Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang by Emma Thompson

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Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang by Emma Thompson

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A funny, quirky mix of Emma Thompson's entertaining film diaries and the new Nanny McPhee story itself.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1408805015

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Mr and Mrs Green are a happily married couple, living on a farm with their three children, but with the start of the war, Mr Green goes off to fight leaving his wife, Isabel, and the children to fend for themselves. They are struggling to manage the upkeep of the farm and it looks as if Isabel may have to sell. To make matters worse, her estranged sister sends her two very rich, very spoilt children to live on the farm to escape the bombs in London, but they are immediately at loggerheads with their rather wild country cousins. They are fighting wildly, wreaking havoc and destruction and ignoring Isabel's pleas to stop when there is a sudden knock at the door from, of course, the terrifyingly ugly, magical Nanny McPhee.

I tend to be a bit leery of celebrities writing children's books. It always seems like they're just cashing in on their fame and using children to pad out their bank balances, but with Emma Thompson, who adapted Sense and Sensibility so beautifully, I felt hopeful of something rather better. She adapted the Nurse Matilda stories by Christianna Brand in order to write the first Nanny McPhee film's screenplay, and has now written her own Nanny McPhee story for the sequel. This is a book with a difference however, as interspersed between the story are Emma's film diaries from the set of the Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang film.

Emma Thompson has a very natural writing style that agrees with me. She's very down to earth, and willing to poke fun at herself, so the diaries are very fun to read. She's also included a great glossary for kids that explains about directors and producers and gaffers and runners, so they know what each person does on the film. You get to hear about the costumes and make up she has to wear for the film, all the efforts made in set design and the props department, as well as all the trained animals they use on set. I initially found the split between the story and diary a little bit intrusive, so you'd just get into one thing when you'd be back switching to another, but by the end I'd got the hang of it. At the start of the book there is a note to say you could just skip through and read all of the story or all of the diaries if you wanted to, and some younger children might prefer to do it that way rather than be confused by the jumps from one to another.

By the end of the book I found that I was quite enjoying the two being intermingled. It serves the story well actually, as I think had it been simply the Nanny McPhee story alone then the book might have seemed a bit lacking and not so special. The story itself follows the same line as the first Nanny McPhee film, with Nanny McPhee's magical appearance at a time when the children need her but do not want her, and once again when they want her but no longer need her then she must leave again.

Nanny McPhee has five lessons she must teach the family, most of which involve some sort of magical activities going on such as flying piglets or baby elephants in the bed. There are lots of little author asides that work very well, expanding on the story or commenting on the characters. I particularly liked the notes around the London cousins who seem so unbearably priggish and spoilt but you're then told by the author/narrator that we should be a little bit lenient towards them since they've had such totally unloved lives up until this point. The characters are interesting and funny, the antics they get up to are very visual (I guess it helps that she was writing this for the screenplay) and I also particularly liked all of Nanny McPhee's exchanges with Mr Edelweiss, the naughty jackdaw, which made me smile. Mr Edelweiss reminds me a little of Mortimer, Arabel's naughty raven in the wonderful books by Joan Aiken.

The book has a lovely, personal style that I enjoyed very much, and I think the warty noses, bare bottoms and burping jackdaws will go down very well with children. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For more comedic reading you can't really go wrong with George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl.

Buy Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang by Emma Thompson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang by Emma Thompson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang by Emma Thompson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang by Emma Thompson at Amazon.com.


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