Category Archives: books

The Queen is Coming to Tea: Book Review

 

9781492607571-PR

Disclaimer: Links to the book title are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you purchase the book from my recommendation I will receive a small financial incentive.

The Queen is Coming to Tea by Linda Ravin Lodding, is a sweet book that children who love to play at tea parties will adore.  My girls love to grab a blanket, turning it into a  royal cloak and lay out all their cuddly friends for tea parties. As such, they loved this story about a little girl travelling around the world to gather essential items for the Queen’s tea.
Ellie finds out the Queen is coming to tea and with her best friend, Langley the Elephant,  travels to Paris, China, Italy, and New York to make sure they have everything they need for tea with the Queen. But will the Queen patiently wait? And what exactly will be waiting for the Queen?

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I love the bright colourful illustrations by Constance Von Kitzing, but they may be a little too pink for some boys to enjoy.  The illustration of Ellie’s playroom gives clues as to where Ellie’s ideas about gathering items from around the world came from. I liked this insight into the child’s imagination.
The Queen is Coming to Tea would be a great book to read aloud and inspire play and learning.
You could..

  1. Prepare tea and cakes for the Queen using play dough or clay or outside in a mud kitchen.
  2. Bake cakes, or traditional British teatime treats like scones, biscuits and cucumber sandwiches and prepare a tea party or picnic.
  3. Watch footage of real royal events like the Queen’s coronation or a royal wedding and plan your own pretend street party. You could make flags and bunting, make posters or invitations, play games or have races and dance to music.
  4. Taste or smell different types of tea. Which country do they come from? Which is your favourite? How do the leaves turn into a drink? investigate with loose leaf tea, tea bags, warm water and tea strainers.
  5. Make a graph or tally chart of the children’s favourite types of tea.
  6. Could you make tea from herbs or leaves you find in your garden? These could be real or pretend.
  7. Give the children tulle, paper and plastic bags and scraps of material. Can they design an outfit fit for tea with the Queen.
  8. Are there any people from your community who have been invited to tea with the Queen? Perhaps recipients of MBE’s or OBE’s. Invite them to come and talk to the children.
  9. Further investigate some of the places featured in the story – perhaps some of the children have visited them.
  10. Practice squeezing lemons or perhaps try this fruit tea recipe
    Peach Mango White Iced Tea RecipeIngredients:
    4 Cups Water
    3 White Tea Bags
    1 Peach
    ½ Cup Chopped Frozen Mango
    1 tbsp sugar plus Sugar to TasteInstructions:
    Boil the 6 cups of water; remove from heat
    Steep the tea bags about 5 minutes; remove bags and allow tea to cool to room temperature
    Add chopped peaches and mango to a mixing bowl and mix with sugar; let fruit soften
    Place fruit in pitcher and pour cooled tea on top; add sugar to taste and stir

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Giveaway

For a chance to win a copy of The Queen is Coming to Tea and a porcelain tea set enter the giveaway below. The closing date is August 6 2017.

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Growing Friendships: A Kids Guide to Making and Keeping Friends (Book Review)

Disclaimer: Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you purchase this book based on my recommendation I will receive a small payment. All opinions are my own. I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Most kids will encounter friendship challenges at one point or another. My family is no exception. Moving countries was a big challenge. The girls needed to find a new set of friends amongst groups of children who had already formed friendships. Sometimes they felt different to the children here, they didn’t want to play the same games or they were interested in different things.  A year group that is very boy heavy made it hard for one of my girls to form strong friendships and she longed for a best friend.

Even for those who make friends easily, keeping a strong group of friends isn’t an easy task.  Children want to fit in but getting along with friends is complicated.

Psychologist Eileen Kennedy Moore and parenting and health writer Christine McLaughlin  wrote this book to help children learn the essential skills for building and keeping friendships. Growing Friendships, A Kids Guide to Making and Keeping Friends helps children make sense of their social world through practical examples and humourous cartoons and simple exercises.  You could read it section by section or dip into the current issues your child is facing.

My daughter said she enjoyed reading the challenges. She liked that they were presented in cartoon form so that she could read through them quickly but also read the advice about what to do. I totally agree, the book isn’t heavy at all and is presented in a chatty, interactive style and a warm, non-judgmental tone.

growing friendships

We also read the book together with her younger sister. It was a good opportunity for them to talk about the things that happen between friends at school. My youngest beamed with pride as she told me how a friend had wanted to play with her, but another friend had a club that she wanted my daughter to be involved in – they invited the other friend to join  and all played together.

The layout and language of the book are particularly child friendly. The book begins by explaining how to greet people and build common interests to build friendships. It then examines reasons people may not want to be friends with you like being silly and not knowing when to stop, showing off or bragging, and always needing to be right. It gives simple practical tips on how to change those behaviours and deal with emotions.

As a parent we often hear stories about kids who are mean – I love these tips for reframing.IMG_1666

The book is full of practical examples like this. There are sections relating to the challenges of larger friendship groups, bullying, and moving beyond conflicts and each one gives children examples of the right things and wrong things to say.

As a parent I see it as a wonderful tool to help discuss the social challenges my children face and give them tools to help.

As a teacher, I think this would be a perfect book to share with children. Teachers will  clearly recognise the things we hear children talk about every day and that sometimes make us tear our hair out, this could be a way to stop and discuss issues with the class and a helpful reminder for when those scenarios occur in the future. You could display some of the important messages around the classroom.

I wish I’d had this book when I was a child. It’s not easy to know what to say as a shy kid and to be honest some of the tools in the book are also helpful as an adult.

growing friendships

I love this book and I think it is perfect for any child, whether they are having problems with friendships or not. As much as we all want our kids to have friends, it is equally important that they are good friends. This book helps children see that kindness is the key to friendship.

Growing Friendships is available from 18th July 2017.

Growing friendships a kids guise to making and keeping friends

What is a Dangle?

Disclaimer: contains Amazon Affiliate Link


My kids are captivated by this book, The Art of Drawing Dangles. I’d never heard of dangles before, so what is a dangle exactly?

Dangles, are a from of embellishing lettering by adding charms and patterns that dangle for the letters or shapes.  If you love pattern, design or intricate colouring, you will love dangles.

gymnast dangle
gymnast dangle
At first, I thought dangles looked complicated, but my 6 and 8 year old latched onto the book immediately. They followed the step by step designs and used them as inspiration for their own letter designs, patterns and pictures.  Some they coloured with gel pens and watercolour pencils.

dangle letters
Dangle letters by 8-yr old

My 8-year old exclaimed,
“I love drawing dangles. I just like drawing random shapes that don’t mean anything but look nice. I don’t do their designs (in the book), I do my own.”

To be honest, I’m completely blown away by their creations. These were created within the first few days of using the book; I’m excited to see how their skills and creativity will develop with practice.

dangle design by 6 year old
Heart design by 6-year old.
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New Books to Inspire Family Crafts

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My family love to create things together but sometimes we need a little nudge of inspiration. These 3 new books from Quarto books  are perfect to inspire ideas that will take us through the summer.

Stick it to ‘Em

Stick it to ‘Em is your invitation to create customized stickers. With just a hint of silly irreverence, this guide includes a list of colorful art tools in addition to easy drawing and lettering techniques and step-by-step tutorials, all designed to get your cheeky creativity flowing. You’ll then be treated to more than 35 pages of stickers, including a selection of fully designed styles to use any way you like, a variety of stickers to color in, and blank stickers to create your own.

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This one was my teenage daughter’s favourite. The beginning of the book teaches how to design stickers using water-colour and she used this as inspiration.  She also took some of the ready-made stickers to decorate her laptop.

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My younger girls liked the stickers that you colour in but may very well be inspired by their big sister’s creations. Some of the slogans on the ready-made stickers are not really suitable for young kids. Though they are meant to be sassy, a few refer to drinking or have acronyms I wouldn’t want my children using, so choose your stickers wisely if you have younger children.

Hand Lettering A-Z

Hand Lettering A to Z is a fun, hands-on book in which artist and calligrapher Abbey Sy presents her creative lettering and invites artists from several countries to contribute alphabets of their own–all unique, all hand drawn. Each alphabet is paired with a collection of phrases to show readers different ways to use the lettering and have fun with it in different languages, including French, Spanish, Irish, Swedish and Portuguese. Readers can use the phrases when making cards, gifts, or embellishing their journals. And unlike calligraphy, hand lettering does not require disciplined study. Hand-drawn lettering is meant to be personal and original, so even beginners can dive in.

 This one is really useful for us. My kids love to make signs and last year we made some for the garden.

Bee Friendly sign

Lettering isn’t always easy without a stencil but this book has given us inspiration to try new ideas and enhance what we have already tried. My 8-yr-old looked through the book and was a little confused as to how we could use it. We went through it together and I explained that the book shows you how to make different fonts step by step and how to add designs to create your own. She tried out a few in black and white to experiment.

hand lettering

 

Mom & Me Art Journal

This full-color art journal for mums and kids to colour and draw together in is designed to be a sharing experience. Mum and child can write each other letters, draw what scares them, imagine what they want to be when they are grown up, color a scene using only one favorite color, whatever their imaginations lead them to.

Mom and Me: An Art Journal to Share is filled with fun hand-lettering and artwork from Bethany Robertson along with creative prompts from licensed art therapist Lacy Mucklow. Mucklow offers up the best ways to communicate with a child through creating together; how to start an open conversation with your child; questions you can ask that will help generate thoughtful responses; and how to tailor the quality time so it’s still fun and engaging for your child.

I love the concept of this book and the activities inside are really well thought out. My 8-year-old said she couldn’t wait to share it with me.  If I could change anything, it would be the title. Aside from my purely personal dislike of the word mom, I feel that this book is excluding dad’s thus I would have liked it to have been entitled Parent & Me. Perhaps there is a dad version on the way?

The book is designed to be used flexibly.  Topics may be chosen based on issues encountered within your family or simply as a springboard for talking.  Children often find it easier to express feelings through drawing or writing, so the book encourages parents to share experiences together. There is no right or wrong way to use the book. As a mother of 3 children of different ages and very different needs, I think I would spend time individually with each of them but also copy the pages and work with all 3 of them together so we could share different points of view. I also think this might encourage teenagers who might not want to share, as they guide and support their younger siblings.  In a similar way I think some of the activities would work really well in a classroom.

The section on feelings has activities like drawing what makes you happy, sad and angry. These could be appropriate for any age group. Some activities, like drawing your inside and outside self  may be a little abstract for younger children or may need illustrative examples and discussions to explain. Allowing time to talk and share ideas is an important element to this book as I feel some of the concepts are difficult to express, particularly  the in the moment section. I would start with feelings and/ or imagination, particularly with children who worry about presenting their ideas.

Using Characters and Themes to Inspire Early Learning.

 

Using Characters and Themes to Inspire Early Learning  supports practitioners in planning and resourcing topics based around popular themes in the early years. Each theme is introduced through a ‘spark’. The ‘sparks’ are an object, or group  of objects, found in the classroom, for example a magic seed.  The projects then develop by presenting letters, posters, postcards etc. from a characters ( these can be found in the appendix of each section).  The characters in the book have been invented by the writers, Jo Ayers and Louise Robson but I see no reason for not utilising other familiar, book, TV or film characters.

Each chapter introduces a new character and theme, including pirates, knights and castles and people who help us.  For those settings who revisit these themes every year, the sparks and resources presented in the book would offer an exciting new angle for engaging the children.

Who is it for?

The book is targeted at teachers in the 3-5 age group, personally I felt some of the themes and activities were more suited to the upper age group, but I would still use the sparks with a younger group and adapt activities to their level and to fit the classroom environment.

How Does it Work?

The book emphasises planning with the children after igniting the initial spark, gathering evidence from comments, questions, observations, photographs and recordings.

The introduction states that topics were chosen based on gathering children together and asking them about their favourite interests.  I would have liked clearer descriptions of the  children’s involvement in the planning, as some of the topics felt more adult directed than others.  In a session which began by finding a mysterious seed, an alien is grows in the seed but it is also mentioned that this could also be an insect.  I would have liked to have seen a description of the thought process behind the decision to make it an alien. Did the children decide it was an alien?  There is a good mind map in the appendix showing the children’s comments and questions which explains this to a certain extent, but I would have liked a little more clarification as to how these comments and questions fed into planning.

The Activities

The chapters are clearly laid out and contain plenty of photographs and support materials.  I would have preferred to see the support materials alongside the description of the activity rather than in the appendix ,as I found flicking between the two distracting. The scenarios weren’t always easy to visualise without reading the materials in the appendix.

I particularly loved the Nancy the Knight and Lord Lawrence chapter for a meaningful approach to the topic of castles. I felt the description of this topic flowed well and the activities were hands on and playful.  I could also see how the children led the learning in this topic.

Who would Benefit Most From this Book?

The book would be a great resource for settings following a topic based approach. It would add wonder and awe to familiar topics and I can see it working really well in reception, kindergarten or year 1 classrooms.  I love the idea of the sparks and think these could also be useful in settings that use more in the moment planning.  With a bit of imagination, one could listen and observe the children, discover their interests and invent a character and scenario that would help them answer questions or develop their interests further. This book would be a great starting point for doing that..  For a theatre person like myself, I can easily imagine adopting this approach in the classroom but it may not be for everyone.

What Did I Think

I love the approach but wish the book was laid out a little differently. I really wanted to hear the story of how each project developed, to hear the children’s voices and see how the children’s ideas and questions led to the next stage of the project or even perhaps how different classes adapted the same scenarios but in different ways.

There is plenty in the book for those who would like to try this approach by following scenarios that work for others or for those who want to try this fun approach but adapt it in their own way.  I think it would be a great addition to a teaching library for new teachers, teachers looking to add a but of fun to their curriculum or those looking for a different approach to topic based learning.

The authors are keen to see how settings are adapting their approach on their social media channels  – Facebook and Twitter

 

Personalised Books for Your Easter Basket

If, like me you like to find a gift for Easter that isn’t chocolate, a book is always a great option.  Put Me in the Story have gorgeous personalised books, available as stand alone books or gift sets with a soft toy, making an extra special Easter gift.

I Love You Honey Bunny & Plush Gift Set

 

I often shy away from personalised books because the stories are a bit dull, but these are sweet stories with your child appearing as a character in the book. The stories are well written and include favourites like National Geographic, Pete the Cat, Curious George and Lemony Snicket.  You can add a dedication on the cover and a photograph of your child if you wish.

Put me in the Story offered me a book to try out – I chose “An Easter Surprise”.

An Easter Surprise

AN EASTER SURPRISE / AN EASTER SURPRISE AND PLUSH GIFT SET

$19.99 paperback, $34.99 hardcover ,$44.99 gift set

This takes your little one on an egg-hiding adventure around the world.  An Easter Surprise gives your child the chance to plan his or her very own Easter mission. Soaring as high as the moon in a hot air balloon, delivering eggs all over town, and stashing tasty treats all down the streets, your little one will be thrilled at the surprise twist in this Easter adventure.

The story is a simple, sweet, rhyme and features your child  as the Easter bunny. There is a challenge to find all the hidden eggs in the book  that I know my six-year-old is going to love. I think this could be a book that will be returned to time and again.

There are sweet books for slightly younger children, I LOVE YOU HONEY BUNNY is a lovely book to remind children how much you love them and for those who would rather celebrate Easter as a religious festival there is MY FIRST BOOK OF PRAYERS.

You can also personalise colouring books for older kids KEEP CALM AND COLOR ON: FOR YOUR INNER CREATIVE  and KEEP CALM AND COLOR ON: FOR STRESS RELIEF

 

Keep Calm and Color On For Your Inner Creative

There is still time to order for Easter but if you miss the boat, there are many other options for celebrating other occasions.  Personalised books are available for delivery to the US, Canada and the UK.

Disclaimer – a sample personalised book was provided for writing this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collage Inspired by Eric Carle.

Eric Carle collage

A friend recently gave me a beautiful book about illustrators and the story behind their work.

The cover design of Artist to Artist was the inspiration for my art project for 2nd grade. I read the Eric Carle section of the book with interest and looked up videos of Eric Carle explaining how he creates his illustrations.

Materials

Various shades of blue tissue paper

Scrap book paper

glue and scissors

black sharpie

After watching the video with the children, I explained our under the sea themed collage.  The children would draw and cut out sea creatures using scrap book paper and then the sea around it (or over the top if they preferred) would be made using a collage of tissue paper.

The children chose their paper , drew sea creatures of their choice, cut them out , drew features with a sharpie and stuck them onto their paper.

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Following this the children added different colours of tissue by tearing it into strips or small pieces to make the Ocean.  I showed them how they could put a thin layer over their creature to show it was under the sea and give it a shadowy effect or collage around the creatures.

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Some children didn’t want to have sea creatures in their picture and instead chose to draw stones or shells.

under the sea collage

I explained that we would combine the pictures to make a complete under the sea scene.  Some had clear ideas as to where their picture should fit into the display. This child for example asked if the dolphins could be jumping out of the ocean and used white tissue to make the foamy waves, her picture was placed at the top.

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Once the pictures were dry, I coated them with modpodge. This gave them a varnished effect and helped loose bits of tissue to lay flat.

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One observation I have made with this class is that often I come away feeling that some children have been so carried away with the process that the finished product feels rushed and very messy.  I wish we could have a process session before making a product as I do with Kindergarten .  However, my main observation is, even when I feel some children’s projects really will not come together properly, somehow they always do.  Every child has a different idea (which I encourage) and somehow they all work in different ways in the end.

IMG_0962IMG_0963Eric Carle inspired collageocean Eric Carle collageEric Carle Ocean collageIMG_0959

And once they were all put together they looked like this.

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We have an art walk later in the year. I intend to add a 3-D art project to this piece and hang it, so it looks more complete.