Monday, 19 January 2015

In praise of book tokens

This is a slightly different post in that I'm not going to focus on one particular book but I wanted to concentrate on drawing attention to the fabulous gift that is a book token. Rosie won one from her school last term for entering a writing competition. She did a wonderful job and came up with a character called Ferdie the Fox, she came up with the concept, the words and the drawings all by herself (so proud!).

We took Rosie to our local Waterstones (it was a Waterstones token otherwise we would have gone to an independent!) and she was able to choose something all by herself. Given that most children's books are under a tenner she was able to have the pick of the shop. If you gave a child a ten pound token for a toy shop it would be a very different story.

I wasn't that keen on the book she chose for herself and did try to steer her in a different direction but she was adamant that she wanted this one:

It's a very nice book, my main reason for being reluctant for her to buy it is that she already has a few of them (it's a series) and I thought she might find something with a bit more longevity in the story section. However I think the thing that I've learnt most from this whole process is the pride that Rosie has in having chosen something for herself (and knowing she earned it). She's shown it to everyone and has spent hours looking at it and placing the stickers.

We did also get the latest Kitty Lacey book - which we both love and has had many readings at bedtime already.

So I guess the message from this post is, get a child a book token and give them the gift of a book and freedom of choice!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Have You Ever Ever Ever? by Colin McNaughton and Emma Chichester Clark

This book feels like a love letter to libraries and for that reason alone I love it. I hate it when I read about libraries being forced to close or run by volunteers and their budgets being more and more squeezed. This coupled with a huge literacy push from the government is such a muddling contradiction and makes me mad!
Anyway I am not writing to rant about the failures of those on high to protect our precious libraries but to discuss Have You Ever Ever Ever which beautifully encapsulates the magic and brilliance that can be found within the four walls of a library. It's a cryptic tease of a book which draws you in and through a journey with different well-known (nursery and fairytale) characters. It points out the general craziness of nursery rhyme characters and fairytales in a gentle mocking way to a boy sitting in a playground on his own. It's a poignant image a child playing by himself in an empty playground and makes the big reveal that books can introduce you to a whole different world of friends and scenarios much more powerful. The idea that the library (and books) are full of these wonderful characters just waiting to burst out is a lovely image and just really rather fabulous!

I love the illustrations of Emma Chichester Clark anyway and this book is beautifully done, the repetition and rhythm of the text by Colin McNaughton is lovely. My daughters love it because they know all the characters (with the exception of Punchinello!) and they can join in the story telling. They like to chant the text back at me! All in all a wonderful book which celebrates the magic and secret worlds that books can draw you into.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Charlie and Lola's Extremely New Play

We're having a lovely time with Charlie and Lola at the moment, reading their books and going to see them at the theatre!

Charlie and Lola's Extremely New Play is on at Norwich Playhouse this week. It's a lovely theatre to take children to see productions because of its relatively small size plus the seating is great with clear views. I took both my girls (5 years old and 2 years old) to see it and they both loved the play. It is loosely based on the seasons with as many different plots from the books as they could squeeze in! The amount of effects they used was extremely impressive, I think they were only missing a smoke machine! I had the good fortune (or otherwise) to sit directly underneath the snow machine so that was hilarious for everyone in my party.
It was an unusual children's theatre production in that the voices of Charlie and Lola were pre-recorded (so very recognisable). The characters were puppets and skilfully manipulated by the puppeteers who also constantly changed and rearranged the set. The effects really were magical and the kids got very excited by the giant fish on sticks that swooped through the theatre and the leaves blowing, bubbles floating and the snow coming. All in all it was great and a lovely production, I'm not sure if the tour is continuing but if it comes near you, do go!

We're also enjoying a particular Charlie and Lola book at the moment, This is Actually My Party. The sibling relationship is presented so well in this book and I think it's why both my girls love it. They can understand the youngest wanting to be so involved that she nearly ruins the party for the oldest. It's a funny story of Charlie having his birthday (monster themed) party and Lola trying to help but not really thinking that maybe Charlie would like to open his own presents and cards and play his own party games. It's delightful!

I do like all the Charlie and Lola books we have read but my absolute favourite is I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato, a sublime book - up there with the greats! A lot of the later books are based on Lauren Child's characters, and written with the TV scripts in mind, so although they are great stories they are not such complete picture books. So if you haven't read any of them yet I would recommend starting with this one.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Mrs Pepperpot Learns to Swim

I love Mrs Pepperpot Learns to Swim, it's a lovely, gentle fantastical tale about a little old lady being envious of the freedom of the children she sees frolicking in the water and deciding to do something about it. I remember reading Mrs Pepperpot when I was a child but I don't think we ever had this one.

My oldest daughter has recently really taken to swimming and is very confident about going on her own to her swimming lessons, as well as loving swimming as a family, so I think this really ticks all her boxes. My youngest daughter really likes it because she spends a lot of time being a frog at the moment and she also likes to swim, but not as much as she likes to pretend she's a frog! Ribbit!

Mrs Pepperpot is very special because she shrinks, usually when she least expects it. In this story she shrinks just as she is jumping into the woodland pool. It suddenly seems like an ocean to her and she panics and is rescued by what seems like a very large frog, who teaches her to swim. She's an unusual heroine, being a middle aged woman whose concerns are mainly domestic, but she's brilliant!

I must say that it has been a real joy rediscovering Mrs Pepperpot and I think we will be reading many more of them in the next year or so - I have my eye on Mrs Pepperpot's Christmas for the season which is nearly upon us (hold back, it's not quite December yet!).

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble by Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger

Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble is a delightful look at a very alternative type of granny! She's different because she's a witch and this causes all sorts of unusual scenarios! Her granddaughter eventually decides that it might be easier if her granny were to fit it and be a little more normal. But the granny gets quite depressed and finds it very boring so the little girl quickly realises that it's much more fun when her granny is just being herself.

I don't know if it's just me but I don't think that the problem that this book potentially identifies is really a problem for the age group that the book is addressed at. My girls are not bothered at the moment by differences - as far as I can tell and would probably love to have a witch as a granny, as well as keeping their current ones! Maybe as my five year old moves more firmly into school and her relationships with her peers develop this might be something that is more of an issue. Of course it might come in handy in a more subtle way as well, a difference that isn't a witch as a granny for instance! I'll keep you posted (and this book handy!).

However, both my girls really enjoy this book and the rhyming text is lovely to read aloud. The illustrations are great, lots to look at and lovely use of colour. It's one of those great books which we can all read together!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Millie's Marvellous Hat by Satoshi Kitamura

Millie's Marvellous Hat by Satoshi Kitamura proved a hit last week and also provided us with a fabulous half-term activity!
It's the lovely simple tale of Millie who goes into a hat shop after spotting a hat she likes in the window, but when she opens her purse and looks to see if she has enough money to pay she finds it totally bare and so the shopkeeper comes up with an imaginative solution. The text is spare but beautifully written and the illustrations are gorgeous with wry funny touches that mean going back again and again (and again!) is a joy rather than a chore.

We had a lot of fun making our own marvellous hat, although it proved hard to wear for very long! I'm sorry it's not a brilliant photo but you can see the kind of thing we did.

Satoshi Kitamura is actually appearing very soon at the South Ken Kids Festival at the Institut Francais which runs from the 17th to the 23rd November. I wish we could go to this festival, there are more than 50 events on the programme including Quentin Blake, Judith Kerr and Axel Scheffler. You lucky London people!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Woolly and Tig: I Love Mummy

I didn't really expect to be writing a post about Woolly and Tig: I Love Mummy. We picked it up in the library a couple of weeks ago and I grudgingly said my kids could bring it home. I have nothing against Woolly and Tig, I like to watch the programme. I just prefer to read original picture books when possible and I find that sometimes the books that tie-in to a TV programme tend to just be retellings of an episode (nothing that wrong with that of course, heaven knows I've been responsible for a fair few myself!).

But when we read this story I was pleasantly surprised (and not for a totally honourable reason!). It is a book about Tig and her mummy and delves into the relationship between a working mother (from home) and a child who wants constant attention. I can more than relate to this because it's very much how I work, although I tend to do most of my work when my two year old naps or when they are both at school and nursery. Anyway the message that sometimes mummy needs to concentrate on other things and can't play all the time was an interesting and helpful one. And both my kids loved reading it, although I think it was partly the novelty of seeing the faces from the programme on the page!