Friday 12 April 2013

In Appreciation of the Bedtime Story...

There is so much I need to be doing with my evening... putting 30 odd tomato plants into bigger tubs, making dinner, doing reading/lecture watching for my Ancient Greeks course, knitting another snake, writing several hundred reviews... and yet the thing I really want to do is to write this post about bedtime stories. 

All my childhood, come hell or highwater, my siblings and I had a bedtime story of some variety every single night. My dad is the ultimate teller of made up stories - he can string something out for weeks and months and years (literally, some of his characters are now well into their second decade) and have it still be epic. Among my childhood favourites were a Scottish Professor who invented a flying machine that he used to get into all kinds of trouble, Captain Peppard and his boat which was also a flying machine (yes, I'm sensing a bit of a theme here too...), and an interesting breed of weird fluffy creatures who lived in an underground metropolis and travelled to various different lands by train, having all kinds of adventures.Also Pericles Pyrites the Ancient Greek bicycle repair man and his friend 'the Soothsayer'. I don't think anybody who isn't in my family really gets how great these stories are, but seriously, they were awesome. And for when my Dad was too knackered/working late, my mum was the queen ('just one more chapter, pleeeeeease?') of Enid Blyton, and Roald Dahl. Coming from this, it literally shocked me to my core to hear Rhys say that he doesn't remember having bedtime stories as a child. I feel sad for him, but that said, he is really enthusiastic about reading to Benji, and we've been doing it since pretty much the first day he came home from the hospital. 

And that's really what this post is about. Benji is 6 months old this weekend (where the hell has the time gone?!), and he's really getting to the stage where you can see that he loves his bedtime story now. He'll snuggle down on my lap and watch me while I read to him, smiling all the time. It's ridiculously cute, and probably my favourite time of the day. He's starting to really look at pictures properly now and pay attention to my tone of voice and all the other stuff, and today we read That's Not My Dragon and he had a great time poking all the tactile bits. He does try to eat most of the books, but I've heard they grow out of that, so here's hoping!

While I was pregnant I had a great time doing the Books for Baby feature, and what I really wanted to do now is just post about a few of the books which have been little milestones in his life so far. I love the thought that someday we can look back on this and remember what his favourites were at different stages. 

I think the biggest thanks in the world should go to A.A Milne (or at least to his memory) for writing The House at Pooh Corner, which was the first book I ever read to Benji during the total nightmare that was the attempt at breastfeeding, and When We Were Very Young which lulled him back to sleep at 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the morning, allowing his exhausted mother to get a few hours of sleep before starting over again!

If Shirley Hughes had an altar, I would be worshipping at it. It's debatable whether Benji or I love her more, but Dogger was the first book that Benji really paid attention to the pictures in. Her illustrations are just beautiful, and I was ridiculously excited because he was only about five weeks old at the time. More recently we've loved the poems in The Nursery Collection, all about stuff like nature, colours, and the pattern of daily life, and I've just started to read him the Alfie stories, which were some of my favourites as a child. I quite often end storytime with a massive grin on my face, remembering my own childhood awesomeness. 

This was my sister Ruth's absolute favourite as a little kid, and there is no doubt that Benjamin has loved Hairy Maclary, Slinky Malinky and the rest pretty much from day one. Currently he owns Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy, Slinky Malinky, and Hairy Maclary's Caterwaul Caper here at home, and Slinky Malinky Catflaps at Grandma's house and he is all giggles, all the way through, every time. We are still collecting these everywhere we see them and I just got a copy of Hairy Maclary's Bone in a charity shop last week for his birthday. It's in October. I'm very prepared. 

When Benji was (some might say) far too young for stories and resistant of pretty much everything we tried to read him, he never cried during a Jill Murphy book. He seriously adores the Large Family, and I read him Whatever Next! last week (he says thanks, Aunty Laura!:-p) and he was all trying to grab the pictures manically and giggling his little head off. So. 

Julia Donaldson is an author we're just discovering, due to the whole Gruffalo phenomenon not being a thing when I was a kid. I have to say, so far we are all really enjoying it, although I will admit to having a slight preference for The Highway Rat (thanks to Hanna for alerting us to its existence!) over The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child

Obviously I can't not mention The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which Benji has taken to trying to eat every time we read it. The way I see it, he's obviously trying to emulate the caterpillar and I have a seriously intelligent child on my hand... or something. Anyway thanks Ellie for sending us this one (and I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but you three are pretty much like the three good fairies in Sleeping Beauty... fairy godmothers much?!)

Finally (I know you're breathing a sigh of relief), I can't find a picture of it that's not crap, but pretty much the most epic children's book EVER which Benji agrees with me about is Superbabe by Deborah van der Beek. It's ridiculously difficult to get hold of and I eventually got it from the place of evil book destroyingness which shall never be mentioned with the gift card Hanna gave Benji for Christmas (seriously, fairy godmother!) and was (and still am, as are my mum and sisters) really stupidly excited about it. I may have rung my sister up giggling and gone 'superbaaaaaaaaabe' down the phone at her for about five minutes, and she may have responded with 'eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' or a similar high pitched noise...

Anyway, now that's done, let the screaming nostalgia commence :-) What's great, what did you hate, and what's Benji missing out on?


  1. Awwwwwww! I'm so happy he likes Whatever Next because THAT BOOK IS AWESOME! Actually, this whole post is awesome, so nice work writing it instead of doing those other things :)

    I'm pretty sure my sister and I got a bedtime story every night/nearly every night, and I vividly remember these two bumper books we had of '5 minute bunny tales' and 'five minute cat stories' or something, but the most vivid memories I have are of staying round my nan's house with my sister and cousins and 'the purple book' (which is what we called this book that had a story for each day of the year in it because, you know, it was purple!) and having her read us stories from that. Ahhh, loveliness :)

    Hey Bex- just think when Benji is older (and OMG SIX MONTHS HOW HAS THAT HAPPENED?! I mean, obviously it's crazier for you than me, but STILL!) you can read HARRY POTTER with him. My friend and I were talking about it the other day, and isn't that just THE MAIN REASON to have kids these days?! I think yes :)

    1. Benji has 5 minute bunny tales :-p and YES Harry Potter is definitely a major major reason to have kids. I want to make him a whole Hogwarts themed room in a couple of years... I don't think Rhys will let me though :-/

  2. Ohhhh yaaaay! I am ridiculously proud that Benji is trying to eat The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Even now when we get a copy it makes ME hungry as soon as I get to the last food-mad bit with all the things he eats RIGHT BEFORE the cocoon. :D

    Mum definitely read to us a lot when we were little. I remember sitting in bed at night with her perched next to me, reading. There was a LOT of Enid Blyton involved, but I don't remember what else. Maybe because I was reading myself so young anyway, so although she still read to me at bedtime, I maybe don't remember the titles so much because they've all blended together over the years... ALL THE KIDDIE BOOK LOVE!

  3. I didn't know about The Gruffalo until I got older either, but I saw The Highway Rat in Waterstones (seriously, book shopping for children is SO MUCH FUN)and just had to buy it. A week later I saw it in a blog post about how children's books aren't appropriate these days, as it gives them a bad message. Then I panicked about it, but I'd already sent it... I apologise now if Benji turns out to be a tiny Highwayman.

    My Mum read to me all the time, then when I got older we took it in turns so I could practise my own reading. I remember A LOT of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Topsy & Tim and Enid Blyton.