Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor

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I am happy to be kicking off the blog tour for a book set to inspire the scientists and engineers of the future.
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs is a force of nature. A whirlwind of a book that whips through story and science alike. It is a wonderful combination of fact and fiction with an engaging and adventurous storyline that carries the reader through – without realising they are learning much more than they would in science class.

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Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and totally unusual. In Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, after an uneventful experiment in his lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions – the robots Klink and Klank – to life! Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor . . . until Frank’s arch nemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan!

I love the way Scieszka and Biggs have included so much ‘actual real life science’ in a non-intrusive way. It is perfectly blended with energy and humour, the perfect combination for inspiring children and encouraging them to question the way things work and how they, too, can experiment with science. The illustrations and labelled diagrams, the zany adventures, the explanations of scientific terms and random science jokes at the end of the book- all add together to create a highly entertaining manual for the scientists and engineers of the future.

Frank Einstein is a book that will catch children’s attention. Frank is a character bursting with ideas and passion. He wants to ‘master all science’. He says; ‘The word comes from the Latin for knowledge. We want all science. All knowledge.’ He proceeds to excitedly pace around the room, classifying science and creating a six point plan of research that covers matter, energy, humans, life, the earth and the universe.
Now *that* is passion! That is ambition and a thirst for knowledge! Imagine what he could achieve if he had a lab team that matched his passion and knowledge….

The lab dream team
Frank Einstein – chosen for his wide-ranging scientific knowledge, his ambition and thirst for learning.
Aristotle – He was, essentially, the first scientist and, as Frank Einstein’s inspiration, deserves his place at the lab bench.
Hermione Granger – her bravery and determination, intelligence and exemplary research skills make her the perfect choice.
E. Lilian Todd – the designer of the first airplane at a time when female engineers were unheard of, Todd would give the group the level-headed focus and inspiration to succeed against the odds.
Mortimer Keene – quite a character, but one that matches Frank’s energy and ambition with an added dose of cunning and mild peril.
Rosie Revere – all good teams should be supporting the next generation. Rosie’s ambition and engineering dreams make her the perfect addition.

Who would you include in your lab dream team?!

Jon Scieszka will be in the UK on a national tour in October – with events at Bath and Cheltenham Literature Festival, plus a panel discussion with Louise Rennison and Jim Smith at Waterstones Piccadilly, an event at Seven Stories and a range of school and library events.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor is out now and you can buy your copy here.

You can follow the blog tour and see what Frank has inspired over at Wondrous Reads tomorrow.

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Rosie Revere, Engineer

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Hurrah!!!! A book that shows a female engineer! In fact, Rosie Revere, Engineer (Abrams) provides two stonkingly good role models for children and celebrates the history of women engineers and aviation pioneers. Shortlisted for the Little Rebels award 2014, it is a book that has the potential to empower children and change their future.

Shy Rosie Revere dreams of becoming an engineer. She collects treasures for her engineer’s stash and alone in her room she creates gadgets and machines from all her broken bits and pieces. Worried about being laughed at and failing, Rosie keeps her inventions to herself. Until great-great-aunt Rose comes to stay.

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Great-great-aunt Rose built planes during the war and inspires Rosie to invent something bigger and more daring than ever before.

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By handing down her notebook of role models throughout history, and sharing that all-important life lesson of persistence, Great-great-aunt Rose teaches Rosie (and the reader) to always follow dreams and never give up.

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Andrea Beaty’s inspirational story full of diverse characters, positive role models and stereotype-squashing, is matched perfectly with David Roberts’ absolutely gorgeous illustrations. This book deserves to become a feminist modern classic.

Imagine a young girl who is fascinated by science and loves to design and invent and create. Imagine this book in her hands. Empowering, much?? In a world where gender stereotyping is still sadly rife, young children need all the positive role models and gender-stereotype-free messages that they can get. Bravo to all behind Rosie Revere, Engineer!

As an added bonus, the hardback copy reveals this under the dust jacket. Beautiful!

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Source – bought from Letterbox Library to inspire and empower my own little engineer. You can get your copy here

Your Hand in My Hand

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Your Hand in My Hand by Mark Sperring and Britta Teckentrup is deliciously scrummy! I wish I could photograph every page and share the delightful illustrations with you. Or pop round to every single one of your homes to give you a look. Instead, I’ll share a glimpse and you can all go out and find a copy to coo over and stroke a bit.

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Your Hand in My Hand takes the reader for a lyrical stroll through the seasons, following these two loveable mice.

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Each double spread shows them sharing the wonders of nature and enjoying their time together, dancing along a path, gazing in wonder at rainbows, cuddling up together against the cold. These are illustrations sure to tug on parental heart-strings everywhere. They perfectly describe the closeness and shared wonder of the adult/child relationship.

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Wearing just a red scarf, the adult mouse could represent any adult of any gender, making this book representative of any adult/child relationship and relevant to any family set up. Hurrah!

Mark Sperring’s text is a gentle joy matched perfectly with Britta Teckentrup’s contemporary art. This is a book that will continue to please with so much to point out and share in the illustrations. A wonderful cuddle-up-together story, Your Hand in My Hand is an absolute delight.

I’m going to be passing this on to a mum-to-be who is preparing for her own hand in hand adventures.
You can buy your copy here.

Source: kindly sent for review by Orchard Books.

Rainbow Library number 5!

11 Sep

Woo hoooo! I’ve set up a fifth Rainbow Library!

This one is a little different. It’s for C.A.T.S. club – the local community after school club which provides a breakfast, after school and holiday play scheme for children aged 3-14 years from all the surrounding schools. Quite an age range to provide for!

C.A.T.S. club is all about having fun and the staff are dedicated and passionate about what they do. With some children using the breakfast club from 7:30, then attending school and returning for the afternoon club until 5:45, it can be a long and tiring day. The staff at C.A.T.S. work hard to give their afternoon club a home from home feel. There are always lots of activities on offer, and toys and games for the children to play with independently, as well as a comfortable area for children to sit and watch a DVD or read a book.
And this is where the Rainbow Library comes in.

A big box of new and exciting books that they can look through and read, that will be updated every term. I want to make sure that there’s always something new for the children to look at, as well as a staple supply of favourites that they can return to again and again. I’ve tried to include a range of fiction and non fiction and to add books that will appeal to everyone in the wide age range they cater for. I’m also going to be adding a big box of comics for them to enjoy.

Yesterday was C.A.T.S club’s 13th birthday. Great timing for a sparkly new library!

Special thanks to Clara Vulliamy and Sam Lloyd for their generous donations, and to all the publishers and book creators who so kindly send me books to add to the libraries. I couldn’t do it without your generous support.

Colour with Splosh

10 Sep

Books that try to teach children colours often end up as dull and lifeless ‘point and say’ books with no storyline or hook for the reader. Colour with Splosh feels entirely different.

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David Melling has created a real character in loveable Splosh. The book invites the reader to join in Splosh’s game of hide and seek and children will be squealing with laughter and shouting out to poor unaware Splosh as his friends hide right in front of his eyes.

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I love the way Melling has included colour as part of the story, and the gorgeous way he has introduced disguise and humour. Melling is a master of portraying expression through his illustration. These pictures will delight young children and the adults sharing with them.

Children learn through play and Colour with Splosh is a fantastic example of encouraging children to laugh and sneaking some learning in without them even noticing. How can children not learn their colours with a book as brilliant as this?
Bravo, Sir Melling! You have done well here!

You can buy your copy here.

Source: kindly sent for review by Hodder Children’s books.

Back to the books

6 Sep

I love Autumn! It’s like a cosy spring – woolly jumpers and hot chocolates, beautiful colours and transformations in nature and the sense of fresh starts and new beginnings. I have had a fantastic summer and feel like we have squeezed in every ounce of fun. But now Mollie is back at school and I am back to the books.

I essentially took the summer holidays off so I have a lot of review books piling up to be stroked and sniffed and cooed over. I also have the Rainbow Libraries to spruce up and set off for the new school year.

Before the summer I had four Rainbow Libraries up and running and one in the pipeline. Now I have four up and running, another three being set up and a further one under discussion! I am really excited about these new developments but it means I have to turn this:

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Into shiny new libraries in the next two weeks. Gulp!
I have enlisted help and ordered more coffee!
Wish me luck – updates to follow!

Ps – I completed my summer challenge and moved out about forty books. If I ignore the fact that more than that came in through one way or another, it still counts… right???

Nicola Davies’ Top Ten Nature Picture Books – with giveaway

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The 2014 Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour (in association with the Scottish Book Trust) takes the very best UK and international authors directly into schools across Scotland and the UK to inspire a love of reading, writing and illustration. This is an idea that fills me with joy. It’s so important for children to be exposed to varied writing and illustration, and to meet the creators of all the wonderful books out there is a hugely enriching experience.

For the latest part of the tour, zoologist and children’s author Nicola Davies will be visiting Argyll and Bute this September to inspire and excite pupils. Well-known as one of the original presenters of the BBC children’s wildlife programme, The Really Wild Show, Nicola has more recently made her name as a children’s author. She has written both fiction and non-fiction books for children aged 7-11 based on her experiences of watching and studying animals. Her titles include Whale Boy (shortlisted for Blue Peter Award 2014), The Lion Who Stole My Arm (Portsmouth Book Prize 2014), The Promise (English Society Award 2014) and (my personal favourite) A First Book of Nature. Nicola will be treating young bookworms in Argyll and Bute to a series of free events in September as part of the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour. Imagine the future readers, writers, illustrators and conservationists Nicola could be inspiring and encouraging.
Imagine, imagine, imagine.

To celebrate Nicola sharing her love with the readers, writers, illustrators and nature lovers of tomorrow, I am giving away a copy of Nicola’s beautiful picture book The Promise Illustrated by Laura Carlin.

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The Promise tells the story of a broken world, hard and grey and mean. A girl, who has been made hard and mean by her environment, steals a bag from an old lady. The lady lets her take the bag but only if she promises to plant the contents. The promise lifts the girl’s heart and changes her life as she sets about planting acorns and bringing beauty, love, laughter and kindness back to the world.

I really do love this book and have heartily recommended it to parents, librarians and teachers. It’s a beautiful celebration of the natural world and a reminder of our relationship with it.
You can win a copy by reading Nicola’s top ten picture books about nature and sharing your favourite nature book in the comments box. It doesn’t have to be one of Nicola’s choices – recommend your own favourite. (Extra entries for tweeting a link to this post/sharing on Facebook/telling everyone at work and every parent at the school gate – but please do let me know you’ve done so in the comments here so I know to add your extra entry)

Over to Nicola.

MY TOP TEN PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT NATURE, by Nicola Davies

T. Rex by Vivian French
Not just about dinosaurs but about the science of how we know about them. Includes crucial information about science that all children should know – that there’s lots we don’t know, and that everyone can be part of filling in the gaps.

Wild by Emily Hughes
Simple, charming and beguiling. A book about making friends with foxes and the value of being yourself.

The Birdwatchers by Simon James
This story about a little girl and her Grandpa captures the meanings that the natural world has for us and how it helps us to make human relationships too.

Something About A Bear by Jackie Morris
A lyrical tour of all the world’s bear species, with gorgeous illustrations that show you readers that the word ‘bear’ means a lot more than a teddy. (Also the BEST end papers of any book, ever).

Can We Save The Tiger? by Martin Jenkins
The complex and challenging problems of conservation beautifully explained for young readers with exquisite illustrations.

Insect Detective by Steve Voake
Every child loves creepy crawlies given the chance to seek them out. This book captures the pure delight of investigating the natural world and will start young biologists on their way.

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies
A magical piece of fiction about a child who finds a baby whale washed up on the beach and takes it home to love in the bath. But the message about the place of animals being in the wild is true, and beautifully delivered.

Fly Traps Plants That Bite Back by Martin Jenkins
There are so few books about plants for children and this is a gem. Martin’s energy and enthusiasm (which I’ve known since we were both 19) shines through and communicates the strange fascination of these other worldly plants.

What Mr Darwin Saw by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom
Darwin’s adventures as a young man and the start of his big world changing theories accessibly explained and wonderfully illustrated in this incredibly enjoyable book.

Yucky Worms by Vivian French
I loved worms as a kid and was fascinated by their underground lives. This book would have answered all my questions and shown me that it was absolutely all right to be interested in the small creatures whose lives seem unimportant but are quite the reverse.

Thank you, Nicola! I love hearing people talk about their favourite books and sucking up their recommendations. Some book ordering may have just occurred!

And now over to you.. What is your favourite picture book about nature? Competition ends Thursday 11th and winner announced Friday 12th September.

For more information about the 2014 Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour visit http://www.scottishbooktrust.com or follow @booksontour

UPDATE
The winner, taken from the list as follows…
Sarah
Catherine
Catherine (tweet entry)
Catherine (pin entry)
Jon
Helen
Julia
is…….

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Number 1 – Sarah! Congratulations :)

A new book nook!

13 Aug

The summer holidays has been mainly based around books. We have signed up to the summer reading challenge and Mollie is reading towards her goal of 100 books in a year so she can collect all the online challenge badges. She is a quarter of the way there already! I have been sorting and re-shelving and reading and sorting again. Although I am being ruthless and passing lots of books on, I have also been creating some new book storage areas. Now that she can read herself, Mollie is beginning to collect a stack of chapter books but I don’t think we’ll ever ‘move on’ from picture books. So we created a new reading/writing/art area for Mollie to store her big-girl books.

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This area used to have a big wooden toy chest that was wasted storage space as it was far too big and heavy for Molls to open herself. New drawers filled with paper and stickers and toys, new shelves for big girl books, and rainbow art pots for her pens and pencils and all those little bits that end up in a big tub to be glued on to pictures. These are just Tupperware pots with plastic picnic cups in, hanging on drawing pins. Molls can lift them down when she wants to write her next masterpiece or dig in and design something beautiful.

I’m quite jealous!

Reading my Rainbow Red-Orange-Yellow

13 Aug

My summer reading challenge is a thing of joy! I am rediscovering old favourites, finding new friends and getting to know my shelves again. I am also sticking to the challenge of getting rid of a book a day. And oh it’s actually quite therapeutic! I thought it would be awful but I’m feeling good about it all. I’m tidying shelves, creating more storage and building new book nooks (pictures soon). What’s not to love??

Here are my favourite books from my reds, oranges and yellows. You can find out more about each book, and even buy yourself a copy, here.

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Now on to the greens!!

Freedom to live

2 Aug

Freedom to live – Why Ruth Hunt is right to encourage children to celebrate being gay and combat homophobia.

Today I gave Mollie her first lesson in gay politics. We were getting ready to go to Brighton Pride and she wanted to know what ‘Rainbow Day’ was all about. We’ve taken her every year since she was tiny but this was the first year she saw it as anything more than a big party and asked questions.
So I told her.
I told her that it was to celebrate all the families that had a daddy and a daddy, or a mummy and a mummy just like us; and all the women who wanted to love and live with other women, and men who wanted to love and live with other men; and all the men and women who were just like her best (boy) friend who wants to wear a dress and be a girl.

And I told her that it’s important to celebrate this because we are lucky that we have the freedom to live our lives how we want to. That, not that long ago, LGBT people didn’t have the right to love who we want to love and be who we want to be and that not everyone thinks we should have that freedom now. I shocked her by saying that in a lot of other countries, people don’t and can’t.

It was hard to tell her that the world isn’t always fair – a bit like greying out some of her innocence-tinted spectacles – but I answered her questions as honestly as I could considering she’s only 5. I hope I was able to explain the importance of celebrating equality in terms that she understood.

I’m glad I tried, because this year’s march was a beautiful mix of the personal and the political. It wasn’t just a big party. We had a wonderful day watching the Pride parade and celebrating with dear friends. We celebrated our freedom to live our lives together. We raised a glass to how far we have come. We put money in the donation buckets to support those fighting to sustain and spread that freedom. And all with Mollie at our sides, looking, questioning, learning.

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We have been lucky that Mollie hadn’t yet come across homophobia and that we have been able to teach her about it in such a positive way. Of course we have attempted to shield her from it as much as possible; we are constantly risk-assessing -where we go, who we spend time with, what we do. We have to. We have tried to fill her life with positive role models – and all the books that I review here – to teach her to celebrate diversity. But as soon as she started school our influence was gone. She was out in the world.

During her first year of school, Mollie has had a fantastic, supportive and liberal teacher who has (with the help of a stack of brilliantly inclusive books) taught Mollie and her peers about diversity in an inclusive way. We have been lucky. But it is luck. We live in a society that still treats LGBT people as less than equal. It’s a sad truth that at some point, directly or indirectly, Mollie will face negative comments about her family.

And that is why Ruth Hunt’s proposal to encourage children to celebrate being gay and combat homophobia is so important.

Ruth Hunt is the newly appointed Chief Executive of Stonewall. She hopes to commission a set of books that celebrates difference and send them to every pre-school. Imagine that! Every child under 5 having access to books celebrating difference and promoting equality. Every child having access to books they can see themselves and their family in. Every child learning that the world is diverse and that that is something to be celebrated. The books that I spend my time talking about and sharing and nudging authors to create, that folk like Inclusive Minds help produce and Letterbox Library help people find… they could be put into every pre-school.

I have been lucky enough to teach my daughter about equality before she came into contact with homophobia. Her class have been taught to celebrate difference. Now imagine a whole generation of pre-schoolers being taught the same. And imagine the roll on effect of that. It truly is powerful stuff.

So let’s all get behind Ruth Hunt and her celebration of difference. Let’s show her she’s right. That inclusive books work and that her idea could change our children’s world.

Photo courtesy of Caroline Norton.

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