Thursday, March 1

World Book Day

Today, 1st March is World Book Day, encouraging children to fall in love with reading and adults to share their favourite books and pass on this passion which many take through with them to old age and pass on to their children in turn. I remember as a child that getting a book token or World Book Day voucher was incredibly exciting; a bookshop was like a land of possibilities and each crisp new book was a world to fall into, a little package of escapism you could hold in your hand. As I grew older and read more complex stories, books took on a new meaning offering an empathic view and banishing insecurities as I met characters that could have been written for me alone. Books are unique in that they evoke a wealth of emotions, experiences, imagination and memories. Stories from fact or fiction can stay with you a lifetime and a love of words opens up both education and opportunities and enriches the soul.

Wriggles' favourite place in the world at the moment is my bookshelf. Specifically, the bottom shelf which she can a) reach and b) is "hers" being full of her books. She does also now have the second shelf which I have begrudgingly donated too, but this is home to paper and hardback books which she currently is liable to tear so needs supervising whilst 'reading'. She is almost 18 months old, and has always liked books. She has learnt from about 13-14 months to turn the pages and lift the flaps and is now quite happy to either be read to, or investigate herself. She now knows the right way up books go and the pattern of familiar stories; she recently has grasped the concept of hello and goodbye so if these words are mentioned or illustrated she copies the actions and waves at the book. Genius! At present, her most loved (ie. battered) books are several which are published by DK. They are simple, colourful and the photography is both clear and engaging. 

They are also pretty indestructible. She has managed to tear off the odd board flap and they are the favoured teething accessory, but generally they are still in pretty good shape for the attention paid to them. 
Yum yum, tasty book!
The book which travels faithfully in our change bag is "Eyes, Nose, Toes, Peekaboo"which is a succession of body parts belonging to toys that are hidden. Lift the flap and, peekaboo, there are bunny's ears, dinosaur's toes etc.
It is a lovely book to read with her as it encourages both interaction, responses and learning. 
If you happen to be in Good Mother Education Mode, then it helps to develop social skills, concentration, memory and learning about different body parts. I (nearly) always point to both her and my body parts after we find that belonging to the pictured toy and though she as yet seems to just imply I am going crackers and disrupting the story, in time I am sure this will sink in. It also has textured patches and pictures of other babies; surely a winner.


I'll have another six slices of cake please....
The tiger has come to tea!
My favourite picture book, is the classic 'The Tiger Who Came To Tea' by Judith Kerr. It is timeless and both beautifully surreal and mundane and could easily be believed. What tiger doesn't like buns and beer? The pictures are full of life and colour and the story is one I am sure is repeated up and down the country. Judith wrote the story after telling it to her eldest child repeatedly at bedtimes. Although it was not the first book she had wrote, it was the first published and became a hit quickly. After the success, she published a series of Mog the Forgetful Cat books and other titles which are now staples on many bookshelves. 

I have always loved illustration and stories alike, but during university completing an art degree, I developed a passion and keen interest in illustration for children's books, and keen to learn more began working at Seven Stories, the Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle upon Tyne. I worked at the visitor centre, which is separate from the archives, which houses in it an enormous bookshop, an attic featuring dress up and hundreds of books to read through at leisure, a Creation Station featuring crafts to make inspired by books and also houses exhibitions in three galleries. If you live in the North of England, or south of Scotland or indeed are ever planning a trip around Northumberland, I would urge you to visit. For adults and children alike, if you like books it is an absolute treat and if you are sitting on the fence, you will leave enchanted and enthused about the power of reading. Books are brought to life both by the staff, exhibits and crafts and there are a large number of events, workshops and book signings. The centre works closely with local primary schools offering them an opportunity to learn in a new way and to meet favourite and brand new authors. 

Judith's bedroom, featuring wallpaper made from some
of her illustrations for textiles
When a retrospective of Judith Kerr, the first exhibition I worked on, was there, local children got to meet Judith and make their own film. They learnt not only about tigers who ate cake and burglar-foiling cats but the Holocaust that Judith survived and what it means to be a foreign child in a new land; an issue which many children in Britain face today. It featured a 6-foot tiger as well as a human-sized cat basket and Mog costumes, a kitchen to play with and numerous activities as well as original sketches and proofs by Judith Kerr and early works and handmade books from her childhood. For the adults, there was background information and commentary and for slightly older children there were books laid out on wartime Britain and immigration to give context to her life and open up other titles, both fictional and factual for those interested in a specific detail.
Clarice Bean's Bedroom from Green Drops and Moonsquirters
 Another author and illustrator I adore is Lauren Child, best know for her characters Charlie and Lola, but is also responsible for many other characters and titles. Like many illustrators, she tried multiple times before being published with Clarice Bean. Her quirky illustrations and child-friendly way of writing won her an audience and subsequent titles were quickly snapped up. Like with Judith Kerr, the exhibition had both spaces that were like literally walking into a book and featured original works and features from a life before publishing. It showed objects which inspired her, like the glass that Lola has hr pink milk from, and the pyjamas that she took the print from to create Lola's nightwear. There were also original works by illustrators and writers that made a great impact on Lauren herself, including an original print by Edward Gorey and a copy of Grimble written by Clement Freud and illustrated by Quentin Blake. This is what I love about Seven Stories, that is really takes you into the heart and studio of writers and illustrators, ready to pass on the baton to a new generation.

There's Nuffin like a Puffin
Ed Vere with a young fan at Mr Big's piano.
There's Nuffin like a Puffin


  1. Smidge likes eyes, nose, fingers, toes..we got ours from the library, it was brand-new at the time, usually I don't like getting the touch/feel ones from the library ( full of germs ;-D )
    How is wriggles today? Xxx

    1. I know exactly what you mean about touch and feel germs! Especially as Wriggles see them as a snack as much as a book.... Wriggles is not as bad thank you. She isn't exactly full of beans but importantly isn't getting worse, phew. How is Smidge??xxx

  2. Smudge is much better thanks, she has had a heavy cold combined with teething for a few days but hasn't needed calpol today so that's good. I decided to believe the g.p this time, rather than head straight to the paediatric department at the hospital. I have to try and put some faith in them, which is difficult as sometimes they get it wrong. Hope wriggles continues to improve ;-) x

    1. Hooray for a day without calpol! We have also had the cold-teething-horriblebness and also are free from calpol and have one and a half new top teeth (so grown up!). Sympathies about the GP. Mine still panics every time and sends us straight to hosiptal; I think they need some faith in themselves! Hope tomorrow Smidge is back to normal and full of beans x