Babysitters are a childhood rite of passage, but few of us will ever have one like Marge!
In Marge in Charge, Jemima is a seven-year-old who tells us about her new babysitter.
The new babysitter, Marge, is a bit offbeat, but Jemima and her brother Jake love her. At first she looks a lot like the quintessential, old lady, grandma-esque babysitter:
“She is wearing a little woolly hat and reading glasses. Her face looks serious too and I worry that she will be strict … She has a big round belly and skinny legs with knees as knobbly as twigs.”
But, as soon as Mum and Dad leave, Jake & Jemima discover that Marge is really quite extraordinary.
“…Marge pulls off her hat. Guess what’s underneath? Long colourful hair that falls halfway down her back! Green, blue, orange, res and yellow hair like a waterfall of colour.”
Marge has a unique approach to rules – she adds to them, massages them into something more palatable and twists and turns them around until a riotously good time is had by all.
She's all about fun. And that makes Jemima a bit nervous – Jemima is a rule follower. She worries that the kitchen is messy, she’s nervous about going to a birthday party, she frets about the mischief Marge could make when she comes to school for the day.
But Jemima loves Marge – life is full of excitement and surprise when Marge is around. She does hilarious things like accidentally using hair dye as a face mask.
And she fills a water pistol with apple juice. It’s the stuff of kid fantasy – a babysitter with wilder ideas than they could come up with themselves!
Marge in Charge is hilarious fun for early readers and for younger children to listen to. There are three quick stories in this first volume – they’re a great length to read aloud in one sitting of around half an hour - here's why you'll love them:
Marge is giggle-inducing, mildly shocking fun! There are all sorts of outlandish laugh-out-loud funnies, such as the glorious moment that a pancake falls on Marge’s head; she pours syrup on to it and the kids eat it up, right off the top of her head.
Marge and her antics do a great job of showing that it’s possible to be safe and secure and still be well and truly out of your comfort zone.
Jemima is constantly out of her comfort zone, but she loves Marge, relishes every moment and has a terrific time - all because she's embracing the very things that made her nervous. Things like the house becoming a disaster zone right before her parents were due home! (Jemima and Jake scurry around and clean it up and all is well.)
It’s a great example of embracing uncertainty and still valuing your own needs.
Marge isn’t constrained by rules. For some children that’s a really hard thing to come to terms with – some children simply love rules and look for a rule for every situation. That’s awesome when you want to keep to a strict bedtime routine, but not so great when it comes to standing up to authority or making individual decisions.
Marge in Charge is about breaking rules and still achieving the desired result. (Marge makes broccoli dessert and Jake ends up eating it without a fuss, which is most unusual.)
Names in this book - Jemima, Jake, Marge, Theo
The Deltora Quest craze (an underground island kingdom where the people are half fish) is running into its sixteenth year at our house! Even though we’re all well and truly outside the target age range now, we still pounce on anything new, including recently the Star of Deltora series.
When the craze was in full swing, I’d often serve up Molisk patties (a.k.a. sea-weedy fishy sort of things) for dinner, as per:
“ ‘Here are rugs to keep you warm while you rest,’ she chattered. ‘And bread – freshly baked – with hot Molisk patties. I am sure you are hungry.’
She put down a basket of flat speckled rolls and a bowl of steaming objects that looked like green meatballs. Suddenly aware that they were ravenous, the companions helped themselves. … The patties were delicately flavoured and melted on the tongue.”
- (from Deltora Quest 2 The Isle of Illusion)
The patties I cooked up were neither delicately flavoured nor melt-on-the-tongue. But they were always a hit because they connected real life with that engrossing, fantasy world.
Books about food are like that – we feel connected even though the food might not be the focal point of the story. There’s just something delicious about sharing a food experience with characters from a well-loved book. So here are 8 picture books that invite us into the world of food, some explicitly and some subtly, but all full of flavour.
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert – a simple and vivid picture book, ideal for young children. The vegetable soup in this story starts as a packet of seeds. There’s a recipe in the back too, if you’ve never made vegetable soup before.
I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child – of all the Charlie and Lola books I think this is my favourite. As always, Charlie helps his funny little sister Lola to see the light as he helps her move past a long list of food she will not eat.
P.P.S. If you’re a Deltora family too, and would like to try out Molisk patties, here’s how we made them:
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
a good handful of finely chopped silverbeet or spinach
½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 can white beans, rinsed and mashed
1 ¼ cups wholewheat flour
1 can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
Dash of tabasco (but I’d probably try a bit of sriracha instead now)
Just mix it all together and cook like pancakes, then top with sour cream, chopped tomatoes, avocado, grated cheese, toasted seeds etc etc.
Fairytales are not just for kids - the Once Upon Time series is also great for older readers. It's a collection of the most popular fairytales, published by Simon & Schuster and written by various authors. Each author chooses their fairytale and gives it their own unique and often quite unusual twist.
perfect for teen readers, 12 and up
Set in Australia - Amazing Animals is great non-fiction, with cross generational appeal. There are lots of quick facts to grab, plus longer passages of information, both chock full of interesting information.
ages 2 years to adult
When Angus was close to due and I was looking at a few nights in hospital with my hands full of baby, I decided to dive in and give audio books a try. It was a great decision! While I still love traditional reading (really, nothing compares), I've discovered that there's room for more than one kind of book in my life - I've listed three reasons, maybe you'll relate?Read More
Zelda is a chook with a dream. She wants to be the first chicken in space - she does it too! And, like The Little Red Hen, Zelda has to do all the work herself. But Zelda is not just intrepid, she's generous too.
ages 2 to 8 years
Set in Canada. Waiting for the Whales makes a really nice stepping stone to family storytelling. It’s about a grandfather living a simple life of gardening and watching the seasons. It's a picture book to prompt one's own family stories – leading easily to thoughts, memories and 'after' conversations.
ages 4 to 12 years
A poignant look at living with the demons of anxiety and profound unhappiness. Small things lead to the demons that beset a young man, and small things lead to overcoming them. A lovely meditation on the impact small things can have.
ages 10 years to adult
One book each to help us know and feel what it is to be a refugee: certain that there was no choice but to leave, yet living a life devoid of sureness. Both are beautiful to look at, both tell personal stories respectfully and without compromise.
The Journey for the child is for ages 6 years to adult
Alphabet books are great for reinforcing alphabetical order and connecting sounds with words. And the art is often brilliant. What Pete Ate from A-Z is both of those, and it's a story too!
ages 2 to 8 years