In my opinion, Peace at Last is one of Jill Murphy’s finest. First published in 1980, it received a commendation for the Kate Greenaway award. My first daughter was born in 1993 and this book was a firm favourite. We read it over and over and over again, so much so, I can still recite most of it off by heart, 20 years later!! It is a charming tale about the Bear family and poor Mr Bear who cannot get to sleep. She loved joining in with me as I made the noises; Baby Bear’s nyaaowing, the ticking and cuckooing of the clock, the humming of the fridge, the snuffling of the hedgehogs, the tweeting of the birds and the alarm clock waking the family up.
The story starts with the Bear family going to bed, but poor old Mr Bear can’t get to sleep owing to Mrs Bear’s snoring. He wanders around the house, trying to find some peace. In the end he finds “peace at last” but …. you’ll have to read the story to find out!
1 Peace at Last is a perfect bedtime story
Bedtimes are truly precious times and stories about bedtimes are particularly charming. My fondness for bedtime stories crosses 2 generations. I can still visualise my mother, sitting on my bunkbed, over 40 years ago reading Dr Seuss to me. And 30 years after I was repeating the experience but this time in the mother role, and I can’t wait to be able to do the same as a Grandparent (though my children are currently not so keen!) A story about bedtime reinforces to children that all families go to bed and, in this day and age, traditional illustrations, with no computers, laptops, tablets or phones is a good way to reinforce that bedtimes are not places for electronic devices.
2 An opportunity to show off your vocal talents
In this book, you can SNORE, NYAAOW, TICK-TOCK and much much more! By reading with expression you are making the story more interesting and thus your child will be more involved, engaged and may well join in with you. Especially if you point to the words as you go along, which is a great way to show your child that the written word in English goes from left to right and top to bottom. Your child will soon see that some words in the book are all capitals which is a clue from the author to read these words with emphasis. Unleash the actor inside and let rip!
3 The pictures are delightfully detailed
From Mrs Bear’s curlers and hairnet to the increasing bags under Mr Bear’s eyes; every page shows lovely detail. Your child is growing up in a modern world and this book is set in an era where there are no mobile phones or even digital clocks, so you can use the illustrations to develop your child’s vocabulary. Explore their knowledge of knitting, grandfather and cuckoo clocks, hairnets, salt cellars and pepper pots. The black and white pictures are also worth exploring; there’s an old fashioned telephone with a dial to talk about and compare with our modern day phones.
4 It contains beautifully poetic story language
Simply put, story language is language that is more often found written down rather than delivered in day to day conversation. The story starts with ‘The hour was late.’ Have you ever come across an hour and one that is late? More commonly, we would say “It is late”. This is one of the many reasons that children brought up on books do better in their academic education because they can use these phrases in their own writing and hence get higher marks.
5 It is onomatopoeic-tastic!
Poetry is filled with onomatopoeia, words that sound like the noise they are describing, and this book is too. Snore, Nyaaow, Tick-Tock, Cuckoo …. I could go on but I don’t want to spoil it for you. In school your child will learn about them as a literary device and use their own creations to write poetry; this book is giving them a head-start!
This book could give you and your child a warm fuzzy feeling, like it does for me or it could be used to help your child with telling the time, writing poetry, thinking about how animals adapt and considering what it would be like without electronic devices. I leave it up to you. Enjoy!
Additional Learning Opportunities
- You can help your child write Mr Bear’s diary entry of his night
- Discuss with your child what might happen the next day, your child could draw a picture or write a continuation of the story
- Rather than using your vocal talents, your child could use a variety of musical instruments to create a soundscape for the story. What sound or instrument might they use for SHINE, SHINE?
- There are many clocks illustrated throughout, help your child use them to tell the time and even work out how much time is passing during the night.
- Discuss nocturnal animals.