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

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A Galactic Pile of the Latest and Greatest Reads from PanMacmillan South Africa…

January 4th, 2017 · 9 Comments

We have been on a bit of a summer break, it happens to be the best time of year to find a shady spot, settle down and read… and read… and read. So, while our coffee table has been drowning in books, we are bringing you tons of reviews… if you are looking for something good to read them look no further, there really is something for everyone in this post…


Family Reads

A World of Information by James Brown and Richard Platt: This book has to be our fact book of the year, right up there with our other extra large book, Maps, this book has taken centre stage on our coffee table for weeks and it won’t be moving off it anytime soon. This book is very simply pages and pages of extreme infographics, the most incredible detail presented in the easiest possible format. Each spread tackles a different topic, from Different Types of Knots to Paper Sizes. There is a short bit on the back story of each page and then they dive in to observe and explore each topic, it is transparent learning, you really don’t feel like you are working at reading… and it is literally packed with incredible facts on the Solar system, on codes, music notation and the greek alphabet… and all together 30 topics. The illustrator, James Brown, has brought the author, Richer Platt’s, fascinating facts to life. Each page is a mono print and they have been able to use their creative skills and positive and negative spaces to create page after page of intrigue for book lovers of every age.

Guinness World Records 2017: Another book that is on the coffee table right now. Its a great dipper that gets more and more interesting the longer you spend time in it. This is a book that has heads bent over it for several minutes, and plenty of “Oh Wows” and “Have you Heards?” There is something for absolutely everyone in here… from science and technology, to animals, sport and the arts, planet earth and all sorts of animals, foodie facts and all kinds of games. This book is a dipper and each and every spread can keep you busy for hours, packed with facts and incredible photographs. This book is all about the biggest and the best, the smallest and the worst… the wildest and the wackiest, the strangest and the weirdest!!!

Guinness World Records 2017, the Gamers Edition: I didn’t realise just how much my kids would love this book, but they have totally loved it. It is a fun read and good for all ages… packed with quirky records: top players, top games and so on. Superhero games, graphic adventures, puzzle games and so many more. Super Mario, Minecraft, Lego and Star Wars… really this book is a gamers dream and one or two of my kids have been absolutely lost in it for weeks. Every single detail, has been read, discussed and repeated… This book is totally loved and here to stay and be enjoyed for a good while.

The World in Infographics: These are three out a fabulous new series of books. They are short, thirty-two day books absolutely packed with information using images, pictures and charts, and very short snippets of writing. They are a perfect way for book lovers to glean tons of knowledge, even those folk that aren’t brilliant at reading and so don’t love reading. There is lots to learn and the facts are so accessible, something about the way infographics are presented means that science on a higher level can be understood, that would be out of reach if the authors were only using words. Machines and Vehicles covers an array of the biggest and the best and ranges from Monster Machines to flying machines and everything in-between. In Technology, you can learn about all sorts of things, from the human body to vehicles, to the internet and cell phones. Countries is split into pages of amazing facts about each of the se7en continents. These books are really a vey quick way to glean lots of facts, they are bright and colourful and cry out for passing readers to dip into them.

Picture Book Reads

Hugless Douglass and the Great Cake Bake by David Melling: Well we have a huge Hugless Douglass and David Melling fan in the house and when this book landed on our review pile he literally snatched it up. Typical Hugless, he is extremely loving and gentle and affable throughout. He follows his sheepish friends in a trail of honey, and he is so hoping for some honey cakes… but alas he was at the back of the queue and misses out on the honey cake. Hugless is forced to try a carrot and discovers that it is rather tasty. There is a wild bake-off and tons of sticky mess through the pages of this book. Not to mention, there is a recipe… for honey cupcakes and that makes this book a winner!!!


Wolves by Emily Gravett, the 10th Anniversary Edition: We are not shy to say that we absolutely love Emily Gravett and her work… In this book a rabbit takes a book about wolves out of the library and as rabbit reads away he gets closer and closer to a real live wolf. A clever book, filled with suspense as the wolf gets closer and closer to the rabbit. And then cleverness… there are two endings to the book, one for sensitive readers where the wolf turns out to be a vegetarian, and one for less sensitive readers, say no more. This book has lovely special readers… a place for the real live library card to fit into the cover, not to mention an envelope at the end of the book, with overdue letter inside it. The genuine thing… really. There is also a small book to cut out and read at the back: The 10 Little Rabbits… this is Emily Gravett at her best… every single detail is important and relevant to the story. Love it!!!

Classical Stories for Kids

I am just going to say that Marcia Williams is a legend at bringing classical literature to kids.These are chapter books for just beyond beginner reading level… to either read to your kids or they can read themselves. They can either be read by a short person, one chapter at a time or as my youngsters would have it… I read it to them, read on, read on… in a sitting. One of my kids is a literature buff and would have loved these books as a child, they are such a great way to get to know the classics really quickly. The stories appear to be really short and yet they contain so much, they are a good overview of the books and it makes the classics really accessible to younger children, and their associated adults, who may never have read the classics before. These books have a whole lot more words on a page to read than the more familiar and fantastic cartoon strips we are used to from Marcia Williams.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare and retold by Marcia Williams: When I suggested that I read this book to my youngest three kids, I have to say that the girls swooned at the thought, they now that Romeo and Juliet is a love story and they wanted to know more… but our young pirate wasn’t that keen, until he discovered their was a heap of sword fighting and wild behaviour… It is the story adapted for younger readers, and I love how within each chapter their is a quotable quote… this is definitely a fun way to introduce Shakespeare to youngsters. The story is: Romeo is in love with a gal (who disdains him), who is a member of the rival family in town. Unrequited love is always a good theme for a book. His friends help him to gatecrash a party in disguise, so that he can catch a glimpse of his girl… and then he meets Julia and it is love at first sight… and so the famous story unfolds.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams: There are few things as rich as a Charles Dickens book and almost everyone knows the story of Oliver Twist… the workhouse boy with a very difficult beginning. All the characters are there… Nancy and Fagin, and of course the Artful Dodger. This is a great way to introduce the classics.

Tales from Shakespeare by William Shakespeare retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams: And if you enjoyed the previous two books then you will love this one, it is the full colour version of fourteen of Shakespeare’s favourite tales, including the Romeo and Juliet book mentioned above. There is everything to love about Shakespeare stories, somehow he had the magic of creating stories that interesting for readers of all ages. If you have never read any Shakespeare, then this would be a good place to start enjoying them. Short versions of the actual stories… perfectly readable and lots of quotable quotes woven through. The book begins with an invitation to take your seats, as you are transported to the Globe Theater. If you have a child who is learning to love literature, they will love this completely and all my kids enjoyed reading these stories together… A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing and The Winter’s Tale… and so many more…

Hooray for Mr William Shakespeare by Marcia Williams: Would you look at this, a sticker activity book all about Shakespeare. There is a little bit about Mr Shakespeare himself, and then two double page spreads for a handful of his most famous plays, the first spread includes a summery or excerpt from the play and then the following two pages include puzzles and things like word searches and sticker activities to do. This is pure fun and great way for kids to learn in an engaging way, a far cry from the way we discovered Shakespeare when I was at school.

The Iliad and the Odyssey retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams: A classical Marcia Williams graphic retelling of tow of the most classical stories from Ancient Greece. The Iliad describes the famous was between the Greeks and the Trojans, and includes the famous Trojan Horse. The Odyssey is about the journey, through many trials of the Greek hero Odysseus, as he has to overcome many trials on his journey home. All my kids have loved these books, there is always someone reading one of them… it is just impossible to keep them on a shelf… which is a high compliment for any book!!!

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams: Another graphic retelling of a classic tale, a tale of injustice, love and ultimately heroism. We meet each of the characters as we wander our way through the story. The story is set in France in the early eighteen hundreds and the main character is Jean Valjean a just released prisoner, who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread for nearly twenty years. This is an interesting read, weaving in and out of a classic story…

The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clarke: You know if it is a Michael Morpurgo its going to be good, and it is packed with Emma Chichester Clarke’s distinctive illustrations bring the characters to life. This is just above the level of easy readers and is a great book for an emerging reader. The story is intriguing, The author does have a way with words… right from the get go with his opening line, “I don’t know who my mother was, nor my father.” We loved this retelling of the popular classic… it is a compelling read, the words lead you on and the illustrations keep you engaged… just lovely.

Easy Readers

The Children Who Smelled a Rat by Allan Ahlberg: A new to us story from the very much loved, over here, Gaskitt stories. Look out for these, they are fabulous books and there are quite a few of them in the series. These are lovely mysteries for beginner readers, fully illustrated with great pictures interwoven through the story, and lots of details to look out for from page to page. Lots of things go on in the book, side stories to keep your quick witted reader entertained as they power through the main story. So Mr Gaskitt finds himself running after the baby, who is dashing across town, in and out of all sorts of adventures across town, as the shopping cart remains just out of reach. Mrs Gaskitt is a taxi driver and finds herself all over town too, only just looking the wrong way to the way the reader wants her to look, and never sees the baby… Meanwhile the main story happens at school with the twins, their teacher Miss Fritter is always in the wars and her replacement teachers are a little alarming, but she returns and seems to to be, “not quite herself.” What has happened to their beloved teacher? There is a delightful, unexpected twist in the tale and just the thing to keep a beginner reader reading on. You can read a lovely interview with Allan Ahlberg here, and meet the illustrator, Katherine McEwen on her website here.

The No 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke: Atinuke is the author of the popular Anna Hibiscus Series and of course the No 1 Car Spotter. The name of the main character in this story is No 1, a boy who is always the first in the town to identify the cars that speed by. He finds himself in many awkward situations and always has a clever solution to the problems. In fact when the village cart breaks down, just when they all need to get to the market, and no one can repair the abandoned car in town, you will never What we love about these books is that these stories are particularly African, there are cultural nuances that happen only in an African village… so while the story of a boy and his friends and village life are universal… the attitude of the story gives it an African context. These are not stories that could be placed in any village in any culture and just add a few name changes at all, these are stories that are born and belong under an African sky… that children all over the world can read and relate to. If you are looking for diversity in children’s books, and books in an African context, then look no further.

Rabbit and Bear, Rabbits Bad Habits by Julian Gough and illustrated by Jim Field: A grumpy rabbit and an affable bear and a short “grand entrance and quickly departing,” scallywag fox… makes a wonderful laugh out loud story. It is the heart of winter and bear is woken by something on his nose… he is confused, his food is gone and and he has woken in the middle of winter. Turns out there was a little burglary going on… anyway Bear, who like to look on the bright side of life decides to get up and build a snowman… only she doesn’t have great snowman building skills. Enter rabbit… who is somewhat crotchety, perhaps hangry… full of know how and knowledge. Indeed, quite a proud little rabbit… until bear discovers rabbit having a nibble of poo… at which stage if you are reading aloud, your listeners will either collapse in hysterical laughter and gasp in horror… either way it a great shock tactic and everyone wants to read on. Just so you know, rabbits have the habit of eating, partially digesting their food and then um eating it over… to get all the nutrients they possibly can from it… just saying, and it is a habit that keeps their burrows fairly clean. Delightful story, I think we can look out for a lot more Rabbit and Bear stories in the future. These are definitely going onto our beginner reader shelf to stay!!! You can look inside the book, on Jim Field’s site here.

This is a series of Early Readers from Orion Books… What’s to like about them? Well the stories are new, fun, interesting… nothing “same old” about these at all. The books are divided into short chapters… so they can be read slowly and steadily. The pages are richly illustrated, lots of colour illustrations on every page… that help to keep your young reader interested and reading on. Not only that, they are good enough to keep. The stories won’t be read once and abandoned, they are full of substance, at least 75 pages worth of good quality reading, the illustrations and interesting stories that young readers will want to return to them again and again.

The Dragons Dentist by John McLay and illustrated by Martin Brown: Harry is the smallest person in his knightly family, and he dreams of impressing his knightly dad… this isn’t going to be an easy task. He decides to take his horse, Oats, and

Cinderella written and illustrated by Sally Gardner: The traditional story… Cinderella is forced to serve her ugly step sisters, and a fairy godmother that gets her to the ball. Written for the beginner reader with tons of lovely Sally Gardener illustrations.

Cudweed in Outer Space by Marcus Sedgwick and Pete Williamson: Cudweed has a pet monkey called Fellah, and they are somewhat bored. Until Cudweed discovers a comic about outer space… and they order a kit to build a spaceship. After much hammering and tinkering, they end up on an adventure in outer space… but of course made it home for tea.

Down in the Jungle by Vivian French and illustrated by Selina Young: It was too hot to sleep and So Monkey’s Mum tell him a story. In fact quite a few stories… jungle animal stories with a pervading theme of a villainous crocodile… stories about teamwork, friendship and generally jungle wholesomeness… the child who likes animal stories will love this.

A Creepy Crawly Story by Vivian French and illustrated by Selina Young: Wizz Bee and Buzz Bee come home without any honey and the Queen Bee is not impressed. They decide to tell her stories instead… the first story is a bout Sally Slug, and nobody wants to come to her party, of course it all gets resolved and everyone lives happily forever after. The next story is about Brave Mary Moth, who sets out to rescue Betty Butterfly from a spider’s web. It is quite a feat, and alls well that ends well.

Leopard Rescue by Sara Starbuck with the Born Free Association: For the beginner reader that prefers fact books trudging through stories, then this is a fabulous book, and it is part of a series. Leopards born in captivity that live in cramped zoos in Europe are relocated, after a long wait and years of ill treatment to a a wild life sanctuary in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. From a traumatic life, full of all the troubles associated with zoo phobia , it is an epic undertaking to rescue these animals. Through out the book there are short fact filled snippets to read and learn all about leopards. The book is illustrated with stunning, full colour photographs on every page.

Stunning Series You Have to Read

Timmy Failure

I cannot begin to express how much our kids love Timmy Failure over here, they are the perfect read for actually… everybody, but especially for kids who are ready to lurch into fatter chapter books, but who need a little confidence boost to get there. Hugely picture rich, hysterically funny… literally laugh out loud funny… all the way!!!

Timmy Failure #5: The Book You Are Not Supposed to Have by Stephan Pastis: Timmy is a detective of the somewhat always failing, and yet winning the day kind. His sidekick is a polar bear… see already you are intrigued. Book 5 in the series begins with a page saying that these are Timmy’s private notes and not for publication, the manuscript was stolen… you see, all ready you want to read on and find out what is going on. In this book Timmy has been banned from detective work by his mum, and he finds himself in the valley of doom, sleeping in a froggy tent between two beds in his room, where his apparently awful cousins have arrived to stay. Things go from bad to worse, the teachers go on strike and Timmy thinks school is out, only to discover the cruel reality of substitute teachers. good for all ages, brilliant read aloud and just as good for reading on your own, but be prepared for a lot of , “just listen to this…”

The Treehouse Series

Another easy reading series that is proving to be hugely popular over here, they are literally inhaled as they land… the day stops for these to be read through in a sitting by kid after kid after kid. It is the story, narrated to you by the author and illustrator, of a treehouse with every possible amazing attachment that you can imagine and a whole lot of things you could never have imagined. Ever!!! In each book they build thirteen new incredible stories onto their tree.

The 65 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and illustrated by Terry Denton: This is book five in the series and the elaborate treehouse from the previous books just gets bigger and better, though it is hard to imagine how. Not to mention that it impossible to believe that series of books can just keep getting better and better as they go along. In this book there is a new birthday room, where it is always birthday, and the un-birthday room, where years are counted backwards… There is a new fun feature in this book… a newsfeed timeline, something like a twitter feed, along the bottom of each page as you leap forwards in time.

Teen Reads

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar: Another great read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The story of a twelve year old gal, Carol to her friends and Carolina to her family, and her coming of age. Already her name tells you that she is trying to find her own identity away from her family tradition. As the book winds it’s way through the desert of New Mexico and her Grandfather’s dementia worsens, so her relationship with him grows closer. They really so have something special. The family has moved out of town to stay on her grandfathers ranch for the summer in order to pack up the ranch and move hime to a care home, not to mention sell off the family ranch and live unburdened by the responsibility of elderly parents forever more. However, there is just one problem… what seems like a good plan becomes increasingly difficult… because by staying with their Grandfather, they can’t help but get closer to him, and while the rest of the family is there to get the job done, Carol finds herself falling under his spell… she is the only one who can see the bees, and he convinces her that the bees will bring the rain and break the drought. This is a sweet book, that portrays that complicated place called middle-school and all the ins and outs of best friends and not best friends and oh just complicated, and at the same time it embraces those precious relationships that skip a generation between children and their grandparents. This book is a keeper.

A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater: This book caught my eye, because a book featuring the game of Scrabble must be great. Turns out it is a most excellent read, and if I were a middle grade teacher (haha I am !!!) I would make this compulsory reading. I loved it… and there are a lot of life lessons packed into this book. This is a book about life as it is and it doesn’t overdramatise and make things bigger than they are, but it doesn’t soften the blow, either. Finlay is a stutterer, his mother who always helped him communicate, suddenly left unannounced two years ago. His stuttering has become unbearable and he retreats and writes long letters to his mum. His dad does his best, which includes encouraging him, asking him about the bullying – his dad is ready to jump in and defend him… but can’t always be around… and being “understanding” isn’t that effective a weapon against bullying. On one level this book could be about school ground bullying and how to handle it… but it goes on to a much higher level of bullying that our children need to be aware of. Finlay and his mum played a lot of scrabble together, and Finlay is invincible. He started playing on line, in the hopes of coming across his mum in a game… and he begins playing with a person who seems to know him. Could it be his mum? Is she secretly starting to contact him… and for the first while he only plays scrabble but slowly but surely they start to chat… and then things start happening to the people around him and his primary protagonist, a lad on the scrabble team is in a terrible accident… and Finlay realises what he has started… its a shocker. Finlay has been taught about internet safety, he knows the rules and yet he quite happily shared much more information than he knew he should have. To his peril. There are a lot of twists and turns at the end of the story in order to make it turn out well… It is a great read, exciting, page turning… and one to share with your kids, especially if they, ahem, know everything about internet safety… in which case it is a must read… because sometime life lessons have to be learnt from someone who isn’t the parent. You can meet the author, Kim Slater, at her website over here.

Young Adult Reads

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood: I took a while to get into this book, but once I was about a third of the way in I was compelled to read on, I had to know if 17 year old Gottie would ever achieve happiness. Her mum died when she was born, leaving her and her brother and father in the care of a slightly eccentric and free living grandfather. She lives under the cloud of grief as her family never quite overcome the loss of her mum, and then her best friend and neighbour Thomas, leaves town when she is twelve, to live on the far side of the world, and they don’t talk again… and the boy she thinks she loves dumps her for another, and finally her grandfather, who means everything to her dies. This is where the book begins, and ends, for that matter… time wraps around itself as you go on a journey with Gottie as she figures out love, grief and just life, that can be so terribly difficult. The summer that is going to be the hardest ever for her, also turns out to be so much better when her friend Thomas returns unexpectedly, and their awkward reunion turns out to be the special spark of love that Gottie needed in her life… and of course there is no such thing as an easy relationship. You follow the highs an lows as you get to know Gottie better… she is a feisty, funky gal that stays true to herself… time swirls and whirls around her in and out of wormholes and other mathematical meanderings… hence the title… but it isn’t essential to have any higher math to understand or enjoy the book, in fact it neither adds nor detracts from the story… Basically Gottie finds herself traveling in and out of time, in fact sometimes right along side time… it is a little strange at first, but you kind of get used to this ability of hers and it fits in quite well with the anxious teen world that she lives in.

In the Dark Woods by Eliza Wass: Wow… Hood #3 read this book in a sitting, and said, “You must read this.” I read it then and there… gripping, creepy, chilling and totally unputdownable. The thing about reading is that it allows you to go places that you would never actually go, and then you get to talk about it… and we got an, “I am so glad you are our parents” out of this one.
Castley is one of six siblings, living in the woods… and thats exactly where their dad wants them to be. Their father has a very alternative religious view of the world and without stirring up those around him or wanting to bring others into his elite circle, he has indoctrinated his family into believing that they are superior to the rest of the world. Only his family has a connection with God, and the rest of the world is inherently wicked, hence his need to keep the family away from society, to the point where he has decided that the children will marry each other when they grow up… I did say it was creepy. Unfortunately social services has somewhat thwarted their dad’s plans to be completely isolated and off the grid, and has forced the children all to attend the local school and interact with lesser mortals. In school the kids find their hidden strengths, their personalities are discovered and for Castley, the need for freedom and to escape their father’s psychological manipulations and violent outbursts, is just overpowering. This is a coming of age story packed with responsibility, you want everything to work out for Castley, you want her to make it, and you want her to make it all work out for her siblings as well. Between the pull of her family and the pull of the world, the tension just builds and builds, until of course everything falls apart… The end of the book definitely doesn’t feel like the end of the story, but rather the beginning of a new life for Castley and her siblings. You can meet the author, Eliza Wass, at her website here.

Adult Non-fiction

438 Days, an Extraordinary story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin: This story is so unbelievable that you feel compelled to read on and and on… you have to read it to see how a regular fisherman can survive in the Pacific ocean with no special equipment, actually no equipment at all… just a really small fishing vessel and his wits and cunning against the elements for 438 days. This is one of those books that you read and think you have never read anything like it before and you will probably never read anything like it again. It is incredible… beyond words what the main player in this book, Salvador Alvarenga, achieved, his will to survive against all odds, his ability to persevere, problem solve and just never give up were the survival skills he needed. The author, Jonathan Franklin, has the ability to piece the story together, and even though we know the outcome, clearly Salvador survived, we feel compelled to read all the details in the book. This is a harrowing tale that if you didn’t know it was the truth you would never believe, a clear case of “truth is stranger than fiction.” There is a lot to learn from this book, the author very cleverly popped some expert opinions and useful information into the script, yet with all that extra information one cannot get past the incredible will of Salvador Alvarenga to survive. Right up there in one of the most intriguing reads ever and if you think you might one day find yourself lost at sea, even if you don’t, then this is an essential read.

Shirley Goodness and Mercy by Chris Van Wyk: This is a memoir, snippets and stories from the childhood of Chris Van Wyk, who grew up in the coloured township of Riverlea, Coronationville during the apartheid era. It is the story of township life, dusty and difficult, poor financially but rich in spirit. A hard life, seen through the eyes of a child, running errands for the neighbourhood aunties, interactions with teachers, vivd descriptions of the food he used to eat and the pranks he got up to with his friends. I loved this book it was a step back in time, flashes of my own childhood made me laugh my way through parts of it and the reality of it all in the gritty words of a great writer will stir your heart. Chris Van Wyk was one of South Africa’s finest writers, committed to bringing South African history to life. You may know him for his abridged version of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, for children.

The Kamikaze Hunters by Will Iredale: For those history buffs that like true stories about the war… don’t stop, don’t hesitate, this is a must read. The story takes place at the end of World War II, when the War in Europe was all but over and fighting in the Pacific was continuing on relentlessly. The author, Will Iredale has written the story of a group of Royal Naval Fighter Pilots, whose task it was to intercept the Kamikaze pilots that were launched as a final desperate hope by the Japanese. These are true stories about real people and reads like a third person diary. The information in the book is gleaned from many sources including conversations with survivors and researching diaries. It is fairly heavy reading, a chapter a day kind of book, rather than a read in a sitting… because it is so packed with detail and minutiae. A fascinating read that begins with the pilot training and ends just after the final bomb was dropped. There is a collection of a few photographs in the book as well… a sketch of a cabin and a group of clearly emaciated prisoners of war after their release and the joy in their faces… real men, sons, fathers, brothers… who survived it all.

Adult Fiction

Summer Secrets by Jane Green: If you are looking for a quick and easy relaxing weekend then here is a great read. The main player in this book is an English gal called Cat, and you follow her journey as an alcoholic… the book jumps back to her childhood and she discovers that the man she thought was her father was not her father and this would explain why she never felt connected to him… she has to go in search of her roots. She heads for the United States to meet her real family, where she immediately fits… and then makes a terrible and unforgivable mistake. She returns home and continues her life, she meets and marries a recovering alcoholic. They have a daughter, and everything looks so perfect, but it cannot last… and eventually she reaches rock bottom and loses all that is important to her, before she begins her journey again… this is a book about friendship, enduring love and forgiveness.

Thank you so much to PanMacmillan South Africa for the copies of these books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to create it and the opinions expressed are as usual, our own.

→ 9 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #342

January 3rd, 2017 · 2 Comments

Todays the day that so many folk go back to work after their summer break and our seaside town will begin to return to normal… its a week or two before schools go back and we are biding our time, waiting to reclaim our beach…


Lovely Links from This Week

  1. How I Became a Morning Person, read More books and Learned a Language in a Year… If you want to start some fresh habits… then this is where to begin.
  2. If you you have dreams and ambitions for your blog this year… then you should be reading the Problogger right now, full of tons of ideas… I am definitely going to be winding my way through the Problogger’s Epic End-of-Year Blog Audit Checklist.
  3. “Tis the Season for plenty of Reading Challenges… here’s a Shakespeare Reading challenge on Mount Hope Chronicles… I plan to read the stories to my gang according to the schedule this year…
  4. Looking for a Good Read: Look no further than Babyccino’s end of year collection of posts.
  5. Deep Space Sparkle has a free printable calendar… with lots of space to write on…
  6. Want to take a peak into a magical miniature world under manholes in Milan, and Ann Arbor’s fairy doors…
  7. If you follow us you will know how we love the SketchBook Project, we have joined in every year since 2011. You have to join the project before 5 January… If you are thinking about it, then join up, its fabulous fun to join in and see your sketchbook go on tour. We are skipping it this year the currency exchange rate between the United States and us… makes it unattainable. But we will be back!!!

This Week’s Highlights

Reading Myself: Harry Potter… the Series… my kids were shocked to discover that I haven’t read it and have challenged me to read it in two weeks… sigh. I am not loving it yet… hoping that it grabs me really soon!!!

Family Reading A-Loud: The Tale of Despereaux…

Listening (I absolutely love audiobooks): Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and The Goldfinch.

Watching with the Kids: The Jungle Book…

Watching Myself: The Crown on Netflix… watched the whole series over Christmas…

Planning: Our Calendar for the year…

Eating: The summer of crustless quiches, and whatever is in the fridge or the garden popped into them.

Snacking: On Swiss Chocolate, thanks to a visit from the father person’s lovely Swiss cousin.

Drinking: Peach tea for the win.

Discovered: Sudoku… oh man… there is silence in the house as everyone is lost in Sudoku!!!

Exercise: Evening ambles down to the beach for ice-cream ’tis the season. Exercise with a purpose!!!

Thank you to Bos Iced Tea…

We were thrilled to win a crate of Bos Ice Tea… with Green Pop in their run up to Christmas GiveAways…


A Blast From the Past:


That’s us… Hope you are all have a fabulous week!!!

→ 2 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

Se7en’s January and Your Free Printable Calendar…

January 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

Welcome to 2015 and a fresh year of printable calendars will be rolling out month by month…

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Click on the calendar image, it will open in a new tab, print it using “landscape” and then colour it and fill in the days that you want to celebrate… pop it on the fridge and you are good to go. You can still find all the calendar pages down the right hand side of our website and they are all gathered together in our Almanac page for easy searching… If you have holidays or ideas that you would like to add then please go ahead and comment, we would love to have our calendars packed to the brim!!!

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To print: click on the image and it will open in a new tab… print away!!!

And how Se7en’s Weather Tree Works…


Se7en’s January

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The Year That Was… 2016

December 31st, 2016 · No Comments

We wanted to wish all our readers a wonderful New Year. Just taking a pause and looking back at 2016 and wishing you all the best for 2017… Thank you for following along on our journey and thank you all for taking the time to stop by and leave comments and enrich our lives so much. Thank you…

Photo Credit to Marike Herselman Photography

This was the year where everybody just shot up, there was a lot of growing and growing up, for all of us… I think it was the year that I paused for a moment and noticed just how the whole gang seems to be so much bigger than a collection of little people they once were. They are all emerging into a gang of note. And as usual the over-riding love we have for our children has continue to surprise me… it surprised me as each of them were born and it continues to surprise me … as they grow up and emerge into crazy fun people that I just want to hang around and spend time with all day.

Photo Credit to Marike Herselman Photography

We read through copious amounts of books… The mental list of books that I really wanted to read to my kids before they are all grown up and gone was vast and between me and audible we conquered a lot of it. Otherwise, we hiked higher and further than ever before… exploring further afield than the mountain in our back yard. Goals, we had a few and conquered them… my biggest goal for the year was REST… and I did. I took days off, I blogged a little less, I read a lot more and I breathed more deeply…

And for the Hoods…

Hood 1: There was reading, lego, photography and flying through a year of college…

Hood 2: There was reading, hiking and masses of computering…

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Hood 3: There was reading, hiking, photography and baking…

Hood 4: There was reading, hiking and running…

Hood 5: There was reading, hiking and the great outdoors…

Hood 6: There was reading, hiking and glittery art daily…

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Hood 7: There was reading, hiking and story writing…

Hood 8: There was reading, hiking and well everything…

Previous Years…

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The Year That Was… 2015

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The Year That Was… 2014


The Year That Was… 2013


The Year That Was… 2012


The Year That Was… 2011


The Year That Was… 2010


The Year That Was… 2009

all of us!

The Year That Was… 2008

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It’s Almost New Year’s Eve…

December 31st, 2016 · No Comments

Just popping up from our summer break… it is time to think about some New Year’s Eve Fun…

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To print: click on the image and it will open in a new tab… print away!!!

And how Se7en’s Weather Tree Works…


How to Create Your Own Desk Calendar…


Se7en Ideas for a Family Noticeboard…


How to Make Fortune Cookies in Se7en Steps…


Se7en Resolve to do More of the Same…


Se7en and the New Year Tree Party…

→ No CommentsTags: Holiday Crafts

Se7ens Completed Natural Factual Advent Calendar…

December 28th, 2016 · 3 Comments

Here is our complete collection from our Natural Factual Advent Calendar on Instagram. For the past few years we have created an Advent Calendar of natural treasures. The idea is that a countdown to Christmas is such a lovely thing, but we would like to savour the treasures that we have, or that we discover on our journey through life… and that journey takes us to some really exciting places. So it really is a small reflection on the exciting places we have been and adventures we have enjoyed over the past while. Not to mention, it is something that the whole family can contribute to… everyone has a collection of little treasures and instead of them being hidden around the house they get showcased on the advent calendar.


How we Built our Natural Factual Calendar

We have had a window frame, just waiting for a project all year!!! And then one of our best blogging friends (thank you Marcia!!!) sent us a gift of Jacaranda Seed Pods and I knew what we had to do…

All the Pods

And some Glue Gun Magic

And we were Ready to Go…

Twenty-Four Days and Counting

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Previous Natural Factual Calendars


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That’s it… hope you are all having a great holiday break…

→ 3 CommentsTags: Holiday Crafts · Outdoors

Se7en + 1 Simple Christmas Traditions…

December 28th, 2016 · 6 Comments

Just wanted to stop by and say Merry Christmas to all our readers… hope you are enjoying the holiday season.


We really try and keep our Christmas time simple, it is in the heart of summer and our summer break from school. Everyone is hot and roaming from shady spot to shady spot… it really isn’t a high energy season at all around here. We thought we would bring you a post with our simple Christmas traditions all in one place.

Se7en + 1 Simple Christmas Traditions

  1. The Advent Calendar: I blogged about our Natural Factual Advent Calendar a few weeks ago… and here is a photograph of the completed calendar. I do think it deserves it’s own post, and here it is, our Completed Natural Factual Advent Calendar…
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  3. Christmas Carols: Our Christmas really only gets into gear with an evening of carols and a nativity play with friends. I tend not to worry that everyone else is miles ahead of us, getting shopping done and decorated weeks ahead of us… I know we will get into gear and I let the spirit of things catch up with us when we are good and ready to go.


  4. The Great Cookie Day: We have cooked the same Spicy Christmas Cookies for years, they work… we only cook them once a year… they are special. We have a cookie day with friends, each child gets a lump of cookie day and turns and we bake tray after tray after tray…
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  6. Fresh Flowers: In this strangely busy season I do everything I can to stay out of the shops and to slow it down, making sure that we schedule in peaceful and relaxing events. They are a tradition and must be done… a morning visiting the Rose Farm for a run around, to sit in the shade and rest up, far from the madding crowd. And also pick some roses, flowers make the perfect gift in a season when the world is doing all sorts of crazy shopping. Not to mention this farm sells cherries… which is a special summer treat all of its own.
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  8. Gifts and Giftmaking: After an easy day we have a day of gift making… Jam jars are filled and biscotti are baked…
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  10. Cards & Wrapping: For a couple of weeks, whenever someone was free I asked them to make me a sheet of gift wrap… and when it came to actual gift wrapping we had a great pile of paper all good to go… many hands sure do make light work. And this year for the first time in a few we actually got our Christmas cards mailed… most years they get as far as the front door and then look a little sad… this year it was another example of many hands make light work and the job was done… maybe not timeoulsy, but cards were mailed.
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  12. Sibling Gifts: This is one tradition, the secret sibling gift tradition, that none of us are prepared to give up and every year I say we must begin a little sooner and somehow we always leave it to the very last minute. There is always a rush of quiet and creative flare the day before Christmas and every year it always works out right at the very last second.


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    A colourful notebook, a knotted key chain, a cookbook with the recipes written out, and a cardboard speaker. A wand for the Harry Potter reader, and a dream word to pin up for the dreamer, and a little matchbox mouse house and finally a pirate notebook.

  13. The Tree: ‘Twas the night before Christmas and as a small child i have fond memories of my dad heading out to hunt for a tree… something don’t change we also do a little bit of tree foraging… and there is always a huge debate as to which tree is the perfect tree… and into a bucket and up it goes and all the decorations, new ones made and old ones specially saved, are popped on the tree just as my mom-in-law arrives for Christmas dinner on Christmas eve.



    Christmas Day

    Our Christmas always looks the same… a trip to church and a long play in the park (it is the emptiest park day of the year), followed by a nap and oh yes, they swap their specially made gifts… and finally get to peak in their stockings, followed by the easiest supper on earth… whatever that is!!!


    And on Boxing Day, my folks arrive and there is a veritable party,… they brings their Christmas cheer and treats for every one… and of course we feast…


    And until the end of the year… you will find us lying around and reading and not doing anything too energetic… it is Summer break after all!!!

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→ 6 CommentsTags: Holiday Crafts · Home Truths