May kids reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

April Kids Reads

Yay, the end of April. This is where I finally get off the hamster wheel and stop work. Baby not due for a few weeks so I am looking forward to cosy nights in and reading….not very rock and roll. I finished last week and had big plans of reading fab books with the girls. Disappointingly, we have read Stick Man EVERY night. Last night, I attempted a bit of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was going well and even provoked a few laughs. However, as soon as we got to a couple of pages with no pictures, the interest stopped. I find myself turning the pages dreading being faced with no pictures. Not to be discouraged I have decided to let them choose a book each night but also mummy gets a choice. Yes, it makes storytime longer but it also means that Stick Man is diluted a little. I would like to add that I do love Stick Man….just not EVERY night.

  • Hans Christian Anderson born 2nd April 1805.

One of my favourite films as a child was Hans Christian Anderson with the great Danny Kaye. I remember feeling so, so sorry for the poor cobbler who seemed ostracised by parents in the village for being a storyteller. I found the film almost painful to watch, particularly the part where Anderson tells the story of the Ugly Duckling to the little boy who is bullied for having no hair. Writing this now, it’s strikes me as quite a strange choice for a 7/8 year old child to take to heart so much.

Growing up, I remember thinking that Anderson was a cobbler who fell in love with a ballerina in Copenhagen. In fact, the real life of the author is nothing like my beloved Danny Kaye film.

Anderson was the only child born to parents in Odense in Denmark in 1805. As a young child, he was sent to a poor school where he became an apprentice to a weaver. At the age of 14, he moved to Copenhagen. His beautiful soprano voice earned him entry into the Royal Danish Theatre where he had aspirations of becoming an actor. When his voice broke, he decided to dedicate himself to poetry and writing. Anderson’s initial fairytales were revisions of stories he had heard as a child. They were heavily influenced by Christianity and on initial publication, sold poorly. 1845 was a breakthrough year for Anderson as his fairytales were published in 4 different translations.

So what of Anderson’s legacy?? Disney films, songs, paintings etc. Edie is currently obsessed with the Don Bluth film of Thumbelina and she really enjoys the original story. For those who love the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, the Anderson tale is much darker. No reggae singing crabs here. Instead we have tongues being cut out and the Mermaid feeling like daggers are cutting her legs when she walks. It’s dark guys. Needless to say, it satisfied Edie’s blood lust and is now her story of choice. 😱😱😱🀣🀣

  • I want my Tooth by Tony Ross.

Major Event in the Andrews household!!! Edie finally lost her first of about 5 wobbly teeth. She was utterly overjoyed. I seem to remember being a little freaked out when it happened to me, but not Edie Mae, no, she views it as a coming of age rite of passage. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ. We read this book to celebrate. Whatever lengths I go to, to introduce my children to new books, they always find returning to the likes of The Little Princess and Peppa really comforting. I also quite enjoy these books as I can work on my Julian Clary and Jane Horrocks impressions. Clary is seriously hard to get right however!

  • Nothing can frighten a bear by Elizabeth Dale.

Daddy Bear insists that nothing can frighten a bear – but when there’s a noise in the night, Baby Bear isn’t convinced. The bears set out to make sure there aren’t any monsters but, as they vanish one by one, it looks like Daddy Bear might not be so brave after all!

We took this book out of the library a couple of weeks ago and the children loved it so much that I had to buy a copy. Firstly I need to say that there is nothing scary about this book so don’t worry about bad dreams. The end is brilliant. The rhymes are great and each rhyme is concluded on the page turn so both Edie and Ceci enjoyed guessing the word. I thought maybe it would be a bit young for Edie (6) but I think she enjoys it more than her sister.

Right next month there will be more books….promise!!!!! If not I will write a very in-depth discussion about Stick Man.

Thanks for reading.

March Beauty

Hi all. 3 completely wicked products this month. None of them crazy money and all completely fab.

  • The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution. Β£11.20.

In my constant quest to look like I have had 8 hours sleep when in fact I have had 5, this stuff from The Ordinary is the business. 🀩🀩🀩πŸ₯³πŸ₯³πŸ₯³πŸ€©πŸ₯³πŸ€©πŸ₯³πŸ€©πŸ₯³πŸ€© It’s cheap, it works and it lasts yonks. As with all peels, don’t go crazy…once, twice a week and don’t follow it with your glycolic toner, retinol serum etc. I read a review on Amazon of a lady who used it every night…I’m convinced she looks like Anjelica Huston in The Witches….sans mask! πŸ§™β€β™€οΈπŸ§™β€β™€οΈπŸ§™β€β™€οΈπŸ§™β€β™€οΈπŸ§™β€β™€οΈπŸ§™β€β™€οΈπŸ§™β€β™€οΈπŸ§™β€β™€οΈπŸ§™β€β™€οΈπŸ§™β€β™€οΈA couple of words of warning…………………

1. It tingles a little. Don’t be alarmed. Man up!

2. When the peel is on it looks like you have smeared your face in the blood of vestal virgins. Maybe don’t apply when there is any danger that the postman will knock at the door. This is without a doubt a nighttime ritual when the blinds are down and you are alone. ⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️ Anyway, it works. In fact I just did the school run without make up. Am still wearing massive πŸ•Ά – it doesn’t eliminate eye bags but my skin is clearer, sun spots reduced and open pores….what pores???

  • Hask Purifying Deep Conditioner with charcoal and citrus oil.
  • Boots. Β£2.99.

I have to admit that I am pretty good about maintaining my hair cut and colour. This shouldn’t really be a boast as since my amazing hairdresser has moved to Leeds, she hops on the megabus every 6 weeks (πŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ🚍🚍🚍) and comes to London to do a handful of haircuts for clients. Brilliantly for me, this involves minimal effort. I can sit in my kitchen in my pjs, safe in the knowledge that my whole family are queuing up in a production line to get their hair done without leaving the comfort of our own home. Lazy, lazy, lazy. I actually live in fear for the day that will surely come when Elthia wakes up, wonders what the hell she is doing, decides not to board the megabus at 5 in the morning for a 6 hour journey and we never see her again. This day will happen and I will have stop being a lazy bitch and drag my family to a salon!

So, as I say, my colour and cut are always pretty up to date. The condition of my hair is unfortunately crap!!! I received this hair mask in a beauty box and it’s brill. Bloody everything has charcoal in nowadays doesn’t it? I was a little concerned before opening that it would stain my blonde hair but as you can see, it doesn’t really have a colour. It smells really citrusy which I love and is absolutely fine to use on coloured hair. I particularly like the fact that’s it’s purifying so it removes all the product build-up (a lot of dry shampoo and hairspray) and leaves my hair feeling baby soft and with a new lease of life! You can buy this little packet of Joy for just Β£2.99 from Boots. My hair is chin length and the packet has lasted 3 washes which is great. Defo worth a try.

    Kate McIver Secret Weapon Serum. Β£34.99.

Woohooo! Another beautiful product that works like a dream. Secret Weapon Serum by Kate McIver. 🌟❀️🌟❀️🌟❀️🌟❀️🌟❀️In 2016, Kate was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Treatment left her skin dull and dry. Using her knowledge from her job in skin aesthetics, she decided to make a product that would give women their confidence back. πŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒThe Serum is oil based so it instantly feels hydrating and really pampering. It contains borage, rosehip and evening primrose which contain fatty acids to develop healthy skin. These 3 ingredients contain Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which encourages the production of collagen and elastin which fight wrinkles and encourage that β€˜well -rested-glow’ something I am always on the hunt for. All natural, no harsh chemicals and suitable for vegans. It’s honestly totally gorgeous and if your tired, dull, dehydrated skin needs a treat you should try it. πŸ’žπŸ’ž

Anyway thanks for reading. See y’all next month .

March kids reads

I am writing this on my walk to the tube station. I have turned into one of those utterly annoying people who write on their phones whilst walking!!! God how vexing! I am ashamed of myself. The sun is shining and I’m not wearing a coat. Spring has definitely sprung. This is my last week of working in the day. From next week until the 13th April I just have shows at night. My last show is a matinee of the Merry Widow on the 13th and then I’m done! The baby isn’t due until the beginning of July but lumbering around being pregnant on stage is pretty rank so I decided to take the time off. One of the things I am most excited about is reading to my girls every night….that and a nightly bath!!!

  • Theodor Seuss Geisel. Born 2nd March 1904.

Dr Seuss is a firm favourite in our house. I am surprised and a little ashamed to say that he is an author who passed me by when I was younger. This month, on my walks to the station, I decided to listen to some podcasts on the authors I’ve read and it turns out that Dr Seuss was a pretty interesting guy. Firstly, we are all saying his name wrong. Apparently the correct pronunciation is Zoice!!! This is totally the kind of stuff I love finding out. From now on, I shall be utterly smug when his name comes up in conversation.

The Cat in the Hat is probably one of his most famous books and was published in 1957. Cat in the Hat was intended as a children’s primer with 225 words. His editor then bet him he couldn’t write a book with 50 words….Green Eggs and Ham was created

I think the best podcast I listened to was called Stuff you Should Know. This is an American podcast and the hour was packed with tons of interesting information about Dr Seuss. In recent years the Read Across America project which has always backed Dr Seuss books decided to move away from promoting the author in favour of more racially diverse books. Apparently, last year, a library refused a gift of Dr Seuss books which were sent by Melania Trump. The library said that the books were “steeped in racist propaganda and harmful stereotypes.” Anne Nealy who is a Professor of Children’s Literature at Vanderbilt Universitu said “Theodor Geisel was a product of his time. We should not judge him by today’s standard but we must evaluate the books that we decide to share with children using today’s standards.” Is this political correctness gone a bit mad??? Whatever your views, I think Anne Nealy hits the nail on the head. As a mother who enjoys reading these books to her children, I would agree that they certainly aren’t racially diverse, however my kids and I enjoy them and they encourage my daughter to read.

  • A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively.
  • Dame Penelope Lively born 17th March 1933.

Maria is always getting lost in the secret world of her imagination…

A ghostly mystery and winner of the Whitbread Award,republished in the Collins Modern Classics range.

Maria likes to be alone with her thoughts. She talks to animals and objects, and generally prefers them to people. But whilst on holiday she begins to hear things that aren’t there – a swing creaking, a dog barking – and when she sees a Victorian embroidered picture, Maria feels a strange connection with the ten-year-old, Harriet, who stitched it.

But what happened to her? As Maria becomes more lost in Harriet’s world, she grows convinced that something tragic occurred…

Perfect for fans of ghostly mysteries like β€˜Tom’s Midnight Garden’.

Last month I attempted to read Milly Molly Mandy to Edie. It was a complete and utter failure. My 5 year old city girl was underwhelmed with quaint country life. She couldn’t believe that Milly Molly Mandy spent her time picking blackberries and running errands. “The most boring book ever” I was told. This got me thinking about how literature has changed. Edie is too young to read A Stitch in Time….the back of the book says it’s recommended for 9 year olds. Having said that, I don’t think she would enjoy it when she gets to 9. I am embarrassed to say that me at 37 found it dull!!!! Looking at reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, the star rating seems high but nearly every review is written by an adult who remembers it from their youth.

A Stitch in Time won the 1976 Children’s Whitbread Award so at the time it was obviously incredibly popular. Undoubtedly, the writing is lovely and the character of Maria is beautifully drawn. I particularly enjoyed Lively’s description of Maria’s parents who were obviously the dullest of the dull. My issue with the book is that nothing really happened. It is slow but I guess that is because in the 70s, the pace of life was slower. Nowadays, we are spoiled by the internet, social media etc. We are used to things happening immediately, at the touch of a button…..you can even turn your house lights on with your mobile phone! I guess we don’t have to work at things as much. This book made me think how much the Harry Potter phenomenon must have changed literature. I’m not saying I need magic and giants but I need SOMETHING and I know my children definitely do.

  • The Sheep Pig by Dick King Smith.
  • Dick King Smith born 27th March 1922.

The Sheep-pig is one of Dick King-Smith’s most famous tales. It shot to further fame when the film adaptation, Babe, was released in 1995. 

‘Why can’t I learn to be a Sheep-Pig?’

When Babe, the little orphaned piglet, is won at a fair by Farmer Hogget, he is adopted by Fly, the kind-hearted sheep-dog. Babe is determined to learn everything he can from Fly. He knows he can’t be a sheep-dog. But maybe, just maybe, he might be a sheep-pig.

‘An unexpectedly thrilling, funny charmer of a book’ – Guardian
‘Dick King-Smith is a huge favourite with children’ – Observer

***Winner of the Guardian Fiction Award***

Dick King-Smith served in the Grenadier Guards during the Second World War, and afterwards spent twenty years as a farmer in Gloucestershire, the country of his birth. Many of his stories are inspired by his farming experiences. He wrote a great number of children’s books, including The Sheep-Pig (winner of the Guardian Award and filmed as Babe), Harry’s Mad, Noah’s Brother, The Queen’s Nose, Martin’s Mice, Ace, The Cuckoo Child and Harriet’s Hare(winner of the Children’s Book Award in 1995). In 2009 he was made an OBE for services to children’s literature. Dick King-Smith died in 2011 at the age of eighty-eight.

Dick King Smith was born on the 27th March 1922 and The Sheep Pig was published in 1983. πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘ Sadly, I didn’t read any of these books when I was a child so I am really enjoying it now. Edie (6) is also enjoying it although it has thrown up some interesting questions about where we get sausages from. Thankfully, Edie is not in anyway sentimental and sausages remain her food of choice so all is well. πŸ₯“πŸ₯©πŸ–πŸ₯©πŸ₯“πŸ–πŸ₯©πŸ₯“πŸ–πŸ₯©πŸ₯“πŸ–πŸ₯©πŸ₯“πŸ–

On Saturday I was feeling particularly lazy and decided to put the film on for the girls. I was fully intending to doze all the way through it but I sat there enraged. Was it the the ludicrous Americanised view of English country life? No, I admit, I quite like the artificial American ideal of hazy sunsets, thatched cottages and picture prefect farms. No, what really got my goat (🐐) were the ridiculous amounts of American accents. If you are making a film based on a British book, set in Britain why not use English accents. Pregnant, hormonal, me???

The Sheep Pig is a really fun book to read aloud and I feel the need to give myself a MASSIVE shout out as my voices are on point. If anyone is looking for someone who can do a great west-country farmer or a ewe with foot-rot then I’m your girl. πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™Œ. In conclusion, great book for for 6-8 year olds. It’s also worth mentioning that in this copy, there were enough illustrations to keep Edie well entertained.

Anyway, have a great month.

Thanks for reading.

February reads.

Hi all. I think my reading this month has been pretty varied. The easier reads of Judy Blume and Penny Vincenzi have been balanced out by the Coetzee and Morrison which were pretty harrowing.

It is now the 1st March and I am embarking on the epic that is The Cider House Rules. This is one big ass book which will probably take me the majority of the month!!! πŸ™„

  • Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. 4⭐️.
  • J.M. Coetzee born 9th February 1940.

After years teaching Romantic poetry at the Technical University of Cape Town, David Lurie, middle-aged and twice divorced, has an impulsive affair with a student. The affair sours; he is denounced and summoned before a committee of inquiry. Willing to admit his guilt, but refusing to yield to pressure to repent publicly, he resigns and retreats to his daughter Lucy’s isolated smallholding. 

For a time, his daughter’s influence and the natural rhythms of the farm promise to harmonise his discordant life. But the balance of power in the country is shifting. He and Lucy become victims of a savage and disturbing attack which brings into relief all the faultlines in their relationship.

If you had asked me my thoughts at the end of the first chapter, I would have told you that the book was destined for my charity shop bag. To say I hated the character of Lurie is is an understatement. I loathed this man. I found his relationship with his student utterly predatory and distasteful. I couldn’t bear the thought of committing my time to this individual for another 200 pages. It was the writing that made me persevere. Coetzee writes with a total lack of pretension which I loved. As the winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature, I was wrongly expecting flowery, writing. This is not the case and this in my opinion is the strength of the language. Coetzee does not waste words or sentences which I think makes the story even more brutal and immediate. The visceral writing, makes it impossible not to connect with the story.

I think I started to enjoy (if enjoy is the right word….it’s not) when David went to stay with his daughter on the farm. Throughout this section I softened towards the man I initially loathed. His relationships with his daughter, Bev and the animals were so interesting and bleak that I couldn’t fail to be moved.

I think this might be my first foray into South African literature and it definitely won’t be my last.

  • Then again maybe I won’t by Judy Blume. 3⭐️.
  • Just Blume born 12th February 1938.

Tony Miglione is thirteen, and his family lives in a cramped house in New Jersey. But then his Dad invents something that makes them rich, and they move to a luxury home in Long Island. But being rich brings it’s own problems – Tony’s Grandma feels useless when she doesn’t have to cook any more, and his mum is obsessed with impressing the neighbours, but Tony knows the boy next door isn’t as perfect as he looks. The only upside to his new life is that his neighbour Lisa keeps undressing with the light on. As he tries to adjust to his new life Tony starts to suffer from anxiety attacks and wishes everything would just be normal again.

Then Again, Maybe I Won’t is a classic coming of age story from the boy’s perspective, from Judy Blume, the author of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Oh Judy, Judy, Judy. My first sex education teacher. The woman who taught my 11 year old friends and myself about wet dreams, hard ons, boobs, periods and …..RAPLH!!!! I remember break times at school with my friends, hiding under the stairs with a copy of BIG magazine, Just Seventeen and Forever. It was lucky one of us had an older sister so we could steal these epic bibles of sex education. I remember feeling scared, intrigued, disgusted and clueless. So clueless in fact, that when the tampon lady came to give us the talk I spent at least two occasions walking around with the tampon AND the cardboard applicator inserted…..really painful! You literally couldn’t pay me to go back to those days.

Reading Judy Blume as an adult and a mother of two girls stirs up as much emotion as was contained in my 13 year old self. Different though. It makes me appreciate the stress my parents must have gone through with me as a teenager. I was a bloody nightmare. Boys, boys, alcohol, boys. My 5 year old daughter is already chatting about boys. I think as punishment for my teenage years, I am destined to have a boy mad daughter….I just thought it would start later than 5!

I guess having read this book as a mother, and having wisdom and age on my side (😳), I can take some comfort in knowing that everything will be alright (touch wood). You can’t stop kids being interested in sex etc and neither should you. Hopefully, if you bring up your kids well, they will always have some kind of moral compass and not go too far off the rails. In this book, Tony is a great kid. Sure he spies on the next door neighbours daughter and raids the drinks cabinet but on the hole he comes off a lot better than his incredibly annoying mother. Having listened to this on audio I think I hated Mrs Miglione ten times more because of the reader’s screechy, high and slightly hoarse voice he used for all the women in the book. Mrs Miglione comes off as a weak, social climber, desperate to keep up with the Joneses. I was impressed how money didn’t change Tony. He had a strong sense of fairness and what is right and wrong. As teenagers go, I think he is pretty special.

I am left pondering what teenage boys today would think about this book. As a mother of 5 and 3 year old daughters, I have no contact with teenagers. I am left wondering if today’s teens would find Judy Blume a little dull. Due to social media, you tube, tv, computer games etc, I think kids grow up quicker now and are less shockable. I can’t imagine the teenage girls I pass on the school run, reading Forever under the stairs in lunch break.

  • Dreams of Joy by Lisa See. 3⭐️.
  • Lisa See born 18th February 1955.

Nineteen-year-old Joy Louie has run away from her home in 1950s America to start a new life in China. Idealistic and unafraid, she believes that Chairman Mao is on the side of the people, despite what her family keeps telling her. How can she trust them, when she has just learned that her parents have lied to her for her whole life, that her mother Pearl is really her aunt and that her real father is a famous artist who has been living in China all these years? 

Joy arrives in Green Dragon Village, where families live in crowded, windowless huts and eke out a meagre existence from the red soil. And where a handsome young comrade catches her eye… Meanwhile, Pearl returns to China to bring her daughter home – if she can. For Mao has launched his Great Leap Forward, and each passing season brings ever greater hardship to cities and rural communes alike. Joy must rely on her skill as a painter and Pearl must use her contacts from her decadent childhood in 1930s Shanghai to find a way to safety, and a chance of joy for them both. 

My slightly macabre fascination with Chinese history started when I was a child. I remember being on holiday and my mum was reading Wild Swans by Jung Chang. Mum read the section about foot binding to me. I remember being repulsed, terrified and fascinated all at the same time.

Since that fateful holiday in Javea I have read a lot of books about China. Lisa See is completely brilliant and I have loved everything she has written. Shanghai Girls was the first in this series of two books and I have to say that I enjoyed it slightly more than Dreams of Joy. The first book was more of a family saga, centered around the Pearl and May, sisters who travel from Shanghai to LA. The book spans the 1930s-1950s and deals with sibling relationships, immigration and racial prejudice.

Dreams of Joy centres around Pearl’s daughter, Joy. She leaves LA to return to Shanghai to search for Shanghai and join the Communist movement. Pearl follows her daughter and returns to the Shanghai of her childhood. The country is now under communist rule and is much changed. People are suspicious of eachother, food is scarce and everyone’s moves are monitored.

There definitely wasn’t as much action as Shanghai Girls and at times I felt it was all a bit slow but it’s definitely worth a read.

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison. 4⭐️.
  • Toni Morrison born 18th February 1931.

Terrible, unspeakable things happened to Sethe at Sweet Home, the farm where she lived as a slave for so many years until she escaped to Ohio. Her new life is full of hope but eighteen years later she is still not free. Sethe’s new home is not only haunted by the memories of her past but also by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

One of the things I have noticed since starting my mission to read books written by authors who were born or died in the month we are in, is that books are chosen because of the authors and not the content. This means I often have no idea what the books are about before I delve in. Of course I had heard of Beloved but I thought it was a story set on a slave plantation. Of course there are aspects of Sethe’s previous life on the plantation of Sweet Home but the book is also a ghost story and about how the characters have adapted to life since being released from slavery. The story is told in flash backs and through the memories of the main characters. The central event is Sethe murdering her own daughter rather than letting her be captured and returning to a life of slavery.

In writing the novel, Toni Morrison was inspired by the sad story of Margaret Garner. Garner escaped from slavery in 1856 and fled to Ohio which was a free state. She killed her own daughter rather than letting her be recaptured. When she was arrested, authorities didn’t know whether to try her for murder or desecration of property.

I have to admit that I preferred the flash back chapters to the chapters which involved the character of Beloved. Initially I found the magical realism element in a book about a subject as harrowing as slavery a little confusing. A couple of days ago I listened to a podcast with Toni Morrison who said that all the characters within the novel were trying to escape their past. Morrison wanted ‘the past to come in a sit at the kitchen table.’ This is definitely what happens with the character of Beloved and the question of whether she is a reincarnation of the murdered daughter doesn’t actually matter. Her arrival means that all the characters have to face their previous lives. I think this is what I found so heartbreaking….ultimately, all the characters are still wearing the shackles of slavery.

In the podcast, Morrison also talks about how a second reading of a novel is always richer. I am sure that without a doubt this would be true of Beloved. I am ashamed to say that I don’t think I could read it again. I found it so harrowing that I had to give myself a couple of days off. Hard though it was to get through however, I honestly don’t think I have ever been so moved by a book in my life.

  • Into Temptation by Penny Vincenzi.
  • Penny Vincenzi died 25th February 2018.

Power, politics and closely guarded secrets abound in INTO TEMPTATION, the third and final novel of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi’s Spoils of Time trilogy. ‘Like an illicit lover, I have been sloping off all week to snatch another hour’s pleasure with … Penny Vincenzi’s terrific new novel’ Jilly Cooper. For any reader of Elizabeth Buchan, Santa Montefiore or Harriet Evans, and for any fan of epics such as Downton Abbey.

The Lytton family past is full of secrets, and only Lady Celia knows them all. There’s her daughter Adele’s difficult, dark past; the dreadful cruelty of a truth her son Kit had to confront; even the shadows of Celia’s own life, and that of Barty Miller, the child she rescued from the slums in babyhood who now owns more than half of the Lytton publishing house. Some secrets are more dangerous than others, some shared with Celia’s family, some entirely her own. And all absolutely safe in her keeping. Until something threatens to reveal them all…

Are you ever guilty of judging a book by its cover? Are you ever guilty of making rash judgements about books based on an author’s name or genre. Without a shadow of a doubt this is something I am 100% guilty of but I am also someone who can admit they were wrong. Penny Vincenzi, I owe you an apology.

I first came across Vincenzi’s books when I was in secondary school. I had a good friend whose mum always had one on the go. I remember they would be 800 page door stops with terrible covers – women pictured in profile, often wearing a large, glamorous hat, Penny’s name picked out in gold, raised font. I remember thinking ‘my mum doesn’t read books that look like that.’ Chick lit I thought. 800 page books about women who were looking for a man, thinking about their weight and what to wear.

Two years ago a friend bought me The Spoils of Time trilogy. I must admit, I was appalled: you want me to read Penny Vincenzi???? Author of middle-aged chick lit???? Nope, nope, NOPE!

The books sat on my bookshelf for about six months. I then decided to try the first one, No Angel (πŸ˜±πŸ™„πŸ˜„bloody awful title). I’ll try the first 100 pages and then as I will probably hate it, I can take the whole trilogy to Oxfam and reclaim a large chunk of my bookshelf. The shocker came when I didn’t hate it. In fact I really enjoyed it. What’s not to love. A family saga set in the most interesting time in British history. The women weren’t man hungry nymphos. Celia Lytton is a strong, modern woman. Ok, yes, there’s the odd affair but this is in no way a soppy, romantic love story.

I am now nearly finished the last book in the trilogy.…Into Temptation (πŸ˜±πŸ€£πŸ™„ another shit title). Whilst reading on the tube this morning, this book actually made me cry!!! I usually pride myself on being a bit of an emotional desert….I cannot believe Vincenzi made me cry. I am torn between being a little embarrassed and wanting to become a massive Vincenzi cheerleader.

Anyway Penny, I apologise for my misgivings about your books. The Lyttons will always have a fond place in my heart….I do think a Lady Celia would have been utterly appalled by your titles and covers however!!!

Anyway, that’s all for this month folks. Sorry for the rather eclectic choice of books.

See you next month and thank you so much for reading .

Children’s reads for February.

Hi all. Spring is in the air and my mood has lifted remarkably. It has been a bit of a slow reading month with the kids as I have been working every night. My husband then takes over reading duty but so far he seems to have read The Dinosaur who Pooped a Planet nearly every night this month. 😳😳😳

  • Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lancaster Brisley.
    Joyce Lancaster Brisley born 6th February 1896.

One of the biggest disappointments in the life of a book nerd is when you excitedly introduce your offspring to a book you loved as a child and they describe it as ‘pants.’ This is exactly what happened this month when I embraced the Mary Poppins in me, made hot chocolate with marshmallows and started to read Milly Molly Mandy. I didn’t get far into Milly Molly Mandy buying eggs for Farver and Muvver before Edie declared that this was ‘the most boring and stupid story’ she had ever heard. To be fair, the stories haven’t stood the test of time. As a child raised in the city, Edie has no appreciation of blackberry picking or laundry drying in the country air. She is a child of iPads and trampoline parks. I don’t really know what I was thinking, trying to introduce her to the quaint and charming world of village life. Sadly, the book has been relegated to the top of the shelf, probably never to be seen again. 😒😒

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Published by Babylit. Story retold by Stephanie Clarkson. Art by Mike Byrne.
  • Charles Dickens born 7th February 1812.

In Great Expectations: A BabyLit Storybook, preschoolers follow Pip’s story, learning about the value of family and friends, fortune and loss, and love. Easy-to-follow, engaging text combined with original quotes and beautiful artwork create a book to be treasured through childhood and beyond.

BabyLit(R) primers have become the chic, smart way to introduce babies to the most beloved and readable literature of our time. Gibbs Smith is now presenting a delightful collection of picture books, lovingly designed and crafted for young children. Each book retells a story from the literary canon, bringing a classic to life for an entirely new audience. 

Stephanie Clarkson began her writing career as a journalist at Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper and continues to write for the British press while dreaming up stories for children. Steph has written everything from pocket money books to gift titles and is the author of Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-ups. She lives in Surrey, England.

Mike Byrne lives in the Surrey countryside with his wife, cat, and two young sons where he spends his days doodling and illustrating children’s books fuelled only by tea and biscuits. Mike is the illustrator of Sproutzilla vs. Christmas and My Colourful Chameleon.

Another Baby Lit book purchased this month. I want to make it known that I’m not sponsored by this company, I just think they are bloody fantastic. Great Expectations satisfied Edie’s macabre little mind….an old lady, jilted at the altar who never takes off her wedding dress! Miss Havisham was really the only part of the book that really captured her imagination. The rest of our reading session was punctuated with “who mummy?” “Why mummy?” “Why is he called Pit mummy” which basically made me want to give up. Maybe Dickens is a step too far for a 5 year old but I will persevere and in the mean time it looks great on my book shelf.

  • Then again maybe I won’t by Judy Blume.
  • Judy Blume born 12th July 1938.

Tony Miglione is thirteen, and his family lives in a cramped house in New Jersey. But then his Dad invents something that makes them rich, and they move to a luxury home in Long Island. But being rich brings it’s own problems – Tony’s Grandma feels useless when she doesn’t have to cook any more, and his mum is obsessed with impressing the neighbours, but Tony knows the boy next door isn’t as perfect as he looks. The only upside to his new life is that his neighbour Lisa keeps undressing with the light on. As he tries to adjust to his new life Tony starts to suffer from anxiety attacks and wishes everything would just be normal again.

Then Again, Maybe I Won’t is a classic coming of age story from the boy’s perspective, from Judy Blume, the author of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Oh Judy, Judy, Judy. My first sex education teacher. The woman who taught my 11 year old friends and myself about wet dreams, hard ons, boobs, periods and …..RAPLH!!!! I remember break times at school with my friends, hiding under the stairs with a copy of BIG magazine, Just Seventeen and Forever. It was lucky one of us had an older sister so we could steal these epic bibles of sex education. I remember feeling scared, intrigued, disgusted and clueless. So clueless in fact, that when the tampon lady came to give us the talk I spent at least two occasions walking around with the tampon AND the cardboard applicator inserted…..really painful! You literally couldn’t pay me to go back to those days.

Reading Judy Blume as an adult and a mother of two girls stirs up as much emotion as was contained in my 13 year old self. Different though. It makes me appreciate the stress my parents must have gone through with me as a teenager. I was a bloody nightmare. Boys, boys, alcohol, boys. My 5 year old daughter is already chatting about boys. I think as punishment for my teenage years, I am destined to have a boy mad daughter….I just thought it would start later than 5!

I guess having read this book as a mother, and having wisdom and age on my side (😳), I can take some comfort in knowing that everything will be alright (touch wood). You can’t stop kids being interested in sex etc and neither should you. Hopefully, if you bring up your kids well, they will always have some kind of moral compass and not go too far off the rails. In this book, Tony is a great kid. Sure he spies on the next door neighbours daughter and raids the drinks cabinet but on the whole, he comes off a lot better than his incredibly annoying mother. Having listened to this on audio I think I hated Mrs Miglione ten times more because of the reader’s screechy, high and slightly hoarse voice he used for all the women in the book. Mrs Miglione comes off as a weak, social climber, desperate to keep up with the Joneses. I was impressed how money didn’t change Tony. He had a strong sense of fairness and what is right and wrong. As teenagers go, I think he is pretty special.

I am left pondering what teenage boys today would think about this book. As a mother of 5 and 3 year old daughters, I have no contact with teenagers. Would today’s teens would find Judy Blume a little dull??Due to social media, you tube, tv, computer games etc, I think kids grow up quicker now and are less shockable. I can’t imagine the teenage girls I pass on the school run, reading Forever under the stairs in lunch break.

    A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Bad Beginning. By Lemony Snicket.
  • Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler born 28th February 1970.

Dear reader,

There is nothing to be found in Lemony Snicket’s β€˜A Series of Unfortunate Events’ but misery and despair. You still have time to choose another international best-selling series to read. But if you insist on discovering the unpleasant adventures of the Baudelaire orphans, then proceed with caution…

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky.

In The Bad Beginning, the siblings encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune and cold porridge for breakfast.

In the tradition of great storytellers, from Dickens to Dahl, comes an exquisitely dark comedy that is both literary and irreverent, hilarious and deftly crafted.

Despite their wretched contents, β€˜A Series of Unfortunate Events’ has sold 60 million copies worldwide and been made into a Hollywood film starring Jim Carrey. And in the future things are poised to get much worse, thanks to the forthcoming Netflix series starring Neil Patrick Harris. You have been warned.

Are you unlucky enough to own all 13 adventures?

The Bad Beginning

The Reptile Room

The Wide Window

The Miserable Mill

The Austere Academy

The Ersatz Elevator

The Vile Village

The Hostile Hospital

The Carnivorous Carnival

The Slippery Slope

The Grim Grotto

The Penultimate Peril

The End

And what about All the Wrong Questions? In this four-book series a 13-year-old Lemony chronicles his dangerous and puzzling apprenticeship in a mysterious organisation that nobody knows anything about:

β€˜Who Could That Be at This Hour?’

β€˜When Did you Last See Her?’

β€˜Shouldn’t You Be in School?’

β€˜Why is This Night Different from All Other Nights?’

Lemony Snicket was born before you were and is likely to die before you as well. He was born in a small town where the inhabitants were suspicious and prone to riot. He grew up near the sea and currently lives beneath it. Until recently, he was living somewhere else.

Brett Helquist was born in Ganado, Arizona, grew up in Orem, Utah, and now lives in New York City. He earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Brigham Young University and has been illustrating ever since. His art has appeared in many publications, including Cricket magazine and The New York Times.

I pretty much hate being pregnant. I am not one of those women who bloom. I am pukey, acidy and varicose veiny. I can’t believe in this day and age that no one has invented something to speed up the gestation process….I bet Violet Beaudelaire could!!! The one positive is that I give myself permission to take myself off to bed for a couple of hours (when I can) to read. Usually I am accompanied by two little people and my reading is punctuated by the whiney sound of Bing but since having kids, I have mastered the art of blocking out whining…Bing’s included. For those of you who don’t know what Bing is, it’s the most annoying kids show IN THE WORLD!!!

Last Sunday, I was lucky enough to take myself off to bed and I managed to read the whole book of Lemony Snicket. I honestly don’t think I have achieved this much since my GCSE’s.

So, Lemony Snicket….still too to old for Edie (5) but I know this is exactly the kind of book she will love. She will love the darkness of it all. Count Olaf is wickedly wicked. I adore a villain who doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a villain. I also think it makes it easier for kids to process and as a result makes it slightly less scary. The deception of a character who appears to be beautiful and kind but spends the whole time having secret, murderous thoughts is WAY more sinister. Nope, with Count Olaf what you see is what you get- from his filthy house and bad porridge all the way to his ideas of theft, treachery and under-age marriage.

Moving on to the brilliant Beaudelaire’s. These kids don’t whine….and to be fair they have ample reason for a good whinge. But no, when faced with lumpy beds, bad porridge and under-age marriage, they don’t moan, they plot! Love it. I have a particular soft spot for Violet the plucky inventor….great role model for girls.

As you can probably tell from my inane rambling, I am not a woman who loves an unreliable narrator. This is why this book is such a hit for me. There is nothing unreliable about these books or the characters. We are told right from the start that we will be faced with misery and despair and I applaud Handler’s honesty. Top work!

Anyway that is all from me this month. Hope you enjoy the start of Spring!!!! X

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.