Saturday, 8 March 2014

Children's book review : What do the grown-ups do? - Mairi McLellan

We love discovering new books here at The Madhouse so we were delighted to receive the first two titles in a new series called What do the grown-ups do? by Mairi McLellan. You know how in American cartoons and TV series, the parents get invited in to school to talk about their jobs and explain exactly what they do? Well, this is basically the same thing but in book form.

The first book is called Joe the Fisherman. Unlike all the other career-focused books that we've read before, these books feature real-live people, rather than cartoony or idealised characters, such as Fireman Sam, Postman Pat or the ever-smiling inhabitants of Balamory. They do talk about the high-points of their jobs ...

... but they also talk about the downsides, such as very rough seas. They also go into some quite technical and detailed explanations about the finer points of their skills as creel fishermen and, even as a grown-up, I learnt lots. 

To make sure that they are child-friendly, the books feature a trio of cheeky, smiley little girls from Scotland, the Mackensies. There are the 5-year-old twins Ava and Skye and little sister Gracie who is a year younger.

In the second book, Papa the Stockfarmer, we learn all about cattle farming in Scotland. 

The children ask intelligent and often complex questions, leading on to discussions about such technical issues as making silage, the differences between high and low ground farming and what to do when things go wrong.

As with Joe the Fisherman, we get lots of ahh-moments, focusing on the high points of the job, such as looking after the baby calves.

But the book doesn't beat about the bush and goes into great detail about finding a calf swarming with maggots and how they all flood out of the bloody flesh when the medecine is poured on. Hmm - I skipped over this part as it was bedtime reading for 4-year-old Pierre and I didn't want him to have nightmares (and also because I really hate maggots !), but older readers will find these true-to-life tales absolutely fascinating.

And that's the beauty of these books. They target children aged 5-10 but they can be explored on several levels. There is a lot of text so for younger children, it's best to use them as picture books and skim over the technical details. Older children - and even adults - will find the in-depth descriptions fascinating though. The books could even be used in the classtoom for project work.

The collection will grow over the coming months. On the 28th April 2014, Sean the actor will be published, followed by regular publications through the year, including Fiona the doctor, Richard the vet and Gordon the wildlife filmmaker.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £10 paperback, £3.99 ebook

  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Matador (28 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783061197
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783061198
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 15.7 x 0.5 cm

for more information :

Disclosure : We received the books in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Toddler Books review


  1. these look great, sounds like they are suitable for all ages, I could learn lots myself

  2. Thanks so much to the madhousefamily for reviewing the books! So glad you liked them and appreciate you taking the time! All the very best - Mairi x

  3. Brilliant books - my kids are jumping up and down waiting for the next one already