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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Fathers and Son's Day


I thought of writing this post a few days ago and as Father's Day was approaching it seemed more relevant.

Lately, Linus has been having some minor problems getting to sleep and a little anxiety settling down. After putting him down he'll ask whichever one of us is there to stay a while. I've been trying to get it so he will be less anxious and allow us to leave earlier. In that respect I think we're getting back there.

On one of the more anxious nights I thought he had dropped off and was just starting to stand up, he turned his head around to make sure I wasn't leaving. In that moment he turned his head I saw my dad and was transported to a much sadder place, probably exactly ten years prior to that moment.

In 2005 my dad was seriously ill, having lost my mum and sister in the previous twelve months, there was just the two of us. He was in hospital most of the time from (I think) February until he died on his 70th birthday in August. Some days were better than others, some days he was awake and alert, others he was in what I would describe as mini comas, just sleeping for more than a day at a time.

When he was awake, I'd often try and see if I could get him to think of a future, he never could. When that failed I'd talk about other stuff, he'd ask about work, from what I remember I didn't get a great deal of time to do any but just about managed. I didn't really get much chance to do anything beyond eating and going to hospital, there was no way I was going to have a day when he'd be alone. After such a long time in hospital he ended up in a room of his own and I'd given up on any idea of when visiting hours were. I just turned up and the hospital staff were happy to let me, I was often the only one who could calm him down if he was anxious. His ill health had made his temperament volatile and it was a vicious circle. Often the hospital staff made it worse and spent hours trying to settle him, I could do it in a minute or two.

So, I'd sit by his bed, sometimes we'd talk, sometimes he'd sleep. Seeing him wake and be pleased to see me was somehow worth it. There was a smile and a flicker of life that was otherwise missing. Perhaps in the moment of just waking up there were no problems, my mum and sister were still alive and he was still fit and healthy. On the other side was sometimes him not wanting me to go. The irony was that he was hanging on to life because he didn't want me to be alone, yet he needed me more than I needed him. So, sometimes I would sit and wait until he fell asleep, occasionally I'd get up thinking he was asleep and he'd swiftly turn his head wanting me to stay a little bit longer. A swift turn of the head, my dad had probably seen me do the same when I was a little boy and didn't want him to leave. Then I saw it again at Linus' bedtime. Being there for my dad was an option I chose to accept, being there for Linus is an obligation I cherish.

I hope one day that Linus has a child he watches fall asleep. I hope he doesn't ever have to put himself in a position to watch me.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Who Puts The Animals To Bed

This is a new one we picked up at the library. Written by Mij Kelly and Holly Clifton-Brown. It's a great last book before bedtime.

The illustrations are really vivid colours and quite fun. The text has a Margaret Wise Brown feel to it. That's a good thing, I really like MWB!

Without spoiling the text, it asks the question of the title about various animals. It strolls along very pleasantly, with enough to talk about along the way amongst the illustrations. It works for ages from tiny baby up with a nice soothing rhythm to it.

Something that I think about often but haven't mentioned before is the price of some. This book is £11.99, some lawyers would be happy with that pay per word! It's a beautiful large hardback book with wonderfully illustrated pages, I understand why it's £11.99. The price seems to make the books out of reach of most people and with what must be around 100 words (I haven't counted!). is hardly great value. A check on Amazon shows that it's (at time of writing) available for download at £3.99 and may well be out in paperback soon at a lower price. I'm possibly naive in hoping that they could make them in a cheaper format so newer books could be more accessible.

The French version "Qui Met Les Animaux au Lit" is actually £2 less than the British one. Anyway, enough of the mini rant. This is a recommended book, just get it from the library or wait for a good price!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Mr. Men On Holiday


We love the Mr. Men so it's always nice to see a new offering. This spring has seen a few new releases, "on Holiday" and "at the Park" seem to be part of a new series "Experience Life with Mr. Men, Little Miss, Every Day". Ballet, Rugby and London are other new offerings I've seen too.

Where previous post-Roger Hargreaves Mr. Men have mostly been written and illustrated by his son Adam, some have had other authors attributed to them. This book has no acknowledged author. I see that quite often with children's books, either they've been written by a committee or by someone who doesn't want their name attached.

I assume the former on this, it does have a feel of a tv script, it's almost a series of small sketches. The illustrations are up to the usual Mr. Men standard. Overall the book doesn't really deliver, it's a bit light on story. Little Miss Scatterbrain takes centre stage and the story is quite scattered. As I said it appears to be a few sketches, there's a Mr. Greedy joke and one for Mr. Nonsense and Mr. Topsy Turvy, there's a few others along the way. Linus' favourite part is the "Spot Walter" they have throughout, it's mentioned on the opening page that Walter (the worm) is hidden throughout the book, so we have some fun finding him.

There have been a few good Mr. Men books not written by Roger Hargreaves, sadly this isn't one. That said for £2-£3 (its rrp is £2.99) there are worse value books out there and for Mr. Men completists it's a nice investment.

Oi Frog!

My updates here have been thin of late. I mentioned in the last post of difficulties keeping up with time constraints. I also felt as though a lot of books we were reading were all samey and not that worthy of writing about.

I think it was a little bad luck and I'm happy to report that we've had a surge of more charming and fun books.
Kes Gray and Jim Field's Oi Frog has been around for a little over a year. It is quite simply wonderful. I've written previously about how picture books tend to get stuck with the same rhymes, Oi Frog! proves you can use already used rhymes and be original.
It's the story of a rather officious cat telling a frog that he should be sitting on a log. He explains that this is the done thing and that all animals have their respective things to sit on, even dogs.

We've had so much fun reading this. The rhymes are funny and work hilariously in tandem with the illustrations. We've even had more fun making our own rhymes up, it's a great exercise for a longer car ride. Also, when you run out of real rhymes you can make up completely new words "hamsters sit on camsters"!



OI FROG! Book Trailer from Jim Field on Vimeo.