Wednesday, November 21, 2018

New Children’s Picture Books with a Christmas Theme

Children's Book Reviews by Susan Stephenson,

With Christmas just around the corner, parents and teachers are on the lookout for children’s picture books that are Christmas-related. Here is a range of brand new books, all set to delight and entertain.

Macca’s Christmas Crackers is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Matt Cosgrove and published by Koala Books (Scholastic) (2018.) RRP: $Au 17.99 HB.

From the publisher:

Christmas is here! Christmas is Macca's favourite time of year. He loves thinking up amazing presents for his friends. But when he looks in his piggy bank, he finds he has no money! Macca and his best friend Al have to come up with a plan to make the best Christmas surprise for all their friends, and in doing so, discover the true spirit of giving.

We met Macca the Alpaca in Alpacas with Maracas and we discovered it is the National Simultaneous Storytime book for 2019. Here is Macca in a different adventure, but again one that will get kids giggling. There’s a nice message about friendship, and how giving doesn’t need to be costly. All this is woven together with brightly coloured Christmas goodies and quirky characters, making Macca’s Christmas Crackers a great choice for a read-aloud.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a children’s picture book written by Johnny Marks, illustrated by Louis Shea and published by Scholastic Australia (2018.) RRP: $Au 19.99 HB.

From the publisher:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,
Had a very shiny nose,
And if you ever saw it,
You would even say it glows.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer feels different with his bright, shiny nose. But when Santa can’t fly his sleigh through the fog, can Rudolph and his shiny nose save Christmas?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was composed by Johnny Marks in 1949 and became an instant hit. The song has been an enduring Christmas favourite ever since.

Here's a bright, bouncy rendition of a song so many kids will associate with Christmas. The illustrations will help little ones work out where they are in the singing, and are sure to attract all young readers with their quirkiness and fun. The book is accompanied by a CD of the Rudolph song as both an instrumental version and one sung by Penny McNamee.

I love finding book and song tie-ins. Kids will already know a lot of the Rudolph song and will adore “reading” the story from their memory. Each time they listen to the song and look at the text, a few more links are made in their reading brains! A great one to recommend to teachers who want to introduce the song to a class.

Excuse Me, Santa! is a children’s picture book written by Dave Hughes and Holly Ife, illustrated by Philip Bunting, and published by Scholastic (2018.) RRP: $Au17.99 HB.

From the publisher:

Martha May has marvellous manners, especially at CHRISTMAS. She writes very neat cards and gives very thoughtful gifts... and she NEVER forgets to leave yummy snacks for SANTA CLAUS and his reindeer! But what will happen when Martha May gives SANTA a GIANT PUDDING?! Find out in the EXPLOSIVE Christmas tale by Dave Hughes, Holly Ife and Philip Bunting!

This is a great new contender for your Christmas resources! Building on the success of Excuse Me!, Hughes, Ife and Bunting have returned to tell us more about the well-mannered Martha May. This time she meets Santa. Unfortunately Santa suffers with an enormous windy problem when Martha May plies him with pudding. Kids will of course love the spectacular fart and likewise the double paged spread depicting it, complete with real sparkles!

Perfect for junior grades with a sense of humour, and may just give kids a new perspective on Santa.

Dear Santa is a children’s picture book written by Elise Hartley, illustrated by Shannon Horsfall and published by Scholastic Australia (2018.) RRP: $Au 17.99 HB.

From the publisher:

A naughty puppy, a stinky skunk, a nervous turkey and lots of other funny animals have written to Santa... and you won’t believe what they’re asking for this Christmas! Can Santa find the perfect present for everyone? Open the letters inside and find out!

My students always loved The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters as much as I did. How exciting to open envelopes right inside the book and peek at the tiny letters within. Hartley understands how motivating this can be for kids and has created her own take on the idea. Horsfall’s illustrations complement the letters perfectly and there’s even an email for Santa!

There are a range of characters with reason to contact Santa. Not so much a story as a collection of letters, it’s another interesting and very funny way of sharing the Christmas spirit, and a perfect model for a letter-writing exercise in class. Probably not suited to the rough and tumble of a library collection, it might be best kept for special supervised occasions. It also makes a cute and very different Christmas gift.

Hopping Around the Christmas Tree is a children’s picture book written by Johnny Marks, illustrated by Benjamin Johnston and published by Scholastic Australia (2018.) RRP: $Au 19.99 HB.

From the publisher:

Hopping around the Christmas tree,
At the Christmas party hop.
Pouches full everywhere you see—
All the joeys dance and bop!

Flapping around the Christmas tree,
Let the Christmas bells sway.
Later we’ll have some worm mince pie
And we’ll look for Santa’s sleigh!

All the Aussie animals are coming for the big Christmas shindig. They’re bringing decorations for the tree and yummy food to share. Sing along to this all-new Australian version of the classic song, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree with the BONUS SONG performed by Colin Buchanan!

Here’s another picture book which is actually song lyrics. Kids may already know Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree song, but this version is complete with Aussie animal characters and tweaked text. The illustrations will appeal to kids - they are cheerful and cartoonish in style. It is accompanied by a CD of Hopping Around the Christmas Tree sung by Colin Buchanan as well as an instrumental version. Perfect for class sing-alongs and general Christmas spirit.

If you want some more book gift ideas for Christmas, I have you covered. See The Book Chook on December 5 for a festive bibliofiesta!

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

Writing Tips for Kids 4 - Writing Funny Stories

by Susan Stephenson,

This is the fourth in my new series of writing tips for kids. Over coming weeks you’ll see new short articles, each of them addressing young writers and dealing with a topic helpful to them. I’ve created a new List for these articles and will add to it over time. The List is embedded below.

How to Write Funny Stories

What IS funny?

Surprises make us laugh. A surprise can come in a plot idea - perhaps Mayor Fuddle is showing off his new robes when he splashes face-down into a puddle. A surprise might come in a character's name, or because he is not what we expect—e.g. a robot dog called K9, who is very grumpy and bosses everyone about!

Funny words make us laugh. Jot some down in your writer's notebook. Three words I like are: rhubarb, razzamatazz, and galumph. In The BFG, Roald Dahl invented great words like whizpop and snozzcumber. What words can you create to make others smile?

Sometimes a combination of words is funny. Have you thought of writing a story about a pickle of doom, a singing sausage, or a mad meatball? Look for double meanings to make us laugh. (Your story might have a duck asking the waiter to put something on its bill.)

Sounds can be funny. Writers, especially poets, love to use alliteration (when words start with the same letters). They might choose character names like Prunella P. Pirate. And don’t forget onomatopoeia (when a word represents a sound). You could add clangs, gongs and splatters to your story to make us smile.

Understatement is funny. When his science experiment has blown off the school's roof and sent the principal into orbit, your schoolboy character might say, "Perhaps I used a little too much baking soda."

Comedy writers often use the rule of threes. They set up a pattern with two things, then break the pattern with a third, giving us a surprise. Maybe you’ve seen that in a three-frame comic strip? For example, a superhero character leaves a message on his answering machine: "I'm sorry I can’t take your call just now. I'm either defeating evil villains, saving the planet, or taking a nap."

Study writers you think are funny. Don't forget poets and TV scriptwriters. Think about what makes you laugh. How does the writer do that? Stay alert to humour, record it in your writer's notebook and work out why it’s funny. As the Cat in the Hat said, “It’s fun to have fun but you have to know how.”

You might also like to read Writing Tips for Kids - How to Start, Writing Tips for Kids 2 - Write What You Know and Writing Tips for Kids 3 - Developing Characters.

Clipart Credit: Phillip Martin

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Children’s Picture Books about Cats

by Susan Stephenson,

Most kids really enjoy picture books about animals. Last week I suggested some excellent children's picture books about dogs. I’ve also started a list of children's picture books about cats I can recommend, and am sharing it with you today. It is embedded below.

If you’d like to check out all my picture book collections, see this list of lists.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Children’s iPad App, Caterpillar Creative Play

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Caterpillar Creative Play is an app available in iOS and Android. The developer is StoryToys which have a range of book and story-related apps.

From the developers:

• Over 40 unique textures and papers based on Eric Carle’s beautiful hand-painted collage illustrations
• A range of templates from Eric Carle’s best-selling books - The Very Hungry Caterpillar™, Brown Bear, The Mixed Up Chameleon, Mister Seahorse, The Very Quiet Cricket and many more
• Blank canvases - let your imagination run wild!
• Experiment with layering: group or ungroup objects or rearrange layers with simple touch gestures
• Save and view your masterpieces in your very own gallery
• Seasonal surprises throughout the year
• Featuring full support for Force Touch on relevant devices
• Compatible with the Apple Pencil on iPad Pro

What I liked:

I really liked the way the app is faithful to The Hungry Caterpillar books’ illustrations. There are colourful digital prints to choose from, and kids can fill sections of a range of templates with each one if they want. They could also fill with plain colour via a digital paintbrush or pencil. There’s even more room for creativity if children ignore the templates and just choose a print and “cut out” any shapes by drawing with a finger. I had lots of fun doing this and it’s satisfying to play with the colours and patterns.

There’s an educational side too. Kids will practise their hand-eye co-ordination by tracing the dotted lines of the templates. Older kids could use a stylus for even more accuracy of tracing. But most of all I loved how creative this app is. It would go perfectly with any Eric Carle read-aloud or be a great choice for Very Hungry Caterpillar Day. It’s one of those apps that will suit a range of ages, and grow with children.

It can be used to a limited extent by any child old enough to draw and close a shape with a finger. This is so kids can fill that "closed" shape with a patterned print via the scissors icon. I read some reviews complaining that the tracing was too hard for some kids, but to me, this is where parents should be playing too, and make it free play rather than urging kids to “get it right”. Have fun together and enjoy playing with digital art!

Where to get it?

Check out all of 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 apps that kids can create with. Below is a video to show you more:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Children’s Picture Books about Dogs

by Susan Stephenson,

Have you ever noticed how kids love animals? Capitalise on that feeling and help children connect to books about animals. Here is a list I have begun on children’s picture books about dogs that I would recommend. It is embedded below.

I also have a list of children's picture books about cats. If you’d like to check out all my picture book collections, see this list of lists.

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