Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christmas in Darwin and Beyond.

Christmas in DarwinWhile everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is busy building snowmen, snuggling up with layers of blankets or jumpers and generally doing their best to keep warm during the next few months, we here in Darwin are as usual sweltering under a hot and sticky sun. At least we can celebrate the season on the beach with a sandman instead. :)
The humidity this time of year is at its worst as the wet season is just beginning. I sit here and watch the storms roll in over the bay, thunder rumbles all around while sheets of lightning flash across the horizon. As the storm approaches the sky darkens and the monsoonal rain begins to pelt down. I find myself wanting to hide under the table or better yet under the covers of the safety of my bed. I am home alone and feel somewhat vulnerable. Memories of our years in Thailand during monsoons come flooding back.
My babies were only one, four and seven years old when we first experienced the frightening effects of a tropical storm. The electricity in the house we lived in was not grounded and every time a storm came through not only did the power go out, we had a build up of water pool in the light shade over the dining room table.Doesn’t sound so bad? But the table was on the bottom floor of a two storey house, I could never figure out where all the water was coming from? I asked the resident Thai maintenance man if he could please fix the problem. His solution…..”Mai pen lai madame” (not a problem madame) and he promptly deposited a bucket onto the middle of my dining room table, problem solved! He smiled and left.
My dear husband resolved to fix the problem and had a fellow from work arrive to install a circuit breaker on our wall just inside our front door. Problem solved? Ah no! The next storm that came through the circuit breaker blew up and flames flew up my wall. Hubby arrived home late from work to find the house pitch black,  a burnt smell as he entered and myself and three little boys sitting upstairs in the middle of our bed reading by torchlight.
So now when I experience the storms here in Darwin some twenty years later, all alone while hubby is at work, the boys all grown up and no longer at home with me to give mum support, I can’t help but wonder what will go wrong  here?
So far so good. But I have heard some people say we are due for another big wet season and even another big cyclone. It has been 40 years this Christmas Eve since Santa didn’t make it into Darwin when Cyclone Tracey struck and to top it off I believe Tracey crossed the coast right here at Cullen Bay where I am living! Fills one with a lot of confidence!
So I’ll trim the tree and cook the traditional roast. I’ll wrap all the presents and send out all my Christmas cards and I’ll look forward to spending Christmas with all my wonderful family and friends down south and say a silent prayer for everyone here in Darwin that they stay safe while I am away. Last but not least I’ll pray that a cyclone doesn’t hit and devastate families anywhere in Australia this season, Queensland, Western Australia or the Northern Territory. Then I’ll return early in the New Year to watch the storms build up across the bay once more.
As a Christmas special i am offering a two for one deal on Gingerbread Aliens. So while you cook gingerbread this festive season you can read with the family a different kind of gingerbread story. What better gift at Christmas than sharing the gift of time, laughter and imagination with your kids and being able to give that gift to another family as well.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Emma finally has a face.

It’s only a draft front cover at the moment, but after several long years in the dark, thanks to Dianna Budd, (my wonderful Illustrator and friend) Emma the Eager Emu finally has a face she can show the world. :)
Emma is an Emu eager to learn to fly just like all her other bird friends at Flying School. but no matter how hard she tries or what strategies she employs, Emma does not fit it. Along her journey Emma enlists the help of her friends, (other Australian birds) Rosie Rosella, Patsy the Pink Galah, Cathy Cockatoo and Kelly the Kookaburra who all suggest strategies to help Emma learn to fly. Emma embarks on a quest of self discovery where she must learn to accept that even though she is a bird just like her friends, they all have differences and can celebrate their uniqueness and individualism. It is a subtle lesson but nonetheless one worth teaching to all young children of pre-school and early school age.
I wrote Emma a few years ago and entered her into a children’s story writing contest as “Emma the Emo Emu.” At the time I not only won the competition but received rave reviews and many responses requesting to see her in picture book form.
After collaborating with Dianna we decided to slightly change her name even though she is still a very sad and emotional emu, we thought perhaps young children might struggle with the concept of “emo.” As Emma is eager to learn to fly and be the same as all the other birds at flying school, eager is a more suitable way to represent her feelings.
The wait is nearly over, “Emma the Eager Emu” is coming soon as a beautiful new children’s picture book. For further updates on her release follow me here on my blog or on Facebook.
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Posted in Children's Books

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Gingerbread and Aliens a Brilliant Combination.

This week I was given the wonderful opportunity to be the caretaker of a gorgeous little gift shop here in Cullen Bay, Darwin for a couple of days. This lead me to meeting some amazing people not only from our own beautiful huge backyard called Australia but tourists from all over our magnificent world.
I met a couple that had embarked on a cruise from Melbourne, but the cruise ship had broken down in Perth. Unperturbed they flew on up to Broome then finally to Darwin. A family that had flown to Alice Springs then driven around the Northern Territory visiting all the National Parks, including Katherine Gorge, Kakadu, and Litchfield and were finally in Darwin for a well earned rest.
Then there was the fabulous Irish couple that brought much laughter when they came into the shop. We were instant friends when they learnt my maiden name was “Branigan.” The fellow had a friend back home he was trying to buy a special gift for, the request seemed rather unusual. “Did I have by chance or know where he could purchase a small wooden model casket?” His friend, he offered by way of an explanation, was an undertaker and had seen one when he was over here on holidays. I wasn’t able to help my Irish friends, I was however able to help an American lady that was now residing here in Darwin.
She took one look at my book and exclaimed, “Gingerbread and Aliens! How brilliant! What a perfect combination to interest boys in reading.” She continued to inform me that I had hit the mark precisely for young boys choosing two subjects that they adore reading about. I couldn’t go wrong! Since living in Darwin she had resisted making gingerbread at Christmas because it was too difficult to roll out in our humidity but she had already agreed with her six year old that this year she would turn on the air conditioning and make some. She agreed both her boys would be so excited about the prospect of turning their gingerbread men into Gingerbread Aliens. I told her that if they did make some gingerbread aliens and took a photo or two I would be happy to add them to my website. This would also encourage her boys to read the story. She bought a copy of my book and asked me to sign it for her boys as it would be perfect not only for her six year old son but also for her eleven year old reluctant reader.
Before this I had found myself wandering around Mindil Markets, last Sunday evening, where I spotted a sign that reminded everyone that it was only 14 more Sundays til Christmas. How timely to notice that sign? This wonderful mum had also just reminded me it was time to begin to make plans for this Christmas. If you and your family are also into baking gingerbread men at Christmas, why not consider Gingerbread Aliens instead? Buy and read the book with the kids, have a great laugh, then have some fun in the kitchen as well. The recipe is available on both my sites, the links are below.
If you happen to be in Darwin, come on down to the gift shop, Shine Gifts, Cullen Bay & the Waterfront, Darwin, or for those further south or overseas you can purchase a copy here on my website, I’m happy to post anywhere in the world, there is still plenty of time before Christmas. Just click on the link below, my home page or the Gingerbread Aliens page.
If you prefer ebooks it is also available on Amazon where you will now see the special reduced price.
If you and your family enjoy reading Gingerbread Aliens and baking a few over Christmas, please take the time to not only send me a few photos to share, but to write a review on Amazon, GoodReads etc. It is a great educational experience for your children to see that their writing, along with yours, are valued.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

From Reading Challenge to Reading Success.

I caught my son reading the other day. He and his wife were sitting together quietly reading their own novels and he appeared to be totally engrossed in the story too!
What’s so unusual about that? You may well ask.
He has almost reached his mid twenties and has resisted reading books all throughout his school life.
My eldest son, on the other hand, has always had his nose in a book, (just like me), from as young as I can remember. So when I produced a son who vehemently refused to read, it was time to delve into all the strategies I was taught to use as an early Primary classroom teacher and more.
At first I couldn’t understand why he struggled so much to read or why he insisted he didn’t like doing it?
Books are everywhere in our house, everyone reads!
It was expected that all our boys would love books, so when he didn’t, I felt like I had failed him.
We read together as a family every night and had plenty of books to choose from, so I couldn’t understand the problem.
What I hadn’t realised was that I was not giving him two things.
1. The chance to choose the book for the family to read.
2. Special one on one time reading together, just us!
Both of these things had to change.
I had to find books that he would like to read, not me, his father or his brothers.
If I couldn’t find suitable books of his choice, then it was up to me to write the sort of stories he would like to read, for him.
Stories to entice boys, funny, quirky humour with a little bit of realism as well as a whole lot of imagination. Stories with great page turning hooks and climaxes that stop a boy from putting a book down to find something better to do.
As he grew I also realised many other boys in my classes could benefit from my ideas and stories, so I began to share them and write specifically for them. I wrote Gingerbread Aliens initially many years ago as a funny story to encourage my son to read. It has developed over the years, the plot has thickened and the story is now long enough to make into a five part series of short chapter books. Now many struggling and reluctant readers, (boys and girls) can share in the fun and enjoy the story as much as my son did when he was growing up.
It’s so wonderful to see my efforts have all worked out in the end. My heart is overwhelmed with joy when I see my son reading for pleasure and I know I have done something right after all.
Gingerbread Aliens is available for purchase right here on my website. Click on the link in the sidebar.

The first in the Bradberrie Brothers Alien Adventure. Short chapter book for 5-10 yr olds, early and reluctant readers.
The first in the Bradberrie Brothers Alien Adventure. Short chapter book for 5-10 yr olds, early and reluctant readers.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Sandra Bennett – Out of this World FUN!

My newest and candid interview is now posted by Jessica Schaub. Read on to learn where I get my ideas from. Find out what are some of my greatest moments in my writing career and learn my suggestions to aid struggling readers.
Originally posted on Jessica Schaub Books:
Ready for something fun? Sandra Bennett is it. Her book, Gingerbread Aliens, is wonderfully crafted to draw even the most reluctant reader into the literary world. I am thrilled to introduce to you, a great lady fro Down Under, Sandra Bennett!
Sandra Bennett
Your book, Gingerbread Aliens, had my son in a fit of giggles! He loved it. You clearly have a talent for sparking joy and laughter in the young at heart. Where does this wisdom come?
I have always felt laughter is the key to encourage children to develop a love of reading, so that makes me delighted when I hear that my book has tickled someone else’s sense of humour. Our own house has always been full of laughter and entertainment with my boys and all their friends. I notch up a lot of my ideas from the wonderful experiences they have all brought to my life. I believe…
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Friday, 27 June 2014

A Mission, A Dream, and a Cat – Meet Virginia Ripple

This weeks Pay it Forward Interview is from Christian Fantasy Author Virginia Ripple. On reading it I was surprised to learn that Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was considered Christian Fantasy. You learn something new every day! She has some great advice on time management for those writers struggling to organise their daily routine and I love the point Virginia makes about taking time out each day to be still, quiet and listen, Read on to find out more about this fascinating and prolific author.
Originally posted on Jessica Schaub Books:
Over the last several months, and for months to come, I’ve been interviewing authors who have self-published their work or have published through small publishing houses. From each, I’m amazed by the mission behind each book and the hopes of the author to share a theme. I have learned something valuable from each – and the trend continues this week with Virginia Ripple.
If you are a fan of fantasy and also appreciate authors who include their faith, then Virginia’s books are certainly for you!
2Apprentice Cat Toby with mysterious eyes
1. In your biography on your website, you shared something that really struck home – While working part-time as a Religious Education Director and writing the other half “the teeter totter of passions unbalanced” your life and you found yourself writing less. Many people reading this will find encouragement that they are not alone in feeling frustrated with not having enough time to write. What…
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Same Country yet Poles Apart.

While everyone gathered at the beginning of the week in the Northern Hemisphere to celebrate the summer solstice by watching the sun rise over Stone Henge, we down under looked towards celebrating the marking of the days beginning to grow longer.
Aussies are in the depths of winter and counting the days towards summer warmth where they can once again embark on that much loved sport of swimming in the ocean.
Hang on! Why wait til summer? Not likely, Aussies are made of much tougher stuff and wait for no right weather conditions. Residence of Hobart, our most southern capital city, (if you head any further south you’ll be in Antarctica), chose to mark the winter solstice with a naked dip in the Derwent River. Well almost naked, they all wore red swimming caps. The water temperature was a chilly 11 degrees C as all 700 brave Tasmanians held their breath and took the plunge into the shivering waters.
Meanwhile, here in the Top End of the country where the winter nights never fall below 17C and the days still reach a balmy 30C, Territorians braved the depths of the ocean for their annual winter swim. Fannie Bay Life Saving Club held a race across the bay that took my breath away when I first heard of it. I have been warned never to swim in the ocean up here for danger of crocodiles, sharks and box jelly fish, yet these amazing brave souls took to the water like a school of fish splashing about in a frenzy.
Two major swim events, both held on the winter solstice, in the same country, yet they couldn’t have been further apart.
I on the other hand chose to spend the day amongst petrol rev heads at the V8 Super car races held annually at Hidden Valley race track. As I gulped down another bottle of water,  wiped the perspiration from my face and applied yet another layer of sun block I wondered what on earth I was doing here? Then I guess the petrol fumes embraced me as the roar of the F18′s soared overhead, the drivers revved their engines and the race began! Maybe raising three boys has rubbed off on me a little more than I thought as the enthusiasm pumped through my veins.
As for swimming, yes I did eventually collapse into our pool on my return home. So I guess I did eventually end the day the same way as so many other Aussies began it, with a dip in the cool  refreshing waters of Australia. 10411399_10204286700036341_7697395678804501304_n
Only two days later I was reminded again just how poles apart we are in this country. While the heat continues to reign down over Darwin, the south of the country was in the grips of the largest blizzard in years. The Snowy Mountains had their best snow fall to begin the school holiday season in ten years or more and my boys called to say it snowed on our property all day.Did it make me homesick? It sure did. We may only get light snow that melts when it hits the ground with the occasional thin blanket enveloping the ground and surrounding mountains, but it is beautiful.
I sound like a tourist campaign, no matter what the weather you are looking for, we have it somewhere here in Oz. As the Queenslanders say, Australia truly is”Beautiful one day, perfect the next!”

Friday, 13 June 2014

I’m on Foot……Again!

Here we go again! Three weeks into living in the tropics and no physical means of transport except my own two feet! I can generally walk a fair distance and it certainly is much flatter here than the hills back home, but the humidity makes me feel like I’ve hit a brick wall generally halfway to wherever I am going.
So I decided it was time to consider buying a car. There is no point transporting my car from home up here as I will need it there on my return visits.
Now we find out the true meaning of NT in Northern Territory. Every car I considered was not available to drive away, as they say, Not Today, Not Tomorrow, Not Tuesday, Not Thursday, Next truck or maybe Next Train. You see everything you want in the Northern Tebaht busrritory has to be shipped up by road train  or rail from down south and it appears that is always months away. The waiting begins!
It reminds me of rubber time in Thailand where nothing ever happened in a hurry, everything was either “mai pen lai” never mind, or “mai me” no have. A shrug of the shoulders and all would be good…..eventually.
I persisted with walking or using baht buses for a while in Thailand, it seemed easy enough, or so I initially thought. For the uninitiated a baht bus is kind of like an old blue ute with a roof over the back with two long seats either side that you climb into and hang onto for dear life.  One is expected to barter with the local currency, Thai baht, for the fare to wherever you want to go.  This was fine during the wet season or the really sticky humid season, but didn’t work out so well during the tourist season.
Off peak season I knew exactly what my fair should have been to take me from our expat compound down to the main street of Pattaya to shop, then return, 20 baht each way, fair enough I could agree to that. However once peak tourist season hit the baht bus drivers get greedy and suddenly want 100 baht, I don’t think so! There are three prices in Thailand, Thai, expat and tourist price. I’m not a tourist, I’m here for the long haul!
One day I refused to pay their asking price, I bartered in my best Thai, but baht bus after bus continually drove off, they could pick up the tourist dollar and make a lot more. I was getting anxious, the school bus was due home any moment, I needed to be home for my boys. A Thai on a baht bike had been observing the interactions and stepped forward to offer me a lift home. 5 baht on the back of his motor bike and I would be home in 5 minutes.
My husband had always warned me never to get on the back of a baht bike. Far too dangerous, he always said. They weave their way in and out of the traffic with no concern for the passenger. I stood their considering my options for a split second, hubby didn’t need to know and I was desperate to get home. Like a rebel I reluctantly agreed, he smiled and helped me onto the back of his bike, reached around to pull my arms tight around his waist, it was obvious how nervous I was, and we were off. I took a deep breath and didn’t know whether to close my eyes but the driver was to my surprise slow and careful.
It took a few weeks but eventually the guilt inside me rose and I confessed to my husband. Within the next week I had a car and a driver. A friend for the rest of our stay in Thailand, someone I not only trusted my life with on the roads but my children as well.
My husband knows me well enough after all these years that when I say I need transport, he had better do something about it. So the car is ordered, we now play the waiting game, come on August and we’ll see if the car actually arrives here in Darwin NT.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Write to Empower – An Interview with Author Nikki Rosen

This weeks Pay it Forward interview is from Nikki Rosen, an inspirational author who has written not only from the heart but from truth. Nikki’s book has been helping women all over the world since publication. Read on to find out how and why?
Originally posted on Jessica Schaub Books:
When I first started the Pay-It-Forward Author Interview Series, I knew I would meet all types of writers from all over the country and the world. I’ve been amazed by the stories they write, their candid honesty about the writing process, and their willingness to share secrets of their craft with others. How often in other businesses do you find people in the same business so willing to help one another? The ‘secret sauce’ and the ‘family recipe’ are well guarded to keep that something special an exclusive right.
Not so with stories.
I am amazed by the writers who have come to share their work – and now I am humbled by Nikki Rosen, author of In the Eye of Deception: A True Story, Dancing Softly, Twisted Innocence, and No Hope? Know Hope: A Healing Journey.
cover2 with sticker
Nikki has won awards for her writing, and rightly so. Her story…
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Thursday, 5 June 2014

They Call This Winter?

Sunset 1I find myself here in Darwin in the so called “dry season!” It is winter everywhere else in Australia. While my family pile on more jumpers, watch the fog roll in as they rise, light the fire each evening and prepare for the usual neighbourhood bonfire this coming long weekend, my husband and I have landed in the Top End, a place where winter doesn’t really exist. Everyone here tells me that we are lucky to have arrived now while it is “cool” so that we have time to acclimatise before the “wet season” hits but my clothes are already sticking to me every time I leave the air conditioning. I find it somewhat reminiscent of our two years in Thailand some twenty odd years ago. Tropical climate, humidity, palm tree lined streets, tiled floors, even to the extent that the stairs in our rented house are awkwardly unexpected heights. I keep finding things in the house that don’t work or kitchen utensils not supplied. It is amazing how inventive with the cooking you can be when you don’t have transport to just pop down to the shops to pick up a missing item. I feel like I an an expats wife all over again but someone forgot that Darwin is still in Australia! The only difference is that this time I don’t have three babies desperately hanging off me for love and support. Sunset 2
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. My husband is gone by 5:00am and doesn’t return til 6:00pm 6 days a week so I have plenty of time to myself to contemplate my writing. That is when I can get into the swing of things. We have only been here a week and so far I have been busy setting up the house and admiring the amazing view over the ocean. I admit I can waste a bit of time staring out across the bay watching the yachts sail past. I thought the kangaroos on my property back home could be a distraction but I’m finding the sea quite a draw card. The sunsets have been stunning! Each evening they have provided something new and spectacular, the ash cloud wafting across from the Indonesian Island of Bali has certainly added to the intensity of the colours.20140528_182701
So, I need to make a plan. Walk first thing in the morning, early, really early! Before the heat and humidity get to me. I am older than what I was twenty years ago after all! Swim a few laps in the pool to cool down, you can’t swim in the ocean, too many crocodiles, sharks and jellyfish! (I do want to live). Then I’ll still have a few good hours at my computer to check emails, facebook and finally WRITE!
One of my projects I’m considering writing (as well as my children’s books) is  “Snippets from Thailand, an expat wife’s memories.” Would it make interesting reading? What do you think?

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Strands of Thought - Children's Author, Kai Strand: Three Times A Charm with Sandra Bennett

 This week I had the amazing opportunity to be interviewed by fellow author Kai Strand. To learn a little more about my writing endeavours and myself read on:

Strands of Thought - Children's Author, Kai Strand: Three Times A Charm with Sandra Bennett: Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love introducing my readers to new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the...

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Something Stinks! Interview with Gail Hedrick

Author Gail Hedrick talks about how she comes up with ideas for writing, particularly the idea for her science based picture book, what gives her inspiration and so much more!
Originally posted on Jessica Schaub Books:
If there was anyone who even deserved a gold star for being patient with me, it is Gail Hedrick. Life as a homeschooler, despite all my careful planning, side-swiped me two weeks ago and I was late in sending these questions to her. Gail, again my apologies. Thank you for your gracious patience :)
Not only is Gail a sweetheart, she is an award-winning author. Her book, Something Stinks!, was brand new in our house a few weeks ago and is now a little tattered looking as my three daughters have been reading it – and loving it! It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Gail Hedrick!
Gail Hedrick
Gail Hedrick
I’ve spent quite a bit of time admiring your website. Did you put this together or did you go through a service?
Gosh, thanks! I was a total infant in the website process, but luckily knew how to ask…
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Friday, 16 May 2014

A Tantalizing Tale of Tasmania

Back in March I had the wonderful opportunity to be invited to the book launch of “Links in the Chain. A Pioneer’s Tale. “ linksThe book launch was fabulous as usual, a very special ocassion as it was one of the final engagements of Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce Governor General of Australia before her retirement. It was a wonderful honour to have the opportunity to meet this amazing and inspirational woman for the second time.
“Links in the Chain” is the second book released by author Caroline Cooper. I very much enjoyed her first novel,  “The Forgotten Holocaust: A Gypsy’s Journey from Auschwitz to Freedom,”
( To read my review  please go to
After discovering how talented a writer Caroline is, I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into her second novel. I admit that I was intrigued that Caroline had chosen once again to set another story amongst the confines of prison walls. What could possibly have her so drawn to such horrific places? When visiting Port Arthur by day or night, one cannot help but feel it is haunted by the ghosts of so many poor souls that were left to rot in chains or made to serve out their lives in hard labour for the sake of stealing a simple loaf of bread. However, as horrific as Port Arthur is, it holds a special place in the soul of many Australians. It represents the struggling pioneering spirit that so many of us have all grown up experiencing as this nation grew to what it has become today. I admit to having a fondness for Port Arthur, Hobart and Tasmania itself as they bring back wonderful memories of the 6 months my husband and I spent there during our early years of marriage before we started our family so many years ago. Tasmania can be a harsh, cold wilderness that at the turn of the 19th Century would not have been a very easy or pleasant place to start a new life in a new world.
Caroline did not disappoint. The story had me engrossed from the start. She has done her research well. The Port Arthur she described was forbidding and hauntingly true. So much so that I found the story gripping and believable. I had empathy for both the convict and the Commandant’s daughter. When their lives predictably collide (as they must) it is not how you may expect, the collision turns both their worlds upside down. The course of events that follow are wonderful page turners as we go from High tea English society to the clanking depressing darkness of chain cluttered cells and on to the back streets of Hobart Town and beyond.
To pique your curiosity without giving away any spoilers, the best I can do is leave you with the words of Caroline Cooper in her own dedication.
“to the early pioneers, full of energy and optimism, to the convicts, to the freed settlers, the free settlers, and to those who simply pretended they’d always been free.’‘ we will always remember your sacrifce and ambition to strive and make good in a new life so far away from the world which you left behind.
“Links In the Chain”  represents  the world of all who settled here in the early years of Australia. Whether they came here willingly or not so willingly. It is a marvelous tale to honour our past pioneers and a must read for anyone interested in Australian history. Thanks Caroline.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

20 Easy Steps to Knit a Cute and Cuddley Gingerbread Alien

This cute idea follows the pattern based on knitting a Red Cross trauma teddy bear with a few simple little changes along the way. 20140508_154910
The Australian Red Cross is a wonderful organisation that organises the collection of teddies that are then distributed via the Ambulance service, the Fire Brigade and hospitals to children and others who may have suffered from trauma. These teddies provide a fantastic source of comfort when children are at their most sick and vulnerable. It is a very worthwhile cause.
My hope is that perhaps along with sharing the joy and laughter of my book, a little gingerbread alien teddy may also bring a little light into someone’s life also. After all, laughter really is the best medicine. :)
Use 8ply wool (nothing scratchy or itchy like angora or mohair)
Needles: 3.75mm or 3.25mm for looser knitters.
Leg 1.
1. Cast on 12 stitches
2. Knit 42 rows
Leave stitches on needle.
Leg 2.
4. Repeat same as leg 1.
5. Join both legs by knitting across both legs.
6. Knit 32 rows.
7. Cast on 12 stitches at the beginning of next two rows.
8. Knit 18 rows.
9. Next cast off 12 stitches (this forms the arms – 24 stitches should remain).
10. Knit 2 rows.
11. Cast on one stitch every row next 20 rows.
12. Knit 12 more rows.
13. Cast off.
14. Repeat this procedure to make the other side of the gingerbread alien teddy.
To Finish.2014-05-08 15.52.14
15. Crochet a string of chains to sew onto the tummy for the aliens intestines.
16. Knit 2 eyes  (I made diamond shapes, beginning with 1 stitch, cast on one each row for 10 rows, then cast off back to one)
17. Knit 7 sultanas. (cast on one at a time for 6 rows, then cast off)
18. I have tried to sew on both before and after sewing up teddy, the choice is up to you. I find he stretches quite a bit depending on how much stuffing you choose to use, so the effect changes depending on when you decide to sew the face on before or after stuffing teddy.I found it easiest to sew on the intestines before stuffing, but sewing on the face was better after stuffing. I leave that decision up to you.
19. Sew on mouth and nostrils.
20. Sew up teddy and stuff before sewing across the top of the head.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Meet Aviva Gittle, Self-Pub Author with a Mission!

Aviva Gittle is an inspiration to other self=published authors. A prolific children’s book author who writes with a partner and avidly shares her experiences in the industry with others. Read this fantastic interview to learn so much more wonderful information about Aviva and her delightful stories.
Originally posted on Jessica Schaub Books:
The world is full of writers, from devoted list-makers to poets and short stories to novels and beyond. For as many writers there are, it’s not too far fetched to claim that there are as many purposes behind the writing. Personally speaking, I write because it helps me organize my thoughts…I just happen to think in a story format.
Once the decision is made to take writing from sketching little stories and poems for our own enjoyment to the next level – that elusive publication. With Self publishing making waves in the industry, these stories are sometimes mistaken (sometimes not) as lesser in quality. As such, self-published authors have come together as a community in several different formats and in online forums. Aviva Gittle is one such author with a heart for helping other self-published authors.
Aviva is my next featured author. Along with amazing stories for children, Aviva has…
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Posted in Children's Books

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Renovator’s Delight

On my home page I mentioned I would be posting some of my short stories for you to enjoy. So I thought it was about time I shared the first one and what better story to begin with than the story  that won first place in a Halloween Contest and ended up in an anthology alongside some other amazing scarey writing.
A Renovator’s Delight came about after hearing a ghost story in the perfect setting, arounf a bon fire one cold winter evening. I mulled it over in my head, added a little twist or two, shortened the time frame and before I knew it a spine tingling tale was born. So sit back with a hot chocolate, be prepared for goosebumps up your arms and whatever you do, don’t forget to leave on a night light. 

Renovators Delight Picture0001Bill was the one who insisted we buy the old English pub. ‘A renovator’s delight,’ he had said. ‘Just a little TLC and we would be making money in no time.’  It stood deserted on a lonely corner at the edge of a tiny country town. Run down, it had been empty for many years.
We moved in on the morning of All Hallows Eve, so again, Bill had the brilliant idea to invite the townsfolk to a Halloween party that very evening. Afterall he argued, ‘What better place to get to know the neighbourhood than in a spooky looking old pub before we begin to fix it up?” There were already webs and spiders aplenty. The curtains were faded and shabby, the shutters broken and worn. The floor boards all creaked. The carpets were covered in mildew and stank of must. Not to mention the paint was peeling from the walls both inside and out. Lichen grew all over the broken tiled roof and moss grew through the cracks in the concrete floors in the downstairs bathrooms. Other than supply the food and drinks we only had to add a few candles and pumpkins and the scene was set for a perfect spooky Halloween night. I handed invitations out around town and posted a few on the shop windows.
Darkness engulfed the countryside quickly that evening as thick grey clouds swept across the plains leaving no hint of the moon or stars to guide our visitors down the street. Bill hung a lantern on the pub’s verandah  and watched with eager anticipation to greet our first guest’s arrival. Gradually they began to file up the stairs, shook hands and entered the bar, all eyes ablaze with curiosity. There were ghosts, ghouls, vampires and witches galore. A mummy and even a zombie or two, it was great to see everyone had come prepared for the occasion.
The party was in full swing when I noticed a group whispering in the corner. I grabbed a plate of chocolate coated noodle spiders, jelly frogs and other assorted treats and wondered over to join them in the pretext of offering them something from the platter. A young girl dressed in the cutest devil’s costume stood looking quite horrified as she listened to a tall man in a vampire’s outfit.
‘Is there anything wromg?’ I asked feeling somewhat concerned by the expression on the faces of the entire group now that I glanced at them all.
‘You do know the reason why this pub was such a bargain, don’t you?’ the vampire replied. I shook my head, I assumed it was because it was so run down. The tall vampire figure leant closer to my ear and whispered, ‘It’s haunted!’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ I laughed.
‘No, it’s true,’ he nodded.  ‘People who stay here overnight hear doors slamming and someone screaming, then there’s the constant flooding of the sinks for no apparent reason.’
‘Bad plumbing is all,’ I offered, after all, what other explanation could there be?
‘Just you wait. You’ll see!’ He grinned, turned and walked away. Either he was a superstitious fool, or townsfolk were playing tricks as they didn’t want outsiders buying into their local businesses. I was just about to go and find Bill and discuss my thoughts on these turn of events when I first heard it.
A blood curdling scream came from somewhere in the hotel rooms above us. Everyone suddenly froze. You could hear a pin drop. Another door slammed shut and the piercing scream shrilled out again.
‘Stay here!’ demanded Bill as he raced up the stairs towards the hotel accommodation that was attached to the pub. No one moved. The only sound we could now hear was Bill’s footseps overhead as he ran from room to room. The silence was deafening. Time seemed to stand still.
Gasping he evetually came rushing back down. ‘There’s nothing up there!” he sounded surprised. ‘Someone’s playing a very good joke, well done,’ he laughed in an attempt to calm everyone down. I looked around at the crowd huddled together at the bottom of the stairs, none of them were laughing. They all looked terrified. ‘Come on!’ Bill encouraged. ‘We’re all here to have fun. Start the music back up, let’s get this pary rocking!’
Slowly our guests began to relax and enjoy themselves once more when Bill burst back into the room and rushed over to me quite annoyed. ‘Damn kids are playing more tricks.’
‘What’s wrong now?’ Although I needn’t have asked as he dragged me towards the main bathroom fascilities I could see the problem. Water was spilling out over all the sinks onto the floor, out the doors soaking the already musty carpets.
‘Someone stuck all the plugs in every sink in every bathroom of the hotel and turned on all the taps full blast!’ Without another word or hesitation we ran through the building making sure all the taps were off and collected all the plugs. Bill locked them away in the safe in the office. ‘Let’s see them try that again,’ he said triumphantly rubbing his hands together rather smuggly.
We rejoined the party and tried to calm down but it wasn’t long before the blood curdling scream returned. Doors banged and water poured from the bathrooms once more. ‘This is ridiculous!’ Bill was really getting annoyed now. While I ran to the main bathroom to see what I could do, Bill raced back upstairs to try to catch the culprit in the act. The screaming and banging grew louder and more persisitant uptairs. Whenever I heard Bill at one end of the building, the screaming would start at the other. It seemed no matter where he was the noise harrassed us from the opposite end. Our guests had obviously reached the ends of their limits, they also started screaming in terror and began to pour out the front door.
I found the bathroom sinks had all been blocked again but this time with toilet paper and rags. Shaking somewhat I cleaned up the mess as best I could then staggered back to the bar to collapse. Bill also returned exhausted.
‘Nothing,’ he shook his head. “I just don’t understand. Who could have done any of this or how?’
‘Well,’ I hesitated. ‘I hate to say it, but I was told this evening that this place is haunted.’
‘I think I need an energy drink,’ mumbled Bill. ‘I put a box down in the cellar. Come on. I’m not going down there alone.’
When we reached the bottom of the cellar stairs, Bill stopped and looked around. ‘You know, this room doesn’t look big enough.’ He started to pace it out across the floor. ‘The room above is twice the length of this one. Most pubs this age had a cellar the same size as the floor above.’ He stepped it out again to confirm his suspicions. Then before I knew it Bill had picked up a sledge hammer and begun slamming into the brick wall in the middle of the room. A thick dusy cloud billowed around us and engulfed the room as brick after brick crumbled at his feet.
It was strange, I hadn’t heard anyone come down the stairs behind us, but all of a sudden a young girl stepped up beside Bill. She wore very old tattered clothes and no shoes. Bill saw her at the same time I did and stopped breaking down the wall.
‘I’m sorry love,’ he gasped a little out of breath while he looked her up and down. The party’s over and you shouldn’t be down here. It’s a bit dangerous. Did all the noises you heard tonight frighten you?’ She didn’t reply though. Instead she simply stared for a few moments as Bill wiped the sweat from his forehead. Then she turned and to our shock she walked right through the brick wall as if it wasn’t there.
‘What just happened?’ I whispered unable to believe what I had just witnessed. Bill shone a torch to gaze through the hole he had just made. We could see the rest of the cellar stretched out in front of us, racks of old dusty wine bottles lined the cobwebbed walls.
‘You’re not going to believe this,’ he said as he pointed the torch towards the floor. ‘There’s a skeleton lying on the floor on the other side of the bricks directly opposite where we watched the girl just walk through!’
We put the pub back on the market the next day. We may have found the ghost’s body, but we weren’t prepared to share the pub with a restless, mischievous spirit.

Note:If you enjoyed this ghost story you may like to read the others in the anthology, however unlike this one, most of them are not recommended for children.
Satan's Holiday

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Meet Julie Krantz – a Teenage Superhero Mastermind!

Welcome this week to our third interview in our Pay it Forward series Meet Julie Krantz who shares her passion for Holden Caulfeild, Nancy Drew and even Great Expectation’s Pip as part of her inspiration and motivation for writing.
Julie is a kindred spirit in that she believes in the importance of really making kids laugh when they are reading.
Read on to learn more about this amazing writer, her journey into the world of self publishing and her wonderful books.
Originally posted on Jessica Schaub Books:
There is something incredible about writing a book. Not only do I spend time reading and researching, writing and rewriting, there is the moment when the book is finished and I expect a ticker-tape parade. Every time I’ve finished a manuscript, there has been no trumpet blare, no pat on the back, and I am always alone. Writing is a solitary activity – for the most part. That’s why I’m enjoying these interviews so much! I can offer a virtual celebration of work well done, an Internet pat on the back, and we can come together, however briefly, as members of the writing world.
I’m thrilled to introduce you to Julie Krantz, fellow writer, mother of four, and author of several books geared toward our world’s youth. I feel like I’ve meet a kindred sprit! We have much in common. Julie shares her story, her writing, and her experiences with…
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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Great Giveaway with Easter on the way!

Easter is just around the corner for yet another year, why not consider the gift of a great children’s book the kids will adore along with those usual chocolate easter eggs.

Last week David Chuka did me the favour of inteviewing me on his blog, this week I have the opportunity to return the favour by posting the link to his giveaway on Goodreads.

So why not stop on by, read a review or two and enter the contest, who knows, you just might win a fantastic new book and become a fan of this wonderful author who has written quite a few delightful books in this Monster series.

Click on the link below to read all about David Chuka and his Goodreads Giveaway Contest.

Win a Signed Copy of Billy and the Monster who Ate All the Easter Eggs

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Interview with Children's Book Author Sandra Bennett

 This week I had the great priviledge of being interviewed by fellow Children's book author Davd Chuka. Read the attached link to learn a little more about my life in Australia, my writing and my love of teaching and literacy.

Interview with Children's Book Author Sandra Bennett

Monday, 17 March 2014

Emmy Gatrell, a Mother and Author With a Heart for Writing

In our “Second Pay it forward” interview Emmy Gatrell talks about the importance of doing things in life that make you happy. It is important to find and do something you are passionate about and if you can make it your life’s work, than even better. My writing for children brings me great joy and if it puts a smile on the face of even one child, then I have been successful. I hope you enjoy reading this interview from this new author, I certianly did. :)
Originally posted on Jessica Schaub Books:
Welcome to the second installment of the Pay-It-Forward Author Interview series! If you are an author or have a book being released in the next year and would like to join this interview series, click here for details. This week I am featuring a fellow homeschooling mom and writer. Emmy Gatrell took the plunge and published her first book on her own – a feat that has brought in 4 & 5 star ratings on Amazon.
If you are a fan of fantasy, love secrets and new discoveries, the Meanmna is the book for you. Read on to learn more about Emmy Gatrell and then give her book a try.
emmy gatrell
Meanmna is a fantasy novel for teens. What are some other authors who inspired you to write in this genre?
I could easily name a hundred authors that inspired me to write in the fantasy genre. I tend to read…
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Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Awesome Value of Picture Books

When you think of picture books, what are some of the great memories that come to your mind?
Snuggling with grandma? Daddy’d tender voice as he read a bedtime story to you?  Perhaps laughing with Mum as she read your favourite story but skipped a page hoping you wouldn’t notice, (but of course you did, you knew every word by heart).
Every child has a favourite. One that they want read to them night after night. Kept under their pillow or hidden in reach under their bed.
My all time favourite is “Diary of a Wombat” by Jackie French Diary-of-a-wombat(I’ve mentioned it in my blogs before). I’ve read it over and over to so many children during my teaching career, unfortunately I think I’ve lost my copy in a classroom somewhere and it was personally autographed by Jackie too!  I do however still have “Christmas Wombat” Christmas wombat 2and  “Baby Wombat’s Week” baby wombats weekso I am lucky to be able to re-read these whenever I like. As I guess you can see, I rather have a fondness for wombats. They are Australia’s unsung heroes, cute and cuddley yet almost forgotten due to the popularity of koalas and kangaroos. Thanks to Jackie French and her wonderful tales wombats are  finally getting the recognition they so rightfully deserve, but I digress.
Picture books are our introduction into the wonderful world of imagination and reading. We learn so much more than you might initially think from them.
From the first time we hold a picture book in our hands we begin the early stages of reading. We immediately learn the correct way to hold a book to be able to read it up the right way and from the front to the back. As we listen to an adult read the few words on each page we see to read from left to right. We see the shape of sentences and listen to the sounds of the written language. We also unknowingly begin to learn the fundamental structure of sentence building as well as the more complicated structure of the spoken language itself as we listen to someone read to us over and over again.
We learn that marvelous stories can be told on the pages of books and that we can explore all sorts of magical and mystical worlds through words and pictures.
We also come to realise that the story can be told through the amazing illustrations making it possible to understand the story without reading the words. This then helps in the following stages of learning to read as we search the pictures for cues to help with words by looking at expressions, body language or other clues that might be in the images. For example in “Christmas Wombat” the text talks about the strange creatures that are eating the wombats carrots, but by looking at the illustrations it is clear the creatures are in fact Santa’s reindeer.Christmas_Wombat_3
Often a joke or a visual hint may be in the illustration that may not be obvious in the written word demonstrating the visual impact the pictures can have on the story. In “Baby Wombat’s week” the wombat is searching for a new bigger home, the illustrations show us some of the places he considers, such as the toddlers sandpit, the garbage bin and a washing basket.
Of course the key to successful learning to read is as much in the conversation that develops about what happens in the story in as much as reading the text or looking at the pictures. A picture is after all worth a thousand words, and a good illustration can tell an incredible story in its own right. Picture books can help to stimulate discussions between parents and children where as more complicated text may reduce the need for that dialogue unless the parent is proactive.
Picture books come in all shapes and sizes but some of the best are the biggest, brightest and most colourful. They stimulate the imagination and are family inclusive. Everyone can snuggle behind a big picture book and easily read together. Why not pop on down to your local library today and see what amazing adventures await you and your family amongst the pages of a big picture book.
As always, have fun reading. :)

Monday, 3 March 2014

Meet the Author: Theresa Jenner Garrido

A great first interview to begin our series of “Pay it Forward Author Interviews.” Jessica has asked some insightful questions into the life and mind of an accomplished author who has successfully published several stories. Enter into the world of Theresa Jenner Garrido and discover her passion for writing mystery and intrigue.
Originally posted on Jessica Schaub Books:
Many people enter into retirement with the dream of writing a novel. Theresa Jenner Garrido made that a reality. Whether you love romance novels or light mysteries, Theresa is your gal! With more than a dozen published books, she knows how to tell a good story. Theresa and I were both published by Martin Sister’s Publishing in 2013, so we share that sisterhood as well. I read Who Done It? and enjoyed the story line, but I fell in love with the characters; especially Ducky, a plucky 80-year-old. Allow me to introduce you to:  unnamed

Thursday, 27 February 2014

A Purrfect Tale of Love and Differences.

“Learn to love your differences because they are a part of who you are. They make you purrfect!”
Sherlock Bk 1 Front CoverSherlock Cat
“Sherlock, the Cat Who Couldn’t Meow” is the latest children’s book released by Vickianne Caswell, cover art design by Anastasia Drogaitseva. Where Vickianne’s book series to date have been picture books for pre-schoolers and perhaps the beginning school years,  (please see my previous reviews, ) this is her first venture into short chapter books  for 6-10 year olds.
Vickianne has written another winner. She has written characters to not only fall in love with but who have a message to share with their readers.  Sherlock is a hardworking cat by day that studies to further his education and qualifications at night, but he is somewhat shy and a little ashamed because hard as he may try, he cannot meow. Imaginae a cat that can’t meow! He is laughed at and teased by bullies he has known since his school days. He doesn’t know how to make friends with the new cat in town, he’s so frightened that she’ll laugh too when she finds out his horrible secret. How he confronts his issues of self doubt and lack of confidence is cleverly portrayed through everyday situations that children can relate to and understand, with a little help from a bit of magic thrown in to develop the imagination and increase the adventure along the way.
However, there is so much more to this book than just the story. Vickianne has included at the end of the book three quotes from Sherlock which clearly demonstrate the moral to the story, just in case you don’t get it upon reading, but I have no doubt that you will.
There is also a glossary of unfamiliar words for the targeted age group. This is a marvelous idea, no need to go racing for a dictonary, the words are already there at your finger tips.
Included is also extra reading material with a few fun animal facts as well as the words to the song sung during the story by CJ, the English Lop Bunny who owns the bakery where Sherlock works.
As the story is all about cats and other adorable pets, Vickianne has also included her thoughts on considerations before buying a pet for yourself or adopting one from an animal shelter. Some very wise food for thought indeed.
If you are looking for an early, easy reader that the whole family will enjoy together, then you can’t go past “Sherlock the Cat Who Couldn’t Meow.” It is sensitive, poignant and inspirational along with raising some great issues for parental or classroom discussion. I highly recommend Vickianne Caswell’s latest edition to her repotoire of clever and delightful children’s tales.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

How Do I Turn the Pages on my Reluctant Reader?

We all know a reluctant reader.
Many of us have one in our family.
Yes, even I had a reluctant reader as a son.
So what can you do to help him (or her) overcome their fear or frustration of reading?
First of all before we begin, it is important to remember to check for signs of causes that may be hindering the learning process. Is your child having problems seeing the text? Do they need glasses? Are they perhaps jumbling up the letters? Are they dyslexic?
Whatever the issue, remember that help from teachers is always at hand and above all, don’t panic! All children develop and learn at their own pace. Childhood is not a race to adulthood. It is a journey to be savoured and enjoyed, a time when memories are made while growing and exploring and this includes venturing into the world of books and discovering the particular types of genres that best suit each individual personality.

Below are my tips on the best strategies  to help motivate the reluctant reader to not only start turning the pages but continue into becoming a life-long lover of reading.
1. Start by being a good role-model. It helps if both parents enjoying reading. Some might say in fact that my husband was not a good role-model to our sons as in nearly 30 years of marriage I could count on one hand the amount of fiction books he has read. However, he is always reading.  The laptop or ipad is always on and he is forever googling technical information about something of interest. He is reading and learning all the time. I might be the one seen reading all the fiction novels, but he is observed reading  a plethora of non-fiction.
2. Ignore parents that brag about their children’s amazing reading abilities. Worrying yourself  that your child is not “keeping up with the Joneses” is pointless. Every child will reach their own potential at their own pace. By the time they all finish high school and move on to University, things will have evened out to the point that when they began to read confidently will not seem so important or significant. You may even find that the bragging parent was in fact doing the actual reading aloud all along while the child was enjoying listening and comprehending. (Both parent and child enjoying the shared experience anyway.)
3.With that said, remember your reluctant reader will also comprehend books at a higher level than he/she can read. This may be a reason which may have turned them off reading in the first place. Therefore find books that interest him/her and spend time reading aloud to them. The benefits are great. See my post from two weeks ago, Introduce as many forms of reading as possible, magazines, newspapers, internet sites, blogs (under supervision of course) whatever may be of interest. Most of all make it fun and entertaining so that you build confidence as well as comprehension.
4. Make the reading relevent.  One of the reasons they become reluctant is because they are bored and then refuse to read as they can’t see the point of reading the required text. That is why it is essential to find topics of interest. Don’t expect a ten year old struggling reader to want to read something written for a six year old, even if that is his reading level. Give him something that will entice him to want to pick it up.
5. E-readers are great for reluctant readers that prefer to play on their computers or console games. E-readers are familair tools, so why not take advantage of them. The reader can play with the text, change the font size, shape or colour and even look up unknown words they discover, all in one place. No need to go diving for a dictionary anymore.
6. If they have a favourite comic book or joke book, don’t stress. Allow them to read it over and over. Repetition is a good thing.  It not only builds confidence and comprehension but allows the reader to express themselves while enjoying a positive experience. These books will also help with the increase in understanding of story sequencing and layout as well as the added benefit of being visually appealing and full of laughs.
7. It helps if there is a quiet place in the house to read. Quiet time in a quiet corner or special place away from the distractions of other busy family life, no computer or TV noise, time to sit and quietly immerse themselves into the story. If this is difficult to find, then bedtime is perhaps the best alternative, bearing in mind that children are often very tired by the end of the day and a reluctant reader will probably prefer you to start the reading. If you find something he is really interested in, he may just want to take over the reading, (and even continue long after you leave the room).
8. Create plenty of opportunities for reading and learning by writing notes to be left and found in hidden secret places. Children get quite a delight when they discover a secret message from mum or dad in a lunch box, under pillows, in pockets, wherever your imagination takes you. Write messages on the fridge by using magnetic letters. The reader may surprise you and write a reply.
9. Play as many word games as you can think of. I Spy, scrabble, boggle to name just a few. If you are interested in more ideas refer to a few of my earlier blogs
10. Select high interest books with plenty of action and humour. Kids want to laugh and have fun while reading. As they get older they expect good cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter. It also helps if the book has familair everyday situations that they can relate to. Circumstances that they can become involved in and are able to suggest how to solve the problem.
A fantastic short chapter book that just so happens to fit the order perfectly is my “Gingerbread Aliens.” Filled with action, adventure and intrigue it will keep even the most reluctanct reader laughing and turning the pages all the way to the end. The story begins with a very simple everyday situation that every child can relate to. Three brothers begin fighting in their kitchen  while trying to cook for the school fete. Naturally disaster strikes, there is a huge mix up and a turn of events that send the school and the neighbourhood into turmoil. The story even has great cliff-hangers at the end of every chapter.
Here is one enticing sample.
“David sighed, he had enough of their nonesense. He threw the loaf down at his feet in disgust and gave it one almighty drop kick.
It SOARED through the air longer and faster than David had ever kicked a football before. It flew right over the top of the back timber fence. Hit the light post near the walkway. Bounced off the brick pavers that edged the garden……..and……..SMASHED through the window of the school Principal’s office.”
Whenever I read this at school readings, even the most reluctant of readers  have begged me to continue on to the next chapter. I have not met a child yet who doesn’t want to know how the school Principal is going to react.
Gingerbread Aliens is available from both my websites. I am happy to sign any copies purchased and mailed.
It is also available as an ebook.
The second book in the Bradberrie Boys Alien Adventure Series “Alien Shenanigans” is coming very soon. Stay tuned for futher updates on this and more in the series.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Do You Believe in Leprechauns?

When Don G. Ford offered me the opportunity to select one of his children’s books to review it seemed obvious to me straight away which one I would select. My Best Friend is a Leprechaun
I am a believer in inspiring the imagination of children, creating amazing tales of wonder and magic, which also means fostering the belief in fairies at the bottom of the garden, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny and so on.
My own book series is based on the realm of possibility that aliens do happily exist amongst us, (even very small mischievous ones.)
Couple this with my intrigue for Irish folk lore and I was immediately drawn to Don’s story “My Best Friend is a Leperechaun.”
I found this book irresistible!
Don G. Ford begins this book with a prologue to expose the readers mind to the idea of the existance of mythical creatures. He even includes a short story about an Irish woman who believed she had truely met a Leprechaun. The prologue is quite informative and a great discussion starter, perfect for the late Primary School age group to debate the question of reality verses legend. Do you have to see something to believe it exists?
To the uninitiated, knowledge is an appreciated commodity, therefore also included before the story begins are the author’s notes presenting valuable background information to Ireland, her folk lore and of cause Leprechauns. So any youngster reading the book for the first time, not knowing anything about Irish myths and legends are given critical information on the Irish belief of exactly what a Leprechaun actually is.
Finally the magic begins at the end of the rainbow, exactly where you would anticipate finding a Leprechaun. Immediate suspense enthrals the reader with the Leprechaun being in imminent danger. Twists and turns take the reader on a wonderful journey into the life of the Leprechauns teaching us several morals along the way before reaching an gripping climax.
The Leprechauns teach the main character, (Big John), valuable life lessons such as true kindness, the importance of friendship and family and that a sense of “home” can arise in the most unexpected of places. Home is after all, where the heart is and a sense of love and belonging can be the greatest treasure of them all.
“My Best Friend is a Leprechaun” is a delightful tale to read with classroom students or an easy independent reader for ages 8-10 year olds.
Available on Amazon at:

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

10 Awesome Reasons for Reading Aloud to Your Kids Whatever Their Age.

Earlier this week I posted this link on my Gingerbread Alien facebook page.

I thought it was rather apt after my post last week on the importance of kids reading themselves everyday. In that post I briefly touched on parents sharing the reading experience with their children by reading to them..  However, it brought me to thinking about the signifcance of reading aloud to kids of all ages and perhaps the need to explore this topic a little further.
By now most parents know the benefits of reading aloud to their young ones, but how many parents continue to read to their children once the child has become an independent reader?
Here are my thoughts and I hope perhaps awesome reasons to read to your child from birth to the teenage years and everthing in between.
1. Reassurance of love and security. Babies feel safe and loved when they are cuddled and read to, so why wouldn’t your 6-10 year old need the same assurance? A tween or teenager may not need quite the closeness of cuddles while being read aloud to, however the sheer closeness will be appreciated. Kids of all ages still need a hug once in awhile from mum or dad and reading aloud to them allows for that opportunity without embarrassment.
2. Reading aloud introduces the building blocks for vocabulary. All language has to be learnt. We don’t come into the world already understanding the world around us. We listen to our parents and significant others. The more we read aloud to our children the more their vocabulary is gradually increased. A school age child who has been read to from birth has a greater understanding of the world around them and has the ability to learn more easily as their vocabulary is richer and greater than a child who has not been read to. However we should not stop there. As children become independent readers they can still learn so much more from being read to. A child with a reading level of 8 years can comprehend a story read to them at an 11 year old level, they even yearn to hear stories written for older kids and they gain a greater use of vocabulary while listening.
3. The written word has a more formal structure to it than the spoken word, so the higher level of reading that is exposed to the child the higher level of language exposre also. This in turn will help improve their own reading and writing.
4. Help childern to explore and investigate the world around them. Particulary as children grow their curiosity and imaginations develop. Their reading level may not keep up with their intrigue. As parents we have the opportunity to foster learning and increase understanding by reading aloud information books and magazines that may be beyond their capabilities. Even reaching the teen years they may still need our help reading new words and concepts they have not come across before. As the school curriculum increasingly gets busier and busier, sometimes children and teenagers need to search elsewhere for the information they need to fulfill an interest. Their reading level may not be quite up to the information they find, a parent can help by reading aloud and explaining.
5. Reading aloud means sharing, with that can bring ideas for great discussions or debates. Many a great debate has started around our dinner table after reading books together. You can discuss moral issues, feelings, how your kids might respond in a similar situation while they are young or as they become older they may prefer to tackle the more complex topics like climate change or how to prevent child poverty. The list becomes endless depending on attidudes, interests and beliefs in your family.
6. Increae attention span. You may start off reading aloud with picture books that may only take a few minutes but as they grow, kids will demand chapter books. Hopefully ones with fantastic hooks at the end of each chapter so that you can’t put them down. Eager listeners beg you to “read just one more chapter!” Their attention span increases not only in the listening to the story but continues to overflow into sustaining other activities as well.
7. Introduce a variety of genres. When reading aloud to your 6 year old or your teenager, the more often you read to them the more opportunities you have to introducing them to genres that they may not have considered themselves. Sometimes kids find one genre that they believe they enjoy and tend to stick with that one. If you read something different aloud with them they may jsut discover a new genre that is not so bad after all.
8. Life long love of reading. If you continue to read to your children from birth right through to their teenage years (and even beyond) then you will instill in them a habbit that they won’t be able to resist. Reading will become part of their daily routine, they’ll want to read or be read to. Children by nature have inquisitive minds, they’ll seek the next chapter or piece of information. The urge to learn and be fulfilled will be never ending.
9. Reading aloud provides parents with the opportunity to become awesome role models. As teachers we read aloud to our class everyday from the minute they start kindergarten. We still continue to read aloud to the class everyday right through their primary school years to the end of Year 6 as it not only helps with everything mentioned in the eight items above, but provides our class with a reading role model. We read with enthusiasm and expression that teaches them to read the same way. A parent has the same opportunity when reading at home to their child. We can all show them how much we enjoy the book we are sharing by the inclusive way in which we read with them.
10.. Reading aloud should be fun and entertaining. One of the most important points of all if we are going to hook our children into becoming awesome readers is to show them that above all else reading is for fun and enjoyment. Make sure when you take the time to read to your child that you both have fun. :)
For some of my favourite suggested books for reading to 5-12 year olds please revisit my post from Raising Awesome Readers titled “I am a Self-Confessed Bookaholic” dated Tuesday 21st May 2013. The link is below.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

10 Awesome Reasons Why Kids Should Read.

Summer holidays are at their end. Australian kids all around the nation are embarking on another academic school year. With that comes the controversial issue of homework.
Currrent research theory suggests that homework is not necessary. I’m not here to debate the pro’s and con’s of homework, (some may say that it depends entirely upon the age of the children and the stage of schooling they are at.) Suffice to say, if your kids are in Primary school, no matter what your school’s current homework policy happens to be, I believe all children should at least read.
Below are my 10 awesome reasons why I believe all children (no matter what their age) should have the opportunity to read at home every day.
1.Imaginations grow and expand as books take children to magical far away lands with intriguing characters and unusual creatures.
2.Reading inspires creativity to think and invent. It is with stories children are inspired to dream and it is those dreamers who grow up to become the inventers of our world and our future.
3.Children can explore the world around them without leaving the safety of their bedroom. They can learn all about geography, flora and fauna, all things great and small.
4. Vocabulary is increased. The more a child reads, the more new words they discover. Comprehension is learnt in context and gradually as the new vocabulary is read more often it becomes part of every day life and speech.
5. Improved spelling. Repetition is a secret to success and as such, the more often a child reads, the more often they see the same words repeatedly in written form, again in context rather than isolation giving more meaning to each word. This makes it more likely that these words will become embedded in the memory and the child will be able to “see” the word when they are required to spell it.
6. Reading opens up a whole world of knowledge. Once a child learns to read, they can choose to read anything enabling them to learn about whatever their heart desires. It helps to stimulate the brain so that the child can grow and be educated to become whatever they choose to be when they become an adult.
7. Reading helps to develop empathy for other people  through viewing the world through the eyes of many different colourful characters. Giving children opportunities to understand how someone else may feel in situations that they may or may not be familiar with.
8. Life’s lessons are taught through many children’s books as they so often have a worthwhile moral to the story. This also opens up opportunities for family discussions and debates bringing the family closer together as they unite around a topic.
9. The more a child reads, the better they get at it. Like anything else in life, whether that is piano lessons or kicking a ball, we all know the old adage that “practice makes perfect.
10. Last, but by no means least, reading together, sharing  a book with someone you love, ( a parent, grandparent, sibling or friend) brings people together to make special moments. It allows time for laughter, cuddles and hugs. It builds relationships and creates strong bonds that form ever lasting wonderful memories.
So whatever happens in your house this year during the busy school terms to come, whether there is after school sport practice, music lessons,  or swimming training, (not to mention the usual household chores,) please take the time to read with your children every day. Even if it is only 20 minutes a day, you will not only be instilling a great life long habbit, you will also be giving them a love of learning and reading that
they will both love you and thank you for one day.