Monday, March 26, 2007

Three New Men in Fred's Life

1. Ralph Covert
Ages ago I stumbled across the Australian Ralph's World site (I think via the now defunct kiddley site) and clicked on the link that said 'sign up for the mailing list and get a free cd sampler' because I am not allergic to free, and then promptly forgot that I'd sent a whole bunch of intimately sensitive personal details through cyberspace. So flashforward to weeks, possibly months, later (I really have no real grasp of the passing of time) and a lovely big envelope arrives with a poster and a cd sampler.

Ralph's World is music for kids and it's GREAT! Burn the wiggles down, Ralph's World rocks! Fred loves it, Una loves it, I love it, Martin loves it. The five songs on the sampler have been in high rotation since they arrived. It's kind of poppy and folksy. Ralph Covert (I think that's his name) has a rich, sonorous singing voice which I could listen to all day. They're good for singing to, they're great for dancing to and all the songs are winners. Recommended. Martin said he saw a CD in Borders in Melbourne Central but you can buy them online too (there are heaps).

2. Mr Beast
Mr Beast is a picture book by James Sage, illustrated hilariously well by Russel Ayto. It's one you need to read a few times to 'get' what's happening - Mr Beast is actually the main character's dad, pretending to be a deliciously scary beast. It's great because you need to look at all the visual clues for the story to make complete sense, but they're not glaringly obvious - it's a book both Fred and I have really engaged with. It's a relationship a lot of kids can probably relate to - lots of dads seem to take on this 'pretend/safe scary role' in play. Fascinating really.

3. The Stinky Cheese Man
I first fell in love with this book when I was about eighteen and used to hang out in the picture book sections in Hobart bookshops and read all the books. The Stinky Cheese Man and other fairly stupid tales is metafiction, which means it's a book that constantly draws attention to the fact that it is a book, for example the table of contents is part of the story (it's what falls on chicken licken's head). There's quite a lot of metafiction in picture books, it's a genre that lends itself well to a discussion about the conventions of the book and subverting the relationship between reader and text, inviting children to 'enter the text' as if they actually might fall into bookworld (like Lauren Child's Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book) and change the story. Metafiction is a great way to introduce kids to the power of stories. It also gives characters that are usually stuck in their own stories a chance to narrate their own version, to express their point of view, which I think could be empowering for kids. There are also some really funny rewritings of familiar stories (like the ugly duckling who just grows up to be a really ugly duck). I thought Fred might be a bit young for it and a lot of the metafiction elements goes over Fred's head, but she really wants to wrap her brain around it, so we've been reading it over and over. It's long, but she doesn't care and I don't really either, it's clever and funny and written in a romping style which makes it eminently readable.

Both these books are from our local library. Love the library.


  1. Mmmm...metafiction! Sweet!
    I have to do a literature unit on a picture book soon, and you can bet your bottom dollar I will be looking further into this lovely metafiction business. Have you read Lauren Child (she of Charlie and Lola)'s "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book"? A little corker! And a wee bit metaficticious itself I'll wager.

  2. Anonymous6:08 PM

    Heya Pen - thanks for the Ralph's World tip, I had a listen and loved it so I've ordered a copy. Sounds great. It's hard to find good quality music for kids that doesn't make you want to garotte yourself when you hear it for the fourth time in a row. You know what I mean.