Category Archives: Memes & Blog Hops

Summer Book Exchange: The Singing Mermaid

When I signed up for The Educators’ Spin On It Summer Book Exchange, there seemed to be plenty of time to do the activities we’d be sent. In reality though, it’s been the busiest three weeks of the school calendar full of events during the week and with weekends packed with parties and outings. We’ve barely had time to breathe, let alone sit and do some structured crafts. Eek!

We were paired with Here Come the Girls. You can see a sneak peak of what we sent them here and the results of their fab crafting here. We were sent a copy of The Singing Mermaid, a book we didn’t actually own already (!), and four packed envelopes full of craft materials with these great book inspired ideas:

1. Make a necklace or bracelet with blue and green beads, plus sea horses and shell beads to remind the mermaid of the beach and the sea.
2. Make wooden spoon puppets to act the story, with tons of glittery foam sheets, big eye stickers, glitter glue and wool for hair.
3. Make a seascape collage with even more glittery foam sheets, shiny green paper, sand, shells and other bits and pieces.
4. Decorate a box with lots of shells, sparkly gems and a key.

Summer Book Exchange, making Mermaid puppets

MG and DG were excited to get the package and we opened the first two envelopes containing the book, bead kit and puppet making materials. We read the book, grabbed some scissors and glue and the girls got to work making their mermaids.

They both wanted to make a mermaid of course, even though the idea was to make puppets for the whole story, but they made up their own stories inspired by the book instead! They had such fun with it (and there is so much glittery foam left) that I’ll definitely be picking up some wooden spoons for them to do more puppets over the summer.

Summer Book Exchange, making mermaid puppets

I helped MG and DG by cutting out mermaid tails for their puppets, everything else they designed themselves. They seemed to have the most fun playing with the ‘hair’!

We’ve read The Singing Mermaid several times, but not at times when it’s been convenient to start on the other activities. MG and DG have been concentrating on their own activities in the limited free time we’ve had in the last few weeks so although I’ve had the projects on the kitchen table readily available, they’ve not been chosen yet! There’s only another four days left at school after today though and then six weeks to fill so I’m sure we’ll do them all, and update here if I get time.

Mermaids (MG on left; DG on right)

Huge thanks to Rebecca from Here Come The Girls for her well thought out parcel of crafts, which will keep MG and DG busy over the coming weeks. If you’re not already following Here Come The Girls, you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and Pinterest for lots of fun activities, recipes and parenting tips.

Here Come The Girls

To see what the other participants got up to, and for lots of book-inspired activities for keeping children amused over the summer, visit The Educators’ Spin On It. I’ll link up to the post collecting all this summer’s posts when it’s live.

Summer Book Exchange with 30 + bloggers with border

November

November is a busy month: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month); NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month); Movember; Picture Book Month; Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, World Vegan Month

Which of these am I going to write about? Surprisingly, not Picture Book Month, although it sounds very me. Nor NaNoBloMo, although I seem to have accidentally planned a post a day for the next two weeks at least…

At this time of year, Pancreatic Cancer is foremost on my mind and always will be.

DG & Dado

Two years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. He was in hospital for pains, he’d been there ten days and they’d originally thought gallstones but that was negative so there were more tests…

Friday 5th November. I was home looking after my daughters while Mr Chaos was out. It was evening, the girls were asleep. The phone rang, it was my brother.

It’s cancer. It’s terminal. He might have two years, we don’t know. He could be fine for two years… But there’s no cure, this is it…

After the phone call, I googled Pancreatic Cancer. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is three to six months. Months. Not years, months.

Five-year survival rate is 3-6%. At least 94% of people diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer die within five years of diagnosis.

The statistics are horrendous.

Pancreatic Cancer Infographic

I saw lists of people who have died from it including famously Dennis Potter; Patrick Swayze; more recently Steve Jobs. I remember seeing Dennis Potter being interviewed shortly before his death, seeing how much pain he was in.

On 2nd December 2010, twenty-seven days after being diagnosed, my dad passed away with three of his five children surrounding him. My eldest brother and I were in England and couldn’t make it to Ireland in time.

Twenty-seven days. That’s all he had from diagnosis. That’s all the time we had to get used to the idea. He was 75. He wasn’t young. He’d had a good life. Five children, eight grandchildren. It was still too soon. It’s always too soon.

I last saw him eight days before he died because we were in Ireland for my youngest nephew’s Christening. MG and DG were almost-four and eighteen months old. They bounced around him in the lounge of the nursing home. We were the only ones there, we spent time together before he was too tired, and my daughters got some time with him. His skin was yellow, he looked so ill. I knew it would be the last time I would see him alive but tried not to think of that. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would speak to him.

He was in pain but hid it. His cancer was too far gone for any intervention but he wanted to make it six months for the sake of his youngest grandson (four months old at the time). He said he wasn’t giving up, he could still wash himself!

Four days after I last saw him he slipped into an unresponsive state and my family, all of us, waited for the inevitable. My siblings and I lost a father; my daughters and their cousins lost a grandfather. It was too soon.

This November, remember Pancreatic Cancer and help spread awareness any way you can.

Thank-you.

I’m Looking for a Book about… Space

It’s the third “I’m looking for a book about…” carnival from Playing by the Book and this month’s theme is Space.

There is obviously a discrepancy between what I think is on my shelves and what is actually on my shelves because I thought we had loads of books on Fairies (but found none), and loads on Space (but not as many as I thought) and none on the Seaside, Beaches and Oceans (but found far more than on any other subject so must go back and enter that carnival…)

Welcome to Alien School by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves.

The third of a series of books about Albie, an ordinary boy who extraordinary things happen to. We’ve previously reviewed this book.

 

You Can’t Eat a Princess! by Gillian Rogerson & Sarah McIntyre.

Since reviewing, we now own our own copy of both You Can’t Eat a Princess! and You Can’t Scare a Princess! and they are both still very well loved.

 

Winnie in Space by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul.

Winnie the Witch! In space! What’s not to love? I am a huge fan of Korky Paul’s work, the details are wonderful and make re-reading books a joy. Winnie in Space is the eleventh Winnie book. Valerie Thomas’ text is spot on, these are proper picture books with text and pictures telling the stories together.

In Winnie in Space, Winnie conjures a rocket and off Winnie and Wilbur go for a picnic. But, oh no, space rabbits are coming to the picnic! “Chocolate Muffins? Disgusting. Cherries? Yuck!” but space rockets? Yum! How will Winnie and Wilbur get home after the rabbits have chewed their rocket up?

Every page also has a picture of a planet or object from the solar system with their astronomical symbols, a nice touch to lead to further study if your child shows an interest.

Meg on the Moon by Helen Nicol and Jan Pienkowski.

It’s Mog’s birthday and for his birthday treat he wants to go in a space ship.  Meg makes a spell (that works!) and off they go. This book actually covers a lot of educational activities: counting down from 10 for lift off; weightlessness in space; moon buggy, lunar module and spacesuits; food in bags; jumping high with the moon’s lower gravity; what the Earth looks like from space… Another gem of a book.

Basher’s Astronomy by Dan Green and Simon Basher.

I love these Basher Books, I’ve not written about them before because they’re too old for my girls but I’ve been collecting them nonetheless because they are brilliant. Manga-style characters with simplified explanations of the concepts they represent. This book deserves a post to itself

Finally a free book to download (or buy in physical form) for early readers: Tick Tock Little Facts Blast Off! Lots of photos of real space images and only 100 words for new readers to attempt themselves.

There is also a series of books about the solar system from the same publishers for early readers who want to read a bit more detail.

Next month’s carnival theme is (Starting) School. Thank-you Zoe for these carnivals, it’s been great fun thinking of books to fit each theme!

Goblins

Between 2007 and 2009 these chapter books about five types of goblins were published. I think these particular goblins are part of the fairy folk – they are small, live on the edges of human knowledge and are a touch magical. They’re also quite grimy, fairly ugly and very funny.

I saw these books appear on the shelves of the local bookshop in hardback but as my eldest child was a baby I ignored them. As she grew, and little sister arrived and grew, and we all became addicted to David Melling‘s books, I started collecting signed copies whenever I found them on the shelves (calling out “buy me, buy me”!) They then sat on a shelf, waiting for my daughters to be old enough to read them…

When I sneakily started reading them, I wish I’d started earlier. As an adult, these are tiny portions of books but probably just right for newly confident readers. I have no experience with young readers (MG & DG are still ‘pre-readers’) so this is very much my review with no input from smaller people I’m afraid.

All the books follow the same format: there is a map, pictures and descriptions of the characters in the book, some facts about the type of goblins in the book, the story, an afterword connecting the real world to the goblin world and (in all but ghost goblins) some more goblin info or games. All the pictures in the book are black and white sketches (actually my favourites) with colour covers and inside covers.

Because of the format of the books, they encourage story-writing from young readers: who are your characters, what are their names, what do they do, where do they live? There are even worksheets on the Hidden Goblins website encouraging children to create new goblins. The website is a nice complement to the books, with lots of pictures and an extract from the first book to tempt you.

I do think these books will really draw young readers into a fantasy world, along with all the additional facts packed into the world there is always the hint in the of where you might find goblins: a puddle where everything else is dry; that tapping on the window; the birds singing because they’ve been pushed out of the trees…

Stone Goblins – Live in caves or tunnels, love stones. The story concerns a dragon in the goblins’ lake, and how they get rid of it. It has a dragon in, therefore a winner in my book. Also gross food like plucked spider-legs and toe-jam, fantastic for children people of a certain age mentality (as long as they’re not of a sensitive disposition…)

Tree Goblins – Live in trees, the males carry their wives and children in nests on their backs. This is a lovely story about family, and parents doing anything to find their children. It’s also about talking trees, strange creatures, pig droppings and sock sucking…

Puddle Goblins – Live in puddles that they can roll up and take with them in case of emergencies. The story concerns a goblin forgotten down a well for six months (ribbit), his rescue and naughty water goblins.

Shadow Goblins – Live in Black Woods, they can steal shadows and change shape. The story follows two trainee shadow goblins as they learn to steal shadows, their fairly useless teacher, some scared sheep and a skeleton… Very silly and a huge amount of fun. The sequences of goblin to watering can and sheep to goblin transformations on the inside covers are inspired.

Ghost Goblins – Dead. This is my personal favourite of the books, unsurprisingly because I like the darker side of humour. The story follows three newly deceased goblins being introduced to the afterlife via Cold Jack, the Windy Nibblers, Nightwatch Beetles and the Bone Collector. Also a riot of humour, silliness (the Windy Nibblers taking out their very sharp teeth before biting!) and brilliant imagination.

The five books can be read in any order as they’re self-contained so children can choose their favourites and read from there. Characters from Stone Goblins appear in Ghost Goblins but they can still be read in any order. Shadow and Ghost Goblins are particularly suitable for children who like ghosts and monsters in their stories, and are probably a good stepping stone for something like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

I would very much definitely recommend these books for children who like fantasy, funny stories and making up their own stories. Suitable age range appears to be about 4-9 depending on the child (although 36 is perfectly okay too!) They would also be good to read aloud. You can visit hiddengoblins.co.uk for more details, or just take my word for it and buy the set 😉

All pictures by David Melling, used with permission.

Elves and Fairies

Zoe from Playing by the Book is starting a new monthly series called “I’m looking for a book about…”, the first theme of which is Elves and Fairies. I love children’s books, I love reviewing books, I read lots of fantasy therefore this should be an easy one for me to join in. Right?

My bookshelves are packed with books filled with creatures from the realm of Faerie – from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (especially the Tiffany Aching stories) to Neil Gaiman (e.g. Sandman and The Books of Magic) to the fairies in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels to classics like Lord of the Rings, Kipling’s Puck of Pook Hill and humour like Brian Froud’s Lady Cottingham’s Pressed Fairy Book… I’m more a lover of humourous fantasy and twists on tradition, rather than extraordinarily long series on the whole.

But they’re my books, there seems to be a dearth of fairies on my children’s bookshelves. Fairy tales we have a-plenty, but they don’t seem to have a lot of actual fairies and elves in them… I shall therefore be reading with much interest about the books suggested for this month’s theme. With much twisting on the theme I have the following to offer:

The Tough Princess – it does have fairies in at least!

The Tale of Jack Frost – I’ve always thought of Jack Frost as a sprite, which I think is a type of fairy, and he does get wings at the end of the book… There are also Goblins, and David Melling’s Goblins seem to me to be distant cousins of your bog-standard fairy type.

A Goblins review may be up in time for Monday’s Elves and Fairies carnival (I did say I was twisting the theme!) but until then, here are my fairy daughters 🙂

International Book Giving Day

Did you know there was an International Book Giving Day? I knew about World Book Day and World Book Night but a day for giving any used or new children’s books to children? What a fantastic idea. And having it on February 14th, a date currently destroyed by crass commercialism, even better!

Amy from Delightful Children’s Books introduces International Book Giving Day and gives three simple options that anyone can do: Give, Donate or Leave a book.

International Book Giving Day is a day dedicated to getting new, used, or borrowed books in the hands of as many kids as possible.

If you’ve read my post Biblioholism, you may have seen that we wouldn’t miss one or two books (okay, I’ll still miss them, I’m an addict – but it’s for a good cause…) so I’ll definitely be joining in.

The idea is to get books into the hands of as many children as possible. I live in an area where getting books to children isn’t such a problem, but there are plenty of charities that would love to have more books to give – Zoe from Playing by the Book has an extensive list of charities that accept book donations, along with more ideas.

You don’t have to rush out and buy lots of books for your local hospital. One book, one child is all it takes:

Has it been a while since you went to the library? Take your child(ren) and borrow a book that’s new to them.

Has that board book outlived its welcome? Leave it in a waiting room for a bored toddler…

A rainbow of touchy feely board books

What will I be doing? Well, I did mention there were some board books that needed a new home. To start with, a little pile of That’s Not My… books which have been well-loved but are still in good condition.

I will donate several books to my local Helen and Douglas House shop. Helen and Douglas House charity supports Helen House and Douglas House hospices. The sale of the books will help children and young adults with life shortening conditions and their families, plus the books will get to be loved again by whoever buys them.

I’ll also be giving a couple of That’s Not My… books to friends whose first children are coming up for a year old, because they’re just the right age to really start enjoying them.

We got to a lovely little church cafe / toddler group on Tuesday mornings so I’ll leave a book or two there too, as they don’t have many.

I think I might keep That’s Not My Dragon though, it was the first That’s Not My… book I bought for MG. Oh, but can’t I keep the Tiger one too? And DG loved the Monkey one, and I got the Dolly one after MG borrowed it from the library so many times… No, no, I will give them up for adoption, I will!

You can keep up to date with International Book Giving Day news via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or their blog. You’ll also soon be able to download an exclusive bookplate designed by children’s author & illustrator Clara Vulliamy!

To join in with International Book Giving Day, give/donate/leave a book (or several) and share the love…

#3Books

Emily from A Mummy Too has set somewhat of an impossible challenge – choose three books you love most: one from childhood, one from adulthood, one as a parent.

Childhood
I stumble at the first hurdle: which part of childhood? How do you define “childhood”? I was reading adult novels as a pre-teen, but was a child until my twenties in other ways (not that I’ve ever truly grown up). In a quick burst of conciousness I could include: picture books listed here (and more besides); A Child’s Garden of Verses; The Hobbit; A Wizard of Earthsea; The Hounds of the Morrigan; The Wind on the Moon; The Ordinary Princess; Narnia; Enid Blyton; The Starlight Barking; Wolves of Willoughby Chase; The Snow Kitten; Asimov; Douglas Adams; Harry Harrison… and I’ve missed out so many.

I’m going to chose Dragons’s Blood (trilogy) by Jane Yolen. I borrowed it from the library when I was around 10 and it always stuck with me, to the extent I managed to track the trilogy down again to re-read in my early 20’s even though I couldn’t remember the author at the time. It’s set in a world where dragons exist and are bred for fighting, where there are two classes of people: free and bonded and it tells the story of how a bonded boy manages to raise his own dragon in secrecy. It’s a fully realised world containing politics, emotions and characters that stay with you forever. Now I’ve written this, I want to re-read them again (and get the fourth book which I’ve never read…)

Adulthood
Here I have the opposite problem to childhood: I read a lot of so-called children’s novels and then there’s my soft spot for vampire ‘young adult’ fiction 😆 I used to read at least one or two books a week but sadly those days seem long gone, maybe one day I’ll get back into reading as much as I used to…

My favourite authors for the bulk of my adulthood have been Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Other authors who have wowed me include Iain (M) Banks; Philip Pullman; Garth Nix… Far too many others, including non- SF/fantasy/horror books if you were wondering…

I’m going to chose Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A book by both my favourite authors, well it’s a no-brainer. It’s funny, intelligent, and… Oh, it’s just brilliant.

Parenthood
I’m avoiding choosing a children’s / picture book as I really can’t choose just one and I get to talk about those lots on this blog anyhow.

I’m going to choose How Children Learn by John Holt. It’s a very readable book based around a series of memos Holt wrote whilst he was working as a teacher. It not only gives a view on how education should (or shouldn’t) be but also lots to think about in how to parent too. John Holt obviously loved and respected children and is essential reading if you have anything to do with children in my opinion.

That was hard! Thank-you, A Mummy Too, I really enjoyed thinking about what to choose.

#3Books