to pull, push or lift and each tab makes an animal beginning  with that letter pop into view.  The animals are delightful, the art work amusing and the paper engineering amazing. A book that children from 0 upwards will be happy to look at again and again.  
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Other Novelty Books  
Some of the books which don't fit into any of the other categories are also some of the most successful - perhaps because they are so different. 

What am I? cover What am I?
(Tide Mill Press)
Each page of this sturdy board book has a one sentence description of an animal, the question "Who am I?" and a shiny silhouette of the creature in question. To find the right answer, you pull out an equally sturdy sliding page to see a full colour picture of the animal that matches the silhouette. This is a clever concept that's perfectly designed for small hands and, unlike most novelty books, this will stand up to being used without supervision.
     If your child likes this, they'll like What is this? too - it's exactly the same idea but you have to guess objects instead of animals.
Buy What am I? from Amazon    
Buy What is this? from Amazon

Goodnight Piggy Wiggy
by Christyan and Diane Fox
(Little Tiger Press)
Here cleverly designed fold out pages add extra excitement to Piggy Wiggy's dreams of what he will be when he grows up. The bold, bright pictures are perfect for the very young but sufficiently unbabyish to appeal to older ones as well, especially boys.
0-6 and special needs
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The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle
This very simple story takes a caterpillar from being an egg to being a butterfly and, in order to grow so much, he has to eat a great deal. Pages of different sizes and holes for small fingers to explore add extra interest to a story which is just right for the very young.

 Ideal from 0-4 and available as a paperback or a board book.  
Buy from Amazon: board book    normal paperback


The Jolly Postman
by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Jolly Pocket Postman
by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Jolly Christmas Postman
by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
(Viking Children's Books)
These three books all build on children's love of receiving letters. The rhyming text tells how the Jolly Postman delivers the post to characters well known from nursery rhymes and fairy tales while some of the pages are envelopes which contain the actual letters. So, in addition to enjoying the story, children can open the post and read such delights as a letter of apology to the three bears from Goldilocks or a get-well jigsaw for Humpty Dumpty. Books 3-6 year olds will enjoy looking at again and again.
Buy from Amazon:  The Jolly Postman   The Jolly Pocket Postman
The Jolly Christmas Postman




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