Thursday, 27 February 2014

Two Little Gardeners by Margaret Wise Brown and Edith Thacher Hurd, illustrated by Gertrude Elliot

 This came in the post today and appropriately, the sun was shining. At only €3.02, it is too cheap. Beautifully written and illustrated by three masters of the craft, its a perfect spring read for ages two and up.

Two Little Gardeners covers all four seasons in the plot of a little boy and little girl.  There is loads of accurate detail in each picture whether of wildlife, weeds or the fruit and vegetables planted. I can't wait to read it again as I know we will see a lot more. 
 Its Spring and time to get to work. Love the accuracy of the tools, as does my three year old.

 After not too long, things start happening, especially under the ground.

 Relaxing and enjoying the fruits of all the hard labour.

 I think this is my favourite page. The weeds.

 Written in the 1951, there is no waste. Wouldn't it be lovely to have a larder like this?

And the mucky results of a morning in the garden. I'd love to say it wasn't walked into the kitchen, but it was. Oh well!

Varjak Paw by S F Said and Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

When I collected my ten year old from school last Friday he came out of the classroom with a sad face. Apparently his teacher had said "No more questions. Home time!" This was understandable, it was Friday afternoon after all. But the question he wanted to ask was permission to borrow Varjak Paw from the classroom library. She had read the back of a few newly purchased books to the class and this was one of them. He desperately wanted to be the first to get it. Being the pushy mum that I am, he was whooshed back into the classroom to try again to ask and of course, she gave him the book.
Nice, inky drawings.

Varjak Paw is a Mesopotamian Blue kitten. But his eyes are not the same beautiful green as the rest of his family. They are yellow, the colour of danger, according to some. And he has a sense of adventure, unusual too for his breed. Its a lovely read, beautifully written and manageable from age eight or nine.
And he said "It's epic and brilliant."

Meanwhile, on my eight year olds' pillow is Henry and Beezus. Its the second in a series, the first being Henry Huggins, and has enjoyed both a lot. The description of Henrys' bubblegum was so mouth watering, apparently, that he badly needs to get some Hubba Bubba on the way home from school today. And we probably will.

Henry lives on Klickitat Street in Portland Oregon and first appeared in 1950. He was written by Beverly Cleary, as the little boys in her library were always searching for books about "boys like us." She also wrote the Ramona series, for girls, which became more popular than the Henry one, and is also still in print. (Theres a movie with Selena Gomez playing the lead role. )

Both series would be great for anyone who needed a nudge-along from Wimpy Kid, and I should add that I first heard about them on the great blog Thingummery.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Stuff from Christmas that worked out: Learning Resources Mini Motors

We have had many beautiful toys in our house over the years. Hand crafted wooden stuff that looks so nice in the background in family photos but mostly gathered dust on shelves. I came to the conclusion that there was no denying it, my kids just love plastic. In particular, plastic toys that are held in deceptively oversized cardboard boxes with many, irritating wirey ties. Anyway before Christmas, in search of a compromise, I found these Learning Resources Mini Motors on were also on but they wouldn't post to Ireland, but would. Don't ask me why. Including postage the cost came to around €20.)

The practical tub contains seventy two little rubbery vehicles in five different pleasing colours. Happily, I can honestly say they are played with an awful lot. Maybe its because my fourth sons' brothers are at school and I actually have time to play with him (they were all born within two years of each other which meant "playing" was always done at the same time as ministering to a sibling. It is very difficult to make play doh people while breastfeeding.)

These are incredibly tactile, nicely made and can actually be used in lost of different ways. (I know that is said of lots of toys, but its rarely true.) We sort them, colour wise, and sit on the kitchen floor and arrange our cars,fire engines, airplanes, buses or boats in patterns. We buy and sell them in pretend shops and close our eyes and guess which one we are holding. The older boys join in because its hard not to.

They are just lovely and I have to restrain myself from counting them all the time, because it would really upset me if we lost any. So far, all seventy two are present and correct. Highly recommended. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Children's book illustrations as art

Every now and again we get a kids book and it is too lovely to close. Along A Long Road was one of them. It came with a dust jacket(I'm not a huge fan of these, they get in the way a bit) and it gave me an idea.

As well as an addictive book for toddlers, Along A Long Road is art. It cost me €40 euros to get this cover professionally framed, and was well worth it. Underneath it is what is left of our first copy of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. It disintegrated eventually after about ten years of being read, but I couldn't bin any of it. The pages are tucked into a shelf somewhere along with the back cover, and the front one happily fitted into an appropriately golden frame I found in a charity shop. On the other wall is our mounted Paul Thurlby's Alphabet which I mentioned in this post. I know the room is a state, and sorry about that, I'd have loved to have styled it all prettily but my kids were on the way up the stairs and the sun came out so I just took the picture. Its lovely in a messy way don't you think? In a very messy way.

P.s. Full review of Along A Long Road on the way.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Minecraft book! Journey To A Different Dimension by Stan Schatt and Demian Schatt

Am I the last person to hear of this? A little novel for kids aged eight to twelve about Minecraft? I'm not sure, but I do know that if its not in every classroom library by the end of the year, someones missed a trick.

Journey to a Different Dimension is written by Stan Schatt and Demian Schatt who are grandfather and grandson respectively. Its a clever idea and somewhat surprising it was possible legally(they don't have any affiliation with the game)but still, I'm glad it was. My eight year old begun it last night and is now approaching the last chapter. Its pretty short but that's not a bad thing as it makes it perfect for reluctant readers. I was going to say reluctant readers who love Minecraft but is there a child around who doesn't?
See the text, not to big, not too small. Characters are two male and one female, all early teens. And the best part - they get sucked into the game. Awesome! (or whatever they say these days..I think its "Beast!")

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy

My son started on the A to Z Mysteries when he was seven and they were an immediate hit. They fitted well into that stage that comes after early readers and before the more intimidating picture free novels for kids. There is a bit of substance to them however, but they are manageable and it doesn't take too long to get the satisfying feeling of finishing a book. Which is so important at that reading age.

Dink, Josh and Ruth Rose are friends. And adventure seems to follow them around.

Nice illustrations right?
Its all good, clean fun and happily, these books come at about €3.30 each, so cheaper than a magazine with a toy sellotaped to the front. Which is nice. (They also come in boxed sets and audio versions, both of which are handy as birthday presents.)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Berenstain Bears' Big Book Of Science And Nature by Stan and Jan Berenstain

As my kids get older, I'm looking more and more for books they can read themselves and for the youngest, books he can "read" himself. I may as well be honest, I don't always want to sit with him and his books, sometimes I want him to sit by himself and leave me alone for a while. And this books fits that bill perfectly.
I think  The Berenstain Bears' Big Book Of Sciene And Nature is a great one for Busytown fans. Actually I think I prefer the bears to Busytown. Probably because by boy number four I had so many hours of Huckle and Goldenbug and top-loaders under my belt that it was time for a change.
 The details in this are great. And correct. There are interesting explanations about levers and wedges and stalagmites and wind and lightening and loads more. There are sporty pages and the months of the year and planets and mammals and really, a multitude of things to pore over. At 190 pages, its a great deal for €10.91.
 My little fella's favourite page is the Halloween one below. (And now that I think of it, the "holidays" page in Busytown was a popular one too.) Whatever, this book has meant that I have been able to drink my tea while it was still hot quite a few times. All in all, a great buy.
 I'd recommend it for ages two to five, making it an excellent birthday present for any Junior Infant.


Monday, 17 February 2014

George and Martha by James Marshall

I was reading this to my youngest, who is three, when my eldest, who is twelve, looked over my shoulder. He burst out laughing and sat down to hear the rest. Once we were finished he said "There's more of these books? If there is please get them!"
There are five little stories about George and Martha in this book. In one, George sits in the basket of a hot air balloon, wondering why he isn't taking off.
Martha suggests the basket is too heavy, so he gets out. But hang on a second..
Oh well, Martha is glad to have his company on the ground.

This is the page that caused all the laughter.
George was fond of peeking in windows.
I don't know, a hippo peeping in a window. Why is it so funny? But it is.

Despite being a faithful and loving friend, Martha draws a line at peeking. 
 Especially when she is in the bath.
So in answer to his question, there are more George and Martha books and yes, I think we'll probably get them. And just to make you smile again, look at George roller-skating.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Gorky Rises by William Steig

I've written before about my love of William Steigs stories. Here's another one. For ages four and up this is about Gorky, the frog who makes a Georges Marvellous Medicine type potion, and takes off, up, up into the sky. 
Whats great about this book? Well, it has a wide streak of oddballness running through it, which I love. The way it is written - perfectly -  is ideal to read aloud. But there is one page, which might put people off - it certainly did on the reviews. See it below..
Gorky's parents had been out all night looking for him. By now, they were so worried they were ready to kill themselves just to end their misery. They were scouring the terrain in the neighborhood of home, peering behind every bush, stone, and tree, and into every hole and crevice, no matter how tiny.

Listen, you'd really need to read the whole story to see if you'd like it (you would) but as I am recommending it I thought the sensible thing to do was to point this out too. 

Look at the animals watching him fly overhead. That guy in the left is a donkey, holding the reins of a horse. 
And  here, he flies over his cousin Gogol. He is very pleased to see the expression of envy and surprise on Gogols face. Which is a bit mean but completely normal. It is impossible not to like Gorky.
And so on he goes, higher and higher up into the atmosphere, causing the townspeople of Prunville to wonder "What the doodad was keeping him up there?" (my favourite line).

Its a strange, funny, good book. But bear in mind; it does encourage a LOT of messing in the kitchen.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Pantone Colours

I got Pantone Colours first because I saw it on Design Mom and liked the look of it. I hadn't realised it had just nine pages and that the names of the colours are not the Pantone names nor do they match the Pantone charts. Not that this made any difference to my infant son, but still, it did seem a bit of a cod.
Howandsoever two years later, we still take it out regularly. Its lovely looking, for a start. Whatever colours they are, they certainly are easy on the eye. There isn't an author acknowledged on  the cover but the jacket tells me its designed by Meagan Bennett and the illustrations are by Helen Dardik. One thing I noticed first was that it taught that there is more than one yellow or red or green. But in fairness, I think my kids would have discovered that fact anyway. I suppose its really the pleasure and the interestingness of colour that it introduces.

But the best part is the names. They're so right! And evocative; daffodil yellow, lemon yellow, ribbon yellow, sticky note yellow and pineapple yellow. Ladybird red, fire engine red, beetroot red, stop sign red, ketchup red and pepperoni red. They remind me a bit of the names at the end of the paper covers on crayola crayons. They make the colours so much nicer, somehow.

I'd recommend this board book as a great baby gift that can be enjoyed by older siblings too. We all really like it. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


Its been a morning for cuddling on the couch with Alfie, who needs no introduction. Still a firm favourite, still as messy and curious and nice and lovable as ever.

We have Alfie Gets In FirstAlfie Gives A HandAlfies Feet, and Alfie and the Birthday Surprise. All great. Just looking at them now, I can see that Mums outfits, that once seemed so eighties are back in fashion. Look at her breton top, clog sandals and boyfriend jeans!

And Bernard's' Mums' yellow ballet pumps. 

They would have been real Boden shoppers, if there was a Boden  in 1983, wouldn't they?

There's always so much going on in each picture. I love it here, where we can predict what will happen next. Look, here comes Maureen!

And here, where Shirley Hughes seems to have started a still life with ketchup bottle in the bottom right hand corner and then didn't want to waste paper so used the rest of it to draw the family at the kitchen table. Not that it matters, everything extra on the page is a bonus.

Every time I look at pictures like this one though, I worry about Mums back, couldn't she have adjusted the handles on Annie Roses "push-chair"?

Anyway, we love Alfie.

P.s. Apologies for picture quality, all were taken in a hurry, as usual.