One for them: Use Your Imagination
In a week where all of the publicity over the current state of our children’s early years education has had me just a little bit steaming at the ears; this has been the perfect antidote for me for bedtime reading, as much as just an all round good story for the children. Use Your Imagination is a brilliant riff on the magic of creative story telling and it’s such an enticing read that the first time I produced it, Kitty had grabbed it and was flicking through, reading the bits she could work out, while I was still trying to wrestle Pip into his pyjamas.
Rabbit is bored. But lured by the promises of adventure from the ever helpful Wolf the Librarian he agrees that together they should tell a story.
He’ll be the hero, and wolf will be the baddie, and it will be a fairy story, and take place in the woods, and – hang on a minute! This is all sounding ominously familiar!
Kitty picked up on the Little Red Riding Hood parallels straight away and giggled and giggled as we turned the pages further and further into the story.
But all is not lost and Rabbit is not going to play the victim; not if he can help it. I’m not going to give away the plot twist at the end, because it’s brilliantly unexpected and gorgeously illustrated on a giant fold out page; suffice to say that if there’s one lesson to take away it’s that creativity and imagination will serve you well in (a) stopping boredom and (b) escaping tricky situations.
It’s always lovely when you discover that another book by a much loved author is just as good as the first – we still love Open Very Carefully as much as the first time we read it and now we can add Use Your Imagination to the favourites list.
One for me: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
To travel to space, and live and work there is something that will be so far beyond the breadth of our life experiences for most of us and because of that I think it will always have a quiet fascination. I was vaguely aware of Chris Hadfield’s command of the International Space Station while he was up there because of his twitter feed, but it was’t until Kitty and I discovered his space videos at the height of her space obsession that we both got completely hooked. She likes all the weird and wonderful science experiments, and I just love seeing the everyday details, like the fact that the bubble in the runny honey is in the middle of the bottle not at the top. When Chris Hadfield visited Oxford for a book signing we took all three children to meet a spaceman, and while Kit was completely overwhelmed with excitement and wonder at the time, she treasures her signed copy of his ‘picture book’. All of which completely fails to explain why it’s taken me until now to read his other book.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is an incredibly addictive read; I found I just couldn’t put it down at bedtime, I’d have to read on to find out what happens next, and then the next chapter and the next. It’s the story of a childhood dream realised against the odds and against a fair few obstacles, Canada not having a Space Agency at the time being a pretty big one. If you ever needed proof that quiet determination and a lot of hard work will get you to your goals then this is it. I loved reading about the untold and not so glamorous part of the story of space travel; the years of training and preparation and the sacrifices that both he and his family had to made to get to that magical point where the air lock opened and he floated into the space station as the next Commander. And there’s plenty of stories from space too; all the nitty gritty that you’ve always wondered about as well as the wonder and the beauty of seeing our planet from a completely different perspective.
But I think my favourite part was the little life tips that cropped in along the way. For example, that whole issue of no Canadian Space Agency meant that however hard Chris Hadfield trained, he might never have been able to make it to space, so he made sure that all the jobs he took along the way were both jobs that would build up his skill set for the ultimate dream, and jobs that he loved; if the world had suddenly stopped, and being an air force test pilot was the highest he’d ever get, he’d still be happy, and I think that’s such an important message, to not compromise your happiness here and now in pursuit of a dream that may or may not have any substance to it. I thought it was fascinating too that as the missions became longer and longer, increasing from a few days in space to months at a time, there became less and less room for the big egos at NASA; what they were looking for was humility and the willingness to do anything that helped the mission. Oh couldn’t the world do with a bit more of that attitude!