Monday 25 May 2015

I am at the point where a new book by a children’s author definitely makes me get momentarily excited, then annoyed when I find out it is not out until autumn. I can’t wait to read Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. Oh No, George! is a great book, currently one of Woodrow’s favourites – you can tell because he (a) lets you read it all to him, and (b) occasionally wants to go again right away.

Oh No, George! is great on many levels, beautifully illustrated and compelling. It’s about a dog called George whose owner, Harris, leaves him in the flat only for George to cause all kinds of mischief. Mischief George he is sure he can avoid committing. I won’t spoil it for you by saying what he gets up to. My favourite thing about the book is the ending. It’s up in the air. Non-conclusive. And not to leave room for a sequel. Just because. I love it.

Other books I have got into via young Woodrow are more open to the linear narrative. Predictably I love The Gruffalo, and to a lesser extent The Gruffalo’s child. But there are plenty of other great books by Julia Donaldson, who wrote The Gruffalo. I particularly like the one’s she does with The Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler (though this is no guarantee of quality – I can’t get into The Snail and The Whale despite wanting to), Stick Man and Tabby McTat being my two standouts.

Donaldson’s work with Lydia Monks really flick my switches though. I can heartily recommend What The Ladybird Heard and Sugarlump and The Unicorn, and recently purchased The Singing Mermaid is growing on me with each read.

I don’t know if I am too old for some of the ‘classics’ – or I just plain don’t remember them but lots of these stories are new to me. And I have a brother is 11 years younger than me and a niece who came along a few years later, so it’s not like I wasn’t around children in between being one and making one.

Some of them are just hat-stand, though. The Tiger Who Came to Tea isn’t a misleading title. It is about a tiger who comes to tea. But it’s not told in some abstract way. It’s about a non-fantastical household where a tiger knocks on the door and sets about eating everything in a suburban house. And drinking everything.

This ‘drinking everything’ bit is where the story doesn’t work for me. The tiger supposedly drinks all the water from the house so they have none left. What? Come on. If they’d made it a caravan then at least this would have been a bit palatable. The tiger drank all the water in the water system? What is it? A tiger the size of Greater London? Have a word.

The family in the book take it all in their stride. The mother and child wait for the father to get home from work and then go out for tea at a cafe. The following day the mother and daughter go shopping and get some tiger food just in case the tiger, or supposedly any other tiger, comes to tea. Clearly it was written before the days of Twitter and Facebook but even still I feel there would have been a bit more to it than this. “Do you think we should tell the press or authorities about this tiger, darling?”

“What ON EARTH would we do that for? The Police are busy solving murders and the gentlemen of the press are busy investigating political corruption. I suppose the crossword makers will have some spare time of an afternoon but they’re going to use that doing someone else’s crosswords, they’re interested in crosswords – it’s not just a job to them. DO YOU WANT A CROSSWORD COMPILER POKING AROUND THE HOUSE ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT TIGERS?

Woody also likes 10 Little Pirates. And why would he not? It’s a rollercoaster of a ride. Not quite sure why they’re all boys; or why there is a mermaid who is one of the things that picks off the pirates. What kind of message is this book sending to my boy? You could say I am reading too much into it but there is another book by the same people that’s 10 Little Princesses. I am sure it’s possible to overthink these things. It’s certainly possible for me to overthink anything.

Other noteworthy reads: Dig Ivan Dig!, Penguin in Peril and Six Dinner Sid, which I am quite sure is an allegory about polygamy.

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