Rover saves Christmas – Christmas book review

Rover saves Christmas

by Roddy DoyleCover of Rover saves Christmas - a kids' book
Scholastic Press, Southam, 2001

Age group: mid to late primary school

A fun novel for children about Santa, a dog and an adventure!

The story

Rudolph is sick so can’t lead the reindeer and Santa is staying home on Christmas Eve. But along comes Rover the wonder-dog and maybe he can help Santa…

My review

Definitely a book aimed at children – many adults will find it a bit too silly at times (and perhaps a little predictable) while seven year olds think it is hilarious!

This is actually a sequel to The Giggler Treatment (a New York Times best seller) but I haven’t read that and did not find it a problem. Having said that, if you can get both books I think it would be fun and you may as well read them in order! There is also followed by The Meanwhile Adventures (and you can get all three together in The Rover Adventures).

The book is written as a story but has comments directed at the reader – for example, there are interruptions occasionally and a chapter that progressively gets older… inside pages of Rover saves Christmas

As for the actual story, it is fun. Roddy helps Santa out (even if it took a little convincing), Santa learns he is more important to kids than the presents, and they travel the world in a very logical manner (moving north and south along timelines!)

I laughed at how many sandwiches were made for (and eaten by) Santa, and I loved the idea of elves having sleighs around the world to top up Santa’s main sleigh as he travelled. I might have to ask Santa if that is how he really manages to get so many gifts to so many children!

To keep adults somewhat entertained, there are also various side references that kids won’t fully understand – like borrowing an owl from some Harry kid or getting a bandana from a “very old singer called Bruce Springsteen”!

When I dream of Christmas – Christmas book review

When I dream of ChristmasBook cover of 'When I dream of Christmas'

by Oakley Graham
illustrated by Patricia Yuste
Hinkler Books, Heatherton, 2012

Age group: preschool primary secondary school

My children chose this book from our local library – and I must say I’m glad I didn’t buy it or have to store it long term.

The story

The book is based on the concept of 27 aspects of Christmas. Each aspect is given a page of text opposite a lovely illustration. 24 or 25, or even 31, would be a more logical number to my thinking but the overall concept is good, I think.

My review

The book it titled ‘when I dream of Christmas’ but the words and idea are only mentioned once in the book – on the last page. Noting else in the book is about dreaming so I find the title misleading and irrelevant.

Of course, the book is focussed on a winter Christmas – right from the first page, children in more than half the world are excluded as ‘sledging’ is not part of our Christmas at all.

However, it is the actual text that I really don’t like. I think it is meant to be funny on a number of pages, but it seemed lame to me and my children didn’t laugh or smile once. Comments like “sledging is fun at any time but best with snow” is a little patronising rather than funny. Likewise, dirty socks making gifts smell like cheese and Christmas lights causing kids to ride into snowmen are just not necessary.

The only page not so silly was the last page when it talks about baby Jesus (of course, for the non-religious that raises other issues!)

On the other hand, Patricia Yuste has done some lovely pictures for the book. She has matched them to the story well and used bright colours and simple characters to make it look delightful.

So, obviously, I don’t recommend buying this book for anyone. My three and five year olds listened to it all and said it was ok – but have not asked for a second reading which says it all I think.

 

Making Christmas masks – reindeer

A close up on the reindeer mask over a faceAs I posted last Friday, I recently made some foam Christmas masks with my daughter – one of Santa’s face and one of a reindeer face.

Neither took particularly long and did not require a lot of my input, but to keep the blog post a reasonable length I separated out the reindeer mask for today.

Whilst my daughter and I made these masks, it is my husband modelling the reindeer mask in the photo here, much to my daughter’s delight 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like the Santa mask, the kit was complete and consisted of a piece of elastic and foam shapes.

Foam pieces from teh reindeer Christmas mask set

It was easy to make – some fine motor skills are needed to align the pieces correctly but otherwise it is not too challenging. And my daughter loved putting on the pink ear pieces!

COllage of images of a child making a foam reindeer mask

My daughter was intrigued when she found that the antlers were a little different to the other pieces of foam – instead of peeling off the back of the foam, the antlers just had small bits of adhesive attached. Obviously, this is so that you don’t end up with a large sticky surface above the mask!

Image fo reindeer antlers with adhesive and then being atatched to the mask

Again, this was a simple, fun activity to do and my six year old did most of it herself. My input was mostly some attention and tying the knots (like for Santa, I poked the elastic through from the front and tied it at the back of the mask).Back cover of the package the foam Christmas mask set was in

Now we just have to keep the masks in a nice condition so they can be word at a Christmas event or two later in the year! Are masks part of your usual Christmas celebrations and traditions?

 

 

 

* I purchased this set and receive no rewards (money or otherwise) for reviewing this kit – I have no contractual or business arrangements with Kmart.

Making Christmas masks

I recently had a short time with my daughter when we had nothing planned so we pulled out a Christmas craft set and enjoyed making some masks.

A packet for making two Christmas masks

The Christmas mask set (from Kmart although the packaging doesn’t show it)

The kit was complete  – most of the decorations were foam stickers so no glue was required and allowed us to make both masks quite quickly.

COntents of the Christmas mask set

We decided to make the Santa mask first – and I’ll do a separate blog post for the reindeer mask.

They are very simple to make – start with the biggest pieces, peel off the backing paper, align it on the mask and stick it down. Depending on the child’s fine motor skills, the aligning part may be challenging and need some assistance – while things not being perfect is fine for kids’ craft, any sticky bits that are not attached will remain sticky and be a magnet for dust and fluff!

Child's hands peeling the bakcing of Santa's hat to make a mask

Child sticking a beard otno a foam santa mask

Adding Santa’s beard took precision to get it straight

The pom pom on Santa’s hat is the hardest part – there are many little bits of foam to remove and then aligning all the lines takes some skill. I would expect adult help is needed with this for most kids under 10.

images of the pompom on Santa's hat

The pompom on Santa’s hat requires fine motor skills to create

Then tie on the elastic and you have a mask to wear straight away – no need to wait for glue to dry! Note to add the elastic, poke it through the holes from the front and tie it behind the beard so when it is word, you can’t see the knots and there is less force on the edges of the holes.

Foam Santa mask over a girl's face

ta da! My daughter proudly wearing her Santa mask

Once the mask is finished, there is a reasonable bit of foam left over – certainly enough to keep my daughter happy with additional stickers to make something else with!

Completeed Santa mask with the left over foam pieces

Do you like our fun Santa mask?

It’s a quick and easy kit to have in the cupboard to pull out when you need some brief entertainment – or if you need a quick costume for a Christmas party!

If you can’t find the kit to buy, you could just buy a sheet of foam to cut out the face and then some adhesive foam to cut out the beard, hat, etc – but you may want to find a pattern for that if your drawing skills are anything like mine!

 

* I purchased this set and receive no rewards (money or otherwise) for reviewing this kit – I have no contractual or business arrangements with Kmart.

Inclusive Lego is on the way :)

Lego presents udner a Christmas tree beside Santa's chair

The stage is set for Santa… {from the Lego City 2015 Advent calendar}

So this isn’t really a Christmas post, but I thought it was something worth sharing anyway!

And who knows, maybe it will have an impact on this year’s Lego Advent Calendars as well…

Lego’s new characters

I haven’t been able to find these on the main Lego site, the Lego Facebook page or at any online toy stores but at a toy fair in Germany, Lego has shown two new Lego characters in their City range. One is a boy in a wheelchair and one is a stay at home Dad (complete with pram and baby bottle!)

So what’s the big deal?

Having toys (as well as books and other media kids interact with) include the variety of human situations is important to my mind. For one thing, if kids can see themselves in their toys, they feel normal and accepted – why should all dolls be white skinned and blonde for example when there is such a range of skin and hair colours amongst us? Just like it’s ok for kids to see a Dad caring for a baby and non-nuclear family types.

And even for those kids who already represented by their toys, seeing other people represented helps those kids accept differences in real people, too. Teaching kids acceptance and tolerance is really important – and a key step towards peace.

Giving the new Lego

As I said above, I can’t find the Lego online so I’m not sure when they will be generally available to purchase – hopefully they will be around in time for Christmas though. According to CNN, they will be released in June and hopefully that includes in Australia.

I also don’t know what the set is like, so it may not appeal to lots of kids (eg a wheelchair bound witness in a cop set will probably sell better than a wheelchair kid washing dishes!) but I hope we do get a number of disabled people turning up in general sets from now on.

I won’t make a big fuss about the wheelchair; rather, I will just give the relevant set to my kids in the way I’d give them any other Lego to make the point it is normal.

 

Easter comes to Victoria – book review

Happy Easter!

I spotted this book in a shop recently and noticed the connection to some of the Christmas books I have read and reviewed, like Santa comes to Australia. It also looked cute so I grabbed it and will add it to my book reviews here.

The Easter Bunny comes to Victoria

Book cover of 'The Easter Bunny comes to Victoria'by Lily Jacobs
illustrated by Robert Dunn
Lake Press, South Melbourne, 2016

Obviously, this is a bit of a trend as when I looked it up, this book doesn’t just cover the states of Australia and other countries (eg Ireland and Wales), it also covers cities such as Bendigo, Canberra, Newcastle) and areas like the Gold Coast.

Age group: preschool to early primary school

The story

Two Victorian children get a new pet bunny who is actually the Easter bunny for Victoria. The bunny travels the state delivering eggs before returning home with baskets of eggs for his new friends.

My review

Not surprisingly, this is a cute little story with some nice cheery pictures. It includes rhymes so will enthrall young children.

Of course, I have to say it’s a pity the story is about a bunny rather than a bilby, especially as the Easter bunny in this book only had to cover Victoria (implying one bunny doesn’t do the whole world). True, bringing a bilby home from the pet shop is quite unlikely, but in fiction all is possible!

The rhymes are carefully done so specifics can be changed in each version of the book – for example, “Melbourne and Portland and Ballarat got treats” is easily changed into cities or suburbs in other places. And things like visiting a ‘tall building top’ can suit anywhere with a different picture – although I can’t see “He smashed a quick Easter six” suiting everywhere outside of Australia!

Having said that, as long as you don’t get books set in multiple places, that flexibility won’t be noticed.

So if you are after a cute little Easter book, this one does tick a lot of boxes and is a nice addition to a seasonable bookshelf.

Shows a page from the book 'The Easter Bunny comes to Victoria'

Dealing with left over Christmas wrapping

I went for a walk yesterday and was surprised to see a roll of Christmas wrapping paper sticking out of a bin.

Christmas wrapping paper in a rubbish bin in February!

Christmas wrapping paper in a rubbish bin in February!

Obviously, being towards the end of February, I was surprised to see something Christmassy in the bin – I would have thought left over Christmas rubbish would be long gone by now!

But I was also surprised at someone throwing out a roll of wrapping paper – it seems like such a waste to me. It could easily be used to wrap presents next Christmas, so why throw it out?

Many people feel obliged to use new wrapping paper (that is, not so many reuse wrapping paper), but this was a new roll someone had put in the rubbish.

I guess if you like having all your gifts wrapped consistently each year, a small amount of one year’s paper may seem less useful for the next year. But there are other ways to use it…

  • give it to a kinder or childcare centre – they can use it as wrapping or just give it to the kids as a craft material
  • keep it as a back up in case you run out next year
  • use it for some surprise Christmas in July gifts!
  • use it in various Christmas crafts – or give it to someone crafty so they can use it
  • donate it to a charity that provides Christmas gifts to the needy – the less paper they buy, the more they have to help people in other ways
  • use it for wrapping pass the parcel items at a party
  • recycle it! Rip it up and put it in the compost, line a bird cage with it or just put it in the recycling bin (to be fair, this picture does show the roll in the recycling bin)

So what do you do with left over rolls of wrapping paper after Christmas?

Do you have any other ideas on how to use up old wrapping paper if you don’t keep it for next year’s wrapping?

Aussie Jingle Bells – Christmas book review

Aussie Jingle BellsBook cover of 'Aussie Jingle Bells'

by Colin Buchanan
illustrated by Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, Lindfield, 2006

Age group: primary school

Obviously based on the traditional Christmas song, this book gives the words of Jingle Bells adapted for an Australian Christmas.

The story

A drive through iconic Australia is a fun interpretation of the old Christmas song, Jingle Bells.

My review

This was a fun read for me and my kids, and it is very much an Aussie version.

So instead of a sleigh racing over the snow, we get a rusty holden ute bumping over the sand with thongs, kangaroos, swaggies and an esky in the boot! I can’t help but read the words in the tune and smile as all the Aussie imagery unfolds.

The pictures in the book are gorgeous – simple and very evocative of Australia. I love the little details like a lizard frying an egg on a rock as it is a scorching Christmas Day.

A lot of fun, this book could be read or sung to the very young but it probably takes a mid-primary aged child to fully appreciate it.

Lego Christmas stars

Checking the Love Santa Facebook page, I came across a short video of various Christmas stars made out of Lego. I showed my children the video, too.

So we couldn’t resist making some Lego stars, too 🙂

Advent calendar stars

First, we made some stars from the pieces in the Lego advent calendars (from the things received by day 21 anyway).

Christmas stars made from advent calendars

Stars made from (left to right, top the bottom) City calendar, Friends calendar, City and Friends characters, and City and Friends calendar.

A Christmas tree star

This Lego star was created by Cassie’s nine year old…

A Lego Christmas star on top of a Christmas tree

and this one by Martin’s 10 year old daughter…

and this one was created by Jen’s almost-11-year-old son, Nick…

martin_10_yo_girl

* Cassie, Jen and Martin shared these with us via Facebook

 

 

Christmas lights in Melbourne, 2015

I love walking around on a summer evening looking at Christmas lights!

This year, we walked around our local area with a group of friends which was a lot of fun. The biggest hassle is juggling going out when it’s dark enough to appreciate the lights with getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour (given how tired they were for the end of school year anyway).

Anyway, I didn’t get my photos edited in time to share them before Christmas. So here are some of them now…

collage of Christmas lights

 

front yards and fences with CHristmas lights

 

 

Lego Advent calendar roundup

So we are about to end the year so this seems like a good time to wrap up the Lego advent calendar review we run across all of December.

Overall, we had fun with both advent calendars and know that we now have more quality Lego in the house (rather than cheap chocolate in tummies or other tokens to deal with).

2015 Lego advent calendars in full

Calendar content

I wrote about the content of the calendars each day, and quite a variety of items were received. You can see images of each day’s calendar in the following reviews:

Lego Santa beside two Christmas treesMy five year old says her favourite items were Santa’s head (city) and “from Friends, the rabbit and Christmas tree the same much”.

Her seven year old brother’s favourites were Santa and the catapult.

I may be biased but I also loved Santa, especially on his chair beside a Christmas tree.

Overall thoughts

“Great! I liked them because we have to open them up and build for each. And I love chocolate. I like the Christmas tree because it’s like our Christmas tree. I love the Lego calendar because you can mix things up and put them in a different order, “says my five year old. Note she was given a chocolate advent calendar so was also doing that each day, thus the chocolate comment!

My son’s summary was “It’s awesome!!! It was cool to have it as a theme and I like City more than Friends (but I’m not really sure why!)”

So going back to the original questions, I think there is value in these calendars – buying them on special certainly helps as they are not cheap (especially if buying more than one). But given there is real Lego to keep forever, the kids are practising counting and number skills, it is fun, each day involved fine motor skills, and we had a family activity, I think it was worth the money.

I admit I had previously thought of buying Lego in other ways and making my own Lego advent calendar to get greater financial value. That would mean a lot of time and effort on my part, and would not have 24 little self-contained sets so any money saved in the upfront cost would not be worthwhile.

Repeat advent calendars?

The real test of how good the calendars were is whether or not we’d do it again next year…

Personally, I think we will do them again next year (unless the kids completely lose interest in Lego between now and then which is extremely unlikely!)

Mr seven replied with “I would like another one next year, but would be even happier if it was a ninjago calendar!”

Miss five answered “I want to do it again, too, but I’d like it to be a Frozen baby theme calendar.”

What do you think – would you have a Lego advent calendar next year based on our reviews or your experience of them?

And importantly, if we use advent calendars in 2016, would you enjoy another set of daily reviews? Or maybe just weekly updates…

Santa’s busy night – Christmas book review

Santa’s busy night

Cover of 'Santa's Busy Night' picture bookThe Five Mile Press, Scoresby, 2015

Age group: preschool

The story

Santa prepares at home then heads out to deliver gifts before celebrating with reindeer at home.

My reviewSample illustration from 'Santa's Busy Night'

I like this board book. While it obviously needs to be simple for young children, it covers a lot of ideas through the text and images.

For instance, it includes colours, numbers and shapes within the story and introduces the idea of Santa being tired out by all he does on Christmas Eve.

The sleigh on the front cover in inset and texture for young children to enjoy feeling – it makes the sleigh shiny, interesting and special.Sample illustration from 'Santa's Busy Night'

I like the happy images of the reindeer, and I like the humour of Santa giving the dog and cat the wrong gifts. On the other hand, I’m not so sure it’s a good thing to give kids the idea that Santa may confuse gifts…

It is a happy story and sure to be enjoyed by any youngster, just as it was by my three year old nephew on Christmas Day!

 

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