Tag Archives: parents

Autumn books we love

Yes, the weather has turned to wet and miserable, but we can still rejoice at the thought of hot chocolate and biscuits, or whatever treat warms both your belly and your heart. Autumn is almost certainly my favourite season and Jane Porter‘s gorgeous illustration seemed to perfectly illustrate the joy this time of year summons in me. Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I love summer with all the opportunities it offers to spend time outside, but I like the fact that summer is precious because it is short lived.

If you don’t feel like braving the rain and wind, or if your kids need to be convinced that autum is a great season, then read them these two lovely stories. The first of these will explain to them why leaves fall, and the second will encourage them to be patient and understanding, so really, what’s not be liked?

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When we picked up Leaf Trouble written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church at the library recently, I wondered why it looked familiar to me. Then once home, I realised that Caroline Jayne Church had made a series of books that my son adored as a baby and toddler whose main character is a fun little puppy called Woof.

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Now in Leaf Trouble there is no dog, but a family of squirrels who lives in an big oak tree. Pip when he realises that the leaves are not only changing colours but also falling from the trees, starts to panic.

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He calls for his sister’s help and hopes that they can save the tree which is “falling to pieces”. After making a huge pile on the ground, this spontaneous rescue team tries to stick the leaves back on the branches, but of course this fails, and thank goodness their mum arrives and asks them what they’re doing!

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She then explains to them that the tree needs a rest and that when spring comes, the leaves will all come back again.

Relieved to hear this, they play beneath the old oak tree until sunset, collect some leaves to take back to their nest, and watch the gorgeous colours of the sunset which perfectly match the ones on the leaves. Seeing them happy and soaking in the scene contrasts nicely with their frantic panic and makes for a nice ending.

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This story gave us a chance to think about the change of season and what happens to trees and animals who live outdoors. If your child has ever wondered why it is that leaves change colour in the fall, read this great post by an expert who has tons of ideas to make this tangible and fun with experiments and activities.

Now for a visual feast you can’t really beat the lavishness of Helen Cooper‘s work. “Deep  in the woods there’s an old cabin with pumpkins in the garden. There’s a good smell of soup, and at night, with luck, you might see a bagpiping Cat through the window, and a squirrel with a banjo, and a small singing Duck.”

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Each of them has a special role in making this yummy soup: Cat slices the pumpkin, Squirrel stirs in the water, and Duck adds the right amount of salt. But one morning Duck wakes up early and decides to borrow Squirrel’s special spoon and to become the Head cook. Of course this is not going to work and not only because he is too short. The three friends start squabbling and arguing until Duck walks out, annoyed that no one will let him help.

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Contrary to what the Cat and the Squirrel thought Duck does not come back for breakfast, not even for lunch. The soup they make is not tasty and they don’t feel hungry anyway. So they start to look for him and to worry about where he has gone.

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After looking for a long time, they decide to go back home, see some light from a distance, and run to the house where they are finally reunited.

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My kids love pumpkin soup and understand all too well falling out with friends, so when the Cat and Squirrel decide to let Duck make the soup for the sake of their friendship, they understand why it is, believe me! And they love the look of the messy kitchen too.

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For another visual automnal feast, watch Co Hoedeman’s Ludovic who has been a favourite in our house for years. We have a DVD with several of this cute teddy’s stories but you can watch Magic in the air on the National Film Board’s website for free.

For more activity ideas, have a look at our seasonal pinterest board!

Finally here is some inspiration for those of you who like making yummy snacks together. Look at these maple roast pumpkin seeds or apple pie cups on Weelicious, don’t they look nice? I also love improvising with date-nut bites, there’s a good recipe here, but feel free to try your own combination. We like date+cocoa+walnut+almond butter, rolled in dessicated coconut to make them a bit less sticky. As long as you’ve got a good food processor, they are easy and kids love these energy balls.

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Just in case you get thirsty, why not try THE drink that says autumn: apple cider, a good old classic which makes the house smell like heaven. Here’s a link to a foolproof recipe with an option to make it plain, decadent, or even boozy.

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Des livres plein la maison pour les cocottes et cocos

Chez nous, il y a des auteurs comme Emily Gravett, Taro Gomi, Émile Jadoul, Jeanne Ashbé, et Ludovic Flamant qu’on ne se lasse jamais de lire. Même ma grande (qui a 8 ans) aime revenir à ces classiques surtout lorsque nous avons de jeunes visiteurs à qui elle peut faire la lecture.

C’est suite à une de ces récentes visites que je me suis dis qu’il serait temps d’ajouter quelques suggestions pour les plus jeunes. Et qui  choisir d’autre que Jadoul et Flamant?

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Des livres plein la maison est un petit album cartonné et coloré qui fait l’inventaire de tous les livres dans la maison d’un petit garçon, de ceux sans images pour papa et maman aux autres qui lui appartiennent. Le texte rime comme celui d’une comptine, les illustrations sont à la fois charmantes et drôles et les usages détournés que ce petit héros propose aux lecteurs montrent à quel point l’imagination des adultes peut être limitée.

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Les autres titres de cette collection sont dans la même veine et peuvent être lus au bébés sans problème. Alors si Des livres plein la maison vous tape dans l’oeil, essayez La soupe aux miettes par le même talentueux duo qui raconte comment préparer une délicieuse soupe aux miettes jusqu’à ce que maman s’en mèle biensûr.

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Dans ce billet, Élise vous conseille aussi On ne joue pas avec la nourriture parmi un florilège de livres qui aident à désamorcer les conflits autour des repas. Bref, vous avez le choix!

Pour finir, voilà un album tout court et tout tendre qui aide bien avec les petites angoisses liées au moment du coucher. Dans Bonne nuit, ma cocotte, maman poule, comme chaque soir, met cocotte au lit en lui faisant un gros bécot.

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Mais cocotte n’est pas rassurée, sa maman n’a t-elle pas mis son beau collier pour sortir? Est-elle encore là même si on ne l’entend pas? Que sont ces bruits bizarres, et pourquoi fait-il si noir ce soir? Tenant Lapinou, son doudou, bien serré contre elle, Cocotte questionne encore et encore, et appelle maman poule qui a, je dois dire, la patience d’une sainte et qui jamais ne se démonte.

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Pour les parents, l’heure du coucher c’est souvent le signal d’un peu de liberté retrouvée. On peut lire quelques pages tranquille sans interruption, siroter une boisson chaude sans devoir faire attention où on la pose, et même passer 5 minutes seul(e) dans la salle de bain!  Alors cet album qui met l’accent sur les petites angoisses des petits est un excellent rappel que ce qui nous semble parfois bénin ou trivial peut en fait avoir un impact beaucoup plus important qu’on ne le croit. Au final, cinq minutes de plus ou de moins, un bisou ou deux de plus, quelle affaire, ça ne nous demande pas un grand effort supplémentaire!

Si l’heure du coucher vous cause des soucis, pourquoi ne pas essayer de désamorcer la situation en l’apprivoisant plus tôt dans la journée? Il y a quelques années, on nous a offert le jeu Bisous Dodo, très sympa et simplissime. On l’a un peu mis de côté depuis, mais je suis sûre que si nous le ressortions, il aurait grand succès. Martine y consacre une rubrique qui vous explique tout dessus, c’est par là.


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Si vous êtes bricoleur ou bricoleuse, regardez les magnifiques marionnettes en feutrine faites par les bibliothécaires de St Brieuc pour la visite de Jadoul. Elles sont superbes mais ne semblent pas très compliquées à reproduire.

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Si vous ne vous sentez pas d’humeur, laissez donc vos têtes blondes s’y coller, avec des assiettes en papier, un peu de colle, de peinture, on peut faire des poulettes très convaincantes avec un tuto ici.

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Pour finir si vos enfants sont fans de poules et de poussins, quelques titres à la volée que nous aimons et qui pourraient leur plaire:

  • Le Poussin de Kimiko
  • Toute la série des P’tites Poules de deux Christians Jolibois et Heinrich pour les 3 ans et plus
  • Bébé Poussin d’Emily Bolam avec un super mini livre dans le livre que mes enfants a-do-raient.

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Émile Jadoul is a Belgian author and illustrator and I have come across quite a few of his books translated in English. Ludovic Flamant collaborated with him on several titles for very young readers. The two books I want to recommend today are great for babies and toddlers.

In the first Des livres plein la maison, we’re taken on a jolly tour of a house by a little boy and his dog. He shows us around and tells us about his books as well as his parents’s. I read this countless times with my daughter when she was a baby, because it is short, colourful and fun. It looks at books as reading tools but also as potential toys, building blocks, and even dens!

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This is a real celebration of books as material objects that need to be manipulated, played with, and not overly protected. We’ve always been quite relaxed about how books should be handled in our house. Apart from torn pages, there’s no ‘no-no’ really. We had quite a few books in plastic for the bath or for taking with us, and a smaller collection of lovely fabric ones that were great to play with. So of course Flamant and Jadoul’s playful approach is one that we endorse.

Bonne nuit, ma cocotte! although slightly longer is just as great for very young children. A little chick keeps calling her mother, finding funny excuses to make sure she does not leave her too soon. The book goes through a list of all the usual suspects: “the room’s too dark, my teddy needs a wee (and me too), what’s that scary noise? can I have a last kiss good night?”

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Mother hen’s patience is really impressive and may be something you aspire to. I remember reading this book during the day so that we’d get a chance to discuss bedtime and its routine before it happened. Maybe because we always read a story and spend a good few minutes cuddling and kissing, before turning the lights off, my kids have rarely made a big fuss about bedtime. But of course I know this is not the case for everyone. So if you are looking for additional bedtime related reads, go and read this post I wrote a while ago and good luck for tonight!

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Zouk, notre sorcière préférée

Je sais bien qu’Halloween n’est pas une fête traditionnelle pour les Français (de France) et que nous en sommes encore loin côté calendrier, mais l’école de mes enfants organise une ‘spooky night’ la veille des vacances et nous nous sommes donc replongés en famille dans des lectures saisonnières. Ce plongeon m’apporte une belle surprise à savoir que mon petit de 4 ans se révèle non seulement un fan de BD, mais aussi un amateur de  sorcières.

Zouk, la petite sorcière qui a du caractère, est le fruit d’une collaboration entre Serge Bloch et Nicolas Hubesch, et ses aventures sont aussi publiées dans la revue Les Belles Histoires. Si la patte de ses deux créateurs vous dit quelque chose, c’est que vous êtes peut être familier avec d’autres albums du prolifique Serge Bloch qui n’est autre que le ‘père’ de SamSam, Toto et Max&Lili.  Je ne peux donc pas m’empêcher de vous donner à voir, l’épique épisode de SamSam intitulé l’attaque des Pipiolis, un classique de chez classique pour les petits de 3-4 ans, à savourer si vous êtes en pleine phase de transition entre les couches et les culottes.

Mais revenons à nos moutons, Zouk est une petite sorcière pleine de peps qui ne se laisse pas marcher sur les pieds et qui fait aussi pas mal de bêtises! Dans le volume intitulé Danger Public par exemple, elle transforme une boule de neige en montagne géante, manque de faire manger ses amis par une bande de crocodiles, piranhas et araignées géantes et fonce à travers la ville au volant de la voiture de ses parents avant de s’écraser lamentablement dans un immeuble.

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Heureusement sa maman Salsepareille, la sorcière la plus forte du monde, veille au grain et n’est jamais très loin en balai magique! Et toujours et encore, après s’être fait gronder, Zouk promet de ne plus recommencer…jusqu’à la prochaine fois. Je ne sais pas ce que ma grande aimait le plus chez Zouk, peut être était-ce le fait qu’elle ne se laisse pas faire ou commander par qui que ce soit, mais clairement mon plus jeune se délecte des bêtises de Zouk. Il aime imaginer qu’il a des super pouvoirs comme elle. Parfois il me menace de sa baguette magique et semble vouloir me faire disparaître, à d’autre moments il me dit avec un grand sourire qu’il aimerait lui aussi savoir transformer les gens en gateau ou en tonneau.

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Dans tous les cas, si vous êtes en manque de tours de magie cocasses ou de lectures ou les sorcières sont bien plus sympas et moins effrayantes que d’ordinaire, je vous conseille d’essayer un de ces albums.

Et puis tant que vous y êtes faites-vous une baguette magique, ou inventez des formules rigolotes. Un petit tuto pour vous aider ici, même si en improvisant avec un pistolet à colle chaude, un bâton choisi avec soin, de la laine, et du papier coloré, on peut se faire quelque chose de très convaincant, croyez-moi!

 

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I know it is a bit early to celebrate Halloween, but my kids’ school has a spooky night coming up and this always gets them excited, so we’ve been following their hearts and reading seasonal books with Halloween and spooky themes.

The Zouk series is what I would call a cartoon for young readers, with usually 6 stories in each book. My daughter took to them when she was 6 years old, and it seems that my younger son (who’s now 4) loves them just as much.

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Zouk lives in a city that looks very much like New York with her mum and dad, and she is opiniated and full of mischief. Her faithful companions are a talking pumpkin Monsieur Potiron and her black cat Noyau. Like most children, she is spontaneous and outspoken which sometimes gets her in trouble. At the playground, when two  boys she plays with forbid her to climb on the equipment and threaten to turn her in girl’s juice, she retaliates by transforming the little bridge in a fragile structure suspended over scary crocodiles, piranhas and rats.

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In another of her adventures, Zouk sees joggers in the park, and decides that she wants to do the same. But she soon realises how tiring this is and decides to hop on her magic broom instead. But flying in this park is forbidden and a policeman close by immediately tells her so. If only the poor little witch could remember how to stop, maybe she would not end up crashing in a tree.

Zouk is a stubborn and fun character, who often needs her mum’s help to sort out the havoc she’s created and this is partly why, I suspect,  my son loves her so much. She is adventurous and disobedient but more often than not she means well. So how could you possibly remain cross with her?

In short, if you have a little mischievous wizard or witch in your house, you should definitely check Zouk’s books, or watch her happily fly on your screen.

 

 

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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