That title just about covers this gallimaufry of a post..
Do you ever sit through something on the TV for the sake of it...because you're knitting or sticking stamps in your stamp album or something, and it'll do??
Silent Witness (umpteenth repeat) and I never really liked it first time around, all that wistful gazing into the distance as if seeing something the rest of us can't, and I was spitting bones the next day when I realised that I had missed children's author Judith Kerr on Imagine.
Thank heavens for iPlayer, and still some time left to watch if you missed it.
Judith Kerr, ninety years-old this year, and giving Alan Yentob a run for his money as she sprinted up the stairs ahead of him, while Alan puffed along behind trying to keep up. It was another exquisite programme in this series; quiet, gentle revelations about creative lives, and in the case of Judith Kerr (pronounced Karr I now discover after all these years) taking her back to the childhood home in Berlin from which she and her family had fled in 1933. Her father, Alfred Kerr, a theatre critic and a man with 'a talent for happiness', was second on the Nazi's death list, and how remarkable that in the haste to pack Judith's mother thought to include her nine-year old daughter's wonderful paintings. There was something very special about listening to Judith Kerr recall the way that she had drawn them, along with the feelings and sense of achievement that she remembered at the time. Her recollection of Nazi sanctions against Jews being allowed to keep pets was all the more powerful for the quiet questioning voice, and the pauses that allowed the rest of us to wonder why too.
I wandered around my shelves seeking out When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Judith Kerr's fictional but autobiographical account written to set the record straight after she had taken her children to see The Sound of Music. They had assumed that this is what her childhood escape, complete with singing contests, stolen carburettors, convents and alps, must have been like and their mother was horrified.
This was all by way of an introduction to this year's Red House Children's Book Award, because when the books arrived (thank you Dominic) and I saw How to Hide a Lion, by Helen Stephens, I was instantly reminded of Judith Kerr's enchanting The Tiger Who Came to Tea which we read over and over again back in the day. Children love the controlled fear factor and when Iris takes the lion indoors they have to be very quiet 'as mums and dads can be funny about having a lion in the house.'
Yes, I always objected, did you??
Animals feature in all the shortlisted picture books and I might just be quoting the rhymes from Hippospotamus by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross for ever more...
'It's notamus! What rottomus!
You clottomus!" hissed Snake.
"This lippy hippypotamus
Is allergic to cake.
Cut out chippochoccomus
Eat lettuce for a week.'
Children will adore all of these and so will the grown ups
I can't believe it is over a year since I wrote about the last Red House short list, if you have grandchildren to read to the list is well worth a look for some ideas about what children might enjoy nowadays.
Now in existence for thirty five years, which must make us one of the very early subscribers, Red House has been a reliable source of good children's literature in all that time, and I still have most of the books we bought from them. There used to be great excitement, in those pre-internet days, about books arriving in the post.
It all reminded me of that Children's Book of the Month Club (did it emanate from Foyle's??) that some kindly relative must have enrolled my brother and I in back in the early 1960s, when a suprise book would arrive each month. Massive disappointment for me if it happened to be Biggles, likewise for my brother if it was a Monica Edwards Punchbowl Farm book, on the other hand a massive fight to the death as to who would read the book first if it was Malcolm Savile.
There are three age categories for the Red House Award, the children vote for the winners, and if I could wind the clock back say...fifty-two years maybe... I have a feeling that my vote might go to to Atticus Claws Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray...
Meanwhile the grown-up child in me absolutely adores The Land of Neverbelieve by Norman Messenger which Offspringette has now snapped up to do some story-telling work with her classes.
Best let the children decide, which they will early next year.