Thursday, 25 July 2013

I Want My Hat Back

by Jon Klassen

Does your toddler have a coffee table? If so, this is the book you need. It is all in tasteful autumnal hues. The pictures have a very of the moment Scandinavian feel to them. The endorsement on the back cover is from The Guardian. When the photographers arrive for your Vogue Living shoot, you can shove Peppa Pig’s Fire Engine and Thomas the Tank Engine’s Big Lift and Look Book under the cot, seat your child on an appropriate piece of Ercol and give him I Want My Hat Back.

The plot centres on a dopey bear who questions a series of animals about his lost hat, including a wily rabbit who is actually, unnoticed by dopey bear, wearing the hat in question. Lying on his back feeling sorry for himself, dopey bear flashes back to the rabbit interview, races back to recover the hat, and then, it is darkly suggested, eats the rabbit.

There is no narrator, only staccato bits of dialogue between the animals. I defy even the most reluctant reader- aloud not to do funny voices for this one. The text demands it. H found it completely hysterical the first few times, and the bear / rabbit face-off still gets a lot of laughs.

It works for the toddler but will also work for older children, who will get the jokes at a different level, and will likely greatly enjoy the bear’s cycle of blinding self-pity, sudden realisation and towering rage.


Friday, 5 July 2013

Owl Babies

Written by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson

Welcome to a two-year-old’s emotional landscape. It is not a nuanced, complex watercolour type of affair. Oh no, it is STARK. Emotions are strong or not at all. And Martin Waddell is their Jackie Collins, taking them on a rollercoaster ride through the most dramatic events they can imagine:

  1. Wake up and Mummy isn’t there.
  2. Cry for Mummy and feel very scared of the dark
  3. Mummy returns!
H wanted to read this at least 15 times per day, and also insisted on sharing Sarah, Percy and Bill’s horrific plight with everyone we met for a week. Yes, Crouch End Budgens lady, the owl babies’ mummy went away, but SHE CAME BACK.

By the end of Owl Babies week, I was in tears of joy when Mummy returned and Sarah, Percy and Bill flapped, danced and bounced up and down on their branch. Their soft, feathery owl baby faces melted me into a useless human mummy puddle. I had become addicted to Owl Babies and its cathartic force.

This was the point at which H decided no more Owl Babies. Not sure why, perhaps he felt ashamed of having wallowed in this emotional quagmire for so long. More likely, just over-read, again. I miss those owl babies quite badly.

You should get this one, even if it lasts but a week: it is a wonderful experience. And the illustrations are magnificent, capturing the very essence of baby owl-ness.

My only quibble: H’s dad is a trivia night champion. He has won a £6 bottle of rosé at the Winchester in Highgate on at least three or four occasions. He does not need a son publicly referring to ‘owl babies’. Owlet. Owlet is the correct term, H.

H comment: I no like dis one ANY MORE! Mummy, we NO READ DIS ONE! [Back to Tell the Time with Thomas for us tonight, sigh. That one never grows old]