Imagination 2: Animal Antics and A Book Review

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

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

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

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

Activity – animal Simon Says Animal Race

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

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

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

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

Animal ideas:

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

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

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

Book Review

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

Published by: Macmillan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think it’s all the ‘GRRRR’ing!

Q4: What are your future book plans?

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

 

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

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

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

Imagination and a book review

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

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

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

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

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

1. Mud and paint will come out in the wash

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

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

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

Here are a few suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would love to hear how you get on!

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

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

Book Review

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

Published by:  Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

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

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

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

Published by: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q4: What were your favourite books as a child?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragon Activities and a Scorching Hot Book Review

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

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

TO DOWNLOAD AS PDF CLICK HERE: DRAGON ACTIVITIES

  • Pin the tail on the dragon:

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

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

  • What time is it Firey Dragon:

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

  • Find the Dragon Egg – Hot and cold:

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

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

BOOK REVIEW

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

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

Thanks for reading the blog and review!

Q&A with Andy Shepherd

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

 

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/

Life Through A Lens and a Book Review

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

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

Book of the day

The TwitsRoald Dahl

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

Autumn Walks and Autumn Books…

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

Thanks as ever for reading my blog and happy exploring!

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Wild Woods – Simon James

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

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

6. Stanley Stick – John Hegley

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

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

7. Storm – Sam Usher

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

🍂 🍄🍂🍁🍄🍁🍂🍄🍂🍁🍄🍁🍂🍄🍂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A with author Sam Copeland

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

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

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

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

 

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!

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

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

Happy reading!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

World Book Day Costume Dilemma & Book Review

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

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

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

BOOK REVIEW 

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

TIMOTHY MEAN AND THE TIME MACHINE.png

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

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

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

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

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

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.