So You Think You’ve Got it Bad? A kid’s life in Ancient Rome

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A kid’s life in Ancient Rome
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

Imagine having your pet parrot or fish ending up in the cooking pot, or being sold as a slave to cook for richer neighbours.

How would you feel if you had a headache and the remedy was finding an elephant to touch your head with its trunk and hoping it sneezed a trunkful of snot right at you?

Or worse perhaps, if you were a boy you’d have to go to school every single day of the week (except holidays) and anyone who made more than the occasional mistake in class, would be held down by a couple of slaves while the teacher beat you with a leather whip: scary or what?

Alarm bells ringing I suspect, but this is just a small glimpse of what life was like for children in Ancient Rome that is provided in this fascinating book. There’s a section on clothing, hairstyles and make-up – supposing your mum used bear fat to make her hair grow, or pigeon poop to lighten it?

Other sections include food, family life, the home, gods, fun and games – yes there were some,

gladiators and emperors. And there’s a final glossary and index.

High on entertainment for sure, but also high on information of the accessible sort, this book published in association with the British Museum and with an abundance of amusing illustrations by Marisa Morea, is definitely one for primary school classes and individuals interested in ancient times.

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Greece

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Greece
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

Chae Strathie knows just how to make history interesting and fun for children as he demonstrates in his latest So You Think You’ve Got It Bad title published in collaboration with The British Museum.

The first topic (of ten) Clothes and Hairstyles contains some tasty or perhaps rather yucky, snippets of information such as the fact that one source of purple clothes dye was insect larva (maggots to most of us); though actually, yellow was a favourite with girls.

Suppose you were a boy in Ancient Greece; you’d wear merely a short tunic; yes it was probably pretty warm much of the time but even so a sudden gust of wind, especially in winter, would probably expose your nether regions. Brrrr!
Moreover, young men training in the gymnasium or participating in a sporting event did so in the altogether and it was considered absolutely normal so to do.

Young girls fared slightly better; they too wore only a single garment – an ankle length dress called a peplos but at least it was belted.

Zips or buttons hadn’t been invented although people used brooches, pins, cord or belts as fasteners.

Girls had a pretty grim time of it back then and female babies were often left to die on account of the dowry system, which meant that it could cost parents a fortune when a girl married, something that could happen as young as thirteen and to a complete stranger.

Girls fared badly too when it came to education: boys went to school when they were seven but girls –rich ones only – were home educated, the focus being how to run a home.

Inequality was everywhere with slaves making up around a third of the population of Athens.

Talking of education, tablets were used for note taking in lessons – no not the electronic kind; these were made of wax-covered wood on which you wrote with a stick-like stylus.  Sticks were employed for another reason too – for beating those boys who didn’t learn quickly enough in class. Yeouch!

Pets were popular with families with snakes, goats, swans, ducks and geese numbering among the favourites along with dogs (the very favourite). Try taking geese out for a walk!

Oh my goodness! Even the homes of the very richest were without a loo. Imagine having to poo in a pot every single day. No thanks. There’s even a depiction on a painted vase of a small boy sitting having a dump on a tall potty-like object that apparently doubled as a high chair. Hygienic it surely wasn’t.

The largest room in a typical Greek house was devoted to partying – men only again. Female readers are probably fuming by this time.

Health and medicine introduces physician Hippocrates, often called the founder of modern medicine but before he came along much of ancient Greek medicine relied on magical prayers and charms.

Diet, myths and legends, ancient gods and fun and games complete the thematic sections.

The layout of almost every spread differs with information presented in paragraphs of text, in speech bubbles, via diagrams, and through Marisa Morea’s amusing illustrations, which make the book even more engaging.

Readers will surely finish reading this with a big smile and almost without noticing will have gained insights into an important ancient civilisation as well as a greater appreciation of their own lives today.

Nature & Around the World / Look, a Butterfly! / Little Boat

Nature
Around the World

Nosy Crow

These are the two latest additions to the wonderful board book series produced in collaboration with The British Museum, each presenting and celebrating cultures the world over, and inspired by the enormous British Museum collection.
Nature celebrates both the flora and fauna of the world and the elements, from a shell to the sun; the squirrel to the sunflower and the butterfly to blossom.

It’s absolutely gorgeous and certain to engender curiosity about the natural world.
In Around the World fourteen cultures are represented through items from near and far: Egypt, France, Britain, America, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Korea, Mexico, Greece, China, Kenya and India each have a spread or page devoted to items including clothing,

musical instruments, buildings, jewellery, and much more.

Both are, like the rest of the series absolutely superb for developing language as well as being a brilliant way to introduce history and culture to your little ones, especially if you can combine it with a museum visit too.
If you can’t, worry not: each has an index as well as QR codes linking to additional information about each object featured.

Enormously worthwhile to add to bookshelves at home, or in an early years setting.

Look, a Butterfly!
Yasunari Murakami
Gecko Press

This lovely little board book is by award-winning Japanese artist/designer/author, Yasunari Murakami who is also an environmentalist and lover of wild-life. It begins with an irresistible invitation to notice, and then follow the journey of a butterfly as it explores what a flower garden has to offer.

We see the flower buds pop open and burst into a host of colours;

watch the little creature pause for a drink of nectar and revived, flit and flutter again before coming to rest upon a playful kitten.

This of course precipitates a game of flap and tease before the butterfly finally flies away.

Beautifully simple and attractively illustrated, it gives you an injection of joie-de-vivre and is perfectly honed  to be just right for sharing with tinies. Catch hold of this one before the butterflies disappear for the season.

Little Boat
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

Life lessons Little Boat style will delight fans of Taro Gomi’s previous Little Truck especially.

Here we follow Little Boat as he determinedly manoeuvres his way through bigger boats including a snarling one, braves the rough seas and stormy weather

until after his testing adventures, he finally meets his parent boat once more in calm waters.

Short and sweet: splendid entertainment for little ones and a great demonstration of remaining positive no matter what.

First Words / Animals and Baby Duck / Baby Koala

First Words
Animals

Nosy Crow
Here are two new additions to the ‘Early Learning at the Museum’ series published in collaboration with The British Museum.

Once again each title features an assortment of fascinating objects from the museum’s collection, so that in addition to helping children to learn the names of the items featured, the colour photographs introduce them to a range of cultural images from all over the world.

As well as the wonderful Chinese cotton shoes shown on the cover, the amazing objects in First Words include another pair of shoes (Dutch wooden clogs), an aluminium toy bike from India and these …

Animals has creatures great and small from camels to cats and parrots to a polar bear. I was particularly attracted to the Malaysian shadow puppet shown at the centre of this spread …

and the woodcut of ‘two mallards’ by British artist Allen William Seaby,

Both books offer hours of early learning enjoyment and are great for encouraging curiosity and talk well beyond the mere naming of the items.

If you have a toddler, or work in an early years setting, I recommend adding these two to your book collection.

Baby Duck
Baby Koala

illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books

Attractively illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang, here are two new additions to the chunky finger puppet series that introduces tinies to a range of baby animals and their everyday lives. Each with an attached plush finger-puppet, these are playful, interactive, help to develop vocabulary and offer a good way for adult and infant to start building a love of books.

Mummy! / First Words & 123

Mummy!
Lerryn Korda
Nosy Crow
What a cool idea: a lift-the-flap board book with an ancient Egyptian setting published in association with The British Museum.
A small girl has been separated from her mummy and is searching for her: “Where’s my mummy?” she asks repeatedly as she looks in various likely locations: the market, the lotus pool,

by the enormous sphinx, among the foliage by the river and in the temple.
Finally, she reaches her own home and …

With nine visual references to artefacts belonging to the British Museum, (each with an associated hieroglyph to discover), this is such a fun way to introduce very young children to history. (The final spread is devoted to photographs of these and there’s a QR code to scan for more information about the objects shown.)
Equally, with such engaging illustrations and simple repeat pattern narrative it’s also great as a beginning to read picture book.

Some interesting reissued board books are:

Alison Jay’s 123
Alison Jay’s First Words

Templar Publishing
In 123, Alison Jay uses a fairytale landscape for counting as a girl dreams that she travels upon a golden goose to different fairytale scenes.  Each new spread features a number from 1 to 10, and then counts back down to 1 again.  Observant readers will notice that on every spread, the artist includes other sets of the number featured.  She also leaves a visual clue that suggests the next spread and perhaps beyond.

First Words begins with a grandfather clock face surrounded by decorative images that point to the four seasons and to what is to follow on subsequent pages. There are visual allusions to nursery rhymes in addition to the opening Hickory Dickory Dock (yes there’s a mouse atop the clock); we see Jack and Jill climbing up the ‘hill’; while for instance, ‘hat’ and ‘fish’ allude to ‘12345 once I caught a fish alive’

The book spans a whole day, but moves through the seasons too. Featuring seemingly random objects, Jay also uses foreshadowing in this book – an added talking point for children and adults; and each page having just a single word leaves readers free to make up their own stories.
In fact I see both these not so much as concept books but as starting points for promoting talk and visual literacy.

I’ve signed the charter  

Origami, Poems and Pictures

Origami, Poems and Pictures
Nosy Crow
This truly beautiful book is published in collaboration with the British Museum and its publication coincides with the Museum’s Hokusai exhibition, Beyond the Great Wave. That picture is just one of the thirteen (all belonging to The British Museum) featured in this celebration of three Japanese arts and crafts: origami, haiku poetry and painting (all but one are woodblock prints) and with it the delights begin. Making the paper boat (after reading the associated haiku and pondering upon The Great Wave picture, I’d suggest) is one of the easier (1st level) projects. I already knew how to make that so passed on to something else at the same level to get my hand in: I chose the frog …

really because I already love the accompanying Bashō haiku:
the old pond,
a frog jumps in –
the sound of water.

before proceeding to something challenging. For my origami frog I used ordinary paper cut to a square and on the thick side;

but included at the back of the book is a pad of 50 sheets patterned on one side, plain on the other, which are the ideal size and weight for the projects.
Each of the projects is graded and there is a mix of each of the three levels of difficulty, the third level requiring considerable dexterity, not to mention patience. I absolutely loved the graceful crane and the dragonfly.
You’re guaranteed many hours of pleasure from this absorbing and stunning book; and should you require some further instruction with the origami, there’s a QR code on the index page which provides a link to step-by-step ‘How to’ videos.

I’ve signed the charter  

Quality From The Start

Park
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
It’s never too soon to introduce babies to books: this ‘Tiny Little Story’ is a delight. We accompany Mum and Baby Boo on a walk in the park where they see a dog, a squirrel – squeeze the page and the leaves rustle – and a snail.

It rains, they feed the ducks and then the infant bids farewell to a bird and the park. That’s it; but with its squidgy fabric pages, simple, bright, attractive illustrations and brief text, it’s perfect for a first book. The whole thing comes in a presentation box and there’s a velcro strap to attach the book to a buggy.
With its soft pages, this would make a super present for a mum and new baby.

So Many Feet
Nichole Mara and Alexander Vidal
Abrams Appleseed
HIGH FEET, SLOW FEET; FAST FEET: SNOW FEET; DANCING FEET, HANGING FEET – these are just some of the many different kinds to be found in this largish board book that introduces toddlers to the diverse forms and functions of animal feet be they toed, clawed, webbed, sticky, hoofed, padded or other. Each animal’s feet are adapted for its life style whether it’s  mountain climbing, slow plodding, jumping, swimming, digging,

or perhaps, wall scaling.
Interesting, informative and alluringly illustrated, and with its final spread, which concludes with a parting question, ‘What can YOUR FEET do?’ an open invitation for youngsters to try some experimental movements with their own feet. In fact, nursery practitioners might make it the starting point for some playful group movement activities.

123
ABC

Nosy Crow
Nosy Crow has embarked on a new collaboration with The British Museum and these two board books are some of the first of a new joint non-fiction list.
Each one contains photographic images of objects found in the museum and thus give very young learners an opportunity to see and celebrate some of the wonderfully rich cultural collections while at the same time re-enforcing alphabetic and numerical concepts.
I randomly opened 123 at the first spread and was surprised to see a pair of what look like almost identical Indian shoes to a pair I have that I bought in Rajasthan, India a few years back, and where there are a fair number of makers/sellers of these jooties or mojaris as they are called. Those illustrated here are given in the index as ‘shoes: date unknown’ so I have no idea how old they might be, but it just shows how certain things remain almost unchanged over time.
In fact the whole book starting with 1 llama (a gold figure from Peru); and ending with 20 coins, is full of fascinating objects to look at and talk about.

There is a mix of photos of illustrations (paintings, etching, drawing) and 3D objects including drums, bowls, kites, beads, bags and spoons from the collection.
A similar mix of illustration and 3D items graces the pages of ABC. This spread shows a Japanese woodblock print of a snail, a porcelain teapot from the UK and an ivory figure from Sri Lanka.

Think of the rich vocabulary you might help your child develop by focussing on any of the objects shown: there’s certainly no talking down to toddlers here.
In addition to the index each book has, there is a QR code that if scanned on a smart phone supplies further information about the objects depicted. So, share these exciting little books and then if possible pay a visit to the British Museum and try to find the objects on display there.

I’ve signed the charter