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Being an avid fan of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's children's titles A Squash and a Squeeze is just one of many of their titles we possess and I am currently in the process of working my way through reviewing. Having previously browsed through this book in store I was chuffed when I was able to order and pay for it through Amazon with vouchers that I had received as a gift for Christmas. I was lucky enough to spot a 20th Anniversary special edition for sale at just £2.99 which at the time was the same price as the original copy also for sale on Amazon.
The only differences between the standard and anniversary editions are that there is a section written by Julia Donaldson at the front explaining the origins of her ideas for the book, and also a section written by Axel Scheffler at the back explaining how this book started the long term collaboration between them. Scheffler also includes some original sketches for the book and explains how they evolved from this into what is seen in the published version of the book. It was interesting to find that this story originated as a song over 40 years ago, produced for the BBC, whilst the book came quite some time later.
Whilst the extra sketches and information doesn't add much value for children reading the book, I found that these sections were a welcome addition for me. I feel they actually add value to the books for adults as it is great to have explained the origins of the book and pictures without having to research this information, as this is something I quite frequently do anyway as I like to know a bit of history surrounding the books I am reading to my daughter.
A Squash and a Squeeze is the tale of a little old lady who lives in a house by herself on a farmstead with the obvious host of farmyard animals for company. One day the little old lady is grumbling that her house is too small and that it is always a squash and a squeeze when a wise old man appears to offer her advice. The wise old man suggests that she takes her hen into the house with her and obviously this only makes the house feel even smaller. When she returns to the wise old man for more advice he suggests that she also takes in her goat. The story carries on in this vain with the old lady bringing more of her animals into her house every time she consults with the wise old man until she is left with a hen, goat, pig and a cow in her house that was a squash and a squeeze before these animals were even invited indoors, thus now leaving her with no room to move.
The last time that the old lady returns to the wise old man for advice only serves to confuse her even more as she is told to remove all of the animals from her house again as this would leave her back at square one. It is only after evicting all of the animals from her house she realises that house was in fact perfect for one and not actually a squash and a squeeze after all.
This story has a good moral meaning behind it with the old lady realising that she was actually complaining about something that wasn't a problem in the first place, yet it took having a crowded and hectic house before she realised this. It is written in typical Julia Donaldson fashion being fantastically easy to read as well as being highly engaging for young brains. The fact that the story was originally written as a song is obvious throughout with a rhythm that moves the book along at a decent pace not giving young readers a chance to bored of the story due to the fast pace.
The story repeats the phrase "Wise old man won't you help me please, my house is a squash and a squeeze" throughout giving plenty of chance for joining in with the rhythmic style of reading which is easily memorised by little ones. The fact that the book rhymes throughout as with many Donaldson publications also helps to aid young people reading this book with remembering and learning the phrases and words throughout the book. Once again this is a book that is great for reading one in one but really comes into its own when being read to a group.
Whilst I was pretty certain of the fact that our daughter would enjoy this book as everyone with children will know nothing is a certainty. What I wasn't expecting was for our daughter to adopt this book as her bedtime story for at least a full fortnight after the book landed on our doorstep requesting to see the "naughty cow" dancing on the table and "naughty pig" clearing out the larder. She finds the rhyming amusing especially when it coincides with the mischievous animals filling up the old lady's home. Both my daughter and I think that this is a great read, and along with the strong message of "bring happy with what you have" being one that I am not adverse to my daughter learning in the slightest.
All the while Julia Donaldson's excellent writing skills are backed up by Axel Scheffler's equally excellent and entertaining illustrations. His illustrations bring an added depth to the book and tell the story in a way that words cannot. If the words were removed completely from this book then the story would still be perfectly understandable, with the difference that the pictures tell the story from the animal's points of view rather the little old ladies. This makes for some amusing sketches which our daughter loves to look and often tries to skip ahead to look at.
I think the main thing that makes the illustrations so appealing is that they are quite simple and not over complicated in the slightest. They are bold and bright but do not detract from the text that accompanies them to much making them perfect for pointing along with what is being read. Once again Axel Scheffler has done an excellent job of matching the quality of Julia Donaldson's writing with his illustrations and I feel they make the perfect duo as I cannot see that anybody else would be able to compliment Julia Donaldson's writing in such a way.
In summary this is another excellent publication from the Donaldson and Scheffler duo and I am still to find another author and illustrator that work as well together as this pair do. I will now quite happily purchase any of their titles without checking them out too extensively which I feel speaks volumes itself as I like to make sure I am reading quality material to our daughter and not stuff that looks like it has been cobbled together just for the sake of turning a buck.
If there are people out there that have never set eyes on or read a Donaldson and Scheffler title I would strongly suggest that it is something that they do. I feel even those without children would find this pair's books amusing for a quick flick through in the supermarket or library if they are not intending to purchase or borrow it. For those with little ones I find it hard to imagine they would have missed out on Donaldson's and Scheffler's titles completely and can quite happily say that this matches if not exceeds the quality of any other publication of theirs anyone may have read.
So just in case you haven't guessed already this book comes with a most solid 5/5 star recommendation from me as I feel not only is this a great read for children but will also keep parents engrossed from cover to cover which I feel is quite some feat for a book aimed at children.
My two year old son is getting quite a collection of Julia Donaldson books. This is, in part, down to how much I enjoy reading them to him but he also loves having them read to him too. They make great, fun bedtime stories! We loved the gruffalo books by the same author so whenever I can, I add to his collection by purchasing a new one.
The latest one that we have added to our collection is this 'Squash and a Squeeze' book. the story is about an old lady who thinks that her house is too small and moans to a wise old man that it is too much of a squash and a squeeze. The wise old man advises her to take in her animals, one by one, and the house just gets busier and more of a squash. He then advises her to take the animals out again, one by one. The house then seems much bigger to the lady and she is happy with the size.
The story is written in lovely, clever rhyming text. It flows very easily and is simple and fun to read too. Accompanying the story, each page has some wonderful cartoon like illustrations of the lady moving her animals in and out of the house. These prove a lovely conversation point and my son loves animals so he loves to name the ones in the pictures. I love the simple language used and the moral of the story - teaching us to be grateful for what we have. It is also nice that there is a certain amount of repetition in the story (but not too much!) as my son enjoys and learns well from repetition.
We bought this book in paperback version on an offer of two for £5 at Asda (with another Julia Donaldson book), which I think is a fantastic price to pay. It is currently £4 on Amazon. As with all Julia Donaldson books, this has not disappointed me or my son and we never get tired of reading it. Highly recommended to parents of toddlers and older children alike.
My daughter, and now by extension my wife and I, has been a fan of Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler's books ever since she discovered the Gruffalo; the consistent style of easy to read, simple (but fun) stories, together with the quirky and distinctive artwork that stretch across all their books make them very accessible to even the very young; in fact, especially the very young (and young at heart!)
A Bit of Background...
A Squash and a Squeeze was Julia Donaldson's first ever book, which span out of her previous career as a writer of catchy, simple songs for childrens tv. It actually began life as a televison song, and was developed into a book. Interestingly, Alex Scheffler was chosen by the publisher to illustrate, they were not a dynamic duo from the start, something I just assumed. I hope whoever placed them together got a big bonus! The book was published in 1993.
First impressions of the book are good; its a hardback, nice colourful cover and inner cover sleeves. The illustrations are large, some full page, and funny, appealing to children and adults alike, and perfectly complement the story. The story is told in simple rhyme, and has a nice underlying theme to appreciate what you have in life.
An old lady is dissatisfied with her home, finding it too small, and seeks the advice of a wise old man. Strangely, he advises her to move her hen into the house as well, which just makes things even worse. He then tells her to move in her other animals, one by one, ( goat, pig, cow). By now, the house is impossibly full, and the old lady is beside herself ('my house is a squash and a squeeze'); the old man then advises her to take all the animals out...'just look at my house, its enormous now'!
While not quite as polished as Donaldson and Scheffler's later works, it is 32 pages of fun, with the added bonus of a nice moral. Perfect bedtime reading...
For my daughter, obviously.
We love Julia Donaldson and purchased a collection of her books from the book people for a very reasonable price. One of those stories was this wonderful book. To be honest when we first read this book we did not think too much of it. In fact it was one of the less popular books in the set, but as time has gone on we have learned to appreciate it. The illustrations are drawn by Axel Scheffler and even from the front cover they jump out at younger readers.
A little old lady is complaining that her house is too small. She bumps into a wise old man and asks "Wise old man, won't you help me, please? My house is a squash and squeeze. The wise old man does offer some advice, but it confuses her. He tells her to invite her animals into her house. One by one she allows them to come inside, but of course this makes the situation worse. Still confused she asks the wise old man one final time "Wise old man, won't you help me, please? My house is a squash and squeeze. He then tells her to remove each of the animals and she realises that actually her house is not too small.
What we really love about this book is that like so many other of Julia Donaldson it flows as you read it. The rhymes are perfect for the story to roll off your tongue so it is a joy for a parent to read and still very interesting for little one. I almost feel like we are singing the book together rather than reading. We all know it from start to finish which means it is a fun and engaging read for everyone in the family. I have to be honest and say that the first time we read it I found it a little lacking. I'm not sure why but my first impressions were that it was not as entertaining as other books by the same author. My children seemed to love it, and they continued to ask for it at bedtime. As time went on I came to like and now even love it, so it did grow on me.
The illustrations are fantastic. Not too bold and bright so that they are distracting from the story, but they are very child friendly and capture their imagination. They are familiar and cartoony so they attract to smaller children. On the second time reading the book you begin to notice more pictures in the story, and illustrations we never noticed the first time. This prompts lots of talking about the book and the pictures as the children love to see what the animals are doing.
My younger children love studying the pictures while my eldest son just wants to read along with me. He knows it off by heart after the many times we have read it, and so this gave him the confidence to join in with me. It is a perfect story for children just learning to read. It has the right amount of repetitiveness for the child to become confident in reading it, and even if half of it was by memory it was one of the first books my son asked to read himself. He is getting a little bored of it now he is five. He will still sit and listen to it with his brother and sisters, but they pick it from the shelf not him.
As all of the animals grow in size as they come in to the house, and they all become naughtier and naughtier it is the perfect base for children humour. The pig raids the larder and the cow does a jig on the table. All illustrated with the perfect pictures to match really make my children smile. It is mainly a picture book, but the few lines on each page do have a meaningful story to them. You should always be happy with what you have. My children were a little young at first so they just enjoyed the story and pictures. As they have grown older they asked why she was happy with her house after the animals were out when it was the same as before. The moral of the story is very strong but it is still a light hearted read for children so it has the perfect balance between the two.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with small toddlers. It is a repetitive yet engaging story that will get your children talking about the book. They love to look at the pictures and find new things, and as they know the book they can join in with reading it. It appeals to all of my older children and even my seven month old little girl enjoys listening to this. They all join in because they know the words and it is a lovely family read. I think it would be best suited for children between the age of two and five years old. The repetition is starting to become a little boring for my eldest son where as my younger children still enjoys it. This book is widely available from all leading book stores. I managed to purchase this as part of a 10 piece set from the book people for just£10. This is currently selling for around £3.50 on Amazon which is a great price.
At a Glance Wise old man, won't you help me, please? My house is a squash and a squeeze. Features and benefits for A Squash And A Squeeze Book Wise old man, won't you help me, please? My house is a squash and a squeeze. A bit of a classic A goat on a bed and a cow on the table tapping out a jig? My readers collapsed in heaps, and then had to have it read again. And again.