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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Bathwater's Hot

Author and Illustrator: Shirley Hughes
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd, 1985

One very simple, beautiful poem called 'Bathwater's Hot', manages to manifest one massive place in my heart. I think this shabby ex-library book purchased on a second-hand book stall for 20p is one of the most valuable things I own, as for me it's synonymous with bedtime and so synonymous with this phase of raising young children that I'm currently in.

This sweet little rhyme is about a 3-4 year old girl and her podgy toddler brother observing their surrounding and finding lots of opposites in the world. Bath water might be hot but 'sea water is cold' for example. Each binary idea carries its own illustration, packed full of warmth and feeling and family life. The cadences of the rhyme are particularly moving as they rise up and down, up and down like a soft lullaby.  So catchy is the beat of this poem, we seem to have committed it to memory (unintentionally, though I do read it a lot): on approaching traffic lights one of the children will always recite 'It's fun to run very fast, or to be slow. The red light says 'stop', And the green light says go!' Feel free to cringe at the geekiness, but this book is just so innocent, so kind-hearted and dreamy, its hard not to be swept away with it.  I also like that this book captures the early 1980s as generation so nicely, with the clothes, household items, the bathroom unit, the bedstead. 

This is a real 'join-in' bedtime rhyme, with quiet moments and louder moments, quite literally. It's perfectly short, and definitely showcases Shirley Hughes work at its very best. 


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