Monday, November 19, 2012

My Favourite Children's Author: Mem Fox {plus a Giveaway}

After three months and eleven guest posts where mummies shared their favourite children's authors such as Julia Donaldson, Lea Lionni, Enid Blyton and Hans Christian Anderson, this week marks the last post of this guest post series.

I admit. I have more than one favourite children’s author. And today, I will share about another author whose picture books are always on our reading list.

I only discovered Mem Fox this year, and I must say she is a brilliant writer of children’s picture books. She has written over 40 titles for young minds and five adult books on reading, teaching and learning, of which Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Changes Their Lives Forever is the most popular. She is also sought after as an international literacy consultant.

Born in 1946 in Melbourne, Australia, Mem Fox grew up in Africa, at Hope Fountain, which is a few miles from the city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She went to drama school in London and married an Englishman in 1969. They returned in Australia the following year and in 1971, she gave birth to her only child Chloe Fox, who is now Minister for Transport Services of the South Australian Parliament. She is also grandmother to Theo, born in January this year.

Mem Fox switched her focus to literacy studies in 1981 to find out how children best learn to read and write. She eventually became Associate Professor of Literacy Studies at Flinders University, South Australia. She retired in 1996, after twenty four years of teaching, to focus on her second passion – writing and reading aloud to children.

Mem Fox wrote her first children’s title Possum Magic, which is dedicated to Chloe, in 1978 during a course in children’s literature at Flinders University. It was rejected nine times over five years, before finally being published in 1983. Today, Possum Magic is one of the most recognised picture books in Australia and has sold over four million copies worldwide. 

Since then, Mem Fox has continued to pen bestsellers that are well-loved by children and parents alike. These include wonderful tales such as Koala Lou and Hattie and the Fox. In 1993, she was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia, for ‘services to children’s literature’. 

Becky and I have been reading several of her books, and we absolutely love them! Here, I will share several of these wonderful picture books.

Possum Magic
This is a delightful picture book tale about two possums (small marsupial species native to Australia). Baby Hush is made invisible by her Grandma Poss to protect her from the dangers of the Australian bush, but unfortunately, Hush cannot regain her visibility. So the duo takes an adventure tour around Australia to search for the secret to Hush’s visibility. 

Not only is this tale a rhythmical story of Australia’s landscapes and the animals that live in them, it also includes some very Aussie food as part of its plot, such as pumpkin pie, ANZAC biscuits, lamingtons, pavlovas and yes, to my horror, vegemite sandwich! After being in Perth for so long, I still do not like the taste of this very Aussie food. And you know, neither do my siblings who are currently residing there.

Possum Magic is so incredibly Aussie, that I can’t help have a soft spot for it. For those of you who have spent time in Australia, you will know what I mean. And for those who are planning a trip down under, this is a great book to introduce Australia to your kids.

Even though it was written nearly thirty years ago, Possum Magic still appeals to many children. It won the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Ethel Turner Price for young people’s literature in 1984, as well as the Canberra’s Own Outstanding List (COOL) in 1994. The latter is an annual children’s choice award where children are encouraged to read and vote for their favourite books.

Possum Magic has also been performed three times by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. There is even a highly successful musical that made its premiere in 1990. 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the book and over 20 years on stage, and Possum Magic The Musical will be having a farewell tour. Becky and I will be sure to keep a lookout for that. Maybe if we visit her cousin, my nephew in Melbourne next year, we can go watch it.

Koala Lou
This is a very special book for Becky and I. It was through this that I discovered that Becky was in her pre-reading stage. You can read more about that and what I'm doing to develop her literacy here.

Koala Lou is about this little koala who used to have the full attention of her mother, but gradually felt neglected with the birth of brothers and sisters. She thought that her mother no longer loved her, and longed to be hugged and hear her mother say 'Koala Lou I do love you.' So she decided to take part in a tree climbing competition, believing that only if she won, her mother would love her again. 

This tale about sibling rivalry and not winning an important competition is really heartwarming, and is good for teachin emotional intelligence. Couple that with beautiful pictures by Pamela Lofts and Koala Lou is just amazing. At the heart of it is this very crucial message - that no matter what happens, Koala Lou's mother will always love her. And you know, though Becky is still quite young, she gets that message. Probably that's why we both love the story so much. Every now and then, I would say 'I do love you. I always do and I always will.' Just like Koala Lou's mother.

Tough Boris
When I first read this to Becky, the moment she saw the first few pages, she was asking me to keep the book. And I can understand why. The story is about a pirate named Boris, and the illustrations show a fierce looking one. But I asked her to just listen to the story till the end. Again, I'm surprised by her ability to understand the message behind the story. When I finished reading, she was quiet and since that time, she was always happy to have me read it over and over again.

Tough Boris is a very simple tale, about a tough, massive, scruffy, greedy, fearless and scary pirate, who always had his pet parrot by his side. And when his parrot died, Boris cried. The key message is in the last sentence – 

All pirates cry. And so do I.

A touching tale indeed, to tell young ones that it is alright to feel upset and cry. This is good for sharing about feelings and emotional intelligence.

Hattie and the Fox
This brings to mind many other books, such as the traditional hen-and-fox tales from Aesop, The Little Red Hen, and even Pat Hutchins' famous book Rosie's Walk. Mem Fox's Hattie and the Fox remains a classic favourite, with its sing song, rhythmic and changing style. 

I also like the repetitive style as the fox is being revealed, and in the responses of the various farm animals. I get Becky to guess what comes next. It is also good in teaching about the different body parts of the fox. But I think her favourite must be the final part when the fox appears in full, and the other animals run away except for the cow. I ask her what the cow said and she would respond gleefully 'Moooo....!'

The Magic Hat

This is great for reading aloud, with its rollicking and rhyming phrases about a hat that lands on the heads of resident after residents in the town and instantly transforms them into different animals. 'Oh, the magic hat, the magic hat! It moved like this, it moved like that! It spun through the air!'

Here, varying descriptive lines and rhymes allow listeners to predict and guess what will follow as the page turns.

And over a road
And sat on the head of a warty old ... (turn page)

Like a bouncing balloon 
And sat on the head of a hairy ... (turn page)

A large but impish wizard appears to restore the characters to their former selves. Then the wizard himself dons the hat and becomes a little boy, high spirited and surrounded by starlight and sparkles – a hint to his magical ability.

Whimsical ink and watercolour illustrations by Tricia Tusa dance with life, just like the way the magic hat bounces around. And I like her humorous details too, such as a fruit-stand seller who juggles bananas as he is transformed into a baboon, and the animated children who witness each transformation with glee.

Mem Fox has many other wonderful books which we will hunt down and read, such as Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Whoever You Are, Wombat Divine and Hello Baby!

Want to win a Mem Fox classic?
To mark the end of the My Favourite Children's Author Guest Post series, I am having a giveaway of two of Mem Fox's books. They are: Possum Magic and Koala Lou.

All you have to do is:
1. Like the Facebook page.
2. Leave a comment and indicate which book you would love to win.

This giveaway will end on 26 November 2012, 11.59pm. This giveaway is for Singapore residents only.

Winners will be determined by and will receive their prize by normal mail.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Toasting a rainbow

We made a rainbow toast this week. It is a really fun and easy to do. Best part of it? We got to eat our creation after.

- Bread
- Milk
- Food colouring
- Brushes (make sure these are ones you use for food only)

1. Mix the food colouring to the milk until you get the desired shade.

2. Then paint away!

3. After the painting is done, toast the bread and sink your teeth into colourful rainbow toast.

4. You can also paint on paper for a different sensory experience, like we did.

Becky had such a blast painting the bread. And when she was done, she eagerly waited for them to be toasted. She was one hungry girl that day. She ate two slices of bread, out of the three she painted, which looked more like single-coloured toasts rather than rainbow toasts.

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Painting with tea

What's that? Becky asked when I showed her a bag of tea. Ahh.. little did she know what this mummy had up her sleeve... tea painting!

- Tea bags
- Hot water
- Paper

1. Dip the tea bags into hot water. 

2. Paint, paint paint with the wet tea bag.

It was a new discovery for Becky, seeing the tea bag infuse with the hot clear water, turning it into a deep brown colour. When I asked her to take the wet tea bag and paint with it, she was hesitant and actually asked for a brush! I prodded her a little and she started to gingerly paint with the tea bag, then more boldly, and before long, she was squeezing and stamping and having a ball of a time.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fun with P, Q, R, S & T

Another alphabet round up. This time of P, Q, R, S and T, and the fun activities we have been doing. The ideas are really easy to do, and can result in much giggles. 

P for pig, puff, pink, pajamas and more! We made a toilet roll pig, which my dear Becky was playing with for the rest of the week. Here you see her cheekily hiding behind it.

I cut out felt shapes and got her to match them up.

We also had pandan cake! I guided Becky as she cut the cake, explaining to her about half, quarter and eighths.

We read quite a number of books that emphasized on P. These are the ones Becky loved.

We made a paper quilt and a Queen crown. Unfortunately, Becky was not in the mood for photos.

Bouncing rabbit in the house! Letter R is great for pretend play, as we pretended to be bouncing rabbits rubbing our paws, searched for red and rectangular things and ripped paper. As mummy was part of the action, I could only capture a photo of this rabbit craft we did.

We love hugs as a family, so this book was apt. What is fun about it is I could follow the story line and give Becky a hug, before she runs around our home giving hugs to everyone else. I also like the story's ending where mummy gives the little one kiss, which is how I always end off whenever I read this book to Becky.

One of the first words Becky learnt was star, and it remains one of her favourites till today. She loves the moon too, so this craft activity of pasting the moon and the stars was perfect for her. It also fits her 'I want to paste' stage at the moment.

Slimy, slippery, slithering snake made of yarn and straw. This is a great motor skill activity too.

We also learnt daily action words that start with S, such as sit and stand. Since Becky is familiar with the group one sounds from Jolly Phonics, I exposed her to the three sounds that make the word s-i-t, simply demonstrating to her how the three distinct sounds come together to make the word.

Our favourite S book has got to be this. It really is brilliant. It is a tale of how a square is shattered and torn and drawn on different days of the week, only to transform itself into various things such as a fountain, a garden, a bridge and even a mountain.

Tiger, tea or me? We made tea, and Becky was thrilled at how a tea bag infused and changed clear water to brown colour. We also did tea painting. More on this in a later post, but here's a sneak peek of what we did.

Becky's colouring has become more refined, as you can see from this photo. She clearly knows where she wants to colour, and she does so mostly within the lines too.

She didn't quite want to put the mask on after it was done, and wanted me to do so instead. So mummy transformed into a growling tiger out to hunt down tickles.

Becky also started on her 'I want to trace' stage recently, so she has been tracing lines, circles, letters. Anything that she can get her little hands on.

And here are the T books that Becky repeatedly asked to be read.

Wordless Wednesday: A 'I miss you' card for daddy

A note about the conversation between daddy and Becky about the card.

When daddy asked Becky what the card is about, she mentioned that there is daddy and mummy. When daddy asked her to point out daddy and mummy on the card, she pointed to the face, said 'daddy', then wanted to point to another 'face', realized that there isn't another face, and went 'oh'.


'I draw another day.'

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Monday, November 12, 2012

{Guest Post} My Favourite Children's Author: Sandra Boynton

The brains behind award winning books like Barnyard Dance, Your Personal Penguin, Philadelphia Chickens, Blue Moo: 17 Jukebox Hits From Way Back Never, Sandra Boynton is more than just a children's author. She is a humourist, illustrator and songwriter too, and has illustratoed over four thousand greeting cards and written and produced four music albums. Sandra was born in 1953 in New Jersey, US, and is married to writer and Olympic athelete Jamie McEwan.

To share more about this multi-talented author is Yvonne. She is a proud mummy of one happy toddler who is juggling both work and family at the same time. Besides busy chronicling her life through instagram, she blogs at Beadsyy’s Diary whereby she shares her journey through Parenthood and anything under the sun. Yvonne enjoys spending quality time with her family and loves family kisses the most.


There is this thing about funny children’s stories. You can never get enough of them. Not even when you are an adult.

Sandra Boynton is an American humorist, songwriter, children's author and illustrator. Boynton has written and illustrated more than forty books for both children and adults. It was by chance that I came upon her books. I recalled a few months after Ally was born, I was looking around for some bedtime books that I could read to her. Then I came across her “The Going To Bed Book” while doing my research online. So off I went to the bookstore to get that book and as they always said, “The rest is history”. 

I fell in love with the story the moment I read through it. It was short and simple but packed with so much humour and silliness. I particularly like how each sentences rhyme at the end. It’s catchy and reading it is really fun. We read it almost every night when Ally was younger. I never get tired of it.

Ally at 5 months old
Our favourites
Besides this, the talented Sandra Boynton wrote many other books that were just as funny. Here are some of my favourites:

The Little Pookie’s Series
Little Pookie is this little piglet. There are a couple of stories that revolves around Little Pookie and his parents or just Little Pookie. I love this series because we can almost relate it in terms of our family. Besides this, I’m sure most children can relate to Little Pookie’s various experiences like in “Little Pookie”, “Happy Birthday, Little Pookie”, “Night Night, Little Pookie”, “Let’s Dance, Little Pookie”, “What’s Wrong, Little Pookie?”. These books are just perfect for family reading time.

Belly Button Book!
Seriously? A book on belly buttons? Oh yes and only Sandra Boynton can make belly buttons look so interesting and cute in this “Belly Button Book!”. And complete with her illustrations of those big chubby hippos and their teensy belly buttons just made the whole reading experience more intriguing.

But Not The Hippopotamus
This is a story about this hippopotamus that was to shy to join the other animals. All it did was to hide and watch the other animals play but this ended when the animals invited him to join them. I think this is a great story to share with children who are rather shy in nature or to a class at the beginning of the school year. This story also has an interesting twist at the end. Very fun!

The Going To Bed Book
I love this story so much that I even did a video recording of it about 2 years ago. I can even recite the story sans the book at a drop of the hat. No kidding. Sometimes when I read, Ally will end off with the last syllable of each rhyming phrase, which is really amazing. 

Recently, I have also found out that there’s an interactive app for this book that you can purchase. I got it for Ally and it’s really cute. 

I’m going to leave all this talk about Sandra Boynton’s right here. You can go check out more about her and her works via her website

Last but not least, have fun!