Tag Archives: music

What a wonderful and colourful world

As it is feeling more and more like winter in London, we find ourselves going to either seasonal books (a selection of which I am working on) or really colourful ones. So to brighten up your Monday I’ve decided to review a colourful trio of books to be read with your loved ones.

Tom Hopgood is a favourite in our house, and since I’ve recently bought a bunch of books for the kids’ school including the first we enjoyed as a family, I thought it would be nice to tell you about it before we give it away.

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Wow! Said the Owl is a perfect book for babies and toddlers, but it also works with early readers who are keen to try reading bits of text since the font is clear and very kid-friendly.

When we are feeling tired and ready to go to bed, owls are just waking up, like the one in Hopgood’s book. But this little owl is very curious and therefore decides to take a long nap and stay awake until dawn. She can’t believe her eyes when she sees the wonderful yellow sun, the white fluffy clouds floating across the bright blue sky, and the pretty red butterflies fluttering over some gorgeous orange flowers.

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Not even the rain will dampen her enthusiasm, since it reveals a beautiful rainbow. As she catches the sunset and ponders over the magnificent colours that she has seen, she realises that “the night-time stars are the most beautiful of all.”

One of the last two pages of the book shows a circle of coloured dots and invites the reader to go back and find these on the pages of the book, a fun game my little boy likes to do. This is a perfect introduction to colour hunting, an activity that we regularly do and that can be adapted to be taken outdoors, as explained in this post by Valerie. All you need is a few paint samples and a perforator (or hole punch) and you’re good to go.

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Tim Hopgood’s blogs include lovely photos of school visits as well as tons of ideas to make craft projects, such as this nice little owl that I find adorable.

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Hopgood’s most recent publication is a joyous interpretation of  Louis Amstrong’s What a Wonderful World. A CD naturally comes with the book which includes a recording of Amstrong’s song and a reading of the book.

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Each page shows the same little boy enjoying the wonders of the world, from blooming red roses to the dark sacred night. Sometimes by himself, sometimes with his friends, the boy walks, flies and even rides a horse while inviting us to slow down and pause to enjoy our wonderful world.

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We are big fans of audio-books, but this is in a different league altogether from read-aloud recordings. It is not just a great way to get your child to flick through a book by themselves, it is an invitation to think about music and art as complementary means to appeal to our senses.

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I love Hopgood’s original idea which was “to capture the joy of the song in a picture book” and I must say watching my son chilling out on the sofa and enjoying the book makes me think he has thoroughly succeeded.

If you’re unconvinced by the idea of music as both a valuable and enjoyable element, and if you wonder why music delights not only our heart but also our brain, watch this fun little video.

NB: This educational clip mentions drugs so do not watch it with your little one unless you want to have a conversation about this particular topic.

Last but not least is Sarah Massini‘s If I Could Paint the World. In this funny story a little girl and her chameleon find a magic paintbrush which lets them paint the world. I wish she did not start by turning the world all pink (but this is me, my son did not object at all as he loves pink and yellow).

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After that things start to take a different and fun turn. For breakfast, she paints red juice, and purple cornflakes with orange milk, and brushes her teeth with black toothpaste.

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Once at school, she makes a few changes to the stories she reads and these crack my kids up. Meet little Little Lilac Riding Hood, and Pea Green and the seven dwarves! But there is a limit to craziness and after yellow tarts and blue baboons, the little girl declares: Stop!

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The reason she gives is the best of all: “when you really think about it, the world is perfect, exactly as it is”. In this story, mischievous changes and cheekiness go hand in hand. My children love the gorgeous illustrations and tried to paint blue bugs, peppermint puppies and purple pigs after reading this book, which shows you how inspiring it really is.

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For other ideas and activities involving colours, check this couple of suggestions, or go back to one of my post on diversity, which included several colour-related activities.

Look at this great lego game here, perfect for toddlers who very often go through a phase of filling in and filling out things. Perfect!

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For older ones, and future scientist or artists, here is a brilliant walking water experiment,  which teaches children about water, colours and science at the same time, a really wonderful trio, don’t you think?

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Finally, something that we have done many, many times but that keeps my children excited is the rainbow milk experiment. Check the tutorial and instructions at the Artful Parent, it is easy and worth a try!

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A growing collection of charming dragons

We spent the summer enjoying the resources of our local library, but I must admit that I got lucky with books in charity shops too, hence our growing collection of dragons…

Guess what I Found in Dragon Wood by Timothy Knapman and Gwenn Millward is the story of a very special friendship. Benjamin is a cute little boy with blond curls and big red wellies, but he is not like in many other books the narrator of the story. A young dragon who comes across Benjamin on one of his walks through the woods is the one who tells us about his wonderful discovery.

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Surprised and curious, the young dragon decides to bring Benjamin home and then to school to show him to everyone. Imagine what a wonderful show and tell session this will be!

As you would expect, Mr Rockface,the teacher, decides to cancel the volcano sitting class and to give all the little dragons a lesson in biology and anatomy.

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But the lesson quickly takes a different turn since  it appears that Benjamin is both home sick and sad. Kindly, to take his mind off his family, the little dragon asks Benjamin what he can do if he can neither fly nor breathe fire. This is when the magic happens since Benjamin decides to teach the  whole class how to play football and this turns out to be a fantastic and eventful match.

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But at the end of the day Benjamin still misses his mum and dad, so his new friend, interested in discovering the land of the Benjamins decides that he will help him to get back home. Together they fly over the quiet city and finally land in Benjamin’s front garden to the surprise of all the neighbours. When the dragon comes back to school and tells his friends what he has seen, they are amazed and ask whether he will go back. To which he replies of course, since he is going to be the subject of a lesson at Benjamin’s school.

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My kids found this book to be great fun not only because it is told by a dragon but also because it shows how the ideas of make believe and stories are not set in stone. Benjamin and the little dragon get on very well in spite of their differences and look happy together.

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The difficulties they face are often created by the fear of their respective communities. In short, this lovely story shows how young minds are often more open minded than adults who can come with a seriously detrimental set of prejudice and baggage. So hip hip hurray to curiosity, consideration and courage and long live dragon football matches!

If your kids are into dragons, there are tons of crafty activities to do with them, my favourite list is here, but I also love this array of projects using loo rolls.

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Now if they love music and dragons, Eric Puybaret’s gorgeous paintings in Puff the Magic Dragon and the CD that comes along with songs by Peter Yarrow are a real treat, so try to find a library (or charity shop) that has them, and read this excellent post by Adam Mason on the theme song accompanying the book!

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Have you had your dose of Rabbityness today?

Now you are probably wondering what on earth this title means?!  And unless you know Jo Empson‘s work, the title of this post  will indeed remain obscure. Empson’s  illustrations are visually stunning and the cover was certainly what appealed to my son when his eye caught Rabbityness at the library

Rabbityness is the story of a very special rabbit who likes doing rabbity things such as hopping and burrowing.

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But unlike other rabbits, he also likes doing unrabbity things like painting and making music. And this is what makes him truly special. So special in fact that he fills the woods with colour and music, and makes all the other rabbits catch his happiness.

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But one day, rabbit disappears and the woods become quiet and grey, that is until the other rabbits find in the deep dark hole that he has left, a pile of things to inspire them to do unrabbity things too.

By remembering him, and by using the instruments and tools he has left, the rabbits fill the woods with colour and music, and feel happy again.

Now, expect questions when you will be reading this book as the rabbit’s sudden and unexplained disappearance was puzzling to both my children. But I found it an interesting blank or void. You may want to discuss loss and pain, or some less abstract possible scenarios, this is your choice, and I definitely appreciate the freedom this book gives you in terms of where you want to take it.

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Because the end is colorful and full of joy, younger readers may even forget about the grey and somewhat scary episode in the middle of the story. But whatever you make of the plot, this is an explosion of colour, a great incentive to take your painting kit and (or) your favourite music outside and to enjoy it all together. Come on, you know cleaning up won’t be as bad if the painting is done outside! And if messiness is not your kind of thing, why not improvise a disco in the garden or the park? Happiness and joy do not need to be time or material intensive!

 

Les sanglots longs du violon de Carotte, or how a carrot learns that the violin is really not for her

Si on en croit le dicton français ‘la musique adoucit les moeurs’ mais la pauvre carotte, héroine de cette collaboration entre Isabelle Jacqué et Jacques Leroy, a bien du mal à voir les fruits de son labeur refléter cet adage.

Tous les mercredis, elle prend des leçons et une fois rentrée chez elle, elle pratique religieusement mais rien n’y fait, quoi qu’elle fasse, son violon ne produit que le même grincement affreux. Triste et à bout d’idées, Carotte tombe un jour sur Petit Pois qui lui aussi ne tire que des sons affreux de sa clarinette. C’est alors que Petit pois curieux suggère un échange et qu’un miracle survient. Je ne vous en dit pas plus, si ce n’est que cet album se termine en fanfare et sur une fin heureuse.

Ce livre de petit format est parfait pour les petites mains dés 2 ans. Il est très résistant, et l’histoire n’est ni trop longue, ni trop courte avec juste une à deux phrases par page. Le jeune lecteur a amplement le temps de profiter des jolies illustrations colorées et de rire des mésaventures de ces deux musiciens en herbe.

Si votre petit bout aime bien cette histoire de couacs et les personnages de Carotte et Petit Pois, il peut les retrouver dans d’autres titres de la série intitulée Tomate, Cerise et Companie qui se passe au pays de Fruigume. La maman de Julie et Laura propose sur son blog un résumé enthousiaste de Framboise fait sa princesse. Nous ne l’avons pas lu mais aimons bien les soeurs jumelles Cerisette et Cerisa qui apprennent dans Les cerises veulent tout faire ensemble à profiter de leurs expérience en solo.

Envie de prolonger le plaisir? Une superbe idée de peinture sur cailloux, adaptable à tous les ages, vous attend par ici!

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Today, my objective is not to discuss the reasons why French children supposedly don’t throw food, this polemic is old news and anyway not that interesting. What I’d like to do however is to show you how vegetables can be really cute characters in children’s  books.

In this short and sweet little book, Carotte  attends music lessons every single week. She also practices the violin regularly in a desperate attempt to make music. But her determination is useless, and it is only after meeting Petit Pois that she realises that maybe she’s just chosen the wrong instrument. Thanks to his simple suggestion to switch instruments, Carotte discovers that she is a talented oboe player! What a surprise! The end is, as you would expect, a joyful symphony and the cacophony preceding this happy ending is guarantee to make your kids laugh.

We’ve only read three books out of this short series but they’re all very colourful and full of funny rhymes or lines. This is a nice alternative if you are looking for books in which animals are not protagonists. And who knows, they might subtly turn your picky eater into a little foodie? One can always dream, right?!

Finally, if you’re looking for a crafty activity that can easily be adapted to all ages, I cannot recommend enough Liska’s idea in this post and her excellent blog. Go and have a look!