Category Archives: books

The Steves: Picture Book Review

If you are a fan of  ‘I am Bat‘  you will love Morag Hood’s new book, The Steves.  Written and illustrated in the same quirky but simple style, it captures perfectly young children’s competitive nature and their drive to be bigger and better than friends and siblings. I can almost hear the words flowing from my daughters’ mouths.

Kids will laugh out loud at the insults they throw at one another and the wonderfully, comical illustrations. I love the way Morag Hood captures emotion in her illustrations.  Simple, beautiful and funny – a perfect package. I have no doubt the Steves will become a classic favourite for young children.

The Steve’s is available on Sept 4th 2018.

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Benji & the Giant Kite: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

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Benji & the Giant Kite by Alan C. Fox and illustrated by Eefje Kuijl, tells the story of a boy who, more than anything in the world, wants a big orange kite.   To buy the special kite, Benji has to earn money, so he gets to work helping his mother in the garden until he earns enough to buy the kite. Benji watches the kite sour through the air but when it is time to let it down he is overcome with an urge to set it free.

Alan Fox explains, that Benji and the Giant Kite is based on true events from his childhood. “I wanted to share the sense of achievement I felt by working hard to obtain something I really loved.” explains Fox, “But once I saw the kite flying at the beach, I wanted to let it go. My dream had been accomplished. It was time to move on to another, new experience. You must always keep going to fulfill your dreams and aspirations”.

Benji and the Giant Kite is visually stunning. The illustrations fill a double page with beauty and energy. The colour pallet of turquoise, pinks and greens is peaceful and warm. I love the way Benji’s hair blows and his little dog follows him around. I also love the depiction of the natural world with rolling waves, bees and flowers, birds building nests and glorious sunsets.

Benji and the Giant Kite

The underlying message of working hard to achieve your dreams makes this book particularly endearing. My only disappointment was the ending where Benji let the kite go.  My children didn’t really understand that part too. They wondered why after all his hard work he would just let it fly away – wasn’t it wasteful? I think this makes an interesting discussion point and it is refreshing to have an unpredictable ending. Do our dreams become meaningless once they are achieved? Should we move on to the next dream or should hard work help us to appreciate our achievements more? If we save hard for something should it be precious for a long time? Why do they think Benji let the kite go? Would they have done the same? I think I’m with the girls, I was a little disappointed in Benji and felt he should have treasured the kite, if he truly wanted it.

Benji and the Giant Kite is available on August 1 2018.

Giveaway – I have one copy of Benji and the Giant Kite to give away the winner will be drawn on August 8th

Leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway. Additional entries can be found via the Rafflecopter link.

Open to readers in the US.

Win a copy of Benji and the Giant Kite via Rafflecopter

Disclaimer: links are Amazon affiliate links – if you buy the book via this link I will receive a small commission.

Snail Mail: Book review & classroom activities

Snail Mail  by Samantha Berger is the story of a girl, who sends a letter to her friend on the other side of the country, delivering it the traditional ‘snail mail’ way. As the four special snails slowly travel across the country, they find by taking their time, they discover beauty in the world.

The illustrations by Julia Patton, show four snails with unique characters. Children will enjoy looking at the equipment each snail takes with them on their journey and tracking how it is used in the different climates. The snails move across the United States, through deserts and mountains, passing famous landmarks, through flat prairies and different weather until they reach New York City.  The illustrations are quirky, full of expression and packed with tiny details that children will return to time and again.

The story of the snails delivering their precious cargo emphasises the magical nature of receiving something in the mail. It is a reminder that in the modern world of email and texting, there are some things that are more special if they are delivered by post.

My children loved it, they thought it was a charming story and spent a long time pouring over the detailed illustrations.  I love the sentiment of the book, reminding children of the magic of receiving a special message in the mail.

This would be a perfect book for a classroom as an introduction to many projects

  • writing letters – practice writing letters to friends or family, set up a class mailbox to post them, find a class in another part of the country/world to be pen pals with.
  • sending postcards – provide postcards in the writing area. How is writing a postcard different from writing a letter? Have the children ever received postcards – bring them in to talk about.  Do we still need postcards, make notes for and against.
  • making and writing cards – create a greeting card station, provide lots of examples, make and write cards.
  • how does mail get from one place to another? Find out about the mail service – how does mail get from one place to another? Find out if the way people receive mail is different in other countries.
  • the post office – set up your role play area as a post office, visit a local post office or sorting office
  • introducing maps – look at maps of the united states and mark the route the snails took. Has anyone visited these places? Encourage family and friends to send the children letters – mark on a World and US map, where the children’s letters have travelled from.
  • the desert – research desert climates and the animals and plants you can find in a desert.  Write a piece of informational writing about a desert animal.
  • mountains – research mountain climates and the plants and animals that live there. make list of similarities and differences between deserts and mountains.
  • Famous landmarks around in United States – talk to the children about some famous landmarks they may have visited, ask them to share pictures and stories – make a class book about the wonderful places they have seen.

Snail Mail is published in the US on May 1st by Running Press Kids.

 

Disclaimer: links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links.  Advance copies of the book were received for review purposes.

You’re My Little Cuddle Bug: A perfect gift for your baby or toddler (Book Review)

I always choose a book for my children’s Easter basket and if I had babies or toddlers, You’re My Little Cuddle Bug would be top of my list.

The rhyming text is simple enough to engage toddlers, or younger babies will enjoy pointing and naming the bugs and feeling the shapes as they pop off the page.  The illustrations are bright, engaging and extremely cute and the loving theme of little bugs cuddling with their parents makes it the perfect book to share with a child at bedtime.

You're my little cuddle bug

You’re My Little Cuddle Bug is a good-sized sturdy board book and will easily stand up to a young child’s rough handling. It would be a great new baby gift or first birthday present if Easter has already passed you by.

You’re My little Cuddle Bug is currently available for $4.99 at Amazon.com and will be released in the UK on May 3rd.  (These links are Amazon affiliate links, if you buy the book via one of these links, I receive a small compensation).

Play With Shadow Puppets with Black Forest Theater Presents Dinosaurs (Book Review).

Black Forest Theater Presents Dinosaurs is a book set with everything a child will need to investigate shadow puppets.

The set, hand crafted by Montana Toy Company, includes

  • A theatre backdrop
  • An interactive storybook about dinosaurs
  • An Led light that stands up
  • 5 dinosaur shadow puppets with removable sticks
  • A protective cover.

The backdrop is sturdy and stands up well. We set it up and assembled the shadow puppets and the light.

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The children had to figure out for themselves the best position for the light and puppets to enable the shadows to reflect onto the backdrop.  I feel that a page of instructions may have been helpful although there is also a part of me that liked them having to work it out for themselves. Perhaps a little section in the book about the science of shadows would be good?

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The puppets are made of sturdy black card and the sticks have Velcro attachments so you can change the position if desired.  I can see these being popular in a pre-school especially as a prop for an overhead projector.  I would introduce the materials using the rhyming book and then let the children create their own stories.

My children enjoyed inventing their own story with the puppets.

Black Forest Theater – Dinosaurs retails for $29.99

Disclaimer: No payment was received for writing this review, we received a product for review purposes.

 

Art Lesson: Eric Carle Inspired Textured Collage (1st Grade)

Our Eric Carle inspired under the sea collages with 2nd grade last year, were such a success, I decided to take them a step further.

Eric Carle creates his collages using tissue paper he has painted and printed to create interesting patterns and textures. This was a two-part lesson. In the first lesson we created the tissue paper designs and in the following lesson made Eric Carle inspired collages.

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Lesson 1

Materials

  • Tissue paper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Objects to print with – pine cones, corks, q-tips, toy cars, plastic duck feet, textured balls, sponges, bubble wrap.

I showed the children a slide show from the Eric Carle website showing how Eric Carle paints his tissue paper.

We looked at examples of the different patterns and textures Eric Carle uses in his books.  I showed them how to create different patterns and textures on tissue paper by using different brush strokes and printing with a variety of materials.

The children created their own. Some children were a little confused and painted pictures onto the tissue paper. Perhaps this would have been avoided if I didn’t provide paintbrushes.

Each child created at least one patterned sheet.

Lesson 2

Materials

  • Painted tissue paper
  • Plain tissue paper
  • Glue sticks
  • Drawing paper
  • A pencil
  • Scissors

I showed the children a slideshow of Eric Carle creating a collage of the hungry caterpillar.

Each child had a piece of plain paper. They were asked to draw a simple outline drawing big enough to fill the page. I drew some examples – a butterfly, a caterpillar and a mountain scene and an example of a picture that wouldn’t work with lots of small things and details.

Eric Carle collage

The children drew their picture and used their printed tissue to fill in the picture like Eric Carle. We added plain coloured tissue paper and tissue paper squares and circles.  To finish the children drew in details with marker.

This was a wonderfully calm and focused lesson. The children really found the collage work therapeutic.

The finished products

In a play based setting I would spend a week focusing on only creating the tissue paper. The tissue paper designs would be  used the following week to explore collage and would remain as  a permanent resource to explore the techniques further.  I would  read lots of  Eric Carle books  and display examples of his pictures around the setting.

If you want to have a whole project about Eric Carle you might be interested in some of the other things we have tried.

Pink is For Boys: Book Review

(This Post contains Amazon Affiliate links: if you buy a product using these links, I receive a small commission)

If you have been waiting for a book for young children that challenges and encourages discussion about gender stereotypes, then add Pink is For Boys to your library.

This timely and beautiful picture book rethinks and reframes the stereotypical blue/pink gender binary and empowers kids-and their grown-ups-to express themselves in every color of the rainbow. With the help of a diverse cast of characters, readers are taken through the spectrum of the rainbow demonstrating that gender does not dictate their favourite colour or hobby.

My family loved it. My teenager asserted ‘ this is great’ and my younger girls said ‘I love this book’. It feels refreshing and not at all preachy. The text is understated, follows a familiar pattern and is clear in its message, without being too obvious.  I love the illustrations, the children reflect diverse cultures and look like they are having loads of fun. My only criticism (and this may only be true of my advance review copy) is that the shade of yellow chosen, looks more like lime green.

Using Pink is for Boys in the Classroom

I can imagine using the book in school or preschool to open discussions about gender stereotypes. It would be a lovely introduction to an art or writing project describing their favourite activities entitled ———- is for boys and girls.  You could encourage children to bring in photographs of themselves doing activities traditionally attributed to a singular sex and talk about their hobbies. Start your discussions from the things you hear children say, or try one of these prompts.

  • Are there any boys who go to a dance class? How does it feel to be in a class with only girls? Would it be better if boys were in the class? What stops boys wanting to go to dance class.
  • Do any children play sports where only girls or only boys are allowed? Would they prefer mixed teams?
  • What would they say are boys toys and girls toys? Is there a difference? Should there be a difference?
  • Do boys and girls play different things at recess? Have you ever been told you can’t join in because of your gender?

Coincidentally, when my youngest came home from school today she told me a group of her friends go to girl scouts. ‘I wish I could go to boy scouts’ she said ‘Why can’t I?’.  Wouldn’t it be great if it were no longer segregated and children could simply go to scouts!  This would be a great talking point for kids – make a list of activities that are segregated by gender. What kinds of activities are they and why do the children think they are segregated. Do the children think these activities should be segregated or inclusive? Older children could write a piece of persuasive writing explaining their views.

Pink is for boys is written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban . It is recommended for children aged 4-8 years.

It is released in the US on 5th June 2018 for $17.99 and in the UK on 28th June 2018 for £12.99 pre-order is available.