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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The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me and my Love for Roald Dahl

Back when I was in primary school (don’t even think of asking when that was), I was a regular of what I remember as our tiny library. I favoured fantasy and shunned anything based on real life. I found Nancy Drew and The Famous Five irritating in the extreme, which is ironic given my current obsession with police procedurals. I just felt that the language was too dumbed down and I felt patronised. Then at eight, a friend introduced me to the fabulous world of Roald Dahl. It was love at first read. Even after my second foray into children’s writing, I have not found his equal. His special brand of slightly wicked fantastic tales, absolutely brilliant prose and superb imagination combined to give me hours and hours of pleasure, and will again thanks to parenthood.

My own set of Dahl books are pretty worse for wear and stuffed in boxes until our new house is built. We had one copy of James and the Giant Peach, highly illustrated that Iris has only recently begun to enjoy given the amount of words and her goldfish attention span. I was therefore almost hopping for joy when I encountered this copy of The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me at a Salvos (Salvation Army store) for $2.25 and in immaculate condition. And it’s illustrated by the supreme Dahl illustrator, Quentin Blake. I was in Book Heaven.

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Since I began my affair with Dahl when I was already well into reading, I’ve focused more on his novels than the shorter stories like The Enormous Crocodile and The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me. Thus, I admit with shame that I’ve never read the latter. Yet, more’s the better because I get to share that unique pleasure of reading a Roald Dahl for the first time at 37 with my four-year-old.

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It is not a book for the amateur, tired or lackadaisical reader. My husband got told off by Iris for rushing and not reading it right. It has quite a lot of words and those who are familiar with Dahl will know how badly he likes to twist one’s tongue , especially when it comes to confectionery. This is the other reason I love Dahl. He obviously has a sweet tooth like me and he is second to none in making up names for things.

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The story follows Billy who has always dreamt of owning a Grubber, or sweet shop, particularly the abandoned one in his village. Then along comes a window cleaning crew, who take it over and set up shop. This is no ordinary crew……you know what, I’m not going to bother summarising this story because it is Roald Dahl and I think everyone, EVERYONE should read it themselves. Here are a couple pictures though to give a glimpse into his fabulous genius.

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Tickled Pink as a Puffalunk

Becoming a parent has made going to bookshops even more exciting than they used to be, and believe me, I was a bookshop junkie. I could not leave one without desperately needing this or that book (usually at least three). Nowadays, I have an even better excuse for buying books in the form of an increasingly precocious three-and-a-half-year-old.

I think children’s sections in bookshops cater to precisely the kind of browsing you engage in for the genre. They’re often laid out on shelves, front facing, without any proper organisation so that you’re forced to lift out every book behind the first row. However, unlike with adult books, you don’t need to read the synopsis. Most of the time, you just need the cover and the title to tell you whether or not it’s something you like. Of course the shelves are usually cluttered with the prevalent popular titles, but once in a while, with a bit of digging, you find a gem you’ve not come across before.

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So it was with The Tickle Tree by Chae Strathie and Poly Bernatene. We were at the airport on the way to my granny’s 100th birthday celebration in Kuala Lumpur and had only ten minutes to spare. Bernatene’s fantastical cover called to me from behind a copy of Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. I must say, I have a predilection for this sort of imagery (yes, I am a Tim Burton and Gaudi fan).

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Yet I also love Strathie’s imaginative words and don’t even mind that it’s a bit difficult to read in some places because of the way the words dance around the page.

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The book revels in the gloriousness of fantasy and questions one’s ability to see beyond the everyday. It asks if the reader has seen such things as “giant galumphs”, “marvellous musical meeps”, “luminous frinks” and “boomjangles”. Then tantalises by saying if you haven’t, it’ll tell you how. Interspersing the “boring” images of an ordinary village when it does this is quite clever, I think.

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I’m quite a stickler for good endings and, unlike with adult books, it’s not difficult to accomplish in children’s books. The Tickle Tree ends by revealing that all these wonderful things are waiting for you……”in your dreams” is such a fabulous ending. Perfect for bedtime!

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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……

Nonsense is Good Sometimes

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I love how children’s books can be totally irreverent. Mind you, it really peeves me when I find factual inaccuracies in children’s books and television programmes. Rabbits do not only eat carrots, nor cats milk (cows milk that is). The perpetuation of such erroneous information leads to a mass ignorance of the incorrect feeding of domestic animals with potentially devastating effects on future pets. It’s one thing to let a child believe a tiger eats cake and sandwiches and drinks tea, because the child is never likely to have responsibility for feeding a tiger without being adequately educated, but a kitten or rabbit?

Alright, my ranting done, unlike adult literature, children’s books don’t really need to mean anything. Their characters don’t have to grow up or do anything or say anything. The most important thing is that they inspire thought and imagination.

We picked up Christina Andres’ “Elephant in the Bathtub” from the library while on holiday in Singapore and it does just that. It’s delightfully pointless, silly and funny. It’s got lovely cartoonish drawings with enough detail to enthral a two and a half-year-old and it’s really short. I read this many times without sounding like a bear in Spring at the end.

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Though if you really, really had to, and it was absolutely necessary to the reason for your picking up a book in the first place, you could possibly eke out something to learn in the precious few pages of this gem.

Firstly, it’s great fun to share, particularly a bathtub and particularly if some of your friends are huge.

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Secondly, a simple bath can become a great adventure.

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Thirdly, it’s vital for parents to have a drain on the floor of the family bathroom.

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Now where’s my rubber ducky?

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