A Story Cafe | Phonics Special

Today's story - Chocolate moose for Greedy Goose by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharrat.  And Don't put your finger in the jelly Nelly by Nick Sharratt.  We are doing a phonics special Story Cafe today as lots f the children are off the school in September.  So this workshop is all about building skills for early reading (not encouraging parents to reach their children to read, but to help them encourage the skills they will need to be able to read when they are ready)

We read Chocolate Moose for Greedy Goose and Don't put your finger in the jelly Nelly, which highlight rhyming and alliteration.

And we tell the story of Peppa Pig is going to the Zoo,What does she see as she passes through.  My animals are all hidden in a bag and I make the sound, while the children guess which animal Peppa has seen at the zoo.

A Story Cafe | The Little Red Hen

Today's story - The Little Red Hen. It's a traditional tale which has been adapted many times. We read the ladybird board book version which is about a hen and her friends the cat, the rat and the pig.

I also found an old ladybird edition on my shelf

and this lovely book by Lucy Cousins with eight traditional tales including The Little Red Hen

A Story Cafe | The Day the Crayons Quit

We often get asked "when do I start to teach my child to write?"  So I've been thinking about this - and decided the answer is "Don't", BUT we do need to teach our children the skills they will need to be able to write when they are ready.   So this story cafe is all about skills for writing, and a perfect story to match is "The Day the Crayons Quit" by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers.

Invitations to Play

All of the invitations to play today are about building skills for writing, so anything to build fine motor development, gross motor development, crossing the midline and dexterity.  So we have pasta threading with pipe cleaners, using tweezers to transfer the pom poms from the basket to the egg boxes, coloured duplo bricks for connecting together and building towers, playdough for squashing, squeezing and rolling.  And lastly, those little plastic toys from a fast food chain - and I don't usually like this sort of thing - but these are really good for hand eye co-ordination and fitting two different shaped pieces together.

Book Review | Almost Anything by Sophy Henn

I was thrilled to open a parcel the other day to find another wonderful picture book by Sophy Henn, including then usual added extras - in this case a large piece of paper beautifully packaged with instructions to make a paper hat!  Yes... it is relevant to the story if you were wondering.

Book Review | Willow Tree Books

This month, I've been sent two brand new picture books from Willow Tree books, a new children's picture book imprint.  Two of the very first picture books from Willow Tree are "Cat & Dog" by Helen Oswald and Zoe Waring, and "Hattie Peck" by Emma Levey.

Cat & Dog
This is a great tale of friendship between the cat who sleeps all day and is awake at night, and the dog who sleeps all night and is awake all day.  They learn to accept their differences and get on... just about...  A lovely story with few words, but many messages, that children and their grown ups will enjoy over again.

Hattie Peck
This is written and illustrated by Emma Levey.  Hattie Peck just wants an egg of her own to hatch and look after.  So she searches the world, high and low, even to the depths of the ocean, and brings home a massive clutch of rescued eggs.  Just wait till they all hatch...  This is a wonderful story of family, whatever their shape or size, Hattie can be mum to them all.  Beautifully illustrated too.

A Story Cafe | The Three Billy Goats Gruff

I've been thinking about traditional tales lately, so this Story Cafe is based on The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  I chose the version by Nick Sharratt and Stephen Tucker, as the illustrations are simple, the story is gently rhyming, and there are added flaps for interest and to promote talk.

Invitations to Play
I laid out the tuff spot with duplo bricks and larger tiles for bridge building, and some animals to trip trap over the bridges.

A Story Cafe | Walking in a winter wonderland

It's nearly Christmas, so this Story Cafe, we are reading Walking in a Winter Wonderland by Tim Hopgood.  It is very simply the song lyrics, beautifully illustrated.  But it got me thinking about all things Wintery - snowflakes, dressing up warm, mittens, pine trees, snow, the robin, the fox and the owl.

We set up some wintry "invitations to play" - decorating the Christmas trees, small world on the tuff spot, white playdough with shaped cutters, and white pom poms with tweezers to pick up and move about.

HALLOWEEN | Spooky story-telling

I've been sent some spooky games to play in the run up to Halloween - Scary Bingo and Ghost Story Dice.

Loads of fun with monsters and crazy creatures in this bingo game with a difference.  The box contains 8 double-sided game cards, 48 game chips for covering over the monsters you have matched, a cardboard monster head to store the game chips in and 48 monster cards.  Cover all the monsters on your card first to win.  Great for all ages and as a family game.

The Ghost Story Dice box contains 9 dice, each with 6 different story images, and a little booklet naming the pictures.  Roll the dice and make up a spooky tale of knights and ghosts with an invisibility cloak, a book of spells, a candle, dungeon, owl, wand and haunted house.  This one is for slightly older children (5 and up).

Here's what you get...

Family games play a big part in children's literacy, and for the younger ones, describing the different monsters in the bingo game, their colours, shapes and characteristics, will help to build vocabulary.  And the Story, which incidentally come ion lots of other themes, are perfect for older children to begin to make up their own stories.

[Thanks to the publishers Laurence King for sending me these games]

Book Review | The British Museum

Nosy Crow publishers have teamed up with the British Museum to create these really different picture books for young children, introducing early concepts, and using stunning images of objects and artefacts in the British Museum collections.

Mixed up masterpieces takes images of museum pieces and puts them together in a flip-flap, mix-up, sturdy board book where the faces can be mixed and matched or put back together in up to 2000 combinations!  It's a great way to explore art from around the world.

Book Review | Hortense and the Shadow

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia and Lauren O'Hara

This is a gorgeous hardback debut picture book from sisters Natalia and Lauren O'Hara.  Natalia is the author and Lauren is the illustrator and they've used stories told to them by their Polish grandmother as inspiration.  The illustrations are stunning and although it is not written in rhyming text, you feel it is as it flows lyrically along through the pages.

Storytelling games

We've been playing with story telling.  It's a really important part of literacy, even at age 0-5.  The very youngest children need to learn how to be creative, critical thinkers, working out what might happen next in a story, or filling in a missing rhyming word, or thinking of an ending or describing a character.

We can read stories together and look at books together, but TELLING a story without a book is a different skill.

So we've been playing with a game called Animals at Home, and with some space and fairy tale storytelling dice.

In the Woods by Thereza Rowe

I've been sent In the Woods by Thereza Rowe, from Thames and Hudson.

Book Review | Dogger

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

Shirley Hughes is 90 this year and Dogger, one of her best loved picture books, is 40!  We read Dogger when my children were little, and over 40 years of publication, I expect thousands of children have shared this magical tale of a little boy who loses his most treasured possession and becomes re-united with it at the end of the story.

Dogger belongs to Dave.  But one day Dave loses Dogger.  He really wants him back, and with the help of his big sister Bella, he gets him back.

This special 40th anniversary edition of Dogger is in paperback with a CD version of the story read by Olivia Coleman.  It's also been published as a special hardback edition with a letter from Shirley Hughes and an extra special illustrated story all about Shirley Hughes and her storytelling at the back of the book.

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[Thanks to the publishers Penguin Random House for sending me Dogger]

A Story Cafe | Mr Big

We shared Mr Big by Ed Vere at Story Cafe today.

We shared the story on the carpet - Mr Big sat on my lap - a giant cuddly gorilla.  Lots of the children are off to big school in September so we're reading about friendship today.

dot | the happy mag for preschoolers

dot.  My daughter loves design and follows and researches all things designy online.  She came across this the other day and knew it would interest me.  It's a magazine for under 5's and is refreshingly advert-free and brand-free.

Here's what they say about themselves

"DOT encompasses all aspects of a child’s life, from jumping in puddles to learning through play. It encourages kids to be resourceful and find solutions using all the tools they naturally have at their disposition: imagination, creativity and fun."

This is dot.  dot sent me volume 7 of the magazine to have a look and to tell you about.  Volume 7 called "The farm issue", and here's dot driving a tractor.

Simple illustrations make the objects and animals easy for very young children to identify, and the small amount of text means there is lots to talk about on the pages.  We find out about the animals - goats like to nibble rose bushes, trees and even shoes!!  Did you know that?

And we learn that sunflowers are grown for their seeds to make oil, and for feeding the birds.

There's even singing with Old MacDonald...

Simple prompts help with talking about the illustrations - although I would prefer to see more open-ended questions rather than the typical closed colours and numbers questions.  We could talk about what it might feel like to be outside in the field in winter, or what we think the pigs like about the autumn.

dot is 32 pages long and they really have packed a lot in.  There are other types of illustrations - the cartoon about Mr and Mrs Twig where Mr Twig learns to ride a bike, an imaginary scene with rainbows and aliens and an odd one out page.  They've even added a really simple make using toilet roll tubes to make a farm animal.  Oh and I've just noticed the joke page at the end.

This is great for all ages from 0-5 - point to the animals and say their names and make their sounds with babies, and 5 year olds will love the jokes and cartoons.

For more see dot's website here.

[thanks to the publishers anorak for sending me a copy of dot for review]

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Picture books about | Potty Training

Inspired to write this as there are lost of picture books out there to help very young children understand about potty training.  Something for children and parents to share at this time.

Here are some of my favourites:

Some useful links with ideas for picture books to read:

  • and a link to a selection of potty training titles available in Norfolk Libraries - here
for more story inspiration:


We shared Sunk! by Rob Biddulph at Story Cafe today.

We shared the story on the carpet - I had a big bag to show the children - but what was in it?  All my pirate dressing up staff - so I pulled out of the bag and put on a pirate hat, a big belt, a bandana, a pirate flag, an eye patch, and then out came my treasure box full of gold and silver.  We read the story - props included garden stick puppets of penguin blue, Captain walker plank and the sunken ship, and a map of the seven seas.

Book Review | June 17 | Alfie and Dad

Alfie and Dad by Shirley Hughes

A collection of short stories from absolute classic author / illustrator Shirley Hughes.

BOOK REVIEW | May 17 | my new room

my new room by Lisa Stickey

This is Edith.  She's moving into a new room.

A STORY CAFE | Elmer by David McKee

We shared Elmer by David McKee at Story Cafe today.

We shared the story on the carpet - props included the book, and an original soft toy Elmer (it was given to my daughter when she was born).

BOOK REVIEW | May 17 | The Giant Jumperee

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

This is great.  And in my humble opinion an instant classic with all the right ingredients.  And of course, this we should expect, because it comes from the magical pen of Julia Donaldson, author of classics such as The Gruffalo and Stick Man.

Book Review | April 2017 | Fum

Fum by Karl Newson and Lucy Fleming.

This is a wonderfully nice take on the traditional tales genre.