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.

Autumn Walks and Autumn Books…

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Even though it took me years to be able to spell (such a funny looking word isn’t it?) it’s still my favourite time of the year. It’s the season I remember most vividly as a child. On way home from nursery, kicking through piles of leaves that I swear came up to our armpits. Walking home from primary school collecting conkers then soaking them in vinegar or painting with clear nail varnish before threading with string for conker wars in the playground. I want my boys to experience all these memories and more (are conker wars still allowed in the playground???) To my joy the school organised an Autumn Walk for reception classes. They went to the local park, they looked for sticks and leaves and when I collected son he had rosy cheeks and his shoes and trousers were covered in mud (typically on the one day I forgot his karate kit so he had to do it in muddy clothes!) Best of all was his excitement from their adventures. Exploring, rolling in piles of leaves, muddy puddles, grazed knees, ruddy cheeks, warming up with a cup of warm milk or hot chocolate after an autumn walk… isn’t that what childhood memories are made of? 😍

Thanks as ever for reading my blog and happy exploring!

Here are our top Autumny kind of books for those snuggly kind of Autumny days…

1. That’s Not My Hedgehog- Usbourne Touchy-Feely Books perfect for little hands!

2. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury absolute classic rhyming story. My boys love this book…and crunching through muddy woods looking for bears!

3. Kiss Good Night Sam – Amy Hest, Illustrated by Anita Jeram

“It was a dark and stormy night on Plum Street….” outside the wind is howling and Mrs Bear is putting Sam to bed. He can’t go to sleep but what has Mrs Bear forgotten? This is one of my favourite books. Beautiful illustrations and makes you feel all toasty warm after reading. Perfect bedtime story for a cold Autumn night😍

4. The Wild Woods – Simon James

Love the illustrations and the story is simple but makes me chuckle every time. Jess goes for a walk with Grandad and tries to persuade him to let her keep a squirrel. Gorgeous book!

5. The Squirrels Who Squabbled – Rachel Bright & Jim Field Two nutty squirrels after the last pine cone of the season. A great rhyming book for teaching about sharing. Fabulous picture book!

6. Stanley Stick – John Hegley

My sons LOVE sticks. Eldest even had youngest pretending to be a dog and threw them for him to fetch. Which he did. Carrying them in his mouth 🤢

For less revolting ideas of things to do with a stick this book we’ve borrowed from the library is amazingly imaginative! It’s not just a stick. It’s a dinosaur, a spoon, a fishing rod and so much more! Lovely illustrations too.

7. Storm – Sam Usher

What can I say about this book? 😍 We were given it as a birthday gift for eldest. The illustrations are just fantastic and highly imaginative. It’s blowing a gale outside so a boy and a grandad decide to go kite flying, but can’t find the kite. While looking, they remember all sorts of memories. When they finally get outside there’s all sorts of adventures to be had! My sons were reminded of flying kites in the Hebrides this summer and I love the language and descriptions the book uses. Perfect book for the days where a storm is brewing and the wind is huffing and howling!

🍂 🍄🍂🍁🍄🍁🍂🍄🍂🍁🍄🍁🍂🍄🍂

Anti-Bullying Week: Book Review Charlie Turns Into A T-Rex by Sam Copeland

I say this everytime I write a blog….where has the time gone?? This one was supposed to be written back in September, then son started new school, then I did an obstacle course, broke fingers and wasn’t allowed to type (and they say exercise is good for your health?? I’m sticking to books from now on!)

This week is anti-bullying week and today is Odd Socks Day and what better book to review in honour of this than Charlie Changes Into A T-Rex written by the very fab author Sam Copeland, illustrated by the very talented Sarah Horne.

My now 5 year old LOVES the Charlie series which was started off by Charlie Changes Into A Chicken. We had to take this book everywhere. My son insisted that I read it on train/bus/plane journeys, in queues waiting for stuff and at bedtime. Oh and of course woe betide me if I forget to bring it for our trips on the underground.

Our excitement when we heard there was a new book out “Charlie Turns Into A T-Rex” (reading age 8+ but my 5yo loves me reading it to him)  was immense and of course we had to have a copy. It came out when we were on holiday… in the Outer Hebrides (I kid you not…2 weeks on the absolutely stunning Isle of Harris).

The Isles of Lewis & Harris  have one main bookshop. And we were over an hour away. But we HAD to have this book. So I phoned ahead and was told by the lovely people at the Baltic Bookshop in Stornoway there was a single copy available. We reserved it straight away and set off with the kids for a day trip to Stornoway (where they also have a gin distillery….yum!!) The scenery on the way was absolutely stunning! We picked up the book and headed back. 4 year old had many, many questions. Where are the dinosaurs? Did they used to live here? Which came first the rocks or the dinosaurs? What do dinosaurs eat? How did they die?  ….and sooooo many other questions that only children know how to ask.

He even had a dinosaur jumper on especially for the occasion (ok that was coincidence!!)

Cottage came complete with chickens…(or is it really a changed Charlie???)

When we started reading the book, we were so happy that we’d made the journey to get it. If you haven’t read Charlie Changes Into A Chicken, see my previous review here . Then go and read the book. It’s awesome. The series is about a boy (Charlie) who turns into various creatures when he gets anxious . Both books in the series are fantastic for children who have anxiety and get those knots in the stomach. As someone who was bullied throughout school, I know all too well how that feels. These books are a great small way to help children learn and understand how to deal with these anxieties. Obviously not just by changing into different creatures which would be amazing but encouraging talking about issues and standing up to bullies. Standing up to the bullies at school and standing up to grown up bullies.

Charlie thinks he has his habit of changing into creatures when he’s anxious, under control. However, when his dad’s business is in trouble (thanks to bully Dylan’s dad), the thought that his family might have to sell their house and live with a weird aunt sets off his anxieties and triggers the animal transformations again. Family pressures, school pressures (courtesy of bully Dylan)…It’s all too much and hard for Charlie to control himself. The book is imaginative, hilarious, sensitive and really gets how children think without being patronising. It’s about tackling bullies, finding friends who love you enough to wee on you when you’re in a certain kind of trouble and need weeing on (just brilliantly funny and as promised in my previous review THE MOST DISGUSTING WEE SCENE EVER!), asking for help and not bottling everything up.

To sum it all up I asked my son “I’m writing a review about the book. Is there anything you want to say about it?” His response was
“Yes! It’s they’re the BEST BOOKS EVER!!! I love these books!!” And he’s one tough critic!

We can’t WAIT for the next one in the series Charlie Morphs into A Mammoth (well we’ll have to – it’s out February 2020 so watch out for it…like you could miss a mammoth!)

Q&A with author Sam Copeland

Q1: If you could be a hybrid of 3 dinosaurs, which  amazing dino-features would you take from each (one per dinosaur)  and what would you like your new dinosaur name to be?

A1: I WOULD HAVE THE BODY OF A PTERODACTYL, THE NECK OF A BRONTOSAURUS AND THE HEAD OF A T-REX BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE ONE AWESOME DINOSAUR TO SEE. AND I WOULD LIKE IT’S NAME TO BE GEOFF.

Q2:  All your favourite childhood authors are in danger. You can only rescue one author by covering them in wee. Who do you choose and why?   (If you prefer not to answer this question or would just like to say who your favourite childhood author is then would accept that answer too 🙂 )

A2: OBVIOUSLY I CAN NOT ANSWER WHICH CHILDREN’S AUTHOR I WOULD LIKE TO PEE ON… BUT MY FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD AUTHOR’S FROM WHEN I WAS KID WERE ROALD DAHL, TOLKEIN, AND GEOFFREY WILLAN – AUTHOR OF THE AMAZING MOLESWORTH BOOKS.

 

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!

I have been so excited and looking forward to World Book Day. My son is going to nursery dressed as a Highway Rat (his nursery is celebrating tomorrow). A costume I spent hours slaving over….honest guv…not a click & collect….erm….OK….I CONFESS! While other parents may have been sweating blood & tears, feet in blisters trailing every inch of every craft shop to prepare for the big day I cheated and got a ready made one. You have to understand, at school it took me THREE YEARS to sew an apron. That’s right. THREE YEARS…the teacher gave up on me. I also made a cushion at high school. Stuffed with plastic bags rather than lovely soft cushion foam. I forgot until the last minute and it was the best idea I could come up with. So trust me when I say that me not making a costume is for the best. Otherwise I’d need to start making it for an 18 year old rather than a 4 year old…. Anyway, I’m going off topic. World Book Day. Yes. We love it in our family. Yes the costumes are fun etc etc but the main thing for me is that it gets children talking about books. It gets teachers talking more than usual about books and importantly it gets parents talking about books! If we’re engaged and invested then the children become engaged and invested. Talk about books you like and don’t like. Ask questions about the books they are reading. It can be hard to find time to read to them – even bedtimes can be a struggle if parents work late. My husband is rarely back for bedtime during the week but reads to them at the weekends. I read whenever I can to them and always have a book to hand…car journeys, if we go to coffee shops, restaurants, anywhere we might be queuing or waiting. Books are a great way to keep kids entertained until their food turns up! There are loads of little pocket books that you don’t need a suitcase to carry. I remember my mum used to read to me at the dining table while I was eating or having a snack….even when I was on the potty.

Here is a link to the fantastic BookTrust with various useful reading tips.
BookTrust Reading Tips

Happy reading!

BOOK REVIEW Charlie Changes Into A Chicken – written by Sam Copeland, Illustrations by Sarah Horne
charlie chicken.jpg

Well, one book that has been everywhere with us*, is Charlie Changes Into A Chicken written by Sam Copeland.

*we did get some funny looks on the tube when I was reading out loud to my son about spiders having 8 bums – but I bet that’s just because the other passengers were jealous. (That they were just reading boring newspapers, not because they don’t have 8 bums…..)

Charlie McGuffin is a boy with an incredible secret….when he feels anxious and worried HE CHANGES INTO ANIMALS. All sorts of animals. Spider, flea, pigeon and even a rhino! This book is a bonkers, laugh out loud kind of a book and covers some sensitive topics in a unique way that is very relatable to children. Charlie is worried about his brother in hospital, the school bully and appearing on stage (my son hate’s going on stage in front of everyone so could empathise quite well with this). He has to find a way to deal with his new power and luckily has his three best friends to confide in. Children will love reading this book or having it read to them (if they can wrestle it off their parents first – I found myself reading it well after son was in bed!) Though be warned, there’s a lovely (happy) lump in your throat moment towards the end that had me reaching for the tissues. Cannot recommend this book highly enough. Such a beautiful read and the amazing illustrations by Sarah Horne perfectly match it.

About the Author
Sam Copeland is an author and literary agent living in London. His favourite part about writing the book was writing about the friendship between the characters and feeling the characters come alive. Having read it I can understand this. You can close your eyes and imagine them in real life. They’re the kind of best friends that don’t just get you out of trouble after it’s happened but the ones that come along with you for the ride to make sure you’re ok.

I couldn’t not ask Sam the question (note to author – apologies if it’s the 100th time you’ve been asked!) If he could change into any animal, what would he change into? He answered that he’d love to turn into something microscopic like a myxozoa as it would give him a truely unique view of the universe. Also, as Sam pointed out it makes a great scrabble word!
(What?? You don’t know what a myxozoa is?…Well thank goodness for Google & dictionaries :-))
And if Sam were a flea and could jump on anyone’s head for the day without them noticing he would jump on a dog as “animals are far more interesting than people”. This is a good point. People all tend to do similar things get up eat, go to school/work, come home, eat, go to bed…boring stuff (except of course for Charlie who is very unique). However, there are sooooo many varieties of animals…including ones with weird names like myxozoa….

Having read Charlie Changes Into A Chicken we cannot wait for Sam’s new book out in August Charlie Turns Into A T-Rex. Especially that we’ve been promised the most disgusting wee scene EVER….(just when I didn’t think anything could top the revolting rhinos scene in chapter 12 of this book…hold your noses people!) 

 

World Book Day Costume Dilemma & Book Review

“I want to go as Blaze from Blaze as the Monster Machines!” my son said about World Book Day. A a children’s book blogger, writer and reader a little bit of me died inside! Have to be honest…I’m all for freedom of expression but in this case not on my watch buddy!! I negotiated with him and told him that he could pick something from a book for World Book Day and when it was World Television Day, I would make him a Blaze costume…he seemed happy with this solution thank goodness!!!

The week leading to World Book Day is such a great opportunity to engage children in reading, discussing and engaging with books of all varieties. Children have such varied tastes and imaginations. There’s been a lot recently on whether parents should have a say on what their children read and discourage comics and so called babyish books. Some people might disagree with me and parents know their own children, however, my overall opinion is no they shouldn’t. Children should be free to read read read!!!! Yes there are books that have some things that they might not understand or maybe outdated thoughts… children’s books written back in the day might be sexist, or racist but isn’t it good to be able to talk about these topics and explain how things have changed or what still needs changing? As for things like comics not being proper reading material…I used to read The Beano and would love for my child to do the same. It didn’t stop me reading “proper stories”. An early childhood memory I have is Sunday mornings my parents would always be reading in bed. I’d take my book and climb in between them. Sometimes I’d ask to read their books outloud to them. They never said no. I learnt new words and new concepts. Reading books with my parents meant we spoke about them, could have conversations about them. Now with my own boys (well at least with my 4 year old), I talk about what I’m reading in simple terms. “It’s a mystery book” or “It’s a book about an elderly man who doesn’t have a family” (A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – if you’ve not read it please do. Make sure you have a box of tissues handy for the tears will come. It took me 2 days before I could pick up another book!). My son asks questions which I try and answer in an age appropriate way and when he asks if he can read these books I tell him “when you’re able to read for yourself you can read whatever you want!”. I let him pick out the books at bedtime – if it’s his 2 year old brother’s picture book that he wants to look at I let him and never tell him that’s baby-ish. My mum is my biggest reading inspiration. She used to read to me on the potty, while I was eating lunch, in the mornings, in the afternoons, in the evenings. Even now, she always has a few books on the go. Books can be funny, sad, happy, unsettling, mysterious and eye-opening. They can open new worlds of imagination. They can be used as topics of conversations, they can be used to educate, encourage empathy and can help children to understand their own emotions before they have the vocabulary to express themselves. They can only do all of these things if we give our children access to them.

Let children read comics, short books, long books, books that are too young for them, books that are slightly beyond them. Let kids read poetry, magazines, fairy tales. Just let them read for reading is learning and learning is life.

BOOK REVIEW 

Timothy Mean and the Time Machine – written by William AE Ford, Illustrations by Marcelo Simonetti

TIMOTHY MEAN AND THE TIME MACHINE.png

If you are stuck for World Book Day Costumes (and even if you’re not!) I highly recommend Timothy Mean and the Time Machine by the lovely William AE Ford. I was lucky enough to be sent an e-copy by author William and my son enjoyed it so much not only did I want to write a review but I’ve just bought 2 paperback copies – one for the house and one for my 4 year old’s nursery!

The mischievous Timothy Mean is the main character and is a bit bored one day so he builds a time machine out of carboard and glue. He then travels in time and causes mayhem with his pranks! He visits, dinosaurs, Vikings, space, the future and even sneaks in to the classroom when his parents were children. My son LOVED pretending to press an imaginary button on the sofa to make the time machine go and did this so vigorously and with so much enthusiasm I thought the button might break and we’d get stuck in the future with the teacher robots! We loved the rhyming rhythm as the book took us to a variety of places on different the days of the week and the pictures by Marcelo Simonetti are STUNNING!!! This book is brilliant for sparking children’s (and adults’!) imaginations and instigated A LOT of questions from my son. “What do dinosaurs eat? Why do the pirates have swords? Where are the teachers? What do robots eat? What is the dragon doing? What is the moon made of?….”

About the Author
William was born in Britain and now lives in Oslo. His favourite books as a child were The Hobbit and Lord of the rings. He loves the magical worlds and adventures created by Tolkien. The idea for Timothy Mean came from watching his children play and how they use their toys and imagination to role play. He often makes up story’s for his children at bedtime and has been writing for about 7 years.

Of course, I had to ask the question “If you could travel anywhere in time where would you go and why?”
William answered “If I could travel anywhere in time it would be to 1966 to see England win the World Cup!”

If you could go back in time where would you go? Would love to hear your comments!!

Ants in their pants…and a book review

So after a short break, getting into new routine of pre-school with oldest Kids Storyworld is back. I say routine…what I mean is the drop off and pick up times are always the same and the rest seems a crazy whirlwind of me repeating myself 3billion times to get shoes/coat/stop sitting on your brother/ and tantrums (mainly the 2 year old but occasionally me if I get to the 4 billionth time of “Stop doing that and get dressed we’ll be late!”

Anyhow all settling in ok and eldest loves the new nursery. However he has sooooooooooo much energy!!! Constant bouncing around and not sitting still more so if he’s tired or excited or bored. It’s been tricky getting him to listen. I was chatting to his gymnastics instructor about it and explained how he doesn’t sit still and she coincidentally mentioned that they’d recently had a blog about it. Apparently (and I am not a doctor or a professional so cannot medically verify) children who are still developing their core muscles fidget. If they sit still for too long then their brain essentially goes to sleep and they fidget to wake it up again. Also children are spending more time having to sit still when they need to be outside playing and running and jumping etc. At the school on the parents’ morning the teacher mentioned that she’d started taking O outside with a few others for a quick run around before sitting down again. The days are shorter than at his previous Nursery and I had noticed a change in behaviour (always hyper but more so now) but had put it down to overtiredness and new environment so kept afternoons pretty calm and not too much activity. Since speaking to the children’s gym instructor and having a quick nosy online at articles I’ve changed that and now we go to the park or have an activity after school. I thought it would be too much for him but it’s actually helped.

Every child is different and there are of course times where hyperactivity isn’t just a case of a run around in the park and it’s necessary to seek professional help but here are a couple of articles that have really helped me:

Why Children Fidget: And What We Can Do About It- Balanced and Barefoot

The Real Reason Your Child Can’t Sit Still…

Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today

Children need to learn to focus and to learn that quiet is sometimes necessary but I’m definitely encouraging him to move more and if we have something we need to concentrate on then I try and give him an aim and a sort of wriggle reward. For example we did an alphabet puzzle as he’s still not quite there with letter recognition (which I’m fine with but he loves puzzles so I thought it would be a good way to encourage concentration and learn letters). I told him we could get to E and then go outside and have a “bubble blowing break”. The break was only for a couple of minutes and we did this ever few minutes but the overall task was quicker than if I’d spent the time trying to get him to sit still from A-Z and we enjoyed it.

So thanks for reading! Would love to hear any tips or stories you might like to share.

Book Review

So the last 2 weeks the book of choice has been The Tickle Book by Ian Whybrow & Axel Scheffler. It’s sooooo much fun!!!! There are things to turn, lift and push and pull and is great for tickles and giggles. Would also make a lovely gift. The age would probably be from around 3 – whatever age they still enjoy tickles at. Really love this book!

World Poetry Day…

Wow what a week! Firstly, I’m so excited that after Easter I’ll be helping out a school book club to write book reviews for books that are on the The CILIP Carnegie Medal Shortlist for 2018 . Secondly, I’ve completed the manuscript for my first children’s book   and am in the middle of writing another one. Finally the icing on the cake  – today is World Poetry Day! I LOVE poetry and have done since I was little. Through poetry I learnt about alliteration, personification, onomatopoeias, haikus, rhyming but most of all I learnt that words and sounds can be fun.

Poems don’t have to rhyme (My favourite non-rhyming: Michael Rosen Eddie and The Birthday ) The words don’t even have to make sense (a great example: Spike Milligan On The Ning Nang Nong), they can be long or short, funny or sad, old or new…so much variety. It’s a fantastic fun way of developing children’s language. I often play a sort of rhyming game with my 3 year old. He says a word and I make one up and I say one back that rhymes…then he repeats one back to me. So for example, he might say “Fish” and I’ll say “dish” then he’ll say “bish” and I’ll say “mish” and so it goes on. Need to be a bit careful as of course there are some rhymes that 3 year olds are too innocent (thank goodness!) to understand…we were in the car and he heard someone with the name “Horn” on the radio and started shouting “Horn, torn, corn, born, p..,.”. I had to keep a straight face and I quickly started another rhyming  word with less embarrassing consequences! And on that note, here’s a great article highlighting the benefits of poetry for children: 5 Reasons to Teach Poetry

Writing this blog has brought back so many wonderful memories of some of my favourite poems and lessons. I thought I’d share some of the poetry I still remember reading as a child.

Favourite Poems

  1. The Guppy – Ogden Nash This was my first poetry love…I remember having to write it up and draw pictures for it in year one a very, very, long time ago. My sons’ nursery have been teaching about baby animals and I sent them this poem. It brought happy tears to my eyes to see it printed off and taped onto their fish tank when I went to collect them.
  2. A Tiger in the Zoo – Leslie Norris – This is the poem that taught me about personification. I think I was in year 9. We had an amazing English teacher. Firm but fair.  A lot of the poems we covered in the years with her really stuck with me.
  3. Night Mail – By W.H. Auden – I love this poem. To this day,  I can’t stand on the platform of a railway station without thinking of this poem when I hear the clickety clack of the rails. I think I must have been around 12years old when we covered this in school. Very special memories – at the time we studied this there was a national writing competition with the post office that our class entered and out of the whole class I won a little box of postcards. I was struggling at school so it meant (and still means!) a lot to me.
  4. Halfway-Down – A.A. Milne – A beautiful poem that really resonated with me. Growing up with an overactive imagination I had lots of “funny thoughts” running round in my head. Daydreaming was one of my favourite accidental past times….and still is!
  5. Who Killed Cock Robin? – not exactly the most cheerful one. It was in a nursery rhyme book I had. Some nursery rhymes and fairy tales are pretty grim…think it  the pictures of birds was probably why I read this one again and again…
  6. Limericks….there are so many of them and so much fun to try and make up. My favourite (Am from Leeds so probably biased)                                                           There once was a farmer from Leeds,
    Who swallowed a packet of seeds.
    It soon came to pass,
    He was covered with grass,
    But has all the tomatoes he needs
  7. I’ve still got “Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here” by Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake it’s a great book! This is the poem I used to read over and over again. Now, as a mum of 2 toddlers it really resonates even more with me!  Eddie and the Birthday – Michael Rosen
  8. An Imaginary Menagerie – Roger McGough So this is another book full of wonderful poems. Brilliantly imaginative with lots of plays on words my favourite was “The Allivator”.
  9. Who could not love Please Mrs Butler – Allan Ahlberg ? An absolute childhood classic! I think a lot of teachers could relate to this poem!
  10. For my final one I thought I’d include this one that we had to learn for a parents’ concert evening at primary school Matilda – Hillaire Belloc …think the school was trying to teach us something???
  11. Ok this is my final final poem and another one we had to learn for parents (I could write this list forever!)…I love the rhythm this one has and also remember learning the word “phosphorous”. Not a word I suppose you often hear in a poem. This is definitely the last one on the list I promise!! Colonel Fazackerley – Charles Causley

Would love to hear what your own or your children’s favourites are!

Here’s one of my own creations to finish off. Thanks for reading!

There’s A Crocodile in My Shoe – Kirsten Allen ©

There’s crocodile in my shoe! There’s a crocodile in my shoe!
I don’t know what to do! There’s a crocodile in my shoe!
If I tread on it’s nose, it might suppose
A meal might be made out of my dainty toes

There’s a crocodile in my shoe! There’s a crocodile in my shoe!
I don’t know what to do! There’s a crocodile in my shoe!
I’m not sure how it got there
And quite frankly I don’t much care!
I really can’t put my shoe on
Until that naughty crocodile’s gone

I’ve got so much to do today,
I really want to go out and play.
So, I’ll have to make a snap decision and wear my wellies instead.

My Favourite Female Children’s Authors…

Robert Southey once replied in a letter to Charlotte Bronte “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life and ought not to be”

Well Mr Southey – here’s a list of some of my favourite prove-you-wrong women in children’s literature…

  1. Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess
  2. Enid Blyton – too many books to mention! I loved her as a child
  3. Beatrix Potter – I think she needs no explanation
  4. Kate Greenaway – an incredible illustrator, growing up I had the book Kate Greenaway’s Book of Games and seem to remember lending it out when one of my friends at nursery had a Victorian themed party. Seriously if you’re kids are bored it has some great suggestions for games. It’s quite old fashioned (being Victorian and all) but some of the games children would still love today.
  5. J.K Rowling – So I’m not a die hard Harry Potter fan with capes and wands lurking around the house or a bolt of lightening tattooed across my forehead. I really enjoyed reading them though and I find the story of how her ideas came to her on a 4 hour delayed train truly inspirational.
  6. Judith Kerr – My boys still love her stories particularly of course The Tiger Who Came to Tea. When they’re older I’ll encourage them to read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. An incredible semi-autobiographical book about a Jewish family fleeing Nazi Germany.
  7. Kate Pankhurst – I couldn’t get away with writing a list of women in children’s literature without including Kate Pankhurst and her series of books. I think it’s fantastic for children (boys and girls!) to read about great women in history. She’s a distant-ish descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst but what a positive way to continue the family name! Fantastically Great Women Who Made History
  8. Johanna Spyri – I’ve only known her for writing Heidi but she is yet another inspirational woman. She wrote for adult and children’s books. Her first story  “A Note on Vrony’s Grave” was about a woman’s life of domestic violence.
  9. E. Nesbit – Author of Five Children and It and The Railway Children. What a complicated life she had! She met Hubert Bland a political activist, got pregnant, got engaged but lived in a separate homes, Then she found out he was having an affair with his mother’s paid companion (Maggie Doran) who he fathered a child with. Nesbit then moved in with her husband, his mother and became friends with Doran. She then became more involved with political activism. Then her close friend got pregnant with Bland’s child… Nesbit’s life story sounds like a novel in itself. She is often perceived to be “the first modern writer for children”.  This is a great article explaining how The Railway Children came to be How Did E Nesbit come to write the Railway Children? – The Guardian and it recommends this biography by Julia Briggs which I will certainly be reading A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit 1858-1924 – Julia Briggs
  10. Julia Donaldson – I could not write a list of inspirational authors without including this fabulous lady! It’s impossible to walk into a book shop or look for children’s books online without her name popping up. My boys love her and we read many of her books over and over again. Particularly “Toddle Waddle” – now when my 15month old wants us to read it…he makes quacking noises! I never realised the Gruffalo was based on a Chinese story about a girl and a tiger similar to this story . Personally, I always find it fascinating to find out where people get their inspirations from. It’s incredible to think that even a fleeting moment can change someone’s life or their perspective on things.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog and don’t think I’ll ever pick up another story or book without wondering about the person’s background and where their stories came from. I’d like to believe that if Mr Southey were alive today, he’d be eating his words and if he had children in today’s times, I would hope that he would be reading them some of these wonderful books written by wonderful women without a second thought…

 

 

 

 

Rhythm, Rhyme and Story Time

It’s been about a million years since the last blog on my page. Had so many thoughts and could write (or is that ramble) for hours on this topic…which it’s why it’s taken so long to publish this particular blog!

It started when I recently remembered listening to Peter and the Wolf when I was very young. We had it on cassette (yes that long ago! :-)) and had the book to accompany it. Each character has a different musical instrument attached to it. So I  looked for it on Spotify for the boys. Sure enough they had it on there too. It’s incredible – the boys loved the story and picking out the different noises and recollecting the bits of the story they’ve remembered. Music is amazing for the imagination and rouses so many emotions and memories. One of the ways we learn when we’re young (and sometimes now!) is through rhyme and songs. Think “Heads, Shoulders , Knees and Toes”…even my 15 month year old knows very vaguely where to point now. An example of music and learning – I had THE COOLEST times table cassette (I know an oxymoron!) when I was about 9… something along the lines of “Rock Your Tables” or “Times Tables Rock”..I learned most of my times tables through this (NB: I hated and was rubbish at maths). Then, when I nearly  knew them my parents gave the cassette to my friend’s parents as they mentioned their child was struggling. Not with my consent…Forget about helping others – I was devastated and cried so much that they got me a new one (this was a rare occurence…normally if I stamped my foot and cried a lot I’d get sent to my room of course but I think they consented as it was “educational”.) The new cassette was different, dull and not the same…I’ve only just about forgiven them for this.

Music helps understand patterns, language and develop sounds, vocabulary and memory. I can’t remember what I had to eat yesterday but I can remember where I was and what I was doing when I hear a certain song! Even memories of being at nursery singing “Do your ears hang low” (the clean version – not the rugby version…) My 3 year old is now coming home from nursery and is excited about numbers thanks to my wonderfully creative friend Gracie-May from DramEd. I’ve been trying for months to get him interested in numbers to no avail. A couple of sessions at the nursery with  songs, rhymes and Gracie-May and now numbers is one of his favourite topics of conversations!

An example music evoking recollection is when my little boy suddenly started singing Happy Birthday to his brother and then started talking  about caterpillar cakes, presents, Grandma and Grandpa coming…(it was his brother’s birthday in November!) He also recently borrowed the book “Wheels on the Bus” from the library and was “reading” through it by singing the lyrics. Of course to my knowledge he can’t read yet but anything that gets a kid to pick up a book or use imagination, in my books is a good thing.

Here’s a list of music (had lots of fun writing it!) that gets my imagination going and has memories of my childhood attached. Some of them I listen to with the boys now. That’s if I can get them away from Paw Patrol and PJ Masks!

  1. Peter and the Wolf– Sergei Prokofiev
  2. Fantasia Soundtrack – Walt Disney I remember when the film came out on VHS and I stayed over at my best friend’s house and watched it. Just genius.
  3. Bestiary – Flanders & Swann (a collection of songs that have animals in them) eg.  The Hippopotamus or The Gnu
  4. The Nut Cracker – Tchaikovsky
  5. Rachmaninoff – I have no idea where my fascination with him comes from but when I listen to him my imagination runs wild. Just incredible music.
  6. Scott Joplin – As a child I tried to learn the Entertainer on the piano and loved Maple Leaf Rag . Have no idea why but when I listen to some of his pieces I can’t help but think of Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin,
  7. Ralph Mctell – Alphabet Zoo (I was obsessed with this tape from the library and spent many car journeys listening to it. Over. And over. And over…am sure my parents must have been thrilled!)  Holly The Hedgehog and Impala were my favourite
  8. Evelyn Glennie – Evelyn Glennie is an incredible percussionist I went to see with my late father when I was a child. She’s profoundly deaf since the age of 12 and plays barefoot. At the concert I remember reading that the music was by someone (can’t remember who – think a Polish composer) who had based the music on tanks invading Poland in the World War 2. I sat there imagining these tanks and vividly picturing them in my head and the image has never left me.
  9. Now don’t laugh ( really mushy and oversentimental!) but this one was on the radio a lot and I imagined a train going over the bridge and for some reason made me feel quite emotional: The Seekers – Morningtown Ride At school years later we looked at the poem “Night Mail” by W.H. Auden and in my head for some unexplicable reason I can’t think of one without thinking of the other. This is the power of rhyme and music!
  10. Flight of the Bumble Bee Rimsky Korsakov – this one reminds me of doing homework. Or to be precise not doing homework…my father had a rocket computer game (press left to go left and right to go right, space bar to shoot) which I’d spend hours on pretending to do homework. Only heard the name of this years later. The computer version of this piece was much much more synthetic.

There are so many songs, pieces of music, nursery rhymes that I’ve got memories of and remember from school, I could go on forever.  What do you or what does your child think of when you hear certain songs and tunes? See if you can get your child to listen to a song/tune/noise and ask them what it reminds them of. Maybe bashing pots and pans can be elephants. Blowing bubbles in a glass filled with water could be fish…or hippos…is there anything in the house that can make a sound like a squeaky wheel? What stories are in the sounds? Get your children listening to music (anything at all – rock, rap (clean versions!), classical, jazz) Does it sound like an elephant? Can you hear thunder? Do they like the music why/why not? Can they draw a picture of what they’re hearing? Count the beats/taps/how many times they clap their hands. Play a game – make the first line of a song up then the next person has to continue it.

To finish, here are a couple of interesting articles which might be useful. Of course the main thing is that children enjoy the music and have fun…anything educational they get out of it is a bonus!

The Importance of Music – Toddler Development

Singing to children may help development of language skills – The Guardian

The science of why music improves our memory and verbal intelligence – Washington Post

How Music Feeds and Steers Your Imagination – Psychology Today

Been a while…

Firstly Happy New Year! It’s been ages since my last blog. Before Christmas we had about 6 weeks of household bugs then a crazy dash to get everything ready for the big day. However, I did manage to read a book during this period. Hope you enjoy the review!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This is a good but dark book about a boy whose family is murdered and through a sequence of events he ends being brought up by ghosts in a graveyard. He then makes it his mission to find out who murdered his parents. The books is aimed at 12year olds and older (it mentions divorce and suicide and obviously being set in a graveyard covers the topic of death a bit).

I have to be honest and say that I found the first couple of chapters a bit confusing but this could be due to trying to read it with little sleep as the kids had been ill. Once I got into it I couldn’t put it down!!!! If your 12+ year olds are into fantasy/horror I would definitely recommend it!

If your child has read this book or has any other suggestions for the 12+ readers, would love to hear from you!