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My children are big fans of the Charlie and Lola series, both on TV, and the book series by Lauren Child. We own a fair few of them, but we spotted this one in the library, and as we regularly visit London to visit my husbands family, they were very excited by the cover of the book and the fact it was a new one they hadn't read before, so it was the first one to be picked to come home with us.
The books in this series all have a bit of a quirky feel to them. Charlie and Lola are a brother and sister. Charlie is usually the narrator, and the books follow the adventures that the children have going about every day life. Lola is the younger sibling, and Charlie is a lovely older brother who teaches Lola how she should be behaving. The books never show their parents, just the children, and I always find them interesting to read with my children as different fonts are used, the writing is not always linear, sometimes it goes down the page, or does a loop the loop, so it is never boring to read one of the books. The pictures are all bright and colourful, though cartoon like in style, and to contrast there are some real photos of landmarks like the Royal Observatory and a cruise boat going up the Thames.
My boys have been visiting London since they were babies, so they were delighted that Greenwich is featured in it, as that is where their grandparents live. They also liked seeing the science museum, and the London Eye, as they are familiar with these places. Other landmarks like Big Ben and the Tower of London are recognisable buildings to them. I feel that this book would still appeal to a child who had not visited London before, but I feel it would mean a lot more to a child who has seen one or two of the sights.
The story of the book is lovely. The children are on a school trip to London for the day to see the sights. There are quite a few facts introduced through the story telling, such as Charlie telling Lola the bell is how Big Ben gets its name, and Marv (Charlie's friend) telling Lola that the flag flying at Buckingham Palace means the Queen is home. It is the same sort of style as a child asking a parent lots of questions about the things that they see on a day out, and the beauty of having no adult characters means that the answers given are simple enough for children to understand and the facts are there for them to learn without thinking about it.
For example, one lovely page in this book is a childish looking map (like a childrens sketch) showing the familiar outline of the River Thames and the buildings that they have seen through their day trip are on the map with tick boxes, so if you were so inclined, you could use this book as a plan to go round London yourself with your child and tick off when you see things, then have a lovely keepsake of the day.
I find these books are very popular with my children. My eldest son is now 6 and is almost proficient enough at reading to attempt this on his own, but there is actually quite a lot of text, so we tend to read this altogether. Quite often he will ask me to point out specific words that I have read to him so he can follow the text with me.
My youngest is happy to just listen and look at the pictures at 4 and a half years old.
I feel that for a child with a good attention span, these books are suitable for parents to read from about 3 years old to about 7 or 8. The cbeebies channel is aimed at children under 7, so I feel once a child got that bit older they might still quite like the stories but begin to feel that the characters were a bit babyish and less relevant to them. I am happy to keep reading these to my children for as long as they want as I think they are really nice stories and quite involving, and quite educational.
A nice addition to this particular book are some postcards. The last page of the book is printed on card, and there are perforations to pull out the two postcards. There is a description there about how you can fill in your post cards to tell someone you know about London, and get your parent to put a stamp on and post it for you. It's such a nice touch that makes it a bit more special than the average book.
I highly recommend the Charlie and Lola series, and this book is as excellent as any other I have read from the series, so it gets a high rating from me.