Thursday, 26 August 2010

Summer School & dinosaurs!

Well I just don't know what has happened to the wonderful summer we have been promised, nearly the end of August and it feels more like the end of October - I can guarantee though that just as we all head back to school for a new term the sun will come out and the weather will be gorgeous, an Indian summer let's hope!

In the meantime whilst I am trying not to think too much about going back to school as I still have another week and a bit until I have to be there I have been thinking about all the new children I will be meeting who will be starting at 'big school' for the very first time. Whilst I don't actually remember my first day at 'big school' I do have lots of great memories of school and how much fun I had there at a young age. It seems these days, or perhaps it is just the angle I can now take, that children have more worries as they begin their school life. However not to fear for there is help at hand, friends, families and siblings can all help but so to can stories. We often read stories to escape from the real world around us and be transported into wonderful worlds and lives completely separate from our own. These stories can also help us to deal with worries and concerns, working on many levels without obviously doing so.

So you must be wondering what exactly I am getting at here? Well two charming books that I have just read and that I know my nephews will adore - as will any young boys who are dinosaur fans - and let's face it most of them are!

The two books in question are Benedict Blathwayt's Dinosaur Chase! Perhaps better known for his stories of a certain Little Red Train, Blathwayt has now turned his attention to the dinosaur and with wonderful attention to detail has created a charming, funny, fact-filled story. This edition, published by Red Fox comes complete with a story CD too. The story centres on Fin, a dinosaur who is different - he doesn't quite fit the macho dinosaur image and to top it all off he is fluffy so he is a brilliant target for bullies. During a rather long chase Fin soon discovers that whilst he may be different it is in fact very important to be different and he finds a skill that only he has meaning he can outwit the bullies! A great story, beautifully illustrated that will teach children all about dinosaurs and also help them to overcome any fears of bullies.

To accompany this ex-primary school teacher Sheryl Webster has used the skills gained from working with a young age group to become a writer of great stories for them. Workng with the ever popular and inspiring illustrator Jan Fearnley the end result is Tinysaurus. Published in September by Andersen Press, Tinysaurus also features a young dinosaur who is trying to fit in. Tiny's problem is one of size - he is desperate to be bigger. He soon discovers that actually being small isn't so bad after all for even small animals can be heroes! This is a charming story that will endear itself to young readers and dinosaur fans alike, it also has a great message and whilst it may not have a story CD there are teacher resources (from the publisher's website) available making it perfect for use in the classroom - a great start to a new year perhaps?

So if like me you are trying not to think about school starting soon but know it is about to come round all too soon why not try sharing these books with the young children of your acquaintance or even those in your household and teachers take a look at the accompanying notes to provide yourself with a perfect start to the new year!

Happy reading and lets hope these bright and colourful books encourage some sunshine into our lives for the last week of our holidays!

Friday, 20 August 2010

History in the Making

Well, back from a fantastic holiday which involved two weeks of camping, walking and very hard work on the archaeological dig at Vindolanda Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall. The weather was kind to us for almost the entire two weeks, the scenery was breathtaking and the experience one that I would highly recommend and am planning to do again (though my husband wants a proper bed next time!)

I didn't have much time to read whilst I was there, tiredness and lack of light in the ten after about 9pm precludes much activity other than curling up in a sleeping bag with a mug of Horlicks working out which bit hurts the least!

However there are two books that I would like to tell you about and which connect me in some ways with the experience. The first is Under a Silver Moon by Anne Fine. It is the title of this which resonates for me. The story is set in an unknown location which is very middle eastern and it is the tale of two boys, Haroun, the Sultan's son and Akil, the gardener's son - inseparable friends until Haroun has to learn how to be a prince. the result is more aches and pains than I experienced but ones that I can relate to (not for the same reasons). The outcome is a realisation that fresh air, the outdoors and some hard work can be a good cure and very good for your health. This resonates for me because the title reminds me of the beautiful Northumberland night-time sky with the stars and moon so clear. The story itself helps me to recall the outdoor hard work of every day which has left me with a wind tan to envy!

The second story is more relevant, in some ways to the nature of the digging I was doing for we
were delving into the past. In our case it was a Roman past and we were discovering, though the finds a little more about the life of the Roman soldiers posted at this furthest outpost of the empire. The book that I can link to this is Lady Jane Grey: Queen for Sale by Caroline Corby. Lady Jane may have lived some 1500 years later but the story told here is of before she became famous. I t is a story that required research for uncover the facts and presents an image to its reader of how she may have lived - just as the artefact's I was finding helped me to see how a Roman soldier may have lived. So if you are interested in history and love a good story this could be the book for you.

I am off now to catch up on some good books, sitting on a comfy chair in a garden with no deep trenches and no wind!