Published by Puffin

One of the joys of working in the Children’s section of a bookshop is the books you come across. Those books that as an adult you aren’t supposed to read (though I can never understand why you shouldn’t), unless you have a ‘reason’ to do so – like, working in the Children’s section of a book shop. I’m not sure I would care about it, even if I didn’t, but since I do, if I need an excuse, that’s what I’m using. At least that is the one that seems to be acceptable to those who feel I should have an excuse for reading such marvellous stories as Flour Babies.

I have seen the book on our shelves for years. Never picked it up – but did so the day before yesterday and became entranced by it. I finished it yesterday – which is the way of things; good books ‘go’ faster, but this is one of the funniest books I have ever read – touching too – simply one of the best books, ever.

It tells the story of 4C, their teacher Mr Cartwright, our hero Martin Simon and the yearly Science Fair – they are not what you might think of as the brightest pupils in the school – they are in fact those pupils that have slowly settled to the bottom of the heap, however, Mr Cartwright is ever hopeful that something might be made of them, some of them, perhaps. Since they haven’t passed any exams, they have lost out on the more interesting experiments for the fair, exploding custard tins and the like and have the choice of: textiles, nutrition, domestic economy, child development, or consumer studies. The start of the book begins with them voting for which of these subjects they should use as their topic for their contribution to the school’s annual fair. None of them seem inspiring, apart from domestic economy, which might, but probably won’t, have something to do with food.

This book is a joy, a real gem – this is a small excerpt from it…from pages 98 – 99 which is the beginning of a discussion the pupils have that is frankly superb.

‘Or cook and eat them.’

Mr Cartwright felt obliged to step in at this point to pull 4C’s lively discussion back on the rails.

‘No, I don’t think so, George. Not cook and eat them.’

‘Oh yes, sir.’ George was adamant. ‘They taste exactly like pork. I read it in a book.’

The general clamour for more information was almost drowned out by potential individual     researchers.

‘What book?’

‘Do you still have it?’

Pork?’

‘What about crackling? Do babies make proper crackling?’

A book for boys, girls and parents – and perhaps (with consideration to page 99), those who might become parents through a ‘slip’ or intentionally.

Simply marvellous. The book made me laugh out loud on the tube, tears falling down my face whilst my bemused fellow commuters looked on in wonder when I explained that ‘No, its not an adult book, but everyone should read it…’

It is a pity, I think, that it isn’t required reading in schools across the country.

Read it.

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