Five Minutes’ Peace

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Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy, book reviewJill Murphy’s ‘Five Minutes’ Peace’ is a charming picture book for very young children. The story centres around a family of elephants (Mum and three children) and begins as they are having breakfast. This is not a pleasant sight. The baby elephant has a cereal bowl upturned on his head, and there is a mess all over the floor. Mum, who charmingly has curlers in the few wisps of hair on her head, sets a tray and puts the newspaper in her pocket. She tells her offspring that she is going to the bathroom to get five minutes’ peace from ‘you lot’. The children immediately ask to come along, but she firmly tells them to stay downstairs.

Mum runs herself a bath and pours a cup of tea. She is in heaven, soaking in the suds, but it doesn’t last for long. Her son Lester barges in and asks if he can play her a tune on his recorder. Mum is not amused, but of course she gives in and Lester plays ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ more than just the once. He has established a precedent, and the daughter Laura is upset when Mum initially says she may not read aloud to her. Mum realises she is being unfair, so she allows Laura to read from ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, and naturally Laura takes advantage of the situation and reads more than just the one page.

Baby is not to be outdone, so he comes up and throws all his toys in the bath. The three children bombard Mum with questions: Laura wants to see the cartoons in the paper, Lester wants Mum’s cake, and baby wants to get in the bath with Mum. That seems like a signal for all three to jump in, and poor Mum groans. She decides to get out of the bath, and announces that she is going back down to the kitchen for her five minutes’ peace. Do you think she gets it? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

This is a picture book for very young children who are highly unlikely to understand that Mum needs a few minutes to herself now and again, and it might just do the trick of helping them to realise this. Although she is thinking of herself, the mother elephant here does encourage her children, allowing one to play a musical instrument and another to read to her. We feel that these are things that they often do together. Mum doesn’t shout at her children and lose her temper with them. She leaves them to get on with what they are doing and takes herself off somewhere else. She is a great Mum with children who obviously are very attached to her, and she understands that if she is good to herself every now and then she will be better geared towards giving her children her best when they need it.

The illustrations accompanying the story are delightful, including those of the family parading one behind the other for the frontispiece and again after the story finishes. We can appreciate Mum’s feelings when we see the mayhem at (and under) the breakfast table, and identify with her when we see her briefly relaxing in the bath, reading her paper and enjoying a cuppa.

Although first written more than twenty years ago, ‘Five Minutes’ Peace’ is still tremendously popular today. It is one of those stories that can appeal to adults just as much as to children, and as such makes itself a perfect book for reading aloud. Dad does not appear in the story; he may of course be at work, but it may be that this is a single mum struggling to cope with the demands on her time. I would suggest that it is suitable for children aged between three- and six-years-old. It might also be suitable for confident young readers to have a bash at themselves. It’s definitely the perfect book for demonstrating that Mums give their children their all, but there comes a time when they need to pamper themselves just a little.

Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy
Walker Books Ltd, 2006


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Five Minutes' Peace
by Jill Murphy

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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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