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! 💖

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!!

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.

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?

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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!

Curious world…..

My eldest is 3 and going through the question stage. “It’s dark Mummy! Why is it dark? What about the moon Mummy? Where is the moon? Pointing at a light in the car: What is that Mummy? Answering his own question: It’s a light! Why is the light on Mummy? Light goes off: Where has the light gone Mummy? The light has gone off….” etc. etc. All this within a 2minute journey from the nursery to the car. It doesn’t stop there. Some days we get what feels like a full day in question commentary. Exhausting but fun – unless you’re trying to get somewhere on time! It got me thinking “Why do they ask “why?”so much?”

I found a couple of interesting links which helped answer my question….and apparently kids can ask up to 300 questions a day!!!! I shouldn’t be surprised but still…Wow!

Mothers Are Asked Nearly 300 Questions a Day….

The article below has some great tips and also suggests reading books to your children to encourage the questions. I love books that give children the chance to ask and answer questions. One of my son’s favourite is a Thomas the Tank Engine book that asks questions along the lines of “What does Bertie need to continue his journey? A red light or a green light?”

Why do children ask “why?”

Such a lot for them to find out about and sometimes we learn new stuff along the way too! Thanks

Last but not least, hope you enjoy my latest poem. It’s about some of the things I’ve found myself saying…….No wonder they ask so many questions!

What a Confusing World! – by Kirsten Allen

I’m listening and watching and only three-But oh my! The world’s such a confusing place to be.
Mummy says “Stay where I can see you!”
But how would I know where that is?
Mummy says “Don’t talk to strangers!”
But “be polite and say ‘hello’ to this lady! Go on – give her a kiss”
“Don’t run – you’ll slip and fall in this dreadful rain!”
“Quick run or we’ll miss the very last train!”
“You must share toys – now give him your bat!”
But if I want something “No! She’s playing with it – you can’t take that!”
“Sit still! Slow down! Don’t just inhale the food on your plate!”
“Come on! Hurry and eat up or we’ll be late!”
However, I’m hopeful that by the time I’m four,
I’ll understand a little more!
©
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The modern world….

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Groucho Marx

Apparantly if we read, then kids read (well according to this article I found). It also says it doesnt matter if it’s on an e-reader or not. However, I remember my parents reading lots and books being all over the house. Almost every Saturday morning I’d go to the library with my Dad and we would spend hours there choosing books. I loved it and being an only child with not much else to do I would go through book after book (even at meal times if I could get awayI’ve got rid of most of my books in favour of an e-reader (mine’s a Kindle). Wasn’t sure about it at first and still miss turning the pages of a proper book. However, I’ve actually grown to love it for the following reasons:

1. Space saving 
2. Great for travelling 
3. I read books I would never otherwise have read! It comes up with suggestions of books to try, which leads to finding out about authors I’ve never heard. Now I’ve got hundreds of books all at the click of a button.

However, it makes me worry. 

1. My kids may never see the covers of the book I’m reading and ask about it.
2. When they’re old enough, they can’t just pick one I’ve read off a shelf (one of my favourite activities growing up was looking through my Father’s old penguin books- he seemed quite into Sci-fi and short stories)
3. They may think I’m just looking at another computer screen. I hope not and my intention is to talk about the books I’m reading.
4. Will they still enjoy books just as much even if they’re on an e-reader?
There are loads of children’s’ books in the house so it’s a worry for another day but the article really made me think about how my children will perceive books in the future. Would love to hear your thoughts on the article too and if your children are older with e-readers.

Here’s the link: Forbes Article

Interesting Article….

I love this article with some simple tips on helping children to read. I’ll be honest…my 3year old loves books but not sure how many letters he recognises (or is supposed to recognise at this stage! -Any early stages teachers out there -I’d love to hear from you out of interest!). He knows “O = Oliver” and “H = Henry” and “T = Thomas” (the latter 2 from the bain of our life Thomas the Tank Engine….at least it has some uses!! 😂) The rest he just makes up. The only reason I have any concern is because dyslexia is in our family. However, he’s only 3 so not going to worry about it at the moment and just let him enjoy the books at his own pace (I’m only allowed to read Green Eggs and Ham at the moment!!) 

Have a great weekend! 

http://www.readingrockets.org/blogs/shanahan-literacy/11-ways-parents-can-help-their-children-read

Storytelling nerves…..

What are your favourite Autumn children’s books? 
This week Sandhurst Library have very kind in asking me to lead a storytelling session on Thursday and it’s Autumn themed. I’m so flattered that they would like to hear some bits that I’ve written alongside  some Autumn type books.

So here’s a little something I wrote for the occasion:

Autumn – by Kirsten Allen 

Mud squishing in my fingers 
Brown conkers all around
Golden leaves are falling. What a crunchy sound!!!
Furry squirrels playing hide and seek with the acorns that they find.
Lushes lovely berries!
Types of every kind.
These are the wonderful things I think of,
When Autumn springs to mind.

©