2 Free Halloween Reading Games

pinterest-free-printable-halloween-games

It’s not much longer until Halloween so I’ve designed some simple free printable reading games to enjoy this year. These are better printed on card or laminated so they can be used again and again.

Halloween Reading Bingo Game

Always a popular classic. This one is suitable for up to four players or teams. There are forty eight different Halloween themed words and each player has twelve words to match up.

(Please note due to the size of the Bingo cards these may need to be copied and pasted onto a Word document for printing).

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Here are the word counters to cut out and mix up in a bag or envelope and call out one by one. If laminating these, it’s better to cut out the counters first and place individually onto the laminating pouch.

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Halloween Word Match Game

If you like the game Dobble, you might like this too! Instead of pictures I’ve used words in various fonts and only eight cards. This game always requires an even number of players but can be adapted for two, four or eight players.

For a two player game each player takes four cards and places them face down on the table. Each player then turns their top card over and tries to spot the matching word on each card. The person who calls out the correct word first wins both cards and this is repeated until one person has all the cards.

If you have four or eight players you can sit in a circle and split the cards between the number of players. The first two players compare their top cards and as before the winner takes the cards. This is repeated clockwise round the circle in pairs with the next player. A player is out whenever they don’t have anymore cards left and the person who gains all the cards is the winner.

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If you like this matching game I’ve added a link to the original Dobble game I mentioned as it makes a fantastic stocking filler.

Click here to buy Dobble Card Game

Don’t forget if you have time you could also try a speak aloud story challenge by picking one of the cards and using all the words on that card to create your own unique story.

Next week I have two free Halloween writing games.

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@lonerganbooks

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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

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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

CLICK TO BUY Oi Frog

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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

CLICK TO BUY There’s a Lion in My Cornflakes

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10 Tips for Tapping into Your Imagination

Imagination Tips

For a fiction writer to maintain a continuous stream of ideas flowing both on and off the page, not only is a huge imagination a requirement with a dash of silliness and absurdity but also some trusted prompts to encourage those ideas to keep popping into your head.

For me writing requires a combination of the six senses being sight, smell, touch, emotions, hearing and taste. These are the foundations which pull together a piece of writing and create a moving, believable and inspiring story. So if you or your child loves to write here are my ten tips to try over the summer holidays and help trigger your limitless imagination.

  1. Observing: Foremost, always be aware of your surroundings by observing your day. Use all six senses to listen out for funny comments, interesting situations and unusual reactions to inspire charismatic characters and empathic situations to write about.
  2. Looking: Study the images in a magazine, of your favourite painting or on a poster more closely to help inspire you to create an original story.
  3. Listening: Put your own spin on a topic you’ve heard on the radio, whilst on the phone or in a conversation.
  4. Tasting: Pretend you’ve won a competition which allows you to eat whatever you want in a supermarket for a day or write about your experience of accidentally eating soap, sour milk or grass maybe. The English language can be very limiting when describing taste so it’s often overlooked in writing. Learn to take it further by writing about the sensations, physical reactions and textures of food to convey the whole experience.
  5. Feeling: Imagine yourself in a fictitious situation, for example crossing the Grand Canyon on a tightrope! Write about the emotions you feel in your chosen situation. How you might approach it and deal with your feelings and how your feelings might change as your situation changes.
  6. Smelling: We are surrounded by smell every day. Write about how the smell makes you feel, any memories they trigger and the ones you’d prefer to avoid!
  7. Touching: Our sense of touch, whether with a person, animal or object creates a physical and mental connection with the world around us. Touch triggers emotional feelings and physical reactions which are clearly visible for you to notice if you look closely enough. Writing should make the interaction and sensations feel real.
  8. Brainstorming: Choose a topic you like to write about such as water sports then keep asking yourself questions about the topic and write down all the words and phrases you associate with that topic whilst keeping in mind your six senses.
  9. Creating the Absurd: Mix things up. Put a familiar character in an unfamiliar setting such as a postman on TV; imagine an animal, person or object possessing skills or characteristics which are the opposite of what you might expect such as a sprinting elephant or a purple skinned person. Now use your six senses to make this story idea into a believable scenario.
  10. One Word: For one day write down one word related to every place you visit throughout that day. You will then have inspiration for either one story which includes every word you wrote down or several stories based on each single word. Draw on your six senses to remember your experiences surrounding these words throughout the day. Over the summer holidays I’ll be posting some one word writing prompts on my Facebook page to challenge you or your child’s creative writing mind.

To support this blog I chose the following two picture books by children’s author Pippa Goodhart (author) and Nick Sherratt (illustrator) as they help young children discover their imagination, look for ideas by asking questions, being prompted with suggestions, observing pictures and encouraging them to imagine something different. Both books are packed with vibrant illustrations, presented in a clear and simple manner and have proven to be excellent books for fun guided discussions at bedtime.


Just imagine – Published: Corgi Children’s Jun 2013.

This is a book which encourages children to think about situations they’ve never experienced such as imagining being magical, living in the wild, flying in the sky or travelling through time. Imagination can take you anywhere.

CLICK TO BUY Just Imagine


You Choose – Published: Corgi Children’s New Ed. July 2014.

If you could have whatever you wanted, what would that be? Where would you live? How would you travel? What clothes would you wear? This book teaches children that what they imagine is their choice. There are no rules or limits to their imagination.

CLICK TO BUY You Choose!

 

Source: 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

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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.