Category Archives: Reference

Spot the Mistake

Or Journeys of Discovery, as it’s called.

Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley, Frances Castle, Journeys of Discovery

‘What’s wrong with this book?’ ask the authors, Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley, at the beginning of the book. If I may, I’d say it’s too large. It’s large for me, and would be even larger for a child.

But it’s fun. I used to adore finding mistakes in those Find Five Mistakes cartoons. Here you have a whole book full of mistakes!

There are poodles, and dodos, and the odd Viking, just where you don’t want them. Or at least I think you don’t. Look carefully at the illustrations by Frances Castle, and then read what Amanda and Mike have to say.

You will learn a lot, and possibly end up cross-eyed with the strain of finding all the wrong floral suitcases at the South Pole. And all the rest.

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Plantopedia

Adrienne Barman’s Plantopedia – A Celebration of Nature’s Greatest Show-Offs was a book I saw in abundance when I actually visited a bookshop last week. Two bookshops. I was glad to see it so prominently displayed.

Each time I look at this book, I expect to se a serious reference book for children on plants. Well, it is, and it isn’t. Reference, yes. Serious, maybe less so. The table of contents have headings such as The confused fruits, The imposters, The prickly, The stinkers and The useful. Plus many, many more.

It starts with air fresheners, of which I was given two last week. The illustrations are colourful and lopsided and very charming. Adrienne incorporates humans and animals, mostly quirky ones, in her plant pictures. This makes them fun to look at. I’m in there, with my cauldron.

This is a new way of looking at plants. It’s not boring.

In fact, no way am I giving this book away. Who’d not want 600 bold and bizarre plants in one book?

Adrienne Barman, Plantopedia

Or happy skeletons?

Starry Skies

I am a disgrace. I know very few star constellations, if by ‘know’ you mean that you definitely recognise them up in the sky, and remember every name for them, and can recall where you’d expect them in your part of the of sky.

After reading this – mostly black – board book by Samantha Chagollan, with illustrations by Nila Aye, I could, perhaps, remedy that ignorance. I have had the sometimes outlandish shapes explained in the past, but here there is a drawing of say, Pegasus, and the stars marked in the picture of this celestial horse.

I might still find Pisces a little farfetched, but Orion is always good. On the other hand, when it comes to stars I will forever get my dogs and my bears mixed up.

Samantha Chagollan and Nila Aye, Starry Skies

This is a book for a new generation of much cleverer stargazers.

Who needs librarians?

We all do.

There is a new CILIP Great Libraries Campaign, launching on June 6th, to ensure that every child in England has access to a great school library. This sounds so sensible and so basic that really, there should not be a need for something like it. But of course, we know that there is every need to shout about this. And it’s not just England; every child needs a library.

I have a Facebook friend I’ve never met, but who does a lot of work for libraries and children’s reading. Her name is Dawn Finch, she’s a past president of CILIP, and last week she put the following on her Fb page:

‘Waiting at the bus stop this morning and a handsome young man out running smiled at me and stopped.
“Hello,” says he, “you don’t remember me do you?”
“No,” says I, frantically trawling my memory for sons of friends.
“I remember you,” says he, “you taught me how to read. You sat with me with an atlas and said it didn’t all have to be about stories.”
“Wow,” says I, “I still love an atlas. So what do you do now?”
Him, “I’m a pilot.”
Awesome.’

It is awesome, isn’t it? It shouldn’t make me want to cry, but it does. I realise all librarians won’t have time to sit down with every child, but it shows what a tremendous difference they can make. In this case to a young man’s life, and perhaps also to the rest of us who might fly on his plane.

And I feel slightly stupid, because it would never have occurred to me that you could learn reading from an atlas. It just goes to show that our needs are not necessarily the same as those of the person next to us. But we can [nearly] all learn to read.

I wish this library campaign will make it possible for many more Dawns to ‘get out their atlases’ and change lives.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

Not always hanging with the in-crowd, I only discovered Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, when the Guardian wrote about its sequel. The not with the in-crowd comment could describe quite a few of the 100 females in the book, too. They did their own thing.

I’d have liked to read it to Daughter, many years ago. And Son. Let’s not be sexist about it. Instead, I had to surreptitiously read Daughter’s copy while she was at work. She ‘just had to’ buy it when she saw it at Blackwells in Oxford. I’d not been able to justify the £20. Or £40 for the two.

This is a book that only happened with the help of some serious crowdfunding. How typical! And also, how like the Rebel Girls themselves.

Some were helped by their fathers/families. Others did their thing despite them. It’s interesting how this runs like a thread through so many of the 100 tales of extraordinary women.

Some I’d heard of. Others not. Some I knew quite well, but not necessarily in this way. Others I was very happy to be introduced to.

In a way, I don’t like the tone. But I recognise it’s all written for – fairly – young girls [and boys]. And sometimes you gain something when simplifying a really famous woman’s story into words for a small child.

Also, not sure I agree with smoothing over some of the bad stuff some of them have done, nor occasionally really bad things that happened to them, like the assassination of three of the four Mirabal sisters. I believe even young children deserve to know.

What many of these women have in common is being told girls don’t do these things.

Actually, they do. They did, and they will continue to do it.

Whether the men are stupid, or jealous and controlling, I wouldn’t want to say. And I don’t really believe that boys now need a book like this for themselves, just to make it fair.

This is a book to dip into and learn from. Preferably in the company of a young person, or two.

Intriguingly illustrated by many talented artists, giving a new face to some of these rebels. The pictures alone could invite readers to spend a lot of time looking at them, and talking about them.

I really like Michelle Obama’s mother.

AshleyFiolek-1024x748

(‘Honk all you want, I’m deaf!’ Bumper sticker belonging to Ashley Fiolek, motocross racer.)

Positively Teenage

Nicola Morgan is one of the best friends a teenager can have. I wish I’d had her [book] when I was young and agonised over life. Now when I read her Positively Teenage guide to teenage well-being, I can only nod sagely and agree, because over time I’ve also learned a few sensible things.

Nicola Morgan, Positively Teenage

But this – very yellow – book is a great guide to feeling well, feeling happier with yourself. Because you deserve it.

Today I might not [yet] have had my daily dose of laughter, even if it is great brain medicine. But I’ll work on it.

I did Nicola’s Quiz – she has many throughout the book – on ‘the flourish actions.’ I did abysmally. But it would be fairly quick and easy to improve such a score, and with Nicola’s help you at least know what to aim for.

Your body is just fine. Yes, you think your nose, or whatever, is horrible. But everyone has something like that, making them spend years agonising over some detail that will baffle the older you.

You can change your luck. It’s not as if you were born with genuinely bad luck. Learn to think and act positive. It will change you.

In every chapter there are links to websites and organisations to help you find out more, or to make contact with.

I reckon that for every little, or big, thing you worry about, Nicola’s book will have something sensible and reassuring to say. Read the book and see how you can improve your life. Even quite old ‘teenagers’ can benefit from this guide. Give the book to others, and keep a copy for your own needs.

To board or not to board

Toddler Tollarp is two today. When his mother invited us to an Easter lunch last week (I was very grateful because no one ever invited me/us to a proper Swedish Easter lunch in all my Easters here), we felt we wanted to bring an early birthday present. Daughter had rather fallen for those books we saw in Oxford the week before, and wanting to engage in some massive brainwashing she ordered a few books for Toddler Tollarp.

Let’s just say that they had never expected books like that!

Rocket Science for babies, and General Relativity for babies. Yeah, at two he is slightly too young, but you need to start in time. I think the books are intended for children a few years older, but no self-respecting five-year-old – or his/her parents – would look at a board book at that stage.

Because that’s what they are, and quite sensibly too. Larger than a baby board book, so it fits in with the serious nature of the subjects. And being a board book it should withstand the young genius through some rough times (unlike that train book Son killed over a couple of years) and plenty of re-reads.

However, if the child and his/her adults also see the title XXX for babies, the baby-ness of the board book will be reinforced. And then where will you be? Who is it to be for, and who will buy it? A baby will almost always be somewhat young for Quantum Physics. Even if starting early is good.

(I occasionally suspect that commissioning editors aren’t always aware of the facts of life. Titles like Quantum Entanglement for babies are so attractive. But are they truthful? And then there is the board book aspect.)

It is time we take back control of board books and their juvenile looks. The sturdy quality is good for years, and a child will generally like a beloved book for a long time. All we need is for the adults not to tidy them away prematurely.

Chris Ferrie, who has written a whole host of these clever little books, is on to a good thing. At least if pride doesn’t get in the way.

Chris Ferrie, Rocket Science for babies

(If I seem confused re book titles, it’s because all this quantum stuff is now twirling round in my brain and I no longer recall which book is which. But they are all good, and all seem to be about balls…)