blossom cover

There’s a new monthly magazine on the shelves this month aimed at little girls aged 4 – 7 called Blossom and I’m really excited about it as I think my twins are going to LOVE it. In fact I’ll probably have to buy them a copy each to hold the peace and wouldn’t that be a sign of a good magazine?

Each monthly edition has an age appropriate gift attached and is packed with activities including arts, cookery and craft.

It’s the perfect tool to encourage their reading as there are so many interesting things to do and all sorts of written material to attract all kinds of passions, from ballet dancing to bug hunting and from learning to play football to speaking French. Each feature is designed to support the seven areas of the Early Years Curriculum.

I was supposed to go to the launch but had a twin down with the dreaded virus and had to miss out but they sent me a video of the day to get an idea of what happened, check out the artists drawing, fascinating how they create so easily!

Writing competition for girls

The February edition also has a very exciting writing competition in conjunction with World Book Day encouraging young readers to write a story with their own words and ideas.

The winning entry will be published in the magazine and illustrated by the Blossom artist as well as receiving hard copies for friends and family.

The winner will also receive a visit to their school or nursery from the hugely successful Princess Poppy author, Janey Louise Jones; they will also receive a bundle of books for them and their school library from Random House and a special keepsake bound version of their story. 

Andrea Turton, Blossom editor, says: “We’re hoping that little ones will be inspired to pick up a pencil and write an imaginative story that will entertain our readers! The story could take the Blossom Girls anywhere, doing anything – the possibilities are endless!” 

The entries should be a maximum of 500 words and feature the four Blossom Girls characters – Lily, Rose, Daisy and Violet – who appear in each issue of the magazine. The winning entry will be by judged by a panel of industry experts for its imagination and creativity.  

blossom girls 

Janey Louise Jones, author of the Princess Poppy books, says: “It was always my dream as a little girl to be a writer, so I am really pleased to be involved with Blossom Magazine in their search for a young story-teller. I would loved to have had a story illustrated and published at such a young age and I’m sure the competition will be a source of inspiration for budding writers everywhere… dreams can come true!”

 Janey Lousie Jones was present at the launch event I missed but I had a planned question to ask her, ‘My daughter Alice has shown a love of writing and has started to write her own stories on scraps of paper, how can I encourage her to continue?’ You can listen to her reply on this soundcloud

The competition is open from 5th February to 8th March 2014, full details can be found in Blossom Magazine issue 10 (on sale 5th Feb).  

world book day

I recently attended a Penguin’s Children’s book event where they shared their plans for 2014 and I got  very excited – did you know Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar celebrates 45 years this year? The twins LOVED this book and we still have our board book version kicking around on the book shelf and frequently read with love and laughter.

hungry caterpillar

I learnt that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be celebrating 50 years this year. Roald Dahl’s books played a huge part in my childhood but also in my first born Thomas’s. He didn’t like school one iota BUT he loved to read and by introducing him to Dahl’s books Tommy became an avid reader, it was such a pleasure watching him devour the entire Dahl collection. I think Charlie is possibly my favourite Dahl book or maybe it was the BFG?

charlie and the chocolate

Half Bad by Sally Green

Penguin Children’s books have so much going on that I had to cherry pick and today I’m focusing on one book in particular Half Bad by Sally Green, because I think you’ll be hearing an awful lot about it very soon. Like the next Harry Potter phenomenon so to speak because without actually being printed yet it’s sold in 42 different languages and has film rights secured too by Fox 2000, see what I’m saying?

Not only that but the most amazing fact for me is it’s her debut novel!

half bad

What’s it about? Well I think, you’re going to like this – it’s about one boy’s struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches. He is Half Bad in as much he is child of a white witch and a black one, the trouble is nobody likes half bads and so until the age of 14 he is kept in a cage, as it says on the back cover ‘Wanted by no one, hunted by everyone.’

You can’t read, can’t write, but you heal fast, even for a witch. You get sick if you stay indoors after dark. You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one. You’ve been kept in a cage since you were fourteen. All you’ve got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday. Easy. 

Think Twilight or the vampire craze that has gripped teendom and that is what you’re in for with Half Bad.

The book is aimed at a 12+ audience (that is so me) and in paperback costs £7.99. I can’t put it down!

Come back next week for more ideas from Penguin’s Children’s books

Damson Lane

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The Magic faraway treeThe Faraway Tree was probably the first collection of books I read by myself and for this I have to thank Nana Whooley who used to buy them off a stall in East Lane Market. My grandmother set me up for life with a passion for reading and I went through a fair portion of Enid Blyton’s books in those early days including The Famous Five, Mallory Towers and the St Claire’s series.

The Faraway Tree is a trilogy and Egmont have put them together in one book which I was given back in the day of the 1930’s Housewife challenge. The book has sat on the shelf waiting to be read ever since and by late November last year I thought I’d give it a go.

The Enchanted Wood

The first book is The Enchanted Wood and we are introduced to Jo, Bessie and Fannie who have since been renamed Joe, Beth and Frannie much to my Bessie’s disappointment when I told her. The family have moved to a new house and it happens to back onto a wood. Further exploration into the woods leads the children to discover an enormous tree whose treetops seemingly reach into the clouds.

The children decide to climb the tree and they discover the magical creatures who live in the tree, the Angry Pixie, Mr Watzisname, Silky, Dame Washalot and Moon Face. They find out that there is a ladder on the topmost branch that leads up into magical lands. The lands frequently change, sometimes they are nice lands like the Land of Birthdays or the Land of Take What You Want but others aren’t so pleasant like the Land of Dame Slap which was later renamed to Dame Snap.

On one journey up the ladder they meet the Old Saucepan man who decides to return to live in the Faraway Tree. He’s a brilliant character as he sometimes goes deaf (selective hearing?) and muddles things up causing great confusion and more adventures than needed.

faraway tree slippery slip

The Magic Faraway Tree

The second book of the trilogy sees the arrival of Dick whose name was later changed to Rick. He is the children’s cousin and is a bit naughty which leads them into a lot of adventures when they visit the lands at the top.

I was particularly touched in this book when their mother falls ill and cannot get out of bed. Luckily the Land of Magic Medicines is at the top so the children go up to find something to cure their mother only Rick gets into mischief again.

faraway tree

The Folk of The Faraway Tree

The final book sees the arrival of Connie, the daughter of mother’s friend. Connie is a very spoilt child and won’t do as she’s told, when she hears of the Faraway Tree she refuses to believe in such nonsense and only by going along with the children does she discover that it is fact very true. She gets herself into a lot of trouble with her rudeness and slowly she learns to behave more sensibly. By the end of the book, the magical characters say they like her.

Another very exciting part to this final book is when the Faraway Tree is very ill and seems to be dying, the children, the magical characters and all of the inhabitants of the Enchanted Woods have to come up with a plan to save the day.

Our Verdict

We LOVED The Magic Faraway Tree, I was taken back in time and I am sure this won’t be the last time the girls read this book. Dad hadn’t read it as a child and if he happened to be late home from work or absent one evening he would ask us to read something else as he didn’t want to miss a bit.

This is a book to set young minds alight with imagination.

We have since started on a huge tree to go in the girl’s bedroom, the girls are making cut out figures of the characters who with blutac can be placed up and down the tree and my very next project will be trying to make some of Moon Faces Google Buns – watch this space, I can’t wait to tackle them

Damson Lane

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The Troll book for kids

You may have guessed by now that I am a fan of Julia Donaldson’s books for children and The Troll is no exception. 

I was interested to see a new (to me) illustrator David Roberts work in this one and the pictures are as colourful and fun as ever. I think David’s troll is quite adorable don’t you?

The story is told in rhyme about a troll who lives under a bridge – because that’s where trolls live and some pirates who are searching for treasure because that’s what pirates do. However the two worlds collide and things get a bit muddled up as the troll accidentally finds the pirate’s treasure instead of the goat.

Of course trolls are renowned for shouting out to people crossing over the bridge

the troll julia donaldson

which the girls LOVE reading out loud. The story is easy to follow and they both read it well on their own.

We talked about drawing treasure maps and what we’d like to find in the box. A brilliant idea for all pirate lovers out there.

Pirate activities

Red Ted Art has some fantastic ideas for making pirates and pirate related craft

Our children’s book reviews include:

Stick Man

Snuffles and the Cloud People

The Girl with a Brave Heart

Spaghetti with the Yeti

The Weasel, Puffin, Unicorn, Baboon, Pig, Lobster Race

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Kids Book A Week

stick man book for children

If you are a fan of The Gruffalo then you are going to love Stick Man too.

Stick Man lives in a tree with his family and one day whilst going for his morning run he has an adventure that will take him far far away.

All he wants is to go back home but every time he tries he seems to be taken further and further afield.

Fortunately he bumps into the one man who can help him. He helps this man get unstuck from the chimney and then in return his new friend takes him home to his family just in time for Christmas.

Beautifully illustrated and easily read by young children.

Alice received this book in her Christmas Eve parcel and read it before she went to bed, the rhyme was enjoyable to read and the story was simple to follow. It has quickly become a favourite and we have often talked about other adventures that Stick Man could have experienced and adventures we would like to try.

Stick Man activities

There are hundreds of ideas to take the reading one step further, Pooh sticks for example or making your own Stick Man. Head over to Red Ted Art for some excellent Stick Man crafts

stick man book

Take part in a Stick Man event around the country

Until the end of January 2014 the following parks are holding special Stick Man trails for everyone to take part in. Click over to the Forestry Commission for activity sheets to print off and more details

When taking part in the Stick Man trails, children will walk through the forest looking for clues to help them find a variety of forest activities. At each trail location, a panel will tell the children what their next activity will be. Such as –

  • Building a den
  • Exploring tree patterns
  • Spotting beautiful budding trees
  • Listening to the sounds of the forest
  • Building a stick tower
  • Creating a Stick Man
  • Trying to name everyday objects that are made from trees
  • Drawing a picture of the forest
  • Thinking of other uses for sticks
  • Writing a story about a family day out

Parks taking part are

Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, Kent

Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire

High Lodge, Thetford Forest, Suffolk

Haldon Forest Park, Devon

The National Arboretum at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire

Wyre Forest, Worcestershire

Delamere Forest Park, Cheshire

Sherwood Pines Forest Park, Nottinghamshire

Birches Valley, Cannock, Staffordshire

Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire

Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria

Grizedale Forest, Lake District

Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, Dorset

stick man pages

Fairy Tale themed attractions

If you are lovers of fairly tales then the information below may be of interest, lots of ideas to spark young imagination.

Dalby Forest, Yorkshire

Enchanted Wood – The Enchanted Wood is a magical adventure play area with a fort, storytelling seats and carved insects hiding in the trees. 

Grizedale Forest, Cumbria

Clockwork Trees – Wind the magical keys in the forest and turn reality into a musical story. 

Hideouts – Hide out in two miniature houses on the Ridding Wood Trail. It is said the forest monsters live in one house and the witch from Hansel and Gretel in the other! Can you spy them there? Sculptures by Paul Dodgson and children from Sandgate and Sandside Schools.

Grizedale Tran – The dark, still waters of Grizedale Tarn, could be home to the Frog Prince or maybe you’ll find him at one of the others dotted across the forest like Juniper Tarn or the secretive Goosey Foot! 

Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria

Fairy Kingdom – Explore the Fairy Kingdom on the Wild Play Trail. Discover the troll bridge, wooden toadstools, the great wizard, magical fairy doors, a secret path and hidden carvings!

Kielder Forest and Water Park, Northumberland

‘Robin’s Hut and Freya’s Hut’ shelters on Lakeside Way – These two huts are linked by the story of Freya and Robin, a tale of the two characters who live at opposite sides of the lake.

Silvis Capitus – Go inside the giant Forest Head that watches and listens to the nuances of the forest.

Chopwell Wood, Durham

Sculptures – Venture along the easy access trail in Chopwell Wood in search of 10 carved wooden sculptures. Look out for the Woodland Spirit, forest Guardians, giant hands and more.

Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire

Mushroom Village – Explore the giant mushrooms, move the sand around in buckets, build sandcastles and play on the slide.

Robin Hood’s Hideout – Journey deeper into the forest and discover Robin Hood’s hideout. Test your nerve and your climbing and balancing skills on this huge climbing frame complete with tree houses.

Fineshade Woods, Northants

Magical Play – Explore the magical oak leaf play area and hide in the witches hut. Then venture deeper into the woods to rule your kingdom from above.

Alice Holt, Surrey

Magical Play Area – Explore the giant’s play area and sit in the giant’s chair to tell a tale, or have fun hopping along the wooden mushrooms and climbing the giant owl and look-out tower.

Alice Holt’s Ditches and Hollows – Look out for ditches, hollows and logs, all of which could be home to tiny fairies, pixies, goblins and all kinds of magical creatures.

The National Arboretum at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire

The Dark Dell – Find the Dark Dell a little off beaten track in the old arboretum at Westonbirt. Step through the wooden door frame to discover a little clearing of Yew trees. Explore this enchanting little woodland and make up your own tale.

Savernake Forest, Wiltshire

Fairies Hot Spots – Veteran oak trees with their nooks and crannies are perfect hiding spots for fairies and pixies, and Savernake Forest is filled with them! Can you see faces, eyes or gnarled noses in their trunks?

Rendlesham, Suffolk

UFO Trail – Hunt for extraterrestrial beings on the UFO trail, explore the tree glade, or spin a magical tale in the play area. Use your imagination to spot water sprites by the pond.

Thames Chase, Essex

Mystical Sculptures and enchanting meadows – Take a trip to this lovely community woodland to discover mystical sculptures and create an enchanting fairy dance in the beautiful wildflower meadow.

Bellever Forest, Devon

Fairy Tale Feature Fun – Explore Bellever Forest with fairy tales and magic in mind. Have a feast fit for a king on Bellever Tor, discover ancient burial cairns or look for signs of mystical creatures in the East Dart River.

Great Wood, Somerset

Great Wood Tree Glades – Use your imagination to turn pretty tree glades into fairy hideouts! Can you find a spot to build a fairy den? Collects twigs and moss to make the perfect water-tight shelter.

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