Mini-mes

Helping Kids: My Mum Has Breast Cancer

Today’s instalment in our school holiday Helping Kids series is on a topic very close to my heart. The book in question was written by a good friend of mine, and has been put together to help kids work their way through a loved one being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

My Mum Has Breast Cancer was written by Lisa Sewards after her diagnosis with breast cancer, and has been beautifully illustrated by her son and his grandmother.

It has helped countless families (including my own) deal with the shock of a mother, aunty, grandmother, being diagnosed with breast cancer. It helps in a very real and practical way, and is incredibly touching as a story in itself.

By happy coincidence, My Mum Has Breast Cancer was reviewed this week by Babyology. Not being one to reinvent the wheel, I thought I’d share their review with you today rather than write a brand new one. You can read it here.

As well as being an author and very talented artist, Lisa is the founder of the Pink Lady Art Exhibition. This art show will be running in Brighton, Victoria on 27th and 28th October 2012. I’m involved with this show, it’s inspirational and lots of fun and raises heaps of money for some really important breast cancer organisations. You can check out their website here.

If you’d like to buy a copy of My Mum Has Breast Cancer, they’re available through the TBYL Store. For September and October, 100% of proceeds from the sale of the book will go directly to BCNA (normally, 50%) Shop here for your copy…

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Helping kids: Mitchell the Pixel

When kids start school, creche or kinder, it’s of course fascinating to watch them learn about colours and numbers, shapes and letters. It’s amazing how quickly they learn and how much delight they get out of showing off their new skills.

Interestingly though, the part of this early school experience that can be the most challenging is often learning about friendships. I remember it from my own childhood, and now I’m seeing it with my own kids.

Leon James Wisewould’s Mitchell the Pixel (Ashworth Publishing) is a helpful picture book that addresses friendship, self assurance and bullying…

Mitchell the Pixel is a digital square. He lives in  your computer and doesn’t have hair. Join him as he explores what it is to have friendship, face up to bullies and find forgiveness. While all along, staying true to his unique self.

Mitchell is little, much smaller than his messy friend Perry Paint. Perry Paint isn’t happy, upset about being pushed around by a gang of other messy paint spots, and he takes this out on poor Mitchell.

What Mitchell does next is a wonderful illustration for kids, about how friendship can sometimes be tough, how bullying can make you sad, but that by expressing yourself and standing up for who you are and what you can do, you can make a major difference to a difficult situation.

The brillant and bright illustration of this book (by Paul Nash) makes the book instantly attractive, and the characters will be especially fun for those techy kids out there (of which mine are two).

The thing that I really like about this book is that it’s not just about dealing with bullies. Rather, it’s about all the different factors that come into play when dealing with other people. It’s about learning what friendship is all about, and how to deal when things become difficult.

If you’d like to find out more about this book, you can check out their website here. Buy a copy from the TBYL Store here.

How do you help your kids form working friendships? Have you had to talk to them about bullying?

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Helping kids: Mommy, Daddy, I Had a Bad Dream

I don’t know about you, but I love school holidays. I miss my kids a lot while they’re at school, and the running backwards and forwards makes me crazy.

Spring school holidays are my favourite, it’s the best time of year – the sun is shining, the kids are smiling and it’s like a shot in the arm for us all, keeping us going through the busy, busy final quarter of the year.

Being focused on the kids, I thought it would be a good time to run with a series of reviews on children’s books, and in particular kids’ books that have been written to help kids through troubling times.

As much as we try to protect our kids from strife, there are still those times where our children have to manage through serious issues. Be it nightmares, illness, loss or anxiety, picture books can play a major role in helping us to talk to our kids, and in turn help them to cope with challenging times.

Today’s book has been written to help kids self-manage bad dreams. I know that my Oscar has very vivid dreams and often worries long in to the next day about nightmares that might have troubled him through the night. Needless to say, I’m going to give this book a go, to see if it can’t help him with his bad dreams.

Mommy, Daddy, I had a Bad Dream! by Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D. (Smart Love Press) is the story of Joey, a bouncy happy kangaroo, who has a series of bad dreams. His parents lovingly help him understand them in a way that helps him control his worries.

Illustrated by Jo Gershman, the story is cast with a family of kangaroos and various other Australian favourites. In beautiful watercolour scenes, Joey and his family cuddle and snuggle and look out for each other. Nonetheless, Joey is still a worried little kangaroo…

Troubled by nightmares, Joey finds himself needing help from his mum and dad to settle. He finds his dreams really upsetting, and he doesn’t understand why he keeps having nightmares.

Interestingly, how Joey’s parents talk him through his dreams is quite unique:

Joey bounced straight into his parents’ room. “Mommy, Daddy, I had a terrible dream! The judge said NO apples with honey for three whole days! Why would I have such a bad dream?”

“Let’s think about it,” Daddy said.

“Dreams are stories we tell ourselves for a reason. We just have to understand the reason. Are you upset about something that happened today?”

Joey doesn’t work it out straight away, but after a number of conversations, and a little help from his parents, his dreams become less worrying. He learns to work through them himself, resettling without the help of his mum and dad.

The author, Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D has used her considerable experience in working with families, to help parents help their kids to take control of their anxiety around bad dreams, making night times run much more smoothly for all concerned.

If you’d like to know more about this really interesting, very unique picture book, you can visit their website here.

Do your kids have trouble with nightmares? How do you handle bad dreams at your house?

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So. Much. Fun. Press Here!

Last night on Facebook I was a bit of a tease… I told you all that I’d found the best kids’ book ever. I tested it out on Oscar, and it received his overwhelming tick of approval, and now I want to tell you all about it!

It’s a simple book. It’s not sentimental or sweet, it’s not beautifully illustrated. It’s just clever, and most of all, it’s heaps of fun!

I’m talking about the picture book Press Here, by Herve Tullet. It’s been around since 2010, having first been published in French, and more recently in English by Allen and Unwin.

I won’t describe it to you, instead I’ll let you see for yourself why this book is so much fun…

It is of course educational, a great way for kids to learn about colours, counting, patterns and following instructions. Still, this seems almost besides the point when the kids are having such a great time! I really wish that I’d had a video camera running when Oscar and I first read the book, he was laughing hysterically, throwing himself around. He was fascinated, he thought it was all quite magical and of course wanted to read it over and over.

I’m going to take a copy down to Oscar’s kindergarten this week, and I can’t wait to see what the other kids think of it.

The only problem that I have, is that I’m worried about whether or not I will appear fickle if I now say that this book is my favourite? There’s nothing wrong with having a new favourite every week is there?

Have you and your kids read this book?

Buy your own copy of Press Here at the TBYL Store

 

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Happy Father’s Day

Not many words today, just a little shout-out to all the lovely men who’ve cared for me, taught me great things, and make me laugh every day.

Happy Father’s Day guys, the boys and I love you very much xx

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Cute much? Paws

At this time of year I’m always keeping an eye out for new books about Dads, and so imagine my delight when this gorgeous book arrived in our mail box!

Kathy Finikakos’ new picture book Paws (JoJo Publishing) is a nicely told, beautifully illustrated story of a little bear named Paws and his head-strong father Roman…

Paws is a curious baby bear with lots and lots of questions.

His father, Roman, is a famous dancing bear who comes home with fantastic stories about the big wide world. Roman ends his stories every night by reminding Paws of the same thing: Don’t dream too much about all the things you can’t see; all you need is to be happy with your own corner of the world.

But Paws has no idea where to find his corner of the world, or what his corner even looks like…

When Paws decides it is time to set out in search of it, his journey will teach him that sometimes, the very thing you go looking for is right in front of you all along!

There’s searching and wondering, and lots and lots of bear hugs!

Kathy’s story would work wonders to sooth an impatient, frustrated toddler and help them to understand that they’ll discover all things in due course, that their own little corner of the world can be more than enough, for the time being.

The artwork in this book is stunning. Illustrated by Heath McKenzie, each page is perfectly balanced, often holding a dream-like quality. Paws and Roman are the perfect combination of bearish strength and irresistible hug-ability.  And of course, they’re father and son, and the large, stern bear’s tenderness for his cub is beautifully drawn.

That night, in a round room, in the middle of somewhere, with his little paw in his father’s paw, Paws lay sleeping safe and sound. He had finally found his corner in the big wide world. It was in his father’s arms.

You can find out more about Paws here…

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Resourceful rabbits and helpful owls

Hopefully this weekend you went shopping…

Specifically, book shopping. Hopefully you paid a lovely little bookshop a visit to help them celebrate National Bookshop Day.

Oscar and I did, and we had a wonderful day. It involved a trip into the city on the train and a short stroll in the unseasonal sun, after which we were able to hang out with some delightfully resourceful rabbits and terribly helpful owls.

There were lots of different bookish events going on on Saturday, all as part of National Bookshop Day. It was hard to decide which to go to, but in the end we chose to visit the Hill of Content bookshop in Bourke Street. Partly because it’s one of my favourite stores, but also because I was pretty sure that Oscar would enjoy meeting their special guests, Cat Rabbit and Isobel Knowles, the authors of the beautiful Owl Know How (Thames and Hudson).

The girls were lovely, and read their story to a spell-bound crowd of little kids, cozy on cushions…

We had a chance to have a look at the hand-made sets used to make the book. Oscar and I were equally fascinated by this…

We even had a chance to get a book signed for a special friend of ours…

And as a wonderful bonus I finally had the chance to meet the lovely Jackie from one of my favourite blogs, My Little Bookcase, and a new friend Lou from We Heart Books. So nice to put faces to these virtual voices.

We topped off the day with chips and apple juice and somewhat reluctantly made the trip back home, with book and poster in hand and huge smile on our faces. These special days out with my boys are what memories are made of, and all up, it was a fabulous day.

Did you do anything for National Bookshop Day?

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Solving a problem the Jeffers way: Stuck

One of the things that I love most about my Oscar is that he is very silly. He’s a laugh a minute, crazy as a cut snake, never have I met a kid so entertaining…

So it’s no surprise to me that he and I both loved the latest book to be added to The TBYL Store, Oliver Jeffer’s Stuck (HarperCollins).

This book is a laugh-out-loud joy! Even as I re-read it on my own this morning, I find myself giggling away like a loon:

It all began when Floyd got  his kite stuck in a tree…

The trouble really began when he threw a shoe up to knock the kite loose, and that got stuck too, followed by a ladder, a bucket of paint, the kitchen sink…

And so on and so forth until dear silly Floyd finds himself dealing with one very over-crowded tree.

The story itself is quite reminiscent of that poor old lady who swallowed a fly, but it’s so much funnier. The illustrations are engaging, bright and slightly whimsical, the text is wonderfully kid-friendly, and the story is fantastic to read out loud (as all good kids books should be!)

My favourite part of the story? It’s would have to be when Floyd’s recruits his cat to ‘help’…

“Cats get stuck in trees all the time, but this was GETTING RIDICULOUS.”

Floyd’s ‘unique’ approach to problem-solving is entertaining to say the least, and Oliver Jeffers‘ brand of story-telling is irreverent, child-like and one-of-a-kind, as you might well expect from an Australian-born, Irishman living in New York. You can find out a little more about Jeffers’ in this article from last weekend’s The Age (thanks for sharing, Thuy).

As well as Stuck, I’m looking forward to adding Oliver’s newest title The New Jumper to the collection next month. In the meantime, I’d guess that Stuck will be on high rotation in our house.

Do your kids have a favourite book at the moment?


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Dark, cold, dragony night

I really like going out with my kids, it’s one of my favourite things.

I’ll admit that Oscar can still be a little bit of a handful, but he’s a showman, so what can you expect? Evan on the other hand is pretty much at the perfect hanging out age – good company, old enough to be really interested in what we’re doing, but still just young enough not to be (too) embarrassed to be seen with his daggy old Mum.

I’m making the most of it, because I know it probably wont last for very much longer, and so when I saw that Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon series (Random House) was coming to Melbourne I thought it would be the perfect night out for Evan and I. Presented by the Melbourne Writers Festival, and the Wheelers Centre it promised to be a fun-filled, fan-filled evening and despite the cold, dark, wet, wintery night, it delivered.

I’ve got to say that I’ve not read any of the Eragon series myself. Sorry. But Evan has read the first three, and is half way through the forth (and final?) in the ‘four part triology’. And, although I’ve not read them myself, I do understand their appeal. They’ve got it all, heros, villains, dwarven languages, battles and journeys and of course lots of dragons. This combination of elements has seen an army of dedicated, extremely loyal fans build around the Inheritance Cycle. Standing in line for the book signing, with hundreds of readers with arms ladened with multiple copies of the four huge tomes, you could be left in no doubt that these people where committed – to the story, and to whatever this inspiring author was ready to do next.

Personally, I was fascinated by the fact that Christopher was only 15-years-old when he wrote the Eragon, the first in the series and couldn’t wait to hear more about what exactly brought that impressive feat about. In short, home schooled, living in Anchorage, Alaska and bored out of his brain, Paolini decided that the only thing to do was to get his head out of other people’s books, and bury himself in creating his own. With family support; as editors, publishers and publicists, Eragon was born and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s the great self-publishing success story…

Christopher was a very entertaining speaker, and Evan genuinely enjoyed every minute of the event. There were plenty of backstories, in-jokes and teasers, all of which had the audience on the edge of their seats in the hope that they might find out a secret or two about this world they’d clearly immersed  themselves in.

Further, his story is inspiring. In my opinion, it’s fantastic for kids like Evan (and grown-ups too) to hear of someone putting themselves out there, backing themselves and having great success to show for it. I hope it reinforces in Evan’s mind that anything is possible, even if it’s a little out of the ordinary.

I can’t wait until the next of these events comes up, I’m looking forward to another night out with the kid. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the calendar…

In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy watching Evan enjoy reading.

 

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Wished I’d read this as a kid: Ish

Getting the balance right between reading and writing is always a bit of a challenge. There’s always so much waiting to be read, and every now and then I find that I need to put down my pen and just read like crazy.

The last couple of weeks have been like that, and although I’ve been enjoying lots of great books, I’ve not paused to share them with you – yet. But this week I’ll put that right. Each day this week, I’ll post a new book review. I hope it’ll give you a bit of an idea of what my last couple of weeks have contained, it’s been a lovely mix of kids books and novels. A real mixed bag, just the way I like it.

To start with, I wanted to share with you a fabulous picture book that I’ve recently discovered, a book that I very much wish I had read as a kid. It’s Peter H. Reynolds’ Ish.

Peter’s book has been around for a few years now (it was published in 2005), but I’d not heard of it until my friend Yolande mentioned it in passing on Facebook, when I described my house as clean-ish. I was quietly admonishing myself for not being quite tidy enough, as I’m sure we’re all want to do in one way or another from time to time.

And there in lies the main message of Ish:

Ramon loves to draw, especially when he learns that he doesn’t have to worry about getting it “just right”

Ramon, after being teased by his big brother, almost hangs up his brushes for good. That is, until his little sister shows him much she appreciates his pictures – even if they aren’t quite perfect.

I love this idea. I wonder how many of us can remember feeling discouraged as we tried to get that picture perfect… I know I certainly struggled with that as a child, and I’ve seen my kids in turn get frustrated when their person, or house, or car didn’t come out on the page quite the way that they’d hoped. Encouraging them to let go of expectation and be freely creative can be pretty tricky but is so important to ensure that they learn to express themselves as they get older.

Peter’s book expresses beautifully the wonder in being ish-ish:

“Ramon felt light and energised. Thinking ish-ly allowed his ideas to flow freely. He began to draw what he felt – loose lines. quickly springing out. Without worry.”

And it makes me think about the amount of times that I’ve known myself and others to be paralysed by the need to produce something perfectly. It really is only once we let go of that tension and anxiety that we can move forward, be it with art or work or the everyday. That’s something that I hope to teach my kids, and I’m thankful that books like Ish will help me to do that.

To make the book all the more enticing, Reynolds is an incredible illustrator. His scenes are simple and colourful, carefree and inviting, and Ramon is the cutest little character around.

I’m looking forward to checking out some other titles by Peter, and if you’re interested in seeing what else he’s done, maybe pop over to his website and take a look.

I’d highly recommend this lovely little book, for kids and grown-ups alike.

***

Tomorrow, I’ll review Jennifer Paynter’s Mary Bennet (Penguin). If you love Pride and Prejudice, you’ll love Jennifer’s revisit.

***

Buy your own copy of Ish at the TBYL Store for only $16.95


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