conversation starter—putting a name to emotions and feelings

by Jo Witek, illustrator Christine Roussey -  Abrams Appleseed, 2014
ages 0 to 8 years / coffee table, conversation starters, emotional resilienceheartwarmers

Childhood is a wondrous and joyful time. Everything is magical and full of wonder. But it's easy to forget that childhood is also intense!

Those small bodies can experience such BIG emotions. Learning to understand, process and communicate emotions is a difficult process.

A book that's been incredibly helpful in our home recently is In My Heart: A Book Of Feelings.

It was Kim’s ‘welcome to the world’ gift for Angus (Ivy helped to choose it) and, while it was a great choice for a newborn gift, it was also great for the 3-year-old sister whose entire world was about to shift (baby brothers can do that). The book became foundational for conversations about feelings in general + her own.

In My Heart: A Book Of Feelings likens our hearts to a house, with lots of feelings living inside.

Each page contains a wonderful description to help explain a feeling:

“Other times, my heart feels strong.
I stand up tall, as if I can touch the clouds.
New people and places don’t frighten me.
I can do it! Watch me go!
This is when my heart is brave.”

Each feeling is accompanied by a sweet colourful sketch that tells a story about the feeling—in this case setting off in a hot air balloon to travel around the world.

Names are put to important feelings throughout the book; happy, brave, mad, calm, broken, sad, hopeful, afraid, silly, and shy. My favourite is:

“Sometimes I hide my heart away where no one can see, like my own small treasure.
I don’t want anyone to look at me.
Safe on my swing, I can watch the world from up above.
This is when my heart is shy.”

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings is a beautiful pathway for young and not-so-young children to put words to how they feel. There's lots to love about it:

— It’s great reference for asking about how the child feels (when I can tell Ivy is having a hard time I make sure to slip it into our current reading pile).

— It’s simple and clear so that children easily relate to the images.

—It's great for identifying the difference between feelings—an angry heart might feel loud or a sad heart heavy.

— It’s a great opener for talking about feeling vs. acting (e.g. understanding that it’s ok to feel mad but it’s not ok to hit).

— It can be read quickly to plant a seed that will bear fruit when needed, or snuggled in close, taking time to talk about the words and pictures and opening up avenues of communication.

And I particularly love that each feeling is given the same amount of attention and acceptance. No feelings are labeled as 'bad' or ‘should not feel’. It's just an all round beautiful book (originally published in French).

You can buy In My Heart: A Book of Feelings via these direct links: Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia

mess-free cooking - with modern art!

designed by Meagan Bennett, illustrated by Lotta Nieminen – Phaidon Press, 2016
ages 2 to 10 years / imagination

Kids thrive on creating, especially when it comes to cooking (because who doesn’t love eating?!).

At least five times a week, Ivy asks to cook something. And, most of the time, we have great fun together making and baking. But some days I just can’t face the mess - or the argument about not needing yet another cake in the house! This book been a wonderful compromise.

Pancakes! is the first instalment of the COOK IN A BOOK series. It’s a beautifully designed and illustrated recipe book with step by step instructions on how to make pancakes.

The directions are clear and simple enough that a child that can read and follow them, but the real beauty of pancakes! is that it’s also interactive. So younger kids can pick it up any time and, well, cook in the book. With no food required!

Little chefs get to mix the dry ingredients, whisk the wet ingredients, stir, pour and flip the pancakes. All by themselves.

Here's a sample:

Pancakes! Is a wonderful introduction to cooking and can add a whole new dimension to imaginative play – Ivy loves to collect ‘ingredients’ and follow the recipe in her play kitchen. It’s fun, interactive and makes a great gift.

The next COOK IN A BOOK instalment Pizza! Is due mid 2017.

You can buy Pancakes! via these direct links: Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia

P.S. The book works for kids as young as 2 years but it's great right through to pre-teens (I had a 10-year-old use it to make after-school snacks, she loved it!)

a touching moment in a beautiful, humbling acceptance speech

When John Lewis accepted the 2016 National Book Awards prize, his emotions and words brought tears to eyes as he remembered a librarian who refused to allow him to borrow books because of his skin colour and:

 "... a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me, 'Read my child, read!' "

The award was for the Young People's Literature category and the winners were announced by the also wonderful Katherine Paterson.  Here's the full speech on video + an interview with the authors of the prize-winning March Book Three.


It's the third and final of the March books series. All recently published, they're about John Lewis's life and the mind-blowing modern history of the Civil Rights movement. Here's the full-speech video again, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

P.S. The message is impressive and important, particularly given today's political climate, so if you could share it forward on social that would  would be great. There's a button at the bottom of the post - thank you!

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a fabulous y.a. blend of fantasy, epic adventure and self-discovery

by Kristen Cashore – Orion Publishing, 2009
ages 14 and up / y.a.

Everyone has fears - fear of failure, spiders, heights and so on - personally I’m terrified of crocodiles.

But imagine that the thing you are most afraid of is yourself and what you are capable of doing! A fear that you can not escape!

That's how it is for Katsa, orphaned niece of the brutal king of the Middluns.

She is Graced, meaning someone born with an extraordinary ability, identified by eyes of two different colours.

But, unlike the Graced healer who can bring people back from the brink of death, or the swimmer who can hold breath indefinitely, Katsa is Graced with a harsh gift:

Ladies in the court had screamed; one had fainted. When they’d lifted him from the pool of blood on the floor and he’d turned out to be dead, the court had grown silent, backed away. Frightened eyes – not just those of the ladies now, but those of the soldiers, the sworded underlords – all directed at her. It was fine to eat the meals of the king’s chef, who was Graced with cooking, or send their horses to the king’s Graced horse doctor. But a girl Graced with killing? This one was not safe.

And so Katsa grows up believing she is a monster, nothing more than a brutal killer too dangerous to be autonomous. But a chance encounter with Prince Po, who is Graced with fighting, might just change that.

Katsa's desire to be more than her uncle's tame killer causes her to join Prince Po on a journey to discover who is responsible for the abduction of his (Po’s) grandfather. Along the way she discovers many things; a beloved king with a dark secret, love and trust in an unexpected place and the thought that maybe, just maybe, her Grace is not what it appears to be.

Katsa takes a journey of self-discovery and, as we read, we see that we have choice over our actions and what we become + we must never judge ourselves by others' expectations.

This is a book full of relatable characters and epic adventures - a perfect choice if you're up for lots of excitement, daring, action and justice!

There are three books in the series; Graceling is followed by Fire (a prequel) and Bitterblue. They'd be nice bundled together for holiday reading or as a Y.A. gift.

You can buy Graceling (and click through to others in the series) via these direct links: Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia

a delightful robin finds his way home for Christmas

Be strong my wings
beat fast
beat on.

think only of her

heavy my wings
and heavy my heart
will I ever see my home again?

lift me, lift me!
— The Robin in 'Coming Home'

Michael Morpurgo's latest Christmas offering Coming Home is about a delightful robin whose fortitude and determination carry him home to his love - it's a charming reminder of the universal pull of home, whether metaphorical or physical.

It's a short story in book form, and "For every book produced, a donation of 50p is made to Crisis, the national [UK] charity for homeless people, helping to tackle loneliness, isolation and bringing people together at Christmas." 

We hope you enjoy the video -  it's a lovely one to watch solo or to share - and the book would be great to take from the shelf for Christmases to come. You can buy it here or via Book Depository.

P.S. Left-hand typing is hard :)

a gentle conversation about the concept of homelessness

a gentle conversation about the concept of homelessness

Mutt Dog! is a sad but hopeful story of Mutt Dog, who is brave, and fast, and smart, but all alone. Until the kindness of a stranger changes his life. 

ages 0 to 8 years

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kindergarten visits can be rough!

Just letting you know that we might be light-on for picture book posts for a short while.

Kim's our main reviewer and she broke her right wrist playing Duck, duck, goose. Wikipedia says the skills required for that game are 'running, chasing, logic' - turns out, when you're the main goose target in the playground, it also requires balance!

We'll be back on deck very soon :)


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5 'Matilda' novels to make you fall in love all over again - with Australia

5 'Matilda' novels to make you fall in love all over again - with Australia

A moving story full of insightful history; the proud moments and the horrible. With vivid landscape and relatable characters you'll fall even more in love with this Great Southern Land and the people who belong to it.

ages just pre-teen to adult

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Sir Ken Robinson on changing education paradigms

Sir Ken Robinson on changing education paradigms

In this great video, Sir Ken Robinson asks:

"How do we educate our children to take their place in the 21st century?" 

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apparently we still need reminding that women are strong and smart*

apparently we still need reminding that women are strong and smart*

An exuberant look at thirteen women who changed your life – and you might not even know it! 

ages 4 to 12 years (and up!)

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a fun chapter book for feeling safe even outside your comfort zone

a fun chapter book for feeling safe even outside your comfort zone

With Marge in charge there’s plenty of fun, a fair smattering of risk taking, a few nervous moments and a whole of rule bending. A terrific book for early readers and for reading aloud to younger kids. The universal experience of waiting anxiously for a new babysitter will delight young readers – but they’ll probably never have a babysitter quite like Marge.

ages 4 to 12 years

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a collection of books to inspire a day in the kitchen!

a collection of books to inspire a day in the kitchen!

8 books to inspire cooking and healthy eating. Sharing food from a book connects us to the book, to each other and to a world outside our own.

ages 2 to 12 years old


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is all that hair really the point in 'Rapunzel'?

is all that hair really the point in 'Rapunzel'?

Fairytales are not just for kids - the Once Upon Time series is also great for older readers. It's a collection of the most popular fairytales, published by Simon & Schuster and written by various authors. Each author chooses their fairytale and gives it their own unique and often quite unusual twist.
perfect for teen readers, 12 and up

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a go-to reference for curious animal lovers

a go-to reference for curious animal lovers

Set in Australia - Amazing Animals is great non-fiction, with cross generational appeal. There are lots of quick facts to grab, plus longer passages of information, both chock full of interesting information.
ages 2 years to adult

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3 reasons why I love audio books - one of them is very small!

3 reasons why I love audio books - one of them is very small!

When Angus was close to due and I was looking at a few nights in hospital with my hands full of baby, I decided to dive in and give audio books a try. It was a great decision! While I still love traditional reading (really, nothing compares), I've discovered that there's room for more than one kind of book in my life - I've listed three reasons, maybe you'll relate?

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