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Charlie and Lola are a brother and sister who feature as the central characters in a series of books written by Lauren Child. Subsequently, there was a TV series made of the books, and some books are based specifically on episodes shown on the TV. This is one of those books, and I feel they read a little differently to the ones that were stories first. However, the advantage is that if your child is a fan of the show, they may know the story from seeing it before, and if your child plays on the cbeebies website, they may also recognise that some of the games based on this particular TV show are from this book.
The plot to this one is fairly simple. Lola is not feeling very well. Charlie tries his absolute best to cheer up Lola by bringing her the things she normally loves like pink milk, but it doesn't work. All she wants is for Charlie to stay with her, which is a bit awkward as he is supposed to be off playing football with his friend Marv. However, because Charlie is a good brother, he does all he can to help her recover.
There is a nice twist when Lola gets better, and she passes this on to Charlie, offering to look after him now like he did with her. The horror you see from Charlie at this prospect really does make me chuckle every time when I read this with my children.
The plot is quite recognisable to children I feel. Most children will have experienced having a cold or being a bit off it. There is a nice explanation that this is because of germs to help a child understand the cause.
As always, there are some fantastic illustrations. One of my favourites is a picture of Lola attempting to drink her pink milk through a long curly straw. The text on this page is all curverd around the shape of the straw.
I think the reason this strikes me as being slightly off is that as always, there is no sign of a mum or dad appearing to try and make Lola feel better. In our family at least, if one of my children are feeling bad, all they want to do is sit with me to make them feel a bit better. Neither of my kids have noticed this, but I think it whenever we read it.
Overall, this book is good as it is a little smaller than some of the original series so easier for my children to hold. It has a good mix of text and pictures, and is substantial enough to make a good bed time story for children who are 3 plus.
As a bonus for some, this book came with a sheet of stickers at the back of the book. One negative to this is there was no specific place within the book to put these stickers. However, as they featured insects or the germs that were making Lola sick, we kind of just put them in places that were sort of relevant. For example, Lola is given some flowers that make her sneeze - this felt like a good point to put bees and butterflies. I had to tear this sheet out of the back of the book to use it. I'm not keen on this myself as I feel our copy of the book immediately looked a bit tatty.
Our copy of this came to us for free. Because I live in Rotherham, we have a scheme where children under 5 years old can be registered for the Imagination Library which is funded by Dolly Parton. Once a month young children receive a book through the post, and this was one of the books sent to my eldest son when he was about 4 and a half.
Normally these books retail for around £6. This to me is a good price as the books within this series have been read so many times in our house compared to other books. Partly because of the familiarity from TV, and partly because they are just fantastic books that my children love to hear. This one isn't one of our favourites, but it is still quite readable.
My daughters love Charlie and Lola books and they are always pleased when they discover one that they have not yet read. This was the case recently when we discovered 'I'm Really Ever so Not Well' at our local library. In this book Lola has a cold and has taken to her bed so Charlie is attempting to both look after her and cheer her up.
For those not familiar with Charlie and Lola, they are brother and sister and a real pair of charming characters. Charlie is the older wiser brother whereas Lola is the scattier funny younger sister! Charlie always seems to end up looking after Lola and getting her out of fixes as we never ever see their parents although they are often referred to.
Lola is feeling so poorly that it seems that nothing is going to make her feel better - not even pink milk and biscuits (her favourites!), flowers, Charlie singing..... in fact they all seem to make everything hurt more! Also, Lola (being Lola!) does not suffer quietly especially when Charlie attempts to leave to go and play football with his friend Marv. Charlie is so good natured that he does everything that Lola wants but when he is eventually ready to go out the door he starts sneezing very heavily and the next thing we know is that he is in bed with Lola threatening to look after him!
As with all the Charlie and Lola books this one is very entertaining and funny, Lauren Child, the author, manages to take an everyday experience and to find the humour in it. It is also an experience that every child and adult will be able to relate to - especially parents who have had to nurse a patient like Lola! Also, she manages a delightful twist at the end with poor Charlie becoming ill and having to endure Lola playing nursemaid.
Even though they are only cartoon characters there is a real chemistry between Charlie and Lola and both are utterly delightful characters. I would be surprised to find many small children who do not see the appeal of Charlie and Lola. My two think that they are absolutely brilliant.
There are lots of other Lauren Child trademarks in the book that you would expect to see. One of these is the way that she enjoys doing unexpected things with the layout of the text. Sometimes the words twirl and swirl over the pages, sometimes they get bigger or smaller and sometimes they are in bold or the font is changed. All of these add to the fun of reading the book.
Another delightful feature is the way in which Lola speaks. The title is just one example of how she adds in extra words for emphasis or she gets her words slightly out of order. I love reading this book aloud as I really like reading out all Lola's words in my Lola voice. It is a lot of fun!
Every page is so bright and visually exciting too. The illustrations of the characters are fabulous with their messy hair and their big eyes - they are both so very appealing. The backgrounds are pretty amazing too with lots of collage effects and a mixture of lots of different styles. Each page is definitely worth taking time over in order to take in and absorb all the little details.
This really is such an enjoyable book and one that children are likely to want to read many times - not just once. Both my daughters love it and definitely recommend it along with all the other Charlie and Lola books too.
I'm Really Ever so Not Well is available on Amazon for £3.99 (August 2010).
Poor little Lola is tucked up in bed with a cold, but big brother Charlie brings her a tray of her favourite pink milk and some biscuits. Today, however, Lola says the milk tastes green and the biscuits are 'too prickly to swallow'. Charlie tries to cheer her up with flowers, but they simply make Lola sneeze. She can't join in a song with Charlie because her throat hurts, but she begs her brother to sing for her. Charlie is in a quandary because he has promised to play football with his friend Marv. He doesn't want to break his promise, but Lola tugs at his heartstrings so he tries 'If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.' Lola, however, doesn't clap because, as she says, 'I'm really ever so not well.'
Charlie takes Lola to the bathroom to see her cold germs in the mirror. She reckons there must be 54 billion, or even a trillion of them. Charlie gets a phone call from Marv and tells Lola that Mum will come and play with her as he is off to the football game. Once again, Lola pleads with Charlie to stay with her and do a jigsaw puzzle. The phone rings again - Marv is getting impatient.
There follows an imaginative episode where Charlie and Lola are cloud hopping to try to catch a butterfly that is missing from Lola's mobile. Marv, however, arrives at the door and puts an end to this. Charlie lets out a great big sneeze, and the next day he is in bed with a cold. Lola of course brings him pink milk and biscuits and revels in the idea that she will be there every minute for Charlie until he gets better. Poor Charlie is horrified, and the story ends as he shouts for Mum.
It took me a while to appreciate the originality of Lauren Child's illustrations; at first I felt they did not compare with the likes of those of Quentin Blake and John Burningham, but I have grown to love the pointy chins, tiny but expressive mouths and huge eyes. I have, however, always admired the bold and unusual colour combinations in Child's Charlie and Lola stories. The juxtaposition of orange with pink, lime green or bright blue may sound too garish, but Lauren Child knows how to make it work, even with a red floral quilt thrown into the mix. There is also a stunning double page spread of multi-coloured, alien-resembling germs on a black background: oranges, purples, greens, blues and pinks all vie for our attention. Almost as striking is the glass of pink milk with an exaggerated curly straw, again on a black background, with two little birds perching on it as Lola watches the milk rising up toward her lips.
The font used for the text is quite large but not always the same size, even within one word. It is always superimposed on the illustrations, usually on a light background, but when the background is black the font is white. At times the text curls and swirls expressively around the page as though it is part of the illustration: it follows the curves of the drinking straw, or the flight of a bee. The only disadvantage here is that it might be a little confusing for a young independent reader. 'I'm really ever so not well' is probably more suited to reading aloud by an adult, but I can imagine a slightly older sibling who is a confident reader enjoying reading this to a brother or sister of three or four years of age. The vocabulary would prove challenging to a child that is just beginning to learn to read.
I have found that Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola books are always successful as read-aloud stories with a group of three- to four-year-olds. Most of the children will be familiar with the characters from the television series as well, but the delightful way that Lola speaks, the humour and situations presented all make the books great fun. 'I'm really ever so not well' is a story that every child can identify with, and older readers will chuckle at poor Charlie's predicament, confronted by a little sister who dotes on him and is in her element when she has the chance to look after him. This would be an ideal book to borrow from the library when a child is ill in bed, but you are likely to feel that it is worth buying a copy. I would definitely recommend it.
Puffin Books, 2008
Also posted on Ciao and Helium.