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

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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

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

When we go for a walk in the country, what do we see?  How does it make us feel?

Perhaps we admire the view like a picture of beauty held static in time and capture it on our iPhones as a keepsake. Or maybe we’re aware of the footprints in the soil,  the leaves falling to the ground or a bird chirping above us on a branch. Yet somehow life seems to slow down in the country. The air feels calmer and our hearts more serene as we march through the fields and weave among the trees at a purposeful pace. Suddenly it’s like the world around us is standing still as we rush across its living surface. A mere cursory glance could trick us into thinking that it’s only us who is changing, moving and interacting with our surroundings and nothing else …but then we look again.

The miracle is that everything around us is in a constant state of change. Everything is reacting and adapting to its surrounding environment. Everything is growing, developing and regenerating into something new. All living things are connected within this continuous cycle and nothing more clearly demonstrates this than our ever changing seasons.

Book Review on Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go by author Patricia Hegarty

Tree

What’s it all about?

A striking picture book which depicts the changing seasons through the life cycle of a tree. The concept is simple and brings the descriptions of each season to life with rhyming text. It starts in winter and follows the seasons full circle back to winter again. We learn about how the tree interacts and changes with the weather, animals and surrounding plants throughout each season.

Which age group is it aimed at?

This book would capture the interest of the younger end of the picture book market, age two to five years. Young children will find that the bright illustrations and rhythmic text clearly and simply demonstrate the changing seasons and make them fun and easy to recognise.

Conclusion

The look and feel of this book immediately draws you in with its vibrant pictures and cute little owl peeping out through the cut out hole. This is a book you would be proud to have on your bookshelf. Both informative and enchanting. Although I found the rhyme a little clunky in places, overall it added to the magical atmosphere created within the book.

Author: Patricia Hegarty

Illustrator: Britta Teckentrup

Publisher: Little Tiger Kids, Sept 2015

Our Rating: 5/5

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Source: Own copy

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

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

Book Review: Oi Frog by Kes Gray

Oi Frog

Synopsis: Frog wants to find somewhere comfortable to sit but soon finds out he can only sit where he’s expected to sit and doing the “right” thing is what it’s all about. Would you question why?

Conclusion: How often do we do something just because that’s how we’ve been told we should do it and how it’s always been done? A super rhyming story with an unexpected ending. A perfect example of when the simplest of ideas are often the best.  My children love repeating the comical and quirky rhymes. Accompanied by bold and expressive illustrations this book gets you laughing at how absurd social etiquette can be at times when we don’t really know why we do it.

Book Genre: Picture Book

Recommended Age Range: 0-5 years.

Author: Kes Gray

Illustrator: Jim Field

Published: Hodder Children’s Books Feb 2015

Source: Own copy

Rating: 5/5

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Book Review: The Three Ninja Pigs by David Bedford

The Three Ninja Pigs

Synopsis: Everyone gets cross when these lively, ninja kicking pigs seem to be leaving a trail of destruction behind them everywhere they go … but who is really causing the mess and how can they retaliate?

Conclusion: These unlikely martial arts heroes karate their way through this fast paced picture book. The action packed illustrations and their amusing additional comments successfully portray the pig’s good intentions mixed up in mayhem. A truly original take on a classic tale.

Book Genre: Picture Book

Recommended Age Range: 2-6 years.

Author: David Bedford

Illustrator: Becka Moor

Published: Simon and Schuster Children’s UK, Jan 2016.

Source: Own copy

Rating: 4/5

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Book Review: There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes by Michelle Robinson

There's a Lion in my Cornflakes

Synopsis: Eric and Dan collect one hundred coupons, just like it says on their their cereal packet, to be exchanged for a real pet lion. It sounds straight forward enough. Only pet lions seem to be very popular of late so they don’t quite get what they’d hoped for. It begins to look like a complete disaster … or is it?

Conclusion: This book will get both you and your children giggling. A funny, contemporary story with illustrations to match. Still a firm favourite of ours. Forget saving up for books, posters or cuddly toys. The stakes have just got higher!

Book Genre: Picture Book

Recommended Age Range: 2-6 years.

Author: Michelle Robinson

Illustrator: Jim Field

Published: Bloomsbury Children’s July 2014

Source: Own copy

Rating: 5/5

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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.

 

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

There are certain aspects of life which we’re never taught about in school. It’s the things we tend to stumble our way through, across, over and under as we rack up the years of our lives. Some may say that’s how we grow and learn and gain wisdom but if only there had been a few more sign posts along the way when we were children, just to give us a hint and point us in the right direction, perhaps the path would have shown us a very different view. Today as the first part of a short series of blogs I’ll be writing, I’m reviewing the picture book called Emotionary: Say What You Feel which helps to explain the confusing, involuntary and intangible subject of emotions.

Understanding Emotions

Emotions are an essential part of what it means to be human. If listened to, emotions can make us aware of what we’re thinking and feeling about any given situation through the corresponding physical and mental reactions which manifest. Being aware of our emotions can give us the power to take control of our own lives rather than being at the mercy of seemingly involuntary reactions. Emotions can often appear irrational and illogical so understanding and accepting them can elude many of us for most of our lives. After all it’s only the reaction to the emotion which can be captured in a lab and put on display. The emotion itself is something far less tangible with its intuitive and instinctive state.

However, understanding how we feel is still only the start of the journey. What about expressing those feelings to others? How are we supposed to translate these illusive feelings into words? Although I’ve always been very aware of my own feelings for people and situations, throughout my life at times I’ve struggled to voice the feelings most important to me in ways in which others can clearly understand. It’s something I’ve had to learn over the years through tears, misunderstandings and heartache and not something which has come naturally. Any words expressed out loud suddenly seemed inadequate for the emotions I was feeling, like hollow voids preparing to be impregnated with misinterpretation but I’ve come to realise that a good writer or speaker is someone who can embody any amount of emotion into each empty sound or mechanically printed word. Perhaps that’s how we capture the magic of writing. I’m never quite sure if my fascination with words and writing was born in part from this desire and need to coherently express my feelings or whether I recognised that my love of words and writing was the tool I could use to express my feelings. I’m pretty sure the former had a strong influence but the lines are blurred.

Book Review on Emotionary: Say What You Feel by authors Cristina Nunez and Rafael R. Valcarcel.

Emotionary

What’s it all about?

As the title suggests Emotionary is a dictionary of emotions and without a doubt it does what it says. A total of forty-two emotions to be exact are explained and illustrated in this beautiful book. The explanations include positive and negative emotions including fear, embarrassment, admiration and compassion for example with each emotion having been assigned a two page spread, mostly taken up with original illustrative interpretations which are complemented by the poignant text.

Emotionary helps children to recognise and understand their feelings by describing each emotion and providing the vocabulary to express those feelings to others. I wish I’d had a book like this as a child. Each emotion can be read randomly but when read from page to page the authors have also cleverly linked the emotions to show a cycle of feelings and how one can lead to another.

Which age group is it aimed at?

The text is by no means simple and the explanations are often profound as the book doesn’t hesitate to deal with some complex emotions. Whilst it captured my six year old’s attention and both boys loved making requests as to which emotions I read out first, my nine year old undoubtedly gained more from it due to his increased vocabulary. I ended up reading the whole book with him in one evening as he didn’t want to stop. As such my recommendation would be eight years upwards (and yes this can include adults) as this is not only when feelings become far more confusing for children as they begin to realise that everything is not as black and white as they may have once thought but they’re also at an age when they’re wanting to make sense of their emotions and are better equipped to comprehend the explanations. However that said, this book prompted many questions from both boys and both were keen to acknowledge which emotions they could relate to and when they had experienced them.

Conclusion

Every child’s shelf should hold this book so they can refer to it whenever they feel lost and need some reassurance that what they’re feeling is perfectly normal and understandable.

My 9 year olds verdict: This book has “very descriptive text and imaginative pictures. This book makes me feel pleasure.”

Author/s: Cristina Nunez and Rafael R. Valcarcel.

Illustrators: Twenty two illustrators have collaborated to illustrate this book, depicting one or two emotions each so listing all of them is sadly not practical (view image for all attributions) but my personal favourites are Love by Maricel Rodriguez Clark, Relief and Embarrassment by Nella Gatica, Compassion by Nancy Brajer, Insecurity by Virginia Pinon, Acceptance by Josefina Wolf, Envy by Cynthia Orensztajn, Satisfaction by Tofi and Pleasure by Luciana Feito.

Publisher: Palalbras Aladas (2016)

Our Rating: 5 out of 5

CLICK TO BUY Emotionary: Say what you feel

Next week in PART 2 I will be reviewing a book to teach the art of visualisation to children.

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

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.

 

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