More double trouble!

I promised two reviews from the same publisher. So after The Boy Who Breathed Underwater last week, as we head for festive season, here is the second.

First of all, I have to note that 10% of profits from this book are donated to Hospital Radio Plymouth. Love this! In fact the story was first read by Sue Crowhurst on the radio, and I’m sure the young listeners enjoyed it. I hope it will feature in this years festive line up too.

The next thing to note is the unusual font. It’s all in a very heavy sans serif in bold. My first reaction was it’s a bit “shouty” (like wring an email ALL IN CAPS but there is no explanation so I’m hoping it’s a dyslexia friendly font (would love that confirmed if anyone knows).

My favourite character was Broderick the bookworm (of course). And the idea of trying to trick the king with green and red snow made me giggle and opens the door for plenty of silly conversations. Thankfully there was no mention of yellow snow – eeeewwww – that could have created some interesting discussions! Actually I think there’s a missed opportunity to play with the white Christmas/ green Christmas here and add an eco layer to the plot.

Each page has crisp and cheerful illustrations by Michael S Kane. Annoyingly, again the publisher hasn’t provided any details on the illustrator, but at least he’s credited on the cover (it’s a pet hate of mine when the illustrator/ narrator are not credited).

Blurb

When lying in his bed, a boy is visited by a genie. He is given a week to try out different superhero powers. What adventures will King Mark is a higgledy-piggledy king and he gets into a pickle every day. “Do something, Bert!” he shouts, and Wizard Bert, and his sidekick, Broderick the bookworm, always save the day. When snow fell on Windy Hill Castle, everyone was delighted – except for King Mark! King Mark didn’t like snow and he started to sulk. Will Bert and Broderick save the day again? Will King Mark walk into trouble? Do the children of Windy Hill Village have the answer…?

About the author

Jocelyn’s writing career began when she was asked to write a story for a preschool magazine. That story was the first of many. Jocelyn became the writer/editor of several preschool magazines and continued in that role for 15 years. Writing one new story every month, plus rhymes and activities was a tough gig, but very exhilarating.

Time is the big difference between writing for a magazine and writing a book.  You see your work on the supermarket shelves within a few weeks of completion. A book takes longer – a lot longer. Jocelyn has to be patient now – not something she’s good at.

Before becoming a writer, Jocelyn work in higher education as International Students Officer. It was a rewarding and interesting job even though she was on call 24/7.

Jocelyn also trained as a counsellor and volunteered at drop-in centers. She never knew who would arrive for counselling and had to be prepared for anything. This work gave her insight into some of the darker corners of life.

Motor sport was one of Jocelyn’s early loves, she had spine tingling thrill of taking part in a 24-hour national rally as navigator – those were the days when rallies were held on public roads! Jocelyn work as an au pair in Paris in her teens. Having visited the city on a school trip, she fell in love with it, and always wanted to return.

Why our children should listen to audiobooks

I love audiobooks. I listen every day whilst dog walking or cooking. And I firmly believe that listening is “reading” and will argue this on Clubhouse until I’m blue in the face (not that anyone can see on Clubhouse). When I do school visits, I talk a lot about the author creating “mind movies”, and I would include audiobooks in this discussion.

So you may know I’m lucky enough to have the utterly amazing Chris Devon narrate my Relic Hunters series (and he’s being very patient whilst I struggle with plot holes in book 3). Anyway, for a different perspective, I recently met the talented and super lovely Charlotte Chiew (scroll down for some very funny shots of here at work) at a networking event and invited her to share some thoughts on the benefits of audiobooks for children so over to her ….

The muscles you(r children) work listening to audiobooks

I’ll admit – I only really started listening to audiobooks after I began narrating them. 

Of course, like many a good parent, I’d bought (and listened together with) my kids those read-along books with CDs that ring a little lovely chime every time the narrator had come to the end of the page and it was time to turn the page. My boys loved them. I think they felt pretty good about themselves, pretending they were able to read before they actually could decipher the words themselves. 

Then, as they got older and silently devour all sorts of books by themselves, they also started on audiobooks. I honestly can’t remember how or when, but they were the pioneer audiobook listeners in my household. I remember the first times I found the house silent, the child(ren) immobilized, headphones on, eyes glazed. And I thought, who cast this spell and how?

Obviously, I wanted this magical super power too.  

While I won’t be sharing the secrets of how I spin a spellbinding tale, I will share 2 interesting facts about audiobooks that may shed some light on how and why some audiobook narrators have listeners eating out of their hands.

1. Our brain works as hard whether we’re reading a story ourselves or listening intently to someone telling it to us.

From an evolutionary point of view, reading came after storytelling and listening, and so it uses processes in the brain that were already there from learning by listening. If you think about reading as the process of decoding the written letters, then it means that if you’ve learnt to read, the decoding is pretty much automatic which means it no longer requires much effort. The effort then, is in what you do with the information you get from the decoding (reading) or the listening (storytelling). 

(There’s been lots of scientific research on this topic, but here is where I gleamed my understanding of memory & learning http://www.danielwillingham.com/articles.html)

2. Listening to audiobooks is more engaging than watching films – even if you don’t realise it!

A study from UCL found that listening to audiobooks creates a more intense psychological and emotional reaction that watching television or film. A quick google search will bring up all the statistics and research data if that’s your cup of tea. But think about it – the results aren’t that surprising. When listening to an audiobook, you have to work your imagination so much more than when watching a film. (Remember how the latest release of that book you loved was never as satisfying as when you read it?) In addition to your imagination working hard, often times, you experience an intimate storytelling with audiobooks. A beautiful voice in your ears (thank you Noise-cancelling-headphones), drawing you into the world of the story. The narrator heightens the experience for the listener and has the ability to make an audiobook unforgettable.

The imobilised, glazed-eyed state I find my kids in when they listen to audiobooks must just be their imagination hard at work. With some help from an expert narrator…

3. Insider tips

If you’re new to audiobooks and I’ve tempted you to try, here are some options and tips for looking for great narrators:

  1. Most audiobook online retail platforms will let you trial a subscription for a month. Try Kobo, Audiobook.com and Audible – you get free book/s during your trial, which you get to keep even if you cancel your subscription. Afterwhich you’ll get credits which usually equates to 1 book every month. With a Kobo subscription, you’ll also get books on promotional prices in addition to your 1 “free” book a month. And if you accumulate more credits that you can use them, Kobo lets you”pause” your subscription if you don’t want to cancel but just haven’t finished using those credits.
  2. Check if you local library has a partnership with Libby App (by Overdrive). We are members of Lewisham Library (London) and have enjoyed many audiobooks for free on our library cards.
  3. You can get free audiobooks from Librivox, Googleplay Audiobooks, and even Apple iTunes. 
  4. Before you buy/rent/download-a-free audiobook, always check out the retail sample. That’s the equivalent of a traditional book’s “blurb”. Most audiobook producers will choose a section that will let you have a good idea of how the narrator tells the story. However, some retailers will cut their own retail sample and sometimes, that means you just hear the copyrights and opening credits…
  5. Look out for the Earphones award for the audiobook, or the Golden Voice award for the Narrator. These are awards given by AudioFile Magazine, for truly exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.

About Charlotte Chiew

Charlotte Chiew is an audiobook narrator-producer, voiceover artist, and actor. She specializes in narrating content for young audiences and has performed for children and young audiences all over the world in theatres, community halls, festivals, shopping malls, bookshops, and on recorded medium. Charlotte is currently narrating and producing the Paramedic Chris Series– a children’s book series about the Ambulance service – by Tim Parsons.

Find out more about Charlotte’s work on https://Charlottechiew.com

Listen to Charlotte spin a yarn on the Tauk Kids’ Youtube Channel https://bit.ly/TAUKKidsYT

Double trouble!

I’ve got two reviews from the same publisher – one today and one next week.

How could I pass by the opportunity to review a book by another REES? So, just incase you were wondering, Izzy Rees is no relation. I’ve never even met her. So this is just a coincidence. From the title, The Boy Who Breathed Underwater, I expected an underwater adventure. The book is actually a classic version of the ever popular “which super power would you choose?” debate.

Like most publishers and editors, I can be a bit wary of rhymes. Setting aside the limitations they place on foreign translations, they are very hard to get right without resorting to the occasional clunky grammar. These rhymes, however, just trip off the tongue. Such fun to read-aloud.

But all of a sudden,

he let out a sneeze …

He lost all control and

fell hard on his knees.

Each scenario is totally made by the fabulous illustrations by Sarah-Leigh Wills. Annoyingly, the publisher hasn’t provided any details on the illustrator, but at least she’s credited on the cover (it’s a pet hate of mine when the illustrator/ narrator are not credited).

Blurb

When lying in his bed, a boy is visited by a genie. He is given a week to try out different superhero powers. What adventures will he have, and which power will he choose to keep?

About the author

Izzy Rees was born in West London, but has spent the last thirty years living in Derby. Ten years ago, when her three girls were young, she began work on a series of rhyming picture books, created in snatched moments, and initially written on small scraps of paper or whatever was available. She always intended to revisit them, and Covid and lockdown presented the opportunity; unable to continue her work as a neurophysiotherapist, working with vulnerable patients, she decided it was now or never! She has written six books so far in the ‘The Boy Who’ series, The Boy Who Breathed Underwater being the first one. The others will be published in the near future.

Hedgehoggy snuffles

I loved Mrs Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter and remember my dad reading it to me often. So a hedgehog book is always going to make my heart melt. But first, have a confession. I have never seen a hedgehog. In fact it’s on my bucket list. Preferably not one squashed on the road. Anyway, when I saw Hoglets’ Christmas Magic I invited the author Lynette Creswell for a chat about books and everything hedgehogs.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)

Hi, I’m Lynette and I’ve been writing for over thirty years. Having suffered a dysfunctional childhood, I was compelled from an early age to write stories that took me to another place. I created new realms and magical creatures influenced by stories such as The Magic Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair, written by Enid Blyton.

Years later I wrote stories for my own children. It gave me such a buzz to see their eyes light up when they realised they were one of my crazy characters. My husband could see how much joy writing gave me and bought me a laptop. He told me it was time to live my dream and write something substantial. I couldn’t wait and in 2012 published my first YA book Sinners of Magic

When I’m not writing I tootle off to my static caravan in Chapel St Leonards, Lincolnshire. It’s a wonderful seaside town and my ‘happy place’. We’re situated right by the sea. I enjoy long walks along the prom, eating ice cream and paddling in the sea. I get inspiration for writing new stories there. 

2. Is this your first children’s book?

Yes. Hoglets’ Christmas Magic is written for children aged 5+. It tells the tale of Prickles and Primrose, two adorable hedgehogs.

3. What or who inspired you to write this book?

I actually published Hoglets’ Christmas Magic for my blog a couple of Christmases ago and the response was phenomenal. I received a mountain of messages and emails from parents and grandparents enquiring when the story would be published. I can’t deny it’s taken oodles of blood, sweat and a pandemic to get the book published. Yet, now the hoglets are here, I’m glad I listened to my readers and took the plunge.

4. List three interesting facts about yourself.

  • I’m scared of Daddy-long-legs.
  • I’m partially deaf.
  • I gave birth in 1985 to my eldest son in Berlin. The room was right above the medical bunker of Herr Hess, Adolf Hitler’s Deputy-in-Chief. 

How to help wild hedgehogs

Once I started raising money for Happy Hogs Hedgehog Rescue Centre, I realised I wanted to do more to help hedgehogs in the wild. I went online and bought a hedgehog house which I placed in a sheltered part of the garden. It has a slate roof and two rooms inside and I filled the bedroom compartment with barley straw, (straw is better than hay as it doesn’t get too damp). Next, I surrounded the hoggies new home with a few plants to make it slightly hidden from view. I also turned the entrance of the house towards the fence so that it made it harder for cats to get their paws inside. 

Once the house was secure, I needed to make a feeding station. This is because you mustn’t put food inside a hedgehog house, this must be separate. 

Here’s how to make a feeding station of your own…

1. For the structure of your hedgehog feeder, get a plastic see-through box at least 30 cm (12 inches) wide and 45 cm (18 inches) long.

2. You can turn the box either way but make sure you weigh it down with a heavy object so it doesn’t blow away. I used part of a broken patio paving slab.

3. Cover the floor with newspaper and acquire two small bowls. One for food and the other for water.

4. In the side of the box make an entrance hole. Usually the size of a CD disk and use thick tape to smooth the edges to make sure the hedgehog doesn’t hurt itself.

5. Place the bowls inside and away from the entrance. Use specific hedgehog food such as Brambles hedgehog kibble and/or soft wet cat meat (non-fish). Cat food is high in protein which hedgehogs need to survive. Remember NEVER give hedgehogs milk. They’re lactose intolerant and you could cause the hedgehog harm.

6. Keep it safe. Place the feeder a hand’s length away from the wall to prevent cats getting in and stealing food.  

Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of a feeding station and you’re helping hedgehogs in the wild.

Tips for keeping hedgehogs healthy

A hedgehog’s natural diet mainly consists of slugs, ground beetles, caterpillars and worms. Please don’t use slug pellets in your garden. Hedgehogs eat these and can die.

Get more involved!

If you’d like to learn more about hedgehogs you can join the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. You’ll find them on Twitter under @hedgehogsociety or you can visit their website: http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk. The society’s great for sharing valuable information about hedgehogs and if you need help you can contact them directly.

As a parent or teacher who would like more information, there’s a great website People’s Trust for Endangered Species (ptes.org) have information on hedgehogs and on their site you’ll also find a link to Hedgehog Street. This is a website where you become a Hedgehog Champion. If you visit Hedgehogstreet.org you’ll find free downloadable resources, a photo gallery and forum.  

Thanks Lynette. Now I’m off to look into building a hedgehog house. Watch this space!

Animal magic

Before I even opened Animalympics, I was blown away by the gorgeous, eye-catching, richly colourful, hardback cover. I can see kids being immediately drawn to this and pulling it from book boxes around the country. Huge thumbs up to the illustrator Sarah Lou.

There are pages dedicated to separate sports from the well known sprinting and gymnastics, to sports that the younger readers may not be familiar with like fencing, steeplechase, and water polo. This book could be read as a story, but it’s really too long for a bedtime read so I’d dip in and out using it as a spark for classroom activities. And of course, in an Olympics year, it’s going to be an obvious choice.

The other thing I love it is that there is a sport for absolutely everyone, irrespective of size or shape- my personal favourite pic is the sheep hockey team.

The final surprise is the last page. Trust me, this is not an Acknowledgements page to skip. Not only was the book was a fundraiser for UK zoos in 2020 😍, but look at the 🏅 team who were involved. Each name on this list inspires a whole project:

  • Katherine Grainger DBE – rower
  • Hannah Cockcroft MBE – wheelchair sprinter
  • Ali Jawa – paralympic powerlifter
  • and more!

My only grumble is that currently, it’s only an ebook unless you order via the authors website. I’m hoping that changes soon as the hardcover is divine.

Competition!

Win a signed copy of Animalympics, an Animalympics gold medal plus stickers and bookmarks (Open to UK only) 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494447/?

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Blurb

Woodpecker Will presents the Animalympics! Whilst the humans stay indoors, the animal kingdom takes over to hold the sporting event of the century! Join the golfing ostriches, trampolining moles and weight-lifting gorillas (plus many more) in a fun rhyming adventure for all ages.

About the author

Josie Dom is a children’s author learning to embrace her individuality.

Join her in a world of imagination where anything could happen and the most important things are friendship and kindness.

Josie lives in the small town of Halstead in Essex with her husband Nic Phine (illustrator of the Lum books), their son and daughter, a mixed-up dog (LabLurchTrievOodle) Frank and a big fluffy ginger cat called Mittens.

Although Josie’s books are too young for her children now, it was their love of stories when they were little which inspired Josie to pick up her pen and create. 

After a lifetime in sensible office jobs, Josie is relishing the opportunity to explore her creative side.

Josie is passionate about supporting causes close to her heart.  Each year, Josie donates 15% of profit on book sales to a children’s charity.

In 2020, due to Covid-19, Josie penned an Animalympics which she used to raise funds for UK zoos.