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!

Doggy day care and day dreams

One thing I’ve noticed through lockdown is the number of my friends who have got dogs – I suspect partly because as a result of the increased working from home it’s a much more viable option for many than previously, and partly as the “daily walk” has become an integral part of most our lives.

I always enjoy “fly on the wall” books for the insights they give into other people’s lives. And since I have a dog, I was curious to read Trials and Tribulations of a Pet Sitter although I’m not sure what I expected – it’s not like you’d get any scandalous stories from the dogs themselves during their stays, nor was I expecting any shocking revelations from the pet sitter (thank goodness – that would be far too upsetting and need a trigger warning). So this could have been a mundane recount of daily dog walks, and in a way it is, but it’s also strangely compelling and I kept picking it up at every opportunity! It’s such a lovely, warm memoir of a life filled to the brim with dogs that I defy any dog lover not to enjoy it. Oh, and I desperately want to own a slightly mad Pointer now!

I also just checked to see if there was an audio version of this as I’d love to hear it narrated by the author – sadly not (yet), but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The Blurb

Hilarious and heart warming true stories of a Pet Sitter.

​Laura takes us on her journey describing the immense joy that the animals have brought into her life. But it’s not all fun and games. With sometimes as many as ten dogs around her home, things can get a tad hectic. Not to forget the every day challenges faced in keeping the pets happy and safe when out walking. Luckily she is not alone in her quest; her unusually dominant Golden Retriever ‘Brece’ is always by her side. Brece earns her keep by convincingly playing the part of the alpha female, ensuring harmony amongst the pack.

​At times, the responsibility that Laura faces becomes overwhelming. She may think she has everything covered but that hand of fate could quite easily swoop down, creating havoc for her and the dogs. Laura has endured many close calls and teetered on the precipice of disaster may a time. The longer she continues with her pet sitting enterprise, the more likely hood that total disaster will actually strike. Is she tempting fate?

​Laura Marchant is the Bridget Jones of the pet sitting world!

Author Bio

Laura Marchant was born in 1959 in the seaside resort of Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England. Both her parents were born in the same town, so not exactly a family of intrepid travellers! As a child Laura and her siblings were fortunate enough to own shares in the families pets. Unbeknown to Laura at the time, her love for the animals formed the blueprint for a large part of her life. In 2011 she finally found her vocation, and in the comfort of her own home, set up a pet boarding business. For the next 7 years she shared her abode with a pack of dogs. A lot of this time was spent watching over the animals and observing their behaviour

Four fab lockdown family photo ideas

If you know me, you’ll know I’m very chatty on Twitter, but actually I’m loving Instagram at the moment because the images are so cheerful and uplifting. My attempts don’t always work out Insta-worthy, so I was chatting to photographer Nina Mucalov and have invited her to share her tips … I’m going to start with idea 3.

Looking for a fun 15 minute activity with your kids this long weekend?  

Try an at-home lockdown photoshoot 📸  No need to tidy anything, just pick a spot next to a big window, grab a laundry basket to clear any mess, then call your kids over.  

HERE ARE 4 IDEAS I’VE USED WITH MY OWN KIDS DURING LOCKDOWN


1. Reading
Are books a big part of your life? Grab some favourite titles and capture your kids reading on their own or ask your partner to take one of you reading with them.  

2. A favourite game
Are your kids into lego, chase, or hide-and-seek? My little one never tires of hiding under the covers (and she especially loves it when I hide with her!)   


3. Upside Down
This is a sure way to capture genuine smiles and laughter. Get them to go upside down on the sofa or on the bed or ask your partner to hold them upside down.  It always results in giggles.   


4. Age Profile
Take a photo of each child on their own and ask them to list their favourite things.  Then use an online program – Canva is great (and free!) to create an Age Profile.  You’ll love looking back on these as your children grow and their tastes change.  

If you like these (how could you not!) do check out her other pictures over here …

www.ninamucalov.com

Instagram: @ninamucalov

My favourite books of 2019 so far

Honoured to be included in this list, and have to credit the amazingly talented Chris Dickins for his narration of Eternal Seas. He’s already signed up to do the sequel 🙂

Herding Cats

It’s hard to believe that we are half way through the year already but here we are. I wrote a post highlighting my most popular posts of 2019 so far but I wanted to do a post to show my favourite books that I have read in 2019 so far too.  It is by no means a fully comprehensive list but I honestly struggles to cut it down further.  I apologise if I haven’t used the correct genre for any books.  Reviews for all of these books can be found by clicking the links underneath.

So here they are in no particular order …..

Psychological/Crime Thrillers

Changeling, Lost Lives, Murder at Macbeth, The Flower Girls, Call Me Star Girl, The Puppet Show,The Passengers.

Romance

The Serial Dater’s Shopping List, The Little Vintage Carousel by the Sea, The Summer of Chasing…

View original post 103 more words

Local author, with a touch of Tasmanian devil …

I’m really excited to introduce Rosemary Noble to you today. Now, she’s not a kids book author, so I know I risk straying off here, but I just read Sadie’s War, the third book in a historical saga which is based on her own family’s true story of being transported to Australia. She now lives locally to me and we’re in the same writers group, Chindi Authors, so how could I not share! She’s just back from a tour of Australia, all in the name of research – remind me to write a book set in Fiji soon – but skipped Sydney Opera House in favour of convict factories and orphan schools.

Over to Rosemary …

 

I’d like to thank Lexi for inviting me to her blog today. I know Lexi is interested in travel and sailing, so come with me on a journey to the far side of the world. To an island no bigger than Ireland, with a beauty that one would go far to surpass, empty beaches of bone, white sands, topaz seas, stunning mountains and lakes, roads you can drive down without seeing a passing car – a veritable paradise – but one that has a terrible past.

Tasmania, off the southern coast of Australia, was settled by the British in 1802. At that time, it was called Van Diemen’s Land and that name struck terror into the hearts of the thousands of men, women and children who were transported there, often for minor crimes. Take a young Irish girl during the time of the famine. She found an egg in a hedge. She was starving and placed it carefully in her apron pocket. Later she was accosted by a policeman who searched her and finding the egg, he arrested her for stealing it and despite her protestations, she was transported twelve thousand miles from her home and family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That’s not to say everyone was innocent. There were plenty of villains too. This was a time when Britain preferred to send their miscreants far away rather than have prisons. They used to send them to America but after America won its battles for independence, Britain needed another prison and they chose Australia. Terra Nullius, James Cook called it – an empty land. Only it wasn’t a land without people, not at all.

It is estimated that there were five hundred or so separate nations of native Australians who had lived there for almost fifty thousand years, each with their own language. Imagine their land invaded and their horror as they were turfed off their native hunting grounds and watched their sacred lands desecrated. On my last visit to Tasmania in October 2018 I came across this sign in the museum in Hobart.

Around that time the aboriginals were attempting to fight back and some of the new settlers were speared. The government responded by hunting down all the native Tasmanians and sending them to a smaller island where they gradually died through disease and neglect. It’s a shameful tale.

But what sparked my interest in Tasmania? It was discovering that my husband’s three times great grandparents were transported. They met there, married and raised a family. For them it was a huge success because they thrived. They had the determination, grit and endurance to survive and they helped populate Australia. It wasn’t always the case. A recent study has discovered that those convicts who had not grown up in a close family unit were the least successful. Now consider what the system did to the children of convict women, still under sentence.

A visit to the ruined Cascades Female Factory in Hobart and watching the performance ‘My story,’ tells the heart-breaking truth. The children were taken from the women to be weaned at six months. If they survived weaning, and many did not, the children were sent to the Orphan School until they could be apprenticed to a master or mistress around the age of ten, if their mothers had not claimed them. Some did, some were not in a position where they could. They may have married, and their new husbands refused to take their children. The matron of the Orphan School was the subject of a very harsh report in the 1840s. Cruelty, starvation, neglect – you get the picture. But this was thought to be better than leaving them with their ‘criminal’ mothers.

dsc01339

So many stories. Thirteen thousand women were transported to Tasmania, twenty-nine thousand to Australia in all – each have their own story. The wonderful work of the Female Convicts Research Centre volunteers in transcribing the records and following up on all the women, together with so many descendants reaching out to find the truth, is testament to our craving for knowledge of our history.

When I attended the seminar in October at the Orphan School, three separate women told me that their female ancestors had been transported from Sussex, from Boxgrove, from Oving and from Horsham. Did I know these places?

Since returning, I have thought about these three women from Sussex. I knew the story of one because I had researched all the women on her ship some years before for the FCRC. You see I was one of the volunteers. Charlotte Ayling was unusually fifty years of age, a washerwoman, sentenced in Chichester. Why unusually – because mostly they sent out young women able to marry and bear children. Charlotte was too old to take her children with her, but, and this is what strikes me now – at least one of her adult children must have loved their mother so much that they followed her out. Charlotte died only three years after arrival. I hope her son or daughter got to see her before she died.

Bio

Rosemary Noble lives in West Sussex and worked as an education librarian. Books have been her life, ever since she walked into a library at five-years-oldand found a treasure trove. Her other love is social history. She got hooked on family history before retirement and discovered so many stories that deserved tobe told.

Her first book, Search for the Light, tells the story of three young girls transported to Australia in 1824. Friendship sustains them through the horrors of the journey, and their enforced service in Tasmania. The Digger’s Daughter tells of the next generation of gold-diggers and a pioneering woman who lives almost through the first hundred years in Victoria. The third in the trilogy, Sadie’s Wars takes the reader to the fourth generation and into the twentieth century. The trilogy is based on the author’s family. It tells of secrecy and lies, of determination and grit and how all can be done or undone by luck.

Rosemary is a member of CHINDI authors and is involved in literary events in and around Chichester. She also loves to travel, especially to Australia and Europe and not least, she loves spending time with her grandchildren, one of whom is a budding author herself.

Links to Books

Search for the Light myBook.to/SearchFTL

The Digger’s Daughter myBook.to/DiggersD

Sadie’s Wars mybook.to/SadieW