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 Yes there are books that have some things that they might not understand or maybe outdated thoughts… children’s books written back in the day might be sexist, or racist but isn’t it good to be able to talk about these topics and explain how things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!!

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…

 

 

 

 

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!

Children’s Poetry…

Children’s rhymes and poems can shape the way we look at the world when we’re younger and bring back amazing memories when we’re older. To give you an example, I honestly can’t walk past a fish tank or see a kitten without fondly remembering sitting in a classroom (think it was Year 1) and learning, writing out and illustrating this one by Ogden Nash:

The Guppyby Ogden Nash

Whales have calves,
Cats have kittens,
Bears have cubs,
Bats have bittens,
Swans have cygnets,
Seals have puppies,
But guppies just have little guppies.

A.A. Milne, Michael Rosen, Roger Mcgough, Spike Milligan all have special places in my heart and different meanings for me. I think the one that terrified me was one we had to learn for a school concert: Matilda – Hillaire Belloc it’s a bit like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” but much darker!

Children’s poetry is fantastic for repetition, vocabulary and according to one blog even physical coordination…

Why Reading Poetry is So Important for Children

It’s also great to create poems with children and get them thinking about how words can sound with rhythm. How they can be used to express thoughts and feelings or just fun noises!

A game that my 3 year old son loves it when I rhyme words and change the first letter to make new and sometimes nonsense words. He joins in which is fantastic (though we have to be a bit careful…listening to the radio he heard the name Jack Horn…he suddenly started shouting “Jack Horn! Jack Corn! Jack Forn!Jack Morn! Jack P…..” 😳 Luckily we were in the car so no one around and I managed to distract him by shouting frantically back “Jack Corn Jack Corn” and then change the topic which seemed to work)<<<<<<<<<<<<
y article that gives ideas for simple activities. I particularly love the suggestion of having a book around the house that kids can write in. I used to have my own blue notebook (would love to dig it out!) And poetry is educational, helps kids to read etc but most of all it's just good fun!

Children’s Poems <<<<<<<<<<<<
ouch and let me know – What was your or what is your child's favourite childhood poem?

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Honest Mum

Weekend book review…

One of my favourite parts about writing this blog, (my other favourite is that I’ve started writing stories and poems again) is that I get to read kids’ books and have a legitimate excuse for it! I enjoy reading adult literature too but there is something comforting about reading things I remember from childhood. Seriously, if you’ve had a tough day pick up a children’s book and get lost in it. Try it – it really works! I love re-reading Spike Milligan’s children’s poems, Roald Dahl books, Enid Blyton, Roger Mcgough’s “An Imaginary Menagerie” and another childhood favourite (which is at my mum’s but I’ve put it on my kindle) Michael Rosen’s “Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here”. Some of my best-loved all time classic books are “The Secret Garden”, “The Little Princess” and “Tom’s Midnight Garden”. The blog in some ways has helped me re-visit fond memories and I also love reading more modern authors and seeing what children are currently reading. Pseudonymous Bosch, Julia Donaldson, David Williams, J.K Rowling (ok showing my age as lots of adults have her books as a childhood memory! New-ish for me though :-))…the list could go on – If you have any suggestions of books you or your children have read I’d love to hear about them!

Anyhow, thought I’d do a review on the latest I’ve read:

My Brother’s Famous BottomBy Jeremy Strong

This book is a great one for 7-9 year olds. I only realised after that it’s part of a series. It’s set in a slightly mad household. They’re struggling for cash as they have 3 children (the twins being the latest addition) and they audition the twins for a disposable nappy advert…it results in chaos! I loved the characters: There’s a boy called Nicholas, a set of twins, an angry neighbour and his wife, a motorbiking step-grandad, an outspoken grandma, a patient mum, a very funny dry humoured wind up-merchant dad and a goat. I found myself chuckling throughout. Short but sweet and I definitely want to read the next book in the series. Will be encouraging my boys (a baby and a toddler) to read it when they’re older. Very funny!

Vocabulary and a book review…

This is a very useful article for helping children build vocabulary. I strongly believe in repetition with new words and concepts and a little at a time rather than loads of new words. 

Also with my 2 year old I try (though slip up quite frequently – especially if it’s a word like “clock” and he misses the “l”  😂😂) to say “Good try!” And then repeat the word back to him in a sentence rather than say “No! That’s not how you say it!” . For him he responds better otherwise if I say “No! That’s not how you say it!” He insists that his way is the right way. 

http://www.parenttoolkit.com/academics/advice/english-language-arts/helping-your-child-build-a-strong-vocabulary

Yesterday’s rhyme was about going on an adventure so in keeping with that this week I’ll review some adventure books.

Where the Wild Things are – Maurice Sendak

Beautiful illustrations with a fantastic story about a boy called Maurice who is sent to bed without supper for being wild. He falls asleep and his room changes to a moonlit forest surrounded by an ocean. The forest is where the wild things live. Maurice becomes king and tames them. Such a classic book that can be read over and over. My own little wild thing loves this story!

Reluctant reader tips and a book review

Some children enjoy reading, some need a little encouragement. We keep and take books everywhere for our little ones. Car journeys, going out for something to eat, in their bedrooms, living room, doctor surgeries, a & e, bus journeys. I’ve even used them to occupy in buggies and on the back of his buggy board (it’s got a seat so he can have hands free). There are always one or  two in the bag. I have to stress though, this isn’t because I’m forcing him to read. He genuinely enjoys books. What’s important to remember is it doesn’t matter what they read as long as they enjoy it! It can be comics, sticker books, football magazines, anything at all! If you leave them around the house, at some point curiousity will get the better of them. Let them choose their own material. I’ve also read in loads of articles that if parents are seen to be reading then kids are more likely to read (have to say I’m guilty of not reading my own books around them as usually wait until I’m alone and not constantly interrupted but am going to give it a go!)

I love this article and there are some great ideas in here. Particularly the treasure hunt one!

https://www.todaysparent.com/family/activities/kids-reading-books/
Good luck and I’d love to hear how it goes or if you have any other tips for parents.

Moving on to today’s book review…can’t believe this book series is over 30 years old!!!!

The Demon Headmaster – by  Gillian Cross

This is a book that I’m sure children will still enjoy. When Dinah is fostered she worries about fitting in with her two foster brothers. However, this should be the least of her worries!!! At her new school all the children apart from her brothers are robotic and keen to please the headmaster. The three children decide to investigate but Dinah finds herself doing and saying things she has no control over. It turns out it’s the Headmaster. First he wants to control the school and then he wants to take over the whole nation! A great book for approximately 8 – 11 year olds. I’m sure we’ve all had a teacher like this at some point….haven’t we?
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Honest Mum

Book review and Rhino Rhyme

Today’s classic book review is one I read a lot as a child. We even went to see the play. Very happy memories of this one!

Wind in the Willows – by Kenneth Grahame

If this one isn’t a classic then I don’t know what is! The opening chapter is where Mole meets Rat. Mole is fed up with the spring cleaning and heads off out and discovers a river. He befriends Rat and here’s about Badger (a grumpy old Badger set in his ways) and Toad (who likes fast cars and seems to get into various manic scrapes which his friends need to get him out of) There are so many adventures and of course the obligatory baddies (stoats and weasels). It’s a lovely old fashioned book. The reading age is 8+ though I think children as young as 5 would enjoy having it read to them. Be warned – you might not want to put it down! I can still read this book and enjoy it today!

Now going back to Tuesday’s Challenge – it was to shut eyes, open then make a rhyme or story from the first 3 things you or your child see. Oliver is 2 and George is 8months so needed a little help! However, sitting in the living room we saw a rhino (footstool but we pretended it was real!), a cookbook and leaves (through the window outside). Hope you enjoy!
The Hungry Rhino
by Kirsten Allen

In his chair a rhino sat,
Stroking his fluffy Persian cat
And wondering (as rhinos do)
How on earth one cooks tasty leaf stew.

Does one fry it or boil it, grill it or simmer?
The rhino was desperate for stew for his dinner.

Does one chop it or mix it or slice it in half?
Wash it in a basin or dunk it in the bath?

What to do? What to do?
He wanted his stew!

His eyes fell upon a big book on the shelf.
Titled: “Are you a Rhino? How to feed yourself!” 

He clapped his hooves and laughed with glee.
For there he found the recipe on page fifty-three:

“Delicious homemade leaf stew for your tea!”

©

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Honest Mum

Classic story week and Tuesday’s Challenge!

Hope you enjoyed last week’s challenge? Let me know how you got on!

 Now for this week’s challenge:

Wherever you are (unless driving, operating heavy machinery, about to walk into a lamppost etc) with your child close your eyes and when you open them try and create a poem or story based on the first 3 things you notice. It’s good fun! We’ve made up silly rhymes about cats on trains and in cars. Clouds, planes and the sky….. the possibilities are endless!! Enjoy and let me know the results!

Moving on to the book review. This week I thought it would be nice to look at some classics. Particularly with the school holidays there are loads that older children can enjoy reading.

Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

I remember this was one of the books we had to read at school. Normally I loved reading but not reading books that I was told to read as felt it was quite restrictive and hated picking them apart at the end as felt it took away the enjoyment of reading for enjoyment’s sake. However, I loved reading this book which is aimed at around 7-11 year olds. Couldn’t put it down! It’s about a boy who is raised in a caravan by his father and together they come up with a plot against a nasty wealthy landowner using pheasants. It’s amusing and touching (the relationship between father and son is lovely) in equal measures and one that all     children (and adults!!) should read at some point in their lives!