Thursday, August 19, 2010

Read Aloud Thursday ::: Nanny McPhee a.k.a. The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda

Nanny McPhee: The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda
To wind up our summer, I decided that we needed a more frivolous read to give us a break from our trek through Narnia. With Nanny McPhee Returns hitting the movie theaters in August, and the original movie set to re-release on DVD in August as well, I decided that would be a good choice for us. (I'm not planning on taking the girls to this one in the theater - we'll wait for DVD - but I am planning a fun family movie night with the first movie hopefully this weekend now that we've finished the book). Anyway...

Nanny McPhee is based upon a book of short stories called The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda. They were written by Christianna Brand, and illustrated by her brother Edward Ardizzone. These stories were based on ones that their grandmother told her and her siblings when they were young ... the biography I read suggested that these were the stories that grandma told when her grandchildren were being particularly naughty.

In the story, the Brown children come from a large and very unruly family. There are so many children the author doesn't even bother to tell you all their names and ages ... she leaves that to you to figure out as you go through the story, there are that many children. And these children are bad. Really bad. For example:

Francesca had filled the Tiny Baby's bottle with baby-food and was feeding the dogs with it.
Little Quentin had drawn flowers all up the nursery walls and was watering them from the big, brown, nursery teapot, Antony was filling up the nursery ink-wells with runny red jam.
Nicolas had collected all the Little Ones' dolls and was lining them up for execution.
Sophie was shampooing Henrietta's hair with glue.
And the other children were doing simply dreadful things too. (p. 24)

The parents are somewhat shockingly blind to the misdeeds of their children and after yet another nanny has left the family, and they are unable to hire anyone to come and help with their children, they turn to Nurse Matilda. Nurse Matilda (or Nanny McPhee as she is called in the movie) is who you turn to when you are desperate. The first thing you notice about her is that she is ugly - she has a nose that looks like two potatoes are stuck together, warts, stiff black hair in a bun, and a tooth that you just can't seem to take your eyes off of. The children figure that they can get rid of Nurse Matilda just like all the other nannies, but it doesn't quite work out that way. For one thing, Nurse Matilda has this big black stick and when she bangs it on the floor unusual things begin to happen. For one, whatever mischief or naughtiness you are currently doing, you find that you can't stop doing, and so on.

The book is made up of three stories about the unpleasant Brown children. The first book centers on their behavior at home, the second on their behavior when they are sent to stay with their Great Aunt Adelaide, and the third when they are taken on a trip to the seaside. By the third book I was finding the story a bit reptitious as the children's antics seemed to take on a "second verse, same as the first" type quality to them, if that makes sense. I don't know if I would encourage everyone to rush out and buy a copy of the book but if you are looking for something light to read with your children, this is good one pick out at the library and try out ... and to feel free to stop after the first or second story. It's one that could be handed off to older elementary student to read as well.

For more great ideas to read aloud to your children, visit Amy at Hope is the Word.


  1. Oh! I remember you saying you were going to read these! I am definitely intrigued to read the stories and I had forgotten about the second movie. I'd wait for DVD too but I DO want to see it. I thought the first movie was quirky and interesting. I dislike reading about disobedient children but there's something about the movie that makes it interesting all the same. And disobedience isn't tolerated so I feel ok about it.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this one!

  2. Sounds a teensy bit like Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. My girls would probably get a kick out of it, but I'm kind of like Carrie--it sometimes pains me to read about disobedient young'uns.

    So glad you linked up!


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