The Kookaburra Chorus

Apologies for the latest absence. I’ve been posting on Facebook but the three tiny people, the chronic sleep deprivation, and the busy-ness of work during the university semester leave very little time for much else. However, I have been working on some writing for children, which is really what I want to be doing in the long term. It’s always energising to do what you love. So *deep breath* here’s what I’ve been writing…

The Kookaburra Chorus

The Kookaburra Chorus

Those of us who live here now,
And all who’ve come before us,
Trusted one thing for our news:
The Kookaburra Chorus.

When Nelly Numbat won the first
Bush parliament election,
The kookaburras crowed that it was
On their pre-selection.

When Peter Possum built a school
For all the little ones,
The kookaburras claimed that it was
They who’d raised the funds.

The kookaburras spread good news
And filled the bush with cheer.
But also told us who was bad,
And who we had to fear.

Mrs Dingo’s youngest lad
Went out alone one day.
Looking round to find a friend
With some new game to play.

He came upon a scary snake
In Mumma Emu’s Nest.
He howled out loud to frighten off
That mean, unwanted guest.

That snake he hissed and growled and spat
And slid off to the South.
But not without an emu egg
Clutched firm within his mouth.

The kookaburras swooped in,
Having heard the noise;
They always made good stories,
Did Mrs Dingo’s Boys.

Mumma Emu ran back fast
And screamed and shrieked in fear.
“That dingo stole my egg” she cried,
And others drew in near.

“It wasn’t me!” The dingo yelped,
“A snake has got that egg!
Please come and help me rescue it.”
He tried to plead and beg.

A great kerfuffle followed then
And in the vast confusion,
The flighty flock of news-birds
Jumped to the wrong conclusion.

He wanted so to save the chick,
And tried hard to speak up,
But screeching kookaburras
Drown out a lonely pup.

He was growing mad and desperate,
Until he spied his mate.
Charlie Cockatoo could fly
And would investigate.

The cockatoo spied the snake
And squawked to the galah.
In turn she used her loudest voice
To help the news spread far.

A lyre bird heard it next
And told it to her fella,
Who told it to a lorikeet
Whose name was Arabella.

Now Arabella lorikeet
Was only very small.
She didn’t think her tiny tweet
Could make much sound at all.

But even little voices
Can spread the truth around.
The special ring of honesty
Can amplify their sound.

So Arabella shouted:
“You’ve all got the wrong guy!”
Til other birds took up the call
Across the bushland sky.

And finally they heard it –
Mumma Emu and the rest –
They hunted down the snake
And took the egg back to the nest.

Now when we want to hear the news
We have a hundred choices.
With lots of different points of view
From lots of different voices.

And sometimes it’s confusing
To know the right from wrong.
But we see a bigger picture.
We hear a brighter song.

If we have to ask more questions
Then that’s just what we do.
Because things work so much better
When we find out what is true.

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Perfect gifts

My kids were given two amazing gifts in the last couple of weeks.

Actually, they were given a lot of amazing gifts because my parents just got back from six weeks of travel and had to buy an extra suitcase to bring home all of the gifts they bought for various family members!

But two stand out as so awesome that I have to share them.

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

The first was not part of their grandparental haul. It was a gift from my brother and his fiancee. My brother is a primary school teacher and he had read this book at school and knew I would love it for the kids.

He was right.

The book has a fantastic message and is told in a way that makes it simple and easy for children to understand. It starts by saying that if you plant a carrot seed or a lettuce seed, a carrot or a lettuce will grow. It then tells of the trouble that can be caused by sowing the seeds of selfishness, and of the rewards that can come from sowing seeds of kindness.

Even with such an excellent story, the real hero of the book is the pictures. They are just exquisite and truly make this book one to cherish. The animal characters are so sweet and you can really see all the emotions on their faces.

I can see why a school teacher was drawn to this book. My children were equally taken by it.

Thanks Uncle M and Aunty S!

Classical Baby:I’m Grown Up Now:The Poetry Show

The second was from the very generous grandparents. This part of the loot was given with some level of dismissiveness. They saw it, it was cheap, they knew I’d love it. They didn’t think it would be as exciting as the other gifts. They were wrong. This may not be a pricey gift, but it is truly a jewel.

We watched it together the very first night. Now, Pickles is not the sit still and watch something type. His idea of watching television usually involves running around and around in a circle, or doing somersaults, or climbing on the couch. But for this he sat still for the whole 30 minute run time. The only time that he moved was to run and get his copy of The Owl and the Pussycat when it came on so that he could “read along”.

There are four elements that make this dvd pure magic.

The first is obviously the poems themselves. The poetry chosen is perfect introductory poetry. It is simple enough to be enjoyed by the youngest audience. Yet, the poems chosen are absolute classics by the likes of Frost, Shakespeare, and (inevitably) Lear. They are wonderful, wonderful poems.

Secondly, the actors (including John Lithgow, Andy Garcia, Gwyneth Paltrow and Susan Sarandon) chosen to read the poems have beautiful reading voices and read the poems with just the right intonation and rhythm. You can really tell that they love the poetry that they are reading.

Thirdly, the animations. The animations are funny, beautiful, and soothing in equal parts. They work to hold the attention of the little viewer, while at the same time calming them. Pickles had a much smoother than usual transition to bedtime after watching this.

Finally, there are children interviewed about the poems and about poetry more generally. This is probably my favourite part of the dvd. The children are just gorgeous and their enthusiasm for the poetry is simply infectious. I think it’s great for kids to see other kids who enjoy poetry like this.

The whole dvd is just sublime. It was a treasure of a find, and I will be buying more copies to give as presents. If you have a little person, or know a little person, I highly recommend this as a Christmas gift.

Thanks Nanny and Papa!

You can find them at Amazon through the affiliate links below:

    

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Top 7 Books About Friendship

Friendship

This week’s Booktober list celebrates all types of friendship in picture books. One of the most wonderful thing about children is they can make friends with anyone. Things that may be barriers for adults, such as whether the friend is actually a person at all, are not a problem for kids. These books about friendship look at that innocent joy.

1. Corduroy by Don Freeman

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I remember absolutely loving this book as a kid. It really made me feel something. My heart ached for both Corduroy and the little girl when her mum said she couldn’t have him because he was missing a button. My heart leaped with joy when she came back for him the next day. I still feel like that when I’m reading it now, and I see those same emotions reflected on Pickles’ face as we read it together.

Corduroy thinks he needs to find his missing button in order for Lisa to accept him as a friend. He is desolate when he can’t find one. But in the end, she comes back for him anyway:

“You must be a friend,” said Corduroy. “I’ve always wanted a friend.”
“Me too!” said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.

Pickles always insists on having a big hug himself after this heartwarming ending. I love that it shows the friendship between a child and a teddy bear. I told everything to my teddy bears when I was little. Pickles already refers to the massive pile of stuffed animals that he keeps on his bed collectively as his friends. He loves this story and I still do too.

2. The Very Itchy Bear by Nick Bland

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Last week in my Top 7 Books in Rhyme I included The Very Cranky Bear, so I wasn’t sure whether or not to include his itchy self in this list. I couldn’t go passed it though. The friendship between a bear and a flea is a very special friendship indeed.

Flea bites Bear to say hello. Despite the friendliness of the motivation, Bear is not impressed. He doesn’t much like being bitten. So he jumps into the water and flicks Flea off of his fur. But he realises that he is better off with Flea in his life just in time to save him from a hungry bird.

The ending is the greatest. There is a picture of the big Bear reading a book to the tiny Flea. The text reads:

This is Flea
and this is Bear.
Together they go everywhere.

It’s great for opening up a discussion about how our friends don’t need to look like us. Sometimes you can find friendship in the most unexpected places.

The book has Nick Bland’s characteristically wonderful rhyming style, and fantastic, funny, bright pictures. We always love this bear.

3. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

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This book makes me choke up a bit every time I read it. One time when I was reading it to Pickles and pregnant with Pords, the hormones and sentiment got to me and I sobbed to my husband: “That’s me. I’m the tree.”

The Giving Tree tells the story of a boy and a tree. When the boy is young, he spends all his free time with the tree. The tree loved the boy and gave him everything of itself. As time goes by, the boy grows and spends less and less time with the tree. But the tree goes on loving the boy and giving everything it has to make the boy happy. His happiness is the tree’s happiness.

The pictures and text of this book are simple but everything about it is beautiful. Of course the story can be a metaphor for many relationships, but at its essence I also love the fact that it tells the story of a friendship between a boy and a tree. It is a pure, joyful friendship. I hope that my children are able to find friends in nature too.

This book is a true classic. If you’ve never read it, stop reading this right now, go to the library and borrow it! You won’t regret it.

4. Slinky Malinki Catflaps by Lynley Dodd

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Slinky Malinki is one of the recurring cat characters in Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary universe and a particular favourite in our cat-loving household.

In this book, Slinky Malinki squeezes out of the catflap and calls out into the night to see who is about. Various friends appear from around the place and they have a good old catch up, until the villainous Scarface Claw (Pickles’ hero) comes to spoil the party.

I love the description of the group of cat friends “hobnobbing happily, ten in a row.” The cats are all different shapes and sizes and colours, but they are just content sitting in one another’s company. It gives you that feeling of what it’s like to catch up with a group of good friends.

Like all of Lynley Dodd’s books, this is an excellent read-aloud rhyme and the pictures are playful and attractive.

5. Little Pip and the Rainbow Wish by Elizabeth Baguley and Caroline Pedler

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When I was pregnant with Pickles, my husband and I referred to him as “Pip” and we often still use it as his nickname. So when we saw this book, we just had to get it. He has always loved that the mouse has his name. He loves it even more at the moment because there are dandelions in it and he is going through a dandelion picking phase. So it’s on high reading rotation at our place.

This book is especially good for shy kids; kids who tend to stand at the edges of things for fear of rejection. Little Pip thinks he needs to capture the rainbow in order for Milly and Spike to be his friends, but in trying and failing to catch it alongside them, he realises that they are his friends even without the rainbow.

It’s also a good book for talking about feelings. There are good visual prompts to ask your child how Pip is feeling at various times as his emotions change. You can talk about how it feels to be excluded or included. You can talk about your child’s own experience with friendships, exclusion, or inclusion.

The pictures are delightful, and there are shiny, shimmery bits in this book that kids just love. The night sky on the last page is particularly impressive and I love the line: “the night sky burst into a brilliant sparkling of stars.”

6. Friends by Helen Oxenbury

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I’ve often said on this blog that books with minimal text, or no words at all, are often the best books for young children. That’s what the research tends to suggest. It’s also what I’ve found personally when reading to my two little ones. Often when there is too much text, we just ignore it anyway and make up our own stories (the exception always being rhyme, of which I can never get enough!)

This book by the very talented Helen Oxenbury is a picture book in it’s purest form; it only has pictures. This means when I “read it” to my kids, the stories I tell and the discussions we have are almost always linked to their own lives. This is great for their learning and development. It is also great for the ongoing building of our relationship and bonding.

The book is a series of illustrations of a baby with various animal friends. I love to talk to my children about how they can develop friendships with animals. We talk about the qualities that an animal might have that would make them a good friend.

The pictures are absolutely the gorgeous. The baby is so happy and relaxed around the animals. The expression on the animals faces is sometimes slightly more alarmed but they all go along with him hugging them, or picking them up. I particularly love the expression on the cat’s face as the baby falls asleep against its fur.

This book is really just a delight.

7. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and William Nicholson

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To balance out the wordless book, I’m including this one which has lots more words than the other books on the list. But it is a great one for showing the power of strong friendship.

Like Corduroy, it shows the love between a child and a stuffed toy. The little boy loves the velveteen rabbit ferociously. They do everything together. When the boy gets very ill, the rabbit is of great comfort to him, but the child’s doctor says he must be disposed of when the boy is well. All ends happily for the rabbit though, as the friendship between he and the boy mean that he can now be a real rabbit.

“Wasn’t I Real before?” asked the little Rabbit.
“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one.”

There are parts of this book that are quite sad, but it is a great one for talking about unconditional love and friendship.


 

So that’s my seven for this week. But it would be remiss of me not to add in The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. I have read bits of this to my kids at various times of their life, but we haven’t managed to get the whole way through yet as it is still a bit long. That’s why it’s not in the list, but I’m looking forward to them being old enough to appreciate the perfect friendship between Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin.

Pooh and Me

What other books would you add to the list? What is your favourite literary friendship?


MamaMummyMum

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Top 7 Books in Rhyme

Hey Diddle Dum

For the third week of Booktober, I have a compiled a list of our Top 7 books in rhyme, or poetry books. This was always going to be the hardest one for me to narrow down. I love poetry and I think rhyming picture books are just the greatest.

I agonised over what would make the final cut. It’s amazing how many great poems there are to read to kids. Early childhood is probably the time in most people’s lives when they are exposed to the most poetry. From songs and nursery rhymes, to the multitude of amazing books in rhyme. There are definitely some masterpieces that have been unfairly missed from this too short list.

But, in the end, I’m pretty happy with this list because it represents the books that are most special to us.

1. The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear and Jan Brett

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Anyone who regularly reads this blog (hi mum!) could probably have guessed this one was going to make the list. The Owl and the Pussycat was my favourite poem as a child and is my favourite to read (or sing) to my children. Pickles already knows it pretty much by heart.

The lyrical quality of Edward Lear’s writing is hypnotic. You can get lost in his words. And what wonderful words they are. Some of them are completely made up but they all fit together perfectly.

The story itself is great too. A sweet tale of love between an owl and a pussycat.

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

The board book version that we have is illustrated by Jan Brett. The illustrations are really magical. You see the owl and the pussycat adrift on their boat on top of the water. You also see all of the sea life under the water.

Pickles can’t get enough of the pictures. He particularly likes the fact that the owl and the pussycat have a fish in a bowl on their boat who escapes right at the end to join her love in the ocean. He loves to find her on each page.

The pictures tell their own separate but related story, which is always a wonderful thing in picture books as it opens up ongoing exploration and discussion of the book.

2. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

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To be honest, this whole list could have been all Julia Donaldson books. Her books are all wonderful. But, oh, Room on the Room! Could this be the perfect picture book?

The book tells the story of a witch and her cat. They are quite content, just the two of them, riding around on their broom. One stormy day, the wind blows off the witch’s hat and so begins a series of events that sees the pair meet some new friends and face one terrifying foe.

I love this story because the witch is always happy to make room for new friends. Sometimes if I see Pickles determinedly heading outside on an adventure into the backyard, I will ask him: “Is there room on the broom for a mummy like me.” Invariably he will look delighted and shout “Yes!” And so off we’ll go together.

This was the first story he knew well enough to be able to talk about in detail. It is a great one for testing memory because I can ask him who found the witch’s hat, or wand, or bow. I am always surprised at how well he can remember.

Donaldson’s rhymes are always terrific. This is so much fun to read aloud. Scheffler’s pictures, too, are delightful. He is really able to bring the characters to life.

Just as with another one of Donaldson and Scheffler’s classics, The Gruffalo, this book also has an animated version which to date is the only “movie” that Pickles has watched all the way through. He may not have seen many but he’s seen this one dozens of times. It’s fabulous.

3. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

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I have had the rhyme from this book stuck in my head since primary school. I kid you not.

That is a lot of years; one severe case of ear worm.

I’ll be just be cooking a meal when suddenly I’ll have the urge to say: “Cinderella on the stairs I spy the three bears.” Or Pords will be crying and I’ll be thinking: “Baby Bunting fast asleep I spy Bo-Peep.” Or I’ll be asked the key question at a really important job interview and all I’ll be able to think is: “Wicked witch over the wood I spy Robin Hood.”

I really don’t know why this has stuck in my head the way it has for so many years, except for the fact that it’s so simple yet effective, and I read it over and over as a child. Now, as I read it over and over to my own children and I don’t even have to look at the words. I know the whole thing by heart.

The words aren’t even the best part of this book though. There is a built in game of I Spy in the pictures. So kids need to try and find the character to be spied in each picture. For older children this is a snap, but for toddlers, especially those who haven’t read it fifty times already, it can be challenging and fun.

The use of well known nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters makes it even more amusing for children. Pickles is going through a bit of a three bears craze a the moment so he especially likes the pages that feature them. These inclusions prompt further discussions about other books and stories that we’ve shared and make the book even more interactive and engaging.

This book has stood the test of time and it’s easy to see why. A definite must for sharing with toddlers.

4.  The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

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Without fail, the ending of this book makes me smile every single time.

Four animal friends want to take shelter from a rainy day inside a snug cave. Unfortunately, a very cranky bear has already had the same idea. Three of the friends believe they have the solution by giving the bear the attributes of themselves of which they are most proud. They all think of the fourth friend, the sheep, as rather plain. However, in the end it is the sheep that has the answer when she makes a pillow for the bear from her wool.

“Well, thank you very much,” said Bear and soon he fell asleep. Maybe he was dreaming of a plain, but thoughtful sheep.

See, I’m smiling again. Well, let’s face it, if you can see me that’s a wee bit creepy. Hopefully you can’t in fact see me. Trust me, there’s a smile.

The book is a sheer pleasure. The pictures are vibrant and appealing. The clever use of rhyme makes it easy and enjoyable to read. It’s fun to do voices for all the different animals. There is everything to like about this book. Even better is that the cranky bear also features in other books. He’s itchy, hungry, noisy, and brave. He’s always a favourite in our house.

5. I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Theo LeSieg

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My mum, who spent a long career working with young children, reported this as a favourite with pre-schoolers. She said that in one particular child care centre that she worked at, as soon as the children saw her they would run over and demand it be read. Part of that, no doubt, was that she has an exceptionally marvellous voice for reading children’s books aloud. The other part is the magic of Seuss (writing here as Theo LeSieg). It seems that even as he becomes dated he is timeless.

One of the magical things about Seuss books is their ability to get stuck in your head, much as a song might. When my toddler is being fussy about eating I often find myself thinking (and sometimes saying!) “Hay, just hay two times a day is all [you’ll] get to eat!” Such is the fabulous cadence of Seuss.

Particularly loveable about this book is that it follows the imaginings of a young child. The ideas might be silly, but the child is nothing but earnest. Earnest nonsense is nothing if not delightful. You can talk to your own children about what it might be like to have duck feet, or a long nose, or tail, or deer horns, or a whale spout on their head. Your children might imagine other additions that would be fun to have.

It is a perfect book for reading aloud and for sharing over and over again.

6. Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach by Alison Lester

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My husband and I once spent a great weekend away with dear friends of ours at Waratah Bay, which happens to be the home of Noni the Pony. So we feel a special connection with her.

This book shows the pure joy of a day spent at the beach with friends. In fact, often after reading it Pickles will say: “Go beach now” and that’s exactly how I feel too. The happiness of the characters leaps off the page through the bouncing rhyme and the gorgeous pictures, and just makes me want to go beach now.

Because we love to spend time at the beach, this book is a really good one for us in terms of incorporating connections to things that we have done. As I often stress, reading the actual text in the book is only part of reading with your children. Talking about the story, the characters, and the pictures is also key in terms of helping with your child’s language and other social development. Choosing books that things that your child loves can be useful in promoting this contextual discussion.

There are many things to love about this book. I love the special friendship between the pony, the cat, and the dog. I also love that the cows are referred to as “the ladies next door.” The whole thing is really adorable. Perfect for sharing.

7. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot and Axel Scheffler

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This is a collection of poems rather than one story like the others on this list, but it is one of our favourites. Before Cats The Musical there were the T.S. Eliot poems in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. It has such wonderful characters: Skimbleshanks, Macavity, Mr Mistoffelees, and all the others.

This is a great book to have if you want to introduce your children to poetry at a young age. You can pick it up and just read one of the poems at a time, or as many as you like. I used to read them all the time to my babies as newborns.

Each of the poems tells a fantastic story. Some funny, some poignant, all a joy to read. They are especially great if you love cats or have cats as pets.

I think at its heart, this book is also about the magic of things. Children love elves and fairies and so on, but they also love to consider the lives of animals. It is not such a leap for them to imagine that the cat that spends all day asleep on the floor might at night have some wildly adventurous life.

Our copy of the book is illustrated by Axel Scheffler, who has already appeared in this list for his work on Room on the Broom. His quirky and amusing pictures are a perfect pairing for these poems.

So there’s my list. What others would you add?

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Our Top 7 Dinosaur Books

For my first “Booktober” list, I am sharing our Top 7 Dinosaur Books. We love dinosaurs. And obviously we love books. So dinosaur books are the greatest.

1.Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson and David RobertsDSCF4752

Julia Donaldson is an absolute favourite in our house. Her rhymes are always a rollicking ride. There are generally scary bits and funny bits. In this one, I love the line:

And they muttered, “What a shame that bridges aren’t invented yet.”

Pickles doesn’t think that bit is as funny as I do. I think that’s a good sign in a children’s book. I enjoy reading it over and over, which is handy since he requests it over and over.

In Donaldson’s books, the baddies usually get their comeuppance. Here, the bad guys are mean tyrannosauruses, who like to pick on the gentle duckbills:

And they shouted, “Up with hunting!” and they shouted, “Up with war!” And they shouted, “Up with bellyfuls of duckbill dinosaur!”

Incidentally, this is kind of fun to yell out when you’re feeling grumpy. Teaching little people to vent their anger by stomping around like a tyannosaurus isn’t such a bad idea. There are definitely much worse things they could be doing.

The book tells the story of a little duckbill dinosaur egg that ends up in a tyrannosaurus nest. The little duckbill is sad that he is such an outsider in what he thinks is his real family. Until he finds out who he really is.

Books for kids are about so much more than teaching reading. This one has a great message, dinosaurs, and lots of talking and learning points. We love it.

2. Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben CortDSCF4765

Pickles loves this book, but I think he will love it even more when he has truly discovered pre-school humour. Underpants. Hilarious.

This book answers the question of how the dinosaurs were wiped out. They got too obsessed with underpants and went to war over them. I’m pretty sure it’s historically accurate. Even if it’s not, the book is clever, funny, and colourful.

The amusing pictures are a particular highlight of this book. Without reading the text you can tell some wonderful stories with this one. Pickles also likes to find all of the things that the little boy at the end has in his room that are the same as things we have. It’s always fun when you can make connections like that.

I think this book will be one that can be enjoyed from different perspectives over a number of years.

3. How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen and Mark TeagueDSCF4776

This book is a very sweet one to read with your own little dinosaur. It talks about some of the ways a small child can be defiant or infuriating during the day, and then about all of the moments of love that more than make up for the rest.

Of course, Pickles denies ever doing any of the naughty stuff. And to be honest, he’s right for the most part. Maybe we’re in for more of it as he gets older… hopefully he’s not learning anything too bad from the book! But, he is fascinated by the behaviour of the “dinosaurs” in the book, and he always has a big smile when it becomes clear that the mums and dads will always love the little dinosaurs, no matter how cross they get about certain things.

The book has the secret ingredients of rhyme, repetition, and great pictures. I particularly get a kick out of how well dressed and put together the mums and dads are the whole way through. That to me seems the greater fiction than the children looking like dinosaurs. But, the children as dinosaur element is entertaining for little dinosaur fans, and the proper names of the dinosaurs are hidden in the pictures to sneak in a bit of extra learning and fun.

4. Peppa Pig Stomp and Roar by Neville Astley and Mark BakerDSCF4781

I’d always rather my kids be playing outside. Or building Lego. Or reading books. But that’s not to say that Peppa Pig hasn’t saved my sanity on multiple occasions. She brings five minutes of joy to Pickles’ day and five minutes of peace to mine. We love that little pig.

So when we discovered she was in a book (with dinosaurs no less) and buttons along the side to press, it goes without saying that we were very excited.

The story follows an episode of the television show in which Miss Rabbit drives all the regulars to explore Grampy Rabbit’s Dinosaur Park. The pictures are big and bright, and the noisy buttons along the side add an extra element of interaction.

It’s also very fun to do your best Brian Blessed as Grampy Rabbit impression.

5. This Little Dinosaur by LadybirdDSCF4743

This is a great book for babies. Board books are perfect for teaching little hands to turn pages. This book is also short, has big, bright, bold pictures, as well as parts to touch and feel, making it attractive for the very youngest of readers. At eight months, Pords will sit on her own and look through this book quite happily.

It has fun rhymes to match the pictures and it asks the reader to think of a name for a dinosaur at the end. This makes it fun for toddlers and so for us, it is a great one to read when both Pickles and Pords want to read a book at the same time because it can be enjoyed by babies and toddlers.

6. Dinosaurs! A Prehistoric Touch-And-Feel Adventure by Jeffrey Burton and John Bendall-BrunelloDSCF4526 (1)Before he could talk, if we asked Pickles which book he wanted to read he would invariably roar. Not that we needed to ask. This touch-and-feel book about dinosaurs was his absolute favourite. For a little person the book is just so interesting. Aside from the fact that there are dinosaurs, which on its own is a huge draw card, this is book is an amazingly interactive, tactile experience. There are things to feel, and flaps to lift, there are things to turn, and there is a big pop out dinosaur. The pictures are bright and colourful, and the text is written in simple rhyme.

Looking at it from a parent’s perspective, it is also great for language development. There is simple, descriptive vocabulary that is enhanced by the touch-and-feel aspects of the book. So, for example, children can see the dinosaur’s long neck stretch, as the page folds open, or they can run their fingers along the bumpy scales. There is also more complex vocab in the names of lots of different dinosaurs. I learnt a thing or two myself, although I could still brush up on pronunciation!

It is sure to be a hit with any older babies or toddlers.

7. That’s Not My Dinosaur… by Fiona Watt and Rachel WellsDSCF4498I’m not generally a huge fan of overly structured sensory play. Mainly because I’m a bit rubbish at it. But I make an exception when it comes to books.

You might have noticed that several books on this list have an element of touch and feel. Touchy feely books are perfect for engaging babies and toddlers. Making sure reading time is fun is a great way to nurture an early love for books.

Touch and feel books are also brilliant for language development. Learning what the word “rough” means, is much easier if while you are hearing the word, you are also feeling something that is rough.

Children hear and they forget. They see and they remember. They do and they understand. The more you can get them involved in the reading process, the more they will get out of it.

There are a whole range of books in this series and we have a lot of them. They’re all great, but what little kid doesn’t especially love dinosaurs!?

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Booktober

I’ve decided that this month we’ll celebrate Booktober. Nothing too out of the ordinary around our house. Just a bit more of the usual hooray for books.

Specifically though, every Sunday I’ll have a list of seven of our favourite books with a particular theme. This will mean that we’ll end up with slightly more than a book a day for a month. If you want to start reading more with your little people, or are looking for new books to explore with your little readers, you’ll hopefully be able to find some inspiration in there somewhere. Or you could just take the whole list to the library and set the challenge of reading at least a book a day every day for a month.

Tomorrow we’ll kick off with our top 7 dinosaur books. It was always going to be dinosaurs. We’re a bit dino-crazy. If anyone has suggestions for other possible lists, please let me know.

Before we get underway with the books, I thought I’d re-share my post about why you should read to little children. It can usually be found over in our Reading Corner, along with an ever growing list of reviews of our favourite books.

READINGISFUNWhy you should read to little children

Lots of parenting advice that I have come across online, and even in published books, seems to be based on personal experience or anecdotal evidence. Never sing your child to sleep because my cousin’s friend’s mum sang him to sleep when he was a baby and now he’s 45 and she still needs to go around to his house every night to sing his bedtime lullaby. You don’t need to breastfeed your baby because my boss was only ever bottlefed and now she speaks six languages, is an Olympic athlete, runs a company with a multi-billion dollar turnover, and is just the nicest darn person you’ll ever meet.

That sort of thing.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this sort of sharing and learning. No doubt it has been pivotal for countless generations. The problem with this in our information age is that the wisdom is not just passed to us from those who know us best. Anyone who has ever had a child, or known a child, or been a child, seems to be able to call themselves a “parenting expert”. There are so many parenting experts and they are all shouting for attention, with confusingly different opinions on what is best.

Well, I’m definitely not a parenting expert. On a scale of expert to whatever the opposite of expert is, I’m definitely closer to the latter end. But I’m big on evidence-based policy. If a government is going to devote a lot of time and money to a particular issue, I want them to be basing those decisions on the results of rigorous research. Similarly, if I’m going to use a significant portion of the time that I get to spend with my babies while they’re small in a particular way, I want to make sure that the evidence supports that decision. I’m not going to spend everyday reading and re-reading picture books if there are better things I could be doing with my time.

So, I’ve read through some of the peer-reviewed research. I don’t claim this to be anywhere near an exhaustive review of the literature on this topic, but I did discover some good pointers so I’ll give you a bit of a summary. (Reading the whole articles was really interesting – I’ve listed the sources at the end in case you want to have a look at them!)DSCF4634

There was broad agreement in the literature that reading to babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers is really important for a massive range of skills and attributes beyond language and literacy, to areas like problem solving, relationships, and social confidence. There is this from Murray and Egan:

Reading to young children has long been recognized as an important precursor to language and literacy development. It encourages vocabulary development, positive attitudes to reading as well as strengthening emotional ties between the child and parent. Reading to pre-school-age children can make starting school easier for them as well as providing a head start in literacy… Reading to young children also helps them to develop social skills such as listening and interacting with an adult. Pp.303-304

As well as this from Nyhout and O’Neill:

Exposure to rich narratives at an early age may be important for a range of different abilities, such as children’s later ability to build rich accounts of past events and their information recall, social functioning, and broader linguistic and cognitive abilities. p.128

However, an important part of what I discovered was that the key was not that children were read to, or rather read at, but that they were allowed and encouraged to be active participants, even when they were not yet able to speak. For example, Makin wrote:

There is a danger that parents and early childhood educators may accept the importance of reading to children but do so in ways that may have less than optimal results… If children are physically restrained or forced to remain on an adult’s lap for the time the adult deems appropriate, the experience is unlikely to be positive despite the physical closeness. p.275

Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • Books with no words are great
  • When a book has words, steering away from the text is great
  • Ask questions, point things out, relate stuff back to your child’s own life
  • If your little person is really not interested in reading right this second, don’t force the issue
  • Try to find books and reading styles that make the experience enjoyable for both of you
  • Start as early as possible in your child’s life and read often

Reading to my babies is one of the best parts of my day every day. I hope that by sharing the books we love, I can share that joy around. Happy reading!

Sources

Farrant B and Zubrick S (2013) Parent-Child Book Reading Across Early Childhood and Child Vocabulary in the Early School Years: Findings From the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children First Language 33(3) 280-293.

Fletcher K and Holmes W (2015) The Role of Book Familiarity and Book Type on Mothers’ Reading Strategies and Toddlers’ Responsiveness. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 15(1): 73-96.

Makin L (2007) Literacy 8-12 Months: What Are Babies Learning? Early Years: An International Research Journal 26(3) 267-277.

Murray A and Egan S (2014) Does Reading to Infants Benefit Their Cognitive Development at 9-Months-Old? An Investigation Using a Large Birth Cohort Survey Child Language Teaching and Therapy 30(3) 303-315.

Nyhout A and O’Neill D (2013) Mothers’ Complex Talk When Sharing Books With Their Toddlers: Book Genre Matters First Language 33(2) 115-131.

Reese E, Sparks A and Leyva D (2010) A Review of Parent Interventions for Preschool Children’s Language and Emergent Literacy Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 10(1) 97-117.

Advice From The Heart
A Bit Of Everything



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Top 7 Dads from Children’s Books

In my part of the world, tomorrow is Father’s Day. In honour of that occasion, I have created my list of the top 7 dads from children’s books. Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments! Who is your favourite father from a kids’ book? Have I missed out on a great dad from children’s literature?

7. Father William (from the poem recited by Alice in her adventures in Wonderland)

He may have been old, but that didn’t mean he lacked wit:

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”
– You Are Old, Father William – Lewis Carroll

6. The Gruffalo (from the book of the same name, and the gripping sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child)

That’s right, it turns out that the big, bad Gruffalo is a pretty good dad. He’s protective, but he’s still raising a kid who is adventurous and brave. He’s also a sweet reminder that sometimes the sound of daddy’s snores is the safest sound in the world:

The footprints led to the Gruffalo cave where the Gruffalo’s child was a bit less brave. The Gruffalo’s child was a bit less bored. And the Gruffalo snored… And snored, and snored.
– The Gruffalo’s Child

5. Mr Darling (father of Wendy, John and Michael of Peter Pan fame)

The book may have been about flying away to a magical land where there were no parents to deal with at all, but Mr Darling certainly loved his family:

Mrs Darling: There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before one’s self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.
Michael: Where did he put them?
Mrs Darling: He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… He does. And that is why he is brave.
– Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

4. Baloo the Bear (the loveable bear father-figure from The Jungle Book, you may remember him from the Disney adaptation)

Baloo the Bear helps a pack of wolves to raise Mowgli, a human boy, and teaches him the law of the jungle. He is a reminder that being a good father isn’t all about biology. One of his maxims says:

Oppress not the cubs of the stranger, but hail them as Sister and Brother,
For though they are little and fubsy, it may be the bear is their mother.
– The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling

3. Big Nutbrown Hare (from Guess How Much I Love You)

My husband actually thinks Big Nutbrown Hare is a bit of a jerk because he always has to one-up his son. I love this competitiveness because it reminds me of my own Dad and it’s clear that even though he always has to win, he has a great big heart of gold:

Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves. He leaned over and kissed him good night. Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile, “I love you right up to the moon – and back.”
– Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney

2. Caractacus Pott (Jeremy and Jemima’s father, inventor of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)

Aside from being a pretty awesome inventor, anyone who gives the following advice to his children has got to be an excellent dad:

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.
– Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Ian Fleming

1. William (Father of Danny the Champion of the World)

Through the eyes of Danny, William is “the most marvellous and exciting father any boy ever had.” Roald Dahl has crafted a truly special dad:

I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I’ve also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It’s sure to be a phony.
– Danny the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl

Happy Father’s Day!

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