Book review: Anisha’s Adventures in Bangladesh

Two things we love in our house are reading and travel. Before she had even turned two, Heather had been as far east as the UAE, and as far west as New York City. What a lucky girl! Unfortunately for Megan, a bigger family makes those sort of trips a lot more complicated and expensive, and the furthest she’s ever been is the northwest coast of Ireland.

We may not be going on another foreign holiday any time soon, but we still want to teach our girls that there’s a big world out there, full of exciting things to see and explore. And a great way do that is with the Anisha’s Adventures books from My Little Big Town.

The first book in the series, Anisha’s Adventures in Bangladesh, tells the story of a young girl called Anisha, whose grandparents give her some magical birthday gifts: a flying pony, and a camera that can describe what its user is looking at, as well as taking pictures. Anisha uses these gifts to explore her home country of Bangladesh, learning from her camera about various important landmarks along the way. Of course we, as readers, get to learn alongside Anisha, which is the really clever bit.

Written by Moinul Islam, and inspired by his own daughter (also called Anisha), the book is illustrated by Calvin Innes, and his colourful images really bring the story – and the country of Bangladesh – to life. Our girls are a little younger than the recommended reading age of 5+, but they were both entranced when I read this to them, and we all enjoyed learning about Bangladesh, a country I didn’t really know much about beforehand.

Anisha’s next adventure, this time in London, is due to be published soon, and I look forward to being able to show the girls a city that Gem and I have always loved visiting. Maybe one day they might get to visit it for real!

Anisha’s Adventures in Bangladesh is published by My Little Big Town, and is available to buy from Amazon and other retailers. I was sent this item for review, but have not been paid for mentioning it in this post. All words and opinions are my own, and links have been included out of courtesy.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Read all about it

Bedtime storiesReading to the girls is one of my favourite things to do. Whether it’s at bedtime or during the day, we always have books around, and the girls know that if Mummy or Daddy aren’t busy we’ll be more than happy to read to them.

Every night at bedtime, each of them gets to pick a book and either me or Gem will read it to them. Most nights we split bedtime between us, so I’ll take Megan up and Gem will take Heather up, swapping over the next night. That balance was a deliberate move on our part, as we didn’t want to end up in a situation where only Mummy or only  Daddy could read the bedtime story, because sooner or later that’s going to cause a problem, if one of us is out for example.

That’s just the way we roll, though – when it comes to the kids, pretty much everything gets split equally down the middle. As it should be.

It seems I’m in the minority though, going by figures released today by Booktrust, as they launch a campaign to get Dads to read more to their kids. “Only one in eight dads takes the lead with reading to their children” they say. Which is certainly a headline grabbing statistic (and one which has got coverage from the BBC and the Guardian among others) but let’s stop and think about it for a moment. What does it actually tell us? And was this the right question to be asking?

I put the question of who “takes the lead” with reading to the girls to Gemma, and after a slightly confused pause for thought, she answered “em, both of us?”. Which made me happy, because it meant I wasn’t overvaluing my own contribution! But if we both read equally, doesn’t that make me one of the 87% of dads who aren’t taking a lead? Does that mean I’m a bad dad?

It sounds like I’m bashing Booktrust here, but I’m not. I wholeheartedly approve of their campaign. By reading to me, and by reading themselves, my parents gave me a love of the written word that I’m keen to pass on to my own children. Enjoying books and reading for pleasure enriches life in so many ways, not least in improving literacy. Which, in an age where the internet is used for so much of our daily communication (news sites, emails, Facebook, Twitter etc), is arguably more important than ever.

There may well be a shortage of dads who read to their kids, and a campaign to encourage more dads to do so is to be applauded. I just wish they’d picked some better survey questions with which to launch it.

You can find out more about Booktrust’s Get Dads Reading campaign here. For parents of BOTH sexes, there’s also the Read It! Mummies and Daddies campaign going on over here.


This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Book review: Tiny Twisted Tales

Tiny Twisted Tales - Jenny, Pale Henry and Stuart the Bug Eating Man

Tiny Twisted Tales is a new series of books by Calvin Innes, telling weird and wonderful stories in a very humorous style. Each of the stories is named after its central character, and each has an important lesson to teach its readers.

There’s Stuart The Bug Eating Man, who loves to eat worms, spiders and insects, much to the disgust of his family. That is, until he figures out a way to use his unusual tastes to make the family rich.

Pale Henry tells of a young boy who doesn’t like to go outside and play with other children, preferring to hide himself away in the attic. Until one day he does venture outside, and discovers that it’s fun to play in the sun with others.

Rounding off the first 3 releases in the series (more are planned for the future) is Jenny, an eight year old girl with a secret double life: she hunts werewolves! In the story, Jenny catches a particularly large and scary werewolf, and ends up keeping if as a pet!

The books, all published by My Little Big Town, are aimed at primary school children and designed to make learning to read fun. And they most definitely are fun, with each twisted tale told in clever rhyme. The accompanying illustrations are great too, and really bring the stories to life.

I read these to my own little monsters, to see what they thought, and got a definite thumbs up. Heather’s favourite was definitely Stuart, which she’s asked me to read her several times. Her reaction to the description of Stuart’s meals was brilliant, with each horrible detail making her wriggle and squirm – just like the worms and bugs in the story! She obviously didn’t find them too horrible, though, because she asked to read them again straight way.

As for Megan, I think she liked Jenny the werewolf hunter the best. At least that’s my interpretation of her waving the book around and shouting “Jenny” at the top of her voice – impressive given her still limited vocabulary!

Definitely a hit though, and something different to the princess books I normally get asked to read to the girls! I’ll be keeping an eye out for new books appearing in the series.

Tiny Twisted Tales are published by My Little Big Town, and are available to buy from Amazon and other retailers. I was sent these items for review, but have not been paid for mentioning any of them in this post. All words and opinions are my own, and links have been included out of courtesy.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Does my bum look big in this?

Mr Greedy

BANNED: Mr Greedy

It’s no secret that 2012 has been the year of The Diet for me and Gem, something she’s been far better at chronicling than me. So far, between us we’ve lost just over 6 stone (that’s 84lb, or 38kg if you prefer) which is a fantastic achievement, and one we’re both more than happy with. I’m now lighter – and fitter – than I’ve been in about 15 years, and reaching the end of my weight loss journey. Gem has a bit further to go, though, but I’ll be supporting her every step of the way.

Over the past few months we’ve obviously discussed The Diet a fair amount, but have tried to be careful with how much the girls are exposed to it – for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because we don’t want to instill any unhealthy fears in them about their size.

Imagine my absolute horror, then, when the following incident occurred last week.

It was my turn to put Heather to bed, and as ever I let her pick which bedtime story she wanted. She chose Mr Greedy, a book which had been mine as a child. I know this, because over 30 years ago I’d written my name, address and age (5 1/2) on the title page.

Heather interrupted me on the first page, when as I read about Mr Greedy’s eating habits, and how they made him fatter. “You mustn’t say that Daddy, you mustn’t call someone fat” she said. This goes back to an incident a while back, when she described her Uncle Ian as a fatty. We told her it wasn’t nice to call people names, and that it wasn’t nice to call someone fat or a fatty. (Only later did we discover that Uncle Ian had described himself as a fatty to Heather – he got a telling off too!)

At this stage all was OK. It was at the end of the book, after Mr Greedy has learnt the error of his ways, that it all went horribly wrong. That was when Heather stood up, declared herself fat, pulled up her pyjama top and started pinching her sides to illustrate this. “See, Daddy? See?”

Of course I did my best to reassure her that she’s not fat (her height and weight are perfectly in proportion according to medical charts) and that she shouldn’t worry about things like that, but I was left feeling uneasy – was this something we’d caused? Has casual talk of smaller tummies and openly weighing ourselves in the bathroom created an unintentional monster?

And the most horrible question of all – if she’s already thinking about this stuff at 3, what problems are we going to face in the future?

Gem had a similar experience the following night, and again made the same reassuring noises I had. So it wasn’t an isolated incident. Oh dear.

We’re hoping it’s something that will disappear on its own. We’re being extra careful when we talk about weight/diets, and have taken the short-term step of removing Mr Greedy from Heather’s bookshelf. So far there has been no more mention of fatness from our eldest, which is a good thing. Long may it continue!

By complete coincidence, Gem came across this story (sorry, it’s on the D**ly M**l website!) about a new information pack about body image, which was published last week. Seemingly (I haven’t actually read the pack yet) it contains all manner of advice to educate kids about airbrushing, and not discuss diets or your own body concerns in front of them. It’s always easy to dismiss these things as nanny state meddling, and I’m sure there will be some advice in there that will seem ludicrous, but after last week’s incident I’m interested to read what the pack has to say. To that end I’ve searched and found the pack online, and am about to download it for myself. Maybe I’ll write a follow up piece when I have.

One thing I’ve already noticed, though, is that the pack is aimed at dealing with children a good bit older than Heather. And maybe that’s right, but based on my experiences I think body image should be added to the list of things us parents worry about from day one.


This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!