Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A real page-turner

22 Responses

  • Ian MacKay,

    A charming read. Thankyou. I read to my two sons from the time they were a few weeks old until they were 11-12 years old and we loved it. My now 23 year old son is almost obsessed with books and spends every spare dollar on them. As a teacher, I say you are so right to enjoy his version of language as sadly his originality and freshness will be squeezed out of him. The system will see to that. Thanks anyway.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    One night only a few months ago, checking to see that all was well upstairs, I heard a little voice chatting away from a darkened room. Peeking through the crack in the door I could see Busyboy hunched over a book, holding his dim night-light up to the page and tracing the words with all the focus of a man breaking the Enigma Code.

    This reminds me somewhat of my younger brother, who (unlike your boy) was an extremely reluctant reader - Footrot Flats was the real key to his literacy. Those cartoons taught him everything from what life might have been like for our dad growing up on a farm to where babies come from. For ages, it was the only thing he'd read.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    So yes, thank you Murray Ball for services to literacy in the greater New England area!

    Allow me to recommend Mrs Windyflax and the Punga People, words by Barry Crump, pictures by Murray Ball (we have a copy signed by Barry Crump!). It is a wonderful book of verse for parents, and then kids, to read. Jimmy got so he could do the whole thing by rote, intonation and all (we subsequentlly realised this was a sign of his particular neurological state of being).

    He reserves this high-voltage word for very very bad people indeed, like President Bush, the s----- president who started the s----- war.

    I'm quite sensitive about this, not wanting to feel like I'm indoctrinating my child. But Leo gets most of it from in-game chat and the like. Mr Bush's image is unflattering out there in cyberkid land, big time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I read My Brown Bear Barney by Dorothy Butler to my eldest daughter the day she was born, and we haven't stopped since, 'though these days we mostly read to her younger sisters. I didn't read to them the day they were born, but only because it was about 8pm at night before they finally arrived - I made up for it the next day.

    My eldest daughter is a voracious reader. We find it hard to keep her supplied with books, but that's a good problem to have. It was very exciting watching her become an independent reader of chapter books, but the precipitating books were a noxious series of seven books called The Rainbow Fairies. Six and seven year old girls love them. Ruby the red fairy, Fern the green fairy, Violet the indigo fairy etc. were so successful that the author, the improbably named Daisy Meadows, has followed up with the 'Days of the Week Fairies', the 'Jewel Fairies', the 'Party Fairies', the 'Pet Fairies', and so on. Each set of seven flimsy little books (about 50 pages of biggish print, sold for about $10 each) is lapped up by eager little girls. The one redeeming feature of the books is that girls seems to launch themselves into being real readers on the back of them.

    Nevertheless, so revolting and saccharine are these books, that we have been tempted to launch our own series of seven.... The Sin Fairies. There would be the lust fairy, the greed fairy, the envy fairy, the anger fairy..... much more entertaining. Although possibly not quite so suitable for little girls.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Those cartoons taught him everything from what life might have been like for our dad growing up on a farm to where babies come from.

    Er, yes. All those cartoons with Cyril the reluctant ram, or Dolores the ravenous sow, or indeed Jess the bitch with the little love-hearts floating up off her... Haven't fielded any detailed questions yet but I expect them any day now. Farm kids (and parents) have such an advantage there!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    As a teacher, I say you are so right to enjoy his version of language as sadly his originality and freshness will be squeezed out of him.

    I fear so. And yet, his Dad is a tireless coiner of words and user of curious turns of phrase, some of which have entered the vernacular, so we live in hope. I remember seeing heads turn when a two-ish Busytot said, after an expecially messy cup of cocoa, "Daddy, would you please wipe my muzzle?"

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Mrs Windyflax and the Punga People

    My Brown Bear Barney

    [scribbling frantically, always keen for recommendations]

    The Rainbow Fairies

    [reaches for bucket] You poor thing. They sound vile. We've suffered a similar phenom with Captain Underpants, which get pretty wearing long after you've realised that the truly cool thing about them is the author's underdog story (punished at school for writing Captain Underpants comic books; grows up to be prize-winning author and write Captain Underpants comic books that make fun of bad teachers, hooray!). But yeah, as you say, any old gateway drug will do if it gets them onto the good stuff eventually. I whiled away my teens reading unmentionably bad science fiction, not even the good stuff, and it didn't do me any harm :-)

    I'd definitely buy the Sin Fairies. And you never know, they might appeal to kids... to the copyright office, quick!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    I'm quite sensitive about this, not wanting to feel like I'm indoctrinating my child.

    I'm with you on this - he mostly got it from the Hurricane Katrina coverage and figuring things out for himself. We try to be mild-mannered and even-handed with answers to self-generated questions, including the unanswerable "Why is he President, anyway?"

    But Leo gets most of it from in-game chat and the like. Mr Bush's image is unflattering out there in cyberkid land, big time.

    Yep. And you should hear the trash talk on the playground. Man... really harsh, like "That President Bush, he'll never be on a dollar bill!" BAM! Take that, GW!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Leigh Kennaway,

    coming soon to Public Address.... BusyTotBlog.... the musings of a young man on playground politics, sand pit games, bed time story critiques and other pertinant issues of the day.

    the precipitating books were a noxious series of seven books called The Rainbow Fairies. Six and seven year old girls love them.

    Yep, my twin god-daughters are very fond of these too. When they were born, their sensible, liberal modern parents announced that O & I would be bought up free of sexual stereotyping, unencumbered by traditional gender roles. As soon as they were old enough to express an opinion, their choice of clothing/toys/decor was FAIRY PRINCESS PINK all the way.

    Fortunately they are now going through the Pony Club phase; the obsession being so great they almost think they are horses themselves. The good part of this is that horses eat lots of apples and carrots and stuff, so their vegetable intake has increased exponetially!!

    Western Bays • Since Feb 2007 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Jonty,

    My partner has an hilarious collection of sayings of our daughter when she was the age of Busyboy. Back in the days before we joined the settled folk and were still wandering in our house on wheels; when the traffic dept was separate from the police and were easily identifiable with their black and white cars, my daughter, seated snugly between us, could be heard to say: "Look out, Dad, there's a trackit osser up ahead".

    Katikati • Since Mar 2007 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    coming soon to Public Address.... BusyTotBlog.... the musings of a young man on playground politics, sand pit games, bed time story critiques and other pertinant issues of the day.

    Its never too early to start blogging. My 7 yr old has a page on blogspot that he updates sporadically. We encourage him to use it to develop his writing skills, so he puts in posts about stuff he's done in school and games he likes and suchlike, mostly one or two line posts, but it warms my geeky little heart to see it.

    Plus, I'm right with you on the reading to, and being read to by, kids. The oldest had Cat in the Hat by heart early on in the piece, helped by the living book computer game (I do recommend the living books - we have green eggs & ham and Mercer Mayer's Grandma & Me as well, both kids love 'em).

    As I mentioned in the Transformer thread, one of the oldest's first words was "transformers", but it took us a few weeks to work out what the "traps oommers" he was talking about were.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    When they were born, their sensible, liberal modern parents announced that O & I would be bought up free of sexual stereotyping, unencumbered by traditional gender roles

    I was bound & determined to raise my baby girls with matchbox cars & lego, but was thwarted when we had boys instead. In the end the only restriction I insisted on, and came even close to enforcing was - no Barney, ever. Any relative or friend who asked what the sprogs might like for a pressie was told " anything but Barney - that stuff gives kids diabetes". It worked, mostly, I think one Barney DVD snuck in under the radar, but they've only watched it once, and have shown no interest in it since, they'd rather watch the Wombles or the Wiggles.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Jolisa, a lovely, lovely post as per usual. On the reading to kids thing, I once spent a day with Margaret Mahy at the Storylines festival here in Auckland. I was supposed to shepherd her hither and thither, and failed dismally. Anyway, the one thing she said to me that stuck (apart from "I'll stay here as long as that queue of people wants their book signed" thereby meaning our time management was completely kaput) was that parents should read to their children every night until the child is at least 12 years old. The way she put it was that until they are at least that age, you can take them places their imagination would never go left to their own reading devices. Wonderful. As a kindergarten teacher, and having observed the prereading behaviours of many poppets, it is certainly a bit of an osmotic process helped along by good reading modelling by family. I would suggest you also check out the musings of Gill Connell for toddlerboy. She's introduced a system called Perceptual Motor Programming. It makes very interesting reading indeed. http://www.movingsmart.co.nz/Home

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Russell Hoban's The Mouse and his Child is good to read aloud. Also quite a few Dahl's are good: we've got a tape of Fantastic Mr Fox the kids have listened to again and again. But there are many others.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2109 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    My wife is really enjoying reading our five year old some of her old favourites by Enid Blyton. Particularly "The Faraway Tree" series and "The Wishing Chair". They are a bit "jolly hockeysticks" and "Oh no! Mother will be very cross if we are late for tea!" but that is part of the charm and otherness of them I reckon.

    The child in question is obsessed with all things technical and factual, so his favourites are "Incredible Cross-Sections" (exploded technical diagrams of ships, tanks, oil rigs, coal mines etc), "How things are made", "A History of Planes, Cars and Trains", "Spiders", "Sharks", "Bugs", "Whales and Dolphins" etc.

    Probably too late for elder child, but just about any Pamela Allen is worth a look.

    Here is listing from Angus and Roberston

    My own favourites are "Waddle Giggle Gargle", "Daisy All Sorts" (with the immortal line "Licky sticky love kisses"), "Belinda" and "The Potato People". I didn't know she is a Kiwi .. we're everywhere.

    Of course Lynley Dodd is a must I think. "Sniff Snuff Snap" has lovely rhythm and I really like "Slinky Malinki" for the same reason.

    Enough with the virtuous stuff .. take a look at Crayon Physics. It is a crazily simple game that we have spent an hour playing so far and we've only had it one day! The best bit is at the end where you just get to goof around. Our three year old thought it was brilliant -- she just made heaps and heaps of shapes and blew them all up ... sort of. Take a look and you'll see what I mean.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Venetia King,

    Just had a d'oh moment... re-reading several days later, finally figured out that squerp'yens might be scorpions. Fantastic.

    If you like the sound of Sin Fairies you and your son(s) might enjoy Ferocious the Puppy Dragon. It was one of my favourites - I always want to recommend it, but most of my friends' kids aren't old enough readers yet.

    For a bit of Kiwi flavour Down in the Forest is a lovely counting book; and the Avis Acres Hutu and Kawa stories are pretty gorgeous - maybe a bit wordy, but with underlying conservation messages that seem awfully modern for stories written the fifties.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 117 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    Russell Hoban's The Mouse and his Child is good to read aloud.

    Still remember my mother encouraging me to read The Mouse and His Child before we went to the movie. Such a bad habit to get children into! Sets them up for a lifetime of disappointments... That said, the movie of TM&HC is quite good. Also had the vaguely unreal experience of surfing past Ithaca's public access cable channel one Christmas and seeing a woman sitting on a chair reading it aloud. For all I know that was their entire day's programming.

    Russell Hoban is excellent for children's books in general - great dialog, characters that feel real. I particularly like Dinner At Alberta's. It's out of print, I think, but there are definitely secondhand copies to be had. The Frances series is also a lot of fun.

    Amy "what I am / is full of jam" Gale

    (Disclaimer: I don't have children.)

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I'm on jury duty next week, but I'll have a poke around at work Jolisa and see what other childrens' gems we can dig up - after all, being a kindergarten teacher, you'd think I'd be able to immediately think of some great contemporary classic childrens books, wouldn't you?. I'm very partial to the Arthur books - written by Amanda Graham - and Edward the Emu (there's another book too about Edwina the Emu) by Sheena Knowles. Lovely, lovely books both. The Owl Babies is beautiful. I suspect the list could go on and on!

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    So many great titles! Am madly jotting them down. We've had fun with the Magic Faraway Tree books too. Say what you like about Enid Blyton's deathless prose, but anyone who can invent a magic tree with a super fast slippery spiral SLIDE inside, for speedy exits from dramatic situations, deserves maximum respect.

    I love Russell Hoban's Frances, too. Mainly because she's not always very good, or clever. She won't eat dinner. She doesn't like her baby sister. She hops out of bed after her parents put her back. Keepin' it real.

    Speaking of which, Astrid Lindgren's two books about "Noisy Village" have been a major hit as we get ready for the Iceland trip (I know, she's a Swede, but it's good stuff). All the kids do is walk to school and back and have various mild-mannered adventures in the course of a year. But again, there's a tree - one they can use for climbing from one upstairs bedroom to the upstairs bedroom in the next house! - and a dog and an invalid grandpa and some busy parent and just lots and lots of pottering around outside. It's blowing big brother's mind up, to use one of his favourite phrases...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Squerp'yens might be scorpions

    Bingo! Scary whichever way you spell 'em!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    Ooo! Oooo! Moomintroll!

    (But not the book that's like a cross between a drug trip and a depressive episode. Just the ones about jungles growing inside and so forth.)

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Jackie, I'm fascinated by the link to Moving Smart. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that there are multiple dimensions to being "smart" and learning. And also that different children will respond to different approaches.

    This reminds me of a visit to my big boy's school earlier this year. They had a school dad from Guinea doing a drumming-and-dance session with several classes of kids in the gym. Awesome movement and music: his son was drumming (brilliantly) while the dad was showing the children the dance moves.

    What caught my eye was one lad from my son's class, who is generally a spacy kind of kid, has a hard time settling down and following instructions. In the (stupid, IMO) 'traffic light' disciplinary system they run in this school, this poor guy is almost always 'on red' and thus missing out on play options and recess.

    But there he was in the school gym, not only doing the dance moves and performing them with fluid genius, but he was getting them instantly, without even stopping to figure out which arm or leg to use or which direction to whirl around in. He and the dancing dad were entirely in synch. It was astonishing - especially against the backdrop of several dozen randomly uncoordinated little kids doing their best to keep up.

    I looked around to make sure that someone, anyone, one of the teachers, was seeing what I was seeing: a child possessed of physical genius. A child routinely dismissed as unable to learn, and badly behaved. A couple did, which is heartening.

    It's interesting to note that the boy in question is African American - so he's already fighting an uphill battle to make it through his first year with his self-esteem intact, let along make it through school in one piece.

    I dunno where I'm going with this -- just in the general direction of a more flexible approach to "success" in the classroom, I guess. And a more intuitive and productive way of understanding children's behaviour and coaching them into the reading and writing that they will all need...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

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