Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Sneaking Books in at breakfast: toast racks as book storage

Posted on | July 31, 2014 | 17 Comments

toastrackstorageI’m always mulling over ideas about ways to introduce new opportunities for my kids to pick up a book and read but inspiration can strike in the strangest of places: I was recently in a charity shop when I saw a humble toast rack, the sort I associate with B&Bs, and suddenly I had a lightbulb moment!

It occurred to me that I could use the toast rack to display books on the kitchen table, making it easy and alluring for my kids to pick up something to read whilst eating their toast or cereal.


This has been perfect for the holidays, encouraging lingering over a book at breakfast.


I’ve enjoyed choosing a selection of new books each morning, searching out books my kids haven’t looked at for a while, or sneaking in a new one for them to discover.


The toast rack works really well with picture books because they aren’t as “fat” as chapter books (though maybe if I looked around I could find other toast racks with wider slots). I’ve also learned that it’s best to take off the dust jacket, to make it easy to slip the book in and out of the rack.


Do you encourage your kids to read at meal times? Where else do you try to sneak in reading opportunities?

Book bag envy?

Posted on | July 21, 2014 | 7 Comments

When you go to the library or the bookshop what do you like to carry your books in?

Over the last few year’s I’ve been lucky enough to gather some gorgeous book bags, courtesy of various publishers giving them away at stands at book conferences and other events:









When I asked on Twitter for more examples of great book bags I got sent some lovely, envy-inducing photos… Thanks go to Anabel Marsh for the photo of her lovely Kelpies bag:

Kate Wise tweeted me this picture of this lovely Usborne bag:

David Maybury sent me a reminder of his happy past:

Melanie from Library Mice sent me a photo of these beauties:

Sarah Yewman is the lucky owner of the Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler Bag and the Shifty McGifty bag:
sarah yewmanbag

Amrita, @ghazaldesk, sent me this photo of a Dutch bag, from the American Book Center in Amsterdam:

If you’ve a particularly loved book bag (whether from a publisher or not), do let me know – I’d love to see more great examples! You can email me a picture on and I’ll update this post next week.

Worldwide giveaway of two translated Children’s Classics!

Posted on | July 16, 2014 | 67 Comments

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m passionate about children’s books in translation, and so today I’m especially glad to have the opportunity to give one lucky reader copies of 2 translated books I believe are exceptional: I have a worldwide giveaway of The Cat who Came in off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt, translated by David Colmer and The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt, translated by Laura Watkinson.


These are two of my family’s very favourite books: they’re so good we’ve read them multiple times in both their original Dutch, and in translation!

I summarised what I think of both books yesterday in this post – but basically, these are outstanding books in any language, and both have received rave reviews here in the UK, as well as back home in the Netherlands.

The nitty gritty

  • This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE.
  • To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post.
  • For extra entries you can:

    (1) Tweet about this giveaway, perhaps using this text:
    Win 2 exceptional children’s novels great for sharing as a family over on @playbythebook’s blog

    (2) Share this giveaway on your Facebook page or blog

    You must leave a separate comment for each entry for them to count.

  • The winner will be chosen at random using
  • The giveaway is open for two weeks, and closes on Wednesday 30th July 2014 5pm UK time. I will contact the winner via email. If I do not hear back from the winner within one week of emailing them, I will re-draw as appropriate (please note this if you are likely to be on holiday the first week of August).

  • Best of luck and happy reading!

    dutchwinnerUPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. It was won by entry 63, Sanja Stajdohar.

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  • Coming soon – new adventures

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