Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Roll Up, Roll Up! The Circus Is Coming To North Leeds!

DISCLAIMER: I have been gifted tickets to this production in return for writing about it, and attended a free preview event, but all words and opinions are my own.

The summer holidays are slowly drawing to a close now, and having been away last week I'm definitely feeling a bit deflated. We're running out of ideas for things to do, but Girl Child is so fed up with the lack of school that she still needs a lot of stimulation. So I'm really glad we have one last treat up our sleeves for next week ...

Leeds-based arts organisation Codswallop CIC are bringing the circus to Yeadon Town Hall for the final week of the school holidays with their show Mr Montgomery's Circus Spectacular. With multiple daily performances from Tuesday 27th August to Sunday 1st September, I think this looks like it'll be a fantastic way to keep the kids entertained. There'll be dancers, aerial performers, jugglers and, knowing Codswallop's work, a whole lot of fun!

The show itself lasts an hour - long enough for a lot of fun but not so long that younger ones are going to get fidgety - and there will be activities before and after the show too. Children will even get an activity book to take home - so you might get to have a cup of tea in peace!

Image courtesy of Yeadon Town Hall

Codswallop are a fantastic organisation with a real passion for community arts. I have been to several of their events and they are always great fun - lots of activities pitched at different levels so all ages and abilities are catered for, and enthusiastic facilitators who really get the kids involved. I've yet to make it to one of their shows so I'm really excited to see this new production!

Earlier this summer we were invited to a preview event for local bloggers and the children had a great time. They tried out different circus skills, made craft projects, had their faces painted and ate a slightly alarming amount of lollies and popcorn! The event was very relaxed and fun, just the atmosphere I've come to expect from a Codswallop event, and got us really excited for the show.

A few highlights from the preview event

If you're interested in coming along to the circus, tickets are still available from Yeadon Town Hall. You can find more information on the show from their website or Facebook page, or from Codswallop's Facebook page.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Review: 'The Pirate Who Lost His Name' by Lou Treleaven and Genie Espinosa

DISCLAIMER: I was provided with a copy of this book for the purposes of this review, however all words and opinions are my own

I must confess, I'm rather late writing this review as this picture book came out last month. But it's for a good reason - the children liked it so much they pinched my copy before I could get photos!!



The Pirate Who Lost His Name does exactly what it says on the tin. It features a pirate who has everything you would expect a (child-friendly) pirate to have - sword, peg leg, parrot - but after a bump on the head he was missing one thing: his own name. He can remember all his friends' names (and what wonderful names they have) but his own is a total mystery.



So off he goes to try and find out his name without letting on that he forgot it in the first place, but despite his craftiest of efforts, he just can't find it out - but is someone trying to tell him the answer all along?



Pirate stories are always a winner with young children, and the eponymous but anonymous pirate in this book is a really likable character - his embarrassment at forgetting his own name is endearing, and you can tell that he is a very friendly pirate too as he goes to visit his friends on his quest. I won't give the ending away but it's a brilliant twist, and one that had my seven year old in stitches!

The writing is very witty, with lots of funny pirate names to get the little ones giggling, and the illustrations are a great match - colourful, over the top and full of quirky details to spot. Each pirate is drawn with great care to match their name and to make you laugh. My daughter particularly liked that there were female pirates too! I think the parrot was my three year old's favourite character though, and a very expressive parrot it is! He loved finding him in the different illustrations.

If you have a pirate-lover in your family, or just a lover of witty words and funny pictures, then this book would be a big hit!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog, BookBairn and Acorn Books.

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Sunday, 28 July 2019

Review: 'The Spacesuit' by Alison Donald and Ariel Landy

DISCLAIMER: This book was sent to me for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

When Girl Child was little she wanted to be an astronaut. She's since had a rethink on that, which I have to admit I'm slightly relieved about - I don't doubt her ability to achieve whatever she puts her mind to, but in reality I think I'd be a nervous wreck if she was blasted off into space!

She does, however, maintain a passing interest in space, and also wants to be inventor when she grows up. I find it really encouraging that there is now more talk about the many people who worked 'behind the scenes' in the space race - the engineers, computers, coders. The work of women has been particularly highlighted in recent years, which is great for girls interested in STEM. And with this new picture book from Maverick Children's Books, we can acknowledge the work of another group of women - the seamstresses who designed and made the spacesuits used in the Apollo 11 mission 50 years ago.



'The Spacesuit' tells the story of Eleanor 'Ellie' Foraker, whose love of designing and sewing as a child led her to become a seamstress - and such a good one that she was entrusted with the responsibility of designing a spacesuit for a competition the company she worked for had entered.



It's a real against-the-odds story as Ellie's small team were up against experts in more technical fields, but with hard work and ingenuity they beat the odds and created the spacesuits that eventually went to the Moon.



I love that the story starts with Ellie as a little girl learning to sew, making it relatable for children who have dreams and passions of their own. I also really like that there are facts dotted through the story and also at the beginning and end of the book, grounding the story in reality. It's an aspect of the space race that I had never even considered before and learning about the work that went into designing the spacesuits was really interesting. While Preschooler didn't quite understand the story, Girl Child loved it and found it inspiring.

I also really like the illustrations, which capture the sixties style brilliantly and - forgive the pun - weave together aspects of tailoring and engineering beautifully. I love the facial expressions on the characters too - Ellie's expression exudes warmth and really draws you to her, and I loved the slightly cross-eyed astronaut after testing out a rival suit!!

I'd really recommend this book for older preschoolers and younger school-age children who have an interest in space, a creative streak or even just a particular passion that they dream of pursuing as they grow up. It's a really inspiring story of how small dreams can grow in unexpected ways, and how you can be part of something much bigger than yourself with hard work and determination.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

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Monday, 15 July 2019

Review: 'I, Pod' by Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson

DISCLAIMER: I was sent a copy of this book for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Does anyone else find that their eldest children think they're totally capable of caring for their younger siblings despite still being tiny themselves? I remember Girl Child earnestly telling me that she could look after her little brother for me when she was only five! It's a pity we didn't have a copy of 'I, Pod' back then so I could show her how babysitting can go wrong!



'I, Pod' is the third book featuring the caveboy-inventor Pod - I reviewed the second book, the equally cleverly titled 'Game Of Stones', a while ago. This time, Pod is charged with looking after adorable cavebaby Nim. Things don't start out brilliantly when Pod tries to teach Nim to say his name, yielding some very funny results!


Pod decides to use his inventive abilities to make a swing for Nim, which she loves until disaster strikes.


Nim ends up swept down a river with Pod in hot pursuit, meeting lots of scary prehistoric creatures on the way. Parents will enjoy how Nim seems completely unfazed by the danger she's in - we all know babies and small toddlers who are totally fearless! Eventually Pod's pet mammoth saves the day, but will Pod be able to avoid getting into trouble with Nim's mum?

This is a very funny story, bound to be enjoyed by loves of the prehistoric era. It has plenty of action to keep little ones interested and the illustrations are bright, bold and fun. Look out for the little prehistoric bugs in some of the illustrations, great for spotting if your child loves minibeasts too!

Luckily Girl Child knows her capabilities a bit more now so is unlikely to offer to babysit for a while. That said, I wouldn't put it past her to invent some contraption for Preschooler to get into trouble with!

Linking up with 'Read With Me' hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and 'Kids Love To Read' hosted by Laura's Lovely, Blog, Acorn Books and BookBairn.

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Monday, 1 July 2019

Review: 'The MOOsic Makers' by Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos

The list of things I love is a long one but fairly high up on the list you will find cows and puns. So when I received a copy of 'The MOOsic Makers' I was delighted!



Celery and Nutmeg are musical cows who love to entertain Farmer Joni. She enjoys their 'Moo-grass' tunes so much it makes the other animals a bit jealous.



But one day the roof is blown off the barn, and Farmer Joni needs to raise money to replace it. The cows turn to busking but don't get very far until Mr Smarm turns up with promises of riches. There's one hitch - they need to change their entire style to become famous.



Will they change to earn the money they need for the barn roof? Is Mr Smarm to be trusted?

I enjoyed this story - as I said, cows and puns, what's not to love? I was a little worried when Mr Smarm told the cows that Moo-grass music is for boys and they should wear pink dresses, but without wanting to spoil the ending, the cows reject his views and stay true to themselves - and even find a way to include the other animals.

It's a story about using your talents for good whilst not changing to suit others, being wary of strangers and supporting the people who are closest to you. It can be tricky to explain to young children that people don't always have good intentions, so Mr Smarm is an excellent character for introducing this topic. Heather Pindar is great at writing fun, puntastic animal stories and we're big fans of Barbara Bakos's illustrations - her farmyard scenes are always fun to study!

If your little one loves farm animals, music or just a lot of mooing I really recommend this book!

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of the book for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.



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Friday, 28 June 2019

A Collection Of Advice On Toilet Training

Wait until they're ready. But if you leave it too late they'll be resistant to the change. If you wait until they're over three you'll be done in a matter of days. Fifty years ago children were potty trained by eighteen months. It's rare for a child to be truly ready before they're two. In some cultures, potties are used from birth. Don't rush it. But if you leave it too long, you're a lazy parent, got that?

Photo by hermaion from Pexels


Signs of readiness include knowing when they're wet, going more than two hours between wees, seeking privacy and asking to use the potty. Signs of readiness are irrelevant as the biological processes needed to be ready occur between 24 and 30 months. You must start as soon as they're ready - any delay can confuse them. But make sure you can drop everything for at least a week to get them started.

It's best to use a potty so that you can keep one close. It's best to go straight to the toilet so that you don't have to go through a second transition. With boys you should get them comfortable going sat down first. Get them to wee standing up as that makes it easier when you're out and about. Speaking of which, don't go out for the first week if you can help it. But go about your usual routine. Use pull ups when out and about. Don't use pull ups as that will confuse them. But you have to use pull ups at soft play, it's the rules.

Use a reward chart. Don't use rewards as then they will regress when you withdraw the rewards. Make a big deal of them using the potty/toilet, using lots of praise. Praise should not be excessive and should be purely descriptive, e.g. "look, you did a big wee in the potty!" Make sure you take them to the potty every hour to begin with. Don't take them to the potty too often as they will get annoyed and refuse to go.

If they're truly ready they'll get it in less than a week. Once you've started don't stop as that will confuse them. But if it's been a month they're not ready so go back to nappies. Don't go back to nappies, that's signalling that they don't need to use the potty. If they regress it's probably behavioural. If they regress it's probably due to dietary or health issues. If they regress it's because you didn't do it right the first time.

Oh and this last piece of advice is universal: if you're struggling with potty training, be prepared for people telling you their kid trained in a weekend.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Review: 'Can You See Me?' by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott

A little while ago I asked on Twitter for recommendations for middle-grade fiction or chapter books featuring autistic characters. Over a year on from diagnosis Girl Child is still struggling with being different, so I thought books would help her with that. I will eventually write a post about the books I was recommended but there was one I read which really stood out for me.


'Can You See Me?' is a collaboration between author Rebecca Westcott and autistic eleven year old Libby Scott. It tells the story of Tally, an autistic girl starting secondary school and having to deal with changing friendship dynamics, unsympathetic teachers and bullying. Interspersed between the chapters are journal entries written by Scott, from the perspective of Tally, talking about what it's like to be autistic and giving a really powerful insight into common traits such as sensory issues, demand avoidance and meltdowns.

I found the story of Tally really involving and moving, to the point where I really didn't want to put the book down and was on the verge of tears at some points. The story is told with such empathy and clarity that it really helped me to understand better the viewpoint of an autistic child - I definitely have more empathy for Girl Child since reading it. I think it would be a really good read for anyone with a connection to an autistic child, particularly people working in schools because it deals a lot with how challenging school can be for autistic children, and how easily misunderstandings can occur.

Because there are some quite intense bullying scenes in the book I'm not sure about letting Girl Child read it yet, I think she would find it too upsetting and might make her anxious for the future. But I do think it would be a good book for children aged 9 or above, whether they are autistic or not. There are a lot of important messages in the book about acceptance and emotional well-being that are universal, and any book that encourages children to see the world from another perspective is really important.

My only very slight reservation with the book is that there are some parts of the story that felt unresolved - for instance, there is a suggestion at one point that Tally's older sister Nell is also dealing with bullying, but this is not followed up. I'm taking this as a positive though, hoping it means there will be a sequel!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog, Acorn Books and BookBairn.

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