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Joyce Grenfell in general

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Author: Joyce Grenfell

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      10.02.2001 15:50
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      Think back in time for a moment. Imagine your wrinkles disappearing bit by bit, your spine getting straighter, your voice getting higher, and your line of vision getting lower and lower. Think right back, far back, to those misty days of the nursery. Do you remember your nursery teacher? The calm, patient, kind faced lady. You might have called her "Aunty Myrna", as we did. Do you remember how she would talk to you as if she understood you - she seemed to be like a child herself, only an exceptionally wise one, who knew when to stop putting glue on the paper, and start sticking the cotton wool down. Or if it's just too far back, read Joyce Grenfell's fabulous book "George - Don't do That!" and let her do the work for you. The book brings together a collection of six sketches from a nursery class. The book is especially clever in that there is only one person who speaks throughout the book - the nursery teacher herself. She doesn't talk to us, the reader. She is a truly committed nursery teacher, with endless patience. She never quite gets her activities done, as they are constantly interrupted by the children doing the things that children do, and asking the questions that children ask. We hear what the children are doing, as the class teacher says things like "Sidney, put your crown on straight please, not over one eye. What have you got under your jersey?" The only time she isn't speaking directly to the children, is when she whispers (in italics) to the piano accompanist things like: "He's such a musical child, and one doesn't want to encourage him" when a child starts flying around the room, buzzing like a bee in the middle of an activity. The only time we're never sure quite what is going on, is when we hear the oft repeated gentle request "George - don't do that". Something which I am certainly familiar with working with y
      oung children every day, always springs to mind, but everyone will have their own idea of what George is doing. That's what makes it so clever and personal. I remember a teacher at primary school reading these sketches out to us, her class on a Friday afternoon. I have since heard them performed on the radio. They are excellent for reading aloud to children, but will also guarantee a giggle for any adult who has ever spent a day in the company of very young children. The book includes a short address to young readers of Grenfell's books for children, set at a book launch, after the author has signed copies of her new book for them. This reminded me of a modern day version of the "letters" to her readers which Enid Blyton used to write at the beginning of her books. My only (very small) gripe about this book is that the illustrations by John Ward seem a little superfluous. We are given so much information through the nursery teacher's monologue, that we should be quite capable of forming these images ourselves.

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