Friday, October 30, 2009

Katie in London

Emmy is absolutely thrilled when a piece of mail, with her name written on it, is in our mailbox. So when a special package arrived from her best friend, Besh, she was ecstatic. With great ceremony, the package was brought into the house and placed carefully onto the coffee table.
"Can we open it now, Mommy."
As each item was taken out of the large envelope, Emmy gasped and clapped her hands.
"Oh, look what Beshaboo sent to me."
The package contained treasures from Besh's recent trip to London. Included in the package were photos, notes of his adventures, a special rock and a wonderful book. As I watched Emmy's reaction, I sent out a wish to every child in the world so that he or she could have the opportunity for such a special relationship as Emmy has with her friend Besh.

The book Besh picked out is a big hit with Emmy! We read it first thing in the morning, before naptime, after naptime and at bedtime. The book is treasured not only because it's from her best friend, but also because it takes her on a wonderful adventure to a faraway place.

Katie in London, by James Mayhew, is a creatively written travel guide through the city of London. Katie, along with her grandmother and little brother, Jack, set off to see the sights of the city beginning with Trafalgar Square. Upon arriving at the square, Katie's grandmother sits down to rest and asks the children to stay near the lion statue. With the morning sun, the lion awakens to find the children climbing on him. The children ask the lion to show them the sights so off they go visiting such places as Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Harrods department store. Besh's Mommy included photos of his trip for Emmy to compare with the illustrations. Matching the photos with the illustrations is a favorite activity for Emmy. And if asked what her favorite part of the story is, she will say when the lion opens his package from Katie and Jack and finds a woolly blanket.

When James Mayhew was a boy in school he was often told to stop daydreaming. Thankfully his daydreams didn't stop and instead have helped him to create a series of books about Katie. These books masterfully weave art, ballet, opera and literature into Katie's adventures. Each story is brilliantly written allowing a child to feel as if they too are experiencing the wonders that Katie is so joyfully experiencing. When asked where the idea for Katie came from, Mr. Mayhew replied, "Obviously my sister Kate was an inspiration! But also, I remember my parents had a big 'coffee table' book called Art Treasures of the World, which I still have to this day. It had all the usual art from Pre-historic man through the Renaissance to Impressionism and to Picasso and the Twentieth Century. I had no idea what the paintings were about; I couldn't read. But the paintings were illustrations to me, and I imagined the stories that belonged with them." Who would have thought that looking through an old book of art would be so important to a little child?

Also a huge inspiration for Mr. Mayhew's work are childhood memories. Here is a photo taken of a five year old James with his mischievious seven year old sister, Katie, in front of one of the lions of Trafalgar Square. James recalls spending the entire day in London with his family which was quite an event since they lived in a tiny village miles from anywhere.

From daydream to reality, Mr. Mayhew's first book in the Katie series, Katie's Picture Show, follows a small, lively girl and her grandmother as they visit a London art gallery on a rainy afternoon. When Grandma sits down to rest, Katie continues to explore the gallery's wonders alone. To her surprise and amusement, she stumbles inside painting after painting. As a result, she enjoys a cup of tea with Ingres' Madame Moitessier, befriends the little girl in Renoir's Les Parapluies, explores Rousseau's Tropical Storm with a Tiger, and marvels at the contents of an abstract painting by Malevich before being rescued, finally, by a gallery guard.

Emmy and I cannot say enough fantastic things about James Mayhew and his Katie books. If anyone is planning a trip to London then be sure to get a copy of Katie in London beforehand and use it to prepare for the trip as well as keeping it handy as a guide to the city. If you'd like to learn more about the author and his books check out Mr. Mayhew's blog Katie's Picture Show. Emmy and I are very excited to begin reading about Ella Bella Ballerina and follow her adventures into the world of music and dance. For more information, go to Mr. Mayhew's other blog Ella Bella Ballerina.

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