Monday 19 February 2018

The Saga of Noggin the Nog

We never cease to be impressed by the quality of children's programming at Kingston's Rose Theatre. Celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year, this fabulous, cosy and high quality theatre has provided some real gems in recent months. From West end touring productions to Saturday morning puppetry, we'd recommend a trip for all families. Spring sees a programme including Dahl's George's Marvellous Medicine and The Railway Children and What the Ladybird Heard at the end of May.                                      

Our most recent visit was to a production of the vintage children's classic, The Saga of Noggin the Nog. My mum remembers enjoying these comic characters as a child - the first episode of the British TV series aired in 1959. The loveable characters, inspired by the Lewis Chessmen at the British Museum, are 'Northmen' loosely based on Vikings, with Noggin ruling benevolently, and sometimes competently, as their king. There are however, many fantastical additions - dragons, talking birds, and miniature beings. 

Lewis Chessmen from Wiki Commons © Andrew Dunn
'In the Lands of the North where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, the Men of the Northlands sit around their great log fires and they tell a tale...'

The production covers two of these adventures. Firstly the attempted theft of Noggin's crown by his wicked Uncle Nogbad the Bad whilst Noggin is off getting married in a far away land.  Then a journey to the land of miniature people and a battle with the 'fearsome' ice dragon.

With an all male cast, the actors were hugely versatile, with imaginative costumes and great puppetry. The production was simple but funny and effective, and you certainly don't need to be acquainted with Noggin to thoroughly enjoy this performance. We weren't previously but we've since bought the DVD. It's also a great way in to discussing the real Vikings.

Jorvik Viking Centre from Wiki Commons
As a child I loved trips across to York, to the Castle Museum and also the immersive sights, sounds, smells, animatronics and all important moving car at the wonderful Jorvik Viking Centre. The museum is housed in the basement of a shopping centre as it remains on the site where a settlement was found. Its a great example of how rescue archaeology and creative thinking about the future of a site can boost tourism and education. Visitors can journey 6 metres underground to discover the remains of a Viking hearth and walls that made up the historic city. I haven't visited since their refurbishment following a devastating flood, but I can't wait to take the girls. Visits there certainly planted a seed for my future choice of reading archaeology at university. Museum Crush has also compiled a great list of museums around Britain where you can learn more about the Vikings - see here.

The Saga of Noggin the Nog is touring and information can be accessed on their Facebook Page.
Rose Theatre Upcoming Shows can be booked here.

Disclaimer: We received tickets to the show in exchange for an honest review. All views are our own. Images of the production used are courtesy of The Rose Theatre. Other images are from WikiCommons.

Tuesday 13 February 2018

You Can Never Run Out Of Love

Already the girls at 4 and 6 are coming home from school with Valentines cards, thankfully addressed to Mummy and Daddy. Their view of the whole event is that it is a day for showing people how much we love them. In many ways that would be much nicer than the exclusive emphasis we currently place on the day for couples. Last year I wrote a post with activities and a selection of books about love for little people and there have been such gorgeous publications on the theme over the last few months that a sequel is certainly in order. For the very young, here's our Valentine's sensory basket too. You can find out what scrumptiously tactile materials to throw into the mix here.

You Can Never Run Out of Love by Helen Docherty and Ali Pye

This lovely book has been read and re-read in our household. Both girls love the rhythmic text, the sweet illustrations and the message, that whatever you run out of from food to energy, to socks, from time and money to patience and ideas - you can never run out of love. "Love doesn't come in a bottle or jar. It's right there inside you, wherever you are. You don't have to charge it. No batteries inside. Your love can be big, as the whole world is wide..." At the crux of the book is the central message that love grows when it is given. When you've run out of everything else, you'll still find... you can never run out of love. Long may our girls believe this.

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal

Sometimes a title drops through the post that in its own original way gets a message so right that you have to shout about it. This is one of those books. Words and Your Heart is a little book about the amazing power of words, to harm or to build others up. Our words are powerful, they are important, because the words that go into our ears can really affect our hearts too. Just as the words of others can make us happy or want to sing (or make us cry), our words can also pierce someone else's heart - the little bit of them that makes them, them. Our words are so powerful that they can change the way someone's heart feels - our words can make someone who feels weak, feel stronger. The book exorts us to choose to use our words to look after the hearts of others. It's a really important message for school children - teachers have even reported a change in the culture of their classroom after sharing it with their students. It's just as crucial for us as parents. This is one of those books I'll buy for others, and I have a copy to send to school.

How to Say I Love You in Five Languages by Kenard Pack

This cute interactive primer arrived this week, alongside a counting version, and the girls have been busy experimenting with it. With buttons to press, we are taught how to say "I love you" in English, French, Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin. The girls' school does French and Mandarin from reception so they have particularly enjoyed hearing these and looking at the simple phrases such as "You are my friend". Noisy books are always fun and this title from Wide Eyed Editions lives up to their usual high quality quirky standards.

The Poesy Ring, A Love Story by Bob Graham

When we were married, we both selected Georgian rings. Men's rings of this age are tricky to find as many have been melted down. Ours perhaps survived because of its inscription on the inside 'Love Ever'. It's a Poesy ring - these were given at engagement or marriage and often had inscriptions like ours on the inside. This tale is therefore particularly apt as it traces a journey to the present day of a ring carrying the phrase 'love never dies'. The book begins with a ship sailing away onto the horizon and a teary rider galloping away. A ring is discarded, tumbling into a meadow and settling there with only animals for company for season after season. In time it was found by a boy and placed in his pocket with an acorn, then again it is lost: the acorn becomes a magnificent tree - the ring its hidden neighbour. As the seasons continue to turn the ring becomes wedged in a deer's hoof, is ploughed through soil, carried by birds and dropped into the sea. Eventually found in the belly of a fish, it is finally sold, to be bought by a couple in need of an engagement ring. It's a happy ending for the ring - it finally fulfils its purpose. Love is always there, Bob Graham tells us, it just needs to be found.

Oskar and Mo by Britta Teckentrup

Last year I wrote about Britta Teckentrup's adorable creation Oskar. Her stunning illustrations and lyrical language and description have ensured that these gorgeous books will be future classics. From the the smell of spring to sweet red cherries, losing himself in books to the silence of snow, Oskar gives us a glimpse into the simple beauty and pleasures in life. Now Oskar returns and he has a best friend Mo. "Oskar loves Mo, and Mo loves Oskar. They are the best of friends." From their favourite place where they share all their secrets, to activities they love to share together, their friendship ensures that the night doesn't seem so dark, the rain so bleak. Even though at times they disagree, they always make up. This is simple and perfect friendship, and the book itself is a work of art.

The Snow Lion by Jim Helmore and Richard Jones

The Snow Lion is a beautifully illustrated story about making new friends and growing in confidence. Caro and her mum move to a new house, and Caro wishes she has someone to play with. Then one day, she hears a deep gentle voice suggesting a game of hide and seek. The voice belongs to a snow-white lion, invisible against the white walls of the home, who becomes both playmate but also quiet encourager - suggesting that Caro ventures out and plays with other children - he will always be there when she returns. As her world becomes more and more filled with colour, her first playmate recedes, but as he reminds her, he will always still be there if she needs him. She knows where to look...

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling by Timothy Basil Ering

This unusual little book, somehow rather classic looking in its execution but original in the story it tells, talks of the power of falling in love with your passions in life, and in particular with music. Captain Alfred was sailing home with his dog, ducks for his farm and an egg- a precious gift for his wife. Then a storm comes and the boat is wrecked, and floating offshore in a violin case the egg cracks and Alfred Fiddleduckling emerges alone. The first real companion he sees floating by is the violin and Alfred takes hold of it and embraces it with all his heart. In return the object responds with the most beautiful sound he ever heard. They drift wave after wave through the fog, until they land safe ashore. It is this unlikely love story that leads the others, following the exquisite and familiar music, home too at last. It's a joyful tale about finding your gift.

Odd Couples. One Word Two Meanings by Mirja Winkelmann

Finally an unusual Valentines title from quirky art publisher Prestel. This mainly wordless book brings together unusual pairings of images, united by the one word that describes them. Words such as bark, ring, crane, tank, fly or sole are depicted in their odd couplings. It's a great book for getting little ones to think differently. Perfect for propping up on the breakfast table and discussing.

Disclaimer: We received copies of the books over the last few months for the purposes of a review. I only write about the books that I love. There are all fabulous.

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