Scavenger hunt extravaganza

As we enter another half term in lockdown, most of us are searching for activity inspiration. Just before Christmas, my latest book, Scavenger Art was published which hopefully solves some of those “I don’t know what to do/ draw” cries. I’ve been thrilled with all the amazing reviews from parents, teachers, mindfulness coaches, and young artists. And was delighted to see it included in this article, originally published on Kickstarterz and shared with their permission, so here you go …

There are so many different variations and themes you could adopt to create a fun and exciting scavenger hunt. The best thing about them is children absolutely love them. From colour to themed scavenger hunts, the possibilities are endless. Below are some of our favourite variations of different scavenger hunt ideas you could do, or get creative and invent your own. (We would love to hear your favourite).

  • Colour – By using colour in the hunt, young children have the opportunity to learn about colours and for older children it’s an exciting challenge to find such a colourful mix of items. Why not create a rainbow scavenger hunt, where children have to find items the colour of the rainbow

clolour scavenger hunt

  • Letters – Finding items beginning with certain letters is another fun and challenging hunt we can use. Why not have your child find items that spell their name, football team, pet name etc. Whatever their age or ability this one is a fantastic way to enhance learning and fun.
  • Treasure Hunt – Get creative and draw a map of your house/garden and put clues to the location of the treasureyou want your children to find. Items could include, favourite toy, teddy bear, real or chocolate coins.
  • Team Hunt – More than 1 child? Then why not create team games and see who can find items on the list first. If not you could always have parent vs child hunts were you can create a list for each other, say 7 items each and see who can find all the items the fastest.
  • Theme – There are so many themes you could include to make your scavenger hunt feel more topical and relevant. Such as seasonal (things found in spring, autumn etc), football themed, superhero and senses (things you can smell, for example).
  • Art/Mindfulness – A great activity we came across was the mixing of drawing and a scavenger hunt, creating Scavenger art. Perfect for children and families alike, with so many great skills acquired, such as creativity, mindfulness and developing drawing skills.

One book we came across was a perfect recourse for this different kind of hunt, and can be found here. With 52 scavenger hunt ideas in, it’s a perfect companion to any scavenger hunt.

Scavenger art
Scavenger Art, Lexi Rees

Review

“What a wonderful book! It’s easily accessible and adaptable for any circumstances, age, or even weather. An ideal present, this fun book would be appreciated by any child who loves to draw. Invaluable for both parents and educators, there are hours of enjoyment to be had within its pages.” Art teacher

So there you have it, a basic list of ideas to get you started for a scavenger hunt for kids and parents alike. 

Here’s to more fun in ’21

Christmas may be cancelled, but at least we’ve almost made it to the end of 2020. Congratulations! It’s been a particularly challenging year. I know each of us has had different experiences, and different stresses, whether we’re key workers, home educators, shielding ourselves or our loved ones, furloughed, seen our businesses closed for months on end… I can’t be the only person with a whole lot more grey hair now. Having only been to the hairdresser twice this year, if I hadn’t discovered my husband was actually quite handy with a bottle of hair dye, it would be a lot more obvious!

Anyway, here’s to a more fun filled 2021.

Book club news!

I’m very excited to announce that the book boxes have been rebranded so the KidsClub.family is now the BookDragon.club There were a few reasons for this. Partly, it ties to the name of one of my books, The Book Dragon Club, but more importantly, I hope it will be more obvious what it does – a lot of people thought the old name sounded like an activity centre or playgroup. If you haven’t had a look, do check it out.

If you join before the year end, then your first book box will be posted out at the start of January, and I can send an e-gift card (which might be very handy given the festive chaos we’ve all just had thrown at us).

Whatever else 2021 brings, let’s fill it with books!

I wasn’t sure what book to wrap up the year with, but Alex Johnson has solved my problem! He has an eclectic range of books out with several quirky treats (e.g. The Book of Book Lists). Anyway, he has a new one out published by the British Library which ticks the boxes for my book club and parent hats, and I love the cover.

I asked him to join me for a chat.

What I remember about reading as a child is as much the pleasurable experience of it as the actual books. So while I have fond recollections of Noggin the Nog, Mumfie, Tintin, and Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present, what is just as strong is the emotional memory of reading in bed (especially – cliché klaxon – under the covers with a torch), in the garden, on holiday, and especially being read to by my parents.

The only real rule about encouraging your children to read – and now that we’re going back into lockdown there will be even more time for doing so – is that it should be enjoyable. However you plan to encourage them, the most important thing is that reading doesn’t become a chore or, even worse, some kind of punishment. “Get off that Xbox and read a good book” is unlikely to lead to success.

Children turn into readers when they find a book they like, and as soon as books make them feel happy, they’re hooked for life. This means encouraging them however they read. Are they rereading an old favourite for the billionth time? Smashing, rereading is not only a key part of understanding a book but it’s also comforting. Are they engrossed in a Dandy annual? Great, reading comics/graphic novels is great fun – my youngest boy spent a large amount of the first lockdown alternating between Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy and my 1980s Tiger & Scorcher annuals. One is not better than the other. 

Having said that, don’t keep encouraging them to read something you loved as a child if they’re not keen. Guide and suggest, but as far as possible, let them make the choice themselves. I (still) love Anthony Buckeridge’s series of books about the schoolboy Jennings (less magical than Harry Potter, less mischievous than William Brown). My three children swiftly decided against. That’s absolutely fine.

An important way to keep children reading is to encourage them to read all kinds of things. So whether it’s a novel or a poem, a history book or a science guide, a travelogue or a comic, diaries or jokes, a biography or a picture book, variety is the spice of reading life. Although library visits are down on last year for obvious reasons, think about using e-lending services which have seen a massive rise in use in 2020. As well as ‘traditional’ books, ebooks are well worth considering. There’s a lot to explore online too. For example, try Poetryline run by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education at clpe.org.uk/poetryline or search for the work of performance poets such as Kate Tempest and Caleb Femi.

And don’t forget that audiobooks are books too. People not only learn in different styles but they also enjoy stories in different ways. Traditional books don’t suit everybody and audiobooks should certainly not be seen as some kind of fraudulent replacement for a ‘worthy’ hardback in the hand. Storytelling, after all, is far older than reading a printed book.The biggest commercial player in the audiobook market is Audible, owned by Amazon, but do search out other options too such as Listening Books (www.listening-books.org.uk).

As I mentioned above, one of the nicest ways of encouraging your child to read is to do it together and read to them. This is important to do when times are normal, but now everybody is unsettled this is a particularly excellent way of comforting your child. You absolutely don’t have to be a professional actor to read out loud, but do put plenty of emotion into it (I’ve always rather enjoyed doing ‘voices’ even though they are often rather mixed up – my sons gleefully pointed out that the dwarves in The Hobbit appeared to change which part of the country they came from every other reading session) and don’t go too fast – everybody tends to read too quickly. Older children who have not been read to for a while might also now enjoy this again.

As well as reading, it’s good to discuss the books your child is reading. Chatting about books is a huge part of the reading experience and enjoyable for both you and your child. Ask questions which make them think about what they’re reading or encourage them to look for answers in another book, rather than simply lobbing information at them (but remember they’re not doing a school test on it so don’t turn it into an interrogation!). If you’re reading something together, don’t whizz through it as fast as possible, but pause regularly to discuss issues that it raises and connections to other books your child may have read. Think of yourself as a ‘reading mentor’ rather than a broadcaster.

Lastly, don’t let your child have all the fun. You should read too. Not only is it enjoyable, if your son or daughter sees you reading then they are much more likely to follow your lead.

Thanks Alex!

Parent/ teacher alert

You can get your book wall off to a nice start in January as Alex has offered to send a personalised postcard to anyone who shares a picture of them with their copy of his book on social media and tags me. [UK only – sorry]

Before I log off now until the new year, I want to wish you all a very happy holidays, stay safe, take care, and see you in 2021!

Blazing a path in women’s football

Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while will know that as a former rugby player myself, I’m passionate about encouraging girls into sports. Last year, I featured a book about Gaelic football (“Izzy’s Magical Football Adventure”) and that author is working on one about Camogie which I’m really looking forward to, so when I heard of a new picture book about Lily Parr, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Lily Parr made women’s football possible. I still struggle to believe that women’s football was banned when I was born (Ok that rather gives away my age)!

I do want to add that although the book is about women’s football, this should be read by all young football fans, regardless of gender. There is nothing pink or fluffy about it. Pure grit and determination.

Trailblazer is written by Elizabeth Dale and illustrated by Caroline Coroa, and as part of the publication book tour, I’m delighted that Carolina has agreed to chat to us.

1.Trailblazer is about real events and real people. What research did you do to ensure that you illustrated them correctly?

I didn’t start from zero. Elizabeth Dale, the author, and Kim from Maverick Books sent me an amazing compilation of info: websites with history, photos, names, events, etc. They were very careful with who was who, especially the Dick Kerr Ladies team and Alfred. There are plenty of websites that tell us events and stories of women in football since the beginning of 1900s in Europe, Americas, Africa, etc, so I started my research to find out more about women’s football worldwide and why UK and French female teams were so famous at the time. Then I focused on the girls of Dick Kerr Ladies. As they use uniforms most of the time, I needed to find physical and personal characteristics to distinguish them from each other. When you “know” someone it gets easier to draw, so the more I learned from them, the more their personalities would appear in the pages. As they didn’t have many pictures in 1900s, it’s even more impossible to find about a specific person, so I tried to find as many as I could to refine expressions. I was always thinking if they could ever imagine one day someone was going to research their lives and draw about it. I feel very honoured to do so.

 
2.You include a wide variety of clothes worn at that time. Were there any problems depicting them? 

I have a degree in fashion, and I was always very curious about fashion history in Europe. I already knew the consequences of World War I in the wardrobe of people. It was nice to revisit some books and see those nice hats, silk dresses, pearls, and tuxedos. I also use Pinterest for research faster. The challenge was the colors. As the photos from those decades are all black and white, I had to keep an eye on the croquis and old fashion magazines to draw. 

 3. Were the headlines you include in the illustration of the US newspapers, real headlines from the time?

 They’re part of Elizabeth and Kim’s research. Lily was a star; my impression is that every newspaper wanted to highlight her at some point. I received the headlines with the briefing, and I had to research images so both could work together. 

 4.The final double page spread – showing that female footballers today are playing due to the struggle of the ones who went before – is very moving. Was that scene your idea and was it difficult to get just right?

The scene was part of the briefing too, I also found it very moving to imagine that girls who play now have the support from those ladies. 

 5.You portray the football action scenes very well. Are you a football fan? Were you aware of the fascinating story of Lily and her team-mates struggle before you read this book?

Thank you! I played football after school for some months when I was 15, as left-wing, though I was a terrible player. In Brazil, we have a very strong soccer/football culture, especially at school. Even if you don’t like it you always end up learning something or you have a friend that is “sick” about it, as we say there. My husband and my brother-in-law helped me with some scenes by playing FIFA. We paused some moves so I could sketch. Marta, for example, is a very famous player worldwide today and she’s left-footed as Lily was, I studied her playing a little bit to improve the sketches. I also took care of the book “flow” to make sure Lily was well placed as left-footed. I remember seeing something about Lily’s statue being revealed last year during the Women’s World Cup in France, but I didn’t know much before the book.

6. Do you and the author have plans for more books e.g. to make this into a series?

 That would be great to have more of Lily and her team-mates! Florrie Redford, Alice Kell, and Alice Woods, for example, have nice stories to tell too. If Elizabeth and Maverick decide to make this into a series, I’m super available to work on it and, of course, learn more and improve scenes and characters.

An African adventure for lockdown travellers

I think we’re all craving travel at the moment, even a trip to the shops makes me quite excited, while my annual trip to the Scottish Highlands is looking unlikely, and ditto any sailing this year. If you’ve followed my blog over the past few months, you’ll know I’ve devoured the first two of Roxana Valea’s “Polo Diaries” series (and am about to start the third). These are fiction but based heavily on her life, so I couldn’t resist a purely non-fiction account of her African adventure, Through Dust and Dreams. And I wasn’t disappointed. I absolutely love her writing – you can see the journalism training in her engaging, pacey style – there’s not a dull moment in this. Splash an Amarula into your coffee and find a comfy spot in the sunshine, you won’t want to put it down.

Author bio

Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.

As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–traveling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.

Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.

Fresh Eggs & Dog Beds

I love audiobooks, especially when dog walking and especially non-fiction, so this was a double tick as soon as I saw it. I particularly love memoir narrated by the author themselves, but understand that’s a big task and not for everyone (certainly not me anyway). In fact the narrator was excellent – I’d definitely look out for anything else by him.

At times I forgot this was non fiction and was looking for a plot. Then again, as a memoir, I was expecting some life lessons, but it’s a pretty straightforward linear account. It is a little slow – five chapters before they even think of moving to Ireland and way more before they actually make the purchase – it’s a bit like watching one of those “Home or Abroad” or “Move to the Country” property search TV shows! If you enjoy those shows, this lets you see “behind the scenes” and you’re going to absolutely love it. It could have gone straight from his health wake up call/ redundancy into the action, but I guess by taking the slow road it’s left plenty of scope for book two. I wasn’t rolling around with laughter, just a gentle smile but, as a light, easy listen, I definitely enjoyed it and am looking forward to book two.

Blurb

Nick and Lesley Albert yearn to leave the noise, stress and pollution of modern Britain and move to the countryside, where the living is good, the air sweet, with space for their dogs to run free. Suddenly out of work and soon to be homeless, they set off in search of a new life in Ireland, a country they had never visited. As their adventure began to unfold, not everything went according to plan. If finding their dream house was difficult, buying it seemed almost impossible. How would they cope with banks that didn’t want customers, builders who didn’t need work, or the complex issue of where to buy some chickens?

Author Bio

Nick Albert was born in England and raised in a Royal Air Force family. After leaving College he worked in retail management for several years before moving into financial services where he quickly progressed through the ranks to become a training consultant. As a very passionate and reasonably talented sportsman, Nick had always wanted to use his training skills towards creating a parallel career, so in the mid 1980’s he qualified and began coaching sport professionally. After a health scare in 2003 and in search of a simpler life, he and his wife Lesley, cashed in their investments, sold their home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland – a country they had never before even visited. With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, they set about renovating their new home, where they now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly, but delightful dogs.
In 2017 Nick was signed to Ant Press to write a series of humorous memoirs about his life in rural Ireland. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019. Book four is due out in early 2020. Nick is also the author of the twisty thriller, Wrecking Crew, the first in a series of books featuring reluctant hero Eric Stone.

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