Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: books (page 1 of 2)

Happy Birthday Snoopy – review and giveaway

I used to love reading the Snoopy cartoon strips as a kid, they used to have one in the weekend paper that my dad bought and there would always be a fight with my brothers to get to that section first. However you may remember that one of my rules when choosing books for my children (and myself for that matter) is to avoid any that have started their life as a film or TV program. They are generally poorly written, lacking in any real story and quite honestly a little boring. I therefore didn’t have high expectations for Snoopy even if I do have a soft spot for the little white dog and his follicly challenged owner Charlie Brown.

Reading Snoopy

But I’m pleasantly surprised, Happy Birthday Snoop is actually quite a sweet story about Charlie Brown’s attempts to give Snoopy a surprise birthday party and of course failing miserably. I like that it’s a positive story and quite amusing in places as Charlie Brown with the best intentions ends up managing to scare, disturb and launch Snoopy into the air.

I also like the style of the illustrations, keeping some of the cartoon style but the tones are a little different to the cartoon strip and of course the bigger size allows for much more colour and detail. The writing moves around the pages into different spots and shapes, it’s even inside a balloon on one page, I think helps add some interest and at least as a reader makes it more interesting.

Matilda and Henry seem to like this book, but I think they may be at the lower end of the ideal age range. More so for Henry of course who is 3, but a good book for a child like Matilda who is just about to start school.

Charlie Brown

That’s what I think about it, now if you’d like to get your hands on your own copy (UK residents only) all you need to do is a leave a comment below telling me what your favourite cartoon strip was when you were a child. I’ll then pick one at random to be the winner, competition will close on Wednesday 17th June 2015.

Disclosure – I was sent a copy of this book free of charge, all words and opinions are my own.

Bookstart book selection

It’s amazing where blogging can take you and 4.5 years after I started yesterday may well have been the best thing to happen to me as a blogger. I spent the whole of the day at the Booktrust HQ in London helping to choose the books that go into the Bookstart bags. It was a long, tiring day reading and discussing children’s books but it was also thoroughly enjoyable, thought provoking and inspiring.

As we went around the room introducing ourselves at the start of the day I felt a little out of my depth there were health visitors, librarians, a CEO of a charity running children’s centres, even the person who started the Bookstart scheme. That’s some company! Then me, management accountant and dad blogger, no training in children’s education or experience of dealing with children in disadvantaged areas. But what I do have is 2 very important things; a huge passion for inspiring children to read and of course some very real experience of what small children like to read.

Bookstart book selection

I know that my experience of being a dad is a very sheltered one; we live a reasonably comfortable life in the Wiltshire countryside, the area is by and large white and while there are deprived areas nearby they aren’t ones where my children go to preschool etc. Being part of the discussions today with professionals who support some very different families has been fascinating. Beginning to understand some of the challenges they face and how the books we chose could help or hinder them as they support families. For example many books feature food but we had to consider whether the type of food could hinder a discussion about healthy diets etc.

It was also interesting seeing how people reacted to books, how their opinions varied to yours and how they may interpret a story differently. It also challenged some of my preconceptions about certain styles of book and definitely opened my eyes to some authors I would never have come across otherwise.

If your child is due to get a Bookstart bag at some point in the next year then there is a good chance I helped choose the books that went into it, I do hope you like them! Realising the consequence of the opinions I was sharing certainly focused the mind, for some children these could be the only books they have at home for most of their childhood so they have to be great ones.

However the one category that isn’t yet final was for the Bookstart Treasury which goes to 3-4 year olds, we’ve been asked to send in any suggestions we have as we couldn’t agree on a single book to submit. The funding for this category was reduced and Booktrust have had to go down from two books to one, picking just one book that meets the needs of lots of people is really hard! So if you have a book that you think every 3 and 4 year old in the country should read then let me know.

While I can’t of course share the books that made the final shortlist I did want to share a few from each category that I loved, ones that might be added to our collection some time soon. If you’ve read any of them already then let me know what you think.

Ducks, just ducks

Is there a child out there that doesn’t like ducks? They make a noise that anyone can copy, they’ll happily eat bread out of your hand and you can find them bobbing around on pretty much any bit of water. What’s not to like? Matilda and Henry are currently obsessed with ducks due in no small part to the wonderful Just Ducks which is one of our favourite bed time reads.

What I like about this book is that for children of Matilda and Henry’s age it’s a fun story with nice illustrations but for older children there are lots of additional educational details about ducks on the page. But even through just the main story they now know the difference between a male and female mallard duck and what their names are. Definitely a book that’ll be on our bookshelf for a long time I think, I can see them getting lots of value from it when they’re at primary school.

Matilda and Henry feeding ducks

Swans and geese at Slimbridge

With this duck obsession in mind what could be a better day out than a trip to Slimbridge? I hadn’t been there for years, since I was a teenager I think, but thought it would be a perfect day out and being term time hopefully quiet. So we loaded up the car and squeezed 3 children into car seats which was interesting to say the least. Henry and Matilda both wanted to be able to see and touch Rupert which wasn’t going to happen and while we wait for our new car to be delivered (the dreaded but necessary MPV) Matilda has to sit on the pop up seats in the boot which she was not impressed with.

Amazingly we managed to choose a glorious sunny day to visit, freezing cold but sunny and the kiddies were toasty in their waterproof suits. Matilda was in her element walking up to the birds and trying to stroke them, including a couple of massive swans. She has zero fear when it comes to animals big or small which I love, even if it does mean having to pretend that I like stroking a large python while it wraps around my arm.

Matilda feeding geese

We spent a lovely couple of hours wandering around the various ponds looking at all the different types of bird; we saw my favourites the tufty duck and the Bewick swan (who make the most beautiful noise to call to each other), loads of different flamingo’s or mingo’s as the kids call them and loads of hungry geese ready to eat the grain we had. We also watched otters being fed while the kids ate a snack and in true English style ate lunch on a bench in the freezing cold.

Flamingos at Slimbridge

We finished up with some colouring in the kids activity section in the main building next to some of the most colourful (and by all accounts deadly) frogs you’ll ever see. Then of course it was time for a hot drink and a piece of cake, although I will dock Slimbridge marks for a pretty poor cake selection and the worst flapjack I’ve had in a long time. Certainly wasn’t up to National Trust standard which after all is the benchmark to judge these things by. But a fab day out and thoroughly recommended if you have wildlife loving children, plenty of activities to do that don’t involve just being bird watchers (there’s a canoe safari in the summer) and quite honestly just nice to do something outdoors that doesn’t involve a commercial theme park.

Making stories part of family life

Every so often I get asked to write a guest post for another site and quite honestly I often say no because I struggle to find the time to write here and on my running blog. But one place I never say no to is the Scottish Book Trust. The importance of books in a child’s life is a huge passion of mine and I love having the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on the topic. Plus they are doing great work in trying to give children the opportunity to read and discover the pleasure of books.

Matilda and Henry reading

Last week they very kindly published a post I’d written about my top tips on how to make stories part of family life which if you’re interested you can read it here. Making reading books and telling stories part of everyday life can have such a big impact on a child’s development and change it from being a chore or just a bed time activity. After I’d written it I thought I’d ask my followers on Twitter what their top tips were to see if anyone had a great idea that I hadn’t thought of. After all Twitter really is the no.1 source of parenting advice and you can guarantee there will be someone willing to offer their thoughts to any question you have.

What I hadn’t quite expected was such a fast and passionate response, it seems I’m not the only one who loves books! So I thought I’d share some of those responses here as a bonus extra post to go with my post of the Scottish Book Trust site. These are also some very fine people so if you aren’t following them on Twitter already then you really should. Here’s their thoughts on how to make stories part of family life:

  • @tiddlyompompom – regular bedtime stories. Quiet time reading instead of tv. Making up stories together.
  • @Eliza_Do_Lots – my boys always have access to books, we have bookcases and shelves in every room, and read with them and to them daily
  • @yummymummy1210 – visits to the library, browsing books in shops/supermarkets, setting an example reading yourself, bedtime stories…
  • @GemmaRidlington – the toddler has 3 bedtime stories every single night! And we read during the day too.
  • @littlebigsports – bed time stories every evening
  • @theenglishdad – sometimes get my 3yo to ‘read’ the story just by making it up herself from the pictures. Encourages her to go thro the book
  • @Kellyfairy – stories every bedtime. Book tokens as presents so they can choose their own to keep. Take them to the library. Oops that’s 3

That was just a few of the responses I received, I’m sure there are many other suggestions also but I think we all agree it’s about make books accessible at all times so your child can independently go and pick one plus having that routine of regular bed time stories. If you do have any other suggestions of things you do to help make stories part of your family life do leave a comment below.

Storytelling dads – Sam Coleman

Welcome to Thursday and the 4th post in the series to celebrate Fathers story week, if you happen to have missed the first 3 posts you can find them here. Today I have the great pleasure of sharing a guest post with you from Sam Coleman who writes a beautifully written blog called Dust and Love which is about his life as a dad.

He’s also now a published author having released a book on parenting last year called Sometimes you have to bite the dog. So if anyone is qualified to talk about storytelling dads then I think it might be him. So here without further ado is Sam’s thoughts on reading with his daughter.


1. What’s the best thing about reading to your children?
Hearing her laugh. Any blackened, hate filled day is filled with light if I can make her laugh.

Reading is great for playing with words, visualisation and finding confidence in expressing yourself. And it’s not about the words or the pictures on each page. It’s about how you can enhance the story by using your imagination which, in turn, gives your child the tools to create their own stories.

Storytelling gives access to the imagination and encourages free creative thinking. It also creates memories that will last a lifetime. My father openly cries when I read the same books to my daughter as he did for me when I was her age. Storytelling is fundamental to the growth of the creative spirit. Only you can teach your children how to tell their own stories.

Start a sentence with “once upon a time” and let them fill in the blanks. You don’t need a book to tell a story.

2. Where do you read to your children?
Mostly her bedroom but it depends on her mood. She’s a big fan of reading when she’s on the potty.

3. All dads like doing voices when reading, what’s your party piece when it comes to impressions?
I do a good upper middle class, teeth whistling accent. It sounds like Brian Sewell after a bottle of red wine. My monster voices (which I love doing) are a bit much for her sometimes. But I do think it’s important to scare your children as well as making them laugh. Understanding fear is important.

Sam reading

4. Favourite book from your childhood?
“Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr Seuss

5. What’s your children(s) favourite book now? 
Animus by Seonna Hong. It’s a visual circus with a sobering backdrop. Chilling and delightful. She loves it

6. Last book you read them?
I started reading an HP Lovecraft short story but she ended up running out the room.

7. Book that your children love but you secretly hate?
Anything with fairies in it. I don’t like fairies. I’ve never understood quite why.

So what do you think? Agree with Sam’s selections? What book do your children want to read over and over again?

Storytelling dads – David Inglis

It’s Wednesday which means it’s time for the 3rd post to celebrate Fathers’ Story Week which if you missed the first two posts (where were you?) is a week long celebration of the power of dads’ reading with their children.

On Monday I shared my story about reading to my children and yesterday Darren kicked off the guest posts from some of my favourite dad bloggers. Today is the 2nd guest post and this time from David who I feel like I’ve known forever because we both started blogging around the same time and Matilda is just a few weeks older than his daughter. I’ve also had the pleasure of staying with him and his family in Scotland last year while we were up there on holiday. Alas he’s recently decided to stop blogging so I’m very pleased he came out of writing retirement to guest post here!

1. What’s the best thing about reading to your children? 
The cuddles.

2. Where do you read to your children?
We read exclusively at bedtime. I would love to do it during the day but O has no interest.

3. All dads like doing voices when reading, what’s your party piece when it comes to impressions?
Either the troll from Billy Goats Gruff or The Gruffalo.

4. Favourite book from your childhood?
If I think back it was always Basil The Great Mouse Detective. I don’t even know it if was a proper book!

5. What’s your children(s) favourite book now?
At the moment it is any of the Olivia series. They are books about a pig called Olivia and her family. Minus the pig part they mirror our lives frighteningly well…

6. Last book you read them?
Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake.

7. Book that your children love but you secretly hate?
Olivia loves a Postman Pat book. It’s actually a really annoying story and it doesn’t flow at all meaning Im stuttering all over the place. So I just adlib to shorten it and she doesn’t seem to mind.

Do come back tomorrow for the 4th post in this series and of course would love to hear your stories about reading with your children.

Storytelling dads – Darren Coleshill

It’s Tuesday which means it’s time for the 2nd post to celebrate Fathers’ Story Week which if you missed yesterdays post is a week long celebration of the power of dads’ reading with their children. Yesterday I shared my story about reading to my children and over the next 4 days I’ll be sharing some posts from my favourite storytelling dad bloggers. We start today with Darren who blogs at One dad 3 girls as well as being the brains behind Love All Dads.

1. What’s the best thing about reading to your children?  From a very young age we’ve always made sure we’ve read to the girls whether during the day or before bedtime. It’s been a great time to bond with them and I think it’s encouraged them to want to learn about what’s going on in the stories.

2. Where do you read to your children? As the girls have grown and got older storytime is now just before bedtime. It’s the lasDarren readingt thing we do before they go to bed.

3. All dads like doing voices when reading, what’s your party piece when it comes to impressions? I am always getting told by my wife to read the stories without silly voices but no one can read The Gruffulo without doing the voices.

4. Favourite book from your childhood? I was never a big reader as a child and didn’t really get read to but I do remember enjoying the Roald Dahl books.

5. What’s your children’s favourite book now? As Aly is now at school she gets all her books from school so they change a few times a week but given the chance the girls would pick books like The Smartest Giant in Town or Some Dogs Do

Aly reading

6. What was the last book you read to them? The last book I read to them was one of the old Mr Men books.

7. What book do your children love but you secretly hate? There’s none that we read at the moment that I hate but some of the older one’s like Spot or the Charlie and Lola books I really hate.

As you know I’m passionate about the importance of books in children’s lives and in particular the role that dad’s can play in sparking the enthusiasm for books in their children. Which is why in July I’m attempting to run 100km to raise money for Save the Children and their campaign to get children in poverty the same access to books and reading that we take for granted. I’d love it if you’d sponsor my run even if it’s just a couple of pounds, you can find my sponsorship page here.

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