Days Out · Non-Fiction

Review: 2020 Nature Month-By-Month by Anna Wilson and Elly Jahnz.

Review: 2020 Nature Month-By-Month by Anna Wilson and Elly Jahnz.

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The earliest Almanacs, according to the introduction to this one, were created over 3000 years ago. They were created by Ancient Egyptians, who listed dates that were thought to be lucky and unlucky. They were also used to help farmers know when to plant seeds and harvest crops. 

2020 Nature Month-By-Month takes inspiration from earlier almanacs but is catered to the modern-day and especially to children. It lists special days – from religious festivals to bank holidays – but it also suggests different activities to help its readers connect with the outdoors at different times of the year. 

The National Trust preserves some of the most special places in the UK, from coastline to land, to historic parks and gardens. According to its website, it believes that everybody has the right to escape to the outdoors. This comes across in this book, which goes to great efforts to suggest activities suitable to people in different areas and situations. We live in a society where fewer people than ever have outdoor spaces of their own and where cities are increasingly crowded and difficult to escape at a weekend. However, if we look around, we can find outdoors to interact with, even if it is the clouds above us and the puddles beneath our feet, and we can engage in activities that make us friends of the outdoors. 

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As the title suggests, the pages are divided up by the month. Each month begins with a list of dates and anniversaries and then is separated into short sections about festivals, walks, birds, nightlife and craft among others. These sections are a page or two long but they are beautifully detailed. Although this is aimed at children lots of information would be of interest to a wide age range, making it perfect for families to share. 

The pages are beautifully illustrated with pictures of plants and animals and people enjoying outdoor spaces. Almanacs are one of the places to traditionally link illustration with nature and it is encouraging to see this continue. The art so clearly comes from observation and it makes the reader want to get outside and do some looking around of their own. 

Not only is this full of wonderful ideas, beautiful illustrations and fascinating facts, but it is a handy size perfect for slipping into a pocket or a rucksack. Get your walking boots or wellies on and prepare for a year of outdoor adventure fun. 

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow in association with The National Trust for my copy of 2020 Nature Month-By-Month. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction

Review: Out And About – Night Explorer.

Review: Out And About – Night Explorer.

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There’s plenty of fun to be had when the sun’s gone down. Outside our windows, when the night sky is shining, a whole host of animals and plants are raising their heads. Grab a torch, a grown-up, and a jacket and explore the nighttime with this handy, pocket-sized book. 

With ideas about ways to have fun out in the garden and further beyond, this is a wonderful guide which encourages safety, respect for nature and a bucket load of curiosity. 

From traditional skills like identifying animal tracks and following scent trails, to instant fun like glow in the dark paint, there is bound to be a suitable suggestion for every occasion. 

As regular readers know, I am all for books which put us back in touch with nature. Over recent generations, we have lost touch with the natural world to the extent that knowledge is being forgotten and empathy for other species is at a low. My Granddad, for example, recognised bird songs by ear, a skill which few people today have. The great news is that between the young people who are fighting for our planet, and the wave of books which has come in the past year, there has never been a better time to discover the wildlife on our doorstep. 

This would be a lovely book to slip into a satchel, and it would also make a great stocking-filler for anyone who is getting ahead on the Christmas planning. A guide book, a torch and a compass and you’re all set to go (even if it isn’t beyond the front gate). 

The design is neat and attractive. The illustrations manage to be cute while not being sentimental, and examples are clear enough for the reader to follow. I love the rounded corners and elastic band, which make this feel like a journal or an adventurer’s log-book. 

With a focus on nighttime wildlife, this offers something different to other nature books I have seen, and it is clearly designed to encourage young people to get outdoors. 

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow Ltd for my gifted copy of Out And About – Night Explorer. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Sunflower Shoots And Muddy Boots by Katherine Halligan and Grace Easton

Review: Sunflower Shoots And Muddy Boots by Katherine Halligan and Grace Easton

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Do you love to dig in the dirt and get messy? Then you’re a gardener. 

This guide covers every kind of outdoor space, from hanging baskets and things grown in pots to spotting insects in the great wide spaces. It has something for everyone, from decorating plant pots for the craft lovers to digging right in and planting huge trees. It is presented in beautiful spreads which cover different topics in a visual and exciting way.

With such handy guides to tree types, sowing meadows and making compost, this guide could be read by a wide range of ages from four upwards. Everything from the small size of the book to the ring-bound pages makes it friendly to the littlest of hands, and the attractive and colourful illustrations make it a joy to browse. 

With green space increasingly harder to find, especially for younger families who may be renting a flat, in a tower block or in a house with a tiny patio, it is important that books about gardening for the current generation make clear that there is a space for everyone, otherwise we risk children thinking that it is a middle-class hobby. Sunflower Shoots And Muddy Boots does this exceptionally well, with a spread on ways to grow plants in tiny spaces and a large number of spreads which focus on things which can be done in any outdoor space (such as insect hunting, making shelters and having fun with mud). It never makes an assumption that readers are playing in their own garden. 

Activity instructions, word banks, and spotting guides come together to make gardening fun and accessible. Two muddy-thumbs up and a gold star. 

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow Books for my gifted copy of Sunflower Shoots And Muddy Boots. Opinions my own.

 

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Peek And Seek by Charlotte Milner and Violet Peto

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Review: Peek And Seek by Charlotte Milner and Violet Peto

A flock of birds. A troop of monkeys. Peek under each flap to discover different animals, learn fun facts about their species and uncover a great big hide and seek game. With five different flaps and ten things to find in each spread, this book will keep young explorers happy for hours. 

I adore this book because it is a fact-file which is accessible to very young readers. Before we read paragraphs and sentences, before we even recognise letters, we have positive experiences with books. Hide-and-seek games are a wonderful way to share time with children. They are also brilliant for keeping kids entertained and they encourage children to be observant. Trusting that information is on the page, even if we can’t initially see it, is an important step to analytical-thinking. 

peekandseek2The short facts on each spread will encourage reading skills and help children to take an interest in wildlife. With more people than ever out of touch with nature, it is important that we use books and media to pass on our knowledge and vocabulary of the natural landscape. 

Peek And Seek is bold and colourful, with appealing illustrations. Each spread takes us straight into the landscape of the different species, from the snowy mountains where the wolves hunt to the burrows and tunnels beneath tree-roots where rabbits hide their food. There is lots to be learned from the illustrations alone: which other species can be found in a habit, what sort of home the animals keep and whereabouts in the world they might be found. The illustrations promote huge amounts of conversation which will teach children about the natural world. 

An attractive and engaging book which demands to be shared and enjoyed together. 

 

Many thanks to Antonia Wilkinson and Dorling Kindersley Limited for my copy of Peek And Seek. Opinions my own.

Chat · Reflection

Four Things I’ve Learned This September

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Fresh fruit and nature – September 2018

August ranks as the third most disappointing month of the year after February and January respectively. Which used to seem strange, given how much I love September. Then I figured it out.

September is supposed to be autumnal.

Nobody expects sunshine and beaches and ice-lollies. If I have to get a raincoat out in September, I’ll go with the flow. In August, that’s a disappointing summer. These days I’ve learned to embrace the cycle of nature a little more but I still notice the darkness creeping in every August.

My month has been about editing. Editing a 42,000 word (give or take) manuscript. It’s a strange old time – a triumph because I am putting in so much hard work and learning heaps about chapter and scene. In reality, many authors write three or four manuscripts before they are published (I’ve heard everything between 2 and 9). This perspective is important – too many people think novel-writing is a one-shot game – but it is also daunting. I will have to face the blank page many times over if I want to make this a reality.

What have you been up to this month? Is August your favourite time of year? Chat to me in the comments below and I promise to reply. Here are some of the things I’ve learned this August.

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Old proofs are THERE to cut up

One of the highlights of book-blogging is getting to read books ahead of publication. Sometimes this happens in the form of a digital file. Sometimes a finished copy is sent weeks ahead of publication. Sometimes bloggers are set proof-copies.

A proof is essentially an unfinished copy of the text. That’s not to say the story isn’t finished, but details are allowed to change between the proof and the final version. Selling proof copies is blogger-sin No1 (Don’t. Just don’t.)

What do you do with a proof copy you don’t want to keep? Throwing away or burning them goes against everything I have ever been taught about respecting people’s hard work.

This month I found a solution – use them for craft.

Hang on a second – I won’t burn them but I’ll cut them up?

Craft is about creation over destruction. I think this act of creation means I’m treating the used proof with respect. The publishers don’t want those texts in circulation so using them for craft seems like a great answer. I’m partway through a Christmas decoration and can’t wait to share pictures online.

 

Collaborations = creativity.

This month I wrote a post in collaboration with the wonderful HelloBexa.

As much as I love my blog, there are times when I worry it gets a bit same-old. Those are the times to reach out to other people.  When I suggested the collaboration, I wanted something which would suit both our blogs. By looking at Bexa’s niches, I brought something new to my blog.

The Scrapbook Memory Jar may be one of my favourite blog posts this year. I would love to collaborate with other bloggers, especially bloggers outside the bookish-sphere.

 

Heritage open days are my new hobby

Late in August, I was asked by a member of my poetry group to help with the heritage open day at the local church. I was happy to help … but little did I know how much I would LOVE it.

Seriously. Next year I am signing up for every single slot.

What’s so great about leading people up and down a church tower?

Firstly, I met people from all over. A group of cyclists from Amsterdam on their way to the Irish Sea. People from the local area who I’ve never met before. People from other parts of the country with interesting jobs and life-experience. As an aspiring author, the best thing I can do is get out and *listen*. Heritage open day offered people to listen to in abundance.

Secondly, I learned so much history. Our guides were incredibly knowledgeable about the local area as well as the church and one of our visitors talked about local sites of interest from different time-periods.

Dare you to sign up for something different. Netflix is fun but talking to people is better.

 

Fruit tastes better when it is fresh from the trees

I learn this every autumn and relearn it with every mouthful. There’s no denying it. Food is supposed to be fresh.

We picked apples and plums from the trees on the village green and were sent apples and pears by different neighbours. Now everybody has taken their first crop there are buckets of apples all around the village looking for good homes.

As well as eating some fresh, we freeze lots of apples to keep a stock for apple-pie.

 

What have you learned this September? Do you love autumn? Let me know in the comments below.