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.

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!

Autumn book reviews….

So yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to read some Autumny type books to pre-schoolers at Sandhurst Library. Today I’m enjoying reviewing some of them! I took Cedric the Squirrel along and the children enjoyed cuddles with him. Here he is snuggled up with his leaves, conkers and a great book!


1. The Wild Woods – by Simon James

A beautifully illustrated and engaging story (Oliver loves this one!) about a little girl, going for a walk with her Grandad. Jess  decides she wants to take a squirrel home. She also has some very logical ideas on what to feed him and where he can sleep. Can she convince Grandad it’s a good idea?…

2. Pumpkin Soup – Helen Cooper

A squirrel, a duck and a bagpipe playing cat all live together in harmony making pumpkin soup. Each has their own job to do. One day, the duck decides he wants to do something different and it doesn’t go down well at all! This would be a great one perhaps for reception classes as it shows what the cat and squirrel think has happened to the duck after he’s waddled off in a huff. Children can have so much fun guessing and using their imaginations before the end is given away. Beautiful illustrations too. 

3. The Big Snuggle-Up – by Brian Patten

Personally, I loved reading this story. A scarecrow and various creatures all need shelter from the snow. Such a gentle beautiful book and so good for repetition. The children could “help out” with the story. Just wonderful! Would make a great soothing bedtime story.