What are my kids and I reading this July, 2022

A Brief History of Underpants, written by Christine Van Zandt and illustrated by Harry Briggs is a fast-paced, funny-punny, easy-to-read children’s book that is certain to have you laughing your pants off!

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The title caught me at once and I knew I would be in for a giggle and the book didn’t disappoint! 

Christine cleverly wraps fascinating historical facts around a butt-full of jokes and fun, making it the perfect book for early and reluctant readers. The book takes the reader on a journey through time, from ‘the beginning of buns’, through to medieval Europe right up until the age of lycra in the 1050s. 

It’s hard to imagine any child not finding the subject fascinating. Clothing is an essential part of our everyday lives and there has always been a curiosity yet taboo over the subject of bottoms and underwear in our world and this tackles it head on, breaking down barriers and sharing knowledge about our society. Christine looks not just at different time periods but also different cultures making this book wide reaching and relatable to every child. 

Harry Briggs’ illustrations couple perfectly with the humor in Christine’s writing and are great visual aids for the various inventions and garment styles worn throughout history. 

Christine adds a fun extra Easter egg at the end that kids will love – ‘How to Make your Own Japanese Fundoshi’. It is the perfect way to end the book.

I hope you pick this one up at the shops or library, there is nothing quite like a bit of humor to help you learn and this one has it in pants -full!

What are my kids and I reading this June, 2022?

Little Whale, a picture book written and illustrated by Jo Weaver is told through the eyes of a whale and her calf. It is a stunningly beautiful book that celebrates the incredible strength, courage, love and family needed by animals to migrate such enormous distances. They travel almost 20,000 km every year, from south where they breed to the Arctic seas to reach their feeding grounds. It is a long, dangerous and exhausting journey. Weaver captures it beautifully in her book without pressing the challenging moments too much. There are moments of fear and heartbreak but the calm illustrations help maintain a steadiness throughout.

Weavers gentle atmospheric monochromatic charcoal drawings work perfectly for the underwater environment. She uses every hue of blue know to the eye from warm, inviting tropical blues to cold, icy deep blues.

The story telling is lyrical but brief and easily absorbed by little ones. Whilst older readers will be mesmerised by Weavers artwork. Whilst targeted at a younger audience, this book acts as a great springboard into life cycles, animal studies of migration, animal conservation and ocean awareness.

For any parents or caregivers of little ones about to undergo a long journey, this is a great, comforting read for them.

What are my kids and I reading this May, 2022?

Red, White, and Whole, written by Rajani LaRocca, is a fantastic middle grade novel written in verse. After attending a talk by Rajani I was keen to read one of her recent books and I was absolutely blown away by it. I read it in two straight sittings and found it not only to be beautifully written, compelling, and very emotive, but fascinating too.

The premise of the story focuses on an Indian girl growing up in America, torn between two very different worlds. School and home, each requiring different behavior codes and different sides to a personality. This conflict gives the main character lots of internal turmoil and when she is faced with a family crisis, the rising conflict is brought to a head. 

Like my children, the author Rajani is a third culture kid and the conflicts for any child in that situation are real and potent. Despite the cultural differences the main character faces to my children, many of the emotions she expressed were familiar. I know this book would resonate with many other kids living two different lives, as it did with mine too. Calum, aged 10, found this book captivating. I wasn’t sure he would enjoy the novel’s style at first as it was written in verse but once he had read a few chapters he was hooked!

Rajani gives the main character, Reha, real agency throughout. Reha is a delightful character who the reader really feels for and is taken on an emotional journey with. Themes of immigration, racism, culture, ethnicity, family, school and loneliness are strong but there is one other theme that runs unexpectantly through the book: cancer. 

The title refers in part to red and white blood cells and there is a fascinating look at their scientific roles throughout the book and what happens when they don’t function as they should. This gave the book an added interest for the reader from a biological perspective. But more than that it acted as a powerful tug towards family and in particular the role of mum. Admittedly, there were tears when reading this book and I challenge anyone to read it without then calling their mum up afterwards to tell them they love them!

Verse novels are becoming more and more common in children’s literature and although the idea of reading a book in verse may put some people off, I would love to highlight a few extra positives about them. They are often shorter than your typical novel. They are more lyrical and so a great way to expose children to poetic language in a more structured, narrative way. The chapters are often short snippets of a scene condensed down to its real essence, so they make their points quickly and powerfully. Do try them if you haven’t before as you may find them surprisingly rewarding.

I can highly recommend this one as a good one to start with!

What are my kids and I reading this April, 2022?

The House at the Edge of Magic, written by Amy Sparkes, has all the ingredients of a perfect middle grade novel. It is fast paced with great cliff hanger endings for each chapter. It has strong, emotionally charged characters full of energy and sparkle. It has fantastical and fun settings and above all, it is full of heart!

The main character of the story, Nine, is an orphan pickpocket working for a grumpy gang-master and living in the Nest of a Thousand Treasures. Her home may sound exciting by name but, it is really a Dickensian life of misery, without family, a comfy bed and any real treasures of her own. All that is except one, a music box, which she is never even allowed to touch.

Life for Nest changes when she steals a house-shaped ornament and knocks on the tiny front door. As suddenly as the house grows into a life-sized higglety-pigglety tower of magic, Nine’s adventure begins. 

Through the front door, Nine discovers a household of fabulous, funny and magical characters, including Flabberghast a young wizard, a troll housekeeper and a skeleton in the closet who longs to be dusted every now and again!

Soon after entering the house, Nine discovers the household occupants have been placed under a curse – they cannot leave the house or travel to different lands and they are desperate for Nine to help them find a way to break the spell.

Nine’s character is feisty, determined and brave, with a dash of anger mixed in. She is afraid to apologise, say thank you and show kindness, which she fears might make her appear weak in others eyes. At first this is confronting and at times the reader is annoyed with her for not recognising genuine help and generosity and reacting as we have taught our children too. Though, after the life Nine has been leading it is hard to imagine her acting any other way. Amy Sparkes has created a very believable character with a deep emotional core and one that holds our attention throughout. 

Without giving away any spoilers, at the end, we do see Nine soften, show affection and gratitude and open up a little more. This character development makes me very excited to read book two in the series (which has just come out!) where I imagine she becomes more open to others and honest about her feelings too. 

I am also excited to read book two to explore more of the house. I loved every element and every room of it so far, from the moving toilets to the burping sugar bowl. In a year’s time this will be the perfect level for my daughter (currently aged 6) who will certainly want to move into this amazing house after reading the book! I certainly did!

Highly recommend!