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

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What We Have Been Reading Lately from Jonathan Ball Publishers…

July 26th, 2018 · No Comments

Recently Jonathan Ball Publishers held their media evening for new and exciting books that will be launching in the second half of this year. I loved it of course, who wouldn’t love a book event… Anyway, I posted this picture on instagram, and when you see a bookish picture in our insta feed then you know that a book post will be following soon… and here it is…


A couple of picture books for you, a colossal comic book, chapter books and can I say more than a few adults books that I have been reading lately. Every year around this time, we read our way Around the World, only this year it appears to be me that is reading Around the World, scroll down for a trip through Australia, Syria and Italy. Here you go… Enjoy the Journey…

What We Have Been Reading Lately from Jonathan Ball Publishers

A Picture Book Giveaway

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
This is a most beautiful picture book, and should be part of any family library. It’s Giveaway on our blog right now, click on this link and leave a comment to enter.

A Family Fun Picture Book

The New Neighbours written and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre
This book is a happy one, full of bounce and bunnies… and a very well placed message about our preconceived ideas about folk. There is a very excitable family of bunnies living on the top story of an apartment block, and they hear about new neighbours, rats… that have moved in on the ground floor. As they head downstairs to meet them, filled with joy and glee, they stop off and meet and greet a different animal family on each floor. Assumptions about their ratty neighbours are announced on each level… and the bunnies enthusiasm gets less and less as they head downstairs. Eventually they get to the ground floor, and very apprehensively knock on the door of the Rat Family… (spoiler alert)… only to be greeted by the most genteel pair of rats ever, and they have baked a large cake to greet their new neighbours with. Oh the shame for the bunnies, when they realise that all the not so very nice things that they had been told about the rats, were completely unfounded… and you can see that everyone is going to be firm friends and live happily forever after. You can visit Sarah McIntyre’s Website, Jabberworks, here.

A Chapter Book for Your Heart

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park: Reading books like this one, with our kids, will teach them compassion far more easily than us telling them that they are privileged to go to bed every night, knowing they are safe and that their tummies are full, not to mention that our water can flow from a tap. This is a book with two stories, both set in South Sudan and thirty years apart: Nya a young girl in Sudan that has to walk to a pond twice a day to fetch water for her family, the whole event takes eight hours. Eight gruelling hours out of her day, every day. The other story is about Salva, a boy whose village was attacked and he was forced to flee, and become one of the “lost boys” of Africa… this is the story of his journey without his family, not only does he have to contend with a harsh environment and terrifying people, but wild animals too. This story is about bravery and struggles, really hard struggles. It is written for children and told really well… in a world where terrible things happen, we often don’t want to share atrocities or the unfairness of it all with our kids. You have to start somewhere and this book is a good place to start. It is a true story and the point is never to give up hope, Salva and Nya meet up and their stories collide. You can meet Linda Sue Park on her website here.

Kids Doing the Right Stuff

A Good Day for Climbing Trees by Jaco Jacobs: This book was a lovely surprise, firstly it is always great to discover someone who writes in the South African context, and with a green/environmental theme. Both of those make this book a winner for us. Manus is a middle child. He has an old brother who is a heartbreaker and school swimming champion and a younger brother, with classic manipulative business skills. It looks like Manus is going to have a long and dull summer holiday, answering to his brothers’ beck and call… until Leila, a neighbour hood gal comes knocking on the door. And together Manus and Leila set out to save a tree in the local park that is doomed to be chopped down by the city council. They stage a sit in… and their families and community have to come to terms with the two of them finding their voice and standing up for what is right. While they are “tree sitting” they meet a number of interesting characters and have lots of long discussions about life… life lessons learnt around a campfire, or up a tree… It is a great story and my middle grade kids will love it. A new to us author, Jaco Jacobs, you can meet him on his website here.

This is Absolutely Fantastic!!!

The Hippo at the End of the Hall written and illustrated by Helen Cooper: Oh this is delightful… delightful. I have to say it is so picture rich and the illustrations are fantastic I thought it would be easy reading… wait a little bit if your child is just starting chapter books, until they are comfortable readers. Not the easy chapter book that I thought it would be, but an out of this world, wonderful story. Our youngest was drawn in by the illustrations (!!!), and his powering his way through this one chapter by chapter the story is intriguing, and it is full of little stories, fables, legends, myths… it is a treasure trove. Ben is a thoughtful and curious kid, who is mysteriously invited to visit the Gee Museum, it is not often one receives a beautiful invitation via bee-mail. For some reason Ben’s mum doesn’t want him to go near the museum, though how can he resist, and he finds himself on a quest to save the museum. The Gee museum is a museum of curiosities… lots of them… and this story is packed with curiosities… lots of them. This book is in fact so good that I am going to use it as our next family read aloud.

Colourful Comics

The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection Volume 1: My kids have not been exposed to a lot of comics… and I thought they would be very excited to read this collection. It is a grand collection of comics all jam packed into one album and would have been my absolute summer holiday treat as a kid. They were really intrigued with the one comic about the Trail Blazers, who are group of friends on an intergalactic mission to discover why their network is failing… and then what’s not to love about an Evil Emperor Penguin… this pure fun and escapism. With illustrators like our favourite Chris Riddell featured, and Robert Dean, Jess Bradley, Jamie Smart, Mike Smith Joe List, Laura Ellen Anderson and Dan Boultwood. If your kids love comics, then they will most likely love this collection. Meet the team at The Phoenixcomic…

On To Adult Reads

Let’s Talk About Book Club… In Australia

The Inaugural Meeting of Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green: I enjoyed this book… It is a fantastic holiday read or weekend read, or “I need to escape from the world for a little while” read. Firstly, this is not your typical bookclub, this is a group of Australian Ladies, who live in the back of beyond and who rarely have any contact with anyone who doesn’t live on their immediate compound. These gals are flung far and wide, and the loneliness is real. They would love to meet up once in a while for a catch up and a natter, so in then naming of their meeting, they start a book club. They have to be really intentional about meeting up, the harsh environment is definitely stacked against them. To be honest, they can only meet a couple of times a year when it isn’t monsoon season. So… it isn’t about the book club so much, but it is about friendship. Deep and abiding friendship, they are called to stand by each other, to stand up for each other and stand out for each other. The book is set in the Northern Territory and the author does well do describe the wide open spaces, I really enjoyed the Australian setting, it was a nice change from more typical book club settings. The five women cover an array of characters too, and the slow rolling start of the book, helps you identify the details about each of them and how their friendships connect together. Once you get into this one, you really won’t want it to end… you will want to read on long past the back cover to see what happens to each of the lead players.

And Baking in Italy…

The Little Italian Bakery by Valentina Cebeni: This is a sweet and dreamy story, the kind of story you want to read on holiday, it opens and closes and is packed with secrets and betrayals, mysteries and friendship, love and loss.. this book has it all… and for my mum (I know you are reading this!!!) recipes. You have to love a book, set on an island off the coast of Italy, that has recipes sprinkled throughout it… somehow being able to smell the story and know when to add the lemon juice and the aniseed… makes the book so much MORE, because every time you bake you are going to flash right back to the story.

The story is about a young lady called Elettra, she is burdened by her tricky relationship with her mum and their failing bakery, then her mum goes into a coma and doesn’t appear to be emerging. This is too much for Elettra, she has so many unanswered questions that will now never be answered. She decides to book herself off on a holiday… and ventures off to the island where her mom grew up. Only to discover when she gets there a sense of there is something much bigger going on than an off-season holiday and a well earned rest. The thing is everyone seems to know Elettra’s story, except her… and the more she looks, the more things unravel. It is really only her baking that puts the spring in her step and keeps her on her focused on her quest, to find some answers. This is not a life-changing read, I found the author kept explaining things we already knew, again and again, but it is definitely a good read and it will leave you wanting to escape to the Italian countryside for something scrumptious to eat… which never seems like a bad idea.

Moving on to Syria

The Map of Salt & Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar: I was drawn to this book for the beautiful mosaic cover. I loved it completely, from the first word to the last. This is a story that is beautifully written and every word has been carefully crafted to describe the events of the life of Nour. Nour is a young girl, coming of age in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis… she loses everything, the adults around her talk past her and think she doesn’t understand, and indeed there is a lot that she can’t comprehend… but never underestimate the understanding of a child. Nour is on the cusp of understanding that not everything is lovely, almost like the first time that as a child, you notice a toy is scratched… and no longer magical. Only her entire world is scratched and losing the magic and events around her are stealing her childhood. Nour and family grew up in New York, but when her beloved father dies her mother returns, with the children, to Syria, the only place she has relatives who can care for her.

Their father was a storyteller and told her many stories, that she in turn has told to the roots of the fig tree out in the garden… because the roots can carry the story through the earth and back to her father, so he won’t feel alone. Her favourite story is the story of Rawiyah, a young girl from the twelfth century, who dressed up as a boy and went to seek adventure, she became the apprentice to the famous map maker, Al-Idrisi. Nour is inspired by Rawiyah, and clings to her story as she herself is sent on a journey, not to find adventure, but rather to escape it. She still asks, “What is a refugee?” Long after her home has been shelled and the family is fleeing with nothing.

The book winds its way between the story of Nour in 2011 and the story of Rawiyah 800 years before… there is Nour’s grief as they lose their home, a tragic ferry ride and endless troubles, and there is Rawiyah’s wild and mythical adventure, but ultimately there is bravery. These girls are full of heart. While there is a sense of loss, and your heart breaks for Nour and stolen childhood, you have to have hope… and you constantly read on in the hopes that something will turn out well for her. You can meet the author, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar on her website here.

Parenting Skills on Point

The Thirteen Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do by Amy Morin: I confess I am not at the stage in my life where I inhale multiple parenting books a week and still want to read more of them, but this one is so good that I am actually going to stand up and recommend it. If you feel past the, “Your children should eat this. Your children should sleep then. Your children must…”Insert any lame command here”” and yet you are still overwhelmed by it all. Then it is time for you to relax, take a deep breath and read this book. Slowly. One chapter at a time and just let the information settle, before you read the next chapter. Let’s face it we all want to raise great kids, but often we just don’t know where to start.

I have to say this is not a book about raising sweet darling angels. It is a very practical book about how to change bad habits that you might have settled into. How to tackle things that you might have let go, because who knows where to start… and how to recognise mistakes that your family is making. I like that this is not a parents vs. the kids book, this is very much a we have a problem here folks, lets address it. I love that it is packed with relatable examples… each chapter is a case study… you can see how things weren’t working well in a family and you can see how they implemented change, developed a strategy and followed through with it. Basically we can teach our kids skills, how to be resilient, how to deal with pain, how to take responsibility… things we want our children to know. This book is packed with tips on how to teach them… the kind of life skills that you won’t find in a curriculum.

I have to say that when my kids saw the title of this book, they chuckled and then… they read the contents on the back cover and quickly told me that I didn’t need to read this book at all… which immediately made me dive in and read it!!! You can Meet Amy Morin, and check out her Ted Talk, over here.

Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the opinions are as usual my own.

→ No CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en Things I have Loved at Gym Just Lately…

July 24th, 2018 · No Comments

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post about gym, a report back so to speak. The thing about gym is that there is always something happening. Last week was Open Week and a whole lot of Madiba Day celebrating… as well as ongoing Workshops, and Online Learning. The thing I really love about this gym is that it isn’t only about working out, though there is a lot of working out (!), there is always something new to learn and get involved in.

Recent Events at Sport Science


  1. Madiba Day Fun:

  2. Madiba Day is a big celebration in South Africa and a day that everyone typically volunteers 67 minutes of time. As a family we love to volunteer and over the last few years we have been lucky to have painted a Madiba Day mural or helped on a community project. We were thrilled to join the Sport Science Team with their community service project…


    It all began with packing sandwich bags…

    Then visiting play schools…

    And playing and painting…
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    We had such a blast, happy memories and a great way to meet the team, off the gym floor.
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  3. Open Week

  4. Last week was also Open Week at the gym, which means that non-members could join in and try out the classes and the gym floor. I decided that it was high time that my kids joined my gym class and see what I do every morning while they sleep in. I have to say they weren’t thrilled by the early wake-up call… but they totally loved gym.


    Turns out it might have been a little harder than they expected…
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    They were grateful for all the breaks…
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    And some folk might have been a little stiff for the next couple of days…
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    I can say they are very inspired and have been trying new things and setting up little workout stations throughout their days… They totally get the fun and feel good factor that gym has to offer… and now the entire family loves my biokineticist!!!
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    Wonderful Workshops

    About once a month Sport Science has a workshop where they tackle different topics that are pertinent to their athletes… they have had a series of Women’s Wellness Workshops and as well as workshops that everyone can enjoy. You definitely don’t have to be a super athlete to attend them, I am always there… and I always leave very inspired.

    The sponsors are Granny Goose Bedding, and FutureLife Cereals… there are always grand prizes and samples to take home.

  5. Women’s Wellness Workshop: Women’s Running Matters: Healing Hormones and Health:

    For this workshop there were two speakers: Dr Phato Zondi was chatting about how hormones can affect our running…


    How to take advantage of your Menstrual cycle, and coping with the hormonal fluctuations of Menopause. That was so, so interesting, there is so much to learn here folks. The moral of the story… keep exercising, it makes everything better.

    The second speaker was Dr Janine Gray, a physiotherapist, who spoke about injuries and specifically injuries pertaining to women runners. The point is that every runner is an individual, and has to be looked at as such.

    After strengthening our core, the most important thing we can do to improve our running is to strengthen or glutes… in actual fact we just sit on them all day and we need to start thinking of ways to sit a lot less.
  6. Triathlon Workshop:

  7. This workshop literally knocked my socks off… I always thought that triathletes were super awesome athletes that worked out eighteen hours a day… I was wrong. And with the training programme, that Sport Science has developed, you would be able to complete a triathlon. Honestly, it never occurred to me to even think about a triathlon, but their workshop left me thinking that it was totally doable.

    The point is, whether I ever do a triathlon or not, this workshop got me back into the pool and swimming a couple of times a week. Not only that, where I had thought riding a bike was for somebody else and I never need to think about getting on a bike ago… I have since been giving it a go. To be honest, I don’t think it would take more than the slightest encouragement to give it a try after that fabulous workshop. I did slightly think about it a little bit, but that would just be insane… a year ago I couldn’t run around the track – and how everything has totally changed in the last year and a half.

    A panel of experts was there to answer all the questions… and so many tips on swimming and running, cycling and setting up a training programme. All useful stuff, for working out in general… not just for triathlon training.

    After the swimming tips, we had a dietician talk to us about what to eat and meal planning to improve your performance. What to eat before, during and after your workout… food that will help you to train harder and recover better.

    Online Learning

    You might not know this but the Sport Science Institute of South Africa has an online learning hub, where you can do courses about any number of topics. I have written about learning online before… there are a few do’s and don’ts to making sure you go the distance and actually finish the courses you begin. I have been working on two of the courses over the last couple of weeks. Don’t be misled by the fact that there are about six modules in each course and think that you can complete a course in a weekend. Theoretically you can, but you won’t get the most out of them, because there is a lot of information in them and it takes a while to think about and digest each module before you go on. I have to say I took copious notes throughout and since this is my year to try new things… both of these courses immediately got me started on new and better lifestyle habits.

  8. Nutrition Reconsidered:

  9. Well I have just finished this course… and honestly it grew on me. Initially I found it a little tricky, but I have gotten better at understanding “nutrition speak” as the course went on. I learnt a lot as I went along and all those eating habits that I had when I started out at the gym initially, are changing… well those habits are going to their happy place and new healthier ones are replacing them. My biggest lesson learnt was to stop eating food because you always have eaten it. Change things up, eat a ton of different colours and eat to fuel your day. I have never really thought about fuelling my day or eating with my workouts in mind.


    The significant thing about my eating habits since I started at the gym was that I really reduced my portion size… but I need to change things up again and start eating towards my much more exercise rich lifestyle. The meal planning module was so useful, photographs and printable notes and planners, to keep and use in the future. The best habit that I gleaned from this course was to keep a thorough food journal. It is a very interesting exercise, initially you discover that what you eat vs what you think you eat are not quite the same thing and then I found myself making better choices because I really didn’t want to write the bad choices down.

  10. Optimise Your Sleep:

  11. The first shocker to me on my fitness journey was that my sleep situation was far far from sufficient. In fact, my sleep situation was so appalling I am amazed that I ever got through a single day. Since then I have taken every opportunity to learn more about sleep… and when I saw there was a sleep course I could not sign up fast enough. This course is very hands on and practical… and even if you are the very best sleeper you will learn a lot. The first module is all about correct sleep habits and what your sleep pattern really should look like, and how to interpret and understand all the sleep devices and trackers that have been flooding the market recently.


    After learning about about correct sleep habits the course goes on to explain the problems folk have with sleep and how they can get back on track. And then it gets much more practical… starting with a sleep diary. If you want to get a handle on your sleep then a sleep diary is essential. Yes, there are apps, and devises and so on… but by keeping a diary I found myself much more aware of the chasm between the sleep that I thought I was getting and the sleep that I actually was getting. As usual sleep is my hardest habit to keep track of, it is a discipline issue that I really need to get under better control. I am working my way through this course and I can see that already it has been quite instrumental in ensuring that I consistently get a good nights sleep.

    Just Letting You Know…

  12. There is a Sleep Workshop Coming Up…


As a Brand Ambassador for the Healthy Weight Programme at the Sport Science Institue of South Africa, I do get to try out their products, workshops and gym facilities, so that I can share what I am learning with our followers. These are not sponsored blog posts, I write them because I want to write them, and all the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

→ No CommentsTags: Healthy Living

A Couple of Things You Need to Know Right Now…

July 23rd, 2018 · No Comments

So we have been away on a house swap, it was crazy busy… because holidays for moms are just that. Crazy. Busy… and did I ever mention eight kids!!! But fun times too… lots of fun times. And laundry, and making meals… and running(!) and hiking and friends and great outdoor adventures. But mostly it just flew past way too fast!!!


→ No CommentsTags: Fabulous Fun

Madiba Day and a GiveAway for our Readers…

July 18th, 2018 · 18 Comments

Today is Madiba’s birthday, and a cause for great celebration in South Africa,


Traditionally South African’s spend 67 minutes doing community service or volunteering on Madiba Day and as a family we usually spend the day painting a mural or planting trees… something that all folk will enjoy doing. Today we helped our friends at Sport Science Institute of South Africa painting murals and playing with primary school kids. We had so much fun and as my kids said, “Why do folk only do this once a year?”

Apart from Madiba Day it also appears to be book season, and last week I attended the latest greatest reads presentation from Jonathan Ball Publishers and one of the books on display was an illustrated biography of Madiba… It is absolutely beautiful… Nelson Mandela, words and paintings by Kadir Nelson. The book tells the story of a young Nelson Mandela, from his boyhood…

Through his schooling and onto years in prison as a political prisoner…

His release… and the transformation of South Africa…
The illustrations are out of this world, they completely make the book and the text has a lovely African lilt to it. If you are looking for a picture book for young children, about Mandela that also introduces the difficult topic of apartheid, then this is the picture book to start with. It will open discussion across all ages from preschool kids to high schoolers. This is a book that should be on every school shelf. This is a beautiful picture book and one that will definitely be read again and again and again…

GiveAway Time

Our GiveAways are open to everyone: Just leave a comment below… before 30 July 2018. If you have won a GiveAway before never fear – enter away. If you live on the far side of the world – enter away. Postage takes forever from here but eventually it should get to you! Good luck and happy commenting!!!

I would really like to thank Jonathan Ball Publishers for providing us with a copy of the book to review. We would like to declare that this is not a sponsored post and all the opinions are as usual, entirely our own.

→ 18 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books · GiveAways

Se7en Bazillion Books You Can Look Forward to From Penguin Random House…

July 17th, 2018 · No Comments

So last week Penguin Random House South Africa had their latest and greatest reads book launch for children’s books, and I was thrilled to be there. We have been away on Winter Holiday… and so of course reading away. Here comes a galactic post of all that is new and fun and fantastic for family reading…


Let’s start by saying there are plenty of lovely books coming out… the books just keep on rolling and if your kids aren’t reading then read to them… and if they are reading… read to them still… because the world of adventure is literally waiting for them between the pages of books…

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Mickey Mouse was there…

To lead the way…
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Who wouldn’t want to read letters with Peppa Pig, or a The Book of Bacteria, written by Steve Mould!!!

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And would you look at this sweet magic… Winnie the Pooh for the win… I just love this!!!
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Because the simple things in life really do matter…
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And local books to look forward to…

Usborne Books Have Finally Arrived

Can I just say that there has never been an Usborne Book that I haven’t loved and adored… really never!!!

A lovely blend of facts…

And fun…
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Honestly, I could happily hunt for cats and dogs all day…
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It really doesn’t matter how old you are, there is something to love in these books… fascinating factoids and interesting snippets, all presented beautifully and in an interesting way… perfect for encouraging curious readers to explore…
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A Goody Bag of Note


So many wonderful bookish treats in there… and we definitely need to meet Ermine, and would you look at the fantastic cover art illustrations… lots to love and look forward to.

What We Have Been Reading Lately…


Natural Factual Fynbos

African Wild Flowers by Sally MacLarty:
A lovely addition to the Read, Colour and Keep Series by Sally MacLarty and Struik Nature. These books are perfect for young eco-warriors and outdoor enthusiasts. Just enough facts to peek their interest and satisfy their initial curiosity. A beautiful illustration to colour on each page and a centre spread for those young scientists that want to create an accurate nature journal with their colouring book.

We have been waiting for a flower and fynbos book for youngsters for the longest time, and this is definitely it. Twenty-four pages of beautiful local flowers to learn about… strong paper that would be suitable for pencils crayons, crayons, watercolour paints and markers. Already I have been able to answer, “What flower is that?” Questions a couple of times since we got this book… it is indeed a winner.

A Really Wild Picture Book

What on Earth is That? by Sarah Savory and illustrated by Fredéric Baele:
This is a fun read for little people who may never have come across a pangolin… Two young children are playing and discover a mystery all rolled up in a ball… a scaled ball.

They set off across the African Plains, asking plenty of more familiar animals, exactly what it is. They gather clues as they go, and eventually discover what their discovery is.

It is a sweet, brightly illustrated book, written in rhyme… a fun story, with a conservation message for young eco-warriors. At the back there are a couple of pangolin information pages, for curious young readers and their parents, as well as a collection of photographs of the author and her children, and pangolins, taken at the Tikki Hywood Trust in Zimbabwe.

A Dreamy Picture Book

Ricky of the River Pride by Lindsay Sherratt and illustrated by Astrid Castle: This is a lovely, African animal themed story about a little boy called Ricky who goes to sleep surrounded by his collection of soft toy animals that represent animals of the African plains. As he nods of to sleep he is woken by his wild animal friends, who have dashed to call him because their little friend the lion cub, who is the only son of the Ruler of the River Pride, is in terrible danger.

Ricky has to be terribly brave to rescue the little lion cub and then the cubs parents arrive on the scene… this could get a little dangerous really quickly, but all the animals quickly mention that it was Ricky that rescued their little one. They are all very grateful to Ricky for his rescue… and Ricky wakes up in his bed the next morning and wonders if it was all a dream. Or was it?

Sticker Activity Book Fun

Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach Sticker Activity Book: This has been pure Winter Holiday fun and a great reward for reading the actual James and The Giant Peach.

Bright and colourful pages in true Roald Dahl production style, it includes a peachy word search, codes, a crossword and a couple of pages to fill in, as well as stickers… plenty of stickers… because you all know: Stickers make the world go round!!!

Smashing Superheroes

Marvel Collection Thor & Hulk: Well I never expected this to be a book that would resonate with my kids and how absolutely wrong I was. This was in our goodie bag, from the event, and I popped it on the coffee table along with our pile of review books and this is the one book that was picked up by every single kid in the family. Clearly Marvel characters have infiltrated our environment. Hood 8 reports that: This is the story of how Thor needs to be able to lift an incredibly heavy hammer to prove his worth. But then Thor starts to boast about his achievements, his father gets annoyed with him and throws the hammer at Midgaurd… and tosses Thor after it. Thor thinks he is a person, one day when he is on vacation, he gets trapped in a cave by a fallen boulder. But then he finds a stick and tries with all his might to move the boulder, and it won’t budge… he gets so annoyed he hits the ground two times with the stick and realises that it is the hammer in disguise and it ends with him regaining his hero status. The second story in this book is about Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, who starts off as a shy kid that loves science and when he becomes older he starts working for the army as a scientist. There is a very dangerous chemical that he is working with, but he doesn’t want to hurt anyone so he does his testing far away in the desert. A kid drives into the danger area, he rushes to the kid and shoves him into a safe house as the test bomb explodes. He felt like he was trapped and now his true self emerges as the Hulk.

Magical Middle School Fun

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The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris: This is a magical new series to look out for… seriously magic. Its a fun and in places funny read that we read together over our holiday… the best thing about this book is that there are real live actual magic tricks and How to Do Them, if you just follow the illustrated steps and practice, practice, practice… These tricks are scattered throughout the book.

The story begins with a rather sceptical Carter, his parents vanished without a trace and he is being raised by his criminal uncle, who is the ultimate… Bill Sykes, from Oliver Twist. Uncle Sly teaches Carter all his tricks in the hopes that Carter will fall into his wicked ways, but Carter has a very strict sense of right and wrong and is not interested in bowing to his Uncle’s whims. He runs away and discovers a side show type circus, full of word and wonderful characters, out of the frying pan into the fire so to speak. Carter and an accumulated group of friends find themselves outwitting a number of “obstacles” that come their way.

This book is about friendship and sticking together, no matter what… a collection of Misfits it turns out make a fine team. As you can expect from the latest themes in kids reads there is a lot of diversity represented here: kids of different cultures, abilities or disabilities, a kid with two dads and so on. This is the norm for kids reads right now, they all have a not so subtle message that everyone is getting on marvellously and everything is fantastic, whether this is the case in real life or not, your kids are going to discover this in every recently published book that they read. Just a heads up, and I see it as an opportunity to talk about topics with them that they might not have encountered in their everyday life aleady.

More from the Middle School Series

Middle School Escape to Australia by James Patterson and Martin Chatterton: Another fun read in the series… that might seem somewhat endless, but I have to say that Hood 5 inhales these and has honestly loved them all. These are your typical school stories, funny if you are a middle grader, less so if you aren’t. That being said, when one of my kids finds a series that they love then I let them read all of it, and if they want to read it again, then just carry on!!! In this instalment, Rafe is the hero and wins a school art competition, which takes him off to Australia on a winning adventure. Australia, it turns out is not all surfing and sunshine… it is full of weird and wild creatures and hotter than hot… A prize that turns out to be a rather challenging challenge.

When War Comes Knocking…

In the Mouth of the Wolf by Michael Morpugo and illustrated by Barroux:I often think that I will never have read enough Michael Morpugo Books. This is the true story of his Uncles, set at the start of World War II. Honestly if your children are learning about the World Wars or even if they are slightly interested in them… these are the books to read, they capture the true and essential spirit of the time: bravery, commitment and loyalty again and again and again. These books will teach you about being n adult in a world where you would much rather not have to be… in a time when young men would rather have been out with their friends they were called to fight in a war, leave the loves of their lives and go, not knowing if they would ever be back. I read this book in a sitting, and I am save it to read outloud to my kids. Two brothers… one is called up to fight and the other is a peaceful objector and works on a farm, when the brother in the airforce is in an accident, the conscientious objector is compelled to enter the war… as a spy. This is a peek into his love, what he left behind, and his daily struggles. The combination of Michael Morpurgo’s writing and the poignant pen and ink illustrations from Barroux, makes a very giftable book and one that will be read more than once. A beautiful coming of age story, in a time when life demanded much more than most of us would want to give. I absolutely loved the personal touch, the memory filled feel of the book from the author’s own life, and the section of family photographs at the end of the book make it an absolute keeper.

Book of the Year…

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya: I have read so many books on the plight of refugees, and the horrors of war and the associated atrocities and I am so glad that they are being written… people need to tell their stories, people need to take the time to remember those that were lost. This book has touched my heart, it resonates with me… Clemantine doesn’t just write about her stolen childhood and the disruption to all that she held true… for the sake of a war that she might never understand, but in this book she shares her story and explains why there cannot be a “happily ever after” moment… famous for appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show, where Oprah reconnected her with her parents and family after twelve years of fleeing, somehow being alongside each other could not heal the rift created by time and horror… the loss and the grief could not close the chasm that opened up between here and her family. This book is a tragedy, that represents so many more tragedies. Read it… this book is a harrowing read and needs to be read, will change you. You can meet Clemantine on her website here.

All the Action

Bodyguard Fugitive by Chris Bradford:
Can I just say my kids love Chris Bradford, they are huge fans, since they met him… and not only that, but he gave us a fantastic interview. So this is book 6 in the Bodyguard Series, and apparently the last of the fast-paced, action-packed series… Conner Reeves finds himself hurtling around Shanghai, China. His fellow teenage “BuddyGuards” have been abducted and there is a price on his life. His only way out is to go on the attack against his enemy… Old enemies and new enemies line up against him and he has to rely on new friends and alliances to survive… there are many surprising twists in this tale and it is more than a little difficult to believe that this is actually the grand finale to the series that it claims to be.

You can meet Chris Bradford on his website… And learn more about the books on their dedicated website, right here.

And Some Mythical Myths

The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan: Book three in the Trials of Apollo series and of course it is gripping. Apollo has been punished by Zeus, and has been cast down to earth as a mortal teenager, called Lester. Lester has to restore five Oracles, without any of his usual powers. Three Roman Emperors are on a personal quest to stop Lester from completing his task, meanwhile danger looms on every front. Lots of Rick Riordan drama and you really should go back and read the first two books in the series, if you haven’t already… Begin at the beginning if you want to enjoy these to the max.

Strange But True?

Encounters by Jason Wallace: This book is unsettling, really quite dark and a challenging read, and that puts it straight into the Young Adult group of reads. The thing about this book is that it is based on true events… actual factual events that were witnessed way back in the early nineties. Six children at a school in Zimbabwe are interviewed about an event that happened at the school, and each of the witnesses builds on the story of an alien visit. But is their visitor really an alien, or perhaps the alien is someone much closer to home? This book is a little creepy, and as the story builds and the events are pieced together so one goes from: this is impossible, to this could really have happened, and then back again. The point is, you really don’t have to like a character to believe them and in this book there are a lot of unlikeable characters. Well worth a read if you don’t mind being more than a little unsettled.

And While the Kids Are Reading Something for the Adults

A Little Bond, James Bond

Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz: The Prequel to every James Bond book ever written, this is in fact the “Bond begins book.” Find out the back story to this world renowned spy. Of course we are huge fans of Anthony Horowitz and of course you can expect fast and furious non-stop action all the way. This is the book about just how, and why Bond, James Bond, got his licence to kill. Set on the French Rivera, you can expect syndicates, gang triads and such like, more important you will discover exactly where James Bond gets his signature drink from… “shaken not stirred.” This is true Anthony Horowitz and James Bond, an unputdownable race against time… a fantastic read with all the twists and turns will leave you somewhat like his martini… “shaken not stirred.” Fantastic action packed read and highly recommended.

And a Weekend Read for the Mother Person

Letters to Iris by Elizabeth Noble:
I totally judged this book by the cover… totally. The prettiest suitcase ever and filled with letters, honestly I wanted to read this book because I wanted to know what was inside those letters. This is the story of Tess, who is in a pretty predictable relationship, and the time seems right for them to settle down and follow the “happily ever after path”… only he thinks he has big news to tell her, he has been after a job in New York and thinking she would jump at the chance of a Trans-Atlantic venture and a fresh start. He is somewhat surprised when she is hesitant. Tess on the other hand, who is responsible for a grandmother who suffers from dementia and wouldn’t dream of leaving her in England, also has an unexpected surprise to share, only the longer she waits to tell him about his impending fatherhood, the harder it is to share. This is a book about finding true friendship, enduring and endearing friendship… not to mention life is full of lots of surprises. Even the people you know and love may stun you with stories that you never could have imagined… the truth is you can’t ever really know anyone. I love the letters that Tess writes to her baby week after week… they are sweet and memorable. There is a loveliness to this book, reading it feels like visiting a good friend for tea.

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.

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What We have Been Reading Lately from PanMacmillan South Africa…

July 13th, 2018 · 1 Comment

So we are taking a break and having a bit of a holiday in the city… we do this from time to time, we swap houses with folk that live in the city center. When you have eight kids, house swapping is a great way to take a holiday. Apart from the fact that we have had unusually beautiful weather and have been enjoying the great outdoors, it is still mid-winter here, in the Southern Hemisphere… which means piles of books and reading in a sunny spot. We have been reading all week, during every available moment… so I thought I would bring you a couple of collections of what we have been reading lately posts… first up: books we have received from PanMacmillan South Africa.


Not a lot of our usual picture book fair, but tons of middle school reads… so enjoy, there should be something for everyone here…

Fun Easy Readers for Very Beginner Chapter Book Readers

The Gaskitt Family Stories by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Katharine McEwan:
We have actually reviewed these books before, in a post on easy chapter books for beginner readers, but they are so good that they deserve a second spin… It is not often that you get easy readers that are really interesting… the thing is easy readers usually have to use a very limited vocabulary list… and so can only be “so” interesting. With these richly illustrated stories and short, sweet chapters, they are in fact very fun reads. Meet the Gaskitt family: Mr and Mrs; the twins, Gus and Gloria, Horace the cat, the refrigerator and the car radio. There are lots of little surprises in the text and the illustrations, the car radio always has something to say and so does the refrigerator. These books are packed with interesting things to spot and observe, but they are not so busy as to distract their young readers.

  1. The Man Who Wore All His Clothes by Allan Ahlberg illustrated by Katharine McEwan: Mr Gaskitt gets up one morning and puts on all of his clothes… all of them. And nobody is the least surprised about it. There is also a robbery at the bank and a terrific chase across town that involves the whole family, and all’s well that ends well… read on, read on to discover why Mr Gaskitt needs to wear all his clothes to work.
  2. The Woman who Won things by Allan Ahlberg illustrated by Katharine McEwan: Mrs Gaskitt keeps winning prizes. Prizes for absolutely everything including a new hairdo, a year’s supply of cat food… winning and winning. All the while, the children keep losing things faster than they can replace them… all the children in the whole school are losing things. This is a lovely mystery story for beginner readers. Tame, but definitely not lame.

Family Poetry Fun

The Very Best of Paul Cookson: I have to start by saying my kids absolutely love poetry and a poetry collection like this one gets a lot of mileage in our home… we haven’t had it terribly long but it is already looking decidedly worn, as certain favourites get read multiple times as we wander through the covers again and again. We all know we have to read to our kids, it is the best thing… and often we know they won’t be able to sit still for an entire chapter… well poetry is an excellent place to start… because all children can relate to it and poems, especially the poems in this book are relatively short. This collection includes poems for every mood and it really is a short little book that you could fit in your bag and take anywhere. That being said… this little book packs a punch and it is full of clever little lines for the word lovers amongst us. We really enjoyed this one and everyone was very quick to claim their own favourite poem. And… let’s take this a little further and say that listening to a poet read their own poems takes poetry to the very next level, you can follow Paul Cookson on Youtube over here.

A Tween Series to Look Out For…

Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island by Liz Kessler: I don’t know where we have been but we have just discovered Emily Windsnap… the perfect read for tweeny girls, with an adventurous spirit and a love of the ocean… Gotta say Hood 6 loved this one and was thrilled to discover that that there is a whole series that has gone before, to love and to read. The story is about Emily, a girl who is part mermaid part person. She can breathe underwater and when she enters the water her legs become her seaworthy tail. There is friendship, and a tiny bit of romance (truly mild and perfect for my eleven year old), because n this book Emily and her best friend Shona, and her boyfriend Aaron are going to break away from all the adventures they have been having… and go on a tropical island holiday. Of course, when Emily isn’t looking for adventures, adventures tend to find her. An ocean outing to visit a recently discovered volcanic island and a beautiful waterfall turns an unexplained mystery into an adventure of a lifetime. This is middle school magic… and a series we will definitely be seeking out to read our way through it from the beginning. You can meet Emily Windsnap on her author’s website: Liz Kessler.

A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson and illustrated by Helen Crawford-White: A middle grade read that will be loved by lovers of fairy tales and folklore, of all ages. Typically, as a middle school kid you would so like to conform… and Owl does just the opposite… hard as she tries, with a name like “Owl.” Enough said! Not only does she have a problem with her name and an eccentric mother, but she has spent her life longing to know her father. This book is the perfect winter read, a folktale feel that reads like comfort food, and one of the main players is of course the father of winter, Jack Frost himself. While a lot of the magical world spirals through this story, Owl is a very believable teenage character, with typical teenage problems, whose best friend’s parents are going through a divorce… real issues that kids go through in their journey through life, with a whimsical spin. And pretty snowflake and owl borders and illustrations scattered throughout, makes it a very giftable book.

Maybe a Fox by Kathy Apple and Alison McGhee: Another middle grade read, this time you are going to need tissues… its sad and lovely all at the same time. Two sisters, Sylvie and Jules, have lost their mother and their father cares for them. Sylvie is a super fast runner and Jules, well, not so much. One day on a whim they head for the waterfall to toss their wishing stones and Sylvie slips and vanishes from sight. Vanishes all together, and another tragedy has struck the family. As Jules and her dad come to terms with their grief, Jules realises that there is more to the young fox cub that crosses her path than meets the eye. In fact, have the fox and Sylvie become one? A Mystery worth pursuing and a poignant tale for sure… reach for the tissues and settle in. Eleven year old Hood 6 loved this book.

A Family Story… En Masse

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue and illustrated by Caroline Hadilaksono: The Lotterys are a large collective multicultural homeschooling family, biological and adoptive kids, as well as a collection of pets “in need” and they live in a house called Camelottery. Sumac is nine and feels responsible when her grandfather, who is in the early stages of Dementia, comes to stay. Forever. When she realises that he cannot like her family, and everything is going to have to a change suddenly to accommodate him… Sumac’s intention to be welcoming and loving becomes somewhat more of a plot to “move him along”… There is a lot of complicated diversity in the book, there are two dads and two moms for instance. I enjoyed the story, because it depicts life in a large family really well… from the in-house lingo, to the constant chipping away at each other. The story is sweet as the family wins over their grandpa and eventually (spoiler alert) he comes to get along and dare I say, cherish them. That being said, while the story is great, the author has tried to address every single issue that is topical right now… green living, a transgender child… So if you can read past all the issues this is a great read.

The Never Ending Birthday by Katie Dale: When you have an absolutely disastrous birthday and you wish you could nothing but a do-over… and then you get one, over and over again. This is the story of twins, Max and Anni, who really manage to have the absolute worst birthday ever… ever. And then they have their birthday over, and over again… each time improving ever so slightly on the previous birthday… Max and Anni are transformed, and so are their birthdays. This is a sweet, light hearted read about a happy character transformation.

We would like to thank PanMacmillan South Africa for providing us with these books for review. This post is not sponsored in any way and the opinions expressed are as usual our own.

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Se7en Reviews Kate Motaung’s A Place to Land and it’s a GiveAway…

July 8th, 2018 · 16 Comments

And we are off on a week of bookish adventuring… and I have a GiveAway or two for you. Let’s begin with A Place to Land by Kate Motaung. I have a friend who wrote a book… how exciting is that? And it is the perfect book to launch our week of books.

I love reading memoirs, the truth is that we all have a story to tell but we don’t all write our stories down. We all have a life full of hopes and fears, dreams and tragedies… and on the surface it may look like everyone has everything together, but the truth of it is, we are all “just holding it together” in our own way. I have a feeling that the more we read biographies and memoirs the more we will realise that our own stories are actually okay. They don’t all match up to flashy media lives and they don’t all match up to our perceived perfection of the “neighbours.” But somewhere within all our stories we discover kindred spirits. Whether we are stepping forwards in bravery or trepidation, we are all on a journey.

This book is a heartwarming story, written by an actual real life friend. Someone that I have known for years and years. Our children grew up alongside each other and we attended the same church for years, I have met her courageous mum, while she visited in Cape Town, and loved her enthusiasm for life. This book is the story of Kate, who through so many trials learns that there is a lot of truth to the expression “Home is Where the Heart is…” The story is about her personal journey of longing for home and a place to settle, not to mention her longing for the people she loves not to live on opposite ends of the earth, quite literally.

Set your heart on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2

When she was young, her parents were divorced and her home was divided in two… leaving her longing. She grew up and felt her heart pulling her to a life of missions. After years of feeling shattered by her own world and the loss of her family home, it was only when she began going on college mission trips that she realised that the world was not quite as she expected. The realisation that folk in circumstances very different to the circumstances that she had grown up in could be happy and content, and on the same journey to serve the Lord was in itself a revelation to her. Even so, she never imagined that she would end up serving on the far side of the world, in a place far far from her home in Michigan, working on a campus on the slopes of Table Mountain in the city of Cape Town.

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Her ministry became a team ministry, when one the students she was working alongside became her husband… and now her heart truly lay on far sides of the world. Home with her husband in Cape Town and their small children, or home with her mom and sister in Michigan. Add to the mix a multicultural family, a couple of kids, their own and adopted… and a desperately ill mom, fighting cancer on the far side of the world. This was indeed a difficult journey for Kate to be on. Her story is one of strength and endurance… overcoming the relentless obstacles placed in her path and her secure knowledge that her faith is in Christ alone.

Kate Motaung

A Place to Land

a story of longing and belonging

The thing I really love about this book is that not only does it describe Kate’s story, her journey so to speak, but it covers a world that overlaps with my own world… we have friends in common, a church in common and a faith in common. It’s touching to read about real live folk that you know and love in a book… I was drawn into this book and while it is almost 300 pages long, I had to read it in a sitting. In Kate Motaung’s book you will find a kindred spirit… a sojourner that will inspire and encourage you.

GiveAway Time

Our GiveAways are open to everyone: Just leave a comment below… before 30 July 2018.If you have won a GiveAway before never fear – enter away. If you live on the far side of the world – enter away. Postage takes forever from here but eventually it should get to you! Good luck and happy commenting!!!

I would really like to thank Kate and her publisher Discovery House in the United States and Discovery House Distributors in South Africa for providing us with a copy of the book review and GiveAway. We would like to declare that this is not a sponsored post and all the opinions are as usual, entirely my own.

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