Monday, 12 March 2018

Review: 'Alison Jay's ABC'

I usually opt for story-based books with Ezra, mainly because I prefer to have a narrative structure to follow. Counting or letter books are generally quite dull for me and if I'm not enjoying them, chances are I won't read them as enthusiastically and so Ezra won't enjoy them either.

But on a recent trip to the library I saw this ABC book and couldn't resist borrowing it.

I've been a fan of Alison Jay's work for a few years - we have a couple of other books by her, including the wordless story 'Out Of The Blue'. Her artwork is just stunning and she's great at creating a narrative with just pictures. Even in this ABC book she manages to create mini-stories to connect the pictures.

I love how in the above spread the girl us showing the owl a picture - of the panda on the next page! There are lots of similar connections so that even older toddlers and preschoolers can have fun spotting them.

In many of the pictures she also includes other words beginning with the featured letter - like the aeroplane above the apple and the bee and butterfly flying around the balloon. Little touches like this are what really bring Jay's work to life - as well as being beautiful to look at, her illustrations are so full of details that you can spot something new every time.

If you're introducing your little one to the alphabet but, like me, feel uninspired by your regular ABC books, I thoroughly recommend this one. As I've been writing this post, Ezra is sitting on my knee and said 'owl' and 'apple' when he saw the pictures so I can confirm it's great for building and reinforcing vocabulary!!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

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Saturday, 3 March 2018

The Ish Mother Reads: 'A Year In The Life Of The Yorkshire Shepherdess'

When we bought our first home, it overlooked a farm. I would often look out of the bedroom window at the sheep and cows in the fields, and daydream about being a farmer.

Of course my aversion to early mornings and bad weather made this an unrealistic career for me, but still I retained a fascination with the rural life. And I've always been fascinated by large families - if I didn't suck at being pregnant, I'd love more kids.

So when I heard about Amanda Owen, who lives and works on a remote farm with her impressive brood, I was fascinated by her. When I saw she'd written a book about her life I couldn't wait to read it. At the time of writing the book she'd just had her eighth child, I believe she now has nine! I really wanted to find out about how looking after that many children, living in a remote area and working at a very demanding job was even possible.

The book follows the course of a year, with a chapter for each month. My romanticised notions of farming life drifted further and further away with each month - it soon becomes clear that the work is relentless. Every month brings a new job to do, and honestly, I don't know how she and her husband do it! Even the proverbial 'making hay' sounds like exhausting work!

I found all the different aspects of farming work really interesting to read about, though, and some of the anecdotes Amanda includes in the book are really absorbing, either because of the humour or sadness of the situation. She doesn't shy away from the realities of working with animals - those realities regularly include death - but nor is she completely cold about it. You can really tell how much she loves her animals, especially those which she is particularly close too.

I have to admit though, at times I found this book quite a tough read. Some of the anecdotes she includes have a feel of 'you had to be there' about them and never really go anywhere. And while of course real life doesn't always have a natural climax to a story, these parts did make for tedious reading. I actually read the book over a period of months because there were times when I'd finish a section and not feel particularly inspired to carry on.

I'd say this is a really good book for anyone wanting to learn more about the farming life, either through curiosity or pipe dreams, but just be prepared for the odd patch of boredom as you read. That said, learning about Amanda's family was a joy, even though it made me feel massively inadequate for only having two and barely managing to keep them happy and entertained!!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.