What we’re reading: Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy

Long before Hurrah For Gin, there was Mrs Large.

She’s a mum we can all relate to. She loves her three kids with all her heart but they are of the heavy-footed, boisterous variety (understandable, given that they are elephants).

Sometimes the poor woman just NEEDS.A.BIT.OF.SPACE.

Or even just the chance to go for a wee with the door closed and no one trying to press the flush, unravel the loo roll, eat the toilet brush and throw things in the bath.

So while Lester, Laura and the Little One are busy eating (ie. throwing around) their breakfast, the frazzled mum retreats to the bath tub with tray containing the paper and a pot of tea.

What ensues is a wonderfully well-observed exchange between mother and offspring that is just so true to life and honest, yet completely delightful at the same time.

As Mrs Large attempts to luxuriate in half a bottle of bubble bath, each member of her herd bounds in, demanding of her time.

And she doesn’t even try to disguise her weary disinterest at hearing Lester’s recorder rehearsal or Laura reading aloud. Because as we all know, unless you are some kind of natural earth mother type or lying, your children are not endless fascinating.

Sometimes they can be a bit irritating and you envy your friends who moan about being tired because they went out every night this week as opposed to herding a tribe of unwieldy, unreasonable tiny people through life.

For me, some of the best picture books are the ones that offer a nod to the parent as much as the child.

Jill Murphy (one of my all time favourite author-illustrators) could almost have written Five Minutes Peace as one of those ironic Ladybird books where children’s classics are reimagined for adults.

Yet this 1985 classic is much better than that, because it shows the chaos and emotional rollercoaster of family life in all its honest glory.

Best of all, children love it as much as mums because they recognise it as truthful and funny.

Baby Bookworm is as amused to see the Little One climb into the bath with his mum while still wearing his pyjamas as much I am to see Mrs Large slyly escape back downstairs and finally grab herself three minutes and 45 seconds of peace.

The only thing I’d change? I’d swap Mrs Large’s pot of tea for a gin and tonic.

The poor woman deserves it.

Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy. £6.99 (paperback), Walker Books.

Read more…

The magic of Mildred Hubble

Peace at Last by Jill Murphy and other brilliant books about bears

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