Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

When is a sofa not a sofa?

Posted on | August 9, 2009 | No Comments

After the success of Here comes Frankie we immediately put out a reserve notice at the library on all other Tim Hopgood books we could find in the catalogue. Within a couple of days Our Big Blue Sofa was waiting for collection and since we’ve got it home it has stayed very near the top of our pile of current favourite reads.

our-big-blue-sofa-inside

Jessica and Tom have a lovely big blue sofa which is just perfect for bouncing on, but when they’re not using it as a trampoline they transform it into all manner of backdrops for their adventures. Sometimes the sofa is a big blue hot-air balloon, other times a submarine or an elephant which Jessy and Tom ride on through the jungle. Unfortunately the sofa has seen better days and one morning disaster strikes:

While Tom was trying to beat his own World Record for non-stop bouncing, there was a hug thud and the whole room shook. Our big blue sofa isn’t bouncy anymore.

Tom and Jessy are forlorn. Seemingly nothing can replace their much loved sofa, but – without giving the game away -  in the end all comes good and the duo do get a new platfrom on which to practise (albeit when no-one is looking) for the Sofa Olympics.

The book has been a huge hit here (I’ve already ordered our own copy) because it is so humourous for kid and adult alike, and because it perfectly captures several oft-repeated moments of family life – the parents “requests” for the kids to stop bouncing, the negotiations which take place to stave off bedtime, and the discovery of all sorts of treasures down the back of the sofa, to name but a few. The illustrations are bold and cheerful, reminding me a little of Lauren Child‘s style mixing drawing and collage. An added bonus, especially for my 1 year old, is that the sofa’s blue pattern is printed on raised soft fabric, perfect for running your finger over. This printing technique is put to use particularly well in the illustration showing the dusty expanse left behind once the old sofa is taken away.

tent

Having read Our Big Blue Sofa for the umpteenth time M decided to turn our sofa into an “Egypt Princess Tent”, and the following day into an ark. To aid the architect I supplied several bulldog and butterfly clips (stronger than clothes pegs), the least dirty bamboo canes from the garden and – most successfully – a circular laundry ring from Poundland. laundryclipBy hanging this off a hook we have in the ceiling for Christmas and birthday decorations it provided the perfect way to hold up bits of sari material and net curtain we’ve collected from various charity shops for our dressing up stash.

ark

Other bits and pieces we have found useful for building dens of one sort or another inside include:

  • the drying rack – not very stable on its own, but good for a wall with support like chairs at either end.
  • extra larges sheets or table clothes – we’ve found TKMaxx  a good place to pick these up cheaply.
  • sample curtains (often given away or bought for next to nothing) from furnishing stores (ask for the remnants bin).  What’s nice about these curtains is that they are often very decorative and make the den rather swankier than just using plain sheets, but they are heavy and the kids can find them frustrating to clip up (this is why I like sari material and net curtains as the kids can hang them up and move them around easily by themselves).
  • A blow-up camping mattress adds luxury to an under-the-table den.
  • Self adhesive hooks – available in DIY stores

When we had tidied away the ark we steeled our nerves and investigated what lay down the back of our sofa to see how it compared to the lists in Our Big Blue Sofa. If you’re house-proud you should perhaps look away now…

down-the-back-of-the-sofa

We turned our finds into a museum, complete with artifact labels. I loved how M chose to group things together (the straw went with the cutlery – “they’re cafe stuff, mum”, whilst the bird stickers went under “Office suplies” – definitely my sort of office!) My favourite find was a packet of tomato seeds, and I honestly don’t know how so many teaspoons found their way underneath the cushions. Hmm. So having laid the soul of my sofa bare, are you willing to see what delights your sofa holds?!

All in all this new find of a book as provided us with plenty of hours of fun, both reading and playing. The only downside to Our Big Blue Sofa is that M now feels fully legitimised in jumping on our sofa: “But Mum!! I’m Jessy and I’m practising for the World Championships!”. To this I just have to smile and admit sometimes I too wouldn’t mind doing just the same.

our-big-blue-sofa-frontcover

Our Big Blue Sofa:  3star

The motivational soundtrack to M and I’s olympic training sessions included Jump by Van Halen and Jump with you Baby by BB King.  As a result of reading Our Big Blue Sofa I’m determined to finally get around to making some big bean-bag seats for the girls – then they’ll also have their own little sofas to get comfy in when reading their favourite books

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