The books that shaped a 1980s childhood

The habit of reading a book at bedtime was one that I formed early. I’ve memories of getting stiff arms holding up books above my face as I lay in bed as a child, delaying sleep to escape into another world or another person’s life for a change.

When choosing stories for Toby, I can’t help but gravitate towards the classics or familiar authors from decades ago, and it’s prompted me to ponder over the books I enjoyed as a child, particularly the titles I chose and read by myself, identifying my taste as an independent reader.

So, I thought I’d revisit and share the books that stand out from my 1980s childhood, and maybe in the process find some fresh inspiration for book ideas for Toby. Continue reading


Dahl goes digital

Here’s a fact that might make you feel a teensy bit old. Roald Dahl’s The Twits marks its 35th anniversary this year, which makes it three whole years younger than me. Gulp.

It’s certainly a book that’s stood the test of time and seems as fresh and contemporary as more recent children’s fiction. Dahl’s unique style has certainly proven to be inimitable over the years (although critics have been quick to signpost David Walliams as a potential successor).

I do like Roald Dahl books but if I’m totally and completely honest I don’t think The Twits is all that terrific. Yes it’s original, funny, utterly daft, completely gruesome in places too but it’s a little all over the place for my liking. It’s more of a daft sequence of events than a decent story. Still, it certainly hits the spot with six-year-old readers. It’s a book Toby has read twice now – with me and for school. He loves it.

To mark the anniversary, the book’s current publisher Penguin Random House and the Dahl estate are to release a digital app, reports The Bookseller magazine. This free app downloadable from Google Play or the iTunes app store is cleverly titled Twit or Miss and features a game themed around a food fight. The app will heavily promote all the book products too. Continue reading

Why I’m so grateful not to be a 1950s parent

Sadie Jones' The Outcast paints a bleak picture of 1950s parenting.

Sadie Jones’ The Outcast paints a bleak picture of 1950s parenting.

If we had a penny for every time someone muttered something like “children have too many rights these days,” or “in my day a good clip around the ear would sort it out,” we’d all be paying off our mortgages sooner and eyeing up a nice early retirement.

These sorts of clichés, regularly (though not exclusively) trotted out by our older generation never disappear, no matter what era we’re in. It’s just not helpful that today we have certain corners of the mainstream media (did someone mention the Daily Mail), are eager to reinforce this message.

And although I’m the ultimate bleeding heart liberal, there have been times when I’ve been mildly sympathetic to that view. Like when your two-year-old decides to have a meltdown because you gave them a red lollipop instead of a green lollipop just at the moment you’re getting on the bus. Staring at the face of that situation it’s natural to question whether a dose of old-fashioned discipline might be more effective than reasoning with your terrorist tot. Continue reading

What we’re reading: The World Cup – a Very Peculiar History

20150706_203954The football obsession in our house shows no sign of let-up, so our reading activities will have to revolve around the beautiful game for the foreseeable future, I fear.

Thankfully, Toby’s showed no further interest in reading any more Frank Lampard books so we went to the library in pursuit of a football skills book. Unfortunately there were none, and although I tried my utmost to lure him towards the novels, he picked out The World Cup – a Very Peculiar History, and I was intrigued by his choice.  Continue reading