Tag Archives: Nicholas Allan

The BIG-Hearted Book by Nicholas Allan

The BIG-Hearted Book: Nicholas Allan (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)

The BIG-Hearted Book: Nicholas Allan (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)

Three and a half years ago, I nearly lost my Mum and my children nearly lost their Nanny, because she went to see her GP about chronic ‘indigestion’ and the GP immediately called an ambulance to take my mum to hospital where she was operated on the next day. She had a six hour open heart surgery (triple bypass) and spent six weeks in hospital, two of which in intensive care. Her heart stopped twice during that time.

To say that we, as a family, are indebted to the many health professionals involved in saving her life is an understatement. Heart charities are therefore very close to my heart (no pun intended!) The BIG-Hearted Book was inspired by another woman who underwent life-saving heart surgery: Helen Bower, Sales Director at Hodder. Proceeds from the sale of this book support the International Children’s Heart Foundation, and Hodder also held a charity auction last month in support of this charity.

That’s more than enough reason to buy this book even if it was terrible. Fortunately, it’s far from it! Nicholas Allan is more known for humourous books like Cinderella’s Bum and Father Christmas Needs a Wee but here we have a tale of friendship between Babette (a human) and Bill (a dog) who are linked together by an invisible ribbon of hearts. Babette and Bill do everything together, but one day Babette gets too tired to do things. She can’t run with Bill, she doesn’t cook or eat, she’s not interested in reading. All she does is stay in bed…

The story follows Bill trying to cheer Babette up, and his sadness when one day she goes away. The ribbon of hearts will not be broken though, and Babette’s heart gets fixed reuniting the friends again. This book is suitable for very young children and up because it uses simple language and does not go into details. In fact, it’s perfect for more than just heart illnesses.

I think this book could be used to explain parental depression to a very young child too. Babette loses interest in all the things she’s enjoyed before, and becomes too tired to do things, and then can’t get out of bed any more. All of which are symptoms of depression. The text reads “her heart was on the mend” but this can be taken figuratively rather than literally.

The book works as a story on its own too, but is a valuable addition to a library to help small children cope with illnesses of people close to them. I wish it had existed for me to read to three-year-old Mighty-Girl when my mum was in hospital. We talk about that time when reading the book, but she doesn’t quite remember Nanny being so ill and then getting better and Darling-Girl doesn’t remember at all as she was under one at the time.

There are some parts of this book that don’t quite work for me (Bill is quite selfish at the start so the friendship seems a bit one-sided – I really read too much into stories sometimes!) but the overall story and meaning, and opening for a dialogue with children, more than make up for minor niggles on my part. As for the children? They find it a sweet story with a happy ending, which is just right for cheering up on a grumpy day.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The BIG-Hearted Book by Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Advent Books, part two

Puppy's First Christmas: Steve Smallman & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2012)Puppy’s First Christmas: Steve Smallman & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2012)
This is a lovely Christmas book, and another one that I’ll be putting for opening near the beginning of the month so we can read it extra times. I have to say the cover didn’t appeal to me personally as it looks overly cutesy (which I’m not) but the illustrations and the rhyme are both lovely, cute but not overly so. Steve Smallman writes an excellent rhyme with lots of humour making it great for grown ups to read. The whole book has children written all over it, toddlers especially will love Puppy’s confusion with all the changes in the house and the added nice touch (literally!) of the red hats being fuzzy – also not on every page so you have to search out the fuzzy bits. Both MG and DG enjoyed this, both searching out the fuzzy pages! The humour is great too – Puppy is confused that the children didn’t fight all day, and thought the tree was a new place for him to pee! Adorable illustrations, especially in observing how small children puppies fight sleep before giving in when too tired… A book for both dog and cat lovers (I do get annoyed with dog vs cat books where one or the other are seen as evil…), parents and small children. Bigger children may enjoy reading it to their smaller siblings because of the humour. A surefire Christmas hit.

Father Christmas Needs a Wee: Nicholas Allan (Random House Children's Books, 2009)Father Christmas Needs a Wee: Nicholas Allan (Random House Children’s Books, 2009)
This is another one that Mr Chaos bought for the girls last Christmas, he’s far more into the Christmas spirit than I am (he and the girls put up and decorate the tree together while I stay out of the way!) I think we can all empathise with poor Father Christmas; he’s had far too many drinks and desperately needs a wee! But before he can, he has to deliver all those presents he forgot about. We all breathe a sigh of relief with him when eventually he gets to go! A very silly book, but with an educational twist as we count the house numbers and the drinks (at number one, he has one drink; and so on to number ten!) And as he forgets the presents, after counting up from one to ten we then get to count down again. Surreptitious learning at it’s best!

Father Christmas on the Naughty Step: Mark Sperring & Tom McLauglin (Puffin Books, 2012)Father Christmas on the Naughty Step: Mark Sperring & Tom McLauglin (Puffin Books, 2012)
Most children know the idea of the ‘naughty step’ even if it’s something you don’t use in your own house (I tend not to but do occasionally when one child has deliberately hurt the other…) This book is part of a series where we’ve not read the others but that doesn’t matter. It’s Christmas Eve and Sam is on the naughty step (we’re not told why). He’s soon joined by a pirate who lied on his letter to Santa, and by Father Christmas himself who is at the top of the naughty list for taking something that isn’t his. Sam helps him to learn to say sorry, says sorry himself and all is well for Christmas Day (with a little twist). This is a story that children will enjoy because they can relate to being ‘naughty’ and saying sorry and the power is on the child’s side because he helps the grown-up. There’s also the humour in the pirate and  Father Christmas being on the naughty step. It certainly appeals to my two.

Santasaurus: Niamh Sharkey (Walker Books, 2004)Santasaurus: Niamh Sharkey (Walker Books, 2004)
Niamh Sharkey. Dinosaur Santa. Do I even need to write any more? Good, just go and get a copy already… Niamh Sharkey’s illustrations are wonderful, packed with humour and interest. She’s created a wonderful world like-ours-but-not with dinosaur children and dinosaur parents planning for Christmas. This follows the current traditional British (Irish?!) Christmas of decorating trees, buying presents and leaving mince pies and carrots out on Christmas Eve. Youngest dinosaur Milo wishes more than anything to ride with Santasaurus on his sleigh and help deliver the presents. Does he get what he wants and is this the best Christmas ever? Yes, of course!

How Santa Really Works: Alan Snow & Maggie Bateson (Simon and Schuster, 2010)How Santa Really Works Pop-Up: Alan Snow & Maggie Bateson (Simon and Schuster, 2010)
Alan Snow is a humourous and talented illustrator. We have his ‘How Dogs Really Work’ and ‘How Cats Really Work’ books but don’t read them much (see my issues with reading aloud in the previous post!) as I think they are ones that will be more enjoyed when read by MG & DG themselves. This is a whole different concept though because it pops up! Five fantastically detailed pop-ups with so much to look at that we can tell our own stories (I have to admit I haven’t read the text yet) and MG and DG just enjoy looking at all the details and talking about what they see. As I may have mentioned, DG and MG are both hugely into pop-up and novelty books at the moment and they’re at an age where it can take entire minutes before they break them! Seriously though, MG is old enough to be left alone with novelty books and use all the pull tabs etc with no help; DG is a little rough (she is Destructo-Girl after all) but with mild supervision she can be left to experience pop-up books too. How Santa Works is a book that can be opened on the floor, experienced from all angles, looked at closely to see the details (even lift up Santa’s toilet seat!) It is beautiful and tons of fun, MG and DG really enjoy it. It’s new to us this year  so we’ll see how it holds up to serious reading, but on half a dozen reads from both children, it’s still in one piece. Highly recommended, but not for threes and under.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Puppy’s First Christmas by Little Tiger Press for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.