Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Review: 'Pirates vs Monsters' by David Crosby and Lee Cosgrove (gifted)

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

Do you have a child who likes to tell tall tales? I think most children go through this stage, whether it's a case of their imagination running away with them or wanting to sound braver, cooler or better off than they actually are. 

'Pirates vs Monsters' tackles this issue in a funny and child-friendly way. It begins with three pirates trading stories about terrible monsters they have defeated, each trying to outdo the others.

But while they boast of their beastly battles, a mysterious fog is drifting in, and with it a ship with a very scary crew ...

You can probably guess what happens next, but it reveals that the pirates were not as successful at vanquishing their monster foes as they claimed to be!

This is a great book for talking about how other people's boasts may not be all they seem, a useful conversation to have with younger schoolchildren! We've all had to tell our kid that little Jimmy probably doesn't get to stay up until 11pm playing on his iPhone, right?! But aside from the moral lesson, it's simply a very fun book for kids who enjoy scary stories. The illustrations are well-pitched - colourful, expressive and with just the right scare factor for young children. 

I would say that it might not be the ideal book for more sensitive children or those with a fear of monsters, as (spoiler) the monsters win in the end and the descriptions can be a bit scary, but there are plenty of kids who love a bit of a fright and would really enjoy this book. It would be a fantastic book for Halloween, with the spooky fog creating an eerie atmosphere!

'Pirates vs Monsters' is published by Maverick Books and available now.

Linking up with Read With Me hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

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Friday, 25 September 2020

Review: 'Why?' by Billy Dunne and Rhys Jefferys (gifted)

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

When Girl Child was a toddler and reached the 'why' stage, a friend advised me to try giving increasingly lengthy and complex answers so she would soon get bored. Unfortunately this was not a good tactic with my little information sponge, and she would keep asking why until my own knowledge base was exhausted.

The little girl in 'Why?' has a similar energy, and I love her for it. When her dad points out a rainbow and explains that they occur when sun and rain come together, her interest is piqued and she needs to know more. Lots more.

I think a lot of parents will relate to the rising stress levels of the dad, whose answers become increasingly scientific and technical as her desperately tries to satisfy his daughter's thirst for knowledge!

I really enjoyed reading this book. It's an impressive feat to not only explain complex science in a way that's accessible to children, but to do it whilst also rhyming! It definitely taught me a few things I either never knew or have forgotten in the 20 years since I last studied science. (Sorry science teachers, I'm sure you explained all this to me back then but my brain decided memorising Britpop lyrics was more important.)

The illustrations complement the text brilliantly, helping to explain the science behind rainbows and refraction in a really accessible way - that is, until the final explanation at which point the page is taken over by formulae and symbols as the dad's knowledge finally reaches its limits. I also love the subtleties with which the dad's expression changes with the turn of each page, not easily with just a few dots and lines. The curiosity and exuberance of the daughter is also very well expressed. And I absolutely love the visual gag on the very last page!

I'm really impressed with this picture book. The use of rhyme makes it appealing to children and it explains scientific principles really clearly, whilst also adding in humour for the adult reading it. I think it would appeal to older toddlers, preschoolers and younger school-age children depending on their level of understanding, but I do plan on leaving it lying around for my eight year old, "too big for picture books" Girl Child as I think she will really enjoy the scientific element.

'Why?' is due to be published by Maverick Books  in October 2020.

Linking up with Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and Bookbairn and #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum

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Monday, 14 September 2020

Out With a Fizzle

My youngest, my baby, started school today. And just like that, I have two schoolchildren. My days as a mum of a pre-school-age child are over.

This is not how I saw that stage of my life ending.

I'd had lots of plans for the last Spring and Summer with my little boy. I was going to start taking him swimming, go on little adventures with him, and generally enjoy our last weeks of just the two of us. Of course, none of that happened. It's a small thing compared to how coronavirus has impacted many other people - we're fortunate that we have all stayed healthy, as have the people we know and love. But I still can't help but feel a sense of injustice over the loss of the last of my one-on-one time with my son before I have to share him with school five days a week. We have had happy times as a family, yes, but balancing the very high and very different needs of my two children has been difficult, and I can't help but feel that Boy Child has been short-changed. 

Of course, he knows no different. He doesn't really understand what has happened over the last six months, and it probably hasn't occurred to him just how much mummy-son time he's missed out on. But I know. I know what I'd planned, I know that all his lasts before this big first have been taken away. The end of his pre-school life, and the end of our time together, feels like a big anti-climax. Even starting school feels strange as I know that his 'bubble' could get closed and there's no knowing if or when that will happen. How I'll explain that to him I don't know, but it adds a layer of instability to how we can approach the next few months. And milestones like his first harvest festival, his first nativity - well, they look very unlikely right now.

Then of course, there's the looming question of what's next for me. I've been a stay at home mum for almost nine years now, and the last six months was meant to be my time to come up with a plan. But, in the words of Phoebe Buffay, now I don't even have a pla. After such a long time where my life basically revolved around my kids, I was looking forward to carving out a new path. But there's so much uncertainty now. It definitely doesn't feel like a good time to be job hunting, when so many other people have lost jobs and businesses face a challenging future. So for now I feel like I'm entering a holding position, a limbo between having at least one child to keep me busy most of the time (or all the time over lockdown) and finding a role for the future. Even the volunteering roles I had before lockdown have shrunk or disappeared so I feel like I've stumbled into being a housewife, which is not a role I planned or wanted to have!

So in general, I feel like what should have been a big moment, for both my son and me, has turned into a damp squib. No big bang of a new start, just a fizzle of uncertainty.