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 Childrenโ€™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.” ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ 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 โ€˜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 itโ€™s the best thing ever. This morning on the way to nursery she told me she was sad like Brandon!!!๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ I hope she doesnโ€™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 itโ€™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 Adamsโ€™ 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.

November reads for children

Hi all. Well that’s it for November. It’s been a pretty mental month. We opened 3 new shows in work and I have been out pretty much every night working. As a chorister in a Opera company, the fact that I hate having a show every night is a major flaw. As a mum with young kids it’s pretty pants. I take the girls to school and nursery in the morning and am often gone before they get back . I feel like the worst mum at drop off saying “see you tomorrow morning Edie.” God knows what the teachers think I do for a living. Because I am not doing proper mothering during the day, my girls are constantly waking up at about 3 am and looking for some mum time. I feel and look a little like a zombie.

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker.
  • Bram Stoker born 8th November 1847.

A dramatic retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic horror story retold for children ready to tackle longer and more complex stories. Jonathan Harker has no idea of the horrors that await him in Castle Dracula. An ancient evil is alive and hungry for new blood. Can Jonathan and his friends defeat it? Part of the Usborne Reading Programme developed with reading experts at the University of Roehampton.

We read this at the beginning of the month when Edie was still on a high from Halloween. My daughter is all about the scares and I remember being similar at her age. Witches, ghosts, vampires all completely intrigued me. Edie is also a sucker (๐Ÿคฃ) for a love story and that is essentially what Dracula is about. I think if you want to introduce your kids to a little scary then as long as good triumphs over evil then all is well. I would also like to do a big shout out to the Usborne Young Reader books. They are utterly brilliant. The titles are very varied, the illustrations are fabulous and thanks to this range I have introduced Edie to some brilliant Classics which I hope she will love forever.

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman.
  • Neil Gaiman born 10th November 1960.

There is something strange about Coraline’s new home. It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It’s the other house – the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.

Gaiman is an author I only really started to get into last year. The Ocean and the End of the Lane was my favourite book last year. I think Edie is a little young for this (although I did read a review of a 4 year old boy who listened to it on audio and loved it). I think we will try it in a year or two.

Coraline is a great heroine and a great role model for kids…..

โ€œBecause,โ€™ she said, โ€˜when youโ€™re scared but you still do it anyway, thatโ€™s brave.โ€

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Coraline is quirky, independent, adventurous, intelligent and curious. Gaiman is a master at writing non-condescending books that appeal to adults as well as children. I also applaud the fact that he doesnโ€™t shy away from the creepy… I often feel that as parents we are so scared of our kids being scared. Edie definitely handles creepy things like a pro. I think as parent I am happy for Edie to read something a little scary as long as there is no gratuitous violence and also makes the point that good can conquer evil. I donโ€™t want her to feel that the horror can continue. In Coraline, Gaiman does just that.

  • Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough.
  • Jez Alborough born 12th November 1959.

All dogs walk and jump and run, but dogs don’t fly – it can’t be done…can it? Jez Alborough’s uplifting tale will fly off the page and straight into the hearts of anyone who has ever, just for a second, stopped believing in miracles.

Some Dogs Do is a fave in our house. When asking Ceci (3) what she likes about it, she said she likes it because itโ€™s sad. Morose little thing that she is. Itโ€™s not particularly sad but as Sid loses his self belief, he finds that he can no longer fly. ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

Edieโ€™s review was just as entertaining. โ€œItโ€™s a book of lies mummy. Dogs cannot fly.โ€ ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

Anyway, I guess that was Alboroughโ€™s point. Dream big little ones. Lovely book, lovely rhymes, pictures and message.

  • The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles M Schulz.
  • Charles M Schulz born 26th November 1922.

Celebrate Halloween with Linus, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang in this shaped board book with holographic foil on the front cover!

Linus loves one thing more than his cherished blue blanket: The Great Pumpkin! He believes that on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch to bring presents to all the kids in the world. Will Linus and his friends ever finally see him? Learn all about the legend of the Great Pumpkin in this adorable board book based on the classic Peanuts comic strips!

Thanks to Birthday Reads I am trying to make a real point of introducing myself and the children to authors born in the current month. As a result there have been some hits….The Secret Garden (Oct) and also some misses….The Selfish Giant which I loved but Edie thought was boring (Oct). There have also been some misses for me. I canโ€™t stand The Rhyming Rabbit by Julia Donaldson (Sept). My husband and I both try to scarper when Ceci requests this. ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฐ

Unfortunately The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles Schulz (Nov 26th) is another miss from me. Yes itโ€™s seasonal, but the story is utter pap. Schulz himself seems to get bored of his writing and finishes the book without resolving the already tenuous storyline.๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ Anyway, thanks to that Law of Sod, Cilla ADORES it. When asking her why, she says because itโ€™s scary (itโ€™s not) and exciting (itโ€™s not). ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ

Happy Birthday for the 26th Mr Schulz. ๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚

And the last book of the month and the biggest hit…….

  • The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith.

The book behind the viral internet sensation of “The Scottish Granny” reading this story to her grandchild, viewed over 3 million times.ย Based on the popular song, THE WONKY DONKEY has sold over one million copies worldwide.ย Who ever heard of a spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey?ย This hilarious picture book will have children – and adults – braying with laughter!

One for the grown ups more than the kids I think. Ozzie (my husband) would admit to not being a lover of books. For him to enjoy reading to the kids it has to be a funny one. I think the pic shows how much he enjoyed it. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

The Wonkey Donkey started out as a bit of a YouTube sensation of a Scottish grandma reading it to her grandson. It really is hilarious.

๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿด

Anyway thank you Craig Smith and Katz Cowley, this is utterly hilarious.

Children’s Reads for September

I have decided from now on to do something different with my blog. Each month, ย I am going to focus on books whose authors were born or died during that month. There will be some exceptions like when I have a specific book to review or I am just so excited to share a book with you all. I will also be doing this in my posts about adult books. One thing I have noticed, is that with a lot of modern book releases, it is hard to find a date of birth of some authors, so apologies that during some months, I may have to bend the rules.

  • Jane Hissey. 1st September 1952.
  • Ruff

A woolly dog bounces into the playroom with no name and no home. But worst of all, he says he has never had a birthday! Luckily, Old Bear and the other toys are bursting with brilliant birthday ideas for their new-found friend.

I remember reading these books with my sister when we were children. Picking them up again 30 years on and they haven’t aged at all. Both my girls enjoyed the books – Edith (5) more than Ceci (3). The pictures are absolutely stunning and Edie loved reading about Old Bear and Ruff to her school of toys.

  • Julia Donaldson. 16th September
  • The Snail and the Whale

One little snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of an enormous whale. Together they go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it’s the tiny snail’s big plan that saves the day!

I think The Snail and the Whale is one of my fave Donaldson books. I love the sentiment that no matter how small you are, you can still do amazing, brave things. Also how humbling it is to be aware of the size and magnificence ofย our planet. Its impossible to mention Julia Donaldson without a massive nod to Axel Scheffler. I say his name and a rock star image is conjured up…..Axl Rose. Scheffler is nowt like Axl Rose ๐Ÿ˜‚. His illustrations are completely epic. Really engaging and there are always lovely little details to spot. Ceci (2) loved looking for the tiny snail in every picture.

  • The Detective Dog

There once was a dog with a keen sense of smell.
She was known far and wide as Detective Dog Nell.

Peterโ€™s dog Nell has an amazing sense of smell. Her ever-sniffing nose is always hard at work solving mysteries and finding all Peterโ€™s lost toys. But Nell has other talents too . . .

When sheโ€™s not cracking cases, Nell goes to school with Peter and listens to the children read. Books about dinosaurs, books about space and even books about dogs โ€“ Nell loves them all! But one day Peter and Nell arrive at school to find all the books have disappeared! Who could have taken them, and why? Luckily, Detective Dog Nell, with help from the whole class, is ready to sniff out the thief!

Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by the multi-talented illustrator and print-maker Sara Ogilvie, The Detective Dog is a fast-paced celebration of books, reading, libraries and the relationship between a little boy and his rather special dog.

The story is about Nell the Detective Dog who helps a class hunt down a book thief. Ted (the thief) is overjoyed to discover that he can borrow books for free from his library. His stealing days are over!!!

Any book that promotes the use of libraries is top banana! As children, my sister and I were taken to the library a lot. As a mum, I go at least once a week…storytime, rhyme time and just taking books out. I remember, as a child being so excited to take 8 books home. Playing librarians was a common childhood game. I used to be intrigued by the barcode scanner….this has now lost its joy when I am standing at the self checkout in Sainsburyโ€™s and the scanner goes on the blink.

For a book to be a hit for Edie and Ceci, the story has to be fast paced, exciting, brilliant pictures with tons to look at and it is a massive bonus if the word โ€˜pooโ€™ appears. โ€˜Pooโ€™ makes an appearance on page 2 so my discerning girls are happy. Is is also important to say that Sarah Ogilvieโ€™s pictures are fab with tons to spot. Brilliant book. Happy Birthday Month Julia Donaldson!

  • Eric Hill September 7th.

Eric Hill OBE. What a legend. Born in 1927. The Spot books have been translated into 60 languages. It is reported that he said “children have far more intelligence and style than many adults credit them with.”

This book is a special copy for me. My dad bought it for my eldest daughter Edith, on a shopping trip. It means so much because it is always Nana who spoils my children, bringing them presses and cakes. This was a gift chosen by ‘Pampa’ with no input from Nana, so to me, it is very special.

  • The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield.

One day, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before in the forest. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument, and eventually the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods. The bear goes with them on an incredible journey to New York, where his piano playing makes him a huge star. He has fame, fortune and all the music in the world, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind. A moving tale of exploration and belonging from an exciting debut author-illustrator.

This book is very loved in our family. My sister bought it for Edith and it has been one of those books that I buy for all my friend’s children. The sentiment behind the story is beautiful: your true friends will support and encourage you in your talents without envy. Your true friends will let you spread your wings and fly and when your heart leads you home, your family will be there with open arms. Edie, Ceci and I had a funny chat about things that make us so happy you forget where you are….Edie – sweets and Ceci – her dummy. Nothing as profound as music. ๐Ÿ˜‚. As an over emotional musician, I find the book ridiculously moving. Edie tells me off for crying at the end! The illustrations are so beautiful. Can’t wait to read the next book The Bear, the piano, the dog and the fiddle.

  • Hide and Seek by Taro Gomi

In the tradition of classic hidden pictures, international favorite Taro Gomi slyly infuses his dynamic original art with objects that don’t go where they belong. A crocodile’s grin is a toothbrush; a butterfly’s dots are hearts. Young readers will delight to find the unexpected treasures hidden in the brightly coloured illustrations.

My little Cecilia/ceci/Cilla. I can’t say she lives in her sister’s shadow. Ceci is a force to be reckoned with, but when it comes to choosing the films we watch or the books we read, her older sister often overrules. At 3, she has grow out of the brilliantย That’s not my….series and the constant asking for Peppa does get a little boring. Ceci does however love this book by Taro Gomi. Gomi is a very famous Japanese author. Ceci loves spotting the everyday objects hidden in the animals . If you are ever looking for a good book for a little one, give this a go.

  • Dr Seuss. Died 24th September 1991.
  • Horton Hears a Who

Horton the kindly elephant has his work cut out saving the tiny Whos who live on a speck of dust โ€“ no one else believes they are there! But Horton eventually convinces everyone that, โ€˜a personโ€™s a person, no matter how smallโ€™!

โ€˜A personโ€™s a person, no matter how small..โ€™

Horton the elephant sets out to save the inhabitants of a speck of dust, in this classic and hilarious tale about friendship and respect, from the inimitable Dr. Seuss.

Born Theodore Seuss โ€œTedโ€ Geisel in 1904, he wrote and illustrated over 60 childrenโ€™s books. In our house Horton is a massive favourite. Edie loves the book and the Jim Carrey film. The message in the book โ€˜a personโ€™s a person no matter how smallโ€™ combined with the idea that if people work together as a group they have the strength to change things is so important and relevant to teach to our children.

Hilariously, the Grinch cartoon is on our tv very frequently. It is watched at least once a month so we feel festive all year round. Edie is obsessed with the scene when the grinch does his massive smile. Dr Seuss you are a legend. Thank you.

  • T.S. Eliot. 26th September
  • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Happy 130th Birthday T.S. Eliot. Old Possumโ€™s Book of Practical Cats was written in 1939. Cats was one of the first shows I ever saw in the West End. I remember the band starting and literally just crying I was so excited. I remember really wanting to be the white cat. I found it on YouTube the other day and Edie was utterly entranced. She now knows all the words to Jellicle Cats. For me though, Gus is my favourite. I bought this book, illustrated by the legendary Axel Scheffler quite recently. Itโ€™s a brilliant way to get kids into poetry.

Happy Birthday to Stan Berenstain. One half of the Stan and Jan duo who wrote the Berenstain Bears. I think these books might be relatively rare over here in the UK. My sister and I discovered them when we were children and we were on holiday in Canada. Our older cousins loved them. Interestingly, they were inspired by the Dr Seuss books. The Berenstainโ€™s wanted to write a series which focused on the issues parents faced. They were criticised for not moving with the times but I think this is part of the charm. Too Much Birthday has a very special place in my heart and is a phrase my parents used to use when we got a bit over emotional at our parties. Edie loved it as she is the same age as Sister Bear. She now wants a birthday party with ponies and a carousel. I remember feeling exactly the same after reading it at her age.

Thank you so much for reading. See more updates on Instagram @ellamkpbooks. Next month, I am going to combine some birthday reads with some spooky favourites. Edith loves a good scare.

Somewhere over the rainbow. My miscarriage story.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I landed in this strange bubble world of sadness and disconnect. On the 11th August we lost our baby of 20 weeks. Two weeks on and I feel just as sad and empty but with an added fear that the world is still turning and at some point I have to start turning again with it. I just don’t feel ready to do that yet.

This is a very personal but necessary post to write and for me it has been really therapeutic. Late miscarriage is thankfully rare. At the doctor’s surgery last week, I was told that I was the only late miscarriage they had had this year. Last year there was only two. I have joined a couple of late miscarriage Facebook groups and the support the ladies give each other is invaluable. Still however, the group is full of questions and not many answers. Last night a lady posted who had lost her baby at 17 weeks. She was due to go into hospital the next day and she had no idea what would happen. She was terrified. If this post lifts the shroud of secrecy, mystery and darkness around miscarriage then it’s done it’s job. If it helps one person then great.

This baby would have been our third daughter. I have always wanted a big family. I remember my husband being more reticent: we have 2 beautiful and healthy daughters, why ask for more????I have crap pregnancies, why go through it again???? I saw his logic but I couldn’t shake the image of myself as Ma Walton or Sally Field in Brothers and Sisters. I want a brood of children. I don’t want it to be neat and tidy. I want a mess of emotions and megabloks united in a big family. I got my wish. We got pissed one night and I got pregnant. Easy.

This pregnancy fell under the radar a bit. I didn’t worry. In fact I was blasรฉ. I knew the drill, I had done it twice before. I was so busy with the girls and work I didn’t really think about it. I had a bit of a wobble before the 12 week scan when I was a little worried my age (37) would increase the risk of downs etc but generally I took it all in my stride. When I lay on the bed and saw our little bean on the screen, I cried. It was moving about like something possessed. My blood results came back and there was minimal risk of any genetic problems. Suddenly seeing the baby on the screen made it so real. I realised we were so lucky to be in this position again.

On the 9th August it was raining….maybe that was prophetic after weeks and weeks of blazing sun. My 2.5 year old and I went to me routine midwife appointment. She used the Doppler to listen to the heartbeat and couldn’t find one. I knew then. She sent me to hospital for a scan. I left the midwife and tried to call my husband who eventually answered, left work and rushed to meet me. I remember walking through the hospital thinking ‘in 5 minutes I will know and I will either be devastated or beyond relieved.’ In 5 minutes I did know. The baby had died. “It’s not good news” said the man doing the scan. My husband arrived just after I was told and we just sobbed.

We were ushered out of the room, past the couples who were waiting for their scans of their living babies and into the counselling room. Midwives and consultants came in and apologised for our loss. It was a blur of words and despair. I was advised to come back on Saturday and be induced. I was given a pill to stop the pregnancy hormones. I was given tea with sugar and then we left, clutching my maternity notes that 6 weeks previously showed the scan of our baby and now listed the sad words intrauterine death.

On Saturday we arrived at the Delivery Suite and were shown into a room called The Forget Me Not Suite (I mean really?!?!?!?). I remember walking in and being overwhelmed by the sight of the bed where soon I would be pushing out my baby. My midwife Anne came in. What a shit job that must be. I wonder if they had drawn straws to see who had the miserable task of manning The Forget Me Not Suite that day. As she was trying to find a vein to insert my cannula I asked “Do you get many of these?”

“Tricky veins?” She answered.

“No,” I replied. “Dead babies.”

“No, not that many.” I couldn’t work out whether to be comforted or gutted by her response.

There was a TV in the room. Thank God there was a TV in the room. Rather naively, my husband and I had no idea how long the whole process would take. It’s long. Arduous. I was given a tablet every 6 hours. We arrived in hospital at 8am and my Labour didn’t really start until 8pm. We spent the time drinking bad cups of tea and watching totally random shit on tv….power walking, endless gardening. Daytime TV on Saturday is bad. My husband was angry and frustrated that we weren’t prepared for how long it was going to take. I was grateful that I didn’t know.

The day passed in a bit of a blur. I remember feeling so sorry for the lady who came in to take our food orders. You could tell she was terrified what she would find behind the door of the Forget Me Not Suite. At 19:30 a new midwife came on, Araminta. This midwife found it harder than Anne. I called her at 20:00 when I went to the toilet and had started bleeding. Araminta found me sobbing on my husband. This was the bleakest time for me. Usually labour pains signify the start of a new phase in your life. I remember in NCT being told that every contraction brought you closer to seeing your baby. This time every contraction was bringing me closer to the end of something I so longed for. Araminta helped me into bed, cuddled me and had a cry herself.

Labour pains weren’t as bad as the previous times. I guess due to the fact that I didn’t have to get to 10cm. Earlier in the day I had been completely torn about pain medication. I was in such emotional pain should I use meds to dull the physical pain? Alternatively would the physical pain give me a good excuse to scream out some of the emotional pain? In the end I plumped for co-codamol and gas and air. In previous labours, gas and air made me feel a bit sick. This time however, it made me feel just out of it enough that I could almost disconnect with what was going on.

Labour proper started during the film Pitch Perfect 2. Ironically I had been discussing the merits of the Pitch Perfect trilogy only a few days earlier with a colleague. A few days earlier, when I was happy and confident I was carrying a healthy baby. When the baby came out, Araminta kept saying “sorry, sorry, sorry.”

I saw my daughter. Initially I was too scared. I was worried that every time I closed my eyes, she was all I would see. The midwife told me she was beautiful. I didn’t like the idea that she would only be seen by the midwife. I had to see this little life. My daughter, my little girl. She was beautiful. Tiny. The size of my hand. She won’t ever know her big sisters, she won’t argue with them about whether to watch Dugee or Ben and Holly but for a little while she was alive and because of that, as her mum, I had to see her.

After she was born we had to wait for the placenta. Because the umbilical chord was so thin there was a worry that it would break. After numerous attempts to extract it manually I was taken to Theatre and the whole thing was over at 6:30 am.

So what have I learned? I am now a member of a quiet, sad group of women who are praying for their rainbow. This word has a new meaning now (rainbow is a baby conceived after a loss). I now know what all these initialisms mean: BD (baby dance….sex), TTC (trying to conceive) and MC (miscarriage).

I have learned about grief. At 37 I realise I am pretty lucky. My parents are alive and well as are my husband’s. Life has been good to us so grief is an emotion I haven’t had much experience with. I knew I would go through feelings of anger. I was expecting these feeling to be aimed at people who were pregnant or those with newborns. This hasn’t been the case at all. I don’t want their babies. I want my own. Surprisingly, in the beginning I was angry at the baby I miscarried. I feel there is a bit of a non written contract when you get pregnant. I, as the mother promise to eat the right food, drink the right drinks, exercise when I am knackered, inject myself with blood thinners (to stop clotting), take daily vitamins, puke my guts up etc. You, as my baby just have to stay alive. Keep that heart pumping. If the worst should happen, please miscarry in the first few weeks (the pessimist in me expects that). Please don’t die at 20 weeks and give me no indication of your passing. I feel almost wrong footed by the baby. I turned up at my midwife appointment, with my 2 year old, confident that all was well. I think partly this grief is tainted by shock. I was confident in this pregnancy to the point of almost being cocky. I had two successful pregnancies this baby would be fine. The fact that this has happened and I was so unprepared has shocked me to the core.

What has been hard??? The day my husband went back to work was horrid. Seeing people carry on with life is awful when I feel like I am permanently on pause. People saying “it just wasn’t meant to be” is horrid. Being exhausted. Grieving is utterly knackering. I spend the day in a constant haze and then when I crawl into bed I am wide awake.

There has however been humour. Pretty dark humour granted but there have been some laughs. I had my first counselling session the other day. The lady gave me a diagram about how men and women grieve differently. Apparently at the moment I am floundering in ‘The Whirlpool of Grief” while my husband is trying to stay afloat in “The River of Life.” There have been a few jokes about this….mainly sung either to the tune of The Rhythm of Life or The Circle of Life.

People have said I’m brave and lovely as that is it’s one thing I’m not. I think you are brave if you choose to do something that scares you. I’m not brave. I had no choice but to go through this and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I know with time it will get easier but at the moment I don’t feel like the girl I was 3 weeks ago and at the moment I am trying to work out where I fit in a world in which I feel so disconnected.

4 Very varied book reviews.

It has been yonks since I put up some book reviews and the irony/impropriety of reviewing a children’s book, a parenting guide, a wine guide and a book of poetry based on depression is not lost on me. If this grouping of books offends you, please stop reading now. Interestingly, I did not plan to read these books around the same time but for me, they are beautifully linked. I am a parent to two girls under five, I have depression and I really like a glass of wine. There, all linked and packaged up with a nice bow.

A LION IS A LION by POLLY DUNBAR

Is a lion still a lion if…he wears a hat? And carries an umbrella, too?

And is a lion still a lion if he says, “Oh yes, lunch would be lovely, thank you.”

And he asks you for…a BITE?

Firstly, I would like to say how much my daughters and I loved Polly Dunbar’s illustrations. My 4 year old told me ‘they were easy to understand.’ I think by this she means that the pages weren’t so busy that her 4 year old brain suffered with sensory overload. I often find books for children are so full of bright colours, big words, all singing and all dancing that children are so distracted that they lose the thread of the story. Not so with the book. The pictures are simple and beautifully drawn. My children and I particularly likes the ‘danger moments.’ This is when the lion decides he would quite like to eat the children in the story. Cleverly, Dunbar uses the colour red as a page background which prompted a lot of discussion with my 4 year old about red meaning danger. She is apparently steering clear of red food for a while. The message behind this book is also really empowering to children, particularly before bedtime. If something scares you/tries to eat you….chuck it out of your house and tell it ‘No! No! No! NO!’ This is a lovely book, really enjoyed by my 2 and 4 year old.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book.

I initially requested this ARC because I want to read more poetry. I am sorry to admit that I am a bit of a novice when it comes to reading poetry and my vision of it is fuelled by memories of plodding through A Level poetry which I often found tedious. So far, in my tasting menu of poetry, I am really enjoying modern poetry and I thought the subject matter of Benhaim’s new book of poems would definitely be something I could relate to.

Benhaim, is not a poet I am familiar with so before embarking on her collection I sat down with a cuppa and got onto Google. I was hoping to find a Wikipedia post giving me some background. This was unfortunately not to be. Instead, I became immersed into the world of Slam Poetry. To Slam Poetry virgins like myself, Slam is a competition which originated in 1984 in Chicago. It was intended as a way to move poetry away from stuffy libraries and bring it out to audiences. Poets take to the microphone and compete against other poets. Slam poetry is Benhaim’s background. It is worth watching her perform her poem ‘Explaining my depression to my mother, a conversation.’ This video has been viewed 6 million times on Youtube.

Having watched everything of Benhaim’s I could find, I embarked on her book. I loved these poems. So many of them spoke to me and even though the main subject matter is depression, a had a wry smile on my face as so much of what she said made sense to me:

In some stories,

the protagonist has to kill the bad thing to

release its light.

in my story,

I am the protagonist & the bad thing,

I have to learn how to bend the light out of myself.

I can do that magic.

So many beautiful thoughts and ways of expressing them. I think my favourite poems were ‘How to fold a memory’ – her words created such wonderful and fragile imagery. ‘Another plain truth,”poem for the moment after you left,”so my friend tells me she identifies as a mermaid,”feed a fever, starve a cold,’ ‘what I told the doctor, the second time,’

These poems, short stories really came alive to me after having watched how she performs. I completely have her voice in my head and it really helped my to get used to her conversational style.

A really wonderful book of poetry and I will definitely recommend it to others.

Oh Helen McGinn where have you been all my life??? Thank god I have found you now. I feel as I am now in my late 30s (argh) it is time for me to get into the club. The club I talk is the Club of Wise Ones What Know About Wine. I had friends who joined this club in their early 20s and I thought it was all a bit pretentious. I just wanted to get pissed on whatever was cheapest in sainos. If something was on offer, I would buy it….as long as it was in the ยฃ6 and under price bracket. In the year before we jumped on the baby train my husband and I went on our last big holiday. We went to America and spent a lot of time in Napa. We hired bikes and I have slightly soft focused memories of us cycling around various vineyards, trying to pretend we weren’t pissed and that we knew vaguely what we were on about. We didn’t, and it made me realise I wanted to be part of this club whoย didย know.

I live in South West London which is an area often referred to as Nappy Valley. Everywhere you look, there are pregnant people, Range-Rover priced buggies, sleep consultants, breast-feeding consultants, mothers who are wearing jumpers with slogans describing how they are just blagging motherhood (they aren’t. Their idea of blagging motherhood is to feed their kids chicken nuggets one night a week instead of organic bolognese). Controversially, i have found since living here, I am slightly allergic to this group of women ( by all means, it is not the women round here) who quaff prosecco whilst holding baby Zara (who is dressed in Bonpoint) wanking on about how knackered they are. As a result, i tend to veer away from blogs and books with the title ‘The knackered/yummy/ confused/baffled/hysterical mummy.’ Helen McGinn has without a doubt proved me wrong and made me realise that my prejudice is ridiculous.

This book is so readable without being too easy. It is definitely a book which I shall keep and often refer back to. This does not read like an idiots guide to wine, but its simplicity in content makes you feel that you are getting to grips with how wine works without being bamboozled by the complicated stuff. ย For a wine beginner, this is definitely the book for you. Its humour, lack or pretension and brilliantly structured chapters make it a really fun read. The chapter about book clubs and wine has inspired me to start my own wine tasting/book reading club. Thanks Helen. Top work.

 

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

In my review above I have already given my opinions on the trend that is self-deprecting parents writing books and blogs on how they bare winging parenthood. This phenomenon has really taken off in the last few years and I feel we are inundated with similar parenting manuals. Having said that, I requested this ARC because I hadn’t read anything from the father’s point of view.

Sam Avery is a funny guy. He should be…he is a stand up comedian. He also has twin sons which will provide him with enough funny material for the next 15 years. His first chapter, entitled Diary of a Two-Year-Old made my openly guffaw on the train. I made my husband read it whilst we were trying to stay awake over a glass of wine last saturday. We did that knowing laugh, that parents do when we discover that we all go through the same thing. Also, his chapter on soft-play was brilliant.

My only issue with this book, is that for me, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I read it a little more sporadically. Avery is hilarious but if you read it in one sitting you get slightly bored of the humour. Pretty much every paragraph has a simile or analogy which eventually become totally frustrating. I felt I was drowning in Avery’s need to make me laugh every 5 seconds and as a result, as the book continued, to became less funny.

Having said that, it was really refreshing to read a man’s take on parenthood and it would be a great book to give to any soon to be dad’s.

 

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas people.

I am happy! Am I happy?

Mentally I am struggling at the moment. The hamster wheel seems to be turning much quicker than I can currently run and there have been a couple of times in the past week when I have fallen off. Bruised, embarrassed and ever so slightly mortified I have to brush myself down and jump right back on.

Generally I have what I call a Windscreen of Sanity (it’s pharmaceutical name is Citalolpram) which I use to con myself and others that I am doing ok. To be fair, the majority of the time, I usually am…doing ok. This week however, my windscreen seems to have developed a couple of hairline fractures which we all know, in winter can develop into full on cracks.

The first chip was last Saturday. It was my daughter’s 2nd birthday. In true Motherland style my husband was in Margate on a stag and my wonderful and very helpful in laws were down helping. I have had shows nearly every night and we were had an opening night that evening. I knew I was in a state when I was quaffing room temp, pink prosecco which I had won in a tombola, whilst searching in the bins for stickers which had been chucked out with the wrapping, and trying not to lose my shit with my MIL who wanted to know where the most useful place was to store the cheese grater. Needless to say, I lost my shit. I started crying and had to pretend to my daughter that it was because there were raw onions in the bin.

Chip 2 happened when a very good but often slightly aggressive friend took a joke the wrong way which upset me. I literally wanted the ground to swallow me up.

Anyway the hairline chips now feel like cracks and I am trying to claw my way out of the pit.

All very dramatic I know.

So, I decided to go against the grain and not do a Friday Rant on FB. Instead I did a Dig Deep Friday in which I asked people to name things which made them happy. Not saccharine things like kids, dogs and husbands but random things like getting your teeth cleaned at the hygienist and a good deoderant.

My happies were anchovies, capers, Parma ham, Riverdance and well shaved legs. The comments started rolling in….some really good ones:

1. Cups of tea with exactly the right amount of milk drunk at exactly the right temperature.

2. Baby puffins being called pufflings.

3. Bake off.

4. Muppet Christmas Carol

5. New PJs

6. Avoiding kids bathtime

7. Alpacas

8. Bacon

9. A new book.

All in all 76 comments. Funnily however, it left me and others feeling a little empty inside. It was slightly akin to that feeling you get on NYE when YOU MUST HAVE FUN! Maybe Friday Rants is a bit of reverse psychology. The feeling of getting a rant off your chest and others agreeing with you is brilliant. Maybe it’s because I am British and I love a moan but now when something annoying happens I jot it down and store it up until Friday when I know I can mention it on FB and it will be much less annoying and hopefully a little uplifting. Who doesn’t love a moan and who doesn’t love a moan with others agreeing? Anyway I think Dig Deep Fridays is a useful exercise and one I think I will post every 3 weeks. I already have a few happies written down which make me smile when I look through them.

Anyway what are your rants? What makes you smile?

Thanks so much for reading and have a good week.