Baby Bedtime by Mem Fox and Emma Quay

IMG_1479Baby Bedtime by Mem Fox and illustrated by Emma Quay, hardback picture book, published by the Penguin Group in 2013.

A mummy elephant gets her baby ready for bed with a beautiful bedtime lullaby. She tells her baby all the things she could do, such as nibbling on his ears, and gazing at him all night, but then the time for sleep has come.

Baby Bedtime is a lovely lullaby of love from a mother for her baby. The sentiment would be shared by many parents, and I definitely feel this way about my own children. The illustrations are just gorgeous, and gently rendered, making me feel relaxed and calm. Helpful for lulling little ones into sleep, this is perfect for reading to toddlers and preschoolers before bed. My second grader liked this story, but she thought she was a bit old for it.

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Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs by Kel Richards and Glen Singleton

IMG_1489Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs by Kel Richards and illustrated by Glen Singleton, hardback non-fiction, 25 pages, published by Scholastic Australia in 2014.

Over the years we have read many dinosaur books, but I think this is the first one exclusively about Australian dinosaurs. It is a clear and simple introduction to this topic, suitable for preschoolers and lower primary school children. It contains facts about each dinosaur, with quirky illustrations on every page. My preschooler liked the carnivores running around with knives and forks. Her favourite dinosaur is Minmi, and she liked that a carnivore’s knife and fork were drawn crumpled from trying to penetrate her hard bony plates.

There is a glossary of Australian dinosaurs at the back of the book with a picture, the full name, phonetic pronunciation and the meaning of the dinosaur’s name. We tried saying all of the names aloud, some of them were quite difficult!

Prefect for all small dinosaur lovers, Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs deserves a place in any dinosaur book collection!

 

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Treasure Bottle

The shaken bottle.

The shaken bottle.

One of the preschool classes at school made some pirate treasure bottles as part of their pirate theme. A was intrigued by the treasure bottles, and wanted to make one at home. The bottle contained a variety of items, including sand, coloured water, glitter, beads, pebbles and other crafty materials.

The bottle and some of the treasures.

The bottle and some of the treasures.

We used a clear plastic bottle to place our treasures in. Some of the treasures included plastic beads, coloured plastic, sparkly pom poms, cut up plastic straws, some broken loom bands, and lots and lots of glitter. The kids took turns adding treasures to the bottle, then I used a funnel to add silver and gold glitter. Once all our treasures were in the bottle, I filled it with water and tightened the lid. For bottle crafts like this, I normally add glue to the thread of the lid before screwing it back on too, so that the lid doesn’t accidentally come off and result in a huge mess.

Tipping the bottle upside down.

Tipping the bottle upside down.

Watching the contents settle.

Watching the contents settle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kids squeezed the bottle, tipped it upside down, and shook it. They watched to see what sank and what floated. They watched as the contents settled and swirled. They were mesmerised.

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My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg

IMG_1478My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg, paperback novel, 256 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2013.

Candice Phee is a little odd, a little different, but she has a huge heart. After the death of her sister and the perceived betrayal of her uncle, Candice’s family has been slowly imploding. Her best friend believes he is from another dimension and spends a lot of time trying to return. Her penpal hasn’t replied to her letters, her teacher has a lazy eye, and her fish might be experiencing a theological crisis. All her favourite people and fish are struggling with life, and Candice wants to make them happy. She goes to extraordinary lengths to achieve this.

A heart-warming tale, My Life as an Alphabet, was a joy to read. Candice is a very unusual character, but as she shares her life, I came to like and respect her very much. Some of her antics were extremely funny, and even the way she relates her story is amusing. Jumping off the pier in an attempt to reconcile her father and uncle was probably going a tad too far, but it definitely demonstrated her commitment to improving her family’s relations. I thought her social awkwardness and inability to converse with new people without the use of a notepad gave her an air of mystery. However, her school peers just see her as really weird, and haven’t bothered to uncover the generous and determined girl inside. She is loyal and loving, and extremely quirky. Candice is a very well written character, in an entertaining, interesting and engaging story.

I would prefer my second grader to wait a couple of years before reading this book as some of the themes are more mature than what she has read previously. Themes such as the fallout from the death of Candice’s sister, the estrangement of her father and uncle, and the mental health issues that Douglas from another dimension exhibits. Though it is most suitable for children from upper primary school to high school, I think many adults would also enjoy My Life as an Alphabet.

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A Very Unusual Pursuit by Catherine Jinks

IMG_1446A Very Unusual Pursuit by Catherine Jinks, paperback novel, 329 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2013.

Set in late nineteenth century London, this is the story of Birdie McAdam and her master, Alfred Bunce. Alfred is a bogler, a man that kills bogles, the monsters that infest the dark recesses of London and feed on children that stray too close. As his apprentice, Birdie acts as the bait to lure bogles from their lairs, so that Alfred can kill them. It is a hard and rough life for the young orphan, but it is what she knows and loves. Birdie’s life becomes more complicated when Edith Eames asks to witness a de-bogling, and can’t help but express her concern for Birdie’s safety and her reservations regarding Birdie’s role as bait. The leader of the local pickpocket gang, Sarah Pickles, is also interested in Birdie, though only for her own nefarious purposes. Several of Sarah’s lads have disappeared, perhaps consumed by a bogle. She requests that Alfred and Birdie investigate, so they embark upon their most dangerous job yet, where they might need help from some of the orphan boys, Jem and Ned, as well as Miss Eames.

This is the first book in the City of Orphans series by Catherine Jinks. A thrilling, fast-paced adventure in old-time London, this story is a mix of historical fiction and fantasy dealing with the mythical monsters known as bogles or bogeymen. The description of both locations and characters is wonderfully detailed allowing the reader to step into London as it was, and how it might have been with monsters lurking in chimneys, sewers and wells. The details of speech and clothing were particularly well written, appropriate for the time and place in which the story is set. There is a small glossary section at the end of the book to help with some of the terms that have fallen from common usage over the last century or so. This was an useful addition to the book.

I really liked Birdie, the tough orphan with the sweet voice. Her attitude, honesty and courage, and her intense loyalty to Alfred were endearing and maddening at the same time. I could definitely feel Miss Eames’ exasperation and concern with Birdie’s choices, but also her delight and respect for the child. I would have wanted to save her too.

I think A Very Unusual Pursuit would be most suitable for children in middle to upper primary school. Though, maybe not for children that are overly scared of monsters! I enjoyed this story so much, I immediately went out and bought the next two books in the series.

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Shell Photo Frames

L's frame.

L’s frame.

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A’s frame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s nice to have photos displayed around our home, but most of our frames are a little boring. I picked up some plain wooden photo frames in Bunnings that we could decorate any way we pleased. We made them into shell frames.

Painting the frame white.

Painting the frame white.

First we gave the frames an undercoat of white acrylic paint. Both L and A got white paint everywhere, so I was glad we had the muck mat down. Painting the frames wasn’t vital, but I thought it would look better than the plain wood.

Pressing the gluey frame into the sand.

Pressing the gluey frame into the sand.

Once the paint was dry, the kids painted on a thick layer of PVC glue all over the front of the frame. I had placed some clean sand (sandpit sand from Bunnings) into a tray big enough for the frames to be placed face-down into the sand. The kids took turns to put their glue-covered frames into the sand. Just pressing the frame down into the sand was quite effective at getting the sand to stick to the glue. There was the occasional patch that didn’t have sand, but the kids just added a bit more glue and then sprinkled sand onto these places, and pressed the sand down.

Adding glue to a shell.

Adding glue to a shell.

We left the sandy frames to dry for long time (due to damp weather), and then we shook off any excess sand that wasn’t stuck down. Now we used PVC glue to add some small sea shells to the frames.  A put all of her shells together in one corner. She used so much glue to place her shells, it took several days to dry completely. L placed just a few shells down two sides, while I added shells randomly all over the frame I decorated.

Sticking shells down.

Sticking shells down.

These frames look very impressive, and they were fun to make. They will look even better once we get photos into them!

My shell frame.

My shell frame.

 

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Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend by Anna Branford and Sarah Davis

IMG_1445Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend by Anna Branford and illustrated by Sarah Davis, hardback chapter book, 109 pages, published by Walker Books Australia Pty Ltd in 2013.

Violet’s family has just moved into a new house. Violet is busy exploring the backyard when she discovers a knot in the fence, and accidentally turns it into a hole. She worries that the neighbours might be angry about the hole, so she writes a little apology note and leaves it, along with a small present in the hole. A reply arrives in the hole from Rose, a young girl that lives next door. Is Rose Violet’s possible friend, or maybe she could be a very good friend?

This is the story of a young girl making a new friend and all the uncertainty that comes with it. The story is well written and enjoyable. Violet reminds me of some children I know, and all her worrying and planning gave me a chuckle. While this is not the first book in the Violet Mackerel series, it is the first one we have read. It will not be the last. My preschooler is taken with Violet. She really enjoyed the story and I think she identified with Violet, they have some things in common, such as their collection of small items. She’s keen to read more Violet books.

There are very nice black and white illustrations throughout the book. My preschooler was particularly impressed with how Violet was depicted in the illustrations, just like she imagined her to be (apparently)! The notes that are passed between Violet and Rose are actually drawn as notes in the book too, with writing that even looks like the writing of a young girl. I thought these were a lovely addition.

Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend is a chapter book that is suitable for lower to middle primary school children. My second grader read the whole book before school one morning, finding it an entertaining story, but a very easy read. I think it would be a good book to help build reading confidence in young children.

 

 

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Meeting Jacqueline Harvey

One evening last week our school held a reading hour for Book Week. All the kids could come along dressed up as their favourite book character or in their pyjamas. A very special guest came along to talk to us.

L, A and I were extremely excited when we found out the special guest would be Jacqueline Harvey, author of the wonderfully entertaining Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series. Unfortunately A was far to sick to accompany us to the reading hour, so L and I went alone. I was so pleased we were able to attend. Jacqueline introduced our school community to her main characters, focusing her talk on Clementine Rose. It was a most interesting and entertaining talk, which had all the kids (and most of the adults) laughing along at Clemmie’s exploits.

L with Jacqueline Harvey.

L with Jacqueline Harvey.

After the talk we were able to have some of our books signed, which was very exciting. L had her photo taken with Jacqueline, as well as with the giant cardboard cut-outs of Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose. It was so fantastic to meet the author of these excellent books for primary school children. We are now looking forward to the latest installments of Clementine Rose’s and Alice-Miranda’s adventures.

L with the giant Alice-Miranda.

L with the giant Alice-Miranda.

You can find out all about Jacqueline Harvey, Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose, and all the books, on her website.

You can also read my reviews of Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor, Clementine Rose and the Pet Day Disaster, and Alice-Miranda at School.

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Shaving Cream Play

Shaving cream in a tray.

Shaving cream in a tray.

A very easy activity for kids is letting them play with shaving foam. It’s easy to clean up with water and is lots of fun. It’s not good to eat though, so I prefer not to let Baby T near it, but L and A love squishing their hands into it.

Squishing and squashing.

Squishing and squashing.

Whisking.

Whisking.

We used a couple of plastic trays on top of a muck mat, in an attempt to contain the shaving foam. It’s nice to do this outside if the weather permits, where we can just hose the area down. L and A each had a tray with shaving cream in it. They used various utensils to mix and scoop it, but mostly they just liked to feel it, squish it and squeeze in through their fingers.

Mixing and spreading.

Mixing and spreading.

L pretended the shaving cream was part of her cafe and she made me a smoothie. A whipped her shaving cream up with a whisk, and somehow managed to get shaving cream all the way up her arms and on her face.

We have previously used shaving cream to practice writing spelling words in too. We just smooth a layer of shaving cream in the bottom of a tray, and then write the words using a finger to form the letters.

Messy fun!

Messy fun!

 

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Filed under Investigations, Messy Play, Pretend Play, Sensory Play, Spelling Fun

Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor by Jacqueline Harvey

IMG_1399Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor by Jacqueline Harvey, paperback, 133 pages, published by Random House Australia in 2012.

Clementine Rose is a sweet little girl of five living in an oversized estate house in disrepair, which her mother, Lady Clarissa Appleby, runs as a country guest house. Also living in Penberthy House, is the very old butler, Digby Pertwhistle, affectionately known as Uncle Digby. Along with her pet tea-cup pig Lavender, Clementine Rose lives a wonderfully happy life. However, all that is threatened when Lade Clarissa’s Aunt Violet appears, moves into the best room in the house with her extremely ugly sphynx, Pharaoh, and grumps and sneers at everyone and everything. Clementine Rose has never met anyone as rude and mean as Aunt Violet. How will they cope with Aunt Violet in the house, and when is she going to leave?

Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor is the first book in the Clementine Rose series from Jacqueline Harvey. It is a great introduction to Clementine, who is such a sweet and innocent character. And Aunt Violet is the epitome of sour old lady with her scary cat, and contemptuous sneering and sniping. All the characters are very well written, and the story is engaging and entertaining. The moment Clementine accidentally tosses a guest’s toupee into the fire is just hilarious, and her safari adventure in the library with her friends has prompted my kids to ask for a similar camp-out (though we don’t have fire to toast marshmallows over!). A fun read suitable for kids in lower and middle primary school, Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor will make them laugh, and will probably make them want a cute little tea-cup pig just like Lavender!

My second grader enjoys Clementine Rose stories, though she finds them a little easy going now  she will still listen when I read them to her sister. My preschooler just loves the Clementine Rose series, and wants me to keep reading and reading until the book ends! And then she wants to start another straight away. I really like sharing these books with her as well, I enjoy reading about Clementine’s adventures almost as much as she does!

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