Hattie by Frida Nilsson & illustrated by Stina Wirsén

By Maureen Tai, 9 June 2020

Hattie doesn’t even live in the middle of nowhere. She lives outside it.

IMG_1194I love growing-up stories (fictional or otherwise) as they allow me to relive my own rather idyllic childhood spent in a small town in Malaysia. Hattie is a charming, not-quite-middle grade chapter book, translated from Swedish, that follows the irrepressibly mischievous yet irresistibly loveable six-year old from her first day of her first year of school to the summer holidays. Each chapter is a short, self-contained story of an event in Hattie’s life and while each event is actually pretty “normal”, they are very, very funny to read about. Ben points out when we read together that he is reminded of Nicholas and the Gang and I agree very much with his observation. Continue reading

The Man Who Wore All His Clothes by Allan Ahlberg & Katharine McEwan

By Maureen Tai, 30 April 2020

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When Ben was just starting to read for himself, it was a little tricky to find gender-neutral chapter books that were easy enough for him to read largely on his own, yet interesting enough to hold his attention. I hit the jackpot with Allan Ahlberg’s series about the escapades of the Gaskitt family. I’ve been a huge fan of the prolific British author ever since discovering his baby board book masterpiece, Each Peach Pear Plum, and The Man Who Wore All His Clothes does not disappoint. This slim tome has simple text, colourful illustrations, and is chock-full of engaging characters who find themselves in laugh-out-loud situations, perfect for the emerging reader. Continue reading

The Frog and Toad Treasury by Arnold Lobel

By Maureen Tai, 17 April 2020

“Winter may be beautiful, but bed is much better.” – Toad

IMG_3681Anna was barely six months old when we were gifted a hard copy of The Frog and Toad Treasury by a dear friend. I confess to not having grown up with these delightful early-reader stories, written in the 70s by the award winning children’s illustrator and author, Arnold Lobel. But I had the incomparable pleasure of reading them aloud to Anna many years ago, listening to her reading them to herself and then, to her younger brother, and today in a sunny spot in the living room, reading them again and having a good chuckle. The tales are as timeless as the friendship between the two anthropomorphic amphibians, and as enjoyable as my first reading over a decade ago. Continue reading

Nicholas and the Gang by René Goscinny & Jean-Jacques Sempé, translated by Anthea Bell

 By Ben and Maureen Tai, 7 June 2019

“I like it when it rains really hard, because then I don’t go to school and I can stay at home instead and play with my electric train set.” – Nicholas.

IMG_6350As a child, I adored the Asterix series, created by the French comics writer and editor, René Goscinny (1926-1977) . I would pore over the pages, chuckle at the antics of  the rotund Obelisk and coo with delight whenever the spunky little terrier, Dogmatix, made his appearance. I wasn’t aware of Goscinny’s other children’s books until recently, when conducting a literary reconnaissance at Anna and Ben’s fabulous school library. Nicholas and the Gang (or in the native French, Le petit Nicolas et les copains) is one of a series of early/young reader children’s books about growing up in an idyllic and relatively uneventful 1950’s France. The humorous vignettes in each book, narrated from the point of view of the sensitive and kind-hearted Nicholas, are charming and old-fashioned without being anachronistic. Kudos to the translator, Anthea Bell, for imbuing the English translation with the child-like wonder and clever sarcasm – directed at adults – that Goscinny had intended. Don’t just take it from me. This is what Ben has to say.

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