A World of Words

Reviewing children's books

Something a little different

Just a short post today! Since moving house, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down with the kids to read anything, and therefore, I don’t really have any new book reviews for their age group.

 

Kate and Harry

 
However, there are loads of children’s apps out there, and I thought I’d write about Kate and Harry build a ship today. Basically, there are five steps, each with 5 options of a different ship component. It means that you can make a submarine with fairy lights and a cannon, or a pear ship with a mermaid fin instead of propellers. Once you’ve made your ship, there’s a short sail, where you can tap Kate or Harry (whoever you’ve chosen) to get them to say hello, as well as various other things to keep engagement up.

I’d thoroughly recommend this one! If I remember rightly, it’s 69p from the Apple store, and it’s the one app I have on my phone that keeps both Caitlin and Lewis happy. It’s saved the day (and my sanity) on a fair few occasions when they were bored and bickering. One ‘go’ lasts for about a minute, so it’s perfect for making them take turns. They always end up with something different since there’s so much choice, and it can also be a way of focusing them. You can get them to make the perfect pirate ship, for example. Actually, I’ve also played this with N, my best friend’s nephew. The complete opposite from Caitlin and Lewis, N had to be encouraged to make random choices, and spent all his time making submarines!

I have a few reading apps I’ve been trying out with the kids too, but I’ll talk about these another time. Does anyone have a good app they find is fail safe with their children?

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It’s been a while…

I’ve had a really busy couple of weeks, what with moving, settling in and visiting friends. Funny how everything comes at once!

Anyway, today I’m writing about a book I found out about a few months ago. Room on the Broom was written by the current Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson; and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. I’d seen something about a theatre show based on it, and while circumstance stopped me from taking Caitlin and Lewis to go and see it, I bought the book straight away. (Since then, I also found out it was on CBeebies as part of Jackanory.)

Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

ISBN: 978-0-230-74935-1, £2.95 from Play.com

room-on-a-broom

The witch had a cat
and a very tall hat,
And long ginger hair
which she wore in a plait.
How the cat purred
and how the witch grinned,
As they sat on their broomstick
and flew through the wind.

Room on the Broom follows the witch and her cat, who are travelling on a broomstick. The witch will lose something and they’ll go to retrieve it, only to pick up another animal friend. This is until the broom gets so heavy, it snaps! The witch falls in the path of a dragon, who declares:

“‘I am a dragon, as mean as can be,
And I’m planning to have WITCH
AND CHIPS for my tea!'”

This was a really fun story to read. It’s written in rhyming quatrains and is filled with onomatopoeic rhymes that make it really satisfying to read and listen to. The best one is on the first page:

“But how the witch wailed
         and how the cat spat…”

The text was really lively, and filled with whooshes and tumblings and loud, scary roars. It was so much fun for me to do, and even better when I got the kids to act it out! The accompanying illustrations were awesome, and if the story didn’t let Caitlin and Lewis anticipate what was coming next in the story (which it did!), they engaged really well with the pictures. It’s one of those that they’ll quite happily go into the corner with to ‘read’ on their own.

Caitlin and Lewis have often referred to this book when looking for something to read – in our house it’s known as ‘the witch book’. My family and I also love it – the first time I read this to the children, it was in front of everyone and I’d been reading really fast. I got to the dragon part (quoted above), and instead of saying “witch and chips”, I came out with “witch and tits” – oops! I was laughed at for a fair bit after that one!

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It’s World Book Day!

As you may have guessed from the imaginative title of this post, it’s World Book Day today in the UK. For any readers not from around here, schools (especially primary) generally encourage children to dress as their favourite character from a book. Then, every child gets a £1 book token to spend within a certain amount of time either towards a book over £2.99, or in exchange for one of the World Book Day £1 books for that year. This year the books are:

Alfie’s Shop, by Shirley Hughes (2+)

Giraffes Can’t Dance Colouring and Puzzle Fun, by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees (3+)

Horrid Henry’s Guide to Perfect Parents, by Francesca Simon & Tony Ross (5+)

Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders: Funny Inventions, by Tony Robinson & Del Thorpe (7+)

The Diamond Brothers In… Two of Diamonds, by Anthony Horowitz (8+)

Hang in there, Bozo, by Lauren Child (9+)

Tom Gates: Best Book Day Ever! (so far), by Liz Pichon (9+)

The Chocolate Box Girls: Bittersweet, by Cathy Cassidy (11+)

I think I’ve pretty much been on all sides of this one – as a child, a (trainee) teacher and now as an aunt (although the latter is obviously not as good as being a mother!). I’ve never been brilliant at fancy dress, so as a student I’ve previously come dressed as Pippi Longstocking (although I haven’t read those books yet!), and as a teacher, dressed as a (non-green) wicked witch of the west, from The Wizard of Oz. Bad costumes aside though, the day I’m referring to when I was a trainee teacher was actually by far the best day of a really stressful training course – children were encouraged to build reading forts under the tables, hold mini-performances in groups, and generally have a lot of fun with books. I wish there were more days like that, to be honest!

In honour of World Book Day, I’m reviewing one of its eight ‘£1’ books.

Giraffes Can’t Dance, by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Reesgcdance

ISBN: 978-1-40830-370-2, £2.69 from Play marketplace

Now every year in Africa
They hold the Jungle Dance

Where every single animal
Turns up to skip and prance

A best-loved, rollicking, rhyming story – perfect for little ones.

I must admit, this book got a little overlooked, because I bought it at the same time as the Dr Seuss books I previously blogged about, and Caitlin and Lewis went straight for those. However, Caitlin loves both giraffes and dancing, so even though I’ve only read this story to her once, she thoroughly enjoyed it and still knows which book I’m talking about a few weeks on.

First off, the illustrations in this book are, I think, the best I’ve seen. When the warthogs started waltzing and the lions danced the tango, neither Caitlin nor I knew what the dances entailed, but we could see from the pictures. And as you can probably see from (my bad photo of) the front cover, the contrasting colours are amazing! Every illustration stands out and makes the story even better.

Not that the story needs to be better, though. Gerald the giraffe’s height makes dancing too awkward for him, and at the beginning of the book he finds himself being laughed at at the Jungle Dance by the other animals. However, he comes across a cricket who reminds him that:

“‘Sometimes when you’re different
You just need a different song'”

I really loved the message that this sent across. Gerald is reminded that everyone is different, and so has different strengths. It reminds me of the saying that says something like if you tell a fish to climb a tree, he looks stupid; watch him swim in water though, and he’s a genius. Children can really take away the positive messages and use it to build their self-confidence – not that they’ll be thinking of it like that, obviously!

The story is written in 4-line poems, with an ABCB rhyme scheme, which really set the rhythm well in a story about dancing. From my point of view, this made it really fun to read aloud, as well as doing all the funny voices of the laughing animals. From Caitlin’s perspective, she loved the fact that most of the story could be acted out. From gently swaying necks to rock ‘n’ rolling rhinos, there was a multitude of things for Caitlin to engage with, and she really enjoyed it.

Thoroughly recommended, for adults as much as children!

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I’ve finally read some Dr Seuss books!

Having spent far too much money recently on buying some more books for the kids, I finally got to let them pick what they wanted to read from a nice new pile (of second-hand books, mainly – my bank account is already crying a little!). I was quite surprised to find that Caitlin and Lewis both went for a Dr Seuss book; Caitlin for The Cat in the Hat and Lewis for I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!. I wasn’t surprised for any bad reasons – it’s just that I’d also bought Giraffes Can’t Dance!, one of the World Book Day books this year, and I thought Caitlin would have been straight onto that one, seeing as she loves giraffes and dancing! I think on these books they loved the illustration on the front, and might even have been a little aware of the cat in the hat – I’m not sure! The illustrations in both books were awesome and really engaging.

Cat in the hat

The Cat in the Hat, by Dr Seuss

ICRWMESWhen the Cat in the Hat steps in on the mat, Sally and her brother are in for a roller-coaster ride of havoc and mayhem.

ISBN: 0-00-715844-0, £1.74 from Play Marketplace

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I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!, by Dr Seuss

ISBN: 0-00-715851-3,  £1.74 from Play Marketplace

This celebration of the joys of reading encourages us to open our eyes and take pride in our reading, so we’ll learn lots of stuff and end up succeeding!

We started off with The Cat in the Hat, which went down really well with the children. They identified really strongly with the idea of the naughty cat and things 1 and 2, and were able to answer questions at the end about whether they would have told their mum if something like that had happened to them. For the record, they would have kept quiet! Lewis especially loved the idea of being able to carry all those items – I had great fun getting him to find certain things.

We then went on to I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!. This one started off okay – I was able to test the children on their colours at the beginning, They also liked trying to close one eye at a time! I had to stop a little for that bit, seeing as I can only see out of one eye, but they loved trying – Caitlin could only manage to close her left eye, haha! After this point, it went downhill though. Lewis lost attention, and while Caitlin was listening, she didn’t seem all that engaged with it. I think this is down to a couple of reasons. Firstly, for books aimed at their age range, I did find them fairly long, so expecting Lewis, particularly, to sit through 2 of them was probably asking a little much. Then, particularly with I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!, I thought there were possibly a few too many American references for them to grasp. They barely know about English geography, let alone being able to grasp Mississippi!

I had a quick scan of blogs talking about Dr Seuss and found this one, which gave a list of good Seuss links. There were 2 that I think Caitlin and Lewis will love – Seussville and The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!I’m babysitting for an hour or so tomorrow, so I’ll probably try them out. I’ve also recently discovered the Me Books app, which features loads of Ladybird Classics, and is really interactive. I can’t wait to see if it manages to keep them quiet!

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A visit to Bristol

I visited my best friend in Bristol over the weekend. She’s mother to the beautiful Vanessa, who is now 2 months old, and starting to get her own personality. Wonderful! Vintee (my friend) and her husband also live with his sister and nephew, who is almost 4. I haven’t asked his mother’s permission to mention his name, so I’ll just call him N. He’s a really bright boy, and so well behaved! N had a couple of his books in his bookbag, which I’ll review below.

Firstly though, someone I follow on Twitter wrote a blog post looking for book reviewers. If that’s you, take a look!

Elephant, by Petr Horáček

ISBN: 978-1-4063-4030-3, £1.51 from Amazon Marketplace

Image

He’s fun. He’s big. He’s messy. 

He’s ELEPHANT. And he’s never too busy to play.

This was a really sweet, beautifully illustrated story that held N’s attention. There was enough repetition for him to be able to anticipate what was coming (and so join in more), but then a cute little twist at the end that left him giggling. Recommended!

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There’s an Ouch in my Pouch!, by Jeanne Willis & Garry Parsons

ISBN:  978-0-1415-0003-4, £2.11 from Amazon Marketplace

Ouch in my Pouch

What is the matter with Willaby Wallaby?

Why is he sobbing, and throwing a wobbly?

Read this bonza billabong rhyme and find out just why one little wallaby is so cross.

This book wasn’t bad, although I can’t say I was the biggest fan. There’s a lot of rhyming, which is good, but at the same time, they were  very easy to trip over. At one point, the words are arranged on the page to suggest bouncing, which looks good, but wasn’t the most practical thing when I was reading it – I kept missing words! N enjoyed it, particularly the repetition of certain phrases (such as “there’s an ouch in my pouch”, obviously!). However, in parts it did seem as though he was slightly glazing over. Vintee and I got him involved when we could, but whether it was the unfamiliar Australian animals or just that the story was slightly above his level, there only seemed to  be a half-hearted enjoyment. Still, it’ll probably be just fine when he’s just that little bit older!

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