All posts tagged: children’s books

Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano | edge of evening

We love: Catherine Certitude

In the mornings, Papa would wake me up. He would have made breakfast, which was waiting on our little table. He would open the shutters, and I could see him from the back, framed by the window. He looked out over the landscape of roofs, and way in the distance, to the glass done of the Gare de l’Est station. As he knotted his tie, he would say, in a thoughtful or sometimes very resolute tone, “Life, it’s just you and me.”Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano Catherine Certitude looked so beautiful that I picked it off the library shelf for nine-year-old T — & then I read the back and knew that it was coming straight home with us: ballet! Paris! childhood memories! Yes please! It’s now been passed from T to me, and then from me to B and I think we’ve all fallen under its atmospheric spell. It’s a slim tale told in short sections of prose, beautifully illustrated by Sempé. Like that Christmas stalwart The Snowman, it opens with an adult encountering an object which leads them …

A Christmas Card by Paul Theroux | edge of evening

We love: A Christmas Card

Whenever I see light feathers of snow moving slowly down a window to make a white pillow on the sill, and hear the thin moan of wind through casement cracks in a room where a fireplace is singing with flames, I remember the Christmas when I was nine, and our house at Indian Willows.  The Christmas Card by Paul Theroux We’re all home — from work & school — and it feels so good to be free of any obligations other than those we choose. No swimming, no ballet, no football, no rushing; just coffees with new neighbours & with old friends, cooking all of the delicious things that have become part of our family Christmas, and generally being in. Though the weather’s still mild, it’s turned wet & windy, and the winter solstice seems like the perfect time to stay close to home and close to one another. And, at long last, I bring you a Christmassy read. I saw A Christmas Card in the Oxfam bookshop last week and picked it up, inspired by Kerry’s reading …

Ongoingness

Half-term. A long weekend staying with my mum. A two-and-a-half year old who has just given up his daytime nap. A five year old who has brought home the class bear, Bertie, and his diary — over the holiday. An eight year old whose social life is now so developed that we either don’t see her all day, or we have an extra child with us all day & don’t see either of them. (Except at mealtimes, obviously.) Today, dark skies; furious showers of rain. Four children promised a picnic, who sat on a rug in the living room and picnicked there. I sat with them, leaning against the sofa, wondering why this felt like one of the most chilled out times of the holiday. But, there are small moments, and I’m trying to use them. Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness is on a shelf in the kitchen. Twice this week I’ve sat, coffee in hand, reading it. Thinking about each of its spare pages. Today I sat there while the boys listened to Roald Dahl reading …

We love: Little You

  Last Thursday, the Pip-Pop & I were lucky enough to meet Kerry Clare & her delightful family. We spent the day in Windsor, arriving just in time to catch changing the guard, which left Popsy screwing his eyes tight shut & saying soldiers not nice. But, aside from the soldiers, everything was very nice: wandering, chatting, eating, and whiling away three hours as if they were thirty minutes. Obviously I was excited to meet Kerry and Stuart and their daughters, but I was also excited to have the chance to eat with them. Having followed their travels online, they looked like a family who know how to find a good meal. And I was right: if you ever get the chance to eat with these guys I suggest you grab it. We had a delicious lunch in Bel & the Dragon (at the very exciting chalkboard table), followed by New Forest ice creams in the sunshine. And the nicest thing of all was how very normal it felt to be hanging out with them. We also …

We love(d): I am a Bunny

“I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.” My mum has been clearing out her loft. When we visited at half-term there were two towering piles of boxes in her garage: one pile for me, one for my brother. There were boxes of dolls frosted with a white bloom of mould. Rachel, my favourite, who came with me every day of my first year at school went straight into the bin with the others. (My teacher, Mrs Wheeler, used to give Rachel her own copy of the letters home. This was the same year that I tried to run away from school every day. I can still remember the caretaker chasing after me.) I didn’t even look at my primary school exercise books & paintings before I put them into the recycling. A useful lesson here: my children will not be grateful if I save these things for them for the next thirty years. And then, three crumbling boxes of mildewed books. The books came home with me. My …

We love: Lunchtime

When the Tesco’s guy arrived yesterday evening, a full two minutes after the end of our one-hour delivery slot, all three of my children fell upon him like they hadn’t eaten for months. Though, in fact, a neighbour’s daughter and her friends had knocked on our door selling cupcakes for charity not ten minutes earlier & a trail of crumbs led from the hall to the living room rug. The Pip-Pop helped me to unpack the shopping (‘Oh, more noodle, Mumma. More noodle ‘gain, Mumma.’), T returned to the story she was writing (500 Words), & the Moose lay down on the sofa and watched TV in his after-school pose of total exhaustion. Of course, when I called them to the table to eat their rather late tea no-one would come. Lunchtime is the sweet tale of a little girl who is too busy drawing to stop for lunch. When her mum gets cross & sends her to the table she’s joined by the bear, wolf and crocodile from her pictures. Will they eat her …

We love: This Little Baby

I don’t know how many copies of This Little Baby we’ve got through in seven years as parents. I found three copies in various book baskets around the house this morning & I know that I’ve had to recycle at least one copy due to an over-enthusiastic reader who decided to literally gobble it up. My love for it is unashamed nostalgia. Each of my children has adored its simple rhymes, its black and white photos of babies, and its surprise mirror ending. An ending, I might add, that I’ve often had to change to ‘these are the babies I love the very best’ as children lean over the book for a glimpse of themselves in the mirror. (For complete accuracy, I also add my own enthusiastic ‘waa, waa, waaaa!’ to the page with the baby who makes lots of noise.) It’s a book that has stayed the course from the very earliest days of our parenthood. A book that I know by heart & probably always will. Reading it in his cot last week …

We love: giving special | Part II: colouring & activity books

After last week’s round-up of gift books, here’s a little collection of colouring & activity books that would be perfect for Christmas giving. I love a good colouring book. One that encourages exploration & creativity, but gives confidence and structure — a starting point for little hands & minds to build on. Paper & crayons are great, but sometimes it’s lovely to have something special to work on, and, as a parent, having a colouring book up your sleeve (metaphorically at least) can save the day on rainy days, snuffly days, or don’t-know-what-to-do-days. Here are a few of our favourites. 1.  The Scribble Book by Hervé Tullet. Big, beautiful & fun for even the youngest of artists. This would be my choice for those around 2/3 years+. Tullet is also the author of some fantastically fun interactive (in a low-tech way!) board books like Press Here and The Game of Finger Worms which are also great for younger children. 2. The Colouring Book by Hervé Tulle. What are the right colours for happy people? For sad …

We love: giving special | Part I: gift books

A little round-up of some of the books we love the most that would be perfect for giving this Christmas. By ‘gift books’, I mean the kind of thing you might give as a special present: Christmas, birthday, naming day or some other ‘mark-it-properly’ type occasion. Though, let’s face it, who here needs a special reason to give a book? I hesitated about offering any ideas because I’m pretty sure that many of these will already be on the shelf of any book-loving child. So, here’s the deal: let me know what special books you recommend for giving. I’d love to know what the hits are in your home. These are the tried & tested successes in ours. 1. Lavender’s Blue, compiled by Kathleen Lines & illustrated by Harold Jones. All the nursery rhymes you know and all those you have half-forgotten in one beautiful book. First published in 1954, this is the 50th anniversary facsimile edition. We bought T hers for her second birthday & it’s still a favourite five years later. This would …

We love: Ramona Quimby

The terrible, horrible, dreadful, awful thing happened. Ramona threw up. She threw up right there on the floor in front of everyone…Nobody, nobody in the whole world was a bigger nuisance than someone who threw up in school. Until now she thought that Mrs Whaley had been unfair when she called her a nuisance, but now — there was no escaping the truth — she really was a nuisance, a horrible runny-nosed nuisance with nothing to blow her nose on…As she fell asleep, she decided she was a supernuisance, and a sick one at that. from ‘Ramona Quimby Age 8′ by Beverly Cleary T threw up at school last week. I picked her up from the school office where she was sitting ashen-faced, a bucket held between her knees. As we walked home together, we cheered ourselves up by talking about how it was just like when Ramona threw up at school. ‘Yes, but we don’t have any fruit flies,’ T pointed out. ‘And,’ she added, ‘I know I’m not really a supernuisance, because — …