Friday, August 28, 2015

Picture Book Review: Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball

Picture Book Review: Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball

Is it too early to be thinking about Halloween? Anyway, if you're looking for a fun monster filled picture book then Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball by Giles Paley-Phillips and illustrated by Gabriele Antonini is ideal.

It's a dark and windy night and young Tamara Small is trying to fall asleep but the noises and her vivid imagination are keeping her awake. All of a sudden a big furry hand reaches into her room and snatches her away. I know it sounds scary and at first Tamara is really frightened, but don't worry. It's not long before she realises the monster that has taken her really isn't that scary and she has an exciting night of dancing ahead of her. You see, Tamara has been invited to the annual monsters' ball where she dances the night away with werewolves, ghosts, skeletons and witches. She has an amazing time at the ball and to top off a fun filled night, the monsters have a final surprise for Tamara.

Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball is a lovely rhyming story that is a delight to read aloud. It is an engaging picture book that starts out a little scary but soon turns into a fun filled dancing adventure. The illustrations by Gabriele Antonini are vibrant and full of colour and the monsters are a very friendly looking bunch too. This book would make a great story for Halloween or anytime you want to breakdance with some werewolves.

Picture book review of Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball

Book Details:
Title: Tamara Small and the Monster's Ball
Author: Giles Paley-Phillips
Illustrator: Gabriele Antonini
Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 9781848861756

You might also like these fun monster picture books:

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Review of HistoriCool - a history magazine for kids

We are a history loving family, with both my husband and I studying history at university. So when I was asked if I was interested in reviewing HistoriCool, a history magazine for kids, I jumped at the chance. 

My review of this magazine, however, has been a little delayed (for the very best of reasons though). As soon as my son saw the magazines he stole them away to read them and loved them so much that he decided to take them to school to share with his classmates for his news presentation. Even his teacher liked them and wanted to have a read of them overnight! I had been itching to read them myself but the magazines were in such high demand in our household that I was the last one to read them! 

Since my son loved them so much, I figured he might as well share his review too. Here is what he had to say about HistoriCool magazine:

"HistoriCool is actually really cool! It has lots of history stuff in it. It's really interesting and I like looking at the pictures. I learnt lots of things about history like the section about accidental inventions (that was my favourite part) I also like the activities and puzzles at the end too."

It was a definite thumbs up from him and he said he would recommend it to all his friends, his teachers and anyone who likes history! We certainly had many interesting conversations over breakfast or dinner about something he had read in the magazine.

For me, my son's immediate love of the magazine was a tell tale sign of a quality publication that certainly has kid appeal. Once I managed to wrangle them away from him, I got to see for myself.

The magazines looks amazing, I really like the layout. It is a full colour magazine with a combination of photographs, cartoons and illustrations to accompany the articles. The articles themselves are interesting and well researched, engaging and really funny too. It's full of gory stories, weird and wonderful artefacts, interesting historical figures and lots of quirky facts that really appeal to kids. Who wouldn't want to read about the history of the toilet? I really liked the Junior Historian section where kids have submitted their own history articles on topics of their choice, like the history of Lego.

Sneak peek inside HistoriCool magazine

The HistoriCook section gives some insights into the role that food has played in our history and even includes some recipes, encouraging the kids to get cooking in the kitchen. The magazine is also full of activities like making fossil dough, as well as puzzles and quizzes to keep kids engaged.

The magazine explores so many different aspects of history from going behind the scenes of an archaeological dig in Egypt to modern day historical figures, like Helen Clark, New Zealand's first elected female Prime Minister. This is a magazine that I know we will continue to read as a family.

HistoriCool is ideal for children 8-12. If your children are interested in history or love the Horrible Histories series, they would certainly love this magazine.

For schools and teachers, there are also teaching resources produced alongside every issue which includes lesson plans, worksheets and assessment ideas, helping to integrate the magazine into classroom learning.

The magazine is published bi-monthly and you can subscribe to the hard-copy magazine or receive it as a digital eMag. You can find out more about subscribing via the HistoriCool website.

Discount Coupon:

Thanks the the wonderful creators of HistoriCool, we can offer our readers a 10% discount on any hard-copy subscription or back issue purchase. All you need to do is visit the HistoriCool website and enter in the promo code: HONEYBEE

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Disclosure: I was provided with two past copies of the magazine in exchange for an honest review. My opinions, as always are my own.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Week Parade Costume: Dot from Tottie and Dot

Happy Book Week! 

It's my favourite week of the year and the highlight for me would have to be the book week parade, where children dress up as their favourite book characters. I love how it inspires the kids to think about the stories and characters that they know and love and think about how they can bring those characters to life. It is a wonderful way for them to connect with a character. 

This is an extra special parade this year because it is my daughter's first parade! I may be just slightly more excited than than she is, but now we have finalised her costume, her excitement is building.

A few weeks ago we sat down in front of our bookcase and started looking through our books to get some ideas for which character she might want to dress up as. This process did not take long, because she immediately pulled her copy of Tottie and Dot from the shelf and declared that she wanted to dress up as Dot! I am sure it was that marvellous pink hair.

Tottie and Dot is by the fabulous Canberran author, Tania McCartney and it is illustrated by Tina Snerling. We were lucky enough to attend the book launch for Tottie and Dot last year and Em has been in love with the book ever since. 

Book Week Parade Costume - Dot from Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

This was a super easy (and affordable) costume to pull together. I found a stunning hot pink wig and some black rimmed glasses at a local discount store. Emily already had a pink shirt in her wardrobe (because, let's face it, it's pretty much the only colour she has in her wardrobe). The skirt is actually part of a dress that she already had too. The top section of the dress is green, so with some creative tucking it magically converted to a skirt. The black bow was attached to a headband that we already had, so I removed it and clipped it onto her skirt. Emily did advise me that the bow did not have white polkadots on it like Dot's bow, but she happily accepted it (phew!)

Book Week Parade Costume - Dot from Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

She was so very excited about dressing up and has decided that she wants to have pink hair permanently! 

Tottie and Dot by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Which book character will your child be dressing up as this year? 

If they haven't decided yet, here are few of the costumes we have created in past years:

Wilfred from This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers
James from James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Mr Qwerty from The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty by Karla Strambini

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: Made with Dad by Chris Barnardo

Father's Day is fast approaching and I am always on the look out for books that my husband would enjoy. Thankfully my husband loves books just as much as I do. I knew he would really enjoy Made with Dad by Chris Barnardo when I saw it.

Review of Made with Dad by Chris Barnardo

Made with Dad is a wonderful resource of craft projects for dads and their kids to build, make and do together. It is written by Chris Barnardo, who is the creator of which is full of inspiration for dads who want to make the most of their time spent with their children.

The variety of projects in Made with Dad is really impressive, with so many of the projects being made from items and materials you have lying around the house or in the recycling bin. Some of the projects include making wizard wands, paper butterflies, Japanese dolls,  submarines made from recycled materials and kitchen science experiments. 

The project difficultly level ranges from quick and easy right up to advance models. There is a project for all levels of experience and with such a wide variety of projects for inspiration they will have no trouble finding a project that appeals to everyone.

The illustrated instructions are really clear and super easy to follow. What I really like about the instructions is that they are flexible enough that you can add your own flare and creativity to each project. 

If your house is anything like ours, I am often the parent that helps the kids with the crafty and creative stuff. My husband works long hours during the week, and on the weekends, he and the kids spend their time together riding bikes and playing soccer etc. So this book is a great way to inspire both my husband and the kids to get creative together. 

My husband was really excited about this book. He loved the variety of projects and the easy to follow instructions. My kids loved the fact that they were getting creative with Dad and also the fact that they got to use Mum's hot glue gun in a lot of the projects.

If you're looking for a gift for Father's Day that's a little bit different and provides the kids with an opportunity to get creative with their Dad, then we can highly recommend Made with Dad by Chris Barnardo.

Book Details:
Title: Made with Dad
Author: Chris Barnardo
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 9781632207227

The hardest part was trying to decide which project to tackle first. James has just finished reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, so when he saw the Wizard's Wand project, the decision was made.

Here are a few photos of Dad and the kids working together to create their wizard wands:

Once they finished making the wand, it was time to paint it and they decided to use spray paint. This was exciting because we don't have spray paint lying around the house, so that meant a trip with Dad to the local hardware store (and it also meant that Mum got some alone time to catch up on some reading! Hooray!)

They even founds some fancy gold paint for the detail.

Look at the concentration on those faces.

Here we have the finished wand. They turned out wonderfully well and everyone was so proud of their efforts.

An extra bonus for me is that James has decided to dress up as Harry Potter for his upping Book Week parade this year, so with Dad's help, he has made the first part of his costume already. Hooray for being organised this year. No last minute panics (for one costume anyway).

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

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Picture Book Review: The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood

The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood is a gorgeous play on the popular nursery Hey Diddle Diddle. The story is all about what happened leading up to the Cow jumping over the moon.

Review of The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood

Cow's goal is to jump over the moon. It seems almost impossible and cow makes many failed attempts. With the help and support from her friends, Dog, Cat, Dish and Spoon, Cow never gives up. 
Illustration from The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood

She continues to attempt the challenge, getting a little closer each time and we all know how the rhyme ends, with cow jumping over the moon.

It seems a moon clearance
Takes great perseverance

Illustration from The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood

Achieving your goals can seem impossible at times but through hard work, a little perseverance and of course, support from your friends, you never know what you might achieve, like jumping over the moon. The Cow Tripped Over the Moon is a a fabulously funny and clever story with a wonderful message about never giving up on your dreams.

Laura Wood's illustrations are hilarious and beautifully match the wonderful rhyming story. The endpapers are a series of patterns that represent a farm and they are just lovely.

This picture book opens up a world of possibilities for creative writing ideas for kids. They could choose their favourite nursery rhyme and write a story about what happened in the lead up to it, like The Cow Tripped Over the Moon. Or they could write about what happens after the nursery rhyme.

Book Details:
Author: Tony Wilson
Illustrator: Laura Wood
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 9781743623534

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

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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