Never Touch a Monster, Rosie Greening and Stuart Lynch

A quick one today.

We got a great baby/toddler book at the library this week. I don’t usually go looking at the board books because I figure we have enough of them at home, so I’m glad Miss 3 had a little peruse. If you need a break from the “That’s Not My…” series, keep reading, this is your answer.

‘Never Touch a Monster‘ has everything 1-3 year olds want in a book. Firstly, it is a board book, that is a key feature for this age group. It also has fun, vibrant pictures, plus each page has a tactile element for them to feel, plus the words have rhyme and rhythm.

I have done a quick search online and have discovered that there are two other titles in this series: ‘Never Touch a Dinosaur‘, and ‘Never Touch a Dragon‘.

They would make terrific presents for either a boy or girl under 2 yrs.

Aaron Blabey

If you’ve been out of the Australian children’s literature scene for a few years I can catch you up in two words: Aaron Blabey.

His range of, amazingly illustrated, books appeal to many children and contain some of the most popular themes among the 3-9-year-old crowd: toilets, unicorns, pugs and huge, evil belly button fluff. Some of them also touch on deeper, more mature themes such as friendship, quirky personalities, self-esteem, honesty, and kindness.

Some of our favourites include:

Busting

We were gifted this and it made us laugh out loud. It is a book every child – nay, every person – can relate to: finding a toilet in time. The text is really funny. This is a great gift for any child under Grade 2.

 

Thelma the unicorn

Given the current trend for putting unicorns on everything marketed at 5-year-old girls, you might be skeptical about another unicorn flavoured item. Don’t be fooled. This is very entertaining as well as having a sweet life lesson, about being yourself, that many little girls and boys will benefit from.

 

The Bad Guys

This is a series of graphic novels that will most probably suit a 6-10 yr old. I was super glad my boy read copies from the library; he loved them and as such he demolished each episode (book) in about 10 minutes.

 

 

 

The dreadful fluff

This is another very funny book, for your primary schooler, that comes with a lovely little life lesson. The main character, Serenity Strainer, transforms from a prim, perfect ballerina into a rambo, baby-protecting, heroine.  As I have mentioned in other posts, there is a significant disparity in the representation of females to males in children’s literature, especially when it comes to females being a strong, capable and in charge. This story is an outlier.

The Brothers quibble

We haven’t had this from the library in probably a year, and it might be time to re-borrow it. We have a little brother who is getting loving, but quite aggressive, attention from a certain older sibling who doesn’t understand that one day this little brother is going to turn around and start giving it back.

Noah dreary

What I love about this book is that there isn’t the traditional happy ending. While Noah learns his lesson and stops complaining, not everything gets wrapped up in a shiny red ribbon as it does in some kids books.

 

 

 

If you want to check out any of his other books visit his website.

 

A Patch from Scratch, by Megan Froward

I got to take my two big kids, plus a friend, to a fantastic after school reading time at our local library last week featuring this terrific book. A special reading time was put on for primary schoolers for national reading hour last Thursday, and it was a very memorable experience.

Our clever local library children’s services coordinator had about 20 brand new copies of the book, so the kids could each follow along as she read aloud. ‘A Patch from Scratch‘ is a very well designed fiction book that could almost be a non-fiction book. The story follows a family as they start their own little productive garden in a suburban setting.

There is enough detail in the book that a family could follow the steps and do it themselves. From building a chicken coop, composting, planting and harvesting. The whole thing is very ‘River Cottage’, as they involve their community and share their produce.

It is a great book for those considering embarking on their own green adventure. It helps you see that even if you have only a small patch you can grow something. Kids will love this book and I think it’s because most kids love the idea of growing something themselves. Even as an adult the process of working to grow and eat something from your very own garden does something to a person, maybe it builds your confidence, or balances your soul, or brings you back to basics, I’m not really sure how to define it. Whatever it is, kids crave this feeling too, and this book could give you the kickstart your after.

‘Crankenstein’, ‘Are We There Yet?’ and ‘The Advetures of Beekle’, by Dan Santat

We stumbled across a fantastic author/illustrator this week, Dan Santat. 

 

Previously we have read ‘Crankenstein‘, which he collaborated on with Samantha Berger. A great book for helping kids understand crankiness in all it’s ‘glory’. The pictures are different to lots of other kids books. They have a darkness about them which fits the story so well. 

But this week we got two of his solo creations and we have been really impressed. 

 

The big boy in our house read ‘Are We There Yet?‘ first and gave a rave review:  “It’s REALLY good”. I can see why he would like it. As kids we all remember being in the car for what felt like decades. This story follows a family’s long car trip to Grandma’s house and reflects on the way time passes when things seem boring.

While the pictures are interesting enough to younger children, older kids will probably get more out of the subtlety in this book. The images are truly captivating. You will want to read it several times to appreciate the detail and artistry.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend’ won the Caldecott Medal in 2015 as the most distinguished American picture book for the year. It is a beautifully illustrated tale of an ‘unimaginary’ friend seeking out a place to belong. The creativity of the character design and the use of colour in the book really appealed to my kids – and to me. It is so great to have such wonderful books to share with your kids that you also really enjoy reading.

 

 

Budgeting the Minutes

A few weeks ago I posted a quote that I have been reading over and over to motivate me in my reading goals. Part of that quote encourages me to organise and budget “the minutes and hours of the day” so that reading to the kids is included among all the other things that need to happen. It got me thinking about the ways I have tried to do that and how I could improve.

It can be really difficult to make sure that each child has some form of ‘reading’ each day. I often feel that our day is generally open for us to fill with a variety of activities, but by the time you add up all the simple tasks to be completed each day, time does get away from me. (When did ‘second breakfast’ become etched into our family schedule?)

So in an effort to make reading a daily occurrence, I have tried to follow a few self imposed guidelines. I try to say ‘yes’ when they ask me to read, I try to establish habits or routines that perpetuate reading times and I try to be creative and squeeze books into the cracks of time that appear in the day.

Years ago I heard or read of parents that say ‘yes’ every time their child asks them to read a book. I loved the idea because of the obvious message it sends to the child: You are important, and reading to you is something I love to do more than anything else. So I have tried this, because is there really anything sweeter that a child bringing a book to you and asking you to read it?

I do find it really tough. When the house is a mess, the dishes aren’t done, laundry needs to be hung out and I want to churn through my chores, but a kid wants me to read, it is very tempting to say no. But the reality is the house can be cleaned later and the dirty dishes and wet clothes aren’t going to be disappointed because I put them on hold.

Having said all that there are times when children have had to read to themselves because Mum was busy toileting a sibling or cooking dinner, and that is just fine too. It’s good for kids to read books to themselves even before they know how to read. Plus, if we have time built into our routine for stories, I can say no sometimes knowing a chance will be coming later in the day.

Creating reading routines or habits has been a real blessing in my life as a parent. It means that the kids expect a story at a certain time. Over the years the routines shift as mealtimes, nap times and betimes shift. For example, before the baby was on solids lunch time was a locked in 20 mins of stories. As I made lunch the girls would go collect a pile of stories for me to read to them as they ate. But now that I’m usually feeding the baby at lunch time it doesn’t really happen. Instead we have started having reading time “on wa-wa’s bed” before bed time. Again they expect it, they collect the books they want and it’s 20 mins or so of reading.

Another habit that has helped save me the ‘mummy guilts’ is reading before the TV gets turned on. This is especially good on the school holidays or lazy afternoons. The kids want to watch TV, and I’m not against it, but first they do some reading. I have found that they will whizz through the books, but at least they are doing it.

We have also found little ways to squeeze reading into the cracks of time that appear in the day. If we are going on a car trip for more than 30 mins I might ask if anyone wants to bring a book. For kids who don’t yet read independently a ‘look and find’ book or an audio book is ideal. A few weeks ago the big boy was in the car with nothing to read, but luckily we had a very old Melways floating around and he got stuck into that. Reading a map is still reading.

Then there are the times when reading to them helps you:

Toilet Training – While the kids are toilet training I keep a couple of favourite books on hand in the bathroom to distract them from the fact they are sitting on the toilet/potty.

Swimming Lessons – When you have to take the younger kid to swimming lessons but they can’t go in the pool – pack a couple of books. (Works for dance class, basketball or any other activity where one kid has to come and ‘watch’ their sibling.)

Travel – airports, airplanes and trains are all very exciting to young minds – for about 5 mins. Once they have pushed all available buttons and looked out the window momentarily they will get bored of this very exciting and much anticipated event. Books are a must for parental sanity.

It also helps me to keep in mind that reading one standard picture book to a child can be often be done in about 3-5 mins. I can do that – most days.

 

Florette, by Anna Walker

Anna Walker is a prolific and easily recognisable Australian illustrator. If you and your children are yet to read a book she has worked on I’d be very surprised. She does wonderful pictures and her stories really appeal to young children.

A few weeks ago we read ‘Little Cat and the Big Red Bus‘ (author Jane Godwin) for the first time and my girls in particular loved it. The story is appears relatively simple (though I’m sure that is a tough thing to achieve), but Anna Walker’s images seemed to transport their little minds.

Then last week when I saw ‘Florette‘ on the library shelf I knew we had to read it. We were not disappointed. At the end of our first reading, right before bedtime, one daughter asked for it again immediately. First thing the next morning we were reading it again.

The story is about a young girl, Mae, who moves away from her garden and seeks out a new one whilst surrounded by buildings. Again, it is a appears to be a simple story. I’m sure it is the pictures that my little one fell in love with. The images are totally captivating.

I also think it reaches the ‘wild’ heart of a young child: the desire to make, to build, to explore, to create and to grow things.

This is a beautiful gift for a young girl. If you loved Rosie Revere for your girls, then I think this is a great companion book.

 

 

The Very Cranky Bear, by Nick Bland

There are only a handful of things cuter than a child who can’t read, but learns to memorise a favourite story. The last few weeks have been dotted with our 2 year old giving spirited recitations of ‘The Very Cranky Bear‘ in her broken English and it’s great: “In da jingle-jangle-jungle”.

So when we were at library story time and ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ got read out, AND she got to make her own Very Cranky Bear craft, it was more than just a special day. It becomes THE DAY for that child. Just like when the roller skate obsessed girl wins a prize in the Rollerama dice game.

THIS day will stay with them for weeks to come. THIS day the world smiled on them. THIS day they were outrageously happy. It brings tears to your eyes.

 

Awesome Facebook group for parents of book lovers

I love this Australian Facebook group: Your Kid’s Next Read

It is run to support parents in their attempts to ‘feed the book-devouring-kid beast’.  Spending just half an hour going through the reading lists provided and also recent comments you will get dozens of suggestions of books for your kids.

If you are still not satisfied you can create a post and other parents are more than happy to point you in the right direction.

Unbearable, Paul Jennings

It’s a pretty rare thing for me to read to or even with my eldest child, one-on-one. I mean I’ve probably only done a handful of readers with him this year because a) he never changes the books, and b) I just don’t have the time to read to someone who can read to themselves.

It was so lovely to have a chance last night to sit and read to my big boy, and I think he liked it too. We read a short story from the Paul Jennings’ set he is making his way through and I have only good things to say about it.

The story was called ‘Grandad’s Gifts’ and it was a very mild horror story about a child who moves into a new bedroom with a forbidden cupboard. I think it’s really great for the under-10 crowd. A great balance: too unrealistic to be legitimately scary, but enough suspense and a great ending to thrill.

People who grew up in the 90’s in Australia have no-doubt heard of and read Paul Jennings, or they may have unknowingly been exposed to his stories through the popular after school TV program ‘Round the Twist’. His stories have a somewhat timeless feel, especially given the supernatural themes, and are entertaining the next generation of young Aussie readers.

Pip and Posy, by Axel Scheffler

We found this series after leaning into our (mmm…okay…my) obsession with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler books. I saw one at the library and thought it was one we hadn’t read yet. While Julia Donaldson is not a contributor to the series I’m sure all Gruffalo fans will still love these sweet stories.

The ‘Pip and Posy’ series is very much aimed at a younger audience. My kids seemed to be able to follow them from about 2 years of age and grow out of them at around 4 years old. The stories revolve around difficult situations or emotions a preschooler would face, such as fear, toilet training, loss and sharing toys. 

As such the main characters, who are a pair of friends, Pip (a rabbit) and Posy (a mouse), seem to be preschoolers themselves. Pip and Posy like to play together with things your 3 year old probably loves to do: painting, playing babies and going to the park. During their playtime they encounter situations which enable them learn to help, forgive and apologise to their friend.

For example in one book, ‘The Super Scooter‘, Posy feels jealous and snatches, Pip feels cross, Posy falls and gets hurt, Pip still helps his friend, Posy apologises and the friends play together again. It is a pretty simple story, but for a preschooler it is perfectly presented. I have found my kids get so engaged in the story they sometimes don’t want to face the next page, or they want to skip the ‘bad’ parts, like when the balloon pops. 

These are great to have on hand at bed time. I find we can read one in around 5 mins, the younger kids love them, and I still like reading them too, even after so many re-runs.