Two Oldies But Goodies

The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was none of his business
Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch
Pavilion Books

It’s hard to believe, it’s 3 decades ago since this ground-breaking book was first published.

I clearly recall the day in 1989 when as a member of the local authority advisory steering group for English, our senior adviser called a meeting to talk about the national curriculum that was being foisted upon us. We gathered in a small room and without comment he walked in and read aloud this book. – well not exactly for this one, that I have now is a 30th anniversary celebratory edition.

We sat there in silence avidly listening, knowing full well why we were being treated to this: clearly it summed up what he thought about a curriculum being dumped on us from on high.

If you don’t know the story, it’s the tale of a little mole upon whose head there falls one morning as he pops up from his hole, a sausage-shaped turd. He then goes on to try and find the culprit, asking each of the animals he encounters in turn, “Did you do this on my head?”

Their excretory responses assist him in eliminating them one by one from his search

until finally, thanks to a pair of large flies, the poo perpetrator is discovered and receives his due deserts, after which mole returns to his underground residence.

With its wonderfully droll illustrations providing a ground level view, I’ve yet to share this book with a class that hasn’t dissolved into helpless giggles and now, with this new edition, long may it continue so to do.

Dave and the Tooth Fairy
Verna Wilkins and Carl Pearce
Studio Press

I remember using the 1993 Tamarind Books edition with primary classes and now some 25 years on it’s back in a newly illustrated incarnation for another generation of readers whose parents, like myself, will likely remember the first version.

Having tried unsuccessfully to dislodge his wobbly tooth, one morning at breakfast ‘Dave does ‘his biggest sneeze ever’ causing the thing to shoot out of his mouth, fly across the room and vanish.

His initial excitement quickly gives way to disappointment: no tooth means no Tooth Fairy visit and thus no money for a new kite. No matter where he looks Dave just cannot find the missing object.

When Grandpa comes to stay, Dave comes up with an idea that he hopes will solve the problem …

My original version was read to pieces so I’m unable to compare the illustrations but Carl Pearce’s have a filmic quality that will appeal to today’s avid screen watchers.

A Visit to City Farm

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A Visit to City Farm
Verna Wilkins and Karin Littlewood
Firetree books
This is the first book from a new publisher whose aim is to produce ‘books with engaging, enjoyable and exciting stories that celebrate our interconnected and culturally-diverse world, putting all children in the picture’ and this story of a school visit certainly does just that.
From the list of children’s names in the front of the book, it seems that the role of Chalkhill Primary School (the book’s co-publishers) is similar to that of the schools I’d always taught in before moving out of London a few years ago. The lack of this rich diversity was one of the huge culture shocks I’ve had to cope with since, and that diversity is something I still miss enormously: this book is, in part a celebration of that richness.
The story tells of a class visit to a city farm. Now I know from experience that children absolutely delight in being featured in their own books – albeit school published ones (it’s an empowering part of seeing themselves as writers) – so I can imagine how thrilled those Chalkhill Primary children must have been to become characters (more accurately almost recognisable versions of themselves) in , and co-writers of, a real book.
We join Rainbow Class as they prepare for the off, with their teacher, Miss Jama checking they know the safety code, watch the group as they walk to the station, travel on the tube and finally, arrive at City Farm.
Of course, the highlight of the visit is seeing  all the different animals …

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maybe not all the animals for all the children though …

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Verna Wilkins’ prose (written in collaboration with Y5 pupils) and the children’s rhyming descriptions of the animals are seamlessly woven together into a single narrative that also gives voice to individual children’s thoughts as they move around the farm. And, there’s so much to look at, enjoy and talk about in Karin Littlewood’s lovely pen, crayon and watercolour illustrations.

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All in all this is a wonderful celebration of our interconnectedness and I look forward to seeing more from Firetree books.

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