Monday, 4 May 2020

'write something you would love to read'

Books and other stuff fuse together in this online offering from author Anna James and her YouTube channel A Case for Books. James, a writer and arts journalist, is running a lively series of what I call 'digital author visits' under the umbrella of The Bookwanderers Club.

I have to admit I'm late to the party as I only just discovered her channel but what a little gem it's already proven to be for E and me during lockdown.  We tuned in yesterday to watch James' interview with SF Said, author of Varjak Paw, The Outlaw Varjak Paw and Phonenix. E has read both Varjak books and remains a firm fan of the adventures of this ninja cat.

If you're concerned that an online interview between two adults may be a hard sell then I totally get that and encourage you to persist. E was not overly enthusiastic when I logged on to the episode but I managed to ignore the protests and soon he started to engage. This is no real surprise given how positive and generous SF is when talking about his books and the writing process.  It can take him seven years (or more) to write a book and he is quick to point out that all the writing you do counts and that every draft counts whether you are published or not.  Given that I'm continually trying to impress upon E that making notes and drafts is all a valuable part of the process this was music to my ears.

I think what really hooked E was SF describing how seeing the movie Star Wars inspired him to write. I don't think that either of us was expecting that to be the case and it was refreshing to hear someone authentically making the link between books and movies. It's all about stories is it not? What hooked me was his advice to write something that you would love to read. As ever, it was rewarding to be reminded of the people behind the books we enjoy.

I encourage you to check out this digital series with your chapter book reader.  It features an impressive range of authors and if you can't join live you can still screen the episodes for free. Also, keep a look out for Anna James' books (I'm getting acquainted now), and I encourage you to add these fantastic stories by SF Said to your shelf if you haven't done so already. 

Sunday, 12 April 2020

The Country Bunny by DuBose Heyward

I'm revising an older blog post in honour of Easter 2020. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is an Easter classic and worthy of reading every year and not just at Easter. This was one of my all time favorite books as a child but a straw poll of friends and peers reveals that it's a little known title, especially in the UK. I think it's time we change that! 

Originally published in 1939, this little book tells the story of a very brave mother bunny who just happens to be a fine feminist heroine. Despite her age, gender and circumstances, Mother Cottontail earns the noble and prestigious honor to take up a place as one of THE five Easter bunnies.  And she does this while still maintaining a happy home with twenty one young bunnies who all learn how important it is to pitch in and do their bit.  It's no wonder that I keep finding new things to like about this book!

'Wise, and kind, and swift' are the traits that every chosen Easter bunny must exhibit and Mother Cottontail does so in spades. These are important life living qualities to talk about with your little reader. It's a meaningful story with gloriously nostalgic illustrations and it's found a permanent place in our home. Have a read of this title even if it's just for your own pleasure.  I think you'll find it time well spent. Here's to Easter lock down style.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Covid Times

Well hello! Many moons ago I wrote this blog each week.  Then I decided to do an MA. Then life kind of got in the way. Then the world turned completely upside down a few weeks/months ago and here I am. Welcome back everybody.

I thought I'd kick things off with a little activity to celebrate the '& other stuff' portion of the blog.  This is one of my go to activities for rainy days with grumpy kids and I think works well in our current normal. And shock horror... it's not about books.

Photo Scavenger Hunt

something you love
something purple

You'll need to hand over a device that your child can use to take digital photos. The idea is to create a list of ideas that they'll respond to by taking an image. You can give them a list or just call out the questions to them. I've included some of my favourites here but feel free to chop and change and add your own touch. Please do share any images in the comments or on social media!

Take a photo of:

  • something the colour (name any colour)
  • something you love
  • something an adult has to help you use
  • something boring
  • something that makes you happy
  • something that makes you feel excited
  • something that makes you feel a bit sad
  • something you'd like to share with a friend
  • something that won't last long
  • something that will last forever
  • something you like to eat all the time
  • something you've never eaten before (but is edible)
  • something you can't do during lock down
  • something you can do during lock down
  • something you are proud of
  • something that makes you feel safe
  • something you don't understand
  • something you've never noticed before
  • something you look at every day

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Five fab picture books

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel is an absolute gem of a book that introduces the idea of different perspectives through illustrations and a simple narrative.  A cat walks through the world, everyone sees it but they all see it differently. So simple yet completely genius because of the illustrations and clever repetition. This is quickly becoming once of our favourite reads of all time.

Pass it On by Sophy Henn
I wish I could get this cover image as a print. What a lovely collection of illustrations with a vintage feel. This is a charming book that celebrating the little joys in life. A perfect pick for the Christmas season. 
Dogs in Cars by Felix Massie and Emmanuelle Walker
This is not your average counting book. Dogs in Cars is full of fun and, of course, a menagerie of dogs. With this many lovingly illustrated canines it's just a little bit on the absurd side which makes it a delight to read.
How to Find Gold by Viviane Schwarz

A story of friendship, adventure and shared experience. I'm particularly drawn to each characters' voice and it was a joyful thing to read their conversations aloud to E. And the best part, this pair really does find gold!
Dogs don't do Ballet by Anna Kemp & Sarah Ogilve

To me this is a feel good story of diversity and dreams triumphing over stereotypes.  Children may simply see it as a funny story about a quirky dog with big dreams who manages to save the day.  Whatever your take on it I think it's a fantastic pick.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Celebrating women and their work

As I try to make sense of what's happened in the US over the past 72 hours it's quickly become apparent to me that I need an injection of positive energy and a reminder that women's contributions to the world at large are massive. In this spirit I've compiled a list of 10 children's books (in no particular order) about women in history that I hope to share with E:

Susan B Anthony 
Women's rights advocate, inspirational leader 
and American social reformer, 
founded the National American 
Woman Suffrage Association:

No man is good enough to govern any woman without her consent.

Martha Graham
Dance pioneer, choreographer, teacher:
You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, then something has been lost.
Maya Angelou 
Writer and civil rights activist,
wrote the first nonfiction best-seller
by an African-American woman, 
'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings':

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. 
Jane Goodall
Scientist and trailblazing animal rights activist:

The greatest danger to our future is apathy.

 Eleanor Roosevelt
American politician, activist and
United Nations spokeswoman:

The future belongs to those who 
believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Rosa Parks
Pioneering civil rights activist:

I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.

Amelia Earhart
Aviation pioneer and author:
Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail their failure must be but a challenge to others.
 Dorthea Lange
American documentary photographer and photojournalist:
The words that come direct from the people are the greatest... If you substitute one out of your own vocabulary, it disappears before your eyes.
Read more at:
The words that come direct from the people are the greatest... If you substitute one out of your own vocabulary, it disappears before your eyes.

The words that come direct from the people are the greatest... If you substitute one out of your own vocabulary, it disappears before your eyes.
Read more at:
The words that come direct from the people are the greatest... If you substitute one out of your own vocabulary, it disappears before your eyes.
Read more at:


Zora Neale Hurston
Writer, civil rights activist and anthropoligist: 
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Josephine Baker
Civil rights activist, dancer and singer: 
Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one's soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Two Things You May Not Know About Prague

I visited family in Prague over half term and learned two new things about what's become a very familiar city to me. Number one, Prague is home to an ace children's book publisher called Baobab.  They produce a range of seriously beautiful books and I'm particularly fond of one titled This Is Prague by Michaela Kukovicova & Olga Cerna.  Part guide book and part picture book, it captures the city's eclectic architectural styles in fun collage illustrations peppered with factual little anecdotes.

And while I got excited about the books E and his cousin went completely ape over the 'traffic playgrounds' in the city. A little known fact is that dotted around Prague and other Czech cities are these brilliant little traffic parks called dopravní hřiště in czech.  Implemented during Communist role and often in the shadow of tower blocks, these playgrounds mimic miniature city streets with working stoplights, model gas stations and proper road signs.  

The traffic parks give kids a rare opportunity to feel like they're powering through city streets on their bikes and scooters in a car free zone. E's favourite location had battery operated jeeps for hire and the tangle of vehicles proved to be quite challenge much for the lone right hand side driver in the crowd.  All in the traffic parks were a major hit and though they may have been originally designed to teach the rules of the road they provided a wild few hours of fun for our crew.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds & Peter Brown

Full disclosure: I'm re-posting this previous Halloween review b/c we're still enamored by Creepy Carrots! at our house and I think it warrants another look:

Well, it's almost time for Halloween and our annual search for the perfect book for the season is on.  We've settled for a tried and true favorite this year: Creepy Carrots! (words by Aaron Reynolds and pictures by Peter Brown).

Jasper Rabbit is the little tyke in charge of this tale. He can't get enough of the carrots from Crackenhopper Field and in time convinces himself that there are creepy carrots following him around... everywhere.

The illustrations are just that little bit film noir and they work in tandem with the words to create a slightly spooky, unpredictably crackin' tale. Jasper Rabbit's road to gluttony is paved with paranoia and eventually he has to put an end to those creepy carrots once and for all.

E thinks the three main carrots are hysterical and has a ritual of inspecting the illustrated end papers with each read.  I think it's a perfect book to get you in the Halloween spirit.

And for an extra treat check out this awesome little film.

Happy Halloween!