• Book Review: Old MacDonald Heard A Parp by Olaf Falafal: A Mum’s Take

  • Film Review: The Boss Baby

  • Short Breaks at Warwick Castle

  • Book Review: Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Benji Davies

Film Review: Sing

We were really fortunate to go along before Christmas to a screening of Universal’s new movie SING. This is set to be THE movie to see this half term and its been eagerly anticipated by every child I know. SING tells the story of a failing theatre owner who decides to run one of those Saturday night style talent contests and follows several different animals and their journey together.

Its an upbeat story with plenty of things for kids and adults to associate with and a brilliant soundtrack. If you want a really light hearted, fun, (if slightly predictable) movie and your children are good fans of X-Factor then you wont find better at half term. We’re off to see it again!

Have a look at the trailer here

To celebrate the release of the movie Universal really kindly sent the kids some fantastic SING merchandise to help them have their own karaoke party. They were delighted and I have to say we had SO much fun with this activity it has been the best thing we’ve done all year. Who thought that a karaoke machine could bring so much fun into the house, it was like having our own SING/ X-Factor auditions. I suspect the karaoke machine is going to come out lots of times this year! I’d urge you to try a SING party this weekend or just after seeing the film, so much more fun that just watching others sing the songs on TV!


 

The Blurb
SING is out on 27th January (previews this weekend), featuring the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tori Kelly  and Scarlett Johansson. It follows a group of animals, who enter a singing competition hosted by a Koala called Buster, who hopes the funds raised will save his theatre. There’s a character for everyone – a shy elephant with stage fright, a busy mum, a sensitive gorilla, a punk rock porcupine…and everyone who has seen it, has loved it so far.
As well as being hilarious, it’s got a great cast (Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson) and a soundtrack featuring everyone from Taylor Swift to Stevie Wonder.
I’d love to hear what you thought about the movie; did you enjoy it? Which character did your kids most identify with? (mine liked Ash pictured above). Let me know in the comments.

Book Review and Competition: Dalmatian in a Digger by Rebecca Elliot

To celebrate publication of a new picture book, Dalmatian in a Digger by Rebecca Elliott, coming out with Curious Fox this month, we have a copy of the book hot-off-the-press to giveaway to one lucky reader.

This brilliant picture book combines childhood favourites – building sites, animals and making loud noises – what’s not to love? Children and parents will delight finding out which animals are driving the machines as they turn the pages of the book, and there’s a nice surprise on the last page as it’s revealed what all the animals are building.

A perfect read for any digger-obssessed tots.

For your chance to win a copy please comment below telling me what other animals you’d like to see driving a digger and fill out the rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can find the Terms and Conditions here

Book Review: I Dont Know What To Call My Cat by Simon Philip and Ella Bailey

If you are a family of cat lovers like us then this picture book is a real treat. From the moment we saw the book we knew we would love it. Naming your cat is quite a common dilemma it appears- we had terribel trouble but settled on the name Jonny. This book provides plenty of inspiration for that dilemma.

This book is clearly written by a cat lover as they’ve managed to hit upon the exact level of sass which every cat seems to possess and use that to keep the story moving. The book takes a strange turn when the cat goes missing and she gets a new pet from the zoo, for my five year old this appeared to be hilarious. Then like all cats, the cat came home with a new collar and a name. Clearly the cat has several ‘owners’ probably like my cat whose name can be heard being called by various neighbours at various times!

This is a great book for any budding or actual cat owner, its an easy going story for bedtime and to be honest the main thing my children liked about it was the illustrations. Visually it looks great and is a piece of art but for my children the fact that there are loads of different pictures of different cats with different names is the thing they love the most. I cant tell you how many hours we have now spent looking at each cat, discussing its name and its features and deciding which cat we’d like the most. And therein lies how to make children happy- write a great book, well illustrated but provide a lot of choice in one thing (in this case a variety of cats).

The ideal picture book for a cat fan! You can find your own copy here

Book Review: A Busy Day for Birds by Lucy Cousins

Lucy Cousins the creator of Maisy (our favourite mouse) has produced the most delightful book about birds i’ve seen in a long time for pre-schoolers and KS1 children. Packed full of her distinctive illustrations this is a bouncy read- aloud book which is sure to capture the imagination of your little ones.

We’ve used this book in a number of ways- as inspiration for drawings of birds, as a choosing book (whats your favourite bird? Why?) and as a great example of rhyming text and how to write it. If you’re hoping to inspire a budding birdwatcher or simply trying to encourage your little one to look at the diversity of the plants and animals in the world around them then this really is a great start. The illustrations are really the thing which makes this book and anyone who likes Lucy Cousins’s work will be thrilled with this as it really is a tour de-force.

This is the perfect book if you’re looking for a Christening or New Baby gift as you literally cant go wrong with it. Its a really accessible, interactive read which as an adult I enjoyed reading and looking at as much as the children did. A lovely addition to the bookshelf.

If you’d like to find out more have a look at the book on the Walker Books website.

 

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