Tag Archives: Julia Donaldson

Summer Book Exchange: The Singing Mermaid

When I signed up for The Educatorsโ€™ 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

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? ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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.

Monster-ous and Beast-ly Picture Books

It’s a week until Hallowe’en, All Hallow’s Eve, when the supernatural roam openly and the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest… Or it’s a commercialised festival where we carve pumpkins and eat too many sweeties! In either case it’s a perfect time for reading monster-ous and beast-ly books. Here are a few from our collection.

Tamara Small and the Monsters Ball: Giles Paley-Philips & Gabriele Antonini (Maverick Arts Publishing)Tamara Small and the Monsters Ball: Giles Paley-Philips & Gabriele Antonini (Maverick Arts Publishing)
From the same team that created The Fearsome Beastie, another beast-ly book but with friendly monsters (and more) this time. Perfect for Halloween this book is filled with witches, skeletons, ghouls, ghosts, goblins and pretty much anything else you can think of! Although the beasies aren’t so fearsome here, the book starts with the rather terrifying act of a child being snatched from her bed. Being a parent, this is the part of the book I’m not keen on, but I was oversensitive when I first read it as April Jones had only just gone missing at the time. It didn’t scare my daughters in the slightest. With fun rhyming, scary moments and lots of cute and safe monsters, this is a book that should appeal to most children. My two monster-mad-munchkins love it, especially the break-dancing werewolf. A recommended Halloween read – and good fun the rest of the year too ๐Ÿ™‚

Morris the Mankiest Monster: Giles Andreae & Sarah McIntyre (Random House Children's Books)Morris the Mankiest Monster: Giles Andreae & Sarah McIntyre (Random House Children’s Books)
I think the highest praise I can give this book is that I feel quite ill on reading it! Morris really is a very manky monster. Giles Andreae’s repulsive rhyme coupled with Sarah McIntyre’s disgusting(ly cute) illustrations make a great pair and most small children (and adult males who follow a certain stereotype for that matter!) will love Morris and his gross ways. Highlights include “pustules which dribble like hot melted cheese” and “breath [reeking] of rotten fish paste”. What a delight! Bleurgh! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Bedtime for Monsters: Ed Vere (Puffin Books)Bedtime for Monsters: Ed Vere (Puffin Books)
This is very much a bedtime book, it doesn’t work nearly as well in the middle of the day for instance… Is there a monster out there? And does he, maybe, want to eat you up? Bedtime for Monsters is very much a read aloud book to share with small children with lots of word sounds (e.g. bumpity bump, scritch scratch, creak…) to wrap your tongue around. It’s a book to read when snuggled up tight with small children, teasing them with tickles and scariness until the delightful twist at the end giving you an excuse to kiss and tuck them in for the night. DG is a huge fan of this one, and we have some one-to-one time going through it with her. Wonderfully illustrated with a monster that is far too cute to want to eat you up really, great for any time of year but especially on dark nights…

The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children’s Books)
On the one hand, these books need no introduction; on the other, they need an entire post to themselves. Is there anyone who isn’t aware of The Gruffalo? We all think that The Gruffalo deserves it’s reputation and the brilliant repetition in the rhyme makes it all too easy to memorise too – I used to quote this to MG when she was a toddler and I’d forgotten to bring a book out and about with us. For this time of year, where the nights are getting darker and the trees are losing their leaves The Gruffalo’s Child is perfect. I don’t think the rhyme works as well but the story is fun and, well, it’s The Gruffalo ๐Ÿ˜‰

Where the Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins Children's Books)Where the Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
A classic of course, and all the more poignant since Sendak’s recent death, but not one of my favourites to read out loud. It’s a book with so many pictures to be savoured which I find difficult to ‘read’ to small children, they need to read it themselves! The story is of pushing boundaries; of limitations and freedoms; of imagination and of parental love. Perfect subjects for small children.

The Octonauts & the Only Lonely Monster: Meomi (HarperCollins Children's Books)The Octonauts & the Only Lonely Monster: Meomi (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
We all love the Octonauts cartoon series in the house. It’s packed with real information about underwater creatures making it educational as well as fun. The original books are more fantastical but we appreciate both on their own merits, and this book is a fine example. The octoalert is blaring, the octopod is under attack! Except, really, it’s a lonely monster who thought that the octopod was like him. Off the octonauts go to find the monster’s family – they search north, east, south and west. The search pages are wonderful, packed with creatures and each at a different orientation so you have to turn the book 90 degrees to view each double page. The monster may turn out to be the only one of his kind, but that doesn’t mean he has to be lonely. A lovely tale of accepting our differences, and sure to be appreciated by all octonauts series fans too!

I have a soft spot for monsters, which has rubbed off on my daughters so we have plenty of monster and beast books. Others we’ve already written about: The Monster Machine; The Ravenous Beast; The Pirate-Cruncher; Love Monster; plus a special mention for the perfect Halloween book Haunted House.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Tamara Small and the Monster’s Ball by Maverick Arts Publishing for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.