Thursday, 23 July 2015

Watery books for the ferry: Captain Cat by Inga Moore and Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino

 I bought these for the Ferry to France, but had to take them out last week. There will be plenty of distractions in our cabin (porthole! Kettle! (placed scarily close the the foot of the bunk!) Sachets of hot chocolate! Oh dear, I feel exhausted just thinking about it.) and we badly needed one on a long, cold, cloudy July day. We knew Inga Moore from our many readings of Six Dinner Sid, so I had pretty high hopes for this one. Which were easily met. Another important plus is that it is a big book, so would be perfectly presentable as a birthday present on its own. I'd say its just right for three to five year olds.
 Captain Cat had lots of cats. People think he's crazy, but he loves them.

 They set off on journey on their ship The Carlotta and come across a tiny island. There is the Queen, spotting them through her spyglass.

 She is delighted to have visitors and has never seen a cat before!

 Neither had all the rats who were stealing her food! That's their dead bodies above. Needless to say that page was a particular favourite.

The adventure continues but I'm not giving any of it away - its really a great story.

Another Watery One.  This is for the older picture book audience. Seven to ten would be perfect. As the title suggests, its the story, from soup to nuts, of Jacques Cousteau. Some illustrations look just pretty but you need to look closer - there's a lot in them. They're great!

As a little boy, he was swam a LOT. Having suffered bad injuries in a car accident - he was told he would have to wear arm braces forever - but his persistent swimming put paid to that. And by then he was hooked. (sorry, unintentional pun!)

He wanted to move around underwater though and it was difficult in the massive suits. So he and a friend designed the Aqua Lung. They could swim and breath and look around.

 They took photos and eventually, he started filming.

 Who doesn't think of Bill Murray when they see this picture?

 Look again, he's there! On the right, filming.

 Once he and his divers found some wine. It was over 2,000 years old, but they tried it. Sadly, it was quite bitter. Great book, we really liked it.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Laurie Graham and book clubs

A good friend of mine started a book club not too long ago. When I asked her about the first meeting she said "I hate it. Everyone is fighting and they all want to do books where they learn something. I'm not going anymore."
"But you're the founder!" I said "Don't you have to go?" But there was no persuading her. "I just want to read good books." she said, "not listen to nonsense."

Their best option as far as I could see, would be to pick a Laurie Graham book. Good (so good!) with the side effect (particularly with her historical fiction) of learning something. I'm rereading The Liars Daughter at the moment and it is so interesting and crucially, a really enjoyable read.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Brilliant audiobook - Mr Gum and the Goblins, written and read by Andy Stanton

Most evenings these days, find me watching Episodes, accompanied by my husband and a glass of cold, white wine. However, my nine and twelve year old have decided they like "comedy" and if they hear the theme music to Modern Family, Arrested Development, Veep or Episodes, I hear footsteps on the stairs. Anyone who has watched this very funny series, will also know that as it progresses, there are quite a few scenes that are not great for kids. So, I needed something to keep theose nosy little beggars upstairs. Also, dare I say it, its the Summer holidays and after spending days spirographing, baking cakes, making treaty lunches and generally spending every waking hour with my kids, I want them to stay out of sight in the evenings. Not mooching around on the couch beside me, almost knocking over my wine and saying "Whats a cock?"
So, on my last trip to the library, I saw this audio book. Mr Gum and the Goblins. I knew they had heard it before and liked it and well, it worked. We watched two whole episodes of Episodes undisturbed. Even my four year old loved it. We're burning it onto the computer and then onto a phone for our holidays too - its that good. Highly recommended.
There it is on the cd player. Remember those? I know they're old fashioned but really, they are very handy..

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Throughout this book, you'll see some well-known hats. Look closely above and there's the one Beatrice wore to the royal wedding. And I've been googling that white beauty on the left, I know I've seen it before, I just can't find where. Anyways, the inspiration for this book was Isabella Blow, famous supporter of milliners and hat lover extraordinaire. And its a great tribute, this book contains fabulous style - she would have approved.

However, this not a book just for hat lovers, it is one for two to five year olds who love a really beautifully illustrated rhyming story.

P.s. As you can see, the author Andrea Beaty left a message below (Andrea Beaty looked at my blog!). She mentions her website and how we can see an illustration from Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau in progress here. The site is FULL of interesting stuff and the illustration in progress is great - and I'd say, particularly great to show to little artists, so they can see the fantastic results of perseverance. (It took three weeks!)

She also says that each and every hat in this book is based on an actual hat - each and every one. Like all my favourite books, this means that the illustrations reward really close inspection. And - the author and illustrator are there too - having their favourite cakes and coffee!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Library haul

Ok, the outstanding favourite in this bag was Please Mr Panda. If you are looking for a present for a child of two or three or four, get it. Its guaranteed to be a hit. We've read over and again and there's laughter every time. The Matchbox Diary is a beauty. An old man shows his great grand daughter the story of his life, contained in numerous little matchboxes. An olive stone from his babyhood in Italy, a bottle cap from the journey to America - the illustrations are detailed and lush and wonderful. Its similar to The Keeping Quilt and My Fathers Journey in subject matter, but the tiny things he collected appealed to me and any children who like "mini" stuff. Crankenstein was enjoyed, but not re read a lot. I think its main draw for us was the Optimus Prime toy in the background. Especially when it was in unicorn mode!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Cheap but nice stuff for the holidays and some portable games you will actually play

Here's a few nice and good value things I will be taking on my Summer holidays -

these cute and funny Dodsworth books,

In it we will be packing Sleeping Queens, which I sort of hate, but only because I have played it so many times. Its just an excellent games for both four year olds and ten years olds, twelve year olds and reluctant adults. How many of those are there? And this card holder is really useful for small hands. Really, genuinely useful. 

Spot it is called Dobble in Europe, (I got our one in the States.) Its very clever, and again great for both older and younger kids. Portable and fantastic. Another one I love/hate.

I've ordered this activity book for my four year old and if I had seen it on time, would have got this Taro Gomi one too.

Any anyone who likes the current Mango cotton, boho -ish look, theres this dress and this peasanty blouse. Incredibly cheap but nice! I got the size eight in both and they are very, very roomy. Easily good for at least size tens too.

And lastly, this cross body bag,
half price, sold out online but worth looking in the shops for. Its nice quality and a very handy size.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Feathers Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

This is one of a few books which were earmarked for our holiday bags, but had to be taken out before my brain started melting. No offence to my scintillating little boys, but there's only so much Plants Versus Zombies and Pokeman chat I can take.

Feathers Not Just For Flying is a lovely book. Which has absolutely nothing to do with any current gaming characters, or any Summer movies. Thankfully. Its just a lovely book about birds that is beautifully illustrated, easy to read and just, very interesting.

(The birds mentioned are all natives of North America, but that didn't bother me. The examples used weren't too exotic, and many of their counterparts are in my garden.)

Feathers can shade out sun like an umbrella,

or attract attention like fancy jewelry.

Friday, 10 July 2015

True Grit by Charles Portis

This was on my fourteen year olds' school book list, and came in the post the other day. I picked it up to read the intro by Donna Tart (I really enjoyed The Goldfinch) and thought, oh my goodness, I am going to LOVE this book. And I do. And what a fantastic choice for a group of teenage makes me so happy that my son has an English teacher who would choose it. The narrator, and heroine is just, words fail me but honestly, you could not want your teenagers to read about anyone better, braver, funnier, more plain spoken and well, heroic. The movie is good, granted, but as always the book is way, way better.

This edition is only €3.88.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Babar the King by Jean De Brunhoff

This is a good one, although Babar hardly needs my recommendation. When we read it I thought what I always think when I read vintage kids books - there's so much in it. Either kids just were expected to have a longer attention span, adults demanded more story or authors just had more freedom to let their books meander down various lanes on their journey.

In Babar The King - he chooses a site for his town, draws plans, delegates the work, pays his workers, and finally, name it Celesteville. After a big party, life goes on. The story is not yet over.
People have their jobs, and uniforms, and they all live happily together. 
They visit the Palace of Pleasure (a theatre, what did you think it was?!), they clean the streets, they have prize giving ceremonies. Sometimes thing go wrong (fancy hats get sat on and ruined, Cornelius' house goes on fire - but he is saved!) 

But in the end, the good nature and hard work and playing of the elephants wins the day. 

By the way, if you look at the Babar books, you'll notice that some are by Jean De Brunhoff and some by Laurent De Brunhoff. Jean de Brunhoff died at the age of thirty seven of tuberculosis, (after publishing seven Babar books). leaving one black and white manuscript, which was then coloured by his thirteen year old son, Laurent. This story was published by Jeans brother Michel, who was the editor of Vogue magazine. Still with me?

And apparently the story of Babar was originally told by Cecile de Brunhoff, as a bedtime story to her two older sons and then written and illustrated by her husband Jean.

Anyways, This one reminds me of some of the original Curious George stories - it just goes on and on, in the best way possible.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

My graphic novel nuts loved Zita the Spacegirl. And I loved the fact that we got it from the library. Finding one with a good selection is a godsend. I mean I like the books, its just that they are so expensive and they read them so quickly. This was done with by both boys by dinnertime, and I just borrowed it after lunch.
This is Zita, getting sucked into a vortex. Pretty cool, right?

I got Eleanor and Park for me. This one is set in the eighties. I have just read the part where she listens to The Smiths on a walkman. Oh, so many memories! (Although I never knew it was "I am the son, and the heir.." I thought it was "I am the sun, and the air..")

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Terenure, Rathmines, Walkinstown and Ballyroan Libraries

We've been doing a bit of a library tour recently. My kids are on school holidays and there are no less than four libraries within a walk or short drive of home. (And, having done playgrounds and the zoo and MacDonalds and Dundrum Shopping Centre to death, they are the only places I am willing to go to. Sorry kids, its stay home or go to the library!)

So I thought I'd do a bit of a review. The criteria I'm judging them on is parking and librarian friendliness and my boys were just looking for the one with the most and best graphic novels.

Terenure Library:
This is our local library. The staff are quiet but will help if we ask them. They don't talk to the kids but they don't tell them to keep quiet either. Parking is a pain (sparse and pay and display) but I don't need to park so it suits me. There's a good few graphic novels (not least the adored Anima series, pictured above.) Its a small building with an even smaller kids section, but anything can be requested. I've been here about once a week for the past fourteen years, so I know what they have - and my kids have read all their graphic novels many times. Eight out of ten.

Rathmines Library:

I've only been here once but the librarians are very friendly, chatty and super nice to kids. Its housed in a lovely, lovely old building that was purpose built in 1912. Yeats has lectured there and the stained glass window is by William Morris. Its all really beautiful, I loved it. From my boys point of view there weren't that many graphic novels they hadn't seen before and unfortunately, the parking is a pain. It is pay and display only and there can be a bit of looking around to get a spot. (That said, if you are the type of person to have the right change for a meter always handy it wouldn't be a problem.) Eight  out of ten.

Walkinstown Library:

My boys loved Walkinstown. There were loads and loads of graphic novels (like these Pokemon ones), the staff could not have been nicer and the place was buzzing with people from about four to eighty plus, taking out books, using computers and doing library stuff. And the parking was right outside and free. The building is certainly nothing fancy, but the atmosphere and great selection made it fantastic. Ten out of ten.

Ballyroan Library:
This is the newly built, award winning, architecty one. It is massive, airy and the first thing my youngest wants to do when we go in is run around. As does every other small child. And the first thing the staff ask is that we control our children. Anyways, I know, I know, its not a playground, and the staff will help find books, if asked. I suppose I just think that as they work in such amazing, brand new, beautiful surroundings, they could be a little more smiley.

And, while I'm complaining, there is no drop off box outside. So I can't leave back borrowed books outside opening hours. Which proves to me that the architect who designed the place was not a frequent library user her or himself. Just saying. Also, parking here is a pain. If you arrive after ten thirty, there's never a spot in the car park and on busy days, residents in the area stand outside their houses threatening to call the police if their driveways are blocked. I don't blame them, who wants their driveway blocked? But it does not add to the invitingness of the library, sadly.

They have a good few graphic novels and overall, a massive selection of books. And of course, nearly everything can be requested. Six out of ten.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Oh, I am enjoying this book so much. Its set in the States, in the nineties and large chunks are taken up with hilarious emails between two girlfriends in their twenties discussing "cute guys." I lived in Boston in the nineties from the ages of 23 to 26, and spend hours of my life discussing cute guys with my girlfriends. Not by email, as not one of us had a computer. (I had an electric typewriter, believe it or not, with its own plastic travel case.) Nah, we spoke on the phone or over a few Miller Genuines or, over cups of tea made from teabags someone had brought over from Ireland.

I have a feeling the couple in Attachments will fare considerably better romantically than I did in Beantown. Although its the friendship between the women that is really the most enjoyable part of this book.

I'd recommend it to anyone who has been single in their twenties.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Happy Owls by Celestino Piatti

These are The Happy Owls.

This was first written in Holland in 1895 by Theo van Hoitema and then translated into German by Erwin Burckhardt in 1963 in Switzerland, where it was illustrated by Celestino Piatti. 

It's a great story and the illustrations...well, take a look.

The farm animals argue a lot. Argue and eat, and then argue again. What's up with those owls, they think? Why are they always so happy?

The peacock goes to ask them.

And one of the owls tries to explain.

As the seasons go by, he explains, they see the beauty in each one. Even the Winter, as they are so cosy then in their little home.

The farm animals are flummoxed. The seasons? Beauty? And they continue arguing and the owls continue being as happy as ever. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Bobbo Goes to School by Shirley Hughes

Bobbo Goes To School is about a lost toy. It's not quite as wonderful as Dogger, but it is still Shirley Hughes. We got it from the library yesterday and really enjoyed it.

Lily is helping with the washing. Mum is getting annoyed. SO familiar!

When they finally get out of the house (Lily is not feeling cooperative), they see the school bus.

And she decides to throw her beloved Bobbo high in the air. Look where he lands! On the roof of the school bus! I'd say this one is in every library. Get it out, its lovely.

And this was what I got out for me..