THE FLYING ORCHESTRA :: tender and insightful, helps us to notice the wonderful music of life

Which moments in life matter to you? A new Baby? Learning to ride a bike? An evening under a night sky sequined with stars? A restless night spent worrying? It’s during moments like these that The Flying Orchestra comes to town.

This is an especially tender and insightful book about moments in life that seem to carry their own music – happy, celebratory, sad, or worrisome. It provides a musical score to big and small life events. 

The flying orchestra comes when the angels seem to have been blown away and they ‘play their most beautiful music for no reason in particular, but just because someone is listening.’ 

Some days, when they’ve been blown out of town, it seems that the music is gone. But then it starts again, ‘as beautiful as before, in all the places they have been.’

That’s how it works, don’t you think? Sometimes we hear the music of life and sometimes it is just gone for a time. But, always, the music starts again.

The artwork is welcoming – each page feels like an invitation to be part of the orchestra or part of life.  I love the page where the orchestra is playing ‘under a sky milky with stars’ – there’s a stark white gum tree, wire fence and grey grasses – it feels like I can almost smell the night air.

I've given this book often as a gift, and will give many more I’m sure - partly because it’s simply beautiful and partly because there is such hope and reassurance in its pages. So far, I’ve given it to:

Expectant parents
– because they can relate to the idea of music playing at the birth of their child, but also because so many of the other moments when The Flying Orchestra plays are waiting for them.

A teenager leaving home for the first time
– because it helps to remember that missed trains, sleepless nights and sad moments are all part of the music of life.

Parents who are having a hard time with teenagers
– because it's soul-strengthening to remember the music of that child as a newborn, and reassuring to think of their child being watched over.

A friend who came home after living overseas for many years
– because there is so much that is joyful about reunions- and I hope they heard the ‘symphony at the airport’ in celebration.

A niece who lives far away
– because I hope she keeps me up to date with the music of her life.

This is also a nice book to read in conjunction with learning about different types of music – there’s a violin solo, a symphony, a concerto, and a sonata to talk about.

The Flying Orchestra was written and illustrated by Clare McFadden - available from booktopia.

 

 

(A special extra for me is that the pictures all depict scenes around Brisbane – the city where I live – and the hospital on the page where the orchestra is playing ‘when a baby is born’ is where my last four children were born. :))

CURRENT FASCINATIONS #02

CURRENT FASCINATIONS #02

The photograph at the top is, of course, the wonderful Danish royal family. I thought they'd fit nicely with the very interesting article that goes with the other happy snap - an interview with Jessica Alexander, co-author of The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide To Raising The Happiest Kids in the World. It comes from the popular website MOTHERMAG.

Here's a couple of short excerpts:

"Danes don't over program their kids' lives. Play is considered one of the most important things a kid can do (and learn from)... ; and -

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TWO LITTLE BUGS :: a bit of optimism plus a bit of help from a friend can change a life

Ever had one of those days (or weeks) when it feels like you just can’t…  ? Little Bug Blue is a bit like that. 

Ever had one of those days (or weeks) when it feels like everything is going great and you’re pretty sure you can become even better…? Little Bug Red is a bit like that.

These two Little Bugs share the same leaf and they both try to persuade the other to come around to their way of seeing the world. (Ever had a time like that?:)) 

Of course, Little Red Bug, who sees the sunshine and wants Little Blue Bug to join in the delight, is the one we cheer for – but sometimes we can act more like Little Blue Bug who lives on the underside of the leaf and sees only darkness.

This is a charmer of a book – Mark and Rowan Sommerset make a brilliant team and the design and illustration are just as vital to the story as the words. The design includes cut out pages and flaps to lift as well as expressive little bugs – making the book appealing to little eyes, ears and hands even before they can really take in all the words.

As little ones grow and begin to understand the words they’ll be able to ‘help’ you read the book since there is rhyme in every stanza.  Aside from making it easy to read aloud, and carry off a lyrical jilt as you do, rhyme like this is also super good for pre-literate children as it allows them to anticipate and remember text.  Anticipating text is one of the many skills that need to be developed for fluent literacy.

There’s more – I love this book because it speaks to everyone, young or old, happy or sad, fearful or brave, beginning or ending a journey. Just a few of the themes that are available in Two Little Bugs are:

Empathy
Little Blue Bug tries so hard to help Little Red Bug understand what is going on under the leaf.

Noticing the skills and talents we do have
Little Blue Bug felt stuck under the leaf but already had wings and could have simply flown away.

The value of being persistent in establishing friendships
Little Red Bug kept trying even in the face of Little Blue Bug’s constant rejections.

Being kind is not contingent on another’s actions
When Little Blue Bug was fearful and so refused any help but Little Red Bug keeps being kind and offering to share the goodness on the top side of the leaf.

The idea that much of the way we construct the world is due to our own limited perspective
Little Red Bug is able to see the sun simply due to sitting on top of the leaf – a good reminder that when blessed with good fortune (like being on top of the leaf) we need to welcome and consider others in their own situations.

The value of optimism and work
I’m not entirely sure that you could call all that eating that Little Red Bug does work – but by eating through the whole of the leaf and leaving Little Blue Bug with just a stalk to hang on to, a whole world opens up to Little Blue Bug and Little Red Bug is able to transform in to a flying bug (a butterfly I suppose).

Aside from all of that, this is just a fun book to read and touch.

(Also - you have to appreciate authors who can write a totally ungendered book without making it seem laboured; Mark and Rowan Sommerset are terrific at this.)

Two Little Bugs was written and illustrated by Mark and Rowan Sommerset - it's available from Booktopia - and we've featured two other books of theirs, I Love Lemonade and Baa Baa Smart Sheep, they're big-time favourites. 

How gorgeous are these illustrations - a beautiful gift for everyone, newborn to grown-up!

How gorgeous are these illustrations - a beautiful gift for everyone, newborn to grown-up!

A NEW COAT FOR ANNA :: simply a lovely book to read, full of subtle teaching moments

A NEW COAT FOR ANNA :: simply a lovely book to read, full of subtle teaching moments

After World War II – as indeed after every war – there was a period of terrible poverty in the directly affected areas. Dreadful stories of hunger and deprivation were common and there was a terrible lack of consumer goods. In this story, a young girl, Anna, is in need of a new coat - in post-war Europe!

In an economy where there is very little food and very little money, there are also no coats available for sale. Anna’s mother does have a few nice things left, so she decides to use those things to barter for the new coat. But, because there are none for sale, Anna and her mother must work through the process of actually producing the coat -

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Short Thoughts: Katherine Paterson on peace

Short Thoughts: Katherine Paterson on peace

A compilation from ‘Hope and Happy Endings’ in A Sense of Wonder.
In order to have peace we must be able to see connections.
In order to have peace we must use our imaginations….
We must devote ourselves to finding connections rather than causing or fearing divisions. 
We have to give imagination a chance….

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SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS FOR ALL :: maths and family dinners, a winning combination

SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS FOR ALL :: maths and family dinners, a winning combination

Our Easter this year (as every year) is choc-full of family feasts – we have three big feasting occasions over the four days - and all the busyness of making shopping lists and planning reminded me of this great mathematical story. It’s all about Mr & Mrs Comfort who decide to host a family dinner –

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BOOK OF THE MONTH # 03

BOOK OF THE MONTH # 03

March 2015 :: A couple of nights ago we almost had a chill in the air – it’s been a long, hot and dry summer in Queensland. 

But even the hint that autumn might be coming was enough to get us thinking about woolly clothes and woolly crafts. Time to take Extra Yarn down from the shelf.

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CURRENT FASCINATIONS #01

CURRENT FASCINATIONS #01

Happy weekend! We're starting a semi-regular bit of fun-blogging about things that fascinate us, one way or another - starting with this lovely apartment. Hope you enjoy! 

The pic is from Joanna Goddard's blog - a tour of a Brooklyn Apartment with the owner, Tina Roth Eisenberg. It's chic and well worth a click: two cute kids, loads of books, cool & stylish rooms and good words. Like these, on getting kids to talk (our italics): -

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I AM HENRY FINCH :: funny, thought provoking and empowering

I AM HENRY FINCH :: funny, thought provoking and empowering

It's a pretty great book that can make you laugh out loud and still leave you with some deeper thoughts to ponder on. I AM HENRY FINCH is just that sort of book. The finches are a noisy crowd, so much so that ‘you really could not hear yourself think’. And Henry Finch is just an ordinary finch – one of the crowd. Until  he starts to think and, most importantly, to listen to his thoughts - 

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THE BOSS BABY :: hilarious insights into life with a new baby

THE BOSS BABY :: hilarious insights into life with a new baby

Years and years ago, when my aunt and uncle had one very precocious 3 year old, the census rolled around and required that they stipulate the head of the household. Well obviously that was the three year old, so that’s what they wrote. Perhaps not what the census designers envisaged but certainly the truth. If you know a baby who is the head of the household – and aren’t they all in one way or another – 

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THE MEMORY TREE :: a tender and gentle look at grief

THE MEMORY TREE :: a tender and gentle look at grief

It’s a rare child whose life remains untouched by grief. It can be heart wrenching grief like the death of a beloved grandparent, or something less traumatic but still real. Like the loss of a friend whose family moves away, or a pet dying, or even grief over something as simple as a lost toy. Books that offer positive mechanisms for coping with grief that aren’t overly sad or far too heavy thematically for young children are thin on the ground, but this is one -

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GOOD NEWS BAD NEWS :: pessimist or optimist, you'll love this one!

GOOD NEWS BAD NEWS :: pessimist or optimist, you'll love this one!

There are exactly four words in this book – good, bad, news and very!  But they tell a super story - of a hopelessly optimistic rabbit and an equally hopelessly pessimistic mouse who are about to share a picnic. Through a series of misadventures, the rabbit stays upbeat and the mouse stays miserable. Until it all becomes too much for the rabbit - 

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COLLECTIONS :: 9 inspiring stories of women who dug deep in extra-ordinary circumstances

COLLECTIONS :: 9 inspiring stories of women who dug deep in extra-ordinary circumstances

It's coming up to International Women's Day (March 8) and we're delighted to bring you our collection of favourite picture books about women who did remarkable things -

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AMAZING BABES :: for feminist boys and girls

AMAZING BABES :: for feminist boys and girls

Every once in a while, we each need something to jolt us out of the everyday and remind us that: we have the capacity to do and be great ..... It’s [a book that's] lovely to touch and to feel, beautiful to look at and simply inspiring to read -

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iF... A MIND BENDING NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT NEW IDEAS AND BIG NUMBERS :: a fascinating way to make big things comprehensible

iF... A MIND BENDING NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT NEW IDEAS AND BIG NUMBERS :: a fascinating way to make big things comprehensible

This is a brilliantly informative and fun book. We've had it sitting out on our table for a week or so now and it has captivated everyone who picked it up.

It’s all about scale. Scale is tricky to understand for young children, but numbers can get so big that it becomes almost impossible to get a sense of scale even for older children, teens and adults. Things like the size of the universe, all the wealth in the world, or all the food in world are just such huge quantities that one large number blurs into another. And that’s where this book comes in -

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BOOK OF THE MONTH #02

BOOK OF THE MONTH #02

February 2015 :: I think I've given more than a dozen copies of The Day of Ahmed's Secret as gifts to children who have begun to write their name – there is such a special affinity between Ahmed and a child who is becoming literate. 

 

And I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I’ve read it aloud. It’s the sort of book that continues to be a favourite long after a child has learned to write. I think that’s because there is such steadiness in Ahmed’s day and work and learning. The Day of Ahmed's Secret is a definite must-own for me -

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HASEL AND ROSE :: the power of wishing

HASEL AND ROSE :: the power of wishing

This very beautiful picture book is about Rose, who is  “a new face in a new street.”  It's a daunting prospect for anyone, young or old. So Rose looks out her new window and wishes.
Rose knows that she must keep searching till she finds her wish. She calls and searches and tries to show her family what her wish looks like. But her wish has no name. Rose’s family cope well with this change, but - 

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Quoting OLIVER JEFFERS

In my studio I have a huge blackboard I write on. Crossing things off lists is probably my favourite thing to do. Sometimes, I’ll even add something on to a list that I’ve already done, just so I can cross it off. - Oliver Jeffers

And one of my favourite things to do is look at Oliver's picture books. Here's our review of Lost and Found.

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BOOK OF THE MONTH #01

BOOK OF THE MONTH #01

January 2015 :: We know how children need more than just books and how parents have to balance the child's collection of books with all the other good things that claim a piece of the family budget. It's not always easy. (And very much appreciated when grandparents, siblings and friends chip in!).

To help with that (and perhaps as a tip-off for the aforementioned angels), we're introducing a new series that we'll publish near the end of each month, spotlighting just one book that we think is a 'must-own', versus a 'must-read'.

First up in the series, we're spotlighting The Promise - written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin, published by Walker Books. It's for 4 year olds through to grownups and it's definitely for everyone in between.

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