I had a parcel today. It contained this book "Something to do" by Septima.
I love it for many reasons, two of which are that it's a puffin paperback from the 1960s and it is edited by Kaye Webb. In my family, those facts give a sense of excitement and trust, knowing the book is almost certain to please.
I was introduced to this book at my friend's house the other day; she had just been making lemonade using a recipe from this book and pulled it off her shelf to show me and it was a little delight. I was thrilled to discover it is filled with illustrations by Shirley Hughes. When I mentioned it to my Mum the other day she knew of the book but had never owned a copy, having seen it for sale in the sixties when when, aged 19, she worked in a bookshop in London. People came in asking for it regularly. Septima is the name of the group that created the book, so called because there are 7 of them. Sharing a community and having 21 children between them, they pooled their ideas and experience to write this lovely book to keep children entertained. As editor Kaye Webb says in her introduction (which, charmingly she wrote for all of the hundreds of books she worked on), "Here at last is a book to fill up all the wet days and dull days that produce the question "What can I do?" in every family. 'Something to Do' has suggestions for things children can do at home, indoors and outside, without spending much money or being a terrible nuisance."
I love Shirley Hughes' drawings and she is one of the few completely reliable illustrators I know of. She has been working for decades and is a truly accomplished artist. Her figures are so true to life, full of life, expressive and believable. Her illustrations are a comfort, they are so normal and domestic. They are loose, sometimes a bit scribbly. But so RIGHT!
But that delicious bonus aside, this is a book that deserves a place on the bookshelf of every family who loves to do nice things. Every family who values the cosiness of roasting chestnuts, who savours the taste of toffee apples, who understands the importance of doing things for yourself, doing things for free, and doing things together.
It covers the calendar year, giving a chapter to each month, and within each month it provides suggestions and instructions for interesting, seasonal things to do. Every month starts with a short poem, and is followed by a tempting selection of of craft activities, recipes and games. Among my favourites are the recommendations to get a cat, to go berry picking, what to play in bed when you're under the weather, a host of word games and skipping games.
Yes, technology is amazing and handy but there is still a place for matchbox furniture, marbles, clothes-horse dens, and daisy chains. I hope that if we ever have children of our own that we will remember to give space and time to such things and that dvds and handheld devices will not be the main focus of our day. This book is going to sit happily on our shelf and be referred to throughout the year, forever more. I hope you will discover its charms too.
Copies are available on Amazon Marketplace, for as little as a penny, plus postage. I even bought a spare one!