Saturday, 26 January 2013

Cool Science Tricks

So Super Keen readers may recall, that back in the Spring (remember that season of hope and light?... really?... it's the one with the warm globe in the sky and the green shoots in the ground and all being well it's due back soonish) The Fellow Reviewers and I had fun with a book by the Naked Scientists called 'Crisp Packet Fireworks'. This volume of exciting scientific excitements saw me getting drenched with coca-cola in the cause of physics, which pleased mightily two out of the three of us at least.
But the book was out of print. Always annoying but especially so when a book promises to be a long term reference for FUN.

All is not lost however because part of Bill's Christmas book haul was a similar variant on the theme called 'Cool Science Tricks- 50 fantastic feats for kids of all ages' by Daniel Tatarsky and we've had very similar levels of fun with it today.

We have hovered ping-pong balls above a hairdryer, watched different coloured hot and cold water mix and not mix together, persuaded our arms to levitate spookily, played with matches to make water move uphill, put a skewer through an inflated balloon, turned a film canister into a rocket, used our Jedi Mind skills to make a drinking straw rotate and made our own lava lamp.


I'd like to say we've all learn't a lot about Science too but to be honest the experiments have enthralled more than the (perfectly clear and well written) explanations: "Yeah, yeah Mum, whatever, still don't really get what a polymer is. What can we do next?"

An excellent little book for a snowy/rainy/poorly day (all of which we have seen rather too many of in recent weeks) of pleasurable indoor diversions.

hot on top

lava in full flow

straw bends to the will of the mindful
On the back of the book it lists its classification genre as 'Quirky Reference'. I haven't found that section of our library yet but I'm now having fun imagining what other titles it might be filed next to. Maybe; 'How to make your own mini interior zombie apocalypse', something else that we had fun with this week...
'Cool Science Tricks' by Daniel Tatarsky, pub.Portico isbn 978-1-907554-69-8

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


I have a cold. I've had it for a while now and it's boring. I want it to go away. I shall probably take a Georgette Heyer to the bath soon and that will improve things. Georgette Heyer is an author I find unfailingly restorative. Restorative is itself a very Georgette Heyer word in fact.

Bill was off school with his own germs recently. It happened to coincide with the delivery to our house of a small volume called 'Monkeyfarts'; a joke book put together by David Borgenicht. It's fair to say that he found it quite as healing as any Regency Romance. He lay wrapped in a duvet on the sofa and proceeded to read me the entire book from cover to cover.: "Hur hur! Listen to this one Mum! And listen to this one! And this one! And this one!"

Now I can't say that hearing an entire joke book in one go is my idea of funny but I am not an 8 year old boy. Joke books are second only to Freaky Fact books in constituting Bill's Ideal Dinner Table Entertainment and he loves to share in a slightly life sapping completist fashion: They are more or less irresistible to him. I would suggest that they should also be the first call for anyone trying to sneak some reading into an unsuspecting refusenik; although be prepared to have to listen for a Long Stretch.

Having said that, 'Monkeyfarts' is a pretty comprehensive and stylishly put together example of the genre; with a good mix of some old classics and some newbies. Bill particularly appreciated the Star Wars section, the Harry Potter section and, of course, the poo section.

I liked this one:
'What did one snowman say to the other snowman?
Do you smell carrots?'

So there y'go. 'Monkeyfarts': the poorly 8 year old's Georgette Heyer.

as for the Freaky Facts. Did you know that duelling is legal in Paraguay provided you are a registered blood donor? Neither did I until Bill told me so over his porridge bowl this morning. Useful stuff.
Monkeyfarts compiled by David Borgenicht, published Quirk books isbn 978-1-59474-605-5

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy by kindness of the publisher. Our opinions are our own.

Monday, 14 January 2013


Just  over a year ago I started this blog. It was born of a desire to start to activate my brain in a new ways after a few (very happy) years of small child total immersion therapy. Plus a dawning awareness that I seemed more interested in children's books than was entirely reasonable and a desire to channel that interest constructively.
I'll admit I was green. My time online had been exclusively devoted to playing heated games of Scrabble and looking at pictures of the cakes, extensions (house and hair) and children of people I last saw 20 years ago. I didn't tweet. I had very little awareness of the extraordinary community of 'kidlit' bloggers that were already out there. Hell, I'd never even heard the term 'kidlit' (I don't think I'm ever going to bring myself to write the word without inverted commas mind).
I didn't realise that people hate Blogger or that the background I found so brilliantly suitable would be found on every third book blog I looked at (If it's good enough for Michael Rosen...) I didn't know what a meme was. I had no idea about stats, servers, spam or search optimisation.

I still don't really. Doesn't matter. The last year has provided plenty of riches; really many more than I anticipated. Mostly new friends; real friends whether met in the real or not...and books; so many more books to read, covet, and camp outside bookshops waiting impatiently for the publication date of.

Also- gratifyingly- even MORE photos of cake, children and baby animals in incongruous situations. Hurray!

But regular readers may notice that after a furious initial period of blog posts, my posting rate began to slow in the second half of last year. This is probably a common theme to a lot of blogs but I'm going to come clean about the reason for mine: I started to try and write my own children's book.

Heavens I feel like such a walking cliche. Because you see I KNOW how hard it is to write a good children's book. I KNOW just how many stay-at-home mothers of school age children in my situation merrily think they'll have a pop at it. And I KNOW that the publishing industry is not exactly in a state of rude health at present; desperately waving huge cheques at debut authors to try and lure them off the streets and into their printing presses...

Nevertheless. I am outing myself as one of the great morass of wannabes.

Anyway. I wrote a book (not a picture book they're FAR too hard)- an early/middle gradey one. And first I thought it was marvelous and I was a Total Genius and about 48 hours later I thought it was dreadful and I was a Complete Idiot and about 48 hours after that I didn't know what I thought any more. I sent it to a dear friend who told me it was a bit of both (but in a more constructive way) and I tinkered with it superficially and then I sent it to Cornerstones literary consultancy (grandiose me) who have also told me that it is a bit of both (but in a very constructive way). And this is all normal I think.

And and and. I think I can see the good bits and take them and start again properly to make a good story. With a plot and everything this time. So this is what I'm going to try and do in 2013: Write a book that children might want to read. And that means less blogging temporarily; although definitely not no blogging.

But still plenty of looking at photos of cake and animals; both of which feature heavily in my book and therefore now count as Honest Research.

I promise never to tweet with the hashtag 'amwriting' when I am self evidently tweeting and not writing.

Right. confession over. normal service resumed. and when I start blogging again regularly having realised that I can't write a book at all- you'll all be kind and Never Speak of this Again won't you?

Friday, 11 January 2013

Reading to your children

You do this already. Of course you do. You wouldn't be here otherwise. But January marks new beginnings, and in the world of Proper Blogs that means new memes and campaigns to run year long and whilst I'm not a great meme-r one that seems worth bringing to your attention is this one, initiated by Read it Daddy: Read it Mummies and Daddies 2013.

His call to arms to reinforce the benefits and pleasure of reading aloud to your kids is already gathering some online momentum and generating interesting discussion. Yesterday book blogger par excellence Child-led-Chaos aka Anne-Marie disclosed her true dislike of reading aloud to her children in a really interesting and moving post. Loving books is not the same as loving reading them out of course.

This was a new insight to me;as both a natural show off and a natural slob- reading to my children is my idea of a PERFECT activity: I can sit down and eat biscuits whilst doing it. It involves no hoovering up of glitter or sluicing down of mud afterwards. Nobody is going to lose an eye with a stick. I get to perform to a captive audience with limited life experience to criticise. As far as they're concerned my Yorkshire accent is excellent for instance. ha.

I am not going to rehash all the benefits of reading to children or surrounding them with books; as I say I feel that would be preaching to the converted here and this will return to being a place to thrash out which books might be worth reading. HOWEVER... a few things I would like to share as I lend my endorsement (for what it's worth) to Read it Daddy's excellent campaign.

Firstly- in complement really to Anne-Marie's post- you may actually be keen to read aloud to your child but not all children are keen to be read to. My lovely Eddie is a case in point here. Having taught himself to read at a tender age he likes it to be a solitary activity and is extremely resistant to having me read to him now. I have to sneak books in by stealth; sitting near by, starting to read, having him say 'No Stop Reading That!' once or twice and then banking on him being drawn in despite himself to listen and enjoy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't; it's a pretty stark test of a book's power I can tell you. Yesterday 'Leon and the Place Between' by Angela McAllister illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith passed that test in spectacular fashion. I won't name and shame the others that fell flat. I still think it's important to keep reading to him despite his resistance or his repetoire can become a little fixed.

Eddie may take it to extremes but I've known a few children who just couldn't sit for a story. Read them anyway say I as they're busy with other stuff and eventually, if the story's good enough, they'll come.

Secondly- don't stop just because they can read (sorry Anne-Marie!)(although audio CDs rock too). My own best read it Daddy, read to me from the end of my bed for many years past the age where I had my own books on the go too. He favoured a whisky and oatcake over the tea and biscuits but I still have his voice in my head as I read the same books to my children. Reading to older children is to my mind even more rewarding than reading to your littlies; albeit exercising the same skills. You can unpeel complex stories together, discover new language and share a quiet communion or a proper giggle together. They have the sense of you valuing and enjoying the story as much as them which makes you both feel good; especially if it's new to you too. Plus they're getting big and bolshy at other times; talking books brings you back together.

The Little Wooden Horse is proud to neigh keep reading to your children in 2013.

But you knew that anyway.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Home and Happy 2013

Brain not quite functioning yet from jet lag but keen to resume some sort of service. It's main message to me at the moment seems to be 'eat cheese', occasionally interspersed with 'eat chocolate'. Nevertheless I am distracting it from the hunk of Red Leicester in the fridge briefly to try and compose some sort of blog post. Bear with it/me.

Children's books taken to Australia = 15

Children's books brought back from Australia = 36 (and an extra suitcase)

They are all now in Eddie's bed and he was happy reading them at 3am this morning.

Sadly, not many of them are in fact Australian- we were extremely lucky beneficiaries of my Walker Books antipodean fairy bookmother; but we have a few choice pearls to roll under your noses in the weeks to come.

In the meantime the boy himself with his most precious offering from the original 15: 'Doctor Who's 100 Scariest Monsters'; from which fine tome he enthralled a group of travelling Malaysian schoolgirls with a spirited reading of some of the goriest for two hours in Kuala Lumpur airport. He knows how to please the ladies that one.


Happy 2013