I've got a couple of places on this blog where I list the books and films that I've enjoyed recently. I don't tend to include children's stuff because it's not quite the same... But my boys are now reaching the stage where I can read them decent books, and it seems like a good idea to write down what we've liked and what we haven't. Because there are a lot of shit books/ films out there for the kiddies and forewarned is forearmed. So I'll jot down the best of the bunch below and add sporadically as I come across more.
- Madagascar 1 and 2 (And most definitely not number 3). We all love the first two Madagascars - plus a few of the spin-offs: Madly Madagascar, Merry Madagascar, Penguins in a Christmas Caper. There are basically no scary bits (requirement for eldest child), they are good for watching while eating pizza, they have good catch-phrases that we can repeat to each other later. It's a shame they fucked up the last one but there you have it.
- Toy Story 1, 2 and 3. Everyone knows these are ace. But before I watched them I didn't like the sound of it. Quickly converted. The last one does have a rather scary bit though.
- Ratatouille. Another PIXAR effort - Jeez, those guys are good. Edit later: we watched Wall-E recently and I think that's the best PIXAR movie I've seen - high praise indeed. It's a little earlier so the animation isn't quite so stunning but the story and the way it's told are really spectacular.
- The lion, the witch and the wardrobe. The latest one I'm talking about - the BBC series is also good but in an extremely dated kind of way. I nearly cried when I watched the film - Narnia was so real for me as a child that my adult self was entirely transported from the moment Mr Tumnus shook his fawny behind.
- The black stallion. This is top draw. Old school story telling done really really well.
- The secret garden and The railway children. I group these together because they're both about posh children in England ages ago. Both make a great watch, and make me nostalgic for an England that no doubt never existed. Edit later: We just watched Little Lord Fauntleroy which is another in the posh-kids-in-England genre, a bit of a winner that.
- My neighbour totoro. A lovely bit of Japanese animation, in which there are no goodies and baddies, just people being nice to each other and meeting weird creatures.
- Shrek. Just watched the first one - great! Will be downloading the rest in due course.
Ones I'd erase from existence if I possibly could: Ice age (should be great like Madagascar but not); anything involving CGI and Thomas the Tank Engine; anything involving Mickey Mouse and that big-arsed granny of his.
- Anything by Roald Dahl apart from Charlie and the great glass elevator which is naff. I'm particularly fond of Danny the champion of the world. Some are still too scary for us to tackle (BFG, The Witches).
- The Children of Green Knowe, Lucy Boston. Unbelievably atmospheric, I loved it as did my four year old. We just followed up with The Chimneys of Green Knowe and The Stranger at Green Knowe which are just as good. The latter has some passages about a gorilla that are just heart breaking.
- The lion, the witch and the wardrobe. We've also enjoyed the following ones although I think the Magician's Nephew is a bit weaker. (I don't like everything about Narnia, mind - there's a lot of fighting and some pretty dated gender roles and the like... But, really, I'm too smitten to mind.)
- The last wolf and Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. He's written loads and we've only read a couple but they were both ace - proper adventure stories. I'm looking forward to lots more. Edit later: We've since read Toro toro and Cool as a cucumber and Warhorse. All great. I burst into tears at the end of Warhorse - it was as moving a piece of writing as I've read pretty much anywhere.
- The worst witch, Jill Murphy. Remembered fondly from my childhood and enjoyed again with Joe. Witches beat wizards all day long (I'm a Harry Potter snob.)
- The queen's nose, Dick King-Smith. We've read a few by DKS and they're a bit hit and miss. But this one is a definite hit - cracking.
- The mousehole cat, Barber and Bayley. For some reason this book really hits a nerve - I've almost cried a couple of the times I read it. A lovely story.
- The Django and The black dog by Levi Pinfold. Lovely illustrations, nice words too. A proper bit of work. Edit later: Actually I've changed my mind about The Django - I refuse to read it now because it's sad in a way that gets to me... I retract my recommendation.
- The giving tree by some dude from California. At least I assume he's from California because that's where I bought the book. That doesn't make sense does it.... OK, I googled, it's by Shel Silverstein. And it's very good.
- Rufus the red kangaroo by Jill Morris. Sometimes you should just tell a story and not worry about entertaining the kids with endless action and wizz bangs. Jill Morris seems to understand that.