MICHAEL ROSEN’S READING REVOLUTION RECIPE

How wonderful is this? Just as Jamie Oliver took on British school canteens to prove canteen meals can be healthy and appealing to kids, UK Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen has the BBC camera’s rolling as he accepts the challenge to turn Cardiff primary school students into lovers of reading. The links are here and here. I was incredibly disappointed to see the program wasn’t available for viewing and clicked on the Why? link to find I am too late. It can only be viewed within 7 days of going to air. Memo to self: Keep a closer watch on the Guardian Books page. There’s usually something interesting there.

Michael Rosen’s campaign also emphasises how important the role of Children’s Laureate is in providing a readily accessible media spokesperson and personality. It’s exciting to follow the work of the Australian Children’s Literature Alliance which will see the establishment of an Australian Children’s Laureate in 2010.

And while the subject is Michael Rosen, I am reminded of my experience when I received Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy (released Dec 2007) for review. I had to take #2 son to the pediatrician and knowing it would be a long wait in the surgery, I took the book along to read. There were five other children waiting and as I read, they crept closer. Then a not-so-shy little girl asked for a poem to be repeated. One child complained when he had to go in for his appointment and miss out on the stories!

Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake. Allen & Unwin (Bloomsbury). Softcover. Rrp $19.95. Junior.

This is a giggle-laden book of illustrated poetry for children aged 5 -7. And it’s hardly surprising given the talented award-winning team behind it. Even the title rolls off the tongue. Poet Michael Rosen is the 2007-2009 UK Children’s Laureate and Illustrator Quentin Blake held the post from 1999-2001.

Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy is a collection of poems guaranteed to catch little ears. I know because I started whispering them to my son, sitting in the paediatrician’s waiting room. One by one, other ears pricked up and soon I had an audience to read to. Try this popular excerpt:

Down behind the dustbin,
I met a dog called Sid,
He said he didn’t know me,
But I’m pretty sure he did.

Other poems speak directly to children’s fears and concerns. Will I grow too big? What hides in the dark when the light is switched off? Don’t cut my toenails any more! Some poems rhyme and others poems have a wonderful conversational quality.

Quentin Blake’s quirky illustrations bring the words to life. Father morphs into a scary monster as he prepares to catch and grab the child who will not let him doze in his armchair. Brother Danny has a golden nose and fish swimming out his ears.

This book is lots of fun to read. But if you want to just listen, it comes with a bonus CD read by Michael Rosen.

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