Kids Fight Plastic by Martin Dorey

I have seldom seen Daughter as excited by a book as she was when we found Kids Fight Plastic by Martin Dorey at our library. Which is saying something – she gets really excited by books.

Just before the summer holidays started, she took part in a litter-pick and since then has been on a one-child mission to eliminate plastic waste from our home. Now, fully armed with a handbook on how to do that, she’s become a force to be reckoned with.

So, having had this book flashed at me more times than I care to admit to, I thought I would take a closer look.

For the most part, I really like the tone of the book. It’s not anti-all-plastic – there is mention at the beginning of good vs bad (i.e. Lego & medical equiptment = good plastic, single-use straws & clingfilm = bad plastic). I also really like that nothing is dumbed down because it’s written for children. It states in black and white that sea birds are dying because of what we’re throwing away, and whilst that’s a grim fact, it’s not going to change unless we talk about it and let our children make informed choices for themselves.

On the other hand… titles of segments such as ‘Fight Plastic With Pester Power’ made me feel as though the book was targeted at a very… specific demographic. Suggestions of ditching the supermarket in favour of farmers’ markets are well meant, for example, but they’re just not within everyone’s means – whether as a result of financial restraints or the fact that there just aren’t any farmers’ markets in your area.

But that aside – the illustrations are lovely and as I said, the text isn’t in the least bit patronising. And whilst living where we do, there’s no way I could use a milk-man, or visit a weekly farmers’ market (they only run monthly and ours tends to sell hobby crafts rather than produce), I did get some ideas as to how I can further reduce our household waste, particularly in regards to things like stationery.

I think, coupled with a healthy dose of managed expectations, this is a great book to get small people thinking about, and talking about, the waste we’re creating. Hopefully doing so will help them to make wise decisions further down the line.

What are your favourite books about the environment?

Farn ❤

M is for Autism by The Students of Limpsfield Grange School & Vicky Martin

M is for Autism is a book by The Students of Limpsfield Grange School & Vicky Martin.

I definitely think that this is essential reading – not just for children/young teens, but also for their parents. The searing truth with which its written makes it one of the clearest, most concise insights into what life is like as an autistic person that I have read.

There were two sections which really stood out for me as being especially piercingly honest.

The first is from M’s perspective and concerns her feelings following her diagnosis;

It’s like I can be shelved correctly or put in the right section. I mean, do people even know what being autistic is? The truth is they don’t really know me. I wonder if they really knew me they might get scared, so it’s easy for them to say ‘she’s autistic’ and label me but the truth is they have no idea of the shape, texture and size of my world.

The next is from M’s mother’s point of view;

So here I am, chopping onions and trying to bond with my beautiful daughter but it’s not easy. It should be, shouldn’t it? But reaching her and connecting with her feels so hopeless, so futile, but today I am making a big effort. I am her mother and I cannot give up on her or let her down.

The prose is this vital, this direct, throughout the book. So, although it’s a very slim volume which reads really naturally, it actually took me a long time to digest the words properly – I took my time over it, which I think everyone who reads it needs to do.

The artwork is also really honest – bright, block colours and really graphic prints. The art can be quirky and fun whilst simultaneously thought-provoking, generally just suiting the age and feel of the protagonist perfectly.

I feel as though this is one of those books which every home needs – whether autism impacts you directly or not. If everyone read this, there might be a greater degree of understanding and awareness in the world.

Have you read M is for Autism, or another book with a female autistic character?

— Farn ❤

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Super Duper You by Sophy Henn

I really liked Sophy Henn’s book, Pass It On, so when I saw she had written Super Duper You, we checked it out of the library and took it home for a read.

Before I start, talking about the book-proper, I just wanted to say that even though our house seems to be constantly overflowing with books, I don’t often buy them. Generally, we only really use the library, read a story until everyone is tired of it and then take it back, knowing that should we want to read it again we only need to place our order and then go to pick the book up.

Generally…

Every so often though, we read a book and I want to own  it. Super Duper You is one of those. It’s got shades of ‘Oh! The Places You’ll Go!’ by Dr Seuss to it, but it’s vastly more succinct and I love that it’s accessible to even the smallest of listeners. Again the art-work is modern and bright and pleasing. Again, I feel like my accent works against me with the rhyme.

I think I love the illustrations and the colours of this book most of all – especially the rainbows and the quirky background ‘grafitti’. I wish my big, special camera was more cooperative so I could take better photos for you, but for now you’ll have to make-do with my tablet’s lens and have a look the book for yourself… 😉

I think the page above is my favourite. It can be used in conjunction with other books to start conversations about the positives of neurodiversity, or about differences in family situations – or about anything, really..

I also really like the fact that it is a love-letter between siblings. There are lots of books which explore the parent/child relationship, but off the top of my head, the only nurturing siblings I can think of are Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola or The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton. It makes a nice change from the usual ‘my brother smells’ dynamic that seems so prevalent in children’s books.

Have you come across Sophy Henn’s work yet? I’d love to hear what you think.

  • Farn ❤

Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

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Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a book that I wish I’d had in my life a long time ago. 

Whilst not technically a children’s book, I decided to include this on The Inquisitive Newt for two reasons.

Firstly, because I wish I had read this during my teenage years, when I was stumbling into my initial romantic relationships. I feel that having reasonable expectations, printed in black and white, would have given me permission to advocate for myself and my rights within the ‘partnerships’ more.  I plan to give a copy to Daughter when puberty takes hold.

Secondly,  I included it because I would have loved to read it after having given birth.  I came to a lot of the conclusions myself, but I often felt alone in my convictions regarding feminism and motherhood.  Ironically,  given that I’ve categorised this review as my first ‘parenting’ title,  I especially loved the section regarding the use of ‘parenting’ as a verb.

I really love the tone of the text – that it was adapted from a letter gives it an enormous warmth and immediacy. I’ve read a lot of books about feminism but they can often feel… Academic,  rather than practical.  This one felt like a conversation with a friend, which I suppose it is.

Are there any books you wish you had come across sooner? Are there any you plan to read/gift to your children for this reason?

Farn ❤

 

Rosy’s Garden by Satomi Ichikawa

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Rosy’s Garden by Satomi Ichikawa should be a classic. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, but bear with me…

I happened upon our copy in a charity shop when Daughter was around two and ever since, we’ve read it regularly. In itself, this isn’t at all unusual. The difference between Rosy’s Garden and just about every other book, though, is that I have never once thought, “Oh, not again…” Time after time, this has been eagerly brought to me and time after time I’ve said – just as eagerly – “Ooh, good choice!”

At its core, the book chronicles the titular character’s summer holiday at her grandmother’s house. There’s no singular main event, nor is it a series of Milly-Molly-Mandy- esque episodes as I had first presumed on finding the book. The best description I can think of to describe the layout is a journal-cross-scrapbook. There are little notes about flower names, the language of flowers, how to make rose water, how Granny and Grandpa met, how to gather seeds…

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I think that’s what I love most about the book – the little snippets of information that is genuinely new and interesting. There are so very many books about planting a seed that grows into a flower but so few about the culture that surrounds our gardens and the things we plant. This book perfectly fills that gap.

And perfect as the writing is, the illustrations still manage to make it even better. Some of them look like botanical prints, they’re so accurate. But at the same time there’s so much character and warmth in them – so many details to spot.

The more I write about this book, the more I could write so I’m going to leave things here, before I get carried away. I maintain what I said though – this really should be a classic.

What’s your list of ‘would-be’ children’s classics?

The Gifts of Autism by Katherine Uher

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The Gifts of Autism by Katherine Uher is a fairly rare thing – being one of only a handful of books I’ve come across so far which is both written specifically for children, and aims to highlight the positive aspects of autism.

Whilst other factual books exist about autism, they focus on parts of the condition which might result in a child feeling stigmatised or even inferior to their peers. This book, conversely, describes various autistic traits – as the title suggests – as gifts.

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I always feel that you can tell the quality of an alphabet book by the choice of word for the letter Q and this didn’t disappoint – the word ‘Queen’ doesn’t make a tenuous appearance and the alternative word isn’t something entirely un-Q-related with the word ‘quite’ whacked in front. Whilst this might not seem like big praise, but you’d be amazed at how often the above happens, so full marks there!

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The book also contains a section designed to encourage self-reflection with a focus on positive autistic traits – indeed, positive traits for anyone to possess. I really like this invitation to praise oneself in detail – whilst drawing in a book, or even drawing-at-all, might not be every child’s cup-of-tea, the art pages can still serve as cues to think about what makes us awesome. Autistic or not, self-praise is something that doesn’t happen nearly enough – particularly not in the UK, where we seem to be bound by some unwritten law to downplay our own achievements for fear of sounding like we’re boasting. I think we’d all feel a lot better if we took the time to acknowledge the things that make us great, whether we’re autistic or not.

I also feel like it’s important to add that this is an excellent book for any child. As I’ve said above, the vast majority books that I’ve found on autism focus on traits that are often perceived as negative, even if the book is trying to take a neutral, fact-based approach. If we want to live in a society which values everyone for the contributions they do make then we need to make sure we that we focus on this when we explain the world. By thinking about the gifts of autism, the condition becomes a lot less isolating and neurotypical children might begin to see their autistic peers in a more positive light. And a little understanding can go a very, very long way.

Do you know of any positive books on autism I might not have come across yet? I’d love to hear about them if you do!

Farn ❤

Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

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Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang is probably as old as I am, if not older. Whilst it could conceivably be argued that I’m reviewing it for nostalgic reasons, this isn’t one of the books that I (knowingly) enjoyed in childhood. For me, this was another golden charity shop find and has since been adored by both Son and Daughter for the past seven years.

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First of all, I love the artwork – the book’s blurb describes it as having, ‘rich, bold colours’ and I couldn’t agree more. I also love the language used – in all the (many) books I’ve read to my daughter in the last seven-and-a-bit years, this is the only one which has referred to a girl as strong in the physical sense of the word. Later books – intended for older readers – have used the adjective to describe personality but bodily strength is not a characteristic that’s normally attached to female protagonists. Which is an issue, when you’re raising a girl who happens to have the beginnings of a six-pack.

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I love the realism of the book – that there are seven shoes along the edge of the bed, one half of a pair temporarily misplaced. I love the detail in the illustrations – the cat that’s present in nearly all of the pictures seems to be up to something new in each one. I love that it’s Dad, tenderly putting his daughter to bed and that this isn’t a laboured point.

The poem that carries us through the countdown is simple and neat, but equally warm and affectionate. Whilst I can pretty much recite it from memory, I haven’t grown tired of it yet, which is always a good sign.

This is another older book that I really would urge you to go out of your way to find. As you can tell from the pictures above, our copy has been well-loved and though both children are, if I’m being honest, too old for it, I can’t imagine not having it in the house so I’m on the hunt for another copy.

Tell me I’m not the only person who can’t let go of books – which have you clung on to?

Farn ❤