Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Nonfiction Review: Emu by Claire Saxby & Graham Byrne

Emu by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne is a stunning narrative nonfiction picture book. It has been shortlisted for this year's Children's Book Council of Australia Eve Pownall Award for Information Books.

Nonfiction book review: Emu by Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne

Emu is a clever dual narrative. The nonfiction narrative of father emu and his chicks is presented in one font and the general information and facts about emus is presented in a different font. This sophisticated approach allows the reader to either focus purely on the narrative if they wish or they can read the story and the facts together.

The narrative follows the life of a family of emus. The father emu is responsible for raising his fledgling chicks. He patiently waits for his eggs to hatch, keeping them warm and protecting them from predators like the goanna. When they finally hatch he teaches his clutch of chicks all they need to know to survive in the Australian bush, from finding food and shelter, to how to zigzag sprint to safety when an eagle is overhead.

The illustrations by Graham Byrne are truly magnificent. Just look at those fabulous eyes of the emu on the front cover. The illustrations are full of gorgeous natural tones of the grasslands and eucalypt forest. The endpapers are also divine! For me when I open a picture book and I'm greeted with gorgeous endpapers, I know the rest of the books is going to be just as wonderful.

endpapers from Emu by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne

Emu is a wonderful addition to any child's library and ideal for children 5+ years.

Book Details:
Title: Emu
Author: Claire Saxby
Illustrator: Graham Byrne
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Publication Date: 1 Aug 2014
ISBN: 9781922179708
RRP: $27.95

Emu is part of Walker Book Australia's Nature Storybooks series.

After reading Emu by Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne, you might like to make some paper plate emus.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hoot! Hoot! An Owl Themed Birthday Party

My gorgeous girl turned five in June. I can't believe how fast that time has flown by. She has been talking about and planning her birthday party since her last birthday party. Em loves being creative and spends her days making, drawing and painting, so I knew her party was going to include some kind of creative awesomeness. She struggled a little choosing a theme at first but finally decided on an owl theme. She is in the Owl class at preschool and preschool is her favourite place to be.

I thought I would share a little sneak peek into how we celebrated her 5th birthday.

How to host an Owl Craft Party for a 5 year old

I was so excited when she chose an Owl theme. There are so many fabulous owl activities that would be perfect for a crafty party. I managed to find some amazing little ceramic tea light holders and knew they would be perfect for the party. Not only would it be fun for the kids to get creative and decorate them but they would make great take home gifts too. Aren't they adorable? 

Gorgeous ceramic owl tea light holders ready to be decorated at our Owl Craft Party

The kids all had lots of fun painting these little owls. 

Getting creative at an owl themed craft party

Here's one of the finished owls. Isn't it adorable? I included a tea light in the good bag for the kids to light up their owls when they got home.

Painting ceramic owl tea light holders made a great activity for an owl themed craft birthday party

Being a winter party, the weather is always a little temperamental, so I had another craft activity planned just in case. Thankfully I did because it was a cold and grey afternoon. So we all made paper bag owl puppets. You can read about how we made them here.

Finally the sun came out and we ventured outdoors for some dancing and a super simple game called Flying Owls. I had three balloons that were the owls and the aim of the game was to make sure the balloon owls didn't touch the ground. The kids had to bounce them around to make sure they kept flying. It was amazing how much fun such a simple game can be. I love this type of simplicity at birthday parties. 

Balloon game called Flying Owls

You know me, there had to be books somewhere in this party. I used our collection of owl themed picture books as part of the decorations around the house.

Use picture books as decorations at an owl themed birthday party

I am notorious for over catering for the kids' parties and we are always have so much food left over. So I tried really hard to make this party a little simpler and less expensive in the food department. It was an afternoon party, so we had our own version of a high tea for the refreshments, with homemade lemon slice and jam drops. We also had cupcakes, finger sandwiches and jelly cups and strawberry milk.

High tea at our owl themed birthday party with handmade lemon slice and jam drops

Refreshments table including finger sandwiches and jelly cups

Owl cupcakes

I know my strengths and cake decorating is definitely not one of them. So I opted for a simple double layer chocolate cake with butter cream icing and some washi tape bunting. All very easy, tasted delicious and, more importantly, stress free!

Simple chocolate cake with buttercream icing and washi tape bunting

One of the requests that Emily made was pink flowers for decorations. We don't often buy flowers, so I thought it would be a lovely addition to the decorations. These pink gerberas certainly brightened up the craft table.

beautiful pink gerberas

Despite the wet, cold weather, it was a really lovely party and I think Emily and her guests enjoyed it. I also loved how simple this party was to organise. 

Ideas for hosting an Owl themed craft party.

If you would like some owl picture book inspiration, here are five of our favourite books about owls:

Our favourite 5 picture books about owls

Or you can find more fabulous owl inspired craft ideas via our O is for Owl Pinterest Board.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to use an atlas to prepare kids for an overseas holiday

This Product talk is brought to you by Nuffnang and Lonely Planet Kids.

In two months time we will be embarking on our first overseas adventure with the kids! We will be spending 10 days exploring New Zealand. I know, exciting, right? 

Travelling to another country can be overwhelming for adults, let alone kids, so preparing a little prior to your holiday can go a long way to help make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. Learning a little about your destination prior to your holiday is a great way to prepare kids for the experience and build some anticipation too.

A children's atlas is a wonderful resource for helping prepare your kids for a holiday. An atlas is more than a collection of maps, it's a wealth of information that will help children learn about their holiday destination and so much more. We have been reading the Lonely Planet Kids Amazing World Atlas in preparing for our upcoming holiday.

Lonely Planet Kids Amazing World Atlas

Here are a few ways we have used our atlas to learn a little more about our holiday destination and prepare for the trip:
  • The best place to start when helping your kids prepare for an overseas holiday is to locate the world map in your Atlas. Then find where you live on the map. From there, locate your holiday destination.  Talk about the distance you will be travelling. How will you get there? Will it be direct, or will you be making any stopovers? Don't forget to locate any stopovers on the map too, so that you can plot your journey.
  • Will you be crossing any oceans to reach your destination? What are their names? Our atlas has a section on the world's seas and oceans and has some great information on the water cycle, water pollution and why the sea is salty.
  • What about time zones? Will you be travelling to a different time zone? What does this mean for when you when you are on holidays (or when you return home)? This is a great opportunity to talk about the time you will be leaving home, how long it will take to travel to your destination and what time it will be when you arrive. 
  • What about the climate and weather? Will it be the same or different to your home? Ask your child what kind of clothes do they think they will need to pack for the weather. Our atlas has a map outlining the climate zones across the world, which helped in explaining how different countries experienced different types of weather.
  • What about the country you are visiting? This is a great opportunity to talk about some of the country's highlights. Our atlas had a whole section on New Zealand, which made this easy. The section included a little about the culture and history of the country, cool paces to visit, native animals to see, interesting landmarks and some quirky facts too.
How to prepare kids for an overseas holiday by reading an Atlas

Don't forget to talk about the national flag of the country you're visiting too. The Lonely Planet Kids Amazing World Atlas has the national flags as endpapers, which is fabulous and you know how I love endpapers.
National Flag endpapers from Lonely Planet Kids Amazing World Atlas

The Lonely Planet Kids Amazing World Atlas is a treasure trove of information about the wonderful world that we live in and has certainly got my kids buzzing about our upcoming holiday. My son really enjoyed reading all the funny stories and quirky facts throughout the Atlas too. It's amazing how one book can so easily open up my kids' eyes to the world around them. It has filled them with inspiration to travel and discover more about New Zealand (and the rest of the world for that matter). I think they may have caught the travel bug.

In addition to learning about our holiday destination, we have also been thinking about some activities and books to take with us on our adventure, for when we are hanging around in airports and those moments of downtime in the hotel. Lonely Planet Kids also has a wonderful range of activity books that are perfect for little travellers. They are full of stickers, games and puzzles that bring our planet to life. On previous interstate trips, my kids have loved playing with sticker books while on the plane, so Adventures in Wild Places definitely got a thumbs up from them.

Adventures in Wild Places from Lonely Planet Kids

Don't forget to do a little preparation for yourself. Let's face it, travelling overseas can be quite daunting for us parents too. How well will the kids travel? Will they enjoy the experience. Will they like the food? I have found some great advice for holidaying with kids in Travel with Children. It also has some great suggestions for child friendly destinations and I really like that in each destination section it includes some suggested reading for the kids when preparing for their holiday to that location. 

Lonely Planet Travel with Children

If you want to learn more about the Lonely Planet Kids book range, check out their website. It has a wonderful collection of resources including activity sheets to download and teacher's notes for their books. Or you can follow Lonely Planet Kids on social media via Twitter or Facebook.

Have you been overseas with your kids? Do you have any tips for preparing them for the holiday?

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Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of each product referred to in this post in exchange for an honest review. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

How to create a paper bag owl puppet

When my daughter turned 5 last month she really wanted an owl themed party. She is in the Owl class at preschool, and preschool is her most favourite place, so of course, she had to have an owl party. So I added a crafty twist and got creative at the party, with the kids making their own paper bag owl puppets at the party.

How to create a paper bag owl puppet

They are super easy to make. Here is how to make them:
  • 1 brown paper bag
  • 5 cupcake liners (3 different colours if possible)
  • 2 large googley eyes
  • feathers (approximately 6 per owl, but totally up to you)
  • glue stick
Flatten two cupcake liners for the base of the eyes and then a glue another cupcake liner into the centre of the flattened ones to make eyes. Glue the googley eyes into the centre. Then attach the finished eyes onto your paper bag (make sure the sealed end of the bag is at the top of the owl's head, so you can use it as a puppet)

For the beak we used the remaining cupcake liner and folded it in half and then in half again to make a beak shape, which we then glued onto the bag. Then glue feathers onto the bag for wings. Then you have a super adorable owl puppet.

How to create a paper bag owl puppet

All the kids had wonderful time creating their own little owls and I will share more from the party soon.

In the lead up to the party we also read some of our favourite owl picture books. If you want to read them too, here are five fabulous owl books:

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review of Emotions in Motion by Rose Stanley and Lisa Allen

Emotions can be tricky to understand for children and adults too, for that matter. A child's emotional development is a complex journey and the ability to identify their own emotions and the emotions of others is the first step towards learning to manage their emotions.  Emotions in Motion by Rose Stanley and illustrated by Lisa Allen is a wonderful resource for supporting children in understanding, recognising and expressing emotions.

Picture book review of Emotions in Motion by Rose Stanley and Lisa Allen

Each emotion is explained through a colour or combinations of colours as well as illustrated facial expressions and what it the emotion feels like. With Rose's easily understood explanations and Lisa's wonderful visual representations of each emotion, Emotions in Motion provides children with tangible ways to explore emotions and relate to them.  

Review of Emotions in Motion by Rose Stanley and Lisa Allen

At the end of the book, there is a section with questions and activities for children to explore their own emotions further. Emotions in Motion is ideal for parents and educators who wish to encourage conversations about feelings and emotions.

After reading the book we played around with changing our facial expressions in front of a mirror to match each emotion. We also took turns to guess the emotion the other person was showing on their face. This was lots of fun and a wonderful opportunity for the kids to practice recognising different emotions in others. 

Book Details:
Title: Emotions in Motion
Author: Rose Stanley
Illustrator: Lisa Allen
Publisher: Starfish Bay Publishing
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 9780994100290

You may also like to read our review of A Cup of Hot Chocolate, which is also by Rose Stanley and Lisa Allen.

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

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Picture Book Review: Snow Day by Sam Usher

With all the excitement over the cold front (or should I say Antarctic Vortex) that hit today and the snow that fell around Canberra as a result, I thought it would be the perfect time to share a new book by Sam Usher, called Snow Day.

Picture Book Review of Snow Day by Sam Usher

A young boy wakes up to freshly fallen snow and he can't wait to get to the park to play in it. He is desperate to play in the snow before anyone else. All he needs to do is get dressed, brush his teeth, put on shoes and get Grandad. Grandad, however, is still in bed and does not have the same eagerness that the boy does about getting out in the snow before anyone else does. Grandad will not be hurried and the young boy is desperate. As more and more people venture off to the park in the snow, the boys frustrations increases. Even the cats and dogs are out enjoying the snow and grandad suggests that probably the whole zoo is out there too. 

Grandad reassures him that they won't miss any of the fun, but the boy is not too sure about that. Finally Grandad is ready and they head off to the park for some snow play. The young boy soon learns that some things really are worth waiting for.

Snow Day is a wonderful celebration of the relationship between children and their grandparents and how they approach life differently. The young boy is eager, impatient and easily frustrated, while the grandfather is calm, prepared and patient. This story provides a lovely lesson in patience and learning that some things are definitely worth the wait.

The minimal text in the story is beautifully paired with the glorious illustrations by Sam Usher. I adore the use of white space for the snow and how the pristine white snow slowly becomes full of footprints, the longer the boy waits for his Grandad and the more people trudge through it. You can feel the boy's frustration in seeing every new footprint in the snow. This is truly a delightful picture book.

An illustration from Snow Day by Sam Usher

Snow Day is definitely a perfect wintertime read, especially if you are going to have a snow adventure of your own. 

Book Details:
Title: Snow Day
Author/Illustrator: Sam Usher
Publisher: Koala Books, an imprint of Scholastic
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 9781742761169

You might also like our shaving cream snow sensory play, which includes our review of The Story of Snow.

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder

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

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