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":

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Taking our chances

More writing club madness over the last two weeks. We had great fun discovering the role of chance in creativity with games such as Chinese Whispers and Exquisite Corpse. We also looked at how constraints could force the creative juices to flow when each writer was given a random beginning to work from and an ending to work towards.
 And we also looked at how to use our everyday reality as material for an adventure or a mystery. For this, we drew maps of our surroundings (the school, the classroom, the table we were sitting at) which we then transformed by adding and changing elements on a sheet of tracing paper: exit the secretary's office, welcome to the unicorn stables! the dragon pens! the secret passages!
Well done all!

Monday, March 27, 2017


I was in Room 2 recently telling the story of Disaster David and chatting with the Junior Infants about giants, disasters and animals. We had a great time creating our very own book and we hope you'll pop in to have a look at it in the class library!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Goodnight Everyone first thing in the morning

We had a brilliant time at Baby Book Club this week. We read Chris Haughton's Goodnight Everyone and practised loads of stretching and yawning and snoring. If after that the babies weren't ready for their morning nap, we must have done something wrong...
The babies really joined in the reading, turning pages, making sound effects and wishing all the animals goodnight.
Inspired by Chris's art we then created our very own starry night using black paper, white and purple paint, bubble wrap and GLITTER.

As always, here are a few links to some tips, videos and songs about bears and bedtime.

Freddy Bear The Teddy Bear

Hush Little Baby by The Bluegrass Babies

Elvis Presley - Teddy Bear

Goldilocks and the Three Bears - Debbie and Friends
Or try Rockabye Baby for lullaby renditions of heaps of rock hits!

And finally, Bedtime and book-related tips from the RTE Jr Book Club:

Good luck everyone!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Penguins galore!

Last week at Baby Book Club it was all about penguins and more specifically Polly Dunbar's Penguin. Everyone was fascinated by the story of a boy who receives a present of a penguin and tries his hardest to make him laugh, play, talk... 'but Penguin said nothing'. The babies enjoyed describing what was going on in the pictures and joining in with the repetitive text.
We then had fun with glue and cotton wool and made our very own penguins, who may or may not be more talkative than the original one.

As promised, here are the links to the songs and videos, for more penguin-mania!

Do The Funky Penguin by Rufus Thomas -

Fairy Penguin Strut by Don Spencer -

Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton and Davy Jones (song and slideshow of the book!)

Penguins ice-skating, clip from a BBC documentary

Lost and Found, a 24-minute animated adaptation of Oliver Jeffers’ best-selling picturebook:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Travelling by imagination

In Week 2 of the Writing Club for 3rd and 4th, we took a look at a crazy poem by Michael Rosen called 'Orange':
I'm stuck in an orange.
I can't get out.
It's really orange in here,
And wet.

We wondered if it made sense or not, and even though we agreed it was bananas (ha ha), we could still picture it in our heads and it made a kind of sense. We then had a chat about how we could make people who had never seen an orange (the same way that we had never seen a person stuck in one) get what an orange is like. For that we used our 5 senses and tried to describe precisely this fleshy, juicy, spotty, peely, acidic fruit.
That led us to write some fun riddles about other things, from dogs to snakes to pencil cases, before moving on to our ongoing project of a 'travel journal'.

After travelling by memory last week, we used our imaginations this time to get us to weird and wonderful places: Singing Street, Wifi Land, Sugar Land, and lots more. We thought about the people who lived there, the rules they lived under, the food they ate, what they saw from their window, what the weather was like and so on. Our five senses came in handy once again to make these invented places feel 'real'.
We even started writing postcards from over there, but time ran away with us...
See you all next week for more writing explorations!

Friday, March 10, 2017

World Book Day!

Last week, there was a lot of bookish activity in SMGS for World Book Day: a very successful book swap, trips to bookshops and librairies, the works!
To add to the general excitement, I did three class visits on Thursday to chat about books, have some interactive story time and create our own masterpieces.
First up were the Junior Infants. We read the story of a young giant called David who is forever breaking things because he is too strong, too big... too giant! So much so that people call him Disaster David. The Junior Infants were brilliant listeners and great predictors of what might happen next. After that, we created our very own sequel to David's adventure, The King's Book: there was some awesome drawing and writing, that we gathered into a collective book. The book is now bound and ready to be borrowed in the class library!
Up with 2nd class, we went for something different and looked at how my book In Search of Happiness came into being. That brought us to chat about all the many things that made us happy and we used them to write a collective list poem. You can read it here as it came out: pretty good for a first draft, wouldn't you say? Second Class was fantastic at coming up with striking images and sharing their feelings. They even brought in a few sneaky rhymes!
The day ended with a visit to First Class who also discovered Disaster David's adventures. This had them thinking about what it would feel like to wake up... as a giant. There was some brilliant problem solving and great imagination on display once again. After a fun brainstorming, each took pen to paper to draw themselves as a giant and to write about that very strange morning...

Thank you all for a brilliant day!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Writing club is back!

This time the group is made up of a dozen of 3rd and 4th class writers. In our first session, we let ourselves be inspired by various illustrations from magazines and books. Even in only a few minutes, the ideas came gushing out and the style and interest of each writer started showing.

There were some brilliant mind maps, folk tales and adventure stories being sketched and fleshed out. While we were at it, we had conversations about the difficulty of making choices when you are plotting or writing a story. Something all present could relate to!

We then moved on to our long-term project of putting together a travel journal. As we're not going to go anywhere in the next few weeks, we're going to have to use other means of transportation than planes and boats and hot air balloons.

This week, we travelled by memory and tried to remember everything about a great trip (near or far) we had taken in the past. Using drawing and writing, we made a great start on our 'journals' and once again each author's voice shone even in those early stages.
See you all next week!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Writing Club: the end!

Another action-packed day for our last session with the 1st and 2nd class writers. We continued looking at how little changes could totally transform a story with a game of rumours.
And we did some brain gymnastics by trying to find a path between a story beginning and an ending, both drawn out of a hat. Some of the resulting random combos were harder to link up than others, but every one tried their best and came up with really interesting stories.

Every body then went home with all of their writing and some new ideas for future stories.
Well done all, it was an absolute pleasure!