Only days to go until the winners of Radio 2’s 500WORD competition is announced!

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So for anyone who doesn’t know, Radio 2 run a creative writing competition for children. The tricky part? They must be 500 words or less.

My nephew (now a strapping 12 year old) told me about the competition 3 years ago and suggested I sign up as a judge and so I did and have now been involved in 3. There are a lot of entries – last year there were 118,632! So judges are essential for the sifting and selecting. Well known authors get to select the winners from the top 50 in each category (9 and under, 10-13 years).

It has always been a pleasure to judge – it is an opportunity to read 30 or so stories. You have to carefully consider them against the criteria and remember that each one of those stories has been crafted and cared for.

This year has been especially exciting for 3 reasons.

  1. It was on Blue Peter (my favourite programme).
  2. For the first time all judges got a certificate to download (it is very nice to be appreciated for a voluntary thing). It is proudly displayed alongside my children’s achievement certificates from school 🙂
  3. OK – this is the MOST exciting reason. Every year some of the judges are randomly chosen to go to the final which, this year, is at St James’ Palace. It was my turn this year. I got a swanky invitation and everything.

Here is my certificate:

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And here is my very exciting invitation:

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The final takes places this Friday morning, so do tune into Radio 2 to hear it.

Here is a bit more about the competition: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00rfvk1

And if you are considering judging, GO FOR IT!

 

 

 

Fathers again: My Dinosaur Dad by Ruth Paul (Scholastic)

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The third offering this week, My Dinosaur Dad has a simple rhyming text very reminiscent of Dinosaur Roar! by Paul and Henrietta Stickland.

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‘This Dad is tall, this Dad is squat, This Dad is huge, this Dad is not’ and so on.

For a toddler or a child with a short attention span this would be the book about Dads to get! It ends with an ‘ahhh’ moment:

‘This Dad is gentle, this Dad is kind, This Dad’s the best…this Dad is mine.’

No need to say anymore than that, is there?

More Father’s Day: My Dad’s the BEST! by Nicholas Allan (Red Fox)

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Post number 3! This is another new book for this year reflecting on the nature of Dads. It is in rhyming text and brought to you by the creator of us all focusing on the urgent loo requirements of Father Christmas, knickers and nappies (Royal ones) and bottoms (this time, belonging to Cinderella)….

No bottoms on show here you may be relieved to know. And despite the cover, this is not a representation of Dad as superhero, but rather just as he is.

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This looks at all the seemingly little things that Dads can do that in fact are really quite special. The boy in this story knows his Dads limitations, but sees the wonder in small actions. But although he can’t master magic tricks, he can conjure up a secret bar of chocolate or slice of cake from the fridge. He can’t fix a bike, but he can create wonders out of paper, sticks and glue.

There’s a lot of funny real moments too – how the Dad won’t spend money on what he thinks are expensive toy cars, but then drags the family around to look at real cars (toys still, in a sense) for ages. I really liked those moments – especially the Dad going into the women’s toilets by accident!

I guess there was a fleeting reference to all things ‘bottom’ after all…

Father’s Day contd: Superhero Dad, written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Joe Berger (Nosy Crow)

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The second book about Dads out this year and perfect for the forthcoming Father’s Day (though of course, good Dads should be celebrated every day of the year – much like Mums!)

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This is a rhyming tale and looks at the superhero theme – a good theme to plunder when it comes to Dads.

This is about an ordinary kind of Dad (even though the boy says he isn’t). He can’t make breakfast properly (he sometimes produces toast, chocolate, jam, ice cream and cake!), but he can do lots of things. Being able to pick up the dog makes him super strong, he makes his son feel like he’s flying when he zooms him around. All these ordinary things are looked at through the son’s eyes and so the Dad does seem pretty Super.

And while he may not wear his pants over his trousers, when the little boy is scared of bumps and noises in the night he only has to whisper for his Dad, he is there. That, from the boy’s point of view, truly makes him a superhero.

Of course, the Dad doesn’t think he’s the superhero – but he knows who really is: his Superhero Son!

I love this reflection on a Dad’s skills and attributes and how amazing they can seem to a child.

My kids have requested that kind of breakfast…luckily Mum’s always make proper breakfasts, even when we are very tired.

A focus on Father’s Day: I Love You Daddy Grizzle, written by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Sebastien Braun (Puffin)

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It will be Father’s Day here in the UK on June 21 so I shall be focusing on new or recent books celebrating it (typically, I think I forgot to do this for Mother’s Day!!!). Here is the first one I’m looking at, newly out.

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It is a very special day but Little Pip can’t remember why. He starts off thinking it is to do with his own birthday or Christmas (a nod to the previous books How Many Sleeps till My Birthday and How Many Sleeps till Christmas). Daddy Grizzle doesn’t mind and they go off on their planned woodland adventure. They have a lovely day together which includes toasted marshmallows at one point so I was very happy with that! Little Pip does remember and cleverly avoids saying Father’s Day – rather, it is the day ‘when all the woodland creatures give their daddies a special day to thank them for all the lovely things they do’. So this book could just be about quality father and son time. The text is quite long and I like that – if a father and son read this they would have to take their time over it, which would be rather wonderful.

Little Pip is very sad when he realizes what the day is all about because he hasn’t got a card or a present to give Daddy Grizzle. But Daddy Grizzle doesn’t mind at all because the best present is spending time with Little Pip. At the end Little Pip declares his love for his father and it is very touching. The pink marshmallow they are toasting has become heart shaped and a fly has drawn a heart in the sky too.

It is a lovely story and the idea of a person’s company being enough of a present is something that everyone should remember.

Book of Colours by Sarah Dyer (Templar)

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This is not a colouring book as the blurb on Amazon etc suggest, but rather a book about colours. And a very fine one too.

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I really like this because the pictures of full of interest – lots of different objects shown. There are pages with mixed colours too, and the colours include emotions (angry red for example).

DSC_1624DSC_1625 DSC_1626 It’s a big book for little hands but at least with this you’ll get good usage out of it. Books about colour tend to be incredibly simple and so a toddler will quickly grow out of it. With this you could use it for learning vocab and just sit back and admire the pictures. A great choice for a colour book in my opinion.

Farewell Floppy by Benjamin Chaud (Chronicle)

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Ok….so the kids asked me to promote this. I’m still unsure of how I feel about it.

Essentially it’s a story for adults (or so I reckon) – it’s about when you have to grow up and abandon childish things, or at least think that you do.

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The boy, who narrates the story, feels that he needs to give up his rabbit because it’s too boring and immature. So he abandons Floppy in the woods.

I mean – WHAT???????????? What a horrid thing to do!!!!!!!!

Pretty soon he realises that he might have made a mistake and returns to where he’s tied Floppy up (yes that’s right – he actually tied him to a tree and then left). But Floppy isn’t there. He’s in a hut being looked after by a little girl whose mission is to rescue animals. She kindly invites the boy to join them for tea and he, still in his insufferable nonchalant teenagey attitude outlook on life, casually agrees to it.

I have to say, this was the only bit that I found entertaining:

I thought about saying, “Nah, I’m busy.”

I thought about saying, “This isn’t tea, it’s just cold water.”

That made me laugh. But the boy is offering an adult perspective on that scene. It’s clever, but is it for children? Well weirdly my two liked it a lot – even Toby who, with his beloved giraffe Annabel, I thought would take against it. But they weren’t really shocked about the pet abandonment. Jess thought that he was OK once he realised (thanks to the little girl) that he owned a Lop Sided (and therefore special) rabbit and not a bunny.

But let me tell you though – I couldn’t get over it. I couldn’t forgive him for feeling the need to show his big kidness through such a silly action. Maybe because I’ve been through all that. Maybe the kids don’t really get what’s going on because they are kids.  They certainly loved the illustrations though – and they are good. And the story has a nod to Little Red Riding Hood.

So. Kids liked it, I’m not so sure it’s really for kids. I guess you’ll have to read it and decide what you think yourself.

Cinderella’s Big Sister and the Big Bad Wolf, written by Lorraine Carey and illustrated by Migy Blanco (Nosy Crow)

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There are a lot of fairy tale twists around with new ones coming out every month it seems. Most of them are quite bland or haven’t done much with the story – but this one is different. This one is good.

611vI5N+tULIn this version of Cinderella, Gertie is the third stepsister you never knew about – and Cinderella is a lazy good-for-nothing. Gertie does all her chores and is super nice. She is desperate to go to the ball but her mother won’t let her unless she turns bad. Fairy tale villains are enlisted to help her – the witch in Hansel and Gretel, the wicked queen from Snow White – but she can’t help herself, her niceness always shines through. When she prevents the big bad wolf from eating Red Riding Hood the wolf turns on her. But when she mentions the ball the wolf is more interested in attending that than eating her.

They enlist the help of the Fairy Godmother, much to Cinderella’s annoyance. But she never deserved help anyway and is turned into a mouse. The wolf and Gertie go to the ball and Gertie does the traditional hooking up with Prince Charming thing.

And what happened to Mrs Ugly and Gertie’s two mean sisters? Well the clue might be with the gorgeously dressed up wolf and the plate of bones at the end….

Very entertaining, refreshing and worth a read.

Peanuts – Snoopy Saves the Day! by Charles Schultz (Puffin)

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How exciting is this? Snoopy in picture book form!!!!!!!!!!!

51+H4wCPVxLI loved the Charlie Brown cartoon on TV hen I was little and then enjoyed the original strip. When things are that good, they deserve a re-boot for a new generation. This is a brand new Snoopy and Charlie Brown storybook. Snoopy is as cute looking as ever. Charlie is as weird looking as ever.

Poor Charlie is thwarted from flying his kite by trees. He says his classic line ‘Good grief’, and does that thing where he looks up and his mouth is a giant black hole while he shouts ‘I can’t stand it! I just can’t stand it!

There’s a kite flying competition too. He’s got no chance of even entering. Until Snoopy gets all daredevil and uses a spring to leap onto the kite at the top of the tree and soar above all the other kites.

They are such a great team – and all the other characters are there (I always loved Linus because he had a blanket – I had one when I was little too). My two really enjoyed this story and meeting the characters – and especially liked that they were such old friends to me. I ended up showing them the old cartoon too, really just so they could learn how to say ‘Good grief’ correctly. Happy times.

There is another Peanuts book at now too – Best of Friends. I hope there will be many more.

A White Butterfly, written by Laurie Cohen and illustrated by Barbara Ortelli (Minedition)

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This is a stunningly illustrated board book newly arrived in the bookshop that both echoes and rivals Eric Carle’s pictures (yes, a big claim but I am sticking to it).

51aca8PKRNLIn fact I love it so much and feel you all need to see it, so I’m going to post most of the pages. On a Friday evening too!

Some butterflies, so the story goes, are blue like the sea…

DSC_1737…yellow like the sun…

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…red as a strawberry..

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and even grey and black.

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But this butterfly is white.

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Until a drop of water lands on a wing. Then see what happens!

DSC_1744 DSC_1745 DSC_1747 DSC_1749How gorgeous is this? It reminded me of Leo Lionni’s A Colour of His Own, my all time favourite picture book in the whole wide world and beyond. And I suppose because of this, I did find myself wishing that this book could have had a more emotional edge to it – or more character development, as you have with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. If it had, I think this could have become a modern classic. The butterfly in this is neutral – which I suppose is apt given the premise of the story. But while it perhaps lacks slightly in story, it is stunning. And many a toddler would be transfixed by it.

Do go and check it out.