No-Sport Sunday with Jeff Kinney

Our weekends are often pretty sporty. The boys enjoy there basketball, and as such, Saturday and Sunday is often taken up with playing, watching or talking about basketball of one kind of another. And then, of course, there’s the footy…

But, every now and then I steal one or both of the kids away from all the sporty fun for a bit of a bookish adventure.

Sunday last was one such occasion, when I absconded with Evan into the city to hear from the fantastic Jeff Kinney, author of the bestselling Diary of  a Wimpy Kid series. Thanks to the Wheeler Centre, we tripped into the Town Hall along with thousands of other eager fans to hear from the talented, very unassuming author.

I was so impressed with Jeff’s story, it was fascinating to hear how his vision for himself as a cartoonist didn’t quite work out the way he thought it would. Rather, with patience and perseverance, his career in fact became about much more than his whimsical drawings. His cartoons and stories communicate a most refreshing connection with childhood, and his obvious commitment to making reading accessible to ‘reluctant readers’ is wonderful to witness.

His very visual presentation was wonderfully entertaining… I particularly liked being able to see how involved he was with the film translation of his book (I’ve often wondered about the author/film-maker relationship), and I think Evan’s favourite part would have to have been the different cover translations of Diary of a Wimpy Kid from around the world, in particularly the banana-ry Brazilian translation! He talked about it all the way home…

The kids were transfixed, Jeff’s presentation was pitched just right. The junior audience laughed and ooh’d and aah’d throughout. Not only that, I was incredibly impressed with the questions that the kids asked at the end of the session – concise, thoughtful and of real interest to the whole audience. Fantastic crowd.

Events like this one provide the most amazing opportunity to engage kids with writing, reading and authors. Just quietly, I like to be able to give Ev and Oscar a little break from the sporty world of weekends, and to encourage something a little more on the bookish side from time to time. These kinds of gigs give me a chance to do this.

Thanks to the Wheeler Centre for the opportunity to see Jeff Kinney this month. Please check out their calendar for some more amazing upcoming events, including evenings with Christopher Paolini and Jodi Picoult.


A couple of fun reminders while I’m here!!

The TBYL Book Club for May started today. Join us at the club to chat about Kathryn Stockett’s The Help.

I’ll be drawing our The Immortal Rules competition at 8pm tonight. Find out how to enter here.

I’m currently getting the June edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish ready. Don’t forget to subscribe to get it by email, first Monday of the month.

There’s just a couple more days to enter our TBYL News, Mary Bennet give-away. Click here to find out how to enter!


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Project No. 2, tick

It seems to come around so quickly, but it was time again to return our batch of library books to our local library and so I thought it the perfect time to take care of Project No. 2 of The Little Book Adventure. The adventure is a fun year-long program being run by My Little Bookcase (in conjunction with the National Year of Reading).

Once Oscar and I had had one final read of our library books we proceeded to have a wonderful time spreading our love for books. This month, the idea of the project was to leave a little message in a book for the next person to choose it from the library.

After choosing our favourite book (a beautiful, colourful dinosaur story) we set ourselves up. I wrote a note for Oscar, and then he got into the decoration…

He approached his role with great enthusiasm…

…and was very happy with the end product…

A final re-read and then it was ready to go…

We folded it up, slipped it inside the pages of the picture book, and headed to the library to complete our mission.

I only wish I could see the look on the face of the next littlie that reads this book – I hope they get a bit of a buzz out of our little letter.

To find out more about The Little Book Adventure, visit the delightful My Little Bookcase.

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An important story

A quick post today, to give you the heads up on a brand new, very special item in The TBYL Store.

I’m thrilled to be able to stock this very important picture book, My Mum has Breast Cancer, by Lisa Sewards and Harrison Sewards. This book was a great help to me when we were managing our way through breast cancer, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s faced with the difficult situation of talking to kids about this far too common illness.

My Mum has Breast Cancer is the personal story of one Mother’s journey with breast cancer told through the eyes of her 6 year old son.

It aims to provide families with a storybook that gently and compassionately explains the breast cancer journey in an informative and engaging way.  This personal account attempts to accept and normalise the trauma of experiencing cancer, and helps shift the focus, rather like looking into the light instead of the darkness.

The book is written so that children can relate to it, and includes explanations of medical treatments to facilitate discussion between parents, carers and young children.  It assists in opening the lines of communication between you and your child.

The fantastic illustrations tell most of the story on their own.  They also illustrate the heroes we meet in the medical world. It’s suitable for children aged 3-10 years

50% of the sale price of every copy of My Mum has Breast Cancer sold will be donated directly to Breast Cancer Network Australia.

Buy your a copy of My Mum has Breast Cancer, at the TBYL Store!

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Imagination at play

Yesterday, I was thrilled to be able to share my love of a good event with my kids.

On a perfect day (not too hot, not too cold) Evan and Oscar and I hopped on a train and meandered into the city for the Children’s Book Festival 2012, held by The Wheeler Centre and the State Library of Victoria (a.k.a ‘The Big Library’).

Greeted by the sounds of the Goss Community Choir, we started our day off by having a little stroll around the lawns to see what was on offer. The vibe was fantastic, lots of people, kids of all ages and everyone keen to hear, see and experience some wonderful kid’s reading.

Oscar stopped off and listened to a couple of stories at the 1001 Nights Tent. It never wears off really does it? The little flutter of joy when watching your kids really enjoy a story – he was enthralled…

After a couple of stories, it was time to go and meet some baby animals. I’d had a tip-off that there was a very cute piglet at the petting zoo and so we happily lined up for a few minutes to check him out…

After the farm, it was time for a wander up Little Lonsdale Street, and who should find but Spot the Dog! Oscar was over the moon, he heard a story, got a hug, and even managed a high five from his favourite spotty dog.

I’m not quite sure what it is about Fire Trucks, but they are always a hit! Both the boys had a great time checking out the truck, with its gauges and hoses and buttons and levers. Oscar was impressed, as he had a chance to sit in the cabin of the big red fire engine, he looked quite at home really.

Then it was on to something a bit more bookish. We went for a bit of a look at The Big Library. The Experimedia room was incredible fun…toys, books, tents and music. We were very fortunate to hear from the lovely Hazel Edwards, who was celebrating Hippopotamus’s 30th birthday! It was quite special to share this with the boys…they didn’t realise as they sat transfixed, that I used to do the same thing when these books were read to me at school. Quite special. It was also very interesting to hear a bit about the behind the scenes of some of Hazel’s favourite picture books.

We’d almost run out of puff, but we couldn’t miss out on just one more experience – the chance to hear from Andy Griffiths. Just around the corner at the Wheeler Centre, we joined a room full of other eager fans to giggle, gasp and gaffaw at the very irreveralant, always funny Andy. Evan and I shared many a laugh, and enjoyed having a chat about the talk and Andy’s books on the way home.

The festival kicked on until 4pm, but we three had had our fill, and it was time to head home. The kids chatted all the way home, and had a ball telling Dad all about the Big Library and the fire trucks, the ducks, the rabbits and the fabulous stories.

These days are what memories are made of…

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Project No. 1, Tick!

So, I was chatting about The Little Book Adventure, a fantastic program being run by My Little Bookcase (in conjunction with the National Year of Reading).

Yesterday, Oscar and I had a ball getting creative with with our book storage. The idea being to arrange Oscar’s book collection in a way that was easily accessible to him, and enticing – it needed to look great, inviting and therefore encourage him to sit and read as part of his average day.

We did just that…

He can reach them…

He can play…

He knows where to find his favourite books…

And he’s got his own little reading spot, which he loves!

This has been wonderful fun, and it’ll make it all the easier for both Oscar and I to remember to make time for lots and lots of story time.

To find out more about The Little Book Adventure, visit the delightful My Little Bookcase.

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Birds and Bookshelves

There are two really lovely things that I’d like to tell you about today…

Firstly, I’m really excited to announce the novel for April’s TBYL Book Club. It’s a new book from an incredible Australian author, Carrie Tiffany. The book is Mateship with Birds:

“On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.

Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.”

This is an incredible book and one of my new favourites. It’s a little shocking at times, it’s incredibly moving and beautifully written. I’ll be posting a full review of the novel on Wednesday, and it’ll include an author-interview – I had a chance to chat with Carrie a couple of weeks ago. Keep an eye out if you’d like to know more.

Remember, it’s free to join the club, and if you’d like to buy a copy of the book, I’ve got them in The Store for just $19.99.

We’re gearing up for this month’s catch-up to discuss Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Discussions kick off on the 26.3.12 and will run for the week – I hope you’ll join us. Read the review || Buy the Book

Secondly, I’ve been meaning to tell you about a challenge that I’ve taken on, with help from my loyal side-kick Oscar. It’s The Little Book Adventure, by My Little Bookcase (in conjunction with the National Year of Reading).

It’s going to be so much fun! Basically, the adventure is a series of challenges designed to get families to working together, enjoying quality time with each other and sharing their love of reading and books.

This month’s challenge, is to get creative with with your book storage. The idea is to arrange Oscar’s books in a way that he can easily access and enjoy them – they’ll be reachable, interesting and enticing – to encourage him to help himself to reading as a fun part of his day.

I’m half-way through the project, and as soon as I’m finished, I’ll post photos here. You’ll also find other project submissions on the My Little Bookcase Facebook Page.

As you can see, I’ve been lucky enough to start the week off with some lovely things…great ideas, nice announcements, and fantastic reads.

I hope you’ll join in!

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Eliminatory in Edinburgh: Young Sherlock Holmes

By the end of last month, I was doing my own head in a bit. I had read a series of very bleak novels in quick succession, namely Of a Boy, Room and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Without exception, these are stunning stories, well worth the telling, but by the end of my reading of them I was well and truly ready for something a bit lighter. It was high time for some Young Adult fiction, so I picked up Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock Holmes  – Fire Store (Pan MacMillan).

Fourth in the series, Fire Storm has been on my reading pile for a month or so. Evan enjoyed reading it over the summer holidays, and has since become completely obsessed with everything Sherlock.

Firstly, it was really special to be able to share a reading experience with Evan. Every time he caught me reading, he’d quiz me on where I was up to, what was happening, what I thought.

And it was a fun book to share. Action-packed, true to the Sherlock franchise, and full to the brim of puzzles to crack and mysteries to solve:

“Sherlock Holmes is at a loss. His friend and her father have disappeared. Their house is empty, as if nobody has ever lived there. His attempts to solve the case take Sherlock to Scotland, and into an even darker mystery – one that involves kidnapping, bodysnatchers and a man who says that he can control the dead.”

Sherlock is believably ‘young’, learning his craft and struggling with an ominous family legacy. His entourage are fascinating and likeable, Matthew ‘Matty’ Arnatt’s street-smarts compliment Sherlock’s sixth sense well, and Rufus Stone provides a reassuring adult presence, and makes the whole adventure that bit more believable. There’s even the obligitory special guest appearance of Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft.

I was drawn into the story early:

“Uncle Sherrinford’s library smelled of old, dry books, mildew, leather binding and pipe tobacco. Sherlock felt the quietness as something almost physical as the door closed behind him…”

I was impressed by the uniqueness of Holme’s investigations and subsequent discoveries:

“On a whim, he crossed over to the narrow window that looked out over the gardens to the back of the house. He couldn’t see anybody, so he was safe from observation. The window was open a crack. He pushed it further open and leaned out. Something was hanging from a piece of twine that had been wrapped around a nail stuck in the wood of the window frame – a package that dangled a couple of feet below the level of the windowsill. It was small enough that it would have been almost invisible from the garden below, unless someone knew exactly what they were looking for.”

Although written for readers 11-years and older, Lane hasn’t dumbed the story down at all. It’s written accessibly but it’s also packed with suspense, thrills and an age-appropriate level of action. Some kids might find some of it a little bit scary, but I suspect that most eleven-year-old boys wont think twice about the more frightening parts of the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed Young Sherlock Holmes  – Fire Store and am looking forward to going back and reading the first three books in the series. Good thing is, Evan was equally impressed so I’ll be able to pass the purchase of the books off as for him, I’ll sneak a read and then add them to his collection. Clever aren’t I?

Which is your favourite manifestation of Sherlock Holmes character?

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Weekend reading sorted

This week I have been hopelessly, wonderfully, terribly distracted. Most particularly I’ve been neck deep in new stock for The Store, and have lost hours to fiddling with our new O-Check stationery range, and the gorgeous 2pm at the Button Factory pieces that’s now on offer.

To add to this, I’m pretty sure that Oscar has not stopped talking since Monday, and has been quite insistent that I watch him dance/make play-dough butterflies/do backflips for the better part of the week.

As such, it has made it hard for me to stay on task. On most day’s I can write around the noise, but once I get a bit worn-out this becomes more difficult.

And so, I took a night off last night to watch the last bit of cricket for the season, treated myself to a nanna-nap this afternoon, and am now committed to doing some serious writing! I’ve got three reviews lined up for next week, Matt Johnstone’s Quiet the Mind, Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock Holmes – Fire Storm, and Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, so there will be no shortage of reading ideas for young and old.

For this afternoon though, I thought I’d share with you the lovely books that Oscar and I picked up at the library today. He’s really into reading again at the moment, and so I thought some choice picture books were in order for over the weekend. Here’s what’s on the shelf…

Whose Belly? by Jeannette Rowe
A cheeky, fold-out book about bellies, of all things! Bright and colourful, this one will get a few reads, and a few giggles no doubt. Not a lot of reading, but great illustrations and funny tummies.

The Wrong Book, by Nick Bland
This is my pick of the bunch, this book is hilarious. Again, cheeky to boot, and I just love feisty Nicholas Ickle. Oscar had lots of fun with this one too. He seems to be getting to the point with his reading where he tries to ‘reads along.’ This book is perfect for developing this skill, with rhythm, repetition and gorgeous illustrations. Nick Bland is a bit of a favourite here at That Book You Like and you might remember a special guest post about Nick Bland last year…read it here

Ivy Loves to Give, by Freya Blackwood
Last week we read The Runaway Hug (by Nick Bland and Freya) and this stunning picture book is very similar in tone, pace and look. I chose it because I love the look of it, and Oscar really enjoyed the story. I’ll read this one to him a few times over because I love the way it sounds. These types of books are really lovely, and quite important I think, in that they quiet the pace a little and teach otherwise burley little boys a little about small kindnesses. Jackie over at My Little Bookcase reviewed this book last year…read it here

I Want a Pet, by Lauren Child
Another funky, colourful picture book, although I must admit I’m a little worried that Oscar will try and hit me up for a lion or a bat for a pet after reading this one. The illustrations, crazy, scruffy and bright will give us plenty to talk about as we read this one.

That should keep us busy for a little while.

What are you reading with your kids at the moment?

Rockin’ and a rhyming

Although the boys and I do try and get out and about a bit these days, there are still some events which rate as super special. Rhymes Kids Music Festival was one such event.

With a bright and early start, my sister and I took our little ones off to the Melbourne Showgrounds for what promised to be a memorable, tiring, and rockin’ day. It did not disappoint, it was all these things and more.

We’d decided to do the morning shift, while the kids were fresh, happy and compliant. This turned out to be a great idea as it meant that we had the chance to have a good look around before the crowds arrived. After we’d labelled our kids (great peace of mind when your kid is just one little person in a sea of two-foot tall humans), Oscar and his cousin started off their adventure with a quick trip around the Nissan X-Trail driving track. I must say I was impressed with Oscar’s observation of the road rules (right light stop, green light go) and I thought him most deserving of the my-first-driver’s-license that the lovely Nissan people gave him – so cute!

Then for coffee, a bubble-blowing gun each for the kids and a bundle of free Huggies Nappy-Pants (gotta love a freebie!)

Once these important errands were taken care of, it was time to find a prime position in front of the stage, ready for Angelina Ballerina. We found a spot, a little bit further back, but with a bit of room to move. I was so pleased to find that everyone was really friendly and respectful…I was a little bit worried as these types of kid’s-gigs can get a little chaotic at times. Everyone happily put prams out of the way and set up picnic rugs. Grown-ups happily sat, keeping out of the way of the numerous, delighted toddlers who where jumping out of their skins with excitement.

Angelina Ballerina was an absolute hit, both Oscar and his cousin had the most fabulous time jumping, twirling, pirouetting and being as graceful as a three year old can be (which is not very graceful as it happens, but is super-cute). A great way to start the day, the kids were well and truly in the zone, and loving it.

Next up was Spikey and Friends, an Australian K-indie Rock band straight from Byron Bay. Spikey the Echidna was a real hit, larger than life and very, well, very spikey. The band was fun, and kids and parents alike seemed to appreciate their uniquely Australian songs.

There was a short break after Spikey, during which I notice that the crowd started to grow. The kids started to jitter and jump. It was time for Yo Gabba Gabba!  I wasn’t sure what to expect – I’m sure I’m not alone is saying that I find Yo Gabba Gabba a little perplexing. Nonetheless, they are definetly very entertaining even if they’ve been designed to appeal to children who are far edgier than I was as a child – Oscar is most certainly very keen on them. He couldn’t have looked funkier, dancing away, and the Yo Gabba Gabba team certainly didn’t hold back on laying down some hard-core kiddy beats. They shared their favourites, and Oscar spun and clapped and sang along at the top of his voice. The crowd was jumping, much as you would expect at a music festival, and it really was a wonderfully memorable moment.

After a 30 minute set, the Gabba gang waved Goodbye, Goodbye and the kids had a moment to catch their breath. At this stage, we went for a little wander. We had fun listening to Electric Lunchbox and Peter Combe, but we did it whilst on the move.

We came across some more freebies, this time from Burt’s Bees – free moisturisers, baby oil, nappy-rash cream and lip balm (I’m hooked!) all lovely and natural, and then stopped for a bite to eat. By this stage, Lazy Town had started and this required a quick trip back to the stage, the kids had a bit of a dance and then returned to their hot chips. I found myself wondering if I would ever be able to convince Oscar to eat ‘sports candy’ without the actual Sportacus visiting our house…his choice of lunch (chips and musk sticks) certainly didn’t really bode well. Sadly, I’m pretty sure the Lazy Town crew are a bit busy for house-calls.

After lunch we checked out the exhibitors, and listened to a bit more music. We were extremely pleased that the event was indoors, as the weather outside was very chilly and wet. The Showgrounds was a perfect venue really, big enough but not too big, a great location and warm!

I’ve got to say that over-all, the event was spot-on. It was extremely well organised, the kid’s activities were great, the acts offered something for everyone, and the set-up was really comfortable. There was enough room for everyone and this meant that we could all move around safely and comfortably, something that is so important when you’re wrangling two and three year olds. At the same time, there was enough of a crowd, enough little kids having an absolute ball, that there was an unforgettable buzz in the air.

I really think that Oscar will remember this day as a special one, and hopefully it’ll establish a real taste for all things musical. I’m pretty sure we’ll go again next year, and I’ll hopefully rally a few extra friends and family to come along with me.


If you want to find out more about Rhymes Festival, and keep an eye out for next year’s festival, you can visit their website here or Like their Facebook page here.

If you live in Brisbane, you’ve still got the chance to get along to a Rhymes Festival…coming to you, 22 January 2012.

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I’m still awake, still!

You might remember that during the school holidays I took the boys to see the musical and fabulously quirky Still, Awake Still!  The show was largely drawn from the songs that accompany the delightful picture book I’m Still Awake, Still! by Elizabeth Honey and Sue Johnson.

To follow-up on our junior theatrical experience, I borrowed a copy of I’m Still Awake, Still! from the library and it’s been on high rotation ever since!

Oscar read it on the way home, when we got home (twice), before bed, in bed, and again when he woke up. He’s had the CD on repeat, and it’s moved from his bedroom to the lounge room, and back to his room again.

The story is about little Fiddy, who is having terrible trouble getting to sleep…

“Fiddy is small and busy and quick. And at bedtime he’s still wide awake.”

Marlo, Parlo and Nonno all try and help Fiddy out, as do a cast of favourite Australia creatures. It takes a big old bear, a few sweet lullabies and a quick trip through space to finely wear this bouncy little boy out.

I can’t decide what I love more, the story, the illustrations or the music…

The story is cosy from start to finish, and Fiddy is the cutest little protagonist on page. I’m on the look-out for a pair of rainbow pyjamas for Oscar and listening to Elizabeth narrate the story (on the CD) is very special.

The illustrations are gorgeous, made all the better for having seem a few of the originals at the Art Centre last month. You can see a small sample here at A&U’s website. I was quite amazed at how Elizabeth has managed to maintain a cheer and brightness on the page, even in the dark of night.

And then of course there is the music. The first time I listened to Goodnight My Little Darling with Oscar he went quiet and still. Even in the middle of the afternoon, Oscar seemed to respond to the lullaby. I’ll admit that it gave me goosebumps, at the sweetness of this lovely song. The tracks go on to be a mixture of calmness and funkiness. As is the case with most really enjoyable kids music, Sue’s compositions don’t ‘talk down’ to the kids. They’re jazzy and funky in their own right, not overly silly and performed with great talent.

The combination of a clever, super-cute story, fun and colourful illustrations and wonderful musical accompaniment, I’m Still Awake, Still! is the whole package. So very worth a look, particularly if you’ve got a little one who struggles a bit at bedtime.

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