This is the story of a miller’s cat who lives in a windmill and saves a baby in a cradle from drowning in a flood that bursts the dike around the Dutch town they live in. The story arc is pleasantly predictable – cat used to get prefential treatment from the miller until he married and a baby was born to claim all the attention, but after the flood rescue incident, the cat is the miller’s wife’s favourite pet. Perhaps not an ideal book for a three-year-old, with its unusual setting and situations. I didn’t realise that the millstones could not be disconnected from the sails in a storm, requiring constant feeding of grain to prevent the stones forming sparks (surely this is no longer the case?), and this was difficult to explain to my daughter, especially given that she’s none too clear on how wheat turns into bread. I also found it hard to see how a cat jumping about in a floating wooden cradle could prevent it capsizing, however much one could depend on the cat to wish to stay dry, but that part didn’t bother my daughter at all. She enjoyed the baby-saving drama, and the illustrations are detailed and dreamily old-timey, but I think it’s one to try again in future years.
Monthly Archives: July 2011
This is a brightly illustrated re-telling of the fable of the North Wind and the Sun, who puzzlingly compete to see who is first able to make a traveller remove his coat. I also played my daughter the catchy tune also telling the tale by Julia Donaldson (of Gruffalo fame), but I fear that she was much more interested in the scenes of people having seaside fun in the sunshine, then getting blustered about. The final page shows the traveller enjoying a blueberry ice-cream and I think that was the image that stayed in her mind. Along the way we may have learned that although the wind is invisible it can be represented by a blue swirl. We’re about to try an anthology of Aesop’s Fables next…
Anne Fine is the illustrious author of this very short but rather sweet book about the doctor mum too busy and tired to spot her own child’s chicken pox. She has written many wonderful books for older children and adults, but this is the first I’ve seen for toddlers. The illustrations are pleasant and clear enough, and there is a nice juxtaposition to observe between mum’s tasks as a GP and Monty’s play mirroring her activities. The story is simple and my daughter easily identified with being only half-listened to by tired mum (oh dear…). When mum finally hears what Monty’s on about, she exclaims “Poor Monty! I’m a terrible doctor!” when, to my mind, she might as easily have berated herself for being a terrible mum. And there’s a terrible dad, too, who taps on his computer all day while Monty plays all by himself, feeling sicker and sicker and getting spottier and spottier. You needn’t be a GP to recognise chicken pox, frankly. However, we could also read the book as an inspirational tale of career mum instead of career dad, since after all, chicken pox is not a serious disease, and Monty does end up cosily in bed with both adoring and concerned parents tucking him in (my daughter loved this bit). Despite the possible subtexts, it really is a charming read.
Even if you’ve not previously read an Elmer book, so ubiquitous is this patchwork pachyderm that he will be instantly familiar. Probably it is best to begin with the eponymous title, introducing the Elmer’s Day Parade, on which all other elephants paint their boring grey selves with colourful patterns galore and parade, led by Elmer with his patchwork obliterated by grey berry-juice.
Then, perhaps, read Elmer and Wilbur, which introduces Elmer’s ventriloquist chessboard-patterned cousin (it’s rather hard to explain ventriloquy, if that’s the word I want, without being able to demonstrate, I warn you). Having absorbed these peculiarities, the (many) other Elmer adventures will seem less odd. Less odd, rather than not odd, mark you. Rainbows that lose their colour, rather complex tricks, and elephant-lifting gales will strain credulity, but the unfailing politeness of all the animals and the affectionate incompetence of the none-too-bright elephant herd will keep you entranced. Also, the Elmer books have quite an advanced turn of phrase, which makes a change.
Right, back to this particular book. Elmer’s Special Day refers to the annual elephant-decorating parade. Preparations are extremely noisy, and, as so often is the case, the neighbours can only be placated by an invitation to the party.
Excellent illustrations of the elephants planning their patterns and the wonderful costumes of the other animals will charm your child for minutes on end. The twist is that the neighbouring animals also wear elephant masks, so that it will still be an elephant parade. This got us snipping and colouring, and presto, soon the entire family were parading in our very own elephant masks too. Lots of fun.
Another of Mike Inkpen’s inventive tales of cute urban animals, though this one does have storyline similarities to Kipper’s Toybox. Rollo’s the kindly corner-store cat. The LFB is the Little Fluffy Bird (I’m not sure the acronym concept got across, though). And Ruff is the rat who yearns for nicer living conditions and tastier rations. The tap drips and the cat dozes, but somebody rather smelly has chomped his way through Rollo’s rug and red ball and then curled up for a nap in the LFB’s freshly made nest. The culprit’s tale of underground woe and drain-damaged dinner inspires Rollo and the LFB to make Ruff a cosy bed at the top of the drainpipe, and to feed him a delicious selection of cornershop dainties. My daughter was charmed to think of snuggliness and sweeties. The last page features the grateful Ruff having a good wash under the tap, now that he can live a clean new life (perhaps meant to be a nudge to reluctant bathers?). Pictures are simple and pleasing in the Inkpen tradition and the book is a bit more challenging to read than most of the Kipper adventures we’ve read.