Monthly Archives: March 2012

Fiction Fridays #21: The Ravenous Beast

The Ravenous Beast: Niamh Sharkey (2004)

“I AM THE HUNGRIEST ANIMAL OF ALL,” said the Ravenous Beast.

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Extra Info:
The entire Chaos household loves this book. It’s one Daddy Chaos often chooses to read to the girls (and he can do the voices, I’m rubbish at voices) and we never tire of it. The book starts with the Ravenous Beast stating that he’s so hungry that he could eat “the big yellow house on the hill” then page by page another animal joins in with what they can eat (adding an extra item each time, ending with the whale listing nine items).

One touch I like is that often on one page, something from the next page can be seen in the distance (not always the case). The left hand page has text and the animals collecting together as each one joins in, the right hand page is a full picture with the animal and what it said it could eat (with bites out of each)!

The castle in the distance is one of the items on the next page...

Finally, the Ravenous Beast has had enough of the boasting, and proves that he is definitely the hungriest of them all by eating them! It’s a fantastically unexpected ending and an absolute hoot for small children. Although now my over-sensitive five year old does ask whether he really eats them and sometimes we decide that maybe they just all ran away very fast 🙂

John Crane GoGo Magnetic Blocks

I bought these blocks about six months ago and they have been very popular with MG and DG from the start. The box contains 32 wooden blocks and 2 axles, 28 of the blocks have magnets on some sides and 4 are wheels. There is a sheet with twenty ideas of things to build and a cotton bag for keeping the bricks in if you don’t keep the box. The box has been sturdy enough to survive the last six months intact so we’ve used that instead of the bag, apart from when the blocks turn into shopping for other imaginative play.

The magnets in these blocks are quite strong but are also very easy to part so constructions can be made and played with but easily re-made when required. I managed to hold up 9 bricks under one magnet, but that was stretching the magnet’s strength. In the picture there are seven bricks held by one magnet, and that fell apart soon after, but they are that strong. There are more than enough blocks for one child to construct and play. When both MG and DG use the blocks together it’s possible but not as much fun for them, but they’re sisters so fight over everything most of the time 😆

The age says 3+ but these blocks are great for toddlers because they reduce the frustration of blocks falling apart. Of course you need to be careful with magnets but these are well fitted into the blocks and after six months of being battered around they’re showing no signs of wear so it’s extremely unlikely that the magnets would stray and the blocks are big enough to be difficult to swallow!

One of the things I love best is that you can build shapes that don’t quite follow the rules of gravity. It makes for some fun constructions. MG has followed some of the patterns because she likes to do that, and DG has insisted I make something from the patterns for her but generally they both make their own constructions and the ease in which the blocks connect mean even younger children can make fairly complex constructions.

I was going to write that the only downside is the price, when compared to non-magnetic blocks they do seem expensive. However I’ve just done some searching online (Google, Amazon and eBay) and found that (a) there are not many magnetic building block sets available in the first place, (b) these John Crane / GoGo blocks appear to be the best value for wooden magnetic blocks and (c) Play Merrily are very competitively priced.

These are not just standard building blocks though, they are magnetic and this does add significantly to the play value. MG and DG barely look at “ordinary” building blocks (and we have some really beautiful Haba ones) but will play with these for hours. Not to mention all the educational value they’re getting learning about forces and gravity and magnets of course… We love these blocks and don’t hesitate in recommending them.

Disclaimer: I was not sent these blocks by PlayMerrily for review but I have had a discount account with PlayMerrily since August 2011 and therefore paid a reduced price for this product. All my reviews have been written because I loved the products and are for items I freely chose to buy for my daughters, unless otherwise stated. I choose to review for PlayMerrily because of their fantastic and friendly service.

Fiction Fridays #20: Dirty Bertie

Dirty Bertie: David Roberts (2002)

This is Bertie. He used to have dirty habits.

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This is such a fantastic book. It might not suit every parent’s sensibilities but I love it (I taught my girls to say ‘fart’ instead of ‘wind’, I’m not the greatest example… :lol:)

The first half of the books lists all the different ‘dirty’ habits that Bertie has – eating food off the floor, picking his nose, weeing in the flowerbeds… and the response from various members of his family: “NO BERTIE! THAT’S DIRTY, BERTIE!” which is fantastic for children to join in as you read the book again (and again and again!)

The second half of the book shows why he stopped all these habits – being sick from eating off the floor etc… except for one last habit which is even worse than first mentioned! David Robert’s pictures are fantastic, and most children will find this book hilarious. To be gender stereotyped, little boys will love Dirty Bertie, and the sequel Pooh! Is That You, Bertie? But my little girls love these books and find them funny too, so ignore my lapse into gender stereotyping there!

This book does also technically do a serious job of explaining why not to do certain things (like eat random sweets off the floor) in a very humourous manner. Highly recomended.

BigJigs Roadway Zebra Crossing Set

When Merry from Patch of Puddles put out a Twitter call for reviewers for Manhattan Toy products, I jumped at the chance before remembering that actually I don’t have any children young enough any more… However Merry also offered products from the BigJigs Road and Rail series, which we love.

It is no secret that I adore wooden toys, and I do think that wooden rail sets are up there as one of the ‘must have’ toys for children (right up the top of the list with boxes, sticks and mud!) I’ve been fortunate to be sent the BigJigs Level Crossing Set to test for compatibility with other Road sets, and when I was looking at that I fell for the Zebra Crossing Set which Merry kindly sent to us for review.

The first lovely surprise on receiving the package was how the set was presented in its box. Often these sets are in closed boxes with only pictures on the outside but with this you can see what you’re actually getting, which was very exciting for DG as she helped me unwrap.

The box had already been torn before I took the picture, but I glued it back together. Sharp eyes will see the join! The box has been battered somewhat so just look at the lovely things inside...

As a hit on its own, it worked as DG instantly tore the box open and started playing (and has selected it independently on many occasions since). However, we do have other road and rail pieces so these were soon added into play, along with other cars and trains. DG got the first play because MG was at school when the parcel arrived, but MG has also stolen it from DG played with it regularly too.

Here's the Zebra Crossing in action with some Plan City roadway. DG is driving a train carriage over the road bridge, of course... This is a set-up in order to take the picture because I stupidly didn't take any when the girls were actually playing with the crossing, but it looks fab doesn't it?!

This set includes a zebra crossing road piece, two other road pieces, one car, two orange beacons, a street lamp, a children crossing warning sign and two wooden children. The fact that the whole set is based on UK road signs is a huge bonus, and therefore can also be used in conversations to talk about how to cross safely. My children quite enjoyed running over the wooden people at this point, I don’t think that was quite what I meant to get across to them!

Zebra Crossing Set and Level Crossing (no other sets included in this picture). Please don't take the fact that our Level Crossing is broken as any sign of the quality of the product. It's just my children leave their toys in weird places and some idiot in big boots didn't notice it was on the floor where it shouldn't have been and stepped on it *cough*

As a toy in isolation, this set probably isn’t quite enough to keep attention for too long. However, it doesn’t need a huge amount to give it longer play life. It would be great with one of the starter road sets, but the addition of the Level Crossing Set not only gives a connection to any existing rail sets you may have but also includes two slopes that make the transition from carpet road to wooden road easier for the cars, trains, trucks or whatever vehicles the children have chosen to use.

There's a reason she's called Destructo-Girl... I think she might be running a child over in this, back to the drawing board with road sense education...

All in all, a definite hit with MG and DG, and a great addition to any wooden road and/or rail sets. I’m really grateful to Merry for giving me the opportunity to review this. If you don’t already read Merry’s blog then I also heartily recommend going to Patch of Puddles to catch up.

Disclaimer: We were sent a BigJigs Zebra Crossing Set from Play Merrily Toys in exchange for a review post. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own.

Fiction Fridays #19: Just Like My Mum

Just Like My Mum: David Melling (2004)

This is my mum.

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Extra Info:
I had another book lined up for this week but then remembered it was Mother’s Day on Sunday so thought this was a better choice this week. The first book by David Melling we ever got was “Just Like My Dad” which I bought for DH’s first Father’s Day when MG was 4 months old. We all loved it so much, DH bought me “Just Like My Mum” for Christmas that year.

It’s hard to talk about “Just Like My Mum” without mentioning “Just Like My Dad” really because they are complimentary books. In each, the little lion cub talks about how he/she (gender neutral so perfect for any child) wants to be just like his/her parents but the pictures are telling a slightly different story to the words where the poor parents are getting into all sorts of trouble on behalf of the lion cub.

This book starts “In the morning I always wake early… …just like my mum.” I’m sure every mother (and father) can relate to the irony in that, and the picture of the bleary eyed mum lion tells it perfectly. This is a lovely book to share and is suitable from very small (it comes in board book format) onward. I love it.

I [Heart] Martha Bunny

Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Heart School by Clara Vulliamy is being published by Harper Collins on 29 March. I’m almost bursting with excitement about this book! Before Christmas, Clara posted patterns on her blog to make felt versions of Martha and her bunny brothers Pip and Monty. Then there’s been a fantastic series of behind-the-scenes creating a picture book for the next in the series I Heart Bedtime. And yet more felt bunny making… And to top it off, she’s coming to my home town to share more bunny crafts. So when I got this Martha Bunny picture in my inbox, I couldn’t wait to have a go decorating her myself.

I decided to do a collage Martha. First there was cutting the shapes (poor Martha!) Then choosing magazine pictures, felt, paper, ribbon and just the right buttons to go together…

Oh, yes, the children were in bed asleep at that point. I was testing it out for them to have a go. Honest. It wasn’t because the picture was too cute not to play myself… I used the template to cut felt and paper pieces that were big enough to make the clothes, and cut lengths of ribbon that were long enough to use as trim for the cardigan, dress and shoes if needed. I printed out two more copies of Martha and went to bed. The plan was that I’d present the girls with the project after school the next day.

But I left everything in sight, so bunny making happened at breakfast time instead. And it was so much fun that we might have been a teeny bit late for school… All in a good cause I think!

MG also decided to do a collage, and she traced around the templates I’d cut out to make the clothes: a felt dress and different colours on each side for the cardigan. She also complained that mine was boring because I didn’t colour in the bunny so she decorated Martha’s legs, hands and face too. Ribbons for ears and buttons for eyes, wonderful! My children are a lot more imaginative than I am.

DG chose small pieces of shiny paper to decorate her Martha and stuck those where she felt they needed to be. Then I opened the button box, and she had even more fun. What I find interesting is where the pictures of the buttons were, she chose to line her buttons up and the same with the eyes but everywhere else she was freestyle. She had a great time choosing her colours and sticking everything down.

Huge thanks to Clara for creating Martha, and to Rosi from Harper Collins for sending us the picture to decorate.

Silent Sunday 11.03.2012

Mocha Beanie Mummys Silent Sunday on LAB

Fiction Fridays #18: Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure: Kristina Stephenson (2007)

“Once upon a time, there was a deep, dark forest, where monstrous trees groaned, terrible beasties moaned and wiggly woos waited to tickle your toes.”

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Extra Info:
This is a fantastic tradition-busting fairy tale with twists and turns all through the book. On page three we have: “And what was behind that little wooden door? Well, nobody knew, because nobody ever went there. THE END.”

Except THE END is crossed through, and the story continues: “At least… Not until the day when…” The book is full of lovely moments like this and the pictures and text are fully integrated telling the story with the text meandering around the pages when needed.

There are also flaps to lift, four giant ones that extend towers above the pages or give a huge panorama, I am a fan of this method of extending illustrations in picture books.

My favourite part of the book (although there are so many wonderful parts to choose from) is a double page spread that is mostly filled with text made of different font styles, weights and sizes. This is the completely hilarious denouement to the entire adventure and I would hate to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read this book.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks is a definite favourite in this household, and thoroughly recommended.

“And everyone cheered hooray, hooray, hooray, because that’s what people do at the end of a really big adventure.”

11 Questions, 11 Answers

I was tagged, erm… three (?) weeks ago by the lovely ScattyMumOfBoys for 11 Questions, 11 Answers. It’s the first time I’ve been tagged and I thought I’d have a go but somehow time has slipped away so here at last is my post!

The Rules:
*. You must post these rules
*. Each person must post 11 things about herself on their blog
*. Answer the questions the “tagger” listed for you in their post and create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
*. Choose 11 people to tag and link them to the post
*. Let each blogger know you’ve tagged them

11 things about me:
1. My daughters were born in the same hospital as I was.
2. I hated breastfeeding.
3. When I was 15 I had a measured IQ of 142 on the Wechsler Scale, but never did anything useful with it.
4. I don’t think IQ is a good measure of intelligence!
5. I’m 5’2″.
6. I’ve lived in Oxfordshire my entire life (except for term time for the three years I went to university).
7. I failed my first degree.
8. I think I might have Asperger’s or some form of high functioning Autism.
9. When I started Primary School I didn’t speak a single word at school for at least the first year, and I only whispered to people until I was nine.
10. I bit at least one teacher when I was five or six.
11. I’m very short-sighted and have worn glasses for 28 years.

11 Questions from Life, Love and Living with Boys:
1. Do you use real names in your blog for the real-life people who feature? E.g. I use Spud, Pooh Bear and Scatty Dad for my boys.
Generally, no. I use Mighty Girl (MG) and Destructo Girl (DG) and probably DH if I ever mention him! I have let their real names slip, but you have to look for them!
2. How long have you been blogging and why did you start your blog?
Depending how you look at it: two years, one year or seven months. I take it as seven months as that’s when I really first started. Because I wanted to, that’s the best reason isn’t it? 🙂
3. Facebook or Twitter?
4. Real friends or Cyber Friends?
Depends what for! Cyber friends can be real, true friends even if you haven’t met and real-life friends can be not true friends too…
5. Which is your favourite (or one of your favourite) blogs to read?
Probably Patch of Puddles, as it’s the blog I’ve consistently read the longest – about two years now. I tend to not have time to read everything I’d like so go through spurts of reading different blogs at different times.
6. Have you ever had a celeb tweet you?
Depends who you define as a celeb. To me, picture book authors and illustrators are ‘celebs’ and they’re very chatty. But real, tens/hundreds of thousands of followers type people, no. But I don’t tend to tweet to them either!
7. Peanut Butter – Smooth, Crunchy or not at all?
Yuck yuck yuck! Not at all.
8. Tea, milk first or after tea bag?
I rarely drink tea, so whatever is easiest at the time. I’m not a huge fan of hot drinks, never got the hang of them. I probably infuriate anyone I’ve been to meetings with: “Tea or coffee?” they ask; “A water would be lovely,” I reply…
9. I love enjoying a bit of crap tv I’m talking TOWIE, Big Brother and *clears throat and whispers* Geordie Shore (vile program but addictive) What’s your guilty pleasure as far as tv’s concerned?
At the moment, Young Dracula on CBBC. I love it. Oh, and CSI/NCIS if I’ve got TV background noise on in the evenings. I generally avoid all soaps, reality TV, quiz shows etc so am rubbish at ‘general knowledge’ questions because I haven’t got a clue what they’re about…
10. When did you last laugh until you cried?
I can’t remember.
11. How many of my 11 Bloggers do you think will actually get round to answering my 11 questions?
At least one? Um… Six? Of course, you’d probably given up on me 😉

I’m not going to tag anyone because I’m terrible at reading blogs consistently and have no idea who does/doesn’t like these games. Also it’s a bit like pyramid selling – the first person has to find 11 bloggers; those 11 have to find 121 bloggers; those 121 have to find 1,331 bloggers… It all falls apart quite quickly 🙂

However, if anyone reading this wants to have a go, here are my 11 questions (please link back, I’d love to read the answers):

1. If there were no constraints, what education would you want your children to have?
2. Again no constraints, which organisation would you be most likely to volunteer for?
3. What’s your favourite genre of book to read, for yourself? For your children?
4. At what age would you consider ‘letting’ your child have a tattoo or piercing, if at all?
5. Where in the world do you want to live?
6. Where in the world are you?
7. You’ve got 30 minutes all to yourself: no children, no housework. What are you doing?
8. Who are your five favourite children’s illustrators right now?
9. Did you have a favourite soft toy as a child? What was it called?
10. Montessori or Steiner?
11. Favourite cake?

Fiction Fridays #17: Uncle Alonzo’s Beard

Uncle Alonzo’s Beard: Emma King-Farlow & Anna Laura Cantone (2006)

My Uncle Alonzo, who’s really quite weird, often found people asleep in his beard…

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
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Extra Info:
My girls are very lucky with their books, this is another one that they have signed to them! One day I’ll count up the signed books and probably be very surprised by how many we have…

Uncle Alonzo is told in rhyme and therefore fun and bouncy to read to children. It tells the story of Alonzo who cannot cut his extremely long beard because so many tiny people had set up home in it. But one day, there’s a fire, and things have to change… Happily Alonzo finds out that his friends like him for who he is not just for the home his beard offered them.

The pictures are lovely and perfectly suit the oddness of Alonzo, along with text that changes size and rarely sits straight on the page. This is a very funny book that should cause lots of giggles.