Tag Archives: 3 years and up

Who are these groovy elephants in my house? I blame the Elephantom!

In 2013,  the National Theatre created a new show for the Shed, a place where we had already seen a brilliant version of Romeo and Juliet.  Because we’d really enjoyed our experience in this venue, I was a bit sad that the busy festive season meant we could not see the Elephantom. At the time, I remember seeing the bright blue elephant on posters around town and thinking how joyously cheeky this giant pachyderm looked.

The show is based on Ross Collin’s book the Elephantom that I refrained from reading before the show. Why? Simply  because I  did not want us to have any expectations. That being said, it became clear that we were part of a minority once in the London New Theatre since most of the children around us not only knew the story very well, but some had even brought their favourite toy elephant(s)!

This show revolves around a little girl whose house becomes haunted by a big fat elephantom. At first, because her parents seem too busy and too self-absorbed, she is delighted to have a new companion. However things degenerate quickly and the elephant’s tricks start  to get her in trouble. Her parents, who are obviously incapable of seeing the elephantom, can only notice the havoc it causes and blame her. The family’s well-oiled morning routine is impeccably rendered by the live music and the actors’ impressive choreography. As a result, it is both a shock and a delight when things start to unravel as the elephant tries to pour tea over the mother’s head or steals the parents’s toasts. But the worst for the little girl and the best (for us anyway) is still to come since the elephantom invites his buddies for a crazy party which turns the house upside down!

The Elephantom at New London theatre


This fiesta had my children dancing on their seats to the tunes of Mc Hammer’s Can’t Touch This and Dee Lite’s Groove is in the Heart and  there were many other kids who, like them, could barely refrain from joining the four giant elephants dancing around the theatre!

The second part of the show, when the little girl gets her grandmother to help her deal with the increasingly disruptive and fast growing elephantom, was a little bit nebulous for my four year old son. He did not seem to understand why she was looking for a shop offering ghost removal services, or how the box she was to take home was going to help. My older daughter however loved seeing the little girl fly and jump over obstacles carried by the multi-talended actors/puppeteers.  She was full of questions about the making of the puppet and, once at home, we enjoyed watching this video showing the making of the show, the rehearsals, and the work that the actors have put in. And of course, since then we’ve been re-enacting the crazy disco and pretending we are big and clumsy elephants!

I can’t help but wonder but how my children did not even notice that there was barely any dialogue. Anyone (regardless of their language ability) could see this show and enjoy it thanks to Adam Pleeth’s live music, the brilliantly animated puppet and the magic character of this story. For another (happy) take on the show, read Sarah McIntyre’s post after her visit at the Shed, and expect at least another couple of posts about elephants on this blog in the near future.

La Tour Eiffel a des ailes, or the day the Eiffel Tower decided to take off

L’idée de départ de ce très chouette album grand format est simple. Un jour la tour Eiffel décide qu’elle  a envie, comme les touristes qui la prennent en photo à longueur de journée, de voir du pays. Elle décide alors d’attendre la nuit pour prendre la poudre d’escampette et découvrir les prairies de Normandie et la mer. Pas facile cependant de faire trempette quand on a un corps d’acier aussi lourd que 1500 éléphants et qu’on mesure 324 mètres! Et puis surtout il lui faut se dépècher après une nuit mouvementée pour réapparaître fidèle au poste dés 9h du matin et tenir jusqu’au soir du 14 Juillet qui se termine en fanfare sous les feux d’artifices.

Mymi Doinet and Aurélien Débat forment dans cet album un duo très efficace. Les illustrations sont pleines d’humour et les teintes bleues et grises évocatrices de l’architecture du centre de Paris. L’arc de triomphe (grogron), la fête nationale et les coureurs du tour de France donneront l’occasion aux lecteurs plus agés de discuter des symboles associés à la capitale et à la France plus généralement. Nathan propose même une fiche d’exploration-découverte très détaillée même si un peu scolaire à mon goût. L’histoire me donnerait plutôt envie de siffloter Paris s’éveille de Dutronc ou de revoir Playtime le superbe film  d’un autre Jacques célèbre (Tati).

Mes deux enfants adorent voir la tour Eiffel gambader dans les prairies et revenir presqu’incognito dans ses quartiers généraux. Même si la série s’adresse aux jeunes lecteurs, je pense que tout enfant de 3 ans (ou plus) peut apprécier les aventures loufoques et coquines de la dame de fer. Et qui sait peut être peut-on espérer une suite à ses aventures vues ses envies de prendre l’air?





In this fun book the Eiffel Tower itches to go and visit places she’s never been to in France. So one night, she decides to run away to go for her first dip in the sea near the Normandie region. After jumping over the roofs of the city, she finally reaches her destination and enjoys a few hours of freedom (and some adventures) away from the capital city. But quick, quick she needs to get back to her day job before people notice that she has disappeared! She makes it just in time and dutifully stays put for the fireworks on Bastille day.

In this great album, your kid will learn fun facts about the Eiffel Tower, discover that if she wanted to, she could easily find a different day-job (or maybe I should say night-job) and you will no doubt wonder where her next adventure will take her.




Claude our favorite French dog, but is he really?

We read our first Claude: Claude and the City about three years ago as an inspired librarians had displayed it with a bunch of other books recommended for early readers. I suspect my daughter, who was then 5, picked it up partly because it was long enough to look like a paperback, which to her was what grown ups read, so something she should aspire to. But this random pick turned out to be a great discovery for the two of us! After all what’s not to like about a smart and cheeky dog, who loves cakes and wears a stylish red beret?!

So when my son picked up Claude at the Circus on a recent visit to our local independent bookseller, it was like being re-united with an old friend.C. particularly loves Claude’s sidekick, Mr Bobblysock, who may smell a bit like cheese but who can always be relied on in an emergency.

I love the retro feel of Alex T. Smith’s illustrations and the humour of his books. For some reason (maybe the colour palette) they remind me of Ian Falconer’s Olivia, another quirky and cheeky character. To me, all the Claude books are a delight to read aloud, and it is fun to see how little people instantly recognize his knowing grin when he thinks about lovely buns or pretends to be asleep after he’s come back home just on time to fool his owners, Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes.

As to his French flair, what can I say?! I am biased! He wears his red beret with elegance and uses it as a fantastic stash for things he needs. He can tap dance but does not like to stretch much. And he loves a good cup of tea and a nap in the park, two of my favourite things… So if you need to polish your French before your next holiday or if you’d like a good laugh, go to your library or buy one of Alex T. Smith’s Claude books, I promise you, you will not regret it.

Additional ressources:

  • Want to know how to draw Claude? Follow this easy tutorial!
  • Want to polish your French? Why go for Berlitz or Lonely Planet when you have Claude’s essential phrasebook?


  • Finally British Readers, next time you’re stuck for ideas when your child asks you for a costume the day before World Book day: think Claude! Red beret (which can be knitted in an evening, I swear) red sweater and you’re good to go!


Hey you, did you poo on my head?

I bought Werner Holzwarth and Wolf’s Erlbruch’s book The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it was None of his Business well before any of my children could read. If I remember well I bought it when pregnant with my first child based on the recommendation of my Norwegian friend, who said it was one of her daughter’s favourites.

The version I have is in French, but it’s been translated from German into many languages as it is considered one of the classics of ‘crap literature’. One day as the little mole pops her head out, she gets pooped on by an unidentified animal. Indignant, she goes on a quest to find the culprit and get revenge. Her quest leads her to question a pigeon, a horse, a rabbit, a goat, a cow, a pig, and finally two expert flies who confirm that she needs to look for a dog.

Now this story is fun and engaging, not only because all kids from the age of say approximately two to six love talking about poo, but also because it is a great way to discuss strong emotions like frustration, anger, and relief. I am sure this book played a role in having my kids going on poo hunts when walking in the nearby woods, they would look and try to identify which animal had done their business by the trees or on the leaves.

We have several nature guides that honestly we only use from time to time, but it never occurred to me to search for a proper poo chart, and what a mistake! Woodland trust has wonderful resources if you’re hoping to enjoy the outdoors this summer, whether you’re planning a picnic or building an obstacle course!

So if you’re looking for a funny book, a story where the little one outdoes the big, or if you want a break from the didactic books you usually get around your child’s potty training years whose message is: ‘be a good boy/girl and do a poo-poo where your parents tell you to’, then read this one!

Three little pigs at the Little Angel Theatre

This week in the UK teachers are on strike, so we’ve decided on our free day to go and see a new version of one of our favourite stories The three little pigs at the lovely Little Angel Theatre in North London.

We have several versions of this traditional story at home and I thought that we would all enjoy this new twist that includes balloons and a not so scary wolf.

This show really is an impressive one man show. With very few props but his very special huffer and puffer, Danny Schlesinger manages to engage the children and to re-tell the classic story of the three little pigs and the  big bad wolf. Using his marvelously twisted balloons, many facial expressions and mimics, and a great soundscape&music, he had my kids laughing and even helping to blow the houses down! The final ‘pop’ is funny and far from the more cannibalistic ending of the traditional tale.

Parents and children will rediscover the story together with  delight and enjoy it anew in this vibrant and comical new version. A great show by circus Ridiculoso!

For those who want a taster, here is a short video.


Additional resources for parents and children:

  • Parents who want more information on the origin of the story and its many versions can trust Heidi Anne Heilner’s impressive website.
  • Those interested in having an on-the-go version may want to check out this app.
  • Activities abound online but I like in particular these colouring pages, and these ideas for activities, including brown playdough.
  • We like pigs in this house so if you’re like us read Florentine and Pig have a very lovely picnic, reviewed in the excellent blog Playing by the book here. We recently attended a reading by Eva Katzler, the author and had a great time!