Monthly Archives: June 2016

This is Sadie

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Sadie is a paean to the life of the imagination. It reminds the reader of the importance of stories to enrich and inspire our children.

‘Sadie’s perfect day is spent with friends. Some of them live on her street, and some live in the pages of books.’ Her life is never mundane because she constantly has a parallel reality existing in her head – one full of stories and adventure. Littered throughout Sadie are allusions to heroines from throughout the ages: Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Goldilocks, Alice, The Little Mermaid, Maid Marian.

Sadie is the kind of child that I’m sure a lot of readers of this blog can identify with. I always loved reading as a kid and the characters were just as real to me as my surroundings. If not more real. Whereas ‘real life’ is always in flux (new schools, new friends, new teachers) the characters in a book remain constant, in exactly the same position as when you left them and always there for you at a turn of a page. I sometimes used to finish a book and immediately turn back to the beginning because I wanted to spend more time with the characters.

Everything Sadie encounters is brought to life  – including clothes. When she chooses a dress to wear she whispers to it ‘”Don’t tell the others… but you are my favourite.”‘ I think the other dresses might suspect that this one would be the favourite because it is the perfect outfit for make-believe. The dress is medieval in style with a full green skirt and a red lace-up bodice; just right for riding a horse, diving into a swimming pool, flying over houses. Sadie reminded me how magical clothes can be to children, how a certain outfit can be enchanted with power. (I had a panda sweatshirt which I was adamant brought me good luck because I had been wearing it on the day my parents took us on a surprise trip to the cinema.)

Sadie is an active and fun book to read aloud due to the narrator constantly interacting with the reader – asking us to check to see if we have wings, questioning if we can hear Sadie. It is noteworthy that in a book which celebrates the world of the imagination the author employs metafiction – addressing the audience directly – thereby repeatedly reminding us that this is a storybook. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

Heroine rating: 4/5

I’m guest-blogging this post over at the wonderful Clothes in Books today. It’s a fantastic blog especially if you’re a fan of both books and fashion. But I warn you, the posts are so addictive to read that it is a good way to lose several hours…

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Mog the Forgetful Cat

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I think the Judith-Kerr-reading-world can be split into those who love Mog and those who love The Tiger Who Came to Tea. My sister always dreamed of tea parties with a tiger whereas I am firmly in the Mog camp. The books are so cleverly written with such humour and Mog is the perfect unintentional heroine.

For those who don’t know, Mog is a cat owned by the Thomas family. She has modest aims in life (to eat eggs, to chase birds) yet through a series of coincidences she somehow ends up saving the family from calamity (often calamities of her own making) and being labelled a hero.

There is a touching domesticity to the Mog books with glimpses of the reality of family life (the peas meant for dinner spilt on the floor, the crumpled window-box flowers.) Kerr based the Thomas’s on her own family. Thomas is her husband’s first name, the children are called Debbie and Nicky – Kerr’s own children’s middle names, and the house is based on Kerr’s family home in London.

Despite her obvious foibles Mog is a character with whom children can empathise. When she is feeling persecuted she runs out of the house and into the garden where she ‘sat in the dark and thought dark thoughts.’ What a perfectly concise way to capture that sense of wanting to run away and hide when emotions become too much.

The book is written with such a clever use of dramatic irony. Kerr’s turn of phrase transforms Mog’s forgetfulness into being truly hilarious. And it contains one of the best scenes in children’s literature. At the end of the story (*spoiler*) the burglar is seen being arrested by the policeman, but not before he’s finished having a cup of tea with the family. Redemption for all.

Heroine rating: 3/5