Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Children’s Books Giveaway: Shaun the Sheep Movie

Children’s Books Giveaway: Shaun the Sheep Movie
by Susan Stephenson,

Today, Walker Books Australia are offering The Book Chook readers who live in Australia a chance to win one of two exciting prizes. This is to celebrate the release in Australia of the Shaun the Sheep Movie - in Australian cinemas from March 27, 2015. Both packages consist of:

* Shaun the Sheep Movie - Flock in the City Sticker Activity Book: full colour activities including flick books and storyboarding, puzzles and 100 stickers.
* Shaun the Sheep Movie - Sheep on Set Activity Book: mixture of colour and black and white activities relating to Shaun’s adventure in the Big City.
* Shaun the Sheep Movie - Shear Madness: large font junior novel/chapter book, illustrated with stills from the movie.
* Shaun the Sheep Movie - Small Sheep, Big City: picture book version of the sheep adventure in the city, plus stickers kids can use to illustrate their own stories.
* Shaun the Sheep Movie - The Great Escape: large font junior novel/chapter book, illustrated with stills from the movie.
* Shaun the Sheep Movie - Timmy in the City: a sturdy board book with stills from the movie and easy-to-read captions means younger kids can join the fun too.
* Shaun the Sheep Movie - The Book of the Film: hilarious chapter book version of the movie for children 8+ with one insert of some movie stills.
* A single ADMIT 2 ticket to the Shaun the Sheep movie, to be used any time the movie is screening in Australian cinemas.

I love the way Walker have provided for so many children’s age ranges and interests with the books celebrating the movie! This would make a fine bundle for home or school. Read on to discover how to enter the giveaway.

Giveaway: Luckily you won’t find giveaways that demand you jump through hoops at The Book Chook! All you need do is send an email to thebookchook (at) gmail (dot) com with Shaun the Sheep in the subject line, and underneath, your name, the Australian address where you wish to receive the package should you win, and the email address you want me to contact you through. A random chicken will choose two prize winners at 5.00am on March 11. (The chickens rise early around here!) Winners will be notified soon after.

Are your kids Shaun the Sheep fans? Shaun certainly has stolen lots of hearts, mine included. You’ll find all sorts of extra fun at the Shaun the Sheep website, with crafts, e-cards, sheets to colour, a game designing activity using Scratch, a Shaun printable mask AND your own printable flock ears! I found instructions for how to draw Shaun, but maybe you need to have some artistic ability? Under games, there are flocks and flocks to choose from. How many sheep will you lose in Home, Sheep Home? Try Bleat Box and be sure to click the other animals etc to get some interesting sounds and rhythms. Discover the apps for sale there too, including Top Knot, which is free. This gives you a chance to see how you’d look if you did decide to join Shaun’s flock, even trim off your fleece. Judging by my result (below), I’ll stick to being a chook!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Children’s iPad App, Superhero Comic Book Maker

App Review, Superhero Comic Book Maker by Susan Stephenson,

Superhero Comic Book Maker - by Duck Duck Moose grabbed my attention because I love to find ways for children to create. I especially enjoy discovering tools that help kids tell a digital story. I’ve previously reviewed the Duck Duck Moose app, Chatterpix Kids.

From the developers:


- 27 background scenes: skyscrapers, space ship, the moon, wild west and more
- 170+ animated stickers with sound effects

- 29 crayons and 29 colored pencils

- Drag and drop multiple scenes to create a comic strip

- Narrate the comic book story using the self-record feature
- Tap the stickers to make their mouths move
- Move the stickers to create your own movie


- 28 coloring pages
- featuring alien monsters, cute, fuzzy monsters, Super Dog, Big Foot,
Captain Banana Man, dinosaurs and ninjas


- Save your comic books to your Photos to share with family and friends!

What I liked:

The most important thing is that kids will love this app! Superheroes (both girls and boys) and monsters are represented with a variety of stickers, and the developers have caused them to make fun noises when tapped. The app worked well, and I loved the variety of templates, patterns and colours for decorating. The self-record feature is a useful idea to encourage kids to express themselves, and tell their own stories. The resulting little movie can be emailed from the camera roll as a .MOV file, and uploaded to Youtube or Vimeo etc.

I found editing the stickers a bit fiddly at times. Kids will need to be patient if there’s some lag. I thought it was a shame from an educational point of view that letters were represented by a mixture of upper and lower case, making it impossible to create words “correctly”. However, that’s the teacher inside me commenting; I bet children never notice! When the developers are producing new versions, I hope it’s possible to introduce the keyboard somehow and perhaps speech bubbles so the app will become even more educational and versatile. Although of course children can save images, and add text with an image editor or another app.

Digital storytelling is an excellent way to engage kids in expressing themselves. They will be thinking creatively and critically as they work out what story they want to tell, and how to record themselves doing it. I would recommend the Superhero Comic Book Maker by Duck Duck Moose to parents who want their kids playing creatively, and to teachers who want to capitalise on children’s fascination with heroes to involve them in learning.

iTunes Australia: $2.99 (at time of writing this review.)
iTunes USA: $1.99 (at time of writing this review.)

I’ll be adding this app to the Creating with Kids and iPad Apps list, and to my list of Tools to Involve Kids in Storytelling.

Check out all my other iPad App Reviews on Pinterest.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Let’s Celebrate World Storytelling Day

Let’s Celebrate World Storytelling Day
by Susan Stephenson,

As I mentioned in A List of Book-related Special Days, World Storytelling Day will soon be here. Celebrated on March 20 each year, World Storytelling Day is a wonderful opportunity to immerse our kids in storytelling activities.

I love what storytelling offers children, and believe it should be a tool in every parent and teacher literacy toolbox. It’s an activity we humans have been fascinated with since we lived in caves, and sat around a fire making up tales about the mastodon that got away. Some kids who’ve been exposed to books and other forms of story might be natural storytellers; others may need some guidance. Here are some storytelling activities you could try on March 20.

* We tend to read books to our kids and that’s absolutely wonderful. But another great idea is to ignore the text and make up a story ourselves about the illustrations in a book. If it’s a story you’ve shared many times, kids may well recite much of it by heart. No problem! There’s no right to wrong way to do this activity. It’s great for exercising our imaginations and creativity.

* Create a story for your kids using characters and scenarios they’re familiar with. You could make up a story about a character called (your name) and one called (your child’s name) who go to visit (a friend or relative’s name). If your child is afraid or nervous about something, a story like this can help him rehearse what will happen.

* Tell a story using props you have at hand. Make up a story about Teddy who puts a saucepan on his head and rides a trike to the park. Or a story about a wooden spoon who decides to invite his kitchen friends to make music together. Kids pick up lots of vocabulary as we use everyday items in stories too.

* Do you remember any nursery rhymes, folk tales or fairy stories? Tell these to your kids in your own words and invite children to join in with actions, facial expressions and noises. Encourage kids to take over the storytelling when they feel comfortable doing so. It doesn't matter if the story wanders off onto another pathway - again, that's where imagination and creativity take charge.

* Lots of storytellers tell true stories, perhaps ones that have been handed down through families or cultures. Seek out such stories to share with your kids.

* Listen to some music and let the music create a story in your heads. Share those stories orally with each other.

* Look closely at a painting or some other form of art. Let that be a prompt for a story.

* Invite your kids to use puppets, props or toys to tell their own stories. Little brothers and sisters make an appreciative audience!

* Some storytellers tell stories accompanied by drawings they do, or with instruments, with balloon sculptures, string or snippets of rhyme and song. Some dress in costume. Have children research storytelling techniques and experiment until they find ones that feel comfortable.

* With an iPad, or another tablet, kids could try using an app like ChatterpixKids, 30 Hands or Shadow Puppet to record themselves telling a story.

* If you have an opportunity for your kids to experience a good storyteller, I hope you’ll take it. We can all learn so much from those who practise this wonderful art form!

* Play a storytelling game where children throw in words every now and then that must be incorporated into the story. This can be done seriously, where a child uses his reader instincts to predict what (for example) might be found in the forest, or inside a cave, and you build a story collaboratively. Or it can be done as a challenge where a child thinks up a totally inapposite word, and throws that element at you to weave as best you can into the tale. Both ways are fun.

* Find more fun storytelling activities to share with your kids in Sixteen+ Sensational Storytelling Ideas, Story Bags as Prompts for Writing and Storytelling, Storytelling with Children, and Create a Storybox.

When I'm telling stories to kids, I use all my skills to communicate with them and pull them into the story. I engage them with my eyes, vary my voice's pace and tone where appropriate, use gestures and movements for effect, ask rhetorical questions and use repetition to enhance my tale. Not only does this make for a more interesting storytelling session, but it also serves as a model children can use in their own communications.

Special Event for Sydney, NSW! On Saturday 21 March World Storytelling Day Australia is being celebrated at the Royal The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney near the Wishing Tree (because the theme this year is Wishes). From 10-1 we will be sharing all styles of storytelling for all ages. Come along to expand your storytelling skills and confidence as well as to enjoy some of the best Storytellers in the land. Free.

If you've enjoyed this post, 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. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Children’s Book Review, Sally Snicker’s Knickers

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Children's Book Review

Sally Snicker’s Knickers is a children’s picture book written by Lynn Ward, illustrated by Anthea Stead, and published by Walker Books Australia, 2014.  I’ve previously reviewed Ward’s The Big Beet.

From the publisher:

There's something very special about little Sally Snickers, for Sally never wears a hat, she'd rather wear her knickers!

Perfectly pitched at early primary.

Introduces concepts of going to school, friendship, being different and belonging in an engaging way.

Fun rhyming text.

Sally doesn’t just love undies, jocks and knickers, she actually wears her knickers on her head to school. And that’s where the problem begins. Her teacher is not happy with her headgear, and tells her she can’t play unless she wears a hat.

“You can’t wear undies on your head,
even if they’re frilly.
I don’t think they are funny:
in fact they’re very silly.”

Sally loves being different, and is downhearted - until she arrives at school next day to see all the kids wearing undies on their head in support.

Kids will love the vibrantly colourful illustrations. Stead really has contributed to the exuberance and fun with gorgeously detailed and different knickers, as well as unusual perspectives. My favourite double-page spread is the final one of the bespectacled and blue-permed teacher wearing a lacy thong on her head - while the knicker-hatted kids peer all a-giggle through the doorway!

This is a light-hearted romp that kids will enjoy. I would suggest it makes a fine resource for Sun Safety - because kids will of course understand this IS a joke, and that wearing a hat in the sun rather than knickers makes plain good sense. I picture classes having fun with a Sally Snicker Knicker Day, and teachers joining in too - another glorious way to celebrate the fun that picture books can bring!

I’ll be adding Sally Snicker’s Knickers to A List of Children’s Picture Books with Strong Rhyme and Rhythm.

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

A List of Book-Related Special Days for Kids

A List of Book-Related Special Days for Kids
by Susan Stephenson,

I know my Teacher Librarian friends look for one list of special days worthy of celebration in the library, or indeed across the school. I know many parents who love to celebrate book-related days as a way of constantly keeping the family focus on books. I know teachers, desperate to encourage kids to love reading, who use special days as a way to sneak some book-related fun into a timetable overly dominated by testing.

So here’s my gift to you all! I’ve been compiling a list of days/weeks/months where the emphasis is on literacy and reading. (Of course I love the fun special days too, like Talk Like a Pirate Day or Cow Appreciation Day, and the important ones like Harmony Day - I hope to publish those two lists soon.) To qualify for this list though, the special day needs to be book-related.

This is an international list, meaning I’ve included special days celebrated world-wide like International Literacy Day, as well as country-specific days. After all, even though I’m Australian, I’ve borrowed many special days that originated in the US. If it’s book-related, it’s in. I’ve included a couple of author birthdays for variety,  put them all into calendar order, and added dates where possible.

Please tell me if you know any other important book-related days that fit my criteria. Because this is a dynamic Listly list, and I will be updating it when I can, if you bookmark this page, you’ll always find it here. Don't forget to find all the items on the list by using the left and right arrows bottom right.

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