The Story of The Crocodile & The Pelican…

The children are back at school and in between clearing the house of lockdown debris (with a flame thrower perhaps??🙈) I promised myself that I’d do more writing. In lockdown I’ve written quite a few poems but didn’t have the brain space to write a story.

Now the little cherubs are back and settled and happy (as well as being suitably knackered from being properly out and about again!) It’s time to get back to the writing board.

I’ve always loved Aesop’s fables and would give my right arm even an out for his brilliant storytelling and cunningness.

So to get a bit of writing practice and de-freeze my brain, I gave fable writing a go. It’s my first one and very rough around the edges but thanks for reading!

The Crocodile and The PelicanKirsten Allen

There was once a crocodile who lived by river. Every day he would swim across and eat one of the tasty pelicans who bathed on the other side. It was such a huge effort. The river was extremely wide with a strong current which pushed at his head and pulled at his tail. Clumps of reeds would tangle in his claws like a spider web on a fly and by the time he got to the pelicans, it was usually early evening. By which time he was often exhausted and had to rest after the meal. But they were so delicious and tasty he perused with his efforts.

One day, however, the current was particularly strong and after his long journey, his muscles ached and he was so tired barely had the energy to open his jaw. But the pelican he had his eye on, looked particularly juicy and delicious. He was just about to muster the strength to gobble him up when the pelican shouted “Wait! Stop!”

The crocodile was so surprised he couldn’t help but stare at the pelican.

“Don’t eat me!” said the pelican, “If you wait until it’s dark, you will see something plumper, rounder and much more delicious than me in the river. And much easier to get!”

“Oh?” said the very hungry crocodile

“Yes” said the pelican. “At night the man in the moon comes for a swim. Much bigger and far tastier than even 3 pelicans put together – it will keep you fed for days. But if you eat me, you’ll only be hungry again by morning.”

“Well now,” thought the crocodile, “that does sound tempting. Why would I bother a measly pelican only to have to make the same long journey across again tomorrow.“

The crocodile agreed with the pelican. And watched. And waited. And waited. And watched. Night fell and sure enough, just as the pelican had said, there was the brightest, biggest moon face right in the middle of the river. The crocodile couldn’t believe his eyes. “All that food and I don’t even have to waste any effort going from one side of the river to the other! This feast should keep me full for days!”

The crocodile plunged into the river and took a big snap at the man in the moon. The face rippled in a grotesque, almost mocking fashion. This made the crocodile angry and he furiously tried again and again. Snap snap snap! But he couldn’t seem to wrap his jaws around this slippery catch.

The middle of the river was also where the current was the strongest. Normally the crocodile would use his powerful tail and legs to swim through but he was getting more annoyed by the second and was so intent on catching his prey, that he wasn’t focused and suddenly the crocodile was swept under the current and down the river. The pelicans were overjoyed and spent the rest of their days splashing and feeding in the river without another thought given to the crocodile. Who was never to be seen again.

Morals of the story:

Don’t let greed cloud your judgement

Don’t believe everything you hear

There are no shortcuts to success

Russian Fairytales and a book review….

Children back to nursery and school and finally I can get back to a blog I’ve been attempting to write since what feels like the first dawn in time!

It’s been a very mixed bag of emotions since the start of lock down and the last couple of days have been no exception. Thankfully my boys couldn’t wait to see their friends again and the transition back this week has been smooth this far.

Safety remains number one priority of course but one of the things I’ve missed, as I’m sure many have is the freedom of travel! We went to Germany (self catering, middle of nowhere) for a couple of weeks. I have relatives out there and while I didn’t see them all due to distancing etc it was nice that the gorgeous weather held out long enough for me to see my uncle outside. And seeing the beautiful forests always reminds me of Brother Grimm stories. Had so much fun with the boys on walks imagining the animals that were there.

Germany: Schwabian Forest Sunset – Kirsten Allen

Fairy stories and folklore have always been a huge part of my life and interests. My mother used to make up stories about a girl who got lost in the woods (probably something to do with my rubbish sense of direction 😂). The stories were complete with gnomes and (from hazy recollection) talking animals. When I studied Russian and German for my BA, one of the many happy memories was being in Moscow and researching for my dissertation. It was based on Russian fairytales. During my time in Moscow I developed a love of Russia’s beautiful folklore and tales. Passed on through generations, they flow through Russia’s veins and are the heartbeat of her rich culture. Tales of Vasilia the Beautiful, The Firebird and Baba Yaga have been captured in stunning works of art by Ivan Bilibin, in words by Alexander Afanasyev and in Alexander Pushkin’s lyrical poetry.

Kirsten Allen

Recently, I’ve read the most beautiful books by Sophie Anderson The House With Chicken Legs and The Girl Who Speaks Bear which are magical novels based on Slavic folklore. They brought back so many memories of my time at Bilibin’s house in Moscow and I could really picture the characters. I can’t wait to read her latest book The Castle of Tangled Magic!

Book Review

The Story Of Babushka – by Catherine Flores ages 9+

As I might have mentioned (once or twice 🙈) in this blog, folklores and fairytales are a bit of a passion of mine. And if you think of Russia it’s impossible not to think of Russian Dolls (Matryoshkas)…the doll in the doll in the doll. So when Catherine kindly sent me a copy of her book The Story of Babushka, of course I had to read it straight away! The central character is the outer doll, Babushka. Each chapter then follows the story of the 5 bodies with very different talents: Antonia (beauty), Loretta (wealth) , Paula (Babushka’s talents), Viola (wisdom) and Mary (heart and inner voice). In turn, their to help people in different ways. I really loved the messages of kindness and selflessness the dolls portrayed and the storyline is rich with morals. It’s a beautiful picture book which would be particularly suitable for older children for a classroom discussion. It’s very cleverly written and has a rich vocabulary. At first I was slightly taken aback with the story of the first doll Antonia (beauty). She meets someone who falls in love with her appearance and I couldn’t help thinking that this was a wrong message to send out. Then further into the story I learned an important lesson – never judge a book by its cover! I won’t give it away but it becomes clear that beauty and wealth aren’t everything.
Another aspect of the book I really liked was the way the dolls all go off on their independent adventures, yet remain a family unit. It’s truly heartwarming and poignant, particularly in today’s society. I currently have an e-copy of this beautiful story but will definitely be ordering the book for my shelf. When things get hectic, I’ll read it and be reminded of what really matters in life.

Q&A with Catherine Flores

Q1: How did your interest in Russian Folklore start?

A1: As a child I was familiar with Russian nesting dolls and was attracted by taking it apart and then putting it back together again, something that I feel Is quite a strong metaphor for life. Back then I didn’t really know, what the Russian nesting doll stood for. Fast forward many years, when I had the chance to explore Russian culture through books. One in particular that stood out to me was the 10-books-series “Anastasia” written by the Russian author Wladimir Megre. Reading these books also inspired me to set the location of Babushka in a beautiful enchanted forest.

Q2: Which of the dolls would you most like to be identified with?

A2: I would choose Mary, because I believe that love has the strength not only to unite but to do anything! It’s a powerful source that lies within each and every-one of us!

Q3: In the book, Babushka learns about photographs helping to relive a memory. If you could choose one memory from your childhood to relive, what would it be and why?

A3: One of the most beautiful memories of my childhood is, when our father took me and my sisters out into the forest for Sunday walks. He showed us how beautiful Mother Nature is and taught us how to enjoy the simple things in life, such as rustling through the fallen leafs in autumn, or how to “tweet” like birds and whilst listening to them answer. Sometimes we went to the brook in the forest and collected rocks of different sizes, which we took home and painted brightly, just to bring them back the following Sunday and hide them in the bushes and see if we could find other painted rocks, that we had hidden in the past. I only now realise, how similar the scenery sounds to where Babushka lives.

Latest poem

Lockdown has been interesting to see more of how the kids play. My eldest loves Lego and is energetic but will sometimes sit quietly.

My youngest not so much 😂. He spends his entirely 3yo life running, climbing or eating! This one’s for him. Thanks for reading 💖

Imagination 3: Choices and a Book Review

One thing I’ve noticed about toddlers, specifically my 3 year old. They love control. Or another word for it might be independence. Both my children have always been fiercely independent, almost to a fault. My youngest particularly. Almost as soon as he could walk, he wanted to get in and out of the car by himself. After what felt like hours of watching him struggle to get in, I’d give him a little push up. To which he’d respond with ferile anger, get out of the car, push the door shut and start all over again! The same with getting dressed – so much as my finger on his trousers to help him get a leg in, off everything would come with loud “NO! I do it myself!” and we would have to start all over again. My husband and I have only got ourselves to blame – we can be very stubborn and rarely ask or accept help. With my children, I’m learning to sit on my hands and just say “if you need help, let me know.” And actually if they really need it, they will ask.

But how does this relate to imagination? I’m no educational expert, but I’ve seen how leaving them to their own devices and not interfering (unless it’s dangerous or we’re in a big hurry to be somewhere) can give them the opportunity to think of new ways of problem solving. Letting them figure it out and make their own choices as much as possible, gives them the tools to think in different ways. Whether that’s using a bicycle pump to etch a new design on the wall (yes that happened after I took crayons and keys of him 🙈) or working out how to put their shoes on.

Giving children choices can be helpful in encouraging both creative and critical thinking, as this article mentions: How You Can Help Children Solve Problems

Sometimes I even think you can hear their little brains ticking over new solutions.

Another way of encouraging children to think creatively and independently is by allowing them to choose their own storylines in books. I used to love the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series and for my young children they really enjoy The Storypath by Kate Baker and Madalena Matoso.

Pictures are laid out along paths and there are questions to prompt the children, but they choose which way the story goes and how they can describe the characters.

They are all gorgeous books but the one that in future years will be classed as one of my boys’ “childhood favourites”, is You Choose by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt which I really enjoyed reviewing. I loved looking through the pictures and thinking about what my preferences would be!

Thanks for reading my blog and hope you enjoy the review!

Book Review

You Choose – by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt

Published by: Puffin Books

Do you remember staring for hours at an Argos catalogue, imagining what you’d choose for your home. Then imagining what your house would look like…would you live in a castle or a lighthouse? Would you live by the sea or in a forest? Well You Choose does exactly but is way more fun and has so many more options!

Before my eldest started reception last year there was an evening for the parents to meet the teachers, get to know other parents etc.

The headteacher gave us all advice which was music to my ears. The most important thing we could do for our children over the summer was to read to them. And read lots. Maths and learning alphabets etc, she went on to say, would be taught in reception. Reading to our children would teach them about empathy and choices and the softer skills. She told us the books didn’t even need to have many words in it. You Choose was on the top of her list of books she recommended. Apparently it had been her children’s favourite too when they were younger. I’m so glad we got it. It’s helped my 3yo’s vocabulary, he loved the independence of choosing and it has encouraged both my children’s imagination as we discuss characters that they have chosen. It also gives us something to chat together about as we talk about all our choices!

I read that there are also different games you can play with the book – only choosing things beginning with a certain letter, or perhaps objects with particular colours. This book provides hours of fun and I very much recommend not only reading it at bedtime and when you can have more time together for longer chats. It’s easy to get so caught up in conversations you don’t realise how quickly the time goes! Absolute children’s classic of a book. We love it!

And now, we turn the tables on the author Pippa Goodhart and illustrator Nick Sharratt to find out a few of their choices!

Q&A

Q1. You can take 3 animals on a hot air balloon ride with you. Who do you choose?

 Pippa: Um. Not a giraffe because its head would be up in the balloon. An elephant would be so heavy we might not take off. A mouse might get frightened and run up my trousers. Not my cat, Dotsy, because she’d get scared and dig her claws in. Not my chickens because they’d get in a flap. I’d take my dog, Winnie, who would be a good companion. And I’d take two herons in case the balloon collapsed. I’d hold their legs while they flap big wings, and we’d glide down to land safely. 

Nick: a parrot a tortoise and a kitten

Q2. You’re invited to a fancy dress party. The theme is superheroes. Who would you choose to go as?

Pippa: The super-hero that comes to my mind straight away just now is Annie, who is one of my daughters. She is a doctor working long difficult days in a hospital, caring for very ill patients, all whilst she’s six months pregnant. So I’d put on a pair of scrubs and face mask, and borrow a stethoscope. 

Nick: Snoozerman – as I already have an almost superhuman capacity for dozing off.

 

Q3. You get to spend lockdown in the building of your choice from the following:

  1. a) light house
  2. b) space station
  3. c) castle

And why did you choose it?

Pippa: That’s a difficult choice! I like my home best, but I’ll choose c) castle. Because a space station or a lighthouse would feel so restricted, with no garden to go out into. A castle would be too big to feel cosy, and might be cold and strange and possibly scary, but at least it would have lots of room outside where I could walk and think. 

Nick: A castle – the four-poster bed would be a great place for an afternoon nap.

Q4: What’s your next project?

Pippa: Well, funnily enough, one of the next books to get published is a new You Choose book! You Choose Fairy Tales. Nick Sharratt has done absolutely wonderful pictures for it, as you can imagine. 

Nick: I have lots of exciting projects in the pipeline. So watch this space!

Imagination 2: Animal Antics and A Book Review

Don’t laugh and don’t judge. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. Haven’t we? Please say yes 🙈 When I was little (around 7 years old) I wanted to own a dog. Both parents working full time and a mum who wasn’t keen on four legged furballs, it was never going to happen. So I did the next best thing and pretended to be a dog instead. Until I realised something very obvious. I didn’t want to be a dog. I wanted to be a cat…because cats can drink milk out of saucers. I still remember the bemused/slightly terrified look of the babysitter.
Then a few months ago, I caught my 5 year old playing fetch shouting “Come back here little doggy! Come on! There’s a good boy!” to his 3 year old brother, who much to my horror was dutifully obeying, running towards him with a rotten old stick in his mouth.
Both the boys regularly “charge” at us pretending to be rhinos and my eldest even went through a phase of being a woodpecker. That was fun and games. Particularly when he had decided that hubby and myself were trees. It was like living with a very enthusiastic and excitable Woody Woodpecker.
But why do children pretend to be animals and how should we, as parents and carers react to it? It could be pretty frustrating if your kid is pretending to be a worm and all you want is for them to put their shoes on. Or perhaps it’s Bolognese Wednesday but they’ve decided they’re a penguin and refuse to eat anything but fish?

According Dr Gleason in this article Why My Kid Won’t Stop Pretending To Be A Lion – New York Times it’s to do with a cognitive developmental task called “the theory of mind” she goes on to say it’s the idea that “other people have thoughts, and those thoughts can be different from your thoughts,” ‘ the article also helpfully goes on to give advice on how to manage behaviour if the child is spending a little too much time being their animal.

Another benefit of this form of play can be the development of gross motor skills. It can get children using all sorts of different muscles.

One game we’ve played in the form of “Simon Says” was an animal race game.

Activity – animal Simon Says Animal Race

– one person is “Simon” the other children stand side by side at one end of garden or room

– ‘Simon’ gives the command eg “Simon says slither like a snake”

– children then have to race to slither to other side of garden/room. When they reach the end, they run back to beginning.

– Simon can try and catch them out by saying “Hop like a frog” instead of “Simon says hop like a frog”

Animal ideas:

Hop like a frog/kangaroo/flea
Slither like a snake
Wiggle like a worm
Pounce like a tiger
Run like a cheetah/ostrich
Crawl like a spider/insect
Pretend to fly like a bird
Stomp like an elephant
Charge like a rhino
Buzz like a fly
Flap like a butterfly

As strange as we might find it there are so many benefits for our children to pretend to be animals. It’s so good for their imagination! And ours. The last few days, neighbours may have heard me zooming around the garden with my spider powers chasing the tasty little 2 legged flies. When I caught them they got spider tickles. Then they tried to catch me by turning their fly powers into super cheetah and mega bee buzz powers. I can honestly say that it’s the best fun we’ve had in a game! So if your child is pretending to be an animal, as long as it’s not stopping their day to day stuff like going to school/nursery and isn’t causing disruption to they’re daily life, then absolutely join in the animal antics!

Thanks for reading! Below is a review for the unique and humorous inspiration for this blog “I Am A Tiger” by incredibly kind and imaginative Karl Newson.

Book Review

I Am A Tiger – by Karl Newson and illustrated by Ross Collins

Published by: Macmillan

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When is a mouse not a mouse? Well when they’re a tiger of course! What a great book with really eye catching illustrations. A mouse convinces his friends that he is in fact a tiger. He’s so convincing that even the tiger believes him! But what does that make the tiger? And what are the other animals? It’s such a fun book and really gets kids thinking. What I love is the mouse’s confidence and belief that he can be anything he decides he wants to be. Fabulous for guessing games – describe some animals to children and imagine how the mouse might see them. A thin, pointy thing that hangs in trees couldn’t possibly be a snake could it? And if it’s tiny, colourful and sits on a stick surely it must be a lollipop?

We had lots of fun and giggles with this bright, colourful hilarious book and will definitely be getting the sequel “I Am Not An Elephant”

And now a big thank you to Karl for this the Q&A – loved the answers!

Q1: How would the mouse describe you if he saw you?

Ross and I play a game in our events where we do this exact thing! I’m described as ‘Wild. Curly topped. Weedy.’ The children can only see the description on a silhouette of broccoli and they shout out guesses of what they think Mouse is describing – it’s lots of fun!

Q2: What is the main piece of advice that the mouse would give to any fellow mice that might be struggling with self-confidence?

I think she’d say (I always think of Mouse as a ‘she’, but to Ross she’s a ‘He’ – I love that Mouse is different for us all) don’t feel restricted by how you look on the outside – it’s how you feel on the inside that counts. And how you feel can fit a time and a mood and a place – it can change… make it work for you when you need it.  🙂

Q3: What is his favourite part of being a tiger?

I think it’s all the ‘GRRRR’ing!

Q4: What are your future book plans?

Mouse has a three-quel publishing in August (and I have plans for her that I’m hoping might happen one day). I have three other books due to be published between August and October (two more picture books and a young fiction) and a few more due next year. I can’t really say much more at the moment as most of them are under wraps for the time being… but they should be revealed soon, I hope! I’m writing lots more at the moment – in my experience picture books tend to take about 2 years to publish after being contracted so I’ve got 2022 in mind now and am guessing what the trend might be then. I’m looking forward to finding out!

 

Find out more about Karl Newson and his books here: Karl Newson

And do check out Mudwaffler Club! It’s sure to put a smile on your face and my kids love it. There’s even a reading of “I Am A Tiger” Click below for the link:

A place to nestle down and make things up, brought to you by children’s book author Karl Newson. Here, we’ll read books, write stories and create drawings together. We’ll write our own NONSENSE POETRY. We’ll make our own MUDWAFFLER CLUB BADGE. We’ll colour things in. Cut things out. Read letters. Answer Questions. And eat biscuits… Are you ready? It’s Mudwaffler time!

Imagination and a book review

In this crazy world of lockdown, one thing that has blown and impressed my mind, is the children’s imagination. Pre-lockdown, I knew of course they had one. The time my now 3yo used a red wooden toy to draw some unapproved and uncommissioned artwork on the wall. When asked whodunnit “The gorilla mummy!” . Or the other day when my 5yo drew a picture of sun, sand and sea. It was a holiday we’d been on with grandparents. “Are you going to draw all of us and the buckets we used?” I asked. “No, we’ve all gone for a walk!”

Imagination helps eliviate the boredom, takes us to new places and helps us think beyond our four walls.

One thing I’m learning to do during lockdown is to relax a bit when it comes to play. As long as it’s not dangerous or harmful it’s fine. My “don’t touch this” or “don’t do that” or “get down from there” are starting to turn into “show me” , “don’t worry that’s what baths and washing machines are for!” and “that’s a great slide you’ve made out of the sofa cushions!” It’s by no means perfect. There are fab days with sunshine, books, successful home learning and skipping around feeling like Mary Poppins. Then there are the days of potty training toddlers leaving “deposits” in the kitchen, tantrums (I’d say split pretty evenly between them and me! 🙈) and dinners of fish fingers with a side serving of haribo and 10 billion hours of tv.

But whatever the day, there’s not one that goes by where I’m not impressed by the kids’ imagination! Even it’s the choice of insults when my eldest is shouting “YOU YOU YOU STINKY OLD RHODODENDRON!” in a fit of rage at his younger brother. Or when they make up their own games like “What time is it Mr Gopher? NIBBLE TIME!” or when my 3 year old tells people he had a lovely day and played cricket for most of it with his best friend from nursery….we hadn’t played with the forgotten cricket set in over a year and with social distancing certainly hadn’t been anywhere near his best friend. But imagination is a coping mechanism and gives us hope and alternatives.

Imagination comes in many forms and I’ll be writing a couple of blogs to explore this. As this article describes activities such as arts, crafts, science and messy play are important part of their creativity How To Nurture Your Child’s Imagination – Parents Magazine and I’m trying my best in lockdown to stick to 2 rules.

1. Mud and paint will come out in the wash

2. If it doesn’t, make sure you had lots of fun doing it!

Generally I’m relaxed when it comes to messy play, but even I struggle when at 8am one morning my 3yo son ran out sporting nothing but pants and wellies, got a watering can and started pouring water all over the lawn. To create muddy puddles. Cheers for that Peppa Pig. That said 3yo had a whale of a time. And it did in fact come out in the wash.

Another (not so messy!) way to develop young imaginations is guessing games.

Here are a few suggestions:

– Put things in a box, cover the box and the child can guess by touch or description what’s in there.

– gather some “noisy” objects eg. Pan and spoon, rice in a jar, and a half filled bottled of water. Get the child to guess what noise they’ll make.

– Put objects with different textures on a tray. Before touching them, ask the child to tell you what they think it will feel like.

– my love of books is no secret but read and read lots with them. Little Gym Chiswick suggested swapping the book character’s name with the child’s name. Eg instead of “Goldilocks sat on the chair” it could be “Megan sat on the chair”. This helps develop imagination and empathy.

– Play the “what happens next?” with stories so the child guesses before you turn the page.

– Ask questions about the book characters that might not be in the book. “What kind of a house do they live him?” Or “What’s their favourite colour?”

– Find a few objects in the house and ask children to create stories about them. If you like, write the stories down for them so they can just focus on the telling part. I tried something similar with my 5yo son and wrote it down for him and this was the result (though TBF his handwriting would probably have been better than mine 😆):

Would love to hear how you get on!

As mentioned earlier, imagination is such a huge topic it’s impossible to include everything in one blog (though looking at the length of this one, it would seem that I’ve tried 😆) so I’ll add a few more in the coming days.

In the meantime thank you so much for reading and please check out below for two completely different and highly imaginative books by the very talented Susannah Lloyd

Book Review

This Book Can Read Your Mind – by Susannah Lloyd and illustrated by Jacob Grant

Published by:  Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Said it before and said it again. This book should come with an actual health warning. My 3yo laughed so hard he choked up a green bean. This was on the fourth time of reading it. On the day we got it. The first time we read it we were all snorting with laughter – I think the most we have laughed since lockdown. It’s a very sensible and well researched scientific experiment to see if the book can read your mind. Just don’t think of elephants. Or elephants in pants. And you’ll be fine. My 5yo tried to think of pink gophers and cottoned on quite quickly but has still requested me to read it over and over! 3yo even tried to “read” it himself and shouts of “PANTS” followed by lots of giggles could be heard from his room. Just brilliant. It’s a book that very much makes the children feel a part of the story and that they are the cause of the main character’s (a very sensible scientist’s) reactions.

But as Susannah herself said be sure to have only strictly sensible thoughts. It’s a VERY delicate book!

The Terribly Friendly Fox by Susannah Lloyd, illustrated by Ellie Snowdon

Published by: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

The Terribly Friendly Fox is about a fox. Who is invited to the Annual Woodland Creatures Ball…oh please don’t worry! It’s fine! He’s turned vegetarian so no need to panic. The guests are having a fine time with all the party games and a magic performance. There don’t seem to be as many guests at the end of the book as there are the begin though. Perhaps they were just worn out by all the fun and went home…

This is one of my favourite picture books. The children love it too. It’s darkly humorous and interesting to see the children work out where the guests disappeared to. Cleverly written by Susannah Lloyd and ingeniously illustrated by Ellie Snowdon it’s definitely one for the bookshelves!

And now for a real treat – a Q&A with the very lovely Ellie and Susannah – the imaginative duo that created this foxy book !

Q1: If Gerald were to give his own dinner party which creature would be at the top of his menu…oops…sorry I meant guest list of course?

Ellie: That’s a good question! I think even though Gerald loves ALL animals equally, there’s no denying he has a fondness for rabbits…mostly because he loves nothing more than a lovely leftover rabbit stew on a Sunday!

Susannah: There is such a fine range of tasty treats on offer at this party, so it would be very hard for him to choose. But I think, if Gerald is anything like me, he would save the best for last, so I fear it would be the mouse, if he could only get his paws on him…

Q2: What is Gerald’s favourite go to party game to distract his guests?

Ellie: He has so many but I think musical chairs is Gerald’s cleverest distraction as things (*ahem* guests) can get lost so easily amongst the fun.

Susannah: I think it would have to be his dazzling display of conjuring tricks. Gerald is very talented at sleight of hand, and disappearing tricks are his particular speciality.

Q3: If you were able to understand each other, and you could invite any animal to a dinner party who would you invite and why?

Ellie: Mine would be a hare…mostly because the Mad March Hare in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland is one of my all time fictional characters. I think he would be a very bonkers and entertaining party guest! (plus he could run out of there very fast should a certain fox show up..!)

Susannah: My dream party guest would be a badger. I just love them so much. I am currently working on a new idea that features as many badgers as can possibly fit the pages. They are practically spilling out of it. I would love nothing more than to snuffle my way through a selection of cakes and pies with a very jolly badger for company.

Q4: What were your favourite books as a child?

Ellie: There are so many! I loved anything by Janet & Allan Ahlberg… ‘The Jolly Postman’ was a particular favourite. I’ve still got my original copy with all the postcards still intact and miraculously unharmed! Also ‘The true story of the 3 Little Pigs’ by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith was another favourite – a right old giggle!

Susannah: Oh yes! I loved the Albergs too, but my favourite was Burgler Bill. The best part was when he returned everything, including the policeman’s helmet and the stolen toothbrush.

The children’s books I loved the best were the ones where you got the feeling that the writer or illustrator was thoroughly enjoying themselves, being playful and having a marvellous time creating it. Picture books by William Steig, Russell Hoban, John Yeoman and Quentin Blake gave me that feeling. My favourites were The Wild Washerwomen and the How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, which cracked me up as a child and still do.

Growing up I really loved all the Beatrix Potter stories too, which I think has very much influenced my own writing. People often mistakenly think of her stories as being sweet, but she had a brilliant talent for thinly veiling nature tooth and claw in sentences cloaked in civility. Her beautifully dressed animals, sipping tea in patterned floral cups often had very sharp teeth! I especially like this understated line from Benjamin Bunny when his father discovers a cat is holding his son hostage under a basket: ‘Old Mr. Bunny had no opinion whatever of cats’, meaning the cat was in VERY imminent danger indeed. or this one, from The Tale of Ginger And Pickles, where Ginger the cat has trouble serving the mice customers of their shop because it makes his mouth water so much: ’It would never do to eat our customers, they would leave and go to Tabatha Twitchet’s,’ Pickles tells him.

Q5: Susannah, do you have more fabulous book writing plans?

Susannah: I have another picture book out now, called This Book Can Read Your Mind, with Jacob Grant. It is a book that can actually read your mind! One word of warning however…it is extremely delicate, so whatever you do, just please make sure you don’t think of anything silly. I’m sure I can trust you with that!

My third book is on its way next year, this time with illustrator Paddy Donnelly. I am very excited indeed about it. It features my second favourite sort of beast (after badgers) but I think it is still under wraps so I will have to keep you in suspense as to what that is for now!

The (not so) Great Hamster Escape

Think my writing is being influenced by lock down🙈

Thanks for reading/watching and hope you’re safe and well 💖

The crazy mummy between kids’ snacks reading The (not so) Great Hamster Escape

The (not so) Great Hamster Escape – Kirsten Allen

The hamster, (his cheeks filled with food)

Looked through the cage bars and thought it was rude

That the humans had the run of the house,

So did the cat, the dog and the mouse.

“I’m going to escape!” He said

And plans started to clack like a wheel in his head.

He couldn’t squeeze through the gaps – they were narrow

And his bum was the size of a small wheel barrow.

When he tried to prise the metal apart

The only thing that escaped was a silent long fart.

He attempted a gnibble and attempted a gnaw

But all the chomping and chewing gave him a sore jaw

He paced up and down trying to think

Only stopping briefly for a quick drink

An idea suddenly hit him like a tank at full throttle –

He’d make a small hole in his drinking bottle!

The hamster carried out his devious plan

And the next day at breakfast over croissants and jam

The smallest human noticed the bottle was dry

And the little offspring let out a cry

“Oh mummy, oh daddy there’s not a drop spare!”

But the grown ups were too busy to care.

So the little girl decided to do it herself

And grabbed a new bottle from the pet food shelf.

She carefully put the new bottle in

Then put the old one in the bin.

The hamster’s excitement reached the highest peaks!

“She’s forgotten to shut the door!” He squeaked!

He cartwheeled and rubbed his paws with glee

Very soon he knew that he’d be free!

Lit by only the moon, the house was quiet once more,

He crept and creeped out of that door.

But oh no! Alas! Alack!

He never saw the puddy cat…..

I Wonder About Aliens – Poem and Worksheet

Finger’s crossed no regrets tonight about letting the little one sleep for a bit. Big one is upstairs playing so finally I get a minute to write a very quick blog. Or at least add a couple of activity sheets and a poem to the page! This one I took to a nursery workshop and and a year 1 workshop a while ago and it worked well. As a basic for nursery session, I read the poem then chatted about the kids where they would take their alien for the day. One of my favourite responses was “I’d take them to Tesco!”. Priorities eh?

For year one, I got them to describe their alien, then the other person had to draw. For lockdown – this could work well on video call with a friend perhaps?

Gah going to have to hurry – big one has just come downstairs with a broken Lego jail…..

So here’s the poem, and worksheets with activity ideas. Hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading and please share any pictures on Twitter/Instagram with @kidsstoryworld #AlienAntics !

I WONDER ABOUT ALIENS – Worksheet

I WONDER ABOUT ALIENS – ACTIVITIES

I Wonder About Aliens

By Kirsten Allen

I wonder about aliens

And what would happen if they came,

Down to visit planet Earth.

Do you think we’d look the same?

Would they have hands and toes like us?

Or the biggest furry paws?

Perhaps neither, perhaps both…

Perhaps GINORMOUS purple claws?

Do you think the aliens would talk like us?

What would they like to do?

Perhaps they’d want to spend the day at a local zoo?

Do you think you’d ever meet one?

What on Earth do you think they’d do?

Feeding Time At The Zoo

Thanks for reading! 💖

Feeding Time At The Zoo – Kirsten Allen

When Chef Jean Paul was asked to cook for a country’s prince or princess
He did it gladly, proudly and willingly without any sign of distress.
He cooked for diplomats, celebs and most important VIPs
And once, he baked a chocolate cake for a wealthy sheikh, while skiing down a mountain slope in the Pyrenees

However, there was one thing Chef Jean Paul dreaded and would get him in a stew
And that was the annual fundraising dinner party at the local zoo!
The giraffes munched on guests’ salad leaves, And a waiter heard one diner stutter,
“Excuse me please, I don’t mean to complain, but there’s lion in my butter!”

The penguins gulped down the fish course
The monkeys threw their poop
And a kangaroo hopped on the table, into the mayor’s bowl of beetroot soup!

The pandas caused pandemonium,
A bear ate all the honey,
An elephant swallowed the flower arrangement and it made him feel all funny!

“I give up! I give in! I quit!” Jean Paul cried “This is the worst party yet!”
And so he hung up his chefs apron, packed up his chefs knives and went off to retrain as a vet!

Tick Tock Little Mouse

Thanks for reading! 💖

Tick Tock Little Mouse – Kirsten Allen

Tick tock it’s one o’clock and Mouse is hungry for cheese
Time to sneak past the mangy cat, whose fur is covered in fleas.
Tick tock it’s two o’clock, Mouse is still on his way.
Creeping through the farmer’s field he gets stuck in a bale of hay!
Tick Tock it’s three o’clock Mouse is finally free!
On Mouse scurries but too quickly he hurries, so trips and scrapes his knee.
Tick Tock it’s four o’clock Mouse walks slowly with a limp.
A bushy tailed squirrel throws a nut at his head, the cheeky little imp!
Tick Tock it’s five o’clock, the farmhouse is within sight.
When suddenly an owl swoops past and gives poor Mouse such a fright
Tick Tock it’s six o’clock, Mouse feels brave again once more.
He creeps quietly and carefully through the kitchen door.
He sees the cheese, he sees the bread
There on the table straight ahead.
Up Mouse climbs as quick as flash,
But suddenly there’s an almighty crash!
He sees the farmer chasing him with a giant rolling pin!
Mouse jumps down and plates fly up. What a racket what a din!
Then joy! Oh luck! Oh happy days! The cheese falls on the floor.
No time to pause! Mouse picks it up and runs out of the door.
With cheesy grin and tummy full, Mouse rests his weary head
And dreams sweet dreams of cheese boards and ways to get that bread!

CHEEKY MONKEY RHYME AND HOW TO MAKE A PALM TREE ACTIVITY SHEET

Something for young ones! Here’s a download with “The Tale of the Cheeky Monkey”

Cheeky Monkey Activity Sheet

This rhyme one close to my heart…I used it in my first workshop at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival last year!

As well as colouring in, why not make your own tree using old newspaper or similar?

Cheeky Monkey – by Kirsten Allen

Cheeky monkey, cheeky monkey!
Where on Earth could monkey be?
Cheeky monkey, cheeky monkey
Was climbing up the coconut tree!

Cheeky monkey, cheeky monkey
Picked up a coconut without a sound.
Cheeky monkey, cheeky monkey
Threw the coconut on the ground!

Cheeky monkey, cheeky monkey
Had a thought and picked another.
Cheeky monkey, cheeky monkey
Then threw it at his little brother!

Cheeky monkey, cheeky monkey
Made his little brother cry.
Cheeky monkey, cheeky monkey
Said it fell out of the sky!

Mummy Monkey crossly said
It wasn’t nice to hurt his brother’s head!
Little brother was very sad
And Cheeky Monkey felt quite bad.

Sorry monkey, sorry monkey
Said he was as sorry as could possibly be.
So, his brother then forgave him
And together they played in the banana tree!

Dragon Activities and a Scorching Hot Book Review

It’s a tricky time at the moment. Everyone seems to be in meltdown (at the supermarkets!) or lock down (with the kids at home) I’m currently prepping for some form of home-schooling for next week with a 5 year old and 3yo. 5yo loves trying to write, lego, board games and drawing maps. 3yo loves eating, climbing on every item of furniture, drawing (whether it’s on paper or walls) and finds things like headbutting me at full pelt hilarious. Then he gives me the most amazing cuddles. It should be interesting. Truthfully, I’m actually looking forward to spending time with them and hubby who typically works long hours. Also truthfully, ask me again in a week’s time:

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One thing both my boys love is DRAGONS. I’ve tried to think of a couple of dragon related activities to do with them (minus fire – health and safety first!) Hope you have fun with these activities!

TO DOWNLOAD AS PDF CLICK HERE: DRAGON ACTIVITIES

  • Pin the tail on the dragon:

Prep:  Draw a picture of a dragon minus the tail on some paper or card and make a tail out of card/paper separately. Put re-useable adhesive (eg. Blu-tack)  on the back of tail. Put picture of the dragon up on wall.

Game: Blindfold the first player, give them the tail and spin them round 3 times. Player then has to try and pin the tail on the dragon. Player who gets the tail the closest to wear it should be wins.

  • What time is it Firey Dragon:

OK (If it’s not obvious!) I’ve pinched this one from “What time is it Mr Wolf?” but used dragons instead. One person is the Firey Dragon.  The other players stand at other side of garden or room and shout “WHAT TIME IS IT FIREY DRAGON?” The dragon answers with a chosen a time eg. 2 o’clock. The other players then take that number of steps forward. Repeat until players are closer or Firey Dragon decides to chase. At that point the players shout “WHAT TIME IS IT FIREY DRAGON?” and firey dragon shouts back “BARBEQUE TIME!!!” and chases and the others try to run away. Whichever player the dragon catches, then becomes Firey Dragon.

  • Find the Dragon Egg – Hot and cold:

Make a dragon egg either use a rock and pretend, or if you’re feeling more creative make one out of Papier mâché or even draw an egg on a piece of card and cut out. One person is the knight and the others are the dragons.  The knight has to close his/her eyes or go in a different room while the dragons hide the egg somewhere (home or garden). The dragon has to look for it and the knights shout warm, warmer, hot and if the dragon is almost on the egg “boiling!” if the dragon moves further away then it gets colder until freezing! When the dragon finds an egg, it becomes a knight and someone takes their place.

And now for the book review…Dragon themed of course 🙂

BOOK REVIEW

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The Boy Who Grew Dragons – by Andy Shepherd and illustrations by Sarah Ogilvie. Published by Piccadilly Press

You’ve heard of dragon fruit right? But did you know that they are actual dragon plants? As in dragons grow from them… No? Well neither did Tomas. Until a dragon popped out one night. Much trickier than cucumbers! But for all the poo in the porridge and burnt rucksacks the dragons are definitely loveable trouble! Even if they are difficult to keep secret. My 5yo son adores this book – it’s funny, it’s imaginatively written, beautifully illustrated and IT’S GOT DRAGONS IN IT!!! What’s not to love?! And the special bond Tomas has with his grandfather is just incredible and makes me think of the lovely relationship that my boys have with their own grandparents. We can’t wait to read the other books in the series The Boy Who Lived With Dragons and The Boy Who Flew With Dragons which are out now. Very much recommend this book and am very excited to see that there are more books planned in the future (check out the Q&A below, with highly imaginative and very lovely author Andy Shepherd, for details!)

Thanks for reading the blog and review!

Q&A with Andy Shepherd

Q1: If Tomas were on Gardener’s Question Time what advice would he give
to anyone thinking of growing dragons?
A1: Keep your eyes open for a tree that looks like an upturned mop head, with
sprouty cactus leaves and a hairy knobbly trunk. Before any dragon fruit grow
you’ll see vivid yellow and orange tendrils, shooting out from the cactus
leaves, like a burst of flames. Next will come a moon-white flower, but if you
want to see it you’ll have to camp out in the garden because it only flowers at
night!
Once the fruits start to grow they change from green to red – now you can
start getting excited because a red fruit means the dragon is ready to hatch!
Top tips:
Don’t over water your dragon-fruit tree – like all cacti it doesn’t like soggy feet.
Invest in some good quality poly tunnels to protect your vegetables – once the
dragons start bursting out of the dragon fruits the first thing they look for is
nice tasty veg to give them fuel for their trip North.
Keep oven gloves and a hose at the ready to deal with the dragon poo they
leave behind – dragon poo has a nasty habit of exploding when it dries out!
Make sure you have a bench by the dragon-fruit tree. When the dragons start
hatching you will want to lay down your tools and watch the magic. You never
know what dragon might grow next – perhaps it will have scales that ripple
and shimmer like sunlight on the sea or breathe rainbow sparks that light up
your garden like tiny fireworks. Growing dragons is A LOT more trouble than
growing cucumbers, but there is also A LOT more magic in a dragon!
Happy dragon growing!
Q2: What is the best thing about having a dragon as a pet?
A2: When they are small and they sleep next to you, their warm scales are like a
hot water bottle. And when they settle on your shoulder, their tails curl round
your neck and their warm breath tickles your ear. Then when they get big you
can soar across the sky on their back, hollering to the stars, the whole world
stretching below you.
NB Dragons aren’t really pets. We grow dragons and they are our friends. We
look after them and the tree they grow from. But they don’t belong to us.
Dragons belong to themselves.
Q3: Any plans for more books?
A3: The fourth book ‘The Boy Who Dreamed of Dragons’ is coming out in June
and then in January 2021 there will be a fifth book, ‘The Boy Who Sang With
Dragons’.
In the next part of the story Tomas meets some new friends, both human and
dragon. When Zing a sparky little dragon with oversized wings hatches there’s
a whole lot more trouble in the garden. Then when a new girl, Aura, arrives at
school declaring herself to be Queen of the Dragons, Tomas finds life
changing even more.
But as Grandad says ‘If nothing changed, nothing would grow. And things
need to grow. Even us.’

 

TROLL CODE 137

TROLL CODE 137 – Kirsten Allen

 

Brog was a troll. He was as big an ox. He was as green as the slimiest pond water. His rock sized teeth (with a few missing) were as yellow as snot. And he lived under a bridge. All as a troll should be. Except for one thing. Everyone knows that all trolls have a big mud coloured hairy wart on the end of their chins. That is all trolls apart from Brog. He desperately wanted a wart like the other trolls at school.

“Your chin is as bald as a bowling ball! You’re not a real troll and we don’t want to play with you!” Blomp the largest troll said unkindly. All the other trolls laughed and sang “Brog is a big bald bowling ball! Brog is a big bald bowling ball!”

Poor Brog! He clomped off as fast as his big two toed troll feet could carry him and hid in a cave.

He heard footsteps. “GO AWAY!” he shouted in his biggest scariest troll voice. “THIS IS MY HIDING SPACE SO GET OUT!” He bellowed. But the footsteps didn’t go away. They got closer and closer. They belonged to his teacher Ms Blod. “Would you like to talk?” she asked. Brog glared and shook his head. He was so angry and upset he didn’t want to talk to anyone. But when Ms Blod put her arm around him, giant slimy troll tears started to roll down his face and landed in a big SPLURP on the floor. “I heard what those young trolls said. It was unkind. Even for trolls.”

Brog dried his eyes, blew his gooey nose on the back of his sleeve (that hadn’t been washed for at least a month!) and listened. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve had a little chat with them and reminded them of Troll Code number 137: All trolls must be kind to other trolls. If you’d like to come with me, I think there’s something they’d like to say.”

Brog followed Ms Blod. What could they possibly have to say that would make any difference? At the far end of the bog, the other trolls stood looking very ashamed of themselves.

“We’re sorry we broke Troll Code 137 and even more sorry that we hurt your feelings.” They said. “We shouldn’t have called you names and should have let you play with us.”

Blomp stepped forward. “We know it won’t make up for how we made you feel, but we have a little present for you. We made it ourselves.” And there, made of dried badger dung, mud and bristly troll ear hairs (the wax was still on the warm side) was the biggest most disgusting wart that Brog had ever seen. “I don’t know what to say! Thank you! It’s perfect! But….” He paused and took a deep brave breath “I’m afraid I can’t accept it.”

The other trolls gasped. “It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s the best and ugliest wart I’ve ever seen. It’s just that I don’t need it anymore.”

“What do you mean?” The trolls were puzzled. “We thought you wanted your very own chin wart more than anything in the world!”

“I did,” explained Blod. “But I don’t need it anymore because I like being me. As I am. Wartless.”

“We like that you are you too. Wartless or not.” Then together as friends, they went off stomping, clomping and burping to the stinkiest part of the bog to laugh and play until the sun went down.

 

 

THE MAGIC BOOTS STORY AND ACTIVITIES

Hi all – I’ll be putting together a few activities for the stories. Here’s one I was supposed to take into schools.

Please feel free to print/download/colour in/read outloud . Would love to see pics and stories! Share them with @kidsstoryworld on Twitter and Instagram

Kids Storyworld – MAGIC BOOTS STORY AND ACTIVITIES

Any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me and thanks for reading!

THE MAGIC BOOTS – Kirsten Allen

 

Eve was enjoying her walk in the rain. She loved nothing more than hearing the pitter and the patter of the raindrops and jumping in big puddles. The muddier the better! Suddenly, she heard a voice shout “Help! Help!”. Eve looked around but couldn’t see anyone. “Here I am! Please help me!” the voice cried. She looked down and there on the grass, close to the edge of the village pond was a fish. It was very pale and gasping for breath. Without any hesitation, Eve quickly picked it up and as the fish plunged back into the water, Eve saw all the colours of the universe shimmering and shining. A long, long time ago a bright shooting star had fallen out of the sky and into the pond. When the star hit the water, it’s light shattered into a thousand pieces and swirled back together forming this magical fish.

“Thank you! Thank you!” the fish said. “It rained so heavily that the pond water over-flowed and I went with it! But how can I ever repay you?”

“There’s really no need.” said Eve “You’re more than welcome!”

“I insist!” said the fish “I know how much you love dancing and jumping in puddles. If you look in the reeds, you’ll find a pair of boots.”

Eve looked.

“Wow! Thank you so much! I love them!” she started to put them on.

“Wait!” said the fish. “They are magic boots. When you would like to play in the rain, you put them on and say the magic words ‘Splosh, splash, splish! Rain is my greatest wish’ and it will rain.”

“And how do I get it to stop?” asked Eve.

“Yes, that’s very important! When you’d like the rain to stop you must say ‘Splish, splash, splosh make the rain stop!’. Don’t forget!”

“I’ll remember” promised Eve. “And thank you again!”

One very dry morning Eve put on her boots and said the magic words. The rain came and Eve danced and jumped in the puddles until her parents called her inside for lunch. But what she didn’t know was that Barnaby, the mischievous boy from next door had been watching and listening. “I want those boots” he said to himself. Eve had left them on the doorstep to dry out and when no one was looking, he took them and ran off to a quiet spot in the park.

Barnaby put the boots on and remembered the words “Splosh, splash, splish! Rain is my greatest wish!”. The rain came and Barnaby joyfully danced and jumped in the puddles. He splashed about until the sun went down and the moon came up. “I’d better get back home for dinner!” he suddenly thought and tried to remember the words that would make the rain stop. “Drip Drip Drop! Make the rain stop!” But the rain didn’t stop. “Paddle, paddle, paddle! Make the rain skedaddle!”

But the rain didn’t stop. No matter how hard he tried he could not remember the words. Worried about what his parents would say he ran home and didn’t tell them about the boots. The rivers whooshed, the banks flooded and soon the water was flooding the village! When it started coming under the doors of the houses, Barnaby knew he must say something. He waded next door holding the boots and knocked on the door. “My boots!” said Eve.

With no time to lose, Eve put on the boots and said the magic words “Splish, splash, splosh, make the rain stop!” and the rain suddenly stopped.

“I’m sorry,” said Barnaby “I should have asked before I took them.”

“That’s ok.” said Eve kindly, “We all mistakes. You did the right thing in the end and brought them back.”

From that day on they became firm friends and whenever there was puddle jumping to be done, Eve would ask Barnaby to join her. And Barnaby never took anything without asking again.

© 2020 Kirsten Allen ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

THE SEED WHO BELIEVED #50PreciousWords Contest

There are many beautiful words in the dictionary so it’s not easy to choose just 50 or less! But I love a challenge and I love writing so when I saw the #50PreciousWords contest on author Vivian Kirkfield’s page I just had to give it a go.

If you enjoy it and have a minute please do like and comment on the competition page here: https://viviankirkfield.com/2020/02/29/50preciouswords-2020-contest-is-officially-open/#comment-147331

It’s entry 192 💖

Thanks for reading and your support!

The Seed Who Believed  – Kirsten Allen

Once a tiny seed doubted if it could grow.
“I’ll share my warmth” said Sun.
“I’ll protect you” said Soil.
“I’ll shower you with love” said Rain. “But you need to believe you can.”
With new confidence and determination, Seed pushed brown roots down and green shoots up and blossomed.

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THE STORY OF THE MOUSE WHO DID…

Alfred was in the garden trying to blow bubbles. The harder he blew, the less the bubbles came. His brother laughed loudly at his attempts. A very cross Alfred snatched up his bubbles and stomped inside.

“What’s the matter?” Grandpa asked Alfred.

“I’ll never be able to make a bubble. If I could, I’d blow the biggest shiniest bubble in the whole world.”

“I see,” said Grandpa. “Come, sit with me and I’ll tell you a story.”

Alfred did not know how a story was going to help but sat down anyway.

“Once upon a time, there was a small mouse,” his Grandpa began.

“In fact, he was the smallest mouse in the village. One day, he said to his big brother ‘I’m going to be the first mouse in the village to row around the Great Big Lake.’ His brother laughed but the mouse ignored him. In the garden shed the mouse found a bucket and two sticks of wood.

His brother was fishing on the banks of the lake. ‘You silly little mouse! You’ll never get anywhere in that rusty old bucket!’ he said. The mouse ignored him, climbed into the bucket and started rowing with the sticks. He was still by the shore when the boat started sinking. There was a hole in the bucket!

His brother laughed even harder. But the mouse ignored him and returned to the shed.

This time he found a giant slipper. Back at the lake his brother was skimming stones. When he saw the mouse, he giggled.

‘That’s not going to get you around the lake you silly little mouse!’

This made the mouse even more determined, he got his oars, put the slipper on the lake and sat in it. Straight away water whooshed over the sides. And when the soggy slipper got tangled in the reeds, the mouse’s brother laughed until his sides almost split. ‘You might as well give up!’ he said. But the mouse ignored him. This time instead of going to the shed, he went to the kitchen. He looked everywhere for the best thing he could use as a boat. He even inspected a chunk of cheese and though it was very tasty, it wasn’t going to help him be the first mouse to row around the lake. Then he saw the giant half a walnut shell his grandma used for mixing cakes and cookies.

The mouse carried it to the lake where his brother was snoozing in a deckchair. He put the walnut shell in the water and sat in it. This time, his boat didn’t have a hole in it and the water didn’t whoosh over the sides. He started rowing only pausing to wave at the ducks and geese and say hello to the frogs. When he finally made it back to the riverbank, all the mice in the village had gathered to cheer him loudly. His brother was cheering the loudest!

‘I’m sorry I made fun of you and didn’t believe you. I’m so proud that you are the first mouse to row around the Great Big Lake!’ The mouse smiled. ‘I knew I could do it. It wasn’t a question of if but of how.’”

Grandpa looked down and smiled at Alfred. Alfred ran back into the garden. He stopped and thought. Not if he could blow a bubble but how. An idea came to him. He put his lips together and this time blew very gently. Alfred and his brother watched as the biggest shiniest bubble in the whole world floated up up up and away into the clouds.

 

 

DINO-mite! My children’s Intense Interests and a Book Review…

Welcome to my latest blog! Once again, it’s been a while. It was my 3-year olds birthday and Christmas wish-list that brought me to write another blog. Obsessions. Why? With my eldest 5 it was Thomas The Tank Engine and is now things that rhyme, my youngest is dinosaurs. We watch endless Andy’s Dinosaur or Prehistoric Adventures, have dinosaur books (as you can see in the photo!), dinosaur tops, dinosaur pyjamas, dinosaur underpants, dinosaur toys (some are really annoying – especially if the kids forget to switch them off and then forget they have got somewhere under the sofa) But why? Why do they get so fixated on one or two specific topics?

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Well I had a bit of a Google (so obvs am an expert now…*) and found out a couple of things. Apparently a study by Indiana and Wisconsin University showed that a good number of preschool children at some stage have intense interests and that this is more likely in boys than girls. When they reach school, this fascination in the interests decline at similar rates in both boys and girls.

https://www3.nd.edu/~kkelley/publications/articles/Alexander_Johnson_Leibham_Kelley_CD_2008.pdf

If a child has an intense interest, this can fuel the curiosity fire and make them want to learn more about a topic. It’s a great way to develop language (have you ever tried to get your tongue around some of those dinosaur names??) and to naturally learn how to research and problem solve. Most of all, if they have a special topic that they love, it’s a great way to have fun learning. Whether it’s dinosaurs, trains, fish, insects or even dressing up, join in their games, enjoy snuggle time on the sofa pouring over books, research answers to their questions and feed their passion. After all, we all learn best when we love what we’re learning!

Here are some interesting reads on the topic:

Childhood intense interests and obsessions: Dinosaurs, trains, princesses, horses, etc.

Scary Mommy: Intense Interests Intelligence

The Cut: Psychological explanation for kids love of dinos

*Genuine Experts – people working in education/research: Would love to hear your thoughts and findings on the topic!

BOOK REVIEW

The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice – by Julie Ballard and illustrations by Francesca Gambatesa published by Egmont

This beautiful rhyming picture book arrived in the post just before Christmas as a win in a giveaway. It’s about Milly Jo dinosaur who loves to sing more than anything in the world but one day a storm comes and a tree blows down on her neck and she loses her voice. With the help and support of her friends she comes to find a new incredible talent and once more the sounds of beautiful singing fill the jungle.

The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice really touched a chord and has a number of positive messages :

– As a parent it’s great to encourage my children to try new things and show them how important a can do attitude  is. It shows them how to overcome challenges in the face of adversity.

-As a dyslexic, for me, it’s demonstrates that there’s more than one way to achieve your potential, celebrates different talents and shows that hard work and persistence pays off. It would also potentially be a good resource for SENCO teacher or parents of children with SEND needs (would be great to know if anyone has used it for this reason and what their thoughts were!)

-As a reader it’s a great book for dinosaur fans with spot on rhymes and stunning illustrations and my children love it! Had to read it 4 times in one sitting 🙂

And I couldn’t leave the review without passing on a couple of questions to Milly Jo via her brilliant author Julie Ballard!

Q1: If Milly Jo could give her young readers any advice if they find themselves struggling to do something what would it be?
A1: Milly would say “Don’t lose heart and don’t give up. Nothing ever worth having came easily.” 

Q2: What is Milly Jo’s favourite song?
A2: One of Milly’s favourite songs she likes to perform with her choir is “Tomorrow” from the stage show Annie because the sun ALWAYS comes out!☀️

And on that very cheerful note I’d like to say thanks for reading my blog hope you enjoyed it! 💖

Life Through A Lens and a Book Review

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly.” Roald Dahl, The Twits

This morning we were getting ready for school. My 5yo son casually said “I don’t like the photo on my peg at school. It’s GROSS!” I asked him if someone had said something to him. “No it’s just yucky and my face is red!”
I was shocked but explained to him that sometimes we like our photos and sometimes we don’t but that photos don’t reflect how we really look and don’t show what’s inside us. (Tried not to make it too preachy!!) As much as I’m on my phone far too much and blog etc I do try not to take endlessly photos of the children and rarely do selfies. Honestly, I’ve never been keen on having my photo taken anyway but I used to take hundreds of the kids. “Stand here! Smile! Look this way! Do that again. Left a bit, right a bit…” It all changed on a trip to Tate Modern (brilliant place for kids by the way!) There was a family with a couple of kids. The children were naturally playing and giggly and having fun. They ran joyfully down the slope. Then the parent called them back “Ooh can you run like that again? I want to take a photo! That’s it…no not like that like you did before!…” and of course the children obliged but it wasn’t the same and they didn’t play as naturally. I thought back and realised that I did the same thing. They do something cute and we immediately want them to do it again and capture the moment. But it’s not the same moment. It’s a different moment. A forced moment. From then on I always ask if they want their photo taken. If they say no, I respect that. If I’m lucky enough to capture a precious moment on camera then great. But I’ve stopped trying to re-create the moment and instead try and keep it as a special memory. There’s that very striking photo of a lady at a premier. Everyone seeing life through the lens but she’s taking in the moment as a memory. As much as I love taking photos and feel that it’s a necessary part of today’s times, I really hope I can do the same and encourage the boys to understand that life is for living and not just for lenses.

Book of the day

The TwitsRoald Dahl

My son is starting to get in to chapter books. I hadn’t read The Twits in years!!! Then after the conversation about appearances I marched upstairs and retrieved it from the book pile. We read it on the bus. It was a great opportunity to discuss what makes someone beautiful (how they are as a person, their smile, good intentions) . I love that my son loves it (he was gutted when we had to stop reading to get off the bus!) and that this could be the start of our Roald Dahl adventures.

Children’s Mental Health and A Book Review

The boys started back at school and nursery last week . I’m very happy with how the practitioners and school have set up for learning in lockdown and how thorough and vigilant they are. It should absolutely be parents’ choice on whether to send the kids back or not but for us school/nursery returns couldn’t have come at a better time. The past couple of lockdown weeks, I’d been noticing a change in both my sons’ behaviour. My 5yo had been having frequent outbursts of frustration. The other day when I asked if he wanted to talk about anything he calmly told me “I’m just fed up with your face, daddy’s face and my brother’s face!”

My youngest (3yo) loves his nursery and talked a lot about his friends and carers there. Now he was talking about them several times a day. We got a paddling pool “I splash with my nursery friends in the nursery pool”. He plays with sand “I play with sand at my nursery with my friends”. “My friends will come to my house and I will play with them” He even told a family member on the phone that he’d played cricket with his best friend that day. He hadn’t. We are not as a family even that into cricket! The most heartbreaking moment was when my eldest mentioned flapjack and 3yo suddenly from nowhere started hysterically sobbing. He’d just been smiling and laughing. I bent down to cuddle him and half thinking it was a toddler tantrum explained that we didn’t have any flapjack. Bottom lip quivering and tears down his face he stuttered “But I love flap jack. At nursery G. makes flapjack and my friends eat flapjack and I sit together eating flapjack because my friends eat flapjack and they sit next to me and we all eat flapjack.” I mean, what do you say to a 3yo who’s world is upside down and you don’t know when it will be the right way again. And I (perhaps naively) had no idea that a 3yo could have such emotions about things that are not in their immediate vicinity. So I started much more with him about his friends and also tell him I miss mine. We often ask children to share how they’re feeling but try and hide our emotions from them. I’m not a child psychologist, and I’m not suggesting we bombard them with all the adult issues of the world but I have noticed, if my kids are a bit quiet or look upset and I say something like “I’m sad because I miss my friends” or “I’m frustrated because I want to go to the playground and we can’t” then they are more likely to open up too. Though it’s important not to dwell on negative thoughts, once they’re out but I do wonder how children are expected to learn to talk to us when we try and shield things from them? One thing I do with my sons is talk about a imaginary red balloon. If we’ve had a bad experience or day, the balloon is down. To get it to go up, we fill it with happy experiences from the day eg splashing in puddles, snuggling on the sofa or even my son put a lasagne he enjoyed in it. I say if my balloon is on the floor too. Then I ask them where they’d like the balloon to get to (as high as an aeroplane or up into space etc) If it’s only as high as a tree, we put more happy thoughts in it. I’ve found this way, I get to hear what’s bothering them and also we learn not to focus on negativity.

There are also some amazing books which help us which I’ll be reviewing including Pete Stays Home by Karra McFarlane (which will feature in a future blog!) and starting below in this blog with incredible AB Gets His Wings by Richard Bland.

Book Review

AB Gets His Wings by Richard Bland, Illustrated by Rosie Philpott

I saw AB Gets His Wings mentioned on Twitter and ordered a copy straight away. It’s about a bear in a toy factory who is waiting for his turn to be picked to be a toy for a child. One day he’s plucked off the shelf, and into a box away from his toy friends. He has a lot of questions and thoughts of uncertainty of where he’s going and isn’t sure of what to expect. He’s delivered to a kind RAF team and with their help overcomes his worries and joins them on their flights and adventures. The illustrations are beautiful and the book got my 5yo to open up about the worries and uncertainty of lockdown. It’s such a lovely comforting story. He declared it one of his favourite books in the world!

There’s a beautiful reading of it by Colin WD McLean on The Healing Voice’s YouTube Channel here and my son’s school loved it so much they’ll be getting a copy to read to pupils.

To visit AB’s website please visit:

https://www.wcab.co.uk

Copies of the book are available for purchase at Bear Hunt Books

To read more about why the book was written, please see below.

*PLEASE BE AWARE* The section contains references to self-harm and suicide which could act as triggers to some readers*

Seven years ago Richard Bland, the author, devastatingly lost his son to suicide. He now tirelessly raises awareness of mental health problems for children. All his life, Richard loved taking photos of aeroplanes and went to many air shows with his children. When the kids grew up, he started going to photograph planes with a mate and found a not very well known spot in Wales where they got some amazing snaps of RAF planes! A chance meeting with the partner of an instructor led to Richard getting to know the RAF crew and taking photos for them.

Photo by Richard Bland: The photo of the instructor blowing a kiss

It was an officer at the Met Police (they had a partnership at RAF Valley) who introduced Richard to 19 Squadron, which changed his life. He was asked to produce 2 charity calendars which raised £30000, was made an honorary squadron member and got to fly with them!

Photo by Richard Bland

Photo by Richard Bland: Richard as honorary squadron member

After the 2 calendars and limited edition prints, Richard was asked by the boss “What next?” . He then struck on the genius idea of getting a teddy bear that the pilots could take with them and photograph. The bear of course has his own log book and has been everywhere starting with Las Vegas to Afghanistan. Richard spent 2 years posting, taking, collecting photos of Wing Commander AB all over the place. From, the Red Arrows to some of the most prestigious last flights of RAF jets, to flying in the lead jet of a Buckingham palace fly past, to flying with the met police, Manchester police. It became a must do for RAF aircrew and friends.

Photo by Richard Bland: AB Bear with his log book

All was going well then Richard and his family’s world fell apart. Their 31 year old son Andrew took his own life and Richard and his family didn’t know where to turn. The dedication of the guys around the country was immense. Fritz, the met policeman was with them in 2 hours from the centre of London the night Drew died. He came and took over everything for them and dealt with the police on their behalf. Drew died on a Friday and every Friday night since has been torture for Richard and his family. Every night, they sleep with the light on in the hallway so that Drew can find his way home.

Photo supplied by Richard Bland: Richard’s son Andrew

As the mother of 2 young boys, it’s impossible to even contemplate that something like this could ever happen. And I look at the photo of a young Drew and it could be like looking at a picture of one my sons’ friends or the son of a family member.

Photo supplied by Richard Bland: Richard’s son Andrew as a young boy

We never know what their future will be like but it’s so important to talk about mental health and get our children to open up and know that it’s ok to ask for help. Richard started looking for a person or group to help them deal with what had happened and his eldest son, Peter, found The Dove Service the only grief support charity in Stoke-on-Trent & North Staffordshire, providing services to people within the community from the age of 4+ who are experiencing issues relating to bereavement, loss or life-changing illness. Richard and his wife Sue visited them several times and they provided fantastic support whenever things got on top of them. Richard offered the charity Wing Commander AB (AB stands for Andrew Bland after his son) and photographs to auction or sell to raise money for the charity as a thank you. After several meetings, the idea of a children’s book was formed. Because the book was all about the RAF with real people and names, Richard and the team spent time getting permission with the help of the RAF Valley station commander. The official reply from the MOD came back and everything looked doubtful as it was necessary to apply for an intellectual property licence and getting one would be unlikely. Undeterred Richard applied and visited the MOD in Whitehall twice and was granted it! The whole process from writing to publishing took 5 years as every page, image and name in the book had to be approved by high level MOD people. Richard says that there are a lot of people to thank for getting AB’s story to the bookshelves! The main message of Richard’s book is to get kids to talk, talk, talk. And it works – my son talks about why AB is worried in the book, tells me if he’s feeling nervous about something and likens it to how AB is feeling. He’s a happy kid and full of bounce and fun but when the chips are down, or he’s going through changes for example the lockdown, he doesn’t always know how to express that and like many children often doesn’t say anything. Books like AB Gets His Wings are fantastic for giving children characters and vocabulary to help them express these thoughts. There are plans in the pipeline for a future book too so watch this airspace for more AB adventures. Thank you so much for reading.

If you have been affected by suicide or are having suicidal thoughts please know there is help out there and you are not alone. Please do reach out.

Help and advice can be found here:

NHS – advice and helplines

The Dove Service

PICTURE BOOK COMPETITION TIME! #BEARHUNTBOOKSHUNT

It’s time for the picture book round in a mega children’s book quiz for you and your families or pupils to enjoy.  Spilt into three age categories, across three blogs, with three brilliant bookish prizes. Make sure you visit them all!

Tuesday 12th May: Quiz for 7-8 year olds hosted by independent book retailer Bear Hunt Books. Click HERE for their quiz. You can also purchase any of the titles featured from their online store.

Wednesday 13th May: Quiz for 9-12 year olds hosted Library Girl And Book Boy 

Thursday 14th May: Quiz for 3-6 year olds hosted here on Kids’ Storyworld! (questions and quiz links below.)

This is my first time as a stop on an online quiz and I’ve really enjoyed compiling the questions and looking back at some fabulous books! All the questions are based on book reviews that you can find on my blog. 

It’s a great opportunity to win a fabulous title such as The Snow Dragon by Abi Elpinstone and Fiona Woodcock, or Karl Newson and Ross Collin’s roarsome I Am A Tiger which was recently shortlisted for the Book Trust Storytime Prize!

All you need to do is click on the link to the relevant blog post to find the answer to the question, make a note of your answer, then  click on the link to the survey monkey answer sheet.  The questions have been split into two parts to help make this easier.

*IMPORTANT* Please type your NAME and CONTACT EMAIL into the 1st answer box along with your answer in both Part 1 AND PART 2. If you don’t, I won’t know who to contact if you win!

The link in each question will take you to the blog where you can find the answer – Good luck!

Part 1

Q1. On the cover of  I Am A Tiger, what is the mouse standing on?

Q2: What is the name of the sequel to I Am A Tiger?

Q3: How would the mouse describe the author Karl Newson?

Q4: What is the name of the fox in The Terribly Friendly Fox?

Q5: What is the name of the ball that the fox is attending?

Q6: Also by Susannah Lloyd, in This Book Can Read Your Mind, what must you absolutely not think of?

Q7: What item of clothing is mentioned is mentioned in This Book Can Read Your Mind?

Q8: In You Choose, what sport is the ball on the front cover used for?

Q9: Who is You Choose published by?

Q10: What birds would author Pippa Goodhart take on the hot air balloon?

Click HERE to open the answer sheet for Part 1 of the quiz (questions 1 – 10)

Part 2 **Remember to enter your contact details in the answer box for question 11 here as well!**

Q11: What is the name of the street Sam lives on, in Kiss Goodnight Sam by Amy Hest?

Q12: Sam can’t sleep but why? Can you guess what Mrs Bear has forgotten to give him?

Q13: In The Wild Woods by Simon James, who does Jess go for her walk with?

Q14: How many squirrels are squabbling in Rachel Bright’s The Squirrels Who Squabbled?

Q15: What are the squirrels fighting over?

Q16: Who illustrated The Squirrels Who Squabbled?

Q17: What does Julie Ballard, the author of The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice say Milly Jo’s favourite song is?

Q18: What causes dinosaur Milly Jo to lose her voice?

Q19: Who is the author of Farmer Duck?

Q20: What does the truck in Jez Alborough’s Duck In A Truck get stuck in?

Click HERE to open the answer sheet for Part 2 of the quiz (questions 11 – 20)

I hope you had as much fun finding the answers as I had writing the questions! Make sure you submit your answers to both parts of the quiz (and your contact details) by Saturday 16th May, 9pm, when a winner will be chosen at random (U.K. delivery only).

Thanks for joining in!