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

Most of us are well aware that we need water to stay alive but are we aware of the extent of the role that water plays in our lives and that of other organisms, animals and plants? Are we aware of how dependent we’ve become on water in daily activities and the effects we’re having on that water we drink to stay alive? Today in part two of my blog about discovering our world in picture books I explore the valuable role water plays here on earth and it’s natural continuous cycle.

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water.  Approx. 2.6% of which is fresh water found in lakes, rivers, icecaps and glaciers, or otherwise held as water vapour in the air, moisture in the ground or found within permeable rock, animals and ourselves; around 60% of the human body is made up of water. The other 97.4% of the water on Earth is salt water held in the oceans and is not drinkable.

However, just think how much of the 2.6% of fresh water is either difficult to obtain or has been contaminated by sewage, industrial and domestic waste, oil spillages and nuclear disasters. In practice less than 1% of the world’s water is considered suitable for drinking and that’s once it has travelled through a rigorous industrial cleansing process.

I once read that we need to teach our children to love and embrace nature and the outdoors if we stand a chance of saving it. It’s one thing for us as parents to nag our children about recycling and disposing of waste responsibly but quite another to explain why we do it. Helping our children understand the importance of water within ourselves and the universe is a huge step forward in this direction so they learn to understand the impact we have on nature and how protecting our world is protecting ourselves.

Book Review on The Adventures of Water by author Malcolm Rose.

The Adventures of Water

What’s it all about?

This colourful pop-up book follows the water cycle from water vapour to tidal seas. It includes interesting facts about the properties of water, the uses of water, the effects of water in the environment, water as a habitat and water in the body. With plenty of lift-up flaps and spin wheels to keep the little ones involved and keen to search for answers, this is a thorough introduction to the continuous journey of water, annotated with interesting facts alongside simple illustrations.

Which age group is it aimed at?

The Adventures of Water is another example of a non-fiction picture book which could appeal on different levels for those aged between five and ten years. I see it as a book which children can go back to time and again to re-explore its features and discover a different fact as they progress in age.

Conclusion

I love this book. The layout, the illustrations and engaging information work together perfectly. Every time I look at it with my children we find something new. However, whilst this book states that “about one-eighth of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water” I was disappointed that it didn’t mention anything about why and how it can be polluted and the devastating effects it can have. This is the only reason I rated this book 4 out of 5. The addition of one more double page spread for this purpose would have given this a 5 star rating from me. Otherwise I cannot fault it. This book would make an absorbing read for any child with a thirst for knowledge!

Author: Malcolm Rose

Illustrator: Sean Sims

Publisher: Red Shed, Aug 2015

Our Rating: 4/5

CLICK TO BUY The Adventures of Water

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Source: Own copy

All % figures quoted from the Adventures of Water.

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

From Picture Book to Chapter Book.

Early Reader 6-8 Blog Image

My six year old boy isn’t a reluctant reader as such but if I ask him to read a book that he thinks he can’t manage he’s easily put off. Whilst I will only suggest books which I think he can cope with there’s often other ideas going on in that head of his. Without a doubt, foremost he still adores many picture books but he’s now becoming interested in longer stories despite it being obvious he still lacks the confidence to tackle them head on.

I’ve therefore been looking for books which bridge the gap between picture books and longer chapter books; ones which make the transition less obvious. The general rule of thumb is to pick books which have early reader across the top of the front cover. Early reader books are smaller than picture books and although the font size varies between books that too is generally reduced. On the whole they’re also split into short chapters but predominantly still focus on less text and more illustrations. Horrid Henrys & Early Readers 20 Children’s Books Collection Box Set Illustrated by Francesca Simon is an obvious choice within this category. However for some reason despite his school book bag being packed full of early reader books my son steers well clear of these at home. I think perhaps he associates these types of books with school. So I’ve spent some time searching for chapter books which contain the same features as early reader books but maybe look a little less educational! It hasn’t been easy. There are several within this category of which he loves the story and is happy for me to read to him but if any suggestion is made for him to read them to me he quickly loses interest. I’ve therefore tried to follow his lead on this. It’s involved offering a large variety of books and much trial and error. However the following six books are all ones which he often picks up and reads by himself without any prompting.


Stink, The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald (author) & Peter H. Reynolds (illustrator). Published:  Walker Books Ltd, 2006.

This has been around for a while and is the first in a spin off series from the author’s Judy Moody series as Stink is Judy’s little brother James. In this book we follow Stink through from his experience of shrinking to dealing with an escaping class newt and being the recipient of an un-birthday party. An amusing story with a light-hearted tone encouraging children to be happy with who they are. The large text and frequent illustrations made this book a popular choice.

CLICK TO BUY Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid


Wigglesbottom Primary, The Magic Hamster by Pamela Butchart (author) & Becka Moor (illustrator). Published: Nosy Crow Ltd, 2016.

I knew this title would get my youngest’s attention. The mix of magic, hamsters and friendship was everything he loves all rolled into one. He was happy to take this one away and read it on his own instead of watching TV so it gets full marks from me. This is just one out of a growing series of books set in Wigglesbottom Primary and it’s a lovely example of the dual colour palette and shiny pages I’m seeing more and more of for this age range. Somehow this design seems to enhance the contemporary feel of the book for me. This particular book is split into three separate stories, the first being about the magic hamster.

CLICK TO BUY Wigglesbottom Primary: The Magic Hamster


Action Dogs, Ocean of Peril by Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore (authors) & Martin Chatterton (illustrator). Published: Usborne Publishing Ltd, 2012.

My youngest was very keen to read this one to me and despite some words being beyond his vocabulary level he has happily persisted. Action Dogs is a graphic novel with comic style speech bubbles, black and white illustrations, moody cats and clumsy heroes with high tech gadgets and disastrous plans. The font is smaller than that of other books but it has been split into twenty-five manageable sections. A book packed with drama and mishaps galore.

CLICK TO BUY Action Dogs: Ocean of Peril (Book 1)


The Chicken Squad, The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin (author) & Kevin Cornell (illustrator). Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint ed. Edition, 2015.

These cute baby chickens are full of character and brave beyond their size. Split between an introduction, nine chapters and an epilogue, this book works well as a gentle introduction for young readers to a traditional book layout but with large text. The black and white illustrations express a range of emotions as the chickens go in search of the scary thing that has got Tail and squirrel all worked up.

CLICK TO BUY The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure


Squishy McFluff, The Invisible Cat by Pip Jones (author) & Ella Okstad (illustrator). Published: Faber & Faber Ltd 2014.

The large text and a dual pastel palate used to highlight expressive black and white sketches makes this book a pleasure to look at. The story is split into three short rhyming chapters about a little girl Ava and her invisible kitten who likes to get into mischief. Stories written in rhyme are often very appealing to new readers as the predictability of rhyme can help them interpret the text more easily. Squishy’s funny melodic rhyming adventures are a prime example of this. Pip Jones has had five more published since this one as part of the series.

CLICK TO BUY Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat!


Claude, Going for Gold by Alex T. Smith (author / illustrator). Published: Hodder Children’s Books 2016.

Going for Gold is the latest in a superb series. Although the Claude stories aren’t split into chapters they are a must for early readers. Our entire family are huge fans of the comical French dog Claude and his best friend Sir Bobblysock. It’s extremely amusing on many levels and complimented by the eccentric illustrations splashed with red. Claude is cast as a lovable accidental hero who is always up for trying new things. Accompanied by his friend Sir Bobblysock, who doesn’t like getting dirty and prefers to do as little as he possibly can, they regularly slip out of the house in search of adventure whilst their owners are at work.

CLICK TO BUY Claude Going for Gold!

I’ll be posting some more short reviews here and on my Facebook page over the summer holidays of picture books as well as easy reader books for 6-8 year olds so hopefully everyone can find at least one to keep each little one keen to read this summer.

Source: Library or private collection.

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Is it Just Another Cover Up?

What does a book cover say about its book?

Book Cover

Is it the book’s front man in the guise of an attractive designer coat with the sole intention of luring you in? Maybe it acts as the protector of its book, like a knight defending its worth? Perhaps it feels like something which is detached from its owner to distract you from the monotonous, bland print inside?

Or … is a book’s cover an integral part of the book’s content? This was a point raised on Twitter following my blog last week when I said it’s ultimately what’s inside the book that matters not what’s on the outside and it’s a topic which proves to be greater than it first appears.

A book cover could make or break your book.

There’s no escaping it. A book cover wouldn’t exist without a book and it is marketing which plays a large part in the creation of a book cover. A book needs something pretty to prompt the reader to pick it up in the first place. However once the book has been born the need for a cover simultaneously develops into a fundamental part of the story and if done well it should be hard to separate the two.

A book cover raises curiosity.

For all books (including picture books and graphic novels) the cover illustration is always going to be a strong image we associate with the book on some level. It’s the first impression we receive before we know anything about the book and the one which symbolises the entire sense of the story in one powerful image. It should tell us what we can expect from the book and which other books it is similar to. A cover needs to raise curiosity and encourage the reader to start questioning what the book is all about.

A book cover sets the scene.

Designing a book cover is a complex process. First the illustrator needs to establish the character, setting and plot and maybe highlight any contrasts they’ve picked up on within the story. Then there’s the genre (e.g. historical, thriller, gothic), the theme (e.g. coming of age, everlasting love, desire to escape), the tone (e.g. jokey, tense, cynical), the mood (e.g. foreboding, exciting, calm) and the narrative quality (e.g. elaborate, simple, insightful) which all need to be combined in such an intriguing design that the essence of the book is poignantly portrayed without giving the story away. Finally there’s the practical imagery to consider too. What does the colour scheme say? Even the typography needs to be reflective of the contents of the book.

A book cover gives an unread book meaning.

One glimpse at a book without its cover seems to render the book void of meaning.  Have you ever seen blind dates with a book advertised in bookshops? This is when a selection of books are wrapped in brown paper so their cover images are a mystery to the reader. The excitement and wonder is in the unknown as the reader has only the title to go by and nothing else. It’s a lucky dip. When faced with these clones we realise a book cover is what differentiates each book and adds to its unique personality before it’s even been opened. Each cover and its book are intrinsically linked.

A book cover is a visual introduction which entices you to read.

Although I stand by my comment that it’s what’s on the inside that ultimately matters, this comment is based purely on the fact that a book cover only comes into existence because a book has been written and not visa versa. Unlike a book, its cover design is not about itself, its sole purpose is to represent the book’s contents so a cover cannot be designed before the book is written. However, a cover plays a very important role in the life of a story. It gives us the title, a symbolic image for the story and of course the all important blurb on the back so the chances are that without any book covers we’d probably read far fewer books in the first place… and what’s the point of a book that is never read? It’s at this point we can see that the cover develops into the visual introduction to the story and a highly influential one which sets the readers expectations.

A book and its cover work together.

So it looks like the relationship between a book and its cover has become less a matter of importance and more a matter of mutual benefit in the way that they complement each other. The next time you pick up a book why not give the cover a little more credit and make a point to observe it closer? What’s the book cover saying to you about the book? Then maybe take another look again once you’ve read the book. Did it fulfil your expectations?

Please head over to my new Pinterest board of children’s book covers where I’ve started to collect those which have caught my eye due to their colour, beauty, patterns, intricacy or simplicity. I’ve included three alternative designs for Alice in Wonderland to show how varied interpretation can be. Keep watching as I’ll be adding some more as I find them.

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The Best Invented Characters in Picture Books

My favourite part of writing children’s picture books is creating and developing fun and likeable characters. The characters are what steer the story and give it purpose and a meaning to exist.  However, to date I’ve never attempted to create a new creature in its own right. For now I’ve concentrated on humans or animals. So like many before me I often wonder what the right ingredients are that make an everlasting and memorable make believe character. Is it just a single magic ingredient or a mixture of many? To investigate this I chose six original and well known picture book characters which have stood the test of time.

Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs (author / illustrator). Published: Penguin Books ed. 2012.
This edition is set out like a graphic novel and as the title states, Fungus is a Bogeyman who bizarrely is lovable for the very thing we dislike about him; his grimy, grubby lifestyle. His manners and habits are so disgusting that we can’t help but grimace out loud and revel in his yucky, sticky mess. Fungus lives in the deep, dark tunnels of Bogeydom and this book devotes a double page spread to Bogey anatomy. Bogeymen sleep in the day then like to stir up trouble and be a nuisance at night by waking babies, making as much noise as possible, frightening people and even giving them boils as Bogeymen do everything humans despise. Fungus lives in a world which seems topsy turvy to us but completely mundane to him so he soon begins to question the reason for his existence.

The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My by Tove Jansson (author / illustrator). Translated by Sophie Hannah, 2001. Published: Sort of Books, ed. 2001.

Moomin is a lovable Moomintroll who lives in the woods and helps his friend Mymble find her sister Little My and the fillyjonk. Right from the start Moomin is the one leading the searches and not afraid of adventure. Moomin is portrayed as kind, helpful and supportive to the others whilst remaining a tiny bit vulnerable. What is there not to love about Moomin?

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson (author) and Axel Scheffler (illustrator). Published: Macmillan Children’s Books, 1999.


The Gruffalo is a creature that also lives in the woods, whose distinct physical characteristics are clearly described to create a memorable image (and rhyme). The woodland creatures talk about him liking “roasted fox, owl ice cream and scrambled snake” but his description turns out to be more intimidating than his actions as he mocks the mouse and gladly follows him. The fact that the reader is aware but not the Gruffalo, that it’s the Gruffalo scaring the other creatures and not the mouse only adds to our sympathy for the Gruffalo. He’s lovable because he’s not very bright and is easily manipulated by the mouse.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (author / illustrator). Published: Harper Collins Children’s Books, ed. 2009.

Dr. Seuss is the master of creating characters including The Grinch, the Once-ler and Wockets but The Lorax has to be my favourite by far. The Lorax lives in a tree trunk and looks like a wise but jovial and cuddly grandfather figure. He speaks for the trees and isn’t afraid to follow his principles and ethics when the Once-ler starts to destroy the Truffula trees and their Truffula fruits. So much so eventually all the creatures are driven out of their home. It’s a serious story about the importance of looking after the environment but as always with Dr Seuss, it’s told in a clever and entertaining way. The Lorax is a strong, individual character.

Larf by Ashley Spires (author / illustrator). Published: Kids Can Press; reprint ed. Jun 2015.


Larf is a vegetarian sasquatch described as a 7-ft tall manbeast who lives in the woods with his bunny friend Eric. He’s an unassuming guy who doesn’t like attention and enjoys a quiet life but deep down feels a little sad that nobody seems to want to acknowledge his existence.  Larf feels different to the humans so keeps himself to himself to avoid drawing attention to his differences. However when he meets Shurl and Patricia he starts to feel they might be able to understand him so he becomes more open to changing his life and sharing his time with them.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (author / illustrator). Published: Random House Children’s Books, Red Fox Ed. 2000.

Although the Wild Things are not the main characters I thought they deserved being included as they still play such a central role to the story. Of all the characters I’ve mentioned The Wild Things are probably the most fearsome with all their roaring and gnashing, sharp claws and rolling of eyes but as Max is able to tame them and play games with them, they quickly lose their frightening image. The Wild Things live on an island in the middle of the sea and although they are physically gigantic and unruly animals we soon understand that they are just doing what comes naturally to them.

What do all these characters have in common?

Having gathered all these creatures together in one room I started to try and decipher what I’d learnt from these characters? What do they all have in common? Although not an exhaustive list, I picked out the most important points which stood out to me and thought I’d share these observations with you.

  • NAME – something easy to pronounce but with no other meaning.
  • APPEARANCE – they cannot be a human or animal but must be recognisable as a creature with eyes, legs and arms for example.
  • SETTING – where does the character live? Somewhere hidden from the human eye.
  • RELATABLE FEELINGS / ACTIONS – ensure the reader can empathise with the character’s reactions and reasons for doing something.
  • PERSONALITY – the character needs traits that we admire, love or sympathise with.
  • SOMETHING UNIQUE – there needs to be something unique or distinct about the character to make them stand out. Either through physical or personality traits, a particular interest, passion or belief or being unconventional in their outlook.
  • GROWS – the character needs to change, grow or learn something since the start of the story.
  • EFFECT ON OTHERS – they need to have an effect on the other characters, stir up feelings, instigate behaviours etc.
  • INTERESTING EXPERIENCES – they should experience a range of feelings and events in the story which surprise or capture the reader’s imagination.
  • NEVER MEDIOCRE – the character should be clearly defined with distinct personality traits and an individual appearance. Nothing vague or wishy-washy, these characters are different, unusual, with a purpose and the reader knows it.
  • GOOD OR BAD? – Are they a good or a bad character? They can be bad, but not intimidating, good but not weak or they may grow from being a bad character to a good one but never remain in between.

Looking at the characters within a story in this way isn’t easy and it’s obvious there are a number of factors to consider but breaking the character down like this can help to determine their motives, dreams and behaviours in greater depth in order to understand who they are.

Maybe now I should attempt the trickier part of creating a character of my own…

 

Source: Library or private copies.

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.

 

14 Common Misconceptions About Writing Picture Books

Tree Frog 2

With people like Simon Cowell making flippant remarks about all children’s books being boring and that he could easily do better it’s no wonder the genre doesn’t always get the credit it deserves inside and outside the writing industry. It’s short sighted to assume that because children aren’t yet as knowledgeable, educated or verbally adept as most (but by no means all) adults that their books are easy to write. I chose to start my writing career with picture books because I could see the difference they make to thousands of children’s lives but do I feel I plumped for the easy option? Hell no and these 14 misconceptions make up just a few of the reasons why I feel that way even at this early stage of my career.

  1. Writing children’s picture books is easy. Writing a picture book plays on a very particular set of writing skills including saying something of note, interest or amusement within a limited word count; picking words which convey your sometimes complicated message clearly and simply; choosing a topic or character of interest to your reader who is of an age you have experienced but in an era vastly different to that of today and usually long forgotten. Every single word is important and every phrase should stick in a child’s mind for the right reasons. You are not writing for someone who thinks like you, you are writing for someone who is learning from you.
  2. You just have to send your story to publishers. Finding a publisher is only a small part of the process. First there’s learning all about what publishers are expecting, how to stand out from the crowd, having an original idea or putting a new spin on an old one, adapting your writing into a style children will appreciate, getting the layout right, learning how to be a tough editor on your own masterpieces … and that’s all before you’ve even approached any potential publishers and agents.
  3. If your family and friends like it everyone else will like it. Of course it’s a good start if they genuinely like your stories but unless your family members are involved in the publishing industry chances are they haven’t a clue if it is written well or whether it’s a potential top seller. Your family may be among your target audience but their’s is only a limited (unprofessional) opinion. Find someone who knows the industry who can give you sound advice to take your dreams forward.
  4. Everybody is writing a children’s book. Sometimes it may seem that way with the amount of talented competition appearing out there but not everyone has the desire or inclination and especially not the perseverance to write a children’s book so concentrate on developing your own talents and skills and just enjoy reading other writer’s books and learning from the successful ones along the way.
  5. You just have to write your main idea down as it comes into your head, do a couple of tweaks then send your first draft out as the editors will do the rest. I think I once read that you’re likely to write your book at least 5 times. In my house that’s a gross underestimation even before sending to publishers. First there’s the idea and coordinating it into a solid story structure. Then there’s the correct layout and word count to consider, the suitability of the words I’m using not to mention the checking part, checking I’m successfully saying what I set out to say, that it’s believable and makes sense and that each spread evokes good imagery. Yes editors will want to alter your work but first the publishers need to see that you have an idea that works within a picture book framework.
  6. Picture books are too short to need a story structure. Wrong. Everything you’ve ever learned about writing an outstanding story needs to be covered despite your challenging word count.
  7. You have to be able to draw (or know someone who can) to write picture books. I’ve come to realise that if you’re a professional illustrator and a writer you do have an advantage in marketing terms. Pictures and images are always a more attractive sell than stand alone text. However if you’re not a professional illustrator don’t attempt to pretend you are. Poor pictures can do more harm than no pictures. Be brave and trust in your ability as a writer to speak for itself. Many publishers have a bank of illustrators they like to use so it’s certainly not an expectancy in the publishing world and they will be happy to match your writing style with the right illustrator.
  8. It doesn’t take long to write a picture book. Writing a picture book takes as long as it takes. What do I mean by that? It’s different for everyone as a number of factors can affect the speed of production. How experienced are you? What other commitments do you have? Is it your full time job? Do you write in short bursts or hide away in a room for hours? Can you focus on your writing at the drop of a hat or do you need to build up to the levels of concentration required to produce good written work? One thing you do need to do is to keep persisting and continue writing.
  9. Anyone can write a children’s book. True anyone can and even anyone can publish one nowadays but writing a quality, timeless picture book takes, talent, willingness to learn, being able to accept criticism, not being precious about changing and adapting your story idea and understanding the commercial expectations.
  10. If it’s a good picture book it will sell itself. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a talented writer or even a published writer is instantly recognised. People need to know you’re out there before they can like your stories. An agent can help but knowing the basics of marketing will go a long way to building your career – although if you’re Simon Cowell you’ve probably already got this part covered.
  11. Picture books can be as long or as short as you like. Most picture books follow a strict layout and word count which has been proven to appeal to their market audience. Generally the more succinct the better. Any deviance from this can reduce your chances of being published. So pinpointing your story’s plot, progress, conflicts, surprises and goals on a limited word count without reigning in your imagination is a constant juggling act and paramount if you want to avoid a boring tale Mr Cowell.
  12. Rhyming picture books are the most popular. I’ve read with many different children and undoubtedly they enjoy books in rhyme as do their teachers. However for many publishers, this is a perfect example of when it’s not always wise or viable to follow the demand. Rhyming stories can add complications to the publishing process as rhyming books pose numerous translation issues. So beware when writing in rhyme. Every word and every sentence has to flow effortlessly to convince the reader it’s the right style for your story. The rhyme must serve to enhance the pace and humour and know that even when you master this you may be limiting your market.
  13. If your picture book is rejected is must be rubbish. It might be rubbish (probably a doubt many writers suffer from) but rejections can be due to a number of things. Your book may be too similar to another book they’re publishing, the subject matter doesn’t fit with other books they publish, they’ve already filled their quota for the year so don’t have the resources to support the offer of a contract. One of the hardest parts of being a writer is to accept when your work isn’t up to scratch but to believe in your abilities and success regardless.
  14. Picture books only appeal to young children. Picture books may be aimed at young children but the appeal stretches much further than that. When writing a picture book you need to bear in mind that much of the time adults are the ones who make the initial purchase and the ones who read the stories so giving consideration to an adults enjoyment can only enhance the longevity of your story. As picture book popularity develops, despite being traditionally billed as starter books, more and more of the contemporary picture books are retaining their simplistic appeal for older children too now. The bold, colourful and often humorous stories can be an attractive, uncomplicated read for any able reader too.

So Mr Cowell, all any children’s writer is aiming to do is to offer a book that is captivating, exciting, fun and interesting to pass on their love of reading and if you can achieve that with your army of editors supporting you, I look forward to an entertaining read at bedtime.

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

One of the hardest things to do in life is to remain positive when we’re facing events which make us unhappy, anxious or confused and there’s always a fine line between burying our head in the sand and viewing the situation positively. So how do we remain positive in adverse situations without feeling like we’re blatantly lying to ourselves? Today I’m reviewing a book called I Think, I Am which explores instances of when children might need help turning negative thoughts into positive ones.

Understanding Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is a chosen perspective. We always have the choice to decide how we’re going to think and react towards a situation. Being positive comes naturally to most of us when we’re faced with a rewarding or enjoyable situation but as soon as we’re faced with a bad situation to conjure up any positive thoughts and feelings requires ever increasing conscious effort on our part. One way to do this is to look for what we’ve learnt from the event and how it can help us be better or create a more desirable outcome for the future. A more proactive way is to use affirmations, the oral or mental repetition of positive desires or outcomes. They’re almost like a little reminder to ourselves that it’s up to us to change the things we don’t like. However if we want to avoid these affirmations feeling like we’re announcing the sun is shining while we’re battling our way through a blizzard it has to be a statement which we can believe in, something that we know in our hearts to be true or has the possibility of becoming true. For example, I can feel the blizzard easing off might have been a more successful affirmation in this instance. The belief behind a positive thought is often triggered by how we phrase the thought in our minds and the words we use to contradict the undesirable situation we’re in. As soon as we start saying these positive words and phrases our minds cannot help but start to picture the scenario in our minds.

Book Review on I Think, I Am! by author/s Louise Hay and Kristina Tracy.

I Think, I Am

What’s it all about?

I Think, I Am is a picture book set in a fairground and each colourful double page spread covers a new scene depicting twelve everyday issues that any child may experience. In turn each scene talks of the negative feelings which may accompany these situations, such as feeling left out, jealous of how someone else looks or frustrated at not being able to do something in the same way as someone else has.  For each issue encountered the story provides a simple positive affirmation to be used to replace the negative thoughts talked about. At the end of the book there are seven tips for how to do affirmations.

Which age group is it aimed at?

From the illustrations and basic text I would say this is aimed at 4 to 7 year olds when life is generally much simpler. However most children regardless of age would still relate to the examples given so it could serve as an introduction to the topic for older children as it highlights the kind of situations when they may fall into negative thinking without realising it. In this instance the book could be better used as a starting point from which to build on this knowledge of how to be positive. Once they’ve grasped the basic idea they could start to come up with their own positive thoughts that are believable to them so they become better able to adapt and deal with any new situations as their insecurities and interactions become more complex.

Conclusion: Although I like the idea of giving children examples of positive thoughts to replace negative ones, unfortunately I’m not convinced that all the affirmations suggested in this book would be believable at the precise moment that the child was in the thick of the upsetting situation. They could be useful for them to use when reflecting back on their experience but the leap between the negative to the positive thought feels too large in some instances, leaving me feeling that in order to keep the book simple too many crucial steps may have been omitted for the positive thought to be considered remotely achievable. However, what this book does do is clearly explain the concept, relate it to situations a child can identify with and encourage them to be aware of their thoughts, question them and provide a platform for the reader to discuss more gradual affirmations with the child and maybe even real life situations. In so doing they can learn that what they’re seeing and experiencing is not the whole picture and is merely a temporary situation where they have the power to take control, change what they’re thinking and make their life a happier place. With mental health issues among children on the increase this is an invaluable life skill to master from an early age.

Author/s: Louise Hay and Kristina Tracy.

Illustrator: Manuela Schwarz

Publisher: Hay House UK Ltd (2008)

Our Rating: 3 out of 5

CLICK TO BUY I Think, I Am!

Next week in PART 4 I’ll be reviewing a book about overcoming fears.

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 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.

Kindle or book for kids?

 

Kindle or Book for KidsSo far I’ve resisted the Kindle urge and continue to cling to the faithfully printed pages which I can open up and touch; where I can fan through the remaining chapters and not stare at a soulless percentage figure; where I have the choice to peek at the last lines with a dramatic flick to tease myself into thinking I know how it ends, where there’s no scrolling through endless digital pages which look eerily familiar to all the previous ones. However sometimes I do wonder if I’m missing out or getting left behind in the dark ages. Could the slim line word generator make me a quicker, more avid reader?

For me I won’t be defecting to the Kindle side anytime soon as my current “mother of two” lifestyle gives me no need for one. I’m happy with my chunky literary fascinations knocking each other off my busy bookshelves. If you’d offered me one fifteen years ago however it may have been a different story. I may have welcomed the ease of such a svelte device in my overcrowded commuting bag.

As a determined writer on the other hand, sometimes the magnetic allure of its promises can be very tempting. When Amazon launched the Kindle Fire for kids coupled with their Kid’s Book Creator my mind started planning a whole new fantasy world of its own. Exciting! Was this the revolutionary kick start I needed? The book creator would enable little old me to publish full colour children’s illustrated digital books. At first I was ecstatic at the prospect of publication being at the command of my own fingers. Could the power of the send button be the answer to my success? I felt sure I could conquer the digital networks of such a program and present my stories in an instance to the real world.

Until the first signs of doubt set in.

I soon hit the brakes when I started asking myself basic questions. What type of books am I writing? Picture books. Who is my target audience? That will be four to seven year olds and their parents. Of course by this stage a whole new set of questions tumbled out of my mind. How would the illustrations look on screen? Do the parents want their children to have more screen time? When would a parent deem it ok for their child to read from a Kindle? Or do they, like me, prefer the printed alternative?

Suddenly it was looking less and less like the best forum to launch my books.

With the way I feel about books I struggled to see how a digital picture book could be more captivating than its printed version. How a solid flat screen could compare to flipping the floppy pages of children’s books which of course have the added advantage of doubling up as hats or towers whenever the need takes hold! So I resorted to considering the practical advantages as a parent.

When would I be tempted to read picture books to my children from a Kindle or iPhone for example? The only time that I thought a children’s e-book would have its advantages over a printed book, was on holidays. Travelling with children inevitably involves taking a myriad of unnecessary items plus the kitchen sink, so a skinny, lightweight screen could be welcomed to ease such a heavy, bulky load. A Kindle would mean I could take one or even two different picture books for every night of the holiday without having to arrange a separate shipment for them. A definite advantage but is this enough to make the e-book option more attractive overall?

For now I’ve chosen to embark on the traditional publication route but I haven’t dismissed self-publication forever. Perhaps there are merits to pursuing both? I’m sure the debate will continue to rage on in my head for some time and I know as a children’s writer I’m not alone with this conundrum. Feel free to offer your thoughts.

Potty About Penguin Picture Books

Yeh it’s Penguin Awareness Day! I confess, I am penguin potty and just adore these comical, clumsy little creatures but how have these photogenic stars managed to bag their own National Day of celebration? Is it their cute waddle? The way they flap their flippers like an excited child? Perhaps we admire their brave, reckless abandonment as they throw themselves off cliffs into the thrashing sea? Do we empathise with their affection for one another? Or are we in awe of their endurance of cold, harsh conditions? There’s no doubt they are fascinating creatures which have captured the hearts of millions of us but beware Protect a Penguin Day could become the harsh reality if we don’t do our bit for global warming – Emperer Penguins are now endangered, warn biologists, The Telegraph.

It’s hard to take penguins for granted in our house, whether it’s on a scarf, disguised as a biscuit tin or peeping out of a picture, there’s usually at least one in view in some form or another! So as I haven’t been able to resist passing on the love to my children and we’ve been enjoying some fantastic picture books about them lately. Each book has been rated out of ten by my nine and six year old boys but it seems they’re all very popular in our household judging by the lack of deviation from a resounding ten all round!



The Night Iceberg – Helen Stephens (author/illustrator); Published: Alison Green Books 2010. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

Tofta wanted her iceberg to be a place she could call her own … until a penguin appears followed by his entire family & friends so she soon finds out that sharing with others can also bring a lot of pleasure. A story to be read again and again with illustrations to be admired.

CLICK TO BUY The Night Iceberg


Penguin – Polly Dunbar (author/illustrator); Published: Walker Books 2007. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

A beautiful book which uses simple but striking illustrations and hints of humour to convey the importance of actions speaking louder than words. It’s not what Penguin says (which is not a lot), it is what he does that says everything!

CLICK TO BUY Penguin


Up and Down – Oliver Jeffers (author/illustrator); Published: Harper Collins Children’s Books 2015. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

From the well known author of Lost and Found, yet another beautiful story of the friendship between the boy and his penguin. Penguin is determined to fly high but how will he do this? Will he fail? Will the boy be there for him if he falls? The classic conundrum of how to allow a loved one to find the confidence to fly the nest whilst trying to keep them safe is written with true Oliver Jeffers’ eloquence.

CLICK TO BUY Up and Down


Blown Away – Rob Biddulph (author/illustrator); Published: Harper Collins Children’s Books 2015. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

An effortless rhyming story about Penguin Blue and his adventures with a kite. With gorgeous vivid, contemporary illustrations that invite you to study each page, it’s easy to get pulled along with Penguin Blue on his journey.

CLICK TO BUY Blown Away


Could a Penguin Ride a Bike? – Camilla Bedoyere (author) & Aleksei Bitskoff (illustrator); Published: QED Publishing 2015. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

A very fresh approach for a factual book about penguins as the facts have been cleverly weaved into a fun story. Could a penguin go bowling, ride a bike or join a choir? You can find out from this book how a penguin might fair in these and many other situations he could find himself in if he came to stay with you.

CLICK TO BUY Could A Penguin Ride a Bike?


Penguin in Peril – Helen Hancocks (author/illustrator); Published: Templar Publishing 2013. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

Three hungry cats on the hunt for a penguin to catch them some fish. But the penguin doesn’t want to catch fish, he just wants to get home. The full colour illustrations bring his story to life as the cats chase the penguin around town.

CLICK TO BUY Penguin in Peril


The Not-so-Perfect Penguin – Steve Smallman (author/illustrator); Published: QED Publishing 2014. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

Often the things we love about others are their imperfections. Percy is no exception. Percy is always acting the clown while his sensible friends are being very sensible and always raising their eyebrows at him. However when Percy goes missing one day they soon realise that it is his playful ways that they love. A sweet story about true friendship and accepting others.

CLICK TO BUY Storytime: The Not-So-Perfect Penguin


Cuddly Dudley – Jez Alborough (author/illustrator); Published Walker Children’s Books 2007. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

You can never get enough hugs! Everyone wants to cuddly Dudley but Dudley gets a little tired of the constant attention and just wants to be alone until he realises that sometimes a cuddle is all he needs.

CLICK TO BUY Cuddly Dudley


Dragon Loves Penguin – Debi Giliori (author/illustrator); Published: Bloomsbury Childrens 2014. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

Knowing that things happen for a reason. What happens when a lonely egg and a egg-less dragon meet? A heart-warming tale of an unexpected friendship. You can feel, see and read the quality of this book.

CLICK TO BUY Dragon Loves Penguin

As an extra penguin treat I’ll leave you with this wonderful blog from Making Them Readers reviewing the book 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet.

Source: Own or public library.

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

It’s a New Page in My Book!

Why is it that everyone suddenly starts to think about what they want in life at the start of a new year when every new day gives us that same opportunity to start afresh?

“Little by little one walks far.” Peruvian proverb.

This proverb is etched on a necklace I have. It appealed to me as the words resonate with how I deal with those moments when everything I want to achieve seems overwhelming. Writing a book is one such enormous task. A picture book may be short but there are still many aspects to consider but I find if I break each step down into bite sized chunks it becomes very satisfying when I can gradually tick them off as completed.

I’m finally about to turn a new page in my quest for publication. I have two picture books which are now ready to offer to publishers. For the past year I’ve been learning a great deal about format, style and expectations followed by the necessary tweaking in the hope that it will put me in good stead. Yet at the end of the day I know it’s down to me to dig out the confidence to put myself forward for criticism. So for 2016 I’m preparing for the barrage of rejections that everyone says is an inevitable part of the course and the lack of explanation for those rejections as well as conjuring up an endless dose of patience out of thin air; but above all I’m preparing to believe in myself and the possibility of that chance of success.

You could say my 2016 is starting to sound a little bit gloomy and a great deal more scary but a New Year is about having hope for something better and a new day is about putting that hope into action. So every day of 2016 I will be focusing on any new progression that I achieve, big or small. I will see the New Year as empty and waiting to be filled with endless possibilities and I‘ll be keeping my eyes on where I ultimately want to be. This way, each little day to day progression becomes a part of something much bigger.

There are two picture books I know that I think every little girl and boy should read as they echo these sentiments perfectly.


Little by LittleAmber Stewart (author) & Layn Marlow (illustrator); Published: OUP Oxford 2008.

This book is one of an adorable series of books about bravery, patience, trying new things and growing up but this is the one which has particularly stuck in my mind. It’s a story about Scramble the Otter who is trying to swim. He sees everyone else doing it but just can’t seem to do it himself. Until one day he’s shown that by taking little steps he can go a long way.

CLICK TO BUY Little by Little


Some Dogs DoJez Alborough (author/illustrator); Published: Walker Books, 2004.

This book manages to say so much in very few words as well as being fun, funny and written in rhyme. It’s about trusting and believing in yourself.  Just because someone else believes something is impossible doesn’t mean it is.

CLICK TO BUY Some Dogs Do

So whether the New Year helps you kick start some lost enthusiasm, move on from the loss of a loved one or achieve a burning ambition I wish you all a very happy and successful New Year.

Sources: personal or library copies.

 

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

Fabulously Festive Picture Books

I couldn’t resist putting together a list of some of my favourite Christmas themed picture books around at the moment. Some excellent present ideas. There’s nothing better than reading a Christmas book to add to the excitement and anticipation of the family festive spirit. As usual these have been rated by my two boys of 6 and 9 years. The first rating is from my eldest.


Father Christmas on the Naughty Step – Mark Sperring (author) & Tom McLaughlin (illustrator); Published: Puffin 2013. Rating: 6/10; 8/10.

Who’d have thought Father Christmas can be naughty too! This is a brilliant spin on the usual Christmas Eve tales and a lesson in how to say sorry – something every child can relate to – and worth remembering that even Santa has to say sorry sometimes too!

CLICK TO BUY Father Christmas on the Naughty Step


Norman the Slug who Saved Christmas – Sue Hendra (author) & Paul Linnet (illustrator); Published:  Simon and Schuster Children’s UK 2015. Rating: 10/10; 10/10.

Norman is a surprising yet adorable hero for Father Christmas. He’s a very thoughtful snail who does a good deed and expects nothing in return. Although I can’t help feeling a little sad that Father Christmas completely forgot about Norman. Nonetheless it’s a fun, happy story with cute illustrations and all in all a humorous delight to read.

CLICK TO BUY Norman the Slug Who Saved Christmas


Socks for Santa – Adam and Charlotte Guillain (authors) &  Lee Wildish (illustrator); Published: Egmont 2015. Rating: 8/10; 9/10.

Santa gives out millions of presents every year but nobody stops to think about giving Santa a present – except George. George is a little boy who reminds us that Christmas is about giving and not receiving.

CLICK TO BUY Socks for Santa (George’s Amazing Adventures)

 

The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas – Peter Bently (author) & Garry Parsons (illustrator); Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books Ed. 2015. Rating: 10/10; 10/10.

Beautiful bold and bright illustrations accompany this sweet rhyming story about how the Tooth Fairy and Santa help each other out one Christmas Eve.

CLICK TO BUY Tooth Fairy’s Christmas


Tales from Christmas Wood – Suzy Senior (author) & James Newman Gray (illustrator); Published: Lion Children’s Books 2015. Rating: 8/10; 9/10.

As the animals of Christmas Wood are busy preparing for the upcoming Christmas festivities, this magical collection of five stories and pretty illustrations shows that Christmas is about gathering together and spending time with friends and family closest to us with the final story depicting a pretty nativity scene to remind us of the meaning of Christmas. A longer than average picture book which could be read over several nights.

CLICK TO BUY Tales from Christmas Wood


The Christmas Carrot – Alan Plenderleith (author/illustrator); Published: Ravette Publishing Ltd 2013. Rating: 9/10; 10/10.

He’s running for his life as everyone wants a bite of the Christmas carrot. Enjoy some light-hearted fun with this funny and engaging vegetable chase.

CLICK TO BUY The Christmas Carrot


Kipper’s Christmas Eve – Mick Inkpen (author/illustrator); Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books Ed. 2014. Rating: 9/10; 10/10.

The lovable character Kipper charms the socks off us again with another gentle, heart warming story which captures the warm festive glow of friendship, anticipation and excitement perfectly.

CLICK TO BUY Kipper’s Christmas Eve


The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas – Ronda & David Armitage (authors/illustrators); Published: Scholastic Children’s Books Ed 2014. Rating: 7/10; 5/10.

George has an unexpected Christmas stranded at the lighthouse. How will Santa know to come to the Lighthouse? How will Mrs Grinling reach them? Christmas songs, decorations and treats (including chocolate biscuits for breakfast apparently – perhaps this should be made into a national Christmas tradition!) but the best presents are the things that matter most to each of us. Making Christmas special no matter where you are.

CLICK TO BUY The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas

There’s so many fantastic books out there to choose from. What are your favourite Christmas picture books?

Source: Private or public copies.

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