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CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW – “The Many Worlds of Albie Bright” by Christopher Edge

albie bright

  • Stars: 5
  • Would I recommend it: Definitely
  • Age range: 8-12+

 

HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO CHANGE YOUR WORLD?

When Albie’s mum dies, it’s natural he should ask where she’s gone. His parents are scientists and they usually have all the answers. Dad mutters something about quantum physics and parallel universes, so Albie gets a box, a laptop and a rotting banana, and sends himself through time and space in search of his mum.

What he finds may or may not be what he’s looking for, but he does learn the answers to some big questions.

An extraordinary novel for anyone who’s ever been curious.

 

I bought this book for SC on a whim because I liked the look of the cover and the detail on the back.

It pretty much stayed on the shelf for a couple of months, until we ran out of books to read. SC was slightly reluctant, but we started reading, and from the first page he was hooked and got rather upset when it was time to stop reading each night – “don’t stop mummy, keep reading!”

I’m not going to give away any spoilers, because that’s not fair.

But, we did learn some fascinating facts about quantum physics (and for someone who pretty much sucked at the subject at school, why were my physics lessons never this interesting?)

At the heart of the book is a story about dealing with loss and grief.  Which for a child’s book is a very deep subject, especially when the subject who dies is your mum, but the book deals with this delicate issue with subtlety and tact.

There are some very touching and poignant moments as well as some rather funny antics along the way – especially the one with the stuffed platypus and when some 90s disco moves are mentioned (those were the days, and yes I did have to give a demonstration to SCC!)

This is an amazing book and would recommend anyone to read it from 8 upwards.  As an adult I thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt some stuff I didn’t know before and SC was totally hooked.

But, maybe it’s just us, but we did get slightly teary (OK we got very teary and both blubbed) at the end of the book – so just beware and have some tissues handy!

“We’re all made of stardust!”

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CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW: “The Apothecary” by Maile Meloy

  • The ApothecaryStars: 5
  • Would I recommend it: YES
  • Age range: 8-12 (although for younger readers you can skip the soppy stuff!! and maybe the ocassional “bl**dy”)

I picked up this book in the library to read with SC. The cover looked pretty and the blurb on the back had me thinking it could be quite a good page-turner of a book.

“Janie Scott has just moved to London from sunny LA, and she’s finding it forbidding, dreary and cold. That is until she meets Benjamin Burrows who dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father – a mysterious apothecary – is kidnapped, he entrusts Janie and Benjamin with a powerful book, full of ancient spells and magical potions.

But there are others who seek the book’s secrets – spies in possession of nuclear weapons that could destroy the world …”

Oh my goodness!

We were not disappointed – and I will try not to give away any spoilers.

This book is a fabulous story.  It has it all love, adventure, excitement, magic, history and above all the idea of keeping your mind open to the possibility that anything is possible!

It created quite a bit of discussion in this house, and me having to hark back to school and remembering my History classes about the aftermath of World War 2. I had to explain about the McCarthy Witch Hunts that took place in the States, what the Cold War was, why there was a theoretical “iron curtain” hanging down the middle of Europe and the fact you couldn’t cross over it and even nuclear weapons and how they worked in theory – my goodness my brain got quite a workout – although I think I may have to do a bit of reading up on nuclear physics (it was never my strongest subject at school)

So, on top of all that background history going on throughout the story, there was an exciting adventure and a race against time, intertwined with alchemy, magic and herbal lore.

When you reach the end of the book it does leave a few questions unanswered, but thankfully having look up on the internet there are 2 more books that are sequels to this one – so thankfully we will be able to read on and see what happens 😉

So that’s a quick run-down on what the book has inside without mentioning anything specific about the plot.

There’s just one quote from the book that struck a chord with me:

“… we should not stop at our desire to protect our own children in their immediate world. we want the streets they walk to be safe, and the walls around them to be sound, and we want to be able to put food in their bellies. These are natural desires.

But if we truly want them to be safe and well, we must make the greater world a different place. As it stands, we are all threatened, at every moment, and nothing we do to lock our own doors and earn our pay and tuck our children in bed will make the slightest difference.”

As a parent, you want nothing more than to protect your child from harm. You will move heaven and earth to keep them safe. Sometimes, our best endeavours are not enough and the unimaginable becomes reality. I cannot comprehend how that must feel and I can only imagine that such an awful reality must leave a huge hole in a parent’s life that can never heal.

But I think the above quote cuts deeper than just that of being a parent, and that is being a human being.

This story is about the Cold War, nuclear weapons and the power of fear. However relevant the quote is for that period in time, it is also extremely relevant in today’s world.

There may not be an Iron Curtain, and the Cold War may well have thawed somewhat over the years, but nowadays the threats come from other sources – so how can we protect our children and each other?

It has been said that in order to change the world, we must start with ourselves and become the embodiment of what we want the world to be.

If we fight hate with hate, hate wins. But can we fight hate with love? And if so, how?

So let’s all try to make the greater world a different place – maybe all it takes to start is a smile – it can’t hurt, right?

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Top 5 Tips for New Parents

Royalist or not, as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (along with millions of other parents around the world), welcome their new bundle of joy into the world (and yes, I have a bet on the name!) I thought I would rake my brains to come up with a top 5 tip list.

When I had SC (just over 6 years now) there was all the build-up for 9 months and then there he was this tiny little human being that I was in charge of looking after and nurturing. It was very emotional – before they arrive you have absolutely no idea how much a child completely and utterly takes over your life. I was very much, before I had him, “Oh, I’ll be back working within a fortnight.” In reality the moment I held him against my chest a few seconds after he had been born I never wanted to leave him for one second, he was, and is so precious. I never wanted to miss a minute of him.

Children are a precious gift and from the moment they are born, we, as parents have a responsibility to raise them to becomes good, kind, thoughtful and responsible adults.

Parenthood doesn’t come from instruction manuals – no matter how many you read (and I read quite a few) – it’s a massive learning curve, especially with your first-born and we all make mistakes (I’ve made plenty) but if we do our best everything will turn out all right.

So here are my personal top 5 tips for new parents:

5.  They don’t break!

I remember when I first held SC how incredibly clumsy I felt. I was holding this tiny wriggling baby and it just felt as if every time I went to pick him up my hands had suddenly morphed into clown hands – you know where the hands are five times the size, just like those false ‘pointy finger’ hands people wear at Baseball games – and that if I picked him up wrongly he would somehow break like a china doll. It did take my midwife and my mum to reassure me that this wasn’t the case, and it really was just a case of practice makes perfect. Like changing a nappy and lifting up the legs to pop the clean one underneath the baby’s bottom – you are not going to do any harm lifting the feet up together in one hand…Oh yes, you do learn how to do many things one-handed – chopping vegetables is a positive art form one-handed!!

4.  Work Together

I was not fortunate enough to have a ‘hands on dad’, someone who would do his share of getting up early in the morning, or even just taking the baby out for a walk whilst I did a normal thing like take a shower! If you are that fortunate, you need to work together to find a routine that works for everyone – so that dad gets his fair share of changing nappies, and the early morning shift, but that he also gets to help out with the fun stuff like bath time and bed time routines. The early days are very testing for any new parents, mothers get very emotional around day 4/5 after the birth – the baby blue period – and the lack of sleep in the early days doesn’t help with tempers which is why being supportive and there for each other is vitally important in my opinion.

3.  Talk to your Baby

This might sound completely crazy, after all it’s a new-born baby, but read to your baby, talk to it, sing to it, make silly noises – it all helps with the bonding process. I started reading stories to SC the day he was born – I know he didn’t understand the stories (it was one of my favourite childhood books “The Tales of Blackberry Farm”) – but its the sound of your voice and the closeness that reading together creates. Even now, at the grand old age of 6 he will climb onto my lap with a book (we have progressed to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn) and snuggle into my arms whilst I read, and he still has a story before he goes to bed. The other thing I used to do was have him facing me in his buggy, and talk to him whilst going round the shops about what I needed to buy – I swear everyone in the supermarket thought I was completely nuts, but all interaction is good interaction! And I used to sing to him, anytime! I would pop him lying on his back on my legs and sing nursery rhymes to him and then I would pop on my musical CDs and belt out showtunes…no wonder he has a penchant for them now (and ABBA and rock music!)

2.  Cuddles

Everyone loves cuddles and there’s no need to wait for an excuse to cuddle your baby! Cuddles are fab! Cuddles are part of the bonding process. I think I spent the first 2 years cuddling SC. Literally! If we weren’t playing, he would be in my arms whilst I was doing chores. He fell asleep being cuddled. And now, we have a morning cuddle routine where I sit on the floor and he rushes from one end of the room to me and jumps onto my lap and we give each other the biggest cuddles ever, and a night-time cuddle routine, and then after-school cuddles and plain old ‘jus cos’ cuddles. Children will grow out of cuddling parents all to soon so you need to get a lifetimes worth into a short space!

1.  Trust Your Instincts

My top tip is to trust your instincts. You know your baby better than anyone. Everyone will be all too happy to give their own opinion and advice. You will read far too many text books. But trust me, no two babies are the same. Use advice, opinions and parenting books as a guideline only. Trust yourself. New parents feel under so much pressure to get things right, they feel a failure if their baby doesn’t sleep through the night within 8 weeks (it can take longer believe me! My empathy kicks in at a year, sympathy at 3, mine didn’t sleep through the night til he was 4!) You are made to feel a failure if you don’t breastfeed, if you don’t employ the ‘crying technique’, if you wean too soon, or too late, or you don’t take them to every single toddler group under the sun! Every child is different and you are the best judge of what is right for your child. Trust your instincts, they won’t fail you!

 

I lay no claim to be an expert. I am not a perfect mum. I make mistakes – I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. But I do the best job I can. I love SC more than anything and can’t imagine life without him now.

It is a hard job, the hardest job you will ever do voluntarily! You will get stressed, anxious, cross, vexated, tired, emotionally spent, I could go one, but ultimately it is the one thing that will give you the most joy and happiness in the world!

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Fathers…

An interesting phrase which I hadn’t heard until a few months ago:fool

“Any fool can be a father. But it takes a real man to be a daddy.”

And it’s so true.

Take Mr Wrong No. 2 – SC’s father. He’s the kind of man who thinks he’s wonderful and whose mother told him, obviously so very often that he actually believes it, that his father had taught him how to be a good father.

I beg to differ.

This is the man who took SC at 3 days old, after saying he was going to give him a hug, only to sit him propped up on cushions whilst he ignored him and continued reading his paper.

This is the man who spent most of SC’s first year totally ignoring him at the weekends. Instead of getting down on the floor and inter-acting he just totally ignored him and read his newspaper.

This is the man who gleefully watched me struggle carrying baby in car seat, bag of toys, changing bag and handbag down flights of concrete steps, whilst he swanned about with his newspaper.

This is a man who never once gave SC a cuddle. Even now he doesn’t when he comes on the ‘fortnightly state visit’, he doesn’t hug him, or kiss him.

This is the man who said, although his oh-so-amazing-brain has conveniently forgotten, that SC didn’t need him until he was about 8 or 9 years old.

This is the man who said we should go and live with my parents – probably so he could carry on with goodness-only knows what woman that particular week.

This man is not a father – he thinks he is but he isn’t.

He swans about, but in reality he hasn’t got a clue.

Take today, there was a fun day where we live, so I said for him to meet us there. SC loves the outdoors. He had a go at archery, watched the sheep being shorn, climbed inside the fire engine and tractors (several times) and then he found the straw!

Now, he decided a good idea would be to grab a handful of straw and throw it at Mr Wrong No. 2 – now most men who are great dads would get in the spirit and join in and throw some back.

But, oh no! Not Mr Wrong No. 2 he got the right hump. Stuck a face on him like he’d sucked a lemon to quickly and swallowed a pip, shook the straw off and crossly said “don’t do that!” whilst re-doing his Mr Baldy Man hair-do. SC’s face dropped like a stone, and from then on he was very quiet and subdued.

To be honest, my dad is the one who has been there for SC.

My dad is the one SC calls ‘daddy’ (bit weird I know, but he is the only male role model he’s really ever known). If I’m working and my dad has to pick him up from school he tells his teacher “my daddy is picking me up today!” As far as Mr Wrong No. 2 is concerned, he’s just some ‘friend’ who comes to ‘play’ (in the loosest sense of the word, if you can call sprawling over the floor for half an hour before he gets bored and then practically throws his phone with games on at SC to keep him from having to actually interact) occasionally!

My dad is the one who wrestles on the floor (I do too, I hasten to add) and we both kick the ball about the garden.

My dad is a daddy.

I know I’m a source of constant disappointment to him, but he’s my dad and he loves me (I hope).

He’s always there for me and I can always count on him if I need advice – my mum too but for different kind of advice.

He’s a great dad, he has been for me and now he’s a great role model for SC. (Although probably not quite what he envisaged doing in his retirement!)

In some ways, I’m also having to learn to be daddy to SC as well as mummy.

It’s a tough job.

I’m the one that goes off and does boys stuff with him – like cars and bikes and museums.

I’m the one who knows what he likes and dislikes, what gives him nightmares, and how rotten a time he’s having a school.

I’m dreading him growing up and me having to have ‘that talk’ with him. I’m hoping my dad will still be around to help out.

 

Thanks Dad – Happy Father’s Day

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I’m one big disappointment!

Why do I feel that I am one big disappointment after another in my father’s eyes?clock

He was the one who taught me to be independent, and yet I failed.

He was the one who taught me that if you work hard you reap the rewards, and yet I failed.

He was the one who taught me to be careful, and yet I failed.

Everything I try, I do to try to please my father, and yet I fail.

Even when other people ‘lavish’ praise on my efforts, not one word of praise escapes my fathers lips.

I can’t even remember my father saying he loved me, like most fathers do to their offspring.

I’m at a crossroads in my life where I need to make big decisions about where I am headed in order to make a good life for SC.

Yet in my father’s eyes everything is black and white – I have to do either A or B.

I have ideas, but he says that they should just be sidelines – yet the problem is, and a lesson I have learned from bitter experience past is that if I go down route A and dabble with ideas, then the ideas are just another chalked-up failure. You cannot do, and give your full attention to 2 different things, especially if you have attention needed from a SC – it just doesn’t work.

Fate, apparently, throws at us what it feels we can deal with.

But you know what?

I’m tired.

I don’t want to have to fight to keep my head above the water every single hour of every single day.

I don’t want to give up, I’m not a quitter, but right now I feel I have no other option.

I want time. Time for me to prove my worth. Time for me to be a good mum (instead of the failure I feel). Time for me to be me.

But I don’t have time.

The clock never stops ticking (which is probably why I hate loud ticking clocks).

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The Age of Innocence

Childhood is so brief and we are supposed to look back on it with fond memories in our dotage.

So why is society intent on making our children grow up too quickly. Sex & drugs education at 5, careers advice at 7, pregnant at 9 or 10,  in AA at 12 and drug rehab at 15.

Wow! What wonderful childhood memories to look back on. Paints a scary picture though and if things carry on this will be the norm for the next generation.

So how do we stop the rot, so to speak.

Initially parents! The buck stops there.

Whether it be single parents, married (hetero or same-sex), we are responsible for our children’s upbringing. We are their role models and their guides through to adulthood.

Think back to your childhood would your parents have let you stay up ’til all hours, or watch inappropriate films/television. If the answer is no, then ask yourself why it is now appropriate to let your children do this.

How angry would your parents have been if you hadn’t said please, or thank you? Why is it now the norm for children not to say this. ‘Thank you’ – those two little words carry such weight.

What would your parents have done if you had been rude to a teacher at school? Why do we now hear so many stories of teachers being abused by pupils, or teachers disciplining children only to have the parents turn on the teacher instead of backing them up?

So parents (and I do appreciate it’s not everyone) take responsiblity for your children. It is not the school’s fault if they don’t teach your children discipline and manners – it’s yours. It’s not society’s fault that your children don’t know right from wrong – it’s yours. It’s not the computer games company’s fault that they sell inappropriate games – it’s yours for buying it.

It’s up to us to instill a sense of decency into the next generation and the only people who can do that for our children is us as parents.

The next on the list is the media.

Children’s programmes and there are a lot of good ones out there, but they should be appropriate.

There are far too many where, again children never say please or thank you and are shown to be self-centred.

Do we need cartoons where the ‘bad guy’ is drawn in an unpleasant way – the character comes from the voice. Bullying starts because people are different – if young children are exposed to bad guys being different then they will assume all people who look different are bad. That might not make sense to you as an adult, but think about it with child logic!

Sketch shows should have age appropriate humour. Slapstick is great but it is not suitable for a show aimed at preschoolers/infants to show someone failing to get into a cannon (with the intent of being fired out) and then having the cannon explode on his face!

After children’s programmes come adverts – yes Milkshake! I’m talking about you. How suitable is it to show trailers for 12+ movies during a break when it is obvious that preschoolers will be watching – ditto 18+ computer games.

Adverts should, again be age appropriate – and gosh, can’t you tell Christmas is upon us. How lovely it was to have a few adverts before September (again totally irrelevant to children’s programmes – life insurance, washing machines, etc) between programmes, whereas now each programme is separated by a good 5 minutes of adverts. But I digress…

I think the worst  advert for a toy I have seen, again on Channel 5, during Milkshake, is something called a blade spinner. Now I’m not blaming the television company for this one but the toy manufacturer. How intelligent is it in this day and age when teenagers are being knifed left, right and centre to produce a toy called “blade spinner” where the object, a car, is aimed towards this monster who has “knife-like” claws and spins around trying to whack the car out-of-the-way. I’m sorry, I just find it irresponsible.

Finally on adverts – Lalli-Kalli. Love the shoes, but is it really necessary to give away free make-up to 5 year olds!

Let’s grow up a  bit and leave pre-school behind. Teenagers – bless ’em. We were all one once, but were we really that scary that when an older person came across a group of us they crossed the street?

Note to teenagers – being a celebrity is not a career option!

Why do so many teenagers go out and get drunk? Because it’s cool? Because there’s nothing else to do?

I think it’s partly to look cool – but believe me there is nothing cool about being so drunk you end up either in casualty having your stomach pumped, or you spend several hours staring down a toilet bowl!

Would I be right in assuming boredom plays a big part?

If it’s boredom, as the old saying goes “go out and find something less boring to do instead”.

OK, so I know youth clubs and scouting are not perceived as “cool” any more – so make it, or anything else cool. Channel your bored energy and find a ‘hobby’ – who knows it could turn into a job??

Talking of jobs and teenagers – soap producers take note – why do no teenage soap characters on British television ever seem to have any career ambition. They all seem to drop out, or leave school at 16 with no idea what to do and so they drift.

So I say to everyone – parents, media and society – STOP! THINK! And let our children enjoy being children for as long as possible

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Mummy, I love you…

… and I love your pants!

Was a note SC wrote to me yesterday.

That’s all.

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