Getting All Arty Farty

It’s been about 2.5 months since my last post. We’ve had a pretty major happening in our nuclear family, which I’m still deciding whether to talk about. Also, I have been INSANELY busy. Every morning I wake up feeling hungover without the good part! Then there’s Paris. I am not going to go into that because this is not what this blog is about. It’s about recognising little mercies, artistry and beauty, something the world sorely needs.

Therefore I am going to give a big shout out to art in all its myriad forms, good and bad. Appreciating art is not about being snooty, turtle-neck adorned, squinting know-it-alls who use the words “minimal”, “je ne sais quoi” and “composition”. It’s about being moved. It’s about human expression. It’s about being transported away from and into the depths of what it means to be human and to live on this earth. Before I float away on my cloud of existentialism, let me introduce the inimitable Hervé Tullet’s The Game of Sculpture.

I am a strong believer in instilling a love for the arts from diaper stage. No matter if the child prefers eating the paint than looking at it, or joining in the modern interpretive dance with gusto. We’ve been dragging Iris to museums since she was a few months old; taking her to live performances; and my favourite children’s event of the year in Perth is the Awesome Festival, an arts festival for kids. Being able to appreciate the arts just makes life so much more interesting and filled with loveliness. It really helps to remind all of us, but especially mini people, that human beings are capable of creating beauty and not just of destruction.

Published by the pinnacle of arty farty publishing, Phaidon, The Game of Sculpture is not a book in the traditional sense. It teaches colours, shapes AND physics! All without words so kids can get into it all by themselves! And you know what, I don’t think there’s any shame in us adults, sitting quietly, trying to create something pretty, even if meaningless, from time to time.

the game of sculpture

It comes as a long fold out cardboard with pop out pieces and a sleeve.

the game of sculpture

Dark colours on one side

the game of sculpture

Light colours on the other

And here are just a few examples of what you can do with it! Pieces can be balanced, slotted and angled, hence the physics element. It’s not complicated but if you’re lazy to whip out the paints and dough, this’ll do in a pinch for a good half an hour.

the game of sculpture

the game of sculpture

the game of sculpture

*NB: Not for kids in the mouthing/destructive phase. The child also needs to have pretty good fine motor skills so probably more for 4 and up, or if you’re prepared to invest the time, you could do it with them.

My Baby Can Read!

This reading mum is so bursting with pride I just had to post this. Iris read her first book on her own!

Now, she has been sounding out words for several months already but it’s never been a sustained length of text, just random words. In the last few months, she’s grown familiar with all the letter sounds and can more easily piece them together. She can recognise many two-letter sounds as well like th and sh. So on Sunday, I took out the stack of classic Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme books that were gifted and have been sitting around thinking she might want to try.


I started the process with the first one, helping her sound out the words. After that, she took off and read the whole book by herself!

Jane and Peter

Then the next morning, I woke up and found her reading the next in the series. I stood outside the door barely able to contain the tears, grinning like a monkey. Then of course I had to grab my phone and take a video. #mybabysnotababyanymore #happyandproudbutsadtoo

Morning read

Does this mean an end to my enjoyment of children’s books? Are you kidding me? She can read but can she do the voices?

AND THEN after that uber intellectual start to the day, in the evening, I heard, “Mama, can you help me? I’m stuck.” She had wedged her head, arm and other hand into the little curve at the end of the banister and was balancing precariously on the stair railing. Nice. #monkeyswillbemonkeys

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Embracing Everything

I knew Iris would be an active child because of her constant movement in utero. However, I never expected her to be so, super, duper, ridiculously, chatty. Ever since she was about 10 months, it has been relentless. That’s what I called her then and it hasn’t changed. Except that before it was cute baby babbling, easily ignored if necessary. Now she actually expects a response, especially when I’m driving. If she’s not singing, making up stories, playing pretend with a piece of fluff and stray raisin, she’s arguing with me, over everything. Argh does not begin to describe how I feel. I admit, this results in a lot of yelling, particularly in the car when I’m trying to navigate roundabouts.

Yet I also love watching and listening to her. She’s so creative and happy. It’s amazing how two people so reserved and the exact opposite of exuberant could produce something so bubbly and full of life. I love her to bits, even when she asks me what the weather’s like while sitting outside. Then argues with me that it is NOT sunny because there is a puff of cloud in the sky.

The old man who love to sing by award winning artist John Winch was another brilliant op shop find. Yes it was FIFTY CENTS.


It’s about embracing nature and not being afraid to sing aloud. It’s about getting old and being loved.


A nameless old man left the noise and smog of the city to live gloriously in nature, singing his heart out whenever he felt like it.


His musical zest  grew on the animals around him and they came to accept him and love him for it.


So when the time comes and the old man’s oldness catches up with him, they help him to remember.




Iris helps me remember to find joy in the littlest things and not be afraid to be myself or dance in the middle of the street. If everyone was as unselfconscious and non-judgemental, it’d be a much happier world. Nosier, yes, but infinitely more joyous.

Big, Bold and Beautiful

I used to be an elephant. Nooooo, not in size but in remembering a ridiculous number of things. From facts and figures to trivial events in the lives of friends and family, I was a veritable fount of useful and not so useful knowledge. Now, I find my mind is developing holes and I can no longer recall what my friend was wearing on 15 September 2001 or who had the shepherd’s pie at dinner on 20 May 1995. I know, terrible isn’t it? Bah.


One of these holes is who gave us this gorgeous book! I love Lucy Cousins. BIG fan. In my youth, I favoured black as my go to “cool” colour. As I got older, I embraced my childhood and now my wardrobe pays homage to all the members of the rainbow. So I feel drawn to Cousins’ wonderful use of primary colours and simple but so effective illustrations.


What I also love about it is that soon Iris will be able to copy the illustrations and so it becomes an art teaching aid as well! Most of us will know the story of Noah’s Ark and those who don’t may not want to but it retells the biblical story simply and concisely.



It was fun guessing what some of the food was and is a great counting tool as well.



So even if you don’t subscribe to any belief system, you could see this as like a fairy tale and just enjoy the colour, pictures and happy ending.

Mixing Up a Storm of Happy!

Combining art and humour in educational children’s books is what acclaimed children’s author Hervé Tullet is all about. We fell spot over dot from the moment we picked up Press Here (see my review here). So when I saw he’d done a sequel I knew we had to have it. Thanks to one of my bestest, most generous girlfriends in the world (major point-scoring going on here as you can tell), who sent Mix It Up! in a beautiful care package with lots of other goodies, we do! Are we thrilled or are we thrilled? Are we going to binge on Dutch confectionaries? Oh yeah.


Similar to Press Here, Mix It Up! employs colourful paint splotches to teach children about something interactively. This time it’s about colours and how they combine to make other colours. In just a few words a page, Tullet manages to engage the reader and the read to in an entirely enjoyable way.

Mix It Up!

The paint splotches are so vivid you can almost feel the gooey paint. It also gives lots of great ideas for playing with real paint, if you feel so inclined. It’s so successful Iris has been yelling out colour combinations randomly ever since we got it. This may or may not be a plus point for some.



Sure it kinda engenders those “I could have done that” comments, but hey, you didn’t did you? So unless you’re going to go through the process of making a book, zip it and bask in the delicious primary colours while your child shouts out what happens next.

Warning: Contains Mischief, Sheep Mischief

Any book that has the above disclaimer is definitely worth the read, IMO. Am I right? Especially when it’s about a mischievous sheep. What more can you expect from a coupla Kiwis? Mark and Rowan Sommerset are the husband and wife duo behind Dreamboat Books. Mark writes and Rowan churns out the gorgeously clean illustrations. Check out this video about them and their idyllic life. Mark also wrote the lovely tune in the video. Is there no end to their talents?! Jealous? A little. Ok, A LOT.

So anyhoo, Baa Baa Smart Sheep, is about Little Baa Baa who is very, very, VERY bored. Then along comes Quirky Turkey. Love the names. They exchange pleasantries then Quirky asks what that little pile of black balls on the ground is. Side anecdote: back in 2012, we made a trip back to the UK for a few weeks, Iris’s first there. We were in the Peak District and on one of our walks, came across a lovely field filled with nonchalant sheep. We let Iris, then 20 months old, down to run about and of course, the first thing she does is pick up a fistful of little black balls. Gotta love the countryside! And wet wipes.


Here are some snippets of Little Baa Baa and Quirky’s following conversation, which will also give you an idea of the plot.





It’s never too young to start with the toilet humour! Also, this helps to educate those city dwellers who’ve not had the pleasure of meeting any of the genus Ovis, what those little black balls are. Am definitely going to check out other Dreamboat Book publications.

Op Shops Rock!

Ever since my first Oxfam shop browse, I’ve been well aware of the amazing potential for unearthing once-loved gems among the mountains of kitschy gimcracks. All for a pittance and for a good cause as well! I don’t go in for clothes, shoes or bags so much but I love my vintage tea cups and saucers, furniture, housewares and most of all, books. If there is one thing that people have no qualms about getting second-hand, it’s books. So much more so if they are beautiful editions with hardly any wear. My most prized find? A boxed set of Jane Austen works by the Folio Society, which I got for $10 at a church book sale and that I saw in an antique bookshop for $150. ‘Nuff said.

This particular find is not quite as financially magnificent but definitely above average in awesomeness. A wonderful friend found it and thought of Iris (thank you Aunty J!). I have to say, with my amazingly vast and stupendous experience of books, I have never come across a carousel book. *GASP* Yup, it was the first time for both Iris and me to open the book and find it transformed into a house, ballet studio and theatre stage! And with cardboard dolls to play make believe with. Even though it’s been pre-loved, this copy of Angelina Ballerina’s Pop-up Dancing School by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig is in really good condition. There are no tears, most of the paper characters are accounted for, with a couple of guest fairies from some other book, and only a little spinal wear.

Angelina Ballerina's Pop-up Dancing School

The second she opened this up, Iris was enraptured. She played for hours, on her own! So parents of pre-schoolers who are into make believe, this could be a God-send for you. The ribbon you see above works also to keep the book open and you’ll see below why it’s called a carousel book. Is this amazing or what?! Where were you when I was left playing village with my mother’s cosmetics bottles?




The attention to detail in this book is seriously fantastic. In the pic below you’ll see a mirror, stairs and doors leading onto the other two dioramas. 20150401_141445

There are even working bed covers that Iris never fails to use to put her friends to sleep!


There is a story preceding the pop-out sets but really, you hardly need one. In fact, I’ve only read the Angelina book to Iris once because she hasn’t asked/needed me to!

They are not that easy to find though. I know because naturally I had to go out and find more! I’ve bought another Angelina Ballerina one, which I am saving for her birthday and found Maisy’s Castle by Lucy Cousins. It’s not quite as detailed but still great!

Maisy's Castle

And you can combine it with other types of make-believe toys. Here you see the lego Disney princesses cavorting with Maisy and her pals.


Obviously, these are not books for littlies who are still in the mouthing/destructive phases of development.

So what are you waiting for? Go do some op-shop treasure hunting! (Or buy these on, easier but less satisfying.)