Wednesday, December 20, 2017

We Have Winners!

Remember those bookish competitions? Time is up and here are all the answers!

1st and 2nd class questions (click on the link to see what they were):
1) Baloo, Winnie the Pooh and Paddington are all bears
2) Mog is the odd one out as he is the only cat in this list; all the other characters are dogs
3) Horrid Henry (you ALL knew that one!)
4) the Gruffalo
5) Captain Underpants (you all knew this one, too!)

3rd and 4th class questions (click on the link to see what they were):
1) Captain Underpants
2) Mr Gum
3) Tom Gates
4) Danger is Everywhere
5) How to Train Your Dragon
6) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

(for these, if you gave me a particular title of a book in the series, I counted that as a correct answer)

5th and 6th class questions (click on the link to see what they were):
1) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
2) The Diary of a Wimpy Kid
3) Peter Pan
4) Holes
5) Knights of the Borrowed Dark
6) Alex Rider
7) Little Women
8) The Gruffalo

The winners have been notified and given their bookish prize.
A huge well done to all!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Baby Book Club: the Christmas Special!

We had a brilliant session to finish off 2017 with the babies last week. In the whirlwind of the school fair, Baby Book Club was the eye of the storm, an oasis of quiet, great concentration... and driving Santas.
We read not one, not two, not three but FOUR books on various festive themes, from Maisy's Christmas Tree to the Noisy Book of Christmas, the hilarious Santa's Beard and Whizzy Santa (where Santa drives around on a magic scooter and, in our version, crashes with a toy school bus from the resource room we were in).
The babies loved listening to the Christmassy sounds, 'driving' the scooter book (it comes with cardboard wheels!) and wearing Santa's facial hair!
Inspired by Maisy and her friends we then decorated our own Christmas trees with sticky maize (aka Magic Nuudles or Amazing Maize, etc.). Aren't they pretty?

And of course, Santasaurus dropped by!

As promised, the links to festive songs and videos!

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year - The Muppets Christmas Song 

You're a mean one, Mr Grinch (Original 1966 Version) 

Watch the Snowman, based on the book by Raymond Briggs

For an amazing display of lights, check out Trista Lights 2016 Christmas Light Show - Featured on ABC's The Great Christmas Light Fight.

And for something closer to home, watch this short video of the Wild Lights festival in Dublin Zoo, or get there yourself if you can!
Or you can simply tune in to Christmas FM online or on 105.2 FM.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Fishy goings-on

Last week at Baby Book Club we were all about those fish as we read and read and read Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins. It was a great success and the babas spent ages looking at and chatting about all the strange creatures on the page, pointing out shapes, colours, numbers and lots more.

We then made our very own fish tanks (with baking parchment!) and turned them into lanterns.
As promised, here are the links to more underwater fun!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive from Neurotic Films Official

That’s What Makes the World Go Round (the fish scene from the Sword in the Stone)

And for real marine life, The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a great YouTube channel with lots of videos. Try the Bell Jellies (, the Galloping Bay Pacific Seahorses ( or their Bite-Size Ocean Clips playlist!

Thanks all and see you next time for our Christmas special!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Books to put under the Christmas tree!

Here is a selection of some of the best books published in the past year, for all ages from babies to Young Adults. Which one will you ask Santa for? 😉

Bathtime for Little Rabbit by Jörg Mühle

Little Rabbit is going to have a bath and he needs your help if he is going to be squeaky clean! Can you help him turn the tap? How about blowing away the bubbles on his head? And can you rub him dry? A lovely, interactive book for very little ones! (ages 0-3)

Yoga Babies by Fearne Cotton and Sheena Dempsey

‘We’re the yoga babies, see what we can do!’ Roll out your mats and pull on your yoga pants for this one! Follow a tribe of babies as they try a range of simple poses explained through bright, friendly illustrations and a bouncy rhyming text. Whatever the mood (cranky, lazy or over-excited), there’s a pose for that! (ages 2-6)

Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Cheeky Triangle, who lives in a triangular house with a triangular door and triangular windows, wants to play a good joke on its friend Square (who lives in a square house, etc.). This is a really funny story where the humour is carried by very few words and wonderfully expressive minimalist pictures. This new book from the award-winning duo who gave us the brilliant Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is a gem! (ages 4-7)

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari has passed his swimming test. He is ready to jump off the diving board. At least, that’s what he’s saying… It will take the gentle guidance of his dad and his own pluck to help Jabari through his self-appointed challenge. Fabulous illustrations of a sunny day at the pool will have you long for summer. (ages 4-7)

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes

Follow brothers Charlie and Mouse as they go about their day, attending an imaginary party or trying to make a couple of coins selling rocks. Three stories in a book that will bring lots of smiles to young readers’ faces (and their grown-ups’, too). Charlie and Mouse is ideal for beginner readers who can combine sounding out and their knowledge of tricky words to make their own way through the book. (ages 5-7)

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

How do kids around the world go to school? What do they wear? What games do they play? And what do they get for breakfast? Find out all about it and much more in this beautiful book following one day in the lives of real families in Japan, Uganda, Russia, Iran, Peru, India and Italy. (ages 5-8)

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

An action-packed and magic-filled adventure featuring Morrigan Crow who is a perfectly nice and normal girl except… except that she is cursed! Anything that goes wrong (from burnt toast to heart attacks) is blamed on her and to top it all she is meant to die on her eleventh birthday. It’s no fun being Morrigan Crow! But then the mysterious Jupiter North turns up and everything changes… If you’ve loved Harry Potter, this is one for you! (ages 9-12)

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans

When Fidge finds herself accidentally falling into a magical world in her awful cousin Graham’s basement, the last thing she expects to meet is a bunch of toys from her little sister’s bedroom. Toys that have somehow come to life and, for some of them, developed very nasty personalities. There’s tons going on here and it’s so, so funny. A brilliant read! (ages 9-12)

The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters by Kara Lareau and Jen Hill

Sisters Kale and Jaundice Bland LOVE their very boring lives: always the same, always predictable, no surprises, be they good or bad. But when they get kidnapped by a bunch of crazy pirates, things are thrown upside down and they don’t like it one little bit. Come aboard for a zany adventure, you won’t regret it! (ages 9-12)

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue and Caroline Hadiladsono

Meet the Lotterys, a family of two dads, two mums and seven children, plus an assortment of pets all living in the rambling house of Camelottery. Life is a bit mad for narrator Sumac with so many siblings and grownups to deal with, but it’s nothing compared to what happens when Grumps (a cranky grandad she’s never met) comes to live with them. (ages 12+)

Who Let the Gods Out? by Maz Evans

Elliot’s life is hard enough as he tries to hide the fact that Mam is slowly but literally losing her mind. Yet things are going to get a lot more complicated as a young Greek goddess lands in his garden shed and as they accidentally free the Daemon of Death from his millennial prison under Stonehenge. Cue a mad race to track him down and bring him back behind bars with the help of a crew of mad gods who are nothing like what you’d expect. Action-packed and hilarious! (ages 12+)

Marvel: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Squirrel Girl has the tail of a squirrel and its amazing abilities for jumping, running, gliding and stocking nuts in her cheeks. But Squirrel Girl can’t let anyone know about her powers. She’s just moved to a new town where she’s trying hard to blend in, make new friends and figure out where the recent wave of crime is coming from. Squirrel Girl is awesome and super funny, and it pokes fun at Iron Man: what’s not to like? (ages 12+)

Piglettes by Clémentine Beauvais

Hakima, Mireille and Astrid have been voted winners of the Pig Pageant, that is to say ugliest girls in school. Once the initial shock of the news has subsided, what are the girls going to do about it? Mireille has the answer: they’re going to show the rest of the world that they don’t care! Follow the girls as they hop on their bikes for a hilarious road trip through France, it will put a spring in your step! (Ages 14+, Young Adult)

For more great book ideas, head over to Inis magazine, where you will find books for all ages in English and Irish. Your local library should also have a copy of this year's Inis Reading Guide, which contains over 250 quick reviews of books for babies to young adults: picturebooks, early readers, chapter books, big, fat novels, fact books and poetry.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas Competition 5th and 6th Class

Back by popular demand, our bookish competition kicks off this week. Will you get all the right answers? Good luck!

Christmas Competition 3rd and 4th Class

Back by popular demand, our bookish competition kicks off this week. Will you get all the right answers? Good luck!

Christmas Competition! 1st and 2nd Class

Back by popular demand, our bookish competition kicks off this week. Will you get all the right answers? Good luck!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

All Aboard, a Baby Book Club about things that go

We were all about cars and things that go last week at Baby Book Club, as we read Christophe Merlin's The Garage. We followed Mr Bear as he looked for his fellow mechanics to help him fix his car. Thankfully, we had plenty of assistants in the room. Armed with cardboard tools and plastic cars, they did a great job screwing, hammering and tinkering generally. And then there was the driving!
We enjoyed pulling the flaps, guessing what might be hidden behind them and laughing at what we sometimes found (what was that pair of pink knickers doing in the engine??).
There was also a lot of sharing going on (well done, team) and problem solving as some of us decided to drive in tunnels and explore the dark space Under the Table.
Our craft this time involved drawing with cars. We taped markers to the back of our motors and wheeled them around the paper, adding houses and trees along our 'roads' to make them more scenic.

As promised, here are the links to the songs and videos!

The Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang song!

Drive My Car by the Beatles

For an action-packed day at ‘Digger School’, watch Here Comes A Digger

See you all next time!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Baby Booooooook Club

Today was our Halloween Special here in Baby Book Club. Witches! Black cats! Owls! and even monsters! To help us with ambiance we enlisted world-famous witch Meg and her companion Mog, created by Helen Niccol and Jan Pienkowski. The babies helped Meg getting dressed for the spell party, provided appropriate miaowing sounds and really listened.
We then got to our artistic work and were busy making monsters out of playdough, pipe cleaners and Halloween-themed pasta!

As promised here are the links to the songs and videos that will get you and your little ones into the spirit of the season!
(nothing too spooky!)

Halloween Rules by Bounce Patrol (a family favourite)

Ghostbusters dancing version by Just Dance

The Monster Mash by Bobby Picket

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas, the Disney version

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Spooky reads for Halloween

Fancy something a little (or very!) scary this Halloween?
Why not sink your fangs into one of these?
Feel free to read up or down the age groups, but beware!
Some are proper spooky, some are funny, and there are a few terrifying ones in there too. 6th class, I know from our chats last year that you can take it (remember the light-bulb-eating woman?), but maybe don't read those too late at night...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Baby Book Club: the New Season!

Welcome back to our veterans and welcome to our new members! It was lovely to meet you all on Friday!
This week, we read all about Rosie, a very lucky little hen who goes for a walk. But who is that on her tail? A silly old fox!
We had a great time looking at all the farm animals (let's not forget we also spotted A TRACTOR) and trying to guess whether the fox was going to get Rosie this time. There was already a lot of learning going on here, about making predictions, connections and sequencing. Not bad for a crew of 4-month-olds to 2-and-a-half-year-olds, don't you think?
We then enjoyed painting our very own chickens (and the grown-ups' clothes, sorry) using square and triangular bits of sponge, to create colour and patterns, like on Pat Hutchins' bright illustrations.

As promised, the links to the songs and videos:

Rosie’s Walk, the animated version

Sandra Boynton’s Philadelphia Chickens by the Bacon Brothers

Chicken song - [Geco Remix] – for some mad dancing

And for something out of this world… Takeo Ischi - New Bibi Hendl (Chicken Yodeling) You have been warned!

Thanks all and see you next time!

Friday, October 6, 2017

We Are Back!

Welcome back to a new school year and welcome to the blog of the Patron of Reading for Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál Inchicore!
What is a Patron of Reading? It's a children's writer (me!) with a special link to the school and whose job is to create a buzz around books and reading for pleasure. Head over here to find out more.
I'm Juliette Saumande and I am very proud to be Patron of Reading again this year. I am a writer, a reviewer and a reader of children's books. You can see the books I have published in English here and my books in French there. I am also a Book Doctor, which means I get to wear a white coat and recommend great new reads to young patients of all ages during the free Book Clinics run by Children's Books Ireland.
This year, you can expect more fun activities around books in the school and on this blog, with themed book lists for all ages, ideas for getting kids into reading, creative writing tips from our Writing Club afterschools, competitions, class visits, pics and news from our glorious Baby Book Club and more!
If you have any questions or suggestions about what your Patron of Reading could do in the school (creative writing for parents, anyone?) or about books and reading in general, use the comments below!
Have a great new school year, one and all!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Year of Patron of Reading in SMGS

In pics and a few words, a little recap of the year.
(You might need to activate Flash for this to work!)

Huge thanks to all who took part
in writing clubs, book clubs, competitions and class visits.
It's been a hoot!

Have a brilliant summer all!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Recommended Summer Reads for 5th and 6th Class!

Stuck for what to read this summer? Here are some great books to keep you busy: quick-and-silly reads, outdoorsy reads, far-and-wide reads and keep-your-brain-ticking reads! Enjoy!

Recommended Summer Reads for 3rd and 4th Class!

Stuck for what to read this summer? Here are some great books to keep you busy: quick-and-silly reads, outdoorsy reads, far-and-wide reads and keep-your-brain-ticking reads! Enjoy!

Recommended Summer Reads for 1st and 2nd Class!

Stuck for what to read this summer? Here are some great books to keep you busy: quick-and-silly reads, outdoorsy reads, far-and-wide reads and keep-your-brain-ticking reads! Enjoy!

Recommended Summer Reads for Junior and Senior Infants

Stuck for what to read this summer? Here are some great books to keep you busy: sunshiny reads, outdoorsy reads, far-and-wide reads and keep-your-brain-ticking reads! Enjoy!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Get reading this summer!

School is (nearly) out and there’s no homework to be done: whatever are you going to do for two months? 😉 Here are a few bookish ideas to try…
Sign up for the Summer Stars programme in your local library!
It’s free and open to all children. Register to get your own Summer Stars Reading Card, choose from lots of exciting library books and get your card stamped for each book read. Fun rewards will be provided along the way. And at the end of the programme, the library throws a party! More info.

Meet the Book Doctors!
Don’t worry, it doesn’t involve injections or anything nasty. The Book Doctor is someone who can give you new book ideas if you’ve read all of the Wimpy Kid or all of Harry Potter or all of the Rainbow Magic books and are stuck for what to pick up next. There are lots of Books Clinics all over Ireland during the summer, find out where on the Children’s Books Ireland website.
Travel with books!
Are you going anywhere interesting this summer? Or do you wish to visit a faraway country? Why not look for a book written in that place? The website Outside In World lists all the kids’ books from around the world that have been translated into English. Just pick a country on the map and off you go! More info.

Read it before you see it!
Read the books that inspired these new feature films: Diary of a Wimpy Kid! Captain Underpants! Valerian! (You probably don’t know this last one: it’s a series of awesome French comics about time-travel and space, highly recommended!)

Write your own book!
Sure, why not? You can get inspiration from these great books!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A toast!

We had our last Baby Book Club last week and it was all about diggers. And trucks. And cranes. We read Susan Stegall's wonderful The Diggers Are Coming! and spent ages looking at the brilliant pictures of all the machines and vehicles needed to build new houses. We actually read the book twice!
We then drove our own cars for a while before PAINTING WITH THEM. That's right, we drove our wheels through paint and made some lovely works of art. The babies were interested to see how different cars made different patterns, but mostly they enjoyed doing something that's not allowed everyday!
To finish the year in style (9 sessions in total, which is brilliant for any book club!), we threw a party of tea and juice and glorious toast.

Thank you so much to all the babies and their grown-ups, it's been a brilliant year! To the big boys and girls who will be going to pre-school next year, we'll miss you, so do pop in and say hi if you can!
And before I forget, here are the links, as always.

For an action-packed day at ‘Digger School’, watch Here Comes A Digger

We Built this City, the Muppets version! 

Madness - Our House:

The Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang song! 
Drive My Car by the Beatles: 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Some characters!

For our final session of Writing Club with 5th and 6th class, we indulged in our love of monsters and gore.
After a game of picture exquisite corpse (that gave us the delightful Flumpkin among other creatures), we brainstormed about all the monsters we knew about before launching into some serious, detailed character building. Beware the banshee and the lightbulb-eating woman! Coming soon to a haunted house near you...
Well done to all and thanks again for the great stories and the great laughs!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A good yarn

The latest Baby Book Club session took place on a gloriously sunny and warm Friday, so of course we had to have it outdoors. Which was great because we were reading about Little Owl who lives with his mammy in a tree on the edge of the park and the babies immediately made the connection between the trees around us and the Owls' home: maybe (surely!) they lived just over there!
This time, they did most of the reading, using all their guessing and predicting skills to figure out what was going on in Tatyana Feeney's Little Owl's Orange Scarf and what might happen next. They all approved of Little Owl's choice of wool for his new scarf, although they all said it was 'blue' when all the grown-ups saw it green...
After a sneaky extra story under the sun (Feeney's Small Bunny's Blue Blanket), we all retreated inside for the day's craft. Using rectangles of leftover net curtain, some very hairy cotton yarn and A LOT of glue, the babies made their very own scarves!
As promised, some songs and videos about clothes and knitting!
Sandra Boynton’s One Shoe Blues
Bill Oddie, The Knitting Song
Sophie Madeleine – also The Knitting Song

Something to try with older kids: Finger knitted snakes by Red Ted

Monday, May 29, 2017

Words and pics

We had another brilliant session of Writing Club last week where we looked for inspiration in pictures taken from books and magazines. By asking questions of each image and making up the answers ourselves (and our answers were always right of course!), we managed to dig out the seeds of a story: adventures down holes that grew deeper and deeper; stories of gigantic fish terrorising whole cities; of killer flowers; family murders (murders feature a lot in our stories!); mad nurses; banshees; tornadoes; unnerving expeditions up Mount Everest and much more.

The writers indulged in their love of horror and managed to make the most innocent-looking illustration feel heavy with menace! blood! zombies! It's been brilliant seeing them tapping into their imagination (they all have heaps of it!) to completely transform the mood of a picture and make it 'reveal' a hidden story.
Well done, guys!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Of fairy tales, story plans and witch's knickers

Writing Club is back for a third and final sequence this year. 5th and 6th class are at the helm this time and they are full of stories to tell and write. They are also (many of them) full of a love for horror, crime and gore, which makes for some very interesting reads...
The first week we started with what we all knew quite well - fairy tales - and had a look at how we could use them to write our own stories.
First, we threw  a random word into the world of the fairy tale (say, an elephant in the story of Blue Beard or a pair of knickers in Hansel and Gretel), and reinvented the story with this new element. Each tale remained quite recognisable and yet very different.
The Forbidden room in Blue Beard's castle. Brrr...
We then went one step further. Looking at what other writers had done with Little Red Riding Hood, we realised that one change could be enough to transform the whole thing: change the place (set it in Inchicore!), the time (set it in the future!), the main character (make the hero bad and the villain good!) or the ending (they all lived unhappily ever after) and you will end up with a very different story. So we did just that, reinventing Cinderella in 1916 Dublin or Snow White as a murder mystery...

During Week 2, we had a look at structure: how stories work. And we noticed that stories often used the same elements (a hero, a villain, a helper, a revelation, a message, a battle, a victory, etc...) and yet they don't appear the same on the surface. Using 25 'action' cards ('Leaves', 'Decides', 'Test', 'Chase'...), each writer picked the events they wanted to feature in their story and went on to produce an original piece. Even though we used the same set of actions, all the stories were very different, involving horrible planets where you had to kill people by law, Justin Bieber, the Joker, an unlucky charm and much more.

Thanks to all who took part, it's been a hoot. See you next week!

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Babies have voted!

We had a brilliant session at Baby Book Club last week: it was all about the books! We read the lovely Snatchabook by Ellen and Thomas Docherty and that prompted us to have another look at all the books we have read together so far this year: The Tiny King, Dinosaur Roar, Goodnight Everyone, Every Bunny Dance, Penguin and A Bit Lost (click on the links to go to each session's dedicated blog post). Everyone seemed to have a favourite from the lot and it was great to see them rediscover stories and characters they had liked.

We then went on to make our very own books using scissors (we like to live dangerously at Baby Book Club), glue sticks and pictures from all our seven books. Each reader was encouraged to pick their favourite images or those from their favourite titles, and all went home with a bespoke best of good reads.
Incidentally, the babies were also doing something else: they were shadowing the Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year Award. Every year, children of all ages get to read and rate the titles on the award shortlist. They are signed up through their school, their reading group, their crèche and so on. When the shortlist came out in March and I saw that Chris Haughton's Goodnight Everyone was on it, I knew I had to sign up the guys and girls at Baby Book Club. We had enjoyed Chris's A Bit Lost hugely and I thought it would be interesting to see what the babies made of this new book about a little bear who is not at all tired at bed time.
Getting the littlies to choose their favourite images to create their own book was a sneaky way of finding out how highly they 'ranked' Goodnight Everyone compared to the rest of the books. The answer was: quite high. After some complex and entirely scientific calculation (honest!), a mark out of 100 was produced and duly communicated to Children's Books Ireland. The SMGS Baby Book Club has therefore officially taken part in a national award! Not bad for babies, right?
The winners will be announced on Tuesday 23 May. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile and as always, here are the links to songs and videos you might enjoy after reading The Snatchabook or other books about books!

The Library Song, a fun kids’ song from New Zealand

Lil B Dub / The Rapping Bookworm, a thing of silliness!

Martians Discover a Book, classic Sesame Street madness

Bruno Mars Uptown Funk Parody: Unread Book (you’ll never look at your librarian in the same way!)

The Mount Desert Island High School version of Meghan Trainor's "All About The Bass/Books":