This year I have not made any resolutions, because I don’t like to give things up but I have set myself a few goals, one of which is to start a few new regular blog features. One of which is to share some of our favourite stories. Reading is a huge part of this family’s MO but when it comes to kids books there is so much utter trite out there you can waste an awful lot of money. I often become angry when reading a poorly written child’s book it is as if the publisher has just shoved something out there because hey kids like bears and shown complete disregard for children, because hey kids are stupid you can read them anything right? WRONG!
To save you a little time trawling through the shops and internet site and hopefully save you wasting money on awful books I want to share a few books with you each month with a loose theme. This month the theme is stories with a message.
Narrative is a great way of exploring feelings, behaviour, social responsibility with children. It is also a great way to start a dialogue with a child about things that happen in the wider world or in their daily lives that they may find hard to articulate. We have always done this, even before Sebastian was talking I would talk about the story afterwards and compare it to things we had done, experienced, or another story. Now he will jump in and make comparisons as we are reading something. Or say he feels like a particular character in a book.
I think establishing an open dialogue with children at a young age is very important and making those conversations a place where they are not being judged is equally important. For example acknowledging if they dislike someone and helping them navigate how to manage that.
We have been reading this since before Sebastian was a year old but it is not a short baby book, (I was always too bored for ‘baby books’). The premise of the tale is a sleepy town filled with ‘traditional’ farm animals. Then an exotic creature, a Zebra comes to town. Many residents love he she is fun and exciting and offers them shows and stories they have never had before. However a goat is not happy and begins a campaign of fear until he drives her put with a sign saying “No Stripes Allowed”. He realises his mistake and the town say sorry and bring her back. The penultimate line reads, “Now Yawnalot is a happy place where they welcome any kind of face”
This story is such a great way to explore themes of diversity but also about fearing things that are different. It also speaks about being a stander by to injustice, about not speaking up when you see a mean thing happen. I love this book and I feel as your child grows the conversations you can have around the themes in this book will grow and develop.
There are a whole host of Elmer books some better than others, this one is a keeper. The hippo’s river dries up and they come to live with the elephants. They know they are unwelcome but they need water to survive. Elmer saves the day and the Elephants and the hippos work together to restore their river. The best line comes at the end when one of the elephants who was opposed to the hippos being there says, “imagine if our river dried up”
I love that this is about working together to secure a better future, about accepting things. It talks about overcrowding of the river but explores the fact that this is sometimes necessary for survival and bigger things are in play. It is a nice way to start a discussion about refugees especially given the current climate on this.
This is such a lovely book that talks about the insecurities that a sibling might face. It explains that the love a parent feels for a child goes beyond their attributes. It is a lovely reassuring book and one welcome in any home even if your little one is not part of a sibling group it does not mean that they will not have fragile moments about your love for them. They are a sensitive bunch those kiddos.
This is a book for parents as much as it is for children. The illustration is as important as the words it is truly wonderful. The book tells of Hannah who loves Gorillas, they are her favourite thing, the underlying truth is that daddy is Hannah’s favourite thing but daddy is always busy.
When her toy gorilla comes to life and takes her to the zoo he finds that her father’s coat is “a perfect fit” After a night of fun she wakes in the morning to race downstairs and tell daddy all about it and he offers to take her to the zoo before she has a chance to speak. “Hannah smiled, she was very happy”
There are so many lovely details such as a drawing on the wall Hannah has done of here and her father holding hands, he is huge and her smile is too. The drawings that show how alone and scared Hannah feels when she does not have her daddy’s attention are very telling. It is not only a cautionary tale for parents but a great way to start a dialogue about the inevitable time we do have long hours at work and trips away and how that might make them feel.
5. Mummy’s Home – Christopher MacGregor & Emma Yarlett
This is a wonderful book that helps deal with separation anxiety. Christopher is ex army and he wrote Mummy’s Home and My Daddy’s Going Away. He wrote the two books and there is an accompanying website with advice on how to use the books. Inspired by his and other colleagues in the armed forces issues with helping their children understanding them going away for a period of time. This book has a wonderful rhythmic quality making it very easy to read aloud. It works for parents who go to work, if you are going to go away for the weekend or if you have longer stints of working away.
The world that Emma Yarlett has illustrated for the poem has such beautiful fantasy with many elements for little ones to explore. It also has great imagery to aide the theme in the story to help visual learners.
6. Paper Dolls – Julia Donaldson & Rebecca Cobb
Juila Donaldson is probably one of the most prolific children’s writers I know of and some of her books are better than others. This one is a great one. It has her signature rhythm and rhyme and it is a great way to talk about loss with a child. The story tells of a little girl making paper dolls with her mother and playing some fantastic imagination games with them until a mean boy cuts them up. At this point they float into her memory, a place where many wonderful things live such as granny, fireworks and old toys.
The little girl grows into a mother and one day helps her own little girl make some paper dolls. There is so much to talk about with your child in this book. Memory, loss, how to deal with a mean act from another party, why you should not be the perpetrator of a mean act and growing up. The story, it’s themes and the whimsical illustrations make this book very easy to love.