Sunday, 13 July 2014

All-of-a-Kind Family and Eloise

I got this for myself. Once I heard it was like The Little House on the Prairie but in a New York early 20th century Jewish setting,  I knew I'd love it. (and hoped one of my sons would.)

I re read some of the Little House series a few years ago when my elder boys were about four and six and found that aside from the cosy Ma and Pa atmosphere I remembered and loved, they are packed full of fascinating information. If I arrived on the banks of Plum Creek now, I would actually have some idea how to build my own house.

All-of-a-Kind Family is like that. There's a loving Mama and Papa and not a huge amount of money, but what both I and my eight year old enjoyed was the details. The food they bought at market, the treats purchased with their saved pennies, the details of preparations for The Sabbath, and what they saw on a daytrip to Coney Island. One memorable paragraph tells what the sisters wore under their dark woolen dresses;

"..three petticoats, a woolly, flannel one first, a simple cotton one next, with both of these topped by a fancy muslin garment which was starched to a scratchy crispness. In order to save money, Mama made these petticoats herself. Still further underneath was long woolen underwear, over which were pulled heavy knitted woolen stockings, making thin legs look like well stuffed frankfurters."

Wonderful. For ages seven up.

I had a bit of energy last night at bedtime so said yes to Eloise for my almost four year old.

Its a longish nighttime read but very, very enjoyable. American readers will be familiar with this mischievous heroine but she was new to us last Christmas.
My sons favourite part is cutting the doll in half.

If you look closely here you can see the saw she used.

Along with quite a few other not-child-friendly items. For kids who like a bit of danger, or at least reading about it from the safety of their warm beds. Ages 4 and up.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

It was after reading The Uses Of Enchantment that I knew it was time to get our own edition of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales. They are definitely something every home should have but more, to be honest, I relished the idea of reading something a bit grisly. It’s the Summer holidays and I’m at home with four kids. What can I say, I’m sick of kind and gentle.  So I ordered this lovely Taschen collection. (I heard of it from Danzel at Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes who know a LOT about fairy tales.)

And when I read aloud the end of Snow White, where the wicked Queen was forced to wear red hot iron shoes (and dance whilst wearing them at Snow Whites wedding!) until she died, I knew I had done the right thing. My eight year olds' response was to find an "even scarier" story to read next. As well as that this edition gives some interesting background on the brothers Grimm and the various illustrations of the stories since the early nineteenth century.
For a start, the tales were'nt just for children, they were for everyone, and they did'nt come from the Grimm brothers imaginations, the first collection was the result their documentation of German folk tales (strictly speaking not even German, as the country wasn’t united at the time, that geographical area was made up of many small states) which until then had only been passed from generation to generation orally. That was all they meant to do – just get onto paper this rich tradition before it was forgotten. But just as academics, not really to sell books or gain fame. Their first edition was only expected to be read by adults. But as we know now, it was the kids who really loved the stories. Which in turn led to illustration (usually one per story) which in turn led to the idea that stories with pictures for children was really a very good idea.

In this Taschen edition, the illustrations(way more than one per story, but the way) in date from the 1820’s to the 1950’s. They are all beautiful in hugely different ways and the book at around €20.00 is well, well worth it. It’s worth way more, actually. 

The only criticism I would have is that the cloth cover is purple, and the illustration chosen for the front of it is Sleeping Beauty, which makes the whole book look girly, for want of a better word. Which is unfortunate for those little boys who would love it but may never be given it and for the publisher who surely would sell more if the cover appealed to both genders. I don’t think the cover needs a picture at all, the gold embossed print is magical enough.
 For ages five to adult. An essential in every home.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Shaving foam marbling

We did some shaving foam marbling today. I say that like its no big deal but really, what at-home arty project with kids is no big deal? I can take no credit for the idea and followed the instructions of Jean Van't Hul at The Artful Parent religiously. Its this post that has all the details.

The only thing I would add is that Tesco have own brand shaving foam for 69 cents and to do it all outside only. Or ideally, in someone else's house/garden. Still, the kids loved it. 

The fun part..

 And the results..

 And the garden afterwards....

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Wheel on the School and The Winter Palace and a pretty good clock for teaching the time

I was trying to reduce my eleven year olds time on Youtube yesterday when I thought of this book.
I bought it last Christmas for his older brother and it has remained unloved on a shelf ever since. Two chapters, I said. Just read two chapters and if you hate it, I won't ask again. But there was absolutely no other way to gain access to my laptop. So off he went, with surprisingly little moaning. 

And as you can imagine, I wouldn't have even started writing this if he didn't like it. He did though. I was so pleased. Written in 1954 and based in the authors native Holland, its a lovely story about kids who don't have computers. For ages ten to twelve. 

Beside it on his bedside table is this wall clock (yet to be nailed to a wall.) 

Its part of Lidls' current 4th of July Special Offer, but its also a great clock if you have anyone in the house who isn't always quite sure of how to read the time. Plain, and all the numbers are there.  I should have put it beside the book in the photo to show its size, as its not huge (about the same height as a big paperback) and a nice colour for a boys bedroom. Anyways, who goes into Lidl without coming out with something? It was €6.99.

And this is what I got in the library today. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak.

Chosen in a hurry, like everything when I have my three year old with me, its pretty good. So far I'd say if you like Tracy Chevalier and Phillipa Gregory, you'll like this. I do.