We’ve finished! Frankie’s Magic Football: The Grizzly Games by Frank Lampard

It was with some trepidation that I took the decision to buy one of the titles in footballer Frank Lampard’s new children’s book series.

Call me cynical but celebrity authors rarely churn out literary classics. Does anyone remember Geri Halliwell’s foray into children’s fiction? No, and there’s probably a good reason for that.

How about Madonna’s English Roses phase? Not ringing any bells? It too seems to have faded away as quickly as her last marriage.

Of course, there are always a few exceptions. David Walliams’ children’s books have been received equally well by critics as they have by readers. Ricky Gervais’s Flanimals didn’t do too badly either.

So I wanted to be proved wrong about this Frank Lampard series, especially given the great work the footballer is doing in promoting literacy and also because Toby is so obsessed with football it seemed a convenient way to encourage his reading too. Continue reading

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Why creative writing should be nurtured not taught

One of the joys of parenting is witnessing a child’s imagination at work. The tiniest of toddlers can capably construct whole worlds to disappear within, while kids’ drawings help us see things differently (I’m always grateful for my long flowing hair and skinny physique in the illustrated version of me).

It’s even more exciting when your child brings home their first handwritten story. This piece of work not only represents the culmination of days, weeks and months spent carefully learning sounds and letters, then words and even more words to make sentences that join with other sentences to make sense (well sometimes), but it also reveals a little bit about who the writer is and how they see the world, and that is the bit that makes our hearts flutter with pride.

But the new assessment-heavy approach to education is threatening to crush the creativity out of creative writing, as early on as in primary school. And when I read this in the Guardian today a little piece of me died inside. Can we not give our kids just a little bit longer to be free and uninhibited enough to express their imaginations without any rules? Please? Continue reading

What we’re reading: Frankie’s Magic Football: The Grizzly Games by Frank Lampard

We’ve hit a football phase in our household. When Toby’s not battering a football against the front door, he’s sorting, shuffling and swapping Match Attax cards or watching snippets of football games on YouTube.

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I was never all that keen for him to develop an interest in football. I like the sport. Actually, it’s one of my preferred sports. I just don’t like the way that the game has developed into a global cash cow. The sport has become less about community camaraderie and more about corporate branding, and as we’ve seen recently that goes hand in hand with corruption. Plus, there’s the sexism and racism and homophobia that seem so inherent in the game’s culture. It’s a sport that’s sadly lacking in all the values I wish to pass down to my son. Continue reading

So what if we’re not all adventurers?

We’re all adventurers now it seems. Everywhere I look, someone somewhere is challenging themselves in increasingly innovative ways: cycling stupid distances for charity, bungee jumping during gap-year travels, trekking up remote mountains to find themselves.

I can’t be the only one who doesn’t feel my life would be incomplete if I never run a marathon, or fail to get up close and personal with a Great White Shark?

Now it seems we should also be encouraging our children to take more risks, according to the latest piece of research designed to make us parents feel even more inadequate about what we’re doing wrong, not doing enough of or not doing at all. Continue reading

Are dads shirking the bedtime story?

A report issued by the Book Trust last week claimed that 50% more mothers read to their children than fathers, and when you consider that according to the same report one in five students leave primary school with poor reading skills it’s time for parents of both genders to start picking up the slack a bit more.

The results of this Ipos Mori poll is quite surprising to me because the majority of dads I know through friendships or through work appear to be hands-on in every way, and very engaged with children’s literature. I see fathers in our local library as often as I see mothers, possibly.

But despite a societal shift from traditional parenting roles, most mothers are still picking up the lion’s share of the child care, which no doubt extends to carrying out the bedtime story. Plus, longer work hours may keep working dads away from the home at bedtime, and despite progress in most workplaces I think men find it more difficult than women to leave the office early for family duties. Continue reading

In praise of the Children’s Laureate

Today, a sizeable band of book lovers kept Twitter busy anticipating the announcement of the new Children’s Laureate.

In amongst Westminster gossip and news about who’s running for London mayor, #childrenslaureate managed to trend for a decent portion of the day.

The news that illustrator Chris Riddell was to be appointed the role for the next two years was greeted with much enthusiasm and it would be difficult to find any reason whatsoever to object to someone who’s made such a significant contribution to contemporary children’s literature. Continue reading

We’ve abandoned: Sir Gadabout

I’m a firm believer in finishing a book, and there are very few that I’ve abandoned (Cloud Atlas and the mammoth Infinite Jest spring to mind unfortunately). Some books simply take a while to get going; the author preferring to spend time building the foundations to allow the many layers of a complex story to beautifully unfold.

Other books pull out unexpected plot twists midway that can transform the reading experience into something very different than was initially expected. Joyce Carol Oates’ plot structures regularly do this.

However on this occasion, it’s Martyn Beardsley’s Sir Gadabout that has defeated us after chapter two. Continue reading