One of my favourite Christmassy songs is in one of my new favourite Christmassy Michael Morpurgo tales.
There are a number of books in the Morpurgo Christmas collection which as worth collecting not only for their stories but just because, also, they are a rather jolly size. That square little book which is appealing to fit in your hands and curl up with. 'Mimi and the Mountain Dragaon' is this year's 'collectable'. A sweet little story with a different twist to tale of being warm hearted because it has a Christmas DRAGON in it. The dragon is befriended ( I don't want to say too much more) by the singing of 'Sweet bells'. Take a look above at the Kate Rusby version if you don't know it. It'll make you feel Christmassy I promise.
A dedication to spur us on from Carolina Rabei: 'to my family, friends and teachers who always encouraged me to do what I love'.
A STARTER FOR CHRISTMAS:
Beautiful poem by Walter de la Mare with original illustrations by Carolina Rabei in this just perfect picture book. The stillness of the snow and the excitement of Christmas is conveyed with print making,a few muted colours and which makes the red stand out-they're very striking because of it.
For anybody afraid of poetry it's also a wonderful way in to enjoying language...if it does snow before Christmas it's a sure fire inspiration/stimulus for some wintery poems.
BUT-above all it's a book worthy of a place in your Christmas collection because it retains the wonder and magic without being naf and commercial.
SNOW by Walter de la Mare
No breath of wind,
No gleam of sun –
Still the white snow
Whirls softly down
Twig and bough
And blade and thorn
All in an icy
Through the air
On still and stone,
Roof, - everywhere,
It heaps its powdery
Of every tree
A mountain makes;
‘Til pale and faint
At shut of day
Stoops from the West
One wint’ry ray,
And, feathered in fire
Where ghosts the moon,
A robin shrills
His lonely tune.
'Hauntings are our business' -they can be yours too if you read 'The Whispering skull' by Jonathan Stroud.
The next instalment of Lockwood&Co has been a good read this week. The first one has been very eagerly received by the pupils in Year 5/6 I've been working with this week. They're all itching to read the first one-in fact I better get hold of some more copies. They really liked the sound of it AND the look of it too.
'The Whispering Skull' is a fast paced, suspenseful where you get to know Lucy, George and Anthony Lockwood a little bit more. I really liked the characters in the first book and the dynamics between them-there's lots of humour in the book again too. It would definitely appeal to 10+ as I said above it certainly does to the ones I know! We find out more about the skull housed in Lockwood's house, see more of the character's world. There's some interesting new characters including a mud larker along the Thames which I could imagine really week having been along the little beaches recently. Rivalry with the largest 'Fittes' agency abounds in the book.
It's a scary read (but not too much because there's lots of quips and put downs between the characters to relieve the tension) with enough mystery to keep you hooked. Get reading!
"Le vent se lève! . . . Il faut tenter de vivre!" ("The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!")
Watching 'The Wind Rises' is a lovely way to spend a rather grey Saturday afternoon. The usual beautiful animation from Studio Ghibli. They're all worth watching. This particular film lost out to 'Frozen' for best animation. If you'd like a refresher from Disney please try Ghibli. The 'blurb' will be enough for you to see what ages the film would be suitable for but they really are stunning to watch.
As I've mentioned before I think an audience of Rec to Year 6 pupils are a tough crowd. The magical thing about Ghibli is they do appeal to cross ages so if you're over whelmed by choice these ones would be great for a family intro to Studio Ghibli
Howl's Moving Castle
Tales from Earthsea
My Neighbour Tortoro
Kiki's Delivery Service
"Perhaps the greatest animated film ever made"
'famosissima regina Saxonum' but am ashamed to say I didn't know much about the 'Lady of the Mercians' until I read this book:
Short stories written by well known authors who have chosen influential women throughout time to be the centre of their writing. There is a really useful summary of the history of these trail blazing women AND a well written story to make you think and very easily (should you be teaching) take your class into learning more about that period of history. This book is particularly good for the new curriculum because it has stories from the bits we are supposed to be teaching now! For example, learning about Aethelflaed was enlightening to me because I remember many stories being told in my primary school about her father burning the cakes....Alfred the Great. There is a story about Aphra Behn a lesser known playwright from the Restoration period. Others include a chance meeting with Emily Davison, a girl who works for Julian of Norwich and a passenger who travels with Amy Johnson.
The stories are little 'tasters', if you like, of interesting lives some of which you (like me) might not know much about but you'll want to find out more which, I think, is the very point of the book.
'Exceptional Women; Extraordinary stories' which take us right up into recent history with a story about the Greenham Common women.Along with making me feel very old, this resonated with me as I remember seeing the protests on the news. These 'history girls' are worth having in your home, school or just in your head having borrowed from the library. An interesting selection of stories; one or more of which will surely inspire you and/or your children.
Absolutely worth a LOOK-'Day by Day 1914 cartoons' on BBC including Storyshack super sign writer Woodrow Phoenix
What a charming book PLUM DOG is. For anybody who owns a dog, once owned a dog, likes dogs or has experienced a dog being sent with the Sainsburys delivery (that'll be me then!) this is such delightful read. Emma Chichester Clark has been writing her Plum dog Blog for a while but now these beautiful illustrations+funny snippets about Plum's day to day adventures have been collected into a book. As you can see Plum is rather pleased :-)
Even more exciting is that Plum and her owner will be at Aldeburgh Book Shop on Saturday 15th November from 12 noon launching Plum's new book 'Plumdog' and Emma's new book 'Bears don't read'. This is very exciting to Plum because you probably know from a previous Blog that Plum loves the seaside....especially ALDEBURGH so this is going to be another grand adventure for all concerned.
'Plumdog' will definitely make you SMILE. The drawings are just so expressive. Plum is a little bit of a mischievous dog, combined with the very humorous observations this is the book you need to cheer you up now the nights are darker. I'm sure Amber the adventurous dog who arrived with the Sainsbury's delivery at my house recently (she happened to arrive at the same time and made a dash from the road into a warm house) should have her own blog too. I think she'd have quite a lot to write about as well. Perhaps Amber will make a dash to Aldeburgh next to meet PLUM, you never know!
Yet to read 'Thirteen Chairs' by Dave Shelton as it has just arrived in the post courtesy of my very own book fairy. I really do have one..I think everyone needs a book fairy don't you? It looks intriguing:
'Jack stands in the dark on the landing of the old house, and looks at his feet....He has been here for minutes, his hand on the door handle, debating whether or not to go in.
A high -ceilinged room lit only by candles.
Thirteen chairs, one empty.
Twelve mysterious storytellers, waiting to begin.
Come in ! Take your place. We have been expecting you. Do you dare to listen to our stories? Do you dare to tell your own?
Jack is a curious boy.
Are you curious too?'
Well that's a pretty enticing way into a story if ever I read one.
The reason why I haven't been quite enticed is the book fairy also sent 'Sally Heathcote Suffragette' by Mary M Talbot, Kate Charlesworth+Bryan Talbot
Gripping read which would be brilliant for 10 upwards particularly if there's already a bit of background knowledge around force feeding/cat and mouse act etc. It's a graphic novel which therefore makes the images of Sally being force fed whilst in prison, the violence towards the suffragettes even more striking but also harrowing to read. I couldn't put this book because both the words and the pictures combine for that compelling read on feel. I had read excellent reviews of the book already but hadn't found myself a copy as yet so it was perfect timing because I was able to read in one sitting during the last day of the holidays. I really liked the flow and style of the story which took you through the important years in the struggle for votes for women without appearing to be short changing us on the history but also not over loading - just right for facts and pertinent events, some not so well known as others. I found it very moving as the story starts with an elderly lady who has a medal and other important clues to her past by her bedside, then we're privy to her memories and the story of how she came by them. I hadn't really thought about the details of what it would have been like to be part of the movement - just really only recall the cat and mouse act from history lessons and famous images from the time. This book tells of the divisions amongst key leaders in the movement, how the struggle became more violent and the day to day life of these pioneers. I hesitate to say it is from an ordinary women's perspective because clearly these people were not ordinary, but from one of the many Suffragettes whose names are not always recalled in our history books so readily. It's another one of those books everybody should read...Yes I know there are a lot but please read this-particularly if you're a voting woman and I'm sorry but Russell Brand you might need to take note of the last page of this book too.
Lastly but of course no means least is 'True Grit' by Bear Grylls. This is a collection of stories about Bear's true heroes written in a style which could be easily read by 8+ with the proviso that some of these true stories about astonishing feats of survival are very gruelling, harrowing, tragic. I did know about some of the folk in the book as you will too but there are others who are certainly not as well known to me for example Nancy Wake. I'm ashamed to say I didn't know much about Nancy although I have read 'Charlotte Gray' some of which is based on her life.
I make no apology for writing about another remarkable woman-we still don't seem to hear about female amazing feats as much as we should. Nancy was a fighter in the French resistance and evaded capture so many times that she was nicknamed 'the white mouse'. A french colleague said of her "She is the most feminine woman I know until the fighting starts. Then, she is like five men".
So here's your winter warmers for November. I hope you'll be just as amazed and inspired as I was reading them.
....and if you don't want to save Tink (then don't read this site EVER of course ;-)!!!) or if you don't think you can see how to pursue fairy creature making in your classroom via that brilliant set of books 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' think again. You could discuss this photograph of the Cottingley Fairies taken by cousins Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths around 1917. Elsie was 16 and Frances was 9 at the time. I've always found the photos fascinating. When the girls grew up I think they both said the first few were fake but that the last two were real. This would be a really interesting discussion for even the most cynical anti Tink folk because you could explore HOW they made the pictures. Do you think they're real/fake...where's the evidence? It's a really interesting way into photography-how did we used to make prints BEFORE the world of digital photography.
Making creatures inspired by the wonderful Spiderwick field guide is a really good way in to creating field guides of your own, thinking about habitats, thinking about adaptations for survival straight into the science curriculum too. Children from Castle Hill Juniors did just that with the help of their creative teacher Jo Dedicoat last term. Indeed their whole project has formed around the Spiderwick books and they have really been flying with the idea. Fuel YOUR imagination by reading them and see where they can take you and your class.
P.S if you'd like to know more both from Crystelle re her Ancient theme or from Jo and her Spiderwick theme contact me here and I'll pass it on. It's ALWAYS good to share and that's the whole idea of both sites too.