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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Bouncing along with Robert Vescio - Hopscotch Showdown Party style



Playground pastimes in those informative primary school years tend to cement some of the most endearing and enduring memories of our time spent in school. These days it’s handball and (insert grimace) looming. I myself was more of a marbles and knucklebones kind of girl and can remember sacrificing lunch to compete in crucial playoffs and tournaments. Ah, the salad days of youth…What a party is was.

Fortunately for me, I still get invited to the odd party and today I am delighted to be part of Robert Vescio’s Launch Party for his new early reader chapter book, Hopscotch Showdown
Robert Vescio is perhaps best known for his picture books, No Matter Who We’re With and Marlo Can Fly but is a regular contributor to the children’s book scene and multi-competition winner, resulting in an admirable affiliation with Jelli-Beanz Publishing. His original Hopscotch Showdown short story was in the Jelli-Beanz Publishing Packed Lunch Volume 1 anthology for kids in 2011. Kids can now enjoy it as a standalone reader. But now, it’s time to get this party jumping and what better way than with a rousing hopscotch showdown.

Hopscotch Showdown is a springy little tale about two young girls embarking on a fierce battle of patience and precision in order to defend honour and reputation.

Clarity Johnson is the current Blue Hill Primary Hopscotch Champion. Prunella Hinchbottom, the girl who’s quest is to be the best, aims to bounce Clarity off the winner’s podium. Armed with nothing but their markers and quivering thigh muscles, they hop, skip and jump their way into primary-playground history. 

Vescio’s occasional play on words, ‘silence reigned heavily although no one got wet’, is happily unbalancing at times and his description of the playoff is sufficiently accurate and enthralling enough to keep young readers on their tiptoes till the climatic end. Who knew hopscotch could be so riveting?

I especially appreciated the way seemingly arch enemies eventually demonstrated good sportsmanship, reminding us all it’s not always about how fast, how high or how many marbles you accrue that counts in the end.
I wish I could say there’s a prize for guessing the exact number of hopping-related puns there are in this blog, but I’m not in charge of the loot bags this time. Maybe someone can tell me what the current GuinnessWorld Record for fasted completed hopscotch is though? Hint: it’s a fair bit quicker than Clarity’s. 

Thanks for inviting me along to your ‘hop’ Robert. It’s been a real trip.
Visit Jelli-Beanz for more cyber-fun, readings, discussions with Robert and party games.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Everything is Awesome - Mother's Day Review

Q. What is as big as a mini iPad, more full of ideas than Paul Jennings and doesn't involve looming (of the rubber band type)?

A. Awesome Aussie Things to do with Mum.

Being a mum pretty much outstrips all other occupations for me. In spite of the startling similarities it shares to being a writer: negligible pay, crippling self-doubt and reoccurring frustration, the ecstasy received from ones own child is unrivalled. I wouldn't swap that feeling for all the stars and moons combined and neither would my Miss 8. Well, maybe she'd short-loan me for a few thousand looms. So in this age of screen-addicted, attention-deficient youngsters, books like these are worth their weight in mini-iPads.

Awesome Aussie Things to do with Mum by Ed Allen and Simon Williams, is quietly sensational from this X-generation mum's point of view.

Things I like:

  1. Nifty, no-nonsense hard-cover, compact size. It's an activities book disguised as favourite fiction.
  2. Groovy layout and design. The table of contents and layout are uncluttered and concise and a great example of procedural writing for primary-aged kids.
  3. It cleverly caters for boys and girls; keen to involve mum in their crafts, activities and projects by using personalised, conversational, upbeat text that reads like prose.
  4. It appeals to kids from all ilks of life. It doesn't matter if you have brothers or sisters, live in the city or by the sea, have a sweeping backyard or a bonsai balcony; there is something useful in here for everybody.
  5. The step-by-step instructions are so orderly and straightforward, even a mother could follow them. (And I have.)
  6. Ideas are followed up with Fun Facts and tips plus room to make your own notes or even rate the activities with mum.
  7. It covers a satisfying range of active and passive activities and projects, some sure to reawaken old fads. Remember knuckle bones - ALL of the stages? Cats' Cradle?
  8. It offers contemporary options for ancient skills. Need a new mobile phone cover? Why not knit one?
  9. The quirky abstract, line-drawings of Simon Williams bring humour and purpose to every section of the book.
Thing(s) I don't like:
  1. The finger-operated-paper-fortune teller things weren't named as I remember them, the name of which I frustratingly can't recall. Oh well, time to enlist the help of Miss 8 and her i Pad...
Things I loved:
  1. Throughout each instruction and at the conclusion, there was continual reinforcement of the notion that the most awesome thing of all that you can do for mum is...'to let her do absolutely nothing at all.' Amen to that.
Awesome Aussie Things to do with Mum is a lovely little book full of lovely little things to share with mum, especially if you are in need of a creative, recreational past-time other than looming. Bang on for Mother's Day.

Need more wholesome gift ideas? Check out some other Mother's Day literary highlights, here.