Tag Archives: Christmas 2012

A Book in every Stocking

Sally Poynton has started a brilliant campaign this year: A Book in every Stocking. I wholeheartedly agree, and of course MG & DG will be getting a few books under the tree.

But for many children this is not the case, and if you can give the gift of a book to a child this Christmas, please do. Blackwell’s in Oxford have a Children’s Book Tree to collect gift books for The Children’s Society. You will probably find a similar scheme running somewhere near you if you’re not in Oxford.

Here’s a roundup of a few recently published books worth considering this Christmas (or any time!)

Flying to Neverland with Peter Pan: Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Carolyn Leigh & Amy June Bates (Blue Apple Books, 2012)Flying to Neverland with Peter Pan: Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Carolyn Leigh & Amy June Bates (Blue Apple Books, 2012)
This stunning picture book covers the start of the Peter Pan story where Peter gets his shadow from Wendy and the children fly to Neverland. The text is lyrics from the musical (which I’d never heard of before to be honest, but you can listen to at the Blue Apple website) but it is the art that really makes this book. Peter Pan is a story that I need to re-read as an adult to make any commentary on, but due to strange co-incidences there are people named Peter, Wendy, Michael, John, James and Matthew in my very close family (the J.M. of J.M. Barrie being James Matthew), so I always feel a connection to the book. There are no Tinkerbells or Hooks in my family that I know of! I can’t say the songs are my kind of thing, but I liked musicals when I was younger and if your children are anything like mine they’ll listen over and over and start singing and acting along with the book, so it’s a good wake up exercise book too! Alternately, you can snuggle together and share the beautiful illustrations. Perfect for fans of musicals of all ages, and a lovely Christmas gift book.

The Phlunk: Lou Rhodes & Tori Elliot (Strata Books, 2012)The Phlunk: Lou Rhodes & Tori Elliot (Strata Books, 2012)
The Phlunk is a cat-like alien who lives on a moon shaped like a spoon. His huge ears mean he can hear everything you do… MG & DG really enjoy this book, getting engaged throughout: “He’s listening to us now!” I really want to like this book, but it’s just not my cup of tea and I find some of the pictures quite scary-looking. However, my opinion doesn’t count and MG described the book as “supurve”. I said I’d write superb but she corrected me saying supurve meant super-dooper brilliant. So there you go! This is MG’s top pick of this week’s books.

The Silent Owl: Clemency Pearce & Sam McPhillips (Top That! Publishing, 2011)The Silent Owl: Clemency Pearce & Sam McPhillips (Top That! Publishing, 2011)
This is a lovely book. The collage-style pictures which look like they’ve been made from old notebooks, the muted colour palette, and I love that the font used is a primary font making it easier to read (b/d easily distinguishable; a is round with a circle how most children write; l is clear etc etc). However in my opinion the text lets this book down and makes this merely a good book rather than the brilliant one it could have been. It’s an example of where a rhyme has been forced to fit, when prose might have worked better. Despite my misgivings about the text, this is still one of my favourites for all the positive reasons, and MG and DG love all the noise the owl makes at the end. A positive tale showing you don’t need a voice to make an impression, I probably love it because I was such a shy child myself.

One Starry Night: M Christina Butler & Tina Macnaughton (Little Tiger Press, 2012)One Starry Night: M Christina Butler & Tina Macnaughton (Little Tiger Press, 2012)
Cute fluffy animals and bright silver stars adorn every page of this perfect-for-bedtime tale. Little hedgehog spies some shooting stars and rushes to share with all his friends. Friend rabbit tries to catch the stars with a net and all the friends end up in dark badger’s sett needing to find their way out. The bright stars lead the way so they can all enjoy the beautiful night sky. A gentle, calming tale with adorable animals. The silver foil stars give added interest but very young children will probably adore all the animal characters, and can be introduced to animal homes and the sky at night in a safe, non-threatening manner.

Zoom, Rocket, Zoom: Margaret Mayo & Alex Aycliffe (Orchard Books, 2011)Zoom, Rocket, Zoom: Margaret Mayo & Alex Aycliffe (Orchard Books, 2011)
This is a brilliant book for introducing the concepts of what people have achieved in space – satellites, lunar modules, robot rovers, astronauts… All with some lovely rhythmic text. A great book for toddlers and up, the clear and brightly coloured illustrations have enough detail to be interesting without being overwhelming for younger children. This is part of a series from the same author & illustrator featuring animals, vehicles, dinosaurs etc. I wish we’d found them when MG & DG were younger as I probably would have collected several of them! It’s sad to think that the images of astronauts on the moon is actually a long-distance memory, the last person on the moon having left before I was born, but the pictures are iconic and I know I would have absolutely loved this book when I was a child (I was space-mad!) It’s definitely a book I would gift to encourage the start of a love of space and science in small children, and would be enjoyed by children who prefer factual to fiction books. This is DG’s top pick of this week’s books.

Wibbly Pig has 10 Balloons: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children's Books, 2011)Wibbly Pig has 10 Balloons: Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children’s Books, 2011)
For small fans of Wibbly Pig, this is a lovely book which includes some counting backwards practice as Wibbly Pig gives his balloons away one by one to his friends. But not the Teddy Bear balloon, because that’s his favourite. There’s a bit of tension as a tantrumming toddler pig loses Wibbly’s last two balloons but of course all ends happily with every friend getting a balloon that suits. Cute, minimally illustrated with easy text, this is one suitable for toddlers, pre-schoolers, and all Wibbly Pig fans.

For Christmas-focussed #Book_in_every_stocking ideas, please see Advent Books posts.

Disclaimer: We received review copies of all six books from their respective publishers. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Advent Books, part five

The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder, 2003)The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder, 2003)
This is an absolutely perfect Christmas book, as well as being an almost perfect book. Annoyingly, it is currently out of print. Even more annoyingly, meany old grown ups are trying to sell copies of it for £40 and up online (see here) We were lucky enough to get a copy almost three years ago, and I reviewed it here. I am frustrated on behalf of children who are missing out on this lovely book, and it is a pity that the publisher didn’t manage to get it reprinted in time for Christmas. If you find a copy in an independent bookstore, do snap it up, it is a beautiful book that MG and DG love to hear again and again (and then watch the animated version too!)

The Lighthouse Keeper's Christmas: Ronda & David Armitage (Scholastic Children's Books, 2002)The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas: Ronda & David Armitage (Scholastic Children’s Books, 2002)

Another one I ordered via school and has only just arrived so we haven’t had a chance to read it enough times to review yet!

 

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Tim Burton (Hyperion Children's Books, 1993)The Nightmare Before Christmas: Tim Burton (Hyperion Children’s Books, 1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas is probably my all-time favourite film that I can watch over and over again. This is a lot to do with the genius of Henry Selick who is an amazing director, coupled with the imagination of Tim Burton (who sadly ‘jumped the shark’ many years ago in my opinion!) This book is pure Tim Burton in the good days however and a joyous rhyming romp! It’s not the film (there’s no Oogie Boogie or Sally for a start) but it’s the same rough plot. There are a couple of rhymes that don’t gel (maybe it’s not having an American accent but I can’t get “good job” and “macabre” to rhyme) but the luscious art and the plot more than make up for this. A gorgeous book, and well worth it just for the “A Visit From Saint Nick” parody (“… The children, all nestled so snug in their beds, would have nightmares of monsters and skeleton heads…”) This is my book, of course, bought long before I had children, but my children are my children so they love it too! Bear in mind one of DG’s favourite books is The Spider and The Fly!

When It Snows: Richard Collingridge (David Ficking Books, 2012)When It Snows: Richard Collingridge (David Ficking Books, 2012)
This is a beautiful, beautiful book. With an ending which will leave book-lovers everywhere signing with delight. It is so luscious that I’ve added it as an actual Christmas present instead of an advent book so I don’t have my copy to hand! But that gives me the perfect opportunity to share the review written by one of my favourite fellow book bloggers: Read It, Daddy! If you love children’s books and aren’t already following his blog and twitter, I really urge you to do so. I aspire to produce so many outstanding reviews every week!

Ella Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker: James Mayhew (Orchard, 2012)Ella Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker: James Mayhew (Orchard, 2012)
DG is going through a Ballet phase. MG did at about the same age. It’s all about dressing up in ballet clothes, pretend dancing (it’s amazing how much they pick up even with not going to a single class ever!) and reading books with ballerinas in. So this book is a HUGE hit. Not to mention that “Ella Bella” are very almost MG’s names as she is Eleanor Isabelle for long 🙂 She likes Ella as a nickname now, but when we tried it as a baby she insisted on being Eleanor so she’s always been that. I often call her El’s Bells which she dislikes intensely! As I mentioned in my Katie and the Starry Night review, James Mayhew is a genius and this is another wonderful introduction to… book. Playing by the Book, another of my favourite book blogs, has such a gorgeous nutcracker feast in her write-up that I can’t resist sending you there to read more! I’ve just found out that there’s another Ella Bella review today, and her review is beautiful so please do look. Library Mice is the cause of much of my book spending with her wonderful reviews of the most beautiful books.

The Little Fir Tree

This year MG has the part of Mary in her class Nativity play (5-7 year olds). The main part is the fir tree, Mary and Joseph don’t have any lines but they do join in the songs! I’m getting an idea of the play, not only from MG’s singing but she made this book at the weekend, and being the ultra-proud parent I am, I had to share!

The Little Fir Tree Cover “The Littl fir tree”
The top corner says “scall” (school) and the names of her teachers.

The Little Fir Tree pages 1 & 2 “The Litte fir tree. One day groe sum fir trees one was sml the uvers lrft heloe shorte heloe scwert he toe small The wodkcuter cam to lok at all the trees the wodkcuter cam”
The Little Fir Tree. One day some fir trees grew. One was small. The others laughed: hello shorty, hello squirt, he’s too small. The woodcutter came to look at all the trees. The woodcutter came 

The Little Fir Tree page 1Page 1 flap open

The Little Fir Tree pages 3 & 4

“Sum time the rain fet on the trees splish splash piter pater in the rain forist fallin on the”
Sometimes the rain fell on the trees. Splish, splash. Pitter, patter in the rain. Falling in the forest.

The Little Fir Tree pages 5 & 6
The Little Fir Tree pages 7 & 8
“fall in the graown flot in all a rown
sumtims the sun shind brit on the trees sun lit sun lit berning
brit in the blow sky sunit sunlit berning brit in the blow sky”
Falling on the ground, floating all around.
Sometimes the sun shone bright on the trees. Sunlight, sunlight burning bright in the blue sky. Sunlight, sunlight burning bright in the blue sky.

The Little Fir Tree pages 9 & 10
“mere and dyosif wer son to hav a baby that ni the baby was born”
Mary and Joseph were soon to have a baby. That night the baby was born.

The Little Fir Tree pages 11 & 12
“Jezs Jezs so small and so preshesj and glorre of heven alyoleer alyoler come to erth”
Jesus, Jesus, so small and so precious. Glory of heaven, hallelujah, hallelujah. Come to Earth.

The Little Fir Tree Back Cover
“evre one has sum think to liv for evre one of us has sumthink to liv for”
Everyone has something to live for. Every one of us has something to live for.

MG told me that the last page should also say “everyone has something to give”. I’m not sure what the picture is, the things she likes about herself maybe? Or just a random doodle that belongs somewhere else?!

MG makes a lot of books like this. She glues pages together, creates flaps and sticks pictures she’s drawn and cut-out down. I really must find some of the other good examples and take pictures. This one especially impressed me because it’s a more complete work (she often gets distracted, or the books are more disjointed – I love them all!) and because it shows how she has learnt and understood her Christmas play.

Things I find interesting are how there are a lot more high frequency words that are in her head that she can write correctly. It’s interesting (to me!) to see this develop. I also find it interesting how the “D” and “J” sounds can be confused. She writes “Dyosif” for “Joseph”, cf. “Jagn” for “Dragon” in her first stories four months ago. I also love her hallelujah: alyoleer/alyoler. I had to look up the spelling and had forgotten it actually starts with an H so I think her attempt is brilliant.

Her spacing and splitting of words over two lines make it quite hard to work out all her meaning still, but every part of that is improving and she’s really getting her ideas across. I leave her total freedom to create, and don’t “correct” anything she does. I do say I can’t always read what’s written but we work it out together and I’m getting pretty good at reading phonetically now!

Not wanting to leave DG out, she’s starting to make letter shapes so I think she’ll be forming her first letters and maybe her name very soon. At her age, MG could write her own name and her sister’s but MG and DG are different people. In contrast, DG flies off into preschool in the morning without a backward glance to me but I was still coming into the class every morning for the whole of F1 with MG and she still has shy mornings now, although her confidence is blossoming.

Blossoming is one of the words MG’s teacher used to describe her in parent’s evening last week, along with determined and a credit to the school. The teacher also said that whatever I was doing at home, to keep on doing it because MG is putting everything together and has no worries in any subject area. DG’s key worker said she was quiet! My daughters are completely different people at school than at home! I am utterly proud of every bit of both of them.

Advent Books, part three

One Little Christmas Tree: The Curto Family & Rusty Fischer (2012)One Little Christmas Tree: The Curto Family & Rusty Fischer (2012)
I’ve called this section ‘favourite characters’ and am starting with an unknown – but not really as the Christmas Tree is the star of most Christmases in the UK so a very familiar character indeed! This is the story of a fir tree who is left alone in the Christmas tree lot year after year but eventually finds the perfect family to go home with. It’s the first of a series of three books, which seem to share a gentle, loving core. They are available as paperbacks and e-books from Amazon. You can find descriptions of all three books here. I was sent a paperback copy of the first book by the creators. It’s an enjoyable enough story, pitched somewhere between a picture book and an early chapter book. This is very much an American book, e.g. it uses “Mom”, and for that reason it doesn’t work as well for us. MG and DG enjoy listening to the story, MG comments on how the little tree’s nose grows through the story! Based on the first story, these are nice little additions to Christmas story times, but as a thin A5 paperback they are sadly overpriced. However, the clear text would work well on a tablet and it is available in electronic format.

Mog's Christmas: Judith Kerr (HarperCollin's Children's Books, 1976)Mog’s Christmas: Judith Kerr (HarperCollin’s Children’s Books, 1976)
I love Mog. Mog the Forgetful Cat is one of my all-time favourite children’s books. Amazingly, I still haven’t read all of the series, I think partly because I will sob when Mog dies… Mog is drawn with such love and her expressions are wonderful. In this book, she is scared by all the goings on at Christmas (as a side note, I love how Christmas only ever starts on Christmas Eve in children’s books!) There’s a walking, talking tree and everyone is busy so Mog hides on the roof, falling asleep on a nice warm chimney… Another lovely book to share at Christmas story times, MG and DG love Mog and her reactions almost as much as I do. One I definitely look forward to every year!

Merry Christmas Maisy: Lucy Cousins (Walker Books, 2000)Merry Christmas Maisy: Lucy Cousins (Walker Books, 2000)
This is a novelty book with lots of flaps to lift, a couple of tabs to pull and tons of sparkle in the pictures. It is aimed at very young children, and I forget when we bought it but it could have been before DG was born. It is still loved by both MG and DG, despite being technically years too young for MG. DG loves it best, as she still enjoys all the Maisy books where MG is more grown up now (although will watch the DVDs at Nanny’s house on a loop still!) But it’s Maisy, and Maisy is just so lovable and in bright eye-catching colours suitable for babies and up. Probably not one to buy for older children, but get when they’re babies and it will be treasured for years. Also our copy is still in remarkably good condition considering how many years it’s been mauled at Christmas!

Harry and the Dinosaurs make a Christmas Wish: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds (Puffin Books, 2003)Harry and the Dinosaurs make a Christmas Wish: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds (Puffin Books, 2003)
I think there’s a Harry and the Dinosaurs book for every ocassion and I am glad there is because every tale is lovely and full of fun. MG tells me there’s a TV version of Harry and the Dinosaurs that she’s seen at school and with MG, if it’s been on TV it makes it instantly more insteresting! To be fair, she also loved the books before that though. In this tale, the dinosaurs really want a duck for Christmas having seen ducklings hatch at the farm. Harry is distracted by other toys but the dinosaurs still want the duckling. On Christmas morning, they don’t quite get their wish but something even better – a new friend. The Harry books are wonderful. I adore how the subtle text covers sibling arguments, and how the Nan lives with the family.

Harry and the Snow King: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds (Puffin Books, 1997)Harry and the Snow King: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds (Puffin Books, 1997)
Another Harry book, but I had to include it. We all absolutely love this story, me possibly a bit more than MG and DG but there’s lots of snow, and snowmen, and Harry gets a ride on a tractor – all of which is incredibly appealing to small children, well incredibly appealing to my small children but it all seems great fun to me so why wouldn’t it appeal? 😉 I love the patience in which Harry collects up all the tiny amounts of snow in order to make his mini snow king, and the text is perfectly pitched with lovely illustrations. One of my absolute favourites of all the Harry books, I hugely recommend this book at any time of year but it really fits when you’re wishing for the snow that never comes at Christmas. A beautiful book.

The Gruffalo's Child: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books, 2004)The Gruffalo’s Child: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2004)
This is not technically a ‘Christmas’ book, but look at that front cover, it’s so Christmassy. Plus the two animated Gruffalo films were both released at Christmas so there’s a definite Christmas theme… The Gruffalo needs no introduction, it is a wonderful book. I am not as keen as I don’t think the rhyme flows as well in the sequel but it’s a nice touch to have the Gruffalo use the “Big Bad Mouse” as the scary warning to his child, and her attempts to find the Big Bad Mouse with the Snake, Owl and Fox making appearances joining in with the Big Bad Mouse story links it heavily to the first story. Enjoyed by both girls, and who can resist a baby Gruffalo?

I was going to include Everything’s Rosie: The Last Snowball, but actually it’s a book set in spring so I left that one out. There’s Mr Snow from the Mr Men which I should include if I can find it. There’s also Mr Christmas and some other newer snowy and Christmassy Mr Men books, but anything after the first forty-three Mr Men books don’t count in my opinion! We don’t have a huge amount of character tie-in books but there are plenty of Christmas and winter books from all favourite characters that could be included.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of One Little Christmas Tree by Good Times at Home LLC for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Advent Books, part two

Puppy's First Christmas: Steve Smallman & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2012)Puppy’s First Christmas: Steve Smallman & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2012)
This is a lovely Christmas book, and another one that I’ll be putting for opening near the beginning of the month so we can read it extra times. I have to say the cover didn’t appeal to me personally as it looks overly cutesy (which I’m not) but the illustrations and the rhyme are both lovely, cute but not overly so. Steve Smallman writes an excellent rhyme with lots of humour making it great for grown ups to read. The whole book has children written all over it, toddlers especially will love Puppy’s confusion with all the changes in the house and the added nice touch (literally!) of the red hats being fuzzy – also not on every page so you have to search out the fuzzy bits. Both MG and DG enjoyed this, both searching out the fuzzy pages! The humour is great too – Puppy is confused that the children didn’t fight all day, and thought the tree was a new place for him to pee! Adorable illustrations, especially in observing how small children puppies fight sleep before giving in when too tired… A book for both dog and cat lovers (I do get annoyed with dog vs cat books where one or the other are seen as evil…), parents and small children. Bigger children may enjoy reading it to their smaller siblings because of the humour. A surefire Christmas hit.

Father Christmas Needs a Wee: Nicholas Allan (Random House Children's Books, 2009)Father Christmas Needs a Wee: Nicholas Allan (Random House Children’s Books, 2009)
This is another one that Mr Chaos bought for the girls last Christmas, he’s far more into the Christmas spirit than I am (he and the girls put up and decorate the tree together while I stay out of the way!) I think we can all empathise with poor Father Christmas; he’s had far too many drinks and desperately needs a wee! But before he can, he has to deliver all those presents he forgot about. We all breathe a sigh of relief with him when eventually he gets to go! A very silly book, but with an educational twist as we count the house numbers and the drinks (at number one, he has one drink; and so on to number ten!) And as he forgets the presents, after counting up from one to ten we then get to count down again. Surreptitious learning at it’s best!

Father Christmas on the Naughty Step: Mark Sperring & Tom McLauglin (Puffin Books, 2012)Father Christmas on the Naughty Step: Mark Sperring & Tom McLauglin (Puffin Books, 2012)
Most children know the idea of the ‘naughty step’ even if it’s something you don’t use in your own house (I tend not to but do occasionally when one child has deliberately hurt the other…) This book is part of a series where we’ve not read the others but that doesn’t matter. It’s Christmas Eve and Sam is on the naughty step (we’re not told why). He’s soon joined by a pirate who lied on his letter to Santa, and by Father Christmas himself who is at the top of the naughty list for taking something that isn’t his. Sam helps him to learn to say sorry, says sorry himself and all is well for Christmas Day (with a little twist). This is a story that children will enjoy because they can relate to being ‘naughty’ and saying sorry and the power is on the child’s side because he helps the grown-up. There’s also the humour in the pirate and  Father Christmas being on the naughty step. It certainly appeals to my two.

Santasaurus: Niamh Sharkey (Walker Books, 2004)Santasaurus: Niamh Sharkey (Walker Books, 2004)
Niamh Sharkey. Dinosaur Santa. Do I even need to write any more? Good, just go and get a copy already… Niamh Sharkey’s illustrations are wonderful, packed with humour and interest. She’s created a wonderful world like-ours-but-not with dinosaur children and dinosaur parents planning for Christmas. This follows the current traditional British (Irish?!) Christmas of decorating trees, buying presents and leaving mince pies and carrots out on Christmas Eve. Youngest dinosaur Milo wishes more than anything to ride with Santasaurus on his sleigh and help deliver the presents. Does he get what he wants and is this the best Christmas ever? Yes, of course!

How Santa Really Works: Alan Snow & Maggie Bateson (Simon and Schuster, 2010)How Santa Really Works Pop-Up: Alan Snow & Maggie Bateson (Simon and Schuster, 2010)
Alan Snow is a humourous and talented illustrator. We have his ‘How Dogs Really Work’ and ‘How Cats Really Work’ books but don’t read them much (see my issues with reading aloud in the previous post!) as I think they are ones that will be more enjoyed when read by MG & DG themselves. This is a whole different concept though because it pops up! Five fantastically detailed pop-ups with so much to look at that we can tell our own stories (I have to admit I haven’t read the text yet) and MG and DG just enjoy looking at all the details and talking about what they see. As I may have mentioned, DG and MG are both hugely into pop-up and novelty books at the moment and they’re at an age where it can take entire minutes before they break them! Seriously though, MG is old enough to be left alone with novelty books and use all the pull tabs etc with no help; DG is a little rough (she is Destructo-Girl after all) but with mild supervision she can be left to experience pop-up books too. How Santa Works is a book that can be opened on the floor, experienced from all angles, looked at closely to see the details (even lift up Santa’s toilet seat!) It is beautiful and tons of fun, MG and DG really enjoy it. It’s new to us this year  so we’ll see how it holds up to serious reading, but on half a dozen reads from both children, it’s still in one piece. Highly recommended, but not for threes and under.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Puppy’s First Christmas by Little Tiger Press for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Advent Books, part one

The Night Before Christmas - Clement C Moore & Anita Lobel (Franklin Watts, 1984)The Night Before Christmas – Clement C Moore & Anita Lobel (Franklin Watts, 1984)
The poem needs no introduction, and the version you have depends on personal preference to art styles etc. This is one that came from the corner of Blackwell’s once upon a time and this will the first year we’ll be sharing it. We have another Anita Lobel, Alison’s Zinnia, which is a beautiful A to Z of flowers enjoyed by MG and DG so I think the art will appeal to them. The pictures are gorgeous, and the poem nicely spread out through the pages, although the description of St Nick is quite long and on one page so I hope it will keep their attention! I’ll either put this at the start of the month, or keep it out permanently, with it being such a classic.

Father Christmas: Raymond Briggs (Penguin, 1973)Father Christmas: Raymond Briggs (Penguin, 1973)
Although it pains me to admit it, I don’t actually like reading aloud! I do, and several books a day, but I do tend to stick to shorter books because I struggle over saying all the words in long stories. It’s why I don’t really read chapter books to MG and DG although I really want to. I am a generally silent person, I love to read but I love to read in my head. I look forward to when MG and DG can read and then we can share and discuss books after reading (if they wish) instead of me getting all tongue-tied because I’ve spoken for longer than I’m comfortable with. (cont…)

Father Christmas Goes on Holiday: Raymond Briggs (Penguin, 1975)Father Christmas Goes on Holiday: Raymond Briggs (Penguin, 1975)
(…cont) All of the above being a terribly long-winded way of saying that I have not read either of these books (or The Snowman, which we no longer seem to have a copy of) to MG and DG on account of the fact that I can’t ‘read’ pictures and I don’t know how to help them follow a cartoon style book when I’ll just be reading the odd speech bubble. It is a terrible failing on my part, but I also haven’t attempted to read these because I’m not a huge fan of Raymond Briggs work either, it just never appealed to me. I am happily in a minority with this opinion, after all we all like different things! Mr Chaos bought these two books for MG and DG last year because he loves them, therefore he can share them 🙂

Stick Man: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Scholastic, 2009)Stick Man: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Scholastic, 2009)

I can’t review this one yet because we haven’t got it, but I’ll change this blurb as soon as it arrives. I’ve ordered it via the school’s book club to add to the advent books because it was only £1.99 and it’s a Julia Donaldson / Axel Scheffler collaboration so will probably be a hit!

 

When I Dream of Christmas: Oakley Graham (Top That! Publishing, 2012)When I Dream of Christmas: Oakley Graham (Top That! Publishing, 2012)
Each double page of When I Dream of Christmas consists of a gorgeous Christmas image on the right and simple humour-filled text on the left. The descriptions make me smile as we read through the book, and MG and DG love all the different Christmassy items as well as the glittery cover. You can read my full review of this book here.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of When I Dream of Christmas by Top That! Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Advent Books 2012

This year I plan to do advent books – wrapping up all our Christmas and winter books and getting one to open every day from 1st – 24th December to add to the advent fun. I think I first read about it on Playing by the Book but was reminded this year by Here Come the Girls, who made the wrapped books into a tree shape – I won’t be so clever!

I’ll be writing about the books we’ll be choosing from in batches of about five books.

http://childledchaos.me.uk/2012/11/19/advent-books-part-one/
Five books in which Father Christmas / Santa Claus make an appearance – Advent Books, part one. Includes: The Night Before Christmas – Clement C Moore & Anita Lobel; Father Christmas: Raymond Briggs; Father Christmas Goes on Holiday: Raymond Briggs; Stick Man: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler; When I Dream of Christmas: Oakley Graham.

http://childledchaos.me.uk/2012/11/20/advent-books-part-two/
Five more books in which Father Christmas / Santa Claus make an appearance – Advent books, part two. Includes: Puppy’s First Christmas: Steve Smallman & Alison Edgson; Father Christmas Needs a Wee: Nicholas Allan; Father Christmas on the Naughty Step: Mark Sperring & Tom McLauglin; Santasaurus: Niamh Sharkey; How Santa Really Works Pop-Up: Alan Snow & Maggie Bateson.

http://childledchaos.me.uk/2012/11/25/advent-books-part-three/

Six books including familiar characters – Advent books, part three. Includes: One Little Christmas Tree: The Curto Family & Rusty Fischer; Mog’s Christmas: Judith Kerr; Merry Christmas Maisy: Lucy Cousins; Harry and the Dinosaurs make a Christmas Wish: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds; Harry and the Snow King: Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds; The Gruffalo’s Child: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Play Merrily and Craft Merrily

With it now being reasonable to talk about and plan for Christmas in a serious manner, I thought I’d share some of my favourite online places to get presents from. The first of these, PlayMerrily, is my go-to shop for presents all year round. I have been a huge fan for several years, I think they price very reasonably and they’re an example to all small businesses with their customer service and online presence. The ranges are excellent, and I can happily spend hours (seriously!) browsing through. They test and stock the best new imaginative and educational toys available.

There’s been the Dream Toys list (yuck in my opinion!) and the Slow Toys list (yay!) but here are my top five Christmas presents from PlayMerrily based on my daughters’ (and friends) testing:

Hama Beads
36,000 Hama Beads!I became a convert to Hama Beads only about a year ago. I’d seen the midi sized beads in the shops but they looked too small for my girls. I was encouraged to try the Maxi beads (My First Hama Duck Car & Girl Set) and they were an instant hit. We quickly moved onto the midi beads. There are so many things you can do with the beads – not just actually making designs but colour sorting, making bowls and all sorts of decorations by melting in the oven. Bead Merrily and Simple Crafts have loads of ideas. So my first gift recommendation is either one of these box sets if you’ve not tried Hama before or go wild and treat the family to an enormous tub of beads.

Budkins Dolls
Budkins Heart of London Gift PackThere are so many Budkins dolls to choose from, I’ve written about them and their bus before. I love how versatile these little dolls are and they are the centre of many, many imaginative games in this house. They cover many traditional tales, fairies, knights and pirates so are perfect for most interests. They may seem expensive for a small doll but they are robust. Personally I’d spend the money on the dolls and then make a cardboard house or pirate ship with your children to play with, they’ll probably turn an empty cardboard box into whatever they imagine anyway 🙂 MG and DG’s interests have been fairies and pirates, so that’s most of the dolls we have. I tend to ensure they have a good mix of genders and ethnicity, and avoid anything overly stereotypical!

Miniland Snap Circuits
Miniland Electric Circuit Kit - Electrokit 88 ExperimentsThese kits are so much fun! We have the Electrokit but I’m so close to buying the Car and Boat kit. [update 2013: both kits have now been thoroughly tested, and are well played with!] Both these are snap circuits – the electronics are housed in robust pieces that ‘snap’ together (like poppers on clothes) to make the circuits. There’s a huge booklet in the Electrokit listing the 88 circuits (yes, there are 88 but lots of them just involve swapping one switch for another etc, even so there are still plenty of options – there are not 88 pieces, but enough for plenty of play) plus another booklet on electricity. The set is aimed at 8+ so to be honest we haven’t read through the educational booklet as it’s above their level but the kit is still more than usable with 3 and 5 year olds (with supervision in case younger children break the lightbulb and fan which are more delicate); the 5/6 year olds who’ve played with it have managed to follow the circuit diagrams without supervision. Great hands-on learning with lots of playing around finding out what happens with different layouts. The fan can get so fast then if you turn the switch off the plastic bit flies into the air which puts all of us in hoots 🙂

Wooden Train Set
Bigjigs Wooden City Road & Railway SetI think wooden railways are fantastic, they have tons of play value and every time they’re different because you make the tracks in different ways. We’ve been collecting various sets and add-ons since MG was about one so we have a huge collection. Neither of my girls have been that interested in puzzles, but they’ll put train track together which I think covers that skill very well. There are phases when the track is out constantly, and times when it’s not seen for weeks on end (we’re in one of those at the moment so I expect they’ll come back in fashion again soon!) I’ve generally bought accessories separately rather than huge sets but for an easy one-box present, there are a huge variety of starter sets available. BigJigs are great value for money for both rail and road, and I think if I was starting from scratch then this combined road and rail set with station and parking spaces or this wonderful rail set with airport (including runway!), bridges, station and garage would be great.

Magnetic Blocks & Building Sets
Edtoy Smart Block - ArchitectureMagnetic wooden building blocks really add an extra dimension to building blocks. We’ve got the John Crane set (reviewed here) but I love the look of the Edtoy sets which weren’t available when I was looking for magnetic blocks. If my girls were interested, I’d start with the architecture set and maybe a fire engine or helicopter, but they’ve started on my old Lego sets for their construction needs so I can’t justify more wooden blocks. These look fantastic though and knowing PlayMerrily’s attention to quality I’m adding them to my recommendations! [update 2013: The Edtoy vehicles are excellent.]

At the moment almost everything at PlayMerrily has 10% off so it’s the perfect time to get your Christmas shopping in. I think the discount is on until the end of November, but do check with them to be sure. [deleted 2012 offer]