Tuesday, January 10, 2017

On our Book Shelf: Tweens and Kids

What did ya get for Christmas?

I hope you got a book.

One of the best bits of every Christmas in this house includes the new books that we all get to read.

This year the presents were a great success.

For Tweens and Teens: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Forget the movie, this book was rated 'THE BEST BOOK I'VE EVER READ' by Miss 10. It even got rated better than Harry Potter, which was something we didn't think would ever happen. This is the book that dragged her from her iPad, left her begging to not get ready for just five more minutes so she could read a few more pages.

Initially, we had suggested that it was a book best read in the day time as it might get a bit scary. However, while she admitted the thought of watching the movie could be a bit scary, the book does not provide the fearful, anxious inducing worry that some movies do.

This is just the first in this trilogy by Ransom Riggs, and we are heading straight to the shops with our Christmas money to buy the next ones.

For Primary School Kids: Hot Dog, by Anh Do

From the creator of Weirdo, we have a new series, starting with Hot Dog. As expected Miss 8 read it super quickly and then read it again. Then her cousin read it, then another kid and another, all in three day. Kids have become confident that books by Anh Do will provide them with an instant laugh, and an easy read that has some comic illustrations to entertain them. The newest book continues to provide exactly what they want.

Miss 8's review was 'it's a wonderful book, it's not very long, it could be longer, there are no people in it, but the cat dresses up a lot because his humans dress him up all the time. I think other kids will love this.'

 What's your favourite read this summer? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Circus 1903

Things have changed at the circus over the last century. Well, just a little bit, but really not all that much, Circus 1903 shows a bit of a glimpse of circus life in 1903, with costumes, acts and entertainings similar to the old days.

But the circus will always be filled with people who do things with their bodies that the rest of us just will never ever manage to do. They bend, stretch, balance, throw, flip, twirl and bounce.

Our circus acts are now minus the animals, but that didn't stop the team at Circus 1903 from having an elephant on stage. With the clever clogs who make enormous puppets, they built a life-size elephant and the cutest baby elephant to run about on the stage with them.

Circus 1903 is filled with great acts that you expect the circus to have, with performers from all over the world. There aren't any clowns, which is a good thing for most of us, but there are lots of laughs.

A major highlight for me is just the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, rather than a big tent out in the middle of nowhere, instead you get to enjoy one of the most beautiful locations in Melbourne.

Your kids will love it, grown-ups will enjoy all the acts and it doesn't go for too long so the small ones are not out all night long.

The backdrop at the front of the theatre also makes for a really great photo shoot location, so make sure you snap a few pics of yourselves before you go in.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Strawberry forests forever

Last week the girls and I took a little drive just out of Melbourne to a place called the Strawberry Forest.

It's a new way to pick your own strawberries that doesn't include crawling around in the dirt to find them. Instead, they are grown vertically. Really, this just all seems so simple and normal that I am not sure why no one has been doing this for the last gazillion years. Or maybe they have, they just didn't invite the rest of us to come and pick them.

At the Strawberry Forest the berries are all organic and they look fantastic. There is a big sign begging people not to eat them as they pick them and I have to admit I was very very close to just testing them a few times. It was only my fear of being caught that stopped me!

The Strawberry Forest is located along one of the most beautiful roads I know, the Avenue of Honour in Bacchus Marsh. There are other fruit growing places along the road where you can stop and pick or purchase fruits depending on the season, one place also had an ice cream van which is a pretty good match to go with all those lovely strawberries.

If you're driving from Melbourne you might want to plan a lunch stop in Bacchus after you've picked your strawberries, as it doesn't take more than 10 minutes for three of you to pick 3kgs worth.

Prices per kilo change throughout the year, but currently they are $15 per kg. Check their Facebook page for details on open days, as the farmer closes to keep the farm looking spic and span.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New App for Kids 2017: Toca Life Vacation

Holiday time equals downtime for everyone and that means the kids might be using their devices more.

I much prefer my kids to be creating not consuming while the use their iPads, it's way too easy for them to just sit and watch rubbish that other people have uploaded.

Toca Life is the latest in the Toca Boca line of apps. I've been a fan of their stuff for awhile now. They are well known for making things gender and cultural neutral without resorting to animals.

With Toca Life Vacation kids can 'play' by moving things around and being the owner of their own vacation creation. Dress your characters, head to the airport, go to the beach or the hotel, check into your room, go to the ATM, head out for a meal. Whatever you end up doing, the child is in charge.

This is not a 'game'. You can't go out for mucking up, and you're not aiming for different levels, you just play.

You can also just reset and start all over again if you want to.

You will need to pay a few dollars for this one, it was AU$3.38 on 1 January, I prefer to pay for the apps and know that there are not going to be any adverts or in-app purchases to worry about. Once you have downloaded this one, you have everything you need.

You can get Toca Life Vacation from the app store.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Review: Museum Alive IMAX 3d

Girls in front of Museum Alive IMAX sign Melbourne
The sunniest day in Melbourne 2016: IMAX

We went to check out the latest at Melbourne IMAX this week and got to see David Attenborough's new feature, Museum Alive 3D.

WOW. It was fabulous.

It's a short film, less than 45 minutes from start to end and every moment is just lovely.

Walking through the British Natural History Museum, you might at first just sit back and admire the architecture of such a building and wish that there were many more like it around the world. So beautiful.

But soon you will be learning about some extinct animals, what we now about them, and what we don't, how they might have lived in millions of years ago, or even just centuries ago, like the Dodo bird. These animals are brought to life in a very talented way, making the animals seem extremely real.

Kids with an interest in anything related to animals, science, history, dinosaurs or cool stuff will really enjoy this one, and all adults will love it. You will certainly be disappointed in the short running time and wish that they could have shown you more around the Museum. (I have added it to my places I must visit one day list).

While Museum Alive 3D is something that you could take your kids too, please be aware that while the content is suitable, there are moments of suspense that might scare very small children, the Abominable Snowman does no harm, but the viewer isn't sure if he just might be feral. There are also a couple of loud bangs, children who are sensitive to loud noise may struggle at a couple of moments in this feature, these are not always scary noises, but dinosaurs stomp and creatures break out of glass cabinets, many children will not be fazed by this, but sensitive ears could be.

Museum Alive 3D is playing at IMAX right now in Melbourne, see it if you can.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Letter to the world: 2016

Dear World

I am eight.

Today I learnt to ride a bike. No training wheels.

I’ve had  heaps of bikes in the past but I just never wanted to ride them. Today I decided I would and in just a few spins of the car park I was hooning off on my new wheels.

2016 has been a pretty good year.

I travelled to Jakarta and had a holiday there. It was pretty different to Australia, they have a lot of people and a lot of cars and there is LOTS of sitting in your car. But the people were all really nice wherever we went. We swam heaps, we ate yummy food and I saw my cousins which is also really really good.

I got a new cousin. She is the cutest baby that ever was born and we all love love love her.

I also got glasses to wear at school, they are pretty cool.

I also went to Queensland and met some great friends there, the weather wasn’t great so we made really funny music.lys because 2016 has kind of been the year of making music videos for me. They are so easy and fun to do with your friends. We dress up, make up dances, and film them over and over again. Mum has my account on private and thinks more kids should have their accounts on private too, but my mum still locks down all our devices so we can’t access everything. It can be annoying but at least I don’t see anything scary on YouTube now that I only have YouTube Kids.

I am still asking for a puppy. And I will never stop asking. We go to the pet shop a bit to just hold the puppies but we never ever get to buy one. Parents can be disappointing sometimes.

This year at school I was in grade two. It’s not a bad year. Not too hard. But we did have to do learning the time and I really wasn’t a fan of that. Too many tricky questions. We had our first school camp and it was pretty good, I must admit it was more fun than I expected.

I also got Glandular Fever. Don’t ever add that to the list of things you want because it really isn't very nice. I don’t ever want to have panadol again, I had to take so much of it to keep my fever below 40 that it was like my main food.  I even had to have a blood test, it wasn’t really too bad, but the doctor said when kids are as sick as I was that day, the blood test is the least of their worries. I am not sure if that is true, I am not planning on another one anytime soon. But when you get that sick you do get to watch a lot of movies and that is a good thing if you are a movie buff like me. I really love to watch movies, all types, (not grown up ones with kissing in them) and I think I would like to be in a movie too. I just don't want to do acting and dancing classes where people tell you what to do all the time.

I am now thinking I will be a zoologist when I grow up. At the moment, my favourite colour is yellow and my favourite animal is a giraffe. I love to eat spaghetti bolognaise. I now rate them out of 10 whenever we go out because every place you go uses a different recipe. One meal, but you never know exactly how it's going to taste.

I don’t really have any advice for the world this year. But I think people should be more kind to each other.

Last week at school one of the kids in my class said to me, in her mean voice “You just keep trying to make bad things good”, I told her that was a good thing and she just screamed at me, “You’re doing it again.”  Luckily, her thoughts are not the boss of my thoughts so I could just walk away and talk to someone else.  That’s what mum said was the best thing, to always remember someone else’s thoughts are not mine and so I don’t have to agree with what they say.  You don’t have to either.

I gotta go make yellow cupcakes for my friends who are coming over today, so that’s it from me for 2016.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

On our Bookshelf: For Teens and Tweens Christmas 2016

Miss 10 and I have been reading like crazy recently. So many great books out there that we decided to share a few of them with you. It can be difficult to find books for reluctant readers, for teens who think nothing relates to them and tweens who are lost trying to get away from fairies and dinosaurs to something more mature, but not to old.

So here you go, here's a list of great stuff to stuff the stockings with this year. Or just to read from the library when you get your hands on them.

by Aaron Starmer
This is a TEEN book.

Mara is in her senior year when a classmate actually spontaneously combusts. Bam. She's gone. But that's just the first of many students who just up and bust. Why is this happening? Who will be next? What does a community do when fear hits and they can't work out why only the senior kids are blowing up?

Well, if you're one of the teens then it won't take long before sex, drugs and a youtube channel take over.

This book is for teens right now. Or for parents who want to read about life as a teen right now. The characters are using snapchat, making a fortune from their story on social media, they are smart, scared and hopeful.

This book is ideal for a reluctant teen reader who needs something very modern, very now and makes them want to keep reading. The ending was a disappointment to me, but perhaps that's because I am not the audience for this book.

Highly recommended by me, who may have missed some of the references in this book because I am so old.

by Morris Gleitzman

Soon is the fifth book in this series that follows a boy called Felix.

We have previously read Once, Before, Now and After which share what happens to Felix, a Jewish boy left in a Catholic orphanage before the second world war. With Soon, the war is over, Felix is 13 and stuck in a city that is a shambles, coping with limited supplies and no law and order.

Gleitzman writes each of these books so that kids without prior knowledge only pick up what they can, and adults who know so much more can easily read between the lines and enjoy the books.

In Soon, Felix is older, and it's possibly presumed that his readers have aged with him. Unlike in the previous books, in this one, the concepts are discussed more, and we hear a lot more about medical experimentation and how totally vulgar and cruel such practices are. There is also a storyline about a young girl who has been raped by Russian soldiers and is now pregnant. Miss 10 was not prepared for these concepts to be in the book and I suggest parents of younger tweens read the book first.

Recommendation: 13 and up will enjoy this book as much as all the others, while those who have not started the series can easily read any of the books without reading them in any order. Adults will read it in a day.

Ruby Redfort: Blink and you die.
by Lauren Child

May all the book fairies bless the writing hands of Lauren Child. She gave us Charlie and Lola, Clarice Bean and also Ruby Redfort.  This is the last in this series and Miss 10 grabbed it and read it in a week. It's a longer book than some other novels but will keep readers tuned in.

Miss 10 provided the following review:

"There is no need to have read all the other books in the series to enjoy this one. At times the book seemed to be going in all sorts of directions and I couldn't work out why we had to read some bits that kind of made no sense, but it didn't make me want to stop reading it. Towards the end the pieces all started to come together and the parts that seemed so random made perfect sense. This is a really great book, the ending is just the best and totally makes me want to go and read the others in the series that I haven't read yet."

Recommendation: Great book for kids in upper primary school and above, teens and tweens will both enjoy reading the last of Ruby Redfort. Those who have been reading Ruby for the best few years will be very keen to read this one, even if they are now adults.

My Best Friend is a Goddess
by Tara Eglinton

This is a new novel in the Young Adult arena that is written possibly more with a female market in mind. I really enjoy novels set in Australia to help make them more relatable to Australian kids. In this book, we go through a lot of standard teen issues, school, boys, parents who don't understand and mostly friendship. It's written in a very contemporary way, some of it in diary form, some in Instant Messenger form. This is not going to be loved by most adults, simply because it is not written for you, you're too old, you don't get it, you don't understand. It will be loved by females over 14 and under 21 who may relate to the different conversations that occur.

Recommended: Grab this for the teen girl who you just don't know what to buy for this Christmas. She'll be surprised you picked a book so like her.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How to do Halloween when you don't do Halloween.

Halloween makes some Australians cringe. The concept of a highly commercial sugar filled American custom becoming the norm here can be upsetting, eye rolling, frustrating.

Too bad.

It's arrived and it's growing and it's best that you jump on the scary train with your witches broom in hand and find a way to make it fun for you.

Go on, be a joiner. I promise it won't hurt a bit.

You will get to see kids in your street that you never even knew existed. Our kids are so cooped up inside their picket fences these days that this can be the only night of the year that they get to walk the streets, (even if there are still adults only five steps behind).

You don't need to buy pricey outfits. Turn the dress up box upside down, let the kids use what is in the house and you'll be surprised what's already there. Book day outfits, end of year concerts costumes, face paint, and creativity can go a very long way. Teased hair and an old tee shirt with red paint and rips is really all you need.

We called over some friends, dusted off the camp chairs and a bottle of red wine and while the Dads and kids walked the streets, the mums happily manned the treats to give out to local kids. We meet people from school, people from the next streets, the neighbours and more.

By the time 8.30pm came along we were all packed up and done. All I had left to do was deal with the glitter. So MUCH glitter, because every witch/devil/ghost/ghoul looks better with sparkly faces, yes?

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