Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ella by Alex T. Smith

I won this book in a twitter competition by Scholastic - aren't I lucky! 

This is a beautiful, heartwarming re-telling of, you've guessed it, Cinderella, starring Ella the bespectacled ladybird.  When  Pierre the painting spider decides to throw a Grand Bug Ball to help inspire his work, poor Ella is only allowed to come along to carry the bags for her spoilt step sisters.

Well, I'm sure you can guess what happens, but what you won't know until you read this gorgeoulicious book is that the illustrations are totally awesome!  There is a lot of pink in this book.  A. Lot.  Which is fine by me.  Even boys like pink these days, you know.  

So thank you Scholastic for sending it through.  You scored a bit hit with me.

Activities and Discussion
Just as Ella is desparing that she'll never go to the ball, a mystery visitor leaves a beautiful ball gown and a pair of glittery glasses for her to wear.  Can you design some super sparkly specs to help Ella stand out at the Grand Bug Ball?  Download this fab colouring sheet to help you! 

How many other versions of Cinderella can you find?  Which is your favourite?

Other Fab books by Alex T. Smith
  • Egg
  • Catch Us if You Can Can
  • The Claude Series (young fiction)
  • My Mum has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister and Alex T. Smith

Check out Alex's Blog for loads of sketches and sneaky peeks of his new books and pictures of his dogs.

Have a look at some of the pages inside Ella at the Scholastic Kids' Book Club

Follow Alex on twitter: @Alex_T_Smith

Ella is published by Scholastic

Friday, 20 July 2012

There are Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz

My kids and I love this book.  It is so simple and so, so clever.  Reminiscent of Heuve Tullet, There are Cats in This Book talks directly to the reader, instantly engaging them and drawing them in to play.

We first catch the cats snoozing under the blankets. They are a little surprised to see us, but soon welcome us with friendly smiles.

Hello.  Who are YOU?
Are you NICE?
You LOOK nice.
And STRONG. Could you turn a whole PAGE?

Viviane's scratchy, sketchy drawings are full of movement and expression and there is a scattering of flaps to open, and half pages to peek through, all of which work brilliantly together to amuse and delight any reader, young or old. Buy this book and you'll keep it for ever.

Activities and Discussion
Did you ever knit a cat?  If not, get yourself or your granny straight over to Viv's website and download a knitting pattern  now!

You can also download some beautiful Cat Cut Outs which you could then use to create your own story. 

And when you've done all that, go out and beg borrow or buy the follow on: 
There are No Cats in This Book is equally brilliant, funny and entertaining.  Well done Viv!

Visit Viviane's website here

Listen to There are Cats in This Book as told by Viv herself. Watch Video

Listen to There are No Cats in This Book as told by Viv Watch Video

Follow Viviane Schwarz on twitter @vivschwarz

There are Cats in This Book is published byWalker Books

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Colin and the Snoozebox by Leigh Hodgkinson

OK, here is the first of my newer picture book picks.  And what better book to start with than Colin and the Snoozebox.

Colin doesn't have a bed.
Actually, Colin doesn't have a home.  
This is A-OK for most of the time as he is very busy...

But sometimes it is not OK.  Poor Colin is a sleepy pussy cat who just wants a nice warm place to snuggle down for a snooze.  Unfortunately, the place he chooses is a cardboard box.  While he is asleep dreaming of fish, someone posts the box with Colin inside!  Oh no!  Where will he end up?

In this wonderful book, Leigh Hodgkinson has created some fabulous characters.  As well as Colin himself, we meet Lady Snootlethorpe, owner of a teapot shop, Mister Marshmallow, a polar bear, Mr Gobbledegook an alien and kind Grandma Flapjack.  I wonder who will decide to keep Colin for their very own?  You'll have to read the book to find out!

Leigh's distinctive collagey illustrations make this book a delight to read and look at.  It's full of textures and scribbly writing and made up words.  And guess what?  There's another book about Colin too.  

If you've never read one of Leigh's books, well correct that terrible mistake RIGHT NOW! You'll love them.  I promise. And if you don't, you can tell my mum.  

Activities and Discussion
Make your own Colin collage
Collect together some cardboard, string, bubble wrap, old stamps, bits of fabric, buttons and stuff, then cut them out and glue them onto some card to make your own Colin illustration.

Make Colin and his box.  Just download the template here (you may need to scroll down)

Have a look at Leigh's Colin Around the World website.  Can you create your own photo album showing your favourite teddy or toy in different places?

Other Fab Books by Leigh Hodgkinson
  • Colin and the Wrong Shadow
  • Smile
  • Limelight Larry
  • Goldilocks and Just the One Bear
  • Don't Dip Your Chips in Your Drink Kate - Leigh Hodgkinson and Caryl Hart (that's me!)
  • Don't Put Your Pants on Your Head, Fred - Leigh Hodgkinson and Caryl Hart (also me!)

Follow Leigh Hodgkinson on twitter @hoonbutton

Colin and the Snoozebox is published by Orchard Books

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Let's Get a Pup! by Bob Graham

"Let's get a pup!" said Kate.
Mum looked in the paper.
"It must be small," said Kate
"And cute," said Dad.
"And get all excited," said Kate
"And run round in circles," said Dad.

So the three of them set off to the dog rescue centre to find one.  There were so many dogs to choose from, but at last they found Dave. He's was small.  He was cute.  He was all they wanted. 

But then they saw Rosie.  Poor, old Rosie.  How they wished they could take her home too.  But they couldn't.  Could they?

This is a heart-warming story full of love and kindness. Illustrated in true Bob Graham style, the red-headed characters are refreshingly easy-going and spontaneous. I wish I was as laid back as them when it comes to giving a dog a bath, or discovering that the puppy has dug up all the daffodils. A charming book for animal-lovers everywhere.

Activities and Discussion
Did you know that thousands of dogs, cats and other pets are taken to animal rescue centres every year?  
Organisations such as the RSPCA and Cats Protection League spend millions of pounds caring for and rehoming pets.  Why is it that some people can't, or won't, look after their pets?

Visit the RSPCA Website to find out how to look after pets properly.  Then choose your favourite pet and make a leaflet telling other people five things they need to do to care for their pet.

Find out how much it costs to keep a dog or cat in a rescue centre for a week, then have a table-top sale of old toys, or bake some cakes and sell them to raise some money to help look after animals in care.

RSPCA publish a great kids' magazine called Animal Action.  It's got loads of fundraising ideas, information about animals and tips on pet care. If you don't want to pay a subscription, you might be able to request a copy from your local library.

Other Brilliant Books by Bob Graham
  • The Trouble with Dogs
  • Queenie the Bantam
  • Jethro Byrde, Fairy Child
  • Greetings from Sandy Beach
  • The Red Woollen Blanket
  • Has Anyone Here Seen William?

What is Bob Graham's favourite sound? Find out here

Let's Get a Pup is published by Candlewick Press

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Class Two at the Zoo by Julia Jarman and Lynne Chapman

When Class Two went to the zoo, they saw a koala kissing a kangaroo.  They saw a giraffe having a laugh.  They didn't see...

The Anaconda. 

Eeeeek! Watch out little children, there's an enormous snake creeping up on you! 

This book is great fun, especially the illustrations showing the ravenous anaconda getting more and more boggle-eyed as he gobbles up the children.  You can even see their poor little arms and legs trying to kick their way out of that dreadful snake's insides.  Class Two is crammed full with alliteration and funny rhymes, and has a happy ending that will soothe anyone who might be a bit scared of snakes.

Activities and Discussion
If you ever get the chance to see Lynne Chapman in action, DO IT! She is one of the most entertaining and energetic artists I have ever met and she's brilliant at drawing things as you watch.

Buy a roll of lining paper and roll out a good long length.  You might need to weigh it down to stop it rolling back up. Draw the outline of an enormous snake, perhaps adding some strangely-shaped lumps and bumps then get your kids to draw all the things the snake has swallowed, inside his tummy.  I have seen  both Lynne and Julia use this activity to great effect in schools. 

Find out all about anacondas here.  Where do they live? What do they eat? How big do they grow?  Then make a mini book to share your discoveries with your friends. You can find out how to make a miniature book at Playing by the Book's Blog blog - written in collaboration with Clara Vulliamy.

Other Great Books by Julia Jarman and Lynne Chapman
  • Class Three All at Sea - Julia Jarman and Lynne Chapman
  • Bears on the Stairs - Julia Jarman and Lynne Chapman
  • Mr Strongmouse and the Baby - Hiawyn Oram and Lynne Chapman
  • Giddy Goat - Jamie Riz and Lynne Chapman
  • The Big Red Bath - by Julia Jarman and Adrian Reynolds

Lynne Chapman's Website
Lynne Chapman has a brilliant blog all about her illustrating and writing, including step by step pictures showing how her books develop, from initial sketches to the finished product. 

Julia Jarman's Website

National Geographic Kids
Fantastic pictures and amazing facts about anacondas (and loads of other animals too)

How to Make Mini-Books