My magnificent jelly bean tree

If I had a Jelly Bean tree, I would care for it while it was small. 

Do you wish that jelly beans grew on trees? 

I’m sure we have all had the dream as a child that if we planted a single jelly bean and cared for it that it would, with a bit of magic, grow into our own little tree full of sugary delights!

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Tantalising all of the senses, this book makes every young person’s dream a reality. Maura Finn’s rhyming texts outlines the reasons why freshly grown jelly beans are so much better than the store bought ones and how within the jelly bean tree there are so many other delights that perhaps you never imagined!

Aura Parker’s illustrations bring out the sugary smell of the jelly bean tree and leave the reader wanting to rush out and plant their own tree once the book is finished!

We did….

Not only does this picture book takes us off to a magical land, it also teaches the reader how to care for a plant and enjoy the fruits it bears. My magnificent Jelly Bean tree is a delight to read to inspire imagination and some gardening!

So what can you do at home? 

Nature

 – Grow your own beans or sunflowers. These are easy seeds to grow and monitor even when you don’t have a veggie patch. Keep a seed diary and draw a daily picture of what is happening to the plant.

 – You’re the head of the CSIRO in 2050 and the world is running out of food. Invent your own type of plant that could feed a family for a week and fit into a small sized garden.

 – Investigate seeds, what they look like at different stages and in different species of plants.  Life cycles of seeds can also be looked at here.

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle.

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle, illustrated by Maggie Prewett is a fascinating story about life in the desert for three children and the trouble with the red dust that blows in and over everything in it’s path!


This group of desert children invite their school teacher, Mrs White, home for dinner to show her why they always bring in grubby homework. BUT – little do they know what mother nature has in store for them all!

They live in a higgledy-piggledy house with a higgledy -piggledy garden but they play outside, tell stories in the sand, have vivid imaginations and love learning.

Maggie Prewett’s illustrations highlight the spareness of the desert and dominance of the red sand after a sand storm! It reminded me of the many times I have spent in the desert and the fact that even months after returning home, I still found that red dust in pockets of clothes and gaps in the car seals!

I loved reading this story to my children and to classes at my school during library lessons as I was able to tell them about the desert and the amazing landscape we have in Australia. We were able to discuss how theses people live near waterways and if they don’t – water needs to be trucked in – a very foreign concept to city based children.

When we read books to children we open their minds to how other children live and therefore increase empathy and awareness of the world around them.

So what can you do with this story at home or in the classroom?

  • Look at a map of Australia and see where remote communities live. How do these people live in these areas?
  • How do children go to school when they live remotely? Explore School of the Air and Central schools. Compare how you go to school to how they do. Look at this school in Broken Hill 
  • How did the children in this story pass on stories and learn? Have you ever told a story without writing it down? Try and tell a story or two using only spoken word and perhaps a drawing or two as you talk.
  • How did they use their imagination when they heard unusual sounds? Close your eyes and listen to the outside world – imagine what those different sounds could be.
  • Explore personification throughout this story. How does making the objects alive add to the story? Create your own personification sentences.

Looking further:

 

 

A child of Books by Oliver Jeffers

A child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam winston really brings home the importance of books in our lives.

A child of books is a book I have been searching for. ⠀

‘For imagination is free’

The idea of imagination is key to this picture book and is portrayed so beautifully through illustrations, excerpts from other stories and a rich tale. ⠀

A young girl sails on a sea of words to invite others to a place where they can search for make-believe, discover treasures, lose themselves in forests and sleep in clouds of song. ⠀

Books are such an essential part of our lives. They enrich how we see the world and open our minds to so many possibilities. ⠀

I adore fiction stories and especially those that send a message of hope, imagination, joy and empowerment.

So what can you do as you read, while you read and after you read A Child of Books?

  • Take the time to read through this story by yourself and with a child. There are so many details within each picture and word that you can spend quite a bit of time on each page.
  • Search for hidden sentences and author names within the pictures and find out more about the whole story that has been written.
  • Create your own page of the book with favourite passages from poems and stories.
  • Explore the artwork of Sam Winston and recreate an artwork like his.
  • Have a discussion on what life might look like    – without books?  – Without stories?  – without poetry?
  • For Older readers – Has there ever been a time in history when books have been banned? How did that world look like?

BUY HERE
A Child of Books

Bee and Me by Alison Jay

 ~ A story about friendship ~

Have you ever read a book without words? Some people may find this difficult as it opens up many possibilities, different interpretations and imagination. But it is something we need to introduce ourselves and our children to – as just because the words are not on the page does not mean they are not there.

I have always loved books without words as you can decide what happens on each page and look more closely at the illustrations which can tell us so much more.


Bee and Me  by Alison Jay is set in a bustling city of cars, trucks, people, shops and high rise buildings but no flowers.

A little girl is frightened by a bee who lands on her windowsill but luckily rather than swat it with the fly swatter she looks after the exhausted insect and sends it on it’s way.

The bee returns in need of more care and the two form a beautiful friendship.

The double page of play between the girl and the bee is wonderful to sit and stare at with your child. Talk about what they are doing together and the emotions they are feeling as they spend wonderful moments together.

The bee soon realises that although he has the girl – he longs for flowers. So together they embark on a magical journey to find flowers, seeds and more green to the dull city.

Bee and Me warmed my heart – the friendship between the two is infectious and the message about the importance of bees is also taught – which is vital as so many cities are lacking bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects due to lack of flowers, plants and green!

So what can you do at home or at school with this book?

Sustainability

  • Have a look around your home and see what would entice any type of insect to your area? all insects are beneficial and attracting them to something they can live off or eat is important. It’s better they live off the plants than things in your house!
  • PROJECT: How can we provide the best home for attracting bees? Investigate what the bees (local to your area) need. Draw up a plan of what the hive would look like, where it should be placed, what conditions it needs to attract bees and to survive. (This project includes outcome links to mathematics, literacy, science and geography)
  • Alison Jay has left a parting note at the back of her book about the beneficial flowers you can plant in your garden. Herbs are an easy plant to start with as they can be grown in small planter boxes on windowsills – give rosemary, thyme or mint a go.
  • It is important that you find out about the beneficial flowers that help bees in your area too. Australian stingless bees love:

 

Abelia x grandiflora Abelia
Buddleja * Butterfly Bush
Callistemon  Bottlebrush
Eucalyptus  Gum Blossom
Grevillea Spider Flower
Lavandula Lavender
Leptospermum Tea Tree
Melaleuca Honey Myrtle
Westringia Rosemary
Many Varieties Daisies

 

Literacy

  • Visual Literacy – Books without pictures open a myriad of possibilities. One activity to try is to tell the story from the bee’s perspective and then the girls. Compare the two stories – compare the emotions, the goals and the thoughts of the two characters.
  • Find some more books that have bees in them – you’ll bee surprised! Do these stories all have a similar message to tell?
  • Compare scientific literature to children books that are on the topic of bees. Why do we need both types of literature out there to understand the need for bees in our world? Create your own bee themed picture book based on some scientific literature.
  • Create your own story about your adventure with a bee. Which flowers would you like to visit? Divide a page into four sections and draw a series of pictures that show what you would like to do with a bee to make sure there are enough flowers, fruits and vegetables in the world.

SCIENCE

How is honey used in our lives apart from to eat? Investigate the different properties of honey and how it is used in a myriad of products!

GEOGRAPHY

Where are bees located? What type of environment do they need to thrive? Create a honey bee and a stingless bee map of Australia.

NUMERACY

Why are honey bee hives made out of hexagonal shapes?

Why do stingless bee hives spiral shaped?

Investigate the different shapes of bee hives across the globe and why they are this shape. Could they be another shape? Investigate if there is a better way to keep honey in a hive.

Colours of Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft.

Bronwyn Bancroft’s poetry brings the vibrant colours to life as we sail through shadows,ferns, clouds and raindrops.

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Each page brings another part of Australia to life with shades, hues and patterns.

As you read Colours of Australia, a calmness sweeps over the readers, immersing them in the Australian landscape.

We loved reading this story, looking at the different shades of colour and wondering about the beauty of Australia.

This is an excellent resource for anyone who wishes to link picture books to nature through Indigenous art techniques.

So how does this link to sustainability?

PLAY OUTSIDE!!

This book encourages us to go outside – everyone! There is so much research pointing us in the direction of outside play. We need to get more in touch with the land, the plants and the animals that are part of our world. Nature is important in so many different ways. See my blog post on nature play.

CREATE

Compare pictures of some wonderful Australian locations and create them in your own way using colours and shades like Bronwyn Bancroft has.

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Go to your local paint shop and grab some paint cards. You can find so many different shades of every colour and this can help children to discern between the different shades and how they wish to use them.

Look a local river, a river in the daintree, a river in a farming area and a river in flood through the desert. Notice the different colours of the river at different times and different locations.

Learn about Bronwyn Bancroft and her amazing artworks.

 

LITERACY

This book contains fantastic vocabulary to start drawing on the importance of synonyms in creative writing. Create your own synonym wall for each drawing in this book.

Touch and feel words – which words in this story make us ‘feel’ the word? Discuss and find more of these.

How do colours make you feel? What if you had synaesthesia. How would this effect how you ‘see’ colours?

 

Happy reading!

Mechanica: A beginner’s field Guide by Lance Baldachin.

How would our planet look if insects did not exist?

Can butterflies be beautiful and brutal?  

Are drones a necessary evil? 

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Mechanica: A beginner’s field guide by Lance Baldachin is a picture book for those who love the earth but wonder what is to become of it if we keep treating it the way we do.

It is circa 2250 and the earth is devoid of any natural life due to human destruction and consumption. However, mechanical creatures have been made to replace what was lost – though these are not always as kind as they look!

This very impressive picture book with detailed diagrams of futuristic insects, small animals and birds captured my attention immediately.

Children will love reading the details about each creature and looking at the intricate designs Lance has included.

There is a glimmer of hope in the Addendum – perhaps nature will always fight us and our consuming ways.

How can you use this book at home or in the classroom?

Science

  • With every animal in the story try to compare and contrast it to a real animal in your own country (if possible) (Links in to higher order thinking skills)
  • Choose any insect in our world and explore how that insect helps us to grow food, keep soil healthy or rid waste.
  • Create your own Mechanica creature. Give it a new name. Outline the details similar to Lance Baldachin descriptions.
  • Create the life cycle for these Mechanica. How is their life cycle altered when they turn bad?
  • What are drones? Explore the history of drones and wonder if we really need them….

Geography

  • Using a world map find out where these futuristic creatures live. Ask why they might live in these regions and not others.
  • What sort of Mechanica could live in your home town?

Literacy

  • Write a journal from the perspective of Miss Liberty Crisp. Outline her journey through the Orient, her experiences in Saraswati and her excursion to the National History Museum.
  • Write a persuasive outlining to others the importance of starting to take care of the world we live in. Present this in a TV advert – make it catchy, straight to the point yet entertaining.

Art

  • Create your own mechanics using recycled materials. Find old nails, bolts, cutlery etc. Not only are you creating something from waste but you are also alerting children on how much waste we do create!

 

Welcome to future Earth.
Despite repeated warnings, the environment has become polluted to such an extent that many areas of the globe have become uninhabitable, and wildlife is now extinct.
From the ashes, a new style of ‘wildlife’ is created. Wildlife that will not remain harnessed by humankind.

Welcome to the world of Mechanica.

Back Cover: Mechanica – Lance Balchin

Why should you read picture books?

Why read picture books #1

Your child will be exposed to rich vocabulary which in turn will help their reading ability. Picture book writers use a variety of language such as alliteration, rhyme, metaphors and similes. Early exposure to this eclectic mix of language devices will equip your child for their own language development.
Even wordless books provide children with vocabulary as they have to think about it and create their own words to match the story.

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Why read picture books #2

Picture books expose children to world issues that may be too complex to grasp.

The aim of my blog and this Facebook page is to enlighten parents, teachers and children about picture books that focus on how we can live more sustainably and equally.

If you take the time to sit down with your child and read a book that addresses a topical issue AND have a short discussion or follow up activity they will start to understand these big issues sooner and on their own level.

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Why read picture books #3?

Every picture book exposes children to different ways to illustrate stories. Children can view painting techniques, ink, water pastels, crayon, pencil, collage and many more! We can view art works that expose us to different perspectives, different viewpoints and different techniques.

In many cases the art of the book is what captures our imagination.

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Why read picture books #4

When we read books by ourselves we connect with the author, illustrator and characters.

When we read out loud we connect with those around us. We listen to the voices they use to tell use the story. We listen to how they read the story and we can share our thoughts as we read.

Reading with our own children brings about a closeness that is different to achieve in any other activity. We can laugh together, be surprised together, wonder about the characters, question interesting things in the images and just have a cuddle!

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Why read picture books #5

Picture books encourage play.

As we look at the illustrations we are playing as we are seeking out hidden pictures, secret codes or minor characters.

We can use ideas we have read about or seen in a picture book to play a future game with.

We can talk to each other about what we have read immediately (as most picture books do not take long to read) and have fun discussing the intricacies of the story. We can talk about how we each saw the book, which characters we loved and who we would like to be.

Picture books offer hours of fun and it doesn’t all have to be sitting down!

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Why read picture books #6

 Visual literacy!
This is a key element in many school literacy programs.
Visual literacy is how visual information adds meaning to text.
Illustrations incite the imagination, they help us to get more meaning from the text and invigorate our creativity.
Deeper and more challenging questions can be asked through knowledge of how to ‘
read’ pictures.
So what are you waiting for?