Thursday, 24 March 2016

Exploring English and Soundings

I didn't buy these reissues of old school books when they first came out a few years back, reasoning that I still had my copies somewhere. And anyway, I didn't need rose coloured glasses of nostalgia to see how great they were - I loved them at the time.

Well of course I could never find my copies which were most likely long ago traded in to fund my J1 trip, or a pair of Dr Martens. So when I saw these, box-fresh in the library, I thought I should have a look. Oh my goodness, it was a real pleasure to see them again. And it made me realise they had never left me. I owe such a debt to Gus Martin. He gave me T.S. Eliot and a lifelong love of American literature. He gave me Tennyson and John Donne and Wordsworth and planted so many wonderful words in my head that have never, ever left.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (Soundings)
Every time I look in the mirror these lines come into my head. And every time I eat a peach. And God love me, I had a line from A Song for Simeon (Soundings too) written on the cover of my homework notebook.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind.
(Teenage angst, literally!)

My youngest boy looked over my shoulder when I was browsing through The Splendour Falls, (Exploring English) probably the first poem I loved learning off my heart and asked what the numbers on the right hand side were.
Sadly, I could not tell him. Metre or rhythms or something? When my teacher was explaining my eyes had drifted to the opposite page, where I saw The Eagle. I'm sure you can understand why I was distracted.

And then there were these which I don't remember loving but yet seem unable to forget.

If I were to pick one, it would definitely be Soundings. But Exploring English comes a close second. 

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty

Andy and the Lion was a Caldecott Honor book in 1939, and was published the previous year. And seventy eight years later, its still a great bedtime read and also a real window into 1930's America. What is crazy about these illustrations of Andy's parents is that they were not drawn to be "old-fashioned", they are wearing the clothes of the illustrator and his peers.

Look at the Mums shoes! And the dads moustache! 

Its one of those books that after I read it to my five year old, his older brothers went through it slowly, really inspecting the illustrations. Which is no less than they deserve. A great story, for ages four to seven.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl

I've been starting to think that my kids are coming close to the end of their picture book era. Or my youngest at least. The others listen in at bedtime, but with their own books on their knees too. He's only five so we have at the very least a year to go, two if I try to delay his independent reading..just kidding, I love picture books but I'm not that bad. Anyways, that was my excuse for ordering this:
The Duchess Bakes a Cake

(That lipstick is Fire and Ice by Revlon, its on sale since 1953, and the book was published in 1955. Maybe some mother would have read this book aloud whilst wearing it. And hopefully her kids didn't say "that doesn't fit your face" like mine did. Oh dear. Its a fab colour though.)

Its a slightly smaller than normal hardback and if you are into your colours and covers and design, its wonderful. Also, its a really, really great rhyming story. I say really, really great because there are lots of rhyming stories out there and a lot are ok but this one is up there with Seven Silly Eaters. Although I should say that one is up with The Duchess Bakes a Cake, seeing that it came first. It was over fourteen Euros, so more than I usually spend but definitely worth it.

(sorry, the lipstick is there again.)

For boys and girls two to six or seven.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Fallen by Lia Mills

I'm pretty sure this silver mirror belonged to my granny. Its in the photo above because she was the same age as Katie, in Fallen, in 1916, and also lived in the city centre.

Katie lives on Parnell Square and Granny lived down in Dublin 7 and her brother was shot there too, fighting for the Irish Volunteers. I never heard her speak about that Easter so have no idea what she thought of it all. All I know is that he was her favourite brother. I don't know if these are the reasons I am enjoying this book so much but I am. Fallen is a literary contribution to Dublin City Council's 1916 centenary programme. Which is a sentence which would not make me want to read it, that's for sure. Howandsoever, I'm really, really enjoying it. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

A Busy Day for a Good Grandmother by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain. Mrs Armitage Queen of the Road by Quentin Blake.

Well, its International Women's Day today, so I'm blogging about two books we've been reading recently, about strong women. Strong, older women with grey hair and intelligence and a sense of fun and adventure. My favourite kind.
First, a book my mother always had in her house for when the grandchildren came; A Busy Day for a Good Grandmother. She said everyone from age two to ten loved it, and I'm not surprised.

Mrs Oberon is busy fixing her trail bike when her son Scrimshaw calls.

His little son Sweeney is teething and badly needs some cock a hoop honey cake!

Mrs Oberon is on her way.

She had quite a few adventures on the journey, but my favourite part is at the end, when Sweeney is settled and Scrimshaw plonks down in front of the t.v. Not this time says Mrs Oberon, you need to learn how to make cock a hoop honey cake yourself!

Mrs Armitage Queen of the Road gets an interesting letter one morning. Her Uncle Cosmo had bought himself a new motorbike and is giving his car to Mrs Armitage. 
She heads outside to try it out. Again, there is no shortage of adventure, or wonderful illustrations, and eventually, Mrs Artmitage meets Uncle Cosmo, and his biker pals.
They all head off to the Crazy Duck Cafe for a game of billiards and a can of banana fizz, which is just about the most perfect ending ever. 

Saturday, 5 March 2016

About Face by Aisling McDermott with Laura Kennedy and Little Bear by Else H. Minirak, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Just before Christmas I looked in the mirror and thought, where is my foundation gone? I texted my good friend Pauline to ask her if she used powder to "fix" her make up and she replied "Are you insane? I've been using it for thirty years!"

Seeking advice, Sali Hughes was my first port of call, as I love the Saturday Guardian. So when my mother in law called in yesterday with a copy of About Face for my birthday, I thought damn, I wish it was Pretty Honest. Howandsoever, after on flicking through a few pages, I realised I was an (ungrateful)eejit.

My goodness, it is so, so lovely to read about what is available here in Ireland. Having grown up in the seventies and eighties in Dublin, I am well used to the "not available in Rep. of Ireland" on the side of cereal packets(yes, I was deprived - no Tony the Tiger t-shirt for me!) and knowing no matter what I created, getting a Blue Peter Badge was never, ever going to happen. I know things are different now but still, if I was reading Pretty Honest I'd be finding out about serums in in Superdrug or some great facialist in West London and other stuff that I just cannot have.

Anyways, last night I spent a blissful half hour browsing this while cuddled up beside my youngest, waiting for him to fall asleep. And another this morning with my post-school-drop-off-coffee, and another this afternoon,because there is no homework on Friday and this book is well written and great and exactly what I felt like reading on a Friday afternoon. Its sort of the opposite of when you ask the advice of a cosmetic counter lady and they say "Do you want to tackle your redness, wrinkles or dry patches?" As in, after reading I felt, hmmm, I could try that, as opposed to shoot me. Now. (I've written about my other beauty adventures here.)
A useful, funny, not depressing(even if you have just turned 47!) read.

Now, there is no shortage of kids books about cuddly brown bears(I've just noticed the Berenstains above. We LOVE the Berenstains!) and their offspring. It seems to be a theme no publisher will turn away, and it shows. Not all of them are great. Still, we do love Whatever Next! and Can't you Sleep, Little Bear?

But this Little Bear, first published in 1957 must be one of the first of the bunch.

It is a must buy, really it is. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak and perfectly, simply, so kindly written by Else H. Minarik, this book is a small and perfect gem.

Officially its an I Can Read book, and there is lots of word repetition, so it works that way. But really, what you get here for around €4 is a beautifully illustrated set of wonderful stories. For boys and girls aged three to six.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Haba mini games, Diary of a Provincial Lady, Fake Moustache, David Sedaris, William Blake's Inn

I bought this wooden animal stacking game for €6 in France. These little Haba games are the kind you find in tiny, cute and expensive toy shops. BUT, they are not expensive. They are tiny, but if your kids are over three, they work great! In a game, small can be a good thing.
And for scale, a twistable pencil.
Just divide the animals between two, throw the dice and see how many you can pile up.

Look how curly the cover on this is already! We have it a fortnight and its been read by three boys and re read by one. I really think that you cannot go wrong with Tom Angleberger. All his books are great. For ages eight to fourteen.

And speaking of my fourteen year old, I heard him chuckling the other night. He was reading this.

And this is what I read when I am too tired to think. Love, love, love this book.

I think I may have mentioned that I bought this a few weeks ago. Well, we have read it aloud now and its a beauty. Highly recommended. For ages five to adult.