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The Queen's Knickers - Nicholas Allan

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Author: Nicholas Allan / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 06 January 2000 / Genre: Children's General Fiction / Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers UK / Title: The Queen's Knickers / ISBN 13: 9780099413141 / ISBN 10: 0099413141

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      22.10.2013 09:24
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      A fantastic funny childrens story

      I read to my children every day and for us the story has to entertain both children age 6 and 8 as well as me, this is no mean feat but one Nicholas Allen achieves quite easily.

      What is the story about?
      This is a child's picture book basically as the name says about the Queens Knickers all the different types she has for all occasions such as horse riding, garden parties and state visits.
      The Queen also has special knickers for travel which contain a built in parachute or if travelling by ship an inflatable dinghy!

      The story is all about all the knickers for all the occasions but it becomes apparent that the Queen doesn't have a pair for visiting a school and how a little girl puts the Queen at ease!

      Nicholas Allen
      The Author has written over 30 books and won many awards, some of his other books are the Hefty Fairy, Jesus Christmas party and Father Christmas needs a wee! All favourites in our house. Nicholas Allen does all his own illustrations having studies art at the Slade Art School it stands to reason that his illustrations are as good as the writing.

      Cost and stockist
      The book is available in all good bookshops and the RRP is £5.99, you can also get this from www.amazon.co.uk at £4.00.

      Recommendation
      We love this book in our house as it is very funny indeed, my youngest daughter has discovered she can read this alone which means "I can read it every day" and if that isn't recommendation enough I do not know what is!
      I have to say as an adult this is a pleasure to read and a book that is a must have in all children's bookshelves a real children's classic, but if you have no children its worth a read anyway .

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      23.04.2012 17:32
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      A good story to share with yong children, particularly with the forthcoming Jubilee Celebrations.

      Introduction

      This children's story was first published back in 1993. With the Jubilee Celebrations imminent, I've been wracking my brains for ways of making it relevant to 2, 3 and 4 year old children whose concept of Royalty is somewhat restricted to Disney Princesses and the like. We have a very small copy of this book at preschool, but I needed a larger one to read to the whole group and was delighted to find a copy in my local charity shop - the bonus was that I only paid £0.75 for an 'as new' copy!

      The Author

      I couldn't remember any other books by Nicholas Allan, so out of curiosity I did a little research and discovered his website at
      http://www.nicholasallan.co.uk/
      The home page has a rather delightful washing line with illustrations from the book under review - you are asked to 'click on the knickers to explore the site'! It seems that he wrote his first book at the age of 14, and went on to study painting at the Slade School of Art, so it's easy to see why he illustrated this book as well as writing it. He went on to complete an M.A. in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, which I believe has a very good reputation as a course. He has been Chairman of the Society of Authors' Children's Group and is a member of the Brotherhood of Magicians. He regularly speaks and runs workshops on a range of topics, including 'How to Become a Children's Writer Extremely Quickly' - I think a few of us on this site would be interested in that one!

      The Book and Illustrations

      In size my current copy is slightly smaller than A4 in landscape, shorter in width than height, if that makes sense. The cover has a violet border and the main colour is a pale lemon, with a crown adorning each corner. The title is in bold capital letters in the top centre, with the author's name directly underneath it. The Queen herself is positioned centrally beneath his name, complete with crown, pinkish-coloured long gown, pearls around her neck, white gloves and handbag. Her court shoes match her dress. The Queen has curly brown hair, and her face is smiling with rosy cheeks. Behind her is that washing line, with 5 pairs of knickers on it! From her posture it looks as if she's showing them to us, which I find quite appealing and humorous. Instantly you get the feeling that this is going to be a rather tongue-in-cheek [no pun intended there!] treatment of the subject; well, you wouldn't be too happy if it was totally serious, would you?

      I bet by now you're itching to know what her knickers are like! Well, in shape they're pretty much like a triangle with rounded-off edges, which makes them look a bit like hearts on the line. The Official H.M. Knicker Guide, which is approximately in the centre, includes examples for At Home (small, reddish brown dogs on leads!), State Funerals (black with a white border), Garden Parties (very floral), Horse Riding (this one creases me up - 'with extra padding'!) and Balmoral (woollen).

      The illustrations seem to be painted in watercolours, using pastel shades in the main, the only real exception being when black is used, as on the guards' boots. Simply but well drawn, I find the pictures engaging and they do enhance the story by holding your attention.

      The Story

      It's no surprise that it's a simple story. The basic premise is that The Queen naturally likes to dress smartly, so she has lots of clothes to choose from to make sure her outfit is 'just so'. Of course that includes the royal undergarments. A lady called Dilys is in charge of these; she has a special trunk for when the Queen travels. One day the trunk goes missing and Dilys is panic stricken, there's a national crisis and they only just sort it out in time to stop it being announced on 'News At Ten'! Without spoiling the story line too much, I have to say that I love the knickers with a parachute: 'just in case' and especially the Christmas pair, which explain why her speech is short!! Then the question is posed 'I wonder what she'd wear if she came to our school?' This causes the Queen a bit of a problem, and I felt the resolution offered would both interest and amuse children.

      Educational Content

      I'm an Early Years person, not a qualified teacher, so my comments should be read in that light. I am passionate about children experiencing a wide range of good books in a variety of styles because I believe this will help them want to read, and give them ideas for stories of their own. Even in preschool we hear children 'talking out' their own (new) versions of favourite stories.

      I believe that the humorous approach is really important and effective in gaining and maintaining children's interests. Children love to talk about things that are slightly 'rude' and delight in even finding a word like 'knickers' in a story. Any discussion of bottoms usually has them in fits of giggles.

      Good use is made of vocabulary; words like 'wardrobe' 'trunk' 'crisis' and even 'Scandinavia' and 'traditionally' show that children can cope with larger words if introduced in a meaningful and interesting context. Here we also have use of adjectives like 'enormous' and 'baggy.'

      The story reads well - it's the kind of text that makes it easy to read with expression, which adds to the enjoyment. There's a limited amount of text per page, which does seem to allow time to explore each page at leisure. Some pages have more text, but I think this helps vary the rhythm of the story. I'm thinking particularly about the page about the opening of Parliament. Allan has occasionally used alliteration 'caused a great crisis' and assonance 'the poor Queen would feel' which I feel enhances the literary style.

      I don't know at what age/stage a child might be able to read this alone or with support. We don't have repetition of familiar phrases in this story, which is a device used by many authors to encourage children to join in the 'reading'. The font used is a large one, and clear. I feel that it's the kind of book where a child might join in on an occasional page like 'just in case!'

      Literary content isn't the only level at which this book scores highly, for me. From the examples I've given you'll probably have picked up that it introduces a lot of information about the activities of the real Queen, the opening of Parliament, the Christmas speech, Queen Victoria, the protocol of 'Your Majesty' and so on. This book tackles some significant events of our cultural heritage, albeit in an amusing format. This gives plenty of scope for discussion with children, and particularly after seeing the Queen, celebrating the Jubilee and so on.

      Age Range?

      This is a bit tricky. I think it's a bit over the heads of some of our youngest children, but I have to bear in mind that I'm usually reading to a group; it's different when reading with individual children. I feel that children from the age of 3.5 years upwards will enjoy it. The references to the Queen visiting a school indicate to me that it's probably aimed at Reception and Key Stage 1. [England]

      Conclusion

      5 stars from me. I think this is a valuable book in many ways. It's one to enjoy together and its humour is gentle but engaging. The illustrations are complementary. It reads well aloud - well, if the reader is good, it does! It introduces some useful, extending vocabulary and may encourage children to think 'what if?' which is a good starting point for a story. It also introduces a lot of our cultural heritage around the Monarchy in an accessible way. I'm really glad I found this copy and I'm looking forward to sharing it with the children more frequently before very long!

      Getting a Copy

      ISBN 0-09-941314-0 Nicholas Allan Books published by Red Fox [1993]
      Available from Amazon UK for £4.49 paperback- currently with Free UK Super Saver Delivery. Please note this is an edition published in 2000, and the cover illustration is different from the one I described, but using the 'view inside' feature I can see that it looks the same. Used copies may be available for much less, as mine was. Worth looking out for!

      Thank you for reading my review. It may also appear on other sites.

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        18.04.2012 14:42
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        An unusual Jubilee-themed read

        As the Diamond Jubilee approaches, if you're looking for a slightly cheeky and affectionately irreverent children's storybook about the Queen, The Queen's Knickers is certainly worth reading. It will reveal the secrets of her Majesty's vast collection of knickers which are worn on different occasions. Some of these include a floral pair for garden parties, a Union Jack pair for foreign visits, woollen tartan for Balmoral and a corgi motif for 'at home', all of which are illustrated in full colour in the Official H.M. Knicker Guide. You can learn about the time when a national crisis was only narrowly averted after the Queen's special knicker trunk went missing, and how, when travelling by aeroplane, the Queen wears a special pair of knickers with a small parachute inside, "just in case." Meanwhile, a little girl muses on what type of knickers the queen will wear when she comes to visit her school, recognising that her majesty is so particular about her clothes that choosing the wrong pair could make her feel rather uncomfortable. However, the little girl has an idea to put the Queen at ease. Will it meet with royal approval?

        This book is delightfully silly and a bit naughty, designed to appeal to children aged about 5-8 who find the idea of knickers amusing because knickers of course cover up one's bottom and bottoms - when you're a kid - are one of the most hilarious things on the planet. Although staunch royalists may find it a bit disrespectful, I feel that its style is better described as playful mickey taking. It shows that royals are human beings not perfect beings. They wear knickers like the rest of us. The Queen is actually a rather cute and endearing little character in this book with her curly hair, rosy cheeks and variety of expressions which range from smiley to perplexed to 'not amused.' We can't help but root for her, especially when we see her parachuting to earth with her crown perched firmly on her head and her handbag on her arm, looking totally unfazed, or keeping her Christmas message to the nation short because she's wearing a pair of prickly knickers decorated with real holly, a gift from Scandinavia.

        I like the way the book gently pokes fun at our obsessions with state secrets and the pomp and ceremony that surrounds the British monarchy. For instance, we learn that when the queen goes to the opening of Parliament, she wears her VIP knickers (Very Important Pair) but there is no picture provided of these, just one of the safe where they are locked up along with other state secrets! When the royal knicker trunk goes missing, we see the army and the police helicopters mobilising and we are told that the crisis was "only just sorted out before it reached the News at Ten." My favourite part of the book is the description of the extremely valuable Royal Knickers which were first worn by Queen Victoria and look suspciously like the Crown jewels.

        Although it is a light-hearted, fictional account of the Queen's life, this book does actually teach children quite a bit about her duties and the busy life she leads, showing how much she has to travel. Although it's unlikely that the Queen really has a Royal Knicker-Maker or a maid called Dilys to look after her vast knicker collection, it's a good way of pointing out that the Queen does have a lot of staff looking after her and a huge wardrobe of clothes. References in the book to knickers worn at the state opening of Parliament, the Christmas message, royal weddings, state funerals, etc. provide examples of the diverse nature of the Queen's role and provides a good starting point for discussions, whether you are pro or anti-royalist. Why is the Queen considered to be so important? Why does she visit different countries? Does she work hard? Why does she need so many people to look after her? All these things can be explored, along with some more bizarre knicker-related questions, such as trying to imagine what it would be like to walk in The Royal Knickers which are encrusted with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Would they feel heavy? Would they be uncomfortable? Children might also consider whether they would like to have a special pair of knickers which inflate automatically if they're unlucky enough to find themselves aboard a sinking ship. What other ways could knickers be potentially life-saving? The imaginative possiblities are endless.

        The simple but expressive illustrations contribute to the book's quirky style. For instance, when the royal knicker trunk gets mixed up with a picnic hamper, there is a very funny picture of a disappointed family unpacking what they hoped would be their delicious al fresco lunch, only to find a whole load of royal knickers in different colours. Their downturned mouths say it all. Even the birds and squirrels that have been hanging around the picnic mat in anticipation of a snack look crestfallen!

        Perhaps after reading this book, children could have a giggle designing their own knickers for special occasions, maybe even a Diamond Jubilee pair for her majesty. Or if they think the queen has surely got enough already, how about designing a few pairs for mum or teacher instead?

        Beyond knicker-design and learning a little about the duties of the Queen, there isn't a huge amount of educational potential in this book, nor is there much of a story, but it's certainly a bit different and I don't think it's ever a bad thing to take a prominent public figure down from their pedestal and remind ourselves that they are only human. Just as Sue Townsend gave us a giggle over the royal family in her book, The Queen and I without robbing them of their dignity, Nicholas Allan achieves the same thing in this book for a younger audience, taking away some of the stuffiness and actually making the Queen rather cool. In my view, that's quite an achievement!

        The Queen's Knickers is available used from Amazon for a mere £0.01. I understand that a new version with a colourful, sparkly cover showing the Queen in her carriage will be available from May in time for the Jubilee. This would make a nice souvenir. It is priced at £4.43.

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