Friday, May 22, 2015

A List of Free PDFs for Teachers, Parents and Librarians

Written by Susan Stephenson,

Every so often I create a PDF that I hope supports parents interested in children’s education and my fellow-educators like teachers and librarians. I offer these PDFs for free as my way of giving back to the community that shares my passions. They are stored at my website, and are free to download if you are a parent, teacher or librarian who wants to use them with kids.

In order to have a record of each PDF at The Book Chook too, I’ve added them to a Listly List. This List will be updated over time, so go ahead and bookmark /share this page if you think it’s useful to you or others with an interest in helping kids to learn.

If you find something in the list below that interests you, simply click on that thumbnail. You’ll go to my article that tells you a little about the PDF, then click the link if you decide you want to go ahead and download. That will take you to the PDFs page where you can right click any PDF that interests you and save it to your destination drive.

I appreciate your support by sharing this list, or any individual PDF, via social media.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Reviews: A Monstrous Mouthful of Children's Picture Books

 Children's Book Reviews by Susan Stephenson,

What is it attracts children to books and videos about monsters? Is it the fact that illustrators go wild with the gross factor and kids love gross? Is it that there’s a little hint of actual remembered fear shadowing, even enhancing children’s delight? Whatever the reason, we know for sure that children love to share, shudder over, and read books about monsters. Here are six children’s picture books with a monsterish theme, each one potentially ready to intrigue or comfort a child near you!

Monster Chef by Nick Bland, was published by Scholastic Press, 2014. RRP: $Au 24.99. Bland gives us the tale of Marcel the monster who, try though he might, just wasn’t scary. Luckily, he loves to cook, and soon discovers it’s his culinary creations that terrify kids. And so, Monster Chef is born and he opens a restaurant called Monster’s Delight, where the absolute pièce to resist is boiled brussels sprouts! The energetic rhyme and rhythm of the story, together with the colourful and expressive illustrations, make this a fine addition to your picture book collection.

Have You Seen My Monster is a children’s picture book by Steve Light, published by Walker Books, 2015. RRP: $Au24.95. If I were to explain to you that this picture book helps children gain a concept of many different geometric shapes, would your eyes glaze over as you suspect one of those ghastly stories that preach to kids? Rest assured! Shape recognition is more of a visual game in this book, as well as an opportunity to contrast colour with black and white line drawings. It’s almost incidental to the story which actually doesn’t have a lot of text but relies on questions to pull kids into a narrative about looking for a pet monster at the Fair. The monster himself is very cute. Kids will not only giggle over his antics, but relish finding him in each spread. I loved Light’s artwork, particularly the detail and humour in it, and I am so-o-o-o- looking forward to sharing this with my preschool kids at Storytime.

Ten Monsters in the Bed by Katie Cotton and Aaron Blecha, was published by Koala Books, 2014. RRP: $Au 14.99. The monsters are cute, but their activities certainly plumb that gross factor I mentioned above. Kids will snigger over all the burps, belches and farts and no doubt enjoy the mould, dribble and snot. The ten monsters finally end up on the floor, and there’s counting practice and many visual details to exclaim over. I know children who will dive on this book and beg for it again and again.

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett, was published by Koala Books, 2014. RRP: $Au14.99. Orion’s story isn’t strictly speaking about monsters. Like many other intelligent and sensitive kids, Orion IS afraid of monsters, and lots of other things in this very scary world we call home. But his greatest fear is the Dark. Until he meets Dark, a friendly, blobbish non-monster, and they explore Orion’s fears. Yarlett has created a gorgeous visual feast, including two pop-outs, with lots of humour and detail for kids to explore. See sample pages at her website.

Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort, published by Simon and Schuster. RRP: $Au 14.99.  This vibrantly colourful children’s picture book hooks kids from two perspectives: both monsters AND underpants. Giggle heaven! The story is a simple one, written in strong rhyme and rhythm to help young readers memorise. We read about all the different monsters and their knicker-nicking, and see them at a dance party.

Monster by Michael Rosen and Neal Layton, published by Bloomsbury, 2015. RRP:$14.99. In this exuberant children’s picture book, Rosen, ably abetted by Layton, shows us a dog’s perspective on Life. When his small human, Rover, goes off to school for the first time, the dog decides she has not only been abandoned there but is trapped by a monster - the teacher. There are laughs galore for parents as well as kids in Monster, and I predict both will love the quirky and energetic illustrations.

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

Monday, May 18, 2015

Children’s iPad App, Monki Animal Builder

Children’s iPad App, Monki Animal Builder
Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Here’s a new digital toy called Monki Animal Builder that I think will suit kids under 7. It encourages them to imagine and build cute and quirky creatures.

From the developer:

- Kids friendly (4+ years).
- 6 different characters with their own personality.
- Over 30 body parts to build up your very own animal.
- 60+ animations that brings everything to life.
- More than 15 accessories: sunglasses, pirate hats, diving glasses and more.
- 90+ audio tracks with educational vocabulary and sentences.
- Online features to store and share animals (parental lock).
- No third-party advertising.
- No in-app purchases.

What I liked:

I have a fondness for digital toys where kids get to create something. The “product” in this case isn’t a story or a digital tale but an image of a cute creature. Children are engaged in making decisions about the creative process - Will I add this bow, or these sunglasses or both? The bright colours and patterns will appeal to young kids, and they can save their favourites to the Camera Roll. The creativity can be further extended if these “animals” become characters for children’s stories. I can also see children having such fun trying to invent names for their creatures - like my Fleeglefly and Honkimun in the image above!

I’ll be adding this post to my list, Creating with Children and iPad Apps.

Check out my other iPad App Reviews on Pinterest.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Let’s Celebrate Mother Goose Day

Let's Celebrate Mother Goose Day
by Susan Stephenson,

Why should we celebrate Mother Goose Day? For me, Mother Goose is synonymous with nursery rhymes, and they are some of the earliest texts we read, sing and chant with kids. That means they’re a powerful tool in the parenting box of tricks. Our little ones are exposed to all the wonders of language in a playful way with Mother Goose and other simple rhymes: to the rhythms of poetic language, to rhyming words, to very simple story sequences, to sound patterns, and, frankly, to some wild and wacky situations that provide fuel for young imaginations!

With repeated readings of nursery rhymes, our kids begin to memorise them, and that helps them tie print to memorised words as they move towards real reading. Many of the rhymes common to children in English-speaking countries have been set to music, and this has a big benefit for memorisation and ear training. Above all, Mother Goose and other rhymes are fun, a way for our children to entertain themselves and enjoy rhymes that have been handed down through the generations.

But Mother Goose rhymes are not just rich sources of learning for young children. Older kids can benefit from studies with such a focus too. Imagine the learning involved in researching rhymes across different cultures! Because many children have grown up with a common core of rhymes, they make excellent fodder for drama games and improvisations. Students can innovate on nursery rhymes to create new ones. And nursery rhymes make a great way to look at history and the way people lived in the past.

Mother Goose Day is traditionally celebrated on May 1, but like all Book-related Special Days, any day is a fine time to celebrate and share the fun!

Your local library is sure to have Mother Goose or Nursery Rhyme resources. Here are some collections of nursery rhymes online:

* The Real Mother Goose on Project Gutenberg (it includes lovely old illustrations.)
* Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes on Prjoect Gutenberg.
* This is the Mother Goose version illustrated by Kate Greenaway.
* Here is Denslow’s Mother Goose.

All of the above are free of copyright, so primary/elementary aged kids could use the illustrations and text to create their own new works.

How many original Mother Goose rhymes do we and our kids know? There are many more on the original books than I’d ever heard of, so I hope you’ll take a look, recite and discuss them with your kids. It’s fascinating to explore meanings or just wonder what people were thinking!

This one’s rather sad somehow, and yet it’s logical too:

Here am I, little jumping Joan,
When nobody’s with me,

I’m always alone.

Here’s one for your kids from The Real Mother Goose that’s guaranteed to get them laughing. Tell the kids it’s their job to say the second, fourth, sixth lines and so on, while you say the first, third etc. If they don’t understand immediately, have them repeat the last line LOUDLY!


"I am a gold lock."

"I am a gold key."
"I am a silver lock."
"I am a silver key."
"I am a brass lock."
"I am a brass key."
"I am a lead lock."
"I am a lead key."
"I am a don lock."
"I am a don key!"

Looking at the illustrations for the different Mother Goose rhyme versions is interesting.  I love the vintage style, and I think some kids will really respond too. What insight does it give children into clothing, pastimes, occupations and toys of those days?

More Mother Goose Resources

If you have an iPad, check out my review of the app, Felt Board - Mother Goose on the Loose. 

There are lots of resources at including crafts and pages to colour, lovely antique clip art to download for free, and videos.

The BBC has excellent little videos with lots of rhymes put to music and animation.

At Hubbard’s Cupboard, you’ll find printables for hands-on activities, designed for a Family Math and Literacy Night.

Mama Lisa's World is a great resource for all sorts of rhymes and songs from all over the world.

Bookstore UK has some nice downloadable rhyme time sheets.

Twinkl has excellent nursery rhyme resources.

Enchanted Learning has Nursery Rhymes Rebus Rhymes.

At PreKinders, you’ll find some great printables - black and white nursery rhyme posters and colour matching cards.

Check out my review of the Mother Goose felt board app, Mother Goose On the Loose.

Red Ted Art has lots of crafts for nursery and other rhymes.

If you're interested in using chants and rhymes with kids, you might like to read Let's Celebrate Pop Goes the Weasel Day and Let's Use Chants and Rhymes with Kids. Or download a free printable copy of my PDF, Literacy in the Playground. You 'll find other special bookish days for celebrating in A List of Book-related Special Days.

Images : Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe and Banbury Cross from Graphics Fairy. Humpty and Jumping Joan from Project Gutenberg. Clip art from

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Children’s Book Review, Eliot, Midnight Superhero

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Children's Book Review

Eliot, Midnight Superhero is a children’s picture book, written by Anne Cottringer, illustrated by Alex T. Smith and published by Scholastic UK, 2014. RRP: $Au 15.99. (I notice the same book may also be called Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero.)

From the publisher:

By day, Eliot is a quiet boy who likes to read and play with his toys. But when the clock strikes midnight, Eliot is transformed into a hero!

When he's not showing off his super swimming skills or wowing the crowds with his expert-lion taming, you can find him assisting the Queen. But one day Eliot receives an urgent message from the world's Most Important Scientists: a giant meteor is hurtling towards Earth and there's nothing they can do to stop it.

Will Eliot be able to rise to the challenge and save the world from destruction in the nick of time?

Any book with a superhero is irresistible to most kids. I love that curly-haired, bespectacled Eliot needs to be a quiet child by day because he’s exhausted from saving people at night. Cottringer understands both what powers children’s imaginations and what makes them laugh, and that’s evident in Eliot’s missions, and the way he just happens to have any needed skill for saving the day. (The plot almost follows the format of the drama activity I used to play: luckily…unluckily… a language game that would make an excellent follow-up to the story.) I also like the way kids are exposed to interesting vocabulary in the book: words like rampaging, sleuth and supersonic make an appearance but won’t slow comprehension or deter children’s enjoyment of the story.

This children’s picture book is truly visually exciting: a dynamic cover, perfect for luring young readers to want more; endpapers, where we see blueprints for inventions and a business card: “You were saved today by Eliot. Have a nice day!”; quirky and varied interior illustrations that are action-packed and dramatic. Kids will love the detail and pore over pages looking for giggles like arrows pointing out the obvious, lions with mesmerised eyeballs, goldfish fuelled by cupcakes and a handwritten note from the Queen, stating “One’s jewels have been nicked!”

Your children and students will love Eliot, Midnight Superhero! It makes an excellent read-aloud, but will also be grabbed by youngsters who enjoy action, humour and visual fun.

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

If you’re interested in superheroes, you might like to read Learning Activities for Young Superheroes, and Letter to the Book Chook - Super Hero Help.
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