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 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”.
$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.
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.
Alex and Eliza is a young adult novel, documenting the love story between Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler. Written by best-selling author Melissa De La Cruz, it is likely to be a popular choice for young Hamilton fans. Netgalley offered me a sneak peek of the first 4 chapters. Will Hamilton fans be disappointed?
The prologue gives an interesting historical insight into the Schuyler family history. As a prologue should, it left me wanting to read more . The opening chapter introduces the Schyuler sisters. Their portrayal is different to the girls presented in Hamilton the Musical. Eliza is the central character and the author clearly has a strong emotional attachment to her . She is presented as both clever and beautiful, very principled and caring little about the common frippery of young girls seeking a husband. Angelica, certainly in the first part of the book, does not appear to be the leader of the sisters (although she is also described as beautiful, intelligent and the boldest of the sisters) and seems more interested in looking beautiful and attracting men than more intellectual pursuits. Eliza is independent of her sister in the novel in comparison to her portrayal in the musical. This is also reflected in her initial meeting with Alexander, where her clever use of wordplay puts Alexander down a peg or two. The characters are immediately likeable and interesting and have enough depth to make you care about them.
I was interested in my teenage daughter’s view, as an avid Hamilton fan who has researched the history behind the Hamilton story intensively. I personally like the way the Schuyler sisters were portrayed but wasn’t sure how close the representation would be to her understanding of the sisters. She liked it and didn’t find the different portrayal from the musical annoying, as I had wondered she might. She said that she found the switch between the traditional use of language used by the characters and the more modern narrative voice strange at first, I personally didn’t notice a strong switch in tone. My daughter liked it and wanted to read the rest of the book but wasn’t chomping at the bit because she only had the first four chapters.
To be honest that was also my opinion, I liked it, the characters were compelling and I would like to finish reading the book but I wasn’t desperate to read it in one sitting which is always my benchmark for my favourite books. Perhaps only having four chapters and already knowing the main plot was a factor, so I’m still looking forward to reading the rest of the book.
Alex and Eliza is available to pre-order with a release date on 11th April 2017.
Fear of the dark is fairly common amongst young children. It often arises around the age of two or three when their imaginations develop and they begin pretend play. Often, children become fearful about what might be lurking in the darkness but sometimes it is also tied up with other anxieties.
Sharing a book is the perfect way to invite a child to talk about their fears. Children’s fears are real so it helps to listen to them and work out strategies for alleviating fears together . When my daughter was young, she developed an extreme fear of darkness, so bad that she would cower and cry if I left the curtains open as it was getting dark. It turned out that she had very poor eyesight but was too young to articulate it. When it was dark, she could barely see anything at all. Once her eyes were tested and she wore glasses, her fear was more manageable. She still gets scared sometimes when she gets up in the night, but having a night-light by her bed (preferably one she can carry) helps a lot. When her fear was at its height, sharing stories helped a lot. I even wrote a book just for her, about a magic elf that she could call upon whenever she was scared.
Fears are helped when children can talk to you about them and what better way to start a conversation than reading a good book together. Below are some of my favourites; let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions.
The Moon Inside by Sandra V. Feder, illustrated by Aimee Sicuro
This new title, is the story of Ella who grows more comfortable with darkness as her mother gently encourages her to appreciate nature’s night-time wonders. Ella’s favourite colour is yellow and she feels sad as the yellow disappears at dusk. The illustrations move from an indoor world of yellow, black and white to an outdoor twilight of green, red, blue and oranges. Ella looks and listens as she explores with her mother and finds many beautiful things. She finally decides that if she leaves fewer lights on inside, then she can experience the glow of the moon from her bedroom.
Talking points for children
What can you see at night?
What can you hear at night?
Does it feel darker inside or outside?
How does it feel to look out of your window at night?
What would happen if we didn’t have night? What would you miss?
2. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Lazlo is afraid of the dark but the dark usually lives in the basement. That is until one night when the dark, in its personified form, enters Lazlo’s bedroom and takes him on a journey through the house to the basement. Once there, the dark shows him a drawer where he finds night-light bulbs and Lazlo and the dark live in harmony ever after. This book combines sumptuous, descriptive text with pictures that show the stark contrast between the shiny blackness and the light of the flashlight.
Talking points for children
What does dark look like?
What does dark feel like?
What can we do to make the dark feel different?
3. Can’t you Sleep Little Bear by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Barbara Firth
This timeless classic tells the story of Big Bear and Little Bear. Little Bear can’t go to sleep because he is afraid of the darkness all around. Big Bear brings lamps of different sizes to help Little Bear, but he is still afraid. When Little Bear still can’t sleep, Big Bear takes him outside to see the light of the moon and stars. Finally convinced that he is safe, he falls asleep in Big Bear’s arms, in front of a warm fire. If comfort food came in book form, this would be it.
Talking points for children
What helps you when you can’t sleep?
Why aren’t grown-ups afraid of the dark?
How do you feel when you look up to the sky when it is dark?
4. The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson, illustrated by Paul Howard
Another timeless classic, this time in early chapter book format. Plop is a barn owl, but unlike all of his friends, Plop thinks the dark is scary. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of darkness as Plop learns through his many adventures, that dark is exciting, kind, fun, necessary, fascinating, wonderful and beautiful. This is a perfect read-aloud book for young children.
Talking points for children.
Why do you think dark is fun, fascinating, beautiful etc.?
Can you think of other adjectives to describe the dark?
Have you ever been convinced by someone else that something you thought was scary wasn’t actually that frightening at all?
5. I’m Coming to Get You by Tony Ross
I first came across this picture book as part of a children’s literature module back in my student days and it is a personal favourite. Though not strictly about a fear of the dark, it is a book about putting fears into perspective. As a creature from outer space hurtled towards Earth, it warns Tommy , “I’m coming to get you”. Tommy searches for it as he goes off to bed but can’t find it. In the morning, the monster gets ready to pounce, only to find that he is smaller than a matchstick in the human world.
Talking points for children
If you could squish one fear with your shoe, what would it be?
What things are you scared of that might in reality be more frightened by you?
Last Hallowe’en, my daughter decided she wanted to dress as a burglar. She chose the idea because “burglars are bad but not really scary like monsters or devils.” At school they are not allowed to dress in gruesome costumes but my kids believe that Hallowe’en costumes should be scary, to capture the true essence of the holiday.
One of our favourite books is Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. We laugh at the antics of Bill and the baby, every time we read it. When another burglar book came their way, the girls were very eager to read it.
Izzy the very bad burglar tells the story of Izzy, a young burglar, who comes from a family of excellent burglars. Every time Izzy steals something, she gets a bad feeling in her stomach. Izzy tries to tell her parents but they tell her she must be a good burglar. Izzy tries different ways to make the feeling go away but it always returns, until eventually she finds a solution that might just work.
My 7-year-old shared her thoughts about the title,
I thought it was going to be about a burglar who is really bad, you know, like she does bad things but really the title means that she isn’t very good at being a burglar.
The underlying message of the book is to do what is right and not bow to peer pressure.This resonates perfectly with the 3-6 age group, who have a clear sense of right and wrong. It would be a perfect book for teachers to introduce a moral discussion. Teachers could talk about good and bad by introducing the following questions. Are burglars bad? Was Izzy bad?What does it mean to be bad? What made Izzy different to the other burglars? Do you ever get a feeling like Izzy did when you do something unkind?
Izzy the Very Bad Burglar is written and illustrated by Amy Proud is available in hardcover from May 3rd in the US and May 19th in the UK.
Disclaimer: We received a complimentary copy of this book.
As I was browsing books for the younger ones for Christmas, I discovered a brand new Charlie and Lola book called ‘One Thing’. With great excitement, I quickly contacted friends from the UK who were coming to visit and asked them to bring a copy. I didn’t know what it was about but as the Charlie and Lola books are amongst our favourites, I was looking forward to finding out.
As an additional surprise, a new Ruby Redfort book popped into my recommended items. It may seem a little sad, but I react in the same way to a new Lauren Child book as I would to news of a concert from my favourite artist. My eldest daughter loves Ruby Redfort and I usually pre-order them but somehow I had missed this one. Her face was a picture when she unwrapped it on Christmas day. She says this is her 2nd favourite in the series, beaten marginally by the first book. On finishing the book, she immediately wrote a letter to Lauren Child, explaining how much she enjoyed it, asking her questions and telling her about her own life. Through Lauren Child’s writing, children sense a genuine interest in what they think, feel and do which I believe, compelled my daughter to correspond.
One Thing is Lauren Child’s 5th Charlie and Lola book. Most Charlie and Lola books are adapted from the television scripts. The television series is based on Lauren Child’s characters and she collaborates closely with the script writers but there are only 5 Charlie and Lola books written by Lauren Child:-
We love the television series but the Charlie and Lola books from the series don’t have the same sparkle for me, so I am always brimming with excitement when a new one from Lauren Child is released.
‘One Thing’ did not disappoint my giant expectations. In usual Lauren Child fashion, ‘One Thing’ captures perfectly the workings of a young child’s mind. The story begins when ‘mum’ promises Charlie and Lola ‘one thing’ when they go shopping. The book takes you on a number journey, tapping into the minds of children like my own, who count everything and work out number problems in their head.
Lola talks about numbers and Charlie gets frustrated, adding up the time it takes Lola to get anywhere. All of the number references are displayed as sums, puzzles or hidden numbers in the illustrations. It is a wonderful introduction to maths for young children but ‘One Thing’ is more than an educational number book. The book recognises the natural way that children see numbers everywhere and is full of discoveries for an inquisitive mind.
One Thing is a delight for adults to read. I particularly identified with Lola’s constant distractions and Charlie and mum’s negotiations with her,
“What are you doing?” I say.
Lola says “I am just trying to count the dots on my dress but I am not sure what comes after twelve.”
I say “Missing going to the shops comes after twelve.”
It is a perfect example of a picture book where text and illustrations are dependent on one another, each enriching the other. I asked the girls what they liked about the book,
“I like finding all the numbers” said my 5-year-old “and I like Charlie and Lola”.
Each time we read it we find something new, from the title page with handwritten numbers,
…to discovering the number of minutes it takes Charlie to get ready hidden in the pictures,
“Oh look the toothpaste is a number 3”.
This was their favourite page.
They returned to it multiple times, trying to find the numbers hidden on the birds. We couldn’t find a number 3, perhaps you will have better luck.
Thank you Lauren Child for another book to treasure.
One Thing is available in hardback in the UK and for pre-order in the US.
Disclaimer: This is a personal recommendation. I completely, absolutely did not get paid or get free stuff for writing this post.
I think it is a great landmark in children’s language development when they begin to understand jokes. At first they are not remotely funny but they begin to understand the formula behind jokes and to remember ones that they find funny. My 8 year old and 3 year old love jokes and we are often subjected to hours of awful jokes in the car or at the dinner table. Their favourite is
Why didn’t the worm go into the Ark in an apple?
Because they had to go in pairs.
They have even invented a game for us to play in the car. My 8 year old gives the punchline and we have to guess what the joke is. This is very hard especially as she leaves little room for creative licence, it ends up as an annoying variation to cryptic crosswords. I do think however this would be a great school task, understanding and creating jokes would be an entertaining way to improve children’s language comprehension and creative writing.
The jokes from the joke book in the car have been wearing a bit thin so when we were offered the chance to review ‘My First Justin’s Jokes’ I thought we might finally get some new ones. This is a perfect joke book for young children as it is full of pictures, with 2 or 3 jokes to each page and can be read in one sitting. My personal favourite
Who’s there ?
A perfect joke for little boys.
I have 5 copies of My First Justin’s Jokes to giveaway. To enter make me smile by telling a joke, funny story or posting a link to a humourous blog post or picture. My 5 favourites will win a copy of the book.
Terms and conditions
Winners will be chosen at midnight on 3rd June and notified by email.