Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Blue Chameleon

By Emily Gravett

Emily Gravett is a big favourite. Her illustrations are witty and her text punchy and spare. The Blue Chameleon makes H laugh lots. He has a sort of music hall comedian persona, rocking up to various unlikely candidates for friendships, morphing into their shape and colour and attempting to charm them: ‘hello, hello, hello’, he says to the cockatoo; ‘howdy’, to the brown boot, ‘can I hang out with you?’ to the sock on the washing line.

H loves to be asked on each page whether it would be a good idea to have a boot or a snail or a sock for a friend, and then to shout ‘No!’ and collapse into giggles.  I am not sure whether he quite understands why another chameleon makes a good friend for the Blue Chameleon but a stripy sock does not, but maybe that deeper level of comprehension will come with time and assiduous cultivation of his intelligence.

Blue Chameleon also contains a cockatoo. If any of you reading are also parenting a child in a country not your own, you will understand the wild anxiety I feel that my child will grow up an ignoramus of things Australian. I envisage relatives sighing as an older H asks ‘what is that sandy expanse with water lapping at its base?’ or ‘who are those men standing on the brightly decorated planks?’ or ‘what’s with all this driving everywhere? Don’t you guys have an underground and an extensive network of buses for me to memorise?’

So a cockatoo is a godsend. And it’s no common or garden sulphur-crested number, it’s a pink cockatoo, also known as the Major Mitchell’s cockatoo. I can breathe easy, imagining H spotting one out bush and saying ‘no, foolish relatives, although that bird looks almost indistinguishable from a galah, in fact it is a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, and nor is he any friend to the chameleon'.

Others we have loved by Emily Gravett include Dogs, which H adored almost from birth, and Monkey and Me.  As with Blue Chameleon, these are brilliant for bedtimes after long and frustrating days when you are dreaming of a glass of wine and some alone time. They are meaty and clever, but very short, so you can sprint through bedtime without suffering from the guilt associated with fobbing your child off with Fireman Sam Touch and Feel, which takes about five seconds to read but leaves you feeling dirty.

H comment: ‘Blue Lameley-len!’

Saturday, 10 August 2013

We Love the Library

I have been unimpressed with recent reads.  I have little to offer in the way of recommendations this week, but have been thinking about the centrality of the library to the toddler life. It is a close, almost free, mutually fairly enjoyable outing. And like everything H does, it has been rigidly routinised. Our library outing is as follows:

  • Stop on the way at the old Town Hall square with the empty fountain and the patch of grass. Do about thirty laps of the fountain with scooter. Hopefully make friends with a small boy with a better truck or train than ours. If there is a homeless individual with a can of lager enjoying a peaceful moment to himself, go over and loudly describe to him how a fire engine works.
  •  Move on to the fountain immediately outside the library with the strange angular mermaid with pert breasts. H: ‘hello, beautiful lady!’ Then a long discussion of the fact that we definitely do not want to go swimming in the bright green rubbish-filled slime that surrounds her. 'Oh no, we would not swim in there, would we mummy? No. It’s disgusting. DIS-GUSTING!'
  • Scoot into library at 100 miles per hour with me shouting ‘H! We don’t scoot in the library!’
  • Upstairs cafĂ© to be avoided at all costs. Things that have happened there:
o   H wet floor, himself and me in an awesome flood of toddler wee. I made joke. No-one laughed.
o    I complimented man in pirate costume on his pirate costume. He said, ‘it’s not a costume’. He is a ‘period dresser’.
  • Proceed into children’s section, whereupon we separate. H goes to stand in front of the DVD shelf, where he devises clever means to knock the ones he can’t reach off the top shelf, and then shouts the names of the ones he likes repeatedly: ‘Thomas! Bob! Fireman Sam! Peppa!’. It is very much as though he is praying to television.
  • If the librarian offers us the coloured pencils and a picture, H colours for about twenty seconds and then hits a baby.
  • H takes library cards and DVD money to the counter. If I forget and do this myself, he hurls himself on the floor and screams like I have put acid in his nappy. 
  • Outside in the fresh air, happily back on scooter, H quietly congratulates himself on having stuck to the golden rule of library going: do not at any stage look at a book or allow librarians or other parents to suspect that you have ever read one.
  • Bedtime: read all books with angelic countenance and intelligent questioning never to be demonstrated in public. Select one book to be read thirty-five times per day for the next four days; following which we will never, ever read it again.

The consummate toddler outing: surreal, loud, inconvenient to the childless, full of learning, full of rebellion. Libraries can accommodate all of this quite well. Only rarely is there a feud with a stranger. We need them. I really hope they don’t all disappear as the budget for everything and anything goes down the toilet.