Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Week Parade Costume: The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty

Book Week Parade Costume: The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty

Book Week is definitely our favourite time of year. A whole week of celebrating children's books (as if we needed an excuse). The highlight of the week for me has always been the school Book Week Parade, where all the students get dressed up as their favourite book characters. I still have fond memories of taking part in these parades when I was a kid.

This year there was certainly no question about which book character James was going to be dressing up as for his Book Week parade. I knew what his answer would be, even before I asked him. Mr Qwerty of course! The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty by Karla Strambini has been a firm favourite for James this year and you can read is own review of this book over at Kids Book Review.

Like Mr Qwerty, James often keeps his ideas under his hat. He is a bright kid with lots of wonderful ideas but he often doesn't have the confidence to share them (especially in the classroom environment). Similar to Mr Qwerty, he worries about what others might think or even if he might be wrong. So this year we have been working on building his confidence in sharing ideas in class and we regularly refer to Mr Qwerty and the benefit of letting his ideas out from under his hat.

So here is James as The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty:

The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty costume for Book Week

I found a plastic bowler hat at a party supply shop for $3. I copied the light bulbs and light bulb creatures from the book cover and stuck them on the hat. We found a black coat and red tie from a thrift shop for less than $5 and they will make great additions to the dress up box later on. He already had a white shirt with a collar. 

Of course a he also needed a pencil and notepad to jot down all his wonderful ideas, so I attached another lightbulb picture onto a pencil with black tape.

The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty costume for book week

This was a super easy costume to pull together with no sewing required!!!! I think he looked pretty fabulous and he loved his costume. I am not sure he is ever going to take that hat off!

Did you or your child take part in a Book Week Parade this year? What character did they go as?

You may also be interested in our other book character costumes from previous years:

James from James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Wilfred from This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Fairy Craft Birthday Party

I am going to stray from the bookish posts today to share a little snapshot of the party we hosted for Emily's fourth birthday over the weekend. She chose a Fairy Dance Party theme! 

Since we have had a very busy few months with moving house, I kept the party fairly low key, minimal cooking, a simple craft activity and lots of dancing! 

Fairy Wings

All little fairies need wings! So with some gorgeous rainbow wings on, Emily was ready for the party! 

The main planned activity for the party was decorating fairy houses (or gnome homes). I found some awesome little mdf bird houses and with lots of sparkly paints, feathers, plastic gems and stickers they would make perfect homes for little fairies.

MDF bird houses ready to be turned into fairy houses

All the kids had a wonderful time decorating the houses. James decided that his would be a dragon den and proceeded to paint his all black. This simple craft activity kept the kids busy for a lot longer than I expected, which was great and many of them would return to the craft table to add more detail to their houses throughout the party.

decorating the fairy houses

Here are some of the stunning fairy houses that the kids made at the party. I am sure the fairies will love the bling house as much as we did! 

Fairy houses

After creating the magnificent fairy houses we spent the rest of the afternoon dancing to Emily's favourite songs (basically the Frozen soundtrack on repeat!), eating and jumping on the trampoline. 

One of the things I love about my beautiful daughter is she knows exactly what she wants! She helped choose all the foods for the party, including the cake! She chose fairy bread (of course), strawberries, perhaps too many lollies and a sausage sizzle for lunch. When it came to the birthday cake, there was only one option and that was cupcakes, with pink icing and fairy sprinkles! Can I just say, hooray! No complex cake decorating, no stress, no late night panic trying to make the cake look presentable. Just slap on some icing and cover any imperfections with sprinkles. Sounds perfect to me!

We found this adorable little fairy to go with the cupcakes at Cockington Green Gardens, of all places. They have an amazing range of fairy figurines in the Rose Room, which also features some pretty spectacular dolls house items too.

Pink decorations for the fairy party

We were certainly blessed with some a beautiful winter weather for the party. Check out that magnificent blue sky! It meant that we could do our crafting outside (no indoor mess!) and the kids could do lots of running around in the backyard to burn off some of the ridiculous amount of sugar they consumed!

It was definitely a fun party and I think all the kids had a good time. Although I was asked by one of the older kids why there were no party games. Emily certainly had a wonderful time. It was so nice to see her being so confident and interacting with all the guests, including the adults, which is rare for her! My little girl is growing up.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Picture Book Review: 10 Clumsy Emus by Ed Allen

Cover of 10 Clumsy Emus by Ed Allen and illustrated by Wendy Binks

We are very fond of Ed Allen's funny counting book series that rhyme along to the popular song Ten Green Bottles and he is releasing a new book in the series in August called 10 Clumsy Emus and it's illustrated by Wendy Binks.

The Emus are busy having lots of fun, playing basketball, making mud pies, visiting the zoo and even cleaning their room! The emus are unfortunately a little bit clumsy and end up in all sorts of sticky situations.

Four clumsy emus tidying their room.
Four clumsy emus tidying their room.
And if one clumsy emu should sneak away too soon,
There'll be three clumsy emus tidying their room.

Sneak peek inside Ten Clumsy Emus by Ed Allen and illustrated by Wendy Binks

This is my favourite page because it reminds me of my two kids whenever I mention the need to clean their room (or any cleaning at all for that matter) they always seem to sneak away too.

Like the other books in the series, this is enjoyable to read/sing aloud. The vibrant illustrations by Wendy Binks are very funny, with the emus' long necks, big eyes and hilarious 'hair' styles. My kids always enjoy trying to find the hidden number on every page, which is also great for number recognition. 

Book Details:
Author: Ed Allen
Illustrator: Wendy Binks
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 9781742836393
RRP: $9.99

After reading the book today, Emily really wanted to make an emu. We had already tried making paper plate emus, so I thought we could try something different. Using feathers came to mind, but I still haven't managed to unpack the craft boxes since moving house so we had to be a little more inventive.

One thing we have in abundance at the moment is butchers paper, which we used for packing during the move and I managed to find some googly eyes. We scrunched up small amounts of the paper for the body and drew on the legs and head. 

This is the end result:

Easy kid's emu craft using scrunched up paper for the bodyEasy kid's emu craft using scrunched up paper for the body

Easy kid's emu craft using scrunched up paper for the body

I guess they sort of look like emus. When the urge to create takes hold, you just need to use your imagination and whatever you can find that might be useful.

You may also like our other reviews and craft ideas for this series, just click on the image to view them:

10 Hooting Owls by Ed Allen   10 Funny Sheep by Ed Allen

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Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions are, as always, my own

Friday, June 27, 2014

Picture Book Review: Boa's Bad Birthday by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Cover of Boa's Bad Birthday by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Emily turned four this week, so as you can imagine our week has been heavily focused on birthdays. After celebrating her birthday, we also spent the remainder of the week celebrating the birthdays of all her dolls and teddies too. There were lots of pretend parties with random items wrapped in paper for presents. She certainly knows how to draw out the celebrations. 

With birthdays on our mind, Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross' picture book Boa's Bad Birthday was certainly a perfect fit for us this week. Here is our review:

Boa is having the worst birthday ever! His friends really have not put much thought into the presents they give him. A piano he can't play because he has no fingers, sunglasses he can't wear because he has no ears and honestly, what is he going to do with a hair brush? Poor Boa tries to remain polite when receiving the gifts from his friend, even if they are completely inappropriate.  Just when you think it can't get any worse, Dung Beetle arrives!

We have all been on the receiving end of a poorly thought out present (and perhaps I may have been responsible for giving some too). This is a very funny story which also shares some important reminders, like remaining gracious, grateful and polite, even when receiving rubbish gifts. It also provides a valuable lesson that if a gift, at first, appears to stink, it may just surprise you and end up being the best present ever! 

I think the moral of this story is an important one for children to learn, however, I don't think it necessarily needed to be spelled out so obviously at the end. I personally think most kids could pick up on the lesson from the subtlety of the story without it being pointed out.

Tony Ross' iconic illustrations are funny and I just adore the facial expression on poor Boa. 

This is a lovely birthday story that both my children enjoyed and was fun to read aloud too.

Book Details:
Author: Jeanne Willis
Illustrator: Tony Ross
Publisher: Koala Books
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 9781742760957
RRP: $14.99

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a gift that you originally thought was rubbish?

Disclosure: I was given a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review of My Child magazine

It's not often I get time to myself to read a magazine, but after a particularly busy week, my wonderful husband took the kids out for a walk so I could have some quiet time. I made lovely cup of tea and sat down to read My Child magazine.

My Child Magazine

This month sees the magazine move from a quarterly print layout to a mothley digital format that is free! Yes, you read that right, it's FREE! Here is my review of the new digital format of the magazine:

My Child is a parenting magazine that covers topics for pregnancy and birth as well as parenting information for babies through to big kids. It is full of interesting and well written articles that are relevant for young families and provides a useful parenting resource. With a variety of thought provoking articles, hints and tips, as well as recommendations for brands and products for mum's to be, parents and children. More importantly, it also includes some reviews for children's books (and you know how I love children's books!)

One particular article in the June issue that really resonated with me was Party On!  It discusses the pressure that parents are putting on themselves to have a "social media worthy" birthday party for their children. With the ever increasing popularity of Pinterest, children's parties are becoming more and more elaborate. I am currently planning Emily's fourth birthday party and this article is a great reminder to enjoy the moment with your child and embrace a more simple and eco friendly party, all while still having lots of fun.

June Issue of My Child Magazine

Another reason why I love this magazine is that it is a small independent publication that is run by a work from home mum, Lise Taylor.  While Lise still needed to work after the birth of her son, she wanted to be available as much as possible during those all important early years. So, with the support of her husband and drawing on over 20 years experience in the magazine publishing industry, Lise set about creating her own parenting magazine from her own home. As a mum who also works from home (usually at night after the kids are asleep) it is inspirational for me to see what Lise has achieved.

I really like the new digital format. It is well laid out and I found it easy to read on my iPad.  Although I am still fond of print magazines, we will be moving house soon, so a digital magazine is one less thing I will have to pack!

You can subscribe to My Child and enjoy this magazine each month. The July issue will be out later this week, so why not check it out?

My Child Magazine

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Our favourite picture books about dinosaurs

Our Favourite Picture Books About Dinosaurs

We have a bad case of Dino Fever in our house at the moment. Last weekend we went on a torch-lit tour of the National Dinosaur Museum here in Canberra as part of the Visit Canberra Human Brochure. When I asked James what he thought of the experience he said it was "Totally Awesome" and his favourite part was "every single dinosaur!" Big praise indeed. 

Since you know how much I love to match beautiful books to our real life adventures, here are some of our favourite picture books about dinosaurs.

I'm A Dirty Dinosaur

Cover of I'm a Dirty Dinosaur

I'm A Dirty Dinosaur by Janeen Brian and Ann James is a wonderful picture book about a cheeky little dinosaur who loves to splash, stomp and slide in the mud. Simple and brightly coloured illustrations matched with the fabulous rhyming language makes this an ideal book for any young dinosaur fans. 

My Dinosaur Dad

Cover of My Dinosaur Dad by Ruth Paul

There are all sorts of dinosaur dads out there, some spiky, some knobbly, some racing, some sliding but only one that's the best! The rhyming text in My Dinosaur Dad is beautiful and includes so many wonderfully funny ways to describe their dads. The illustrations are bright and colourful and totally adorable. Full of lovely little details and really funny too. 

Dinosaur Roar!
Cover of Dinosaur Roar! by Paul and Henrietta Strickland

Dinosaur Roar! by Paul and Henrietta Strickland is a wonderful book full of dinosaur opposites. With brightly coloured dinosaur illustrations and a wonderful use of rhyming language, this book is fun and a little bit cheeky. 
Dinosaur fat, dinosaur tiny,
dinosaur clean and dinosaur slimy.
Such a fun way for a little dinosaur fan to learn about opposites.


Cover of Rawr! by Todd H Doodler

Rawr! by Todd H. Doodler is an adorable picture book about fitting in. Rawr! means hello in Dinosaur, but it appears that not everyone knows this. Despite Rex being a very polite and helpful dinosaur, he has trouble fitting in. He may be big and loud but he is just trying to say hello.  The vibrant illustrations will definitely appeal to younger readers (ages 1- 5 years) and the soft padded dinosaur on the front cover was also a big hit with us.

Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs

Cover of Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs by Kel Richards

Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs by Kel Richards and illustrated by Glen Singleton is a fabulous nonfiction picture book full of fun dinosaur facts. From the biggest dinosaur to the smallest, the fastest to the slowest, this book has loads of information any young dinosaur enthusiast. Glen Singleton's illustrations are hilarious. 

Dinosaur Farm

Cover of Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon

It's hard work being a farmer and even harder when you have a dinosaur farm! Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon is such a funny story with hilarious illustrations that had us in fits of giggles. I certainly wouldn't want to clean up after all those dinosaurs! 


Cover of Gigantosaurus by Johnny Duddle

Gigantosaurus by Jonny Duddle is one of our favourite dinosaur books. The rhyming language makes this a fabulous book to read aloud. It is full of lots of different dinosaurs and the illustrations are amazing! All the Dinosaur mums warn their dino kids about the scary Gigantosaurus. Little Bonehead is the lookout for the group and the traditional boy calls wolf (or should I say Dino cries Gigantosaurus) story follows. 

I know there are so many more fabulous dinosaur picture books out there but these are some of our personal favourites. What would you add to the list?

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review of Karana and a Paper Plate Emu

Karana: The story of Father Emu

Karana: The Story of the Father Emu by Uncle Joe Kirk with Greer Casey and illustrated by Sandi Harrold is a beautiful Australian Indigenous story about a father emu and the love he has for his chicks. He patiently waits a month on the nest for his eggs to hatch and when they do, he teaches his young chicks all they need to know to survive in the Australian bush.

These are my chicks. I love them a lot...
I will stay with them, no matter what!

This is a touching story exploring the important role of fathers in guiding their children and teaching them important life lessons as they journey towards adulthood. The lovely rhyming language make this book a pleasure to read aloud. An ideal book for Dads to read aloud to their children and would make a lovely Father's Day gift too.

Sandi's illustrations are playful and the rich earthy tones beautifully depict the Australian bush and the animals that live there. The little chicks are adorable with their big eyes.

Uncle Joe Kirk is a Wakka Wakka elder who is passionate about sharing his stories with future generations and educating children about Australian Aboriginal culture. The emu plays a significant part in the Wakka Wakka culture and symbolises a father figure who nurtures the whole family. 

Book Details:
Author: Uncle Joe Kirk with Greer Casey and Sandi Harrold
Illustrator: Sandi Harrold
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 9781743623138
RRP: $15.99

Paper plate emu

After reading Karana we made own paper plate emu. This was a lovely quick craft which didn't need much preparation. After rummaging through our useful box and I found:
  • a paper plate
  • brown crepe paper
  • black card
  • a googley eye
  • scissors
  • glue
All I did to set up this craft activity was cut the paper plate in half. You could cut a straight line if you wish but I cut little rounded shapes to give it a more feathery look.  From the left over piece of paper plate I fashioned a head too (sort of a circle with a pointy bit for the beak - all very technical of course). Then the kids set to work decorating the body and head by gluing on cut up pieces of the crepe paper. We then cut out three long lengths of black card for legs and neck, then attached them to the body and head. It's as simple as that.

We recently went to the National Zoo and Aquarium here in Canberra and we met a very friendly emu up close and personal. Isn't it a magnificent creature? I do love being able to match a picture book to our real life experiences.

An Emu

We are linking up to #kidsbookaweek hosted by Damson Lane. Why not drop by and check out some other awesome children's books.

Disclosure: I was given a review copy of this book by the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.
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