The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Let’s Talk About Nine Months of Gym… It is a Journey…

November 24th, 2017 · 12 Comments

Can you believe I have been working out a gym for nine months. It took nine months to lose fifteen kilograms and take nearly fifteen minutes off my Parkrun time, not to mention I have become a slightly new version of me. This is my year for getting things done, and I never expected that that would mean getting myself back to health. When I thought it would be a year of cleaning out closets and painting a few walls, rearranging bedrooms and creating some creative spaces. That might be happening, but the entire focus of this year has really been getting my sleep habits under control and getting to gym every morning.

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I was so excited when I was asked to blog my “getting back into shape” journey for Sport Science… it ticked all my boxes. My blogging goal for the year was to spread my wings and blog a little further afield than my own blog, but bigger than that I was desperate, after 20 years of mothering to get my body back into any sort of shape. I had tried daily walks, and I had tried this and that, but nothing stuck. I really needed help to get moving. After I got over the initial shock of how unfit I actually was and just how far off track I gotten health wise, it was literally a one step at a time kind of a thing. And this is where I have to say I am kind of glad I never set a weight goal. Because on paper, I have heaps of weight to lose and in practice a goal like that would have left me floundering.

It has been hard work, but I think it has been harder work for my gym instructor than for myself… you see I get to do all the fun stuff, while she just gets to stand there and tell our class what to do. I have to say I love gym… even the things I hated at first, I have just kept on trying and I am starting to get it. I have the best dietician who has never said you may or may not eat this or that. I am not on a diet at all… I eat what I eat. But, and this is important, not what I always ate. When I started gym I would reward myself after every workout… I needed the incentive to keep going. Now I have a Saturday treat and I am fine with that. I make much better food choices for myself and slowly but surely… and I am going to say SLOWLY… I am dropping some kilos. My reward now is going to gym… I can’t want to miss a day and the fact that I go in the morning before the kids wake up means that it isn’t affecting anyone else, apart from the fact that I can’t be the last person in bed at night… I have to sleep, so that I can get up timeously.

Workout Clothes that Actually Fit

When I blogged about my gym journey previously I mentioned just how hard it is to find gym gear for plus size moms… I wasn’t kidding, the struggle is real. Would you read that again… impossible. The people that really need to get into shape, struggle the most to find affordable and comfortable gym gear. I not going to pay close to a R1000 for a pair of leggings, especially leggings made for folk in the size 8-12 size range. I have been searching and searching all year and about three weeks ago I found a pair of leggings that fit properly. And I knew it, I was right all along. When your gym clothes fit you can conquer the world, suddenly I can run freely without worrying that my pants are falling down or if my t-shirt is covering all the gaps. It has changed how I run around the track, it has changed how I feel about running anywhere. If you are looking for gym clothes… just keep hunting they are out there… it will make a difference.


I won’t mention my, ahem, upper body. I nursed eight kids for years, and I really need firm control… Well I can’t find anything… I have searched and searched and short of spending thousands, which I am not about to do, especially since my body is changing shape from month to month. I cannot find anything that remotely fits me. But I know when I do… all those jumping exercises that I thought I couldn’t do when I started this journey will somehow be doable. Now when I hear burpee or star jump, my heart sinks… it isn’t because I can or can’t do the exercise, I am strong enough at last, but… lets just say my underwear isn’t!!! So that is my quest right now… I know I can get up every morning for gym, I know I can get through the workouts, I know I can run around the track… but I am not sure if I can find the right gear for the job!!!

Let’s Talk About Clothes

So back to my getting things done… one thing I had to do was organise my wardrobe… and being the ultimate minimalist, there is a real problem when you lose weight and you absolutely hate shopping for clothes. I needed an entire wardrobe even my socks were falling off. And my first shocking surprise… until now, my idea for clothes shopping was to head into a store, find the biggest size and hope it fitted. That’s all changed. I go in and try on actual sizes now… it is remarkably different. Luckily my entire wardrobe isn’t very many clothes, because I don’t like having stuff I don’t use… so this is it:


A pile of what I consider uniforms: gym clothes and clothes I wear for volunteering. Otherwise three bottoms: Jeans, khaki pants and black leggings. Three tops: Three t-shirts: one on, one off and one fancy… and for smarter works days I treated myself over the last few months, so three frocks, which I would absolutely never ever have worn at the start of this year, but now I love. And I forgot to put my sweaters in the photograph… but I have a thick woolly sweater and a thin long sleeved sweatshirt, as well as a all weather wind (not that waterproof!) jacket that I keep in my backpack for extreme weather events while hiking.

My shoe closet… a pair of sneakers and a pair of slops. I have also got a pair of Merrells that I use for hiking and for gym… I have literally worn them out, but new shoes for me for running and working out, will have to wait, three kids need running shoes before I get a turn for new shoes again.

So yes, I am that person that can fit their entire wardrobe into a backpack… and I am also the person that wouldn’t want to own more clothes than I need, ever.


Previous Posts in my Journey to Health Series Over at Sport Science

From the start…

→ 12 CommentsTags: Home Truths

The Latest Reads from Penguin Random House South Africa, Something for everyone…

November 22nd, 2017 · 2 Comments

I have had a pile of review books on our coffee table and it is just growing and growing. Because of that, I have been in somewhat of a reading marathon to get them all posted before the end of the year, because I have this idea of starting a new year with a fresh clean slate, not to mention a clear coffee table. So expect lots of book reviews from us over the next few weeks, there are some fabulous reads are coming your way!!!


A Picture Book

The Matatu written by Eric Walters and Illustrated by Eva Campbell: This story, and as you can judge from the cover, is set in Africa… it is the story of a small boy, Kioko on his fifth birthday, on an adventure with his Grandfather. His grandfather is a wise old man, who has grown up under an African sky and is delightfully slow and deliberate. One feels for Kioko with his five year old excitement and his bouncy enthusiasm as they set out…

Together they are going on a journey on a Matatu, which is the Kenyan name for local buses that take anyone anywhere and all their possessions. Traditionally these buses are piled high with all sorts of worldly belongings: furniture, livestock… everything and their task is to get passengers to their destination faster than possible. Rules of the road are definitely made to be broken and well… maintenance and safety are not of the transport plan.
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I have to say that a review book that arrives beautifully gift wrapped goes straight to the top of the pile.

Kioko has been waiting his WHOLE life for this adventure… and while he is thoroughly enjoying the journey, his grandfather tells him a traditional tale: Why the dogs bark at the bus, the sheep just stand and stare and the goats run away. It is quite delightful and the oil painting illustrations are delightful. If you are looking for a sweet story about a boy and his grandad then then this is perfect, if you are wanting to explore the world through storybooks, then welcome to life in Africa. We read this book with friends that have grown up in northern Kenya and they were as delighted as we were as we read the story… they even knew the embedded folk tale from the Kamba region. I think for adult readers the author’s note adds a sweet touch to the story, don’t miss it.

Natural Factual Fun

iExplore Bugs by Hannah Wilson: Can I just say that I wouldn’t naturally choose a book that is linked to an app and that makes use of screen time. I saw the book, iDinosaur, at a recent book show and I realised the error of my ways, my kids would love an interactive book like this and since this long awaited bug book arrived it has been thoroughly loved and played with by my kids. A wide variety of bugs: from beetles to moths, from spiders to centipedes. Each bug gets a double page spread packed with information and the most incredible photographs…


And more than that when you install the app on your device…

And you hold your phone or your tablet over the page, a virtual bug will crawl off the page.

I kid you not it is impressive. So lots of facts like size, weight, habitat, diet, location and lifespan… as well as lifecycle information and any other special features. The facts appear to get absorbed while they are playing, everyone in our house know that the lifespan of a Hercules Beetle is 3 years, and Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterflies have a wingspan of about 27 cm. Not to mention there are Giant Shield Mantids (basically a praying mantis) that feeds mostly on other insects or arachnids and even mice (yikes). This book is pure factual fun and my kids have spent hours in it already.

Middle School Read

Pottymouth and Stoopid by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin: Another in the prolific middle school series, that Hood 5 gallops through, book after book after book. And in this story, when your awful pre-school nickname sticks and even becomes the title of a book. A typical Middle School series book, light and quick reading, only this time it deals with the serious issue of bullying. Of course it is richly illustrated, lots and lots cartoons to break up the reading into manageable chunks. Way back in pre-school these friends were burdened with their nicknames, Pottymouth and Stoopid, and so many years later it is just not funny anymore. The name calling goes on and on… and then they come up with a surprising solution. It works. This book looks like a book about bullying on the surface, but actually it is about friendship. Two guys, who meet amongst the paint pots of pre-school, and stand by each other no matter what. A friendship that endures is something to behold. Through the many trials of every day life of school, of recently divorced parents for David and foster care for Michael, life isn’t easy… but their friendship never falters and goes the distance. Easy reading for emerging readers, who want to read fat books without millions and bazillions of words in them.

Teen Read

Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan: This is book three in the Gods of Asgard series and welcome to the world of Norse Myths and Legends. Hood 2 has read every Rick Riordan and grabs them as they come off the printing press… this series has a few more adult themes and is for older teens, than the first series, Percy Jackson. Rick Riordan is not afraid to tackle all kinds of diversity in his characters, which is a good thing for contemporary teen literature. In this book Magnus and his entourage head out on a dangerous journey packed with perils and lurking hazards. There are elves, giants, zombies, sea gods and dragons… Magnus has to make his way through every single challenge to reach his goal… to finally conquer Loki, or to be destroyed himself.

Young Adult Read

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: After his six year hiatus John Green is back! His new book Turtles all the Way down is amazing! If writing the perfect book needed a recipe John Green has it. This book has teen angst, mystery, a rich boy, poor girl, love and John Green’s specialty, mental health and metaphors, the title itself is a metaphor. The whole book is perfectly quintessentially John Green. The main character is a girl names Aza Holmes who has OCD, (like John Green), she is a very anxious person, that likes to think. But her friend Daisy pushes her out of her comfort zone.

When Daisy hears about a reward for finding Russell Pickett, the father of Davis, a friend of Aza’s from her childhood she is ready to jump in a boat to go and have an adventure. The only problem, she is not outgoing at all and would rather stay at home away from germs. This book is a book that everyone should read, it is the kind of book that you read in one sitting and once finishing it you want to go back to the start and read it all again. It is the perfect book for John Green to release following his hiatus, and I can’t wait to see if he has anymore books coming out.

The Historical Saga

The Last Hours by Minette Walters: Just wow… I only received this book for review last week, a great big 550 page historical saga… I dived straight in and it took a few days before I emerged. I loved it. Swept back in the to the 1300’s in England and the Black Death is sweeping through the countryside at an alarming rate. There are three main players, a serf Thaddeus Thurkell who finds himself way above his statin as the steward; wise and compassionate Lady Anne, who’s wicked self-seeking husband, Sir Richard, was one of the first from their neighbourhood to succumb; and 14 year old Lady Eleanor, who is Lady Anne and Sir Richard’s spoilt daughter. Of course there are a whole lot of other characters, the drunkard priest, serfs and villains… and everybody has their faults and lots of them. Nobody is trustworthy, nobody at all. Lady Anne takes the unusual (for the day) step of quarantine… and while she is not popular, her people survive… but to what end, it is highly likely they will all starve to death. While Lady Anne tries to keep everything running smoothly, Thaddeus finds himself doing a lot of heroics, while Lady Eleanor causes nothing but trouble, more than just teasing the local lads there is something decidedly wicked about this girl… but what is her issue with the world? Secrecy, survival and desperate times… a hard life a fantastic read and there is a sequel coming, I just can’t wait.

#1 Bestseller

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins: Brought to us by the author of Girl on the Train, I really enjoyed this read, the second novel from Paula Hawkins and it is nothing like the Girl on the Train. It is a mystery that surrounds the sinisterly named “drowning pool” alongside a village wheelhouse. There are a number of characters and they are all portrayed warts and all, just as you would expect to know them if you lived in the heart of a village. The story revolves around the mysterious death of single-mom, Nel, who has been trying to contact her sister, Jules. You can’t help wondering why Jules has been ignoring her, but she has to take notice when her sister dies in very suspicious circumstances. Jules returns to her childhood town for the while they both have issues to resolve, they are forced to get along. There is a lot of small town gossip, and all those teenage relationships that Jules thought she had left behind when she left town to find her fortune… are just waiting really, where she left off. The point is, the Drowning Pool is called that for a reason, and Nel had been looking into the death of more than a few young women who had lost there lives there. The question is why are these women dying and are their deaths somehow related or could all the “accidents” really be just a terrible coincidence? Great chilling/crime read… more crime than chilling and of course a twist in the tail.


Geological Wonders of Namibia by Anne-Marie and Michel Detay: I have only ever driven through Namibia on a bus… and this book makes me want to just get up and go on that dream road trip. Really, the most incredible photographs and it reads like an invitation to play. Each chapter shows a special feature of Namibian geology, from meteorite moonscapes to the Fish River Canyon; from huge underground lakes to fossil footprints, from granite domes to ancient art and desert landscapes… this book will blow you away. Anyone interested in geology, or knowing a whole lot more background about the places the visit, will enjoy this book. Really the photographs and the Wide open African skies in these books will be enough to get any locals that have traveled away, dashing home for a visit and some renewal.

The Start of a Series

Darien: Empire of the Salt (I) by C.F. Iggulden: So I am a huge Conn Iggulden fan. When I saw that he had begun a fantasy series I decided to give it a try. Well what can I say, once a fan… always a fan. Basically, if you can write great historical fiction then you are well equipped to create an incredible world and write a fantasy novel about all that is going on there. As background, the city of Darien is rolled by twelve aristocratic families, and there is a plot to kill the King, well that’s what all the online summaries have to say. Actually, this book is about the intriguing characters, you can’t help engaging with them and you will be compelled to read on, and then read on because of them. The first character you meet will be Elias and he is a hunter with an extraordinary talent, he also has a wife and daughters suffering from the plague… he is a desperate man and will even dodge bullets if it means rescuing them. Then there is the mute lad Arthur, who is taken in by a Bill Sikes character called Daw Threefold. The characters continue, they are fantastic… and so is the story. If you like a fabulous saga… then you will definitely like this one.

The Weekend Read

Hiding in Plain Sight by Susan Lewis: This was a great read… I thoroughly enjoyed it and was quite happy to let a whole lot of weekend chores go in favour of reading it straight through. We join Andee, a retired detective, in France, on a hot summery day. A passing car slows to a halt and the girl in the back seat says, “Remember me?” This apparently random event wasn’t that random at all. And Andee did indeed realise that she recognised her long lost sister, who went missing when they were young teenagers and hasn’t been seen for well over twenty years. In fact, it was so long ago that everyone believed that her sister had died. Turns out Penny had chosen somewhat of a rollercoaster ride of a lifestyle for herself and and the more you want to sympathise with her regarding her life, the meaner she appears to be… But why? You will find yourself reasoning it all out and then the story changes slightly and you find yourself back to rethinking all over again. A shocking tale reveals itself, and as each piece of the puzzle comes together and as more secrets are revealed the more you cannot becomes more shocking. This is a fabulous read and a great escape… be warned topics covered in this book are not for the fainthearted, nothing gory or graphic, but certainly criminal and revealing a very dark side of society.

The Scandal

Faster, Higher, Farther by Jack Ewing: Faster, Higher, Farther is a book about a seemingly dry topic: pollutants from Volkswagen car engines. But it’s not a dry read. On the contrary, the book is as arresting as a war novel and manages to grip you from the first few pages. After a few pages, you won’t put it down until you’ve reached the bitter truth at the end.

Beginning with the story of the students who first found that Volkswagen “clean” diesel was not clean at all, this riveting read begins with the founding of Volkswagen during Hitler’s Germany, and traces the history of the company to the modern day emissions scandal. The story isn’t written like a history book, though. It’s written in such a way as to build suspense throughout. The suspense isn’t in the result of the lies and tricks. The suspense in the story as each lie and deceit is slowly peeled away, bringing you closer to the truth you already know.

It takes a masterful writer to bring suspense, intrigue and drama to a story that’s punch line is common knowledge – and Jack Ewing has done it. This is a book that will tell you a story of truth and lies and satisfy you afterwards. But more than that, this is a book that makes you care. This is a book that lets you share the outrage at the environmental travesty – and care about the future. It’s a book that begins, reveals, and ends waiting for the final chapter. How will car manufacturers respond in future? Will they be responsible? What will the cost of this crime be?

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan: I really enjoy books that open a window into a completely different world to the world we live in and for a moment we can be transported to a totally different culture. This book is slowly and lilting and beautifully written. All the time, while I was reading it, I felt that I am reading a tragedy. This is the story of a family on the run. Each generation has fought through a war, each generation is forced to flee. From the Six-Day War of 1967 to Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait, they are forced to flee. This is the story of their relationships, the tension that brews as the stress they are living under plays havoc with their everyday lives. To know that their is no place called home… this is a tragedy, this is real life and this is heartbreaking. And the theme, “Never Give-Up” rings true throughout. This is a debut novel, I expect there will be more powerful reads to come form Hala Alyan.

All these books were given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa and Struik Nature. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en Visits Admiral’s Waterfall… The Shortest Hike Ever…

November 17th, 2017 · 4 Comments

That Friday feeling and a little little hike… you know you really want to get out there into the wild and your kids are ready for a short adventure… but really you want a cup of coffee. Then this is the perfect hike. Firstly, it is just above picturesque Simonstown, and therefore dozens of coffee shops abound. Secondly, and more important… it is a really easy, really short hike. Fifteen minutes in, we had about an hour of play at the waterfall and fifteen minutes out. That’s it… Simonstown does have longer and more difficult hikes… but sometimes a micro adventure is actually what you are looking for.


So when you have a bundle of friends visiting from out of the country and you are looking for a little adventure, but not a three hour hike… then this is indeed the one. There is so much to see and do in Simonstown and everybody heads down south for a peak at the penguins and all that is cute at Boulder’s Beach, and they forget about the surrounding mountains. It turns out that Simonstown has hidden depths and you could easily be busy there for a couple of days.


Admiral’s Waterfall

Getting there: I have seen online that you can walk up from the main road to the start of the hike, but really its steep, it’s urban and not that exciting. If you do have a car, then look on a map for Barnard Street and drive up as far as it will go. There is shady parking at the start and for us it was well worth missing the slog up the hill.


The walk takes you along a flat and easy pathway…


There is a drop to the one side of you but if your kids are on strict “hiking instructions” to never leave the path, they will be absolutely fine.


And peeping down over the edge, they should be able to spot dassies down below, enjoying the sunshine.


The crisp clear water looks so refreshing… and the steepest part of the hike is this flight of stairs, which is oh about ten rocky stairs up.


And the view of Simonstown is unprecedented…


Around the corner…


And there you are…


Lots of place to play in the water… and clamber around…


And on a hot summery day, could there be anything better…


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I had to clamber up myself…

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Because everyone should definitely have a chance in their lifetime to take a photograph of a waterfall looking straight down…








And always time for a coffee…


→ 4 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outings

Ships and Shipping and the Clipper Race…

November 14th, 2017 · No Comments

So recently the Clipper Round the World Race was in town and we are big fans of all round the world ships and shipping. We can’t help ourselves. If you can plot it on a map… well we would rather be on it!!! On museum night, our first stop was a visit to the Clipper Ships and I realised immediately…

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Because the Clippers ships are so magnificent…

It would just not enough to just look at them before the sun went down…

I knew my gang would have to go down again…

Walk around the quay and pick up the vibe…

Chat to the crew…

And step on board…

Take a look around…

Get inspired…

So much to learn…

And gear to check out…

And dreams to dream…

This race is huge…

And my gang are watching them every step of the way…

Follow them… plot their journey and read their stories… it really is an adventure to embrace…

Imagine our surprise when we went for a morning walk and spotted the wreck…

A Clipper ship gone down… a tragedy.

Have to say, we prefer our Clipper ships floating on the big blue…

→ No CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outings · Saturday Spot

Rememberance Day and Our Book of the Week…

November 12th, 2017 · No Comments

It has turned out to be a week of books on our blog and today is Remembrance Day, so highly relevant that we share this book with you:

The Great War

The Great War, illustrated by Jim Kay:


A collection of short stories brought to you by eleven great storytellers of our time: Michael Morporgo, David Almond, John Boyne to name a few…

There is even a chance to meet all the authors in the Contributors Section…

A collection of objects, artefacts in fact, from the war have been gathered into this book and timeless stories about each of the objects have been written, bringing the war to life for children over a hundred years later. At the back of the book they show you details of each of the items, all things that you may find in your great grandparent’s home. And a little bit about each item… and how they were relevant to the war.

This book is beautifully created and the illustrations bring each story to life, they are poignant and thought provoking, in fact the design of the entire book is exceptional.

It is appealing in a way that would make one want to dip in and read a quick short story or just read it all the way through without pause.

This is a book is a fantastic read aloud and we have been reading it together as a family. What better way to teach children about real life in times of war, about ordinary people doing exceptional things… real people, that may not have wanted to be part of the war effort, but they did it anyway. The stories provide a peek into the lives of everyday men and women during a time when nothing was normal and “difficult times” was simply an understatement.


Thank you to PanMacmillan South Africa for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the reviews are as usual my own.

→ No CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

What We Are Reading Right Now, The PanMacmillan Children’s Edition…

November 10th, 2017 · 2 Comments

It is book season over here, we have just had a spate of unprecedented reading over here and we are conquering our shelf of review books… so here is a collection of fabulous reads and the books my kids and I have been enjoying lately.


Mira Bartók

Wonderling by Mira Bartók: This is a new book on the block and there is a lot of hype about it… all worthy praise. 400+ pages of magic. It is beautiful book with a lovely cover and lots of little design details that add to the legend status. There are wonderful illustrations throughout the book and every detail is part of the story, and there are classic twirls and swirls on every page, it feels like you are diving into an old fashioned book. The story is about an 11 year old fox/boy groundling, and he is rather special. He only has one ear and with that ear he has exceptional hearing. This fox who doesn’t have a name, only a number, and it is 13, is part of a collection of very sorry little orphans that live in an hideous orphanage called the Home of Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures run by the very mean and nasty Miss Carbuncle. Think the richness of Oliver Twist, combined with the cleverness of a Series of Unfortunate Events and you will have a good feel for this book. 13 sets off on a quest with his only friend Trinket… and they have to part ways and he is left alone in a deep dark city. He needs to find his way out and save the orphans who remained behind, not to mention save all the songs of the world. In the background, gently threading its way through the story, is 13’s own personal mystery. This feels like a fairy tale, 13 is a sweet and bright light in a somewhat dark world. The lightness of the character somehow overcomes the world he lives in, which is a lonely and despairing one. Will he be able to understand his personal yearning? Will he be able to find the source of that elusive memory that is just out of reach? Will he find what his heart is looking for, even though he does not know what that is? So many questions. There is a mystery within his quest, and he is so very likeable that you feel he must achieve… so you read on and on and all to soon it is over. A Lovely read, if your child enjoys fairytales, then they will enjoy this. A Magical read that is going to take this book straight to the top of the book charts.

Janine Beacham

Rose Ravensthorpe Investigates Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham: I loved this book, it gets five stars from me, and I am thrilled that is the first in a series, because that means there are more like it to read. I read a lot of Middle Grade Readers and this one just had a unique feel to it right from the start. It is a murder mystery for middle graders, yes gasp… it is the real thing. Your chapter book reader is going to love this. Rose loves and adores her butler, Argyle… who is as close as she has to a genuine parent, in the heart of Victorian England, where children were seen and not heard. Argyle, has shown her the ways of the city of Yorke, she knows the ancient tales and superstitions that people live by. She walks the city and knows the Cats of Yorke… I was intrigued… there really are Cats of Yorke, this is the kind of book that would inspire a visit. An ancient prophetic poem about vanishing cats appears to be coming true, when the cat statues that protect the city, start to vanish from local landmarks… and then the butlers begin to be murdered one by one at the same time. Is it really old superstitions coming to life or is there some criminal intent behind the murders. Of course there is, and Rose Ravensthorpe is the one to figure out the mystery and protect her newly acquired friends in the secret society and sub-culture of butlers of Yorke. This book has no fancy illustrations to carry the reader along, it is words that paint the pictures… swirling mist, town graveyards after dark, secret tunnels and forgotten mazes and carriages speeding out of sight. This book is pure fun, a mystery that unravels to the point of no return and a feisty gal that doesn’t let anyone distract her from getting to the bottom of it. A Victorian Nancy Drew with a slightly gothic flavour, look out for Rose Ravensthorpe, I am hoping she is going to be solving a lot of mysteries in the future.

Kim Slater

928 Miles from Home by Kim Slater: Kim Slater writes real stories about real kids with real troubles… and I enjoy them. Her previous book A Seven Letter Word was a hit in our house. She manages to pack a lot of life lessons into her books without being preachy. Let’s talk about bullying, and how all the systems in place to protect and prevent kids from it don’t help at the grass roots level. This book is all about all the players in a bullying situation: the victims, the onlookers, the bullys and the well-intentioned. The story is set in the UK, Calum… is an onlooker in a bullying world, he daren’t breathe because the situation he is in means that he could easily slip into the victim roll… he has to put on a brave face and display all the bravado to maintain his place on the bottom level of the bullying crowd. Callum’s father travels a lot and he is left home alone, with nothing to eat, no company and boredom to occupy him, it is a recipe for a downward spiral. Calum is far far from perfect and when he finds his father’s new girlfriend coming to stay, along with her son Sergei, he finds himself in a very awkward situation. Sergei is the local victim and while Calum has always been the onlooker he finds himself living alongside the victim, and he has a lot to answer for. Turns out that there is more to Sergei than Calum expected. When Calum is in a serious accident and has a long summer ahead of him, Sergei is going to be the one to stand by him, Calum realises that there are many facets to friendship. This book epitomises “there are two sides to every story” and possibly the only book I have read that covers Brexit,… 938 miles is the distance from Warsaw to Calum’s home in the UK, after all. All the complications of middle school hierarchy and the overriding theme of enduring friendship. This is a great read. A great read, for kids who find them self in hard situations and for kids that like reading about real life.

Siobhan Curham

Tell it to the Moon by Siobhan Curham: This is the sequel to The Moonlight Dreamers. I really like these books they are the story of four very different girls who come together in the first book, to form a club called the #MoonlightDreamers. These are funky girls that could well be in your kids’ class at school. They each have battles to face, four girls and so many issues packed into one book. Each of the issues are issues that your typical teens are dealing with: bullying, stress, difficult family situations, ill parents, difficult parents, discovering their own identity, challenging their beliefs. What draws these girls together is that they each have a dream and their friendship is all about encouraging each other and believing that they can not just reach for their dreams but actually achieve them. Brave girls, courageous girls who support and encourage each other all the way: Maali’s dad is ill and where does her faith in her gods is floundering under the pressure; Amber has two dads and discovers that her surrogate mother doesn’t want to know her; Rose “comes out” while her famous parents are floundering around in a publicity furore; and Sky finds herself in high school after a lifetime of homeschooling… and it isn’t a whole lot of fun. The book is filled with Oscar Wild quotes, poetry and even a recipe. This is a fun read and covers a lot of ground about issues our teen gals are facing amongst their friends. I love how the girls support and encourage one another… they are great role models. These books read like hot chocolate on a chilly day, they are comfort books and leave you feeling good… friendship is a good thing and reaching for your dreams with their help is even better.

Elizabeth Laird

Kiss the Dust by Elizabeth Laird: I have to say that if I see an Elizabeth Laird novel I grab it with confidence, she brings the plight of refugee stories to light in a way that is accessible to children. She tells their side of the story with compassion and understanding. These are great reads for kids who are interested in real life stories and are looking for books that are relevant to the world they might see flashing past on the News. In Kiss the Dust, Tara and her Kurdish family are forced to flee Iraq. Tara is a regular kid, and we are taken into her world as it is turned upside, we follow along on her families journey as Tara has to come to terms with the extreme dangers and struggle for survival of a fleeing refugee, her mother’s illness forces her to become the “grown up” in a wild and crazy situation. When they finally reach a very unwelcoming Western World, they don’t speak the language, they don’t understand the world around them. Her father has a job that he hates and the family somehow struggles through. This book is harrowing and eyeopening, not to mention a great empathy builder. We are all the same, we have hopes and dreams and our world can be shattered and changed forever in a moment. This book is about coming of age and while you read it, you will have to face your very comfortable life and grow up a little but too.

Tanya Landman

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman:
Sigh, the slow slow start, but you have to push on because there is a twist in the tail that you won’t believe. Caleb and his dad are traveling minstrels in the 1750’s in England. Caleb is mixed race and it is assumed that he is his dad’s slave. The whole book in fact has more than an undercurrent of racial tension and the injustice of class, prejudice is rife in eighteenth century England. His dad gets arrested when a pick pocket tosses his bag into his arms, and Caleb’s dad is wrongly accused of theft. He is shipped of to the Colonies, and Caleb has to stay with his aunt and cousin who he has never met before. Turns out his dad was set up, and whoever was responsible is now after Caleb and his aunt is really not who he thought she was. This is a mystery crime novel… and an excellent read, for middle schoolers.

Beyond the Wall by Tanya Landman: Set in Roman Britain, Cassia is an escaped slave on the run. She is literally being hunted down, because she has managed to escape from her master, when she refused to be his mistress. There are going to be dire consequences if she is caught. She must escape. And her only escape is to the north and across Hadrian’s Wall. She is fleeing for her life and will encounter many perils on her journey. This is gripping historical fiction… but I have to say some of the themes would make me put this into the young adult section rather than a teen or middle school reads.

W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron: A Dog’s Story is the heartwarming story of a dog (!), narrated by the dog himself. It all begins with him as a puppy and his awakening in the world and early days with his small squeaking siblings. This book just brings you the world from a puppies perspective and I think the author put a lot work into trying to figure out the world from a puppy and then a dog’s perspective… and there is a sweetness in this dog that will make you so much more empathetic to animals, wherever you encounter them. You might find yourself pausing and thinking, “What would my dog be thinking right here, right now?” This is really four short stories and each one is complete in their own right, they are really quick and easy reading… though some of the topics are a little above my kids that read at this reading level. In the first story, Toby a feral dog is collected by a woman and her family, who absolutely love dogs. They have a large kennel out back, where they keep and feed a lot of dogs… eventually towards the end of this first episode the home for dogs is closed down by authorities and some of the dogs have to be put down. It is sad. My younger kids would not handle this well at all. Toby is one of the dogs to be put down, but he wakes up in the next chapter as a puppy, and so begins Baily’s story. Baily’s story starts off about a dog that finds his way into the life of a young boy Ethan. Baily grows up alongside Ethan, making all the mistakes that puppies make and you will learn about the confused and mixed messages that puppy owners send to their dogs… there is however a neighbour who is a little bit strange and when Ethan gets to college, there is a certain amount of rivalry between Ethan and the disturbing neighbour Todd. This doesn’t end well for Todd. The final story is about a dog called called Ellie. Ellie is somewhat of a hero right from the start.
This book has been produced as four individual books one for each of the dogs in the book. I felt they were better presented this way, dog lovers will really enjoy books written from the dog’s perspective. They will definitely never look at their dogs in the same light again, now that they had an idea about what their dogs are thinking. I found it awkward in the four-in-one book that the dogs were “born again” in each story, it wasn’t necessary. If I was going to buy this book for my animal loving kid then I would head straight for Ellie’s Story pop it onto your must reads list.

For Younger Readers

Kingfisher Readers: Bears Level 1 Beginning to Read: It is so good for a beginner reader to find a book about a topic that they love, animals for instance, and then as they browse through it they discover that they can read it themselves. This little book is full of facts all about different types of bears from all over world. Lots of “did you know facts?” This is a great read for little readers.

Kingfisher Readers: Robots (Level 3: Reading Alone with Some Help) This book is from the same series as the book before this one, but unlike the book on bears this is a book on Robots. I have to say that there is a fairly high jump between level 1 and level 3 readers. I have to say that my beginner reader needed a fair amount of help with this one, but because it is a topic he is interested in he was prepared to persevere.

Beautiful Creatures


UnderWater Zoo by Alan Glass and Ed Jordan and illustrated by Sandy Lightly: My kids are big fans of Alan Glass… So were very pleased to receive this sweet underwater picture book for little people. You will find all sorts of wild animals in the Underwater Zoo, like the Elephant Seal, Lion Fish, Puffer Dog Fish and many more… This is a winding rhyming story about the wonderful creatures that you find under the sea. Each animal gets their own page and there is an information bubble, because we all know that little children love all the facts. This book would make a great addition to a little ocean lover’s library.

Huge thank you to PanMacmillan South Africa for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the reviews are as usual my own.

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What We Are Reading Right Now… the Struik Nature Edition…

November 8th, 2017 · No Comments

It is time to bring you our latest and greatest reads from Struik Nature, it is a collection of great giftable books… for kids and their grown ups. We have been working towards creating a biodiversity haven in our garden for a while so the first book, Garden Birds in Southern Africa is a winner for us. Understanding Elephants has just become our go to gift for nature loving and environmentally conscious friends, it is a quick and fascinating read packed with elephant facts and information in spending time with them. Otherwise natural factual colouring books for the win!!!


Garden Birds in Southern Africa

Garden Birds in Southern Africa by Duncan Butchart: This is just the book we need, we might be living through a drought, and our garden is at its lowest ebb ever, but our birdlife is out of this world. Almost every day someone says, “What bird is that?” it really is time we learnt more about our local birds… and this is the book that is going to teach us. It is fantastic… The book begins with an introduction to bird friendly gardening and how to create habitats that birds will enjoy. There is a lot of information on bird habits and how to feed them sustainably.


The main section of the book contains a 101 birds found in Gardens around Southern Africa. Each bird gets a full page: A location map and size, beautiful full colour photographs, a detailed description, and a description of its habits, feeding, breeding, lifespan, and garden needs. We were most interested to read how we could attract different birds to our garden. There is also a chapter on which plants birds love, fifty local plants that are great bird magnets. This chapter contains trees would be good additions to your garden and what sort of birds are attracted to specific shrubs and creepers. This book is a great addition to our nature library and is perfect for those of us who want to get to know the birds in our gardens better and those of us who want to create a bird haven in our garden.

Understanding Elephants

Understanding Elephants by The Elephant Specialist Advisory Group: This book is a must read for anyone visiting a Game Park or like us, wishing they were visiting a Game Park. It is a small book that you can toss in your rucksack and read on your journey to your destination and it is absolutely packed with information about elephants. At a glance you will be able to tell how old the elephants you are viewing are, and you will have an idea about how to cope when you are in an area with elephants. Nine chapters: Elephant facts; Family groups and female behaviour; Male behaviour; Ecology and the environment; Communication; Neurology, Intelligence and the effects of trauma; Signals to look out for; Warning signs and signals of aggression; and How to conduct yourself around elephants. This book will provide you with a deeper understanding of elephant behaviour, from the nature of their relationships between each other, to the ways in which they react with people. It is a fascinating read, absolutely packed with facts… how they care for their babies, how they find their food… quite a bit about their favourite plants. Elephant lover’s and environmentalists alike will absolutely love this book and if like us you have never seen elephants in the wild then this book will make you want to get out there more than ever. The authors’ website has a lot of information as well as downloadable brochures for elephant viewing.

African Seashores


African Seashores by Sally Maclarty: The perfect book for sea shore loving kids, who want to know more about the rock pools that they are exploring. From Abalone to Zoanthids, and almost everything in-between… chitons and crabs, oysters and sea cucumbers. Beautiful colouring pages, with a short paragraph including an interesting fact for each animal. The facts are wild and wonderful and will elicit lots of “Did you know?” For example: “Sea Urchins: The urchin’s shell is round and covered with long spines, which help with defence. It’s mouth is underneath and it uses its extra-strong teeth to tear algae off rocks.” The centre pages have thumbnails of every page so that for those that want a guide to the seashore colours, but really the world of rock pools is magical and any colours will do. This book is part of a series of nature colouring books for kids with African insects, mammals, birds, frogs and reptiles available as well.

African Wildlife

African Wildlife to Read, Keep and Colour by Chalres Gotthard and verses by Amanda de Wet: This is a fun colouring book for kids who are passionate about animals and discovering the world, particularly animals in Africa. Each animal is presented on a double page spread, one side of the page is the animal to colour and the other is a poem filled with facts about the animals. This book would make the perfect gift for little friends overseas… and children with an adventurous spirit, who would like to explore wildlife in Africa.

I received these books from Struik Nature for review purposes. It is not a sponsored post, and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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