Category Archives: For children

A Visit From St Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring

Not even a mouse.”

Okay, you’ve heard those lines before and probably many, many times. Do you know where they originate from though? Well, I’ll tell you. ‘A Visit From St Nicholas’ was penned by Clement Clarke Moore as a Christmas present for his children.  The poem was first published in 1822 in Troy Sentinel magazine. As Moore did not put his name to it, there has been controversy as to whether it was written by him or not but most people concede that he did write it.

The poem is written in narrative form so that the story structure appeals to adults and children alike. The setting is a family home in North America on Christmas Eve. All the family are sleeping apart from Daddy who is trying to get to sleep. Suddenly he hears a noise. He rushes to the window and sees what all of us would dearly love to view “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer” driven by a jolly old chap.

twas-the-night

After a swoop across the sky, Daddy hears the sound of hooves landing on his roof and then the man himself shoots down the chimney covered in soot. Father Christmas sees Daddy and gives him a cheeky wink. Wow – can you imagine that? He then goes about his work filling the Christmas stockings with goodies. Due to the busy aspect of being Father Christmas, he doesn’t hang around to socialise; he’s off back up the chimney. His parting shot is “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

cat-christmas

It would be magical to see the real man but as this is unlikely to happen, you can still have a bit of magic by sharing this wonderful poem with someone on Christmas Eve. I beseech you – read it out on the Eve and you will feel better about the magic of Christmas. Cats and dogs particularly enjoy a good poem.

May the spirit of Christmas touch you whoever you are and whatever your situation is.

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Want to be snowy with your child? ‘The Snowy Day’ will do it for you

Get Transported

If your small children are desperate for it to snow this Christmas, you could give them great joy by trying to get hold of a copy of ‘The Snowy Day’ by Ezra Jack Keats. It was published in 1962 and children from the age of four onwards will love it.

the-snowy-day

Jacob Ezra Katz was the son of poor Polish- Jewish immigrants who lived in Brooklyn, New York. Jacob suffered from anti-Semitic prejudices and so changed his name to Ezra Jack Keats. His past experiences are reflected in his work as he portrays a sympathy and understanding of what it was like to grow up in a similar community that he lived in.

When Keats wrote ‘The Snowy Day’, it was before multicultural characters and themes had come to children’s literature. In the story, Peter, a young African-American boy wakes up to discover that it has snowed while he has been in bed asleep. When he looks out, as far as he is concerned, the whole world has been covered with snow. He goes outside and enjoys the magical pleasures of a playing in a snow clad world. Watch the animated version of the book – it’s beautiful.

As you can see from the above animation, you get  transported into the world of  childhood as Peter lies down in the snow to make snow angels; experiments with footprints and knocks the clumps of snow off trees. All of these things are what many of us have experienced as children and are exactly what our little tots do when they discover a snowy world.

Keats is one of those super talented folks who not only writes the text but also illustrates the book too. This adds to the overall magic of it because he uses cut-outs, watercolours and collage in enchanting beautiful art. Even though the book was originally published in 1962, it can still be enjoyed today as it has an enduring timeless quality to it.

Even if our own Christmas is not as atmospheric as we would like it, we can always transport ourselves with a book. Happy reading.

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Season’s Greetings – Escape Reality with ‘The Box of Delights’

box-of-delights

If you have children, you can offer them a great time this Christmas by sharing the wonderful book ‘The Box of Delights’ with them. However, you do not need children in your life to enjoy this magical tale. As an adult, I find that it truly transports me. It was written by John Masefield and published in 1935. It is also available on dvd and is magical in that form too. In fact, it is one of those tales which becomes a Christmas tradition and can be brought out every year.

the-box-of-delights-006

The old man is abducted

The story is set around the cathedral town of Condicote and begins when the boy, Kay Harker is coming home for the holidays the week before Christmas. He is entrusted with a magical box by an old man who runs a Punch and Judy show. The old man is then abducted. Kay finds out that the box can make you either shrink or run swiftly. It also shows wonders and allows you to travel into the past.

the-box-of-delights-5

Kay, along with his pals, Maria Jones and her brother, Peter then set about rescuing the old man who is the magician Cole Hawlings. Cole has been kidnapped by scary wolf figures who are minions of the villain, Abner Brown. Brown becomes viler as the plot gathers pace. He eventually kidnaps the entire staff of the cathedral and demands the Box of Delights as ransom. Of course, Kay saves the day.

the-box-of-delights-3-a

Reading this book takes children on an enchanting adventure from the snowy encampment of Roman legions to the appearance of the medieval Arnold of Todi, the inventor of the box. There are humorous squabbles between pirate rats and house mice. The pure magic of the book is not simply the only wonderful aspect of it; there is something much deeper. The box symbolizes the imagination and the message is that we must protect our imaginations from the vile forces of commercialism, violence and stupidity.

box-of-delights-1b

I think that sometimes we have to embrace the magic of an imaginary world in order to escape from the jingle jangle of commercial greed.  If you feel the need to escape from all that just read the book or watch the dvd and away you will go. A word of warning though – don’t forget to return to reality.

Seasons Greetings.  

 

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How To Get Kids Writing Using Frogspawn

No - nothing's coming.

No – nothing’s coming.

Time and time again, I see young kids not wanting to write and teenagers having to write but struggling to get the words down. It’s not just the kids that suffer, staff in schools and colleges have trouble too as they try to get children to produce pieces of writing. This is because of the way the curriculum has gone, it’s all to do with ticking boxes instead of making writing the enjoyable pastime that it is. It is important then to give kids the desire to write while they are young.

If, at this point, you imagine that I’m going to suggest sitting down at a table and getting a workbook out, you can think again. Get some notebooks, pencils and a camera or phone that has a built in camera and get yourself outside.  You’ve heard of a bear hunt – well you are going on a frogspawn hunt.

Gotcha.

Gotcha.

Quick note – it depends what time of the year it is and where you are. The best way to decide what you are looking for is to have a quick look for nature sites on the internet and see what your children are likely to be interested in and if you might find them.  As an example, I will use frogspawn.

So how can finding frogspawn get your children writing?

They can take photos or draw sketches of the places that you looked to find the frogspawn. Underneath the visuals they can write where they went that did not produce any samples and where they found some. I visit a pond daily to get photographs.

Look what I found.

Look what I found.

After giving them a safety talk about being near water, you can photograph or sketch the frogspawn that you find. You can then either tell your children about the life cycle of the frog or let them research it themselves. They can put all their evidence in their notebooks alongside what they have actually seen.

The next step is for them to imagine the frogspawn going from tadpole to frog. What is he or she called? Once a name has been decided upon and written in the notebook, your child could think about five things that this frog really likes and five things that their frog hates. All this can go down in the notebook as well as a drawing of the fictional frog. I will be doing more posts about story writing at a later date.

I'm called George.

I’m called George.

All of this can be done out in the fresh air and your children can run about and get exercise while getting their notebook together. It is a good idea to encourage your children to take the notebooks on further outings so that they can keep a record of their adventures.

It is important never to criticise the handwriting, grammar or spelling in your children’s notebooks. The reason for this is that the notebook is there for them to express themselves. Handwriting, spelling and grammar will all fall into place if your children learn to love writing.  This will happen if you make writing a natural part of their pleasurable activities.

This website cannot take responsibility for any suggestions that may be followed. It is up to you to keep your children safe.

 

 

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Filed under Creative Writing, Exciting Excursions, For children, Help Your Child To Be Sucessful, Parenting

Help your child to be a success

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Being is with little kids is a pure blast! I really mean that. I also love watching other folks have experiences with these little folks too. It is soooooooooooo entertaining because I can smell ‘little kid fear’ at a hundred yards. Like a starving wolf getting a sniff of congealed pizza, I sniff it out everywhere. It’s always the eyes of the adult that gives ‘little kid fear’ away.

Let me explain, ‘little kid fear’ is when you take a child somewhere maybe on a train or in a restaurant and you are slightly worried how your little angel is going to act. I use trains and restaurants because they are my favourite place for watching people with little kids.

This is what I see a lot of on trains. People get on with a little kid and I can tell by the things that they say to the child that they think that just being on the train is going to fascinate the said child for the whole journey. After about one minute, the child is no longer excited by this as basically it is just sitting in a chair looking out at fields. We have to see things as they see them.

It’s the same with restaurants, sitting at a chair eating is no different to a little kid from eating at home, it doesn’t matter how tasty the food is, the child doesn’t really care that much when they are waiting for it arrive or they have finished.

I know that to many people this is all common sense but I also understand that to many puzzled folks it is not and that is why I am writing about it. However, there is a simple trick that helps on trains and in restaurants and that is to be armed with some stories.

You may snort and shake your head but most kids love stories. When my son was little I never went anywhere without a book of stories and a pile of cds in the car. It may be a faff to have to sit reading a story while you are waiting for your meal to arrive but at least your child will most likely sit like a model citizen if you have got them hanging on every word.

While you are eating, you can talk about the story. Ask your child if they liked the main character and if not, why not. Ask them if they would like to do what the character did. You get the idea, have a good yak about what happened in the tale. Basically, if little kids are part of a conversation they will respond and enjoy it. This usually means good behaviour.

Meanwhile, if you are short of a place to get some great stories from, you should go to Alfie Dog Fiction where I’m the featured writer at the moment.

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Filed under Children's Books, For children, Help Your Child To Be Sucessful, Parenting

Help Your Child To Be Successful – A Simple Way To Introduce Shakespeare Early

If you live in some parts of the world, Britain, for instance, your child will have to study Shakespeare to get an English GCSE. It is often problematic, so much so that students resitting the course still cannot engage with the Bard. It is taking some students three years or longer to get a C for English and it upsets me. Three years normally gets you a degree. I’m not saying that is just due to Shakespeare because I know that it is not but it is a part of it.

I’ve said this before and I will not stop saying it, it’s because the groundwork needs to be done when they are little. If your eyes are bulging at this point, I don’t mean that you should get a four year old to deconstruct Hamlet, I mean drip feed it in a fun and exciting fashion.

Start off with Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  • Puck is often represented as a child – this will instantly allow recognition.
  • Puck can do magic. Small children often feel powerless in a world where they really don’t have much say. They will want to creatively engage with Puck because they can imagine being able to change things.
  • Puck is mischievous – think  Just William and Horrid Henry.

4 fun ways to introduce your child to Puck, a Shakespearean character:

Through drawing

Do your own version.

Do your own version.

Set up your drawing or art equipment and then show your child the above drawing of Puck by Victorian artist Arthur Rackham. Explain that Puck is a sprite that is in a play for stage called A Midsummer Night’s Dream by a very famous man called William Shakespeare. Don’t forget to mention that he lived about five hundred years ago.

Tell them that Puck is also called Robin Goodfellow and plays naughty tricks in people’s houses and in the woods. Explain that he is also a shapeshifter and transforms himself. Invite your child to draw or paint their own version of him. When they have finished ask them why they have done it like that. How do they view Puck?

Through movement and dance

Make sure that your child is in comfortable clothes and that you have cleared a floor space. Watch this short video of Puck dancing. Ask your child why Puck moves like that in the video – is he trying to send us a secret message without words? Invite your child to copy some of the movements. When you have done that, talk about how they think Puck might move and help them to make up their own dance. You could then film it.

Through drama

Use this quotation from Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act III – scene 1 – lines 100 – 106 (Arden)

Through bog, through bush, through brake, through briar;

Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound,

A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;

And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,

Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn.

 

Talk about it being in a woodland setting so they would have to act out wading through a bog making sure that they did not sink, fighting scratchy bushes etc… Once they have mastered the landscape, they can imagine that they are Puck and they have to transform themselves into different creatures – what would they be like? How would a hog get through a bog for instance? Again, you could film the end product on your phone.

Through making up a story

It’s important to remember that before children can write stories by themselves, they need to be able to create them; doing this regularly will help your child to be successful at English. Ask your child what they would do if they could be Puck for an afternoon. What would they transform themselves into? Would they play cheeky tricks on others or would they help somebody?

Once you find out what they would really love to do, turn it into a simple story.

  • The beginning is when they find out that they can be Puck for an afternoon.
  • The middle would be the one thing which they would do.
  • The end is the outcome of what they do.

When the story has been worked out, if the child is too young to write – do it for them. There is nothing that will give a child the desire to write more than seeing their own words down on the page.

I hope this helps. Remember even four year olds can be introduced to Shakespeare if it is done simply and gently.

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Filed under Education, For children, Help Your Child To Be Sucessful, Inspiration and Us, Parenting

Getting Children Reading – Picture Books – Corduroy by Don Freeman

Picture Book Heaven

If there is one thing in the world that can make the sun shine when it is raining for us at Loony Literature, it is a beautiful picture book. For children up to the age of four, picture books work very well as each page has wonderful illustrations which the child can devour with their eyes while listening to the story.

A truly charming picture book to look out for is ‘Corduroy’ by Don Freeman which was first published in 1968 but children still adore it today. Corduroy is a cute teddy in green dungarees who sits on the shelf of a department store hoping to find a new home. Unfortunately, Corduroy has a dangling shoulder strap because the button has fallen off his dungarees and is lost.

Isn't he cute?

Isn’t he cute?

When a young girl sees him and falls in love with him, Corduroy’s hopes are lifted until her mother says that she has spent enough money and then points out that he has a broken shoulder strap anyway. Corduroy waits until the store closes and then goes in search of a button for his dungarees.

Never Give Up

He makes his way to the furniture department and tries to pull a button off a mattress but knocks a lamp over. The night watchman hears this and when he sees Corduroy he returns him back to his shelf. However, the young girl returns the next day with her own money to buy Corduroy. This is truly a book for little children to learn about determination both on the part of Corduroy as he journeyed for his lost button and the little girl who used her savings to give the little bear a home.

Incidentally, if you are an adult who hasn’t read a picture book for a long time, do try it. The reason for this is that they are uplifting. I find that if I feel a bit grumpy and I spend some time looking at picture books, I emerge in a much better mood.

Happy reading.

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Cheer Yourself Up With A Children’s Book – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Here at Loony Literature, we believe that if you need help smiling, you might consider reading a children’s book. Many grown ups do not realize that throwing adultness to one side and losing themselves in a children’s story is as good as taking medicine. It liberates your soul and makes you feel as if anything is possible. Remember how you felt before you grew up and life got you down?

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

A wonderful one to try is ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ by Ian Fleming. It was actually written as three separate adventures. The first two were originally published in 1964 and the third one came out in 1965. What is really interesting is that Ian Fleming found his inspiration from a car really called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which was built in 1920 by Fleming’s chum, Count Zoborowski.

The main character of the story is the magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Her owners are the Pott family but their name was changed to Potts for the film. The father of the family, Caractacus Pott is an explorer and an inventor who lives with his wife and their twins.

One day, Caractacus invents a new type of candy which has holes in it that makes a whistling noise as it is being sucked. The owner of a sweet factory buys it for lots of money and that is how Caractacus buys Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Delight yourself by reading about this car which has a mind of her own as she flies and turns herself into a hovercraft. You may not get rid of all your worries but you will certainly forget about them for a time.

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Filed under Children's Books, For children, Reading, Self Esteem and Literature

How a Dead Man’s Hand Inspired Me!

How a Dead Man’s Hand Inspired Me!.  Time and time again, my personal life experiences pop up in my writing – this is a short account of one of those times.

Hand of Glory

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Filed under For children, Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow Chapter 1

Six Great Reasons To Do Family History With Kids.

I love family history, I get to be the detective, I couldn’t be in reality.  I have been doing it with my son since he was about nine.  He is now a grown up and does it without me as he is crazy about history and has got a deep interest in particular families he has discovered we are descended from.  This isn’t a post about how to do family history – there are many great books and articles out there to help.  This is a post which explains a few of the reasons why it is good to share it with our children.

My great grandmother, Alice Escritt.

History becomes a reality.  When our children do history at school, it is always other people’s history.  It might be about monarchy, political leaders or wars.  It is nearly always about the folks who are known by many but actually connected to a few.  When anything is covered about the ordinary folks it can seem as bland as my cooking.  Growing up in Lancashire, we covered the cotton industry in history at school.  I remember wishing aliens would come and cause chaos as Mr Hall droned on about the warp and the weft.  Oh how that man knew how to kill any interest in The Industrial Revolution –  that in itself was a talent.  However, much as I would love to indulge myself in remembering Mr Hall’s secret educational weapons, I won’t.  When we look at our ancestor’s lives during these periods, we truly get a sense of reality, especially in periods which cover the censuses.  For instance, finding out that your great grandmother shared one room with ten other people and had to go into the street to get drinking water, really makes us think about the reality and hardships of their lives.  Family history brings history to life for children because it is about folks they are directly connected to, people whom they share DNA with.  It doesn’t get more personal than that.

Family History Mormons

Family History Mormons (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Research skills.  Whilst having lunch with a teacher friend of mine, we decided that one of the most important skills a child can learn is to be able to research well.  Family history is a  productive way of doing this.  Children love to discover something about their ancestors and then grandly announce it to their parents.  When my son discovered that he had a 10X great grandmother called Frances Poo, he adored breaking the news.  Of course, I thought he was joking and had to check it.  He was right, of course.  The point is that family history makes children feel like real live detectives.  The more they find, the deeper they wish to go.  It is amazing how much this aids their research skills whilst having fun.

Francis Poo

England, Marriages, 1538–1973

marriage: 24 Jan 1598 Pocklington, York, England
spouse: William Fallowfyeld

Bonding process.  In this day and age, it is all too easy for families to be in the same house and yet not really be connecting with each other.  A lot of the time, families are all doing their own thing, even watching television programmes is done in separate rooms these days.  This is where family history really helps us bond with our children.  There is something really powerful about the moment your child and yourself discover something fantastic or heart breaking about a shared relative.  It is potent and strange and something which they could not get with friends, neighbours or anyone except the family.  When I first discovered that a great grandfather of mine had spent the last twenty years of his life in a lunatic asylum –I was totally shocked.  I was new to family history and it was the first of many sad or brilliant shocks which were to come.  The only people I could share it with, initially, were my son and my mother – both of whom were from the same ancestor.

Ashton-under-Lyne old hall

Ashton-under-Lyne old hall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Days Out.  Sometimes, it is hard to think of something new to do with our kids or even somewhere different to go.  We often seem to do the same activities and visit the same places.  We’ve had some great days out though visiting the places where our ancestors lived.  It can be good fun to take photos of the children in front of the church where their ancestors got married two hundred years earlier or even just discovering a market town which your ancestors lived in but you haven’t been to before.  I found a fabulous pair of Punch and Judy doorstops for £5 in an antique shop whilst visiting one of the market towns my ancestors once lived. in  Although saying that, it can sometimes backfire.  We visited some record offices in Ashton Under Lyne in Lancashire – that was fine.  We then planned to find an address where some of our ancestors had lived in the early 1800s.  It had turned into a monstrously busy road with huge trucks zooming up and down it. It made me totally stressed so I really do not know what my 4X great grandfather and grandmother would have made of it if they had travelled forward in time.

Meeting Wonderful New Relatives.  We all have an amazing number of ancestors, so logically that means we are related to an amazing number of people whom we have never met.  We were lucky enough to be found by a wonderful Australian lady whose great grandmother was sister to my great grandmother.  When she came to England, she brought her husband and children to meet us and we all had a rare old knees up together.  My son found lovely new cousins whom he bonded with immediately.  It makes family history become real for children when they get to meet the descendants of people who are simply names and numbers on family trees.

Lancashire

Lancashire (Photo credit: Neil T)

Logic and Maths. When children do family history, they have to do lots of mathematical calculations and estimates.  It isn’t the hardest maths in the world but it means lots of practise with basic maths in a productive way instead of filling in one maths worksheet after another.  In the same way, they have to work in a logical manner.  Finding out about our ancestors means working methodically backwards and making sure all the facts fit.  We cannot start in the middle, we have to be systematic and it becomes a habit.  Children who take part in family history projects become adept at careful note-taking and fact checking.  They have to do the maths to make sure that what they have discovered is both logical and correct.

Happy hunting!

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Filed under Education, For children, For Teens, Parenting, The Peculiar Past