How it works: The Mum (A Ladybird Book)

Being a Brit in my fifties, I grew up with Ladybird books: small hardback volumes on every topic imaginable that might interest a child, as well as ‘easy-read’ fairytales, a progressive reading scheme, and much more. One of the many series was ‘How it Works’ - there were Ladybird books about forms of transport, electric and electronic devices, and much more. Many of them are now considered classics.

So when I spotted a Ladybird book on a relative’s shelf some months ago, I picked it up out of idle curiosity. ‘How it works: The Mum’, was the intriguing title. Within the first few pages I realised it was clever satire; it’s part of a new series of Ladybird book ‘for grown-ups’. With illustrations reminiscent of the 1960s style, it’s an amusing look into the life of a young mother.

I put it on my wishlist in the Autumn and was given it for Christmas. After I’d read the first few pages, I knew I had to find a copy for a good friend. After giving it to her this morning, I read my one from cover to cover myself. And while I don’t usually review such short books, I like it so much that I wanted to add my recommendation to the many other reviews.

The humour is decidedly British and understated, and the style of writing is that of a children’s Ladybird book. If you haven’t come across the books as a child, or if you don’t get satire or understated humour, then this probably isn’t for you.

It’s also probably not for you if you’re not a mother, or indeed if you’re a new mother who is in the middle of struggling with broken nights, and explosive nappies, and all the other stressful features of having a baby or an exhausting toddler.

But for those of us with older or adult children, and who ‘get’ this style, it’s really very funny in places. I thought about quoting a paragraph or two, but out of context it would probably just seem silly. In the context of a light-hearted satirical look at ‘how mothers work’, I think it’s brilliant.

Not every page will apply to every mother, of course, but as my friend said, the principles hold true, and there’s a great deal left unsaid which makes it all the more amusing.

There are several others in this series; I have a couple of others too, written in similar style, though I didn’t find them as apt or funny as this one. I would recommend it highly, but since humour is very individual, it’s worth checking a few pages in the bookshop (or ‘looking inside’ on Amazon) before deciding to buy it for yourself or another mother.

Oh, and look for special offers or discounts. While it’s a nice novelty book that will probably provoke chuckles from visitors if you leave it lying around, the official price on the back is rather high for what it is.

Highly recommended, if you like this kind of thing.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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