Thursday, 8 July 2010

Children's Books - Which one's do I pick?!

I've been buying and reading books since before I can remember. I have always been a 'reader'. One of those children that, when I wasn't at dance class, always had my nose in some book or other. I love stories. I get so involved in books that, if someone asks me a question whilst I am reading, there's a short delay (while my brain processes the question, taps me on the shoulder, and asks politely if I want to respond to this particular question) and then I answer it, or more commonly, because by this point I have no real memory of the question, say "Pardon?". The delay makes my husband laugh, when it's not irritating him! It's like talking to me via satellite. I'm sure people think I'm ignoring them, or doing it on purpose, but I promise I'm not!

So what books do you select for a baby, toddler, little girl, when you are a big reader yourself, and have such a specific view on what you like and dislike?

Well, I've tried to be as open as possible. To regularly visit my local library (most libraries do a weekly 'story time' session for babies and toddlers which is free!). I allow my daughters to look through the children's books themselves (no matter what mess they make in the process - I simply do a quick tidy up when we're finished). I try and let my girls to pick the story books themselves and not 'edit' their choices with comments like "Oh, that one doesn't look very good ,love, how about this one instead". Though I still do that more than I'd like.

As a result of letting them pick, we've discovered some gems! I thought I'd share them here.

My 4 year olds' favourite story at the moment is "Fancy Nancy". Written by Jane O'Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, published by HarperCollins Children's Books originally in the U.S.A in 2006, then in Great Britain in 2007, it's a 32 page picture book about Nancy and was a Number 1 New York Times bestseller. Nancy loves being fancy. Sparkly shoes, feather boas, flower covered hats and ACCESSORIES! It's a brilliant story that my daughter clearly identifies with. And there are another 5 in the series. Only, be prepared to get a little bit fancier yourself! (then enter Fancy Nancy into the Search engine on the top right.)

Julia Donaldson has obviously written one of the most famous of children's stories, "The Gruffalo". It's one that the elder has only just got into. But one of her utmost favourites over the last 3 years has been Julia's picture book "Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose". Illustrated by Nick Sharratt and published by Macmillan Children's Books, it's a 24 page picture book about a dinner party for animals. Good manners are few, but fun is had by all. It's a lovely, rhyming story, with excellent pictures and opportunity for practising animal noises if you want to get imaginative! Though I'm not sure what noises the Gazelle and Hyena may make! (and enter the title into the search engine)

A recent discovery for my 4 year old is "The Fabulous Fairy Feast" written and illustrated by Sue Heap and published by Egmont. A 32 page picture book (with 2 pages that open out to the side for the scene in the wood! This story is, again, beautifully written. It isn't a rhyming story, but it does have some lovely little rhyming sections. The pace of the writing is excellent, making it fun to read out loud. And I particularly like the fact that Lizzie Little-Fairy has a pet frog called Burp and a flying pink bicycle! (again search for the title)

Finally a couple of choices for the 1 year old in the family.

Firstly a set of books illustrated by Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo's illustrator!), published by Campbell Books, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Books. The collection of 4 books is called "Animal Rhymes", and contains "Freddy the Frog", "Lizzie the Lamb", "Katie the Kitten" and "Pip the Puppy". Short rhyming 8 page story books with beautiful pictures, with plenty for little fingers to point out. (search for title)

Secondly, the classic of course, Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". No need for fancy furry bits in the book. No need for flaps, or pull outs. Just a few well chosen holes where the little caterpillar has eaten. Watch the giggling start when you put your fingers at the back of the page to tickle your child's finger when they put it through the holes! It does mean that there is one particular page (where the caterpillar eats a long list of scrumptious foods) that is a favourite, and it's hard to get the story moving past that page! Oh well. Never mind! (search by title)

I hope that gives you some ideas. I've added the links to the book publishers for more information, and if you like the look of them you should be able to get them from local libraries, even if you order them (which you can do for free!).

Have fun reading!

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