Bad Nana

If having a child changes your life, having a grandchild changes your parents. Even the most stern, firm parents suddenly seem to find their softer side and turn into the most terrible spoilers (junk food, toys, you  name it…) However, there is no denying the bond is a special one, and I for one and forever grateful that my girls have wonderful grandparents in their lives that they adore. No surprise then that the subject of today’s chapter book is the ultimate grandparent, Bad Nana.

Firstly, Sophy Henn’s debut chapter book, is without doubt the most colourful chapter book I have ever seen. Its luminous pink and green colour way is extended from the front cover, throughout the book and instantly draws you in. As my daughter (age 5) is only just exploring chapter books, the illustrations are very important to helping her engage and she was delighted not only with the pictures in their own right but that she recognised the style of one of her favourite author/illustrators (she is a big fan of Edie, Pass it on and the PomPom stories and Baby Bookhabit loves the Ted boardbooks). Sophy Henn’s signature style is unmistakable and it’s lovely to see it in a new format.

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The story itself is told by Jeannie, Bad Nana’s granddaughter, in an almost stream of consciousness style. It’s very informal, almost chatty, which makes it a lot of fun to read. It also has a lot of Jeannie’s observations about the characters which are funny and, as a seasoned teacher, sound very authentic. Some of the subtler parts were sometimes missed by my five year old (as I’m sure will be the case for a while yet with most chapter books) but I know the girls in my Year 3 class last year would have loved it and so although it may not be a particularly challenging read for older children they would still get lots of enjoyment from reading it. (It always makes me a bit sad when children stop reading books solely because they are easy to read regardless of the fact that they would enjoy it, but that’s a post for another day…)

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The character of Bad Nana herself is perfect for anyone who likes to get up to a bit of mischief with their grandparents. Bad Nana is funny, glamorous and assertive. She is an unlikely hero, but they are my favourite type. She is excellent at serving a bit of comeuppance to those who need it and takes no nonsense. She carries around a big, shiny black bag which holds everything she needs to sort things out and, like every grandparent I know, is never without a sweet treat (she enjoys sherbet lemons). But most of all what she does is highlight how wonderful it is to have a person who is always on your side, is happy to help you out of sticky situations with a good helping of mischief and can make an ordinary day into something wonderful.

 

As you can probably tell, we loved the book. The colours, illustrations, characters were all so different to what we have read before but it still feels real and familiar. When I see the knowing look, passing between Bad Nana and Jeannie on the front cover I am instantly reminded of the look I sometimes catch between my mum and daughter. And I think in a world of sometimes dubious role models, Bad Nana could be the perfect reminder that the people we look up to can often be much closer to home.

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(Bad Nana and the orginal Bad Grandma!)

 

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BookBairn’s bedtime habit

If you have found your way to my blog you will no doubt follow plenty of fantastic book bloggers and enthusiasts. Today I would like to introduce one of my favourites and my first guest blogger, Kim aka Book Bairn, whose instagram is full of great recommends and LOADS of exciting book parcels! Here she shares what works for her little family at bedtime. Enjoy!

I think most parents will have heard the old adage that perfecting your bedtime routine will help your child sleep well. Well… in our experience your child probably needs to be sleeping well before the consistency of a bedtime routine really means a whole lot. But that is a much longer story!

BookBairn is now two and we have been doing the same bedtime routine for about a year now and most nights she falls asleep well. Having said all that we are expecting a new baby in April and I’m sure her routine will be disrupted and will change to accommodate her little brother too!

Daddy Arrives Home

IMG_6042BookBairn’s Daddy works an hour’s commute from home and usually walks in the door just in time to warm some milk and snuggle with his girl on the sofa in front of one her favourite Cbeebies shows. We usually watch TV or something on the iPad for fifteen minutes or so and then BookBairn tells her Daddy about that day’s highlights (with less and less input from me as she learns to say more herself!).

Toothbrushing and PJs

We used to do bath every night before bed but as BookBairn suffers from eczema we have cut her baths to an afternoon activity a couple of times a week. So instead, Daddy takes her to wash her face, brush her teeth, apply her coconut oil/eczema cream and get into her PJs.

Favourites Shelf

IMG_6041If you pop over to our blog or follow our social media you will see that BookBairn has two long shelves packed with her favourite and current reads. I try to change this regularly because whilst I know reading the same story over and over again is beneficial for her development it can get a bit tiresome for Daddy and I. We always let her choose from the shelf, and choose who is to read the book. More often than not, it’s ‘mummy’s knees’ but sometimes Daddy gets a turn and sometimes now she reads ‘on her own’. We usually read two stories and then have cuddles and night night kisses.

Cuddles and Song

Usually, BookBairn cuddles her favourite toy in her daddy’s arms and he sings her a lullaby of her choice. He then says something along the lines of “Mummy and Daddy love you and we are right next door if you need us. Sweet dreams” and then sings Edelweiss. Daddy then switches on the mobile above the cot which also plays Edelweiss.

Drifting off to sleep…

Usually there is then a little chat between BookBairn and her toy lion, Louis (who goes everywhere with her). And more recently we’ve heard her singing Twinkle Twinkle to him over the baby monitor.

 

And that’s it! We cross our fingers and even now (after she’s slept through the night nearly every night for over a year) I still pray that she will drift off and sleep all night.

To see our current favourite bedtime reads please check out this link: http://bookbairn.blogspot.co.uk/p/favourites-shelf.html

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Thanks Kim! It’s so lovely to hear about how other people enjoy this special time of the day (and then, all being well, breathe a huge sigh of relief and get ready to enjoy some grown up time!) If you have enjoyed this, make sure you pop over to her blog and have a read through some of her other posts, she’s a great blogger and you are sure to find loads of great picture book recommendations (there are some links below to help you find her).

About Kim: Kim lives in Scotland with her daughter, nicknamed BookBairn, husband and much-adored pet rabbit and is expecting baby number two in Spring. She has always enjoyed reading books, a passion inherited from her librarian-mother, and hopes to pass on this love of books to her little BookBairn. A teacher on career-break to spend more time with BookBairn, she is passionate about baby-led reading where little ones have free to reign to choose what they read and make mountains of book mess throughout the house.

http://bookbairn.blogspot.co.uk/

Social media links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BookBairn/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/BookBairn

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bookbairn/

Books about love

With Valentine’s Day just a week away I thought it would be a good time for a post about books which explore different types of love. We all want our children to feel loved but sometimes it is hard to explain exactly what love is. Enter books, which show love in all its many forms. Family love, friendship, the idea of loving yourself and romantic love are all explored in picture books and can help children to understand the idea of love better. Plus, with International Book Giving Day 2017 falling on Valentine’s Day this year, there has never been a better time to find, give, read about and spread a little love…

FAMILY LOVE

‘Guess How Much I Love You’ by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

fullsizerender-21Okay, I know that this is not the most innovative choice but it is a classic for a reason- amongst other things, it gave us the phrase ‘I love you to the moon and back’! The relationship between Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare is very sweet but it’s the way that way they try to quantify how much the love each other which I find really interesting. Sometimes big feelings like love are hard to describe and this book gives children the tools to be able try and do this. The first few times I read it, I wasn’t sure about the almost competitive element of Big Nutbrown Hare always loving a bit more, but when I tried to see it through a child’s eyes the message I got was that a parent’s love is enormous and never ending and that’s a message I’m happy for my child to hear many, many times. A sure fire winner (and also a great shout for a baby shower if you have one coming up).

‘More People to Love Me’ by Mo O’Hara and Ada Grey

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This book explores the fact that all families come in different shapes and sizes. The main character is asked to draw her family tree but because she has so many people in her family- parents, step parents, half brothers and sisters and various assortments of grandparents she becomes upset because they don’t fit nicely into a family tree. With the help of her teacher, she is able to see that she is lucky to have so many people that love her and that she loves in return and eventually she draws herself a whole family forest! It’s a lovely way to look at families which is different to the picture book norm and celebrates family love and relationships in a funny and thoughtful way.

FRIENDSHIP

‘Max and Bird’ by Ed Vere

fullsizerender-20I’m a huge fan of Ed Vere’s books- they are so bold, colourful and exciting and this one is no exception. Max (the cat) agrees to teach Bird to fly and in return Bird says he will let Max eat him. As it turns out, flying is not an easy thing to master and they become great friends, leaving Max with the dilemma of whether to eat Bird or not. Happily, he chooses not to (although he takes quite a while to decide on this!) and his love for his friend overcomes the ‘rule of nature’ that Cats have to eat birds. This is heart-warming without being mushy and is also really funny at the same time but what I like best about it is that it gives a great example of how being friends with someone is sometimes more important than following the rules.

‘Oliver’ by Birgitta Sif
img_7891Oliver is a solitary boy. He enjoys playing by himself and having fun with his own imagination. He doesn’t seem to have any ‘people’ friends but that suits him just fine- he doesn’t even know he needs them. And then one day, a chance accident happens and leads him to meet someone who has been there all along and a beautiful friendship is born. I love the way Birgitta Sif uses the illustrations in the story to do most of the storytelling and the way her characters’ quirky natures are always embraced rather than made an issue of. This book is perfect for showing children that the right friend is out there for them- whether they are looking for one or not. A different take on friendship and one I love.

LOVING YOURSELF

‘I’m Special, I’m Me!’ by Ann Meek and Sarah Massini

fullsizerender-22Milo is upset because everyday the children at school tell him he can’t be what he wants to be at playtime. Not strong enough to be a lion, not tall enough to be a pirate captain, not handsome enough to be a prince. However, Milo’s mum looks at him each day in the mirror and helps him to see all his positives and eventually Milo starts to see them himself. One day, when he is playing, instead of being given a role to play he comes up with his own and it’s so fantastic that everyone joins in with his game. This is a great book for teaching children the power of knowing their own strengths and believing in themselves and can lead to some really interesting conversations about how they see themselves. Just be ready to shower your child in compliments when it’s over- they will almost certainly want to know what you see in them when you’re finished.

‘Odd Dog Out’ by Rob Biddulph

 fullsizerender-19Odd Dog is upset. Where she lives everyone fits a certain mould and she stands out so she decides to find somewhere she will fit in. She travels the world and eventually finds a place where everyone is just like her. But then she spots someone else who really stands out and when she sympathises with him she discovers that he likes being different and he encourages her to stand out from the crowd as well. After his epiphany, she jets off home only to discover that everyone in her hometown has been really missing her and when she looks a little closer lots of them are starting to behave a little bit differently too. This is such a clever book, encouraging children to embrace themselves and not feel tempted to blend in with others but in a really accessible way which even young children will understand. We love it and it is perfect for encouraging children to love and be proud of themselves.

ROMANTIC LOVE (with a twist)

‘Prince Cinders’ by Babette Cole

FullSizeRender(19)Of course, there are many fairy tales available which give children a rosy image of romantic love. However, if you are after something a bit different, this one is worth a read. Prince Cinders is a Cinderella story for modern times, featuring a bumbling Fairy Godmother, big hairy brothers, a Prince who wants to meet a girl but gets turned into gorilla, a missing pair of jeans and just enough of the original story to still be recognisable. I won’t explain too much more than that for fear of spoiling the fun but what I will say is that this is a fairy tale which is equally enjoyed by girls and boys and has  an emphasis on humour rather than the lovey dovey stuff.

Well, that’s a bit of inspiration to get you going. What will you be reading in the run up to Valentine’s Day? And will you be giving a book for International Book Giving Day? I’d love to hear all about it. Happy reading!

 

Spread a little kindness…

After a tumultuous week of world politics that has left a lot of the people I know feeling confused and a bit helpless, it seemed only natural to write a blog post about kindness. As always, I turn to my ever-expanding collection of picture books to find the comfort I am looking for and happily I find it everywhere. I think it is part of my job as a parent and a teacher to make sure that children are not frightened of diversity, that they looks out for people who are having a hard time and, most important of all,  that they spread kindness wherever they go. I know most people reading this will feel the same. So if you are looking for a starting point and some positive role models look no further. Here are my favourite books for modelling kindness.

Pass it on by Sophy Henn

fullsizerender-16This book starts with the notion that not every day will be perfect but with a positive attitude you can find a silver lining. It also gives children the really powerful message that that their behaviour can have a positive effect on others and help them to have a better day. It has a short repeated phrase ‘Pass it on’ giving children something to join in with even on the first time of reading. As with everything she does, Sophy Henn’s illustrations are vibrant and beautiful and by the end of reading it you will be smiling. I have read this with pre-schoolers and with much older children. My class are 7/8 years old and when we launched our acts of kindness this was the book we started with and they loved it. It really is a fantastic way to introduce to children (and adults) to the notion that they can make a positive difference to others.

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

fullsizerender-14Elephant is in a seriously bad mood until he discovers a surprise package at the front door. Inside is a hat. This instantly cheers him up and he decides to take them to his friend, Zebra’s house but when he gets there Zebra is also feeling grumpy. So Elephant shares his hat with his pal to cheer him up and they move on to visit the next friend (also grumpy) and the next and the next, each time cheering up their friends by sharing the many-layered hat with them. By the end of the book everyone is taking part in an informal hat parade, their grumps long forgotten because of the actions of their friends. This book beautifully illustrates that small act of kindness make a huge difference.

The Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton

img_8920This book tells the story of Bear who is feeling unwell. Bear is a pretty dramatic chap and does not cope well with being ill so when his friend Mouse finds out he’s poorly, he decides to pop round and try to help. It is not easy to help Bear. He wants the situation to be treated seriously and does not feel like being cheered up. (It is worth mentioning that Bear thinks he may be dying and there is a conversation about leaving a will in case your child is sensitive to these issues. The tone is quite light hearted and it is clear that neither the mouse or the author thinks he will die and that bear is over-reacting but not every child will respond well those issues). Eventually all mouse’s good intentions wear Bear out and he falls asleep and wakes up feeling much better, but now it’s Mouse’s turn to feel ill. Luckily Bear knows just how to look after his friend and is happy to reciprocate. This is probably best suited to slightly older children as the storyline and language is quite mature in places but it is a really interesting look at the tricky side of friendship and illustrates the importance of looking after each other, even when it’s tough, perfectly.

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

fullsizerender-15I have seen lots of lists lately which give ideas of books which should be staple reads during childhood an in my opinion, this should be on every one. I can still remember the first time I read this story and the way I felt about the completely selfless act Bella performed so that her little brother could be reunited with his favourite toy. One of the things I like best about this story is that it showed that this wasn’t an easy decision- sometimes doing things for others is hard. However, if Bella was ever in any doubt that she had done the right thing her brother’s reaction more than makes up for it. I believe everyone’s book shelf should have a bit of Shirley Hughes’ magic on it and this is a great place to start.

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

fullsizerender-13The Little Gardener is a tiny figure who works all day but he is so small that he feels that, no matter how hard he works, he cannot make a difference to the place where he lives. Eventually, when he is exhausted and almost ready to give up, he makes a wish that he might have a little help. The Little Gardener falls asleep for a month, during which time some children see a flower in his neglected, overgrown garden and decide to start tidying things up. When he wakes there has been a dramatic change and the Little Gardener’s life is changed forever. This message in this book is so strong because children can see things from both sides- that it’s okay to be like the Little Gardener and ask for help and have hope, but also children have the power to help others every day through small acts of kindness even when they don’t know who they are helping. Emily Hughes is one of my favourite author-illustrators and I love everything she does. This was the first book of hers that I read and I still return to it regularly- sure sign of a winner.

 

I hope you have found something here that will help you to share the idea of kindness and positivity with your little readers. As always, I love to hear what you are reading at the moment so if you have any good suggestions, let me know below and happy reading…