• Book Review: Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick and Author Guest Post

  • Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Goodies

  • Featured Post: E.ON’s Winter Watching Challenge

  • Book Review: Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith

Book Review: Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick and Author Guest Post

I was absolutely delighted to receive Owl Bat Bat Owl as it’s a picture book without words and we use these quite heavily in our household. They provide inspiration for stories, allow children to think out loud and I find that it really helps build comprehension from a young age. Whats more, they’re accessible for even the youngest little readers meaning that these sort of books have a value and use from age 1 all the way through to 8 or nine years old.

Owl Bat Bat Owl is  all about difference, or in fact how we are all very similar. It will be an essential book for any nursery or reception class and is a great one to have at home to help talk through those little issues that can crop up when the children are little and cant quite understand that others are different to them. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to ask author Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick for a guest blog for my readers:

The loveliest thing about watching children read my new book, Owl Bat Bat Owl, is hearing how they begin with a few quiet giggles and soon progress to snorts, hoots and guffaws. Laughter is an excellent soundtrack for a wordless book!

 

 

 

The inspiration for the book was a Christmas card my husband made depicting a row of rather smug owls sitting along a narrow branch.

 

 

 

 

 

One day I looked at it and thought, ‘wouldn’t those owls get a shock if some other animal moved in on their branch?’  The idea rolled from there and I quickly realised I was writing about refugees, fear and the journey to friendship and acceptance.

There’s a history of emigration in Ireland – two million people fled starvation during the Great Famine (1845-1850), and afterwards emigration became a cultural norm.  During the nineteen sixties, seventies and eighties the first question for everyone emerging from school and college was, ‘do I stay or do I go?’ As a result of our tendency to wander, huge numbers of people around the globe claim Irish heritage.

Here on the Auld Sod we have always prided ourselves on the welcome we extend to strangers, but when migration reversed in the nineties and more people were coming into Ireland then out, we quickly located the dark outer edges of our ability to extend a decent Céad Mile Fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes). Immigration was, literally, foreign to us. We struggled to adjust and accommodate. Time, proximity and a brief flirtation with boom times helped us get over ourselves, and Ireland is all the better for its new citizens and the diversity they bring.

But now, like the rest of Europe, the UK, Australia and the USA, we are coiling in on ourselves again and working to keep people out at the very time so many are desperately fleeing war, poverty and bleak futures. Given our history, shouldn’t we have more empathy? Isn’t it baffling that countries like Australia and the USA are so protectionist when their populations are mostly descended from immigrants? Isn’t it ironic that countries like France and the UK who once travelled the globe building empires have decided everyone else should stay home and make do? It seems the default human condition is to fear change and protect what you have – wall-building is a European trait.

 

Owl Bat Bat Owl is a gentle book and funny with it, but at its heart it’s about developing empathy. The little owls are motivated by fear and prejudice. Accepting the bat family onto their branch requires compromise and generosity, and at first the owls cannot rise to the occasion.

 

 

Do small children understand what the book is about?

Yes. They don’t use words like prejudice and intolerance to describe it but they understand its essence. They smile and nod knowingly when the babies try to make friends despite parental disapproval.

 

 

They understand that the owls and bats are trying to keep away from each other.‘I think they are practising segregation,’ was the response of one boy viewing the image below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And kids understand that the shared peril of falling off the branch changes everything…

 

 

 

 

… and ultimately brings the families together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes. Through all the snorts and laughter, the kids DO get it!

 

You can find out more about Marie-Louise and her books on her wonderful website: www.marielouisefitzpatrick.com

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Goodies

fantastic-beastsThe children were absolutely thrilled to be invited along to the press screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and have been raving about the movie ever since. The movie features a new character Newt and his suitcase full of fantastic beasts. Its a brilliant story featuring 1920’s New York and a cast of amazing characters and is genuinely a delight for Harry Potter fans. For me, its strength lies in the fact that this is a far more adult film than the original movies, I enjoyed it loads.

To celebrate the movie we were also sent an amazing box of goodies! The children had a bit of  a punch up over them as it was a such a treat and they love the Harry Potter franchise. The box had a brilliant selection of things all of which I thought would make the most amazing Christmas gifts (sometimes as a blogger you just wished you had opened a box in private!).

We particularly liked the Panini Sticker Album, my eldest enjoys collecting stickers and at the moment we are in a bit of a football sticker lull so this filled the gap nicely. Stickers work great as rewards so this is perfect. He also loved the official movie book, as a reluctant reader i’m keen to get him to read anything and this appeals to him so its a win all situation

Fifi grabbed the posters and the colouring book from Scholastic- she’s a big fan of colouring books. Colouring books are so good for children, helping them with hand eye co-ordination, fine motor skills and also providing a peaceful pastime!

I must admit I grabbed the Harry Potter decals for myself. I didn’t even know this sort of thing existed but i’m hoping that my laptop now has extra magic!

If you’re looking for some last minute Christmas gifts for the Harry Potter fan in your life then these are perfect. You’ll easily find all these items on the high street.

If you open them on Christmas day and are really pleased why not tweet the companies:

Pyramid posters: @PyramidShopCom
Panini sticker album: @OfficialPanini
GB Poster: @GBPostersdotcom
Scholastic books: @scholasticuk
Paladone gadget decals: @paladone
Danilo calendar: @CalendarsUK

Featured Post: E.ON’s Winter Watching Challenge

There is nothing we like more in this house than settling down with family and friends for a special movie night in and according to research 46 % of Brits look forward to snuggling up on the sofa. I was absolutely thrilled when E.ON challenged us to create a really special night in as it gave me the opportunity to ramp things up another level as to be honest i’m really suffering from a bit of Pre- Christmas burn out. The aim of E.ON’s Winter Watching Challenge is to create the perfect movie night in.

After a small vote on potential themes (Spy, Christmas, animals, superhero) we opted for an unsurprising movie marathon:

The Food

My daughter is on a low sugar diet and so we have to be quite innovative with our snacks and treats. She was determined that we would have some cake but we opted for Davina’s Low Sugar Sponge Cake we have her low sugar cookery book and its full of yummy recipes.

Low Sugar Cake

You can’t have a Christmas movie night without a huge bowl of mixed nuts- these are my secret weapon in our war on unhealthy healthy eating. We also treated ourselves to popcorn crisps and since its Christmas had a Christmas cake option as well!

The Ambiance

I thought I’d take the opportunity to splash out on some nice new throws to snuggle under, these can make such a difference helping to create the Hyge vibe. We found some fantastic ones in Debenhams but i’ve also got my eye on some faux fur ones in Sainsbury.  You may have noticed in the video Fifi has a fantastic mermaids tail blanket, these seem to be all over the shops!

treeAt the moment the Christmas tree is a focal point in our room so we made sure the lights were on and turned off all the other lights to make the room seem magical. We all love doing this at Christmas, it makes it a very special time and of course, its always nicest to watch a movie in the dark!

The Movies

In the survey for E.ON Brits were asked which films they most like to step into for a day the top five were:

  1. Its a Wonderful Life
  2. The Holiday
  3. Love Actually
  4. Serendipity
  5. A Christmas Carol

Of course, children being children when presented with this list they rejected every single one of them. Instead we had a Star Wars marathon, its the fault of Rogue One, the only way we can get our eldest to come to the cinema to watch it is to enable him to refresh his knowledge of the series.

This year we’ve been to see some fantastic things at the cinema which we will also be re-watching in the comfort of our home. These include Kung Fu Panda 3, The Jungle Book and the boys current favourite film of all time Captain America Civil War. Having been inspired by the list above i’m also aiming for a night with the husband, Love Actually and a nice take-away.

We had a fab time planning and holding our movie night. Somehow with a bit of planning it became much more special than just watching a movie at home! If you’d like to get thinking about your own movie night then E.ON have created some top tips to help you get in the mood. You’ll find them here on the fab E.ON blog. Here is a sneak preview

eon

I’d love to hear about your perfect movie night in. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for us?

E.ON is now proud sponsor of Sky Cinema and Premiere Sky Cinema Family.

Book Review: Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith

dav

If you are after a well-paced comedy story for children but really (I suspect) aimed at parents then you cant go wrong with this little gem. The little penguin in the story is plagued with anxiety,  he cant fly, he looks the same as everyone else, his mum looks the same as everyone else. Life really isn’t easy. I think my children could identify, so much so that it made us all laugh.

This is a great book if you need to subtly get a child to open up about problems and convey the idea that everyone has similar anxieties. At the end the penguin realises that he only has one life and that maybe things will work out, then carries on moaning. It really is charming right up until the last page.

I love this book, its beautifully illustrated, funny without being slapstick or condescending and also conveys a message about life. My children thought it very appealing and have asked to read it lots of times since it was delivered for review. We haven’t stopped laughing about the penguins problems, thats not to say that they aren’t important and we don’t recognise that. But I think it has helped the children to put things into perspective and to laugh at themselves sometimes. When moaning starts happening I just remind them about penguin and all his problems!

dav

You can find out more about the book here.

Film Review: Nine Lives out on Blu-ray and DVD

Nine LivesEarlier on in the summer Fifi went along to the official press screening of Nine Lives and she hasn’t stopped talking about the film ever since.  You can have a look at the trailer on that post. She genuinely loved the film because of the cat body swop which seemed to inspire her- generating endless creative writing in her little notebook along those themes. The film is funny and heart-warming and to be honest, if you are a cat fan- as we are in our house then you’ll love it!

cats5

 

We were really thrilled to receive a Cats Protection Hamper to celebrate the release of the film. Our cat Jonny is from Cats Protection and we whole-heartedly support all the work that they do. Cats Protection is the UK’s leading cats’ welfare charity. St Albans & District Cats Protection officially became a local branch in October 2001. In the last three years alone they have homed over 350 cats and kittens.

cats protection hamper

Hamper

 

The hamper was a fantastic treat and Jonny loved the Catnip carrot in particular. I think a copy of the Blue-ray or DVD with the hamper would be a fabulous Christmas gift for any cat lover. I’d be more than happy for sure!

 

 

 

Cat with catnip

Jonny Cat with his Catnip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             The Film Blurb!

Join furry fiend Mr. Fuzzypants (a.k.a. Kevin Spacey) for this season’s most hilarious feline caper, NINE LIVES, which arrives on EST from 10th December and yours to own on Blu-ray & DVD from 12th December, 2016, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey), billionaire businessman and soon-to-be owner of the tallest skyscraper in the northern hemisphere, is a workaholic whose lifestyle has disconnected him from his family, particularly his beautiful wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and his adoring daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). When Tom forgets to buy Rebecca a present for her 11th birthday he rushes out in a panic and finds himself in a mystical pet store brimming with odd and exotic cats. Fortunately the store’s eccentric owner, Felix Perkins (Christopher Walken), has the perfect pet for him: Fluffy feline, Mr. Fuzzypants.

However Mr. Fuzzypants proves to be both a blessing and a curse… En route to his daughter’s party, Tom has a terrible accident. When he regains consciousness he discovers that he has become trapped inside the body of the cat…! Despite being a self-professed cat hater, after a serious of hilarious scrapes Tom realises that occupying the body of a fluffy moggy can have its benefits – namely, spending more time with his family.

Boasting an all-star supporting cast including Christopher Walken, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell and newcomer Malina Weissman, Nine Lives is a funny, heart-warming tale about the importance of family – and pets! The purrrrfect Christmas gift to get your paws on this December.

Nine Lives release details

Digital Download release date:                                   10th December, 2016

Blu-ray & DVD release date:                         12th December, 2016

Running time:                                                          87 minutes

Cert:                                                                              PG

Blu-ray RRP:                                                              £13

DVD RRP:                                                                     £10

 

© 2016 – EUROPACORP – All rights reserved. Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK

Extra Features

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag: The Making of Nine Lives

Cat Bloopers

Herding Cats