Monthly Archives: October 2009

Little books with big ideas

Here are some wonderful little books that deal with some of life’s bigger issues. They are all books that my children and I have enjoyed reading together. They’re not necessarily great for helping beginning readers to read independently (see my earlier post on this topic), but they are all terrific books and well worth sharing with your children, or just reading for your own pleasure!

Once again, please feel free to add your own titles to this list by leaving comments. That way we can all find out about some more fantastic books.

  • Blabey, Aaron (2009) Stanley Paste. Melbourne: Penguin. I can’t recommend this author/illustrator highly enough. I love love love his books! This one (like most of them) is about how it feels to not quite fit in, and what to do about it. Also look out for Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley and Sunday Chutney from the same author.
  • Child, Lauren & Borland, Polly (2005). The princess and the pea. London: Puffin Books. Similar to the traditional tale of the princess and the pea, except that there are some subtle comments to suggest that both the prince and the princess could not care less about royal protocols. They simply want to marry someone they can love and respect. And yes. That is the Polly Borland, the photographer who has been commissioned to take the portrait of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth (among other very famous people)! Gorgeous illustrations in true Lauren Child style.
  • Curtis, Jamie Lee & Cornell, Laura (1997). Tell me again about the night I was born. London: Scholastic. The birth story of an adopted baby. And yes. That’s the Jamie Lee Curtis.
  • Fox, Mem & Smith, Craig (1989) Sophie. Belgrave, Vic: Ian Drakeford Publishing. A sensitive look at the circle of life, and the love between a little girl and her grandfather. I cried the first time I read this one.
  • Fox, Mem & Staub, Leslie (1997) Whoever you are. Rydalmere, NSW: Hodder. This book reminds us that no matter what our religious, cultural or linguistic heritage we are all the same inside.
  • King, Stephen Michael (1995) The man who loved boxes. Gosford, NSW: Scholastic Australia. If you see a Stephen Michael King book, buy it. They are wonderful. This one is a sensitively written and beautifully illustrated story of a man and a son who find a special way to share their love for each other. Great to see a book about a man and children for a change.
  • King, Stephen Michael (2008) Leaf. Lindfield, NSW: Scholastic. This book is a story, but you won’t find it in the words. Any words in this book are more sound effects than sentences. The story, though, is sweet and touching. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
  • Legge, David (1994) Bamboozled. Gosford, NSW: Scholastic. If someone read you this book without showing you the illustrations, you would think it frightfully boring. The pictures carry way more than half the meaning in this story, and you can spend hours just looking at each page, wondering about all the strange things in the grandfather’s house.
  • Levine, Gary & Kroll, Karen (??) 39 ways to open your heart. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press. This is not a children’s book at all, but it is one that I have recently begun sharing with my five-year-old when she’s having a tough day. The artwork is quite beautiful and although the short pithy sayings might be a bit “new age”, they have been a great starting point for some wonderful conversations with my daughter about how to look after your deepest inner most self in what is at times a harsh world.
  • McBratney, Sam & Jeram, Anita (1994) Guess how much I love you. London: Walker Books. A book about what to do when words alone just cannot express your love for someone. I can’t read it to my kids without choking up just a little on the last page…especially if we’ve had one of “those” days.
  • Munsch, Robert N. & Martchenko, M. (1980). The paper bag princess. Gosford, NSW: Scholastic Australia. A great book about a princess who saves the day, rescues the prince and then decides not to marry him after all because he’s such a toad! A lovely twist on the usual gender stereotypes of traditional fairy tales.
  • Reynolds, Peter H. (2003). The dot. London: Walker Books. A book about finding your artistic voice and making your mark on the world. Both my children love this one.
  • Spaulding, Norma & King, Stephen Michael (1998). The little blue parcel. Gosford, NSW: Scholastic Press. “Mr and Mrs Twistangle lived in a little wooden house that crouched at the very edge of the street.” So opens this wonderful little book. How can you not want to read it after an opening like that? Already we know that all is not well in that little house. Deals with jealousy, self-worth, bullying and the gentle art of patience.
  • Vanni, Gian Berto & Siff, Lowell A. (1964) Love. Published in 1989 by Firefly Books, Willowdale, Ontario, Canada. “Part story, part visual play, Love will surprise all who turn its pages.” So says the blurb on the dust jacket. This delightful book is the story of a little girl in an orphanage. She’s not very nice, and people aren’t very nice to her, but love wins out in the end.
  • Wild, Margaret & Vivas, Julie (1989) The very best of friends. Sydney, NSW: Scholastic Australia. Julie Vivas would have to be among my top five favourite illustrators, and Margaret Wild is well known for her great writing for the very young. They team up in this book to deal with death, loss and grief in a way that little ones can understand.
  • Wild, Margaret & Vivas, Julie (1991) Let the celebrations begin. Norwood, SA: Omnibus Books. Another beautiful book from these two, this time dealing with the holocaust in a sensitive way. Don’t worry. It’s not too ‘heavy’ for kids.
  • Waddell, Martin & Benson, Patrick (1986) The tough princess. London: Walker Books. Another role-reversed fairy tale. The princess in this tale fights dragons and hundred-headed monsters and rescues princess. What a girl!
  • Waddell, Martin & Eachus, Jennifer (1994) The big big sea. London: Walker Books. A reminder to sometimes let go of all the ‘rules’ about what time children should be in bed and how they should fall asleep on their own. A very simple story of love.
  • Whatley, Bruce & Smith, Rosie (1994) Whatley’s quest. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. An alphabet book with a difference. Great for kids of all ages.
  • Wojtowicz, Jen & Adams, Steve. (2005). The boy who grew flowers. Bath: Barefoot Books. Another story about staying true to yourself, even when you feel so different to everyone around you.

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a second – and third – try

I think the last vintage version was a little heavy handed, so I have had another play with the same image. Here are another two attempts. This one I have used a mask to remove some of the grunge from my daughter’s skin and I have also reduced the opacity of the texture layer.


And this one uses a much lighter, softer texture.


Click here to have a look at my first attempt, and then let me know which one you like the best by voting in my poll below. (You can also leave comments with your tips and tricks for creating vintage effects.)


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playing around in photoshop

Here’s my latest attempt at a vintage look. Original photo and then the one I have mucked about with. It was great fun!


and the vintage look:


That’s all for now. Will add another post about books sometime soon. My last one had a lot of hits, so I am assuming you’re finding it valuable. 🙂

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Books for early readers

I think I promised in an earlier post that I would write some more about children’s books. So here is some more:

Below is a list of books that are supportive of early readers  (or “emergent readers” as they are sometimes called in the literature). They are all books that my children and I have loved, and it goes without saying that they are all real books written by real writers for real readers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I welcome your comments and feedback.

These are in no particular order, other than the one that made them stack into a semi-stable pile on my desk. No, cancel that. I can’t do it. They’re in alphabetical order by author’s surname. I’ve had too many years of having to meet stringent rules for reference lists!

  • Ahlberg, Janet & Allan (1978). Each peach pear plum. London: Puffin Books. Beautifully illustrated with lots of familiar characters from well-known nursery rhymes. This book is often recited in our house. (Highly predictable: rhythm, rhyme, pictures support text. Children will probably already be familiar with many of the characters who appear in this beautiful rhyme.)
  • Ahlberg, Janet & Allan (1981). Peepo! London: Viking. Beautifully illustrated with such detail! Pictures depict life in England, probably about 1940s. (Rhythm, rhyme, repetition, pictures support text.)
  • Anholt, Catherine (2000)  Baby’s things. London: Walker Books. This one is really for babies. One picture, one word per page. (Picture supports text. Pictures of things with are familiar to many babies.)
  • Boynton, Sandra (sorry… store has put sticker over top of publishing info!). Moo, baa, la la la! A lot of silly fun, this one! (Rhyme, rhythm, pictures support text.)
  • Campbell, Rod. (1997) Dear Zoo. South Melbourne: Lothian. Lots of fun lifting flaps and discovering what animal the zoo has sent! (Repetition, pictures support text.)
  • Carle, Eric (1969) The very hungry caterpillar. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Hamish Hamilton/Penguin. A fabulous book. My two-year-old recites this one while we’re driving around. The fact that it has been in (I think) constant publication for the past 40 years says it all. (pictures support text, repeated form and therefore highly predictable text at least for part of the book.)
  • Fox, Mem & Dyer, Jane (1993). Time for bed. Malvern, SA: Omnibus Books. A great bedtime book, this one! (rhythm, rhyme, repetition.)
  • Fox, Mem & Horacek, Judy. (2004). Where is the green sheep? Camberwell, Vic.: Viking/Penguin. Beautiful illustrations, full of colour and fun. Another one that is oft recited in our house. (Strong rhythm and rhyme. Pictures highly supportive of text. Therefore a highly predictable book.)
  • Fox, Mem & Miller, David. (1996). Boo to a goose. Rydalmere, NSW: Hodder Headline. Wonderful 3D paper illustrations. Lots of fun. (Rhythm, rhyme, pictures closely linked to text.)
  • Thompson, Lauren & Andersen, Derek (2004) Little Quack’s bedtime. London: Simon & Schuster. This is a lullaby, a story and a counting book all rolled into one. Another great bedtime story. (Repetition, illustrations that support text.)
  • Wilson, Sarah & Sweet, Melissa (1999). Love and kisses. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. Beautiful illustrations and a lovely story about giving love away, and a little bit of silliness. (Rhyme, rhythm, pictures support text.)

That’s it for now. By no means all the great books we have read, but that’s all I can get through at the moment. Time to play with the kids! Please feel free to leave comments with books you love to read with your kids. And remember to drop by Pascale’s blog to see her list.

I’ll try to get another post done sometime with some books for slightly older kids.


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selecting children’s books

So, what right have I, a photographer and yoga teacher, got to give advice on selecting children’s books? Well….

…. once upon a time, but not so very long ago, I was an academic. I completed a PhD in Early Childhood Education at the Institute of Early Childhood at Macquarie University, Sydney, specialising in literacy development and bilingualism. So, I know a teeny bit about the subject. My dissertation is available through Macquarie University library for those of you who are interested ;-).

There you have it. I’ve come out of the academic closet!

And why a post on this topic? Well, I’ve been exchanging views on the topic with Pascale Wowak (a talented photographer from Santa Cruz) and I have decided it’s about time I stop filling up her comments section and post something here.  Sorry, Pascale, for being so wordy on your blog!

So what should you look for when choosing books to help early readers? Here’s my twenty cents’ worth:

  • predictable books, that is books with rhythm and rhyme and repetition (which support beginning readers in predicting the next word)
  • books with strong picture cues (ie, pictures that are closely linked to the text, again helps beginning readers guess what a word might be)
  • real books written by real writers with a real story to tell (ie. not books of the ‘Dan can fan the man’ variety)
  • books on a topic you know the child loves
  • books on a topic with which the child is already familiar (Learning to read, like all learning, goes from the known to the unknown. It is relatively easy to work out that the letters S-A-D-D-L-E say “saddle” when you see the word in a book about horses and you already know that saddles go on horses. It is very difficult to work out what the same string of letters might say when you see them written on a flash card with no supporting context.)
  • books you love. (You’re more likely to enjoy reading it to your children if you really like the book.)

It can be really helpful to build a good relationship with someone in a specialist children’s book shop and/or your local librarian. These people have access to such a vast array of great books that they can help you find just the right book for your child.

That’s it for now. It’s school holidays here and I have two sick kiddies at home. I’d best go and be a mother. Keep checking back here often, though, as I will post more on this topic from time to time.

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call for models – families

I would love to add some more images to my website… and you can help!

I’m currently looking for families to photograph who meet the following criteria:

  • willing to meet me at a location of my choice (north side of Sydney).
  • all family members willing to sign a model release, or sign on behalf of any children under 18 years of age. (The images will more than likely be published, but you can rest assured I will never disclose any identifying information about you…. apart from photos of your gorgeous faces, of course ;-))

In return you will receive a free photo shoot, a free purse-sized concertina album with 8 images from your session and another six 5 x 7 inch prints, also free. You may purchase extra prints and albums at standard prices.

I have four free family sessions available between now and the end of January 2010. But remember, it’s heading up to silly season when we all start to get pretty busy, so if you’re thinking of giving the prints as Christmas presents, phone and book in now. (You need to have your shoot by the end of October to guarantee prints by Christmas.)

And, for you viewing pleasure, here are some images. They’re a few years old now, but I still really like them. I was shooting film at this point in time, so these are scans. I know you’ll forgive me for the scanning artifacts you can see in them…

We started out with a more formal grouping. (Children arranged oldest to youngest, as requested by Mum).


But what I like best is to start with a formal arrangement, and then just watch it fall apart. It’s the falling apart that gives the best photos, I reckon. The ones that reflect who the people really are.






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Has it really been that long?

Wow! Time flies. When you’re chasing after a couple of kids and trying to juggle everything else life throws your way….. You know what it’s like!

So what have I been doing all this time? Well….. I’ve been working on a website. I haven’t been ready to tell anyone about it till now. It’s almost ready…. (which probably actually means there’s something I haven’t thought of yet that will make it take another couple of months to get up and running!)

Anyhow, keep an eye on this blog, as I will be running a competition with some great prizes to celebrate the launch of my website.

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