Tag Archives: book review

Picture Books to Add to Your Valentine’s Day Collection.

Do you share Valentine themed books with your class or kids at home? Some of the old favourites like Guess how much I Love You are great, but it’s always good to refresh your collection with new titles.

Have I Ever Told You by Shani Kin would make a perfect Valentine’s gift for a younger child. My children read it and said ‘ this is really lovely’. The book is full of the important messages a parent should share with their child;  messages of love, acceptance, tolerance and joy. I can imagine snuggling with my girls, reading the book together and talking about the messages within. Each message end with the phrase, ‘Have I ever told you that?’. Some of the messages are recognizable as things we say to our children, and some may be things we ought to say, but sometimes forget.

book for valentines day

The illustrations by Anna Horvath, are built around hands; multiracial hands, hands doing things, holding things and helping each other. Intertwined with the hands are objects and thoughts to represent each thing the parent tells their child. There is something strikingly beautiful about this; love expressed through hands as they create, bond, help, heal and touch. Holding and touching hands is perhaps the most sincere and secure expression of love there is.

If Have I Ever Told You were read in a classroom, it could inspire a Valentine themed writing project. The children could choose someone they love – a parent, sibling, friend or grandparent, and write something they want to tell them, ending with, ‘have I ever told you that?’ You could scribe for pre-writers and they could draw a picture or write it inside a hand print. Advanced writers could make a small book following the theme. Asking the children why they think hands were used in the illustrations, would also spark an interesting discussion.

Have I ever Told You would make a perfect Valentine’s gift.

Love Big by Kat Kronenberg follows a different theme, one of kindness and community.  In Love Big, Baboon watches the other animals being mean to one another and teaches them that through smiles, kindness, sharing and listening, we can build a happy community. 

I liked the message of the book and think it would be a good starting point for talking about classroom community.  I feel like it would be more effective if it were simplified, as in places it was a little wordy, especially in the parts where Baboon shares his message, which seem a little complex for small children. The book has a nice structure as it moves through a scenario where the animals behave in an unfriendly way and then are taught that they can be happier if they behave differently.  I personally disliked the repetitive Whoosh! Wham! In a flash of light before the phrases ‘We can be kind’, ‘We can share’, ‘We can listen’ and ‘We can care’  as they felt unnecessary and showy, but that is simply a personal preference. In some places, it felt like it was trying to do too much, for example it includes a song to the tune of twinkle, twinkle little star which felt a little out of place to me.

The illustrations by David Miles are bright, bold and cheerful. As the animals learn their lessons, the illustrations are placed in small vignettes and this makes a nice contrast with the bright, full page illustrations in the other parts of the book.

In the back of the book there are ideas for classroom activities to explore the books themes further and additional activities, fact sheets and videos can be found on Katkronenberg.com.

Disclaimer – this post contains Amazon affiliate links.


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Book Review for Multicultural Book Day: Farmer Falgu goes to the Kumbh Mela

Multicultural book day was the brainchild of reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, to share awareness of multicultural books and to get more of them in libraries, homes and schools. As an advisor, I was often asked to suggest multicultural books for schools and it was difficult to find quality books about diverse cultures. A key part of the initiative is to send out books for review to build a huge database of multicultural books with reviews. The website also includes lots of free resources for teachers with booklists, activities and posters.

The book I received is Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela by Chitra Soundar and Kanika Nair. 

multicultural picture books

This is the 3rd book in the Farmer Falgu series. Farmer Falgu, visits Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela festival and has a list of things he wants to see and do. Along the way he helps people, but each time he misses the events he hoped to see. Farmer Falgu. though disappointed, shrugs it off with the repeated phrase ‘maybe next time’. In the end, a turn of fate leads him to experience all of the things on his list and he has an ‘unbelievable ‘ time.

The Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela wasn’t familiar to me or my children so we really enjoyed reading about it. It feels very authentic, as if you are looking into the heart of another culture, rather than a superficial book about a festival. The book follows a clear structure and has repetitive phrases that will appeal to young readers, making it a perfect introduction to this lesser known festival. The illustrations are full of vibrant colours and bold designs and I love the simple way the illustrator shows facial expression and character.

multicultural picture book

A description of the origins of Kumbh Mela can be found at the back of the book. This could be a springboard to further research on the festival. Sometimes, I feel picture books are overlooked as a springboard for learning with older elementary children. This book could spark a wonderful project for older children too.

Suggested activities

  • Find the story of Kumbh Mela in Hindu mythology. Read it, act it out, draw pictures. Read other Hindu Myths – older children could write their own story in the style of a Hindu myth.
  • Find Allahabad on a map. Research what Allahabad looks like. Find the other locations of Kumbh Mela on a map.
  • Watch videos of the Kumbh Mela celebrations. Talk about celebrations in their own culture that may be similar.
  • Taste and/or make jalebis and lassis.
  • Think about the video and the book – why did farmer Falgu stop to help people? What happens in crowded places? Have you ever been lost? What did it feel like? What should we do when we are lost? This could also be the basis of a story.
  • Role play area – a train and role play a crowded train journey, a festival stand selling jalebis.

The 4th book in the Farmer Falgu series, Farmer Falgu goes Kite Flying, is available in April.

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.

Black forest theater

 

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?

shadow puppets montana toy company

 

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.

 

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.

 

Breathe Like a Bear: 30 mindful moments for kids to feel calm and focused – Book Review

I used to be a mindfulness sceptic. Being mindful, seemed like a short-term fad, soon to be replaced by another buzz word. My views changed last year, when one of my children had a teacher who promoted mindful activities. My daughter blossomed during that year, from struggling to cope with anxiety when things didn’t go her way, to recognising  her emotions were taking over and seeking ways to overcome them. It didn’t stop her rolling her eyes when we talked about being mindful but the strategies helped her to focus, make friends and practice self-control.

book about mindfulness for young children

Throwing my scepticism out of the window, I decided to review a new book promoting exercises for children to practice mindfulness, “Breathe Like a Bear”. I’m glad I did, because this really is a great book. It is beautifully presented, resplendent with Anni Betts’ vibrant illustrations and contains a variety of simple, fun exercises that won’t make you feel like you are leading a meditation session. The activities are developmentally appropriate for children young and old and might even be useful visualisations for parents and teachers.

“Breathe like a Bear” is written by Kira Willey, a children’s music artist and kids yoga expert. Kira provides enjoyable, engaging activities children will love. The book’s focus  on fun, rather than lots of explanations about the mindfulness message, makes it especially appropriate for young children.

The first section focuses on calming, for when children feel they can’t sit still. It is difficult for children of any age to sit still all day and many children become agitated after a period of time. These exercises are designed to encourage children to slow down. They would  be perfect for those days when children have boundless energy but can’t get outside to let off steam. The title “Breathe like a Bear” comes from one such activity. The children pretend they are a hibernating bear, breathing slowly in and out through their noses. Each section has a variety of exercises and encourages you to choose the one you feel most comfortable with. You may need to try a few to find what works best for your child or class.

mindfullness activity for children

Section two promotes concentration and focus. There are a mixture of activities in this section. Some are slow visualisations focused on breathing and others involve following actions, movement and sound. I particularly like how varied the activities are.

Section three comprises exercises that stretch the imagination. I think these are my favourites and can imagine using them during a rest time for young children, or to calm an older group when they get noisy or over excited.  They would also be useful for bedtime. They could be read to children before they sleep or recorded to play in  children’s bedrooms.

Section four is for energising children when they are feeling sleepy or lethargic. These would be great for the start of the day, to wake children up or during a lull later in the day. The exercises include moving your facial muscles, clapping hands, making twisting movements with your body and creating various sounds.

midfulness for children

The final section is relaxation for when we are feeling stressed. Stretching like a cat or scrunching and releasing sound deeply satisfying to me.

If mindfulness is your thing, I believe you will love this book. If it isn’t, why not try it anyway? You may become a convert, just like me. My next stop is to investigate Kira Wiley’s music, if it is as beautiful as her book, I’m in for a treat.

Amazon Affiliate link for Amazon US  Breathe like a Bear available from Dec 2017 priced $10.99

Amazon Affiliate link for Amazon UK Breathe like a Bear available from 13th January 2018 priced £11.99

Disclaimer: links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you order via this link I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. No payment was received for writing this review. I received a complimentary review copy of the title.