Friday, October 17, 2014

Picture Book Review: Justine Clarke's The Ugly Duckling and a Giveaway!

The Ugly Duckling performed by Justine Clarke

The classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling was reimagined as a song by Frank Loesser in 1952 and originally sung by the late Danny Kaye. Now Justine Clarke and illustrator Nathaniel Eckstrom breathe new life into this family favourite to create a beautiful picture book and CD.

Following the classic tale, there is a baby duckling who is very different from all the other ducklings in the nest. He is cast out by the other ducklings for being so different. He wanders alone and hides away for the winter. Finally he finds himself a new home where he is accepted by the other birds. He has found were he belongs.


There once was an ugly duckling,
With feathers all stubby and brown,
And the other birds,
In so many words, said,
'Get out of town!'

Illustrations by Nathaniel Eckstrom for The Ugly Duckling

The book includes a bonus CD with Justine Clarke performing the song. Justine's performance is truly delightful. The imaginative use of various instruments to represent the different characters is wonderful touch and had my kids thoroughly engaged. 

The illustrations by Nathaniel Eckstrom are stunning and are a perfect accompaniment to Justine's CD.


When the Ugly Duckling becomes a Swan from The Ugly Duckling by Frank Loesser and performed by Justine Clarke

The endpapers are adorable too.

Adorable endpapers by Nathaniel Eckstrom from The Ugly Duckling by Frank Loesser and Justine Clarke

The Ugly Duckling is fairy tale with a beautiful message that will no doubt assist in starting conversations about being different, being yourself, belonging and acceptance. 


Book Details:
Author: Frank Loesser
Illustrator: Nathaniel Eckstrom
Performed by: Justine Clarke
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 9781742836447
RRP: $24.99

The Ugly Duckling by Frank Loesser, Justine Clarke and Nathaniel Eckstrom


Now it's time for a Giveaway!
This giveaway is now CLOSED. Thank you to all who entered. Winners will be announced on Sunday 26 October 2014.

Thanks to Scholastic Australia we have 3 copies of The Ugly Duckling to giveaway. This book would definitely make a lovely Christmas gift. 

To enter is super easy. All you need to do is leave a comment below telling us your favourite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and why. Good Luck!

Terms and conditions: 
Entries are open to Australian residents only.
This is a game of skill. Chance plays no part in this competition.
Entries open at 2:00pm AEDT on 17 October 2014 and closes at 9:30pm AEDT on Saturday 25 October 2014.
Winners will be notified by email and must respond with their postal details within 48 hours or a new winner will be selected.
The prize will be shipped directly from the publisher.

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Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. I was not obliged to review this book and my opinions, as always, are my own.

We are linking up with: 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Picture Book Review: Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Review of Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett is a stunning picture book that explores a common childhood fear - the dark. A child's active imagination is an amazing and wondrous thing but it can sometimes it means that the shadows and sounds at night can be very scary. Learning to deal with those fears can be tricky and a little bit of help is needed.

Orion is a little boy who is afraid of many things, like wasps, storms, spiders, girls, but most of all he is afraid of the dark. 


Illustration from Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

He has tried all sorts of things to solves his little problem, but nothing has worked. Finally he gets so fed up that he yells at the dark to go away, and that's when it happened. The dark came to life and climbed in through his window! Orion embarks on a journey with Dark to face his worst fear and it's not long before Orion realises that the dark isn't scary, it's actually friendly.

The artwork and illustrations are truly stunning. The intricate details add so much to the story and we discover something new every time we read it. The typography used throughout the book is also fabulous and adds lovely visual appeal. We had lots of fun making all the scary sounds that Orion could hear during the night.

Use of typography in Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

We especially loved the two die-cut pages of Dark's hand. Just fabulous!

Die-cut pages from Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Emma Yarlett deals with this common childhood fear of the dark so beautifully in Orion and the Dark. I know this will book will be a wonderful resource for parents and provide a them with a great conversation starter about fear and facing your fears.

Book Details:
Author/Illustrator: Emma Yarlett
Publisher: Koala Books
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 9781742761190
RRP: $14.99


Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett


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Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not obliged to review the book and my opinions are, as always, my own.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hand-sewing with kids: Review of Sew Together Grow Together by Trixi Symonds

Hand-sewing with kids: Review of Sew Together Grow Together by Trixi Symonds

I loved to sew when I was a child and when I get a spare moment now I still enjoy sewing, especially cross stitch. So I knew I would love Trixi Symonds book Sew Together Grow Together.

Sew Together Grow Together is a collection of hand-sewing projects that Trixi Symonds has developed over 20 years based on her experience in classes and workshops with children. It is designed for parents and children to work together and no sewing experience is necessary. They are quick projects that can be finished in an afternoon and they are all hand sewn, so no sewing machines required! 

Sew Together Grow Together by Trixi Symonds

James is the kind of kid that enjoys creating things when there is a set of instructions to follow. He certainly takes after his mum, who loves a good process (In my pre-kid career I spent a lot of time writing procedure documentation). So after having a flick through Sew Together Grow Together, I knew it would be a perfect fit for James. 

When I showed James the book, he couldn't wait to get started, but we faced a little challenge - finding my fabric stash! After recently moving, we still have quite a lot of junk important treasures in storage. So before we could begin we needed to take a trip to the storage locker and find the all important fabric bag and sewing kit!  With the tricky part out of the way we were ready for our sewing project.



Just a small amount of our fabric stash

We decided to start with the Star Bub from the Star Mum and Bub project which is the first project in the book. James had lots of fun sorting through all the fabrics to find the perfect pattern for his Star Bub. He thought a starry fabric would be ideal for his new star friend.  

What I really loved about Sew Together Grow Together is how straightforward the instructions are. It is ideal for sewers and non-sewers alike. The Techniques and Stitches section of the book were very useful in getting prepared for the project and included some very useful hints and tips. I also like that you don't have to rigidly follow the procedure, and you can tweak, tailor and embellish your project to suit your child. 



Sewing a Star Bub from Trixi Symonds Sew Together Grow Together

James read through the instructions on his own and with a little guidance from me he was able to complete the entire project by himself, which he loved. It really is such a wonderful opportunity to work together to create something special and such a lovely experience sewing together.

Voila! He had created his very own little star friend.


Children's sewing book Sew Together Grow Together by Trixi Symonds

I think it turned out really well. James was so proud of his creation.  He has well and truly caught the sewing bug! He has been flicking through the book to choose his next project which we will be working on in the upcoming school holidays (only a few days to go - Yippee!!). 



Sew Together Grow Together is a wonderful reminder that hand-sewing is not hard at all and it can a fun and relaxing experience for both adults and kids alike.  If you are looking for an activity for the kids to do at home during these school holidays, I can highly recommend Sew Together Grow Together.

You can purchase the book via Trixi's etsy page or via Dymocks and other good book shops.

Also make sure you drop by Trixi's blog Coloured Buttons for more wonderful sewing tutorials and where you can also find out about the amazing sewing workshops for kids that Trixi runs.

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

6 tips for surviving a book fair

6 tips for surviving a book fair

Today was the first day of the Spring Lifeline Book Fair here in Canberra. The book fair has around 200,000 used books, magazines, puzzles, CDs and DVDs on offer! All proceeds of the sale go towards the invaluable Lifeline telephone crisis support line. Buying books for a good cause. Sounds like a great reason to add a few more books to our collection.

While I may not be a hardcore book lover like those who were lined up since 5am this morning, I always make sure I go to the fair on the first day! It never disappoints and I always manage to find some beautiful bookish treasures.



The sea of books before you can be a little overwhelming, not to mention the large crowds all jostling to discover their own bookish treasures. After many years of attending the Lifeline Book Fairs, I'd like to share a few tips I have learnt along the way and hopefully help you to survive the book fair, especially with kids in tow and bag some bookish bargains too.

1. Know what you're looking for
With a gigantic room full of rows and rows of books, it can be a little overwhelming. Where do you start? It's always good to know what type of books you are looking for. Picture books, chapter books, nonfiction etc. Make use of the book fair map with the layout of book genres (if they provide one) and only target the areas you are interested in. If they don't have a map, there are usually signs posted around the room indicating the book genre. This will cut down on browsing aimlessly and for me it usually reduces the temptation to get books that I don't need. I love cook books but rarely use them and certainly don't have room for any more, so I steer clear of that section altogether.

2. Bring suitable carry bags
Books are heavy so make sure you bring suitable bags to carry your precious finds in. The number of books you wish to buy will help you determine the type of bag you will need. I usually have a stroller with me, so I use the green fabric shopping bags, which I then hang off the stroller handles. You could also use a suitcase on wheels, or even one of those granny shopping trolleys. If you are buying a lot of books, a bag with wheels is a must. You don't want to do yourself an injury lugging all those books around the fair.

3. Know your budget
How much do you really want to spend? It can be pretty tempting to buy ALL the books. With such affordable prices, it's easy to just add one or two (ok ten) more books to the pile. So set a budget and make sure you stick to it! Don't forget to confirm if they accept Credit Card or eftPos payments as well as cash before the event so that you're prepared on the day.

4. Be prepared to cull 
With so many people after a bookish bargain, it can get a little crowded at a book fair. I recommend when sorting through books, bag anything that you think might be good and continue browsing.  I don't spend much time looking at the quality of the book or price. I just shove it in the bag and continue browsing through the ocean of books. Once I have finished browsing I find a quiet spot to sit down and go through my haul. When reviewing my book choices, here are a few things I consider:
  • Do I like the book? Flick through the illustrations, read the blurb etc. Is this a book my kids will want to read? Is this a book you need?
  • Check the condition of the book. Are the pages in tact and free from tears? Are there any marks or creasing that you can't live with? (remember these are used books and may have some marks or blemishes)
  • Price. Are you happy to pay that price? Is the price fair for the condition of the book? Are you still within budget?
Return any books you don't wish to purchase and continue browsing or head to the checkout.

6 tips for surviving a book fair with kids

Here two more tips if you are bringing kids with you:

5. Bring Snacks 
You can guarantee that they will get hungry while you are browsing through the books. I always bring a variety of snacks and try to go with food that won't make fingers too sticky. Better pack some wet wipes just in case. You don't want to get the books all sticky. A full tummy usually makes for a happy kid.

6. Involve kids in choosing books
Keep the kids occupied by letting them to choose their own books. Make sure they are aware of any limits you have set. For example, I tell my kids how many books they can choose. I provide them with their own book bag and I am pretty flexible with their book choices, although I must admit there are times when I may need to provide a little extra guidance.

I don't think there's anything like the thrill of bagging a bookish bargain and book fairs are a wonderful way to build up your child's library without breaking the bank.


Do you go to secondhand book fairs? What tips would you add to this list?

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Book Launch: Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

What a beautiful sunny day for Father's Day here in Canberra. After spoiling Dad with wonderful handmade presents and sharing a yummy breakfast, we went to a book launch!

Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling had joined forces again to create the utterly adorable picture book Tottie and Dot. Today Tania launched Tottie and Dot at Dymocks, Canberra Centre and we went along to enjoy the fun.

Book launch of Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Up until today I had not shared the book with James and Emily (even though I was very tempted). Knowing that we were going to the book launch I wanted them to hear the story for the first time from the author herself. I wanted it to be a totally new experience for them. I wanted them to be able to connect the story with the person who created it. To help them to understand that there are wonderful people who work very hard to create these books for us to enjoy.


Book launch of Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

When Emily saw the book today for the first time and she spied the adorable Tottie and Dot on the front cover, it was love at first sight! "Look Mum, she has pink hair! I have red hair but one day my hair might get pink!" She wouldn't let the book out of her sight!


Tania McCartney - author of Tottie and Dot

Then it was storytime! Before Tania could begin, there was a special guest appearance by Dot herself!


Tottie and Dot Book Launch

Don't you just love those glasses? 


Tania McCartney reading Tottie and Dot

James loves book launches, especially Tania's ones. We have attended a few of Tania's launches now and she always does such an amazing job. Not only is the story engaging and fun, she always takes time to chat with the children. Then there's the fabulous decorations and the super fun activities too! 



The kids were very excited about the marshmallows they got to take home to make their own Marshmallow Tea, which also included a recipe card for how to make it. I may need to get some more marshmallows to actually make the tea, because ours didn't quite make it home.


And there was even a lemon drop tree, just like the one Dot planted in her yard!



The children also got to make their own butterfly strings.


Making butterfly strings at the Tottie and Dot Book Launch

Butterflies and glue, made for one very happy little girl. She would have been happy to stay here all day making butterfly strings. When we got home she decided to hang her string up on her dolls house, which has now become Dot's house!


There were also word searches and colouring in to keep the kids happily occupied. The word search was definitely more James' style. You can find copies of the colouring in and other fun stuff on the Tottie and Dot website.


Tania McCartney signing our copy of Tottie and Dot

Thank you for signing our book Tania! What a wonderful way to spend the morning, surrounded by books and book loving people!


Little black cat from Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

How could I resist sharing a photo of this adorable little cat with his umbrella. Too cute for words.



You can see more photos from the book launch over on Tania's blog and you can read a variety of reviews from today's Book Blast.

Book Details:
Author: Tania McCartney
Illustrator: Tina Snerling
Publisher: Exisle Publishing under the EK Books imprint
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 9781921966491
RRP: $24.99

You might also like to see the other book launch we attended last year for Tania McCartney's Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo

Tania McCartney at the book launch for Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo

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