The Duck Song

You know those kids songs that get stuck into your head? The Duck Song is totally one of those tunes. If you click on the link, you will also see it’s a highly amusing You Tube clip that has become a You Tube sensation despite the simplicity of its quirky graphics. Well, I think it’s amusing, I’m sure there are some that may disagree.

My sister-in-law first introduced it to me during the 2012 Christmas holidays. She was incredulous that I didn’t know of the existence of The Duck Song before that. When I saw that even my less then tech savvy father had The Duck Song on his iPad, I concluded that indeed, the whole world must know about The Duck Song.

When looking through the books to review from Scholastic, I was excited to see that The Duck Song has now been made into a book! I’m not sure why it excited me, maybe because I have a firm opinion that books are always better than the film. Although, admittedly, in this particular case, it’s a bit hard for a book to be as brilliant as the You Tube Clip. However, it is a bit of fun to have it as a book as well.

The book comes with a CD so we instantly played it. The triplets have a fondness for ducks, thanks to their rubber duckies, so they loved pointing to a duck every page! My kids aren’t the types to go around singing songs repeatedly, so beware if your kids are the type. It is a ditty that is easy to sing over and over and over again. I know, because I was singing it over and over and over again for the rest of the day and my kids were begging me to stop it. Ah, the fun of being an immature adult!

It did turn out to be a useful teaching tool too. I had discovered, (thanks to cousins that go to the same school as Jonty and dob on him) that Jonty has been a bit silly and annoying to other kids during lunchtimes. We were able to talk about why the duck didn’t do anything wrong, but he was being annoying. We also talked about when people are annoying back to us, it’s better to be compassionate like the man was in the end rather than being mean to others.

So, are you familiar with The Duck Song?

(Oh, and for your viewing pleasure. The Duck Song has sequels if you care to investigate. The Scholastic book has the sequels on the CD, but not the pictures.)

So all there is left to say, is that I’m blogging with Essentially Jess today


“Hey! Got any grapes?”

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Nugget & Fang

Children tend to be fascinated with certain creatures – dinosaurs, monsters, robots, fairies etc. In our family this week it is sharks!

We received a gifted box of books from Scholastic this week. One of the big favourites from the selection has been “Nugget & Fang”. Fang is responsible for the Shark love happening in the house now. Which is totally understandable, because quite frankly, Fang is very loveable sort of shark. His best friend is a little minnow called Nugget. And if you think it’s an unlikely combination, the other minnows in the ocean and Nugget’s school teacher’s would agree with you.

After enjoying a wonderful friendship with Fang, Nugget is surprised to learn at school that he should not be friends with sharks. To be precise and quote the book, “Nugget was shocked. (And apparently delicious.)”  I love it when books that appeal to children have dialogue that is also appealing to an adult’s sense of humour also. Makes story reading a little less mind numbing! Do I hear an Amen? (Thankfully there is such a wide range of delightfully written books these days, so it’s generally easier to avoid the mind numbing episodes! 🙂 )

Oh, while I’m sharing my personal favourite parts of this book, let me also show you my favourite illustration. To get ahead of the story, Fang is devastated when Nugget accepts the status quo and avoids being friends with a shark. Fang unsuccessfully tries to prove he’s not scary. But the minnows gain respect for him after he rescues them from a fishing net. Although they were very surprised – staring in disbelief! *giggle* Don’t you just love their shocked wide open eyes?

This book has been very timely arriving in our house. With the start of school this week, Jonty has been adjusting to a new grouping of friends. My son finds forming new friendships tricky, and unfortunately his close friends are in the class next door. Which means he can still play with them at lunchtime, but at this age level, there is a certain mysterious dynamic which makes most children naturally hang out with kids from their own class.

“Nugget and Fang” was a lovely starting point to talk with him – and Trent, who next week will start Kindy, so he will be making new friends soon. This book introduced concepts of having fun together with friends, being aware of our friends feelings, and not accepting stereotypes.

This morning Trent asked if we could do some shark craft. I love it when reading inspires kids to do real life activities and to pursue further knowledge and learning. I found some lovely ideas on Pinterest, check out my board, Kids activities to keep kidlets busy, busy, busy. After being inspired by several cute designs, I thought I could utilise our own supply and make paper plate fish and make a box shark.

3 Minnows

The kids love doing craft and embraced the project enthusiastically.

Before long, it was obvious that I needed to step back and support their interest and enhance their learning by following their lead. The triplets saw the scissors, and were instantly captivated. They received some scissors for Christmas and love using them. Two years old is not too young to introduce scissors, although they do need specific teaching on safety behaviour.

So the fish were lovingly ‘fringed’ with lots of snips. Which is excellent for their fine motor skill development, not to mention a really useful skill to develop. When the triplet’s finished their fish, they continued doing paper plate collage, in full armour with a circular saw, of course. Well if one is going to get creative, you may as well go full hog!

And there was a lot more scissor work afterwards too.

The younger children decided themselves to colour in the centre of the fish plates. Even if it didn’t appear like it, they were making the connection with the book and their artwork, and referred to the book throughout the morning.

See Jayden pointing at “Fang”? So cute.

Trent embarked on the project to make a shark out of a box.

Can you see all the logical components of the shark? Fin on top, flippers on the side, the front is a blue mouth with top and bottom teeth. There’s also a tail stuck on the back. I’m so proud of his focus and concentration during this project.

I had cut a paper plate in half and showed him to cut little triangles to make sharp teeth. That turned out to be a little complex for him, but he still enjoyed manipulating the scissors and cut out a shape that he jubliantly declared as a mouth. I was about to offer my cutting, that decidedly looked more sharkish, when I remembered, that this was HIS creation, and it didn’t need to be perfect, and the process is more important than the outcome. In a world of Pinterest and picture perfect children’s activities, craft and parties, it is easy to forget this. I love Pinterest and almost die of cuteness overload some days when I’m on it. I’m not against helping your child to produce picture perfect things either,

just so long it’s not every.single.time and that your child is regularly allowed to be master of his or her creativeness. If there is a combination of parent led craft and child led craft, hopefully the child will gain techniques and ideas during the parent led craft that they can implement during their independently directed art – and play for that matter.

OK, rant over. (Although feel free to re-read the paragraph over again if you need to! Yes, I’m passionate about the topic!)

Fang the Shark as made by Trent.

So, I had a lovely time watching Trent create. We also introduced new words such as fin, tail and flippers. We examined the pictures in the book of what the shark looked like and then Trent would go and include it on his box shark. The only problem when he was finished was that he couldn’t play with it until the glue dried. That was a bummer But once it was all dry, he had a lovely time swimming it around the house.

After all that hard work, a picnic morning tea in a cubby house was very much enjoyed.

Do you find it hard or easy to give children free reign in creative projects?

Linking With Some Grace

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Little Red Riding Hood

This year I’m determined to do more book reviews on this blog. (Including adult books, but not today!) There are just so many good books in this world, and a recommendation is always a good thing. My favourite way to do a review of a child’s book is to tell a story or connect it with an activity that went with the book. Which is all very good and fun, and I will continue doing this. But in the interest of increasing the book review quota, Sometimes I’d just love to tell you about an enjoyable book.

Starting with Alison Jay’s version of Little Red Riding Hood that I read to the boys tonight for bedtime stories. (Koala Books, published December 2013. RRP: $14.99)

Just to prove it was a bedtime story, we went for a night stroll in the garden to take some pictures of the book.

I do love a fairy tale, and they are an excellent tool to teach and enrich literacy for children. This version of Little Red Riding Hood stays quite close to the traditional tale. It is a watered down version where Granny gets locked in a cupboard instead of being eaten by the wolf, therefore the woodcutter doesn’t need to split the wolf’s stomach open to free the old lady, but merely ties the big bad wolf up instead.

I’m always in two minds about watering down the fairy tales. In one sense I object to the political correctness feel of it. But when I’m reading it to my kids, I’m secretly glad that there it is not going to be scary enough to haunt their imaginations. Because seriously, the traditional fairy tales are really quite frightening. In fact, leftover from childhood, I may be a teensy bit afraid of the Big Bad Wolf myself when I travel through forests, and therefore never stray from the paths…

The illustrations in this book are whimsical and bound to engage your child in the imaginative element of fairytales and children’s literature. My favourite part of the whole book is that even though it is a story of only one fairy tale, it is set in “Fairytale Village” and in every page there are multiple references to a whole host of different fairytales. As I read it to the boys, not only did I read the written words, but I also orally told them some of the other fairy tales as well. They were so excited when they recognised characters on their own, and they were interested to hear some of the other stories that they didn’t know, or needed a refresher for their memories.

Altogether a very pleasant book of a traditional fairytale with a few little twists.

What do you think? Should fairy tales remain scary or is it OK to soften the blow for the antagonist?

**This book was gifted to me by Scholastic Australia. Everything I have written are my own thoughts and opinions.

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Christmas Books

Christmas books are an excellent opportunity to engage children in literacy and build the expectation and anticipation of Christmas. We have been enjoying several books this Christmas. I thought I might share some with you.

“My Christmas Crackers” by Bronwen Davies
RRP: $9.99
Nov 2013
Scholastic Australia

You would not believe how much my children LOVE this book. I have mentioned before that they enjoy joke books, and this book is pretty well top of the Christmas hits for them! I have read it to them over and over again. (And over, and over….) Thankful Jonty is now starting to read the jokes himself, seeing my reluctant reader open up books and read it by himself, always does my heart good.

He also came up with the brilliant idea of copying some of the jokes onto his Christmas cards when he was writing them out for his classmates. Here he is copying the joke on the back cover:
Q. What do monkeys sing at Christmas time?
A Jungle Bells
I hope the recipient was able to read the yellow texta!

This morning the boys had some friends around, the boys started off the morning with the Christmas Crackers.

“Where’s Santa” is also a big hit in our house. We already had a copy of Where’s Santa from Scholastic book club several years ago. It always gets re-examined at Christmas time. It was very exciting when a Scholastic box arrived in our mailbox with a new “Where’s Santa” by Louis Shea, particularly since this was an “Around the World” edition. Jonty is very interested with all things from other countries, so this was right on his interest level. It’s basically like a “Where’s Wally”, only you are looking for the rosy cheeked fat guy!

Where’s Santa Around The Wrold
RRP $15.99
Publication Date: October
Source: Scholastic Australia

(I noticed recently they were on sale in Myer.)

Recently Uncle Greg came over to babysit. The triplets were already in bed, so it was a pretty easy gig for him. (Especially when our usual escape-artist from the trio emerged from the room, and got such a fright seeing Uncle Greg, he howled and needed a lot of consolation, and then stayed in his bed the rest of the night.

The big boys needed a story read to them before going to bed. The “Where’s Santa books were perfect. Uncle Greg is dyslexic and dreads reading aloud, so he was more than happy to avoid lots of words. In the true style of indulgence that an uncle or aunty does, I think the boys got to examine a lot more pictures in the book than if Mummy was reading. Mind you, Mummy tires of searching for small creatures fairly easily. Daddy is also more patient than Mummy.

I don’t know what it is about the Where Is or Find it books and boys. When I was teaching, I noticed they were always popular with the boys on library days. I know girls like them too, but from my observation, boys are particularly enthusiastic to find things!

Jonty has been getting his eyes checked recently. He doesn’t need prescription glasses at this stage, but it has been recommended he do some eye strengthening exercises. In the list of activities the optometrist gave me, The “Find It” books were listed under Visual Analysis/Visualisation. (To help visual matching, memory and thinking skills.) Check!

Do your children enjoy “Find It” or joke books? Have you got a good Christmas joke that I can pass onto Jonty?

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Gardening and The (Not So) Big Beet

Scholastic sent me a great book I’d love to share with you called “The Big Beet” by Lynn Ward and Adam Carruthers. It is a progressive story that communicates that if we all pull together we can achieve great things! It’s RRP is $24.99, it was published in Aug 2013 by Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia.

“The Big Beet” is bright with eye-catching artwork. It’s fun to read aloud, my kids loved it and really got entranced in the story, wondering how the beet would finally get pulled out of the garden. They really loved looking at all the little critters living below the ground with the beet. Thelma Magee fancies a burger for tea, so her husband Bert heads out to the veggie patch to pick a juicy beetroot. But no matter how hard he pulls, that beet won’t budge. He might need a hand… It’s a distinctively Aussie version of the Russian traditional tale, “The enormous Turnip.” I love the Aussie characters, especially Shazza and Dazza! You can’t get more Aussie then that!

As soon as I read this, I knew that we just had to plant some beets in our veggie garden! Unfortunately it took quite some time to arrange a trip to buy the seedlings. I’m a little scared at growing vegies from seed in the ground. I need to bite the bullet and do it. I think the last time I did, the ground was too hard, but our veggie garden at our new house has lovely soft soil. Mum arranged for some sample packs of vegetable seeds, so as soon as I weed the garden, (hopefully next week…) I will have to get planting.

Anyway, back to beetroots! Finally Miss Rachael and I went to Masters. The kids loved the twin trolleys, although they were a bit tired, and some were more grumpy then others, (as you can see below, starting from the moment we arrived!) so our trip was a bit shorter than what it could have been. We had never been to Masters before, and we had fun exploring it. The Accountant had a grumble at the money I spent, but it really wasn’t that bad. Accountant’s need to have these type of grumbles from time to time. You learn to ignore it. We still have a handful of paint chips that we are going to do some art with. The most important things was that I bought a variety of vegetable and herb seedlings and took them home to plant.

The garden is my domain. I’m not incredibly good at it, but I do like having a potter around in there. My biggest issue is sticking with it. At the moment it’s become overtaken by weeds. I discovered the programmed timer for the sprinkler, and then abandoned the garden for a few weeks when I hit a busy patch. Whoops. I think the first week of the school holidays we will spend a lot of time there. This time I will use mulch in an effort to have less weeds in the future.

It’s good to teach children about where their food comes from, so the veggie garden is a great opportunity for plenty of lessons. When we planted the beets, I made reference to “The Big Beet” story, wondered what creatures might be crawling around in the dirt, and hoped that none of those pesky rabbits would invade our gardens.

There is a possible visitor to our beets. Recently The Accountant spotted a python in our garden – a very large python. I hope I never see the old fella. I hate snakes.  Even harmless ones, after all, if it bit anyone, it would still hurt!  It was a good reminder to teach our children snake etiquette, which we do frequently, especially now that we live on a farm. I’m fairly confident that a snake wouldn’t bother us while all the kids are in the veggie garden. They are far too noisy.  I rely on the fact that snakes don’t like human contact, but even still, we’ve taught our kids to be very still if there is a snake and then walk in the opposite direction to where the snake is moving and get an adult. At least having a python lurking around will decrease the rodents in the patch. Although I’m not happy that there is something else down there eating my broccoli before it has a chance to grow.

I had meant to check how the beets were progressing, I couldn’t remember how old they should be before they were ready to be picked. It’s been about 8 weeks, so I thought that we might be able to pick at least one medium sized beet and have some burgers just like Thelma and Burt in “The Big Beet”

I needed to take the big boys to their swimming lesson, so I asked Miss Rachael to take the triplets down to the garden to pick a beet. Which she did happily and took photos of the occasion for me. (I told you the garden needs weeding. Please don’t judge me all you dedicated gardeners out there!)

I knew that Miss Rachael doesn’t have a whole heap of gardening experience, but unfortunately I forgot to tell her to check if the beets would be ready to pick if the top of the vegetable was protruding from the dirt. See the tiny little beet that Immy is holding? That was the biggest beet of all. And the triplets picked the whole lot! So unfortunately, all our beets got thrown away and unlike Thelma and Burt we did eat canned beetroot on our burgers!

So during the first week of the school holidays when I attack the garden, I’ll also plant a new crop of beetroot and wait a lot longer before we pick them this time!

In any case, we had a lot of gardening fun inspired by a great children’s book!

Do you have a vegie garden? Do you have snakes in your veggie patch? Or weeds?

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Reading With One Year Olds

Something I have always been passionate about is writing and literacy. Therefore, I have always made it a priority to read with my children. I always start when they are babies. My babies were all very active, so I have even crawled around after them reading a book and shoving the book under their nose to look at the new illustration in between playing! I found once they were over 12 months old, it got even more fun reading to them because the children had a little more of an attention span and tend to interact even more with the books.

I have three one year olds at the moment and we have been enjoying reading, I thought I would share some of my top tips and book selection for reading within the 12-24 month age group. A lot of this advice can also be applied to babies younger than 12 months also.

1. Read With Animation and Expression.
You might revel in the drama or feel like a goose, but pretend you are an amateur actor as you are reading and use lots of animation and expression in your voice. If you aren’t used to reading like this, do it while no one else is around, and gauge how your child is so much more engaged with the story. You don’t necessarily have to do ‘voices’, sometimes I will to have a little fun, but sometimes I couldn’t be bothered, but I always read with expression. When I was at uni, a lecturer told us that Early Childhood educators should take particular note of how stories are read on Playschool. It’s true. If you read stories dramatically, pausing to create suspense or talking quickly to build momentum, the children will find it much more enjoyable. And importantly, when they start to read themselves, there’s a high likelihood that they will also use expression rather than the beginner reader drone.
2. Choose Books Appropriate For Their Age Group.
If you want your child to enjoy reading, choose the appropriate books. If you read books to your one year old that are to advanced for them, They will most likely lose interest very quickly. You will be fighting an uphill battle. Choose books that do not have lengthy text. Lots of bright illustrations or photos will keep your little one interested. Luckily there are a wealth of books available today that will maintain the interest of a 1 year old. Here are my top suggestions:
Board Books

There is a wide variety of board books, I’ll explain a few in detail below. Board books are excellent for the younger age group as they are so durable. It also makes it easy for children to learn important literacy practises like turning pages. I also teach my children, right from when they are babies, to respect books. That includes not eating them! There are a few bite marks here and there, but for the most part, my children were able to learn that “Books are for eyes, not for mouths.”
One board book that has been a recent favourite in our house is Possum Magic, Animals based on Julie Vivas’s illustrated animals in Mem Fox’s Possum Magic. Having very tactile children, I didn’t think this book would be such a hit, but it absolutely was, by every one year old in the house! They have read it over and over, and as you can see in the picture below, have examined the bright whimsical pictures in great detail.
This is a Scholastic book. It’s released this month at the RRP of $9.95. The triplet’s and I give it a big thumbs up!

Touch and Feel Books
If your children are very active like mine, the touch and feel books will have immediate appeal. It gives the child the opportunity to have tactile stimulation while they listen. We have a wide selection of board books. The “That’s Not My…” series is excellent. The story moves quickly aqnd it is repetitive, a key formula for success in early childhood literacy, and there’s plenty to touch and explore. The baby touch series is also wonderful. We have a few book featuring nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are great for developing literacy in children. They hold the child’s interest and the repetition and rhyming words are super for developing an awareness of words and flow. As I pointed out in my post about Mem Fox’s book, Good Night, Sleep Tight, children who learn at least six nursery rhymes by the age of four will normally be in the top reading group by the age of 8. We also have some board books with simplified versions of fairy tales. (See three little pigs below) This is a great introductory way to introduce children to these well loved classics. The Book Depository has a great selection of touch and feel fairy tales. See here.

Toby enjoying touch and feel books. Toby is the most active of the triplets, so touch and feel books are his favourite as he needs to do something with his hands and only has a short attention span.
Lift the Flap
Another good book selection is lift the flap books. The “Spot” (The Dog) books are great examples. I would recommend these books once your child is over 18 months, because even when made of sturdy paper, they do have a tendency to tear. Even the board book lift the flap books have cardboard flaps, so I normally reserve these books as books to be read with an adult. That way you can teach them how lift them gently and carefully and how to put them back down before turning the page. 
Jayden reading the Spot books. Toby reading a lift the flap board book from the “Peekaboo” series. (I bought them at a Learning Ladder party.) These book has been a favourite or all five kids.
Word Books
I’m not entirely sure what to call these books, but they are plentiful. These are the books that have a whole heap of photos with words next to them. When I first had kids I thought they were a bit pointless and boring. The reality is the kids love them and it is EXCELLENT for language development. You can get them on all manner of topics – fruit, body, babies, farms, animals, etc. My kids have a very battered and bruised one on farms (it’s also a flap book) that has been much loved. In the picture below Jayden is holding the current favourite. We have three in this series. (I got them cheap at QBD) Unfortunately they all tend to like the book with the picture of a tractor on it. So there are fisty cuffs in the pursuit of this book. There’s another book with some pictures of motorbikes which also catches Jayden’s interest. He is mad about motorbikes right now. Books with pages with fruit on it are always popular and pictures of babies. 

Don’t they look like two little old men? You can tell that Jayden has a better attention span then Toby! I can see them in their armchairs reading the papers together when they are 50!

Big Kid Books
Don’t feel you should only read board books to your toddler. There are plenty of books that are short enough to maintain a small child’s interest. And if you are holding the book while you are read, it normally remains safe.

A good example of a perfect big kids book that the triplets enjoyed reading is Ruth Paul’s My Dinosaur Dad. The text is full of descriptive words about Dads and has a cuddly finish. (Sorry for the spoiler)

Imogen reading  the end of “My Dinosaur Dad”.

 The illustrations are so bright and vivid. The kids love examining it. The pages are actually quite thick card, so now that the triplets are getting close to being two (Yikes!) I’m happy for them to start learning to turn paper pages with a book like this. It’s a good springboard for discussing what makes the child’s Dad special. The perfect book prior to Father’s Day. Trent and Jonty also loved this one, so they came up with their own words for Daddy – scratchy, fast, normal sized and cuddly.

The book was released by Scholastic NZ. It’s RRP is $15.99 and the publication date is Aug. 2013.

Wow – what HUGE dinosaurs!

3. Join in Read Aloud’s With Others
Now I’m going to contradict what I have said above! Yes, it’s so important to choose age appropriate books. However, don’t let that stop you! If you are reading a longer story with more complex themes to your older children and your 1 year old wanders over. Join the toddler in! You don’t want your younger child to think they are excluded from some reading experiences. If they lose interest, don’t press the issue too much since it’s advanced literature for a toddler. Sometimes, it’s got nothing to do with the literacy. Sometimes children just love the emotional security of hearing a grown-up read. Also, your 1 year old is probably going to be read longer stories in playgroup or other settings, so it’s good practice for them.

Miss Rachael with Trent, Toby and Immy reading a childhood classic, “The Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. 

I hope this gives you some inspiration for reading with your babies and toddlers – especially your one year olds! Reading is such an important skill, and reading aloud can help your child learn to read years before they learn any letters!

What books do you recommend for toddlers? (Book types or titles)

** I have not been paid for this post. I was sent “My Dinosaur Dad” and “Possum Magic Animals” from Scholastic, but was under no obligation to write about them, but did so because they are awesome. All opinions are my own.

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How to Catch a Monster

Chocolate Chip Cookies.

That’s how.

More precisely, a super-duper, yummy tummy chocolate chip cookie.

Oh my. I don’t believe in spoilers. But there you are. You now know the answer to the title of the book. Don’t be disappointed, you’ll still enjoy the story if you ever read it to your kids. And I highly advise that you do. Such a delightful little tale with totally bewitching illustrations. I got so caught up examining them that Trent was finished and begging me to turn the page.

The lovely people at Scholastic have been surprising me by sending me boxes of books. It has been totally, completely, utterly divine for the this little book lover. I thought it would be nice to share some favourites, because who knows, if they pop up when you are browsing a book club catalogue or see a title on the shelf, it’s always nice to have heard a recommendation.

I thought I would start with what has certainly been Trent and my favourite. “How to Catch a Monster” by Christina Bollenbach.

It really captured Trent’s imagination. Lukas is often scared by a monster at night, but decides to catch him by baking cookies, which of course are irresistible to monster taste buds.

I tell you, the delight that literature has brought my little boys as portrayed on his face in this picture warms this book loving mother’s heart. 

After seeing the entrapment, Trent was very insistent on baking his own batch of cookies. It hurts me to say that this is terminology he uses to refer to chocolate chip biscuits. This is the only drawback of the book. I have long insisted my children say ‘biscuits’ or ‘bikkies’. It’s the Australian (or British) way.

Anyway, personal quibbles aside, the story is really lovely. Not only does Lukas catch the monster, but they also have a frank discussion about scare tactics and they end up being the best of buddies. And you know it’s good because the story remained in the mind of a three year old enough that in a totally different context, with quite a gap of time between reading the story, Trent has wanted to make biscuits like the boy in the book.

We haven’t read the book for a little while, but today we made (white) chocolate chip cookies biscuits (there was the normal argument over semantics). This evening, I noticed that Trent had retrieved the book for his father to read him during bedtime stories.

So nice.

So. What do you say, biscuits or cookies?

Scholastic gifted me the books, but did not pay for me to endorse their products. My opinions are my own.

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Happy Heart Book Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief

I recently read “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak with my book club. Brilliant book, highly reccomend it. 5 star rating from me.

It is set in Nazi Germany. Immediate interest for me, I love reading WW2 books. One of the things I love about this novel is that it approaches this topic and era in a completely different angle from anything I have read before.

For starters, the Narrator of the story is Death. This instantly is a pertinent perspective from someone/something that is avid during war. Death, and rightly so, find humans perplexing. To illustrate this point, he tells the harrowing and compelling story of  a young girl left to live in a foster home in one of the poorest areas of Munich. He story includes her antics with the boy who lives on her street, a relationship with a gruff but loving foster mother and a devoted foster father who is an accordionist and Jew sympathiser. These sympathies allow another central character to enter, a Jewish fist fighter, hidden by the family.

Throughout the novel, Liesel, the book thief, learns to read and develops a devotion to books that drives her to steal reading material.

Her love of the written word illustrates the power of words to shape or change lives and history.

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Book Review: The Time Travellers Wife

This book is exactly the reason why I don’t read very often.

I give this book 5 stars. (Out of 5)

I have very little self discipline. So when I get a great read like this one, I can’t concentrate on anything until the book is read. The implications of this was a very messy house as I kept ignoring the growing amount of debris on the floor, pile of ironing and toys strewn throughout the place while my nose deliberately remained stuck in the book.

I totally blame my friend Linda for loaning me the book. She refers to the book in her blog here

What a delightful story, in a crazy, twisted and bizarro way.

Henry is able to travel time due to a chromosonal abnormality. Clare meets Henry when she is 6, he is 36. Henry meets Clare when he is 28, she is 20. Clare grows up knowing Henry, due to his time travelling abilities, Henry gets to know Clare when she already has a memory bank full of experiences he has not had yet. I told you it was bizarro!

Don’t get turned off though. The Daily Telegraph describes it as “A big, reckless novel … utterly convincing.” I have to agree, it’s totally believable. There was moments that I was wondering what I would tell myself if I could travel back in time and talk to my younger self.

I loved the way the two main characters had such strength in their love for one another. The completely self sacrificial type of love, that even though they are fictional, it is inspiring.

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Happy Heart Book Review: The Hair-Raising Joys of Raising Boys

Well, I’m a bit inspired to talk about books today, because last night I had an inaugural book club meeting. I’ve been in a book club before and really loved it, but it kind of dissolved when some of us decided to have babies and get busy with baby related pursuits.

So, it was exciting last night to be involved in another book club, and I must say I’m very excited. We’ve got a great book list to take us through to September and there are lots of very avid book lovers (in fact, I felt a bit out of my depth some of the time, I am most certainly not as widely read as many of them!) so I know we are going to have some totally scintillating conversations!

I had decided to write some book reports this year when I finished a book, because books are most definitely something that make my heart happy! My first book of the year, was not a top 20 or on a popular read list, but rather reflective of my stage of life.

My sister gave me two books on parenting boys for my birthday in November. I was eager to glean all types of advice from them, because as mentioned, like most parents; let’s make that like ALL parents; I have many parenting moments when I’m just not sure what to do next. I started to read this with great enthusiasm, ready to glean as much wisdom as I could from another parent who would no doubtedly have all the answers on how to cope with living with two young males.

I must say Dave Meurer did not live up to my expectations at all. He was remarkably unhelpful most of the time. I should have realised this when he started the book by berating me for reading the Prologue. I always read prologues, I often get nice bits of insight into the book or the author from them. But not this book. No the author instantly declares that prologues are useless, and then I got ‘in trouble’ for reading it. Strange. I kept reading, and I was completely baffled during the first chapters. Where was the sage advice? Where was the nuggets of wisdom? Where was the training manual?

Instead, Meurer described in great detail how infant males produce ungodly stenches and messes in their nappies. (Very true, but the point in devoting chapter 1 to this natural/unnatural occurrence?) Chapter 2 was telling me that my parenting was doomed due to having boys. Chapter 3 gave a spectacular example outlining why I would not be able to outsmart my young charges.

Somewhere during Chapter 4, (I’m obviously a bit slow, but I was so anxious to receive some earth shattering new parenting methods that would transform our family life), I cottoned on that this wasn’t your typical Christian parenting manual. I worked out that this book was a joke. Literally. I had to get out of the ‘self help’ mindset and realise the author was just trying to make me laugh! And laugh I did. If I could write a blog that is as funny as Dave Meurer’s writing, I’d be very proud of myself!

I found myself giggling during his reflections on his own teenage years when he’s parents detested his music choice and made him listen to a guy playing the accordian. Meurer determined that he would be a generous parent and let his kids listen to the Monkees all they liked, and now expresses disappointment that his kids do not want to listen to the Monkees.

There were smiles, and the occassional nod of agreement when I read the chapter titled, “Camping with Boys – OR – If God Had Intended Us To Live in the Forest He Wouldn’t Have Given Us Mortgage Bankers.” It was especially fitting because I did read it during our camping trip.

I should give Meurer some extra credit points though. He does have some nuggets of wisdom hidden throughout the book. I think I first noticed there were some tips I could use when I read about “The Ice Cubes of Happiness”, an ingenius way to very quickly get your lethargic child out of bed in the morning. Given that J Boy already has a tendency to sleep in, I instantly recognised that this may be something to experiment with if he’s dragging the chain once he starts school. He also made an excellent point (of course with the funniest of illustrations) that failure to understand is not necessarily disobedience, because sometimes males ‘just don’t get it’. (I’ve found that husbands can also be included in this principal sometimes.) I appreciated his advice that it is invaluable to insist your child come with the family to church. You can’t force them to make a decision for Christ, but you can teach them the invaluable discipline of attending church/youth regularly and you can give them the information necessary to make a decision.

I also loved his chapter describing the year he taught Sunday School to a difficult bunch of year 5’s. Of course being a teacher probably increased my amusement of this chapter, and I did have a snort or two of laughter when he declared that he had been so relieved that he didn’t need to teach year 5 again the next year, but got promoted to teach year 6. But what I really appreciated was his quest to not just give the answers, but to think deeply about spiritual matters and be able to defend your faith. It’s one of my hot topics, and certainly a goal of mine with my own boys.

There were moments of impending dread when I read. My boys are little, his are big. So he may have given me a glimpse at my future. This glimpse may have removed a false sense of security that I had. I had presumed that having boys I had avoided all the bathroom dilemmas that I myself had experience during teenage years, growing up with two sisters. Oh no, Meurer describes in great detail his wife and his intense (to the point of considering bank loans for extensions) bathroom frustation during their boys teenage years. Uh oh!

If you have boys and you want to avoid the typical parenting author style, “I have all the answers, read a drink from my fountain of wisdom”, this is the book for you. It will amuse you and make you smile, and sometimes that’s all you need during this journey, because most of us need the confidence to acknowledge that we are doing a pretty good job. Sometimes a little chuckle is all we need to gird our loins before the next battle. Or, if you are lucky enough to be having a non-battle day, this book reminds us to enjoy the moments of parenting – all of them and to not be too proud to laugh at ourselves, (and occassionally laugh at our kids too!)

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