Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Picture Book Review: A Hot Cup of Chocolate by Rose Stanley and Lisa Allen

The weather has become very wintry here in Canberra all of a sudden. The upside is that it's perfect weather for staying inside and reading together. This week we read A Hot Cup of Chocolate by Rose Stanley and illustrated by Lisa Allen.

Picture Book Review: A Hot Cup of Chocolate by Rose Stanley and Lisa Allen

Johan has a happy home with his Mum, Dad and little sister and he loves sharing a cup of hot chocolate with his family. Johan thinks that a cup of hot chocolate can solve just about any problem (and rightfully so). 
Creamy, milky chocolate... yum!
Was there anything better in the whole, wide world?
Hot chocolate is perfect for warming you up after school on a wet day, or to sip on from a thermos on a frosty morning at Rugby or even to encourage little sisters out of their painful moods. 

Whenever Johan's friend, Henry came over to visit, Johan would make him a hot chocolate. Henry doesn't seem to be in a good mood lately and has been quite angry at school. Henry had a lot going on in his family life with the separation of his parents. Johan tries to be as supportive as he can for his friend, and often that means making Henry a hot cup of chocolate.

A Hot Cup of Chocolate is a lovely story that sensitively deals with the challenging theme of family separation. This picture book would be ideal for a child who has a friend experiencing a family separation, as it helps them understand a little of difficulties their friend may be having. It also beautifully encourages them to be supportive and understanding of their friend during the good days and bad and sometimes, all they need is a cup of hot chocolate. As this is quite a lengthy picture book I would recommend it for older children ages 6 and up. 

Lisa Allen's illustrations are delightful and beautifully compliment the story. I love the little swirls of steam coming off the cups of hot chocolate. 


Book Details:
Title: A Hot Cup of Chocolate
Author: Rose Stanley
Illustrator: Lisa Allen
Publisher: Starfish Bay Publishing
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 9780994100283

With the cold wintry weather, we have started enjoying a delicious cup of hot chocolate in the afternoon after school and on a Friday we might even have a marshmallow or two! We sit together, drinking our hot chocolates and chatting about the day's adventures. Just perfect!


A delicious cup of hot chocolate can solve most problems

There's nothing fancy about our hot chocolates, just warm milk and drinking chocolate, they are utterly delicious.


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Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Picture Book Review: Dear Mum I love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams

Can you believe that it's May already? How did that happen? With Mother's Day here in Australia this Sunday we have been reading some lovely picture books about Mums, including the newly released Dear Mum, I Love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams.

Picture book review of Dear Mum, I Love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams

Dear Mum, I Love You is a delightful celebration of the special relationship between a mother and her child. Each double page spread includes a different animal child and a special letter for their Mum. They are real letters that are either in special envelopes or behind flaps. The letters are utterly adorable and are written from a loving child about how awesomely special their mum is. 
Dear Mum, my favourite place in the whole wide world has been anywhere you are.
Letters from Dear Mum, I Love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams

The illustrations by Simon Williams are so vibrant and full of fun We loved finding the real letters and taking them out of their envelopes or lifting flaps to read them. So clever and a wonderful way to encourage the kids to engage with the book. It even includes a blank letter template so that you can write a letter to your Mum too.

Letter from Dear Mum, I Love You by Ed Allen and Simon Williams

This is definitely a lovely picture book for Mums to read with their children any time of the year.

Book Details:
Title: Dear Mum, I Love You
Author: Ed Allen
Illustrator: Simon Williams
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 9781743626320
RRP: $16.99

Invitation to Write Mother's Day Letters

I decided to set up a little invitation to write for the kids so that they could write me a letter for Mother's Day, just like those in the story. It was waiting for them after they finished school this afternoon. I even let them use my special letter writing paper!


I love using washi tape to decorate the letters and envelopes that I write, so I included some of my collection for the kids to use too. 

Of course you also need some fancy pens and pencils if you are going to write a special letter! I absolutely love our pencil holders, don't you? (Have you worked out yet that I am a tad obsessed with washi tape?)


We looked back at the letters in the book and noticed that they all started with Dear Mum and ended in From whoever was sending it. This gave the kids a starting point for their letters. 

At that point I was banished from the room. They both decided that their letters were going to be a BIG surprise for Mother's Day. I can't wait until Sunday to see their finished letters. On the up side I was able to catch up on some reading while enjoying a hot cup of tea while the kids were busy.

There is something so special about receiving a real letter isn't there? 

Writing letters is such a wonderful skill for children to develop and it can be fun too. Not only does it provide an opportunity to practise their hand writing skills, but it also helps to develop an understanding of how letters can be used as a form of communication and importantly how a letter is structured.

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Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Picture Book Review: Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay

This week we discovered a beautiful new picture book called Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay. I am sure you will love it as much as we do.

Picture Book Review: Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay

A young girl is not happy about having to move to a new town. She was going to miss the sounds of the birds singing and the crickets chirping, but she was going to miss the butterflies most of all. 

Soon the girl discovers a splendid looking gate for a park near her home. The park is called Butterfly Park! Perhaps this move may not be as bad as she expected. The next morning she visits the park, but strangely there are no butterflies in sight. She decides to take matters into her own hands and tries to catch butterflies from around the town to take back to the park and she enlists the help of the local children. When they release the butterflies into the dreary looking park, they all fly away. 

Catching butterflies, from Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay

After following one of the butterflies, the children learn that the butterflies love flowers and their sweet nectar, which the park is severely lacking. When the girl goes to the park the next day with a bunch of flowers in hand, she is surprised by her neighbours who have come to help her plant a fabulous flower garden to attract butterflies.

"Together, everyone planted until the park was brimming with flowers and laughter."

Butterfly Park is a charming story. Moving house can be such a daunting change for a child. (Believe me, I know! We moved twice in 6 months last year!) Getting to know your neighbours is a wonderful way to become part of your new community and it's amazing how a garden and butterflies, of course, can help you feel "right at home". 

Illustration from Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay

What really stood out to me when reading this picture book was Elly MacKay's stunning illustrations. She uses an interesting technique of cutting out the characters and scenery from paper and then assembles them to create a diorama, which she then photographs. The use of light in the photography is simply magical. The detail is amazing and the fold out pages of the final planted garden with all the butterflies is so beautiful. Even the dust jacket for the book turns into poster. On the inside of the dust jacket is a beautiful illustration flower varieties that will attract butterflies in your garden. 

Book Details:
Title: Butterfly Park
Author/Illustrator: Elly MacKay
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 9780762453399
RRP: $21.99

After reading this book I just want to fast forward through Autumn and Winter to get to Spring, so we can plant some more beautiful flowers in our garden for the butterflies.

We are linking up to the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

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Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the distributor NewSouth Books. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Picture Book Review and Craft: Don't Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan

It's still school holidays here in Canberra and the weather has been cold, wet and windy. Perfect weather for staying indoors and reading. One of the books on our HUGE reading pile is  Don't Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan and illustrated by Gwynneth Jones. 

Review of Don't Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones

I have been following Susan for quite a while via her bookish blog, social media and of course Kids Book Review, which she is the managing editor. I was super excited to find out that she was having her first picture book published. So you can imagine how much I have been looking forward to reading it and I was certainly not disappointed. It is utterly fabulous!

Sometimes little Sophie worried. She didn't worry during the day when she was having fun at school, or playing at home with her brother and sister. It was not until bedtime that the worries appeared. As Sophie lay in bed, with nothing to distract her, she began to worry about all sorts of things and her worries made it difficult to sleep and Sophie became very tired. 

Sophie's family try to give her suggestions for getting to sleep but nothing seems to help. That is until her mum tells her not to think about purple elephants. Of course, when you're told not to think about something, that seems to be all you could think about and it's not long before Sophie is thinking about purple elephants getting up to all sorts of mischief.

Don't Think About Purple Elephants is a beautiful and sensitive picture book about finding a way to ease a little girl's worries. It provides a wonderful opportunity for children and parents to explore the concept of worry together. Both my children are very familiar with the challenges of anxiety. While their worries do not appear at bedtime like Sophie's do, they are present throughout the day and those worries can have a big impact on our day. We use a variety of techniques to support them through their worries and we all agreed that not thinking about purple elephants was another fun strategy to add to our repertoire. 

The illustrations by Gwynneth Jones are vibrant and help to bring this beautiful story to life. I love the subtle change to black and white when portraying Sophie's worries. The little details make the illustrations so special and if you look closely you will discover Sophie's cat (or perhaps just a paw or tail) throughout the story. Oh and the endpapers are lovely too!

After reading the book, we had some fun matching animals with crazy colours. James, as predictable as always, come up with a Green Moose (his favourite colour and favourite animal). Emily couldn't decided between her two favourite colours, pink and purple, so she combined them to come up with a pink with purple spotted puppy dog.


Book Details:
Title: Don't Think About Purple Elephants
Author: Susan Whelan
Illustrator: Gwynneth Jones
Publisher: EK Books
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781921966699
RRP: $24.99

Of course we had to make our own purple elephants, so that we had something not to think about.

I managed to find some great cardboard elephant shapes from a local craft store and I was surprised to find that I actually had some purple fabric in my scrap bag, so I laid them out as a simple invitation to create for the kids on a cold and blustery day.


An invitation to create a purple elephant collage


Creating a purple elephant collage

Purple elephant fabric collage


Emily preferred to paint her elephants! 

We used their fabulous purple elephants and a photocopy of the book cover to put up on the wall as part of a new display feature we are creating in our study (which has now been renamed the library).

Review of Don't Think About Purple Elephants

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Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Book Launch: Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle

Yesterday we went to the book launch of Anglea Moyle's new picture book Clyde's Prickly Ride.

Book Launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle and Ian Coate

Clyde is an adorable little echidna who lives in a hollow stump in Commonwealth Park, right here in Canberra. The park also hosts the Floriade spring flower festival every year. He isn't too keen on the crowds of Floriade, so he hides away in his stump. That is until he sees some juicy ants. So focused on slurping up all the ants, he doesn't notice the backpack they are crawling on and ends up being scooped up in the bag.  That is when his adventure begins with one of the main Floriade attractions, the ferris wheel.

This lovely story is the second book in Angela's Capital Adventure series, which also includes Phoebe Digs Politics. The rhyming text make this picture book a delight to read aloud and the illustrations by Ian Coate are a simply adorable. 

Book launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle

The launch was hosted by one of our favourite bookshops, Harry Hartog.  

Reading Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle

Angela reading Clyde's Prickly Ride to us. 

Canberra Author Angela Moyle signing a copy of Clyde's Prickly Ride

Thank you for signing our book Angela. 

Signed copy of Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle

After the reading and signing, it was time for some cupcakes! Hooray!

Flower cupcakes at the book launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride

Don't they look delicious? The lovely flowers match the colourful flowers found in the story.

Delicious cupcakes at the book launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride

She thought the cupcakes were delicious! I know this because she actually ate the cake and not just the icing! Now that's some kind of miracle.

Colouring in at the book launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride

No book launch is complete without a some colouring in! Emily chose to colour in Phoebe the wombat from Angela's first picture book Phoebe Digs Politics.

The Capital Adventures Series by Angela Moyle

What a wonderful way to spend an evening! Surrounded by books and listening to a lovely story in the company of friends and fellow book lovers.

Book Details:
Title: Clyde's Prickly Ride
Author: Angela Moyle
Illustrator: Ian Coate
Publisher: Vivid Publishing
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 9781925209587

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

CBCA 2015 Short List for the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Today is one very exciting day in the Children's Book Calendar here in Australia. The Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) announced their short list for the 2015 Book of the Year Awards. 

Australia is very fortunate indeed to have so many wonderfully talented authors and illustrators and the short list this year (as well as the notables list) has some pretty amazing books. You can see the Short List here.

While I love looking through the picture book categories, I have to admit that my favourite 
category is the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books. As many of you may know we love reading nonfiction and this short list and the notables list is a great way to add to expand our reading list.

The Eve Pownall Award is "made to outstanding books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style."


Who was Eve Pownall?

Majorie Evelyn (Eve) Pownall (1902-1982) was a historian and children's book author. Pownall shared her love of Australian history in the books she wrote, recording the important role of women and children, both black and white. Her book The Australia Book was the recipient of the 1952 CBCA Book of the Year Award. Pownall was also passionate about children's literature and was an early supporter of the group that would become the Children's Book Council of Australia.*


The 2015 Shortlist

Without further ado, here is this year's short list for the Eve Pownall Award:

The 2015 Short List for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books


A-Z Convicts in Van Dieman's Land by Simon Barnard, Text Publishing

Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia, edited by Demet Divaroren & Amra Pajalic, Allen & Unwin.

Mary's Australia: How Mary Mackillop Changed Australia by Pamela Freeman, Black Dog Books / Walker Books Australia

Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and illustrated by Robert Ingpen, National Library of Australia

Emu by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne, Walker Books Australia

Audacity: Stories of Heroic Australians in Wartime by Carlie Walker and illustrated by Brett Hatherly, Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Of this list, we have only read the wonderful Tea and Sugar Christmas, so I am really looking forward to reading the others and I have to admit that as soon as the list was announced I jumped straight on my local library's website and requested copies of all of the short listed books. Hooray for our local library!

In the lead up to Children's Book Week in August, I will be sharing our reviews of each of the Eve Pownall short listed books.

So a big congratulations to all the authors, illustrators and publishers who made the short list as well as the notables list. Now the waiting begins. I look forward to finding out the winners in August during Children's Book Week.

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