Category Archives: Must read

The Battle of Bug World – Book launch, Blog tour & Prizes!

Karen Tyrrell announces the second in her Song Bird Superhero series, The Battle of Bug World, a children’s fun-filled eco fantasy.

Can Song Bird STOP the bully, save her sister, the bees and the environment?Karen is an award-winning author who writes books to empower kids (and adults) and help them live strong and be resilient.  After many years of classroom teaching experience, she continues to educate through sharing her own story of resilience as a survivor of bullying, through her words on the page, and through her workshops for adults that deal with writing, marketing, and funding, in addition to empowerment.

Karen presents workshops for children in schools, libraries, and other creative spaces. With her flair for costuming and performance, she conducts entertaining sessions with a splash of fun staring in her own scripted pantomimes. As I was lucky enough to attend the launch of her latest book The Battle of Bug World on Saturday, I can testify to the enjoyment that was shared by all attendees.

The Battle of Bug World is a fast-paced and action-packed story that children won’t want to put down until they find out if, and how, Song Bird can save her sister, her friends, and the environment from her evil neighbour Frank Furter.

I previously had the pleasure of interviewing Karen on readilearn about her first book in the series Song Bird Superhero, and am delighted to be a part of Karen’s blog tour celebrating the launch of this sequel, which even surpasses the first.

Please pop over to readilearn on Friday to read my post in the blog tour. Read other posts in the tour by following the links below. Leave a comment on any post for a chance to win great prizes including signed books, signed artwork, and a book critique (Comment on more posts for more chances to win!)


The Battle of Bug World – Song Bird 2 Blog Tour!

Look what’s happening to celebrate the Amazon release of The Battle of Bug World.

BLOG TOUR!

From Mon June 26 AMAZON LAUNCH KarenTyrrell.com

From Tues June 27 CURLY Q’S Kids Book Review

From Tues June 27 REVIEW Just Write For Kids

From Wed June 28 REVIEW Georgina Ballantine

From Thurs June 29 Writing Junior Novels Megan Higginson’s Blog

From Fri June 30 REVIEW & interview readilearn blog

BOOK GIVEWAYS!

Just leave a comment on any of the posts in the blog tour, to win a copy of The Battle of Bug World (Song Bird 2). Add initials SB2

FREE Children’s Book Assessment!

Win a free children’s book assessment (up to 10 pages) by the author Karen Tyrrell. Just comment on any of the posts in the blog tour and add the initials CBA

FREE Artwork!

Win signed artwork by illustrator Trevor Salter. Add initials AW

Remember the more you comment, the more chances you have to win prizes for The Battle of Bug World Blog Tour. Good luck 😊

 

 

 

Books make the #1 best gifts!

The love of reading is gift

I am notorious for gifting books. I’ve written about this before in Guess what you’re getting for Christmas and other posts. It would not surprise me if you are also a notorious gifter of books. Perhaps that could be our super power: The Book Gifters!

Reading is empowering. A book is a gift that continues to give, long after the occasion has past. It’s effects cannot always be measured.

books-life-memories

In this post, I suggest some books you may like to purchase for special people in your life. And why not treat yourself with one or two as well?

Most, but not all, are fairly recent releases. A few are long-time favourites.

Most, but not all, are written by people I know personally or through blogging. You might recognise their names from comments on other of my blog posts. A few are long-time favourites written by people who inspire me.

I have read most. The only two not read (the books of short stories) are very, very recent. However I am happy to recommend them as I am already familiar with some of the stories, and the writers’ work  from their blogs.

Disclaimer: These are books that appeal to me. They may not appeal to you. The important thing in choosing books for others is in finding something that they will like.

The list is not exhaustive. It is just a beginning to provide a few ideas that you may not have considered. There are many other wonderful books that could just as easily have been included.

I have arranged my list in this way:

For children:

Picture books (including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry)

Early chapter books (for readers of about 7 to 12 years)

For adults:

Books of short stories

Novels

Memoirs

Books for teachers and parents

If you follow the links you will be able to discover more about the writers and their other work.

For children:

Picture books – Fiction

picture-books

Lauri Fortino The Peddler’s Bed This heart-warming story demonstrates that a kindness given can encourage kindness in others. You can read a lovely interview with Lauri on the readilearn blog here.

Tara Lazar Little Red Gliding Hood In this fun fractured fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood needs a new pair of skates. The only way she can acquire them is by winning a skating competition. But which fairy tale character will be her partner?

Galvin Scott Davis Daisy Chain This is a beautifully illustrated, animated and interactive, anti-bullying book app, narrated by Kate Winslet.

Non-fiction

non-fiction-picture

Rebecca Johnson The Insect Series This series of ten little books, each about a different insect, combines both fact and fiction with stunning close-up photographs. You can read a lovely interview with Rebecca on the readilearn blog here.

Sue Fliess The Bug Book This book about bugs is beautifully illustrated with stunning photographs. Written in rhyme, it introduces children to many tiny creatures.

Poetry

book-cover

June Perkins Magic Fish Dreaming This gorgeous book of poems with its focus on nature will uplift and inspire you and your children. You can read a lovely interview with June on the readilearn blog here.

Early chapter books (about 7 to 12 years)

early-chapter-books

Rebecca Johnson Juliet nearly a Vet This lovely series of books tells of the adventures of ten-year-old Juliet who aspires to be a vet, just like her mother.

Karen Tyrrell Song Bird Superhero This story tells of Rosella Bird and her quest to fly. While she battles the bully at school and at home, she is empowered and discovers the joy of flight when she finds her voice.

Bette A. Stevens Pure Trash: The Story Set in New England in the 1950s, this story tells of a Saturday afternoon adventure of two young boys. The Kindle version is free on Amazon until 29 November (today – be quick!). 

Hazel Edwards & Ozge Alkan Hijabi Girl In this story, when eight-year-old Melek is deciding what to wear to the book parade, she is unable to find a super-hero who wears a hijab, so she creates her own.

Robert Hoge Ugly (a memoir) Robert’s story is one of resilience, of survival against the odds, and of making hard decisions. While coping with difference and bullying, Robert shows that strength of character is a trait of survivors. I have introduced you to Robert previously here and here.

Books of short stories

short-stories

Sarah Brentyn Hinting at Shadows This book is a collection of very short stories, each 100 words or less. While each may be a quick read, they will give insight, inspiration, and a greater understanding of what it means to be human.

Hugh Roberts Glimpses Launching on 2 December, available for pre-order “28 short stories that will take your mind on a rollercoaster of a ride into worlds that conceal unexpected twists and turns.”

Novels

novels

Anne Goodwin Sugar and Snails In this mid-life coming-of-age story, Diana Dodsworth has some tough decisions to make as she comes to terms with who she really is. Anne has previously talked about her book on my blog here and here.

Geoff Le Pard Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle This story about nineteen-year-old Harry Spittle, who is home from university for the hottest of hot holidays, will have you laughing out loud at his misadventures.

Terry Tyler Best Seller This intriguing novella is about three writers, all of whom wish to write a best seller. One does; but which one?

Memoirs

memoir

Robert Hoge Ugly (a biography) Robert’s inspirational story is one of resilience, of survival against the odds, and of making hard decisions. While coping with difference and bullying, Robert shows that strength of character is a trait of survivors. I have introduced you to Robert previously here and here.

Lesley and Tammy Williams Not Just Black and White Told as a conversation between mother and daughter, this inspirational story tells of the importance of family, of difficulties experienced by many Indigenous Australians in relatively current times, with a drive to ensure that history is neither forgotten nor repeated.

Malala Yousafzai Malala The Girl Who Stood up for Education and Changed the World The story of Malala, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is one of courage and of the difference that one person can make in the world. I have previously written about Malala here.

Magda Szubanski Reckoning: A Memoir With a Polish father, a Scottish mother and an Australian childhood, Magda’s story is complex, courageous, compassionate, and inspirational.

Books for teachers and parents

for-teachers-and-parents

Mem Fox Reading Magic This book provides lots of practical advice and support for parents in developing a love of reading in their children. I have introduced you to Mem many times previously, including here and here.

Michael Rosen Good Ideas: How to be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher This very readable book is packed full of suggestions for encouraging curiosity and learning in children (and you!) I have previously introduced you to Michael here and here.

Vivian Kirkfield Show Me How Vivian passion’s for picture books and her understanding of the importance of literacy are obvious in this book that provides great ideas for reading and extending the learning experience associated with many picture books.

Or, for a special early childhood educator, gift a subscription to readilearn, a collection of teaching resources that can be used throughout the year.

special-gift-for-special-teacher-ad

It’s easy. Simply send an email to hello@readilearn.com.au, arrange payment for the currently discounted subscription, and you will be emailed a voucher with a coupon code, unique to your special teacher. Print the voucher and personalise it with your own message before presenting your gift.

Note: The subscription is for 12 months from date of activation, not purchase: a gift that will go on giving all year long.

2

I hope there is something in this list that you can add to your gift list.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

 

Not the ‘R’ word!

the older you get

For the past few years people have often asked me when I will retire. Some people think I already have. Some think I am too young to be thinking about it (they are either very kind or very blind), and others think I should have done it long ago.

I have preferred to ignore the word ‘retire’ for the negative connotations I thought it embodied and the implication that I would have to admit to things like:

  • I’m getting old
  • I have nothing left to contribute
  • I am passed my use-by date and can’t keep up with modern trends and developments
  • I am ready for ‘God’s waiting room’. (I ‘m not even sure I’d be able to find the right room, and he’d probably keep me waiting for ever anyway!)

Even this morning I heard an ad on the radio that put together the concepts of retirement, having more time on one’s hands, retirement village and nursing home.  If that’s what retirement means, it’s not for me.

When I was fifty-ish and working part-time, I awoke one morning to the realisation that, if I was going to retire at sixty, I had only ten years of working life left. With that in mind I returned to full-time work in order to earn as much as I could so that I could save enough to support myself in retirement. (I think I should have had the epiphany many years earlier!)

When the ten years of teaching full-time as a year one teacher were done, I was still not ready to consider the ‘R’ word. However just at that time an opportunity to be involved in writing curriculum support materials was offered. A short break from the classroom to refresh and re-energise was a welcome idea and I accepted the position.

After eighteen months in the role I reverted to working part-time in order to devote more time to my own writing while establishing a website for peddling said writing. I didn’t consider it retirement, transition to retirement, or anything to do with retirement. For me, the working week was simply a combination of paid work and working for myself. It was not time off.

mystica_Coins_(Money)

Now another eighteen months has past and I am indeed counting down the ‘paid’ working days until ‘retirement’. In my head and heart I still don’t consider it retirement, perhaps a re-alignment of priorities, but others do. I am breaking ties with my long-term on-and-off employer for the fourth and last time. This time there will be no going back. Even though I may have said that on each of the three previous occasions I resigned and still went back; this time I am very doubtful of that occurring. This time it is ‘officially’ retirement, and I accept that if I have more time on my hands to do my own work, then that is a good thing!

It is the enthusiasm that others have for me and hearing them excitedly question, “What are you going to do?”  that has helped my change of heart and I am beginning to accept their use of the ‘R’ word. Denial would be another unwinnable battle. So what if I intend to spend the days of my retirement at the computer? Getting a website up and running might be just an expensive hobby, but not as expensive as others I could think of, like boating or flying! And definitely more fun for me.

The changing view of self as transitioning through working full-time, part-time, being semi-retired, or retired is not unique to me. While some embrace the change, eager to accept every opportunity that freedom from employer demands and schedules has to offer; others like me sidestep in, with a similar appreciation of the freedom from outside expectations but an ever-increasing expectation of self.

retiring with attitude

Last year “Retiring with Attitude”, written by one of my favourite bloggers Caroline Lodge and her colleague Eileen Carnell, was published. I found the title quite intriguing and thought it may apply to me, though I wasn’t sure to which attitude they were referring. However the subtitle “Approaching and Relishing your Retirement” gave a few clues and I knew I had to read it. Were they serious?

In the introduction the authors explain that retirement should be viewed as “a time of further exciting possibilities”. They set out their goals which include convincing readers that the “old” view of retirement (they say “previous”) is no longer applicable; that possibilities abound; that outdated views of ageism and sexism should be challenged; and that “Learning is the most powerful means to handle changes and transitions” that occur in the retirement phase of life.

Retiring with Attitude” is an easy and enjoyable read which I recommend to anyone approaching (from near or far) or already in retirement. The authors have drawn upon their own experiences and many years of research from which to explain options and make suggestions for every aspect of life. While “Chapter 11: This is Your Rainy Day: Relationships with Money” does discuss finances, the book raises many other issues including seeking and accepting support as well as ways to ensure you are not over-committed to fulfilling others needs and requests.

The authors emphasize that there is no one way for everyone to do retirement but that learning and good communication are the key. They say that retirement can be the time of one’s life and that

As an older person you can develop a new identity and redefine your life.

I think that’s the ‘R’ word for me: Redefine. I’ll get to do those things I always wanted to do but didn’t have time for when my focus was elsewhere.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

 

How much of a meliorist are you?

Recently I was sent a link to an article titled Cheer up, it’s not all doom and gloom published by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s The Drum.

This article mentioned a book by Steven Pinker called Better Angels of Our Nature which had been recommended to me by Geoff Le Pard in a comment on my post about childhood illness. The premise of this book is that humanity, over the ages, has become less violent. After to listening to Pinker’s history of violence, I’m pleased that I live these relatively peaceful times.

 

The article also introduced me to a new term ‘meliorism’ which means having a belief that the world can be improved by the actions of humans. While the term may have been unfamiliar to me, the attitude is not and I attest that I am a meliorist.

I have a very strong belief in the power of education to improve the world. Education empowers individuals, and educated individuals empower societies to build improved futures. It becomes very difficult to sustain negative practices in the face of overwhelming evidence and information.

What better place is there for education to begin than in the home?

In a recent post I referred to a new book by Michael Rosen called Good Ideas: How to Be Your Child’s (And Your Own) Best Teacher. At the time I had not read the book but now I can say, with great delight, that I have listened to most of it. With messages such as those contained in Michael’s book, it is easy to be a meliorist.

I think Rosen’s book should be available to, perhaps compulsory reading for, every parent; I consider its message to be that important. In fact, I am off to the shops today to purchase copies to give to parents of young children I know.  It will become part of my gift to new parents that also includes Reading Magic by Mem Fox and a selection of picture books. I have previously blogged about that here and here.

The “Good Ideas” contained in Rosen’s book, if implemented, will keep alive the natural curiosity of one’s children and oneself. They will encourage the development of thought, creativity and responsiveness.

In the next few weeks I will post a more detailed review of the book and some of Michael’s ideas for stimulating curiosity, whoever and wherever you are.

What about you? Are you a meliorist?

I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

Thank you

Going on a treasure hunt!

we're going on a bear hunt

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of taking my two gorgeous grandchildren to a performance of Michael Rosen’s “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”. To say we enjoyed it would be an understatement. We had a rollicking good time.

The performance involved a lot of audience participation including spraying the entire audience with water from the “deep cold river”; an event which left everyone slightly wet, screaming with anticipation and laughter, and genuinely having a wonderful time interacting with this fabulous text.

We were already familiar with the text, of course, and had read it, recited it, acted it out and played a board game which has been made to accompany the text. None of this really prepared us for the delightful stage performance; but these pale in comparison with a telling by the master storyteller himself, Michael Rosen.

Michael Rosen’s website is a veritable treasure chest with much to explore and delight.  From his home page you can visit his blog which he describes a as a place where he’ll

“post up some thoughts and ideas – especially on literature in education, children’s literature in general, poetry, reading, writing, teaching and thoughts on current affairs.”

You can also check out a full list of his publications. He’s very prolific!

After attending the performance of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” I shared with my grandchildren the video of Michael Rosen performing the story, which is also available from his home page. They loved it and we watched it “Again!”

Then I showed them the video of Rosen performing his fabulous poem Chocolate Cake. We watched it four times! Artie, who is four (and a half) was joining in with the telling the second time, and by the fourth time was copying many of Michael’s actions as well as facial and vocal expressions. Artie laughed along with the story and excitedly called other members of the family to watch it with him.

The next time Artie came to visit he was performing his own version, “Lollipop”, with similar actions and both facial and vocal expressions. His younger sister also had to have her turn telling the story. It was delightful and convinced me, though I needed no convincing, of the power of a great performer to turn children onto the fun of language, of playing with words, of performing, and of composing writing of their own. Creativity ignited!

If you haven’t yet watched Michael perform Chocolate Cake, I urge you to do so. You are in for a treat. I’m certain you will not be able to watch it without a smile on your face.

Michael is so passionate about making poetry come alive for children, he has made many videos on his website freely available to teachers for use in their classrooms.

In his article “Teachers write to me saying, ‘What about poetry?’”, Michael begins by saying,

The-best-thing-you-can

He then goes on to present many fun ways of engaging children with poetry, none of which involve word study or comprehension exercises. He makes suggestions for performing, writing and talking about poems; and says that

“The best and most important thing you can do with any poem that a child writes is either get it performed or ‘published.”

and offers suggestions of how to do just that.

Another thing he says in that article, which was the inspiration for the title of this post, is

Treasure-what-each-child

I couldn’t agree more.

This is just a brief sample of the riches to be found on the Michael Rosen website. There are so many videos of Michael’s performances available that I have not yet watched them all. Please let me know your favourites and I will make sure I watch those too.

Thanks Michael Rosen. We can learn so much from you while we are having fun!

The magic effect – why children need books

Nor and Bec reading

 

 

Children can be read to from the moment they are born, if not earlier. Preferably earlier!

One of my favourite picture book authors and passionate advocate for reading to children is Mem Fox. I own, and have given as gifts, many of her wonderful books. I have attended her seminars and been mesmerised by her reading from her selection of stories. “Read more!” the adults beg. There are no children at these literacy seminars. This time it is a treat for only us: parents and teachers, literacy educators all.

Currently Prince William, Kate and baby Prince George are visiting Australia. I was delighted to hear that they were given a gift of books by Australian authors, including some by Mem Fox. Over the years I have given many of Mem’s books as gifts; and kept just as many for myself!

 Reading magic

One that I have given to many new or expectant parents, as I consider it a “must read”, is Mem’s book “Reading Magic – Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever”.

I would love to quote the entire book for you, but it is better you read it for yourself. I will provide you with this quote from the foreword as a taster for the richness to be found inside.

“It stands to reason that if we’re able to raise happier, brighter children by reading aloud to them, the well-being of the entire country will ramp up a notch. Children who realize in their first few weeks and months of life that listening to stories is the purest heaven; who understand that books are filled with delights, facts, fun, and food for thought; who fall in love with their parents, and their parents with them, while stores are being shared; and who are read aloud to for ten minutes a day in their first five years, usually learn to read quickly, happily and easily. And a whole lot of goodness follows for the entire community.”

Mem's website

 

Mem’s website, too, is a treasure trove just waiting to be explored by writers, teachers, parents, children and children-at-heart.

You can listen to Mem read from her selection of books on the Current Read Aloud page. She reads three different books each month. Currently the books are Possum Magic, Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! and Goodnight, Sleep Tight. Be quick to listen to these, though, as they will change at the end of the month. But never mind, there’ll be another three to enjoy next month!

Mem even gives a read-aloud lesson! Now there’s no excuse! As she says,

“. . . let’s get on and change the world, one page at a time.”

Yes, Mem, let’s!

 

What are your favourite read-aloud books? What did you enjoy as a child? What do you enjoy now?

Must read: Neil Gaiman – “Reading and obligation”

When I first stepped, rather tentatively, into the world of blogging and tweeting I had no idea of the pleasures I would find. I found a whole community of others who share my passion for education, learning, literacy and writing. I found a comfortable niche, discussion group, and a place for sharing ideas like I hadn’t for a long time. I’ve “come home” on the internet.

In these few short months I have come across some bloggers with very powerful messages that I wish everyone could read and act upon in the ways described. What a wonderful world we would have!

Over the coming months I will let you know about some  articles I consider  ‘must reads’.

Please let me know of others you think I should also be reading!

Thanks for sharing and supporting me on my learning journey thus far.

The story has just begun!

This first in the series is a lecture given by Neil Gaiman entitled “Reading and obligation”

Neil Gaiman lecture in full: Reading and obligation

Neil captivates me with his opening statement:

“It’s important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased.”

If you have read any other articles on my blog, you will know that I am biased; biased towards a child-centered, hands-on, creative and innovative approach to education. I believe that children are capable of far more than a structured didactic approach to schooling gives them credit for; and that big changes in the way education is delivered are necessary if we are to make best use of our most valuable resource – human potential.

As a reader, writer and literacy educator I am biased towards approaches which foster a love of reading and writing. The pleasures to be gained from a literate existence are immeasurable. But more than that, being literate is not only personally empowering, it is a basic human right.

Obviously the articles on my must read list will be those that share my biases.

Please follow the link to watch the video or read the complete transcript of Neil’s lecture.

I offer a few teasers below to incite your interest.

“everything changes when we read”

Wow! How powerful is that statement!

“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy giving them access to those books and letting them read them.”

“Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. . .

And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy.”

“Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.”

Don’t you love that last statement? I do. If we are always “happy” with the way things are, why would we ever try to improve or change them? A little discontent can be a good thing!

“We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.”

Neil goes on to talk about our obligations as readers, writers and citizens of the world.

He lists the following (read or listen for his explanation)

  • Read for pleasure
  • Support libraries
  • Read aloud to our children
  • To use the language
  • We writers – and especially writers for children, but all writers – have an obligation to our readers: it’s the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were – to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth (underlining is mine)
  • not to bore our readers
  • not to preach, not to lecture, not to force 
  • never, ever, under any circumstances, to write anything for children to read that we would not want to read ourselves.
  • to understand and to acknowledge that as writers for children we are doing important work,
  • to daydream We have an obligation to imagine. . . . individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.
  • to make things beautiful.
  • to tell our politicians what we want

Neil reminds us that

Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise.

If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.

I couldn’t agree more.

What about you? What do you think of Neil’s list of obligations? Are there any you would omit, or any you would add?