I Love Dundee Literary Festival!

lit-dundeeHip, hip, hooray! My favourite book event is back!

Now in it’s 10th year, the Dundee Literary Festival features the best writers in the world – and all in my sunny home city of Dundee! With a eclectic range of events for children through to adults, the festival is a wonderful place for any bookish person to while away the hours.

Three days into the five day event and I’ve already seen a stunning range of writers from debut novelists Sandra Ireland and Shelley Day right through to James Kelman – the only Scottish author to win the booker prize!

I’ve got loads more lined up over the weekend too including a Rock & Roll Roald Dahl Party with Matthew Fitt, Haunting Afterlives – an event examining the work of Shirley Jackson and Josephine Tey, Crime Through Time with Sue Lawrence and Martin Cathcart Froden and Outer Edges featuring writers Amy Liptrot and Malachy Tallack!

You could say that I’m going to have a pretty busy literary weekend!

I’ll be reporting back on my book fest experience next week, but if you’d like to join in on all the bookish fun before then, visit the Dundee Literary Festival website to book tickets! You’ll be glad that you did!

 

 

 

Dragon Matrix, Monikie Country Park – Review

dragon-quest-1

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…especially if it’s Monikie Country Park in Angus that you visit! You see there is something lurking there, deep inside the forest, and we’re not talking about anything as tame as teddy bears! Oh no! We’re talking about terrible trolls, wicked witches and deadly dragons, and they’re all waiting in the dark to greet you…

Yep, you’ve guessed it! Vision Mechanics are back again with another brand new augmented reality theatre show for families, and no one could be more chuffed than me and my over enthusiastic seven year old!

After completing Dragon Quest last year and receiving our first special dragon protection badges, we’ve been counting down the days until we could get back inside those woods to complete Dragon Matrix! The fact that Dragon Matrix is going to be on my big girl’s absolute favourite programme, Blue Peter, next week, only added to the excitement! We (okay then I!) just wish we could have timed our visit better, so that we could have carried out our dragon protecting alongside BP’s Barney (who may or may not be very easy on the eye)….screenshot25

With the sad absence of Barney, we decided to bring along another few comrades to help us out instead, including our very own brave four year old girl warrior and Granny 5 star (another story for another day!) who is most excellent at holding little hands in the dark.

As we set out on our mission, it was clear that this year’s event, which includes actors, real life props, spectacular lighting and special effects, was even bigger and better than last year! The Dragon Matrix app has also been improved and features more interactive features, adding some extra menace and magic to the enchanting experience.

wp_20161012_19_01_55_proWhile some small children might find the notion of walking around in a forest at night a bit daunting, the Dragon Matrix always stays at the right side of scary, and my four year old warrior had a spectacularly good time, as did the rest of us dragon protectors!

Clever, bewitching and scarily good fun – the Dragon Matrix is a must see event for the whole family.

The Dragon Matrix is at Monike Country Park until Monday the 31st of October. For more information and to book tickets, visit: http://dragonmatrix.org.uk

Chinese State Circus, Caird Hall, Dundee – Review

chindragonsI’ve been to quite a few circuses in my time, most of them featuring big drafty tents with sawdust on the floor and clowns that weren’t really all that funny, but as long as they were animal free, I enjoyed them all the same for the sake of tradition.  So I when I heard that the Chinese State Circus was visiting Dundee’s Caird Hall this week, I was curious to see how it would compare to the colourful seaside affairs that I was used to. Naturally The Caird Hall with its lovely comfy seats and central heating had its own plus points, but how would the Chinese State Circus fare against the run of the mill circuses that I was used to? Pretty damn well I’m happy to report!

My first observation was just how bloody glamourous the whole affair was. The stage was continually filled with dramatic dragons, beautiful acrobats wearing delicate gowns and fearsome martial art warriors who ripping the floor up with their slick moves. There were thrills aplenty with death defying acts and humour too provided by the Chinese State Circus’s very own cheeky monkey clown, whose mischievous antics had the audience chuckling along happily.

But the biggest difference I noted was the sheer level of skill that the performers displayed. It didn’t matter whether they were jumping through tiny spaces in the air, juggling umbrellas with their feet or contorting their bodies into weird and wonderful shapes – they looked graceful throughout, making the whole thing look incredibly easy!

The final act of the show was prime example of performers amazing abilities. Some might say that the Chinese State Circus’s jaw dropping bicycle act, which sees the performers balancing on top of each other while circling the small stage on bicycles, was just plain showing off! The only thing that I said while watching it was “please, please for the love of God, don’t fall off the stage….” I’m very happy to report that they did not!

The Chinese State Circus is currently touring the UK. For further information about the circus and to book tickets, visit: http://chinesestatecircus.com

Review: Jim Reaper: Saving Granny Maggot by Rachel Delahaye

saving granny maggotAs a proud mum of a ferocious reader, I’m always looking for a great children’s books. There’s only one problem. My child, does not like reading about fairies or unicorns, instead she likes the dark stuff! As a huge fan of TV programmes such as Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, my daughter loves reading books along the same vein – basically anything that hints at being frightening without scaring the bejesus out of her!

So when I heard about the Jim Reaper series, about a boy who is the son of the Grim Reaper, I knew it was going to be right up her street.  who has made his father’s hit list. Although the premise may sound scary, it’s carried out in a tremendously funny and madcap way, which had my daughter rolling around on her bed giggling!

Jim makes a lovable hero that your child will adore rooting for and even his Grim Reaper Dad is not a bad chap – he’s just a man trying to do his job! Written for children between 7 & 9, I’d highly recommend Jim Reaper: Saving Granny Maggot as a brilliant fast paced adventure story, perfect for children who are intrigued by the dark side!

You can buy a copy of Jim Reaper: Saving Granny Maggot on Amazon.

*Disclaimer – I was provided with a copy of Jim Reaper: Saving Granny Maggot for the purpose of this review, however all views are my own.

Guest Post: Mr Peek, Getting Silly – How to grow your children’s love of poetry

I love reading with my children. Watching them get lost inside a land filled only with words and their own amazing imagination, is just magical. Recently we’ve been exploring poetry too with Bits & Bobs: Mr Peek’s Poetry Fun Time, a book filled with gloriously silly rhymes that have my girls giggling like crazy before bedtime and pleading for just one more poem. My girls were instant fans, but how can parents encourage reluctant poetry readers to dive in?

I asked kid’s poet Mr Peek for his advice on how we can all grow our children’s love of poetry…

Mr PeekThere are many ways to encourage children to enjoy things, equally, there are many ways to put them off something for life. Reciting Shakespearean sonnets or The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to a three-year-old might give them a sense of the glorious beauty of language, but it’s probably not the best way to plant in their minds the seed of poetic appreciation.

On the other hand, give them a poem in which the word ‘Loo’ appears, rhymed with ‘Poo’ and, without a doubt, you’ve got a winner. So the first thing you have to do when encouraging your child’s poetic appreciation is to shrug off your serious ‘parent cloak’ for a while and don a more fun and outlandish outfit. Yes, silliness is the order of the day so don’t be afraid to read or think up some crazy, kooky rhymes. Kids love to hear poems where adults act childishly, for example, teachers putting their knickers on their heads! Moments like this are bound to bring a smile to children’s faces and allow them to gradually enjoy poetry through a sense of innocent, anarchic fun.

Of course I’m sure you’ve all sat down and read the wonderful Julia Donaldson books with your child but how to encourage their own creativity with words? One way to start is to allow your child to finish the rhymes as they appear in the books you know well. So you read the book as normal and then allow them to say the last word…

“…I had an Anaconda he was a great big snake I loved all of the noises Anaconda used to make, He used to bang his tail, it sounded like a drum, But when I took him to my school he bit the teacher’s…” (This is where your child shouts ‘THUMB’ or perhaps something else!)

Now it’s time to let them think up their own rhymes. I often play rhyming games at bedtime with my children. It’s simple enough; we find a word e.g. ‘floor’ and then everyone has to think up as many words that rhyme with the word ‘floor’ as they can. Then try it with ‘sink’, ‘towel’, ‘head’ and, god forbid, ‘blue’!

Although it might sound strange, drawing can also be a key to enhancing children’s fun with words. So when I mention a monster to the children in my workshops, I’ll ask them to describe what it looks like, how many arms it has, how many eyes etc. And once they’ve described the monster it’s a natural step to ask them to draw if for me. Then Hey Presto! They’re off!

Another idea that I have found encourages creativity is to get your children to make their own little booklet. I often have children at workshops presenting me with little booklets they’ve made of poems and illustrations that they’ve written drawn and stapled together themselves. These are the Julia Donaldson’s and Michael Rosen’s of the future.

Once your child is used to thinking about rhyming, you can ask them to think up a simple four-line poem for a card e.g. Mother’s or Father’s day, a Christmas card for a teacher, a thank you card illustrated and written for a special friend. Encourage them to write about anything you feel they might enjoy and then display their work in a prominent place so they can see that there is a final result and it isn’t just shoved in a draw and forgotten about. Praise their creativity and endeavour and they will quickly start volunteering to make cards and poems themselves.

No matter how you get children to enjoy poetry and creativity remember that it should also be fun for you. The more fun you are having yourself the more fun you will give to them. There’s nothing worse than someone doing something they obviously can’t stand doing. Engagement and inspiration are primeval powers and if you’re having fun, your children will instinctively feel it and long to join in and have fun as well. When the children are writing something, why not write something yourself? Maybe even something fun that tickles your sense of humour. Then, perhaps when it’s late at night, try writing a poem about something that’s been troubling you or worrying you and see how much better getting things off your chest makes you feel.

Poetry isn’t all about monsters and poos and loos but these things can be the gateway to a child’s imagination and can open up a world that will be valued and appreciated by them for the rest of their lives.
 

To order Bits & Bobs: Mr Peek’s Poetry Fun Time for £5 or to find out more about Mr Peek’s Poetry workshops visit: http://www.mrpeekspoetryplace.co.uk