Book Review: I Can’t Sleep, by Stephanie Blake

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_i_cant_sleepMy son has recently re-discovered Simon the rabbit (or is that Poo Bum?) and all six of the books that we have are currently on the ‘read every night’ list. Alex likes them because they have the words poo and fart in them, and because Simon is a little bit like him. Set in his ways, prone to stubborn fits of determination, but ultimately brave and clever!

This year’s instalment in the series is I Can’t Sleep, and it is a sweet story of sibling dependence. Simon’s brother’s name has changed from Gaspard to Caspar, which made doubt my memory, but other than that, this is one of my favourite books in the series.

Simon and Caspar have played all day, building a ‘STUPENDOUS’ hut, and they are settling down to sleep, but suddenly… Caspar recalls that he has left his toy rabbit outside! Oh no! Simon tries to explain why blanky needs to stay out there overnight, but Caspar gets more and more upset. This is shown in a comic-book style of illustration, with several frames showing the build-up of frustration. Finally, Simon gets his Super-Rabbit cape and goes outside to get it.

Will the blanky be there? Will the monster get Simon before he gets back inside? Will their parents hear him as he is going out the front door? You’ll have to read this one to find out.

I like this instalment in the Simon series for its empathy. Simon is forced to think of somebody other than himself for a change, and manages to work it to his advantage, with Caspar left in awe of Simon’s bravery. The sort of ‘face your fears and do it anyway’ theme is frequently seen in picture books, but empathy isn’t as prominent as a theme, so well done to Blake for doing it so relatably.

ICan'tSleep_TreeAlex & I also realised that the design of this book is very clever. He likes to select his favourite pages by colour, which as the reader I hadn’t noticed was different for each page. Something that kids who aren’t focused on the words will see, of course. Then, we spotted that the words on most pages are in the shape of a tree or bush – in my favourite spread (above), mimicking the illustration on the right-hand side. Clever!

The son who loves them is off to school for his first visit next week: he has been reading and reading I don’t want to go to School, and I think he might be ready.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

I Can’t Sleep!
by Stephanie Blake
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571642

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Book Review: I want spaghetti! by Stephanie Blake

Available in bookshops nationwide – and worldwidecv_i_want_spaghetti

Author and illustrator Stephanie Blake was born in 1968 in the US, but lives in Paris, France. She has created dozens of French children’s books including Poo Bum, Stupid Baby, A Deal’s a Deal and I Don’t Want to Go to School. Lucky for us, Gecko Press have translated these books into English.

The problem with writing a children’s book as successful as Poo Bum is trying to follow it with something as funny. Even Simon Pegg tweeted about how much he liked Poo Bum, and let’s face it, there’s no higher praise. In this instalment, the cheeky little rabbit called Simon has a spaghetti addiction! The book does not disappoint. With simple and colourful illustrations, Blake tells a story of gentle persuasion. Simon the little rabbit is determined to only eat one thing … spaghetti! His parents, though, have other ideas.

Simon the rabbit could often be a stand-in for my own child, and I think many parents will feel this when reading Blake’s funny and sweet book. In I want spaghetti! Simon is coy, cheeky, and plain demanding: ‘His mother said, “Come and eat your toast, my little rabbit,” he replied, “Yuck! It’s horrible. I won’t eat it!”’ As the mother of a child who demanded ginger kisses for breakfast this morning, I identify with mother rabbit standing patiently in her son’s bedroom, a heart stitched onto her long pink dressing gown.

What’s wonderful about these books is they help both parents and children to talk about difficult behaviour. They’re funny, and acting out the dialogue is funny: ‘Slam! Crash! Bang! “ALL I WANT IS SPAGHETTI”’, rages Simon. Helping a child laugh about their own fussy eating and fickleness helps address the big emotions that come with these situations. I also think the books help parents laugh about these things too, which can be hard to do when your child is lying on the floor, eyes squeezed shut, and calling for ginger kisses. I can’t wait to see what Simon (and his parents) do next.

Reviewed by Sarah Jane Barnett

I want spaghetti!
by Stephanie Blake
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781927271926