September Kids Reads

Well it is now the end of September and I feel like I have finally got some time to spend with Maisie. Edie went back to school on the 2nd and Ceci started nursery on the 19th. Today was my first empty day to spend time with my baby. Due to the fact that Maisie was born just 2 weeks before the summer holidays, I really haven’t spent any time with just her. Today was the first day that I just sat in bed and let her fall asleep on me without having to divide my time between my other children. It was so precious and for a good hour I just looked at her!!!! πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈI feel very lucky.

  • Arabel’s Raven by Joan Aiken. Illustrated by Quentin Blake.
  • Joan Aiken born 4th September 1924.

Rescued from a late night hit-and-run by kind-hearted Mr Jones, Mortimer the raven quickly becomes a rather unusual family pet, with a VERY large appetite. Though Mrs Jones has misgivings, particularly after Mortimer’s night-time activities in the fridge, daughter Arabel falls in love at first sight. But when Mortimer vanished along with a priceless diamond brooch and a criminal squirrel, poor Arabel fears he may have bitten off more than he can chew.

My husband doesn’t understand the concept of blogging or Instagram. He has become a bit social media phobic and is of the view that people become a bit mad and obsessed. The fact that I left my copy of Arabel’s Raven in the fridge after taking the above picture didn’t do much to convince him I wasn’t a little bonkers. πŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ

I remember reading The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and A Necklace of Raindrops as a child but Arabel’s Raven must have passed me by. Written in 1972 with brilliant illustrations by Quentin Blake. I started reading this to Edie last week but she got bored a bit too quickly. She enjoyed fridge-loving, staircase-eating Mortimer and the evil squirrel but wanted to see more of Arabel who is a little passive in this book. 🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿

  • Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl.
  • Roald Dahl born on 13th September 1916.

Boggis is an enormously fat chicken farmer who only eats boiled chicken smothered in fat.

Bunce is a duck and goose farmer whose dinner gives him a beastly temper.

Bean is a turkey and apple farmer who only drink gallons of strong cider.

Mr Fox is so clever that every evening he creeps down into the valley and help himself to food from the farms.

Now the farmers have hatched a plan to bang bang bang shoot Mr Fox dead but just when they think Mr Fox can’t possibly escape, he makes a fantastic plan of his own…

I couldn’t let September pass without a mention for the great Roald Dahl. It seems particularly pertinent today as Ozzie won Matilda tickets in the lottery and he is taking Edie tonight….yes on a school night. Bad mum alert. I fear I will be reaping the rewards for this late night for a while!!!!πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜±πŸ˜± Incidentally if you are London based and it’s relatively easy to get to the theatre it is totally worth putting your name down for the lottery. We also won front row seats to Hamilton a few months ago!!!

As a total book geek it has been completely wonderful re-reading some of my childhood favourites with Edie and Ceci. I am definitely guilty of being a little over enthusiastic and making a few book related mistakes. The Naughtiest Girl in the School was one such error. I am sorry to say I gave up after chapter 1….I had to stop every few seconds to explain words like ‘beastly’ and ‘governess.’ Roald Dahl is an author I was desperate to introduce Edie to. George’s Marvellous Medicine and The Magic Finger have been hits but nothing has come close to Edie’s love of Fantastic Mr Fox. Although the story is obviously brill I think it’s a hit with little ones because it’s fast paced, has short chapters and the pictures in the colour edition are brilliant. Edie basically needs a picture every page to keep her interested!!! For my kids, a short chapter is pretty much vital….each chapter in this book ends on a bit of an Eastenders-esque cliff hanger and they are short enough that if storytime isn’t going particularly well, it is easy to abort!!

  • The Usborne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Colouring Fashion.
  • Okay so this isn’t a story book but it is definitely worth a shout out as it kept my kids occupied during many a rainy day on our glamping holiday. This was recommended by a dad on Instagram. I love Instagram for book recommendations….particularly kids books. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this colouring book and what I particularly like is there is the opportunity for kids to develop their own creativity by creating their own designs. Edie was totally immersed as was Ceci who created some very Hannibal Lecteresque looking designs.
  • A story about a lion and a duck- and having the courage to be yourself.

    Where do you get your book suggestions? For children’s books I rely on the library. We go once a week and take out the maximum amount of books. Anything we really love, I tend to buy for the kids…..books are definitely what I spend my money on. I have cupboards and drawers full of them.

    How to be a Lion has been a huge hit. My husband did storytime last night while I went for a run. When I got back, he wouldn’t shut up about the ‘incredibly empowering’ book he had just discovered. . As a non reader, the only books he picks up are the kids ones at story time so it’s important to get him some top material.πŸ˜ŠπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈA fab message to little ones just starting school…be true to yourself, be kind and stand by your friends. Ed Vere handles the subject of bullying in a really empowering way and it’s defo one of the best kids books we have read in a while. A big high five to all the Leonards who feel a little bit different but have the courage to stick to their guns. πŸ’ͺ 🦁 πŸ¦†

    August Reads

    August has been a slow month. The Summer holidays have felt loooooong. I am writing this during the last week of the school holidays. We are on holiday in beautiful Wales. We spent 2 nights in the Celtic Manor. This hotel reminded me of something you would find in the US. Absolutely massive hotel. I don’t think I have ever stayed anywhere with an underground car park and endless escalators. There was lots of stuff for kids to do and eating in the bar in the evening was fab as there were tons of kids so I didn’t feel self conscious being there with a crying baby. The downside was that we were staying in the Manor House which is part of the hotel but the other end….it’s a bit like the Celtic Manor’s poor relation. No escalators in this part of the hotel. Ozzie got proper annoyed with carrying the buggy. We also had a really dark and dingy room. Having a shower was like being at the bottom of a well.

    We then spent 3 nights at a glamping site called Wild Wellingtons. This site is just beautifully done. It’s pretty small – 2 pods sleeping about 5, a shepherd hut sleeping 4, a communal kitchen, 2 beautiful bathrooms, fire pit and a great play area. We were in the shepherd’s hut which had 2 bedroom and the most comfy beds. Edie and Ceci had the most wonderful time running all over the place doing what kids do. Tom and Sinead the owners were fab. I was amazed to learn that Tom pretty much built the place by himself. Sinead added tons of brilliant touches – egg boxes for the kids to collect bugs, a beautiful welcome pack, activities for the kids.

    We are now staying at a brilliant place called Clydey Cottages. I can’t recommend it enough if you have young kids. Accommodation is lovely and cosy. All cottages have wood burners. Warm pool, play room and soft play for kids. Big DVD library, tons of baby equipment. I feel relaxed and I even finished a book this morning!!!

    • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. 5⭐️.

    Yegondo, Korea 1911. A club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then a Christian minister offers a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

    Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country where she has no friends and no home. Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story.

    I am a pretty fast reader. I love nothing better than going to bed at the same time as the kids and reading for hrs! Beds are for books not sex!πŸ€£πŸ“šAnyway since the summer holidays started and Maisie was born my bed is just for sleep…and not much of it. 🀬. It has taken me a full month to get through Pachinko πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ. For me to enjoy a book I usually have to get through the first 60 pages in one go so I get hooked. It took me about 5 days to get through the first 60 pages of this book just due to lack of time and absolute exhaustion. That being said this is a 5⭐️ read for me. I have lived with 4 generations of this Korean family for a month now and i feel a little bereft now it’s finished. In many ways this was a quiet book – no major action sequences. It was just a beautiful book about family and how the decisions you make affect future generations. Anyway if you love a family saga pls read this book. I adored it!

    • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. 5⭐️.
    • Kamila Shamsie born 13th August 1973.

    For as long as they can remember, siblings Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz have had nothing but each other. But darker, stronger forces will divide Parvaiz from his sisters and drive him to the other side of the world, as he sets out to fulfil the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.

    Wow this book. Just wow!!! It’s been a long time since I have found a book so sad, distressing and moving.

    On 18th September 2004, Liverpudlian man Kenneth Bigley was kidnapped by an Islamic extremist group. The group said they would release Bigley and his two colleagues in 48 hours if coalition forces released their Iraqi women prisoners. Bigley’s colleagues were killed when the deadline expired. Ken Bigley was beheaded two weeks later. I remember Mr Bigley’s exhausted and terrified face on the front pages of all the papers. Each morning I woke up hoping that our Government had managed to intervene and save that poor, innocent man. On the 22nd September, the captors released a video of Ken Bigley begging for his life. Despite all efforts to save him, Ken Bigley was beheaded on 7th October.

    Shamsie’s Home Fire won the a Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018. I can honestly say it has been a long time since a book has moved me like this. This is a hard and uncomfortable read but Shamsie handles the subject matter with great sensitivity. Shamsie based the novel on on Sophocles’s play Antigone. Not having studied classics I rushed to Wikipedia….god it’s confusing so I shall save you from my opinions about Sophocles. I did manage to work out that Antigone is represented by Aneeka. Aneeka’s twin has followed in his father’s footsteps and joined ISIS, working in their media unit. Incidentally it’s the media unit that would have been responsible for filming the execution of Ken Bigley. When Parvaiz decides he wants to come back to the UK, Aneeka begins a relationship with Eammon, the son of the Muslim born Home Secretary:

    β€œI wanted Eamonn to want to do anything for me before I asked him to do something for my brother. Why shouldn’t I admit it? What would you stop at to help the people you love most?”

    This is a a relatively short book that packs an almighty punch. The first 30 pages were a little slow but after that I couldn’t put it down. I knew a story about a Jihadi terrorist was unlikely to end happily but I was unprepared for just how upsetting and moving the book would become and I know this novel will stay with me for a very long time. A book about faith, lack of faith, devotion, love and family. A brilliant read.

    • Caitlin Doughty born 19th August 1984.

    As a practicing mortician, Caitlin Doughty has long been fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies. In From Here to Eternity she sets out in search of cultures unburdened by such fears. With curiosity and morbid humour, Doughty introduces us to inspiring death-care innovators, participates in powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in the West and explores new spaces for mourning-including a futuristic glowing -Buddha columbarium in Japan, a candlelit Mexican cemetery, and America’s only open-air pyre. In doing so she expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with ‘dignity’ and reveals unexpected possibilities for our own death rituals.

    My husband’s nan died at the beginning of July. She was 96, so had had a good life. She left behind her 3 daughters, 7 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. Luckily, she didn’t suffer a long and horrible illness. She slipped away in her sleep surrounded by her family.

    The funeral was about a month after nan died. Driving back to London afterwards, my husband and I were feeling reflective. I haven’t been to many funerals and thankfully, I haven’t lost many loved ones, so death isn’t something I think about particularly. I’m not scared by it, more intrigued. It’s something I know I will have to confront…my parents and my own. I only hope that when death comes it will be like Nan’s and those I love, including myself will just slip away.

    Last week, sitting in the funeral car, following the hearse at 19 mph, watching dog walkers and postmen remove their hats out of respect, I started to think what I would want, or rather, what kind of sanitised-death-spectacle I want my family and friends to attend. My husband decided he wants to be thrown into the sea and then for everyone to go to the pub and I see his point. I definitely don’t want the sombre funeral home send off – coffin disappearing behind little velvet curtains, undertakers (who I’m sure are lovely but people I have never met) loading my coffin into a slowly moving car. The whole spectacle of a funeral is quite scary. I don’t mean the nice readings, I mean the bare bones (pun intended), the logistics.

    Where I live in SW London, there is a funeral home in between a Tesco Express and a Costa Coffee. There is no secret back entrance for bodies to be unloaded or loaded. We pass said funeral home on our way to nursery in the morning. We often have to wait while a coffin is loaded into a hearse. It obviously prompts lots of questions from my daughters. The coffin gets loaded and then people continue their day….taking kids to nursery, picking up milk and bread or buying a latte. It often strikes me weird – a life gone while we continue on. But that is what happens isn’t it?

    This gets me onto Caitlin. If you haven’t heard of Caitlin Doughty she is a mortician, blogger, YouTube star and author. I read Smoke Gets In Your Eyes after it was recommended on the brilliant What Should I Read Next podcast. I loved it and have since suggested it to lots of friends. Doughty advocates death acceptance. She encourages us to accept death as something that will happen to all of us. She describes Westerners as ‘death phobic’ and suffering from ‘death anxiety.’ On reading From Here To Eternity it is clear that we are far from embracing death as readily as other cultures. I am happy that nan got the funeral she wanted….I’m not sure as a culture we are ready to live with our corpses like in Indonesia but it was definitely an illuminating read and provided food for thought!

    Thanks for reading this month!!!

    August Kids Reads

    Hi all. I hope you have had a good summer….I can’t believe it is nearly over. Next thing we know it will be Christmas….hasn’t this year just flown by???? So this time last month I was pretty intimidated by the prospect of a summer looking after a 6 yr old, a 3 yr old and a newborn. Well I am proud to say I survived relatively unscathed. My days were sponsored by berocca in the morning and a glass of wine at night and then bed fit me at 8pm. Book wise, August has been poor and for this I apologise. I am sad to say that after a day of fun-filled activities with 3 kids, I have fallen asleep before story time on numerous nights or if not asleep, I am feeding the baby so have plonked the other two in front of the TV. I am hoping September will be an improvement.

    • Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam. The Diamond Chase by Tracey Corderoy.

    There are diamonds galore at the grand ball and detective dogs Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam are cooking on the job when disaster strikes!

    Somebody’s swiped Lady Kate’s Tiara! But who can it be? And can the doggy duo catch the thief before he scarpers?

    My girls and I love this series. Good pictures and brilliant rhymes. Always a moral in the story and always encourages the conversation about apologies helping to make things right. Ceci, 3 is definitely not a fan of the wordsorry.’

    My girls love a search in a book and it becomes pretty competitive to find the little πŸ•·. As a mum I am happy as there are lots of opportunities to practice my acting skills and work on my accents. πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

    • The Great Fairytale Search by Chuck Whelon.

    A truly magical search book brimming with enchanting scenes from kids’ favourite fairytales. Children can find Cinderella’s glass slipper, seven little lamps in the cottage of the seven dwarves and even the Big Bad Wolf hiding in the forest.

    • Spot the dinosaur on the Island by Stella Maidment.

    From spiky stegosauruses to speedy velociraptors, there is so much to see on Dinosaur Island!

    With a hidden baby T.Rex to find in every scene and fun facts to discover throughout, step inside for hours of entertainment.

    • Where’s the Mermaid by Chuck Whelon.

    Join Meria and her friends on their exciting adventure around the world.

    Explore 16 amazing locations -from the Mer- Kingdom deep under the waves, to a paradise island, the frozen Arctic, a hectic circus and a scary sushi bar.

    I thought I would curb my jealousy of those who are jetting away to sunnier climes and feature some books that could while away some holiday hours or times on the plane. ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️My kids love a book with a search. I give them each about 5 things to look for and it keeps them quiet for at least 5 mins until they try to get super competitive with eachother. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ Ceci 3, loves the dinosaur and fairytale book. πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ¦–πŸ¦•πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ¦•πŸ¦–πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ¦•πŸ¦–πŸ§šπŸ»β€β™€οΈEdie 6, loves a bit of πŸ§œπŸΌβ€β™€οΈ action. All 3 are massive hits and give me enough time to drink a hot cuppa or a chilled glass of white.

    • The Queen’s Orangutan by David Walliams.
    • David Walliams born 20th August 1971.

    Written exclusively for Comic Relief 2015 by David Walliams. From Number One bestselling picture book duo, David Walliams and Tony Ross, comes this spectacularly funny story for children of 3 and up.

    A bored queen.

    A birthday wish.

    An outrageous orang-utan.

    Everything’s about to go bananas!

    Written by David Walliams as an exclusive children’s picture book especially for Comic Relief – David will be giving all of his proceeds from the book to the charity. The illustrator, Tony Ross, will waive his royalties and HarperCollins UK will also donate all profits from the publishing of the book – at least Β£3 from each copy sold will go to Comic Relief.

    The Queen’s Orangutan is our book du jour at the moment. This basically means that I read it to my kids every night.πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’ Usually reading the same book EVERY night makes me want to kill someone but I honestly find it impossible to have murderous thoughts about the wonderful Walliams. This book is a really fun read with tons of opportunity to work on your royal voices!!🀣Illustrations by Tony Ross are brilliant as always and pokes fun at the royals…Prince Phillip is a little red-nosed and looks like he enjoys the occasional bevy. 🀣. As you can see from the pic, Cill thinks it’s hilarious…or it could be the fact that Maisie had just filled her nappy!

    Thanks for reading all. It is now 18:25 so I am going to get ready for bed!!πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

    July Kids Reads

    Well July has been a crazy month. Maisie was born on the 3rd….thankfully I didn’t have to wait until I was 41 weeks. I am so relieved that she is finally here. The past 38 weeks were full of anxiety that I would be told those fateful words again….’I’m sorry but it’s not good news.’ I think the pessimist in me was always preparing myself to hear those words so when Maisie was born I was quite shocked. Ceci and Edie are being brilliant big sisters. Very hands on….VERY!!πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ. I have to say that I’m slightly daunted by 6 weeks of summer holidays with 3 kids buy hey ‘Go hard or go home.’

    • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
    • Johanna Spyri died 7th July 1901.

    I remember having a VHS tape with the Shirley Temple film of Heidi. It was black and white and I thought it was mega dull. I mean black and white?!?!? I would always press fast forward to get to The Sound of Music which was also recorded on the same tape.

    I have bought a few of these Usborne books for Edie. She loves them. Lovely pictures, short chapters and a simplified story. Since becoming a big big sister she has taken to reading a story to Ceci and Maisie at night. Although this adds an extra 20 minutes to the bedtime routine it is not something I want to discourage….in fact I hid outside their bedroom with my glass of wine feeling pretty proud! πŸ₯°

    • Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andreae and Russell Ayto.

    When Flinn discovers a pirate hiding in a cupboard, it’s all aboard, me hearties, for a real live pirate adventure! But there are some mean baddies on the loose……

    Will fearless Flinn be able to captain the ship and defeat the Pirate Dinosaurs?

    The other day I did a post about what I look for in a children’s book. If I’m going to read it every night I appreciate a good rhyme, fun illustrations and the opportunity to indulge my inner actress with some epic voices. My lovely friend sent me these 3 books which were adored by her children. My girls LOVE them! No rhymes but brilliant pics and my Cornish Captain Stubble voice is already worthy of an Oscar…..sorry to brag. πŸ΄β€β˜ οΈ πŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈπŸ΄β€β˜ οΈThese book are high-octane, swash buckling adventures so make sure you follow it with something suitably dull or the kids will never go to bed!!!

      Grandmas from Mars by Michelle Robinson. Illustrations by Fred Blunt.

    Fred and Nell’s parents are off to a meeting. But first they tell Grandma, “Here’s what they’ll be eating. It’s school in the morning, they can’t be up late. So: homework, a bath – and in bed before eight.”

    But, HANG ON, there’s something not quite right about Fred and Nell’s Grandma. In fact, she’s acting very strangely indeed. And is that a spare eyeball? A tail? A striped tongue? That’s not their grandma, it’s an ALIEN….RUUUUUUUUNNN!

    Yesssssssssss! It rhymes, it’s pacy, it has opportunity for melodramatic voices and the illustrations are great. It’s a hit from the kids and more importantly from ME!!!! We love this book. Ceci (3) finds it just the right amount of scary and proudly told her Grandpa that her new favourite book is the ‘scariest thing in the world.’ It’s really not!

    Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great summer.

    See you next month.

    May kids reads

    So, mid-May and we are in the final countdown before little girl #3 comes along. Having lost a baby last August I am definitely ready for my baby to be here. I know how lucky I am but this pregnancy has been proper stressful. I am at that strange third trimester phase of being excited and also terrified of change. Typical cancerian, change is a little scary for me!!! 🀣😱. Next week we are off to Mousehole in Cornwall for our last holiday as a 4. Definitely the last time we can all fit comfortably in the car. I am completely ready to have some proper family time. Sandcastles, crab salads, ice cream and hopefully some good books.

    • The Railway Children by E Nesbit.
    • E Nesbit died 4th May 1924.

    β€˜β€œOh! My Daddy, my Daddy!” That scream went like a knife into the heart of everyone in the train, and people put their heads out of the window to see a tall pale man with thin lips set in a close line, and a little girl clinging to him with arms and legs, while his arms went tightly round her.’ β€οΈπŸš‚β€οΈπŸš‚β€οΈπŸš‚β€οΈπŸš‚β€οΈπŸš‚

    Not a review but who doesn’t have fond memories of The Railway Children??? We used to have it on cassette and it was definitely one of my favourite. I also loved the film. Mr Perks has to be one of the best characters and I remember loving the part when the Old Gentleman sent the hamper when mother had influenza. Just beautiful.

    • Peter Pan by J M Barrie.
    • J M Barrie born 9th May 1860.

    ‘”Wendy,” Peter Pan continued in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, “Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”‘🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

    I wonder what Mr Barrie thinks of the legacy he left behind? I remember my dad taking me to see it at the cinema….it must have been re-released as this outing definitely didn’t happen in 1953. Following the Leader is a song that we probably sing everyday in my family!!!

    • Toto. The Dog Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo.
    • L Frank Baum born 15th May 1856.

    From master storyteller MICHAEL MORPURGO, and illustrated in stunning colour by the award-winning EMMA CHICHESTER CLARK, comes a surprising, charming and uplifting twist on The Wizard of Oz, told by a very special and unforgettable character: Dorothy’s pet dog, Toto. A perfect, collectible gift for all children (and children at heart).

    β€œI was there,” Papa Toto said, and those magic words sent shivers down my spine. It was going to be the Wizard story. β€œDorothy and me were both there.”
    We were all silent, snuggled up together, waiting, waiting.
    Then Papa Toto began…

    When a twister descends on their Kansas farm, Toto and his owner Dorothy hide in the house – only to be plucked into the air and whisked away!

    Coming down with a crash in the mysterious land of Oz, the pair meet a series of extraordinary characters: a scarecrow who believes he has no brains, a tin man without a heart, and a cowardly lion who may not be as cowardly as he thinks he is.

    But Toto and Dorothy are desperate to return home – after all, home is home, and home is best! So they set off with their new friends on a journey down the yellow brick road to find the only person who might be able to help them: the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

    But what they find might surprise them. And on the way, all of them will learn that what they think they are missing might have been there, all along…

    Beautifully illustrated throughout, this is an unforgettable telling of a classic story, and a must for every bookshelf.

    I was really happy to discover this book and it would be a perfect gift for a Wizard of Oz fan. Telling the tale from Toto’s point of view is a fab twist and Chichester Clark’s illustrations are beautiful and colourful. Unfortunately, Edie (6) was a little young to appreciate it….you know when you have to skip bits or use ridiculously exaggerated voices to hold their attention??? Yes, I felt that I had to do that a lot. Anyway, I think it would be brilliant to read aloud to a 7/8 year old. Lovely book.

    • The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem.
    • Jill Barklem born 23rd May 1951.

    If I had to name a book or series that summed up my childhood it would be the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem. When my sister and I were little we lived in a village outside of Market Harborough. My paternal grandparents lived in Carlisle so seeing them was a big treat. I remember when we woke up in the mornings we could get into their bed and Grandma would read to us. Grandpa who was a typical dour Scot would try to grab our legs under the covers….I remember always being a little scared of him. Coming from a family of boys he found the idea of granddaughters pretty terrifying. Not so my Grandma. I used to love her reading to me and Brambly Hedge was my favourite. I loved the idea of the mice having their whole world under our noses. The illustrations were absolutely wonderful – really detailed so there were always new things to spot. I think my favourite was Winter Story. This one really captured my imagination….the mice find a forgotten part of the house which is full of old toys and dressing up clothes….what child wouldn’t love this?!?!? My idea of heaven.

    The Well-Loved Tales from Ladybird are a massive hit in our house. I remember loving them as a child so every time I pass a second hand book shop I scour the shelves. Ceci completely adores The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, The Three Little Pigs and also Rapunzel. Edie is more of an Elves and the Shoemaker kind of girl. I also remember having a lot of these stories on cassette….the accompanying music was always something by Beethoven….did anyone else have the same tapes???

    • The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside.

    Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her – in a big blue bag. They are with her all the time – at school, at home, when she is watching TV and even in the bathroom! Jenny decides they have to go, but who will help her get rid of them?

    A funny and reassuring look at dealing with worries and anxiety, to be used as a spring board into important conversations with your child.

    13th-19th May is Mental Health Awareness Week so I thought I should post a book that helps deal with anxiety in children. With the imminent arrival of our third daughter, I wanted to read a book which would prompt the girls to tell me their worries about the baby. Brownie points go to the emotional and hormonal mum but my girls weren’t interested. No worries apparently. πŸ€°πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€°πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ. So instead of pressing the issue, I read the book in bed with a nice cuppa. πŸ˜‚πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜‚The illustrations are lovely and it’s perfect for KS1 and 2 children who like me are worriers. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈI have had depression on and off since I was 16 years old. It is not something I am ashamed of. It’s something that makes me me along with a wobbly mummy tummy and small boobs. I used to feel guilty that I had no β€˜reason’ to be depressed but now I accept that it’s just down to chemistry. (I always hated chemistry at school so it’s probably karma🀣). I have taken Citalopram but am currently taking Sertraline for my depression. Both have worked well and I have always been able to come off them easily when I have wanted to – MYTH 1 BUSTED. πŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™Œ

    I am getting on well with Sertraline and still able to get emotional when my daughter sings songs from The Greatest Showman. Your drug of choice DOESN’T have to make you feel like an emotional desert – MYTH 2 BUSTED – If your medication isn’t working for you, try something else. πŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™Œ

    I think the important word in MHA Week is to be AWARE. Be pro-active about your mental health. No one should feel hopeless and like you are at the bottom of a dark well. No one should feel ashamed when they are struggling. Please ask for help. Go to a doctor or a counsellor. You have one life. Live it! Learn what keeps you sane. For me it’s books. I need the escape a book provides me, I need the feeling of achievement finishing a book gives me and most of all I need the solitude that reading provides. πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šPlease don’t suffer in silence.

    Right that is all from me this month. I am currently writing this from our tiny cottage in Mousehole Cornwall. Ozzie has taken then girls rockpooling so I have about half an hour before they return overtired and probably with bleeding knees!!!!

    January kids reads

    Hi all. Well it seems that the longest month EVER is coming to an end and with it go my nights off. It’s a major flaw in my personality that as an opera singer, I hate working nights. As a mum with young children it’s a bit pants. I see the girls in the morning, send them to school and don’t see them until the next morning. I spend a massive chunk of time feeling guilty and obsessing about the time I am missing and will never get back with my children. The only bonus is come April, I have some time off with them and hope to overdose them with brilliant books!!!

    • Hamilton’s Hats by Martine Oborne and Axel Scheffler.

    Hamilton the Pig is very fond of hats – big hats, small hats, tall hats and suitable-for-every-and-any-occasion sort of hats. Hamilton loves hats so much his mum starts to worry that he’s a very vain little pig. Little does she know that Hamilton’s favourite hats will teach him some very important lessons!

    Hamilton’s Hats by Martine Oborne is a wonderfully funny tale, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the award-winning creator of The Gruffalo.

    It is definitely the sign of a book addict when you discover books you didn’t even know you owned! I have no idea where and from whom we acquired this book but it was a new read for all of us. The girls really enjoyed it. There is a double page at the end with loads of different hat pictures so we had a fun game of guessing which of us would wear which hat.

    • Lewis Carroll died 14th January 1898.

    I remember car journeys as a child (long before iPads were invented), when my parents would play a cassette tape to help pass the time. I remember staring out of the car window listening to fairy tales, The Jungle Book and Roald Dahl. I tried this with my children on the way back to my parent’s house for Christmas. I downloaded George’s Marvellous Medicine read by Derek Jacobi. I think it held Edie’s attention for all of 15 minutes.

    My sister and I loved our BBC recording of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass read by the incredible Alan Bennett. Looking Glass has always been my favourite out of the two and Bennett’s dead-pan reading made the nonsense seem even more ridiculous.

    • The Trouble With Mum by Babette Cole.
    • Babette Cole died 15th January 2017.

    The trouble with Mum is that she’s a witch, and just can’t help turning people into toads, and other such embarrassing things. Finally, however, her odd talents find a good use. By the author/illustrator of “Three Cheers for Errol”, “Tarzanna” and “The Hairy Book”.

    Oh the wonderful Babette Cole. I remember reading this book (which was published in 1983) as a child and now I am sharing it with my own children. Surely this is the sign of a good book…a book that stands the test of time. My children laugh at and love the same things that I did (and still do). The illustrations are fabulous. There is loads to look at and spot. The text is large so Edie can start to read it herself. Babette Cole reminds me a little of the Winnie the Witch books by Valerie Thomas in that they both contain the right amount of yuk to keep children entertained.

    • AA Milne born 18th January 1882.

    • Rudyard Kipling died 18th January 1936.

    • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
    • First published on the 28th January 1813.

    BabyLit(R) Storybooks give classics new life for the next generation of early readers.

    In Pride & Prejudice, children are invited into the Regency period to meet the Bennett sisters, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and other beloved characters from Jane Austen’s classic tale. Elegant balls, surprise proposals, and a visit to Pemberley are just a few events to look forward to in this story about appearances, misunderstandings, and love. Quotes from the original text are woven throughout this retelling, and the imaginative artwork will engage readers of all ages. This is a book to be treasured throughout childhood and beyond.

    I picked up this copy when we went to Jane Austen’s house this summer. We had a brilliant day. The sun was shining, beautiful flowers in the garden, nice pub lunch. The kids had a great time. Edie dressed up as Jane Austen, Ceci wrote with a quill and they did a treasure hunt in the garden…it is definitely worth a visit.

    As a reminder of our lovely day I picked up this book for the girls. This was the beginning of my love affair with Baby Lit. This is a brilliant company that takes classic books and makes them approachable to younger readers. There are the primers for little ones, which introduce them to numbers and shapes. For the older children there are story books which simplify the classics. This copy with story retold by Stephanie Clarkson and art by Annabel Tempest is beautiful and would make a great gift. Edie and Ceci love looking at the girls dresses and in my opinion it’s never too young to introduce children to Mr Darcy.

    Anyway, see you all next month.

    Thanks so much for reading.

    December Children’s Reads

    Happy New Year to all you wonderful people. I hope you had a restful break. Is Christmas ever restful??? Maybe not restful then, eventful. We spent Christmas with my parents in Leicestershire and then we went to the Wirral for New Year to stay with my in laws. We head off to Wales tomorrow for a few days for what I hope will be the calm after the storm.

    • Christmas by Dick Bruna

    Dick Bruna brings his iconic style to this beautiful re-telling of the Nativity story.

    About the Author

    Dick Bruna was born in 1927 in Utrecht, Holland. Dick comes from a family of publishers who under the name of ‘A.W. Bruna and Son’ started to print books in 1868. While on holiday in 1955, Dick began to tell his son stories about a little white rabbit who lived in the garden of their holiday home and this little rabbit soon became known to the world as Miffy. Dick Bruna is now one of the most famous creators of picture books in the world. He has written and illustrated 124 books, which have sold over 85 million copies in 50 languages.

    When Edie came home a few weeks ago, all excited about the forthcoming Nativity in which she was to play a star, I started to ask her what the play would be about. “Well mummy, the play is called Funky Camels and it’s basically about how funky camels are.” “Hmmmmmmm” was my response and then I asked Edie what she knew about the real Christmas Story. “Well mum. Joseph and Enid had the baby Jesus. Shepherds came and some Kings who brought gold, Frank and mud.” πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜±πŸ˜± Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with schools updating the Christmas story, as long as the children do actually know what the Christmas story is about.

    So, I brought out this book by the Miffy author Dick Bruna. A perfect version of the Christmas story for young kids. As you would expect from Bruna, the pictures are eye catching and brilliantly simple. The story doesn’t have a funky camel in sight and just does what it says on the tin….a lovely version of the Christmas story.

    • The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann.

    The story that inspired the legendary ballet, presented in a beautiful hardcover edition perfect for giving as a gift.

    Written in 1816 by the German Romantic E. T. A. Hoffmann for his children, nephews and nieces, The Nutcracker captures better than any other story a child’s wonder at Christmas. Since its publication, it has inspired hundreds of artists and adaptations, most notably the legendary ballet, scored by Russian composer Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Today, the story – and its enchanting images of sugar plums and nutcrackers, mistletoe and the Kingdom of the Dolls – continues to cast its fantastical spell on readers of all ages.

    E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) was one of the major figures of European Romanticism, specializing in tales of the fantastical and uncanny. He was also a music critic, jurist, composer and caricaturist. His Tales of Hoffmann, available in Penguin Classics, includes such masterpieces as ‘Mademoiselle de Scudery’, one of the earliest example of crime fiction, and Hoffmann’s terrifying version of ‘The Sandman’. 

    Joachim Neugroschel won three PEN translation awards and the French-American Foundation Translation Prize. He translated Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, among other works, for Penguin Classics.

    I have to say that I am not one for buying beautiful books. Books probably see me coming and cower in the corner. I am a book’s worst nightmare. People choose not to borrow my books. I read them in the bath, they sit in my bag and get covered in whatever delicacy I have forgotten to remove for the bottom corners….usually old raisins. I only use a bookmark if I have a spare photo lurking around, but usually I fold down a corner. I am not a girl who instagrams her beautiful hardback copies of Jane Austen novels. Since having children however, people have bought the girls beautiful copies of books. The Nutcracker has been sat on my shelf for a couple of years and this Penguin Classic copy is absolutely beautiful. Right here comes the shocker….the ballet is tons better!!!! Tons. I persevere but I have to say, as soon as we got to the section about the sausage (!!!) I started skimming. Yup, not a patch on the ballet.

    • Jane Austen born 16th December 1775.

    If you are a big Austen fan and looking to start β€˜em young, it is definitely worth checking this book out from the fabulous @babylitbooks. This is what is known as an opposites primer…prettt much what you get on the tin. Babies will love it and actually my 3 year old thinks it’s the best thing ever. This morning on the way to nursery she told me she was sad like Brandon!!!πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ I hope she doesn’t say it too often or people will think I have raised a right show off! @babylitbooks is a company I discovered this year and they are beautiful books. For little ones there are the primers and older children can enjoy the storybooks. My 5 year old loves Pride and Prejudice. Anyway it’s never to early to get your kids into the classics and @babylitbooks are perfect for that.

      Watership Down by Richard Adams.
      Richard Adams died 24th December 2016.

    A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over forty years, Richard Adams’ spellbinding classic Watership Down is one of the best-loved novels of all time. Set in the beautiful English countryside of the Berkshire Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of very special rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a developer. Led by a stout-hearted pair of brothers, they leave the safety of Sandleford Warren in search of a safe haven and a mysterious promised land, skirting danger at every turn.

    A book that resonates as vividly today as it did nearly half a century ago, this keepsake Oneworld Classic edition showcases more than twenty sumptuous, evocative paintings from Aldo Galli, an illustrator chosen by Richard Adams himself.

    I have very clear memories of reading this book and The Hobbit in my first year of secondary school. I remember the books being handed out in English class covered in old wall paper or wrapping paper which we were encouraged to do to keep the covers neat and clean. I have remember feeling really excited because I had loved the film/cartoon and also because it felt like a big, thick, grown-up book. I’m sad to say, the excitement did not last. Everything about our English teacher was grey, including the way she taught English.

    Watership Down is a big, dense book. Although it is beautifully written, I am not sure my 11 year old mind would have appreciated this fact. At 37, I have enjoyed it but I am struck by how massive a tome it must have felt to my 11 year old mind. I then got to thinking how many books were ruined for me by dull, dull teachers or readers. I used to take my little ones to story time at the library. We stopped going when Ceci fell asleep….lulled by the monotonous rendition of The Wonky Donkey. I honestly thought it was impossible to make this book sound like a reading of the Financial Times but it appears not. I am a firm believer that if you are lucky enough to have a job which aims to inspire kids, make sure you do so.

    • Hamish the Highland Cow by Natalie Russell.

    Hamish is a Highland cow and VERY hairy. He hates having baths and NEVER cuts his hair. Why should he when his shaggy coat is the perfect place to keep his favourite sweet – toffees! But one day his friends get fed up with the increasingly smelly Hamish, and they hatch a plan that involves a hairdresser and, yes, toffees! An exuberant story with bold, bright illustrations from a very talented artist. ‘Russell’s bright-eyed cast, including sheep with coloured rinses, is full of character and her text is deftly delivered – it’s a gift to read aloud.’ Scottish Sunday Herald

    This year we spent Christmas with my parents in Leicestershire. On the 27th we loaded up the car again and drove to the Wirral to spend the aftermath with Ozzie’s parents. One of the many reasons I love going to other houses is to browse their book shelves and kids books are no exception. On the first night we read Hamish The Highland Cow. This is a complete joy to read aloud….my Scottish accent is pretty impeccable (even if I do say so myself) and what child doesn’t love a book where you as the adult can do some entertaining voices??? This would also be a great book to buy if you are the owner of a little person who hates getting their hair cut. We have now been on the Wirral for 4 nights and this book has been requested every night. My accent is going from strength to strength and as the reader, I am definitely not getting bored. Thank you Natalie Russell for writing such a readable book.

    Thanks for reading and have a great January.