Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Picture Book Review and Craft: Don't Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan

It's still school holidays here in Canberra and the weather has been cold, wet and windy. Perfect weather for staying indoors and reading. One of the books on our HUGE reading pile is  Don't Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan and illustrated by Gwynneth Jones. 

Review of Don't Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones

I have been following Susan for quite a while via her bookish blog, social media and of course Kids Book Review, which she is the managing editor. I was super excited to find out that she was having her first picture book published. So you can imagine how much I have been looking forward to reading it and I was certainly not disappointed. It is utterly fabulous!

Sometimes little Sophie worried. She didn't worry during the day when she was having fun at school, or playing at home with her brother and sister. It was not until bedtime that the worries appeared. As Sophie lay in bed, with nothing to distract her, she began to worry about all sorts of things and her worries made it difficult to sleep and Sophie became very tired. 

Sophie's family try to give her suggestions for getting to sleep but nothing seems to help. That is until her mum tells her not to think about purple elephants. Of course, when you're told not to think about something, that seems to be all you could think about and it's not long before Sophie is thinking about purple elephants getting up to all sorts of mischief.

Don't Think About Purple Elephants is a beautiful and sensitive picture book about finding a way to ease a little girl's worries. It provides a wonderful opportunity for children and parents to explore the concept of worry together. Both my children are very familiar with the challenges of anxiety. While their worries do not appear at bedtime like Sophie's do, they are present throughout the day and those worries can have a big impact on our day. We use a variety of techniques to support them through their worries and we all agreed that not thinking about purple elephants was another fun strategy to add to our repertoire. 

The illustrations by Gwynneth Jones are vibrant and help to bring this beautiful story to life. I love the subtle change to black and white when portraying Sophie's worries. The little details make the illustrations so special and if you look closely you will discover Sophie's cat (or perhaps just a paw or tail) throughout the story. Oh and the endpapers are lovely too!

After reading the book, we had some fun matching animals with crazy colours. James, as predictable as always, come up with a Green Moose (his favourite colour and favourite animal). Emily couldn't decided between her two favourite colours, pink and purple, so she combined them to come up with a pink with purple spotted puppy dog.


Book Details:
Title: Don't Think About Purple Elephants
Author: Susan Whelan
Illustrator: Gwynneth Jones
Publisher: EK Books
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781921966699
RRP: $24.99

Of course we had to make our own purple elephants, so that we had something not to think about.

I managed to find some great cardboard elephant shapes from a local craft store and I was surprised to find that I actually had some purple fabric in my scrap bag, so I laid them out as a simple invitation to create for the kids on a cold and blustery day.


An invitation to create a purple elephant collage


Creating a purple elephant collage

Purple elephant fabric collage


Emily preferred to paint her elephants! 

We used their fabulous purple elephants and a photocopy of the book cover to put up on the wall as part of a new display feature we are creating in our study (which has now been renamed the library).

Review of Don't Think About Purple Elephants

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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, April 19, 2015

Book Launch: Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle

Yesterday we went to the book launch of Anglea Moyle's new picture book Clyde's Prickly Ride.

Book Launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle and Ian Coate

Clyde is an adorable little echidna who lives in a hollow stump in Commonwealth Park, right here in Canberra. The park also hosts the Floriade spring flower festival every year. He isn't too keen on the crowds of Floriade, so he hides away in his stump. That is until he sees some juicy ants. So focused on slurping up all the ants, he doesn't notice the backpack they are crawling on and ends up being scooped up in the bag.  That is when his adventure begins with one of the main Floriade attractions, the ferris wheel.

This lovely story is the second book in Angela's Capital Adventure series, which also includes Phoebe Digs Politics. The rhyming text make this picture book a delight to read aloud and the illustrations by Ian Coate are a simply adorable. 

Book launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle

The launch was hosted by one of our favourite bookshops, Harry Hartog.  

Reading Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle

Angela reading Clyde's Prickly Ride to us. 

Canberra Author Angela Moyle signing a copy of Clyde's Prickly Ride

Thank you for signing our book Angela. 

Signed copy of Clyde's Prickly Ride by Angela Moyle

After the reading and signing, it was time for some cupcakes! Hooray!

Flower cupcakes at the book launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride

Don't they look delicious? The lovely flowers match the colourful flowers found in the story.

Delicious cupcakes at the book launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride

She thought the cupcakes were delicious! I know this because she actually ate the cake and not just the icing! Now that's some kind of miracle.

Colouring in at the book launch of Clyde's Prickly Ride

No book launch is complete without a some colouring in! Emily chose to colour in Phoebe the wombat from Angela's first picture book Phoebe Digs Politics.

The Capital Adventures Series by Angela Moyle

What a wonderful way to spend an evening! Surrounded by books and listening to a lovely story in the company of friends and fellow book lovers.

Book Details:
Title: Clyde's Prickly Ride
Author: Angela Moyle
Illustrator: Ian Coate
Publisher: Vivid Publishing
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 9781925209587

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

CBCA 2015 Short List for the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Today is one very exciting day in the Children's Book Calendar here in Australia. The Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) announced their short list for the 2015 Book of the Year Awards. 

Australia is very fortunate indeed to have so many wonderfully talented authors and illustrators and the short list this year (as well as the notables list) has some pretty amazing books. You can see the Short List here.

While I love looking through the picture book categories, I have to admit that my favourite 
category is the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books. As many of you may know we love reading nonfiction and this short list and the notables list is a great way to add to expand our reading list.

The Eve Pownall Award is "made to outstanding books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style."


Who was Eve Pownall?

Majorie Evelyn (Eve) Pownall (1902-1982) was a historian and children's book author. Pownall shared her love of Australian history in the books she wrote, recording the important role of women and children, both black and white. Her book The Australia Book was the recipient of the 1952 CBCA Book of the Year Award. Pownall was also passionate about children's literature and was an early supporter of the group that would become the Children's Book Council of Australia.*


The 2015 Shortlist

Without further ado, here is this year's short list for the Eve Pownall Award:

The 2015 Short List for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books


A-Z Convicts in Van Dieman's Land by Simon Barnard, Text Publishing

Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia, edited by Demet Divaroren & Amra Pajalic, Allen & Unwin.

Mary's Australia: How Mary Mackillop Changed Australia by Pamela Freeman, Black Dog Books / Walker Books Australia

Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and illustrated by Robert Ingpen, National Library of Australia

Emu by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne, Walker Books Australia

Audacity: Stories of Heroic Australians in Wartime by Carlie Walker and illustrated by Brett Hatherly, Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Of this list, we have only read the wonderful Tea and Sugar Christmas, so I am really looking forward to reading the others and I have to admit that as soon as the list was announced I jumped straight on my local library's website and requested copies of all of the short listed books. Hooray for our local library!

In the lead up to Children's Book Week in August, I will be sharing our reviews of each of the Eve Pownall short listed books.

So a big congratulations to all the authors, illustrators and publishers who made the short list as well as the notables list. Now the waiting begins. I look forward to finding out the winners in August during Children's Book Week.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Picture Book Review: Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood

I can't believe that Easter is only a few days away! How did that happen? I don't know what it is about Easter but it always seems to sneak up on me (regardless of the fact that chocolate Easter eggs have been on sale in the shops since January!)

Anyway, I thought I would share an adorable picture book about rabbits today. It's not specifically an Easter book but it has bunnies, and who doesn't love a good bunny book at Easter time? It's called Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood.

Picture book review of Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood

Mr Bear lives alone and that's the way he likes it. However, one day a family of rabbits move in next door and Mr Bear's peaceful solitude is gone in an instant. The rabbits seem to be constantly visiting Mr Bear. They want to borrow some honey or they need help chopping some wood and my favourite, they want to swap some books. 


illustration from Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood

Those pesky and utterly adorable little rabbits are pretty persistent, but when Mr Bear roars at them, demanding to be left alone, they finally get the message. Life returns to normal for Mr Bear until one day he finds a basket on his doorstep with a note from the rabbits. This act of kindness finally helps Mr Bear realise the error of his ways and he reaches out to the rabbits. 

Ciara Flood has created an adorable picture book with a beautiful message of friendship and the importance of generosity (even for grumpy old bears).

The illustrations are simply adorable. The stunning detail in each double page spread is captivating and they add a lovely depth to the story. We enjoyed finding the little mouse hidden on some of the pages and I absolutely adored the labels on each of the honey jars. Also the subtle change of seasons are a beautiful touch too. 


illustration from Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood

I have a soft spot for fabulous endpapers and I am totally in love with the endpapers for Those Pesky Rabbits. The front endpapers are of a Home Sweet Home cross stitch sampler with the solitary Mr Bear next to his house. Then jump to the end of the book to see the new additions of those adorable little rabbits standing next to Mr Bear. Too adorable for words.


Adorable endpapers from Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood

This charming picture book would make a lovely non-chocolate Easter gift and because it is not specifically an Easter themed book, you can read it all year round. Yay! I may have purchased a few copies to give as gifts this year too.

Book Details:
Title: Those Pesky Rabbits
Author/Illustrator: Ciara Flood
Publisher: Koala Books an imprint of Scholastic Australia
Publication Date: March 2015
ISBN: 9781742761442
RRP: $24.99

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Storytime fun: Robopop and Recycled Robots

Last week we read Robopop A Dad in A Box by Alice Hemming and illustrated by James Lent.


Review of Robopop by Alice Hemming and James Lent

On 'Bring your Dad to School Day', Daisy and Dylan are a little embarrassed by their Dad. Nobody really understood what their dad did and they all laughed. Daisy and Dylan wanted their Dad to be more like the other dads.


"You invent weird gadgets. And weirder recipes. You know nothing about football."

Daisy and Dylan's Dad is an inventor and a little bit quirky. He decides to show Daisy and Dylan that differences are not necessarily a bad thing and that not all Dad's should be the same. To do this, he creates Robopop, the 21st Century Father Figure! Robopop is going to babysit Daisy and Dylan for the day, but he may not be as fabulous as he seems. Perhaps Daisy and Dylan should be careful what they wish for?

At first Robopop seemed pretty cool, he loves to play football and even helps Daisy cut the queue for the swing at the playground. It doesn't take long, though before things start going wrong. Robopop takes everything to extremes. He wants to win the football game, no matter what! When Daisy and Dylan want to have a bath and read a bedtime story, Robopop thinks exercise and football training is what they need. Even their Dad's cooking is better than Robopop's, at least he gives them pudding! Daisy and Dylan start to realise that their unique inventor Dad is not so bad after all.

The story is a fun one to read aloud and Robopo speaks in rhyme compared to the rest of the prose text of the story. I really enjoyed speaking in my best robot voice. I also really loved the change of font when Robopop was talking too.

The illustrations are bright, colourful and full of fun. We loved trying to spot Daisy and Dylan's real dad throughout the book. He continues to keep an eye on the kids while they are with Robopop and hides in the some very funny places.

This is such a fun story with a lovely message that everyone is special and unique and we don't have to all fit the same mould. Also how could I forget the other message of be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

Book Details:
Title: Robopop A Dad in A Box
Author: Alice Hemming
Illustrator: James Lent
Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
Publication Date: January 2015
ISBN: 9781848861664



After reading Robopop, Emily really wanted to make her own robot.  So we raided the recycling bin and our useful box. We found a selection of boxes, tubs, buttons and other bits and pieces that we knew would make a pretty awesome robot.


Using recycled materials to create a robot

Emily spent quite a lot of time playing around with the position of boxes to get the robot shape she wanted. 

A robot being created using recycled materials

She knew immediately that she wanted to use bottle lids for eyes and give her robot a happy purple felt smile.

The Robot's face was made using buttons, bottle lids and a little box.

Apart from a little help with attaching the robot's arms, Emily created the robot on her own. I love the little hat with pink felt hair too and all the detail she included for robot buttons.

The finished robot made from recycled materials

Emily insisted that her robot was a girl and her name was Calley. She was so proud of her robot that I had to print off a photo of it, so she could take it to preschool to show her teacher.

A Robot created using recycled materials

Creating recycled robots is such a fun and super easy activity and was a great way to bring the story of Robopop to life for the kids.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Picture Book Review: Our Love Grows by Anna Pignataro

This week we have been enjoying a new picture book by Anna Pignataro, called Our Love Grows.

Our Love Grows by Anna Pignataro


In the deep green forest, Pip asked, 'Mama, when will I be big?'

Pip is super adorable little panda who wants to know when he will grow bigger. His mum explains how he has already grown and changed so much, just like the world around him. The trees have grown and the seasons have changed. His footsteps were once smaller and even his favourite toy birdy was once shiny and new. Another thing that has grown over time is his Mama's love for him. 

Our Love Grows by Anna Pignataro is an adorable story about growing up and the changes in the world around us over time. The love and affection that a parent feels for their child grows as they spend more time with each other and create memories and experiences together, like the songs they sing and the games they play together.

This was such a lovely picture book to read aloud to my kids as it prompted some lovely conversations about when they were babies, and how much they have grown and changed. That lead on to remembering some of the funny little quirks they had as babies and sharing many wonderful experiences we have had together. Growing up is a regular topic of conversation with my four year old daughter at the moment and she is constantly asking to look through her baby photos. She loves seeing how much she has grown and changed, so this picture book has come at a perfect time for us. 

Anna's watercolour and pencil illustrations are just so lovely. The changing of the seasons are beautifully depicted and the illustrations complement the story perfectly. Simply adorable.

Here's a sneak peek inside:

A sneak peek inside Our Love Grows by Anna Pignataro

Illustration from Our Love Grows by Anna Pignataro

I would recommend this book for children ages 3 years and up.

James' review:
The book is about a mummy panda and her little panda baby who wants to grow bigger. His mummy tells him he has already grown a lot. I really like the book because it has pandas and I like pandas. Pandas live in bamboo forests and I love bamboo. I really like the picture where they play hide and seek.

Emily's review:
I like the front. It is so good and lovely. I like pandas and the baby panda is really cute. I like the picture where the tree and the baby panda grow. I think the panda wants to not be a baby anymore and wants to be a grown up.

Book Details:
Title: Our Love Grows
Author/Illustrator: Anna Pignataro
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: March 2015
ISBN: 9781743626269
RRP: $16.99

You may also like our review of How I Love You, also written and illustrated by Anna Pignataro.


How I Love You by Anna Pignataro



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