You can’t catch us. Oh no no no!
We’re holding hands and we won’t let go.
We’re Ticky and Tacky and Jackie the Backie
And Jim with two noses and Jo with the bow!
from ‘The Paper Dolls’ by Julia Donaldson
I know you don’t need me to tell you about Julia Donaldson. But this week is all about keeping things simple. Calm thoughts, calm words, even if there are two boys thundering round and round me shrieking with laughter. That’s the intention anyway. (I realised, hours later, that the tea I threw into the supermarket trolley this morning is called ‘Zen Again’. I am a marketing person’s dream.) I’m trying to fit in lots of snuggling and reading with my boys before the summer holidays start and my attention is divided into three. (Or three million, depending how you look at it.) So, here they are: two instant Julia Donaldson hits from last week’s library trip.
I have a mixed history with Julia Donaldson. There are many of her books that I could read all day and all night, and most probably have (The Snail and the Whale, Sharing a Shell, Tyrannosaurus Drip). And then there are a few that I can hardly bare to read at all (What the Ladybird Heard and The Rhyming Rabbit come to mind). I think that the distinction between the two sets is a very fine line: it’s all a matter of how much repetition I can take before the pay-off. If the language is good enough – by which I mean fun and exuberant enough – then I can take quite a bit, even when I know what’s coming.
So it is with Jack and the Flumflum Tree which is a wild romp to the faraway Isle of Blowyernose to pick a fruit from the flumflum tree to cure Jack’s granny’s moozles. There are plenty of misadventures on the way, but good old granny has sent a patchwork sack full of everything they might need. If only they could work out what the three spotty hankies are for!
We’ve had this one out of the library before, so my children already shout, ‘”Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” said Jack’ at any likely opportunity. Which, luckily, I rather like. We can also cheer ourselves up at any hint of a rash with the suggestion that it’s the moozles. It’s riotously good fun, and the Moose in particular (4 years old) loves it. David Roberts’ wonderfully simple yet intricately patterned and detailed illustrations make the perfect accompaniment, and there are plenty of opportunities to spot old friends for lovers of Tyrannosaurus Drip or The Troll.
The Paper Dolls is a slightly different affair. Less exuberance and rhyme, and more whimsy. A little girl makes a chain of paper dolls with the help of her mother. The dolls escape from a dinosaur, a tiger and a fierce crocodile, but will they escape from her brother and his scissors? I can’t get to the end of this one without fighting tears on the page where the little girl grows up. (She grow into a mother, what else? Which, though necessary for the story, slightly irritates me each time. Couldn’t she be – even momentarily – something else? She is pictured between childhood and motherhood wearing a beret and clutching a book. Maybe I should just imagine her life as a research scientist in Paris…)
It’s illustrated by Rebecca Cobb in a magically childlike style full of charm and delightful details (on one page the Owl and the Pussycat are illustrated on a jar of honey in their beautiful pea-green boat). The way she draws hair and rosy cheeks reminded me of my own childhood favourites, the Emma series (which seem to have had many names in translation!) by Grunilla Wolde. On the face of it, this seems more aimed at girls – and it was my go-to Christmas present for pre-school age girls last year – but again the Moose loves it, and enjoys reciting the names of the paper dolls over and over again. We had a paper doll making phase earlier in the year. Only his seem to have survived. But hopefully they’re all still dancing around somewhere in the heads of their little makers.