Book Series that we love (Chapter books): Extraordinary Losers

Over here at Owls Well, we have a soft spot for homegrown Singaporean authors and I am so glad to tell you all about the Extraordinary Losers chapter book series by Jessica Alejandro! These are good entry-level chapter books for encouraging reluctant readers who are looking to graduate from Early Reader books but need some pictures to break up the wall of words.

This book series follows the adventures of four primary school kids, Darryl De, Janice, Mundi and Clandestino, each of whom are considered class misfits for various shallow physical reasons (e.g. too ugly, too messy, too fat, too Indian etc). However, they also have incredible hidden talents that are overlooked by their peers who often underestimate their abilities. Fuelled by courage and junk food, the four kids find themselves banding together to solve mysteries within their school and find their self-worth, whilst dealing with the problems of class bullies, cyber-predators and of course, the all-encompassing villain of Primary School life, the dreaded PSLE!

I really appreciate the straightforward way that the book deals with bullying and being unique, encouraging the reader to look for the extraordinary gifts that lie within themselves instead of striving for conformity.

Right now, there are four books in the series (you can check out the titles in the picture above), and they are pretty engaging to read. The book also features funny illustrations by artist Cherryn Yap, as well as the occasional hand-scrawled cheeky poem by the book’s main POV character, Darryl De.

I have been told that the book series has gotten so popular that our local kid’s channel, Okto, is now looking to cast actors and actresses for an ExLosers TV series!

Open auditions are this Sunday 3rd July 2016 from 11am -6pm (registration closes at 4pm), so if you’ve got a budding thespian on your hands (or if you know one), do bring them along to the Suntec Convention Centre Level 3 Concourse.

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A extraspecial surprise for Owls Well Readers: The fine folk over at Bubbly Books have kindly agreed to sponsor a giveaway of the full set of Extraordinary Losers books by Jessica Alejandro to ONE lucky Owls Well reader! Thanks Bubbly Books!

To take part in this giveaway please complete the following:

  1. Leave me a comment below telling me about an extraordinary talent that you have (or your child has) that is often overlooked or underappreciated or how you personally dealt with bullying in school – don’t forget to include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)
  2. For extra entries, share this post on any social media platform and leave a comment below with the link!

(This giveaway is open to anyone with a Singapore mailing address and closes on 15 July 2016. Winners will be picked via Random.org.)

Buyer’s note: I received a set of the Extraordinary Losers books from Bubbly Books for this review. If you’d like to get the books for an extraordinary kid in your like, you can find Extraordinary Losers and other books by local authors here.

For more news and information about the Extraordinary Losers books, check out their Facebook page here.

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Fun Family Projects: We’re Going on a Gag Reel!

Well, as with all movies nowadays, with all the extra footage from J’s ‘We’re Going On a Bear Hunt’ school project, we decided to put together a silly little gag reel with all the bloopers, deleted and extended scenes!

Fun Family Projects: Behind the scenes of We’re Going On a Bear Hunt

You may have seen our video from last week, ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ that was part of J’s kindergarten project! It was J’s first time having to be in charge of making the video and he learned so much about each stage of movie-making from story to film.

We also put together a ‘Behind the Scenes’ video so that J could share the whole creative process with his classmates and teachers.

Enjoy!

Fun Family Projects: We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (A Movie!)

Last year, J’s mid-year school project was all about ‘Showtime’ and he had the idea to make a mini-movie based on one of our favourite children’s books – We’re Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.

This was an awesome project that the whole family got involved in, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves making it.

Happy watching!

P.S. If you’re wondering where we are in the video – it was all filmed on location during our holiday in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

 

 

Potted Potter: An interview with the Creators (and an awesome giveaway!)

Dan and Jeff, out of the Broom Cupboard!

Dan and Jeff, out of the Broom Cupboard!

The Barn Owl and I are big fans of the Harry Potter book series by J.K Rowling, which is why we are both super excited about ‘Potted Potter’, a brilliant stage parody of the books from the Harry Potter series coming to Singapore next week!

‘Potted Potter’ is brought to us by the British comedy duo Dan and Jeff, former CBBC presenters, and they are so full of energy and fun, the show is going to be such fun to watch even if you haven’t read the Harry Potter books yet. Dan and Jeff have made a series of hilarious stage parodies of popular book series, and I personally think it is wonderful how they use these shows to champion the cause of children’s literacy!
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity conduct a very brief interview with Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner, the brilliant minds and actors from ‘Potted Potter’.
1. I have heard that ‘Potted Potter‘ is a mix of scripted performance and improvisation. What are some of the wildest or most memorable improvs that you (or your actors) have had done during ‘Potted Potter‘?

JEFF TURNER: We really enjoy keeping the show fresh by improvising (or messing around) every show. We have some new bits that have been used more than once, but the most fun ones are those that occur to you on the spot, and if at all possible, throw the other person (or send them into a fit of giggles). The audience enjoy the show most when we enjoy ourselves, and if they see us finding what we are doing fun or funny, then they are going to have a good time. I think my favourite improvising, that I can think of, is a show in Canada, when Dan slipped as one character, and landed heavily on his back. We then had a lot of fun coming up with reasons why all of the following characters were in pain, and moving with a limp. Dan really hurt himself in that one, so may not remember it quite so fondly…

DAN CLARKSON: Most of the wildest moments I remember come from when we play Quidditch! We bring two kids up on stage to be seekers and there is no way you can ever script what’s going to happen next. Everyday is different and keeps the show fresh.

2. What were the major challenges that you faced in translating all 7 of the Harry Potter books from page to stage, and how did you work around them?

DAN CLARKSON: I think the greatest challenge was to take some of the books major set moments and translate them to the stage.

Like Harry’s first meeting with Voldemort in the graveyard. A spectacular and terrifying moment in the book, and hard to portray with just the two of us! So we came at it from a different angle, and I think the might be one of my favourite parts of the show! (You haven’t lived until you’ve seen he who shall not be named strutting around to Tina Turners ‘Simply the best’!)

JEFF TURNER: Obviously the sheer volume of material was the biggest challenge. There are thousands and thousands of pages, that we had to condense into a 70 minute show. When we very first came to forming the beginnings of the show back in 2005, Dan was a big fan of the books, and I hadn’t read them. So we were armed with Dan’s hazy memories and my research (which was 5 one page synopses from the internet – one for each book that then existed). This mixture meant we were able to pinpoint what seemed the most important events and characters in each book, and highlighted that the books are mainly about the battle between Harry and Voldemort. We then threw all this hard work out of the window, and just put on an array of silly hats and sillier voices!

3. What message would you like children to take away from the show?

DANIEL CLARKSON: Study hard, keep up with your magic and the owl from Hogwarts will be on it’s way. And while you wait, come play Quidditch with us!

JEFF TURNER:  One of the things we are most passionate about is children’s literacy. We have always both loved books and reading, and were lucky that we were encouraged to do so as kids. Not every kid is encouraged to do so, but Harry Potter managed to make reading cool again. When I was little it was Roald Dahl, and now it is JK Rowling. I don’t think any series of books will ever be quite this big again, and if the boy wizard can’t get you into reading, then nothing will! Also, the more you read, the more chance you have of becoming a doctor or a lawyer, and not ending up like a couple of bum actors making fools of themselves in silly wigs, to earn a living!

Here’s a little sneak preview at what you can expect from their show:

A Bonus for Owls Well Readers: The fine folk at ‘Potted Potter’ are giving away ONE PAIR OF TICKETS to their opening show on Tuesday, 9 September, 730pm! Woohoo!

To take part in the Giveaway just:

  1. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook page
  2. Be a fan of the Potted Potter Facebook page
  3. Visit the Potted Potter Website and leave a comment below telling me what catches your eye about this show. Don’t forget to include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)
  4. (For bonus entries, share this post on any form of social media that you fancy, leaving me a separate comment with the link!)

(Giveaway is open to readers in Singapore and will end at noon on 5th Sept 2014. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete all 3 easy steps!)

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been emailed. Thanks for playing!

How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers (and a SUPER giveaway!)

One of the very first books that I ever bought for J and Little E was ‘How to Catch a Star’ by Oliver Jeffers.

Oliver Jeffers is an artist, raised in Ireland, who makes picture books (amongst other things) – and these pictures books are favourites here at Owls Well. We love his books for their deceptively simple illustrations, quirky humour and underlying themes of curiosity and discovery.

Oliver Jeffers actually recently documented his trip to Bologna Children’s Book Fair, where he celebrated the 10th Anniversary of ‘How to Catch a Star’ with the release of a new edition which has some previously unpublished drawings in it! I am not surprised that the book has already become a classic.

book-kids-star-jeffers-picture

Picture Credit: Oliver Jeffers

The story itself is simple and sweet, about a boy searching for a star of his very own and finding a friend. He tries several different methods to obtain his goal, and just when he is about to give up, he finds out that special treasures can be found in unexpected places.

When J and Little E found out that their favourite book had been adapted into a stage play by Blunderbus Children’s Theatre UK, they were both really very excited! The flyer for the play, which has been brought to Singapore by ABA productions (who also organised KidsFest 2014), is still lying underneath J’s pillow, along with all his special treasures.

I had the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with the lead actor, Benjamin Sbuttoni, and Simon Sanchez, the Blunderbus Outreach Co-ordinator.

1. What inspired you to choose this particular book to adapt into a play?

 ‘How to Catch a Star’, jumped out at us straight away. The story is funny, beautiful, and the little boy is a wonderful character who is determined to achieve his goal…to catch his star.

The story gave us lots of ideas for what we could put on the stage. There are epic moments like travelling through space in his space rocket, and there are intimate moments like when the little boy is all alone with just his teddy bear for company.

We look for a story which will engage children (and adults) on different levels and ‘Star’ does that and so much more.

2. What were the major challenges that you faced in translating ‘How to Catch a Star’ from page to stage, and how did you work around them? 

We see challenges as opportunities. Opportunities to be more imaginative, more creative, and push ourselves to create the best story we can. For example, in our show we use puppets, and if there is any a point that an actor can’t do something, then we get the puppet to do it.

We find that by seeing every struggle as a possibility to excel, then we end up with a show that the children will love.

3. What message would you like children to take away at the end of the show?
To never stop dreaming and one day you’ll reach the stars!
blunderbus theatre stageplay

Picture Credit: Blunderbus Theatre

The play opens next week, on the 24 April 2014 at SOTA’s Drama Theatre, and my whole family is going to be there!

I cannot wait to see it!

A Special Surprise for Owl’s Well Readers: ABA Productions is kindly sponsoring a giveaway of a Family Set of 4 top tier Category 1 tickets (worth SGD$248) to the Opening Performance of How to Catch a Star on Thursday April 24th at 5pm, right here on Owls Well! Huzzah!

To take part in the Giveaway just:

  1. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook page
  2. Share this post on your Facebook page and tag a friend – make sure your post is set to public
  3. Leave a comment below telling me your favourite kid’s book and the name of your Facebook account that you used to like the page. Don’t forget to include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)

(Giveaway is open to readers in Singapore and will end at midnight on 20th April 2014. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete all 3 easy steps!)

Good luck!

Update: Evelyn is our winner – thanks for playing!