This was Billy's choice for his bedtime book. He bought it at the school book fair a few months ago and it's a re-read for us. His Grandma took him to see the film at the cinema and he really enjoyed it.
The story is set during the Second World War. Rory Green has gone off to fight, leaving his wife Isabel to singlehandedly manage their farm, keep her job in the local shop and look after their three children, Norman, Megsie and Vincent. I know it's not Rory's fault - he had to go - but I just felt so sorry for Isabel. On top of this the children's cousins, Cyril and Celia are evacuated from London and come to stay with them. And on top of that the farm is struggling to pay its way and Isabel's wastrel brother-in-law is trying to wrest control of it from her. I don't think Billy was too concerned about poor Isabel, but I certainly was.
Fortunately for her help is at hand in the form of Nanny McPhee, who turns up uninvited one evening. Isabel is so beaten down and exhausted that she barely thinks twice about letting a complete stranger into her home to look after her children. Nanny McPhee is a magical being and soon sets about instilling some discipline into the unruly children. She can't stay for long, the rule is, 'When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.'
There is a lot of slapstick in the story, which Billy enjoyed - the piglets escaping, a big fight between in the children in the muddy farmyard, Miss Topsey and Miss Turvey thinking up ever more ingenious ways to kill Phil. There is some more serious stuff as well. Cyril and Celia's parents are cold and aloof, and when Cyril has to face down his father it takes a lot of courage. There is also a point where Norman has to trust his instincts, despite all the evidence showing that he is wrong.
Emma Thompson has a lovely chatty writing style, sometimes talking directly to the reader - there's an ongoing joke about how she can't remember what chapter she's up to. The story is interspersed with the 'Diary' which is a diary from the making of the film. I didn't read these bits to Billy, but I think they'd be very interesting to an older child. There are also plenty of photos from the film.