Tag Archives: Julia Donaldson

Children’s Books: Five brilliant books about dragons

Dragons are one of our favourite mythical beasts. Some are scary, some are friendly, some are just plain misunderstood. From George and the Dragon to Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback from Harry Potter, dragons have long been a feature in songs, stories and fairy tales. A few weeks ago we made our own egg box dragon, and it’s had us reading more about dragons at bedtime.

We’ve picked out five brilliant books about dragons which we enjoy and you might too.

Five brilliant books about dragons

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently, illustrated by the wonderful Helen Oxenbury. King Jack and the Dragon is a magical, rhyming bedtime picture book featuring the heroic King Jack and his band of faithful knights. It’s  a great story of camaraderie, den building and fighting dragons, the perfect dragon story for the under 5’s.

Children's Books: Five brilliant books about dragons

Zog by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler is the story of Zog, the keenest dragon in school. He’s also the most accident-prone. Thankfully, a mysterious little girl always comes by and patches up his bumps and bruises and helps him along the way. But will she be able to help him with his toughest test yet – capturing a real princess?

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is a book for slightly older primary aged children. It’s the story of a young girl named Minli who lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. Her father tells her the story of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man in the Moon. Inspired by these stories, Minli spends one of her precious copper pennies on a beautiful goldfish, which brings about a change in the fortune of the owner. Minli is eventually joined by a dragon who can’t fly; together they set out to find the Old Man of the Moon to ask him to fulfill their dreams. It’s a wonderful story for 9-12 year olds.

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame is the classic retelling of the St George and the Dragon story from the author of The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame. Everyone knows St George has to do battle with the dragon, but what happens when the dragon simply doesn’t want to fight St George? A lovely story for dragon fans aged 8 and over.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell is the hilarious books which inspired the film – How to Train Your Dragon. Suitable for readers aged 9+; How to train Your Dragon is the  story of Hiccup, a fairly ordinary boy who must lead ten novices in their initiation into the Hairy Hooligan Tribe. They have to train their dragons or be banished from the tribe forever! Can Hiccup save the tribe – and become a Hero?

There are dragon stories for all ages here and lots to spark little imaginations. Who is your favourite dragon? Have I missed any seriously special dragon stories?

If you enjoyed this, you might also like our five books about dinosaurs or five books about bears.

Children's Books: Five brilliant books about dragons

Children’s Books: Five Fabulous Cook Books for Kids

Cooking isn’t really something which happens in schools much these days, so it’s even more important to get children cooking at home. I learned to cook by “helping” my Grandma in her kitchen. She was a school cook and a pâtissier, so I learned to love cooking and baking from her. I’m as keen as mustard to pass on some of that love to my son. Thankfully he loves cook books almost as much as me, he likes to go through them with me and pick out things we can make or bake together. Here are five of our favourite cook books for kids…

Children’s Books: Five Fabulous Cook Books for Kids

Five fabulous Cook Books for kids

Jolly Good Food: A children’s cookbook inspired by the stories of Enid Blyton by Enid Blyton and‎ Allegra McEvedy. This gorgeously jolly cook book for kids contains 42 recipes designed by chef Allegra McEvedy; each inspired by Enid Blyton’s stories; do you fancy a picnic with the Famous Five or a midnight feast with the Malory Towers girls? This is an easy to follow, fun cook book, perfect for Blyton fans young and young at heart!

I Can Cook by Sally Brown and‎ Kate Morris is the spin-off book from the popular CBeebies series I Can Cook. I Can Cook and presenter Katy Ashworth have been inspiring pre-schoolers and their parents for years. The series and this book are a great way to get children and families talking about food and cooking up a few recipes of their own. The book contains over 50 recipes to try at home. Packed with simple step-by-step pictures and easy to follow the instructions; kids can learn to make all kinds of delicious meals, such as cheesy lasagne, breakfast muffins and chunky banana bread. It’s the perfect first cook book for little ones!

Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. My friend Liz recommended this book to me, her girls love to cook up a Gruffalo themed feast. This book contains 24 recipes, each inspired by the goings on in the deep, dark wood. If you’ve always wanted to try Gruffalo Crumble, then this is the book for you!

The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and‎ Fizz Carr is one of my favourite cook books full stop. It’s written for slightly older children and contains easy to follow recipes which are family friendly. The fish pie recipe is the best one ever and my family will happily devour it in one sitting! The book explains a little more about food, where it comes from and gives some tips on getting the best out of your ingredients. I’ts the perfect gift for cookery curious kids!

Children’s Cookbook: Delicious Step-by-Step Recipes by Katharine Ibbs and‎ Catherine Saunders is an excellent and comprehensive cook book for children. This book contains over 50 simple recipes and helpful tips and tricks, which will have you whipping up brilliant meals in no time at all. This children’s cook book has a lovely varied selection of recipes, it might be just the thing to get children to try new things and explore different kinds of food!

What areyour favourite cook books for kids? Do you cook with your family? What’s your favourite recipe?

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy my other children’s book round ups!

Children’s Books: Five Fabulous Cook Books for Kids

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Children’s Books: Five Children’s Poetry Books

Reading together is a big part of our evening routine. As a parent, the books I’ve most enjoyed reading to my son are ones that have been written with a rhyming structure like the Hairy Maclary books by Lynley Dodd or any of Julia Donaldson’s books. I’ve always felt that these kind of children’s poetry books were a wonderful gateway into the world of poetry.

I’ve picked out five children’s poetry books which I either read a lot with my son, or I’m looking forward to reading with him when the times comes. I hope you enjoy my choices.

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. This has been a childhood classic for as long as I can remember. First published in 1978 this classic is full of rhyming couplets featuring almost every fairy tale character you can think of. The illustrations are a joy too, even though my son is getting a bit old for this book now, I still like to flick through it and savour the simple joy of it.

Kicking a Ball by Allan Ahlberg. This is a book my son likes to read out loud to us, it’s full of action and action words and is the perfect poetry-story book for football fans.

Children's Books: Five Children's Poetry Books

Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl. No poetry round-up is complete without a Roald Dahl book. Dirty Beasts is a collection of poems about the foulest, most grotesque creatures in Roald Dahl’s imagination. This was my copy from when I was a child and I’ve passed it down to my son who loves the disgusting rhymes and terrifying tales in Dirty Beasts. This is a treat for adults and children alike!

I’m a Little Alien by James Carter. This poetry book for 3-8 year olds covers all forms of life, from aliens, sharks, robots, snowflakes, moles and elephants. Each poem is full of joy and it’s perfect for dipping in and out of with your little ones. We are big fans!

Poems to Perform, chosen by Julia Donaldson. This wonderful poetry collection has been chosen by Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson, it’s ideal for children’s groups and school classes to learn and perform, but equally it’s a wonderful collection of poetry to have at home. Something you can dip in and out of. It’s a collection for slightly older children, my son is 7 and he’s only just starting to read and enjoy the poems from this book.

Reading and writing poetry at home is a great way to encourage a love of the written word. Poetry doesn’t have to be hard work or hard to understand. It can be the start of a wonderful adventure with the written and spoken word.

What’s your favourite children’s poetry book?

Children's Books: Five Children's Poetry Books

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Days Out: Join the Stick Man Activity Trail

This summer, in 23 forests across England The Forestry Commission have set up Stick Man Activity Trails  for families to explore. The trails are based on Julia Donaldson’s beloved character and the Forestry Commission is aiming to help get kids outdoors and get moving this summer.

The Stick Man Trails have been on throughout the year at various locations up and down England, and this summer they’re encouraging little ones to get active by joining in with some fun activities, games and races. In some of the selected forests there will be special days where visitors can join in the fun and meet Stick Man himself, and some sites will have self-led arenas where visitors can use the sports equipment to host their own games.

Stick Man Activity Trail

Everyone who signs up on the website will be able to download a free Stick Man Games kit including fantastic games and activities that kids can do with sticks and includes top tips to help them become a sporting champion as well as cut-out medals and certificates. You can also invite all of family and friends along to join the party with the downloadable Stick Man themed invitations!

Join Stick Man on his quest to get back to his family tree and be reunited with his ‘Stick Lady Love’ and ‘Stick children three.’ The Stick Man activity trails lead children and families through the forests using activity points which allow them to live the epic adventures of Stick Man, whilst also learning about the importance of forests for people and wildlife alike.

Stick Man Activity Trail

We’ll be heading off to explore the Stick Man Activity Trail in Grizedale Forest in the Lake District this June. At Grizedale we’ll be following the trail, exploring the forest and taking part in the Stick man games and hoping to reunite Sitck Man with his stick family. Grizedale Forest will be hosting an arena with self-led games from 8-30 June 2016.

For more more information about the Stick Man Games, activity packs and trails are available from www.forestry.gov.uk/.

Theatre Review: Stick Man

Half term is once again upon us and I find myself scrabbling round for things to occupy the boy. Taking him to the theatre is always a bit of a treat, he loves The Lowry at Salford Quays,  apart from the actual productions we see, there’s lots to see and do around abouts. This half term The Lowry are entertaining kids with a stage production of the Julia Donaldson favourite, Stick Man.

Stick Man

Stick Man (currently on a UK tour) is suitable for children aged 3+. The Scamp Theatre production lasts for around an hour and there’s plenty to keep the little ones entertained. The show is filled with music, song and a spot of beach ball audience participation.

The Julia Donaldson story is a favourite of ours and I did worry a little about how they were going to make a stick lifelike and entertaining. In the event one actor portrayed Stick Man and also held a Stick Man stick, it worked and we were invested in the trials and tribulations of our stick hero!

The cast of three actors are lively and engaging, one actor plays Stick Man, a sprightly actress plays his “Stick Lady love” as well as a host of other characters such as the dog, and the last actor also plays a range of other characters and (and this is the interesting bit) he had a little musical station covered in instruments including drums, bells, a ukulele and a saxophone which he plays to help tell the story.

There was lots of lively audience engagement, a few cheeky laughs and the children all seemed really interested and engaged. The small boy liked the dog taking the stick the best, but was also transfixed with the array of instruments that were being played. It was a lovely way to spend a bit of half term time, especially as we went for a little walk afterwards and had another look around the Blue Peter Garden.

Stick Man is well worth a visit, even Julia Donaldson says so!

Review: Room on the Broom at The Lowry

We’re on half term this week and next and it can be quite difficult to find things to do to entertain a small lively child. Thankfully I had the foresight to get some tickets for us and a couple of his school friends to see Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson at The Lowry in Salford Quays.

Julia Donaldson is a real legend and a fantastic author, her stories are great to read out loud so it’s no surprise that they work so well on stage. Her most famous book, The Gruffalo is brilliant and we went to see the theatre adaptation last year, it was a Tall Stories’ production and we were all transfixed from start to finish.

Room on the Broom

Room on the Broom is a lovely story of a good witch and her cat who whilst off on an adventure lose a hat and gain a dog, lose a bow and gain a bird and lose a wand and gain a frog. The witches broom is soon overloaded and snaps, leading to a dangerous encounter with a dragon and with a decent bit of teamwork and a sprinkling of magic the dragon is sent packing and a new, luxurious broom appears.

It was a wonderful, colourful story brought to life incredibly well by the four talented actors, with some lovely puppetry, funny voices and some great songs which we had in our heads all the way home. There was a genuinely funny moment when one of the actors used the wrong funny voice and all the actors corpsed and the audience fell about laughing, but they recovered well and earned a deserved round of applause.

The show lasts a little under an hour and is suitable for children aged three and above, my four year old and his friends loved it, especially the animals. There’s some nice audience interaction, great songs and enough little snippets of fun to keep the grown ups happy (quoting sections of Bohemian Rhapsody etc). It’s fun, it’s lively and it’s a lovely thing to do over half term.

It’s a great show and well worth catching if you get the chance. It’s on at The Lowry in Salford Quays until Sunday 12th April. More dates in other theatres are on the Tall Stories’ website.

Note: We were given complimentary tickets to see Room on the Broom at The Lowry for review purposes. All opinions are our own.

Children’s Book Review: Dandylion by Lizzie Finlay

We love reading in our house. Before our son appeared in our lives I’d happily devour an entire book in an evening. I do that less often these days, but we wanted to pass on our love of books by reading to the boy right from the start. We even read to my growing belly when he was living in it.

One of my favourite things about being a Mummy is bedtime stories. We have three a night (and unlimited during the day when he fancies a read). We all snuggle in bed and transport our family to faraway lands, following the fantastical pen of children’s writers like Julia Donaldson and Lynley Dodd. The boy loves us doing funny voices, (my reading of The Gruffalo is a triumph). I especially love the rhythmic writing and wrapping my tongue around some of the great words in children’s books, (Lynley Dodd is particularly good at throwing in great words guaranteed to make you giggle).

For his Christening, we asked if people wanted to give him their favourite childhood book. We got some great ones, Rupert Bear, Harry Potter, some Alan Garner and Spot the Dog amongst other great reads.

I thought it’d be nice to share our love of reading, and some of our favourite children’s books in a bit of a mini-series. The boy has chosen his current favourite bedtime story, Dandylion by Lizzie Finlay.

Children's Book Review: Dandylion by Lizzie Finlay
Dandylion is a wonderful book about being different, finding acceptance and making friends. It’s the perfect tale to tell any child. The moral being it’s really ok to be different and wouldn’t the world be a dull, gloomy old place if everyone was the same. Admittedly it’s for older readers (he’s 2 and a half) but we love the beautiful illustrations and the story telling.

As Dandylion (who is ‘delightfully different, bright yellow and rather scruffy’) joins Miss Gardener’s organised and tidy class, the illustrations become more vibrant and colourful. This reflects the delightfully warm impact Dandylion has in his classmates.

At first he doesn’t fit in (he is a weed, but remember a weed is just a wildflower growing in the wrong place). After one particularly messy incident he is sent home and becomes despondent about his differences. But soon his classmates (including Basil and Tulip) realise that being too organised and tidy isn’t always a good thing. A plan is soon hatched to get Dandylion to return to school and to make him feel right at home. At last, scruffy, wild and free-spirited Dandylion feels like a wildflower growing in the right place!

Aside from its heartwarming message, it’s just a good book. Beautifully illustrated, visually appealing and lovely to read out loud to your child. Lizzie Finlay is a talented illustrator and I hope she writes more lovely books along these lines.

EDIT: Lizzie Finlay has also written the equally lovely Little Croc’s Purse which is well worth checking out too.