June Kids reads

Hi all. How is homeschooling going? I have finally hit a wall with Year 2 Maths. I knew at some point I would start to struggle but I was hoping it was going to be around Year 4. No, maths for 7 year olds is where I’m stumped. I have had a particularly frustrating morning counting vertices of 3D shapes….give me strength!!!! Argh!!!!!

  • Fergal is Fuming! By Robert Starling.

Fergal is a nice chap, but when someone tells him what to do, Fergal gets very… Very… Angry.

I wanted to do a post with at least one book about anger. Some of you may look back on your family time during lockdown as an idyllic time – searching for fairies in the woods, making daisy chains, family painting sessions. If this is you then I am happy for you – really – a little jealous perhaps but ultimately happy for you. Although family time in the Andrews household hasn’t been all bad, I am sick of hearing Cilla saying “mummy, Edie is being woode to me.” She means ‘rude’ and to be honest ‘rude’ is too polite a term. All of us are now struggling with Lockdown. I think for Edie, it is particularly tough. She is a really sociable and tactile child. She told me the other day that she is just “desperate to hug someone that isn’t you mummy.” I think she also finds life a little scary at the moment. I made the mistake of taking her to Sainsbury’s a couple of weeks ago and it terrified her. The masks, plastic shields are all too much. Ceci is faring slightly better – she is just bored!

When I started to read Fergal is Fuming at bedtime a couple of nights ago it was perfect timing. Edie had just told her dad that she hated him for the 5th time that day….this particular outburst occurred when Oz asked her to take her false nails off for bed (false nails, 7 🤦‍♀️😂😂). If screams of “it’s not fair” are bouncing off your walls this is the book for you. Joking aside, I love the fact that this book gives children (and grown ups) strategies for coping with anger in an unpatronising way….altogether now……1, 2, 3, 4……and breathe.

  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield.

“I wonder” – Petrova looked up – “if other girls had to be one of us, which of us they’d choose to be?”

When my sister and I were children, we would go to visit my grandparents in Carlisle every holiday. My mum would always buy us an audiobook on cassette for the car. This year, a lovely friend bought Edith a copy of Ballet Shoes for her 7th birthday. As soon as I started reading it to her I remembered the rhythm of Jan Francis on our cassette tape all those years ago. Indeed, it was so ingrained in my memory I think I read it in exactly the same way – nana was cockney (not cool that ‘the help’ is portrayed with an East London accent….apologies), Madame was obviously Russian, the two doctors were incredibly posh, Petrova slightly boyish, Posy with a lisp and Pauline was very RP.

When reading this to Edie, I am aware that it is probably too old for her. There is a lot written about earnings….(always in pounds, shillings and pence), working in the theatre and also a fair bit about Shakespeare. I assume that she might find some of it boring but Edie is a great one for hearing what she wants to hear and ignoring what she doesn’t!! When asked tonight what she likes about the book she said ” I love the fact that there are 3 sisters – like me and I also like the fact that even though they are young, they are allowed to act on the stage.” Being a performer is now Edie’s ambition 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️. What with the fake nails and dangly earrings she was always going to be a bit of a diva but this book has now cemented her dream. 🩰🎭🩰🎭🩰🎭🩰🎭🩰🎭🩰🎭🩰🎭🩰🎭🩰

My favourite bit of the book is the section where Pauline behaves horribly to Winifred. Pauline is lucky enough to get the part of Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Winifred is engaged as her understudy. Success goes straight to Pauline’s head and she behaves badly towards Winifred – bossing her around, asking her to fetch items that she should get herself and generally just being a spoiled brat. This prompted a brilliant conversation with a Edie about how appalling Pauline’s behaviour was becoming. I made the point that thanks to Covid and endless homeschooling, I am feeling a little like Winifred – less and less like a loved mum and more and more like a skivvy. Thanks to Ballet Shoes each time I feel the girls are treating my rudely I say I am feeling like Winifred and I get an apology!!!! 👏

Anyway, lovely read and it made me miss my job in the theatre so much. Fingers crossed the West End reopens soon. Also in response to the quote above, Edith would like to be Pauline because she wants to be famous. Ceci would like to be Poylin (Pauline) because she has long hair and is pretty. 😂🤦‍♀️

  • Doggies by Sandra Boynton

Finally one for Maisie who is going to be 1 next month. 🎂 🎁 . Wonderful Aunty Laura bought Maisie this book for Christmas and it has become a favourite. As Maisie is my third daughter, I am determined to read her something other than our reliable but falling apart That’s not my….. books. 🐶 🐕🐶🐕🐶🐕🐶🐕🐶

It seems that Sandra Boynton does EVERYTHING – author, illustrator, humorist, song writer, director and music producer. This book is such fun to read – who doesn’t love doing ridiculous dog impressions. It has certainly added a few extras to my list of dog impressions:

woof, yap, nnn, ruff, bow wow, ar rooff, arf arf, grrrr and raow.

Ar rooff is our fave. Maisie thinks it’s utterly hilarious. 🐕🐶🐕🐶🐕🐶🐕🐶🐕🐶🐕

See you next month. Thanks for reading.

March Kids Reads

Well. I almost miss the halcyon days of Brexit dominating the news. Day 1 of the UK being in lockdown and I have just finished day 6 of homeschooling. My kids were off last week as Ceci had a cough. I honestly feel a little broken and completely overwhelmed by the task ahead. I look through this post and see that my last entry was all about going back to work and now I have no idea when that will be. It seems like the world has gone mad. Teachers, you have my unflinching respect. You are all amazing.

  • The Spy Who Loved School Dinners by Pamala Butchart. Illustrated by Thomas Flintham.
  • Reading age 6-8.

Izzy is really pleased to have been put in charge of the new girl at school. Mathilde is French, and Izzy and her friends can’t wait to show her the den and it’s moth, and to help her avoid school dinners (also known as poison). But Mathilde loves school dinners and even has seconds! And that’s when they know. Matilda is a spy and she has come to find out their secrets. They must stop her before it’s too late!!!

Like her mother, Edie is a sucker for packaging and this bright pink cover was a hit. This book won Best Story in the 2015 Blue Peter Book Awards. Edie lapped it up. She was overjoyed to discover that Izzy’s teacher was called Miss Jones which is the name of her current Year 2 teacher and she also has a friend called Maisie which is the name of Edie’s little sister. To be honest I think the colour of the cover and the coincidence of the names was enough to make Edie love the book….it seems that my daughter is easily pleased. As she got further into the story she kept telling me that is was so exciting and every chapter ended on a mountain. After probing this somewhat I discovered she means ‘cliff hanger.’ Edie also loved the fact that Mathilde is French so she loved impressing us with her knowledge of French vocab.

When I was finally allowed to read it myself, I was really impressed with how well Butchart captured the children’s voices:

Mrs Kidd always makes us eat stuff we don’t want to. And she’s always moaning at us. Things like “Take your coat off! Or you won’t get the benefit when you go outside!” (Which doesn’t make sense). Or: “Izzy were you born in a barn?” And to begin with I just said “I don’t know,” because I wasn’t sure. But then I checked with mum and I wasn’t.

This is a great option for KS1 who are confident readers. I have read reviews who say it is a little girly. I disagree. Although the cover is bright pink, there is nothing ‘girly’ in the storyline and Izzy’s friend Zach is great fun. We will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

  • Anisha Accidental Detective by Serena Patel. Illustrated by Emma McCann.
  • Reading age 6-8.


Help! My super dramatic Aunty Bindi is getting married tomorrow and she’s having a mega meltdown. But ssssh! I’ve just found a ransom note, push through the letterbox, saying Uncle Tony, Bindi’s husband to be, has been kidnapped, and will only be freed if the wedding is cancelled! I have to keep this a secret otherwise it’ll be panic central… I guess it’s up to me Anisha- Accidental Detective, to save the day.

This is the second book with a bright pink cover that Edie has read this month. She has decided that all bright pink books are brilliant….I fear she is going to be setting herself up for disappointment somewhere down the line but not this time!!!

In 2017, Reflecting Realities Survey concluded that only 1% of children’s books have BAME main characters, and that only one children’s book published that year was a comedy. Thanks to this book, children from Hindu families will find a character they can relate to. Anisha is brilliant. She is clever, witty, funny and great role model to girls. Edith is a 6 year old who just loves love and the fact that this book was about a wedding really appealed to her romantic mind!!!! She loved Aunty Bindi and all her face masks, makeup and beautiful clothes. Serena Patel adds footnotes to a lot of the pages to explain elements of Indian language, food and customs. We learnt the meaning of Bhagavan, Didi, Saath saath and also wedding customs like Mehndi. We also learned a lot about lobsters….do you know they wee out of their faces?!?!?!?!

The story zipped along and was a really good mystery. Patel created some brilliant secondary characters….Granny Jas is my fave! Emma McCann’s illustrations are really funny. We look forward to reading more in the series.

Thanks to a Usborne for the copy.

  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

‘But the next baby born was truly divine, a sweet little child who was mine, all mine.’ I’m not a particularly sentimental person but reading this to Maisie this morning made me a bit tearful. 😢😢😢😢 I am starting to think about going back to work so looking into childcare. I have been off the longest with Maisie and I’m due to go back in August which is obviously the WORST month with summer holidays. I know every parent feels torn about working and leaving their kids. 💔💔💔💔💔💔💔. I adore my job. I love the people and feel utterly privileged to get paid to stand on the most beautiful stage and sing for a living. It has to be said that it is a tough job when you have little ones. Endless school pick ups missed, endless bedtimes missed. At the moment I feel utterly torn about what is the right thing for my kids, husband and myself. I have missed singing so much the last few months but I know my children have massively benefitted from having a parent at home. Argh!!!!! 😢😢😢

I hope you are all staying safe.

Thanks for reading.

January Kids Reads

  • Happy New Year. Apologies for the lack of post in December. December was completely nuts. We decided to have our first Christmas at home. Until now, Christmas involved packing the car to the rafters and driving either to the midlands (to see my parents) or to the Wirral ( to see Ozzie’s parents) and then repacking the car on the 26th December to visit the other set of grandparents before heading back to London in the New Year. 2019 was the year we said “enough” and requested EVERYONE come to us. We had 13 for Christmas dinner and had to fashion an extra long table with the addition of a couple of desks. Anyway it was bonkers, mad and exactly the way Christmas ought to be.

    • Witches in Stitches by Kaye Umansky.
    • Kaye Umansky born 6th December 1946.

    Kaye Umansky is probably best known for the Pongwiffy series. My little sister loved them. I however was a big fan of Witches in Stitches. Published in 1987, this was in the format of a magazine for witches and ghouls complete with recipes, lonely hearts and a classified section. It was great!

    I managed to find this book on eBay and snapped it up for a mere 99p. This is one of those books which conjures up really funny memories. Each year in my secondary school we would all have to write something to put into the school magazine. Always keen to find a shortcut I decided to brazenly plagiarise a poem from Witches in Stitches. The poem in question was I’m Sick of That Hansel and Gretel….I also traced the illustration. I remember being asked to see the teacher, she was obviously deeply suspicious but hadn’t had the pleasure of reading Witches in Stitches so I managed to get away with it and my’ poem and illustration made it into the school magazine. How completely arrogant and utterly stupid was I???? Actually not as stupid as my best friend who plagiarised the oh so famous Not Waving But Drowning by Stevie Smith. Unfortunately for Holly, our English teacher had obviously come across Stevie Smith so not only did she not make it into the school mag but she also got a Saturday detention. Ah the arrogance of youth.

    • Lifesize Dinosaurs by Sophy Henn.

    Discover how you measure up against some incredible life-size dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. Try on a Utahraptor claw and a Pteranodon beak, compare your nostrils with a Diplodocus, wear a Stegosaurus plate, and watch out for the giant Tyrannosaurus rex mouth when you open up the foldout pages.

    My kids are crazy wonderful little weirdos. I think when my husband realised we were only capable of creating the fairer sex I think he was terrified his life would revolve around pink and bunnies. Dainty flowers my daughters are not. A lot of the time we both find our girls a little baffling. How do you explain Edie’s obsession at 2 years of age with the Lion King?? Ok ok a lot of kids are into The Lion King. Edith however only really liked one bit which we had to keep rewinding for her….not Hakuna Matata, not Can You Feel The Love Tonight. No, no, Edie’s most favourite part of The Lion King was the bit when Mufasa gets trampled by a stampede of wildebeest. Thankfully now 6 she has grown out of this blood lust and is now much more obsessed with her hair and her hamster. Ceci’s interesting little quirk is her love of Jurassic Park…particularly the bit with the T-Rex and the ‘fitter’ she means Spitter. She loves nothing more than watching the film with us or her grandparents and explaining what is happening while we pretend to be afraid. As I’ve said before, kids (or my kids) love nothing more than thinking they know more about a subject than you do. As a result, both my girls love this brilliant book by Sophy Henn. I have bought it for tons of the girls friends and everyone thinks it’s great. Ceci is obsessed with the pull out T-Rex mouth and I am feeling fully confident if not a little smug about Edith’s up and coming a Dinosaur school project. #bossingit.

    • Dinosaur Juniors by Rob Biddulph.

    High fives, fist bumps, big hugs, applause…..for disco-dancing dinosaurs!

  • Nine dino eggs but little Greg hatches later than everyone else. The story follows Gregosaurus trying to make some prehistoric friends when everyone has already found their best bud. It all ends well with the dinosaurs throwing him a Happy Hatch Day Party. 🦕 🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕
  • This is a proper value for money book. By this I mean that as your children get older, this book that keeps on giving. For really little ones the pictures are colourful and not so crazy busy that your children will suffer from sensory overload. Ceci at 4 is a massive fan….mainly because it is about dinosaurs but also for children of Ceci’s age there are things to count and plenty of things to spot. Older children can take advantage of the detail in the pictures – types of dinos, musical instruments. The story is told in rhyme which keeps me happy….I love a rhyme!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • This would be a great book to give to a child who is starting a new school/nursery halfway through a year, when they are the only newbie and everyone else has settled into a routine.🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖
  • Also, slightly terrifying picture of Ceci. She is looking a little sinister. Edie is holding Daisy her new hamster. This is the new addition to the Andrews clan. All going well so far….making Edie clean her out every week is proving challenging but we are persevering. 🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹🐹
  • Thank you all for reading!

    November Beauty Buys

    Ok so it’s not 3rd December. I am sat on the sofa having picked up my middle daughter from school with hand, foot and mouth. We are watching Frozen Fever and feeling pretty sorry for ourselves. I think I have it too….sore throat, ulcers on tongue. Rank. Anyway, I am now on a massive mission to get everyone better for Christmas.

    • Guinot Dynamisant Anti-Fatigue Mask. From £19.99.

    Winter has well and truly set in in the Andrews household. We have all been sick. Ozzie (poor bugger) has been struck down with salmonella and the girls and I have all had horrid chesty colds. To say I feel run down is an understatement. Our newest addition, Maisie is still waking up every 2 hrs in the night for a feed and although I love spending this time just me and her, I would LOVE a night of 3 straight hours sleep. I am doing the whole vitamin C and Zinc thing but my new fave product is Floradix. This iron supplement is AMAZING and I think it is the only thing that is keeping me properly awake. Yay Floradix.

    Skin wise it’s going ok. Although the last few days my face feels a little tight in the morning. I am defo someone who is guilty of drinking too much tea and not enough water and the central heating isn’t helping. When my skin feels like this, I stay off the acids and just use gentle products. This face mask is a massive fave.

    I get a @latestinbeauty box every month and if this is available I always put one in. ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️So the things I require from a mask are…………………

    1. It’s not a sheet mask. I cocking HATE sheet masks. I haven’t the time to lie down with a mask on so I need something that I can wear when ironing, playing with the kids etc. Also sheet masks seem so wasteful….there is always so much product left in the packet.

    2. I require my masks to be invisible when worn….yes this is because I am utterly lazy and often wear a mask on the school run. 🤫🤦‍♀️. I also often put a mask on after I have taken my stage makeup off so it needs to be something I can wear on my journey home on the tube without looking crazy. 3. I like a mask that I can sleep in….yes lazy again.

    4. I like a mask to be hydrating. This mask does it all. Smells a bit like aloe which is nice, slightly tacky when it’s on….so if you are lazy and wear it on the school run it’s not great with makeup, but it kinda defeats the point to put makeup over a mask. You can wear it for a little as 10 mins before you take it off. Anyway, it’s definitely the best mask I have used in ages.

    • L’Occitane Creme Precieuse Immortelle. £44.

    It’s rare to see a company like L’Occitane featured on Instagram. Maybe it’s not particularly Instagrammable… not funky enough, not endorsed by enough celebrities. But when L’Occitane was founded in 1976 by 23-year-old Oliver Baussan it would’ve been a very Instagrammable small business. Baussan started his company by selling essential oils and vegetable based soaps in an open air market. Anyway mighty oaks from little acorns grow and now, today L’Occitane is known in over 100 countries.

    Since having children, my skin has changed considerably. I no longer have breakouts which is great but I am definitely prone to dryness. Middle age has most definitely hit. This cream is perfect for me in winter. It’s thick and luxurious but sinks in surprisingly quickly. It smells totally lush and leaves my skin radiant, glowy and hydrated. It comes in a 50ml pot for around £44 and it has lasted absolutely ages. A little really goes along way. This is definitely one of those products that makes you feel pampered when wearing.

    • Cerave Hydrating Cleanser. £6.

    Fragrance free, non foaming, non irritating, contains hyaluronic acid, non bank busting, non pretentious. This stuff just works and is without a doubt my favourite budget cleanser.

    Thanks for reading.

    Merry Christmas.

    October Beauty

    I had my first proper night out since Maisie was born last night. Ozzie came back from work at 6 to look after the kids and I went out on the razzle. My trip out was heading into work to watch the first night of a show. The getting ready process was LONG. Trying to get yourself presentable when you have to keep interrupting your beautifying time to breastfeed, restart The Greatest Showman for the oldest one and cook bolognese for the middle one meant the whole ‘getting ready’ process took about 4hrs. Anyway, come 6pm I sprinted for the front door with my newly straightened hair shiny and my lips a glossy red. I was even wearing a normal bra. BOOM.

    After the show I decided to go to the first night party for a glass of Prosecco. All going swimmingly until this was pointed out to me……

    Yes, my left breast had been leaking milk all night. MORTIFIED!!!!

    • Little Aurelia Sleep Time Pillow Mist. £22.

    I am stealing my 12 week old’s posh products….I mean anything that arrives in a bag from Liberty’s is too good for a baby. So, it is now in my sleep time arsenal. 😊😊😊😊 To be honest I don’t need help sleeping but this does mean I fall asleep in a delicious haze of Rose Quartz Crystal Water(!😂) which is a lot better than my usual Febreze. Really lovely gift for anyone you know who has just had a baby!!

    • Kérastase Elixir Ultime Radiance Beautifying Oil. £29.99.

    I bloody love an oil. Face, body, hair, I don’t care, I just slap it on. I invested in this stuff after moaning to my hairdresser that my hair colour was fading. When asked which products I used I guiltily admitted to using anything that was handy (I’m embarrassed to admit, I have even used my daughter’s cradle cap shampoo if it’s the only bottle in the shower 😱😱). So after being made to feel suitably guilty, I invested! This oil came in a pack with a shampoo and conditioner and I have been using it since Easter…that is a long time people…..so yes, the price may be a little punchy but it lasts. In conclusion, listen to the advice of your hairdresser: IF YOU HAVE COLOUR TREATED HAIR YOU NEED TO USE THE RIGHT PRODUCTS!!! My hair laps up this oil. I use it to smooth and protect when I straighten and it smells lush!!

    • Avene Hydrance Aqua-Gel. £13.33. *
    • Avene Hydrance Hydrating Emulsion. £14.50. *

    For a more ‘budget friendly’ brand, these two products are wicked! I have been using the Aqua-Gel for a few weeks now as a night cream. It is completely non irritating and I smear it all over my face, eyes and neck. It takes a while to sink in (which is why it’s best for night) but once absorbed my skin looks plump and feels brilliantly hydrated….so much so that I haven’t been using an oil afterwards. I also love the smell of it. I can imagine it would be completely lush out of the fridge on a hot summers day.

    I must admit, that I usually avoid creams that are labelled ‘light.’ I wrongly assume they won’t be moisturising enough. This Hydrating Emulsion left my skin moisturised all day but non greasy. I have also worn it under makeup and my slap has stayed on all day.

    As a fan of acids and retinol I like to use a moisturiser which doesn’t do anything fancy but is just gentle and moisturising. These fit the bill but the Aqua-Gel is my fave.

    *Kindly gifted.

    Thanks for reading people….and remember:

    BREASTPADS ARE YOUR FRIENDS.

    Spooky October Kids Reads

    I’m writing this sat in the car heading back to London from my parent’s house in the midlands. It was lovely to spend the last week in the countryside. This is without a doubt my favourite time of year. The leaves are changing colour and there is definitely the winter chill in the air. Family chat has shifted from beaches and suntan lotion, to Halloween, bonfires and CHRISTMAS!!! Love it. Clocks go back tomorrow and the days get shorter. Woohooo!

    • Mrs Blackhat by Chloe and Mick Inkpen.

    Mrs Blackhat’s cat is obstinately ginger. She needs a special spell to turn him black. So she logs onto her Shopalot account…

    I wanted to put on some spooky kids reads for October. 🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️Mrs Blackhat is by father and daughter team Chloe and Mick Inkpen. Mrs Blackhat loves the colour black. EVERYTHING is black except for the 🐈….which is ginger. As an internet savvy witch she decides to shop online for a potion to turn the moggy black!👻👻👻 I love reading this book. It’s really fast paced with great rhymes. Have you seen that vid where the dad raps the Gruffalo???? Well I sound just like that in a very uncool south west London kind of way. Anyway the girls think it’s hilarious!

      Usborne touchy-feely books.

    Now I know Maisie is my last child, I feel the expiration date of these brilliant Usborne books is looming on the horizon. I’m generally not a particularly sentimental person but these books have been staples in my house throughout all three of my daughters baby years – trying to uncurl their little chubby fists so they can stroke the different textures and saying in my upbeat-mum-voice ‘can you find the mouse?’ Maisie is a little too young to do anything apart from dribble on them but what has been particularly special this time around is now Edie can read them to her sister whilst doing a very good impression of my upbeat-mum-voice. 😍😍. Right I have to stop now as I’m welling up…..get a bloody grip woman. Anyway thank you to Usborne and your touchy-feely books, you have been epic!

      Steve Backshall’s Deadly 60.

    Ok, so this might be a bit of an unexpected entry for my month of spooky kids reads but I had to include it because Edie LOVES this book and she loves it because she loves the terrifying spiders, bats and snakes. The other day I asked my friend for some book recommendations for 6 year old boys. She suggested non-fiction in particular. Without a doubt she is right. What 6 year old doesn’t love showing off their random fact knowledge?? Edie has been learning about the Fire of London in school and you can’t shut her up with her Samuel Pepys banter. The bottom line is that kids love a good showing off session so give them a non fiction book and they will devour it.

    I had my proudest mum/book worm moment at Parents Evening last week when Edie’s teacher commented on Edie’s love of reading. I told Edie what was said and since then there has been no stopping her….reading all the time….if there is an audience. I think Edie is competent enough to read pretty much anything now. Anything she can’t read she tries to sound out. Suddenly reading has clicked and she is enjoying trying out lots of different books. The Steve Backshall book is perhaps a little old, with quite a few tricky words but Edes loves a challenge. It did take us 45 mins to read the section on sloth bears but we are now world experts so its all good!

    Thanks for reading. Happy Halloween!

    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!!!! 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️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. 🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪

    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!!!!🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️😱😱 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.😊🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️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. 💪 🦁 🦆

    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!🤣📚Anyway 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 🤦‍♀️. 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:

    “I 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 🕷. As a mum I am happy as there are lots of opportunities to practice my acting skills and work on my accents. 🤣🤣🤦‍♀️

    • 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. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️ Ceci 3, loves the dinosaur and fairytale book. 🧚🏻‍♀️🦖🦕🧚🏻‍♂️🧚🏻‍♀️🦕🦖🧚🏻‍♀️🧚🏻‍♂️🦕🦖🧚🏻‍♀️Edie 6, loves a bit of 🧜🏼‍♀️ 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 £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.🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒 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!!🤦‍♀️

    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!!🤦‍♀️. 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! 🥰

    • 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. 🏴‍☠️ 🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️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.