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Thursday, 27 July 2017

The Tickle Book

The Tickle Book with pop up surprises

Author: Ian Whybrow 
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler

This book, together with The Bedtime Bear by the same author and illustrating duo, are by far the most loved and well read books in my house. So well loved in fact, I've bought them three times over (each!) and since the summer days have now befallen, the kids being at home ( sheltering from the summer rain) so much more, I find myself putting in my order for a fourth copy of The Tickle Book tonight...and really, they're pretty robust for 'pop up' books! Nonetheless, the absolute excitement and joy a good old fashioned lift-the-flaps, pull -the- tab, pop-up book seems to bring (any age child, in fact the older they get, the more excited by the pop-up aspect they seem to be), dumbfounds me. The pure suspense of the pull, for my seven year old, has him in squeals of delight every time. 

I can't recommend these two books more highly, they're such a pleasure. Bright, loads of fun, very quirky ( why is a lizard in a blizzard? Why is there a rabbit on a motorbike?) , ah the countless questions I have for the author...situational madness ' a mouse motel' and a ' lynx carrying drinks' to a picnic, brings humour with every read. And yet as each book follows a jouney to tickling bedtimes, the menagerie of characters and places all seem to make bizarre sense, fuelling the excitement further. The rhymes are very catchy, with a staccato beat and optimal use of rhetoric. There's also a play on phonics that's a preamble to the now very popular Kes Gray 'Oi' books ( e.g. Oi Frog!) , so an 'owl in a towel' and a 'snake' with a 'cake'. The word choice of the author speaks to toddlers beautifully, plenty of 'hello' and farmyard / animal noises. These are the type of silly rhyme books kids really remember, with invitations and instructions to tickle, close eyes, say goodnight. As such, fantastic books for helping build attachments, for bonding, perfect for adopters. My older children currently love reading these to the younger ones, squeals and giggles of laughter amount, hence the wear and tear on the tabs. I also like that there's lots of different lift flap, pull tabs and card wheel arrangements in the book, it really does make for a 'pop up book  full of surprises.' Big thumbs up from me, but buy three copies at least as you'll get through them, and sadly these books are no longer on constant sale in the big supermarkets, like a few years ago. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Diabolical Mr Tiddles

Author and Illustrator: Tom McLaughlin
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, 2012

This book made my eyebrow ache, as it was arched to one side throughout, trying to guess where the goof-ball story was going next. The Diabolical Mr Tiddles is a delightful story of loyalty, friendship and...the benevolence of Her Royal Majesty the Queen?! Birthday boy Harry gets his dream gift, a cat, whom he comically names Mr Tiddles. Harry lavishes Mr Tiddles with affection, and Mr Tiddles wants to repay the friendship. Initially, as cats do, Mr Tiddles brings Harry and mouse, but after this receives a reaction he wasn't expecting, increasingly exciting and expensive gifts start arriving in Harry's room, but where are they from? 
In a fun twist to the story, it turns out that the rotund, ginger, stripey cat Mr Tiddles, has been on some jaunty night escapades stealing items to fulfil all boyhood dreams; a horse from a cowboy, a pogo stick, rockstar guitars; there's a great picture about half way through the book showing this extensive and growing collection, great fun. 

Tom McLaughin then spins the story upside down again, when Harry follows the perpetrator in this nightly wanderings, ending up face-to-face with the Queen, in her bedroom, of all places! 

When reading this to Bert (5) and Edie (3) in the week, Bert immediately spotted that the queen slept with her crown on her head. Little details in the book, like this, are plentiful- comedy treats abound for eager eyes. I really liked the way the queen was presented, as this austere bossy mother character. The message in the book, you can't by love, nor friendship, and that true friends look out for each other, is sweet, a tiny bit lost on the nearly four year old, but well understood by the five year old I felt. The endnote illustration of the queen is amusing, and the cheekiness and neediness of Tiddles throughout, raises a calamitous beat. A great read for settling trading card fractions in the playground, or more generally to read to preschool and reception children navigating new friendships. 

If you like this, you'll also undoubtedly like 'Love Monster':

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Author: C.S.Lewis
Publisher: First published 1950 by Geoffrey Bles, First published by Lions,  Collins Publishing Group, 1980, edition featured 1988

I read this to my 5 year old and 7 year old boys a couple of months ago, to mixed success. I set The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe up as a nostalgia trip for myself, I thought I 
remembered soldier queens and exhilarating battles, but some of this memory was 
implanted from watching the Children's BBC series adaptation from the 1980s. I wasn't disappointed by re-reading the book, just resolute by how 'of its time' the book was, and how adaptations since had skewed the book's ideological stance so much, I had no recollection of how stiff the writing comes across. Enid Blyton eat your heart out, and I'm really not a fan of Blyton and don't buy in to any of this, new wave Blyton fandom popular with the mums at school. 
As my children proved though, ideology is clearly an aside to adventure when you're young. The boys followed the chase chapters excitedly, particularly when the beavers were helping hide the children, and loved the deception of Edmund, his lust for the Turkish Delight ( though I had to refer to these as 'sweets', as the kids had no idea what Turkish Delight might mean). While as an adult I was aghast at the sexism In the book, particularly the moment Peter saves his sister Susan from baying wolves as she climbs a tree; she does a great job at defending herself and younger sister but when Peter is then preparing for battle, he tells Susan the battle is no place for a girl. ( I edited this slightly as I read aloud, but there was no need as the boys were too busy anticipating some sword fighting and didn't really care who'd be involved!) 

What I also found as an adult, was how obvious the 'Aslan as Jesus' parallel is, while I remember this being pointed out to me as a child, and feeling it was clever and subtle. The whole moment of sacrifice on the stone table, the witch's long laboured torture scene, then the breaking of the table in half like Jesus's tomb, was long winded while the battle scene itself, was anticlimactic, short, lacked description of 'one-one' combat. There were also these strange intervals in the book where CS Lewis indulges in encyclopaedic paragraphs about the flora and fauna of the forest, which made my two quite restless and bored. 

Positives though, finishing reading and watching the 2002 film the following day, what a treat that film is! Well paced, well told and beautiful cinematography, particularly the long shots; vast, eerie, magical. I hate to say it, but in this exceptional circumstance, the film is better than the book ( eek! did I say that?)Maybe I'm feeling brave like Susan! 

On that note, here's a link to the superb 2005 Chronicles of Narnia film:

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Edwina the Emu

Author: Sheena Knowles
Illustrator: Rod Clement
Publisher: Angus Robertson, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 1996

I was passed this book on a bookstall at a school fayre; 'here'said the bookstall mum, 'you'll like this one, it's about a feminist emu, and it's pretty funny'. And she was right, it's really funny, Australian dry humour funny, and a 'feminist emu', why of course!
With loud, brash and garish illustrations, we meet Edwina and Edward, emus in love and expecting a brood of ten. On realising the news Edward shouts, 'YEEK!' and so starts the catchphrase of the book: 'he seemed to be choking, 'Ten litttle emus? you've got to be joking.' being the more collected of the pair, Edwina offers to leave the nest and go and seek work, in order to afford the brood. Edwina tries several jobs, as a ballerina, a chimney sweep and as a waitress. As each ends in an emu related drama, Edwina realises her calling is to sit on the nest (part time only, in a job share with Edward!)  I love this portrayal of a strong, independent thinking, progressive female, and the turn the story takes without compromising the central protagonist's empowerment. 

The bawdy carictures of other job seekers fit well with the laugh-out-loud storyline, an emu being equal to man in a queue at the bus stop, for example. The text is fun also, with simple rhyming couplets ( Some times the rhyme itself is a little over worked and tenuous, but again, this adds to the amusement!) The book looks and feels very Australian, with this loud swaggering humour and moments of irony, such as Edwina gettting a job as a chimney sweep and using her body to sweep the the whole chimney. 

My daughter dislikes Rod Clements' use of starring, googly and bloodshot eyes, which do, I think, put young people off the book. The faces of shock in the book, just aren't the more refined British interpretation of 'shocked face', they're too confrontational. The messages in the book are, however, hugely welcome, insighting a positive sense of womanhood, and promoting shared roles and duties as parents. I like that when Edwina returns to the nest, partner Edward is exhausted; a commment on the stresses of running a home for either gender. 
All in all, an uplifting read, embracing working women and equality in relationships.

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