Bloody awful bedtime books

Mrs W at made me laugh out loud with her latest blog post, about children’s books she can’t stand reading to her son (albeit for nice reasons – there’s one about a little boy and his toy duck that has her choking back sobs). It made me think about books I baulk at reading to my kids at bedtime, for various reasons. Namely:

Thomas the Tank Engine stories
I bought a few of these for my son thinking they’d be just like the cuddly TV series, but they actually bang on really tediously about sidings, axles and coupling rods. One of the stories is about an engine who commits a minor misdemeanour – I think he’s a bit vain about his new coat of paint or something – and for that, he’s bricked up in a tunnel. ‘But I think he deserved it, don’t you?,’ says the Reverand W Audrey. Very Christian of you, Vicar.

The Rainbow Magic fairy series
I know many of you will share my pain here. Whether you’re reading Ruby the Red Fairy, Thea the Thursday Fairy or Bella the Bunny Fairy, it doesn’t matter, the plot is exactly the same every time. Rachel and her sappy friend Kirsty – who both appear to have had their personalities surgically removed – are at Brownie camp/putting on a pantomime/taking part in a swimming gala. Then along comes naughty Jack Frost and his goblins, who nick the magic tent pegs/tap shoes/swimming goggles… I can’t help thinking that if this was a series for boys, Rachel and Kirsty would kill Jack Frost with an axe in book one and have done with it.

Any reading book from school that’s fact- rather than story-based
My fault, entirely – my son (age 6), who’s not the most emotionally literate of children, kept being given stories that stretched his understanding. After one lovely, lyrically written Irish legend about a selkie, which went over his head like a 747, I wrote ‘A bit poetic for his tastes?’ in the parents’ book. (Yes, I know, that makes me sound a complete twunt.) Anyway, as punishment, my son got ‘Making a Book’. It looked like a corporate brochure for Dorling Kindersley – lots of photographs of middle-aged people in suits, captioned, ‘The Managing Editor’, ‘the Designer’, ‘The Copy Editor,’ etc. And page after dull page of info about the book-production process:  ‘The “editor” passes the “page proofs” to the “indexer”, who compiles a list of everything in the book’. Okay, I give in! Bring back the selkie!

Ooh, that’s all horribly negative and BOBish (please see my last post). I do like some things, honestly: Lauren Child, anything by Julia Donaldson, Horrid Henry. And fluffy bunnies. And sunshine. And the colour orange…



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15 responses to “Bloody awful bedtime books

  1. ELS

    There’s a book on my daughter’s shelf given to us years ago by Canadians (written by one too I think) about a duck whose duckling goes off to school, and mama duck pops little hearts into things and paints them on stuff and says ‘oh my darling, my little one, you must leave me but I will always love you.’ My sister got one too for her boys and we started off reading them in silly piss-take Yank-y pants voices and ended up chewing the carpet sobbing like Greek widows and practically topping ourselves at the bleak tragedy of it all. I have never even tried to read it to my children and am in fact dripping hot tears on my laptop writing this.

    Think I’ll have a stiff drink and get a f*cking grip.


    PS for similar emotionally incontinent reasons, Heidi and The Railway Children are off limits. The Giggler Treatment is one of the funniest ones I’ve ever come across. I think you’d like it – no idea if your kids would, but let’s face it, that’s utterly beside the point.

  2. notwavingbutironing

    I have just Googled The Giggler Treatment and it sounds just like my son and daughter’s cup of tea. Pooh is involved – what’s not to like? Thanks for the recommendation. And I did laugh at the image of you and your sis prone on the carpet. Similar scenes here when I read The Little Match Girl (heavily abridged – I’m not that hot-housey) to my two, and they sat dry-eyed while my whole body shook with racking sobs. Hearts of stone!

  3. I’m with you on the dislike of Thomas, because of the turgid writing style. Postman Pat’s not much better. Charlotte’s Web always makes me cry, while my daughter sits there dry eyed. I need to remember to check out the endings of stories before I get started. Have you read Geminma Puddleduck? It generates far too many questions in our house about lax mothers and giving children away. And we have a book called ‘Everybody Poos’ which I have to say isn’t one of my favourites.

  4. notwavingbutironing

    I don’t think I’ll dig out that box-set of Beatrix Potter from under the stairs after all! Am so glad my son has now passed the Thomas stage, although he’s recently been given some ‘Beast Quest’ books, which are basically Tolkein-lite. If he gets into The Lord of the Rings, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to liking AC/DC and never having a girlfriend! Or so my husband tells me.

  5. So glad you visited me or I might never have had such a good laugh at this post.

    I am at the stage where my 2 year old wants me to read the same bloody story about 3 times each night. I did love Julia Donaldson, but after 50,000 renditions of The Gruffalo and The Smartest Giant in Town she’s wearing thin. I like ‘Peepo’ because it’s quaint and sweet and is over pretty quickly. Fortunately I can still get away with jumping forward a few pages. She’s also a fan of ‘Mog’.

    • notwavingbutironing

      Yes, I was having a good explore of British Mummy Bloggers today instead of doing anything financially productive, and was most entertained by your blog. (Comment left was made in TOTAL jest, and my poor husband doesn’t look like a potato after all. He’s more like an aubergine, ho, ho). I’d forgotten about Peepo (my two are now aged five and six); it was lovely and very soothing. Those were the days…

  6. I’m so with you on the dreadful books front. I have begged Boy Two not to make me read another bl**dy Mr Man book. I loath them – the message is patronising and the writing turgid.
    Boy One who has Asperger’s manages to take it to another level. Variously I’ve read the Pokemon directory, every book on dinosaurs ever written and, currently, the Kids Geographic 2010 calendar.
    Finally, though, I got them on to Harry Potter which we are reading, very slowly. “Sorry boys, we can’t do your books until we’ve done all the Harry Potters.”

    • notwavingbutironing

      I’m with you on the Mr Man series – ‘And can you guess what happened next?’ Yes, Roger Hargreaves, I can, because it’s bleedin’ obvious even to a three-year-old! Don’t think I’d fancy the Pokemon directory after having worked my way through the ‘Go-Go Book of Facts’ recently, but dinosaurs – that’s useful knowledge you’ve both accumulated! Wish you were on my school quiz team next week.

  7. Oh, god, the Rainbow Fairies.

    Don’t. Please.

  8. Absolutely PMSL!!

    If you think the Thomas stories are bad (which they are) we progressed directly on to magazines like ‘Railway – Britain’s Best Selling All Round Rail Title’ – cover stories include ‘GCR Pays Off Overdraft’……

    There. Are. No. Words.

    • notwavingbutironing

      It’s good to see a love of industrial engineering in one so young (BTW, I was impressed by your family trip to the nuclear power station). When he’s grown up, your boy will no doubt earn thousands devising new sources of eco-power, while my two struggle with Cheryl Cole Studies at the University of Mickey Mouse.

  9. Cheryl Cole studies?! Now you know I’m the person to help out with that. I’m surprised you haven’t asked me already. Repeat after me, children: “Ah jist luv yer: yer reeely mayed that song yer own”.

  10. myf

    Mog in The Dark is a freaky weird one (mousedogbirds?? and birds with big teeth trying to eat Mog).
    And how did I end up reading The Giant Jam Sandwich to my daughter who had a severe rash and was itching all over in uncomfortable places so much so she couldn’t sleep hence me reading so much… It takes place in Itching Down.
    My punishment for forgetting to write in my son’s school reading comment book is he gets the same book again. I feel this is a big cross against me and my poor son trying to get to the next level. It’s happened twice.

  11. It’s depressing how many hideous children’s books there are. I’m kinda glad my 4yo won’t sit still and listen … I have hundreds of his big brothers books I can chuck at him when he’s old enough and inclined enough to read himself. The Giggler Treatment is highly recommended by my son but what we found got him reading independently (the 13yo not the 4yo – I’m not on a bragfest here) was Flat Stanley, Captain Underpants and Horrid Henry – they need pictures, and never grow out of it really….

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