Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Again.

I mentioned a while ago that I had splashed out on the Taschen collection of Grimms Fairy Tales. Well, it was money well spent. We all love it. But especially my nine year and eleven year olds. This post is just to share a few more of the illustrations (all from various editions of the tales, from the 1820's to the 1950's). They are AMAZING.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

Fans of Flat Stanley, Star Wars and Origami Yoda will love this one. My guys definitely did.
Lots of cartoony-ness and according to my nine year old its "good, one of those stories where friends become enemies and then become friends again."

The one above is the second in the series and hopefully not the last. (Heres the first one.)

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Little Duck by Phoebe Dunn and Judy Dunn

Last week, I was browsing through Vintage Kids Books my Kid Loves and as usual, found something I had never seen before. This little series of books first printed in the 70's, photographed by Phoebe Dunn with words by her daughter, Judy.

Just look at The Little Duck.

When a little boy is fishing in the pond at his farm, he finds an egg.

and brings it home;

There's much more, all lovely. And it costs €3.15. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

This is a great book. I don't think I mentioned it before - maybe I have - but this is a must buy for any eight to twelve year old who has just visited or is heading for the English capital.

In The London Eye Mystery Ted and his sister Kat take decide their visiting cousin Salim on the London Eye. He ends up in a different capsule to them and then disappears. They watch his capsule the whole time and yet when it stops, he never gets off. Where did he go? What happened to Salim?

Ted tells the story. Also, he explains that he has Asperger's Syndrome. That's an aside and is not what this book is about. It just explains his fascination with the weather. And also, why he is so methodical and great at figuring out what happened to his cousin. He doesn't usually get on very well with his sister but working together on this mystery helps them see each other in a different, more positive light. A fantastic read.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay

I'm a bit wary sometimes of buying some my boys "classics" to read. Maybe its memories of trying to plough through Middlemarch in college (I never succeeded) but I think its understandable if they opt for something light and easy at bedtime rather than get stuck into something worthy. Actually a lot of the classics will work well read aloud, but my nine and eleven year sons share a room with their four year old brother, so it is still picture books only that I can read aloud there.

When I saw that The Magic Pudding was still on the shelf unread, since its appearance in a stocking last Christmas, I wrote it off as a loss. I'll get to it at some stage I thought. It was, after all, written in 1918. The language is different to what they are used to, to say the least. Then my eleven year old asked me to get him a Godzilla graphic novel. Hmmnn, not for nothing. Give this a go first, I asked him, if its too difficult, that's ok, but give it a try.

He read a slice or two a night. This book isn't divided into chapters, its in slices. With no complaining whatsoever. Really, it is not a chore to read this book. Its a pleasure.

Bunyip Bluegum is a Koala Bear. He lives with his uncle in cramped circumstances.

Tired of the lack of space, he asks around for advice and is told it would be good for him to head off on his own for a while. But he is not on his own for long. Soon its a gang of four; Bunyip, Bill Barnacle, a sailor, Sam Sawnoff, a penguin and The Magic Pudding.

They encounter crafty pudding thieves,
kind dogs carrying baskets of eggs, 

and  much, much more. 

An excellent read. For ages seven and up. Maybe I was wrong about children's classics? Maybe I should give Middlemarch another try.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

What It Is by Lynda Barry

I've had my eye on Lynda Barry's One Hundred Demons for a while. I don't know where I heard of her first but when I did the Amazon "look inside" thingy on it, it looked very funny. Yet it really didn't seem that my boys of then twelve and under were the right audience. I thought a teenage girl would be the perfect critic but I don't have one of those. Then I saw this in the library and took my chance to have a look.

What It Is is Lynda Barry's latest book and has garnered great reviews. Already the price of One Hundred Demons has gone up.

This is a book written in words, paint, collage and other things I don't know how to name. Its clearly the work of a huge talent and is all about how she stared to draw and paint and also a manual on how to start writing. I found it in the adults graphic novel section of our library but have not seen anything too shocking in it. (Well, she does say her parents were not at all nice, so some may find that unsuitable.)

My nine year old, who recently has taken to drawing characters he copies from comics found a few pages where Lynda describes how she did the exactly the same. It stopped me "encouraging" him to draw from his imagination, which I knew he found irritating.

There is so much in this book - about thinking and drawing ..

reading fairy tales;

having not very nice parents;

wonder if ones own work is good, or crappy;

musing on playing, and toys;

and the mean mother again..
(my kids weren't shocked by how she speaks to the young Lynda, but they were horrified by the cigarette!)

Great for teens interested in art or really anyone with eyes and some curiosity about life. Also, I don't think I mentioned, there are LOTS of funny bits; the pictures of her hula dancing are hilarious and definitely worth the library reserve fee.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Great Big Enormous Book of Tashi by Anna Feinberg, Barbara Feinberg and Kim Gamble

This is a good one. Bought a few years ago on a whim(I saw it on Julias Bookbag) it was an immediate success. Its what my son describes as a "second reader". That is, if you can get through the "I Can Read"s easily, than this is the next step. And what a rewarding one! The collection we have huge - nearly one thousand pages. (there are all thirty two stories in this one - you can also buy them singly or divided into two volumes.)

It's definitely one which they will need to be sitting up in bed with two pillows to manage. Its not one to slip into the schoolbag for reading time. However, what my guys liked was that every now and again they could say nonchalantly "I'll just mark my page...hmm..that's page eight hundred and forty five!" For early readers, this is very exciting.

Written by Australian trio, Anna Feinberg, Barbara Feinberg and Kim Gamble these are the stories of a little boy called Tashi, who come into Jacks life on the back of a swan. And they become friends.
There are beautiful pencilly drawings throughout to accompany Tashi's amazing stories.

For ages six and up.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska

For some reason, Maps was reduced to £6.40 stg last week on This week its £10.88. That's still a lot cheaper than the price in the shops around here - around €24.00. I have been eyeing it up for a few months but the price and the glaring omission of Ireland from its pages stopped me. However, I got over that and have to admit, it is a fabulous book. Not a conventional atlas, its a (long pause here, how do i describe this book?) set of illustrations of forty two countries, the Artic and Antartica, with details of each country also drawn in. Make sense?

As well as being enormous, beautifully bound and chock full of fantastic details, it has an impressive shelf life. My four year old pre-reader can examine the pages the same way he does the Where's Wally books and other detailed illustrations and his older reading brothers can look up whatever countries they have an interest in at the time and are bound to find out something new.

So, if you gave this as a present to a three year old and he would still be using at at the ages of seven or eight and older. A pretty good investment all round.

Uprooted by Lynne Reid Banks

I've been glued to this since yesterday. It was hastily borrowed from the Children's shelves of our library as I had nothing to read. (We got there just before closing and there was no time for me to run into the adults section.) Its for ages nine to eleven and up and is the story of ten year old English evacuee in Canada during the Second World War, inspired by the authors experience. I never knew people went that far as evacuees, but they did. Its really fascinating and I love it.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Goop (not Gwyneth's one)

Mix three dessertspoons of cornflour with about one and a half of water. (just keep adding either until you have a solidish mixture.)

Goop! Mold into a ball and keep your hands moving - it keeps its shape. Stop and it turns wierdly liquidy. SO cool.

And even cooler, so far it has been easy to clean up.  (off the floor and countertop, that is. I have no idea if it will come off clothes.) Oh, and we added food colouring too.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A Barrel of Laughs A Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer

This is on my nine year old's bedside table at the moment. He is taking his time with it, but when I ask (I ask my kids about their books WAY too much) if he has grown bored with it he tells me (insulted tone) "No! I really like it!"

It's got pretty big font and lots of illustrations so is a book that may well be a gateway for Wimpy Kid addicts to books with only text. (I love Wimpy Kid books but do think that its easy to get stuck at that reading level - the same applies to graphic novels in my house. They are fantastic but so often now I see my kids rereading them rather than tackling something slightly more taxing but great too. I suppose I was no different last week when I kept putting down A Tale of Two Cities to read about Brad and Angelina's wedding in Hello magazine.)

Anyway, look at these feet sticking out of the whales mouth..
And King Whatchamacallit..

So, so far, two thumbs up from a nine year old. And as for me, I finished both the Dickens and the magazine. The latter had the most exciting last one hundred pages of any book I have ever read, and can you believe Brad is 50?

P.s. Its easy to get any of Dickens works cheap, but the cheaper the edition, usually the smaller the font. The edition above is a nice size, perfectly readable for those of us over forty.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson was born in 1914, so this year there are all sorts of Moomin related events on around the world to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday. This was her first Moomin book. My friend over at My Book Affair wrote an excellent review of The Moomins and the Great Flood just here, that I won't attempt to better. Here are a few not great pictures of the lovely and magical illustrations. Infinitely better in real life. I promise.

I will just say that it is not one of those beautiful books that sits unread on a shelf. (and it is really, really beautifully bound, and illustrated) but that my then ten year old flew through it. He loved it.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Saving Mr. Banks

After mentioning P.L. Travers in this blog post, she was on my mind. So when I saw Saving Mr. Banks for sale in my local Tesco, it seemed like serendipity.

Oh my goodness, I LOVED this film. There's definitely a copy of Mary Poppins coming through my letter box soon.  Surely she's a must in every house? This hardcover is particularly pretty.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Tom Trueheart and the Land of Dark Stories by Ian Beck

There are four boys in this house and its a pretty noisy place. Each of us have our own way of finding a bit of peace(mine is getting up extra early and having a cup of tea in a silent kitchen, recently my nine year old has decided to join me..) and my eleven year old listens to audio books in his bedroom. (That is, when the option of a computer screen, Youtube and a pair of headphones have been ruled out.) So, I was putting away pyjamas the other day heard a excerpt of this.

Wow, I was really impressed. Its great! Adventurey, fairy tale-ish, funny and most importantly for an audio book, there's an excellent narrator. Its the second time my son has taken it out of the library, so he's a fan, and later at bedtime, when I decided I was too tired to read, his four and nine year old brothers listened to it with him. In silence. Bliss.

The one above is the second in the series, and I think there is a third too. So far I have found the first on audio here and all the books here. But I'm pretty sure the library would have the lot.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Learning Resources Mini Motors Counters

I know I've mentioned these before, but just wanted to do an update to say that they are still being played with and still really lovely.  (I ordered them last Christmas from for my then three year old. Even though they were sent from the States there was no import tax/duty and the postage was fine - about €6. I'm in Ireland so I pay at least that for most things I order from the UK.) Anyway, almost a year later and we are only missing one blue boat.

Now I know our little vehicles (fire engine, car, bus, boat, plane) are pretty boyish but I had a look on Amazon and Learning Resources also do Muffins,(very sweet, very girly) Bugs,(caterpillars, dragonflies, spiders) and Farm Animals (Sheep, lambs, ducks, ducking, cows calves, mother bunny, baby bunny- very, very cute.)

So, great things about these little rubbery counters/figures; they're cute, they're actually used, they're very neat and easy to store, they're not transformers and if a little person asks you to play with them too, they're surprising therapeutic to organise. (I love reading to my kids but "playing" is not my favourite thing.) These though, these I like. Oh and actually, the whole point of them (hence the name of the brand - Learning Resources) is that the are meant to aid learning how to count, categorise, and identify colours. They do all that too.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Brixton Brothers by Mac Barnett

There are four Brixton Brothers book in the series so far, I just have three in the photo below because I didn't have time to find them all. No doubt it is under a bed upstairs but if I go up to get it I'll be waylaid by dust balls and old socks and every else that needs to be picked up. That's something that I'll face when I have finished my coffee and this post.
I got the first of these when my eldest son was ten. He gobbled it up. Then, for each birthday and Christmas stocking following, he got the next in the series. I moved the books to his brothers bedroom last year, assuming they were now outgrown but the other day saw them piled on his bedside table. He's thirteen now and started secondary school last week. He has to read The Outsiders and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas for his english class and was using the Brixton Brothers books as chasers. And, I think as something easy and relaxing to read before bed to take his mind off the challenges of the following day. I love those kinds of books. They're worth their weight in gold.