Category Archives: books

My Top 3 Picture Book New Releases

From my most recent Picture Book new release previews ,the titles below are my favourites.

  1. For under 5’s and early readers

I Am BatI Am Bat by Morag Hood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the simplicity of I Am Bat. I can easily hear it being read in my own child’s voice and see her acting out and reciting the text as she does with Elephant and Piggie books. Bat is over dramatic in a similar way to Elephant and this really appealed to my kids.  The illustrations evoke the bat’s emotions perfectly. A wonderful book for younger readers.

2. For parents and middle children

Middle Bear

Middle Bear by Susanna Isern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a parent of 3 children, I love Middle Bear. It is heartwarming and uplifting without being overly sentimental and conveys perfectly the mediocrity of being a middle child. I love the shell-shocked/glazed expression of the bear and the use of child like illustrations, as they convey perfectly his perception of himself as unremarkable. As the story unfolds, middle bear find out that there are some things he is just perfect for. I loved the way this unfolded and it made me smile.  A perfect book for middle children everywhere.

3. For Teachers

Chocolate CakeChocolate Cake by Michael Rosen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book by Michael Rosen about stealing chocolate cake. What isn’t there to like? The sumptuous use of onomatopoeia and descriptive language makes it a perfect book to use in the classroom. Chocolate Cake would provide lots of inspiration for children developing their descriptive writing and would be a great opening to language and vocabulary lessons. I love the way the typeface changes to enhance the descriptive words as they work seamlessly with the pictures. The illustrations are atmospheric and  the boy’s expressive eyes are skillfully drawn to show every emotion throughout the book. (currently only available in the UK).

 

 

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Do You Remember Perms, White Stilettos and Frankie Says Relax T-shirts? Pop Stars In my Pantry will have you dancing on the ceiling.

a memoir of pop mags and clubbing in the 80's

Since I first heard about  Pop Stars in My Pantry – A Memoir of Pop Mags and Clubbing in the 1980’s, I have been eagerly awaiting its release. When I was a child, my dad and his friends would play 60’s music and talk about what they were doing when particular records came out. He used to say “One day you’ll talk about 80’s music like this’, but I could never see how ‘my’ music could ever be thought of nostalgically.

In the early 80’s, when Paul Simper was embarking on his career as a music journalist, I was still at Primary School. Even at the tender age of 10, every Tuesday, I would race home for lunch, grab my pocket radio and run back to school. Our group of friends would huddle around the radio listening to the lunchtime announcement of the top 40 on Radio 1, hoping that the bell would be late so we could make it to number 1 before we were called to line up.

80's teen
Me at 14
By 1983, I was approaching my teens and had fallen madly in love with Wham, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. I read Smash Hits every week, memorising lyrics from my favourite songs and plastering pull out posters over my bedroom wall. Like most of my friends, I would record the top 40 onto cassette tape, pausing after every song to cut out the talky bit in between. Sometimes, I’d even tape music shows on television with my little cassette recorder (possibly before we had a video recorder).  My husband challenges me sometimes, to see how many 80’s songs I can recognise from playing the intro. He loves how many I know from just the first few notes.

It won’t come as a surprise then, that I  expected Pop Stars in My Pantry to be an indulgent treat for an 80’s music fan like myself.  What I didn’t anticipate however, was sitting on my hands in a coffee shop, to suppress the urge to jump up and down flapping my arms, like my teenage daughter, when she got tickets to see her favourite band. The cause of such uncharacteristic, emotive demonstration? Simper’s account of his interview with Kate Bush; almost as exciting as meeting her in the flesh. This was one of many similar moments, as stories of my teen idols revealed themselves.

Pop Stars in my Pantry is much more than an account of interviews with the stars. It is an immersive chronicle of the 80’s music and club scene. It’s about a time when young journalists and music stars moved in the same circles, danced together, drank together and were friends with one another. For me, it demystified many of my teenage heroes like George Michael, and made me admire them more. I loved hearing about big events like the Wham farewell concert, Prince’s after show parties and a New York trip to interview Sade, but the smaller everyday moments, paint a perfect picture of the era and transported me to my youth.

80's style, Laura Ashley dresses and doc martins
My 17th birthday, the Laura Ashley dress and Doc Martins phase.
It took me back to a time when music and fashion were everything. To digress slightly,  Paul Simper is married to an old school friend of mine, who as a 16 -year -old, I idolised. She introduced me to some of my all time favourite music – the Cocteau Twins and David Bowie’s Hunky Dory. She showed me cool, independent clothes shops. We memorised the whole of a Lloyd Cole album together and poured over magazines with brooding black and white photos of beautiful people. We were inseparable, until I found my first boyfriend and sadly (and with hindsight regrettably)  the intensity of first love, left little room for such an earnest friendship, and we soon followed our own paths. I’m not surprised at all that she ended up with someone with so many great stories to tell.

Pop Stars in my Pantry is funny, honest, revealing and tremendously exciting.  It is the absolutely perfect book for anyone who grew up in the 80’s and I can’t wait to share it with all my friends.If you didn’t grow up in the 80’s, read it anyway, as it will give you a wonderful taste of life back then.  I was excited before I read it, I’m even more enthusiastic after.

Pop Stars in My Pantry is currently available in the UK  (this link and all links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links meaning if you purchase a product using this link I will receive a small commission)

If you’ve read the book and are craving more, check out these audio clips from Paul Simper’s interviews with the Stars. I challenge you to wipe the grin from your face.

Max and Bird:Book Review

Disclaimer: The links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links meaning if you purchase any of the products through these links I will receive a small commission.

max and bird

When Max and Bird arrived on our doorstep, the illustrations were immediately familiar, but I couldn’t quite place them.  They were familiar because Ed Vere is the author of one of our favourite books, the story of a jazz playing gorilla called Mr Big.  Mr Big was chosen by the Book Trust as the official booktime book for 2009 and distributed to 750,000 British schoolchildren.

I had high hopes for Max and Bird and it didn’t disappoint.  Max and Bird is charming from start to finish. Ed Vere is wonderfully skilled at portraying emotion through his characters’ eyes and even before reading the text, you can’t help but fall in love with Max and Bird. The opening

This is Max.

Max is a kitten.

Kittens chase birds.

This is Bird.

Bird is a bird.

Birds get chased by kittens.

is a perfect introduction to the humour and tenderness present in every page.

Max and Bird is a book about friendship. Max wants to be friends with bird but also would quite like to eat him. That isn’t what friendship is about, so when bird needs help learning to fly, the two discover a way to celebrate their friendship in a way that is much more fun.

max and bird pigeon

The tension in the relationship and playful humour was a hit with my youngest daughter, an ‘Elephant and Piggie’ fan.  The girls particularly loved the British phrase “Not a sausage” and the manic, show off pigeon who tries to show Bird how to fly.

It isn’t often I receive a book to review that I instantly fall in love with. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, an absolute must for all teachers, librarians and parents. I have no doubt it will become a classic, favourite in our household. Now I’ve been introduced to Max, I can’t wait to read the other Max titles, Max the Brave and Max at Night.

 

 

Books to Teach Social and Emotional Skills.

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase any of these products by following these links, I will receive a small commisssion.

If you haven’t heard of Boys Town Press before, as I hadn’t, Boys Town Press produce resources for educators, parents, and other youth-serving professionals, that give practical, real-world skills you can use to manage behavior, build strong relationships, and teach social skills to children.

I received 4 titles to review


The PROcrastinator by Julia Cook

Noodle finds it so hard to feed his cat, take out the trash, and (especially) get his homework done when there are a lot better things to do instead.  Noodle puts them off until he is hopelessly behind on homework and has a very hungry, angry cat. Noodle’s mum says he has become so good at procrastinating that now she considers him a pro at it. A PROcrastinator.
Noodle’s mum teaches him strategies to manage all of his responsibilities and have plenty of time to play new video games with his friends.

The book is written with child friendly phrases and includes many scenarios that children will identify with. There is plenty of humour and the strategies for managing tasks are simple and clear. The book is perhaps a little wordy but you could easily paraphrase it for classroom use.

Mindset Matters by Bryan Smith – teaches children how to see problems and dilemmas as opportunities to learn and grow, and reveals why failing doesn’t make them failures. Written for readers in grades K-5, this storybook also includes tips to help parents and teachers foster a healthy “ get it done” mindset in every child.

My middle child has been learning all about growth mindset this year at school, she thought her teacher would love this one. The illustrations are bright and cheery with lovely expressions on the characters’ faces. Though I liked the message, this one wasn’t my favourite, I found the story a little dry and it felt a little too worthy for my taste.

Hey Goose! What’s Your Excuse? By Lisa Griffin.  A heartwarming tale about spreading your wings and finding yourself, teaching readers that stepping out of your comfort zone can lead you to exciting and unexpected places.

This book for younger readers has beautiful illustrations and a simple text and is perfect for children who hesitate to try new experiences. It would be a lovely read aloud book in a classroom or a sweet bedtime story.

Freddie the Fly: Motormouth by Kimberly Delude.  A humorous take on the problem of never opening your ears while always flapping your yap. Appropriate for readers in pre-k to third-grade, this colorful storybook teaches kids how to control their conversations and be excited about listening to, and learning from others.

The illustrations are bright and comical and I think young children would love them. There are great characters in this book. I like the way the author describes how it feels to have an unstoppable urge to talk, but some of the descriptions are a little wordy for younger children. The message of the story is really clear and the strategies simple. Freddie learns the pleasure of listening as the story unfolds.  I particularly like the tips for parents and educators at the back of the book.

I’ll definitley be looking to Boys Town for books about social and emotional learning in the future.

The Queen is Coming to Tea: Book review & fun activities for a Royal tea party theme.

 

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?

Queen_pg8-9
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

Queen_pg24-25

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?

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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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