Monday, 13 May 2013

Dad's Nursery’s first book review!

The lovely folk at My Little Big Town Publishing contacted me a while back to ask if I would review some books for them and I was very happy to assist, although I must apologise for the length of time it’s taken me to finally get this post finished!

Miss D (aged 5) and Little Dude (aged 3) both love books. Mrs D and I have been reading to them both since they were bumps. At first it was a slightly strange experience to be reading a Mr Men book to a little person you hadn’t met yet, but very rewarding to see Mrs D’s tummy moving around as ‘bump’ enjoyed the story!

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. We were kind enough to receive four books for review: Anisha’s Adventures in Bangladesh written by Moinul Islam and Illustrated by Calvin Innes, and three titles written and illustrated by Calvin Innes – Pale Henry, Jenny, and Stuart the Bug Eating Man.

Anisha’s Adventures in Bangladesh:

Ideally suited to my daughter’s age group, the book tells the story of Anisha’s birthday party and her magical adventures around Bangladesh with her pet pony, Chloe. The book is colourfully illustrated throughout and quite Dora the Explorer-esque in terms of the look so would certainly appeal to those fans. In terms of content, I won’t spoil the story but in our case it certainly had all the necessary elements to keep a 5 year old girl interested  – ponies, puppies, parties, pretty dresses, magic and adventure!

As well as entertaining, the book is educational. Within the main story it cleverly gives a snapshot of Bangladesh on subjects as diverse as wildlife, architecture and sport. My daughter found this element very interesting and at those points it was nice to feel like I was discussing the book with her rather than just reading it.

It was refreshing to read a book that introduces children to another country’s culture in such an entertaining way and I hope this is the start of many more adventures. My daughter keeps asking me where Anisha will go next!

Pale Henry:

A short story about Henry, a boy who spends all of his time in his family’s loft, too scared to go out and mix with other children and preferring the company of spiders and moths! When, after much deliberation he eventually summons up the courage to venture outside he finally realises just how much he has been missing out on!
Featuring some nice illustrations by the author, the book is written in verse and this aspect certainly helped keep my son’s interest (being a huge Dr Seuss fan). An enjoyable story with a definite message for shy kids, namely get out there and enjoy yourselves! Of the three books from Calvin Innes, this was my daughter’s favourite.


The tale of Jenny, an 8-year old werewolf hunter! As with Pale Henry, very entertaining cartoon style illustrations from the author and a book that Miss D and Little Dude enjoyed very much. For me, it was nice to meet a character that isn’t obsessed with ponies and princesses, and certainly one that I think could be developed further for more adventures!

Stuart the Bug Eating Man:

The title pretty much gives this one away! Stuart is middle-aged, unemployed, a burden on his family and a disgusting one at that – he loves eating bugs. While the rest of the family are sitting around the breakfast table with toast, he’s tucking into a bowl of dragonflies and washing it down with a glass of slug juice!

Hassled by his wife to get a job, Stuart finally realises his true calling in life – a pest control man! Fame and fortune follow but despite his new found wealth, Stuart can’t kick the habit and still enjoys his bug diet.
A fun read with a few ‘yuk’ moments and a few laugh-out-loud ones too!

Many thanks to My Little Big Town, they advertise themselves as “a company who specialise in creating books and comics that children WANT to read. Exciting, gross, silly and entertaining books”. They have certainly delivered on that promise with the selection that Family D have been reading!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A less than Co-operative attitude.

I like convenience food. It’s as the name suggests – convenient. As a stay-at-home dad of two, there are days when I just don’t get the time to prepare something from scratch and therefore resort to the ‘easy’ option of chucking something in the oven, or, occasionally, getting ‘Chef Mike’ to nuke it for me.

However, I do enjoy cooking. I’m from a large Italian family where dinner time was (and still is) an important event, a social gathering. I’d rather spend a leisurely couple of hours sitting around the table with my family and a glass of wine (or two) enjoying some great home-cooked food instead of sitting in front of the tv with a tray of bland, re-heated mush.

So far, one of my proudest moments as a dad was when Miss D was starting to eat solids and I cooked her some pasta with my own ‘signature’ tomato sauce. To my delight, she really enjoyed it and now that Miss D and Little Dude are old enough to vocalise their opinion on whatever gets put in front of them, it’s always a pleasure to be told that something I have created from scratch is ‘yummy’.

If anything, being at home has improved my cooking skills immeasurably. If Mrs D fancies something new for dinner, or if I see something interesting on a cooking show, I’m able to spend a bit of time checking out the recipe and getting a consensus on the ingredients and cooking method. Mrs D does get concerned with the amount of cupboard space that my ever increasing herb and spice collection takes up, but as I like to remind her, we have used all of them at one point or another.

Nowadays, with the popularity of male tv chefs and ‘blokey’ cooking shows, it’s pretty clear that the tired old stereotypical opinion that ‘men can’t cook/wont cook’ is dead and buried. Well, I thought it was until I saw this sarcastic tv advert from The Co-op (for any overseas folk reading this, they’re a popular UK supermarket chain).

 “Half price crispy chicken and lightly spiced potato wedges. Ideal for when it’s dad’s turn to cook.”

Really? You mean dad can pre-heat an oven to the correct temperature, open a couple of packets, place the desired quantity of food onto a baking tray, put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes whilst at the same time being able to adjust the cooking time for fan-assisted ovens? What a hero.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I have a Lightly Spiced Potato Wedge on my shoulder because of what I do. I certainly know several chaps that don’t like cooking and freely admit that they aren’t very good at it, but I also know a few more that do enjoy getting their hands dirty in the kitchen. This is just lazy advertising. Imagine the uproar that would be caused if an advert dared to suggest that a mum was incapable of making a fresh home-cooked dinner for her kids?

What’s next Co-op? A delightful advert campaign telling women how much they will enjoy your home cleaning products and rubber gloves? I know you’ve been around since 1933 but your attitude towards modern living doesn’t have to stay there.

(Video clip filmed using my camera phone - apologies for the poor quality!)