Friday, February 25, 2011

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley by Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley

Riley has the ideal life.  He is a rat who was born happy and was always happy, even when he was asleep. 

Colin Thompson provides us with a witty and insightful look into the lives of rats compared to the lives of humans.  Rats live for a short time but they have a happy existence.  Humans on the other hand live for a very long time (in comparison) and some of us can live quite unhappy lives - always wanting more.  The illustrations by Amy Lissiat are gorgeous and the references to some famous paintings will amuse the older reader. This is an interesting look into consumerism and greed.

Humans are always looking for something more in our lives -  more food, the latest technology, a different appearance (bigger this, smaller that) or a dream holiday.  Rats, like Riley however only want some fruit and maybe a couple of slugs on Tuesday or Friday.

This beautiful book has an important message for both children and adults - you just have to be happy with a lot less.

Book Details:
Title: The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley
Author: Colin Thompson
Illustrator: Amy Lissiat
Published by: Lothian Books

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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.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Telling Up Stories Day

Today started out as A for Animal day with lots of fun animal things to do.  However, when I told James about today's theme he immediately said 'Great let's tell up animal stories'. 

James loves "telling up stories" - it's a combination of making up and telling stories.  We normally choose 2 to 3 items from the toy box and make up little stories about them. 

So we went along with his great idea and decided to create James' very own Tell Up Story Book.  We used the pictures of animals that I had prepared for another crafting activity and decorated an exercise book.  He was so excited when I pulled out the label maker to write the title of his book.

I don't recommend trying to cover a book with contact with the "help" of a three year old.  This was probably the most challenging part of the day, but we got through it.

James then spent the morning telling me beautiful stories while I wrote them down for him.  Once the story was finished he drew a picture to go with it.  The look on his face when I was able to read his very own stories back to him and anyone else who would listen was priceless.  He was so proud of his work.

Here is an example of one of my favourites:

The Bunny and the Cat
Once upon a time there was a bunny who was going to see a kitten.  And then there was trouble! There was a very very very big dog and there was a pussy cat coming by.  So he hopped home and his Mother said 'Don't go to see cats, they might bite your ear.'  The End.

Listening to James telling stories has reminded me how important it is to read aloud to children and how all the effort we put in is paying off. It opens up a wonderful world of imagination to them.  Reading aloud not only encourages a lifelong love of reading, but it also helps them to learn how to express themselves with confidence.

What stories do you like reading aloud to your children?

Happy Telling Up Stories Day!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Why Why?

Having an inquisitive 3 year old boy means we are constantly being asked a million and one questions a day and of course the all time parent's favourite - why? 

After the excitement of Rocket Day, our little man asked us 'What is the Earth?'  Thankfully I came across a great series of books that helped us explain about the planets and living on Earth. 

They are the Why Why Why series published by Miles Kelly Publishing.  This series is designed for 4-7 year olds and has a range of answers to tricky questions that children often ask.  Accompanied by some delightful pictures, these books make learning fun and help young children to understand the world around them a little better.

Do you have any interesting questions that your little ones have asked that caused you to wonder 'how am I ever going to answer that?'

This week's op-shop finds

Have I told you that I love op-shopping? Well I do and I have come across some fantastic new books this week.

There are some wonderful books for the older kids, which will make great gifts for my niece and nephew, as well as some beautiful picture books. This is such a great way to boost the number of books in your kids library without breaking the bank. You never know what bookish treasures you might find.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday's Favourite Find: The Labyrinth

Do you remember the 1980s Jim Henson movie the Labyrinth with David Bowie? I loved it when I was a kid and still love it now - it is part of my DVD collection.

Well I stumbled upon a gorgeous story book based on the movie.  The Labyrinth by Louise Ginkow is a visual delight thanks to the stunning illustrations by Bruce McNally.

Check out some of the photos of the gorgeous illustrations by Bruce McNally.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's Rocket Science

It was rocket day at our house today.  We explored all things rockets and the letter R.  Rocket day was suggested by my husband, Matthew, who happens to be on holidays at the moment.  So it was a great father & son day.

Here are some of the fun things we got up to:

Our day started with a lovely walk around the neighbourhood, but it was no ordinary walk.  We did Rocket Jumps (our hands above our heads to make a rocket cone and then jumped up in the air with rocket launch noises) and lots of space walking.  Not sure what the neighbours thought of our bizarre behaviour, but we had a great time.

Moosey got dressed up as a Rocket Man with a yogurt container helmet and some aluminium foil for his space suit.  Now he is ready to board his rocket and blast off into outer space.

We made Captain Moosey's rocket from whatever we had lying around the house- shoe box, coloured cardboard for the wings and cone, egg carton boosters (Daddy was very proud of them) and red napkins for the flames. 

James insisted on Captain Moosey finding an alien spaceship, so here it is (two plastic plates and a container from Mum's Tupperware cupboard and lots of sticky tape).

I struggled to get James to do any colouring in today (like every other day).  He just can't sit still long enough, so this is it.  I got the colouring in page from apples4theteacher.  This website is full of educational resources for preschool to year 6.  At least James was able to recognise the letter R by the end of the day.

The best part of the day was building rockets and space shuttles with the LEGO. Daddy found all his old LEGO from when he was a kid and hours were spent by the boys building bigger and better rockets.  Here are just some of the masterpieces they designed.

The rocket theme carried over into the kitchen with Rocket Dogs for lunch.  James has never had a hot dog before so we thought it might be a nice treat since Daddy was on holiday with us.  For afternoon tea, James and I made moon rocks (choc-chip cookies) and they were absolutely delicious! Check out the recipe on

Another fun activity was watching a rocket launch on the NASA website.  The added bonus from this was that James wanted to make his rocket launches realistic and learnt to count backwards from 10.

Happy Rocket Day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

World Read Aloud Day on 9th March 2011

World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) will be held on Wednesday 9th March 2011 and is a celebration of the power of words and stories and also to promote global literacy.

I have been reading aloud to both of my children since they were born.  I don't think there is anything that can beat having your children snuggled up on your lap while you read them a story. 

Reading aloud is part of our family routine and since my daughter Emily was born, her big brother James (3yrs old) insists on reading to her regularly - he has memorised Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and is so proud of his 'reading' abilities and Emily just loves it!

Why don't you join in the fun by counting the number of minutes you read aloud to your friends and loved ones from now until 9th March 2011.  The goal is to reach 774 million read-aloud minutes in honor of the 774 million people around the world who can not read or write.

We started our read-aloud minute tally tonight with 15 minutes so far! I read two chapters of Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.

Let me know your read-aloud tally in the comments and I will post our combined total read-aloud minutes on the LitWorld website at the completion of World Read Aloud Day. 

Happy Reading!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Enid Blyton Adventure

Growing up, one of my favourite authors was Enid Blyton.  I loved The Magic Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair.  There was always an exciting adventure to be had with her beautiful stories and recently I enjoyed watching Enid with Helena Bonhan Carter playing Blyton.  It was a great insight into her life.

I had a wonderful time taking a trip down memory lane on the Enid Blyton Society website.  I am also getting to enjoy the stories all over again by reading the Noddy series to my three year old son, James.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review: Minnie Pearl and the Undersea Bazaar

I was a little distracted yesterday with all the fun of Volcano Day, but I am finally getting around to posting my favourite find for the week.

This week I discovered a gorgeous hard covered picture book called Minnie Pearl and the Undersea Bazaar by Natalie Jane Prior. The illustrations are by Cheryl Orsini.

Minnie Pearl is a mermaid, whose parents own the Undersea Bazaar.  The Bazaar is where all the fashionable mermaids shop until Manta Rae sets up an Emporium next door with different and unusual items.

This is my favourite illustration.  I just love the fly swat hat and tea bag earrings. Very trendy!

This is a delightful picture book that explores the world of mermaids and how their adapt and reuse the rubbish from the human world. The illustrations are stunning and very funny.  It is a longer story and I would recommend it for 4yrs and up.

Book Details:
Author: Natalie Jane Prior
Illustrator: Cheryl Orsini
Publisher: ABC Books
Publication Date: September 2007
ISBN: 9780733320149

Friday, February 11, 2011

Volcano Day

Today was V for Volcano Day at our house.  The idea came when James was watching a cartoon where a boy entered a science competition with a model volcano and of course he wanted to build one too.  So here is what we did...

We made a volcano from a toilet roll and covered it with some very old play-doh to make it look a little more like a mountain. We then added three teaspoons of Bi-Carb Soda and a few drops of red food colouring.  The best part was pouring in the vinegar and watching it erupt.

Crafting was next with some colouring in of volcano pictures and we also made a volcano collage, which involved glue, which is what crafting is all about according to James.

To help James recognise the letter V he also played a few letter games on the computer via a fantastic website called  The game helped to develop letter recognition and some words that start with the letter V. This is a free website that recommends age appropriate computer games. A big thank you to my friend Frank for recommending this site!

Our volcano theme then moved to the kitchen where we made volcano cakes the afternoon’s play date (upside down chocolate muffins with chocolate icing and red icing for the lava) Yum!

For dinner we had Spaghetti and Lava balls.  By the time I remembered to take a photo, we had all finished dinner.  So yummy, thanks to Nonna’s special pasta sauce recipe.

Throughout the day we read a great book about Volcanoes: Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top.  I think I read this 5 times today! This is based on The Magic School Bus TV show.  The Magic School Bus series is aimed at 3-10 year olds and presents science via an exciting story.  The official website has a wonderful variety of activities that tie in with the books and you can even watch some clips online.
Happy Volcano Day!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday's Favourite Find: How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?

This is the start of a new regular post that I will be doing on Fridays which highlights one or two of my favourite books that I have uncovered during the week.  This week I found a fabulous hard cover book from our latest op-shopping spree, How do Dinosaurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague.
Have you ever wondered how a dinosaur gets to school and what he does once he gets there?  This is a beautiful book that any little dinosaur fan will love.  The rhyming prose makes this book ideal for reading aloud and the bright and fun illustrations are so engaging.

How does a dinosaur
go to school?
Does he walk?
Does he ride in
a busy car pool?

He is an example of Mark Teague's beautiful dinosaur illustrations.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Alphabet Biscuits - Yum!

One of James' favourite books to read at the moment is his new cook book.  He loves looking at all the yummy food and then putting on his gorgeous James the Red Engine Apron and hitting the kitchen for some messy cooking fun.

I have been trying to help James learn to recognise his ABCs but the short attention span and the lure of playing cars and trains has been a challenge.  So today I decided to capitalise on his love of cooking and make some alphabet biscuits. He loved it (and so did I for that matter - they were delicious).  As we cut out each letter we made the sound and also thought of a word that started with that letter. There was also a lot of raw cookie dough consumed but we had lots of fun.

The cookies were delicious and really easy to make with ingredients you usually already have in the pantry.  They are called Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits and I got the recipe from

Following a recipe is a great way to encourage reading and also how to follow step-by-step instructions.  Popular Australian children's author Christine Harris has a great range of ideas for encouraging children to read.