Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body

Posted on | October 22, 2014 | 5 Comments

“When can I grow a beard?”
“Where do doctors go when they’re ill?”
“How do cuts get better?”
“Why do I look pale when I’m ill?”

7277410-MLift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body by Katie Daynes, illustrated by Marie-Eve Tremblay answers all these questions and many more in a brilliantly framed and formatted book for the 3-7 year old crowd all about the human body.

Rather than going through topic by topic like many body books do (covering, for example, your brain, your senses, your digestive system), this book is themed around the type of questions kids of this age are so good at asking: Why does x happen? How does y work?

Thus we have spreads asking and answering questions around when things happen to human bodies, how parts of human bodies work, and why bodies behave like they do. This framing of the information about bodies is a effective device; the book sounds like a child asking the question, making the questions and answers seem doubly relevant and interesting to young readers and listeners. It also allows for a rather eclectic approach to the issues covered and for the young age group this book is aimed at I think this is so clever; it creates the space for some more difficult or whimsical questions, such as “Where do my ideas come from?” and also allows dipping in and out of the book with great ease.


The colourful cartoony illustrations are fun and feature children asking lots of questions and doing different activities. It’s interesting to note that no child with any disability is included in the book; I do wonder if this was a conscious editorial decision. The robust physical properties of the book (with pages more like card than paper) are ideal for young children; it’s easy to handle and will certainly cope with repeated reading and enthusiastic lifting of the flaps.

I love the very last page of Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body, for it turns the tables on the reader/listener and after asking a few questions which your child should be able to answer having read the book, it states “Now here are some questions this book can’t answer. See if you can…”


This gave us the idea to create Mini Me Booklets – a mini book kids can fill in about themselves using these questions as prompts. I’ve created a printable template which you can download from here. Once you’ve printed off the sheet, you’ll need to fold it and cut it to create the booklet. This video will show you how:

As well as some pens and pencils you might give your kids some photos of themselves to cut up and stick into the booklets (my kids adore seeing photos of themselves when they were younger); if you do this I suggest that the photos are sized so that the area to be cut out is no more than 65mm high (to ensure it will fit in the booklet).





I was particularly heartened by what M wrote in one section of her Mini Me Booklet:


Whilst making our Mini Me Booklets we listened to:

  • Pee keeps our insides clean by Marc “Doc” Dauer (from a whole album about how the body functions). It’s a much catchier song than the title would suggest, and you can listen for free here on the album’s Myspace page.
  • The Bloodmobile by They Might be Giants
  • Dry Bones sung by the Delta Rhythm Boys

  • Other activities which would work well alongside reading Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body include:

  • Creating your own lift the flap book with all the questions your own kids come up with whilst reading this book. Here’s a simple template you could adapt.
  • Learning what blood is made up of by creating a sensory tub to play with. I love this idea from I Can Teach My Child.
  • Making a role play hospital at home with teddies and dolls. Here’s a couple of ways we’ve done it in the past, including an operating theatre and home made x-rays.

  • What’s the funniest or most surprising question about bodies you’ve ever been asked by your kids?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body from the Royal Society.

    royalsocietyprizebuttonEach year the Royal Society awards a prize to the best book that communicates science to young people with the aim of inspiring young people to read about science. Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body is on this year’s shortlist for the The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. The winner will be announced 17th November.

    An Interview with Elli Woollard, creator of Woozy the Wizard

    Posted on | October 20, 2014 | 2 Comments

    woozyWoozy the Wizard: A Spell to Get Well written by Elli Woollard and Al Murphy is the first in a new and very funny series of readers for children just gaining confidence in reading alone.

    Woozy is a terribly well-meaning wizard who’s keen to help his friends, but more often than not he gets somewhat mixed up and his spells don’t quite do what they’re meant to. With the help of his pet pig Woozy flies around trying to sort things out, and in the process it becomes clear that whilst it may not be magic, it is certainly something quite magical that helps put the world to rights.

    Lots of humour, great rhythm and rhyme (enormous aids when practising reading because they help with scanning a line, and predicting how words should be pronounced), and clear, bright and colourful illustrations all add up to a lovely book perfect to give to your emerging reader.

    To celebrate the publication of I interviewed the author of Woozy the Wizard: A Spell to Get Well, Elli Woollard, about her work. Given Elli is a poet, I challenged her to answer me in rhyme….

    Zoe: Rhyming seems to be in your blood. Where did this passion come from?

    Elli Woollard: The thing about me is I sing quite a lot
    (I rather enjoy it; the neighbours might not),
    And I guess if you’re singing for much of the time
    Your mind sort of slips into thinking in rhyme.

    Zoe: How does your blog, where you regularly publish poems/works in progress, help you with your writing?

    Elli Woollard: My blog’s like a sketchbook for scribbles and scrawls
    And all of my mind’s muddly mess.
    I write them all down, and sometimes I frown,
    But some make me want to go ‘YES!’

    Elli on the Dr Seuss book bench that was recently on view in London.

    Elli on the Dr Seuss book bench that was recently on view in London.

    Zoe: What would your ideal writing location/environment be like and why?

    Elli Woollard: A hot cup of coffee, a warm purring cat;
    There’s not much more that I need than that.
    Working at home is really quite nice
    (Except when the cat thinks my fingers are mice).

    Zoe: What was the most magical part for you in the process of seeing Woozy the Wizard come to life as a printed book?

    Elli Woollard: Writing, writing, is ever so exciting,
    Especially when you’ve finished and say ‘Look!
    All of my creations now come with illustrations!
    Bloomin’ heck, I think I wrote a book!’

    Zoe: What tips do you have for kids who love to write poetry?

    Elli Woollard: Use your ears, use your eyes, use your heads, use your feet,
    Stand up proud, read aloud, and just listen to that beat.
    Feel the rhythm, feel the vibes of the poetry you’ve heard,
    And think about the magic that’s in every single word.

    Zoe: Which poets for children do you like to read?

    Elli Woollard: Donaldson (Julia), Rosen (Mike),
    Lear (Edward) and Milligan (Spike),
    I could go on, and write a long list,
    But so many good ones I know would get missed.

    Zoe: Thanks Elli! I’m already looking forward to the next outing for Woozy, in spring 2015!

    We’ve Got Your Number – a Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize shortlistee

    Posted on | October 16, 2014 | 6 Comments

    7277407-MWe’ve Got Your Number written by Mukul Patel and illustrated by Supriya Sahai aims to show 10-14 year olds why almost everything in their lives boils down to maths, and explains why they should change how they get pocket money so they start with just 1p in the first week of the new year.

    It’s bold and bright and full of cartoons. It covers everything from the maths of planets, space and time, to the way maths impacts on decisions you make every day, from what flavour ice-cream to have to how to choose a healthier snack. Brief biographies of mathematicians, such as Fibonacci, Euler and Al-Khwarizmi are interspersed with facts and lots of small projects to try out at home (with the solutions provided at the end of the book, so you can double check how you’ve got on).


    With lots of short stand-alone sections, this book is easy to dip in and out of; this is just as well because it is so packed with information, it could easily feel slightly overwhelming if you tried to sit down and read it from cover to cover. I do wonder if this book will work better for us the longer we live with it, using it as a reference book to go back to when M, J and I want to explore a particular topic.

    This book proudly believes its readers can understand quite complex mathematical issues; the unpatronizing approach continues in the resources list which includes several books and websites mostly marketed for adults, but which the author believes kids could also appreciate. If asked to recommend this book for a particular readership I’d suggest it’s not for the beginner/early mathematician, but rather for one who is already pretty curious about the way numbers work.

    Although We’ve Got Your Number didn’t work brilliantly for us, it did prompt me to find some other ways to get M excited about maths. And so I turned to magic!

    There’s a whole class of magic tricks based on maths, and many of them are easy to do, even if you don’t understand WHY they work. I taught M a Mind Reading Maths trick (below), which she then went on to perform in class in the “show and tell” slot one day. Cue lots of oohs and aahs, and quite a lot of street cred from her classmates and teachers. It definitely worked for boosting her confidence in and curiosity about maths. It looks rather long and wordy having typed it out below, but I do encourage you to give it a go. It’s simple, beautiful and packs a big punch!

    Mind Reading Maths

  • 1. Remove the tens, jacks, queens, kings and jokers from a complete deck of cards.

  • 2. Shuffle the cards.

  • 3. Ask your friend to pick any card from the deck. Your friend should not show the card to you, but they do need to memorise the number on their card.

  • 4. Ask your friend to put her card down on the table, face down.

  • 5. Now you (the magician), pick a card from the deck. Don’t show it to your friend, but do memorise the number on your card.

  • 8. Lay your card face down on the table next to your friend’s card. It is important to place your card on the right hand side of your friend’s card as your friend sees it.
  • cardtricklayout

  • 9. Give your friend a piece of paper and pencil to do a little bit of maths. Ask your friend to:
    (a) Double the value of her card

    (b) Add 2 to that number

    (c) Multiply that answer by 5

  • 10. Now you (the magician) need to to a little bit of maths. In your head subtract the number of your memorized card from 10.

  • 11. Have your friend subtract your answer from her final answer.

  • 12. Say “Are you thinking of this number?”. Flip over the two cards on the table, and the two cards together should make the number that your friend has calculated.

    (If things go wrong, either you put your card on the wrong side of your friend’s card, or your friend got her maths wrong – you can always double check)
  • Click here to download a printable version of this trick!

    Given how much fun we had with this one trick, I’ve now prepared some more Maths Magic Lunchbox Printables for M. I will put these in with her lunch this week so she can wow her friends with her amazing magic skills whilst they munch their sandwiches.


    You can download my Maths Magic Lunchbox Printables here (sheet 1 – slightly easier maths), here (sheet 2 – slightly more complicated maths), and here (a blank sheet for friends to use as part of the magic tricks). I suspect the most popular trick will be the one you can use to work out the age and shoe size of your teachers and dinner ladies…

    We didn’t have any music on whilst we learned our Maths Magic Trick, but if you want songs to go with We’ve Got Your Number you might enjoy these:

  • 7 8 9 by Barenaked Ladies (totally child friendly, despite their name)
  • I Will Derive! (Inspired by I Will Survive. The maths in this is probably too difficult for most primary school kids, but adults will appreciate this song)
  • Math Math Baby (Inspired by Ice Ice Baby)
  • Here’s a whole Pinterest board dedicated to maths songs and videos.

  • Other activities which you might enjoy along side reading We’ve Got Your Number include:

  • Learning even more maths magic card tricks with Colm Mulcahy’s new book Mathematical Card Magic.
  • Play the lottery. Yes, just for this week, and only in the name of learning about maths, why not buy a family lottery ticket. You can work out your odds of winning using this helpful site (good for any lottery), which also provides a useful way to visualize your chance of winning, and some comparative odds so you can contextualise your chances.
  • Visit a maze (UK suggestions, US suggestions, Aus suggestions) and try to find your way out. If you’re stuck in a maze here’s a useful algorithm (a step-by-step method for performing a task) that will always eventually get you out of the maze: Keep one hand in contact with a wall as you walk. You WILL find the exit… but are you brave enough to try?

  • What’s your favourite number and why? What books have your found accessible, well pitched and exciting when it comes to getting your kids enthusiastic about maths?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of We’ve Got Your Number from the Royal Society.

    royalsocietyprizebuttonEach year the Royal Society awards a prize to the best book that communicates science to young people with the aim of inspiring young people to read about science. We’ve Got Your Number is on this year’s shortlist for the The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. The winner will be announced mid November.

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