Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Children's Book Review, Go to Sleep Jessie

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Go to Sleep, Jessie! is a children’s picture book, written by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Freya Blackwood and published by Little Hare, (Hardie Grant Egmont) 2014. It’s been shortlisted by the Children's Book Council of Australia in the Early Childhood awards, and I can certainly see why.

Jessie is a baby who cries and won’t go to sleep, much to the disgust of her big sister, Jo, with whom she shares a room. Kids with babies at home will certainly relate to wanting a crying little one to stop. Parents will relate too, to the way Mum and Dad try what they can to get Jessie to sleep. Dad drives around and around the block, and brings back a drowsy baby, but Jessie’s eyes pop open again. Will nothing make this little one fall asleep?

Gleeson tells a deceptively simple tale, but one so richly invested with emotion. We pick up through the dialogue and illustration that Jo’s annoyance is escalating, and wonder if this child will ever quit! I loved Blackwood’s illustrations with their contrasting palette of colours. The way she portrays the parents is superb, and will evoke fellow-feeling in any mum or dad. There is also lots of humour in the illustrations, a contrast to the tension of the text.

I’ve just read Go to Sleep, Jessie! aloud to a group of children aged from 18 months to 4. It doesn’t happen very often with this group, but every one of those kids was immersed and emotionally invested in this story. The two elder boys were caught up in the tension, and whispered to me before each page turn that they thought the baby was about to cry yet again. The toddlers understood what was going on, and watched intently. The babies took notice as they rolled around, especially when I did my impression of a child-like wail. Even the parents in the library today were all focussed on the story, and smiling ruefully. This book is a HIT to read aloud. My advice though is not to do the role play we followed up with - pretending to be crying babies was not something the kids wanted to relinquish in time for our second story!

Do grab this excellent children’s picture book if you want a book the majority of kids will relate to, and one with constant tension to keep children’s interest. I loved the way the problem of a crying baby was solved by her big sister. I believe the book is also perfect for discussions with older kids, especially those who may have to share space and belongings with a younger sibling.

There are Teacher Notes to accompany the book.

Go to Sleep, Jessie! would make a fine book to share with kids during Children's Book Week in August. Grab some more ideas for Book Week in Children’s Book Week Activities, 2015, Children’s Book Week Challenges for Kids 2015, Children’s Book Week 2015 - Ideas for Performance, Children’s Book Week - Ideas for Display, and Guest School Visits during Children’s Book Week.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Looking Back to April, May, June 2014

Looking Back to April, May, June 2014
by Susan Stephenson,

Last year I did a regular feature on The Book Chook, where I looked at popular posts from previous months and years. Today I'm re-visiting the most popular posts at The Book Chook from April, May and June of 2014. Don't forget you can use the right sidebar to find earlier posts, too. Click Creating, Learning, Reviews, Reading, Writing and Celebrating to explore those themes, or try the Blog Archive to browse by months. The Free PDFs button takes you to my website where you can download any of the free educational PDFs I’ve created.

Creating Digital Stories with iPad - Updated list!

Story Bags as Prompts for Storytelling and Writing - Simple, fun, creative!

January-March 2014 App Reviews - I personally test all apps I review - no cookie cutter reviews here!

Ten Top Tips to Engage Kids with Poetry - Do your kids a real favour and introduce them to poetry.

Book Chook Favourites - Creative iPad Photo Apps - Not always for kids, these apps will expand your own tools for creating.

Activities for Children’s Book Week 2014 - This post has had 57 000 + page views! Grab some ideas for connecting kids with books. Or check out the 2015 updates: Activities for Children’s Book Week 2015 and Book Week 2015 Challenges for Kids.

Looking Back to April May June 2013 - Retro X 2

The Book Chook’s Ten Top Picture Books

How to Write a News Story - Comprehensive and readable tips for kids by author and journalist, Julie Fison.

I hope you’ll find something above that’s useful to you. If you enjoy these posts, or any others at The Book Chook, I'd love you to help me spread my literacy, learning and literature ideas by promoting via Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, StumbleUpon, G+ or any other way you decide.

Friday, June 26, 2015

April - June 2015 iPad App Reviews

April - June 2015 iPad App Reviews
by Susan Stephenson,

I've discovered it's useful to my readers not only to have access to my app reviews, but to have access to reviews according to theme, or in other groups. Accordingly, I've begun a periodic but regular feature where I curate and share my own iPad app reviews and articles.

In 2013, I did a big round-up of my 2013 iPad app reviews and articles.

Last year, I gathered my reviews from January to March 2014 into one post, April to June in one post, July to September into one post and October to December into one post.

You can find January - March iPad App reviews here.

Today I’m rounding up my app reviews and articles to do with iPad written in April, May and June of 2015, again with the help of Listly. Using Listly means I can update my lists if I need to, and the post itself automatically updates too. You can embed any list on your own blog, and also vote for apps and articles you like if you're a member of Listly (moderation is on.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Children's Book Review, Imagine a City

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Imagine a City by Elise Hurst is a children’s picture book, published by Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia in 2014. RRP: $Au24.99.

Hurst invites us to imagine all sorts of things: trains to take us away, fantastical cities and worlds. She nudges us a step further to where buses are flying fish and treasures abound, to where the lines between past and present, reality and fantasy are blurred. All the while, the illustrations are detailed back and white sketches, somehow giving a matter-of-factness to the surreal. Kids will adore each page, poring over and remarking on the things they find.

This is not only a children’s picture book, it’s a poem. Not the kind of poem that marches along, sweeping you up in its swing and sway, but a poem to ponder, one that prompts thoughts and dreams. I love it when authors give us picture books that are also poems as it helps very visual kids embrace poetry, perhaps for the first time.

Do seek out Imagine a City. It would make a great model for children’s own explorations into imaginary worlds, whether in pictures, words or both. My copy is a sturdy hard back with red cloth cover and an inset illustration on the front. Perfect for your library or just to become a loved family favourite. There are excellent Teacher Notes available at the Scholastic website.

Learn more about the book via this trailer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Children’s iPad App, Discover MWorld

Children's App Review by Susan Stephenson,

Discover MWorld is an Australian app for kids that provides a way in to some parts of the Australian Curriculum through exploration and interaction for kids of certain themes within its titles. It weaves AC content and skills throughout its titles, as well as Blooms Taxonomy, in the form of narrated scripts, videos, games, etc. So far there are 50 titles across a range of subjects.

From the developer:

Key Features

• Dozens of thrilling educational games and quizzes designed to captivate kids, reinforce knowledge and keep them coming back for more.
• Age-appropriate, academic-reviewed text enhanced with superb multimedia features and stunning graphics.
• Fifty subject titles to explore, covering all major branches of knowledge and with many more on the way.
• A self-paced structure that ignites curiosity, rewards effort and emphasises in-depth learning.
• The credible content that comes with an educational product proudly developed by one of the world's leading universities.
• An open-ended educational game environment that encourages children to challenge themselves.
• Comprehensive teacher guides to accompany each title and enhance the classroom learning experience.
• Access to lesson planners and classroom accounts, as well as to the many teaching resources available at

MWorld is simply the most amazing, engaging and original educational app you've ever seen. Whether you're a child or just a child at heart, MWorld has something for you. Consider it the new face of learning.

Once you sign in, there’s a choice between customising your avatar and exploring. Exploration offers 10 subject areas like Art and Music, The Human, Body, Planets, People and Places. Each subject has different titles for kids to choose from.

Here are the details of one learning pathway I followed. I tried Animals and chose Fangs - How Do Animals Eat. There was a short introductory video which posed questions to intrigue young watchers, and then I decided to learn about Carnivores. I read a short passage while I listened to it read aloud, and watched a video. All of these were in language kids could understand from about Grade 4 on at a guess. Next I chose an activity called Create Your Own Beast. Here I discovered I could earn 1500 MPoints if I could choose the right combination of features to create a deadly carnivore, a blood-sucking bat, a quick herbivore or a friendly dolphin. So we’re not just talking fun and creativity here, kids actually have to think about what they’ve read, watched and listened to earlier. There were many more topics I could pursue and all of them were perfectly targeted at children’s interest level. Topics with a gross factor like Eat your own poo! became definite learning opportunities!

What I liked: I think the most impressive thing about this app is its immensity. There is just so much learning available. Content is not all on the app - once you pick a title, you need to wait a few seconds for that part to download. It works well and navigation is mostly obvious. I also really liked that someone with a sense of humour has contributed to the app. Kids will enjoy that too. It’s great that there are little pop-up quizzes, underlined words that lead to more detailed explanation, activities, games, crystal clear and stunning detailed photos, and that kids can proceed and learn the way they want. You can dip into the app here and there, or start where you want and cover all there is in that topic. Kids who find reading difficult are scaffolded by a warm and friendly Australian voice reading content aloud. Developers have also taken advantage of the gaming instinct that seems to be in most of us - the fact that kids can earn points during their explorations may be a motivator for them to keep reading and learning.

I did have a slight problem with one activity: choosing items to decorate a bower bird’s nest. Great activity and appropriate for my learning about Animal behaviour, but I had trouble dragging and dropping the tiny objects. I am well prepared to believe this was the fault of fat fingers or an older iPad! It also seemed to me that navigation wasn’t crystal clear - going back a screen requires a left to right swipe, whereas I looked for an icon. This is something the developers are working on.

When individuals buy the app, they get free access to three Discover MWorld titles: Volcanoes, Jammin' and Planets, and they get two credits so they can select two free titles of their choosing. After that, to unlock more titles, they need to purchase credits, which are around $1-2 each, depending on the number you buy. Schools, on the other hand, are subscription-based and that gives students free access to all titles.

The MWorld website offers a free classroom trial. “Loaded with fascinating, interactive educational content, MWorld is the perfect cross-curriculum resource for inquiry-based learning and literacy. Teachers. MWorld comes with lesson plans and teacher guides to save you time and make classroom integration easy. Parents. You can use MWorld to inspire your child's natural curiosity and to help them learn about the amazing world we live in.”

The video below gives you a taste of the app.

I took ages to research and test Discover MWorld because there’s no doubt this is not a simple app. I did not test every title or topic, but I tried many and was very impressed with the quality of the app. It seems to me the business model of free titles so you can try it before you need to buy is a generous one. In fact, I commend Monash University for succeeding in such an ambitious and useful project, and suspect you’ll agree when you try Discover MWorld for yourself.

Find the app on iTunes Australia.
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