Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 5: You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey

Did you know that not only are all things made of atoms but these same atoms once came from an exploding star? That’s right, that means that you, me, our pets and even our books have the universe inside them.

Everything is Connected

The more we think about this fact the more mind-blowing the thought becomes as the realisation emerges that everything on planet earth is a part of the whole universe. Think of yourself more like a cell within the body of the universe. You’re a small part of the body but essential to the mechanics of its entire function. So when you next feel detached from the world you live in, think bigger, put life into perspective and the infinite connections will become clear.

Book review on You are Stardust by author Elin Kelsey.

You Are Stardust

What’s it all about?

You Are Stardust draws comparisons between humans and the rest of the world. We like to think we’re the superior creatures on this planet but this beautiful children’s book gently shows us that all nature and living things are more alike than we care to recognise. We are all a part of the earth, just as the earth is a part of us; from what we are made of to what we do and how we feel and behave, the similarties may astound you.

Which age group is it aimed at?

The short and simple text suggests this book is aimed at 4-7 year olds but in practise it’s a thought-provoking book for any age.

Conclusion

It’s not often I feel a fondness for a book, but for this one I do. This book portrays a sense of modesty and oozes orginality.

Being a little longer than your average picture book, including fifteen double page spreads and illustrated with photographic artwork, it’s clearly a non-fiction book which is determined to break the picture book mould and stand out from the crowd. This empathic story of nature is an eye opener which reminds us of our connections to planet earth in an endearing but factual way.

Author: Elin Kelsey

Illustrator: Soyeon Kim

Publisher: Flying Eye Books, March 2016.

Our Rating: 5/5

CLICK TO BUY You are Stardust: Our Amazing Connections With Planet Earth

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Source: Own copy

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 3: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 4: Atomic Adventure

#BFCB #BooksForChildrenBlog

@lonerganbooks

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 4: Atomic Adventure by Dr. Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman

In today’s digital time frame I find it’s so easy to become mesmerised by our phones, iPads or computers. As the internet sweeps us along a path of striving for what will be, might be, or ought to be, as it promises riches and tells us we should be inspiring others or accomplishing something incredible to prove our worth and reason for existing, as it entices us to become more and more tangled up in society’s urgency, it’s then that we forget to stop and take notice of the true wonder of what we are and what is happening right in front of our eyes at this very moment in time.

Atoms

When something so tiny can be so great the only mistake to be made is for it to be overlooked. Atoms are the foundations of life, of people and the universe yet without magnification atoms are invisible to the human eye. Understanding things we cannot see or perceive continues to baffle, confuse and intrigue many of us. Making sense of what appears to be one thing but is actually quite another seems illogical. Perhaps we should be feeling our way towards the answers instead of looking for material proof. Yet as humans we want to measure things and find reasons as we strive to agree on solid results. This next book wholly encompasses the allure behind physics and scientific explanations of our world.

Book Review on Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure by author/s Dr Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman.

Atomic Adventure

What’s it all about?

This fascinating children’s non-fiction picture book delves into the physics behind the energy forces that make up our world. It presents this complex topic in a remarkable way. We learn about light, sound, gravity, force, pressure, energy, magnetism, atoms, molecules and so much more. All the things we cannot see but know they are there. This book shows us a fun, knowledgeable and contemporary approach to physics and is bursting with mind blowing facts which are concisely explained through everyday events that children can easily relate to.

Which age group is it aimed at?

Due to the complex topic and the sheer volume of information to absorb I would rate this suitable for age 6 upwards. However it’s harder to put a maximum age limit on it as it’s an excellent reminder of basic physics at any time throughout school life.

Conclusion

The look and feel of this children’s book makes it an ideal gift for a curious mind, looking for answers and keen to learn about the invisible side to our world. This large hardback book is one to keep and to be used as a handy reference book.The humorous characters and attractive infographic style illustrations bring physics alive.

Author/s: Dr Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman

Illustrator: Ben Newman

Publisher: Flying Eye Books, March 2016.

Our Rating: 5/5

CLICK TO BUY Professor Astro Cats Atomic Adventure

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Source: Own copy

#BFCB #BooksForChildrenBlog

@lonerganbooks

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 3: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 4: Overcoming Fears

Fear is designed to instinctively protect us, yet it’s that same fear which also limits us and prevents us from achieving our goals. Some even believe that prolonged fear can manifest as mental and physical illness. Fears come in many guises, great and small such as a fear of snakes, the fear of being different or doing the wrong thing, the fear of failure or perhaps the fear of heights. Everyday, we let our fears determine our choices. The fear of reproach may stop us speaking out about an important issue despite feeling we should, we may opt to miss out on experiencing different countries and cultures as we can’t face getting on a plane or we simply avoiding a situation completely when we fear the outcome will be rejection. Fear makes us feel uncomfortable so many of us will automatically prefer to seek the quickest route to restoring the harmony rather than pushing past the fear to get to where we really want to be.

Understanding Overcoming Fears

For the most part fears are irrational as they’re either based on a limited amount of past experience or we’re imagining all the horrible things we think could happen in the future when they haven’t actually happened yet. We can be scared of something happening in the present but we cannot fear something happening in the present as fear needs time to breed. This suggests that fear has no power over us in the current moment, just the past or the future. Overcoming fear is about recognising that if the event we fear has happened in the past, this isolated incident doesn’t necessarily foretell the way a future event will pan out and likewise if our fear is of something which might happen in the future that fear is never a real experience until it occurs in the present. This tiny piece of knowledge alone should start to diminish the power of any fear.

Book Review on Milton’s Secret by author/s Eckhart Tolle and Robert S. Friedman.

Milton's Secret

What’s it all about?

This story is about a boy called Milton who’s being bullied by an older, bigger boy called Carter. In the beginning Milton feels powerless when he sees Carter and becomes overcome with the fear that the bullying will never stop. The author Eckhart Tolle shows why Carter’s fear has formed and how the more he replays the events in his mind the greater the fear becomes. Eventually his feelings become overwhelming, stop him sleeping and leave him scared to go to school. When Milton finally falls asleep he has a dream where he’s told about a light inside everyone and everything. This book advocates living in the now, seeing situations as they are in the present moment and understanding how the present continually effects and alters our perception of an experience. The idea behind the story is that by focusing on the present Milton is able to reduce and remove the fears he has built up in his mind about Carter.

Which age group is it aimed at?

As this story covers a very complex subject involving the concept of time, I would suggest this book is aimed at 6-10 year olds, an age by which most children have a firm grasp of the sequence of the past, present and future.

Conclusion: 

This book wasn’t published recently but at the same time it felt as though both the illustrations and the approach had aged very quickly for a book of less than a decade old. Despite this I had high hopes for a children’s picture book by Eckhart Tolle and I wasn’t disappointed until about three quarters of the way through when Milton was suddenly told about a light inside him and everything around him. Now as an adult I could get all philosophical about this and even explain to a child it’s like Yoda feeling the force as he focuses on the present moment but my problem with this part of the book was exactly that – that it needed explaining. The introduction of the light inside us felt irrelevant to the topic, made no sense in the context and it didn’t feel like a workable solution or explanation as to how to deal with the bullying.

I thought that maybe I was just reading too much into it and perhaps a child might understand and see it differently so I gave it to my nine year old to read and without any prompting from me he said “I liked the beginning but what was the light all about? That’s just weird. I don’t think that would help me if I was being bullied” as he raised his eyebrows and looked at me like the world had gone crazy.

I had to agree with him because the explanation was too abstract for a child to comprehend.  It didn’t seem to take into account that children often take things far more literally than adults do. A child would be more likely to be looking for a physical light within them than a feeling of energy and self belief.

That said, the idea of maintaining an open attitude, being aware of the present and letting go of the past is a practical and usable idea in how to build the courage to overcome the fear of bullying particularly in today’s virtual world of social media. The story demonstrated that when Milton was open to observing Carter in another environment he noticed different behaviours and because of this Carter appeared less threatening to him and it changed his perception of the boy.

Author/s: Eckhart Tolle and Robert S. Friedman.

Illustrator: Frank Riccio

Publisher: Hampton Roads Publishing Company Inc. (2008); co-published with Namaste Publishing.

Our Rating: 3 out of 5

CLICK TO BUY Milton’s Secret: An Adventure of Discovery Through Then, When, and the Power of Now

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 1: Emotions.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 2: Visualisation.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 3: Thinking Positively.

 

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – Part 2: Visualisation

Perhaps you’re not a big fan of the idea that you can determine your life path through creative visualisation, after all that would need to be accompanied by belief. It’s a subject which is often dismissed as a little new age and far out. However, whether you warm to the idea or not is irrelevant here as regardless of your beliefs there is no doubt that we all use visualisation on a daily basis. That may be to remind ourselves of the next turning we need to take when finding the right route home for example, picturing the choices we have for breakfast, formulating ideas for a flyer for a new business, imagining stories or our next holiday. We may not always be aware of it but we are regularly using it to get to where we want to be and our children are no different. However the more aware we become of the images that we’re creating and thinking about the more power we have to change them or strengthen them to our advantage. Today I’m reviewing a book called Nightlights which can help a child do just that.

Understanding Visualisation

Visualisation is the word we assign to the act of forming images in our minds. It’s in all of us to be creative creatures. How we express that is very individual but to start being creative first requires us to use our imagination. We can form these visual images in our mind as a fleeting natural reaction to a given situation or a deliberate act of intent.

Book Review on Nightlights by author/s Anne Givardi, Kate Petty, Joyce Dunbar and Louisa Somerville.

Nightlights

What’s it all about?

Nightlights begins with chapters dedicated to useful support for the adult on how to use and make the most of the book covering topics such as Imagination and Creativity, Finding Identity Through Stories and The Art of Reading to Children. Next follows twenty interactive stories which encourage your child to relax and concentrate on the story, to close their eyes and purposefully visualise the story as it’s being read to them.

The stories themselves carry an uncomplicated and gentle tone. Each bright and detailed digital illustration maintains a contemporary appearance for a book which tackles such an ancient topic. Each story is between three and five pages long so just the right length to be read at bedtime. This book encourages your child to imagine themselves in the story and in so doing shows them how to mentally create pictures in their mind with purpose to help organise their thoughts, dreams and ideas and help make sense of them. At the end of each story is a list of related affirmations to reinforce the values behind the story, although to me they’re more akin to wise advice than affirmations.

After the stories we’re offered some additional relaxation and visualisation techniques which focus on specific worries. These techniques can be easily remembered and practised when required. The book talks about these skills as the premise for meditation, breathing and concentration techniques. At the very back of the book is an index of values and issues which makes it easier to pick the right story for the right situation or current concern for your child that day.

Which age group is it aimed at?

This children’s book is advertised on Amazon as being aimed at ages 3 to 7. I see no reason why this book can’t have a positive effect on any child’s mindset but to truly appreciate this book I would recommend waiting until ages 5 upwards as any younger I feel they may not have developed the level of concentration required to see the whole story through to the end in the way that’s required of them.

Conclusion: Nightlights has been a permanent fixture on our shelves for some time now. It’s the type of book that I like to dip into every now and again as it’s something quite different to your average children’s book. I consider it an invaluable book for teaching children the skills to be creative with their lives. It covers a complex topic in a very organised and systematic way. It’s a book to be read out loud to a child and in small chunks. To get the most out of this book I’d suggest a little extra time should be taken to orientate yourself around it before sharing with your children.

Story Editor: Anne Civardi.

Author/s: Kate Petty, Joyce Dunbar, Louisa Somerville.

Introduced by: David Fontana.

Publisher: Duncan Baird Publishers (2003)

Our Rating: 4 out of 5

CLICK TO BUY Nightlights: Stories for You to Read to Your Child – To Encourage Calm, Confidence and Creativity

Next week in PART 3 I will be reviewing a book about how to think positively.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 1: Emotions.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 3: Positive Thinking.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 4: Overcoming Fears.

 

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

Reading with Down’s Syndrome

I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to interview Jilly Smithson, an incredible women who has been teaching for sixteen years as well as having worked or volunteered with people with disabilities since she was eighteen. She is now the proud mother of two children, Emily and Tom with Down’s Syndrome. You may have read her inspiring and heartfelt story in the Guardian recently (I chose to adopt two babies with Down’s Syndrome as a single mother).  It’s a story which summons the feelings of awe, disbelief, respect and admiration all rolled into one. I’ve always felt that with the right approach reading can benefit everyone and for me Jilly is the ideal person to give advice on the ways in which reading can add to the life of any child with Down’s Syndrome so I asked her a few questions to try and get a better insight into the reading time she has with her children.

At what age did you start reading to your children?

From babies – it has always been part of their bedtime routine and there have always been books around the house for them to look at when they want.

What has been the greatest challenge for you as a mum trying to support your children to read?

Emily has a visual impairment so it has been hard to get her interested in the written word. She has enlarged texts from the visual impairment team but still prefers to listen to stories read by others.

What are their favourite books and why?

Emily likes touchy feely books and stories with rhyming. She especially likes the Blue Kangaroo series of books at the moment.

Tom likes books that have actions or things that he can do as he reads, eg. lift the flap book, press the sound button.

In what ways has reading added value to your lives as a family?

It is something we do altogether as a special time before bed. It was one way in which I helped Emily to bond with Tom when he first came home.

What have you found to be the best way to keep them interested in reading?

Lots of different books that do different things – sound books, touchy feely books, lift the flap books, books with DVDs. Visits to the library, book bus etc. To be honest they’ve always been interested in books.

What do you think your children enjoy most about reading?

The individual time they get with me! Books are also an activity they can do independently so it is something that they can do for themselves.

What’s the funniest memory you’ve had so far of reading with your children?

We read The Gruffalo touch book. Tom was very young, about 10 months old. Both children explored the different textures etc then when we came to the wart on the end of his nose, it was a sticky spot on the page, Tom’s face after he touched it was a picture!

Having taught and worked with people with many types of disabilities over the years and now a mum of two children with Down’s Syndrome, what advice would you give to other parents with children with Down’s syndrome with regards to helping them to read?

Just read little and often, have books always available and remember that children with Down’s Syndrome find learning to read phonetically very difficult. We use a lot of symbols around the house – they have a picture and the word so that the children are being exposed to the written word all the time.

What would be the best message about life a children’s book could teach your children?

That it is ok to be different. The books by Todd Parr are perfect for this. They cover difficult topics in a simple way for young children and have wonderfully bright illustrations.

A huge thank you to Jilly for your input which clearly demonstrates that reading with children is not just about what’s in the book, it’s also about bonding, interacting and sharing time. Reading remains pleasurable when you remove any expectations of what levels you think should be attained or what you are told should be attained. Learning to read is a very individual journey for every child and this is no different for children with Down’s Syndrome. It is more about helping children to find the ways in which reading can add to their lives to give them that purpose and desire to read.

Resource links recommended by Jilly:

Down’s Syndrome Education International (DSE) – See and Learn Language and Reading.

Down’s Syndrome Education International (DSE) – A Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome.

Books mentioned by Jilly:


CLICK TO BUY My First Gruffalo: Touch-and-Feel book by Julia Donaldson (author) & Axel Scheffler (illustrator); Published: MacMillan Children’s Books.

 


Blue Kangaroo series by Emma Chichester Clark (author/illustrator); Published: Andersen Press.
CLICK TO BUY I Love You, Blue Kangaroo!

 

Books by Todd Parr; Published: Little, Brown Young Readers such as:


CLICK TO BUY It’s Okay to be Different

 


CLICK TO BUY It’s Okay To Make Mistakes

 

 


CLICK TO BUY The Feelings Book

 

 

Note: some names in this blog have been changed.

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to  Amazon.co.uk

World Book Day 2016

A Book in the Home

Welcome to World Book Day, the day when a fantastical array of characters set off for school across the world. I dropped off Harry Potter (books by J. K. Rowling) and Claude with his faithful friend Sir Bobblysock (books by Alex T. Smith) this morning and after the previous day’s mad scramble around the shops I welcomed a huge sigh of relief that I’d actually managed to pull the costumes together in time.

It was hard to ignore the new found murmur of excitement in the playground this morning. World Book Day had evidently lifted the fun factor of school a notch or two. I saw big smiles as each child took on the role of their favourite children’s book characters with hidden thespian confidence. Dressing up is a fun way to engage children with books but what do children really think about books? What do books mean to them?

For World Book Day I wanted to try and capture a small insight into how books have impacted on some children’s lives so I decided to ask around and do a quick investigation to test the water. The question I asked the children was :-

“What do books mean to you? For example this can be a feeling, a place or time that you link with books.”

All the responses are from children aged 12 and under. I have to admit I was expecting some negative or indifferent comments interspersed between the positive ones so I wasn’t one hundred percent sure where this blog would take me before I got some answers. It turned out that books are pretty popular (in case you hadn’t noticed). Some of the answers are a little random as you may expect from children but overall it emerged that most of the children associate books with bedtime, their favourite books and a happy time. I thought these results deserved being made into this A4 poster as a nice addition to any reading nook.

Book Poster

Feel free to copy and paste to print out.

Children’s Classics: Revamp or Rehash?

Beatrix Potter Series

Several years ago I eagerly snapped up a bargain box set of the adorable Beatrix Potter series – or at least that’s the way I’d remembered the stories and naturally wanted to share them with my children. However, no sooner had I opened them up and started reading them out loud, it dawned on me that I’d hit one of those moments of realisation that I should have just let my memory be; if there was ever to be a chance for it to remain beautiful.

So what had happened? The story lines and characters were still endearing, the illustrations remained as fine and delicate as ever and I felt like I was holding something very precious until I opened my mouth and found myself talking like a Victorian! There was no way my children would be enthralled with the likes of a “perambulator” (The Tale of Two Mice), or “galoshes” (The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher), a “pocket-handkins” (The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle) or the “beautifullest” (The Tailor of Gloucester) of lettuces with “soporific effect” (The Tale of Flopsy Bunnies). “Alack I am done!” (The Tailor of Gloucester).

“Sufficeth” (The Tailor of Gloucester) to say I found myself adapting this clunky, long-winded, tongue-twisting, out of date language as I stumbled and soldiered on. Of course since this experience CBeebies have nabbed a regular slot for a modern day Peter Rabbit and his friends and the inevitable spin off books can be easily purchased. Phew!

Peter Rabbit returns to TV with a little help from Harry Potter and Indiana Jones – the Telegraph.

So what do you think? Should the children’s classics remain untouched, fond, distant childhood memories which are locked within their own time and history? Or should they be allowed to break into the modern world and continue to teach and entertain with an up to date twist? Surely it would make sense for authors to concentrate on engaging us with new literary classics instead? As the reality of my Beatrix Potter memory left an uncomfortable impression on me I can’t help but swing towards the merits of a revamp, feeling that in this case ignorance would have been bliss! If I hadn’t had access to the original version again I wouldn’t have come across any ancient awkward wording and the experience would have enhanced my memory rather than leaving me with a box set caked in dust! After all, a classic can only become a classic tale if it is passed on from generation to generation and that will only happen if it leaves a good reason to be passed on. A re-write that captures that reason could extend the enjoyment for all ages to savour.

Every classic is a story with an inescapable magnetism that pulls you in time and time again. Unless that changes, there will always be room for a revamp. Making something which is old, familiar and much loved into something new can however require some highly tuned skills, of which many excellent examples continue to emerge from the children’s book industry. I will leave you with a selection of modernised fairy tales to keep an eye out for; from humorous skits in contemporary settings to the unexpected with amusing role reversals.

PICTURE BOOKS

The Pea and the Princess by Mini Gray (author/illustrator) Publisher: Red Fox New ed. 1 Apr 2004. Based on the Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Andersen.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka (author) & Lane Smith (illustrator). Publisher: Puffin New Ed. 31 Oct 1991. Based on The Three Little Pigs by Joseph Jacobs.

Prince Cinders by Babette Cole (author/illustrator). Publisher: Puffin New Ed.  25 Sept 1997. Based on the original story of Cinderella originally by Giambattista Basile and later re-told by the Brothers Grimm.

Jack and the Baked Beanstalk by Colin Stimpson (author/illustrator). Publisher: Templar Publishing 1 Nov 2013. Based on the original story Jack and the Beanstalk by Benjamin Tabart.

Red Riding Hood and the Sweet Little Wolf by Rachael Mortimer (author) & Liz Pichon (author) Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books 3 Jan 2013. Based on the Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault.

Goldilocks on CCTV by John Agard (author) & Satoshi Kitamura (illustrator). Publisher: Francis Lincoln Children’s Books 3 Apr 2014. A poetry book inspired by the original Goldilocks and the Three Bears story by Robert Southey.

YA (Young Adult)

Outlaw: the Story of Robin Hood by Michael Morpurgo. Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books 29th Mar 2012 inspired by The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle.

The Sleeper and the SpindleNeil Gaiman (author) and Chris Riddell (author). Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s 23 Oct 2014. Created as a Snow White meets Sleeping Beauty version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

The Pied Piper of HamlinRussell Brand (author) & Chris Riddell (illustrator). Publisher:  Canongate Books Main Ed. 1st Oct 2015. A story based on the original Pied Piper of Hamlin by Robert Browning.

Tinder  by Sally Gardner (author) & David Roberts (illustrator). Publisher: Orion Children’s Books 7 Nov 2013. Based on The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Andersen.

My last mention is The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black who has spun her own original fairy tale for children today. Publisher: Orion Children’s Books 5 Feb 2015. I haven’t read this yet but it has some great reviews on Goodreads so will be adding it to my ever increasing list of books to share with my eldest.

What are your favourite modern fairy tales and why?