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.

When We Walked on the Moon

When We Walked on the Moon
David Long and Sam Kalda
Wide Eyed Editions

Another of the recent, 50th anniversary of mankind’s first moon-landing outpouring of space-related books, both fiction and non-fiction, is this compelling one from David Long.

Herein, using a narrative style, he focuses in the main on the astronauts who took part in the Apollo Missions.
Dividing the text into short chapters he provides both technical details and accounts of the important incidents for the Apollo astronauts, including  pre Apollo space travels such as Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 orbiting of the Earth, before focussing on the Space Race between the Soviet and American teams to be the first to land a human on the Moon’s surface.

The focus of the second chapter is the Apollo11 flight crewed by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. We read of such domestic details as how the crew ate cooked portions of beef hash, toast, biscuits and bacon that were freeze-dried in bags; how their drinking water was made and their sleeping arrangements.

The third chapter describes the actual moon landing, how the two who were to walk outside first had to rest for four hours before venturing outside in their space suits. I was fascinated to learn that eleven layers of ‘different fabrics’ were used in their space suits to protect the men from everything from space dust to pieces of flying rock and from spacecraft fire; and that said suits weighed 80kg each.

Then comes Armstrong’s famous first Moon walk,

followed shortly after by Aldrin.

The Apollo 12 mission is described next; the crew, we’re told, had twice as much time as their predecessors on the Moon’s surface and were able to carry out tests and collect samples.

We then read of the almost disastrous Apollo 13 mission and what took place aboard the spaceship following the explosion of an oxygen tank that badly damaged the service module, causing a brief but complete loss of radio communication with Earth. Happily ground staff at NASA working non-stop, together with the awesome ingenuity and courage of the astronauts aboard Aquarius, succeeded in bringing the men back home.

The amazing and absorbing story concludes with the safe return of the final Moon mission team aboard Apollo 17

and a brief look at future space travel with such enormous challenges as reaching Mars; however, as we read, ‘if Apollo showed us anything it is that with a combination of courage, determination and ingenuity we can and will go far.’

The final pages include group portraits of the crews of each Apollo mission together with brief biographies of each astronaut, a glossary and timeline.

Sam Kalda incorporates his love of pattern and texture into double page, single page and smaller illustrations of men, machines, lunarscapes and the Earth from space.

With its plethora of small humanising details, this book is strongly recommended for KS2 classroom collections and for home reading.

Planet Fashion

Planet Fashion
Natasha Slee and Cynthia Kittler
Wide Eyed Editions

Hats firmly held on and boots duly laced, we’re off on a catwalk extravaganza that embraces cultures, time and much more as it showcases in twenty five scenes, fashion history from all over the world.

We’re in the company of two young fashionistas, one male, one female, as we embark on this globetrotting experience. (It’s fun to locate them looking the part in every scene.)

The journey begins in a high society ballroom over a century ago as elegantly attired dancers and onlookers twirl or stand in their floor-sweeping Edwardian ball-gowns and suits.

Next stop is a performance of the Ballet Russes where dancers drift across the stage clad in voluminous harem pants and feathered turbans, watched by women in empire-line dresses, often wearing huge hats.

Cycling shows women sporting cycle bloomers and sometimes dresses as they pedal their bicycles in early 1900s USA.

‘Shimmying Down’ set at a Harlem Renaissance dancehall, showcases women in brightly coloured flapper fashions and men sporting long jackets or studded waistcoats.

No matter whether you wish to emulate the ’Lost generation’ of 1920s Paris; imagine yourself as a Bollywood screen star gracing the Mumbai (Bombay as it was then) roads during the 1960s, or striding carefree along the London streets of the 1950s and 60s proudly wearing a miniskirt or dress;

glue your hair into spikes like the London Punks of the 1970s; or try ‘Posing with the Girl Gang’ in the uber-cool Harajuku district of Japan from the late 1990s onwards;

or imagine yourself street dancing in South Africa’s townships in the earlier 2000s there’s a vibrant scene to show you how it’s done.

Every single lavishly illustrated spread is inclusive, with diverse characters wearing the distinguishing fashions of the era; and each has a fact box giving information about key designers, hemline and sleeves, and silhouette as well as the when and where, and descriptive paragraphs providing cultural history and influences.

If all that isn’t sufficient for even the most dedicated follower of fashion, then there are also timelines – the first of which gives a summary of key events of the 20th century, and the other four showing silhouettes, shoe styles, and trends in hats and bags. Plus there’s a final ‘Can you find’ challenge that will surely inspire readers to go back and peruse the scenes even more carefully to locate such as ‘a woman watering her flower garden on the streets of Saigon’; ‘a bird enjoying the breeze on a washing line in Canada’ or ‘a waiter dropping his tray of coffee on the streets of Paris’.

For anybody with an interest in fashion, this is a must-have book: I absolutely loved it.

D-Day

D-Day
Michael Noble and Alexander Mostov
Wide Eyed Editions

This book commemorates the 75th anniversary since D-Day, exploring through 20 real-life stories, eye-witness accounts of the D-Day landings and through whose eyes young readers can re-live the events- stories of ‘bravery, sacrifice and innovation’ as the introduction says.

Through historian Michael Noble’s text, we follow the invasion from the planning of the landings, right through to its consequences, meeting both men and women who served in various ways.

There’s Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan who fought as a junior officer in WW1 and went on to be, in WW2, part of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, one of the planners of the invasion of Europe under the joint responsibility of the British and the Americans, and in particular the Normandy landings.

Moreen James served in the WRNS as a plotter, keeping track from her Portsmouth subterranean base, of the movement of ships in the channel; a crucial task in enabling commanders to know the whereabouts of their boats and planes.

We meet the extraordinarily brave Sergeant Major Stanley Hollins, the only recipient of the Victoria Cross, considered the highest honour members of the British armed services can be awarded, for actions on D-Day.

Phyllis Allan served with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and was based in France where she tended the wounded soldiers, some of whom had suffered horrendous injuries. “It’s just a job, really’ she said.

American Richard Winters, aged 26 calls himself ‘ancient compared to some of my men’. A paratrooper, he took command of his unit when the original commander was killed in action. WW2 was the first major conflict to make use of paratroopers, a highly dangerous role with many losing their lives before hitting the ground.

Much less would have been known about the war without the journalists who reported on what was happening. One such was American, Ernie Pyle who not only wrote numerous articles, but also came to know many of the soldiers engaged in the fighting.

Through the use of collated photographs, personal accounts such as those mentioned, and testimonies from all sides, set into Alexander Mostov’s full-page illustrations that dramatise the roles of all individuals included herein, this is an enormously inspiring book.

Include it in KS2 class collections and on family bookshelves.

Scratch and Learn: Human Body / The Great Big Book of Life

Scratch and Learn: Human Body
Katy Flint and Ana Seixas
Wide Eyed Editions

I’ve loved some of the EtchArt books from Quarto but this is the first science title I’ve seen, essentially an introduction to how the human body works.

It comprises two main elements: ‘Scratch to Discover’ where the reader uses the stylus to find ten things on each of the seven spreads: the skeleton, muscles,

organs, eating and digestion, the senses, the brain

and, lungs and heart.

Then there are activities – one per spread – to demonstrate how different parts of the body function. For example the muscle-related one says, ‘With your palm facing up, touch your thumb and little finger together. This shows one of your flexor tendons working in your wrist.’

There’s also an invitation to play a search-and-find memory game.

Each topic has an introductory paragraph and some also include additional bite-size snippets of information.

Spencer investigating the skeleton

Graphic designer/illustrator Ana Seixas brings a gentle humour to the pages of this fun, interactive book to use at home that is relevant to the KS1 science curriculum.

The Great Big Book of Life
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

The 6th in The Great Big Book of … series looks at life from conception and birth to death and memories.

The early years are allocated several spreads – infant physical development,

sleep, feeding, staying healthy, learning to use the loo and how language develops.

Subsequent topics are school (including home schooling), the teenage years, work, partners,

the middle years, old age, death and finally a spread advocating living life to the full no matter who we are, which includes thinking of other people as well as ourselves.

As in previous team Hoffman and Asquith titles, diversity is a key element. Mary’s light-hearted narrative style combined with Ros’s wonderfully witty illustrations make for an informal and explicit read.

A book to add to your home or school collection.

Listen! – The Flute / World of Forests

The Flute
Ken Wilson-Max and Catell Ronca
Tiny Owl

The second in the Children Music Life series showcases a reedless woodwind instrument, the flute. Here flautists from different parts of the world come together to celebrate its magic. It’s a colourful magic that conjures up mellow sounds …

and bright ones; that sometimes speaks very softly …

or blows icily.
It might be a scream of pink, a sigh of lilac that is …

The voice through which the flutes speak is pure poetry; now why not try to discover its sounds for yourself … Where will it take you? What will you hear and see: how will you feel?

With rainbow bright illustrations from Catell Ronca and Ken Wilson-Max’s poetic words, prepare to be transported and perhaps to dance with your little one like some of the characters herein. Through music is a wonderful way to introduce very young children to stories: this little treasure of a book will help you do just that.

World of Forests
Robert Hunter
Wide Eyed Editions

Robert Hunter follows his World of Birds with a new Sounds of Nature title in which he explores ten different forest habitats from various parts of the world – Europe (including the UK), the USA, South America, Africa, India, Socotra Island (Yemen) and China.
Each habitat is given a double spread wherein are showcased the animal inhabitants (with a factual paragraph on each one) as well as a general introduction to the particular forest be it of the coniferous or deciduous kind.
Six or seven creatures are included in each location be that the German evergreen forest; the Redwood forest of California; England’s New Forest; the Amazon rainforest; a cloud forest in the Virunga Mountains of East Africa;

a desert forest of Socotra Island; a beech forest of Brussels;

the Sundarbans mangrove forest in the Bay of Bengal (I don’t think this is at ‘the southern tip of India’ as stated in the book though); the coniferous taiga (snow) forest of Alaska; or the bamboo forest in the mountains dividing North and South China.

Pressing the sound button on each spread produces a ten second burst of the natural sounds of 60 or more animals. You’ll need to listen very carefully to identify such creatures as the squawking macaws of the rainforest or the call of the Northern wren in the beech forest.

The whole thing is splendidly atmospheric: with its beautiful panoramic illustrations and fascinating soundscapes it’s a book that is likely to appeal across a wide age range.

What’s Going On Inside My Head? / Step Into Your Power

What’s Going On Inside My Head?
Molly Potter and Sarah Jennings
Bloomsbury Featherstone

Developing and supporting emotional literacy is, or should be, a crucial part of young children’s education in school and most teachers consider it so.

However, parents/carers can at times feel inadequate when it comes to talking to and supporting their children’s mental health, and at an increasingly younger age children come under enormous pressure be that through the education system (I could rant at length about that) or out of school in clubs and activities in which they participate, as well as through social media and advertising. What parents need to do is to love and support children not for what they can achieve but for who and what they are.

To this end Molly Potter, a teacher who specialises in PSHE has written a very helpful book to share with young children.

By means of twelve questions she explores a range of topics: how to think about oneself; the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind (how the former feeds into the latter);

the notion of happiness; dealing with emotions; coping with feelings of anger, sadness and fear; coping with negative thoughts that seem overwhelming (suggestions to prevent ‘ruminating’ and instead focusing on being in the moment); dealing with upsets triggered by another person (forgiving is important here).

There’s also a spread on meditation and its potential benefits;

another on who to ask for help when it’s needed; the role of family and friends as a supportive network; being a better friend and finally, improving one’s own thinking habits – being proactive when something is upsetting you.

Many of the topics includes a ‘top tip’ or ‘It’s good (or important) to know that …’ paragraph and I particularly like the coping plan

and the invitation to hold up a mirror to oneself and think about which behaviours ‘you like’, ‘don’t mind’ and ‘really do not like’.
The book concludes with three pages of guidance for parents and carers.

Throughout Sarah Jennings’ inclusive illustrations both support and extend Molly’s straightforward, sensible, practical words.

For an older age group is:

Step Into Your Power
Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins
Wide Eyed Editions

Here’s a book I wish I’d had when I was growing up. Both author Jamia Wilson (executive director of the Feminist Press) and illustrator/designer Andrea Pippins act as mentors in this, their guide to helping girls to grow into confident young women, cognisant of their strengths (and the areas they need to work at), and sufficiently empowered to step out and follow their dreams.

Subtitled ‘23 lessons on how to live your best life’, the book offers exactly that and made me want to go immediately and seek out some young females to share it with.

After an inspiring introduction, said lessons are organised into five sections entitled: Power, Community, Choices, Act! and Self-Care and all sections comprise several key elements each of which is allocated a double spread (or two) illustrated in vibrant colour by Andrea.

Thinking outside the box, abandoning old habits that are no longer appropriate in today’s richly diverse society, and not always following the rules, are explored and the author mentions as examples some visionary rule-challenging individuals.

Each topic has an encouraging and uplifting ‘Step into your power’ section.

Thoroughly recommended for upper primary readers and beyond.