Category Archives: Animals

Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar by Lois Wickstrom

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Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar by Lois Wickstrom and illustrated by Francie Mion, picture e-book, 38 pages, published by Look Under Rocks/Gripper Products in 2017.

Loretta watches the masses of butterflies in the milkweed meadow near her home. When she goes to investigate, she finds tiny eggs stuck to the underside of the leaves. Over the following weeks, Loretta watches as an egg hatches, and a caterpillar grows, readying itself to become a butterfly.

Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction. The story follows Loretta as she witnesses the life-cycle of a caterpillar from egg through to Monarch Butterfly. The process is interesting, and has been well explained and illustrated throughout the story. I laughed when Loretta taped the leaf back to the plant! And I liked the way that the possible predators of the caterpillar were introduced.

There is further information about the annual Monarch butterfly migration, how to obtain milkweed seeds and how to determine the sex of Monarch butterflies. This extra section was quite interesting and informative.

Loretta’s Pet Caterpillar is a lovely way to introduce children to the butterfly lifecycle, and is suitable for primary aged children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Where is Heaven Anyway? by Dunnett Albert

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Where is Heaven Anyway? A Hattie the Hummingbird Story by Dunnett Albert and illustrated by Catherine Wilder, picture e-book, 16 pages, published by Henley Publishing in 2016.

Little Hattie the Hummingbird is sad because her friend Auggie the Frog has gone away. Hattie’s mum helps her to understand that Auggie has gone to heaven, but that he will still be with Hattie, in the world around her, in her heart and in her dreams.

Where is Heaven Anyway? is a lovely rhyming story that explains the concept of heaven using language and ideas appropriate for a younger audience. It is heartwarming and tender, reminding us that our loved ones will always be in our hearts and memories, even when they can no longer be with us physically. This book is a great way to start a conversation about death and what happens afterwards, so I recommend reading it with the child/children to help them understand (and to answer their questions!).

Where is Heaven Anyway? contains truly beautiful watercolour illustrations. They are full of colour and life, yet retain a softness that suits the gentle nature of the story.

Where is Heaven Anyway? is suitable for primary school children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Blackbird, Blackbird, What Do You Do? by Kate McLelland

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Blackbird, Blackbird, What Do You Do? by Kate McLelland, hardback picture book, published by Hodder’s Children’s Books in 2016.

Pip is a little blackbird who sets out to discover what it is that blackbirds do. He visits with different birds, trying out the things they are good at until he finds something he is good at.

I rather liked this picture book about finding oneself. Pip met a lot of other birds on his journey, learning a little about each one. All of the birds were interesting and good at various things. I liked that Pip attempted each thing enthusiastically, such as digging a nest, waddling and pecking at seeds, even if he wasn’t very good at it. And he kept trying, despite disappointments. Perseverance and the willingness to try new things are great qualities to encourage in our children, and Blackbird, Blackbird, What Do You Do? demonstrates this nicely for younger children.

The illustrations are very appealing. All of the birds were beautiful and so expressive; I especially liked the owl. And Pip was pretty cute!

My pre-schoolers enjoyed reading this book with me. I was happy that the text was decently sized, making it easier for my boys to try reading it themselves too (beginner readers).

Blackbird, Blackbird, What Do You Do? is suitable for early childhood, pre-school and lower primary school children. It is a nice book to read aloud.

 

Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray and Jim Field

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Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray and illustrated by Jim Field, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Press in 2015.

The cat insists that the frog sits on a log. Why? Because frogs must sit on logs. The cat goes on to explain that cats sit on mats, hares on chairs, mules on stools…. and on and on.

This wonderfully silly rhyming story is accompanied by cute and funny illustrations. Some of the animals get to sit on some rather uncomfortable items, including irons, forks and poles! My favourite picture is the wizard with his lizard playing the flute with the newt, and the magnifying glass that allows us to see the fleas sitting on peas. The frog can be found in each picture too.

Frog on a Log? is a great read-aloud book which my pre-schoolers love. It is funny, entertaining and can be read again and again. My boys like all the rhyming and it has encouraged them to think of other words that rhyme. We loved the ending!

I highly recommend Frog on a Log? for pre-school and lower primary school students.

 

*Frog on a Log? has also been published under the title Oi Frog!

Funny Farm by Mark Teague

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Funny Farm by Mark Teague, hard-back picture book, published by Orchard Books in 2009.

Edward visits Hawthorne Farm for the first time. His uncle, aunt and cousin show him how to help about the farm, by collecting eggs, feeding the pigs, painting the barn, and herding the sheep. The fact that Edward and his family are dogs running a farm is only the first of many odd things at Hawthorne Farm!

Funny Farm is a simple story of a day on the farm, just that the farm is a little different to most. The text was clear and easy to read, with just one sentence per scene; great for younger children. Each page was full of colourful and detailed illustrations full of interesting and unusual things.

My preschoolers thought Funny Farm was pretty good. They liked all the strange things, such as the pigs playing on the swings, the bugs ploughing their own small field, and the sheep brushing their teeth at the water trough. They laughed quite a lot when Edward got chased by the rooster and when he fell into the pig’s food trough! They are keen to read this book again.

Funny Farm is suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.

 

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The Three Ninja Pigs by David Bedford and Becka Moor

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The Three Ninja Pigs by David Bedford and illustrated by Becka Moor, paperback picture book, published by Simon and Schuster, UK Ltd in 2016.

The Big Bad Wolf is up to his tricks, messing up this, and breaking that. The Three Ninja Pigs keep getting the blame for his antics. Will they be able to put a stop to the Big Bad Wolf’s villainy?

The three little pigs have had a make-over, as ninjas! They twirl, they jump and they Hee-ya! And they are totally adorable in this exciting twist to an old tale. My four year old boys loved The Three Ninja Pigs, requesting multiple re-reads.

This story was great fun and the illustrations were bright and interesting. The Wolf really was being quite naughty, creating chaos at every stop. My boys thought the mess he created was funny, and they enjoyed pointing to things that had been broken or knocked down. They also laughed at where the Ninja Pigs ended up after each encounter with the Wolf, such as stuffed in a vase, or hanging from the ceiling. We liked spotting the various fairytale characters through the book, such as Little Red Riding Hood and the troll under the bridge.

The Three Ninja Pigs is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children.

Guest Post: K. E. Rocha

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K. E. Rocha (Kristin) is the author of the wonderful Secrets of Bearhaven series. This exciting adventure series is suitable for upper primary school students and up. As I read the first book in the series I found myself immersed in an incredible world with cunning villains, young heroes, and bears that quickly felt like old friends. It even includes bear language developed especially for these books.

Kristin has kindly written a guest post for Today We Did to tell us a little bit about herself and why she writes.

If you had told me when I was in third grade that I would be an author one day, I would not have believed you. I know it might seem like all authors say that, but I really would have been horrified by the idea. As a third grader I was still struggling to learn to read. I had to be in special classes, working with literacy specialists, and as a result, reading and writing just felt like hard work to me.

I was in sixth grade when an author’s visit to my school inspired me to become a writer. By then I had finally caught up to my peers in reading and was enchanted (like I think most kids were and still are!) by the magical world of Harry Potter. The author at my school that day was none other than J.K. Rowling. When she read from her third Harry Potter book and talked about the incredible series she’d created I quickly realized that dreaming up worlds and people, and bringing them into existence in a story, was the coolest job I could imagine.

I wrote Secrets of Bearhaven for the reader I was in the third grade, and the one I was in the sixth grade, because it is my hope that these books will help all types of readers fall in love with reading. The vocabulary is meant to be accessible and the chapters intentionally short for less confident readers—like I was for so long. At the same time, the excitement of the adventure, and the themes of family, animal rights, and communication are intended to draw in avid readers—like the one Harry Potter helped me to become.

What’s more, I want kids to feel empowered by Secrets of Bearhaven, whether they are empowered to write their own stories and find their own voices, or empowered to stand up for what they believe in, like Spencer does in each of the four books.

I think it’s essential for kids to have the experience of being transported by reading. Stories about characters with super powers who go on otherworldly adventures are important. They allow our imaginations to fire. But at the same time, I think it’s equally important for kids to read about characters who really aren’t so different from themselves, and who still go on to do extraordinary things. Those are the stories that change us by showing us what we might be capable of.

Spencer is not blessed with any superpowers. He’s not even the fastest kid on his school baseball team, but he rises to the occasion, because the people he loves, and the animals he cares about are threatened. It’s my hope that readers see themselves in Spencer and in doing so, see how powerful the combination of courage and determination can be.

So whether your child is out there saving bears or, like third grade me, still trying to work out what’s so great about reading and writing, I hope they find the books, characters, or authors that inspire them.

And thank you Sara for inviting me to share a little about myself and what makes me so passionate about reading and writing!

Kristin

 

Visit Kristin on her website, Facebook, or Instagram. And definitely check out the Secrets of Bearhaven pages at Scholastic for more information about the books and some cool extras like learning the bear language and watching the book trailer. There are plenty of great reviews of the books on Goodreads too.

You can also purchase the books from Book Depository, and  Amazon.

 

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Brady Plays the Fiddle by Melissa Auell

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Brady Plays the Fiddle by Melissa Auell, 16 pages, picture e-book, published by Jade River Publishing in 2017.

Brady the Badger is interested in learning to play an instrument. His parents take him to a bluegrass festival where he hears some instruments being played and gets to meet the musicians.

Brady Plays the Fiddle is a sweet and lyrical story which introduces a range of string musical instruments to young children. Each instrument is played by a different animal.

The story is told through rhyme, which is best read aloud. My kids immediately asked me what bluegrass was. If I was reading this to a class, I think it would be useful to have some samples of bluegrass music for the children to listen to. And of course, if possible, the actual instruments from the story. It would make an awesome music lesson to read the book, and then try out a mandolin or a dobro!

The illustrations were very bright and reasonably simple. I think that they would appeal to young children. However, I felt that the illustrations of Brady lacked continuity between the first couple of pages and the rest of the book. This may have just been my perception as he went from being drawn from the front, to being seen side-on. His nose was also a darker shade of pink and his fur a darker grey in the later pages. I know it seems pedantic, but initially I didn’t realise that both badgers were Brady.

My favourite illustration was on the front cover; there Brady is feeling the music and obviously enjoying himself. The background to this page is expertly coloured too. It really was an excellent choice for the cover.

Brady Plays the Fiddle is a nice book most suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. It is a great way to introduce these instruments to children and would make an useful addition to preschool music programs.

 

*I received this book as a digital edition from the author in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney

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Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney, hardback non-fiction, 96 pages, published by EK Books in 2016.

Discover Australia in this beautifully illustrated book. It contains bite-size pieces about Australian culture, its quirks, landmarks, cities, flora and fauna. It is simple enough to be enjoyed by young children, whilst also being interesting enough to engage older kids and adults.

I found this to be a somewhat quirky look at Australia and I loved it! The illustrations are simply gorgeous; colourful, detailed and unique. I enjoyed reading all of the place names and other information contained in the outlines of each state or territory; these were very cleverly compiled. Reading Australia Illustrated made me feel great to be Australian! It made me want to travel and explore my beautiful homeland, and seek out some of the more unusual aspects of our nation.

I read this book cover to cover in one sitting, though I still took my time to enjoy it. It wouldn’t necessarily need to be read in order; it is browsable, and could make a good coffee table or waiting room book. I also think it would be a good book to spark the interest of reluctant readers, hopefully leaving them wanting to know more about Australia.

Australia Illustrated is suitable for children and adults alike. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.

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Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha

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Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha, hardback novel, 244 pages, published by Scholastic Press in 2016.

Spencer has learnt a lot about bears in his eleven years, after all, both his parents work in bear advocacy, so he has been brought up on bear facts and stories. However, nothing could prepare him for the huge secret they have been keeping.

My ten year-old read Secrets of Bearhaven before I did. Afterwards, she told me it was the best book that she had read this year! Considering how many books she rips through every week, this was quite high praise, so I read it straight away. And I agree with her, this book is excellent. It is a very fast-paced novel full of action and excitement. There is intrigue, crafty villains, and amazing technological advancements. I was hooked from the first few pages, and now both my daughter and I want more!

The world of Bearhaven is beautifully constructed down to the smallest detail. The homes, the shops, roadways and fields; it is all described so carefully that the place comes alive. And the residents of Bearhaven are all very individual with varying physical characteristics and personalities. It would be amazing to walk among them and explore their beautiful home. Rocha has created a better world for these bears, completely hidden within our own world, and it is amazing.

All of the characters are well developed and complex. Spencer is a brave and determined boy who shows strength under pressure. He is clever, innovative and very likeable. He makes an excellent lead character. But it is Kate that I loved the most. The adorably curious and mischievous baby bear that befriends Spencer from their first moments together. She was quirky and fun and made me laugh. Uncle Mark is pretty cool too! I like the way he treats Spencer and the relationship that they have.

Most suitable for upper primary and lower high school students, Secrets of Bearhaven will not disappoint. And it is only the start of Spencer’s adventures; the story continues in Mission to Moon Farm, followed by Hidden Rock Rescue and the latest release, Battle for Bearhaven. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series soon.

 

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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