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One for them and one for me: books for January


I am so excited today because finally after a couple of months of thinking about it and emailing and hoping my lovely cohosts would say yes (they did- phew!) and announcing it last month, the first day of our new reading project is finally here.  One for them and one for me is a monthly reading link up with a twist. Each month Katie at Be Nourishd, Claire at Clarina’s Contemplations and I will be sharing our favourite children’s book from the last month and a favourite grown up book, be it fiction, non fiction, just whatever we’ve been reading.  It’s a bit of a push to read for me a little more often and if you’re feeling inspired to read a little more then we’d love it if you joined in too.

And to start us off I have a real treasure:

One for them: Oi Frog!

Space for the Butterflies - Oi Frog!

Both H and I have a terrible affliction. It seems that when we go to the bookshop to buy presents for one or other of the girls’ friends we somehow always end up coming home with a little something new for our collection of lovely children’s books.  Oi Frog! is one of H’s entirely reasonable moments of weakness, and a very good one it is too.

He told me he picked it up in the shop, flipped through it, started laughing and was entirely sold before he’d even tried it out on a single one of the children.

Fortunately they are fans because if they weren’t I think he’d read it to them as a bedtime story regardless.

Space for the Butterflies - Oi Frog!

Cat, with all the determination that things should be as they ought to be so familiar to those of us with children in the preschool and early school years, is insistent that Frog should sit on a log.  That’s where frogs sit, on logs, so sit frog must.  But Frog doesn’t like the sound of a log, “they’re nobbly and uncomfortable. And they can give you splinters in your bottom” so he suggests alternatives, and off we go on a wonderful romp through some very creative rhyming.

Space for the Butterflies - Oi Frog!

Frog can’t sit on a mat because they’re for cats, nor a chair or a stool or a sofa or any number of sensible things that you might like to sit on, and it makes him curious.

Space for the Butterflies - Oi Frog!

Where do lions sit? Or lizards? Or puffins? All the way through, until our lovely friend Frog asks the one question perhaps he ought to have left alone…

Space for the Butterflies - Oi Frog!

…what about dogs?

It’s such a beautiful rhyming story, told with humour and fun and delightful illustrations, and as you can see, sufficiently popular that I couldn’t even sneak it away to take a few photos without tiny hands (belonging to Pip) coming to rescue it back.

One for me: Do Story

Space for the Butterflies - Do Story

One of my as yet unwritten down or particularly planned out aims for this year is to improve my writing.  It’s not that I don’t like the way I write, but it’s so much easier to say that I want to improve my photography or redesign my blog (which I may also be doing!) because it’s so much easier to set tangible goals.  I’m not sure what the writing equivalent is of moving to shooting on full manual, or pressing “Go” on a pretty new set up, but when writing is one of the biggest things I love about blogging, why wouldn’t I want to see if I can polish it up a bit? And then maybe I’ll stop starting sentences with “and” and my English teachers will stop collectively wincing (highly unlikely, it’s how I speak so it seems completely normal to me)!

Part of the plan is to try to separate my writing practice from my blogging.  It’s a bit of a challenge because my time for blogging is at a premium as it is, but I’d really like to get to a point where my not blogging everything I write, sometimes I’m writing just to see what happens, old school pen and paper style (we will have to imagine the garret and the constant supply of apples – I had dreams of being Jo March when I was younger).

And that’s wher my first book of 2016 comes in.  Do Story was a recommendation from one of the speakers at Blogfest and I hope they’ll forgive me for completely forgetting who it was because it was an awesome recommendation.

It was actually recommended for being short, though that’s far from its only attribute and it is quite simply a gripping pocket guide to the 10 principles that make up a story.

But Do Story isn’t just “do this”, it’s why.  Why do we tell stories in the first place? Why should we for example, take trouble to “set the GPS”, explaining the background and the reference points to our story? And it’s not just telling, it’s showing.  Each chapter is beautifully illustrated by a story that proves the point, and they are really engaging tales, from Scott the New York nightclub promoter who set up an African water charity to Churchill, who brought the English language into battle when he was rather lacking in much of anything else to fight with.

Space for the Butterflies - Do Story

Its worth reading for them alone.

But even better, to get me kick-started on my New Years not quite made it to a resolution, there’s an entered chapter at the back filled with writing exercises. Pen, meet paper, and off we go.


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A year in books: One for them and one for me


I have a vague memory of Saturday mornings in the days before children.  I know the lie in was longer than to 6.20, even for me, and I have the strongest impression of sunny mornings, H still sleeping, while I made a nest out of all of the blankets and cuddled down to read a book start to finish.

All of my life I have been an inveterate book worm, library card loaded to the max and bookshelves at least triple stacked and groaning under the weight, but since the children arrived I’ve read a lot less.  I find if they’re all happily playing and I don’t want to disturb them I can do housework around them or sit and knit, but reading takes me too far out of the room and I can’t quite keep track of the peace.  But this year coming I want to commit to reading for me as well as enjoying all the children’s books that topple off our shelves. So I have a plan, and some lovely friends to help and we’d love it if you wanted to join in too.

Introducing…. A Year in Books: one for them and one for me

The plan is simple, on the 5th of each month I’m going to be sharing a favourite children’s book that we’ve been reading or a new discovery that the children think everyone ought to know about and a book that I’ve read just for me.  It might be fact or fiction, everything from parenting books and craft books through to my favourite paperback is fair game, I just want to be reading again.

And because it’s always more fun with friends, I’d like to introduce you to my awesome co-hosts who are equally fond of reading and have similar amounts of time in which to do it!

Claire of Clarina’s Contemplations has almost finished her ABC year of books and still agreed to be my co-host which tells you how much she enjoys reading.  She also has two girls and a boy, of very similar ages to my three and I love reading about her family adventures because they so often parallel the stage we’re in with our three.

Katie at Be Nourishd has just returned to work after a maternity leave spent enjoying life with baby Theo.  She does books for a living and I’ve loved the posts she’s written about some of the new releases she’s come across.  She also has much more success growing courgettes than me so I’m hoping some of her green fingers rub off on me!

They’re both utterly lovely and if you aren’t already following their blogs you need to go and check the out now.  And just to get us started, or in case you’re looking for some Christmas present inspiration, I have one for them and one for me, for December.

One for them: The First Christmas, Hilde Heyduck-Huth

 Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books  

One of the highlights of early December in our house is the moment when we decide that it’s time to bring the Christmas story books back into rotation.  There are some that never make it out of rotation and I’ve read The Nutcracker story and The Lion, the Unicorn and Me all summer long, but the rest of the treasure feels fresh and new after we tucked it away last January.  But with Pip still in the chewing and throwing phase of book adoration I wanted to add a little something to his level of the library that is actually about the true meaning of Christmas, rather than just “That’s not my Penguin”.

Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books

And so this year we’ve added The First Christmas.  It’s a nice solid board book, perfect for hitting your sister over the head with (oh how the days have passed since I was saying “gentle hands” to the girls not their brother!) and it’s illustrated in the kind of rich deep colours that pull you in, tuck you up under a blanket and bring you a hot chocolate with marshmallows on the top while you read.

Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books

The story is back to the basics we all know so well, there are angels and shepherds and wise men on camels and a baby born in a stable. But somehow in stripping away all the periphery it brings back some of the wonder and awe to the story and helps us to centre ourselves back on the real reason for all the tinsel and mince pies.

One for me: Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books

I mentioned the other day that I read this cover to cover in one sitting and it’s true. I kept thinking that I should get out of the bath and go and be useful or something but I just wanted to read one more chapter, one more page and then by the time I realised that I was turning the hot tap on with my toes for the second time I could see that I just had to give in to the inevitable and finish it.  I’ve never read Eat, Pray, Love but I know that Elizabeth Gilbert’s work can be quite polarising and I think that’s probably true for Big Magic too.  I absolutely loved it, I’ve always been a firm believer firstly that every person is creative in some way, they just have to tune into whatever that is, and secondly that they really do have to; exercising my creativity is as important to my health and happiness as drinking plenty of water and occasionally going to bed on time, and judging by how often I fail at the latter, probably more so.

Elizabeth’s writing tells you to go for it, to say out loud, I am a writer or an artist or a really creative mum and then put it on your list of things to get done and once I’d finished reading and finally extracted myself from the bath I was full to the brim with a million and one plans, of which the Year in Books is just one of them.  But I loved that as well as telling you to fight for time for pursue your passion and not let the excuses get in the way, she also acknowledges that you’re not going to be able to do everything.  I’m not sure I buy into the concept that ideas are actual Harry Potter style magic floating around looking for someone to work with, but to say to yourself that an idea comes, tries you out for size and sees if you can work together and then either you do it, or you don’t have time, it isn’t the right time, or you’re just not the right fit, I find incredibly freeing. It somehow takes away the guilty feeling that you had a genius idea but just wasted it.  Part of life as a working Mama to three little ones is that I just don’t have enough time to properly commit to all the ideas in my head and I love the idea that they find a home with someone else.


Space for the Butterflies - A Year In Books

So that’s the plan. We’ll be starting officially on 5th January although the linky will stay open for the whole of each month; come and join us, tell us what you got for Christmas and open the door to a world in which your book wish list gets only longer!



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The Seven Year Old Wonder Book {what we’re reading}


“Rhyme elves, rich in ringing words
Won from winds and waves and birds,
Lisping leaves and rustling rain,
Sing – sing – for me again!”

We’ve finished our latest chapter book, Kitty having been persuaded to let the bookmark move forward on the production of our next bedtime story book, and I’m so glad I get to share it with you.  We’ve been reading the Seven Year Old Wonder Book since March and it’s such a lovely book, I’ve been desperate to jump the gun and tell you all about the bits of it we’d read so far, but I’m glad we held on because now I can tell you about all of it.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

The Seven Year Old Wonder Book is a book of stories within stories within stories.  On the first layer it’s the story of a little six year old girl called Sylvia, who lives in a little white cottage in the woods with her mother and her teddies.  She lives a happy everyday ordinary sort of life, gardening with her mother, climbing trees, playing with her friends and chatting to the village woodsman, but at the same time her life is full of magic and a sprinkling of fairy dust.  There’s Sister-in-the-Bushes who helps Sylvia when it looks like she might slip and fall from the tree, and who tells wonderful stories, a little imp that entices her into the Dark Woods when she knows she shouldn’t, and a beautiful visit from St Nicholas himself.

And then within each story about Sylvia comes the story that she’s told; a bedtime story from her mother or a fireside Christmas tale from Sister-in-the-Bushes.  They’re fairy tales I suppose, stories of knights and kings and princes, and people who are kind and good and people who make mistakes and rectify them.  But although I thought I was fairly well versed in fairy tales and legends, even of the non-Disney variety, they were almost all new to me, and lovely too.  There’s Kind Cordita who frees the men from the ice and eventually wins the King’s Son, or the Tree that Dreamt a Flower and brought a star to earth with wishing.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

They are the stories where the words paint pictures in your head, there are a few illustrations but this is a book for your imagination and because of that they make perfect bedtime stories.

And then if the girls are still awake after Sylvia’s story and the fairy tale then each chapter finishes with a poem based on the fairy tale.  Sylvia leaves her Wonder Book open each night for the rhyme elves to fill and says the rhyme for them and every morning she takes the book to her mother and together they enjoy the new picture and her mother reads the poem aloud.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

But to be honest quite often the words and the lullaby of a good story have worked their magic and I close the book and sneak quietly away and save the end of the story for the morning.

In short it is a book that is utterly timeless and unfailingly lovely to read and to listen to, and it is a mark of just how much I like it that I’ve been horribly tempted to borrow it from the girls for an evening to read ahead and find out what happens.  I resisted though, and it was lovely to discover it all together.

And now we are in need of a new chapter book, with Little House in the Big Woods a popular contender as well as another Isabel Wyatt collection of tales and legends, and Kitty making a determined request for another Paddington book.  And though we love our picture stories I don’t think we will go back to picture books at bedtime unless we’re especially asked, I love our evening read together and the more I think about the stories I loved as a child, the more I remember and add to the mental list of books I absolutely must remember to share with Kitty, Elma and Pip.

But for now that list is going to stay in my head and this is going to be my last What We’re Reading post, at least for a little while.  Almost two years ago I wrote my first What We’re Reading post about another timeless classic, Pip Squeak (how small are Kitty and Elma in those pictures!) and since then I’ve shared close to a hundred of our family favourites, and learned about easily a hundred more, and placed several Amazon orders at top speed as a result.  We have a booklist of the cream of pre-school stories and I’m grateful to everyone who has joined in along the way.

I don’t think I will ever stop loving children’s books; the stories, the illustrations and the ingenuity that has been put into some of them are truly amazing, nor I suspect will I ever be able to resist the temptation to add a little something to our family library.  But the bookcase is creaking at the seams and with the move into chapter books we’re not reading new stories as fast as we once were.  It’s time to end, on a high note with one of my most favourite ever of all the books I’ve talked about.

So for the last time, if you have a story that you love, tell me in the comments, or leave a link to your blog post or Instagram, and if you have ever shared a story with us, thank you, thank you thank you.

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading



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The Apple Cake {what we’re reading}


After last week’s book that was all about the words because there were next to no illustrations, this week we’re swinging to the other end of the pendulum and a book that I’m afraid to say I judged entirely on its cover.  Because the cover of The Apple Cake is absolutely gorgeous.  And thankfully for the girls, Pip and me, though perhaps not so wonderfully if you’re after a morality tale, the inside has turned out to be just as wonderful, if not more so.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

For starters the illustrations are just so beautiful; I want to say that they’re grown up, but I think I just mean that they’re art, you could half imaging them on a postcard in a National Trust gift shop.   The colours are rich and luscious, and the scene is set gently, but with plenty of room for your own imagination, and the colours tip over into the background to the words, joining it all together.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

I could sit and look at the pictures for ages, which is probably a good thing because this has proved a very popular addition to our library, and as our recent sunny days gave way to clouds, rain and more rain, we’ve sat on the floor all four of us together and imagined ourselves into the golden sunshine of the story and hoped for the sun to come again.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

It is a really lovely story, with shades of the sort of story that I remember from my own childhood; an old woman really wants to make an apple cake but she doesn’t have apples, only plums, so she picks a beautiful basket of plums and heads off to market to try to trade them for apples.  And along the way she meets a girl watching her poultry, a couple arguing about chair stuffings, a rich handsome young man, a poor family, and a lonely old man with an apple tree.  Each time she makes a swap until at last she ends up with her apples and sits down to a delicious feast of cake.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

It’s a timeless story and it is a very complete story; it feels very satisfying to follow the old woman along her journey to her apples, and I love that she treated everyone with equal kindness and respect and it’s because of that that she reached her ultimate aim; never mind the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, that’s the kind of conduct and instinctive selflessness that any parent would like their child to replicate.

And then, just in case that wasn’t enough, there’s a recipe on the back for the apple cake.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

I’d love to show you a picture because we did set to one morning and built up a fug in the kitchen chopping apples and baking a warm and spicy sweet apple bread, but alas, first one slice, then another, and then a load more shot off the breadboard into welcoming hands, until all that was left was the tail end of the loaf heading off to fulfil its higher purpose in the toaster.  Suffice to say it was yummy, and we will definitely be making it again.  And I think for the girls it really brought the book to life, they love to absorb things by copying, and to make the actual real cake that the old woman made has I suspect cemented it in their library of favourites.

And now to take a slight detour; as well as sharing a story today I have a question.  We have lots of books.  Like a lot of books. And we read stories every day and most of them come around in the rotation quite naturally.  But I don’t want anything to be forgotten or lost or shoved down the back of the bookcase and so I’m contemplating splitting them up, possibly be seasons and then swapping a basket of books in and out every three months or so.  I’m still thinking it through, so my question for today is, how do you organise the children’s books? do you swap them in and out or just have them all out at once? And if you do keep a rotating library, how did you divide them up?

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

Last week Jess and Rosalie tiptoed into the wonderful world of nonsense poetry with the amazing sounding The Man from the Land of Fandango – I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

If you have read something lovely recently, please do put your link in the comments section and shout to the world – and we’ll all come and have a read!  What We’re Reading is a weekly round up of posts about children’s books.  That’s about as far as the ‘rules’ go; it can be picture books, baby books, books for older children or even young adult if you like; just come and join us to tell us what you’ve been reading recently.  Or if you’d rather join in on Instagram or Twitter that would be wonderful too, just use the hashtag #whatweread and tag me (@cariemay on Instagram and @cariemaymakes on Twitter) and then we can all come and say hi.

I’m becoming a spent record by now but as the deadline approaches (5.30 tomorrow), would you consider casting a vote for what I’m writing in the way of a nomination for the MADs ? It’s the last time I’ll ask I promise! (if you’re not up on UK parent blogger shorthand, the MADs is different to the BiBs so if you voted for me there earlier in the year, I am indeed asking for another vote for an entirely separate round of awards – cheeky isn’t it!)

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A Bear Called Paddington {what we’re reading}


This week, well this week and the couple of weeks before it we have reached a milestone in our story reading.  Up until now we’ve read picture books, rhyming books, books that are mostly illustrations, ABCs and more than a few with lift the flap or touchy feely bits. We’d read a handful at various points during the day and then usually the same handful at bedtime tucked up on the end of Kitty’s bed with a girl on each knee and a boy squirming somewhere in the middle.  And it was a lot of fun, but it didn’t always lead to particularly sleepy children and we’d then need to do the lying down and getting into bed and heading off to sleep bit before they were all settled for the night.

Until, I made the accidental discovery that Kitty is now old enough to listen to a chapter book at bedtime.  I started reading a book of fairy stories just to see how they went down (they’re fantastic and when we get to the end of it I’ll tell you all about it) and when they were a roaring success, the next book shop trip saw Kitty the proud owner of her first real chapter book, A Bear Called Paddington.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

It has lots of words and minimal pictures which has been a leap given how much we all adore illustrations, but for bedtime that’s actually perfect.  Both girls snuggle down heads on pillows and I curl up with Pip on my lap and read a chapter.  A whole chapter, all several pages of it, and because that means that I’m reading for a decent length of time, without jumping around between different books, Kitty snuggles down and gets really into the story and Elma and Pip curl up and frequently fall asleep.

And even when they’re not asleep we’re all sufficiently calm and relaxed that sleep is the easy next step.  Or unfortunate side effect if you’re the one person in the room who’s supposed to be trying to stay awake.

But while the new shift in our bedtime routine is a very wonderful thing, that’s not the only reason why we’ve had so much fun with this book, the real reason is of course the story.

I don’t really remember Paddington from my childhood, I mean I could always recognise the branding as it were and I have strong recollections of hearing something when I was in Form 2 that involved very squashed marmalade sandwiches, but if it was part of the library at home, it isn’t a set that has stuck with me.  But from when I did remember they sounded like exactly the sort of stories that we love; Paddington constantly getting into unintentional scrapes and having to find a way out that usually involves more than a little creative thinking.  There’s no malice in the stories, no deliberate unkindness and it’s usually innocence and miscommunication that lands Paddington in so many sticky situations (literally and figuratively).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

What illustrations there are are simple line drawings which somehow capture all the energy and movement in the scene in just a few lines, and your imagination fills in the rest.

I know that there was a Paddington film out recently; we didn’t see it at the cinema but I imagine we might well have it for Sunday film once it hits the tv on demand and so I’m really glad to have got in first, to have introduced Kitty, Elma and Pip to the real original Paddington, the one that’s conjured up by Michael Bond’s words and their imaginations, the one that won’t be displaced no matter how wonderful the big screen version.

I think that Pip and Elma have enjoyed the shift in storytelling and I know that Kitty has; mostly because she kept trying to put the bookmark back earlier and earlier in the book so that it wouldn’t end, and could only be persuaded to let us read the final story with the promise that there are many many many more stories about Paddington out there.  And I can’t wait to introduce them to my little bookworm!

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

Last week Jess and Rosalie were reading a story that I first heard a couple of weeks ago at Library story time; my girls loved This is The Bear and were quoting bits of it for the rest of the week.  I think it’s the start of a whole series too so there are lots of wonderful stories to discover.

If you have read something lovely recently, please do put your link in the comments section and shout to the world – and we’ll all come and have a read!  What We’re Reading is a weekly round up of posts about children’s books.  That’s about as far as the ‘rules’ go; it can be picture books, baby books, books for older children or even young adult if you like; just come and join us to tell us what you’ve been reading recently.  Or if you’d rather join in on Instagram or Twitter that would be wonderful too, just use the hashtag #whatweread and tag me (@cariemay on Instagram and @cariemaymakes on Twitter) and then we can all come and say hi.

And at the risk of being deeply annoying, if you like What We’re Reading, would you consider casting a vote for what I’m writing in the way of a nomination for the MADs ? The nominations close at 5.30 on the 20th and I’ll have all my fingers crossed!