Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Frozen - The Essential Collection - Book Review

The Frozen mania that exists in my house is SO profound that even I let out a shriek of joy when I opened Frozen: The Essential Collection. Embarrassing? Yes but also true.

There is just something about Frozen that little (and some big) girls love!

My own 3 year old has proudly worn her 'Elsa dress' for 2 months straight (in the interests of hygiene we now own 2 exactly the same) and, to be honest, I'm just relieved that it isn't pink.

Anyway, you can understand my excitement when I opened my Frozen package.

The Essential Collection contains 2 Frozen books, lyrics to all the songs (in case you hadn't realised that it is called "Let It Go"), lots of stickers and generally far more information about Frozen than anyone but a small girl could possibly want to know.

 It also has a "Let It Go" sing-a-long clip... for any little girls out there not already singing it continuously on their own.

Is this book MORE about the movie?

Well, yes.

Are we all a bit sick of Frozen?

Quite possibly but our daughters really aren't and there are worse things in life than a movie where the true love is between sisters, and the handsome prince turns out to be WAY less desirable than the nice guy who works for a living!

In all seriousness, if you know a Frozen-loving little girl (and if you know any girls under the age of 10 you probably do), this is the perfect Christmas present for them. Truly!

Who'll love this: All those Frozen-mad little girls out there
Cost: $29.99
Publisher: Penguin Australia

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Sticker books and the kids who love them...

When Wildman was small I never understood the attraction of sticker books, after all what kind of preschooler wants to sit and stick stickers for hours?

Despite my scepticism, other parents raved about them:

 "Oh little Tommy just loves them"
"They're so fantastic for fine motor skills"
"He sat there sticking for 45 minutes!" (clearly very appealing to a Mum).

I did try to get Wildman to play with them but he would just stick the stickers on the wall for about 2.3 seconds (yay - not) and then lose interest leaving me to spend the next half an hour trying to pick them off without damaging the paint.

Fast forward a few years and I now find myself the Mum of a 3 year old girl who LOVES sticker books. She spends ages carefully sticking them in exactly the right places then telling me stories about the scene she has created.

Its all been a bit of a shock really.

Most recently we have been trying out the Peppa's Halloween Sticker Activity Book (which Penguin very kindly sent in a box of books for review). We aren't a family that embraces Halloween but this book is spooky, cute and very age appropriate.

Princess particularly loved the page where you need to stick jigsaw puzzle shaped pieces on to complete the scene.

I think Peppa's Halloween could do with a few more pages that were just scenes that kids could stick Peppa and her friends on to, rather than all the stickers being needed for the activities, and Princess definitely wished it had a few more stickers in the middle for her to play with, but the overall activities were fun and achievable for a 3-year-old.  

And I got to drink a whole cup of tea in peace while Princess was busy with Peppa!

Who'll love this: Peppa fans.
Cost: $7.99
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Hello from Nowhere by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair - book review

It is incredible that a picture book can give you such a sense of the isolation, stunning beauty and mateship of the Australian outback, but that is exactly what Hello from Nowhere does.

It starts with the lines; "Eve thought that living in the middle of nowhere was better than living anywhere else in the whole world." and by the end of the book I was convinced that she might just be right!

In fact Eve lives at a truck stop called Nowhere with a population of 5, somewhere on one of the great empty stretches of road in the middle of Australia.

Eve is never bored - she plays with animals, chats to tourists, runs and feels the magic of the outback. The only thing Eve feels like she is missing is her Grandma who thinks that Nowhere is "the back of beyond".

When Eve finally persuades Grandma to come and visit she gets to show her just how wonderful Nowhere is.

I really liked this book - it feels like a tribute to the Australian outback and the people who live there. The pictures are stunning and the story is told so simply but has such a wealth of feeling, you can really tell how much Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair love Australia.

This is a great book for learning about kids who live different lives from ours, for remembering that kids can make their own fun, and for appreciating the beauty of Australia.

Who'll love this: Its a great present for children who overseas and for grandparents to give their grandchildren, plus its just a wonderful story with lots to talk about.
Cost: $24.99hc
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Very Hungry Catepillar (cloth book) by Eric Carle - book review

Everyone loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar, right?

There is something about the story and, in particular, the illustrations that just grabs you and draws you in. 

Kids love the repetition of the food and the idea of just eating and eating, grow-ups love the lesson about life evolving and nature, and everyone loves the stunning butterfly picture at the end.

Well now there is a The Very Hungry Caterpillar book for babies and it is divine. Seriously, if you are looking for a gift for a new baby this is it!

The story isn't the same because the book it is just a few pages long, but the cloth version is absolutely true to the feel and emotion of the original. Soft, colourful and incredibly tasteful, this is the most lovely present for the newest little someone in your life.

Plus it comes in a gorgeous gift box with dots. So much love!
Who'll love this: People (especially grandmas) looking for a classy present for a new baby.
Price: $19.99
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia 

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Protected - Q&A with author Claire Zorn

In The Protected Claire Zorn has written a heart-wrenching story about family, the death of a sibling and the horror that high school can be. Whatever your life experiences have been there is something here that will touch a chord within you!

Claire, who was CBCA short-listed for her previous book The Sky So Heavy, was kind enough to answer some questions about how she came to write The Protected.

The Protected took you 9 years to write, why was it such a long process?
It was my first serious attempt at a novel, so it had a lot of problems that came from inexperience. Hannah’s voice was inconsistent and it took me an entire re-write to realise she was actually three characters in one. It also took me a long time to work out how important a character Hannah’s sister, Katie, was. It wasn’t until I had her character totally fleshed out that the narrative began to work. The manuscript spent a lot of time untouched in my bottom drawer and I wrote The Sky So Heavy and had two babies in the time between starting it and getting it published. I just couldn’t give up on Hannah, it was her that kept me coming back and trying to nut out the problems.

In The Protected you deal with high school experiences, as well as sibling relationships. Were you inspired by your own experiences? 
Definitely. My experience wasn’t quite as brutal as Hannah’s, but I was miserable at high school. There are certain things that happen to Hannah which I experienced and things that I watched other people go through. I also wanted to touch on the flip-side of bullying through Katie: the pressure that comes from being at the top of the pile, the feeling that you have to behave in a certain way or you risk slipping down and becoming the victim. It’s not as simple as the bully and the bullied. As far as the sibling relationship goes, I don’t have a sister, but I do have an older brother. We didn’t get along at all growing up, there was always tension between us. Now that we’re adults we get a long really well and I’m so grateful that we got to grow up and get over ourselves and have a good relationship. I wanted to explore what would happen in a family that didn’t get that opportunity.

Was it confronting to write about a family dealing with an unimaginable tragedy?
Yes. Another reason it took so long to write was because I wasn’t digging deep enough to get at what it would be like to experience that kind of tragedy, particularly from the mother’s point of view. No parent wants to imagine losing a child. The character of Hannah’s mother didn’t become as well drawn as she is until I became a mum myself and forced myself into her shoes

You have young children – how important is it to you that they grow up with a passion for books?
It’s important because no other medium puts the audience in someone else’s shoes the way books do. Other mediums like television and film can sometimes get there, but I think it’s more direct with books, it’s more intimate. Reading a story and getting to know characters and how they look at world is essentially an exercise in empathy. The ability to empathise with others is the most valuable skill a person can have. Humans have an innate desire and ability to connect with each other through stories and it’s never more evident than in childhood. Every child loves a good story.

How can parents encourage their children to develop a love of reading and writing?
I can only draw on my own experience to answer this one. My Mum always read to us as kids and she let us read whatever we were interested in reading. Any reading was good reading as far as she was concerned. Adults tend to get quite hung up on what kids should and shouldn’t be reading but kids are very good at self censoring and working out the kinds of stories that they will enjoy themselves. When I was about eleven and Babysitters’ Club books weren’t cutting it anymore I read her books: Ruth Rendell, John Grisham whatever was around.The other important thing is, kids imitate what they see. My Mum was always reading and reading widely anything from Jackie Collins to Tim Winton, she didn’t care who the author was she just liked a good story. What’s interesting from my own experience is that while I have become a writer and obviously am embedded in a creative industry, my brother who is a fire fighter in the armed forces lives in a totally different environment and culture, is still a voracious reader. I’m pretty sure that’s down to my Mum.

Who'll love this: Teenagers will relate to it and teacher/librarians will love it!
Price: $19.95
Publisher: University of Queensland Press

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Top tips for running a cake stall

Last weekend I decided to run a cake stall to raise money for the Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia) charity. Its such an amazing cause and, despite pouring rain and with lots of help, the cake stall was a roaring success.

Here are my top tips and tricks for making your cakes stall as hassle-free and lucrative as possible...
  1. People like old-fashioned cakes like lemon drizzle and orange cake - the kind of thing your Grandma might have for morning tea at home.
  2. People like big cakes.
  3. Learn to make glace icing. It looks delicious, goes hard and won't stick to the bags.
  4. Have some things that lend themselves to freezing, like banana bread. People want to support you and are often happy to buy a more cakes if they can freeze one. 
  5. Matching white plates, cellophane bags (available on ebay) and ribbon make your stall look great, as do table clothes.
  6. Making one or two slices and cutting them up makes LOTS of plates to sell.
  7. Price up - people will pay more than you think but do be conscious of your area's demographic.
  8. Try to make all cakes a round dollar amount. It makes it easier to give change.
  9. Sell cupcakes individually but offer to package them if people want to buy a few. 
  10. Have spare plates and bags.
  11. Have napkins on hand for individual cupcake sales.
  12. You need access to a gazebo. Believe me on this! 
  13. Be friendly and excited about whatever you are raising money for.
  14. Tell your friends what you are doing - they might offer to help makes cakes, or they might be your first customer.
Have you run fundraising cake stalls? What are your top tips?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Why do you care what other women on the Internet think?

I'm in an amazing Facebook group for Mums. It is awesome - full of advice, recipes, recommendations of good local tradies, support and a huge variety of opinions.

I find it fascinating in an anthropological kind of way - so many different lives and choices. And I find it really heartening to see so much love and hope for our children.

So it is all good... at least until someone mentions private schools or circumcision, and then hold on to your hats ladies because the proverbial is about to hit the fan.

Of course, private schools and circumcision aren't the only two controversial topics but they seem to be the ones that cause the most gnashing of teeth  and disagreements that can last for days (until Admin decides it is all getting too nasty and deletes the post).

The thing that AMAZES me is why everyone cares so much what other people are saying. 

If you have made an educated and thoughtful decision about what is best for your children why do you care AT ALL what other people 1) have decided for their family and 2) think about your decision?

In amongst the millions of choices we make for our kids, my husband and I have made choices about private schools and circumcision. I am confident that we have made the right choices for our family and nothing anyone says (particularly people on the Internet who I don't actually know) will convince me otherwise. 

If someone asks for information about why people have made a certain choice (and I have five minutes to spare) I'm happy to provide some insight in to the reasons for our decisions. Others can do the same. They might agree or disagree - I don't really care*.

*except when it comes to deciding not to immunise you kids in which case I think you are a complete idiot and a danger to my children!

Do you get upset when people on the Internet disagree with choices you have made?

Photo courtesy of Free Digital Images - thanks guys!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...