Category Archives: review

Max and Bird

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.

 

 

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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.

Organise Your School Year Activities with The Busy Family Calendar

 

busy family calendar

Disclaimer: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. If you order this item by clicking this link, I will receive a small commission. All opinions are my own, no payment was received for reviewing this product.

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As a family of five, remembering the girls after school class schedule can be a challenge. Add in appointments, school events, birthdays, parties, concerts, rehearsals and homework deadlines and I regularly have a pin board loaded with lists and timetables.

I’m a little old-fashioned when it comes to making lists and organising events.  I use digital calendars but I like to have a physical calendar to help me see the whole picture.

busy family calendar

It can be difficult to fit my family of five’s activities in one small square, so family organiser calendars are the perfect choice. I love the Busy Family Calendar from Quarto Books, because it has space for a family of five to record all their activities on separate lines.  Furthermore, the 2018 calendar lasts for 17 months, so I can start it at the beginning of the academic year and keep it going until December 2018 (by which time I may have remembered to buy a new one.)

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Additional features are a large calendar grid and handy storage pocket for appointment cards, invitations and such.  The charming seasonal artwork by Alison Cole is bright and cheerful to complement it without distraction. I particularly like the additional stickers for birthdays, medical appointments, school breaks etc. as they really help these events  stand out on the calendar. Some even have space to add your own content, like chores and meal planners.

The Busy Family Calendar is available in Canada and the US for an rrp. of $15.99 US and $18.99 Canada

 

The Queen is Coming to Tea: Book Review

 

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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

Washed Ashore at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

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If you read my previous post about our art project made from recycled plastic you will know that the inspiration for ‘swimming through plastic’ was the Washed Ashore Project.

shark sculpture made from plastic washed ashore

Washed Ashore, is the brainchild of artist and educator, Angela Hazeltine Pozzi, who distressed by the volume of plastic washed up on her beloved Oregon beaches, decided to take action. Pozzi, along with a team of volunteers, created giant sculptures made entirely from the rubbish they found on the beaches. Each sculpture is designed to educate about plastic pollution in our Oceans and encourage a change in consumer habits.

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Ten of the Washed Ashore sculptures are at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium until October 21. Last weekend we finally got a chance to see them.

At the entrance you will find Gertrude the Penguin.

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Each sculpture comes with an I spy activity, urging visitors to find objects hidden within. They range in difficulty from plastic bottles (of which there are many) to tiny toy cars and cell phones. The girls loved trying to find the hidden objects. It encouraged them to examine how the sculptures were made.

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The displays also share facts about plastic pollution in our oceans and the dangers to animals within this ecosystem.

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Outside the aquarium are Weedy the Sea Dragon and friends.

Washed ashore sculpture sea dragonWeedy the sea dragon

 

fish made from plastic washed ashore

Octopus made from plastic

 

Seal made from plastic washed ashore

My favourites are at the back of the aquarium. I love the detail in the coral reef and walking underneath the plastic bottle jelly fish.

coral reef sculpture washed ashore project

coral reef made from plastic trash

coral reef made from plastic trash

jelly fish made of plastic bottles

The theme of plastic pollution is present throughout the zoo. The marine exploration centre has many activities encouraging visitors to learn how to be more responsible in our plastic consumprion and creative ways of using non-recyclable plastic, like these botte tops with magnets attached for creating pictures.

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The zoo’s new Wild West show, shares a clear message of Refuse, reuse and recycle and the shop and café no longer use single use plastic, including plastic straws and cups.

Washed Ashore
Finding out more about plastic pollution
Once you have seen the sculptures, there are plenty of other things to see. If you haven’t been to Point Defiance before, it has a strong focus on marine animals and an aquarium full of native species and others from warmer climates.  Who could resist this little guy?

You can stroke a stingray, anemone or starfish, watch puffins, walruses, seals and polar bears from above and below, ride a camel or hand feed birds.

The marine discovery center Point Defiance Zoo aand Aquarium

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Our day out really helped the kids think about the things they throw away and the effect it has on the environment. If we were a little closer, I’d love to check out some of their summer events.

 

Meeting a Dragon & Treasure Hunting at Caerphilly Castle

caerphilly castle

It has been a year since we took an amazing trip home. We had a long list of places and people we wanted to visit and top of the list for our stay in Wales was a castle. Growing up in Wales, I took it for granted that my kids would get to visit historical sites with school. Now, I need to pack all the things they can’t experience here, into our visits home.

caerphilly castle

Top of our list for our week in Wales, was a castle. There are so many castles in Wales it was difficult to choose the right one. I considered Castell Coch and Cardiff Castle, but eventually went for Caerphilly Castle, as it was the most traditional of the 3.  I wasn’t certain if it would be too ruinous or if there would be enough there to entertain the kids. As it turned out, it was the kids favourite day out in Wales.

They couldn’t wait to get to the castle as we walked towards it and when they were greeted by Dewi the real Welsh dragon, at the entrance, their excitement mounted.

dragon at caerphilly

Dewi, who first arrived at the castle on March 1st 2016,  is a star attraction at the castle. This May, he flew to Caernavon Castle, to join his sweetheart Dwynwen.  Dwynwen soon  laid two eggs. The eggs hatched into baby dragons Dylan and Cariad, on May 26th and are now taking on summer adventures across Wales. The dragons are an integral part of  Visit Wales’ 2017 Year of Legends, inspiring visitors to discover Wales’ rich folklore. Dewi has returned to his home at Caerphilly.

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Where can you meet Dwynwen and the baby Dragons?

12 -25 June Raglan Castle – Dwynwen and the baby Dragons.

27 June – 9 July  Tretower Court

11 – 30 July  Kidwelly Castle

1 – 13 August  Harlech Castle

15 – 28 Aug  Beaumaris Castle

Treasure Hunting

Included in the admission fee (£23.70 for a family ticket admitting 2 adults and up to 3 children under 16)  was a treasure hunt activity. The children visited every part of the castle looking for information to answer to clues that would lead them to the treasure.

caerphilly castle

We descended spiral staircases.

stairs caerphilly castle

Walked along balconies.

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through dark corridors

castle coridoor

and explored the grounds for clues.

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After hours of fun (and a few painful feet from new shoes) we found the treasure.

kids activities caerphilly castle

The children exchanged their treasure hunts for a special prize in the gift shop. We admired the view and said our goodbye’s to Dewi, before heading home.

view from Caerphilly Castle