Fiction Fridays #18: Rupert the Bear

This is a belated Fiction Friday post. I completely lost track of time and forgot it was the end of the week. So I missed out on the Friday posting.

This one’s not quite a storybook, but one that has been repeatedly requested for bedtime. I picked up this copy of Rupert the Bear annual (published in 1974) at a charity shop. Again, it reminded me of the one I had as a child. The illustration is beautiful; they look more like paintings in fact.

You can choose from two different ways to tell the story. Either through the dialogue under each picture or the text at the bottom of the page. My then 4-year-old loved the dialogue. And would spend ages looking at each page, examining all the little details in the pictures.

I think the Rupert stories have been republished and you can get them as collectible linen bound hardbacks. Call me nostalgic, but it still can’t beat the original editions.

And this is how the story begins.

Rupert is on holiday, and when he exchanges spades there is no hint of the happenings ahead.
He soon discovers why the iron spade seems to have a strange force,
and so starts an exciting adventure among King Neptune’s folk.


Fiction Fridays #17: Funniest storybook ever

I have a confession to make. I bought Richard Scarry’s Funniest Storybook Ever because it pleased me. It wasn’t for my kids; purely for myself.

When I was little, I had one Richard Scarry book which I read over and over again. So much action and activity happen in the pictures that every time you look at it you’d find something new which you hadn’t noticed before. It was my comfort reading as a child, the book I picked up when I tired of reading proper books. I still kick myself for not taking the book with me when I came to London. Anyway, I’m quite certain my mother had long given it away to charity.

So when I found this copy at Border’s several years ago, I simply had to have it. The book is broken up into little short stories: The Talking Bread, Absent-Minded Mr Rabbit, Sergeant Murphy and the Banana Thief, Speedboat Spike, Ma Pig’s New Car, The Three Fisherman, The Accident, Please Move to the back of the bus, Uncle Willie and the Pirates, The Unlucky Day, and Lowly Worm’s Birthday.

Oh yes, and I did check with the son if he liked the book. He gave some kind of non-committal shrug which I took as a ‘yes’. The kids have read the book and still pick it up to have a look-see every now and then, just perhaps not as often as mum.

And this is how the story begins.

Humperdink, the baker, was mixing bread dough with the help of Able Baker Charlie Mouse.
His little girl, Flossie, watched them squish and squash the dough.
After they had kneaded the dough by squishing and squashing, they patted it into loaves of all different shapes and sizes.
Then Humperdink put the uncooked loaves of bread into the hot oven to bake.

Fiction Fridays #16: Sophie and Tom are going to the museum

I went through an ambitious phase where I thought ‘my son will learn French and grow up trilingual’ – I speak Mandarin. Several years on, and my ambition remains a pipe dream. He only speaks English, thinks Mandarin is a made-up language and French, well, bof.

Sophie and Tom are going to the museum are one of several dual language books so carefully chosen for educational purposes now lying unloved and untouched on the bookshelf. Very occasionally, I still pull them out for a bedtime story. And with child no. 3 on the way, perhaps I could have another go at hothousing bringing up a linguist.

And this is how the story begins.

Aujourd’hui, Sophie est au musée avec sa classe.
(Today, Sophie is at a museum with her class.)

Le maître leur montre un tableau.
(The teacher is showing them a painting.)

Fiction Fridays #15: This Is London

From the first moment I set eyes on this book, I desperately wanted it for my my son’s bookshelf. Do excuse my tatty copy; I’ve had the book for a while and it’s been thumbed many times by sticky little fingers.

First published in 1959, This Is London is the work of Miroslav Sasek. He was born in Prague in 1916, and worked as a painter and illustrator for most of his life. He is artist, illustrator and author of the This Is series of children’s books.

And this is how the story begins.

Well, this is London.
But don’t worry, it is hidden in fog like this only a few times a year in winter.
Most of the time it looks – LIKE THIS!
London is the capital of the United Kingdom and the chief city of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is the largest city in the world.
“Busy emporium for trade and traders,” it was described by the Roman historian, Tacitus, one thousand nine hundred years ago.

Fiction Fridays #14: Look Again!

Be warned, mums and dads. This is not a story storybook.

I found Look Again! at the Tate Modern bookshop and it’s a sort of introduction to art for kids. The art featured is from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My son was about 4 years old when I bought it, but only really got into it two years later. Unfortunately, he’s still no art expert but is inclined towards some modern art like Jackson Pollock and remains unimpressed by Mark Rothko.

And this is how the story begins.

It’s one thing to have a bee in your bonnet, but what about a whole garden in your hair? This print exaggerates the elaborate hairstyles worn by European noblewomen in the 1700s, but only a bit. To create these fantasies, the hair or wig was arranged over a high, padded framework, powdered, and finished off with all kinds of decorations. While queen of France, Marie Antoinette even wore a miniature ship in her hair!

Review: Galaxy Quick Reads

As a child, I loved my regular trips to the library. The excitement lay partly in the preparation. I’d gather all the books that were due to be returned and place them in my special library bag the day before. Only allowed to borrow three books at a time, I’d spend the night making a list of possible books I could bring home the next day.

The musty smell of books upon entering the library never fails to transport me into another world. Shelves and shelves of books teasing me with the promise of undiscovered adventures I had yet to go on. I’d wander through the aisles with a sense of purpose, determined to find THE most exciting adventure to embark on. I’d then sit down with the carefully selected books and slowly narrow down my choices to the golden three.

I have often wondered what my childhood would have been like had I not discovered reading. A pretty boring and tedious one I’d imagine. Long hours at school punctuated by a sizeable amount of homework at the end of each day. (I studied at a convent school in Singapore and it was very focused on producing high-achieving girls) Reading was my little private escape from reality. And the habit stuck.

Then when I had my son eight years ago, I suddenly stopped reading. Miriam Stoppard and Gina Ford don’t count. The first year was a blur of rushing to and from work, nappy changing and broken sleep. The only things I seemed to read were picture books and cooking instructions on the back of food packets. The few times I did pick up a book, it took me so long to finish that I’d lose track of what the story was about and who the characters were.

Reading takes extended concentration and focus. Like a muscle that needs working out, I discovered, once out of the habit it was difficult to sit still for periods long enough to lose yourself in a story. Between children, home and work, working mothers don’t have the luxury of time. There’s no such thing as a lazy Sunday afternoon. So I’ve resorted to snatching 15 to 30 minutes here and there to read. It takes a different kind of concentration, demanding that I dive straight into a zone rather than a slow unfolding. Power reading I call it.

I’d just finished a big book and was somewhat relieved when Richmond Mummy introduced me to Galaxy Quick Reads, a campaign she’s running to encourage the nation to fall in love with reading. The Cleverness of Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith took me all of ONE evening to finish. I’ve never read any of McCall Smith’s books. Even when his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency was adapted into a BBC series, I wasn’t tempted to pick up his books. But after his Cleverness of Ladies, I can add him to my list of authors to read. He is a wonderful storyteller and I will be heading to the library for more of his stuff.

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Fiction Fridays #13: Marvin Wanted More!

Another hugely popular book in the house. Marvin Wanted More has been in the family for eight years. The first child was obsessed with it from about the ages 3 to 4 years old. He’s now 7 and reads it to the 2 year old.

Having an older child can be very handy.

The sheep in the meadow loved to play together all day long.

But Marvin was feeling rather gloomy.

“What’s the matter?” asked Molly.

“I can’t run as fast or jump as high as the other sheep,” grumbled Marvin. “I’m too small, it’s not fair.”

“But I like you as you are,” said Molly.