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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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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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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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what’s in a bloggy name?


I have taken quarter of an inch’s challenge: explain the origin of your blog name.

Well, the URL for this blog is just ‘jennytaylor’. Pretty boring, hunh. That’s just because ‘vividity’ was already taken at wordpress.

So how did I come by ‘vividity’? Well, it’s the registered name of my photography business, and it came about a long time ago, when my husband and I were preparing for marriage. We were having regular meetings with the minister who was going to conduct the ceremony…. kind of pre-marriage counselling, I guess you’d call it. I was on my high horse about something, and was speaking in my usual exaggerated manner. You know, black is black and white is white, and I — as always — am right! Must have sounded pretty young and naive to the minister!

Anyway, he looked at my fiance, smiled with a twinkle in his eye and said, “She’s vivid, isn’t she?” And it kinda stuck.

And as well as that, ‘vividity’ is the noun from ‘vivid’. I thought that was suitable for a photography name. What do you think?

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Incy Wincy Spyder

Wow! Got my hands on a spyder (colorimeter) today and calibrated my computer monitor. What a difference! I’m now really unsure what any of these photos I’ve been posting look like on other people’s screens. I mean, they all looked fine on my screen…. until I colour calibrated. Now most of them  still look fine… but quite a lot different. Others look dreadful!

I have been getting some really weird results with prints. Not with true photographic prints from my lab, but when I try to have birth announcements or cards and the like printed. It’s been taking several trips to the print house to get things right! Hence the investigation into colour calibration.

I’d love to know what others do in this area. Do you have any stories to tell? Please do! Have you calibrated? How often do you do it? How do you manage colour between your set up and your lab or your print house? When in the process do you convert to CMYK? Or do you not convert at all?

Do tell!

And let me know how this looks on your monitor. It’s another of my little girl when she was a baby. Not a great photo, but I love how I can hear her laugh when I look at it.


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Finished at last!

This is the blankie (lovey) I made for my baby boy. I knew it was an ambitious undertaking when I started it (well before he was born)… and I almost got it finished. But then he arrived and I had even less time to knit than before.

For a while I couldn’t face such a large undertaking. You know what it’s like when you’re a mother of small children. Sometimes you just need something that you can actually get finished. That big tick on your ‘to do’ list can be such an important thing when you spend your day dealing with constant interruptions. I needed small projects that could be finished in a day or two (hence my ‘hat’ phase).

Well, here it is, finished at last! And my baby is nearly two! I think it’s been worth the wait, though, to get it done just right. I’m pretty happy with it. I hope he is too!





Filed under knitting, my own, Uncategorized