Friday, 16 March 2018

My Colourful Chameleon - Leonie Roberts – Mike Bryne – Story Sacks

To conclude our ‘My Colourful Chameleon’ features we bring you some Story Sack ideas inspired by the book. Before we begin here is a quick reminder of what is included in a story sack…

  •  A good quality fiction book, (picture book or novel
  • ·A non-fiction book related to the story and themes in the chosen picture book 
  • Toys, (ideally a soft toy for younger children) 
  •  A game or activity also related to the theme of the chosen fiction book 
  • Optional worksheet based on the story and themes off the story sack 

My Colourful Chameleon Story Sack for Younger Readers

So for younger readers we have paired My Colourful Chameleon, with the non-fiction picture and fact book ‘Let’s Learn about Chameleons', as it is simply designed with lots of photographs to assist with learning.

As you have read above toys, and especially soft toys are a must for younger children, so we have included a MyDoll Rag Doll and a TY Chameleon. For the game/ activity element we have included a robust and vibrant ‘The Learning Journey’ reptile themed wooden jigsaw puzzle.

My Colourful Chameleon Story Sack for Older Readers

For older children we have paired My Colourful Chameleon with Chris Mattison’s Lizards of the World, which is a much more advanced factual read, which can be dipped in and out of. 

For toys, I recommend the Schleich ‘Chameleon In Reeds’ figure.

For the GameAbacus Spiele toys, Coloretto a colour matching Chameleon card game if fun, and relates to the themes in the book beautifully. In addition for extra educational element you can always include a DVD of David Attenborough’s Life in Cold Blood.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

My Colourful Chameleon by Leonie Roberts and Mike Byrne - 3D review - Author Interview

Today we are continuing our 3D review of My Colourful Chameleon, with an interview with author Leonie Roberts.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

Ooo this is a tricky one. I can remember enjoying Jill Murphy's "Five Minutes Peace". I think this was my Mum's favourite to read.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

At the moment my favourite is Roald Dahl's "The Twits" because I have recently re-read it and have been reminded of how fabulous it is.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

They are a child's first introduction to books. The unique way that the pictures and words work together can ignite childrens' imaginations and really bring familiar and fantastical worlds to life.

Why did you start writing for children?

Me being a Primary School Teacher probably had a large impact on why I started writing for children instead of adults. Initially I wrote poetry about children for adults but then the ideas for stories for children began to pop into my head. It has definitely helped me to get into the mindset of a child by spending so much time with them. There is never a day working with young children were you don't come home with a funny story about what they have said or done. Children are amazing!

When writing the book, do you think about the illustrations will interact with the text?

Yes, most authors to consider how the illustrations will interact with the text and I could certainly picture what would be going on each page. I didn't give any illustration notes though so Mike Byrne had completely free reign and I am delighted with his interpretation of the text.

Do you love chameleons?

Sadly I haven't met one in real life but it is definitely on my to do list for this year. I think a trip to the zoo is called for!

LeoLeonie Roberts (1984) was born in Plymouth and raised in South Liverpool. Although as a child she did not enjoy reading herself, Leonie has always been mesmerised by listening to wonderful stories. She grew up with the tales of Roald Dahl, The Pongwiffy series by Kaye Umansky and classics such as "Stig of the dump" by Clive King.

Around the age of seventeen, Leonie’s love of reading began and she went on to study English Literature and Language at university. Since then, Leonie has trained as a Primary school teacher and has spent three wonderful years living and teaching in Italy. It was there in 2013 that she began writing for children.

Leonie is now back living in Liverpool with her new writing companion, Chester the dog. She has written a number of picture book stories and can be often found in local libraries sitting on small chairs, making her way through a giant pile of picture books (whilst trying to blend in)

Monday, 12 March 2018

3D Review - My Colourful Chameleon – Leonie Roberts and Mike Byrne – Review – Picture Book

My Colourful Chameleon is a fun bright exciting story about one cleaver little girl and her misunderstood pet.

The trouble is her pet chameleon keeps changing colour and blending in with its setting, causing mayhem ay home, school and in the car. Mum thinks the chameleon is trouble – or poorly, but her daughter is adamant that her pet is cleaver and is changing colour to camouflage its self to keep its self safe.

The story is written In rhyme with a laugh on every page, combined with beautiful illustrations by Mike Byrne, and the plumb in the pudding is (or course) that the little girl is right!

My Colourful Chameleon is further enhanced with educational prompts and craft ideas at the end, it is a lovely introduction for younger children to Chameleon’s ability to change in a fun way!

Come back later this week for more My Colourful Chameleon posts, including author interview and a story sack! 

My Colourful Chameleon - Child Review by Oscar

I LOVED this book. It is so funny, and now i want a chameleon as a pet too!

Thank you for stopping by and reading this review, please pop back later in the week when we post a Author Interview with My Colourful Chameleon's Creator Leonie Roberts, and a post with ideas on how to construct  a story sack inspired by the book!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist – Jess Keating & Marta Àlvarez Miguéns - Review and Story Sack

'Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist’ penned by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Àlvarez Miguéns, is a beautiful, engaging picture book which to add to its charm is a true story.

The vividly illustrated hardback picture book tells the story of The Shark Lady, Eugenie Clark, from her first childhood trip to aquarium, through to her becoming one of the most respected and pioneering shark expects in the world. Through the charming told story, Jess Keating shows the childhood passion, and Engine’s determination to rise above discrimination, and prove to the world that she as a women was both intelligent enough to become a zoologist and brave enough to explore the watery depth of the ocean.

Along with the main story, the book is full with facts about Marnie creatures, like the inside covers which are bursting with Marta’s illustrated species of sharks and the ‘Shark Bites’ which are small factoids dispelling common shark myths, plus a timeline depicting Eugenie’s amazing achievement and discoveries.

Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark, is an inspiring insight into the life of an amazing lady, but is also a message to young children that determination and hard work along with the tenacity to never give up can lead to the realisation of your dreams.

Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist – Story Sacks

Story Sack are fun education tools, which can be used to help children immerse in a book and gain greater understanding of the story. Most Story Sacks are constructed around a fiction picture book, but there are many children who much prefer to read non-fiction, so SOTB thought we’d have a go at constructing a story sack around Shark Lady, The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist.

So just before we begin, I’ll start with as quick refresher of what is included in a story sack..

  • A good quality fiction book, (picture book or novel
  • A non-fiction book related to the story and themes in the chosen picture book.
  • Toys, (ideally a soft toy for younger children).
  • A game or activity also related to the theme of the chosen fiction book.
  • Optional worksheet based on the story and themes off the story sack.

Shark Lady Story Sack for Younger Children

For the Non-Fiction book element we have paired Shark Lady, with Miles Kelly Publishings ‘I Love Sharks; First Facts and Pictures’ which is a beautiful picture book filled with shark facts.

For the younger readers activities, we have a plush Shark Lady, and Shark, plus a Magnetic wooden ocean fishing game.

Shark Lady Story Sack for Older Children

The older childrens storysack utilised the same nin-fiction book, but we’ve swapped out the soft toys, for Schleich Wildlife Shark set with three shark figures, plus a playmobile female diver (it is the only female diver figure I could find, proving socusity still belives it a masuclie pursuit!) For the game element, we choosen the fact filled Top Trumps Shark cards.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Frankenstein at 200 – Review of Making the Monster, The Science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Katheryn Harkup

When we posted our Frankenstein inspired Story Sack features a few weeks ago we promised you a full review of Katheryn Harkup’s ‘Making the Monster, The Science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’, and so here it is!

So firstly, this book does exactly what it says on the cover, and a more bedsides. Making the Monster is a non- fiction adult’s book that explores the sciences that Victor would have used to fashion his creation and history both social and Mary Shelley’s that went into the shaping of the book. Despite being an adult book, the book is accessible (for me a dyslexic who reads predominately children’s books, and who has not studied any science since the mid 1990’s, I both read and understood it without difficulty) so is definitely pitched at a level that older YA readers will be able to read and understand.

Making The Monster looks at the science that was known at the time and how Victor would have applied it to both construct and crucially to bring it to life. With this aim, Katheryn explores the history of science from the ancient times through alchemy to the life and times of Mary (and of course Victor), The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment being at time where great leaps in the understanding and the application of science, medicine and electricity took place, and when science was an everyday entertainment and subject of interest and conversation to the greater public. 

In addition to looking at the ‘nut’s and bolts’ of how the monster could have been made, Katheryn explores the science obsessed society in which Mary was surrounded, and the fascinating, eccentric, brilliant and often morally dubious real life figures that Katheryn poses as the influence of some of the books pivotal characters. The likes of John Hunter the famous surgeon, anatomist and dentist who pioneered may medical advances (many still used today) whose multi-faceted personality has said to have inspire, not only Frankenstein, but Jackal and Hyde, Doctor Doolittle, and Moby Dick.

But it is not just the science that makes the story of Making the Monster so fascinating, but the history, not only of science, and society at a whole, but of Mary herself and her unique, radical, and often uncontroversial upbringing. Kathryn begins the book, by exploring the lives of both Mary’s parents, Mary Wollstonecraft – writer, translator and pro-feminist and William Godwin a writer known for his radical views. Mary’s childhood, was one in which she was exposed to and immersed in the company of many of the great thinkers of the time, as many of her father friends would visit their home, which also doubled as a publishing house for her father and step-mother’s publishing business and bookshop meaning young Mary also had access to a wealth of texts. 

Making the Monster as part of our YA Frankenstein Story Sack

In the early chapters, Katheryn looks at how this unique upbringing helped shape Mary, and nurture her intelligence and creativity, it also looks at many of the family and her future husband’s (Percy Shelley) friends and acquaintances and how they also played strong parts in influencing the novel. Through reading these chapters of Mary own life experiences, Katheryn also explores the auto-biographical elements of Frankenstein, inspired by dreams of the reanimation of her recently deceased child, and of the aspects of both Percy’s personality and life that heavily influenced the character of victor.

Making the Monster, The Science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is a fascinating read, which would appeal to adults and YA readers who are interested in sciences, social histories or literature, as it brings a beautifully penned and accessible in-depth look at all the aspects that had to culminate for Mary to write the book. It is definitely worth investing the time to read this fascinating book.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Frankenstein at 200 – The Monster Re-Envisioned for 2018 –A Review of Shell by Paula Rawsthorne

Continuing our bicentenary celebrations of all things Frankenstein, we bring you a review of Paula Rawsthorne’s YA Frankenstein inspired YA Shell.

Published in early January this year, Shell hit bookshops almost 200 years to the day that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein first editions appeared in print. Frankenstein is an obvious inspiration for Rawsthorne’s Shell, and indeed appears in the book in a literary equivalent of a TV or Movie camo.

Shell, follows the death and life of terminally ill teenager Lucy. The first chapter reads like a ‘sick-lit’ showing Lucy in hospital trying to prepare her optimistic, best friend Mak for the inevitable, until Lucy’s death at the end of the chapter. At this point Sick-Lit is definitely put to bed as Lucy’s body is buried, and Lucy regains consciousness.

Lucy is awake, alive, in pain, and confused, but soon discovers that her wealthy desperate parents have gone to extreme lengths to cheat death. With the assistance of Dr Radnor and his revolutionary, unsanctified, unregulated research, her brain and eyes have been transplanted into another body. The procedure is revolutionary and top secrets, so Lucy’s extra life is a poison chalice as she struggles to accept her new life and the donor’s faces that stares back at her from the mirror.

Lucy’s struggles with her place in the natural world and her questions about who she is are compounded when she returns home under the premise of troubled teen Renee who has been befriended by and staying with her parents. All the people she loves cannot know who she actually is and treat her with suspicion and hostility. Her Gran, best friend Mak and even her horse and beloved dog are terrified of her.

Lucy’s life seems destined to be one of solitude and deceit until she embraces her new Shell and begins to forge friendships with people that would have never given her a second glance in her own body. The harmony of her new life is on a knife edge when a movie of her is posted online and goes viral, igniting the interest of a boy from the other side of the world who is desperately seeking someone dear him. Someone with the same face, who has disappeared.

When Lucy uncovers the dark and deadly secrets about her resurrection, she becomes trapped in an intricate web of lies and deception. With no one to turn to, she is totally at the mercy of her parents and the obsessive Dr Radnor. Can she alone defeat the madness? Or dare she hope for help?

Shell is a page turning thriller, which has identity and friendship at its core. Emotional, exciting and engaging, it explores the notion of self – what makes us who we are, and acceptance as it follows the strained relationship of Mak and Renee to its conclusion.

With Shell Rawsthorne has created a Frankenstein for the twenty first century, carefully preserving the key themes but keeping it appealing for a YA audience. I know from experience that you can have a monster in a YA novel, as long as it’s sexy. Werewolf – Sexy = Good. Dog Headed Human – grotesque = bad. Patchwork corpse monster - grotesque = bad. New body which is a beautiful upgraded from the original – sexy = good. So Rawsthorne’s choice of an appealing Shell for Lucy to take on her adventure was definitely a good one! 

As in the original Shell has looked at current science procedures and how they may advance in the near future. After all in 2018 people having organ transplants is not science fiction, it is science, so the stretch to brain transplant seems feasible, much like Mary’s monster must have seem possible, two centuries ago at the time of scientific, surgical and electrical revolution.

Many of Mary’s themes of acceptance, sense of self and isolation is highlighted as Lucy questions her being, and is shunned by people. It isn’t as extreme as the Monsters experience but again, it is perfectly pitched for its target audience, after all what teenager isn’t concerned with the notion of being unaccepted and ostracised by their peers?

As for the Scientist, the iconic Victor Frankenstein, in Shell Dr Radnor is a charismatic, talented, obsessive genius. He is on the surface a Victor for the twenty first century however he differs from Mary original. Victor Frankenstein is indeed vain, obsessive and misguided, but he is hounded by the turmoil of his moral campus, spending the whole book endeavouring to rectify his actions, but ever tormented by the knowledge that there is no moral right answer, that he cannot save the Monster, humanity and his family. In short Victor is emphatic and as a reader you feel sorry for him as much as you do for his creation. Radnor by comparison has a moral compass that is decisively stuck on amoral. He is dark, manipulative villain with no redeeming qualities. But if like in Shelley’s original the scientist a metaphor for something else – government, ruling classes or even multinational companies - the profiteering and vain Radnor has indeed hit’s the nail on the head.

With Shell Paula Rawsthorne has brought Frankenstein up to date for a modern audience whilst being sympathetic to the source material, whilst also referencing other–re-envisioning’s with shades of Masamune Shirow's ‘Ghost in a Shell’ and Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. Shell is a brilliant read as a standalone book, but also a great text to use as an introduction to the original or to be read alongside Shelley’s original. I believe it would also go well as an addition to a YA Frankenstein Story Sack.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at 200 – Story Sacks

Continuing our series of posts celebrating the bicentenary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we present some ideas on constructing story sacks based around the book.

So just before we begin, I’ll start with as quick refresher of what is included in a story sack..

  • A good quality fiction book, (picture book or novel)
  • A non-fiction book related to the story and themes in the chosen picture book.
  • Toys, (ideally a soft toy for younger children).
  • A game or activity also related to the theme of the chosen fiction book.
  • Optional worksheet based on the story and themes off the story sack.

So, we at SOTB have prepared some story sack for different ages younger readers, MG and YA, so we shall commence with younger readers.

Frankenstein Story Sack for Younger Readers

To start with we have an age appropriate version of the book the Usborne Young Readers version, and for non-fiction, we recommend this soon to be published much anticipated title, the non-fiction picture book Fanatically Great Woman who Made History by Kate Pankhurst which has a section about Mary Shelley. For toys we have swiped up reduced Halloween goods, with a soft toy Monster, clockwork monster and bouncing rubber balls eyes, plus a mask for role play. We’ve also slipped some edible brains.

Frankenstein Story Sack for Middle Grade Readers

For the Middle Grade readers, we have stuck with much of the same elements but swapping out the non-fiction for The Phoenix Comic Book: Corpse Talk Series One by Adam Murphy, who have a comic book strip on Shelley. We’ve also added a copy of one of our favourite MG Frankenstein inspired novels, Mo O’Hara’s My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.

Frankenstein Story Sack for Young Adult Reader

So, YA readers are more advanced and mature, so for their story sack, we head with a copy of Mary Shelley’s original text of Frankenstein. For Nonfiction we have two options, a study guide which are readily available in your local bookshop, on line or frequently in charity shops, which gives you a greater understanding of the text if read in combination. 

The alternative non-fiction title is Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup, to be published by Bloomsbury in February. This book promised to explore the science and feasibly of Shelley's creation, which should be interesting and be interesting to any teenagers interested in STEM disciplines. Keep an eye on the blog for upcoming review post of Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup.

For the games entertainment element we thought that YA readers may enjoy watching a movie adaptation, so would recommend for younger Teen’s the DVD of the Universal 1931, James Whale directed Frankenstein with the classic Boris Karloff Monster. For more mature reader of 15 plus we would suggest the DVD of the most true adaptation, the 1994 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein with Kenneth Branagh at the helm and multitasking by taking on the role of Victor with Robert De Niro as the Monster.

Pop back to see our upcoming reviews of Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup and Shell by Paula Rawsthorne!