It’s only the wind, Little Bear….

My youngest child is a boy who hears things that no one else in our house hears… the gurgle of the water in the radiators, the whisper of the slightest wind in the tree outside his bedroom window. To him the sound of the extractor fan in the bathroom is the roar of a ferocious lion. He’ll turn to me, his already big blue eyes wide with concern and ask me “What’s that noise?” He is never happy with a simple “I can’t hear anything George, or its nothing to worry about!” – this boy needs answers, before he can settle his overactive mind.

Lets’s Go Home Little Bear by Martin Waddell is book which deals with the theme of anxiety. The ever loveable Big Bear and Little Bear go for a walk in the snow covered woods. On their return journey, Little Bear is having a whole heap of fun, slipping and sliding, when suddenly his ears prick up and he tunes in to the myriad of sounds around him. Big Bear ever reliable, continues walking – plod, plod, plod  in front of him.

“I thought I heard something!” Little Bear said.

What did you hear?” said Big Bear.

“Plod, Plod, Plod,” said Little Bear.

“I think it’s a plodder!”

So the story continues with Little Bears imagination turning even the sounds of melting snow into something needing explanation. Every parent reading this book will remember the frustration of a journey that should be quick and easy seeming to take forever… but at the same time every step of the way creating memories. “Let’s go home Little Bear” is the constant refrain from eternally patient Big Bear.

Finally they reach the cosy warm Bear Cave with Big Bear carrying Little Bear on his shoulders. Barbara Firth’s illustrations are as joyous as the text. Big Bear and Little Bear settle down under a blanket as Big Bear tells the story of a simple walk, that created a whole new world in Little Bear’s mind.

I love this book because no matter how many times I read it and I have read it countless times both in school and to my own children it reminds me of to two things…. that imagination is a gift and that we all of us need to have that feeling of wanting to go home….. (oh and I sooo want to live in a Bear cave just like theirs!)

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Are you afraid of the dark?

There are some books that no matter how many times I have read them to children I never grow tired of reading. One such book is Can’t You Sleep Little Bear by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Barbara Firth. Molly Keane from the Sunday Times rightly describes this book as “The most perfect children’s book ever written or illustrated. It evaporates and dispels all fear of the dark”

One of the things I have wanted most for my children, has been for them not to have a fear of the dark. I hold my hands up and admit that even as an adult, at times, that familiar childhood feeling of being afraid can creep up on me as I walk through the dark hallway in my new house. When I was a child my grandmother had a huge house with a long dark landing at the end of which was a full length mirror on the wall. I’d run past that mirror every time when I got up in the middle of the night. I was terrified I would look in the mirror and see something else other than me looking back at me!

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Can’t You Sleep Little Bear tells the story of Big Bear and Little Bear. The Bear cave they live in looks to me to be the cosiest place on earth. Little Bear though is scared of the dark and Big Bear does his best to dispel his fears of the “dark all around us” by bringing him bigger and bigger lanterns. In the end Big Bear realises that the only way to stop Little Bear being afraid is by bringing him the biggest lantern of them all – the moon.

Don’t be scared of the dark and share Can’t You Sleep Little Bear with your little one to show them that there is nothing to be afraid of. In fact the darkness can be a magical place too.

Winner of children’s writer competition.

Finally I can announce today that the winner of our competition to find a new children’s writer has been chosen. We had so many entries which were of a very high standard but our winner stood out as original, entertaining and fun. I am really looking forward to working with Joe Riggens to bring his fab character Titchy and her witch friends to life. Joe and I  will be working together to publish his story to Kindle. We will also be getting his story out to schools and teachers along with a teaching resource pack that will be specially written.

Watch this space for updates about our progress – we look forward to bringing you all the latest news about this exciting new project. Congratulations Joe – lets hope this book is the first of many!

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There is a skill to falling asleep…

My littlest boy has always found it difficult to fall asleep. It’s been an ongoing battle since the day he was born and I have felt like the most sleep deprived mother on this planet at times. But since we have moved into our new house he has started to fall asleep anywhere. He has finally learnt that he doesn’t actually have to “do” anything to go to sleep. He had got to the point where he was telling himself that he didn’t know how to do it. As is often my way when one of the younger kids has a problem with an issue I set off for the library to look for books about falling asleep and found a fantastic one. This book has been around a while but it is for sale second hand on Amazon and Ebay and available in most libraries.

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Sleepy Places by Judy Hindley and illustrated by Tor Freeman starts off:

“When you’re nodding and flopping

and ready to fall in a heap,

where do you choose for a nap or a snooze

- where is your favourite place to sleep?”

It goes on to describe the huge range of different places that creatures sleep. George was fascinated by the idea of trying to sleep hanging upside down like a bat. It solved for him he problem he had, that he thought sleeping was too difficult, but as I said to him, “It’s better to sleep in a nice comfy bed than having to sleep upside down”. At the end of the story the three children all end up sharing the same bed, but George wasn’t keen on that idea at all. As he declared that night instead of the usual need for me to lay down next to him to help him get to sleep – “Get out Mum, this bed is mine!”

Give Sleepy Places space on your book shelf… the illustrations are gorgeous, the text is lyrical and you never know it might just help your little one to sleep!.

Back after the big move… announcement

After a long hiatus due to a  much needed house move the blog is back up and running this week. With a fantastic book deal in the bag, Russ will no longer be working with Bundles of Books but I am sure we will get to hear all about his new books as they are published. I have a brand new base to work from and lots of new ideas for resources and reviews so lets get this show  back on the road!

This week I will be declaring the  winner of the  competition we ran to find a new children’s writer. The range of entries was diverse and it was no easy task to decide which book to go with. There were lots of factors to consider including which age group the book was written for as impressively we got a variety of forms of entry including some longer children’s novels.

The announcement will be made on Wednesday so watch this space. I’ll have some new book reviews later this week and newsletters and downloadable resources will be back next week.

Thanks for your patience whilst I have got relocated and reorganised and I’m looking forward to bringing you some greta things in 2014.

This will have you running for your toothbrush!!

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Any parent will know that getting children to  brush their teeth can be a difficult task. Dentist Alex Rushworth has created  the Sugarbugs and written Open Wide….What’s Inside? which is beautifully illustrated by Helen Rushworth. Heartbroken at the amount of dental decay she has witnessed amongst children during her work in paediatric dentistry, Alex decided to write the book in the hope of spreading the message of good dental care and therefore reducing the amount of painful extractions necessary in young children. 30% of 5-14 have dental decay and tooth extraction is the most common reason for children to have general anesthesia.

I won’t beat about the bush – the book is designed to deliver a particularly gross and revolting message about what Sugarbugs (know as Streptococcus mutans in real life!) will do to your teeth if you don’t brush them properly. There were positive howls of disgust as I read the book to my youngest two children.  They are very good about brushing their teeth, but had they been reluctant brushers then this most certainly would have done the trick!

A lot of thought has gone into the design of the book. Its is available in two sizes – a storybook size and a smaller version which is perfect for schools to purchase to give away as part of a dental health topic. Like its author Alex I can see huge benefits to using this as a teaching resource and it would be brilliant to see it in dentists waiting rooms – the perfect story to keep your children occupied whilst they wait for their checkup!

We are donating a copy of  Open Wide…. What’s Inside? to a local nursery so they can learn about the Sugarbugs important message. It is available to purchase in our bookstore.

The Reindeer Girl : Book Review

The Reindeer Girl by Holly Webb

The Reindeer Girl by Holly Webb

This  book has a very Christmassy feel to it and so it was lovely to read at this time of year as Christmas is starting to be talked about by everyone.   The Reindeer Girl by Holly Webb tells the story of a girl who has Norwegian family including a very old great- grandmother whose family used to be reindeer herders. Lotta goes to visit her family as part of birthday celebrations for her great grandmother. The story gives a detailed sense of Norwegian Christmas culture  and then as the story switches into dream mode and Lotta goes back in time to join her family herding reindeer there is lots of information about the culture of the Sami Tribe. I  loved the way bond between Lotta  and  her Great Grandmother strengthens as the story progresses, proving family ties can surpass cultural and generational differences.

This book would be a great approach to work in the classroom with a Christmas element but the added bonus of learning about another culture. There are excellent sections at the back of the book – a comprehensive glossary, information about Reindeers and about the migration of the Sami Tribe. A complete min topic is possible from this book – it would be great for home educators and  highly recommend it.

We will be donating our copy of The Reindeer Girl to a school library – we have copies available to buy in our bookstore as well as lots more books from the brilliant Little Tiger Press who published The Reindeer Girl.

A Day With Musa : CAFOD book review

Russ recently went to launch a new book for Cafod who do some fantastic books and teaching resources for children:

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I was recently lucky enough to work with 50 infant pupils from St Teresa’s Catholic primary school in Preston who joined CAFOD for a special launch event of A  Day With Musa –CAFOD’s brand new book for children.

I presented the book and used it to help them learn about life in Bangladesh from the point of view of a young boy called Musa. The book, aimed at 4- 7 year olds, follows a typical day in the life of Bangladeshi schoolboy, looking at the beauty and vibrancy of life in Bangladesh through colourful images, and encourages an understanding of the wider world.

After the reading, the children took part in a number of activity stations designed to help them learn more about some of the themes in the book, such as how water is precious, what transport is like, and they had the opportunity to play a traditional Bangladesh game.

Cafod do a lot of fundraising, and the event was an excellent way to show the children examples of how the money they raise is being spent and the people it helps.”

A Day with Musa Review

A day with Musa takes us on a journey of an ordinary day for an ordinary child in Bangladesh. It raises the simple question of how are we different, while cleverly showing children how fundamentally we are all the same, regardless of skin, language or belief.

The book is simple in its delivery and that is what makes it so accessible on all levels. Teachers can adapt the questioning from simple “what do you see?” type questions to much deeper and philosophical questioning such as “why do we think this is different?” As well as using the fantastic direct questions on each page.

A day with Musa can be used in class in a variety of ways, I found it easiest to section the book as individual events within the “day” we took two pages a day over a school week and shared it with the children. Raising the questions of what’s different and similar constantly. The book lends itself to exposing simple diversity that even the youngest of children can see. When I use the book again I may even consider having a Musa day, whereby we undertake our normal school day but run Musa’s day alongside ours in “real time” this reinforces to the children the things different cultures take for granted.

I initially thought the topics of school and religion may have been the pages to promote most talk, however within my class the animals, games and transport were the hands down winners!

This big book is perfect to convey the beauty, colour and diversity associated with this wonderful country. It highlights these in a simple and vibrant way. The questioning is open ended and is a perfect way for this big book to promote big talk. Children will love the large colour photographs which transport us, the reader, to everyday life in Bangladesh. The similarities and differences between the UK are almost limitless. This big book is a must for any KS1 class or community group, its uses are as diverse as its contents.

This big book should be used within school to promote positive thinking towards differences, yes we may look different, yes we may not eat the same way, play the same way, worship the same way and live the same way, but diversity should be embraced as fundamentally we are all exactly the same. The promotion of this at as young an age as possible is surely a great thing.

A day with Musa is available to buy now from Matthew James Publishers: £12.50 for the big book including activities that span the curriculum, and £4.50 for the small book including children’s activities for at home.