Getting Ready for Spring / Make and Bake

Getting Ready for Spring
Kathryn Selbert
Nosy Crow

I’ve no doubt that we’re all looking forward to the arrival of spring. I’ve already seen snowdrops and the occasional primrose but have yet to spot any baby deer like those shown in this sticker storybook created in collaboration with the National Trust; and, inevitably already as I write, the supermarket shelves are stacked with hot cross buns and other Easter fare.

Herein we see a family picnicking beside a lake, children decorating Easter eggs, birds being fed in a garden, spring cleaning on a rainy April day.

There are more preparations for Easter, a family visit to a farm, the children bake Easter treats with Grandma and when the festival day arrives there’s an egg hunt and an Easter parade.

The final pages comprise a ‘Can you spot?’ feature with over 30 items to find in the preceding spreads, and 3 pages of stickers to add to the named pages.

Seasonal fun to engage little ones and there’s plenty of interest to discuss on each of Kathryn Selbert’s main spreads.

If your opportunities to get outside with youngsters are limited in this unpredictable weather, then this book will help them anticipate the delights of what is to come in the next two or three months.

Also useful on days when the weather tends to keep youngsters inside is:

Make and Bake
illustrated by various artists
Oxford University Press

This is part of the OUP ‘Read with Oxford’ series that uses ‘step-by-step’ stages and is phonic based. Many readers of my blog will know that I’m anything but a fan of the approach to reading that underlies this way of learning to read. However, this non-fiction title offers six fun activities for those in the early stages of becoming readers.

Young children can, guided by the six sections make frog cards (and paper plate animals that could become puppets – children can think up their own animals too);

enjoy some pancake making (with an adult); create a sock goblin hand puppet; find out something about growing foods you might eat on a picnic; discover how to grow strawberries and eventually make ‘Strawberry Mess’ and enjoy eating same; the final part, ‘Snack Attack’ is about what constitutes a healthy snack. Readers follow two characters who visit a market and on their return, make the snacks using what they bought.

Also included are simple activities such as matching animal pictures with their names; sequencing instructions, sorting, unjumbling letter sequences to make food words and a word search. A mix of photographs and illustrations by various artists

help make everything clear.

Puzzles and More

Nature Activity Book
Alain Grée
Button Books

The natural world is Alain Grée’s theme for his latest activity book suitable for those from about 5. There’s also a seasonal element: the things to do relate to spring, summer, autumn and winter.

With mazes, dot-to-dots, spot the difference, jokes, scrambled word puzzles, things to count and match, simple maths, things to colour, life cycles and more, there are hours of fun learning to be had from this compilation. Another thing – most little ones love using stickers and there are 4 pages of them included that are part and parcel of some of the activities.

There’s fun learning aplenty here. If you can’t get outdoors into the real natural world on these dark days then try this in the meantime.

For slightly older users are these two:

Jumbo Pad of Word Puzzles
Highlights

Youngsters from around 6/7 can have lots of fun and exercise their brains with the 120 plus puzzles in this bumper pad.

Contained therein are crosswords, codes, word searches, hidden words to discover, riddle Sudoku and mixed-up hidden pictures. Answers to all the puzzles are supplied on the back of the pages, which, with the pad’s tablet format, are easily removed.

Guaranteed hours of screen free fun from this and not just for the owner: family and friends can join in the puzzling too.

Word Search Puzzles for Your Backpack
Eric Berlin
Sterling

From camping to crafts, and summer time to sweet things, there’s a word search and more to suit the interest of any young reader among the 58 included in New York Times crossword compiler, Eric Berlin’s new puzzle book.
Some of the puzzles aren’t entirely straightforward however: the compiler has thrown in what he calls some ‘curve balls’ such as ‘Opposite Day’ where the words to find are the opposites of those given in the list below the puzzle.
That’s not all though: for every search there’s a hidden message related to its theme that is made from the letters not circled.
There’s some pretty funky stuff between the covers of this little book. It’s just right for tucking into your bag or snuggling under a blanket on the sofa with – with your favourite hot drink and of course, a pencil to hand.

The Magical Underwater Activity Book / Roman Adventure Activity Book

The Magical Underwater Activity Book
Mia Underwood
Button Books

Following on from her Secret Woodland Activity Book, Mia Underwood has created another exciting volume that combines fantasy and reality – merpeople and microplastics. It starts with an invitation from the sea creatures to become an ‘ocean hero’ and help save the planet.

On the reality front, there are such diverse activities as meeting microscopic creatures like phytoplankton and zooplankton (their roles are explained),

and finding out some things to do that will help our planet.

There’s a challenge to design an ocean-cleaning gadget; maths and language challenges; ideas for lunch box snacks to prepare, crafty things to make, ideas for getting creative with pens or crayons and scissors, and much more.

There are also four pages of stickers to use in some of the scenes.

Guaranteed hours of engagement of the enjoyable and gently educational kind; just the thing for some screen free, dark evenings.

Roman Adventure Activity Book
illustrated by Jen Alliston
Button Books

Youngsters can find out about the world of Ancient Rome as they engage in the wealth of fun activities between the covers of this book. There are such diverse ideas as making a Roman bracelet (not the solid gold kind popular in Roman times)

and discovering some of the remedies ancient Romans used for common ailments: I reckon consuming raw egg yolks would increase my digestive problems rather than curing an upset tummy; and imagine being told to kiss the nose of a mule to cure a cold. No way!

Puzzles – both word and maths, codes, mazes, spot the difference pages, colouring, search and find, and crafty things to make such as a gladiator shield. You can even, with adult help, bake some libum (a special bread made as an offering to the household gods).

Skills of several kinds are developed while engaging in these activities and there are pages of stickers to use along the way. Almost without exception, the Romans depicted in Jen Alliston’s illustrations look like children but I guess that’s part of the allure for young users.

Draw Here

Draw Here
Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books

Full on fun as only Tullet can offer comes in the form of this brilliantly dotty activity book.

On the inside front cover is a flap of die-cut holes of various sizes folded over onto a set of patterns. This is followed by around 140 pages to adorn as per the author’s instructions; but let me make it clear, there’s plenty of scope for interpretation and creativity.

The two opening spreads are blank and thereafter users are presented with some pages littered with dots, some have relatively few or a single dot, while others have squiggly shapes, circles or a mix of dots and other shapes in Tullet’s signature primary colours.

The user is then invited to add more dots, adorn the dots in various ways,

colour carefully inside lines, add dots to loops, loop around dots, complete circles, connect dots related by colour, find a path across an entire spread without touching a single dot. Then what about creating some fruit, fish, cars, trees, flowers or people using dots as starting points.

Both fine motor skills and imaginations are stretched during the course of the pages and I can see a child getting carried away with this. All that’s needed is a few pens, pencils or crayons and a young mind ready for hours of creative pleasure.

Perfect for screen free entertainment, especially on rainy days or during holidays.

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.