Friday 2 August 2013

The Slushpile Silly Season - Summer Reads for Healthy Living

by Addy Farmer 

... But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear, he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book ...
Robert Louis Stevenson - A child's garden of verses

Ah, lovely. It does happen, I've seen it, in fact I've taken photographs and shown them to people to prove that my children are not constantly interacting with a screen. But if your children aren't constantly outside exploring, getting messy and finding themselves then help is at hand.

In a survey published by the Department of Health last year, Scooby Doo, which features a cowardly Great Dane with an insatiable appetite for snacks and giant sandwiches, was found to be the healthiest of all children's television programmes. Consultants drew up the league tables by watching 200 hours of children’s television, featuring the 20 most popular programmes, and noted how many times physical activity was shown.
“Each character was rated on their activity levels and received marks for good behaviours such as walking short journeys and playing sport,” according to the Department of Health.
Because much of the action in the cartoon shows Scooby and his gang running away from monsters, they topped the list. However officials at the health ministry insisted they were not holding up Scooby Doo, famed for munching on Scooby Snax, as a healthy role model. Phew.

Look at him go! 
So, top 5 children’s programmes ranked by levels of physical activity and good behaviours:

  • Scooby Doo
  • Shaun the Sheep
  • Lazy Town
  • Peppa Pig
  • Bob the Builder

My personal favourite is Peppa Pig. Here's a good one all about healthy living

Although even Peppa Pig is not without controversy as Nadia Khomami reported in a 2012 article in the Radio Times
Parents have this week been turning against the behaviour of the naughty cartoon pig for being a bad influence. One father complained about his four-year-old son starting to splash in muddy puddles on the way to school. Others reported their children shouting atrocities such as "chocolate cake" when asked what they would like for breakfast, and one concerned mother even wrote on parenting website Mumsnet: “A day after watching [an] episode, my son wouldn’t eat his cucumber and tomatoes."

One mother asked, "Shall I ban Peppa Pig, or is that being totally unreasonable?" Um, yes well. It's all a far cry from R.L. Stevenson's child in the garden, so I have carefully hand-picked 5 books which will fulfill the healthy living criteria of physical activity and good behaviours.


'A bear however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.' A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Excellent sentiment and always outdoors, playing with legions of friends and getting up to all sorts! So far so good ...

Oh but wait, there's honey and lots of it and how much exercise is actually going on if you're busy Doing Nothing? 

'"What I like doing best is Nothing."
"How do you do Nothing," asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.
"Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, 'What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?' and you say, 'Oh, Nothing,' and then you go and do it.
It means just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."
"Oh!" said Pooh.”'

Oh indeed, Pooh. Moving swiftly on to:


The Hunger Games fulfils all outdoorsy expectations. It's outdoors for a start plus there's LOTS of running and jumping and leaping, and a slightly strict diet. 

“Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when it's morning again, they'll wash away"
- Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
Perfect. Until you get to the part (most of it) where they all kill one another and that is NOT healthy. Oh dear, I'm beginning to feel the strain of being constrained...


Okay so you'll have to get beyond a girl called Titty but this story is so outdoorsy you can smell the water. John, Susan, Titty and Roger sail their boat, Swallow, to a deserted island for a summer camping trip (so far so perfect).If you can forget the names - there's no killing, no parents, plenty of fresh air and jam sandwiches so all's good. 
Swallows and Amazons for-ever!” 

Plus there are two pirates called Nancy and Peggy (unless you consider that the name thing is becoming an issue here). Maybe just think about what fun they're all having.

Okay, so I will confess to a nostalgic love for Wind in the Willows. I mean what's better for summer than making friends, having adventures and messing about in boats? Yes, Toad is a bit on the tubby side and has a fondness for motor cars (Poop! Poop!) which makes him behave quite badly and maybe Moley is a bit slow and sits down rather too much and perhaps Ratty could make eat a bit more healthily ...

Right, I'm losing the will to live here. Begone exercise and good behaviours! Books are more than the sum of their parts! Forget, straining to fit these stories into government criteria - they don't fit. They are no more or less than 5 of my favourite summery reads and no more so than my favourite, The Moomins, written and illustrated by the incomparable, Tove Jansson.


 "The spirit of adventure sped through his soul on mighty wings.”

“I'll have to calm down a bit. Or else I'll burst with happiness”
Moomintroll, Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson

Can't ask for more.


  1. Titty...I might have to read that book.

    1. Thanks for reading, Mark! I can also recommend some books with the word 'pants' in them.

  2. You're writing up a storm, Addy! Off for a run. While reading.

    1. Run like the wind, Candy! Keep hold of that book!

  3. Would just like to point out that Kyla in Slated spends most of her time going on country walks and running; in book 2, cycling is added in; in book 3, climbing. All very healthy as long as you avoid Lorders.

    1. oh and I forgot the kayaking in book 3!

    2. I don't think my characters in Shine are very healthy. They seem to spend all their time on the computer. You clearly have an aspirational sports streak in you, Teri.

    3. Ha! Less aspirational, more secret past. I used to be an obsessive runner & gym junky. And my first summer in the UK did over 500 miles on my bike until the gizmo that records miles broke.

    4. Wow! I don't know you at all!

    5. Blimus, Teri! Kyla is indeed a role model for heathy living and should be included. WInnie-the-Pooh should take lessons from her.

  4. Titty and Nancy had absolutely no connotations for me when I first read Swallowdale in the mid-fifties aged 10. But it was the beginning of my total obsession with story and it is Arthur Ransome's books that are almost certainly to blame for my becoming a writer. That ten-year-old is the person I write for.

    1. Thanks, Janet. Books can be truely amazing. My ten year old is definitely glad you read Swallows and Amazons!

  5. I'm with Winnie the Pooh on this one!

  6. Brilliant Addy! From Winnie the Pooh to the Hunger Games and i never realised Peppa Pig was such a bad influence:)


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