January kids reads

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

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

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

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

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

  • Lewis Carroll died 14th January 1898.

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

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

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

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

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

  • AA Milne born 18th January 1882.

  • Rudyard Kipling died 18th January 1936.

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, see you all next month.

Thanks so much for reading.

December Children’s Reads

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

  • Christmas by Dick Bruna

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

About the Author

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

When Edie came home a few weeks ago, all excited about the forthcoming Nativity in which she was to play a star, I started to ask her what the play would be about. “Well mummy, the play is called Funky Camels and it’s basically about how funky camels are.” “Hmmmmmmm” was my response and then I asked Edie what she knew about the real Christmas Story. “Well mum. Joseph and Enid had the baby Jesus. Shepherds came and some Kings who brought gold, Frank and mud.” 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️😱😱 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 ‘em young, it is definitely worth checking this book out from the fabulous @babylitbooks. This is what is known as an opposites primer…prettt much what you get on the tin. Babies will love it and actually my 3 year old thinks it’s the best thing ever. This morning on the way to nursery she told me she was sad like Brandon!!!😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 I hope she doesn’t say it too often or people will think I have raised a right show off! @babylitbooks is a company I discovered this year and they are beautiful books. For little ones there are the primers and older children can enjoy the storybooks. My 5 year old loves Pride and Prejudice. Anyway it’s never to early to get your kids into the classics and @babylitbooks are perfect for that.

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

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

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

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

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

  • Hamish the Highland Cow by Natalie Russell.

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

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

Thanks for reading and have a great January.

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 (🤣) 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…..

“Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”

👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

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 doesn’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 don’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 it’s sad. Morose little thing that she is. It’s not particularly sad but as Sid loses his self belief, he finds that he can no longer fly. 🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶

Edie’s review was just as entertaining. “It’s a book of lies mummy. Dogs cannot fly.” 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

Anyway, I guess that was Alborough’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 can’t stand The Rhyming Rabbit by Julia Donaldson (Sept). My husband and I both try to scarper when Ceci requests this. 🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰

Unfortunately The Legend of the Great Pumpkin by Charles Schulz (Nov 26th) is another miss from me. Yes it’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.🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃 Anyway, thanks to that Law of Sod, Cilla ADORES it. When asking her why, she says because it’s scary (it’s not) and exciting (it’s not). 🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃

Happy Birthday for the 26th Mr Schulz. 🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂

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. Based on the popular song, THE WONKY DONKEY has sold over one million copies worldwide. Who ever heard of a spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey? 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. 😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣🤣🤣😂

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.

🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴

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

October Children’s Reads

Hello all. Hope you all had a lovely October, and are ready for the run up to Christmas! It’s come around quickly hasn’t it?

We have read some brilliant books this month including a new Michael Rosen which would be great as a stocking filler.

  • Michael Morpurgo. 5th September.
  1. Aesops Fables.

A timeless collection of over twenty of Aesop’s best-loved fables, including favourites such as The Hare and the Tortoise, Town Mouse and Country Mouse, Dog in the Manger and The Lion and the Mouse. The tales are retold with warmth and humour by former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo and brought to life by Emma Chichester Clark’s exquisitely playful and distinctive artwork.

Both my daughters love Aesops Fables. Many a car journey have been spent listening to a terrible audio book version on Prime Music. They are beautifully retold by Morpurgo in this collection and the illustrations are lovely.

2. The Butterfly Lion

A lyrical and moving tale of a young boy growing up in Africa, and his lifelong friendship with a white lion.

“All my life I’ll think of you, I promise I will. I won’t ever forget you.”

Bertie rescues an orphaned white lion cub from the African veld. They are inseparable until Bertie is sent to boarding school far away in England and the lion is sold to a circus. Bertie swears that one day they will see one another again, but it is the butterfly lion which ensures that their friendship will never be forgotten.

I picked this book up in the charity shop recently. Its a little old for my 5 year old so I read it one night. It really is a beautiful story and would be perfect for an 8 year old. It tells the story of a boy who lives in South Africa. A lion cub comes to live with his family and they become best friends. When the boy is sent to school in the UK , the lion is sold to a kindly circus owner who lives in France. The boy grows up and fights in the war. Eventually, whilst wounded in France, he manages to track down the circus owner and brings the lion back to England to live with him. A really moving story about a life long friendship.

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde.

  • Oscar Wilde 16th October.

When the Selfish Giant builds a high wall round his lovely garden to keep the children out, the North Wind blows, the Frost comes and the Snow dances through the trees. The Giant wonders why Spring never comes to his cold, white garden. Then one day the Giant looks out to see a most wonderful sight . . .

Oscar Wilde’s much-loved fairy-tale is brought to life again with beautiful illustrations by Michael Foreman and Freire Wright.

I remember my mum and grandma reading me The Selfish Giant when I was a child. When I told my mum that I had bought it for my girls she got all emotional…”such a beautiful story.” She’s right, it is. A beautiful story with a beautiful message.” I found myself getting all emotional while reading it. The language is lovely. I am sad to say that the joy stopped with me. Edie wasn’t bothered and dare I say it, she was bored. The pictures are beautiful but not bright and gaudy like a lot of modern books. It was a slight mistake reading it just before bedtime…endless questions from Edie (5) about why the giant died, who took him up to heaven and the big conversation about God….”Is God actually Father Christmas mummy?” 😂She was happy as it delayed bedtime for a good 20 minutes. I was less happy as it delayed wine time for 20 minutes. 🍷Anyway, a lovely, nostalgic read for me. Thanks Oscar Wilde.

  • Janet Ahlberg. 21st October.

Janet and Allan Ahlberg are a children’s fiction power couple. Allan is the man behind the words and Janet is the wonderful illustrator. They wrote children’s fiction for 20 years until Janet died of cancer in 1994.

1. Miss Wobble the Waitress.

Mrs Wobble LOVES her job as a waitress but, oh dear, there’s one big problem – she wobbles!! And when she wibbles and wobbles and drops jelly everywhere, it’s time for a new job! Luckily, Mr Wobble, and all the Wobble children have a cunning plan 

Written in 1980s, The Happy Family series were firm favourites when I was a child. Mr Creep the Crook was definitely the best. Edie also loves these books. 👨‍🍳👨‍👩‍👧‍👦☕️

2. It was a Dark and Stormy Night.

Antonio, a small boy who has been kidnapped by Brigands, passes a dark and stormy night in their cave weaving for them incredible stories of their own exploits and through this actually solves his own problem of how to escape.

This is a brilliant book for slightly older children. I think probably 7 and above. It’s a mega frustrating book to read aloud unless you are brilliant at doing tons of different voices. I remember really enjoying this one as a child. It felt like an older book but still had the brilliant pictures in it. 🌫🌫💦💦💦💦💦

3. Kicking a Ball by Allan Ahlberg. Illustrated by Sebastien Braun.

For anyone who can’t see a ball without wanting to kick it, head it, shoot it, or boot it! 

‘Not eating an ice-cream
Or riding a bike
No – kicking a ball
Is what I like.’

‘What I like best, yes, most of all
in my whole life is . . . kicking a ball.

A wonderful rhyming story to read aloud, Kicking A Ball will not disappoint fans of Allan Ahlberg. First written as a poem, the little boy in the story has been brought to life perfectly by artist Sebastien Braun. Every parent will be able to immediately relate to the simple joy felt by a boy simply kicking a ball, and how there is nothing else quite like it.

The incomparable Allan Ahlberg takes us on a journey from childhood to fatherhood full of humour, warmth, friendship . . . and football.

This is a favourite of my husband’s. On nights he does a bedtime story this is his choice. About a man who loves kicking a ball above all else. As he grows up, he still plays football with his friends. He gets married and eventually passes his love of the beautiful game onto his daughter. The above two books are a little old for Ceci(3) but she loves this one. ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
    • Frances Hodgson Burnett died 29th October 1924.

    This beautiful hardback Ladybird Classic edition of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a perfect first illustrated introduction to the classic story for younger readers.
    It has been sensitively abridged and retold to make it suitable for sharing with young children from 5+, whilst retaining all the key parts of the story, including the mysterious, locked secret garden. Detailed full-colour illustrations throughout also help to bring this classic tale to life.

    Edie (5) ADORED this Ladybird Classic copy of The Secret Garden .We read a couple of chapters a night and she couldn’t wait to keep reading it. I hope this has something to do with my incredible Yorkshire accent. Anyway, I guess my thinking is that it is never too young to start reading classics to your kids. You just have to find the right version. This copy was very readable with lovely, bold illustrations. 🍁🍂☘️🍀🍃🌿

    Hampstead the Hamster by Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Tony Ross.

    Christmas is coming, and what Leo wants more than anything in the world is a pet hamster. And guess what? He gets one on Christmas morning! Leo names his new pet Hampstead, after an autocorrect mistake on his wishlist. Everything is great, that is until Leo realises that Hampstead is miserable. What can Leo do to cheer Hampstead up?

    Well, its the end of October and in the Andrews household, we are well and truly ringing in the Christmas cheer. Edie (5), really enjoyed this book. She loved the format….’it looks like a grown-up book mummy.’ I think that means that she was impressed that it wasn’t in colour. This is a great read for kids. As a parent, I loved the fact that Leo’s dad is a single parent. I’m sure it is really hard to find Christmas based books which centre around families which are comprised of other than mummy, daddy and 2 kids. I think it is definitely about time unconventional family set ups are more frequently represented in children’s literature. Edie also really enjoyed the pop culture references of Famous Five, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Wizard of Oz. The story is great with lots of pictures and short chapters mean it is really readable with ample opportunity for story time to finish and pop your little darling off to bed. Lots of ‘cliffhangers’ at the end of chapters which kept Edie wanting more. Really fun read and great for a  5 year old’s Christmas stocking.

    Thanks for reading. Until next month. X

    August Reads

    Well I am well and truly out of my slump. Really positive month. 8 books read in total. 2 of those not finished. 1 non fiction. Also some really good children’s books.

    No major plans for September although I do want to read Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends before I embark on Normal People for our October book club.

    I am also planning a month of scary reads in October so I am enjoying researching those. What are the scariest books you have ever read including non fiction?

    • 1. Kiss kiss by Roald Dahl. 5*

    Description: short stories, varied, weird.

    In Kiss Kiss you will find eleven devious, shocking stories from the master of the unpredictable, Roald Dahl.

    What could go wrong when a wife pawns the mink coat that her lover gave her as a parting gift? What happens when a priceless piece of furniture is the subject of a deceitful bargain? Can a wronged woman take revenge on her dead husband?

    In these dark, disturbing stories Roald Dahl explores the sinister side of human nature: the cunning, sly, selfish part of each of us that leads us into the territory of the unexpected and unsettling. Stylish, macabre and haunting, these tales will leave you with a delicious feeling of unease.

    ‘Roald Dahl is one of the few writers I know whose work can accurately be described as addictive’ Irish Times

    Roald Dahl, the brilliant and worldwide acclaimed author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and many more classics for children, also wrote scores of short stories for adults. These delightfully disturbing tales have often been filmed and were most recently the inspiration for the West End play, Roald Dahl’s Twisted Tales by Jeremy Dyson. Roald Dahl’s stories continue to make readers shiver today.

    I ADORED this book. What a total legend Roald Dahl is. His imagination completely blows my brain. I can’t imagine another author who can pull off such a varied range of stories with such aplomb. Antique hunting, poaching, sexually frustrated vicars, scary b&bs, revenge on a husband. Each time I embarked upon a new story I had no idea of what to expect and each time I was surprised and intrigued.

    • 2. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. 4.5*

    Description: sibling rivalry, trigger for rape, arranged marriage.

    Shanghai, 1937. Pearl and May are two sisters from a bourgeois family. Though their personalities are very different – Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid – they are inseparable best friends. Both are beautiful, modern and living a carefree life until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away the family’s wealth, and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to two ‘Gold Mountain’ men: Americans. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, the two sisters set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the villages of southern China, in and out of the clutches of brutal soldiers, and even across the ocean, through the humiliation of an anti-Chinese detention centre to a new, married life in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Here they begin a fresh chapter, despite the racial discrimination and anti-Communist paranoia, because now they have something to strive for: a young, American-born daughter, Joy. Along the way there are terrible sacrifices, impossible choices and one devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel by Lisa See hold fast to who they are – Shanghai girls.

    Oooooooh I really enjoyed this and I also read a review in Goodreads which said that the book makes more sense if you read the sequel Dreams of Joy. I am so pleased there is a sequel. I so enjoyed the characters, I know returning to them will be comforting.

    This book had everything I love:

    1. A period of history in a country I know little about- Shanghai in the 1930s and LA in the 40s and 50s
    2. A family saga. Relationships between siblings, parents and partners.
    3. Drama.

    This really is a book you can sink your teeth into. The subject of immigration is still so incredibly relevant today: particularly in Trump’s America.

    • 3. See what I have done by Sarah Schmidt. DNF

    Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018

    Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

    ‘Eerie and compelling’ Paula Hawkins

    ‘Stunning’ Sunday Times

    ‘Gripping… outstanding’ Observer

    ‘Glittering’ Irish Times

    Just after 11am on 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered. He’s found on the sitting room sofa, she upstairs on the bedroom floor, both murdered with an axe.

    It is younger daughter Lizzie who is first on the scene, so it is Lizzie who the police first question, but there are others in the household with stories to tell: older sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls’ Uncle John, and a boy who knows more than anyone realises.

    In a dazzlingly original and chilling reimagining of this most notorious of unsolved mysteries, Sarah Schmidt opens the door to the Borden home and leads us into its murkiest corners, where jealousies, slow-brewed rivalries and the darkest of thoughts reside.

    Well I was expecting to really love this book but after reaching page 153 last night I decided to call it a day. If I had to give it a rating based on what I had read (which is obviously unfair) I would give it 2*.

    I just knew it wouldn’t be a book that made me excited to pick up. It wasn’t fast paced enough for me (I was still on the day of the murders by page 153) and I found Lizzie’s constant inane ramblings frustrating and confusing.

    Anyway, when reading is your passion, I don’t want to read books that are just ‘ok.’ I want a book that makes me want to stay awake!!!!

    • 4. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. 3.5*

    Description: semi autobiographical, 1980s, coming of age.

    The dazzling novel from critically-acclaimed David Mitchell.

    Shortlisted for the 2006 Costa Novel Award

    Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2006

    January, 1982. Thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor – covert stammerer and reluctant poet – anticipates a stultifying year in his backwater English village. But he hasn’t reckoned with bullies, simmering family discord, the Falklands War, a threatened gypsy invasion and those mysterious entities known as girls. Charting thirteen months in the black hole between childhood and adolescence, this is a captivating novel, wry, painful and vibrant with the stuff of life.

    This was my book club choice for a summer read. My intention was to read something light and funny whilst lying by the pool. This book popped up in a lot of articles about funny reads. What is funnier than a teenage boy I thought. Having finished the book, ‘funny’ does not even come into the top five words I would use to describe it. This book is so beautifully written and so well observed that I actually found it quite painful to read. I fell in love with the character of Jason Taylor. In him, Mitchell perfectly captured the voice of a 13 year old. The language, friendships, fears all so real. The sections where Jason is being bullied I found almost too painful to get through. Mitchell’s writing about Taylor’s parents marriage breakdown was perfect. The snidey remarks over the dinner table were perfect, the alliance between Jason and Julia growing closer as a result of it was brilliant. Mitchell’s writing is just so vivid, unpretentious and real.

    • 5. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. 4*.
  • Description: wealth, family saga, Mean Girls.
  • The acclaimed international bestseller soon to be a MAJOR MOTION PICTURE starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and Gemma Chan!

    When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and time with the man she might one day marry.

    What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars and that she is about to encounter the strangest, craziest group of people in existence.

    Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian jet set; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money – and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

    This is fun, superficial escapism that hooks and reels in even the reluctant reader: Dynastyamong the filthy-rich Chinese community – Independent

    I don’t want to make this post really maudlin but I lost our 20 week old baby this month. Reading is one of the things that is getting me through it. The moments I am reading are pure escapism and I have spend a lot of time over the last week in bed reading. This book was pure escapism. It was fluffy, pink, trashy brilliance. It was like eating a giant candy floss. I want to save the other books in the trilogy until I am in need of cheering up. Really fun read.

    • 6. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. DNF

    THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    ‘I couldn’t stop reading or caring about the juicy and dysfunctional Plumb family’ AMY POEHLER

    ‘A masterfully constructed, darkly comic, and immensely captivating tale…Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is a real talent’ ELIZABETH GILBERT

    When black sheep Leo has a costly car accident, the Plumb siblings’ much-anticipated inheritance is suddenly wiped out. His brother and sisters come together and form a plan to get back what is owed them – each grappling with their own financial and emotional turmoil from the fallout. As ‘the nest’ fades further from view, they must decide whether they will build their lives anew, or fight to regain the futures they had planned . . .

    Ferociously astute, warm and funny, The Nest is a brilliant debut chronicling the hilarity and savagery of family life.

    My issue with this book is that I felt the exact opposite of Amy Poehler. I didn’t care at all about the Poehler family…in fact I found it all very dull. Gave up on page 108.

    • 7. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. 3.5 stars.
  • Description: race, family, parenthood.
  • ‘To say I love this book is an understatement…It moved me to tears’ Reese Witherspoon

    ‘Just read it…Outstanding’ Matt Haig

    Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

    In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

    Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

    When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost…

    One of the things I most loved about this book was that it was a surprise. After reading the prologue I thought I had a fair idea of what this book would be. This is going to be a story about Izzy right? A story of teenage angst and how a family deals with a troublesome child. Wrong Ella! This book was about so much more. Class, race, fertility. The book had such a range of emotions and subjects you would think it would be a read of highly octane drama but it was actually a quiet, character based novel.

    Celeste Ng has an incredible talent for writing very real characters. As a reader, I feel like I went through a range of emotions with every single character. A character I initially disliked, would be a character that I empathised with by the end of the novel. Subjects, that at the beginning of the novel I had a strong opinion about, I often found that my opinion has changed and I had sympathy for the other side of the argument.

    Non Fiction

    • 8. The 24 hour wine expert by Jancis Robinson.
  • Description: short, quite detailed, dull.
  • From the world’s most respected wine critic, the essential guide to wine in 100 pages

    Wine is now one of the most popular drinks in the world. Many wine drinkers wish they knew more about it without having to understand every detail or go on a wine course.

    In The 24-Hour Wine Expert, Jancis Robinson shares her expertise with authority, wit and approachability. From the difference between red and white, to the shape of bottles and their labels, descriptions of taste, colour and smell, to pairing wine with food and the price-quality correlation, Robinson helps us make the most of this mysteriously delicious drink.

    Jancis Robinson has been called ‘the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world’ by Decantermagazine. In 1984 she was the first person outside the wine trade to qualify as a Master of Wine. The Financial Times wine writer, she is the author/editor of dozens of wine books, including Wine Grapes (Allen Lane), The Oxford Companion to Wine (OUP) and The World Atlas of Wine (Mitchell Beazley). Her award-winning website, http://www.JancisRobinson.com has subscribers in 100 countries.

    Right, I want to make it clear that I don’t want to turn into a wine wanker but seeing as I must spend about £50 a week on wine, I think it is important to know what I like and maybe to be a little more discerning about why I like it. This book was a quick read but god it was dull. Obviously Jancis Robinson is the expert but as a beginner I want a book to be more accessible. Anyway, when I was awake I did learn a bit about wine.

    Children’s books

    • The Best Sound in the World by Cindy Wume. 3+

    Roy is a lion and a sound catcher. He catches the sounds of the city and makes them into music, trying to avoid the annoying attentions of his neighbour, Jemmy. Feeling like his music isn’t good enough, Roy goes on a journey to find the best sound in the world for inspiration. He hears the pitter-patter of the rain in the forest, the wind whistling through the desert and the hustle and bustle of the souk at sunrise, but none of it helps – he can’t decide which is the best sound. Just as he’s about to give up, he hears a familiar voice… can Jemmy teach him that perhaps there are lots of beautiful sounds, not just one, and that for Jemmy, Roy’s music is the best of all? This gorgeous debut picture book is both a lesson in subjectivity and a heart-warming tribute to the power of friendship.

    What a totally gorgeous book. I am

    A musician and so this really appealed to me as the mum. It also provoked a hilarious discussion….what do we think are the most beautiful and the most horrid sounds in the world. Edith decided the most beautiful sound was bees buzzing. Edith and I decided the most horrid sound was Ceci screaming which she did all the way through the story!!!! We also discussed how some lovely sounds are connected to lovely memories. We liked the way that Jemmy made music fun and maybe helped Roy to take life a little less seriously…..music sounds better when you are having fun!

    • Oscar and the Catastrophe by Alan Macdonald 6+

    The third book in a brilliantly funny new series for 6+ readers from bestselling Dirty Bertie author Alan MacDonald, about a boy and his incredible talking dog.

    Sam had a very ordinary life, until Oscar the dog arrived on his doorstep. Because Oscar has a big secret – he can talk!

    Oscar usually has a lot to say on any subject, but in this book something makes him speechless . . . a CAT has moved in next door! And Carmen the pampered feline is almost as much of a nightmare neighbour as her owner, Mrs Bentley-Wallop.

    But Sam and Oscar have bigger things to worry about. When a jewel thief strikes, it’s time for the daring duo to turn detective . . . Can they sniff out the culprit before it’s too late?

    Edie and I really enjoyed this book even though we hadn’t read the previous two. She is 5 so slightly younger than the audience it is aimed at. However, she really enjoyed the illustrations and the voices we used for each character.

    • The Witches by Roald Dahl

    THE WITCHES by Roald Dahl is the story of a detestable breed of Witches.

    BEWARE.

    Real witches dress in ordinary clothes and look like ordinary women. But they are not ordinary. They are always plotting and scheming with murderous, bloodthirsty thoughts – and they hate children.

    The Grand High Witch hates children most of all and plans to make every single one of YOU disappear.

    Only one boy and his grandmother can stop her, but if their plan fails the Grand High Witch will frizzle them like fritters, and then what . . . ?

  • Because I work in the theatre, one thing I will never take for granted is a night at home because it means that I can read to my daughters. It is really important to me that my children love books as much as me and I believe as a parent it is my responsibility to make reading exciting. Edith is now 5 so I can start reading to her the stories that I loved. We tried Milly Molly Mandy which I enjoyed as a child and unfortunately I don’t think it has stood the test of time although we might try again. I think due to tv, films, iPads etc, attention span of children has decreased so you really need a book that packs a punch to keep a little one interested. Roald Dahl does exactly that. It has enough horror, funnies and gross bits to appeal to any child and as a parent I adore reading them.
  • Anyway see you in September.
  • Thanks for reading.
  • Children’s books

    FERGAL IS FUMING by Robert Starling

    A dragon with a short temper is not a good combination, as Fergal’s family and friends soon find out. He burns the dinner (literally), reduces the football goal to ashes and absolutely cannot play a nice, quiet board game. It is only when he starts to notice other animals have clever tricks to calm down that Fergal begins to win back his friends, especially when he discovers dragons can cool off in a very handy way.

    Robert Starling is a Bristol based author and teacher. He has been sketching characters since he was at school. This is his first book.

    I read this book to both my daughters. Ceci is 2.5 and Edith is 4.5. Both girls adored it and both of them, Like Fergal have VERY quick tempers.

    Firstly, they both loved the front cover. Ceci in particular thought is was hilarious that Fergal had burned a whole through the book. We had quite a fun discussion about what made Fergal so angry that he had to burn our copy of the book and if it was just our book he had burned or ‘every book in the whole wide world.’

    The pictures are lovely. The pages aren’t too busy which I often find can distract children when reading a new book. There is no feeling of sensory overload. Both girls were very interested in Fergal becoming angry when he was called to have his tea, and the cry of “it’s not fair” when being asked to eat their vegetables is very common in our house. As a result both girls identified with Fergal so the message of the story (finding a way to calm yourself down when things annoy you) was very pertinent. Edith decided she liked the idea of counting…”counting to 10 isn’t long enough for me mummy. I need to count to 70.”  Ceci has now decided to dance when she gets angry.

    It is also worth mentioning that Ceci really liked the pictures of Fergal’s mum and dad. She was particularly affected by the picture of Fergal crying and his mum comforting him.

    Brilliant book and a new favourite in our house.

     

    TEACUP HOUSE. MEET THE TWITCHES by Hayley Scott. Illustrated by Pippa Curnick

    Meet the Twitches, four tiny rabbits who live inside a Teacup House.

    They belong to a girl called Stevie and she loves playing with them. But guess what? These toy rabbits have a secret. They come alive when Stevie isn’t looking!

    Open up the Teacup House – and meet four little rabbit heroes with big ideas!

    Meet the Twitches is the first book in the Twitches series by Norfolk based author Hayley Scott, published by Usborne. The Illustrations are by Derbyshire based illustrator, Pippa Curnick.

    I read this aloud to my 4 year old over a period of five nights and we both really enjoyed it. The book layout is fantastic. Loads of different fonts, lists, spacing which kept my daughter entertained. She is just learning to read, and enjoyed sounding out the words in bold print…jump, boom, bump, ouch, thwack etc. The illustrations are also absolutely brilliant. Lovely, bold and bright colours. We both particularly loved the pictures of the garden and the hairy spider.

    The story had just the right amount of magic and adventure. There are few things better than seeing a child excited by a book and each night we stopped reading, Edith really wanted to find out what was going to happen next. Edith really loved the heroine, Silver. She was very impressed that the little girl rabbit rescued her daddy. ‘She is very brave, grown up and clever.’

    Lovely book and perfect to read aloud.