Tag Archives: books

Book review: Billy Says series by Joanne Alper

Today we have a review by adoptive parent Amy who has read the Billy Says series by Joanne Alper…

This is a set of 6 easy to read, colourful books for children to guide them through some of the issues relating to adoption and fostering. They are written by Joanne Alper, Director of Services at AdoptionPlus.

Aimed at children aged 3-8, I personally think these are better for children age 5-10. But could be used by parents, social workers, therapists or teachers.

20160616_124826Book 1 focuses on helping the main character 5 year old ‘Kirsty’ realise that the shouting in her house is not her fault, and the visitors that come to see her mum are social workers who are trying to help her mum. The books all use the character of Billy – a soft toy who can speak, to help Kirsty verbalise her worries and to help her understand in child friendly language what is going on around her.

Book 2 explains what happens when Kirsty needs to go to foster care, and explains why (that her mum can’t look after her properly). Billy introduces Smudgy the cat who shows empathy after moving away from his own family.

Book 3 talks about the foster carers and acknowledges that Kirsty will have muddles and worries, especially about her brothers who are at different placements. It really focuses on talking about the good, kind things that foster carers do.

Book 4 is called ‘What you think matters’ and it talks about courts and guardians. Billy describes the type of meetings that have to happen and what goes on in them, and also reassures Kirsty that her views are important.

Book 5 is about waiting. Kirsty explains that she’s been making a life story book with her social worker. It also covers a little about the wait for a new family. I do feel that between books 4 and 5 there should be another book about the adoption decision and the feelings that come with that as by the time you get to book 5, it’s clear that adoption is the plan, but it hasn’t been stated anywhere.

Book 6 talks about what it’s like to live as a new family. Again, the bit between foster family and adoptive family has been missed, and we start book 6 with Kirsty having lived with her family for a  little while. Sadly there isn’t anything about packing and moving, introductions, or the early days of settling in.

I find these books brilliant at explaining the bits they cover. They use child friendly language, bright colours, a lovely character in Billy, they are short enough to hold attention. My only disappointment is the bits they miss, which in my mind are just as important.

 Amy received these books free of charge in return for an honest review. You can buy the set here at Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Creating down time during December

Today Vicki from The Boy’s Behaviour shares a tip for finding some calm time with younger children through December…

I want to start by saying yes, I know it’s a bit early to be thinking about Christmas, but this one requires a bit of organisation and time hence the little bit of notice. And I was in a shop yesterday that was playing Christmas music – if they can do it, then so can I!

Christmas can be a difficult time for our children – lack of routine (or certainly a change), excitement, difficulty regulating feelings, missing birth family, preparing for school plays, the pressure of being good so Santa visits, along with a whole host of other reasons.

I want to share something that we do in our house during December that acknowledges Christmas every day, whilst allowing us to take 15 minutes out of the hectic schedule to sit and connect with our children.
Lot of us read everyday with our children anyway both for school and bedtime stories; this activity can be done in place of a bedtime story if you like, however and whenever you choose. And if nothing else, it creates a traditions – and I found that making some of our own traditions, together, has been important.

Each year I wrap up 24 Christmas themed books – I try to buy around four to six new books each year so there is a surprise for the children, and this allows me to remove those that they’ve grown out of. I’ve also found charity shops are wonderful for finding new festive books.

I buy two packs of identical stickers, and put a sticker on each wrapped book, and then the corresponding sticker on a slip of paper in their refillable advent calendar.
The books sit in a box in the living room and the children take turns to find and open the book each day, then we sit and I read to the children.

When we pack the decorations away after Christmas, the books get packed too until the next year.

We’ve done this for 3 years in a row now and it’s a lovely way to spend time with the children but more importantly that 15 minutes of sitting together, calmly, quietly, cuddling and breathing slowly helps my children chill out.

I can’t tell you what books we have, because they’re still packed away, but here’s a list of some of our favourite Wintery books that you might like to use to create your own readable advent calendar…some suitable for the very young…some suitable for primary age children…

  • Stick Man by Julia Donaldson
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  • Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs
  • Father Christmas Goes On Holiday by Raymond Briggs
  • The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter
  • A Very Crabby Christmas (Cat in the Hat/Dr Seuss)
  • Father Christmas Comes Up Trumps by Nicholas Allen
  • Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allen
  • Aliens Love Panta Claus by Claire Freedman
  • The Smelly Sprout by Allan Plenderleith 
  • The Silly Satsuma by Allan Plenderleith
  • The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett
  • How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow
  • Mr Men and the Night Before Christmas by Roger Hargreaves
  • The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis
  • The Christmas Bear by Ian Whybrow
  • Santa is Coming To <Our Town> by Steve Smallman…perhaps you could find your town?
  • Zoe and Beans; Zoe’s Christmas List by Mick and Chloe Inkpen
  • The Christmas Show by Rebecca Patterson
  • The Very Snowy Christmas by Diana Hendry
  • How Many Sleeps Until Christmas by Mark Sperring
  • Dear Father Christmas by Alan Durant
  • The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet Ahlberg
  • Dear Santa by Rod Campbell 

It doesn’t have to be an costly thing either. I popped into The Works today, and there were plenty of inexpensive Christmas books – quite a few in their 4 for £5 selection too. It just takes a little time to find a nice selection.

Do you have any favourite Christmas books or stories? What other things do you do to calm the Christmas chaos?

Book review: When I’m Feeling… by Trace Moroney

Today’s review comes from Buster who blogs over at Adopt & Keep Calm. Buster is mum to Boyo, 6.

A few weeks ago at work I noticed some books for sale from The Book People.

They were called ‘When I’m Feeling’ with a choice of emotions ‘Lonely, Scared, Happy, Sad, Jealous, Angry, Loved or Kind’.

There are about 16 pages in each book and the main characters are all rabbits.

I had a quick look at a couple of them and decided they were worth buying for Boyo. I think the books are probably aimed at 3-6yr olds. They are simple enough for a 6yr old to read themselves but nice for reading to children as well.

I just put them on Boyo’s ‘reading book’ shelf and didn’t say anything.

Later that day I found him reading ‘When I’m Feeling Scared’. He read it cover to cover and then plonked it back on the shelf.

A few days later I read with him, ‘Angry’ & ‘Loved’. These led to probably the best conversations we have had about emotions. The wording is very simple and the illustrations are just lovely.

Typical sentences are

‘Feeling loved makes me feel  strong……’

‘When I’m feeling scared it feels like my whole body trembles and shakes’

‘Sharing your feelings can sometimes make you feel better.’

They all have a positive slant to them and help make the child they are not alone with their worries.

At the back of each book is a short ‘Background Notes for Parents’. Nothing you won’t already know, but a short explanation of how self-esteem is the key!

Boyo loves them and for us they have opened up a few worthwhile & tearful conversations.

Note: We couldn’t find these books on The Book People’s website anymore, but Amazon do stock them at a reasonable price, here’s a link to When I’m Feeling Kind.