Why Do Little Girls Like Unicorns? (Like Thelma the Unicorn)

Last week Scholastic Australia gifted us with a lovely new book by Aaron Blabey, “Thelma the Unicorn”. I was excited to see the book, because our family had really enjoyed his last best seller, Pig the Pug, so my expectations were high. Even with such high expectations, I was astonished how Imogen fell in love with the book the moment she saw the front cover.

Thelma the Unicorn

She immediately gasped, grabbed the book declaring she loved it and demanded I read it instantly. It may have been that the title is featured in glitter. My girl doesn’t mind a bit of bling. I suspect that perhaps a small pink obsessed girl may have instantly been attentive because the cover also featured “her colour”. God help us if someone drinks out of the pink cup in our house. Princess over four brothers, she has a self proclaimed entitlement to all things pink. I have protested in vain that pink is everyone’s colour, it is not a girl’s colour. The four boys and little mademoiselle disagree and ignore my attempts to make colours gender neutral.

What I did not expect was the instant endearment she felt towards unicorns. The small girl has no exposure to unicorns up until this point. Yet after meeting Thelma she is besotted with them. How did that happen, I ask you? I mean Thelma was not even a real unicorn! She was a plain little ordinary pony who stuck a carrot on her nose and was fortunate enough to have a truck full of pink paint and glitter lose control and deposit the contents on her, making Thelma an overnight sensation.

Thelma immediately felt that she was special, and I have to say that my daughter agreed.

Thelma the Unicorn

I am still perplexed. Why? Why are unicorns special? Truly, horns really aren’t that attractive are they? After all, it is a live bone with a coating of keratin and proteins. I know that unicorns have all sorts of magical abilities, and I can see that there can be an attractiveness with the myth. But my daughter fell in love with a pretend unicorn instantly!

I’m not sure whether Immy has altogether picked up the greater message in this book that to be happy with who you are is far more worthy than fame or celebrity. I’m hoping so, because it’s a message that all children, but particularly girls need to hear.

(I’m also hoping that this early exposure to the cruelties of fanatical fans and relentless media might discourage her from this young aged to never be a deranged stalker fan or loathsome paparazzi. You know, it’s always good to get some of those subliminal messages in there!)

In any case, even though this has opened my little girl’s eyes up to the perplexing beauty of unicorns, this is a darling book, and I think if we keep reading it. Not that I have a choice, she insists we reads it. She will get the real message in time! Interestingly, when I read to all the children, the boys instantly liked Thelma’s plain old mate Otis. They didn’t really get what the unicorn fuss was about, and were truly happy for Otis that Thelma decided to ditch the horn and become content being herself.

Linking today with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

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Using the Advent to Develop Character Plus Christmas Book Giveaway!

How has the Advent season been progressing for you? I have to say, that it has been creating such excitement at our house, but it has also had the hidden blessing of assisting the children to develop valuable character traits. During this month while waiting for Christmas Day, not only have they been learning about the true meaning of Christmas, they have also been developing patience, self control, kindness, co-operation, forgiveness and joyfulness (in all circumstances, not just when things are going they way they desire).

Elvey, our little Elf on the Shelf, has been a loved addition of the house again and the bigger kids are really being patient with the younger children helping them to find the elf. To be truthful, I feel like last year Elvey was put in a few more creative places. I just seem to be scrambling this year, jumping out of bed when I hear the children are up and rushing him off to a new shelf. Yesterday I heard the children were coming so I jumped out of bed and tried to untie Elvey from the tinsel he was bungee jumping from. The triplets walked out and I kind of chucked the Elf behind my shoulder and was standing there playing with the tinsel, as you do. In the true spirit of the toddler, they stood there staring, asked me 20 times what I was doing, then ran off. I managed to untie the elf and as they ran back stuff him under my nightie (poor elf) and run him to the Christmas tree and shove him up the top. Now the people who think the elf is creepy (he’s not that bad, is he?) probably are also accusing him of looking up the angel’s skirts.

The kids also have been enjoying the store bought Advent Calendars. I know, people are getting excited about non-chocolate advent traditions, and as you know, we are doing this also. However, I think one little chocolate is really not that harmful. The calendars are cheap, and it’s just a little bit of fun. Turns out it’s teaching self control and patience also. Mind you, two of my children have failed miserably with the self control, so now they are learning a lesson of consequences for your actions as they watch the other children eat a chocolate each day while they miss out because of their bulk consumption.

My favourite tradition has been the Advent books. Admitedly, it took me a little while to get going with this. I hurriedly had wrapped the first book, chucked it under the tree and explained to the children that I would be getting one child each day to unwrap a book in the lead up to Christmas. Because there was only one book, and three 3 year olds had limited understanding about what I had explained, it wasn’t a happy moment around the Christmas tree. My 5 year old who is also learning that it is more blessed to give then to receive and my 8 year old managed better self control then the others, but I think he was a little disappointed he didn’t open the present on the same day as well. The Accountant watched the proceedings, (it looked like we were exploring the book of Lamentations from the Bible rather than the Gospels), shook his head saying he didn’t know why I had these hair brained ideas and walked off.

It then took a few more days before I got all the presents wrapped, and I chose not to do any more books until there was a pile and I could show the children that there was a label telling which day it was to be opened and which child would open it. Nevertheless, we had to repeat the process of protests and wailing and then we watched the next child open the book and we read it together. We then repeated the wailing and lamenting when the children discovered they had to wait for another day until they opened the next present. All the same, there were two children who unwrapped some books half an hour later when I was no longer policing the tree. (There was a common denominator with the Advent thief).

However, thanks to persistence and lots of explaining, they now mostly sit happily together and watch each other unwrap. I have been very clear that the books belong to the family, not the individual. The child is wrapping it for one another. I’m also strict that everyone sits together and watches it get unwrapped and listens to the story. It is a valuable lesson in being happy for one another and I think (and hope!) that it is actually setting really good groundwork for not being selfish on Christmas morning also.

The stories have also been wonderful in building the Christmas spirit. I’m very excited to let you know that five of those stories could be yours! Scholastic Australia is generously giving away five Christmas book packs. Each selection will include

One Night
Where’s Santa Around the World
Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle
There Was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Present
Santa’s Busy Reindeer

To find out more about these books, they are included in my review of 24 children’s books for Christmas.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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24 Books About Christmas

The Advent is upon us. If you don’t have a plan, here is an idea for you using books about Christmas. (It’s still early days, you can totally start today or tomorrow, or later, if you want!) Wrap up a book for each day until Christmas, and every day your child can unwrap the book and you can read them together. A friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that she did this last year, and I thought it was a fabulous idea so we are doing it this year. I’m not buying 25 new books. We already have several Christmas books, I packed them away with the Christmas tree so they feel new at Christmas time, so this will work perfectly for me. The few new books we have in the mix this year were given to me by Scholastic to review.

1. The Nights Before Christmas (24 Classic Stories Illustrated by Tony Ross)

If you were going to choose one book from this list, (and you have children 6 years and older), choose this one. The stories are quite long, so it’s not the best book for toddlers. If you got it while the children are under 8, it will certainly be a keepsake to treasure in years to come. I think the stories would be suitable right through to upper primary. The reason I would recommend it so highly is that I suspect most households would have a selection of modern Christmas books in their libraries.  This book is literary extension for the modern day kid and has classic tales, which sometimes take longer to tell, but also develops the child’s literature appreciation as well as extending vocabulary and gaining literary knowledge. Many of the stories are age old classics that our grandparents would have read or listened to during their childhood. With the wealth of children’s books available these days, sometimes the classics that have been passed down the generations are being overlooked for some of the newer stories and their bright glossy covers. This book has a story for each day in December (a perfect advent alternative) and includes work by authors such as Leo Tolstoy, Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Charles Dickens and The Bible. Titles include The Snow Queen, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, The Little Match-Seller, The Story of the Christ-Child, Good King Wenceslas and The Nativity.

I love that the lavish images depicted by Tony Ross bring these golden oldies to light.

2. My First Countdown to Christmas (Dr. Mary Manz Simon)

If you have a toddler and you were choose one book from this list, choose this one! I bought our copy years ago from Koorong, they are still selling it, click here if you are interested. Each day has an explanation about Christmas traditions or the Christmas story, followed by a simple activity for children to do which will channel a young child’s anticipation for Christmas and help them celebrate the birth of Jesus. There is also a simple prayer and Bible verse for each day.

This is a board book, so it really is suitable for little children, but my lower primary child still engages with the text and it’s a great springboard to discuss the significance of Christmas each day.

3. There Was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Present (P. Crumble & Louis Shea)

My boys love this crazy old bloke. We enjoyed The Old Bloke Swallowing a Rabbit at Easter, so there is no doubt that the boys are going to once again be laughing at this silly old codgers antics, starting with its amazing lenticular moving image cover! There are funny elements to look for on each page, which always engrosses them following the sub-stories contained in the illustrations.

4. Child of Bethlehem (Elena Pasquali)

This story very closely follows the Biblical account of The Nativity, yet uses simplified, (but not dumbed down) easy to understand language with bright and colourful illustrations. It is so important to our family that the children understand the real reason behind Christmas, so it is imperative that The Nativity features in this list.

5. My Merry Christmas (Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley)

This is a particularly good book for very small children. Even older babies would be able to engage with much loved illustrator, Bruce Whatley’s, illustrations of friendly animals on each page. There is only a few words on each page, so their attention should be maintained the duration of the book. I’ve had 5 babies though, and know there is no guarantee when it comes to babies and attention! The book describes some of the traditions we follow at Christmas, so toddlers are quick to engage with the content and relate it to their own experiences.

6. Santa’s Busy Reindeer (Ed Allen, Nathaniel Eckstrom)


It’s nearly Christmas! The presents are wrapped and the sleigh is packed, but ten of Santa’s reindeer still have lots to do. This rhyming story can be sung to the tune of ‘Ten Green Bottles’. Personally, I see the benefits of these counting/subtraction stories, but singing them to my kids often bores me to tears, even though the child isn’t bored in the slightest. This particular book has got enchanting illustrations in it though, so I quite enjoyed it. Trent also loved finding the hidden number to look for in each scene. So I have to admit, even though these are not my favourite books, there are great reasons for reading/singing them. (It must be helping, Trent already recognises all numbers 10 and under. Subtraction isn’t an easy concept to learn either, so this is a good into. He will be well and truly ready for Prep next year!)

7. Santa Koala (Colin Buchanan & Glen Singleton)

Our children are a little bit in love with Colin. Any book that accompanies a CD of Colin singing is bound to be a winner in our house. Feature Santa in the story … and well, you can’t lose! (We also love have a Christmas DVD with Colin outlining the Christian elements of Christmas which brings a bit of balance to all the fun also!) This song is to the tune of Waltzing Matilda and very Aussie, particularly with the real Santa calling Santa Koala a great galah for delivering the presents early!

8. A Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Christmas (Mark Mac Leod, illustrated by May Gibbs)

This is a Christmas story based on May Gibbs’ best-loved characters, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie introducing the timeless artwork of May Gibbs to a new generation with illustrations capturing the beauty of the Australian bush. I hadn’t realised that when May Gibbs died in 1969 she bequeathed the copyright of her bush characters to charities.

In doing so the sale of May Gibbs products have supported thousands and Australian children with disabilities and their families. Royalties from this book goes to Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Northcott Society.

9. The Twelve Days of Christmas (Alison Jay)

It’s a song that must be sung every Christmas, never mind that it makes no sense that a man would give a woman bizarre gifts like geese, milk maids, jumping lords and swans. (The five golden rings of course are not bizarre, that is a dazzling good choice.)

Alison Jay is a graduate of the London College of Printing and a critically acclaimed illustrator of many children’s books. (The Nutcracker, Welcome to the Zoo & Nursery Rhyme Rainbow.) The old style illustrations in this book are simply enchanting, and have been presented in such a way that much of the gifts happen around an ‘olden days’ couple, rather than turning up on her doorstep, so it doesn’t feel so silly, but instead quite beautiful.

10. My Christmas Crackers (Bronwen Davies)

This book contains a host of funny Christmas jokes that are sure to delight any child. My children loved this book last year. (Read about that here) I am positive that it will be a popular book again this year.

Why didn’t the lobster share its toys at Christmas?
Because it was shellfish.

11. Deck the Sheds with Bits of Wattle (Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion)

A hilarious Australian take on Deck the Halls performed by Colin Buchanan and with gorgeous Aussie illustrations by Glen Singleton.

Deck the Shed with bits of wattle,
Whack some gum leaves in a bottle
Syd Echidna’s feeling chipper,
It’s Christmas Eve – my shed’s a ripper.


12. Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker (Gina Newton & Christina Booth)


Children’s book character favourite Blossom Possum is involved in a Christmas adventure as she goes along the bush track to find her old friends Rocky Cocky, Echo Gecko and Toey Joey to try to wake Koala Claws so the Bush Christmas is not ruined. They need to find other friends to help and on the way halt By Jingo Dingo from eating a duck. (I feel a bit sorry for the dingo in this book, his family is hungry, and I’m with the dingo on this one, duck really is delicious.) In the end it was lucky they saved the duck (the Christmas Quacker) since it was able to wake Koala Claws and Bush Christmas is saved.
13. One Night (Penny Matthews & Stephen Michael King)


On the first Christmas Eve, so the story goes, the animals were given a very special gift to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Since then, at midnight on Christmas Eve the animals remember. A beautiful retelling of an old Christmas folktale. A magical story about how very Christmas Eve at midnight the animals can speak and they relive a Christmas Eve long ago when Jesus was born.


14,15. Where’s Santa? and Where’s Santa Around the World? (Louis Shea)


These are two wonderful search and find books. I don’t know why boys are particularly attracted to these search and find books, but they are. My boys are no exception, and I blogged about how much the loved these books last year here. These are perfect books for getting children preoccupied with hunting through the colourful images and humorous sub stories to find Santa. Particularly good if you need your children to sit in a corner quietly during a festive occasion!
16. The Busy Christmas Stable


This book will be perfect for my three year olds. It’s a robust board book which is sure to entertain with tabs that make animals and people move in the stable throughout the story. A wonderful way to share the story of Jesus’ birth with the little ones.
17. Aussie Jingle Bells (Colin Buchanan and Nick Bland)


I absolutely adore this book (and CD) which ought to be no surprise, how could you go wrong with Colin and beloved children’s author Nick Bland? The illustrations are so very Aussie, and it captures a lot of an Aussie larrikan family Chrissy with kids jumping in pools, swinging on clothesline, Grandpa dozing, and driving in a ute on a scorching summers day in singlet, shorts and thongs.
Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer’s day, hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.
My particular favourite is that the family packs the car and shoot through before the washing up! (We are all so tempted to do this, are we not?) I’ve actually bought a few copies of this book to send overseas as gifts this year.

18, 19. Thomas and Friends books

These are just little books I have picked up at the supermarket, but nevertheless the children really do love the stories. I mean, you can never go wrong with Thomas, can you?

20. The Nativity (illustrated by Julie Vivas)

The text in this book is straight from the Bible, however the illustrations are in the contemporary style of Julie Vivas. Julie Vivas is became famous when she illustrated Mem Fox’s Possum Magic  in 1983. Since then her illustrations have continue to enchant and delight children. This account of the nativity is no different, the illustrations draw you in and make you examine them carefully and contemplate what life really was like during that first Christmas.

21. We Wish You a Ripper Christmas (Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion)

Yes, I know, another Colin book, but seriously, it’s impossible to overdose on Colin. If you are going on a road trip, it would be an even better reason to own all these books and CD’s (yes, there’s a CD again!) to play throughout the trip while the children delight in the wonderful Aussie illustrations in the back.

OK, so this is the CD for one of the above books and I was too lazy to go and take another photograph, so be inspired anyway. CD’s and road trips, a perfect Christmas combo!

This time the book is illustrated by Roland Harvey and his funny and distinctive Australian flavour.

22. My First Christmas – Magnetic Adventures

This has been a much loved book in our family that I bought quite some time back at our local Koorong. (Brilliant Christian bookstore) I actually need to go hunting a little bit before I put this book out this year because I realised when I unpacked it that the baby Jesus plus Joseph and Mary are missing (and perhaps a few other key characters from the Nativity.) I hope I can find them, because the children adore moving the magnetic characters through the various magnetic scenes and telling the story together.

23. My First Story of Christmas (Tim Dowley)

The Christmas story told in a child friendly manner with cute illustrations.

24. ‘Twas the Night – The Nativity Story (Melody Carlson)

I thought on Christmas Eve it would be good to pause and remember it’s not all about Santa coming, but rather that the arrival of baby Jesus would be the beginning of salvation for mankind. This is a beautiful book and a wonderful retelling of the nativity story to the cadence of “The Night Before Christmas”.

Twas the night before Christmas when all through the stable
Not a creature was stirring, though plenty were able.
The ox and the cow and the goat and the sheep
All comfy and cozy, had drifted to sleep.

A perfect book the night before the big event!

Do you have any favourite Christmas stories/books in your home? Are you counting down the Advent this year and if so how?

I am linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT

* I was gifted some of these books by Scholastic Australia. All opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t make a recommendation unless myself and/or my children enjoyed the books.

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The Scarecrow's Wedding

Julia Donaldson has done it again! The Scarecrow’s Wife is another book that she has written that has a compelling and captivating storyline for children. We have enjoyed reading her newest book, The Scarecrow’s Wife, which arrived on our doorstep with impeccable timing during the lead up to my sister’s wedding.

My children were in wedding mode because we had been talking about Aunty Julienne and Uncle Matt’s upcoming wedding at the time, so the Scarecrow’s Wife slotted right into wondering about what happens at a wedding. We did need to explain that even though Aunty Julienne was having a wedding on a farm, there were not going to be scarecrows there. (I don’t think my children would have been surprised if their attendants were a host of scarecrows.) When the cousins had come over for a sleepover, (my sister also has five children), The Scarecrow’s Wedding was warmly accepted as an excellent bedtime story by my nieces and nephews and more wedding speculation continued.

Kids Reading The Scarecrows Wedding by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer

My kids also loved the appearance of a tractor during the story, (machinery is one of my kids favourite aspects of farming),

and were likewise disappointed that Aunty Julienne was not going to be delivered to Uncle Matt on a tractor, which they thought was a stellar idea. Mind you, the wagon and Clydesdale horses were pretty impressive on the day!

A Country Wedding
One of the reasons The Scarecrow’s Wedding is such an appealing book for children is the beautiful rhyme and rhythm (often repetitive phrases) that Julia Donaldson is renowned for. (“Let’s have a wedding, the best wedding yet, A wedding that no one will ever forget.”)
It’s the tale of two simple scarecrows that fall in love. After Harry O’Hay’s successful proposal to Betty O’Barley the two construct a list of what will be necessary for their wedding. They tick of each item, but while Harry is absent searching for the last item on the list the farmer makes a new scarecrow, Reginald Rake, who makes moves on Betty. He ends up putting her life in peril and Harry comes back, saves the day and they have the best wedding yet, and I think it is fair to assume that no one forgot it.

The Scarecrows Wedding being read by cousins

I would love to have a photo to show you of the nieces and nephews with their Aunty at the wedding, but I’m afraid we will have to wait for the family photos to come back from the official photographer. Unfortunately, I don’t have high hopes for them. My children were not interested in looking at the camera during the quick family photo we had taken! It was far too busy a day to get other photos and unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of my own kids before they were grubby, and then I didn’t get any family photo with Alex and I and the kids. Sniff, sniff.

It was however a wonderful day, and just quietly, I think the bride and groom would say it surpassed even Harry and Betty’s special day.

Have your children gone to or been involved in a wedding before? 

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*This book was given to me from Scholastic Australia for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

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How to Read a Bedtime Story When Mummy has a Cold – 3 Excellent Sing-A-Long Books.

Over the past week I have been feeling horribly ill. I started with tonsillitis and a huge infection in my thumb. I got antibiotics for that, but probably because my immune system was so compromised by the end of the week I picked up one of the dastardly flu viruses that is going around. I’ve been very miserable.

I had our In Home Carer around one day, fortunately on my worst day so I spent four hours sleeping. Grandma came and helped out another day. Luckily I have a wonderful husband who really helps out when this sort of thing happens, so often when he has arrived home, I’ve crawled back into bed and let him feed the kids, read stories and put them to bed.

Except on that day I was at my worst. Alex was out that evening. Thank goodness I had slept earlier. Dinner had been made, so we got through that. Teeth were brushed. And then the kids all lined up with books. I had no voice, yet I knew that refusing a story would be a break in routine which would result in a bedtime strike. Since there are no toddler unions to negotiate with, generally all propositions and countered by a mass toddler drop to the floor followed by flailing limbs, voracious crying, not matter how reasonably the proposition has been presented and also has the unfortunate knock on effect of making said toddlers even less likely to sleep.

In a stroke of brilliance I remembered that Scholastic had gifted me some excellent story/song books that also had audio recordings on CD’s. The toddlers (and small humans) were appeased! All I had to do was hold the book up and turn the pages. Going the extra mile, I sometimes pointed dramatically to the words, pulled funny faces and moved to the music. (Just enough to ensure my aching head didn’t topple off my shoulders.)

In the end it was a perfectly lovely story time, and the kids trotted happily off to bed once we were finished. I think I am going to leave a few stories aside so they aren’t as familiar to the kids should an occasion like this arise again.

In case you would like to have your own stash of audible books that will be your larynx saviour if you ever fall victim to a cold or flu, here’s some of my recommendations.

The Hokey Pokey

Kids Book - Hokey Pokey

This was a good one to start with, and my kids didn’t get too hyped because they didn’t feel like dancing anyway, but I think if they weren’t tired the playful illustrations would encourage them to join in with the actions. (Generally my boys are the non-dancing breed of Aussie male.) It’s the classic song with an Aussie twist as various Aussie animals do the Hokey Pokey. Sung by the ever captivating Colin Buchanan, (We are huge Colin fans in this household.), it is fun, toe tapping and makes you want to put your whole self in, because that’s what it’s all about.

I will not be putting this one aside, I can see us using it quite a bit, and it will be useful for playgroup as well. Kindy and early years school teachers, you will also get a lot of use out of it. Plus there is a instrumental recording at the end, so you can even use it as an item if you need to!

Juicy, Juicy Green Grass.

Music and story book

The triplets have been loving this CD and often have it in the background on repeat as they are doing craft. Sung by Peter Combe, the original ‘King of Kids’ in Australian children’s music for over 20 years. (You know the song, “Wash Your Face in Orange Juice”? That’s his. he even has 3 Arias, 7 Gold and 2 Platinum Albums. I’m now wondering why I didn’t have anything of his in the house before now!)

There are four catchy tunes on the CD, Juicy Juicy Green Grass, (you’ll keep singing it all day), The Silly Postman, Tadpole Blues and Red Says Stop. Danielle Mc Donald’s quirky illustrations really bring the songs to life.

My Daddy Ate An Apple

My Daddy Ate An Apple Music and storybook

If you have boys, they will love this book. Quite simply because it has a gross ending. Daddy zebra ate an apple with a worm inside. The illustrations by Scott Tulloch are hilarious as we listen to the song describe Daddy feeling more and more worse for the wear and much is tried to make him better. In a spectacular explosion in full graphic detail Daddy pooped the fat worm out. You guessed it. The kids love that page!

Trent took the book to Kindy once and the teacher had to have a full discussion about bodily functions afterwards. I maybe should have thought that one through a bit more before I sent it in!

Sing-a-long story books for children
You can’t say I didn’t warn you!

The words and music are by Craig Smith of “Wonky Donkey” fame. (Another book you should consider getting.)

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Children's Books That Discourage Selfishness

Children are naturally selfish creatures. For the most part. Mine most certainly are. It’s always lovely to find stories that allows children to identify selfish behaviour and provide a springboard for parents to  discuss selfish behaviour and encourage kindness and consideration for others.

We have been having these discussions in our house lately and there have been three books that the children have not only enjoyed, but have also allowed us to talk through important life issues with.

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey is a new book released by Scholastic Press in July for $16.99

(Although at the moment it’s priced at $15.00 if you can find a school or centre with a scholastic book club to support.) Also, Scholastic has a Pig the Pug Colouring-In Competition if you have a child who likes to colour!

Pig is a pug dog who is greedy and selfish in most every way. He lives in an apartments with a sausage dog named Trevor. Trev seems like a very amiable guy, unlike Pug who flips his wig over the thought of sharing toys, piling the toys up to deny any access.

Unfortunately in his efforts to keeping the toys as MINE, Pig fall out the window, which is unfortunate because, “Well, pigs cannot fly.” My favourite line in the book, which unfortunately the children don’t ‘get’.

I think my 8 year old now understands with a long winded explanation. So, unfortunately Pig was a pug that had to learn his lessons the hard way.

Questions that we have explored with the kids:

How was Pug selfish?
Why it bad to not share your toys?
How can you share your toys nicely with others, even if you don’t want to?
Why was Trevor still nice to Pug? 
Do bad things happen to people when they don’t share? 
What nice things happen when you share?

Another clever book that examines selfishness is King Pig by Nick Bland.

(Scholastic Press, June 2013, RRP. $24.99, but you can find it in the current Wombat Scholastic book club for $12.50) King Pig is King over a flock of sheep. He literally walks all over them.

Although the long suffering sheep comply to King Pig’s demands, King Pig is disgruntled. They don’t adore him. King Pig sets about to make the sheep adore him, to no avail.

Finally, after a gentle challenge to try being nice, King Pig feels something he’s never felt before, he felt sorry. After this revelation he tries to make amends, which wasn’t perfect, but the sheep agreed it was a pretty good start. This was a hilarious read, and in true Nick Bland style, the illustrations were brilliant and captivating.

Questions we analysed with the children:

Why did the sheep complain?
What type of things can we do to make people smile?
Was King Pig a bully? Why?
Do bullies always realise that they are being bullies?
How do you think about other people’s feelings rather then just your own?
If we have nice things, and others do not, how should we treat others?
Can you force people to like you?
What makes people like you?

Boa’s Bad Birthday by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross was released in June and is a Koala Book from Scholastic Australia, with a RRP of $14.99.

Unlike the previous two stories, the central character is not selfish at all. In fact, if I was Boa’s Mummy, I would be proud of him indeed. (And if you read the story, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Boa’s Mummy has some pretty solid parenting strategies herself.) It’s Boa’s birthday and he is very excited to get many gifts from his friends. Unfortunately they all turn out to be poorly thought out gifts that don’t suit Boa at all. (For instance, how does a snake play a piano when he has no fingers, wear sunglasses when they slip off because he has no ears or nose, kick a football when he has no feet!)

It turned out that it was Boa’s worst birthday ever, all his gifts were rubbish. In time he discovered that dung beetle’s gift turned out to unexpectedly be the best gift ever. Which is why you should always thank people for gifts that stink, because you never know if it’s going to turn out to be a really great gift!

This story arrived the timing was perfect for when this book arrived in our house. It was prior to Jonty’s 8th Birthday, and we read it together and discussed
the morals that the story presented quite thoroughly. I’m afraid my children have been known to be ungrateful on the odd occasion after receiving presents they didn’t appreciate. We have often tried to talk about gratefulness and not being selfish prior to gifts being given before, but I don’t think the message has ever been delivered as effectively as it was when accompanied by this story.

We discussed:

Why was Boa disappointed? 
What would you say if you were Boa and you got those gifts?
Why did Boa still say nice things to his friends even though he didn’t like their gifts?
Do you think it was good that Boa didn’t tell his friends when he was feeling angry and frustrated?
Do you think his friends like Boa? Why?
Do people have to give you presents?
What did Boa’s friends do wrong when they brought him a present?
What do you need to think about when you give someone a present?
Have you ever had a present that you didn’t like at first but then found out later that it was a really great present?
What are some things you can say to people when they give you a present? 
Do people have to give you a present at all?
Without a doubt, this book is going to be a family classic. I will be putting it aside and re-reading it before birthdays, probably for many years. I highly recommend it if you have a child who struggles with being grateful for unwanted gifts. It’s also nice to build up the excitement prior to a birthday. As I wrote in my post. Jonty didn’t get many toys this year. When he opened presents, he was very gracious and grateful for what he received. I was so proud!

Today I’m linking up with Eva at the Multi Tasking Mummy.

The Multitasking Mummy

* Scholastic gifted me with these books. All opinions are genuine and my own.
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Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs are just one of those topics that immediately capture a child’s interest. Large scary creatures (that can also looked friendly according to an artists depiction) certainly encourage imagination and curiosity. Scholastic sent the Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs by Kel Richards and illustrated by Glen Singleton to review. My immediate reaction was one of delight, because I love that it is Australian.

Excuse my little models bed hair. Is any other mother of boys regularly guilty of not combing her kids hair?

My grandparents used to live in Hughenden, close to where the Muttaburrasaurus was found, so I was well aware of that dinosaur, but when I was reading this book to the kids, I was surprised just how many Aussie dinosaurs there were! We visited my grandfather in Hughenden when Jonty was very still a baby. The kids, especially my nephew who is older than Jonty, especially loved visiting the dinosaur museum there. After I read the book, I kind of wished my grandfather still lived there so we would have a convenient excuse to visit it again. I’m sure we will get there again someday, but not in the foreseeable future! You kind of need a reason to travel the many hours to outback Queensland.

My Grandfather with my niece and nephew and Muttaburrasaurus in 2007 – the kids look so small! 

Trent has been learning about dinosaurs at Kindy, so when I mentioned this book to his teacher, she was immediately excited, so Trent brought it in to share with his Kindy friends. (I have a feeling it’s going to be on the teacher’s list to obtain a Kindy copy for next year’s class.) When he brought it home he said that his friends loved it because it had lots of funny pictures in it. Well done Glen Singleton – your vibrant illustrations are certainly loveable! In particular Trent told me that they laughed very loudly for a long time (see below) where a plant eater was squirting tomato sauce. I got him to pose with that picture and he said to say in my blog (so I will quote directly), “They likeded the piece when he put tomato sauce on. They laugheded.” (I’m trying my best to get him to drop the double “d” sound at the end of words, although I’m tempted not to. It’s so cute.

The favourite page.

I’m sure they learned a lot about dinosaurs as well as enjoying the illustrations. There are loads of pictures and facts on every page – and even a pronunciation guide to help kids say all those tricky dino names! They can find out which Aussie dinosaur was the biggest, or the fastest, or the hungriest – and everything else you never knew about the dinosaurs that roamed down under! There is even an Aussie Dinosaur Gallery at the end of the book!

If you have kids who loves dinosaurs, I’m pretty sure this is a book they will adore.

So, have you or your kids heard of the Muttaburrasaurus?

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Book Club for Kids and The Bush Book Club

Teaching children to love literature is one of my passions. Allowing children to form a book club could be such a fun way to enthuse young readers to delve more into literature.

I have often spoken about my fondness for my book club. Meeting with those girls is always one of the highlights of my month. Not only do we discuss literature, we eat, drink (normally tea, but on occasion we have been known to have a little tipple of something stronger!) and discuss so much more than the book. We have really reached a level where we just share life with one another.

Scholastic sent me a book (published in March) called “The Bush Book Club” by award winning Australian children’s author, Margaret Wild and illustrated by Ben Wood. Let me tell you. I LOVED this book. Scholastic regularly sends me books to review, and I do choose my favourites to share with you. But this one, it’s my absolute favourite! I think because Margaret Wild and Ben Wood have really captured what it means to love books along with that magical moment when you first fall in love with reading independently.

I can remember that moment for me. My mother was reading aloud an Enid Blyton book, “The Children of the Cherry Tree Farm” to my sister and I while she breastfed my brother. All of a sudden she stopped mid story. I don’t know why. Maybe she stopped breastfeeding, got too busy or just thought the story was a little bit too old, which in fact it was. However, I just really wanted to hear the ending. (It’s a weakness of mine, wanting to know the ending. I’ve had many a late night waiting to see the end of a film or staying up late to finish a book.) I took the book and finished reading it to myself. I was only in year one, and it wasn’t a particularly easy book to read – not at all like Amelia Jane or the Faraway Tree. In fact, the story wasn’t really that interesting and I had to skip quite a few hard words, but I did read it. After I finished I knew I could read anything, and I did. In our family, I was often the kid with the nose stuck in a book.

In “The Bush Book Club” all the animals belong to The Bush Book Club. All except Bilby. He can’t stay still long enough to read. (And oh how I recognised Bilby. I have taught him before, I’m sure of that.) Bilby is quite happy to not belong to the book club, it’s obvious that Bilby thinks reading is boring. It takes being locked in the book club overnight by accident for Bilby to discover the joys of reading. Mind you, Bilby has a series of very inventive ways of using books before he actually opens the page and starts reading.

I’ve been planning on writing this post for absolutely ages because as soon as I read this story, I immediately wanted to have the children belonging to my book club Mums around for our very own children’s book club, in the style of The Bush Book Club. We did try very hard to organise this, but they are all very busy ladies and this is a very busy time of year, and we just couldn’t pull it off – yet. When we do, I will be sure to write another blog post about it.

Following the format of The Bush Book Club, I was going to read the story to the children first, then the children would play with the books like Bilby did before sharing with each other their favourite books. Of course we would need to end with some food and playtime.

My children have not discovered the joys of independent reading yet, so it could be any book they enjoy. My son in year 2 really struggles with reading, despite the fact that he was read aloud to in the womb and every day of his life. He has moments where he will be interested, but I’m trusting that one day something will just ignite for him. In the meantime, he would still be very keen to join in book club because he does love literature and loves story time. At the moment he’s obsessing on non-fiction books particularly about farming. I think he’s just about got every book possible out of the school library.

If you are a book lover or belong to a book club, this will be a book I guarantee you will enjoy reading to your child. It’s a great one for teacher’s also. I know I would use it in a classroom to enthuse children before setting a book report task.

And here’s the exciting news! Scholastic are giving five copies away to Caitlin’s Happy Heart readers.

To win a copy, please answer the following question below AND leave your contact details. I would also feel honoured if you ‘liked’ my Facebook page. The winner will be chosen on Sunday May 4th at 8pm. The winners will be chosen according to the story they tell when answering.

When did you develop a love of reading and what were you reading when this happened? 

I’m linking up with Essentially Jess and the very fabulous IBOT.

Aussie Giveaway Linky
Great Aussie Giveaway Link Hosted by Kellie O’Brien Media

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Rawr! and Dinosaur Farm

Rawr! by Todd H. Doodler and Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon are two books about dinosaurs that will capture your young child’s imagination and interest.

There has been two books I have been wanting to share with you for quite some time. They were instant favourites when a box of books arrived from Scholastic, so I knew that they were on the “must blog about” list. Unfortunately life has a way with interfering with blogging, and it just hasn’t happened. (Which I’m afraid is the way it’s always going to be. It is only right that my blog takes second place to living!) Because my favourite way to explore books with children is using reading in conjunction with activities and experiences, I had wanted to write an idea packed post about exploring dinosaurs, but it just so happened that the activities we did around dinosaurs were more organic and not photographed. You know stuff the kids loved, but not anything to blog home about!

I am committed to telling you about these books though because they are superb! My little two year old girl especially liked Rawr, and let me tell you, when she joins in with the “rawrs” it’s one of the cutest things ever! It really is a book that engages with children and invokes participation.

It’s all about a dinosaur who sometimes struggles with people’s perceptions of him. Because being big can sometimes be a problem. He explains that if they think he is scary because he’s big, they’re wrong. There’s a whole heap of friendly things he does. There is also a request to tell all your friends that Rawr means hello in dinosaur. So, I am pleased to pass this community announcement on to my readers. Consider yourself told, and don’t be alarmed if you are ever rawred at by a dinosaur.  My kids love the page where he rawrs at everybody and they join in enthusiastically. We are such a friendly crew around here!

Ok, so not the most flattering photo, but she’s really connecting with the dino on the front cover, she loves him so. Especially since his tummy is soft and squishy at the front.

Anything with the word in the farm in it has a high probability of being a hit with my children. Their Grandad (Farmer extraordinaire) is grooming them to join the family business and return to the land. At this stage, the attraction is far greater than emulating Daddy who sits in an office with a calculator. Even though they think Daddy is the bees knees, his work would be so much more impressive if he needed a tractor to complete his jobs.

And so Frann Preston-Gannon’s book, Dinosaur Farm very much appeals to my kids. The text says nothing about dinosaurs at all. It simply describes a day in the life of a farmer. It is the illustrations that bring the story to life. My kids loved looking at all the farming activities and what the dinosaurs were doing. They especially loved the page where the poor farmer had to clean up a humungous pile of dino poop. (I do have boys after all.) It is just one of those delightful books that capture the imagination of a child.

Because the children loved reading about dinosaurs so much after these two books entered our household, we started focussing on dinosaurs a lot more. We didn’t really have a chance to do dinosaur craft, despite my best intentions. The triplets had painted a paper plate which we were going to make into a stegosaurus, (there are lots of examples on Pinterest, for instance this Mum made some cute ones with her boys here). However, for us, the enjoyment ended up being just the painting of the paint, which let’s face it, the rest of the project for them needed to be completed by me, and as much as they would have enjoyed the end product, I just didn’t have the time.

We also rounded up all our dinosaurs in the house and asked to loan my nephew’s extensive dino collection. He was madly into dinosaurs when he was younger. My big boys have liked dinosaurs, but have played with cars rather than dinosaurs. The triplets have loved the dinosaurs. For the first couple of weeks it was a guaranteed quiet activity time when a child was on a mat with the box of dinosaurs.

Libraries are often stocked with dinosaur books, and we have borrowed a really great selection over the last several visits.

Some of the books we borrowed. I particularly liked the story about Edwina, the dinosaur who didn’t know she was extinct.

We were recently given a beautiful dolls house. Except we have no dolls. But the dinos moved in! The triplets have loved playing with the dinosaurs in the house. We did need to teach them that dinosaurs need inside manners and they aren’t allowed to stomp inside houses because the integrity of the structure needed to be retained and protected.

Do your children like playing and reading about dinosaurs? What are some dinosaur favourite games, books or activities in your neck of the pre-historic woods?

PS. Stay tuned! I will share about another book on Monday, (An Easter book no less!) and it will also be a GIVEAWAY!

*These books were gifted to me from Scholastic. All opinions are my own.

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The Rosie Project – Bookclub Review

I have this rather fabulous book club. No, let’s be real here, they are not just rather fabulous, they’re down right UTTERLY Fabulous! We have developed beautiful friendships and books are quite simply the start of our conversations.

Since being in our book club, we’ve read a wide range of literature like The Book Thief, (4 years ago, long before the movie came out!), The Secret Life of Bees and Persuasion.

Being a bit of a book bug, I’ve shared a few book reviews on this site. Lately I’ve been doing a fair bit of children’s literature, which I adore, and I do spend a lot of time reading children’s books at the moment. However, I wanted to share about adult books once again this year. It just happens that the majority of books I read for myself are for book club, I don’t have too much time to read too much more after that, although if I do, it’s normally a parenting book.

This Thursday night was our monthly Book Club night. This month we read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

Let me tell you, this was the best book I’ve read for awhile. First and foremost because it was funny! Like laugh out loud and make your husband look over at you in a strange way and make your children question, “Why are you laughing Mummy?”. (You won’t always be able to tell your children why you are laughing, because sometimes it’s a little naughty…but still funny…)

Basically the story is written in first person by Professor Don Tilman, a character who has Asperges like traits, although he admits that he has never been diagnosed. Far too complex a character to fit into a single diagnosis! I love that you hear the main character’s thought processes and opinions throughout the whole storyline. Especially since seeing life through Don’s eyes is very amusing, but you also grow to respect how something like asperges can also be a real strength, not just a disability. Don, with all his very funny quirks and hilarious social indiscretions, finds himself in pursuit of love. His romantic methods are certainly non-traditional! He compiles a very thorough questionnaire, that he feels holds scientific validity. The questionnaire in itself is an amusing part in the novel! Meanwhile he bumps into Rosie, who in his opinion, is completely unsuitable as a wife. He embarks on a project with her and the adventures they have together are downright hilarious! (Sorry to use the word hilarious so much, but truly, it’s the word that best describes this novel!)

My favourite moments in the book is Don mixing cocktails, Don and Rosie eating lobster, travelling to NY and just the constant humour in the way Don expresses himself, which can be summed up as, yes, you guessed it – Hilarious!

In our book club, we rate our books out of 10. Here are the scores and opinions of the ladies who were present this month.

Belinda – 8.5/10

My good friend Belinda, (Check her out at bbeingcool), liked this book because it was a great insight into ASD done with style and humour.

Anna – 8.7/10

Anna is one of those very practical ladies, and I love her “I’m thinking in percentages” score out of ten! Anna likes this book because it made her laugh. She could relate to it because “I teach kids with autistic tendencies.” Anna also says she would love to be as organised as Don! I think Anna is pretty darn organised as she is. But certainly not to the same level of efficiency as the professor! Belinda and I decided we were far more like Rosie then Don! Proving that she is not ASD herself, Anna could see the beauty in my new Royal Doulton mugs that Alex gave me for Valentines Day!

Jodie – 8/10
Jodie rushed back from holidaying at the coast to book club with us. Well kind of, not really, her holiday had finished that day, but we were so glad she came despite the travel, especially since she nominated the book this month! (We all have turns.) Jodie scored it an 8 because it was entertaining and intelligent escapism.

Have you read the Rosie Project? What was your opinion of it, and can you give it a score out of 10?

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