Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Children’s Book Review, Found



Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


Found is a children’s picture book, written and illustrated by Salina Yoon and published by Bloomsbury (2014). I have previously reviewed Yoon’s Penguin and Pinecone.

From the publisher:

When Bear finds a lost stuffed toy bunny in the forest, he begins to worry. After all, the stuffed bunny must feel lonely and want to return safely to its owner and home! But as Bear diligently searches for the bunny's owner, posting notices high and low, he begins to grow attached to his newfound friend. What will happen when the bunny's owner finally comes forward? Was Bear meant to find Bunny all along? Prolific author/illustrator Salina Yoon's spare text and bright, energetic illustrations bring to life this endearing story celebrating love and friendship in many forms, reminding us that nothing is lost that is not meant to be found.

Our youngest readers deserve the very best books, the ones that speak to their hearts. Many children will know what it is to find something precious,  but have to give it back to its rightful owner. Others will remember the terrible pang of losing something or someone they loved. When Bear finds a toy bunny, he thinks it’s the most special thing ever. Because the lost bunny seems sad, Bear puts up posters and searches to try to locate its owner. Meanwhile, Bear and the lost bunny do lots of fun things together. Until Moose arrives to claim his bunny… A joyous ending sees Moose deciding to pass Floppy on to someone special - Bear.

Yoon’s bright and colourful illustrations are perfect for the targeted age group - five and under. However I think Found contains many points worth discussing with older kids, and hope you’ll share it with them too! The endpapers are an added feature for delight and discussion. Here kids will find the lost notices from the story and try to work out possible owners - from LOST: clown nose and LOST: hair to the more enigmatic LOST: my marbles! Help! (A great sign for my wall here.)

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Children’s iPad App, LumiKids Beach


by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


You may remember I’ve previously reviewed the apps: LumiKids Park and LumiKids Backyard. Today’s review is of another app by developer, Lumos Labs Inc: LumiKids Beach, which is available for iOS and Android.

From the developer:

• SHARING & MAKING FRIENDS AT THE BEACH: Return beach gear you find to the character it belongs to, interacting with others based on emotional response and visual matching along the way.
• COLORING UNDERWATER SEA LIFE: Bring an underwater scene to life using fine-motor coordination and planning to color increasingly complex scenes of fish and water creatures.
• BUILDING MAJESTIC SANDCASTLES: Help crabs build a variety of sandcastles using response inhibition to collect sand buckets but avoid water balloons.
• MATCHING SINGING BEACH TURTLES: Use auditory processing and memory to experiment with and identify relative differences in pitch made by singing turtles.

What I like: The emphasis on the LumiKids apps being a digital space for pre-school kids to play and explore concepts very much appeals to me. I love the way children can slide and tap through the virtual beach world, pausing to interact intuitively with cute little creatures. I also like the way the app focuses on fun and enjoyment, with lively animations and very cute art work. How could any child not engage with a singing pirate turtle?

Where to find it?


Check out my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page. I’ll be adding this app to my List of iPad Puzzle Apps for Kids.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Reviews, Five Fabulous Picture Books for Australia: Story Country


by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com




As I said in Children’s Book Week 2016 - Resources:

I think it's important not to get too fixed on what makes a book suit this 2016 Children's Book Week theme. Australia IS a Story Country. Our stories come from all over: from our own indigenous people, from migrants and refugees who have come to live here, from books, movies and orally transmitted stories. Let's encourage Australia's children to immerse themselves in a range of stories, to read them, listen to them, watch them, think about them, and go on to share them with others!

So, besides all the wonderful short-listed and notable books selected by the CBCA, there are stacks of other books that would suit the theme: Australia: Story Country. For instance, here are five children’s picture books I read recently that would also be outstanding. Some have already been chosen in the CBCA Notables.

Perfect by Danny Parker and Freya Blackwood , published by Little Hare, an imprint of Hardie Grant Egmont (2015). Perfect has been chosen in two categories in the CBCA’s Notables for 2016. I think it makes lots of sense to include it in your 2016 Children’s Book Week resources because it is so evocative of a life many many children in Australia know well. And it's just beautiful.

Here’s an excerpt from my review:

Perfect really is. It leaves you with a warm glow in your heart, and words and pictures dancing through your mind. The combination of Blackwood’s mellow, golden and light-filled illustrations and Parker’s lyrical but simple, rhyming and evocative text makes this one of those special picture books which will become a classic. The two creators help us all rejoice in long lazy summer days and evenings; days filled with kite-flying and sandcastle-building; night-times of cuddles and dreams. I loved it, and hope you’ll grab and share it with a young reader you love. SOON!

Crabbing with Dad by Paul Seden and published by Magabala Books (2016).

From the publisher:

Crabbing with Dad is a beautiful children’s picture book debut from Darwin-based author and illustrator, Paul Seden. Aimed at a younger audience, children will love reading about the adventures of two small children as they go out in the boat with Dad to set crab pots in their secret spot.

Sunscreen and life jackets on, they zoom off into the creek, passing other boats and people fishing along the way. It’s a good tide to be on the water and they even come across Cousin Dan throwing his net as far as he can. Crab pots set, they all wait patiently and play games as they guess what fish could be swimming under their boat. When it’s finally time to check the crab pots, the adventure begins as they pull up a big, angry crab! Dad teaches the children how to handle the crabs very carefully so they don’t get nipped!

Lots of kids will grin as soon as they hear the title of this children’s picture book. Crabbing or fishing with Dad or Grandpa or Mum or Grandma is never dull. (It may well be uncomfortable and scary in my experience, though!) Seden’s illustrations zing with action, colour and fun and his story is simple but evocative of the Australian coastal life, and of kids who love to spend time with Dad.

Here is another book kids can relate to for Australia: Story Country. What adventures have they had like the kids in the book? What do they like to do with their dads? What connections to their own lives can they make? Can they explain to someone else (the procedure of) how to go crabbing now?

Rockhopping is on the CBCA’s Notables list for 2016. Written and illustrated by Trace Balla, it was published by Allen and Unwin, (2016). RRP: $Au24.99 (You might remember Trace Balla’s Rivertime was shortlisted for Picture Book of the Year in 2015, and Rockhopping follows on from it.)

From the publisher:

The story of an eventful hike in Gariwerd (the Grampians), from the creator of the multi-award-winning Rivertime.

Join Clancy and Uncle Egg on a rambling, rockhopping adventure in Gariwerd (the Grampians), to find the source of the Glenelg River. A story about following your flow, and the unexpected places you may go.

This is a wonderful book for children 7+ . Of course, any age child can get lots from a picture book but this particular picture book is intriguing for independent readers. It is in a graphic novel or comic style, mostly with lots of panels to a page but with some larger and/or very detailed panels. The drawings are lovely, softly coloured cartoon-style pencil sketches I think, and occasional panels also introduce the fauna and flora encountered. There’s a mud map of Uncle Egg and Clance’s journey and so much detail and fascinating stuff for children to pore over. It would work as a read-aloud but I definitely hope to see it being borrowed or bought by kids who love to read independently. The story itself will resonate with any Aussie kids who like to spend time outdoors - another opportunity for them to go on and share their own adventures in the bush. I loved this book and highly recommend it!

Hattie Helps Out by Jane Godwin and Davina Bell, illustrated by Freya Blackwood, published by Allen and Unwin (2016).

From the publisher:

It's a busy day at Hattie's house. There's a lot to do before Dad's birthday party.

Hattie is being very helpful, until it's time for her afternoon nap.

Hattie's not even sleepy! But Mama looks tired. Very tired...

A delightfully funny story about a little girl with big ideas, from a winning combination of creators.

This is one of my new favourite children’s picture books. It’s as beautiful to look at as it is to read aloud to kids. Why would I choose it for Children’s Book Week 2016? Two words: why not? Is the story obviously set in Australia? No, but it might be. Can kids recognise elements from their own homes and lives? I'll bet they will. Do they have any stories to share about things they did when they were “little”? Yes!

Hattie is a newish big sister, bursting for the baby to grow up and be a playmate, scorning sleeps in the daytime, eager to be a big girl and help. The humour comes of course from Hattie’s interpretations of helping, and the fun of reading between those lines of dialogue. The ending is very satisfying, with just a tiny twist to tie the story nicely together.

This makes a great choice if you need a picture book parents can enjoy too during Children’s Book Week, and I’m sure they’d listen keenly to oral stories about what their kids did when they were “little”!

Nannie Loves was written and illustrated by Kylie Dunstan and published by Working Title Press (2016). $Au24.99

I don’t want our very youngest to miss out on Children’s Book Week, and here’s a sweet and endearing children’s picture book they will relate to immediately. It’s a story about Nannie - well not so much a narrative type story as an interaction between text and illustration of what Nannie loves. Things like Grandpa, Sunday lunch with her family gathered around her, her dog, her chooks, even her sheep when they dare to graze in the vege patch. The large colourful collaged illustrations bring the characters and setting to life, and children’s own imaginations will supply all the baa-ing, clucking, smells of Sunday roast and hugging necessary for a beloved Grandma living in Australia: Story Country.

In Focus on Storytelling, I asked:

Is a story always fiction? Can a story be written in a book? People talk about “stories” and mean things as diverse as a televised oral description of a factual event, a written account of a series of life events, a fairy tale told orally, something with a beginning, a middle and an end as text, a ballad, a tapestry or a series of photographs.
Lots of what children want to tell us is not a story in the traditional narrative sense, yet it means so much to them to share a fragment about their lives. I really like the fact that Nannie Loves reminds us that everyone’s story, in whatever form, has the potential to entertain us, remind us of what we love, and even change the way we look at the world.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar. Check out other Children's Book Week 2016 resources in Educational Activities and Focus on Storytelling.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

April to June 2016 iPad App Reviews


The app review list is quite short for this quarter of the year. Check out all my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more quarterly app and article round-ups via my Listly page.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Looking Back to April, May, June 2015


by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


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 popular posts at The Book Chook from April, May and June of 2015. 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.

I hope you’ll find something here 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.

Let’s Celebrate World Penguin Day 2015 - get ready for April, next year.

Resources for National Simultaneous Storytime 2015 - lots of activities based around the picture book, The Brothers Quibble.

Children’s Book Week 2015 - Challenges for Kids - lots of ideas for extending the literature experience, whether it’s Book Week or any week.

Activities for Children’s Book Week 2015 - as above!

In case you missed one, here's a list of the more recent Free PDFs I’ve made for librarians, teachers and parents to use with kids.

Let’s Celebrate Mother Goose Day - officially May 1, any day would be fine for these learning activities!

A List of Digital Storytelling Tools - tools, reviews and articles.

Creating Images with Students - detailed step-by-step explanation of how I make an image out of nothing, using an image editor.

Creative Prompt for Kids - Superhero Yourself - Kids adore superheroes so maybe they would love to explore these fun activities linked with them.

Guest School Visits During Children’s Book Week - great way to involve children with books.

Let’s Hear It for Picture Books! Do you love picture books as much as I do?

Looking Back to April, May, June 2014 - delve even further into the archives!
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