A First Book of Animals {Review}

I’ve long been a fan of Petr Horacek’s illustrations, and will happily admit that it was knowing he was the illustrator on Nicola Davies’ A First Book of Animals that made me reach for this one. But in fairness to Nicola Davies, I’d best start with her.

A First Book of Animals is the second in Nicola Davies’ series, following on the success of A First Book of Nature . It contains over 50 different animals in five sections – big and small, colours and shapes, animal homes, animal babies and animals in action. Ms Davies actually graduated in zoology, but I imagine she would have done as well in a literature degree, because the book has a beautiful, dreamy quality to the text. I adore the use of poetry and descriptive writing which is bound to not only make children fall in love with it, but help them remember what could otherwise be dry facts.

First Book of AnimalsRead more: A First Book of Animals {Review}

The Incredible Journey Free Printable Resources

Over the last few weeks we’ve been working on The Incredible Journey – by working on, I mean ‘reading’! We’ve also done a few other activities – a board game and an animal categorising ‘game’. I’ve also made some of our usual printable activities to share with you.

I remember reading The Incredible Journey as a child, and finding it disappointing compared to the movie, and reading it now as an adult I can see why – it’s not as Americanised as the movie – the characters have names you have to think about and they don’t talk as their movie-counterparts do. It’s not a long book, but it’s not always easy reading either. It’s a beautiful story of love, courage, friendship and perseverance and purpose though, and well worth reading together.

Below you will find letter writing practice sheet, a crossword that asks questions about the story (you won’t be able to answer this from watching the movie) and an easy and a difficult maze and finally, a word search. This is a harder word search, because some of the words go backwards.

To download a worksheet, just click on the image. It’ll open a PDF in a new window for you to print.

The Incredible Journey Writing Practice

Children can trace the letters to help them learn the sizing of letters compared to each other, or simply just to practice.

The Incredible Journey Handwriting Practice

The Incredible Journey Crossword Puzzle

An 11 clue crossword puzzle – the answers are at the bottom of the page. I thought rather than use a second page, just pop them on the bottom and fold the footer area over so little eyes can’t see the answers.

The Incredible Journey Crossword

The Incredible Journey Mazes

There are two mazes here to choose from – a simple one here and a tougher one. Pictured is the harder one.

The Incredible Journey difficult maze

The Incredible Journey Word Search

This word search is a little harder than the ones I normally do, I think, because the words run back to front and from the bottom up. I don’t normally like doing them this was as I think it’s confusing for younger participants, but it’s how it worked out this time.

The Incredible Journey Word Search

If you’ve enjoyed these activities, remember to check the rest of the tag for The Incredible Journey resources

Incredible Journey.

Whipsnade Zoo, Luton, Bedfordshire

Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire is really part zoo, part wildlife reserve. If you say ‘zoo’ you tend to think of a bunch of animals in cages. While this is partly true, there’s also part wildlife reserve like the ones you’ll find in Africa – where you get to drive or walk around with nothing between you and the animals. In a sentence, the Whipsnade Zoo is fantastic. We spent a bank holiday Monday there and we loved every minute of it. 
Whipsnade Zoo


The rest of this review has moved. Please click here to read it. 


Pic Of The Week 52-10

The most beautiful part of our African Adventure, is the interaction with animals, the wide open spaces, the lack of crowds everywhere we go and in many ways, the not-over-the-top health and safety regulations in South Africa.
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Attachment Parenting In Nature

Becoming a mother has changed me in more ways than I knew possible. I am passionate today about things I’d never heard of two years ago. I also spend a lot more time around animals than I ever did before, since we’ve tried to get Ameli outdoors and into nature as much as possible.
Over the last two years I’ve started a ‘collection’ of sorts, of photographs I’ve taken of wild animals practicing ‘attachment parenting’. These are the best I have so far, but I intend to extend my collection whenever I have the opportunity.

Nursing in Nature

It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of breastfeeding. I think it’s the most amazing gift women were ever given. And whenever I see animals feeding their young, nurturing them and helping them grow, I have strange little flutters of excitement in my belly. A little OTT, I’m sure, but it’s true.

Here are three of my favourite animal nursing shots

Kangaroos in Perth, Australia

Giraffes in Longleat, Somerset, England

Zebras in the wild, Dhikololo, South Africa

Babywearing in Nature

The origin of the term Kangaroo care – and the ultimate in babywearing.

Perth, Ausralia

More to come…

365-305 to 365-311 A Week in Pictures

We’ve had the kind of week you have when you live somewhere and know people. It’s an odd feeling, in a way. We’ve been to the same place twice this week (the play place) and I spent a bit of time visiting a friend in hospital. We were carless as the car had to go in to have the gearbox fixed.  (How rare is it to have x in the same sentence twice?) So, yes, all in all, pretty domestic.

Day 305 – Visiting Oupa

My dad, or Oupa, the Afrikaans word for grandfather and Ameli. We dropped by his office for a visit, and I think he enjoyed that.

Visiting granpa

Day 306 – Indoor Play

It’s so scorchingly hot most days that we tend to go to the indoor play parks. It’s also a fair bit safer than an open park, so I can relax while Ameli and my mom play.  If I compare this picture of her wading through the ball pit with this one in January, I cannot believe how she’s grown!

Ball Pit

Day 307 – Nana Love

My mother has been spending a lot of time with Ameli recently, which I think has been great for both of them! I love this picture. So much love between them.

Nana Love

Day 308 – Lory Park

Spent the day with a great friend, Tristan, his fiance, and her niece and nephew. I love how many animal ‘parks’ etc there are in South Africa. For about £4.50 you can spend the day in an animal reserve, park, or whatever. We saw white lions, pumas, cheetas, leopards and a bunch of other wild cats I can’t even remember now.  Here they were looking at Bengal tigers. Just beautiful! I love that I’m able to expose Ameli to this, whether she’ll remember it or not

Animals and friends

Day 309 – Birthday Dinner

My niece-in-law turned 17 so we had a lovely dinner out with her. Although she should feature here, it’s so rare that I have a good picture of myself AND Martin, like, in the SAME photo that I couldn’t give this up!

Rare: A good picture of us!!

Day 310 – Back in the Indoor Play

A good mid-point between my mother’s place and ours, so why not!


Day 311 – In the Swing of Things

Propelling herself on the swing and loving it, my beautiful princess.

In the swing of things

Thank you joining us again for our week in pictures! Leave a link if you do one you’d like us to see!

365-271 to 365-277 A Week In Pictures

I finally have a full week of pictures. It’s been a while! But then, it’s been a full week. As I write this a week behind, I am sitting in a shady spot, avoiding the African sun, listening to birds chirp and drinking in the peace of the small farm I am visiting with my mother. It feels almost unreal, right now, writing about the mania that was our final week in England.  Here it is for you.

Day 271  – Moving Again

I honestly don’t know why – perhaps to do with having a child now – but this was by far the hardest move we’ve ever had to make. No matter how we packed, we still had more to pack, more boxes to fill and more stuff to move. It was relentless and felt endless. Looking at this mess, you wouldn’t think we were having our furniture collected the next morning!

Moving Madness

Day 272 – For Safe-Keeping

In my house, pictures are always the first thing to go up and the last thing to come down. It just isn’t home without our memories there to smile down on us. I couldn’t bring this very heavy framed collage with me, so I took a picture of it. We took these when Ameli was just a month old.  I love them.

Photos and Memories

Day 273 – Surrey Docks City Farm

My friend Lorraine’s daughter Bombi has a birthday on the 1st of October, I’m on the 2nd and Ameli is on the 4th. On my birthday I had so much packing and moving still to do I was freaking out a little. Nontheless, we went to Bombi’s party at one of our local city farms, and apart from Ameli mistaking goat droppings for chocolate (you couldn’t make it up! I wish i had a picture of her face when she realised it wasn’t!) we had a great time. We decided to delay my birthday till we’re in South Africa, as I was too stressed to do much on the actual day.

City Farm

Day 274 – Happy Birthday Ameli!

Amidst the madness of moving, we had Ameli’s birthday party in the empty lounge. It was great, I think. I’m really pleased with and proud of my cake effort! Anyway, I won’t rehash everything I said to Ameli in my birthday letter to her here.

1st Birthday Cake

Day 275 – Leaving, On a Jet Plane

If I thought our last days were manic, our final day was torture. It took SO LONG to get everything done that Ameli and I ended up getting a taxi to the airport with all our luggage. Martin was going to drop our car off with a friend, and meet us at the airport. But there were tube strikes, and traffic was immense as a result of it. The 50 minute journey to the airport took us, in a taxi that can use special lanes, almost two hours.

Long story short  – Martin missed the flight, and I had to fly with Ameli, three checked in bags, hand luggage, nappy bag, lap top bag and a pram I’m taking for my sister’s use, having not slept for more than two hours the night before. It was… intense. But, in fairness, Ameli was exemplary. She was such a good girl, I was very proud.

Although we were flying from London to Madrid with BA then to South Africa with Iberia, BA were exceptionally helpful. They helped me with luggage, let me take a third piece of luggage (Martin’s) free of charge, kept Martin’s passports and our credit card for him to pick up (15 minutes after our flight took off!) and were just amazing to, on and during the flight.

The co-pilot came to me in the air just before we landed to let me know that Martin had been put on another (direct) flight for the next night, free of charge. We were really blessed.

Anyway, here’s Ameli sleeping in Madrid at midnight.  She survived a most unusual first birthday.

Sleeping at the Airport

Day 276 – Settling In

Day one in South Africa, and my one year old is settling in perfectly!

Smiley girl

Day 277 – Meeting the Cousins

Ameli and cousin Michael got on like a house on fire from the start. It’s a great relationship. She follows him, and he runs away. All the more funny since he’s been dying for months to meet her!

Thank you for joining us for our week in pictures! See you again next week!

365-244 to 365-250 A Week in Pictures

With our move coming up soon we’ve been so busy. From visits with friends to simple things like putting unwanted items on eBay and Freecycle, time has flown by. (I even had a dream that I put an ad on Freecycle for second hand bath water. The ad read ‘when you’ve had your bath, call me and I’ll come round for mine’! I think I need a break!)

I’ve missed a few days, but here’s what I have.

Day 246 – Deen City Farm

Martin, Ameli and I have been to a number of the London City Farms, and this is close to the top of the list of favourites. It has a greasy spoon kind of cafe, and there weren’t any horses around – in fact it had quite a few empty pens – but it was well laid out and offered something precious in London: green and open space. I love this picture of Ameli. It’s so true to her personality, going out, discovering, exploring, while making sure she’s perfectly safely grounded in someone she trusts. That’s a quality I hope she retains for many years to come.

Day 247 – Aunty Glors

A day out with our friends Chris & Gloria. Gloria has been such an amazing friend over the past five or so years. She did so much for Ameli before she was born, hosted my babyshower and has just been a star friend. Many friends drift away after babies come along and she just never has. I’ve been so blessed by her friendship.

Day 248 – Holiday Pictures and Wandering Wednesday

One of the very first blogs I ever fell in love with is called Garden Mamma. She is such a beautiful blogger, I find visiting her site actually spills peace in to my day. Garden Mamma has until very recently run a weekly post called Wandering Wednesday where her readers send in a photo of their feet and what they are doing or where they are standing. I loved this every week, although I never actually participated, so when we were abroad for eight weeks over the summer, I decided to take photos of my feet in some of the different places.

We returned home and I forgot about it as I became swept up in other things. But on this particularly quiet and rainy day, I was going through all the holiday photos and found all my ‘feet’ photos. I’ve put them together here in a little bit of a tribute to Garden Mamma, a recollection of an amazing holiday with my husband and daughter (and some other family thrown in from time to time) and an odd but special thank you to my fabulous Reetone Flipflops for being my most comfortable shoes ever (they’re in every picture, since I wore them all holiday!)

Day 250 – Moving Box Art

I always hate moving, especially when it’s not a straight A-B move, but something else in between. No matter how well I label boxes, I aways seem to struggle to locate the important boxes with necessary essentials.  So on another rainy day, Ameli and I found a solution to the problem. We decorated a moving box. I painted a primer red layer over it and she painted hands and feet and various other splotches all around it. I’ll add more on this later, but it was great, messy fun. That will be her box for those valuable momentoes like her first baby grow, her first pair of shoes and also for the masses of other sentimental items, like the photo albums and backup CD’s all around the house.


Thank you for joining us for our week in pictures

365-223 to 365- 229 A Week in Pictures

For the time being our weeks have taken on a distinctly domestic flavour. We’re preparing for our next trip in October, so laying low for the moment, saving up and living frugally. But even so, friends need to be seen, family visited and life must continue, so the odd slow at home day is always a pleasure.
Read more: 365-223 to 365- 229 A Week in Pictures