Monday, January 30


Augustus and His Smile by Catherine Rayner is one of my favourite books. I adore Catherine's illustrations which are classic, whimsical and full of character. This is one I will happily read again and again to Wriggles; if she will let me! It is one of the very first books I bought 'for her' when she was a few weeks old and still months away from being classed as 'term'. Once she came home I would show her pictures and read the story to her when I became stuck on what else to say to a newborn. (The books say talking to them is vital, but they are not very conversational!)

Augustus is a happy tiger until one day his smile goes missing. He sets out on an intrepid adventure to find his pesky runaway grin, taking in the treetops, the desert, the sea and the mountains. Rayner's pictures transport me instantly and her colour palette (it's the former art student in me!) is gorgeous. I love then enormous pictures that you feel like you could step into.

Luckily for Augustus, his smile is not far away. As he skips through the rain, he catches a familiar sight in a'll never guess..his smile! Have a point and a chocolate biscuit all round if you got that one. 
It is a sweet tale without being nauseatingly twee, and I think the tiger and jungle setting makes it loveable for both boys and girls alike. I like the simplicity of it and the purity. toGranted, I have never met a materialistic tiger hellbent on this season's antelope handbag, but I think it has a really strong message that all you need to be happy is to be yourself and to enjoy life and all the experiences that it throws at you. My baby daughter already seems quite keen on throwing herself into life, and she has the most blissfully gorgeous cheeky smile that I hope will be plastered on her face for eternity. 

This story reminds me of all that I want for her-happiness. I can try to provide as best as I can and doubtless will sometimes fall short. I may not be able to literally bring her the mountains, the desert and the sea (THINK of the carbon footprint, not to mention airport tax... ) but I hope I can show her, or guide her through the richness of life enabling her to sample everything.
I think children become your "puddle" so to speak. We all have moments when we wobble and fall down and feel really, really rubbish or lost. But the magical thing about being being a mummy, is that you have this little mirror trailing around your legs; an infinite reminder about what life and living is all about. When I came home from work today, my daughter didn't want to play with her toys, she wanted me. It was either one of the more explicit times that she demanded unadulterated affection, or one of the first times I've really noticed since starting to shake off the fog of depression. We played on the living room floor, she sat on me as if I was a seaside donkey and we sang, tickled and laughed. As I plonked her into the bath, she would turn to me every few seconds inbetween gleefully splashing (her new trick), offering up a huge toothy grin. It made me feel all wibbley inside. It's such a soppy cliche, but her smile is my smile. 

When she looks at me, nothing else matters. 

When I was really struggling in the past, in the thick of hospital admissions and uncertainity and horrible doubts, I never thought I would be able to think as simply as that. I have always known that was the 'right answer' so to speak, but there always seemed to be a "but". I'm not naive enough to say that's it, the bad is all gone away and shall never return, life is so more complex than that and the human mind is more complex still, but I know what is real and what really matters. 

And that is what I want Wriggles to know most of all out of life: that happiness is more important than perfection. If you can be happy and make other people happy, then you're doing pretty well. As you become an adult, then a parent, it becomes a very intricate balancing act taking all sorts of factors into play to achieve such an end. What I'm learning is that you don't have to have it nailed completely, not all the time. Life evolves, what is important one day is not the next. But that's the great thing about special people. They don't change. My baby will be my baby in 50 years time and will be as cherished then as she is now, just a lot bigger. I don't know how our lives will pan out, I'm pretty sure that there will be hardships and heartache as well as lots of fun. I know realistically I can't keep her grinning the whole way through and that by the time she is grown up, I will be one of many people who are at the core of her life but I was there at the beginning. It's quite awe-inpsiring to think I set her on this journey as she makes her world around her. To go back to the book, that is why stories are so important. They help the smaller people see and equate things in their life with names and experiences. They provide pictures and words to confusion and consolidate rules that surround them, both the spoken and unspoken. And they always have a happy ending! (Or at least the good ones anyway) I think it is equally important for adults to sometimes be reminded of that, and hark back to very clear cut facts. We all know that good isn't always good and bad isn't always bad by the time we've grown up, but sometimes you need to shake off all the heavy 'stuff' and just look back into your puddle or whatever metaphor you want for yourself, and just relish in the better times. to stop thinking and worrying for a moment and just be.


  1. I want to think like you think! Lend me your brain would you! ;-)

  2. You are so right. My children are my "puddle" as well. They so easily bring out my missing smile.

    We've read a few of Rayner's other books, but our library does not have this one. :( That's not something to smile about! Lovely review though.

  3. I look forward to reading this book to my little one, I loved your recommendation of Lyra and the flying fish, and picked up my copy today :)

    1. Thanks Lisa! I hope you and your girls enjoy it :) and that your girls are much better now!