It has been comprehensively established (on Facebook and elsewhere) that having to be a responsible and grown up person is hard work sometimes. Adulting is, frankly, tough. Having to go to work (every day – the horror!), deal with personal finances, relationships and health issues can take it out of you. It is no surprise that many people like to escape from reality into the world of film, tv and, particularly, books. Sometimes, however, even the world of fiction seems a bit too adulty for me (what with the likelihood of things like work, health and relationships coming up in the plot of whatever I’m reading) and I then like to escape even further into children’s books. There are still issues to be overcome but they tend not to be the ones I am trying to forget in real life so I’m happy to deal with them. Here are some of the children’s books I have been reading recently…
Animalcolm – David Baddiel
Malcolm’s family love animals. All animals. Malcolm, after an unfortunate incident at the zoo involving chimps throwing, well, whatever came to hand, does not love animals so when he gets a pet instead of a laptop for his birthday the only thing that could cheer him up is going on the year 6 school trip. Until he discovers that they are staying at a farm where he rather rashly asks K-Pax (a goat rescued by the farm’s rather hipster owners from a village in the Himalayas) why he doesn’t like animals. Strange things then happen and Malcolm learns first hand what it is like to be a variety of animals. There are lots of jokes about wee and poo for the kids, lots of asides for the grown-ups (in footnotes – I love footnotes) and a message about learning to be yourself which is not too preachy. With something to amuse all ages this would be a great book to read with primary school aged kids.
The Girl Who Saved Christmas – Matt Haig
I’ve read quite a few Matt Haig books but mostly the ones for adult readers – and he does the adulting stuff very well – so I was looking forward to reading the Girl Who Saved Christmas. I was also a little worried since I had not read the first book a Boy Called Christmas but I found that this was not a problem. Any references to events in the first story were understandable and any recurring characters were properly introduced.
Amelia has a very difficult life – her mother dies, she loses her job as a chimney sweep and ends up in the worst workhouse in town. Father Christmas should be having a much better life – what with all the Elves, chocolate money and toys – but he is having a lot of trouble with trolls. It looks as if Christmas may end up being cancelled until Father Christmas and Amelia get together and rediscover the hope and optimism which that time of year should involve. Even the trolls are happy by the end. I can see this book (and the first one) becoming a family tradition for Christmas – enough adventure to keep the pages turning and a happy enough ending to get the visions of sugar plums going on Christmas Eve. (Also there are fab illustrations from Chris Mould who is also responsible for the artwork in my new favourite cafe in Halifax)
Oi Dog – Kes & Claire Gray and Jim Field
If 9-12 fiction is still a bit too adult then how about some picture books? Oi Dog is a follow-up to the hugely popular Oi Frog in which frog re-assigns who gets to sit where in the animal kingdom. Very silly (I laughed out loud more than once) and I particularly liked where the cheetahs had to sit. And, of course, there is an important lesson to learn about those who get to tell people what they must do keeping the best stuff for themselves….
Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story – Nadiya Hussain
Finally, for the ultimate in comfort reading, how about a book which combines well-loved fairy stories with yummy recipes? Nadiya (otherwise known as Nadiya from Bake-Off) has taken lots of stories, given them a bit of a twist in the retelling and then added a relevant recipe to each. And the recipes have little tweaks to them as well – adding star anise to gingerbread men or using the beans from Jack’s beanstalk to make veggie burgers. Even better, all the recipes are suitable for children to make (with adult help) and there is a good range of savoury dishes alongside the cakes and bakes. A great book for anyone trying to encourage their kids to eat different foods or to get involved in cooking.
Of course I don’t have any kids. But that doesn’t mean I don’t actively enjoy books meant for youngsters. And if they are very good I may even be getting some of these books for the children I know for Christmas…