Saturday, 31 January 2015

Snap Circuits Jr

Snap Circuits Jr is definitely one of those toys that you want to tell your friends that your kids are playing with. (Which is exactly what I am doing here. Yikes!) Its just so educational and non-screeny and interesting.
A practical introduction to basic electronic circuits, it is actually pretty cool. Robust, easy to use, the separate pieces all click onto a board and if you follow the diagrams in the instruction booklet, you can make lights flash and alarms go off and more. If you have a child who enjoys following lego instructions, they will like this. If you have a child who likes fiddling with things (like your phone or computer), they will like this. But probably not break it!. 

Like it says on the box, from ages 8 to 108 is good for this one. Although I'd modify that by saying it will work fine from when a child can read confidently. Six and up probably.

P.s. The price of this on fluctuates a lot. I paid £20 sterling, but its now £27. So I'd put it in my basket and keep checking, the price will probably go down.

Friday, 30 January 2015

What I found under the bed

I was clearing out the  mountain of book under my kids beds this morning - this is what I found.
Percy the Parkkeeper. We love him. Who doesn't? These are such gentle, interesting stories and the detailed illustrations have been examined here until they have literally, fallen apart.
Our two books (and I think all Percy books) have pages that open out threefold. They've been sellotaped a few times!

And Beware of the Frog. Very funny and very silly.

and underneath that...The Giant Jam Sandwich. A classic with excellent rhyming text.

Ahhhh. The Napping House. Our version is a board book, but it comes in hardcover too. I read it first when I was babysitting in Boston in the '90's and was so glad to see it still in print now. Lovely for ages one to four.

And downstairs, my husband has been reading The Woman in White. Thank goodness he's finished as he didn't empty the dishwasher once while he was reading it. Unputdownable, apparently.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Sun Up, Sun Down by Jacqui Bailey and Matthew Lilly

This book came in the post yesterday. 

We don't see many sunsets here from our house Dublin - mainly because its usually pretty cloudy. And probably also because the windows were are all looking through at that time in the evening are computer and tv ones. Oh well. In the mornings though, when the sun is coming up, we do see the sky changing colour as we get out to school and its often lovely.

So anyway, this book explains all that the sun does, in crystal clear detail. Its perfect for small kids, because they are perceptive enough (possibly because they look around more - not being glued to screens quite yet) to notice shadow length and the colours in the sky. And great too for ages seven and up because this is exactly the type of thing they do projects on in school. And answers the type of questions the teacher might ask the class. (Its always nice to be the one who can put up their hand knowing they have the right answer!)

So, if your looking for something non-fiction and interesting and completely relevant, check it out. Its €6.62 well spent.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Mike Mulligan and Katy

These two books have a great shelf life. I started reading them to my four year old two years ago, when he was at the wheel/building site obsessed age and we still read them regularly now, as the story is definitely interesting and question provoking enough for four to six year olds.

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and Katy and the Big Snow were written by Virgina Lee Burton in 1939 and 1943. These books don't need great reviews, the fact that they are still in print says it all. (Meaning; they're perfect.)

You might wonder what a steam shovel is - even in 1939 they were becoming obsolete, but in this story Mike refuses to give up on Mary Anne who has worked so well with  him for many years. No matter how many others have dumped their vehicles for ones run by petrol, diesel and electricity, he is sticking by his steam shovel.  I mean, look at what she had achieved.
She "..cut through the high mountains so that trains could go through."
She "..lowered the hill and straightened the curves to make the long highways for the automobiles."

So, when there is no work in the city for Mary Anne and Mike, they head out to the small town of Popperville to see if they can get the job of digging the foundations for the new Town Hall.

They get the job under certain conditions which I will not reveal  here - it would be way more fun to find out yourself. Anyway, this book has got everything- flowing text, detailed, accurate and lovely illustrations which invite inspection. And of course plenty of wheels.

Katy the Snow Plow lives and works in Geopolis, a city that is mapped out in this book. One very snowy day, the lesser ploughs that usually do all the work are redundant. And Katy has to do it all. You can trace her progress with your finger throughout this book. Its such a satisfying journey. Especially if you are a fan of maps. And of course, wheels.

P.s. There's also Maybelle, the Cable Car - which is more or less guaranteed to be great, although I don't own it. Yet.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Dumbest Idea Ever! By Jimmy Gownley

The Dumbest Idea Ever! was delivered on Thursday and by this morning my three older boys had all read it. One of them is reading it for the second time in this picture. Like all good graphic novels, its one of those pick-it-up-and-you'll-finish-it books. It's the story of how the author started drawing comics (because he caught chicken pox and had to miss an important basketball game!) and is really a must for anyone aged eight to eighty who likes to draw. My 13, 11 and 9 year old's LOVED it.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Books for Super Mario nuts!

I've never understood the appeal of Mario - but anyway, that's neither here nor there. Is there a Nintendo ds owning child anywhere who hasn't played Super Smash Bros? Or Super Mario Bros. Or Super Mario 64? Or Super Mario 3DLand? God, the list goes on. As do the unimaginative  titles.
Anyway, Link is a Nintendo character, who appears in Super Smash Bros. And he is the leading man in these graphic novels. And in all the Princess Zelda Nintendo ds games. (I was initially pleasantly surprised when my nine year old requested the Zelda game for Christmas - assuming the title role was  played by a kick ass heroine. Sadly no. Zelda is a sweet princess who is rescued by Link. Over and over again.) On the plus side, Zelda has what my mother would have called an interesting face, which makes a change from Angelina types usual in video games.
So, he really loved these books, both of which are written from back to front, like traditional Japanese manga comics. It takes a little getting used to but he tells me, the effort was worth it. Other titles in the series include Majora's MaskOracle of Seasons, and Oracle of Ages.

P.s. The author Hakira Himekawa who is referred to as "he" in some Amazon reviews, is actually two women, A. Honda and S. Nagano - not their real names, which they choose not to reveal.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Jabba the Puppett, Princess Labelmaker and Emperor Pickletine

These three came in very handy this week. My thirteen year old took quite a knock at a rugby match on Wednesday and while recovering in bed afterwards with three hot water bottles(three! It was such a cold day, and SO muddy!) and a bag of frozen peas, he read one of them. Then, the next morning he read another while we waited at the hospital for an x-ray. (Poor boy - he has a  fractured collar bone - the most common rugby injury.)

Anyway, he's currently on a steady diet of neurofen and netflix and reading nothing but the credits at then end of Father Ted episodes. But sure, there's a time for reading and a time for goofing off, and until he feels a lot better, he has my permission to stay on Craggy Island.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Stuff from Christmas 2014 that worked out: cats, colouring pencils, thinking putty, paper.

These Prang colouring pencils are the nicest we have ever had. They're triangular, chunky, have lovely strong colours that don't need adult strength to appear on the page and come with a brilliant sharpener. Stationary nerds like myself will love them. And of course, the children of stationary nerds who end up using them. There is so much colouring stuff out there that is just not very colourful - but not these - they're really worth getting.

This Ziggie Cat was a success. Its smaller than I expected but definitely as soft as I hoped. Its a funny shape, but when my son holds it I can see how it works - his (the cats!) waist/neck is deliberately narrow to accommodate the hand grasp of little kids. Which means for the first few days he never put it down. The crazy eyes  are pretty cool too.

I must admit, when I saw these Thinking Puttys on the letter to Santa I was not thrilled. Actually my heart sank, assuming it was overpriced, overhyped rubbish. But then my eavesdropping taught me that they were the most wanted of everything on his list. So there it was. Thinking Putties are a playdough-ish type stuff that change colour when heated or cooled or bounce or have some other "amazing" skill. Anyhoo, its January 9th now and they are still being heated, cooled, bounced and squeezed, so maybe I was wrong. Just maybe. (Those tins are about €4 each and as tiny as they look. I must admit though, he loves them. In the picture above, its 7.30 am on Christmas morning and he's saying "Cool! I got them!")

And lastly, this roll of plain, white paper (probably my cheapest purchase over the festive season) is just great. There just something about the size of it that attracts the most reluctant artist. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Petunia by Roger Duvoisin

We have our upstairs bookshelves and our downstairs ones. Bedtime reads are usually taken from the upstairs ones, so every now and again I have to remember to grab something from the sitting room on our way up - just for a change. Last night it was Petunia. Such a lovely, funny, beautiful book.

Petunia is a silly goose. She knows this, but after finding a book whilst out strolling one morning - she believes she has become a wise goose.
After all, she recently overheard Mr Pumpkin telling Bill "He who owns books and loves them is wise." And Petunia was more than happy to own and love this one.

So she takes it upon herself to offer free advice to all the other animals in the farmyard.

Straw is told that he had too many teeth, and they really should all be removed. After all, Petunia has no teeth. And when Ida, the hen is having trouble counting her chicks, she asks for help too. 

"Hm. Let's see. Three chicks at the fountain. Three at the feeder. Three about your legs. Now- three times three? That makes six.."
"Six?" asked Ida. "Six! Is that less than nine?"
"That's more than nine, not less." Said Petunia, "Lots more my dear!"

And so, Petunia spreads worry and upset throughout the farmyard, culminating in the discovery of this box, labelled "Danger. Fireworks"
"Glad to help." said Petunia. "Now, let's see...Why, CANDIES. That's what is says on that box. Yes, candies. You may eat them. Yes, of course."

She is a pain, but there's no denying, you can't help but love Petunia. She does eventually see the error of her ways, and looks again at her book. And realises that learning to read it is the real, next step towards wisdom.

There are a few more Petunia books too - Petunia, Beware!Veronica on Petunia's Farm and Petunia's Christmas, although Petunia and Petunia, Beware! are the only ones I can find easily new.

Petuna. A brilliant read-over-and-over-again book.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Ninja Bread Men!

Happy New Year! 
Today we used our Ninja Bread Men cookie cutters.
P.s. There's also a Ginger Dead Man cutter - which I like nearly as much as these guys.