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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Button Moon

Button Moon seems older in my memory, it first started in 1980 but always looked like it belonged in the 1950s.
It's primitive feel added to the charm of a show that ran for 91 episodes until 1988.
The characters and the set would not be out of place in an overpriced Etsy store. The characters and set were created from various (mostly) kitchen accessories. Button Moon hung in blanket sky. Mr Spoon in the show would often fly to Button Moon in his spaceship which was a gift from his wife. The Spoons live on Junk Planet. The show was created by Ian Allen and narrated by actor Robin Parkinson. The theme tune was written and performed by the then Dr Who, Peter Davison and his then wife Sandra Dickinson.

 The following episode, The Flying Jam Sandwich is from series 2, episode 7. Enjoy!

A Squash and a Squeeze

December 30 2014

After a few days of new books, I asked Linus if there were any requests. We settled on Thomas The Tank Meet The Engines and A Squash and a Squeeze. There was also a new book called Kiss, which I'll blog about again.

I've blogged about both of those before. With the Thomas book, Linus is now beginning to read the names of the trains. He matches up his knowledge of the trains with his knowledge of the letters and is working out what they say when he isn't quite sure which one is which. He actually reads the letters from right to left but seems to know that they read the other way.

A Squash and A Squeeze puts me in mind of the Jewish Passover song Chad Gadya. It has a similar rhythm and a build up of nonsense surrounding animals, and the goat gets to be the funny one. Julia Donaldson probably didn't have Judaism in mind when she wrote the song that begot the book, otherwise she'd have left out the pig!

As I mentioned the book was originally a song, featured on a BBC kids' programme, Play School. It was sung by Derek Griffiths and Floella Benjamin. The song was much later put down on paper and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, soon begetting The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo's Child, Stick Man and many more successful books.
The story is of a little old lady who is unhappy with her lot, with the help of a wise old man, she soon discovers that sometimes it is better to accept what you have. Linus really enjoys the story, the illustrations and my entertaining and enthralling reading of it. The original song is on the video below. So let's look through the square window and see...

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


Back in 1977 a random little character appeared on a kids' TV art show. Take Hart, presented by Tony Hart was an art show for kids. Tony Hart would demonstrate art and craft projects that kids at home could copy. There was also a gallery section showing kids' own drawings. For someone with my total and utter inability at anything artful this was visual torture. All that artistic talent and I could do none of it.
The highlight of the shows were Morph, a tiny plasticine character that moved about and got up to mischief.

Morph, and his partner Chas, were eventually given their own series in 1980. They also continued to appear on other TV art shows, Hartbeat and SmArt. There was a return series in 1995. Despite never being a permanent fixture on TV, Morph has been around a fair bit and is indirectly responsible for some great British animation.
Morph was originally created by Peter Lord and David Sproxton who went on to form Aardman Animations. By 1985 Aardman were quite successful and amongst their staff was new recruit Nick Park. Park went on to create Wallace and Gromit shorts and feature film. W&G has also spawned spin offs Shaun The Sheep, which in turn had its own spin off, Timmy Time.
Other Aardman successes include Creature Comforts and the film Chicken Run.
A Kickstarter appeal by Peter Lord in 2013 raised over £100,000 funding new episodes being made and broadcast online. A new episode and an old one below.

Frolicking in the Winter Mist

December 29 2014

Leonard Lipton was inspired by Ogden Nash's poem Custard The Dragon. The inspiration led to his poem "Puff The Magic Dragon" which led to the song, with music penned by Peter Yarrow. This led to the hit song by Peter, Paul and Mary.

Almost 50 years later a book of Puff, the Magic Dragon was made, illustrated by Eric Puybaret. I like the song, I even like the illustrations, overall the book is a bit lame. The song isn't long enough to be an interesting picture book, there is only so many times a person wants to say "frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee". It does come with a CD, so perhaps it works if you read it whilst the music is playing. Linus is mildly intrigued by it. I think it cost £1 as an add-on on Amazon, and includes a CD, so about worth it. It did lead me to discover that there are quite a few versions of The Tale of Custard the Dragon available and that is far more entertaining.

Our return to Jon Klassen's  I Want My Hat Back led to us naming all the characters in it. We came up with Frog the frog, Turtle the turtle, Snake the snake, Bunny Rabbit the bunny rabbit, Bear the Bear, I forget the rest! I do love reading this book, no idea if Linus likes it.

For close, we returned to another old favourite Toddle Waddle is another illustrated by Nick Sharratt and probably not one of Julia Donaldson's most difficult writing exercises. Great fun, if a little on the young side for the chap.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

It's still Christmas, Charlie Brown

December 28 2014

As we roll into 2015, we still have a few Christmas books to read. Our snow didn't last long so A Charlie Brown Christmas is a happy replacement. I find some of the Peanuts books a bit clunky, this one could do with a trim here and there. It's a little too long and meanders a little. The pictures kept Linus well entertained. The story is typical Peanuts, Charlie Brown's choice of Christmas tree adds to his friends low expectations and his own sadness, but all works out well in the end. Cartoon Linus offers some sage advice en route, clever chaps those Linuses!

Linus seems to be in a change period right now, so I'm not sure how much is tiredness or if he is changing his likes and dislikes as far as bedtime reading goes. I decided to go with two shorter books to finish off with.

The Hueys in The New Jumper seems to be a popular Oliver Jeffers book with the boy. We read it only a few days ago. The simple illustrations seem to grab his attention, the teeny tiny Huey is a firm favourite. I do like reading this quirky book, it's on my wavelength in its humour and in its message about individuality.

Up until we brought home Nick Sharratt's Fancy Dress Christmas recently, I would have said that One Mole Digging A Hole is a little young for Linus. It is a quick and simple book, yet there is a lot here in Sharratt's illustrations. The words are by Julia Donaldson, the title sets up what the book is about, if I tell you the penultimate page is "ten bees pruning trees" then you'll be able to work out the rest. Linus can use his knowledge of numbers and some words, so whilst it is young to read to him, it's of age for him to almost be able to read himself. It also gives me a chance to include a video of Julia Donaldson and her husband Malcolm singing the song.

The Weirdest Knight

December 27 2014

An exciting day playing in the snow led to an odd bedtime reading.

We've read Oliver Jeffers' The Incredible Book Eating Boy on several occasions and I'd say Linus really likes it. I managed to get a third of the way through it and Linus told me to stop. He's never said that for any book at bedtime before, so it was most odd.

 The next book, The Bravest Knight fared a little better. Mercer Mayer's book was originally published in 1968 and titled Terrible Troll. Terrible Troll is these days less likely to look like the ogre in the story and more like an owner of a Twitter account with an inability to spell.

The illustrations in this book are wonderfully detailed with lots to act out. It's a short story and about the right length for Linus this evening.

Tim Hopgood's WOW! Said the Owl saved the day. We're quite familiar with this splendid book. The pictures are glorious and there's a simple thread to the story of an owl who decides to stay awake during the day. Linus loves name checking all the colours of the rainbow.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Boxing Day is Done

December 26 2014

With the snow starting to fall, the Christmas exciting had an extension. Hopefully the snow will still be around in the morning for a play out, I may let Linus come with.

As I've previously mentioned, we are a little familiar with the character of Humphrey and his family, as created by Sally Hunter. With Humphrey's Christmas they all return in a simple Christmas story. Being picky I'd say there could do with a bit more activity within the story. It is a picture book for babies up, so I'm not expecting much. The illustrations are delightful and the book itself really is quite impressive, lovely padded hardback book, an ideal stocking filler.

Having really enjoyed Quentin Blake's Angelica Sprocket's Pockets I had a look for some others.  Mister Magnolia was first published in 1980, so has quite a pedigree. It's a fun, simple rhyming story of Mister Magnolia, a man afflicted with a terrible condition of having only one boot. I wasn't overly taken with this on first reading, on flicking through it again, I can see a lot more within the pictures than the words. There is a page of teaching ideas for 5 to 11 year olds, I can see a few things in there that Linus would enjoy, so there's another 8 years to get out of this book!

Day Is Done is a picture book version of the Peter, Paul & Mary song, written by Peter Yarrow and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Yarrow also wrote Puff, The Magic Dragon which was released as a picture book prior to Day is Done. Day is Done is illustrated throughout with pictures of parent and child of various species. It's the perfect bedtime book as the reassuring parent tucks their child into bed. "And if you take my hand my son, all will be well when the day is done". Video of the song (hopefully) below.

Rosie and Jim

Rosie and Jim seems older and longer ago than having aired its first episode in 1990. The old fashioned, slow moving barge it is set on harks back to older times.

My niece and nephew are the right age to have been big fans. It is the story of two rag dolls who live on a barge with a story teller. I had always thought that John Cunliffe who portrayed the story teller had created the series, he didn't. Cunliffe is creator of Postman Pat so it is an obvious assumption. Cunliffe was in the first two series, Pat Hutchins the next two and Neil Brewer for the final four.

Rosie and Jim was created by puppeteer Robin Stevens and prolific children's tv creator Anne Wood. Wood is also responsible for The Teletubbies, In The Night Garden, The Adventures of Abney and Teal, Pob and several others. Stevens was Jim's puppet master and Rebecca Nagan played Rosie. Nagan has more recently worked on CBeebies' The Furchester Hotel.

Rosie and Jim are naughty ragdolls who come to life when the duck atop the barge they live in alerts them to no one being around. They then get up to a bit of mischief before returning to the barge and their inanimate states in the nick of time. The idea of toys coming to life when no one is looking is quite an old one and probably used most famously in the Toy Story films.
I always thought Rosie looked slightly sinister but no one else seemed too bothered and the show was an international hit.

A total of 175 episodes were made between 1990 and 2000 and broadcast around the world. There were also public appearances and live stage shows featuring the trouble making duo.

Rosie and Jim were married shortly after the last season of the show, unfortunately they drifted apart. Old habits die hard and Rosie got up to mischief while Jim wasn't looking. From happier times, here's an episode, there are quite a few full episodes on YouTube.

What A Wonderful World

December 25 2014

We spend all year trying to keep our children nice and calm, relaxed and peaceful and then whip them up into a frenzy for Christmas Day. Fortunately it wasn't quite that crazy, we've all had a round of colds or related symptoms, so it was a nice pleasant family day with some added snoozing.

As expected, there were books and we've already read a few throughout the day. Bedtime was relatively normal, the excitement of the morning had been overtaken by tiredness and some new books to look at.

First up was Peanuts: Merry Christmas Snoopy!, this doesn't feature "cartoon Linus" too much. It is a positive Christmas message, Charlie Brown has no money for presents, so he then makes them and they are largely useless, but is present giving what Christmas is all about? It's a lovely theme, a nice story, plenty of fun pictures and it's Peanuts. Here's a bonus Christmas video of Snoopy and we're only a third of the way through.

Tiddler, The Story Telling Fish is a new Christmas addition. We're quite familiar with it, having had it from the library several times. It's one of a few Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler books we didn't have. I admit to not really liking this the first time we read it. It is a relatively unique rhythm to the rhyme, so I don't know if I hadn't got that the first time or Linus didn't take to it. On further reading I really enjoyed it and it is one of my favourites to read now. It's interesting writing this blog and thinking about some of the books, there is a surprising depth to a lot of Julia Donaldson's books. At first they're cute toddler stories but as time progresses they have extra meaning to younger kids. Tiddler's story telling antics end up being his downfall and his saviour. It is a lot of fun and has several messages that I'm sure Linus will discover over the next few years.

I picked up  What a Wonderful World in a  bookshop shortly after it was released. I adored the illustrations by Tim Hopgood, he really has done a magnificent job bringing this joyous song to life as a picture book. It is the Bob Thiele/George David Weiss song made famous by Louis Armstrong. I refrained from reading it in the style of Satchmo. It is a little tricky trying to read a song that I'm so familiar with but I managed it. Linus seemed to enjoy it, although he was a little tired by that point. The copy we have has a CD attached, with the Louis Armstrong song and a reading by Sophie Aldred.
The illustrations are awesome, the book would make an ideal new baby gift. I could even see the pictures making up a series of wall art.
As an extra Christmas bonus, there's a video from Satch below, oh yeeeeeah!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

'tis The Night Before Christmas

December 24 2014

For the night before Christmas we went with ones we'd read recently, The Night Before Christmas, What The Ladybird Heard and I Love You Little Monster.
I suspect we'll have a few new books to go at over the next few days!

Linus has requested a few things from Santa, a coat hanger, a stocking and more recently a magic hat!
Anyway to friends old and new, from me and The Chap, Merry Christmas and happy reading.

Captain Pugwash

I think the current crop of kids' programmes is better than it has ever been. CBeebies output, especially, is full of well thought out, entertaining and educational shows, covering a range of bases.

There doesn't appear to be anything like Captain Pugwash around these days. I don't know if I'm unique in not remembering much beyond the theme tune and Captain Pugwash's shirt, so I may be way off the mark in saying it is worth another remake.

Captain Pugwash was first shown on TV in 1957. Captain Horatio Pugwash sailed the seas in his ship, The Black Pig.

The first lot of cartoons aired from 1957-1966, then in 1974-1975 and a new cartoon appeared in 1997. Pugwash debuted in 1950 in The Eagle as a comic strip, written by John Ryan, and later in the Radio Times. Eventually becoming the star of 24 books.

The theme tune, as I said, is the most memorable part of the show, apparently a tune dating back to before 1850 known as the Trumpet Hornpipe or Thunder Hornpipe.

Anyway here is Horatio and the gang (the theme tune's at the end).

Watch Captain Pugwash Ep01 - Down the Hatch in Animation | View More Free Videos Online at

Captain Beaky and his Band

Jeremy Lloyd is most famous for writing sitcoms, Are You Being Served and 'Allo 'Allo being his most famous creations, both co-written with David Croft.

More pertinent to this blog are a series of characters and poems he created that uniquely spawned a hit song, albums and books. Captain Beaky and his Band inspired what could possibly be seen as an early viral campaign, "Hissing Sid is Innocent". Written in the late 1970s, the album had poems spoken to music and read by a variety of stars of the day. Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, Petula Clarke, Twiggy and Keith Michell were amongst the performers. Michell also illustrated the books.

The then Radio 1 breakfast DJ, Noel Edmonds headed the Hissing Sid is Innocent campaign, which led to t-shirts, posters and other paraphernalia.

Lloyd also wrote a book (in 1984) called  The Woodland Gospels According to Captain Beaky and His Band. In this book Beaky and his band retell New Testament stories, I'm not aware of it, until now. The Amazon reviews seem quite favourable.

So here's the Captain Beaky poem with a Top Of The Pops appearance by Keith Michell below that.

The bravest animals in the land are Captain Beaky and his band
That's Timid Toad, Reckless Rat, Artful Owl and Batty Bat
They march through the woodlands singing songs
That tell how they have righted wrongs

Once Hissing Sid, an evil snake, kept the woodland folk awake
In fear and trembling every night
In case he gave someone a bite
Said Artful Owl, 'We'll lie in wait
And one of us will be the bait."
Said Captain Beaky, "Have no fear! For I alone will volunteer!"

"No, make it me!" Said Reckless Rat
I'll stand there in my reckless hat
When Hissing Sid picks up my trail,
I'll just lasso him with my tail!"

"Oh, good idea" said Timid Toad, "We'll hide a long way down the road.
And when you've overcome resistance,
We'll rush along to your assistance."

Said Batty Bat, "I've got a wheeze!
I'll fly and hide up in the trees!
If Hissing Sid should slither by
I'll drop a boulder from the sky!"

Said Artful Owl, "The idea sound…how will you lift it off the ground?"
Poor Batty Bat just scratched his head,
"I hadn't thought of that," he said.

Said Owl, "The rest of us hold back. There's only one that he'll attack."
Said Timid Toad, "I like your plan."
"Good luck," said Owl, "For you're the man!"

So Timid Toad, his eyes a-popping,
Into the woodland night went hopping
Captain Beaky waved his hand, followed by his trusty band
That's Artful Owl and Reckless Rat, and above the trees flew Batty Bat.

"Stop!" Said Beaky, "I hear squeaking!"
"It's Batty Bat" said Owl, "He's speaking!"
"It's all in code," said Reckless Rat
Said Owl, "I'll just decipher that."

"A dash, a dot, two short, two long…
I rather think we've got it wrong.
It reads 'can clearly see the road,
Hissing Sid has captured Toad!'"

"Quick men!" said Beaky, "No delay!
"You mustn't let him get away!"
And leaping off, said "Follow me!"
And ran head first into a tree.

"Dot dot dot" squeaked Batty Bat.
Said Beaky, "Quick! Decipher that!"
Said Reckless Rat, "Perhaps we're gaining?"
"No," said Owl. "He says…it's raining"

Oh, how they ran to save poor Toad,
For they must find that snake's abode
Guided by old Batty Bat
Dot dot go this way dash, go that!

Then Hissing Sid's lair they spied
Were they too late? Was he inside?
Said Reckless Rat, "I'll get a pole
And stop him going down his hole!"

Then into sight the snake came hopping,
Right past his hole, no sign of stopping
Said Reckless Rat, "That's rather funny,
"There's something jumping in his tummy."

Said Captain Beaky, "Well I'm blowed!
Hissing Sid has swallowed Toad!"
And as the snake hopped out of sight,
Off they chased into the night.

At last they found him, tired and dizzy
And pulled out Toad, who said "Where is he?
For left alone, I felt quite sick,
And hopped into a hollow stick

Said Owl, "A clever step to take!
You jumped into that slippery snake."
"That was brave of Toad", said Rat
"That's just my sort of plan!" said Bat

Said Captain Beaky to his men,
"Well we'll not see Hissing Sid again!"
And as they marched off down the road,
They sang in praise of Timid Toad

Above them flew ol' Batty Bat,
With his wings stretched out, like that
Owl's idea, the clever fella
To have a flying umbrella.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Fancy Dress Christmas and other animals

December 23 2014

Linus has been over obsessed with snow for the last few weeks, snow and Christmas. Every TV programme he watches needs to have snow or a Christmas theme. The Gruffalo's Child fits the bill, with plenty of snow, there's no Christmas, except for the wily mouse who manages to not get eaten again. Linus is so familiar with the story that he can anticipate the action. His favourite part is pointing out the Gruffalo's cave drawings of the fox, the snake, the owl and the big bad mouse. It's a fabulous book, Axel Scheffler's illustrations are full of great detail (the mouse's Gruffalo snowman is inspired) and Julia Donaldson has carefully crafted a worthy sequel to her most famous work.

Linus is still a little under the weather so has been indulging in a little more TV, I tried to get him to watch a Maisy episode earlier, he preferred Mr. Snow. Maisy Goes to the Library is another in the Maisy Goes series, Maisy and her friends visit the library and experience all a library has to offer. Linus likes these simple Lucy Cousins books, there's plenty to relate to and lots of detail within the pictures. Fortunately the Maisy in the stories is much happier than the costumed Maisy we saw at our library. Some people aren't cut out for costume work.

Lately we tend to buy books for Linus that are aimed at 3 year olds. He's a few months off but he's bright and understands them.  Fancy Dress Christmas is not really one I'd pick, Linus was enamoured with it and has barely put it down since we brought it home. It's a rhyming lift the flap book, various animals dressed as Christmas objects, lift the flaps and the animals are revealed. Since a very early age Linus has really enjoyed Nick Sharratt's illustrations. Like Quentin Blake, Sharratt has illustrated books for a range of ages, so the love of his work, early on is likely to inspire later reading. Fancy Dress Christmas is a great book, or so Linus would say.