#BookADayUK Hooked Me Into Reading

#bookadayuk June 24th

At first I struggled with this theme, as I’ve always been a reader so there is no particular book that ‘hooked’ me, but when I was young, a book I read over and over was a ‘Me Book’ – one where my name, and some other details, were typed in spaces of a generic story. Mine was The Great Sesame Street ABC Hunt, and I still have it thirty-something years later.

You can still get a variety of character books with personalisations, but they’re mainly not great stories, and the personalisations seem a bit forced. However, Lost My Name has a different approach, and I think it’s just right.

The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name, or The Little Boy Who Lost His Name (Lost My Name, on demand)The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name, or The Little Boy Who Lost His Name (Lost My Name, on demand)

I first became aware of these books via a friend who was working for a font design company, and therefore had a deep interest in words. So when I was offered the chance to review, I already had experience of the website and the books available, and I definitely wanted to try them out.

The premise of the book is that a child has woken up and their name has been stolen. The book takes the form of a wandering quest, with each letter of a child’s name given a two page spread where they meet a creature starting with that letter and collect the letter from the creature. At the end, all the letters are put together and it’s your name. How exciting!

The website is very easy to navigate, and the fact you can preview your whole book in advance is a huge advantage to me. Being the personality that I am, I’ve played with the website to see what combinations you can use.

You can use names with between three and twelve characters. If you have a name with only three or four characters, an extra double page spread of wandering is added, to make the book longer. A very nice touch.

Another nice touch is that the website accepts hyphens! As someone with a hyphenated first name, I live with the frustration of being known as ‘Anne’ or ‘Annemarie’ on some computer systems. They’re not my name. But all hyphenated children everywhere can rejoice with Lost My Name! The hyphen is not counted as one of the twelve character limit, and doesn’t appear in the story, but it’s used when the full name appears.

The combinations allowed (every letter of the alphabet once, with A and E twice, and up to three additional duplicate letters) mean that most names are covered. For example, with my name ANNE-MARIE, there are two As, two Ns, and two Es. The second A and E have their own creatures, and the second N has a generic double page. It is possible to come up with a plausible contrived name that doesn’t work, but it’s unlikely that your child’s name won’t work.

Example of generic page from The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name, or The Little Boy Who Lost His Name (Lost My Name, on demand)

After ordering, the book(s) chosen are printed on demand and arrive within a few days. I was really impressed with the speed of delivery, and the books were packaged well so as not to be damaged in the post. I can’t stress highly enough how excellent the quality of these books are. They are gorgeous, thick quality pages and excellent binding. A friend remarked how they didn’t look ‘on demand’ printed as they were so well made.

As someone who is anti gender stereotyping, I usually get annoyed when gender is requested, but in the case of Lost My Name, the only difference in the books is the use of his/her, the girl/boy images are different, as are the cover colours. However, girls get Robots and Dragons (if their name has an R or a D), and boys get Mermaids and Princesses (if their name has an M or a P), with no ‘girl’ letters or ‘boy’ letters in sight. I also like how the boy/girl characters skin could be seen to match a variety of skin shades. Five stars for lack of stereotyping.

My daughters absolutely love their books, and it was wonderful watching Danger Girl (5) work out that the letters were her name when we read the story the first time. It’s been often requested for bedtime (as “The Girl Who Lost Her Gnome” sometimes!) and who knows, maybe in 30+ years these will still be treasured possessions too.

At £18.99 per book, including postage, and with discounts for multiple purchases, these books make wonderful gifts (new baby, Christening, first birthday, first Christmas, starting school, just because) and are worth every penny. This is a very clever concept, and highly recommended by the Chaos household.

Disclosure: The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name books received for review from Lost My Name.

Our Week in Books #30

Where am I? What day of the week is it? Who am I? Oh yes, it’s the first week of the school holidays…

All going well so far, but busy, and it looks busy the whole time too. I need to schedule in some doing nothing days. I’ve not even scheduled anything, they’ve just seemed to happen.

Still not finished the #bookadayuk reviews, let alone the rest. Will try to get the #bookadayuk ones out of the way asap, and see what I find time to do when we’re on hols with the in-laws.

Still addicted to loom bands. Also becoming addicted to Hama beads. I blame Craft Merrily. I’m sure the point of getting a review box is not to order more things in the same week though. In my defence, most of it was a birthday gift (yay for next day delivery) and we needed more Fimo colours…

On the bright side, I read a couple of books (Landline was finished last Saturday night so could have been on last weeks but I’d already posted), although I now need more Rainbow Rowell. I may just have to get Eleanor and Park in paperback to match the set.

Books added to shelves:
Specs for Rex – Yasmeen Ismail (review book from Bloomsbury)
The Colour Thief – Gabriel Alborozo (review book from Bloomsbury)
The Unknown Unknown – Mark Forsyth (bought from Mostly Books)
Attachments – Rainbow Rowell (bought from Mostly Books)
Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten – Alison Murray (bought from Mostly Books)
The Day No One Was Angry – Toon Tellegen & Mark Boutavant (review book from Gecko Press)
Line Up, Please – Tokomo Ohmura (review book from Gecko Press)
The Boy Who Cried Wolf – Tony Ross (bought from The Last Bookshop, Oxford)
Cumulative: 319 (£414.57)

Library books borrowed: 10
Cumulative: 21

Books removed from shelves: none (9 still to post)
Cumulative: 129

Read 52 books finished this week:
Landline – Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

Year progress: 208/365 = 57.0%
300 Picture Book progress: ???/300 = %
Read 52 progress: 43/52 = 82.7%

300in2014 A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

Our Week in Books #28 & #29

It’s been a hectic last two weeks of term, it’s nice for school to finally be over for the year and have time to breathe. Typically it’s pouring with rain today after weeks of sunshine ;-)

I have lots of reviews to catch up on as always, and still the last nine days of June’s #bookadayuk. We’ve been getting some super review books and I really need to work out how to share them without writing full blog posts as I never seem to have the time. I think I need to get the hang of Instagram…

Books added to shelves:
Ten Little Princesses – Mike Brownlow & Simon Rickerty (review book from Hachette)
Mine! – Jerome Keane & Susana De Dios (review book from Hachette)
Best Friends – Mara Bergman & Nicola Slater (review book from Hachette)
Mr Tweeds Good Deeds – Jim Stoten (review book from Flying Eye)
Where is Rusty? – Sieb Posthuma (review book from Gecko)
You Can Do It, Bert! – Ole Konnecke (review book from Gecko)
Pirates Love Underpants – Clare Freedman & Ben Cort (bought from The Works)
Peas & Tickles – Kes Gray & Nick Sharratt (bought from The Book People)
Tigers & Spies – Kes Gray & Nick Sharratt (bought from The Book People)
Katie Morag and the Dancing Class – Mairi Hedderwick (bought from The Book People, pack of 5 but rest as gifts)
There’s A Lion in my Cornflakes – Michelle Robinson & Jim Field (bought from The Book People)
The Fairytale Hairdresser and Sleeping Beauty (bought from The Book People)
Jacqueline Wilson Birthday Journal (bought from The Book People)
Listen Up, Pup – Steve Smallman & Gill McClean (teacher gift to children)
Toffee and Pie – Pippa Goodhart & Paul Howard (teacher gift to children)
Cheeky Little Kittens – Adrian Rees & Marcin Piwowarski (party bag gift)
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell (bought from Mostly Books)
Landline – Rainbow Rowell (bought from Mostly Books)
Harry’s Last Stand – Harry Leslie Smith (£1.09 Kindle Book)
Cumulative: 309 (£391.60)

Library books borrowed: none
Cumulative: 11

Books removed from shelves: none (9 still to post)
Cumulative: 129

Read 52 books finished this fortnight:
Pea’s Book of Big Dreams – Susie Day
Pea’s Book of Birthdays – Susie Day
Pea’s Book of Holidays – Susie Day
The Unknown Unknown – Mark Forsyth

Year progress: 200/365 = 54.8%
300 Picture Book progress: 240?/300 = 80.0?%
Read 52 progress: 40/52 = 76.9%

300in2014 A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

Loom Bands

What Are Loom Bands?

Loom Bands are my current addiction special interest. I know they’re the ‘in’ thing at the moment so on principle I ought to have no interest, but I was bitten by the bug before my children were ;-)

What they actually are, are small elastic bands in a variety of colours that you can loop (weave) together into bracelets, charms, or even bags or dresses.

I had a think, and here is why they are perfect for my personality:

1. Sorting – the packs usually come in mixed colours, and I find it therapeutic to organise small things into colours and types.

2. Organising – after sorting, there’s the planning where to keep everything and putting things in a nice order.

3. Repetition – simple designs are easy to pick up and repetitive movement is very therapeutic. I like fishtail variations for this.

4. Research - there is lots to learn and discover, not just about the bands and looms that are available but more interestingly about all the complex designs you can do. YouTube is full of interesting things taught in different ways so it’s possible to find one that suits your learning type.

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So right now I am in geeky heaven collecting and organising, and occasionally also making. I should point out that both Mighty Girl and Danger Girl also make them, but usually get bored so I finish their designs off!

Where To Start?

The joy of loom banding is that it can be as cheap a hobby as you like, so it is perfect for pocket money. Packs of 300 bands, 12 clips, and a hook are available almost everywhere at the moment, and only cost £1. Have a look in any independent stores you might have locally, I use Lewis Baker in Abingdon.

With a single pack, you can make approx 6 single fishtail bracelets (40-50 bands each depending on wrist size) or 12 single chain bracelets. All of these can be made using just fingers.

It’s also possible to do slightly more complex designs with a couple of forks sticky taped together, but if you want to go further, it might be time to get a loom.

Which Loom To Buy?

The cheapest loom you can get is a fixed type, which you’ll be able to do a range of bracelet and charm designs on but there are some limitations. They’re usually shorter than moveable looms, but they’re also cheaper. You can get fixed loom band looms for under £2.

Moveable looms are best if you really get into the hobby and want to do more designs. Moveable means you can configure the pegs into square or diagonal versions, and the gaps between base plates allow certain designs somewhere to grow. You can get moveable loom band looms for under £6.

I personally prefer the moveable looms with the bigger base plates, like the original Rainbow Loom brand design. An authentic Rainbow Loom costs around £20 but you can get cheaper imports (hopefully at Craft Merrily soon, as I prefer to support them.) The bigger base plates make the loom more stable.

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Bands and Clips and Charms, Oh My!

There are a huge variety of loom band designs to choose from: solid, stripy, glitter, glow-in-the-dark, scented, colour changing… A lot of the colour packs can seem quite pink-centric, but that’s not always the case and a whole rainbow of opaque and jelly bands await. For Minecraft fans, the camo packs are perfect.

I don’t get the point of loom band charms you can add onto bracelets, but my five year old loves them, so what do I know?! But I do love that you can get loom band clips in bright colours as well as clear.

Before you know it, a couple of packs here and a couple of packs there make a lovely collection of colours to choose from…

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What To Make?

YouTube is full of design tutorials, just search for Rainbow Loom or Loom Bands. Some other search terms that might be useful to add are: fishtail, double fishtail, hexafish, starburst, ladder, dragon scale, triple single, pencil charm, penguin charm, charms.

I’m currently making bracelets to support the National Autistic Society’s #beloomingamazing campaign, and think charity colours (or school, or club colours) bands would be a great fundraiser.

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I’ve linked through to Craft Merrily’s Loom Bands because their service is impeccable and I’ve never been disappointed. I wasn’t asked to write this post, nor was I compensated in any way.

Martha and the Bunny Brothers I Heart Holidays Postcard

There are some people or characters that you can instantly fall in love with. Martha Bunny is one of those characters. Clara Vulliamy is one of those people.

The Chaos household have all fallen head over heels for Clara and Martha (the big eared one) and we’re thrilled to be part of this tour of special postcards from Martha Bunny herself to celebrate the publication of the third book in the series: I Heart Holidays.

Monday’s postcard: Read It, Daddy (plus bonus lolly ratings)
Tuesday’s postcard: Smiling Like Sunshine
Wednesday’s postcard (and special interview): The Book Sniffer

Today’s postcard:

I Heart Holidays (Martha and the Bunny Brothers #3): Clara Vulliamy (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2014)

Paws looks so fab in starry sunglasses, and I love Martha’s dress (and still wearing wellies, joy…)

Tomorrow’s postcard will be at Making It Up, make sure you check it out to see (I can’t wait!)

In I Heart Holidays Martha has a shiny new suitcase that she’s packing with all the essentials for a summer holiday – scrapbook, pencils, bucket and spade… Monty and Pip are packing too, and so is Paws (and mum and dad somewhere!) but it’s time to hurry to pack everything into Bluebell, the gorgeous blue camper van. The image of everyone squished into the back in their car seats is wonderful – and we even get a peek of mum and dad.

Martha’s family are having what is probably now an ‘old fashioned’ beach holiday, but it’s the holiday of my childhood, and the holiday of my children’s childhood and is full of everything you’d expect – sand sandwiches, ice creams dropped (repeatedly), rain as the children paddle, and happiness, sunshine, and love.

Read more of what we thought of I Heart Holidays (spoiler: WE LOVE IT! I would say it’s the ‘best yet’ but they’re all the best); a comparison of I Heart Bedtime and I Heart School; and see all our Martha Bunny posts and crafts.

If you want to make some Bunny paper dolls with dress-up pyjamas (and you can always create your own clothes too), then you can download two sizes of doll here: smaller and bigger.

Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Heart Holidays was published on 3rd July, and is essential summer holiday reading. All three Martha Bunny books are available in paperback.

Our Week in Books #27

Busy, busy, busy, busy… It’s end of term busy at the moment but the very last week of term should be quiet enough for me to catch up on finishing June’s #bookadayuk at least!

MG had a Brownie sleepover yesterday, so we organised for DG to sleepover with my mum. They were both very excited. It’s 9am, so about an hour before we get them back, and the house is so quiet. It’s odd.

Books added to shelves:
Pea’s Book of Holidays – Susie Day (bought from Mostly Books)
Go Well, Anna Hibiscus – Atinuke & Lauren Tobia (bought from Mostly Books)
Wolf Man – Michael Rosen & Chris Mould (bought from Mostly Books)
Fright Forest – Marcus Sedgwick (£2.99 IBW special from Mostly Books)
The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name (review books x3 from Lost My Name)
Cumulative: 292 (£360.32)

Library books borrowed: none
Cumulative: 11

Books removed from shelves: none (9 still to post)
Cumulative: 129

Read 52 books finished this week:
I Am AspienGirl – Tania Marshall
Pea’s Book of Best Friends – Susie Day
Go Well, Anna Hibiscus – Atinuke & Lauren Tobia
54% through Pea’s Book of Big Dreams, concentrating on reading the series as loving these
57% through Grasshopper Jungle, but bored of the style so on hold
Two letters through Alphabetical, one I can dip in and out of whilst reading other things

Year progress: 187/365 = 51.2%
300 Picture Book progress: 239/300 = 79.7%
Read 52 progress: 36/52 = 69.2%

300in2014 A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

July Update

I haven’t blogged much for a long while it feels, and I’m still working out whether I’m going to return to diary blog or just write about books all the time, but writing is therapy so please indulge my rambles.

I’ve been back on anti-depressants for six weeks, and things are on the up, although GP has just recommended I double the dose I take. A few months ago I set about half of this blog to private, and I still have 245 private posts that are likely to remain that way. I expect I’ll set this to private after a while too, but I’m dipping my toes into the water today.

I did 21 days of #bookadayuk last month and then things caught up with me. I will write the remaining nine posts and backdate them as I have the books chosen, and I need to write about them anyway. But the backlog is looking much better, and I will start accepting review book offers again.

I am slightly addicted to loom bands at the moment. I know they are the in craze, but I did hear about them last year so I don’t feel I’m too crazy. I will write about it separately soon, because I’ve worked out why I, a middle-aged mother, love them. Mighty Girl and Danger Girl aren’t so into it, but like the bracelets and charms I make for them!

I’ve spent far too much money on books recently, so need to be fugal. Or Well-Behaved, to quote the fab series of books I’ve just started.

I also talked to the GP about Mighty Girl and am getting a referral to the local Hub. I have my suspicions that she is Aspergers (she matches most of the list of traits for female Aspergers, although not as many as I do…) but my main concern is helping her with her anxiety, especially before she hits puberty! I’m going for the parenting support skills route rather than asking for her to be assessed. It may be ‘just’ anxiety, and helping her control that (and sleep better) may remove the other problems we deal with. She has no issues at school, is above average in all academic work, and is also sporty and athletic. Emotionally she lags, and I just want to support her in learning the tools to cope with life. At the moment, there is no way I’d send her to secondary school, it would crush her. But there’s four years of primary left, so we’ll see what happens.

Danger Girl is a completely different personality, and helps me not blame myself and my anxiety for Mighty Girl’s anxiety. She is very much a five year old now – independent, vocal, messy… She’s still my baby though. She’s trying so hard with reading and writing, and perhaps the glasses prescription has helped with that. She may not get the mechanics of reading until an older age than Mighty Girl, but I think she will be the reader of the two. She is constantly with a pile of books, asking for more stories, ‘reading’ as soon as she wakes (I often wake to the bottom of our bed piled with half a dozen books and DG talking to herself!)

It’s such a busy time at school at the moment. Last week was the foundation stage sport’s day (I missed it), this week was the Y1 and Y3 inductions plus foundation slideshow (I missed it), and next week is the whole school sport’s day and slideshow. I create the slideshows. They take about 10 hours of work each, and there’s two of them. I work 2 hours a week. Sigh. Ah well, hopefully I’ll get some overtime!

I missed the sport’s day and slideshow because of various appointments. I had the intro meeting with osteopath about my back pain (9 weeks and counting. Or is it 10?) and also I booked the GP appointment for the wrong time by mistake. Next week it’s the very last Aspie group meeting, and osteo, and I need to have done the slideshow, and I haven’t started, and I’m panicking.

So instead of working on the slideshow, I wrote this instead. Maybe I’ll read a book or do some loom bands now…

Our Week in Books #26

Number 26?! Eek, that means we’re halfway through 2014. Frustratingly, after a great start, I’m now a whole week behind on #bookadayuk but I refuse to give up after doing 2/3 of the month. However, I’ve also got two imminent work deadlines, so this may slip well into July…

Today is the first day of Independent Bookseller’s Week, so probably only fitting that until yesterday we’d got two books but er, that increased a bit today. Oops… Well, Mostly Books have some excellent titles at a very special price at the moment :-)

Currently we’re I’m addicted to loom bands. It’s therapeutic, okay? ;-)

Books added to shelves:
Dragon Loves Penguin – Debi Gliori (review book from Bloomsbury)
Bear and Bee – Too Busy – Sergio Ruzzier (review book from Turnaround)
Rory and the Monstersitter – Rosie Reeve (review book from Bloomsbury)
I Am AspienGirl®: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Gifts of Females on the Autism Spectrum – Tania Marshall (£5.80 Kindle)
Little Miss Princess: A Royal Ball Sticker Book (bought on sufferance 5yo request from Mostly Books)
Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells A Story – Michael Rosen (£2.99 IBW special from Mostly Books)
Flood and Fang – Marcus Sedgwick (£2.99 IBW special from Mostly Books)
How To Train Your Dragon – Cressida Cowell (£2.99 IBW special from Mostly Books)
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black (£2.99 IBW special from Mostly Books)
Compton Valance: The Most Powerful Boy in the Universe – Matt Brown & Lizzie Finlay (competition prize from Mostly Books)
Penny Dreadful is a Record Breaker – Joanna Nadin & Jess Mikhail (competition prize from Mostly Books)
The Usbourne Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do (competition prize from Mostly Books)
The Usborne Travel Activity Book (competition prize from Mostly Books)
The Usborne Dinosaurs Colouring & Activity Book (competition prize from Mostly Books)
Usborne Activities Cavemen Sticker Book (competition prize from Mostly Books)
Cumulative: 285 (338.36)

Library books borrowed: 7
Cumulative: 11

Books removed from shelves: none (9 still to post)
Cumulative: 129

Read 52 books finished this week:
Currently reading Grasshopper Jungle – Andrew Smith

Year progress: 179/365 = 49.0%
300 Picture Book progress: 235/300 = 78.3%
Read 52 progress: 33/52 = 63.5%

300in2014 A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

#BookADayUK Never Finished It

I don’t like not finishing books, but the older I am the more I put aside. I guess life is just getting shorter. Mostly it’s not because the books are bad, but they’re not what I feel like reading at that time after all so I put them aside. I put The Lord of the Rings aside at least twice when I was younger, before I actually got into it…

Ghost Hawk: Susan Cooper (Bodley Head, 2013)Ghost Hawk: Susan Cooper (Bodley Head, 2013)

I felt obliged to finish this book because I got it via Net Galley. But I applied for it purely on the basis of the author, and loving The Dark is Rising sequence when I was a child, and the premise of this one didn’t really appeal to me.

I thought the part of the book that I did read was interesting and well written, but it still just didn’t grab me. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever go back to this book because it’s not a story that interests me. Having read the Nosy Crow Reading Group verdict, and being spoilered for something I wasn’t aware of, it seems like I’m still in the ‘best third’ of the book so if that’s not grabbing me then it’s best to move on.

I can’t say anything negative about this story because I haven’t finished it, and I didn’t have a problem with the part that I have read. This is more of an excuse post than a review, so I’ll finish for now.

Disclosure: received for review via Net Galley.

#BookADayUK Made To Read At School

I had no interest in nearly all the books I ‘studied’ in secondary school. I can’t even remember what most of them were. I didn’t mind the ones we read in the younger years, things like My Family And Other Animals, The Children of Green Knowe, Tom’s Midnight Garden, even Animal Farm, Of Mice And Men, Zuleika Dobson or A Room With A View. But I really disliked the thick heavier ‘classics’ including Silas Marner, Jane Eyre, and The Mayor of Casterbridge. I couldn’t tell you much about any of the books either, and if we were to ‘finish in our own time’, I never finished them. I was too busy reading Stephen King age 14/15 to bother with whatever was on the GCSE syllabus.

Instead, today’s choice is a book about school, more or less…

I Don't Want To Go To School: Stephanie Blake (Gecko Press, 2014)I Don’t Want To Go To School: Stephanie Blake (Gecko Press, 2014)

This is our first introduction to Simon the rabbit, star of previous books Poo Bum, Stupid Baby, and A Deal’s A Deal, and it definitely makes me want to find all the others to read (Danger Girl (5) is particularly keen on reading Poo Bum!)

This is a particularly toddler-friendly book, with bright coloured pages and an introduction to an unfamiliar situation, however it works on many more levels - the 7yo & 5yo can see younger versions of themselves in Simon, and get the humour of the last spread, and parents and carers will definitely recognise many children in Simon.

Simon’s parent’s tell Simon that he will be going to school the next day and try to alleviate his worries, but he just replies “I’m not going!” to everything they say. When the day comes, of course everything is fine (after a bit of a cry – I love that this is included, because it is okay to cry) and guess what he says when mum comes to collect him at the end of the day?!

Great fun, and lots of giggles from all of the Chaos book fans.

Disclosure: I don’t want to go to school! received for review from Gecko Press.