• Short Breaks at Warwick Castle

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

  • Book Review: Guess How Much I Love You By Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram- Sweetheart Edition and Colouring Book

  • Film Review: Sing

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

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.