Monday 24 September 2012

Review: The Big Rumpus

~by Kendal

The Big Rumpus is one of the few books I’ve ever read that is actually laugh out loud funny. A candid account of urban life for a young bohemian family, the stories are both hilarious and quirky and have all the honest and sometimes cringeworthy details you’d expect from this author, Ayun Halliday.

Halliday became famous after her parenting zine, The East Village Inky, began to gain an underground cult following. Adored for its pithy drawings and words exposing both her parenting foibles and her strong opinions on everything from public breastfeeding to co-sleeping, Halliday gave voice to a new breed of parents – parents who wore their babies and celebrated the bizarre oddities of their children’s character. ('All Inky wants to do is talk about the murder of John Lennon. I think it's my fault.')

Reflecting on the absurdly fleeting nature of childhood, Halliday writes, ‘…I have to remind myself to relish the constant, exhaustive demands little children make on my body and my time. I’m preparing myself to miss Inky’s frequent bleating – I’ll miss it when she can’t wait to ditch me. Sweet memory will soften the edges of their razor-sharp fingernails, those sticky paws and all the little elbows and heels that have found their way to my eye sockets. I’ll long for the old burdens when Inky and Milo are sneaking out the window to swap bodily fluids with their friends.’

Halliday’s voice is inimitable and manages to expose the bittersweet reality of watching your children grow, whilst at the same time never becoming too sentimental or twee. She is unflinchingly honest about her opinions on everything, yet quick to point out when and where and how often she falls short, which makes you wish she was your best friend. She is ferocious, Amazonian and also a total slob.

The Big Rumpus is a kind of memoir of the first years of her daughter and son’s lives, organised into somewhat random chapters and covering a huge range of topics. The chapter entitled NeoNatalSweetPotato is all about the birth of her daughter and subsequent days spent in the NICU, waiting for her to come home. In the chapter entitled, ‘Topless Lunch’, Halliday writes,

‘Breastfeeding is wonderfully intimate, but it’s also so danged handy! Kid did a triple gainer off the jungle gym? A hooter will fix what ails her. The balloon from the shoe store popped after a passionate but all too brief romance? Num-num num-num….It is as legal in our country to breastfeed children past babyhood as it is to bitch about it. People who want to protect children from harm would do better to fill up a grocery cart on behalf of a hungry family than to hassle mothers whose well-fed sucklings are too big for a high chair. In the land of plenty, breastfeeding women should be represented on a postage stamp, not in Family Court’

One review recommended the book to any stay at home mum who ‘believes in natural birth and granola’, but honestly, whatever your parenting views, this book is a good, well-written and funny read about things that every parent experiences, even if they don’t always admit it. And in the constant stream of serious and challenging parenting books that come their way in this house, in most houses, I imagine, it was a welcome bit of light relief.

For more info on Ayun Halliday, check out her website.

To buy the book, visit our Amazon Store!


  1. Great review, I love this book. I would love to get my hands on some copies of her zine!

  2. I've never even heard of this book. You're my parenting library, can I please borrow it. And, you know, all your books ever?