Children’s Book Review 2 – The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a children’s classic and we have been reading this to our daughter since she was around 10 months old. She loved the beautiful illustrations by the talented Axel Scheffler, that are so vidid and lifelike yet still imbued with a child’s view of the world. The story of a little vulnerable mouse outwitting various hungry predators in the woods and nearly coming undone by his own tall tales is very simple to read to children and for them to learn language with but it is also extremely smart and sharp from an adult’s perspective.Many children’s books rely on the surreal or stretching what adults consider logical into completely fantastical tales that make little sense in any world and serve no purpose other than to try too hard to impress. The Gruffalo does not do this. It uses myth to make it’s point but it is grounded in very down to earth ideas and narrative.The deliciously worded descriptions of The Gruffalo were fun for our daughter to read yet simple enough for her to remember and aid the development of her language skills. the illustrations play a big part in this as ideas such as knobbly Knees mean nothing to a toddler unless they can see them!When meal times became an endless chore of trying to convince our little one to eat her dinner we always had this book as a back up to distract her. It always worked and she always jumped straight into the wonderful world of the woods with the Mouse strolling through to meet the “imaginary” Gruffalo!A must for all parents.

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Children’s Book Review 1

Otto's Trip to the Moon: Seriously Cute - a Pull-tab Book Otto’s Trip to the Moon: Seriously Cute – a Pull-tab Book by Katherine Lodge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
My 2 year old daughter picked this book out of many choices in a local children’s bookshop. Since then she has become obsessed with it, even though there is not much in terms of story and her enthusiasm has more to do with her love of the moon and rockets. It is well presented and very cute though! She loves it so who am I to argue?

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The Golden Treasury

The Golden Treasury Bookshop After just 5 hours sleep it was always going to be a struggle to get up and drag myself to visit London’s largest Independent Children’s bookshop, The Golden Treasury, on a cold, grey Saturday Morning. It helped that, being the father of a walking, talking near 2 year old toddler, I have a very effective and persuasive natural alarm clock to force me out of the comfort zone of my warm, cosy bed. I don’t get out of bed for just anybody, and my daughter know’s what strings to pull.

After witnessing her demolish the carefully constructed Mega Bloks plane I had so lovingly made for her, after she “requested” (more like demanded) that I play with her and the myriad of large, multi coloured blocks she had thrown all over our lounge floor, I thought very seriously about going back to bed. However my wife had somehow transferred herself to said daughter’s bed in her nursery and this allowed my energetic young child to jump all over our bed pointing furiously at the bookshelf asking me to read her “Toad Makes  a Road“. I gave in and as I lay down next to my now calm and non jumping daughter reading about the Toad who lacked the foresight to build his house on a sensible, easily accessable place, I saw the look of enchantment, focus and joy on her cute, little chubby face and I was overcome with a sense of extreme fulfilment and satisfaction (a rare feeling for me).

Sharing my love of reading with my daughter, and being able to combine 2 loves of my life (reading and my daughter) are powerfully positive experiences that I must nurture and encourage as much as I can.

With that in mind I managed to drink my regular dosage of double coffee, add a can of Diet Pepsi, take 10ml of Metatone, 1 multivitamin with multi minerals and my Hydrocortisone and Thyroxine tablets and forced myself to wake up enough to join my wife and daughter in their first trip to London’s largest Independent bookshop.

The Golden Treasury is a great find. My wife’s colleague at work actually told her about it and although I had fantastical dreams of a wondrous, magical kingdom with cute, furry talking animals and fake snow amongst the hundreds of cherished children’s books, I was not actually disappointed when I stepped into the shop and discovered it was far more attractive on the inside than out. It was also larger than it looked, not Narnia sized larger, but large enough to be able to split the books by age group and then by topics such as Animals, Geography, Science, Baby Books etc. They also had specific sections for various popular children’s characters like Peppa Pig, The Cat in The Hat and Thomas the Tank Engine. There were sections dedicated to signed copies of Children’s classics such as The Gruffalo. Even Axel Scheffler himself (the illustrator of The Gruffalo) has visited the shop, as this link shows: http://twitpic.com/t99cb

So there may not have been snow , large bewitching Christmas tress, Elves or Fauns but I was transported back in time to a more innocent and joyous part of my life and a world full of stimulating characters and ideas. There is something special about a small independent shop where the loving care for the subject being sold oozes out from every corner, not in a crude, manipulative way but in a subtle, sublime manner. I hope that this store never gets taken over by a large chain or is forced to sell up and go online. I may virtual worlds and the places that cyber space can take your imagination but sometimes there is nothing like the real thing.

Thankfully my daughter was as enchanted by The Golden Treasury as I was and we ended up buying 2 books, one with rockets going to the moon (she loves the moon more than anythign else at the moment with exception of homous) and another about a girl who misses her mummy when the mummy goes to work but gets over it, as one needs to in these economically challenging times. The best part of it for here was being able to spin the Dr. Seuss rotating bookshelf and pick up as many books on tractors as she could. They also had a bean bag with one of her new favourite characters, Maisy, plastered all over it.

When it came time to leave (she was havign her haircut with Mama and the stimulating effects of my caffeine and pill popping were fading fast) she refused to stop chanting “Bookshop, bookshop” for the entire jounery back home.

I was glad that I found the energy to visit The Golden Treasury and go there with my little one as it brought back a piece of my childhood that I rarely get in touch with, which is something I must do more often, especially If I am to stay positive in these increasingly bleak times.

Why the sudden feelings of satisfaction you ask? I love reading and even though I struggle to find the time and energy to read as much as I would like to I still think that reading, both fiction dn non fiction, has a very important place in human society. Stimulating the imagination and chasms deep within our minds like no other form of media, reading books, with their magical descriptions of characters, places, events and emotions, and their imaginative illustrations, is a part of life that I really want my daughter to cherish. the pervasive intrusion of modern forms of edutainment, such as TV, Video Games and the Internet, may have made absorbing creative entertainment and culture easier, but it has also made it too passive, and these forms of education/ entertainment are not a substitute for reading a good book.

I love TV, Gadgets, modern technology, the internet, my iPhone and any advances in media distribution but there is nothign that quite replaces the feelings of suspense and excitement I get from reading a good book. This maybe why I love bookshops so much. Like the beautifully illustrated, carefully bound hardback classics, a bookshop owned and run by book loving enthusiasts is a place like no other. It is like entering through a portal into another world. A world with much more colour, magic and excitement than the Traffic ridden Southfields High Street outside The Golden Treasury.