I’m Really Ever So Not Well

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I'm Really Ever So Not Well (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren ChildPoor little Lola is tucked up in bed with a cold, but big brother Charlie brings her a tray of her favourite pink milk and some biscuits. Today, however, Lola says the milk tastes green and the biscuits are ‘too prickly to swallow’. Charlie tries to cheer her up with flowers, but they simply make Lola sneeze. She can’t join in a song with Charlie because her throat hurts, but she begs her brother to sing for her. Charlie is in a quandary because he has promised to play football with his friend Marv. He doesn’t want to break his promise, but Lola tugs at his heartstrings so he tries ‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.’ Lola, however, doesn’t clap because, as she says, ‘I’m really ever so not well.’

Charlie takes Lola to the bathroom to see her cold germs in the mirror. She reckons there must be 54 billion, or even a trillion of them. Charlie gets a phone call from Marv and tells Lola that Mum will come and play with her as he is off to the football game. Once again, Lola pleads with Charlie to stay with her and do a jigsaw puzzle. The phone rings again – Marv is getting impatient.

There follows an imaginative episode where Charlie and Lola are cloud hopping to try to catch a butterfly that is missing from Lola’s mobile. Marv, however, arrives at the door and puts an end to this. Charlie lets out a great big sneeze, and the next day he is in bed with a cold. Lola of course brings him pink milk and biscuits and revels in the idea that she will be there every minute for Charlie until he gets better. Poor Charlie is horrified, and the story ends as he shouts for Mum.

“I have found that Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola books are always successful as read-aloud stories with a group of three- to four-year-olds.”

It took me a while to appreciate the originality of Lauren Child’s illustrations; at first I felt they did not compare with the likes of those of Quentin Blake and John Burningham, but I have grown to love the pointy chins, tiny but expressive mouths and huge eyes. I have, however, always admired the bold and unusual colour combinations in Child’s Charlie and Lola stories. The juxtaposition of orange with pink, lime green or bright blue may sound too garish, but Lauren Child knows how to make it work, even with a red floral quilt thrown into the mix. There is also a stunning double page spread of multi-coloured, alien-resembling germs on a black background: oranges, purples, greens, blues and pinks all vie for our attention. Almost as striking is the glass of pink milk with an exaggerated curly straw, again on a black background, with two little birds perching on it as Lola watches the milk rising up toward her lips.

The font used for the text is quite large but not always the same size, even within one word. It is always superimposed on the illustrations, usually on a light background, but when the background is black the font is white. At times the text curls and swirls expressively around the page as though it is part of the illustration: it follows the curves of the drinking straw, or the flight of a bee. The only disadvantage here is that it might be a little confusing for a young independent reader. ‘I’m really ever so not well’ is probably more suited to reading aloud by an adult, but I can imagine a slightly older sibling who is confident enjoying reading this to a brother or sister of three or four years of age. The vocabulary would prove challenging to a child that is just beginning to learn to read.

I have found that Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola books are always successful as read-aloud stories with a group of three- to four-year-olds. Most of the children will be familiar with the characters from the television series as well, but the delightful way that Lola speaks, the humour and situations presented all make the books great fun. ‘I’m really ever so not well’ is a story that every child can identify with. Older readers will chuckle at poor Charlie’s predicament, confronted by a little sister who dotes on him and is in her element when she has the chance to look after him. I would definitely recommend it.

Puffin Books, 2008


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I'm Really Ever So Not Well (Charlie and Lola)
by Lauren Child

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Written by frangliz

I have a degree in Fine Art but never actually worked in that field. After almost two years in Paris, I moved to Cairo and spent many years there teaching English language and literature in schools. I came back to the UK in 1999 and now work with young children. I also tutor students of all ages in French, English or Maths. I enjoy writing reviews in my spare time; another hobby of mine is photography. I have two sons who are now grown up, both working in IT.

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