A Clutch of Activity and Craft Books

Scratch and Learn: Space
illustrated by Victoria Fernández
Scratch and Learn: Animals
illustrated by Natasha Durley
Wide Eyed Editions

These are new additions to the series, both of which have seven interactive spreads and an attached stylus for young readers to do the scratching.

Each spread explores a different theme and in the Space title, these start with the Big Bang and the scratching reveals 10 galaxies. Then come a look at the solar system, the Moon, ‘Spacecraft’, which has the Space Shuttle as a featured image, a peep at life on board the International Space Station, an account of the life cycle of a star, and finally, a constellation map.

Spencer investigating the map

There are 10 ‘scratch and discover’ shapes to investigate with the stylus on every spread as well as a lead-in, easy to understand, factual paragraph (or two), clearly labelled objects and an additional ‘fact’ most in speech bubble form, for example ‘The light from the closest star still takes 4 years to reach us.’

The Animals featured in the second book come from different habitats around the world and as in the previous title, Lucy Brownridge supplies the succinct text.

Ten animals have ‘hidden’ themselves in each of Natasha Durley’s alluringly illustrated locations: the Amazon rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Sundarbans Mangrove forest, (between India and Bangladesh), the grasslands of the African Savannah, a coniferous forest of northern Canada, the arid Gobi Desert and Antarctica.

Both titles are appealing early interactive books that can be brought out anywhere especially on a journey or a rainy day.

The Mermaid Craft Book
Laura Minter and Tia Williams
GMC Publications

Prolific craft book creators, Laura and Tia have added a new title to their series, this time with a mermaid theme.
It’s filled with ideas for making things to use, things to wear and tasty things to eat.

Having provided a list of what is needed, the authors give step-by-step instructions for such diverse projects as creating a seashore garden, making aquarium puppets and a theatre to use with them,

and you can even bake a mermaid cake or throw an ‘under-the-sea’ party serving only sea themed food and serve up that cake then. Young merpeople will love it.

Youngsters will also be enthusiastic about the book as a whole though they’ll require adult support with several of the activities.

Ancient Egypt Adventure Activity Book
illustrated by Jen Alliston
Button Books

Historical fun aplenty Ancient Egyptian style is found in this activity book.

Little ones can immerse themselves in the world of mummies, pyramids, pharaohs, hieroglyphics and ancient gods as they engage in mask making, maze manoeuvring, maths, message decoding, crafty creations, unscramble muddled up words and more. There are more than 100 activities in all as well as 4 pages of stickers to use to complete some of the scenes.

While engaging in these activities youngsters will likely learn some Ancient Egypt related language and facts too, as well as developing their fine motor and observational skills.

Jen Alliston has provided the illustrations and where relevant, answers are provided at the back of the book.

A Handful of Activity Books

My RSPB Sticker Activity Book: Seaside
Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Walker Books

If you pay a visit to the seaside, no matter where you look there are fascinating flora and fauna to discover, be that in rock pools, in the grassy dunes that are a-buzz with insects, down on the shore, beneath the ocean waves or on the cliffs where seabirds nest. If you look in the shallows you might spy a seahorse or perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to spot a seal resting on a rock or a dolphin leaping from the waves.

All these and more are part and parcel of this activity book that includes items to colour, dot-to-dots, things to spot, matching, drawing and several pages for adding stickers to. Stephanie Fizer Coleman has created ten inviting, textured scenes for little ones to adorn as well as the four central pages of colourful stickers.

Before heading for the coast with a young child, this would make a worthwhile, enjoyable book to introduce some of the things they might look out for.

My First Amazing Animal Mazes
Various illustrators
Highlights

For the youngest of puzzlers, this book contains over 35 mazes with such diverse settings as a farm, a bamboo forest, an ocean and a safari waterhole. There are different kinds of mazes including one composed of letters called Jellyfish Jumble; another is a downhill slalom. There are also string mazes, pattern mazes and traditional mazes to keep your little ones engaged at odd moments or times when they can’t venture outside, or need something to quieten them down.

A greater variety of puzzles is to be found in

Jumbo Pad of Picture Puzzles
Various illustrators
Highlights

This one will keep young puzzlers busy for a fair few hours as they use their hands, eyes and mind to spot differences, locate objects hidden in scenes such as a gymnasium populated by cats and a park full of children playing, search for matching pairs, engage in word puzzles, try memory challenges, choose missing puzzle pieces, solve mazes and more.
The large variety of illustrative styles and things to do should guarantee boredom doesn’t set in; and just in case youngsters are unable to solve a puzzle, all the solutions are provided.
A boon on a dull day as is …

Ultimate Puzzle Challenge!
Highlights

This one is bursting with word searches, codes to solve, Sudoku, busy scenes with items hiding in plain sight to locate, a plethora of word puzzles such as rhyming pairs, spiral word puzzles, crisscrosses, logic puzzles, find the differences, tricky mazes and more.
If this large book of 125+ puzzles doesn’t engage and absorb young puzzlers, then they don’t deserve to call themselves such.

So, pencils ready, set, puzzle …

Claude: Anyone for Strawberries? / Claude:Ever-So-Summery Sticker Book

Claude: Anyone for Strawberries?
Alex T.Smith
Hodder Children’s Books

This is another is the delectably funny Claude stories spawned by the Claude TV Show and it’s perfect summer reading.

It’s a Tuesday in Pawhaven, but one that starts badly for our friends Claude and Sir Bobblysock who have been eagerly anticipating “Strawberries-for-Breakfast day”.

Off they dash to Denzel’s fruit-and-veg van, but disaster! When they arrive Denzel informs them that on account to the Pawhaven Tennis Championships, all the strawberries are already sold.

The friends head to the park, and as they arrive a tennis ball hurtles out of the sky directly towards Sir Bobblysock.

In a flash Claude leaps skyward, catching the ball in his beret, mightily impressing his pal.

Meanwhile the semi-final has ground to a halt. Movie star, Errol Heart-Throb, is refusing to continue without his lucky ball.
Needless to say he’s thrilled to have it handed back by Claude. Before you can say “strawberries’ Claude has landed himself a job as official match ball boy.

You can guess where Sir B. heads off to, hardly able to contain his excitement at the prospect. However, once again his anticipated strawberry feast is thwarted.

In the meantime, Errol has been declared the winner of the semi-final but it appears that vanity will stop the now ruffled-looking victor from playing in the final.

Claude is to take his place and is more than willing when he learns what the prize is …

There’s a slight snag though – the other finalist is Kimberley and she has a somewhat over-sized racket.

It’s a tense match, but who will be the winner? I wonder …

As with all the Claude stories, this is a smasher.

Game, set and match to Alex T.Smith and the TV series for another winning episode served up with bowls full of summery deliciousness. Hard luck if you happen like this reviewer, to be allergic to those small fruity berries Claude and Sir Bobblysock love so much. In which case, just get the book and pass on the strawberries.

If that’s not enough for your young Claude enthusiasts then also based on the Sixteen South TV show is:

Claude: Ever-So-Summery Sticker Book
Hodder Children’s Books

Set on Pawhaven beach it’s full of seasonal silliness, Claude and Sir Bobblysock style.
There are lots of activities to test your little ones’ visual skills, pages to adorn with sandcastles (and some of the 250 stickers that make up the centre pages); a maze to navigate; a picnic to share with the two favourite characters and more.

Gilly the Giraffe Self-Esteem Activity Book

Gilly the Giraffe Self-Esteem Activity Book
Dr Karen Treisman, illustrated by Sarah Peacock
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This large format paperback is both a therapeutic story and a creative activity book for primary aged children, developed by specialist clinical psychologist, Dr Karen Treisman.

It begins with a story about Gilly the Giraffe to be shared with children. Gilly has much in her world to be happy about but she struggles with self-confidence on account of her height, her long black tongue and her colourful mosaic patches; and worse, some of the other animals make unkind remarks about these aspects of her appearance.

However, thanks to kindly Loren the lioness pointing out that being different makes Gilly exciting, beautiful and cool;

it’s all a matter of how you look at something. “We’re all precious and deserve to be appreciated.” So says Loren and thereafter not only Gilly but her classmates start to become more appreciative about one another.

A great confidence-boosting tale after which might come discussions on some of the story’s key themes.

Thereafter the book offers a wealth of creative ideas through which these themes can be further explored. These are divided into two parts, the first being ‘fun activities and crafts with Gilly’ and comprises such things as mindful colouring, a word search, a quiz, questions to consider, a ‘make your own Gilly the Giraffe, a wonderful positivity wordlist, a positivity acronym using a person’s name(s) and more.

Part 2 contains over 25 further suggestions (that can be used in school or at home) for boosting self-esteem, confidence, positive thinking and self-belief,

each of which is clearly explained and where appropriate, space is provided in the book for writing, drawing or whatever is apt by way of a response.

With its integrated approach, this book is ideal for using in PSHE sessions and concludes with an excellent explanatory guide for adults; much of what is said herein, especially in the ‘practical strategies, tips and ways of being for building self-esteem’ should be read and acted upon by all who have dealings with children in whatever context.

Wearing my teacher/consultant hat, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

What On Earth? Birds / Do Sharks Glow in the Dark?/ Do Tigers Stay Up Late?


What On Earth? Birds

Mike Unwin and Pau Morgan
QED

Natural history writer Mike Unwin and illustrator Pau Morgan turn their attention to birds for the latest book in this excellent What On Earth? series.

In its usual way it’s packed with information and practical ideas that include things to make and do including the occasional experiment, all presented in a highly visual manner with every spread using the space alluringly in a manner somewhat akin to a comic.

As well as bird facts there are poems (Tennyson’s The Eagle and Lear’s There was an old man with a beard’) along with an invitation to readers to write a bird poem of their own. On the literary side too is ‘The king of the birds’ a story based on an old Celtic folk tale, which might also inspire story writing by readers.

You may want to try dancing like a bird;

or perhaps get outdoors and listen to some birdsong, even catching the dawn chorus if you’re up early enough.

The book is divided into four sections: What is a bird?; Bird food; Bird life and behaviour and Enjoying birds, and very page turn brings something to excite, or fascinate young readers.

Offering a great way to discover things avian in all kinds of interesting ways, the book concludes with a glossary and an index.

Do Sharks Glow in the Dark?
Do Tigers Stay Up Late?

Mary Kay Carson
Sterling

Splendid photographs and sequences of facts in response to a series of introductory questions – one per page (or occasionally spread) – present the essentials relating to two very different, but both predatory, animals.

No, sharks do not have bones; their skeletons are cartilaginous (a fact I remember well from my early days of studying zoology); and they have both skin and scales. Did you know people once used dried sharkskin as sandpaper? Or that adult sharks ‘don’t do the parenting thing’? Rather shark pups look after themselves.

And contrary to popular belief, only around six humans are killed by sharks in a year.

So it is with tigers: these creatures tend to avoid humans, their towns and farms, although it’s humans that are responsible for tigers being endangered with less than 4,000 roaming wild now, more than half their number being found in India.

I was fascinated to read that no two tigers have identical skin stripes, that a tiger’s skin is striped as well as its fur, and that tigers can swim for miles.

Unsurprisingly tigers don’t purr, growling, grunting and roaring are their ways of communicating.

Both books offer a fun and easy way to get to know something about two of the world’s most iconic creatures; and each has as part of the back matter, information about helping to protect the animals in question, some useful related vocabulary and an index.

The Unworry Book

The Unworry Book
Alice James and Stephen Montcrieff
Usborne

Enormously reassuring and full of practical ideas for managing stress is this alluringly presented book written by Alice James, with expert advice from clinical psychologist, Dr Angharad Ridkin, and designed and illustrated by Stephen Montcrieff.

Having explained that we all worry from time to time and why, the book devotes the next few spreads to working out how you really feel – worried, excited, or nervous perhaps? It’s really beneficial to become emotionally aware (an emotional map is included to help) and know the kinds of things you can do to alleviate your worries.

Next comes the wealth of coping suggestions, many of which are designed to develop mindfulness. Most require nothing more than a pencil or pen like those on ‘Peaceful pencils’ which takes a multi-sensory approach -listen to the sounds of the writing implement brushing across the paper; ‘notice the glistening wet ink … or grain of the paper as your pencil draws across it’; smell – the book’s pages, the wood of your pencil or ink of your pen; feel the pencil’s ridges, or barrel of the pen; feel the textures of the page and how it seems?

What about making a decorated worry box – an example is included here – I love the idea of it being a creature that can eat up worries.

It’s impossible in the space of a fairly short review to include all the excellent strategies offered so I’ll just mention a few. There are pages highlighting the importance of breathing and laughing (both are yoga techniques) to help cope with excess adrenalin, as well as a spread with an amorphous creature demonstrating a sun salutation.

A couple of ‘arty’ ones are tearing up paper (preferably rubbish) and using it to be creative; creating peaceful patterns being mindful of the shapes and how the space is filled. And doodling is a great stress reliever – how many of us doodle our way through stressful meetings I wonder?
It’s well accepted now that being physically active is good for our mental well-being; it releases those mood-boosting, feel good endorphins so get moving.

There’s a focus on language too – some starting lines for limericks (great fun) an instant giggle inducer I think; a focus on the physicality of writing various words in different ways; a (behind the door) story starter; as well as a host of brain puzzles.

Another smashing idea is a ‘fiddle star’ – the making of which is a worry distractor,

as is the finished article.

Getting off to sleep tips form the final pages; while in conclusion are a ‘helping hand’ and a ‘who to/where to go’ for times when worries become overwhelming (including a link to the publisher’s website).

Stress among children – even very young ones is on the increase – I refrain from elaborating on the negative effects of the current ‘numbers before children’ education system, though it is a huge stress-inducing factor. There are others of course and a veritable gold mine such as this book is invaluable for both youngsters and those who live or work with children.

Beetles, Butterflies and other British Minibeasts / Look and Say: What You See at the Seaside / Queen Victoria

Beetles, Butterflies and other British Minibeasts
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow & the National Trust

In all my time teaching under 7s, I’ve probably never come across a child, however lively or challenging who, when outside (or sometimes in) failed to become engrossed in watching such minibeasts as woodlice, ants, ladybird larva or caterpillars.

This beautifully illustrated Nature Sticker book takes users to several locations where minibeasts are likely to abound: the vegetable patch – several, but not all of the minibeasts therein are likely to be pests.

Anything but pests are bees, hugely important garden visitors that have a vital role in pollination, as do some butterflies like the beauties shown herein.

The shed is a likely place to find spiders and their webs in abundance as well as daddy-long-legs and perhaps other less desirable kinds of flies.
You’ll probably hear grasshoppers and crickets before you see them as they’re often camouflaged in the long grass they like to frequent.
Tree trunks like this one are good spots for discovering and observing beetles.

What better time that now to get outside, look for small creatures and then come back and enjoy hours of learning and fun with this beautifully illustrated book?

Look and Say: What You See at the Seaside
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow & the National Trust

Whether you’re building sandcastles at the water’s edge, swimming in the sea, looking at the boats in the harbour, walking on the cliffs, rock-pooling, fishing, exploring the estuary, strolling on the sand-dunes, or perhaps diving down beneath the waves, there’s always plenty of interesting things to see. when you visit the seaside.

This is what Sebastien Braun shows in his engaging scenes of the various locations, each of which has an introductory sentence and another pointing out a particular feature of note. At the bottom of each spread is a row of named objects to find in the large illustration and say together, if sharing the book as intended with an adult (or older child).

A fun way to develop vocabulary and observational skills with little ones.

Queen Victoria
Illustrated by Nina Cosford
Puffin / V&A

Readers with an interest in the past will enjoy this mini-hardback book that looks at the life of Victoria and her legacy.
It tells how, when the young Victoria became queen she was determined to break free from the controlling influences of her mother and her courtiers and rule Britain on her own, even if she didn’t always get things right. It was against royal protocol for her cousin Albert, with whom she fell in love, to propose marriage to her; instead she did the honours and was accepted.

As well as information about the Queen, there are spreads about the industrial revolution; the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, the royal couple’s work in support of the arts and science,

their interest in the latest technological developments as well as Albert’s popularising of the Christmas tree and Victoria’s golden and diamond jubilees.

Illustrated with a mix of photographs and finely detailed illustrations by Nina Cosford this is one to add to primary school classroom shelves, or for young readers wanting an introduction to a fascinating period of great change.