Tag Archives: owl

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.

OwlWowHopgood

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.

owlHopgoodYellow

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.

outdoorcolormatch1

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.

TutorialOwlHopgood

 

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.

WHAT-A-WONDERFUL-WORLD-303x300

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.

IMG_20141216_000555

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.

IMG_20141216_000615

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).

SarahMassiniLoveEvrywhere

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.

IMG_20141216_000253

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!

IMG_20141216_000338

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.

IMG_20141216_000146

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!

SortingLegoGame

 

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?

Walking-Water-Science-Experiment-for-Kids

 

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!

Rainbow-Milk-Fun-Kids-Science-Experiment

Our top 5 spooky stories for Halloween

After the post I wrote on Zouk, the feisty little French witch, I thought it would be nice to rummage through our collection of books with subjects loosely related to Halloween.

My list will not be as long as this elaborate one where you will find great suggestions by age range. But our top 5 contains five tried and tested books that you can trust will please young readers in search of a not too frightful reading session.Room-on-the-Broom

First, I thought we should start with one of our favourite witches in the classic Room on the Broom by Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson. Do I really need to introduce Julia Donaldson considering the Gruffalo has sold over 6.5 million copies? I’m really not sure. My son’s currently obsessed with Superworm that he read at school, and I have read with him and his sister the Gruffalo, Zog, Stick Man and the Smartest Giant in Town countless times.

In this book, the witch loses her hat, her bow, and a wand, but luckily finds three animals: a dog, a frog and a green bird willing to help her find her possessions. For each loss she gains a new friend and each time she makes room on her broomstick and whoosh flies away. That is until the broomstick snaps in two, and they all tumble in a bog. Suddenly alone and face to face with a hungry dragon who’s eager to have witch and chips, she manages to escape thanks to her new group of friends. The care with which the story is written, its rhythm and its rhymes are a delight. No review can do justice to a reading, so here is a link to one that I like:

Now the fact that I have a child who’s allergic to cats does not mean that we don’t love feline creatures, quite the contrary actually. At the moment, we all have a bit of a crush for Wilburn, Winnie’s companion in the series of books Winnie the witch by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul. In Winnie Flies Again, my two kids love seeing Winnie both puzzled and scared when she turns her broomstick into a bicycle and later a skateboard in order to avoid the dangerous flying machines that she keeps facing in the sky. I’m not giving away the end as it is hilarious and unexpected, but trust me, this is a good one!

WINNIE-FLIES-AGAIN

A more recent discovery for us is Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School by Simon Puttock and Ali Pye. It is a mouse’s first night at school and it’s going to take all the patience of her teacher and the kindness of the other pupils bat, cat and owl to make her feel less shy. This album is full of exquisite details that my children love: the jars and books of spells on the shelves of the classroom, the tables and chairs that are just right for each of the creatures, and the shiny bits on the cover. You can see how welcoming the classroom is on the illustration I chose for the whole post.  This book would also be a great choice for kids starting school, one to read with their parents during a peaceful summer at home.

MoonLightSchoolPuttockPye

Finally the last two titles we chose are quite different. If your children like books like Where’s Wally? and challenges, they will love The Best Halloween Hunt by John Speirs. Fear not and enjoy the mazes! All the answers are at the back if your little ones get too frustrated. This one is great to keep them busy on the train, or when you’re waiting for a meal at the restaurant.

BestHalloweenHunt

And last but not least, here is another book by Rebecca Cobb titled Spooky Sums and Counting Horrors.  I know I have already reviewed another book by Rebecca Cobb, but this is such a hit with my son who loves counting that I could not keep it off this list.

SpookySumsCountingHorrorsRebeccaCobb

Slightly older readers will delight in the gruesome details of the feast’s preparation. Look at these cocktails, aren’t they delightful?

SpookyFeastRebeccaCobb

My son adores the ten dancing monsters all in pairs. the yeti, the mummy, the dragon and dracula are clearly having the time of their life. I like the fact that at the end of the party, the little ghosts, exhausted yet happy, and needing their beauty sleep go to bed like everyone else.

If your kids are into numbers, you should try some of these Halloween maths games. I like the idea of spooky sums almost as much as that of Frankenstein puddings (although in the case of the later, I would probably change the recipe for a pistachio flavoured custard and homemade double chocolate cookies).

For more Halloween ideas, see my thematic board on Pinterest and have fun this Halloween!

halloween-math-gamesfrankensteinpudding

 

 

Need some sleep? You’re not the only one!

Sleep, that magic five letter word that parents and carers miss dearly in the first few weeks/months/years (choose the right answer) of their children’s life. Before I start this post proper, let me say first that it won’t contain any magic formula to make your little one sleep. It will however suggest a few  books you could read together before bedtime which are by their topic and nature excellent incentives to go to sleep and stop fighting about bedtime! No heavy preaching I promise, but gorgeous and inviting works to show your little ones how delightful sleeping can and should be.

We got Ill Sung Na‘s A Book of Sleep back in 2007 and it’s had a place by my kids’ bedside ever since. It is a charming and beautiful book describing how all animals  sleep at night, all but a little starring owl, who observes the sleepers, that is until the end of the book of course.

BookOfSleepIlSungNa

Whether they sleep in peace and quiet like koalas against a tree, huddled close like penguins, or noisily like elephants, all seem so peaceful and happy once the sun comes up that ,after reading this book, no kid can possibly doubt the benefits of a good night sleep.

BookOfSleepIlSungNaElephant

The background is often a magnificent dark blue, the details on the pages like the fur, feathers, or skin of the various  animals are gorgeous, and the book is now available in a smaller and more study format so that the younger readers can handle it on their own with no risk of tearing a page. If your library does not own a copy, go on, give them a nudge and suggest they buy one.

Now Good Night Me, a collaboration between Andrew Daddo and Emma Quay, also focuses on one animal, a baby orangutan who, lying in bed, slowly but surely says good night  to his feet, his legs, his knees, etc, and thanks them for all the fun they provided during the day.

GoodNightMeEmmaQuay

This lovely routine and the little monkey’s monologue like ‘Shhh, mouth, no more questions. Just say goodnight’ perfectly match Quay’s tender illustrations. This is a wonderful celebration of this special moment when you tuck your child in bed and kiss them good night. If your child does not find Quay’s purple and blue pastels soothing, he will no doubt  relate to the typical childish poses adopted by this cheeky little monkey, like sucking his thumb and hiding under his sheets.

In brief, this is a perfect book  to learn how to relax before bedtime or to read curled up in bed together.

GoodNightMeEmmaQuayJump

 

The final book I want to present Susan Gal’s Night Lights is a also a visual treat! Written from the perspective of a little girl coming home from a bike ride with her mother, it describes her evening with one word per page, from their barbecue by the ‘firelight’ to the celebratory ‘candlelight’ of the dog’s birthday cake. The usual suspects are here again, like the ‘reading light’ and ‘night-light’ before the final starlight and moonlight shining over her bed.

SusanGalNightLights

I love the 1950s retro vibe of Gal’s illustrations, and the fun and tender depiction of her adventures with her furry companion. My son loves the fact that with its one word per page (or double page) it takes no time to read, so I cannot use the excuse that it is too late to read. During the day, he loves making assumptions about the events and asking questions about the other creatures in the book including the raccoons and fireflies. It can trigger long conversations, believe me, so it’s better to read it a few times during the day before making it part of your evening selection! But give it a go, it is a lovely debut book and you can have a look by following this link if you want to.

If the science of sleep is something you’re interested in, I cannot recommend enough this brilliant post in Brain pickings and Rosie Blau’s article in Intelligent Life. Good night folks!