Animal Rhyme Time

The focus of this book review is The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland.

This book is one of a collection of 5 books:

  1. The Very Cranky Bear
  2. The Very Noisy Bear
  3. The Very Itchy Bear
  4. The Very Hungry Bear
  5. The Very Brave Bear

I absolutely love this collection (hard to say which one is my favourite). The illustrations are wonderfully artistic, detailed and expressive. This series is a must for all family book collections.

The books have interesting plots and the rhyming language is a joy to read.

The collection is available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!), and for purchase at various book stores including Dymocks and Angus & Robertson.

Summary

“In the jingle jangle jungle on a wet and windy day, four little friends meet a very cranky bear. Can they cheer him up?”¬†

The other titles in the collection follow the cranky bear (who is also very brave, itchy, noisy and hungry) through adventures and problem solving scenarios with the four little friends (moose, lion, zebra and sheep).

Suitable for toddlers, pre-schoolers and early school-age.

What I love about these books

The Cranky Bear series would be my own personal favourite reads in my daughter’s collection of books.

They are written with a sing-song rhyme which makes them an easy read and gives the reader good opportunity to add tone and interest to the story.

The illustrations are highly detailed, giving extra interest to the already captivating story.

They are a perfect trifecta of language, story structure and illustration – making for an enjoyable storytime every time.

There are also some subtle messages to each of the stories which make for good “teaching moments” with the kids, and also for parents to reflect on their own behaviour.

My favourite moments

My favourite moments in these books include:

  • The logic of the “four little friends” that the bear would only be happy if they gave him things that made them happy (learning a bit about empathy and self-centredness) – The Very Cranky Bear
  • Bear working really hard to find Polar Bear a home in trade for his pile of delicious fish – The Very Hungry Bear.
  • The competitiveness of Bear and Buffalo to “one-up” each other, only to be scared off by a tiny little frog – The Very Brave Bear.
  • Bear has a go at all the different instruments with not great success, until he uses his voice as an instrument! After a rocking day, he finds solace in the violin – The Very Noisy Bear.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Find a reading pace that works for you and your child. It is easy to get a bit carried away with these books because they have been very well written. It is difficult to keep the enthusiam for the rhyme if you have to stop often to explain/discuss with the child. Try to read at a slower pace if necessary, that way you can keep the flow of reading and your child can still understand the story.
  • There are a few larger/more complex words and sentences in these stories, so take the time to go back after you’ve read the story to explain them to your child.
  • Take the time after reading the story to discuss why the bear/furry friends acted a certain way and did things they way they did. This can help teach your child more about empathy and behaviour.

When I’m Feeling….

When I’m Feeling Angry by Trace Moroney

Shortly after I wrote my post about how reading builds resilience, I received a message from my daughter’s childcare. The message was to tell parents that the centre is teaching the children about their emotions and self-regulation. An interesting coincidence since the acknowledgment and regulation of emotions is also an important part of building confidence and self-esteem.

After my son was born, my daughter made an interesting selection of books for borrowing at the library. It included When I’m Feeling Angry and When I’m Feeling Sad.

She was right in the midst of dealing with a whole array of emotions with the arrival of a new little brother. She had been the only child (and grand-child on my side) for nearly 4 years, so her world was being drastically shaken up.

I recall the first day I was able to start taking her up to kinder drop-off again after the birth (my husband had been doing this while I recovered) and her exclamation, “Everything is back to normal again, hooray!”… It wasn’t until she said this that it really hit me how much the new arrival was affecting her emotionally. I hadn’t really taken the weight of this into consideration until she said this. I did think, however, you poor thing, your life will never be back to “normal”…

The “When I’m Feeling” books by Moroney were an excellent support tool for my daughter during this time. They broke down some of the emotions to “child-size bites”, so that they were tangible and relatable. They identified the emotion, the cause of the emotion and ways of dealing with it.

The illustrations were also very sweet, using a bunny as the primary character.

The books in this series include:

  • When I’m Feeling Angry
  • When I’m Feeling Sad
  • When I’m Feeling Nervous
  • When I’m Feeling Jealous
  • When I’m Feeling Disappointed
  • When I’m Feeling Lonely
  • When I’m Feeling Happy
  • When I’m Feeling Scared
  • When I’m Feeling Loved
  • When I’m Feeling Kind

The books are best suited for toddlers and preschoolers. They can be purchased at book stores such as Dymocks and can be borrowed at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!).

 

 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

I’m sure you have the song stuck in your head already just by reading the title! A timeless classic book and absolute must read to your kids.

This book is available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!), and for purchase at numerous stores – Kmart, BigW, Dymocks, etc.

The ABC are also showing an adaptation to a short 30min movie – see here.

Summary

“Brave bear hunters go through grass, a river, mud, and other obstacles before the inevitable encounter with the bear forces a headlong retreat.”

Suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and young school age children.

What I love about this book

By far what I love most about this book is the sing-song style in which it was written. The repetition of phrases being similar to that of the chorus in a song “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!” It really is a joyous read.

The illustrations are also beautiful. Oxenbury captures the sense of adventure through the use of alternating black-and-white and colour watercolour images. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed and really captures the imagination.

The powerful combination of language and illustration make this an extremely engaging book. I suspect this is why it has been such a popular book since its first publication in 1989.

The story is also a great aspect of the book – it is adventurous and engages all of the senses to draw you in.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Try as best as possible to read the story uninterrupted to get the best effect from the sing-song language.
  • Put on your storytime acting hat! This story is best read with lots of good intonation, sound effects, variations in volume and appropriately placed pauses.
  • Get carried away with the story, but also take the time afterward to go through some of the illustrations with your child to further explain what the family is doing.
  • You can use the story as a song to enact your own bear-hunt at home!

Not so scary after all!

Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman

This is a very entertaining read for toddlers and pre-schoolers alike. It helps to take the fear of the “monster-under-the-bed” away when your little one sees the monsters in their silly underpants.

The book is available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!) and for purchase at Booktopia.

Summary

“There are prowly monsters howling loudly and drooling monsters from the steamy swamp. There are wild, woolly mountain monsters and spiky, spooky monsters from outer space. And they all have one thing in common – they LOVE underpants!

This hilarious Underpants story is hairy, scary – and silly! You’ll never think of monsters in the same way again!”

This book is best suited to a preschool age, but would also be suitable for toddlers. It would even be appropriate for younger school age children.

Although the book deals with monsters (which some younger children may find frightening), they are certainly not portrayed in a scary manner.

What I love about this book

The illustrations in this book are fantastic – bright, detailed, creative and engaging. Each page tells its own story and the illustrations deserve their own explanation in addition to the story text.

What I really love about this book is the theme with which it deals – taking the fear out of the unknown and the perception of “scary monsters”. It picks up on the notion of vulnerability and that things aren’t always as they seem.

The way that the theme is presented is perfect for little ones. Talking about brightly coloured underwear on a monster is humourous and silly. A lovely light-hearted book that can also help teach children about their emotions.

The monsters in the book are bright and full of personality. They are not dark or creepy characters; rather a character who could be be-friended.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Take the time on each page to go through the illustrations with your children.
  • Talk about the patterns and colours that your child can identify.
  • The rhyme in this book is a little strained. Try reading each paragraph slowly and uninterrupted (if possible!). This will help your child take the words in and so that the flow of the story is not broken.
  • The way the sentences and words are arranged are not as simple or as direct as other rhyming books, so it doesn’t not lend itself well to word/letter recognition for younger kids. Try take the focus to the illustrations once you have read each paragraph in its entirety.
  • Read in a light hearted manner to reinforce how “silly” the monsters look in their colourful underpants.
  • At the end of the book, take the time to discuss fears with your children. Explain how sometimes things seem scarier than what they really are. When we take a look at and tackle what scares us, it takes away the fear-of-the-unknown. This is often what scares us more than the “scary-thing” itself. Sometimes we can even have a laugh at what used to scare us!

 

Poor Little Owl…

A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton

Further to my reviews of Oh No, George and Shh! We Have a Plan by Haughton, I decided to take a look at A Bit Lost.

What a sweet little book this is! Accompanied by Haughton’s signature illustrations, this book is humourous and overall, a lovely read.

A Bit Lost can be borrowed from the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!) and purchased from Booktopia and Walker Books.

Summary

“Little Owl must be more careful when he is sleeping … Uh-oh! He has fallen from his nest, and with a bump he lands on the ground. Where is his mummy? With the earnest assistance of his new friend Squirrel, Little Owl sets off in search of her, and meets a sequence of other animals. Yet while one might have his mummy’s BIG EYES, and another her POINTY EARS, they are simply not her. Chris Haughton’s striking colour illustrations follow Little Owl on his quest. Which of his new friends will lead him back to his mummy?”

Suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.

What I love about this book

The endearing characters are probably the best thing about this book. As a parent, your heart strings tug for the little lost owl and the worried mummy. The squirrel and frog are cute and remind me of how sweet young children can be. They really try their best to help little owl.

The story is humourous and reinforces the love that parents have for their children. A great book to cuddle up with your own little owl.

The language used in the book is clear and simple, making it engaging for both a toddler and preschool age audience.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Talk with your child about how little owl and mummy owl are feeling and how they might feel in the situation of being momentarily separated. Remind your child that the owl and mummy are re-united!
  • Take the time to pause and discuss how the squirrel and frog help little owl (there is a positive side to the story!)
  • Talk about why squirrel may have thought that the different animals were little owl’s mummy.
  • Make the actions with your child, copying the owl’s description of his mummy.
  • The simple language in this book is suitable to do some letter and word recognition with older children. Run your finger over the words as you read.

A Children’s Book Institution

I wanted to pay homage to a children’s book institution – Spot the Dog by Eric Hill.

These books are so clever and engaging to children of various ages. A couple of Spot books are an absolute must for your children’s book collection (that is, if you don’t already have at least one!).

I grew up with Spot and am getting just as much joy sharing various Spot books with my kids. A real classic with timeless enjoyment.

We have a couple of Spot books at home which had fallen a bit out of favour. When I say “fallen out of favour”, I by no means meant that my daughter no longer enjoys them – they just got buried under the current favourites (ie Olivia by Ian Falconer mainly).

Some of the first books that I bought my daughter was a set of 4 Spot the Dog board books (colours, numbers, shapes and first words). They were very small, containing only one word per page, and just perfect for little hands. I picked these up at my local post office and they were fantastic for teaching her first words.

On a recent trip to the library, my daughter picked up two different Spot books – Spot’s Opposites and Happy Christmas Spot. When we got to reading them, I was reminded about how good these books are and why they have stood the test of time. She is now using these larger Spot books to learn reading and expand her vocabulary.

If you have never read any of the Spot books, they follow a playful pup (with his family and friends) through day-to-day activities. The illustrations are bright and depict objects/stories to which children can relate. The language is clear, direct and simple – making them a fantastic teaching tool for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

The Spot stories are gentle and story lines relatable for many everyday activities and situations. Even though most of the Spot books are appropriate for a wide age and learning variation, some of the books are tailored better for different audiences.

The beauty of the Spot of the Dog series is that Hill uses various techniques to engage with and teach language skills to young children:

  • Clear, simple and bright illustrations,
  • Direct and clear language,
  • Bold text, often high contrast too,
  • Relatable stories and characters,
  • Lift-up flaps and pull tabs,
  • Use of teaching language tools and reinforcement built in to the story (eg one page showing a single word accompanied with an illustration of that word, then use of the word in a sentence).

If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend getting a couple of Spot books for your children’s book collection. You can find many of these books in libraries and in bookstores alike. It’s great to see that stories I enjoyed as a kid are still as popular as ever.

 

 

A bit of individuality please!

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

So far, this is my favourite in the Olivia series (see my reviews also of Olivia and Olivia the Spy).

As with the other books in the series, the illustrations are fantastic and little Olivia is full of personality. She is extremely intelligent, confident and inquisitive, a great character for young daughters in particular.

What I love most about this book is the message that it conveys – individuality is important, and that just going along with “normal” is really very boring. This is an important notion for both our sons and daughters.

In this book Olivia is having an “identity crisis” and explores the various options she sees available to her. She questions why other young girls would want to all look the same as princesses with pink ruffly skirts and tiaras, when there are so many other alternatives out there.

As with Falconer’s other Olivia books, Olivia’s grasp of language is better than a lot of adults (I know many adults who wouldn’t be able to use the term ‘corporate malfeasance’ in a sentence). This is how Falconer cleverly caters to the parents who are reading the book. He engages them by creating a level of relatability to their own children. We feel the mother’s exasperation with Olivia’s persistent questioning, we relate to our children coming out with sentences and thinking “where on earth did you hear that!”…I love the opening line “Olivia was feeling depressed” – how many young children truly understand the notion of being depressed? She uses the term in such an exaggerated manner, very reflective of her expressive character.

Another great read by Ian Falconer. A sweet and humourous book which delivers some complex and important discussion points to have with our children around socialization and behaviour.