Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Review: 'Not My Hats!' by Tracy Gunaratnam and Alea Marley

Do your kids have difficulty sharing? It's an ongoing battle encouraging Girl Child to share her belongings, although she's always more than happy to share her brother's things!! I fear Toddler will be better at sharing for all the wrong reasons - a weary acceptance of having everything taken off him by his big sister!

Last week I received two new releases from Maverick Children's Books, one of which is all about sharing.

'Not My Hats' is all about a polar bear called Hettie who has a penchant for hats. She has a huge array of headwear which she likes to keep to herself.

When Puffin asks to borrow a hat one day, Hettie's answer is adamant. She will share anything ... except her beloved hats.

Puffin is persistent however, and eventually manages to persuade Hettie to agree to swapsies! In the end, Hettie sees the positives and sharing and they both share happily together.

I like how this is a really humorous, light-hearted take on the challenge of sharing. So many picture books about toddler 'issues' can come across as a bit didactic and overbearing, but this tackles a common problem with humour. It's really fun to read aloud too, with plenty of rhyming sections for little ones to enjoy.

Another thing I like about this book is that the illustrations are really bold and clear - although a lot is shown on each page, the use of block colours stops it from feeling 'fussy' and overwhelming for little one's eyes. Toddler still prefers clear illustrations so this book has just the right balance of colour and detail for him.

I'd recommend this book for anyone trying to explain the idea of sharing to their little one, it is a really tricky concept for them to grasp but this book tackles it in such a funny and relaxed way that they won't even realise they're getting a moral lesson as you read it!

'Not My Hats' is published tomorrow (28th March 2018).

DISCLAIMER: I was provided with a copy of 'Not My Hats' for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.
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Thursday, 22 March 2018

Why I'm Training As A Breastfeeding Peer Supporter

Last week I did something exciting - I began training to become a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter! It's something I've wanted to do for years but there hasn't been any local training I could get to, so I'm thrilled to finally get started.

But why do I want to do this training? It doesn't lead to a paid role, and I don't even know if it'll be relevant to any future career I have. (That's a whole other blog post - what shall I do when I grow up?!)

So why give up my Wednesday mornings for the next ten weeks?

Is it because I think every mother should breastfeed? Because I want to pressure new mums into breastfeeding their babies? Because I think I know best and others should do things how I do them?

Nope. It's because I think all mums should have a choice on how they feed their baby.

For a long time, formula feeding has been held up as the prime example of giving mothers choice. And yes, it is an option, and one which will work for some families. But you can only call it a choice if the mother feels that all other options are wholly available to her.

80% of mothers who stop breastfeeding in the first six weeks do so before they wanted to. Does that sound like choice to you? In some cases there will have been insurmountable health problems that led to the end of breastfeeding, but in many other cases it will be down to a lack of support and information to enable the mother to continue.

I don't know how it feels to stop before I'm ready, but I do know how it feels to come close. To feel like it's never going to get better and it's all too much. The first eight weeks of my daughter's life were possibly the hardest I've ever experienced as I grappled with a baby who would refuse to latch, couldn't maintain a latch once I'd persuaded her to and threw up any milk I managed to get into her. It was hard, it was miserable and I wish I'd had more support.

With our NHS increasingly stretched it's hit and miss whether a new mum will get all the breastfeeding support they need through a professional. Instead, an army of volunteers are trying to plug the gap, in the form of peer supporters and breastfeeding counsellors. These volunteers are helping mums with all kinds of challenges to achieve their goals. And I want to be part of that army.

Having breastfed two children for a combined six years, I know a fair bit about breastfeeding. But I don't know everything. I've never fed multiples, I've never had to deal with returning to work, I haven't encountered complications like CMPA or low milk supply. I know I still have a lot to learn and I'm keen to learn it so I can help women in many different situations.

So that's why I'm training as a breastfeeding peer supporter. Not to pressure, but to enable. To learn more so I can better understand the unique situation each mother has. And hopefully to help mums reach their own breastfeeding goals.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

A Love Letter to Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

(Most of) our Donaldson/Scheffler collection

Dear Julia and Axel

I hope it's OK for me to use your first names. It seems a bit forward as I've never met you, but then again, you feel like part of the family. Because your books have been for nearly six years now.

It all started with a copy of 'The Gruffalo' that a work colleague gave me when I was pregnant, as her children had outgrown it. If you look carefully at the photo above that book is the most worn, but not just because it was second hand to us. When my daughter was one it quickly became her favourite book, and she would ask me to read it over and over. I still remember the day I read it ten times in a row as she gleefully cried, "den!" (again) every time I turned the final page.

I started scouring my local library for your other books, but they were like gold dust. I knew that there were plenty of your titles to be had, the trouble was all the other parents were looking for the same books! We got a long way through your back catalogue thanks to the library but it was hard to part with them after three short weeks. I started acquiring our own copies instead. When my daughter started school I found myself aided and abetted by the Scholastic catalogue that came home in her book bag, and before I knew it we'd amassed a huge collection of your books, as you can see above. (That's not even all of it - I realised after taking the photo that I'd left out 'Hide-And-Seek Pig', and I've got a copy of 'Room On The Broom' on the way!)

Now my two year old son is captivated by your work too. I'm back to repeated readings of 'The Gruffalo', although 'Zog' is another firm favourite of his. And the thing is, I'm actively encouraging his love of your books because I love them too. I love the lyricism of 'The Snail And The Whale', the invitation to use lots of funny voices in 'Tiddler' and the feisty feminism of 'Zog' and the sequel 'Zog and the Flying Doctors'. I love the simple wit of 'Monkey Puzzle', the moral message of 'The Smartest Giant In Town' and the clever pastiche of 'The Highway Rat'. I even love 'Stick Man' so much I crocheted him, along with his Stick Lady Love and their Stick Children Three!

The Stick Family
We love your individual work too - my daughter was really helped by the Pip and Posy books as an older toddler and preschooler, and my son will often demand a reading of 'What The Ladybird Heard' complete with enthusiastic animal noises - but something magical happens when Donaldson's words and Scheffler's images come together. You've created a set of children's classics that I'm sure will be just as loved if and when I have grandchildren to read to.

So thank you to both of you, for creating books that fuel both of my children's love of reading and that are so wonderful to read aloud as an adult.

Yours gratefully

A book-loving Mum

Monday, 12 March 2018

Review: 'Alison Jay's ABC'

I usually opt for story-based books with Toddler, 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 Toddler 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, Toddler 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.