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Somehow Topsy and Tim, like Janet and John, echo in our heads somewhere in the area of ' this may be a genuine childhood memory or it may have been created for me by a 1980s stand up comedian'. But yes, they really do exist and no, I have no idea if I read them as a child or not. I only came across them as we were given an old and well loved copy of 'Little Shoppers' by a friend - so, be aware, this is a review based almost entirely on that one book in the series, with a few general comments for good measure...
Anyway, this series of books about twins in matching red and white tops is actually over 40 years old now, written by a husband and wife team Jean and Gareth Adamson. But they are still really popular today with the Teletubby generation of toddlers, with more than a million sales in the UK since 1998 - Ladybird even reprinted the books in 2003. The basic premise is simple - a series of books which tell stories relating to activities in the lives of young children. And they are slowly beginning to become more modern and more daring with the subject matter - I can't wait to read ' Topsy and Tim have itchy heads ', for example! But there is still something of the 1960s charm about them - they haven't got ' Topsy and Tim buy a Top up card ' or ' Topsy and Tim get an ASBO '.....
So, lets get back to Little Shoppers which certainly gets the vote of my toddler son, so theres your first recommendation. There are many ways why I think he finds it appealing - take the plot for example. Not only is it very simple - a family go to the supermarket, get some shopping and come home - but also it relates directly to his own life, and he loves that. Also, the illustrations are bright and colourful with a predominance of red which appeals to young children. You are not going to buy this book for the pictures in the way you would with Julia Donaldsons books, but they appeal to children. Small children dont want twists and turns or complexity in a plot - they like a simple, dominant premise and that is what this book has.
In terms of its attraction for grown ups, again there are many reasons why I would recommend this book. For one thing, they are a handy little size to pop in your bag for when you are out - Im forever buying lovely big story books which are far less portable - and then theres the cost as they are only £2.50 brand new - bargain! But, the practical attractions aside, there is much to recommend the plot. It gives you a chance to discuss with your child things about their everyday life in a really natural way. Now, Ive never had a problem talking (youd never guess, would you?!) but if you do find it hard to start conversations with your children without feeling like a lemon, this will really help. And there is a really good practical lesson for kids in the book - Topsy wanders off and gets lost in the supermarket and has to ask the lady at the cheese counter for help. Every time I read it I wonder how many little ones have remembered that part of the book and gone to the person on the Tesco deli counter! The book also teaches them about helping their parents, which can never be a bad thing - and, as a bonus, they cheerfully buy fruit!!
There is a strange sub text to this book though, which you should be aware of. Now this may just be me, I may be reading too much into it, so do bear that in mind. You see, theres a part of me that wonders whether these books are written for children at all - I actually think the couple who wrote them may have been out to provide self help parenting books, long before the days of Supernanny or Little Angels. You see, a lot of the book is actually advice for parents if you look a little more closely - it is a manual on conflict resolution and tantrum avoidance. Topsy and Tim argue over who should go in the trolley - Dad goes and gets a second trolley so that they can have one each. Tim wants to ride in Mummys trolley because Topsy is in Dads trolley and Mum distracts him away from the idea before theres a row. Tim is heading for the sweets at the checkout and Mum gives him the special job of finding boxes for the shopping. Topsy and Tim
are rewarded at the end of the trip with a ride in the helicopter at the door. Its a master class in how to get your children to behave at the supermarket, folks!
So, there you go, my complete analysis of Little Shoppers - I definitely intend to get more of these little books - if only to see if my theories are correct. Has anybody else read some? And can anyone else please tell me why its Mummy and Dad rather than Mummy and Daddy or Mum and Dad?
Next week I’m going to Spain twice. Sort of. I’ll travel to Barcelona, sit in their airport for an hour, and then travel from there to Ibiza. Two journeys and two aeroplanes and landings in two Spanish airports on the same day. Topsy and Tim only got one of each, but they still had a lot of fun. It’s been more than 40 years since the first Topsy and Tim books were published, and with all the other children’s books that have come onto the market since then, it would be easy to forget about this terrific twosome. Luckily for children of the new millennium, the series is currently being relaunched so they can go on being enjoyed for another 40 years or so. Topsy and Tim are twins. They live with mum and dad and the odd pet in a nice house somewhere in England. In later books they even have an adopted sister – alliteratively called Tansy. They’re nice normal kids of an indeterminable age (apart from the book in which they start school) and the books follow them wherever their adventures take them. They’re great “first experience” books – as well as this one, the series includes stories about going to the doctor and dentist and optician. Visiting a zoo, going supermarket shopping, having a camping holiday and starting school. The series is a large one, with several hundred titles, but the one that sticks in my mind the most was this, the tale of their first flight. All the stories in the set are simple, and this one is no exception. Topsy and Tim (+ family) are off for a holiday in Spain, and so need to travel on an aeroplane. Using simple, friendly language (the books are aimed roughly at 2 – 6 year olds), there are descriptions of the airport (checking in, having a drink in the café, looking at the planes taking off), of the plane, and the people they meet on board – pilots, stewardesses etc. Things that aren’t explicitly said are often shown in the accompanyin
g pictures – the fastened safety belts, the special trays with the food on, and so on. There are cute little tips for flying – Topsy and Tim soon learn that sucking sweets stops their ears hurting – and the emphasis is, as usual, on having fun and learning new things, not being afraid. Most of the issues in this sense are skated over rather than raised and then alleviated, because it’s better not to put ideas in the little ones heads. Rather than mentioning that a plane might fall out of the sky, and then explaining most definitely why that can’t happen, for example, it’s not brought up at all. It’s a fun story to read whether or not your kids have been on a plane, and might well help them enjoy the experience if you read it shortly before their first flight. I didn’t fly until I was 7 years old, a long time after I’d left the daily Topsy and Tim reads behind, but the story still stuck with me as I got on the plane that day. It tells you what to expect if you will be doing as the twins did, but is also just a fun story for any child who had never left the UK and isn’t planning to in the near future. Topsy and Tim are so real, so likable, that they instantly become best friends with the little ones, and if you read your way round the series, this feeling only grows. Because they’re the same age (roughly – the fact you can’t squeeze two out in the same millisecond is never mentioned) they’re very much on equal footing – no big brave older brother, small weak little sis roles with these two. The stories are told well and illustrated perfectly, but most important of all, they flow, making reading aloud easier and more enjoyable. There’s a bouncy-bouncy rhythm at times (“Off to Spain, in an aeroplane”) which you’ll find the kids like even if neither of you are really sure why. Great for reading aloud even before they understand all the words
, great for new readers to enjoy alone. Whatever the experience there’s probably a Topsy and Tim book to match the occasion, and the pair are so adorable you’ve absolutely no excuse for not checking them out. *--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--*--* This book: Topsy And Tim Go In An Aeroplane By Jean and Gareth Adamson ISBN: 190435128X £2.50 More info at: www.ladybird.co.uk/topsy/topsy_index.html
Topsy and Tim! That brings back memories. This series of books about Topsy the sister and Tim her brother, were wonderful. My favourite was Topsy and Tims birthday party. The front covers have definately changed from my days. These stories were great, as they were for children about children. I would love my kids to read the stories. Topsy and Tim were definately one of the classics from the days when we were young! I would recommend these books to all parents for their children. But would I would suggest is that you sit down with them and read together, or then read to them. That way you can use books to explain things and also teach behaviour.
Topsy and Tim are available in a boxed set,consisting of four books,priced at just £4.99 they are excellant value for money. They are Ladybird books by Jean and Gareth Adamson. These books contain simple stories that children can relate to so easily. Book one is called "old shoes and new shoes". It tells of a visit to the shoe shop as Topsy and Tim both need new shoes. The assistant measures their feet and explains the importance of correctly fitting shoes. Topsy tries on a selection of shoes,Mummy comments that She likes the black ones,but these are not what Topsy had in mind.She wants the pink party shoes in the window and ends up throwing a tantrum over them. Quickly the assistant distracts Topsy's attention from the party shoes to some Blue shoes with shiny buckles. Topsy likes these they fit well and She settles for them. Meanwhile Tim is not so hard to please,He chooses some shoes with bendy soles. They run off home to show Dad. At the end of the story are some activities for children to do. One is where you have to match the pairs of shoes together,then match the shoes to the outfits.Then some pictures are shown with no words so your child has a chance to tell the story Himself. Book two."A Special Visit".Topsy and Tim go to visit Granny and Grandpa for the weekend. They have fun with Mummy's old toys in the cupboard.Then find a dressing up box full of Mummy's old clothes and Grandpa finds some of His old clothes for Tim to wear. They then go down for tea dressed in their funny old clothes. Next morning Topsy and Tim ask if they can play in the garden shed. Grandpa comments that it used to be their mummies secret hideout. The shed is very dusty and full of cobwebs so they spend the rest of the day dusting and sweeping it out. Mum and Dad arrive and they all end up having a party tea in the shed before going home.
Activities at the end are you have to say which of the items shown are clean and which are dirty.Match the hats to the coats and guess what toy is in the hidden parcels. Book three."Little Shoppers"Topsy and Tim go to the supermarket with Mum and Dad.Topsy and Tim have a trolley each to stop them arguing over one. Tim and Mummy go off to get the fruit while Topsy and Dad go to find the coffee eggs and cornflakes. Topsy loses Dad and begins to cry,but fortunately Tim finds Her.And for all their help after they are treated to a ride in the supermarket helicopter. Activities include treasure trail,find the matching t-shirts and guessing whose bag is the heaviest. Book four,"Buckets And Spades"is about their trip to the seaside. Before they set off Dad has to get some petrol,so Mum,Topsy and Tim get their seaside buckets out to fill with water to wash the windscreen. Later on they think they have forgotton to put the buckets back in the car and begin to cry.They stop off in a field to have a picnic,having picked up all their litter they continue the journey. The car gets stuck in a ditch but a man with a tractor pulls them out. When they arrive at the seaside they are happy to see their buckets and spades were in the car after all and run straight off to dig sandcastles. Activities included are match the right colour spade to the buckets,How many different things can you see in the picture and tell the story. My children have had a lot of pleasure from these books,they are simply illustrated in bright colours. The stories are all about true life situations that most children come across in their lives,this makes it more interesting for them. I think it is great to include activities for the children to participate in,after all they have sat very quietly listening to someone else reading the story and this is their chance to join in. These activities are great for encour
aging children to think for themselves. I thoughly recommend these delightful books,I am sure you wont regret it.
These books follow the day to day activities of a brother & sister. There is always a moral to the story and they are well written and entertaining. These books have been around so long they are almost a classic. I can remember having some of these when I was young, so it's lovely to be able to read them with my children. Over the years they have been repubished and updated. We were fortunate enough to be able to get a full set of the original ones from a car boot sale, complete with the original 1970's graphics. A bit dated but lovely nostalga. These books have been popular with all our 3 kids, they are just the right length before bed and have lots of good talking points / lessons to be learnt for that after story chat about the book.
Wow yet another classic book which is still going strong. I was bought a Topsy and Tim book set for my daughter and they are great. They come in a handy box with a handle and all the books have hardback laminated covers, so if she spills anything over them it can be easily cleaned up without ruining the books. These books are still like the classic ones except the drawing of the characters seems to have been improved and the stories teach your child all about different situations and how well behaved children should act (I hope my daughter takes notes!). These books are deffinately worth a look.
Ladybird books, illustrated by by Jean Adamson and Gareth Adamson