Are some children’s books really written for the parents’ enjoyment? My Granny always said she never liked “Alice in Wonderland” which she was urged to read as a child, because she always felt it was written for grown-ups. This question hovered in my mind as I romped through Ed Goodwin’s highly enjoyable book for children, “Journey to the Moon”.
It contains three fantasy tales from the Goodwin family, consisting of the hero (the Dad), Mum (the sensible sceptic) and two adventure-seeking girls, Suzy (aged 7) and Connie (aged 3).
Going to the moon
In the first, Suzy announces that she wants to go to the moon. They find a book in the library “Young Girl’s Guide to Going to the Moon.” From reading this, her determination grows in spite of the best efforts of her parents to deflect her. The peculiar thing is that the book keeps disappearing whenever they try to check up on it.
Dad is the one who cracks first, and he gets involved in making the rocket (out of cardboard), which stretches around the house, including the toilet; the spacesuits; saucepans for helmets, the motor (an adapted lawnmower). Mum helps by smuggling (!) some oxygen tanks from her workplace at a hospital, a feat that needs editing out as it may act as subconscious encouragement that it is okay to steal from a workplace such as the NHS, apart from also being a safety hazard. This latter point is corrected as it emerges that they find balloons more manageable sources of oxygen.
The girls then go on their journey, with the experience alternating between what they see and their parents’ horror when they get cut off from cell phone contact.
However they arrive back safely. And guess what? Next time they go to the library what Suzy really wants is a book on how to get to Mars!
Punch and Judy Show
The next story is about how to make a Punch and Judy show, only it must be pacifist with no violence. So the crocodile must not bite. This is the shortest story in the book but my favourite as it involves various Alice in Wonderland type conversations about how to make the violent non-violent, and how to make the impossible possible.
Ed Goodwin is a writer well attuned to family squabbles and the tensions of parenting. So some of this would appeal to the type of child reader who loves the books of David Walliams. In all three tales, the Dad is actually the comic hero, who tries to satisfy the whims of a demanding daughter with ingenious but bodged technology.
Unicorn in the garden shed
The third tale is about how the family happens to acquire a unicorn which they try to keep in the garden shed, and then at a local riding school, feeding it on coco-pops. I found this story drags on a bit and could have been edited into a tighter plot. It is almost as if, like the Arabian Nights, it has to be kept going from episode to episode. Of course, some parents, and some children, like a story with familiar characters and near repeat actions to send them to sleep night after night. T
hat said, Ed Goodwin has created three fantasy tales which are fun to read. He starts from the basics of normal suburban family life and from that blows up the comic scenes, almost like a balloon ready to pop at any moment. The fantasy (book or unicorn or whatever) is there one moment and vanishing the next , with a chuckle of laughter as Ed supposes what he and his family would do. I still think it is a little bit more about and for Ed, than for Suzy.