I woke up one morning over the weekend and peered out bleary-eyed from under my duvet. The room was dark and nothing stirred, but something had definitely woken me up. As my eyes adjusted to the dimness they came to rest on a strange glowing circle hovering about 3 foot off the ground, right next to my side of the bed. The glowing circle belonged to a short, shadowy figure with a pointy head and a strange tuft of, what I could only assume was, hair sticking out of the top. The glowing circle must be its eye, I thought to myself. The eye wiggled rhythmically. I stared at the silent watcher with mounting dread. What on earth was it? Then, out of nowhere, the creature socked me with a thin rectangular object and demanded, “Story!”
Needless to say, it was Wren, who had got up, put on her new bobble hat, and come in search of someone to read to her. What I had taken to be a glowing eye was her glow-in-the-dark dummy. Yes, such things do exist, and are very handy in the middle of the night. It has taken Wren a while to be able to sit through a whole picture book, but now she can, she loves it. Yes, you guessed it, it’s time for my annual round up of the picture books we have been given or bought over the last year and have especially loved.
First up is Tidy by Emily Gravett. This is a tale about a badger who can’t stop tidying up, not until he has managed to tidy the whole forest away! It’s a deceptively simple story, beautifully written and wonderfully illustrated by Emily Gravett. I think all my three are hoping I’ll learn a lesson from this book and stop asking them to tidy up!
Many of you will already know and love The Giant Jam Sandwich, by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway. It was first published in the seventies and it has been great to introduce my kids to it. What else are the villagers of Itching Down to do when they are invaded by a swarm of wasps but make a giant jam sandwich to catch them in? John Vernon Lord is an legendary British illustrator of long-standing. He was awarded Illustrator of the Year at the V&A Illustration Awards this year. In this book his illustrations have such fantastic character and detail. They also have a brilliant subversive edge which Finch especially likes.
The Street Beneath My Feet is a non-fiction picture book by Charlotte Guillian and Yuval Zommer. I have to own up straight away: I would have given my right arm to illustrate this book (although that would have made illustrating it quite tricky). It starts by looking at what is underneath the pavement where we walk, down through the layers of earth and rock, right to the earth’s core. It’s packed with lots of quirky facts and bits of information about everything from fossils through to magma. The concertina format means you can also fold out the whole thing to look at it in one go. It’s a real feast for the eyes.
Gigantosaurus by Jonny Duddle is re-telling of the old The Boy Who Cried Wolf tale but with dinosaurs. Jonny Duddle is an incredible illustrator, bringing such life and fun to his stories. “Stomp, Stomp, Stomp!”shouts Wren eagerly as soon as we open the cover.
Oh go on, humour me. How Billy Hippo Learned to Swim by Vivian French and HANNAH FOLEY!!!
These are a selection of books by Ezra Jack Keats about a little boy called Peter. I bought them second hand online and most of them are ex-library editions. In my humble opinion, it is absolutely criminal that a library should ever have been allowed to sell these books because they are classics every child should have the chance to read. In case you hadn’t got it yet, Ezra Jack Keats is one of my favourite illustrators! He evokes such warmth and feeling with his illustrations. One of the things about children is that their world is very small and because of this, every odd looking brick, brightly-coloured doorway, or winding back alley is important and affectionately familiar to them in a way it never can be for adults. There are very few illustrators who can evoke the strong sense of place that early childhood has and Ezra Jack Keats is one of them. These books are perfect for real littlies like Wren.
Lastly, Daddy Long Legs by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aurelie Guillerey is a book that could have been written for me as a child. The car breaks down on the way to nursery and now the child is worried about how Daddy will pick her up if the car breaks down again. I spent large chunks of my childhood sat in the back of old bangers by the side of the road while my Dad huffed away under the bonnet. Even now it still feels like a minor miracle when I successfully complete a journey by car. Scarred for life, I tell you! In this book Daddy reassures the little girl that he will go to all sorts of extraordinary lengths to get to her, and if all those should still fail, well, he will walk to her on his long legs. A super book for calming all those childhood fears of abandonment.
Tomorrow is the first day of my Return to Practice course. Wish me luck!