Category Archives: Stories

Logical thinking and problem solving – Readilearn

logical thinking and problem solving

Logical thinking and problem solving are important skills for children of all ages to develop, including those in early childhood classrooms. We employ thinking skills each day, in many situations, from deciding the order in which to dress ourselves, complete simple tasks, collect items for dinner or set the table; through to more complex problems such as assembling furniture, writing work programs, juggling timetables, and organising class groupings for activities.

This week I am excited to upload a new interactive digital story that encourages children to use logical thinking to solve a problem.

Dragona's Lost Egg

Dragona has lost her egg and turns to her friend Artie, owner of a Lost and Found store, for help. Artie is confident of helping her as he has many eggs on his shelves. He asks Dragona to describe features of her egg, including size, shape, pattern and colour. He uses a process of elimination to identify which egg might be Dragona’s. Children join in the process by choosing eggs with the characteristic described.

What is Dragona’s egg really like, and will Artie be able to help her find it?

You’ll have to read the story to find out.

The process of writing this story also required a problem to be solved; and I love nothing better than a good problem to solve.

What’s an ovoid? Do you know?

what's an ovoid

 

To find out, continue reading at: Logical thinking and problem solving – Readilearn

Introducing co-authors Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet – Readilearn

Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet

This month I have great pleasure in introducing you to two fine authors, Brenda S. Miles and Susan D. Sweet, who co-wrote the wonderful picture book Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes.

With both World Space Week and International Day of the Girl Child just a few weeks away, I couldn’t think of a better book and authors to spotlight this month. This year’s theme for World Space Week is “Exploring new worlds and space”, and the theme for International Day of the Girl Child is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.”

princes and parties

Cinderstella sees no prince in her happily ever after. She’d rather be an astronaut exploring space. Challenging the role of girls as portrayed in traditional fairy tales, Cinderstella determines to take control of her own destiny and be what she wants to be in a universe of unlimited possibilities. The story encourages girls, and boys, to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and break the limits imposed by gender stereotypes and biases.

Continue reading: Introducing co-authors Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet – Readilearn

Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

inspiring creativity - dot day

Next Friday 15 September is International Dot Day, a day for celebrating and promoting creativity, courage and collaboration.

Celebration of the day was initiated in 2009 with teacher Terry Shay introducing his class to the picture book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

The story is of Vashti and a teacher who encouraged her to make a mark and have a go. Lacking self-belief and courage, Vashti was reluctant to participate in art class. When the teacher framed and hung her signed painting of a tiny dot, Vashti was determined to do better. She painted all kinds of dots that wowed the people at the school art fair. What happened when one little boy admitted to Vashti that he wished he could draw will inspire children everywhere to be brave, have a go, and be creative.

For a wealth of celebratory suggestions, visit the International Dot Day Get Started page and sign up to download a free Educator’s Handbook, which includes a lovely certificate of participation which can be printed and personalised for each child.

I have included a link to the page in the new resource Getting creative with dots in which I suggest additional ideas to add to the celebration.

getting creative with dots

The suggestions, of which examples are shown below, can be used in conjunction with International Dot Day, or any day when you feel like going a little dotty.

Continue reading: Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

Escape to anywhere

We sometimes think of reading as a form of escapism. But many stories, including those in picture books, feature an escape as part of the complication or resolution.

It doesn’t require much thought to create a list. Here are just a few to start:

#6 Traditional stories

By Charles Perrault, Harry Clarke (ill.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jack and the Beanstalk – Jack escapes from the giant

Hansel and Gretel – the children escape from the witch

Snow White – escapes death ordered by the jealous queen

The Three Pigs – escape from the Big Bad Wolf

The Lion and the Mouse – the mouse helps the lion escape the hunter’s trap

The Gingerbread Man – escapes from the oven and those who pursue him

I had a little more difficulty in finding modern tales involving an escape, but here are a few:

#6 Modern tales

Hey, I Love You! by Ian Whybrow – father and son mouse escape the claws of the cat

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson – the mouse uses his wiles to escape being eaten

Wombat Stew by Marcia Vaughan – Wombat’s friends help him escape being Dingo’s dinner

Fox and Fine Feathers by Narelle Oliver – with the help of the nightjar the birds escape being a feast for fox

Run, Hare, Run! The story of a drawing by John Winch – the rabbit has numerous attempts at escaping the hunter but is caught, and finally freed

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen – the family escapes from the bear encountered in a cave

A new favourite

This Mo Willems story is an innovation on the traditional tale of Goldilocks escaping from the three bears. In Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, Goldilocks has a lucky escape out the back door just as the dinosaurs return home through the front door. Willems concludes his story with two morals, one for the dinosaurs:

Lock the back door!

And one for Goldilocks:

If you ever find yourself in the wrong story: leave.

What a great philosophy that we could perhaps employ more often. If we don’t like where we’re at, just leave. Life’s decisions are not always that easy though.

I rather like the idea of characters appearing in the wrong story. What a great topic for discussion with children and a wonderful stimulus for their writing.

  • What if the Big Bad Wolf knocked on the Giant’s door?
  • What if the Three Pigs chased the Gingerbread Man?
  • What if Goldilocks came to the house of Red Riding Hood’s grandma?
  • What if?

In fact, Nick Bland has written a story that utilises this concept. In The Wrong Book, Nicholas Ickle tries to tell his story but keeps getting interrupted by other characters such as an elephant, monsters, a queen and a pirate. Nicholas tells them that they are in the wrong book and to go away. By the time they leave, we get to the end of the book and there is no time for him to tell his story.

But what if the story characters didn’t want to be in the book at all, and decide to escape? How would they escape? What would the writers do if their characters revolted and walked off the job?

I’m thinking about escapes this week as Charli Mills has challenged the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an escape artist. It can even be you, the writer, escaping into a different realm or space in imagination. It can be any genre, including BOTS (based on a true story) or fantasy. You can focus on the escape, the twist or the person who is the escape artist.

Where could I escape to if not picture books? Here’s my contribution. I hope you like it.

Let’s get out of here

Delaying the inevitable, she was picking wildflowers when she heard sobbing. She gasped to see him cowering behind the bushes but ignored instructions to avoid strangers.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t do it anymore. Every day: first the pigs; then your grandma. They’ve painted me bad. I’m not. I’m –“

A giant with a goose crash-landed beside them.

“I’ll not let that nasty boy steal my goose, again. And he says I’m bad.”

A diverse troupe in T-shirts emblazoned “Freedom for princesses” appeared.

“We want out,” they all chanted.

A witch magicked a rocket from a pinecone and everyone disappeared.

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

 

Meet Australian picture book author Aleesah Darlinson – Readilearn

Aleesah Darlison

This month, it is my pleasure to introduce you to award-winning Australian author Aleesah Darlison. Aleesah writes picture books, chapter books and novels. Her much-loved stories promote courage, understanding, anti-bullying, self-belief, teamwork and environmental themes. In 2015, she won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Non-Fiction) for her picture book, Our Class Tiger. She has won numerous other awards for her writing.

Aleesah has written over thirty-five books for children and in 2016, she set up Greenleaf Press, a business designed to provide critical support services to authors and illustrators. The company also acts as a booking agency for school and preschool visits.

Today, Aleesah and I are talking about her picture book Stripes in the Forest. With National Threatened Species Day just a couple of weeks away on 7 September, it is a timely interview. Stripes in the Forest is the story of an iconic species lost.

Thylacine quote

Told from the perspective of the last wild female thylacine, it provides readers with an insight into the rare beauty and uniqueness of these amazing animals, explains their fight for survival and provides important lessons for future generations.

An emotive and moving story, children will connect with the solitary, stoic and courageous female thylacine who does all she can to protect her young – just as a human mother would do. The story takes readers to a place in the past, but also offers a twist that projects them

Contine reading: Meet Australian picture book author Aleesah Darlinson – Readilearn

Berry delightful

What is your favourite berry?

Which berries make your taste buds sing?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) include music and berries. It can be fantastical, such as the music of berries or a story that unfolds about a concert in a berry patch. Go where the prompt leads.

mulberries

When I was a child, there was a huge mulberry tree growing in the backyard of one of our neighbours who was kind enough to allow access to the multitude of children in our family. Each summer the tree would be laden with fruit and we would pull at its branches to gather as much as we could into buckets and bowls. We would go home stained with purple on our bodies and our clothes and, mostly, around our mouths. We couldn’t wait to eat and there were plenty to go around. Mum would bake mulberry pies and fill jars with mulberry jam that was delicious on our buttered bread for breakfast or lunch.

Since then, I have encountered few mulberries trees, only occasionally sourcing their leaves to feed voracious silkworm caterpillars. The berries themselves seem not to be harvested for store sales. However, I was recently reminded of Mum’s mulberry jam when I spotted some on a shelf at the Jamworks gourmet deli. I must admit though, while I resisted the mulberry jam, I couldn’t resist the fig and ginger variety.

gooseberries

The other berry that was most familiar to me as a child, but never since seen, was what we called the gooseberry. There were gooseberry plants growing by our back fence. I remember picking the berries, peeling back the outer leaves and eating the small fruit, which I think had quite a tart flavour. As I recall, Mum would also make jam, but not pies, with these.

strawberry torte

(c) Norah Colvin

I recall that, even as a young adult, a serving of strawberries and cream had seemed a very luxurious and decadent dessert. Now strawberries are more affordable and readily available all year round. They are a favourite of my granddaughter. So much so that I need to have at least one punnet in the fridge for her when she visits. A strawberry torte is my family’s pick for special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas. I wrote about it and included the recipe here.

In addition to strawberries, stores now have a variety available all year round; including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and cranberries. The berries make a wonderful filling for the other family favourite, pavlova.

pavlova

(c) Norah Colvin

But do you know what a berry is?

I checked with Wikipedia for the definition of a berry, and found that it is “a fleshy fruit without a stone produced from a single flower containing one ovary”.

Botanically, the following fruits (and vegetables) are berries:

  • Grapes
  • Currants
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Coffee beans
  • Pumpkin
  • Watermelon

and these, commonly called berries, are not:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Mulberry
  • Blackberry

Do you need to change you answers to my initial questions:

What is your favourite berry?

Which berries make your taste buds sing?

Or are you happy to go with common usage? If I write about mulberries, will I be fulfilling the requirements of Charli’s prompt? Perhaps I should write about picking watermelons instead.

Mulberry picking

Mulberry Stew

Branches hung heavy with berries in reach of even the youngest child. They ate more than they bucketed; but there were plenty, including for birds singing in higher branches. Mum had forbidden them. “Mrs Wilson’s poorly. Don’t disturb her.” But they couldn’t resist. They scampered the instant she called.

“Where have you been?” She eyed the purple stains.

“We …” the youngest began to sing.

“Nowhere,” they shushed with hands concealed.

“What were you doing?”

“Nothing.”

Her lips twitched. “Hand them over.”

Later they pondered together how she knew.

When Dad got home, they’d have to face the music.

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

 

A piece of pie

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a pie. You can make it any kind of pie, focus on filling or crust, or tell us about the pie-maker. How does pie set a tone in a story? Does it warm the hearth or bring disappointment?

But which pie should I choose: meat, vegetable or fruit, with pastry that is short, flaky or puff? Perhaps a piece of pie for a correct answer in Trivial Pursuit?

I considered words that rhyme with pie, and what a list I made:

what rhymes with pie

Forty-three words!

Maybe you can add even more.

Did you notice the variety of ways we spell the long vowel ī, as in the word pie?

There are eight:

aye    uy    y     ye     ai     ie     igh    and     i!

Isn’t it a wonder that any of us ever learned to read or spell.

Did you notice there were two ‘pie’s in my title: A piece of pie?

Did you notice that each time the three letters ‘pie’ were used, they represented different sounds?

As mature readers and writers we have no difficulty with any of these vagaries of the English language, but for beginners, they can be a challenge.

The challenge reminds me of “Old Lucy Lindy and the Pies” from Sounds of Laughter in the Sounds of Language Series by Bill Martin Jnr. In the story, Lucy Lindy loves to bake pies. She bakes all kinds of pies, including mince pies. Since all her pies looked the same with their delicious layer of pastry on the top, Lucy Lindy wanted to be sure she knew which pies were which when she took them out of the oven. She came up with a brilliant plan. She put the initials IM on the mince pies, for Is Mince. Then, on the pies that weren’t mince, she put the initials IM, for Isn’t Mince. Children laugh out loud when they realise it wasn’t such a clever plan after all.

A Necklace of Raindrops

Another lovely story for young children is “There’s some Sky in this Pie” from the collection A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken. The story has a cumulative structure similar to that of The Gingerbread Man, but with an additional sprinkle of creativity that could be used to ignite children’s own imaginative stories.

When the old woman was making a pie for the old man, she looked outside at the snow “coming down so fast out of the white sky.

“Then she went on rolling the pastry. But what do you think happened? A little corner of the sky that she had been looking at got caught in the pastry.”

When the pie was cooked and the old woman opened the oven, the pie floated across the room. The woman and man and their cat jumped onto the pie to try to stop it, but they couldn’t, and they floated away on it. From time to time they met others who called out to them,

“Old woman, old man, little puss, so high,

Sailing along on your apple pie,

Why are you floating across the sky?”

They answered:

“Because we can’t stop, that’s the reason why.”

(Notice those different ways of spelling the long ī sound again – three spellings in that short extract.)

Lucy Lindy and the Sky in the Pie are light-hearted and imaginative stories.

Recipe for a Perfect Planet Pie

Another favourite pie story is Recipe for Perfect Planet Pie by Kim Michelle Toft, an Australian author/illustrator and the only illustrator anywhere to illustrate all her stories with silk paintings.

I have shared some of Kim’s work with you before here and here, and I’m certain to again as I attended the launch of her eleventh picture book Coral Sea Dreaming on the weekend and have scheduled a readilearn interview with her later in the year.

Kim is passionate about conservation, especially of our marine environment and its inhabitants. In each of her books, she uses her stunning silk paintings to ignite a wonderment in the natural world and inspire a love of and caring for the environment. Recipe for Perfect Planet Pie continues these themes.

The book reads like a recipe with a list of ingredients, a method, fourteen step-by-step instructions, and “Helpful hints” on each page. The recipe begins:

1 To prepare the base. Sift the rich chocolate earth and crystallised minerals together. Make a well and pour in one cloud full of rain.”

and concludes:

“Serve pie immediately with a side of love and a slice of happiness.”

At the end of the book, Kim includes information about the pie’s ingredients and the importance of each. She provides suggestions that we can implement to help create a happy, healthy planet and says,

“Planet Earth is our only home and it is up to us to create change and put our knowledge into action.”

I’m sure you’ll agree with that.

For my response to Charli’s challenge I decided to go with a bit of nonsense and see how many of the rhyming words I could use to construct a pie story and still maintain some sort of sense. I wonder how successful you will think I’ve been. I managed to incorporate 28 and at least one from each of the spelling variants.

A piece of pie

Kye met Jai at the mall.

Hi,” said Kye.

“Nice day,” replied Jai. “Look at that sky. Wish I could fly.”

“Time for a chai?”

Aye. And maybe a pie. I’ll buy.”

“What a great guy!”

“I try!”

“I’ll have toasted rye.”

They sat high by the window and played “I spy.”

“Oh my,” said Kye, rubbing his eye.

“What? Why?

Kye started to cry.

“Don’t mean to pry.” Sigh.

“It’s no lie. The end is nigh.”

“Will we all fry? Will everyone die?”

“No, just wish I had your piece of pie.”

Fie! Wish I had Thai!”

Bye.”

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