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!

Finding our way and Book Review…

Anyone  who knows me knows how bad my sense of direction is! My dad could pick up a map look at it once and know exactly where to drive on an 8hour journey. My husband studied Geography and is also has a phenomenal sense of direction and map reading skills.

By contrast:

– on a school geography trip a good friend said she never wanted to partner with me on an orientation exercise again. We’d got lost multiple times and didn’t complete the task after I was “certain it was this way”….

– Friends would rather use a taxi than walk with me on one of my short cuts

– my last short cut on a 10minute (local) car journey took on a 40min route

– when I first told my then boyfriend now husband I couldn’t read maps he, with a degree in geography and infinite patience, said he would teach me. We were on the way to the Lake District. 15min after he trustingly handed it to me, he pulled over in a lay-by and took it back off me. We were lost. He’s a pretty patient guy but I could feel the exasperation.

– once I wanted to surprise my husband for his birthday with a restaurant he’d not been to. After pretending I was misleading him so he couldn’t guess where we were going, I ended up having to come clean, tell him we were lost and hand over the details so he could find the way and we could make the table on time 🙈

So imagine my happiness and joy when my 5yo son started showing an interest in maps! He’s pretty good at drawing them too. Sometimes he even tells me if we’re going the wrong way somewhere. Thankfully it seems he’s inherited his father’s and my father’s skills.

There are so many ways to help children learn to navigate and create an interest in the world around them. I’ve been to the charity shop and bought old ordinance survey maps and A-Zs which we enjoy looking at. I point out rivers etc to him. In the car on the occasions I know where we’re going, I’ll sometimes ask him to guide me left or right etc. These are fun games and I’m learning too!  I also got him some map books which we do together.

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In a world of technology we can think “What’s the point?” (Though I’ve even been known to get lost using Google directions!!) Well according to this article, map reading can help with maths, spacial awareness and visual literacy:

The Importance Of Map Reading

Orienteering also a fun thing to do and a great outdoor activity and good for imagination. My son draws made up islands with palm trees and X marks the spot. And later in life it can save a fortune in taxis and apologies for being late…(ahem…)

Thanks as ever for reading my blog! 💖📚

BOOK REVIEW

The Cockatoo From Timbuktu – By William A.E Ford, Illustrated by Ramile M. Imac

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This is the charming book we were kindly sent by the author and it inspired the blog about directions and finding your way. It’s a beautifully illustrated rhyming book about Kian the cockatoo who escapes from the zoo to find his way back to his family in Timbuktu. As mentioned my son loves  maps (there’s a beautiful one at the beginning of the book) and learning about different countries. The story takes  you around the world  until Kian finds his way home. We really enjoyed reading about the animals in Australia and my youngest loves penguins so his favourite page was when Kian flew through Antartica. The book is a great conversation starter for young ones and there is a lot that children can learn from it including the fun facts at the end of the book! The perfect book for children who love animals and adventuring!

And now for a short Q&A with the lovely author William A E Ford!

Q1: Is there anywhere in the world you’d like to visit but haven’t yet?
A1: I love to travel and see new places. There are so many places I would like to go that I havent visited. I would say Japan, South Africa and Iceland are places on top of the wish list. I should also add Timbuktu in Mali to the list as well!

Q2: When you go there, if you could have any animal as a travelling companion, what would you choose and why?
A2: If I could choose any animal/bird to accompany me, I would have to go for a cockatoo. Failing that it would have to be a monkey to keep me entertained.

To read about more of William’s books and news please visit https://williamaeford.com/

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.

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
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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

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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!!

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…