…#PictureBookMonth – Nov 1
Happy November 🙂
November is Picture Book Month – a celebration of great picture books with a daily theme.
Today’s theme is Bears.
There are so many picture books about bears it was hard to choose just one. Inspired by children’s cuddly animals everywhere, bears in books play games, try to delay bedtime, have fun at school and just about any other thing a regular child can do.
There’s Old Bear, and Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh and Sam Bear from my grandson’s favourite, “Kiss Goodnight, Sam” to name just a few. However, I decided to feature a book a picked up the other day from the library. “Something About a Bear” by Jackie Morris has become a quite a hit at our house and I can see I’ll have to buy a copy of our own.
Unlike most of the other bear stories in children’s literature which project human qualities onto animals, “Something About a Bear” focuses on eight types of real bear.
So let me tell you something, something about a bear.
There is the Black Bear, Polar Bear, Sloth Bear, Spectacle Bear, Sun Bear, Panda, Moon Bear and the Brown Bear. (Yes, me and the grandchildren are now something of bear experts)
Readers follow the bears doing normal ‘bear’ things such as hunting, caring for their cubs and swimming. The illustrations are gorgeous watercolour paintings of them in their natural habitat; the forest, jungle or icy waters.
Swimming through the water where the ice-flow meets the ocean, lives the great, white Polar bear.
There is a fascinating story of how “Something About a Bear” was written over on Jackie’s website. It’s well worth a read.
We’ve really enjoyed this book and would recommend it as a change to cuddly, humanized bears often found in children’s books.
Problem with the Amazon link to “Things Evie Eats” paperbacks.
Yikes! I just discovered there’s a problem with the Amazon link to the print copy of “Things Evie Eats”. It’s disappeared. Arrrrgghhhh!!!!
I am trying to find out what has gone wrong.
In the meantime, the link to the Kindle ebook version works fine and, of course, Kindle Unlimited members can still download the book for free.
However, if you would like to buy a paperback copy of the book, please email me and I will send one out to you straight away.
I’ve talked a lot about the value of reading with your child. In the early years it helps with bonding, brain development and develops empathy in forming minds. A child who can read, can learn anything it wants. It’s a vitally important skill for success in life. Not to mention reading is fun … it’s also a very difficult job for parents to get right. (Are you teaching your child NOT to read for fun?)
There’s a wonderful poem by Strickland Gillilan that sums up the importance of reading with your children.
The Reading Mother.
by Stickland Gillilan.
I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
‘Blackbirds’ stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a Mother who read to me.
So, today I want you to meet someone who nailed the job. The person who nurtured my own love of books.
Meet my mum.
My mum talked to me, read books to me and sang to me from the moment I was born. We negotiated the murky waters of the ABC books and phonics together so that, by the time I started school, I was already an independent reader and I’ve never stopped. (Well done, Mum)
At bedtime, she made up her own stories for me. My favourite was about a cow called Twinkle. She tells me I always insisted it had a sad ending … which is a little disturbing for a pre-schooler lol.
I remember vividly a book she wrote for me; hand-written and illustrated. It was a ‘make your own adventure’ style book, where you could choose different actions for the hero at the end of each page. Depending on which option you picked, you turned to a different page. It was a triumph of book planning. (Must tackle one of those myself some-day)
I was a rather sickly child. You name it, I caught it, and held on to it for an unpleasantly long time. This meant I spent a lot of time tucked up on the sofa with a book and a glass of Lucozade (in the days when it was a drink you gave to invalids, not sports persons). It also meant Mum had to walk almost daily trips to the library. (Sorry about that, Mum.)
My mum also encouraged me to write my own stories. I’d get notebooks with pretty covers for birthdays, special ‘writing’ pens for Christmas. She read my first book (entitled My Uncle the Ostrich) and helped me design a cover and bind the first ‘print run’ for my family. (Thanks, Mum)
Later, Mum bought me a typewriter (it was exactly the colour of the one in the picture) along with a book with exercises on the Querty keyboard. I didn’t appreciate the rather tedious exercises in the book much but, yes, I do type with all my fingers. (Another thank you due there 🙂 )
Mum is the reason I am a reader … and a writer. She has always encouraged my writing and been an enthusiastic beta-reader. It was a no-brainer to dedicate my first book to her.
But Mum is also a trained artist. At over 80 years old, she still paints and sells her work.
When I said, “Let’s write a picture book”, Lillian Dawson stepped up to the mark. The illustrations in “Things Evie Eats” are hers.
I was lucky to have a truly awesome creative ‘reading mother’. What about you?
Oh no! I just found out that Amazon has ‘lost’ the link to the paperback version of “Things Evie Eats.” If you would like to buy one while I sort out what’s going on with them, email me and I’ll send one to you straight away.
Picture from a fan of Better Buckle Up
I received some lovely colouring today from a fan of Better Buckle Up. I think they’ve done a great job, don’t you?
Download your own colouring sheets
If you would like your own activity pack based on the book, you can download it for free here.
There are colouring pages, spot-the-differences and finger puppets of Ollie and his mum as they go on a journey to discover all the exciting things you can do if you wear your seat belt. Once you’ve finished your pictures, why not email them to me at email@example.com. I love to see them and I’ll display them on my site.
Have fun 🙂
P.S. There’s also more pictures for you to colour based on Things Evie Eats to download too.
We all know how important it is for our children to learn to read. We buy endless ABC books, teach them phonics and force feed them the latest reading schemes but, in our attempts to instill knowledge into their pretty little heads, are we teaching them NOT to read for fun?
First, a look at ‘guilty parent syndrome’.
Is doing things for fun, bad?
My grandson loves watching Blaze and the Monster Machines on the TV. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching, Blaze is a monster truck who races round Axle City. Now, my grandson isn’t allowed to watch much television but his mum says she doesn’t feel so bad letting him watch Blaze battling it out with arch-rival, Crusher, because “it’s billed as the first TV show for preschoolers to comprehensively cover areas of science, technology, engineering and math.”
And cover them, it does. With story lines and songs about ‘inertia’, ‘potential energy’ and ‘buoyancy’, Blaze has certainly taught me some STEM concepts (not sure about my grandson).
But why do we feel better about our children watching something that pertains to be teaching them something rather than just watching something for fun?
Do you always watch programs that are teaching you something?
Do you screen reruns of Stephen Hawking Lectures or Open University broadcasts?
I thought not.
And if we can do something ‘just for fun’, why can’t our children?
Back to reading.
What’s the educational angle?
That was the question someone asked me about my latest book project.
Because how was I going to market my story without the promise that my young readers would learn something?
How many parents would buy a book for their child to read simply for fun?
Of course we could argue that every story teaches our children something. After all it’s been shown that people who read have a heightened sense of empathy – reading a story puts us in another person’s shoes. They teach us about other people’s feelings. But that isn’t what this person meant. They were concerned that without a the promise of learning something measurable my new book wouldn’t be saleable.
Parents might not want to restrict reading time like they do with television viewing but do they have time in their busy days for a book with no “educational value.” Will it bring on the same guilty parent syndrome?
And children are very perceptive. If you disapprove of the books your child chooses, they will know.
Are you teaching your child NOT to read for fun?
I read a great post recently from Scholastic titled “Raise Children Who Read for Fun.” The fourth part of their ten-step plan was ‘Let the choose what they read.’
When they are young that could mean reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” a thousand times. As they get older, it means don’t insist on sticking with the reading schemes they get sent home from school with. Get them a library card and let them pick books that interest them (even if they don’t interest you). A child who has an interest in the content of a book will be more likely to read for fun.
So, what do you think. Is all our worrying about children learning teaching your child NOT to read for fun? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’ve shared three little-known facts about myself; two are true, one is a lie. Can you tell which one is the bluff?
Head over and have a guess.
The answer will be revealed next week.
I almost missed posting this week … which really bothered me because it would have been the first time since I started the blog back in February.
The last few months I have been reassessing where I want to be in my life, culminating in changing my job this week. I’d worked in my last employment for five years but I’m hoping my new position will be more flexible for my family and free up more writing time for me. Yay!!
So, today’s post is an update on things that have been going on and a look forward at a new era in my life.
This blog is now a ‘don’t-ask-for-review’ zone.
Last week I posed the question To review? Or not to review? (when you don’t love the book you’re reading.) And I got some really great feedback. A big thank you to all who commented.
I’ve decided to contact the author and tell her it’s not a book I could recommend to my readers and ask whether she would like me to post the review anyway. I hope this doesn’t offend her. From now on, I will be only reviewing books I’ve loved on my blog.
Progress on fear of dogs.
Back in June I was looking for books to help my grandson overcome his fear of dogs. Scared of dogs? Books to help your child overcome their fear.
“May I Pet your Dog?” by Stephanie Calmenson has become a firm favourite. After much practice at staying very still and looking away whenever we see a dog, I’m pleased to report he can now pass them in the park without screaming like he’s going to be eaten alive. I feel we still have some way to go before he can actually stroke a dog, but it’s definite progress.
Future writing projects.
With the publication of my picture books “Better Buckle Up” and “Things Evie Eats” earlier this year, my next project is well under way … and it’s BIG. I’ll be releasing the details over the next few weeks but I can tell you it’s a series of books and videos. 🙂
I’m very excited (if not a little overwhelmed) by the prospect. The story lines are in place, the first drafts are with my editor and the characters are being created visually as we speak. Watch this space.
I’ve also updated the website of my YA-writing alter ego over at SuzannaWilliams.com. It is very new (look out for broken links etc, if you visit) so I’ll be working on that too over the coming weeks.
A big thank you to all the people who have helped me kickstart my blog, especially the lovely Shaz and Heidi from #TalkoftheTown Linky who sent me this great pen. It now has pride of place next to my writing chair and makes note of my important editing decisions.
And of course massive. massive thank you’s to everyone who has purchased my books. I hope you will all stay with me in this new era of my life.
P.S. I took the photo of the sunrise out of my kitchen window. It truly did look like the dawn of a new era. Don’t you love the autumn skies?
To review? Or not to review? (when you don’t love the book you’re reading.)
My vision for my website was always to talk about all things book related – not just my own work. This naturally included reviewing the books I was reading from other authors. However, it also leads to a dilemma that probably every reviewer faces sooner or later.
What do you do when you don’t love the book you’re reviewing? To review, or not to review? That is the question.
The start of the problem.
Usually I only review books I’ve chosen myself and love, but recently I was asked to review a book by an author I’d been chatting to online. The book sounded unusual and interesting so I agreed. I’d not finished the first chapter before I realized I’d made a huge mistake.
Firstly, the names of the characters and places were so difficult they spoiled the flow of the prose.
Now I live in Wales. I’m used to words that are hard to pronounce. We have a town with the longest place name in Europe and the second longest official one-word place name in the world. I can reduce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch to Go-go-goch and move on without batting an eye but the names in this book were stupidly similar.
The hero (let’s call him X’xfdi) couldn’t be simply X because his sidekick was X’icidh and his love interest was X’ydlth. Already my brain couldn’t sort out who was who and, worse than that, as the majority of the first pages consisted of a detailed description of a desert landscape, I really didn’t care.
Sadly, the book didn’t improve.
Now, I am a love-em or leave-em type of reader. If a book doesn’t keep me interested in turning the pages, I have no problem dumping it. I have more half-read books on my Kindle than any person should have. The fact that I haven’t finished these books means I’m not going to give them 5 or even 4 stars on Amazon.
I didn’t want to give my friend’s book 4 stars either. 😲 What’s a girl to do?
Amazon’s rules make it difficult.
Amazon considers anything under a 4 star review to be the sign of a bad book. So, we have three levels of bad but only two levels of good. This makes my review criteria something like:
⭐️ Terrible book. My three year old grandson could invent a better plot. Almost unreadable editing. Boring as hell.
⭐️⭐️ Couldn’t finish reading as got distracted by emergency fingernail painting. Already can’t remember what the plot was about.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Had some promise and would have been OK as a first draft but should never have been published in present form.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Covers everything from:
- the book was OK but I probably won’t want to read it again and in my author/editor head I found plot holes and spotted problems with the grammar
- I enjoyed the book but it wasn’t the best I’ve ever read.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Loved it ❤ and would recommend to anyone.
Really, I’d like to spread my ‘Four stars’ criteria into the lower categories but Amazon sees this as a black mark …
… and I didn’t want to give the author a black mark.
- Tell the truth – Give it 2 stars and risk upsetting my friend.
- Lie – Give it 4 stars and risk losing the trust of my readers who might buy it on the strength of my review and find out how dreadful it is for themselves.
- Review privately – Send my review to the author and ask if they’d like it posting online. (Also involves risk of upsetting friend.)
- Do nothing – Don’t post a review at all. This option is OK until the friend keeps on asking what I thought, at which point I have to block them and never speak of the matter again.
There has to be a right way but I’m not sure what it is.
What should I do? How do you handle less than favourable reviews?
Let me know in the comments below.
Book review of “I am Otter” by Sam Garton.
One of my grandson’s favourite books at the moment is “I am Otter” by Sam Garton. I first encountered this book on Facebook in the days before it was picked up and published by Harper Collins. Sam Garton is a fantastic illustrator. His work has a retro look to it that I love. Buying the book when it came out was a no-brainer for me.
The funny logic of Otter and his sidekick Teddy makes for a great children’s book. Who can fault Otter for opening a toast restaurant because he’s bored while otter-keeper is at work? However, it’s not all plain sailing at Otter’s restaurant.
Otter decides the problems are Teddy’s fault and promptly fires him but things don’t improve … and then the Otter Keeper comes home. Otter tries to blame Teddy for the mess. But where is Teddy?
Otter and the Otter Keeper search high and low for Teddy but he can’t be found. Otter is very sad. The trouble is, he can’t sleep without Teddy so more searching ensues. Eventually Teddy is found and Otter is happy again. “And now, when things go wrong, I understand they are not actually Teddy’s fault at all.”
There are some good talking points in this book which are particularly relevant at the moment to my grandson and his little sister. Was Teddy to blame for the problems at the restaurant? Why did Otter tell the Otter Keeper it was Teddy’s fault? What should he have done?
Other Otter adventures include Otter in Space, Otter goes to School, and Otter loves Easter but if you join Sam Garton’s mailing list, he regularly sends fun newsletters with the latest exploits of Otter, Teddy and the long-suffering otter-keeper which always make me smile.
This is a lovely book with detailed illustrations that give you lots to talk about with your child. A modern classic.
Library under threat.
This is a rather urgent, unplanned post because I’ve just found out that the library in my home town of Warrington is under threat of closure. I hope you will take a moment to sign the petition to help stop this.
As a writer and a reader, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to close a library. From a very early age my local branch has fueled my book addiction. With their help, I have discovered fantastic worlds, completed my homework, researched my family history, and surfed the internet. And I still borrow books: fiction books, cookery books, craft books, picture books for the grandchildren. It’s a fantastic place for author research too. Where else can you take everything home for free?
The Central library in Warrington opened in 1848, the first public library in the country. It was also my first Saturday job, a buzzing place in the days when you checked out books using paper library cards and looked up information in card catalogues that took up the whole wall.
Do we need libraries?
And that got me thinking about how things have changed. In these days of Google and Kindle Unlimited do we need libraries?
Of course, not everyone can afford an Amazon subscription and, even if they can, not all books are available. There are still mountains of research and genealogy records that are not yet online and finding the information you require is so much easier if you have a knowledgeable librarian to help you.
Young children usually love real books over their electronic counterparts. Cuddling up with a Kindle isn’t quite the same, even if the ebook is all singing, all dancing.
Reading the consultation proposals produced by LiveWire, the company running Warrington’s libraries, it states “A large number of those surveyed that still use libraries said that library opening hours needed to compliment today’s lifestyle and lending needed to be available in more convenient locations.” I agree with this. The Central Library in particular has been left in a rather inconvenient place in the midst of a one-way traffic system with no parking. It was a planning error that left it high and dry, along with many other town centre shops. And, as opening hours continue to be reduced to cut costs, is it really a surprise that usage has dropped?
LiveWire’s answer is a combination of book lockers, whereby titles are ordered online and delivered to locations around the town, and ‘community hubs’, which house other services along with books. Does this mean the end of the ‘librarian’? Will they be reduced to delivery drivers and general dogsbody’s?
LiveWire’s proposals have met with protest. So many people attended the public meetings that some had to be moved to larger venues.
One particularly worrying statement in the consultation document reads, “LiveWire would offer continued support to communities who wanted to run their own library.” Run their own library??? Well, that would cut costs, wouldn’t it?
What do you think? Is closing our libraries the answer to cutting costs? Do you use your local branch? Would you consider running your own library? Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. Here’s the link to the petition again. It’d be great if you’d sign. It’s free and only takes a minute.
Despite being able to read before I started school, I hated my first years. I’d never been to playschool and, as the oldest of two sisters with no little cousins or such like, I didn’t understand the noise and boisterousness of the other children. It took the teacher six weeks to coax me to take off my coat.
My favourite time of day was just before we went home, when I sat on the teacher’s table swinging my legs and reading a story to the class. I guess it was the teacher’s favourite time too.
The Teacher, a short story
“Suzie can read already,” says the Mother. “She reads really well.”
The Teacher looks at the child with long blonde plaits hiding behind the Mother’s skirt. So far she’s refused to take off her coat or speak. This child is going to be hard work when she joins the class next week.
The Teacher forces a smile. There’s one final new pupil waiting to meet her in the corridor; a boy with curly hair who has squashed his nose against the glass door so he looks like a pig. Next term is going to be sooooo long. She snaps her attention back to the girl. “What do you like to read, Suzie?”
“We brought her favourite book,” says the Mother.
Suzie doesn’t say anything. She’s watching the pig-nose boy too and sinks further into the bought-to-grow-into new school coat like whatever’s wrong with him might be catching.
The Mother takes a book from her bag and, surprisingly, Suzie starts to read in a loud, clear voice.
The Teacher rolls her eyes before she can stop herself. Just because the child can parrot a story she’s heard ninety-thousand times, doesn’t mean she can actually read. “Would you like to read one of my books, Suzie?”
Suzie chooses a book with a fairy on the front. She sets into the story with great enthusiasm. Surely she hasn’t read this book before. The Teacher takes a book about a dog from her desk. “How about this one?”
Outside in the corridor the pig-nose boy is sliding off his chair onto his head but Suzie is now engrossed in the new story. She actually can read really well for a four-year old.
“That’s very good,” smiles the Teacher. Already a plan is forming. “Maybe you could read to the class on Monday.” Suzie doesn’t smile but she nods. This child could be a useful student after all.
I wrote this story for my YA website under the name of Suzanna Williams. It’s having a revamp at the moment so I thought I’d share it here in honour of the first day of the new school year. Thanks for reading.