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If you've got a pre-schooler, then you probably know all about Charlie and Lola already. Based on a series of books by Lauren Child, the stories are currently being shown on the CBeebies bedtime hour and feature brother and sister combination, Charlie and Lola. There are now a lot of books in this series - my two year old son received 'Snow is My Favourite and My Best' as part of a five book box set this Christmas, but it can also be purchased separately.
All the Charlie and Lola books (and the TV series) start the same way... "I have this little sister Lola, she is small and very funny". I think the familiarity of the opening is really good for the pre-school age group, my son will recite the opening lines along with me as soon as I start reading the book, which I have to do on a regular basis as Charlie and Lola are very popular in this house.
'Snow is My Favourite and My Best' is based on Lola's expectations and experiences of the snow. It starts with her eagerly anticipating the snowfall, because the man on the telly said it was going to snow. I love the normality of this opening - I remember as a child how excited I'd be if I heard it was going to snow (not that it did very often in London) and the rushing to the window to see if it was snowing yet, and this is captured beautifully in the first pages of this book as Lola waits for the snow with increasing impatience, sneaking out of bed to try and catch a first glimpse.
Sure enough, the snow arrives and the next day Charlie and Lola go out to play in it. They throw snowballs, make snow angels, build snowmen and go sledging - basically an idyllic snowy day. This is my son's favourite part of the book, I think because it reminds him of the fun he had in the big snowfall this year, and he can really relate to the things that Charlie and Lola do.
The next morning all the snow has gone and Lola is devastated. She wishes it could snow every day - I'm sure most parents have heard that wish expressed about something or other, whether it's snow, Christmas or birthdays! It's up to big brother Charlie to make her realise that if it snowed every day it just wouldn't be special... he talks about how having a birthday every day would spoil all the excitement, how if it snowed every day that there would be no trips to the beach or swimming in the sea. The pair set off on an imaginary journey to the North and South poles, seeing polar bears and skating with penguins, before Lola realises that snow is more special if it's an occasional occurrence, and there are lots of other things to look forward to and enjoy.
One of the things I love about the Charlie and Lola books is the way that they are illustrated, and how the text becomes an integral part of those illustrations, curling it's way round the illustrations or increasing in size when Lola needs to make an important point. The characters of Charlie, Lola and their friends are beautifully drawn and all the books have a normality about them which appeals to young children who like to read about things they can identify with. In addition to the very ordinary subject matters, there is usually a part of the story which uses Charlie and Lola's imaginations to do something a bit different - in this book it is the trips to the poles, and I really like that aspect of the books as well. It's always good to encourage imagination in young children.
In terms of price, this is currently available for £4.19 on Amazon, with a recommended retail price of £5.99. There is also a version available with an audio CD, and one with reusable stickers.
Overall, this is a beautiful book with a lovely story and fantastic illustrations - one that most pre-schoolers and early school age children will enjoy. The snow theme makes it more accessible to younger children who are yet to experience some of the themes of the other books (wobbly teeth, first days at school) but the story will appeal to young and old alike.
Book Series: Charlie and Lola