a YouTube channel to try + 5 favourite picture books by Japanese authors

Have you seen the YouTube channel Rare Earth by Chris Hadfield and Evan Hadfield?  Click the image for a quite charming introduction:

The first series is set in Japan—there are seven relatively short videos (usually 10 minutes or less)—and series two on Cambodia has just started. I’m sure you’ll find both really interesting.

My family has been watching and loving the Japan series. They're fascinating, sometimes unsettling, always thought provoking. Here's one we liked: 

Also, The Nuclear Tricycle is not to be missed. Here's a comment by Chris:

"The item that left the greatest impression on me in Hiroshima was a tricycle. Owned by a three year old boy killed in the nuclear blast, it serves as a symbol for one of the great tragedies of the modern era.

And while the story may not be all that it seems, I've come to realize that the truth is less important to me than I'd first believed.

[ .... ]

Thanks for watching! You're clearly one of the good ones."

If those videos put you in the mood for all things Japanese—as they do for us—here are five of our favourite picture books by Japanese authors.

P.S. Evan Hadfield, the presenter of the Rare Earth series, is the son of Chris Hadfield, astronaut and author of one of our very favourite new picture books.

The books are linked to their posts or Book Depository—they have great prices and free postage anywhere in the world—but Amazon might be cheaper for North American readers.

a stereotype-smashing story + Ivy & Angus in their Book Week costumes

We recently went through all our books trying to find the perfect costume for our playgroup's Book Week parade. There were many contenders, but in the end Ivy chose A Proper Little Lady.

She saw it and proclaimed "This will be the perfect book, I’m so excited!". I was pretty excited too and not just because it was a costume that required no sewing! This was one of my favourite books when I was Ivy's age and I feel a special kind of closeness in sharing and enjoying books from my childhood.  A Proper Little Lady is a timeless classic.

Annabella Jones is looking in the mirror one morning when she decides that today she’s going to be a proper little lady (every little girl has been there!).

So she puts on her blue dress with the bow and her petticoat, frilly socks, gloves, shiny shoes, hat and necklace—everything that any proper little lady would wear.

She turned this way and that.
Swish, swish, swish went the pale blue dress.
Tap, tap, tap went the shiny black shoes.
Chink, chink, chink went the long gold chain.
'There now', said Annabella.
My, smiled Mrs Jones as she pushed a toppling daisy back into place. ‘Don’t you look a proper little lady.’
Thank you,’ said Annabella in her most polite voice.
I certainly do.’
And Annabella did.

But it’s not easy being a proper little lady when there's playing to be done! 

Annabella has a wonderful day rescuing cats, riding a billy-cart and playing football with her friends and by the time she gets home she doesn’t look so proper.

I love her mother's reaction, which is simply to laugh and suggest “It might be easier to be a proper little lady if you wear your jeans and your T-shirt and your sneakers next time.” I’m sure she didn’t expect it to end any other way and I love her acceptance and support.

This is a great book for exploring appearances and stereotypes. Annabella is no less a proper little lady for having fun and getting dirty, no matter what she's wearing. It’s her confidence and self-impression that matters, not what is expected.

Ivy had great fun at the Book Week parade and I was so glad that the message of the book seemed to make an impact with her choosing her own clothes—despite the stockman’s hat and not-so-shiny black sneakers, she felt every bit the proper little lady.

Angus also dressed up for the occasion—as Avocado Baby. The choice was partly, I confess, because all it took was giving him an avocado to carry around, but also because he really loves that book.

Names in this book – Annabella, Christopher

Amazon  -  Book Depository


Book Depository has free postage anywhere in the world and great pricing, but Amazon might be cheaper for North American readers.

A PROPER LITTLE LADY
by Nette Hilton, illustrated by Cathy Wilcox – Harper Collins, 1990
ages 2 to 7 years / picture books + heartwarmers, imagination

Carl Sagan on reading + 8 books on pathways to literal and metaphorical freedom

Carl Sagan on reading + 8 books on pathways to literal and metaphorical freedom

Generally, for kids aged about 4 to 12 years.
Perhaps you have a special book that represents freedom to you—or perhaps freedom came as an accumulation of many books. Either way, reading is both a gateway to freedom and a freedom in itself. 

Here are 5 books about the path from literal slavery to freedom, they're books that also illuminate the path to freedom from metaphorical slavery, making them particularly wonderful for kids and adults alike. These are books that tell the truth and invite moral thought, with words and pictures that entrance and intrigue.

Read More

a book to grow skills in spotting fake news—and to fuel a love of history

a book to grow skills in spotting fake news—and to fuel a love of history

ages 4 to 12 years (and older!)
Fake news is such a fraught and difficult topic! No matter which side of politics (or life in general) we align with, fake news can lead us astray.

It’s an issue for kids too, making skills like critical reading, viewing and listening increasingly important. But no one wants to overburden them or take the joy out of learning—and this book is a terrific help. It teaches critical thinking and watching skills and it’s heaps of fun for kids and adults to work on together.

Read More

a story to encourage new perspectives and herald the blessings of difference

a story to encourage new perspectives and herald the blessings of difference

ages 2 to 8 years
Sometimes our own little quirks or difficulties can be a blessing. To us and to others.

In this tremendously fun story a cute little cat with a crick in his back walks through a town, surprising people everywhere and causing them to tilt their heads as he walks past.

That simple act leads to changes in perspective, new lifestyles, decisions and even new architecture.

Read More

an edible (ish) mud farm + a few fave books make for a perfect spring day

an edible (ish) mud farm + a few fave books make for a perfect spring day

ages 0 - 6 years
Spring is finally here and while it's still quite cold in Tasmania, the sun is out and we're loving being outside. I'm always on the lookout for new ways to make mess and have fun with the kids, especially outdoors, and found a bit of inspiration while spring cleaning the shed—a shallow plastic container that looked like the perfect size for a mud farm.

I'd had my eye on a muddy farm sensory play activity from The Imagination Tree for a while, so thought I'd give it a try, with minor adjustments to this original recipe: 

Read More

a meditation on the realities of war, enemies, and the profound value of seeking understanding

a meditation on the realities of war, enemies, and the profound value of seeking understanding

ages 4 to adult
Having an enemy doesn’t always require a war, but always (always!) requires separate camps! Those camps could be foxholes, but they could also be duct tape lines across a shared bedroom floor, places to sit during lunch at school, or even a divided family.

In this book, 'There’s a war on.', and two soldiers are facing each other from holes in the ground. Just one soldier speaks to us, but we see both

Read More

mistakes (oops!) = opportunities to make something beautiful

mistakes (oops!) = opportunities to make something beautiful

ages 3 to 10 years
Do your kids ever get frustrated or angry when they make a mistake? Mine do all the time. It’s the end of the world when they're trying and trying to do something but just can’t manage it. And, if I’m going to be completely honest, it’s the same for me more often than not. The need to get things ‘right’ all the time can be difficult and stressful, leading to a multitude of negative feelings.

Beautiful Oops! has been a wonderful comfort

Read More

deliciousness for lunch, especially if you're trying to eat plant-based (like me)

deliciousness for lunch, especially if you're trying to eat plant-based (like me)

Predictably, I’ve bought a few of the books that were on my Mother’s Day wish list. That was a good list (!) they're all turning out to be spectacular. Especially this one. I’ve cooked maybe a dozen recipes from it so far and they’ve all been perfect.

Here's my favourite (I’ve fiddled a little with it—as you do—but you can read the original by clicking on the pic):

Read More