Mama Humour

So I just realised I forgot to post the pics of my library in my last post. Here it is!

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Admittedly, we don’t spend a huge amount of time reading here. However, I’m guessing this will change once we get the custom seat cushion for the bench put in.

To combat the hypocrisy of berating my husband for keeping 30-year-old text books, I have decided to reread at least three books a year to validate their shelf space. In particular, my last book of the year will be a reread. My inaugural read for the year was Raymond Chandler’s High Window. Yet again I was struck by his smooth prose. He epitomises the film noir genre and his dialogue is pure gold. Highly recommended.

I also viciously attacked Iris’s book hoard and managed to whittle it down by EIGHT books! Out of like two hundred but hey, to a book addict this is still pretty big.

Anyway with that massive effort, I thought I could afford to get Iris a new book.

So you know how sometimes when your kid has asked you about a million on five questions? So at a million and six you decide to give them the most ridiculous answer you can think of just to see if they buy it? This book is all about that. It allows us to talk rubbish and allows our kids to TRY and correct us. Furthermore, because I love using that word, we get to argue with our kids exactly like how they argue with us over every. single. thing.

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Much like The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak, This is a ball by Beck and Matt Stanton gives the kind of dry humour that both children and adults would understand.

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As you can see, it’s the kind of book that would make people go -_-. This is my kind of humour.

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And it continues on in this vein.

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Right up to the not-ending.

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Hopefully, she’ll be chuckling along with me to Blackadder in no time!

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Getting All Arty Farty

It’s been about 2.5 months since my last post. We’ve had a pretty major happening in our nuclear family, which I’m still deciding whether to talk about. Also, I have been INSANELY busy. Every morning I wake up feeling hungover without the good part! Then there’s Paris. I am not going to go into that because this is not what this blog is about. It’s about recognising little mercies, artistry and beauty, something the world sorely needs.

Therefore I am going to give a big shout out to art in all its myriad forms, good and bad. Appreciating art is not about being snooty, turtle-neck adorned, squinting know-it-alls who use the words “minimal”, “je ne sais quoi” and “composition”. It’s about being moved. It’s about human expression. It’s about being transported away from and into the depths of what it means to be human and to live on this earth. Before I float away on my cloud of existentialism, let me introduce the inimitable Hervé Tullet’s The Game of Sculpture.

I am a strong believer in instilling a love for the arts from diaper stage. No matter if the child prefers eating the paint than looking at it, or joining in the modern interpretive dance with gusto. We’ve been dragging Iris to museums since she was a few months old; taking her to live performances; and my favourite children’s event of the year in Perth is the Awesome Festival, an arts festival for kids. Being able to appreciate the arts just makes life so much more interesting and filled with loveliness. It really helps to remind all of us, but especially mini people, that human beings are capable of creating beauty and not just of destruction.

Published by the pinnacle of arty farty publishing, Phaidon, The Game of Sculpture is not a book in the traditional sense. It teaches colours, shapes AND physics! All without words so kids can get into it all by themselves! And you know what, I don’t think there’s any shame in us adults, sitting quietly, trying to create something pretty, even if meaningless, from time to time.

the game of sculpture

It comes as a long fold out cardboard with pop out pieces and a sleeve.

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Dark colours on one side

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Light colours on the other

And here are just a few examples of what you can do with it! Pieces can be balanced, slotted and angled, hence the physics element. It’s not complicated but if you’re lazy to whip out the paints and dough, this’ll do in a pinch for a good half an hour.

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the game of sculpture

the game of sculpture

*NB: Not for kids in the mouthing/destructive phase. The child also needs to have pretty good fine motor skills so probably more for 4 and up, or if you’re prepared to invest the time, you could do it with them.

Mixing Up a Storm of Happy!

Combining art and humour in educational children’s books is what acclaimed children’s author Hervé Tullet is all about. We fell spot over dot from the moment we picked up Press Here (see my review here). So when I saw he’d done a sequel I knew we had to have it. Thanks to one of my bestest, most generous girlfriends in the world (major point-scoring going on here as you can tell), who sent Mix It Up! in a beautiful care package with lots of other goodies, we do! Are we thrilled or are we thrilled? Are we going to binge on Dutch confectionaries? Oh yeah.

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Similar to Press Here, Mix It Up! employs colourful paint splotches to teach children about something interactively. This time it’s about colours and how they combine to make other colours. In just a few words a page, Tullet manages to engage the reader and the read to in an entirely enjoyable way.

Mix It Up!

The paint splotches are so vivid you can almost feel the gooey paint. It also gives lots of great ideas for playing with real paint, if you feel so inclined. It’s so successful Iris has been yelling out colour combinations randomly ever since we got it. This may or may not be a plus point for some.

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Sure it kinda engenders those “I could have done that” comments, but hey, you didn’t did you? So unless you’re going to go through the process of making a book, zip it and bask in the delicious primary colours while your child shouts out what happens next.

Op Shops Rock!

Ever since my first Oxfam shop browse, I’ve been well aware of the amazing potential for unearthing once-loved gems among the mountains of kitschy gimcracks. All for a pittance and for a good cause as well! I don’t go in for clothes, shoes or bags so much but I love my vintage tea cups and saucers, furniture, housewares and most of all, books. If there is one thing that people have no qualms about getting second-hand, it’s books. So much more so if they are beautiful editions with hardly any wear. My most prized find? A boxed set of Jane Austen works by the Folio Society, which I got for $10 at a church book sale and that I saw in an antique bookshop for $150. ‘Nuff said.

This particular find is not quite as financially magnificent but definitely above average in awesomeness. A wonderful friend found it and thought of Iris (thank you Aunty J!). I have to say, with my amazingly vast and stupendous experience of books, I have never come across a carousel book. *GASP* Yup, it was the first time for both Iris and me to open the book and find it transformed into a house, ballet studio and theatre stage! And with cardboard dolls to play make believe with. Even though it’s been pre-loved, this copy of Angelina Ballerina’s Pop-up Dancing School by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig is in really good condition. There are no tears, most of the paper characters are accounted for, with a couple of guest fairies from some other book, and only a little spinal wear.

Angelina Ballerina's Pop-up Dancing School

The second she opened this up, Iris was enraptured. She played for hours, on her own! So parents of pre-schoolers who are into make believe, this could be a God-send for you. The ribbon you see above works also to keep the book open and you’ll see below why it’s called a carousel book. Is this amazing or what?! Where were you when I was left playing village with my mother’s cosmetics bottles?

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The attention to detail in this book is seriously fantastic. In the pic below you’ll see a mirror, stairs and doors leading onto the other two dioramas. 20150401_141445

There are even working bed covers that Iris never fails to use to put her friends to sleep!

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There is a story preceding the pop-out sets but really, you hardly need one. In fact, I’ve only read the Angelina book to Iris once because she hasn’t asked/needed me to!

They are not that easy to find though. I know because naturally I had to go out and find more! I’ve bought another Angelina Ballerina one, which I am saving for her birthday and found Maisy’s Castle by Lucy Cousins. It’s not quite as detailed but still great!

Maisy's Castle

And you can combine it with other types of make-believe toys. Here you see the lego Disney princesses cavorting with Maisy and her pals.

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Obviously, these are not books for littlies who are still in the mouthing/destructive phases of development.

So what are you waiting for? Go do some op-shop treasure hunting! (Or buy these on Booktopia.com.au, easier but less satisfying.)

Tractor Book of Awesomeness

Now I know my childhood was fairly privileged in that I had lots of toys, watched all the important shows (e.g. Muppets, Electric Company and He-Man) and got to eat flavoured ice in tubes. However, I did NOT have one of these books, which I am now convinced would have immured me from all my teenage angst. This and lots of chocolate.

Usborne’s Wind-Up Tractor Book was part of Iris’s Christmas bounty and probably the best buy from my first BookDepository.com 25-hour sale. I’m going to need the pictures to tell you just how brilliant this “book” is.

You definitely can’t do this with an e-book!

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Seriously, any book that comes with its own wind-up tractor cannot be anything other than totally awesome, am I right?

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There are three mini-stories and the standees to go with them.

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There’s even instructions for each standee, which are made of thick cardboard (but I wouldn’t leave a toddler alone with them).

Now for the epitome of cool:

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There are tracks on the book itself for the tractor to run in! Oh-my-good-books! How undeniably amazing is that? After several readings of the simple stories, kids can act it out all by themselves. Or they could make up their own stories.

Check out the video of it in action: Tractor in Trouble.

 

 

 

 

Pop It Up!

The pop-up books I remember from childhood were pretty much like the series of David A. Carter books we inherited from my nieces. Don’t get me wrong, they are not terribly complicated but awesome nonetheless and manage to turn pretty much anything into a bug. On an aside, the “helpful” tip I got in one parenting book about allowing your child to destroy a pop-up book so that you can mend it and show them how things need to be treasured, is complete bollocks, especially if you’re a book lover like I am. It will not only completely rip into your heart to see such wonderful paper creations destroyed, without malice, but still destroyed. It is also a really, really big pain to fix them. So do not allow children under 3 to handle a pop-up alone.

Anyway, as I was saying, I hadn’t been bowled over with the genre until I came across this:

Oh Baby, the places you'll go

Be still my paper-loving heart. I was in love! Of course at the time Iris was only 1.5 so I passed on this version and got her the abridged one, which she also managed to annihilate. However, from then I’ve discovered more and more wonders in the world of paper engineering. (That’s the actual term for someone who designs a pop-up book! Talk about best job in the world! Your job is to play with paper! OMG!)

In my newfound pop-up loving fervour, I came across an article listing Jan Pieńkowski’s Haunted House as the ultimate and original pop-up book. So of course I had to get it. I was not disappointed.

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While the cartoonish illustrations make a somewhat scary topic funny and unlikely to leave you with visions of clawing hands at your window, they still pack a good bit of scariness in them.

There is hardly any text, just one line per spread. This not only makes it a great quick read for that “just one more book puhleeease!”, it is also great for pre-reading kids to enjoy by themselves.

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I can’t imagine how fabulous it was when it came out in 1979 as it’s still pretty amazing today. Every spread is packed with pop-up creatures, pull tabs to reveal ghouls and spaghetti monsters, and wheels that create a psychedelic cupboard.

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Three years old is just about the right time for kids to really enjoy more complex pop-up books because they’ve gained the manual dexterity and consciousness to treat them with the necessary care.

I’m already salivating about the next purchase I’m going to make – a Robert Sabuda book! Now which one……

Pressing All My Buttons

A month ago we were enjoying a very blissful week in the gorgeous, if a bit wet, surrounds of Southwest Australia. There was no phone reception, hardly any internet and no television. There were wild kangaroos and rabbits, bunches of caterpillars, three swings and a tree house at the holiday home we rented. Within one minute of arriving Iris declared “I love my holiday home!” The wet weather meant lots of reading for the grown ups and lots of puddle jumping for Iris. I finished two books in a week, something I haven’t done in three years.

Now, we’re in the midst of a hailstorm of visitors and get-togethers. Not to mention school term has begun, which means that Iris’s activities and mine have started up again. Having to juggle all that and make sure I spend quality time with my family who are visiting from overseas is like taking on an additional job. Not to mention Iris’s birthday is coming very soon, then Christmas and then our own trip back to Singapore and then Iris starts pre-kindergarten.

I think I need another holiday.

Yup, being a mum is never simple.

Press Here by Herve Tullet

Press Here by Hervé Tullet, is simple. Simply brilliant. It only has dots, DOTS! I love dots.

My immediate reaction when I first flipped through it was “what a clever book”! It also has actions and teaches cause and reaction. How cool is that? I never tire of its soothing dots in primary colours and funny cheerleaderish instructions and encouragements. You’ll notice how worn it already is and that’s how much we all love it.

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