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Bookmark Monday: The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me

Oh crumbs…I’ve started a little thingy I can’t quite stop now.¬† ūüėõ

And the worst of it is, I started it at bedtime last night when I pulled out Roald Dahl’s The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.

For one, it was obviously a very quick silent read when I reviewed it silently before putting it on the kids’ bookshelf. But I sure set myself up for some serious vocal exercise when I chose to do it as a read-aloud bedtime story.

As a child, when I read Roald Dahl, I used to totally ham it up when reading his¬†signature silly rhymes. ūüėõ

So in the book, there’s this catchy little song titled “We are the Window Cleaners!”.

I made up a little tune to go with it, and I think now I’m going to have to sing this more often than I anticipated, because each time we get to the line “The Giraffe and the Pelly and me!”, DS bursts into uproarious laughter and asks for me to do it again.¬† He laughed so hard he couldn’t drink his milk properly, and had me really worried it would spill all over the sofa. (Thank God it didn’t, but it took him and his sister FOREVER to finish because they’d stop and then start giggling all over again. Gah.)

A really funny and heartwarming read, with magic and wit and wackiness thrown in,¬†I also found the text¬†suitable for young minds (meaning I don’t have to censor any grisly deaths or violent actions). [Note to parents: I still censor out some of the Duke’s exclamations where I feel I’m not ready to explain the euphemisms used. That, and it’s not all that fruitful during a read-aloud at this present stage.¬† But the censorship is fairly minimal.]

This is such a classic that I don’t think you’ll need a synopsis. There are plenty of reviews on Amazon to cover that.

But what I will tell you is how the book had me for keeps at the ending verse –

“We have tears in our eyes
As we wave our goodbyes,
We so loved being with you, we three.
So do please now and then
Come and see us again,
The Giraffe and the Pelly and me.

All you do is to look
At a page in this book
Because that’s where we always will be
No book ever ends
When it’s full of your friends
The Giraffe and the Pelly and me.”

Bookmark Monday: A voice of love

A poorly stitched brown teddy bear sits forgotten on the shelves of a little toy shop. Having no mouth, he is unable to speak.  The other toys laugh at him and call him Pauper Bear. All Pauper Bear wants is to find a good home and be loved by his owner.

In contrast, Prince Bear,¬†is well-stitched and has a fine little crown.¬† He is very proud and loves only himself, often boasting how he had been specially made stitch by stitch “until I was perfect”.

A week before Christmas,¬†Prince Bear is chosen¬†off the shelves by¬†a rich little girl who lives in a lovely big house.¬† Pauper Bear looks on sadly.¬†¬†A little boy wanders into the shop, and with his small amount of pocket money, asks the shopkeeper, “Please, this is all I have. Is there anything in this shop I can buy?”¬† Pauper Bear leans so eagerly out from the top of the shelf that he loses his balance and falls to the ground. Noticing him, the shopkeeper says he is a teddy bear nobody wants to buy, and gives him away for free to the little boy.

But more than just a story of a prince and pauper and a twist in their destinies and expectations, this story is inspired by the real life story of Emily Lim, author of the book who was struck with spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological voice disorder, in the prime of her career and her experiences of coping with the disorder.

With her heartwarming stories of¬†love, friendship, compassion, selflessness, grace and restoration, Emily has earned multiple accolades for her work, receiving¬†the Independent Publishers (IPPY) Book Awards¬†in 2008¬†for Prince Bear and Pauper Bear, in 2009 for¬†Just Teddy and in 2010 for Bunny Finds the Right Stuff. Her book, The Tale of Rusty Horse won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award in 2009.

Click here to read more about Emily and her story, and the other books in her series.

Bookmark Monday: Medieval Math

So sue me, I like corny math story books. But with a title like Sir Cumference and the King’s Tens, you’re not just that wee bit curious of the content?

Noticing that the King has been rather gloomy of late, Lady Di of Ameter suggests to her husband, Sir Cumference the idea of hosting a surprise birthday party for the King. Which is a great idea, except now the castle is burgeoning with guests and more are arriving by the minute, and Lady Di needs a way to figure out how many lunches she needs to tell the cook to prepare.

With the help of the Knights of the Round Table – Sir Kell, Sir Tangent and Sir Lionel Segment, Sir Cumference and Lady Di of Ameter must quickly figure out the most time-efficient and accurate method of counting the total number of guests.

How do we do it?

Line them all in a straight line and count?….Too slow….

Form small circles and total the sum of parts? …Too exhausting…

What next?

Cindy Neuschwander cleverly introduces¬†“place value” in an entertaining and engaging way as the story makes use of tents to illustrate the concept by separating the 9,999 guests that show up for King Arthur’s party into nine groups of one thousand, nine groups of one hundred, nine groups of ten and nine single guests, divided into four tents or number neighbourhoods.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for the rest of the Sir Cumference series now.

Huzzah for more corny math storybooks!

Bookmark Monday: Old Mother Goose used to fly through the air

First there were the original rhymes, and then came the all-new rhymes recounting the latest adventures of best-loved Mother Goose characters.

And although I have a deep appreciation for the originals, some of the “updated” versions in Mary Had a Little Jam and Other Silly Rhymes, written by Bruce Lansky and illustrated by Stephen Carpenter, are laugh-out-loud funny and preschooler pleasers in their own right.


Mary had a little jam;
She spread it on a waffle.
And if she hadn’t eaten ten,
she wouldn’t feel so awful.

Notwithstanding that fullest appreciation of the underlying joke in each rhyme is best supported by knowing the¬†originals to begin with, the collection of short rhymes with¬†fairly easy words¬†makes it an accessible and achievable¬†to beginner readers, and as Christine Clark, editor at Humpty Dumpty’s Magazine put it, it is well and truly “a kinder, gentler Mother Goose…and funny, too!”

I’ll leave you with one more reason why I like this somewhat over the originals, and let you check out the book yourself. ūüôā

Rock-a-bye, baby, on the treetop.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
When the birds sing, the baby will smile,
and fall asleep happy in a short while.

Gotta love that over the horrifying original, what kind of baby falls asleep to thoughts of falling out of a tree?

Bookmark Monday: Orange Ants

The use of carnivorous citrus ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) to protect orange groves in China dates back at least 1,700 years. The earliest known mention of such use is attributed to Ji Han in his records of the Plants and Trees of the Southern Regions (A.D. 304):
The people of Jiao -zhi sell in their markets ants in bags of rush matting. The nests are like silk. The bags are all attached to twigs and leaes which, with the ants inside the nests, are for sale. The ants are reddish-yellow in color, bigger than ordinary ants. (These ants do not eat the oranges but attack and kill the insects which do.)

We found Ma Jiang and the Orange Ants written by Barbara Ann Porte and illustrated by Annie Cannon, while the kids were in a storytelling session at the library last weekend.

We’ve been introducing them to folk tales and fables recently, and this title caught our eye because we were curious to find out what orange ants are, and how people earned a living selling orange ants in ancient China. This week, I have learnt something new I didn’t know before. ūüôā


The Ma family earned a living selling orange ants to owners of orange groves. It did not necessarily yield¬†a lot of money but they made¬†enough to have food, shelter, clothes and medicine to put on ant bites, and lived happily enough. However, one day, the father and brothers were rounded up to serve in the emperor’s army, leaving Ma Jiang, her mother and her baby brother to fend for themselves.

As collecting wild nests of orange ants was a predominantly male job, requiring collectors to climb high into tall trees and into wild bamboo in the night, neither Jiang nor her mother were in a position to do this, and so they relied on making rush mat bags and other woven articles as an alternative source of income.

Times were hard and the children and their mother often went hungry as only the rich or lazy bought rush mat nets, most people made their own.¬† But¬†one day, their fortune turns for the better when a beekeeper buys¬†Jiang’s mother’s rush mat nets and a chicken cage and sandals¬†because he finds these will be useful to stave off stings, and pays them in honey instead of money.

The family is glad for the honey, and they keep it in a gourd hung from the ceiling, and enjoy a little each day. One day, while eating, Jiang’s baby brother accidentally drips a puddle of honey onto the floor, attracting hundreds of little black ants.

This lends Jiang a brilliant idea to make a honey trap by smearing the inside of a rush mat bag with honey, reviving the business of selling orange ants without requiring dangerous night time climbing of trees.

Jiang’s mother was happy to be able to buy good things for the family and they prospered on the sale of the orange ants.

However,¬†as they prepared the good food for the Lunar New Year, they could not help but miss Jiang’s father and brothers who had now been away for a year.

Then just three days before the end of the old year, Jiang and her mother and brother receive a pleasant surprise – her father and brothers return, released at last from the emperor’s service and the story ends happily as¬†the family¬†joyfully reunites with much to be grateful for.


Bookmark Monday: Papa’s Pastries

It‚Äôs been a whirlwind of activity in the past two weeks for the whole family with school field trips, meetings, projects, deadlines, and my brother’s wedding! So the blog‚Äôs been quiet, but thank you to our readers who have faithfully still been checking back for updates.

A couple of weeks ago, we found this Christian-themed book, ‚ÄúPapa‚Äôs Pastries‚ÄĚ written by Charles Toscano.

Miguel wakes to early morning rain dripping through the family home’s leaky roof. Outside, he overhears his father praying as he packs the pastries he has made to sell at the market, asking God to provide a new roof, firewood and clothes for the family so they can survive the winter.

Accompanying his father to three neighbouring villages to sell their pastries, at each village, Miguel gets increasingly anxious when they are unable to sell anything as the villagers are equally facing hard times and have no money to buy the pastries. However, Papa remains positive and even gives away his pastries to needy families, one in each village.

When they reach home in the evening, the anxiety of the family is heightened by the empty bag and empty pockets, but Papa calmly tells them that kindness is far more valuable than money.
Cold and tired, Miguel wonders about this as he tosses to sleep, how kindness will provide them the things they themselves need.

The next day, he awakens in surprise to the sound of the roof being repaired! It’s being fixed by one of the villagers that Papa gave pastries to yesterday; turns out that he is a carpenter and has come to repay Papa’s kindness.

Close to the woods, another recipient of yesterday’s pastries busily chops firewood for the family, and in the house, an old lady that they gave their last pastries to before going home is measuring and cutting cloth to make new clothes for Miguel’s brothers and sisters.

Although they earned no money yesterday to buy what the family needed, God had sent them today exactly what they needed.
And at the end of the day, Miguel prays to God, ‚ÄúThank you for your loving kindness. And thank you, Lord, for my Papa. Amen.‚ÄĚ

Although written in a very simplistically heartwarming manner, we found this book to be valuable ‚Äď as a reminder to ourselves that most times, it is us who¬†complicate matters¬†by thinking too much and trusting too little;¬†to be thankful for everything God has blessed us with, to be compassionate toward others, and to always trust God our Provider.

Bookmark Monday: Chapter books

What do you do when you have an almost-five-year-old genius who’s read every available award winner on the library shelves and is now looking to up the ante?

Not our children, but a son of our friends’ – this boy is one amazing reader and as his mum and us were chatting on Sunday, she asked “What else is out there that I can give him that is good clean reading without needing me to censor stuff I’m not comfortable exposing him to?”

Because that is the challenge with chapter books isn’t it?¬† They are¬†the next reading skill level, but then chapter books are a varied lot.¬† Some are¬†too complicated, some are too worldly for a young¬†impressionable mind, some are just plain nonsensically mindless.

We didn’t have the answer on Sunday, but on Monday when the kids had a day off from school for Youth Day, DH brought them to the library and they found this series called Dinosaur Cove.

Even if your little dinosaur enthusiast may not be ready to read the book by himself or herself, you can still read a chapter a day to him or her, which is what DH did with the kids.

I hope this helps my friend. ūüôā¬† Click on the links for more information about each series.

Dinosaur Cove book series: About two boys who discover a secret entrance to a prehistoric world where dinosaurs roam.  Written by Rex Stone (possibly a pseudonym?)

Other chapter book series for young readers worth checking out –

The Five Find-Outers Mystery series, written by Enid Blyton: Aspiring sleuths can follow the adventures of Frederick Algernon Trotteville, more affectionately known as Fatty, and his friends Larry, Daisy, Pip, Bets and Buster the Scottie as they solve puzzling mysteries that take place in their little neighbourhood.

Delightfully and quintessentially English in¬†style and setting, I grew up loving this series and all things¬†English tea,¬†and am now a¬†lifelong fan of British-authored whodunnits and their inspired screen adaptations. ūüėČ

The Famous Five series, also by Enid Blyton: Siblings Julian, Dick and Ann¬† take some time getting used to their cousin, Georgina (who prefers to be called “George” as anything that boys can do, she would do better!).

But once they do, they have the most exciting of adventures on their holidays on the rugged terrains of the English coast and hilly farmlands with the most deliciously mysterious castle ruins, turrets, buried treasure, secret codes and papers, scary caves and tunnels, choppy sea waters and intriguing lighthouses on rocky outcrops.

Joining them and making up the number five is¬†Timmy, George’s dog.

I’m sure we’re only at the tip of the iceberg because there probably are some really good reading lists out there on homeschool forums and blogs, but it’s a start!

Bookmark Monday: The Tiger Who Came To Tea

So we’ve just ended up with this 1968 “classic” by Judith Kerr in our book bag home from the library.

I read this one twice over and haven’t quite made up my mind about it.

I mean, if my daughter and I were having tea, and a tiger arrived at the door and asked so very politely if he might come to tea, would I say yes?
Probably not.
But then he might take offence and eat us up.
So it might be better to just be polite and let him come in.

And eat all the sandwiches, buns, biscuits and cake. And drink all of the milk and all of the tea in the teapot, and then all of Daddy’s supper and the supplies in the cupboard.

Children’s laureate, Michael Rosen, in his description of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, says, “Judith has created a totally feasible unfeasible experience, the juxtaposition of two realities in a way that would be impossible in our world. The result is both very funny and slightly unsettling.”

Yes, that’s the word for it.
But that’s¬†to my adult mind – thinking groceries, bills, horrors –¬†no supper on the table and no water to wash up (!). We haven’t yet read it to our kids; who knows¬†they¬†might enjoy it yet.

And it’s been a long time since we took time out, sat down and did craft to accompany a book reading.¬† Reminded me of¬†an old favourite. ūüôā

Bookmark Monday: Drawn to beauty

Jan Brett is an author and illustrator we have just discovered. She has a distinctive style of illustration, and you cannot, must not, rush through reading the book.

I did the first time and missed out on the sidebar and surrounding border margin illustrations, which are anything but sidebar or marginal.

The¬†mini illustrations¬†on the side accompanying the main illustration are¬†positioned to¬†provide a complementary¬†view¬†to the words in the main storyline, gently inviting the reader to¬†stop, look, and listen. ūüôā

For example, in her book, “The Umbrella”,

the small picture on the left provides a view of what Carlos, the owner of the umbrella is doing, unaware of all the ongoing action in the umbrella itself, while the small picture to the right of the main provides a precursor to what happens next.

In “Annie and the Wild Animals”,

it is the mini images in the border surrounding the main picture that provide the background to what is happening concurrently as Annie goes about leaving her corn cakes at the edge of the wood.

Beautifully detailed to the nth degree, these books are marvellous for spending a quiet afternoon admiring and enjoying.

Bookmark Monday: A Harold

There is a branch of comedy theatre called improvisation comedy, improv for short. And in the improv world, there is a category called a Harold.

Actors get up onstage, without any idea whatsoever of what character they will play or what plot they will act out. They take a few random suggestions from the audience, and then without consultation with each other, put together a play from scratch.

Amazing? Yes.

Entirely random?  Not quite.

What may appear random and spontaneous is actually an art form governed by a series of rules, and all the actors must abide by those rules. One of the key rules that makes a successful improv play is agreement – characters must accept everything that happens to them, and responses must always be in the positive.

And so we find similar elements too, in Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon.

I’m not sure if the two are related, or one was an inspiration for the other.

Johnson’s Harold is delightfully imaginative and always positive.

Armed with just his trusty purple crayon, Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight, so he draws a crescent moon. He draws a path to walk on…but after a while, the path seems to lead nowhere, so he draws a shortcut.

Through a forest…but he doesn’t want it to be a big forest, so he draws just a single tree. An apple tree. That will produce red juicy apples in season. These apples should be guarded, so he draws a dragon. It’s a fierce one, so fierce it frightens even Harold himself!

Stepping back and unaware that his trembling hands are drawing an ocean behind him, Harold suddenly finds himself way into the deep. But some quick thinking saves the day (the night?) as Harold draws himself a boat. With a sail.

Saved…by quick thinking. And the moon follows along. After a while, Harold grows tired of sailing and anchors the boat to look for land.¬† The beach makes him think of a picnic.¬† So he draws a picnic, with all his favourite flavours of pie. There’s more…get yourself a copy and read on to find out the adventures of Harold.

First published in 1955, this timeless classic is simple yet exciting without being boisterous. In his own quiet manner, Harold shows adults and children alike, the marvelous stories and experiences one can create with a little imagination and a lot of clever creative thinking.

Have a couple of purple crayons handy – after reading, you might well¬†be inspired¬†to take off on a little walk by moonlight of your own with your child(ren). ūüôā