Why Children’s Books Matter

The Infinite Playground

I love it when I find a blog which instantly throws my mind into chatter overload. Words, images and sounds start to explode. It gets noisy in there!

Middle Grade Strikes Back – #coverkidsbooks published one such blog concerning the limited media coverage assigned to children’s books and why we should be seeing more about children’s books in the press. One of the main reasons I started blogging about children’s book reviews, events and crafts was because as a parent I found I was struggling to find a variety of books for my children to try. I was always being exposed to the same limited selection which we’d either already read or they just didn’t appeal to my children. Of course since launching my blog, now I actively seek out alternative books and look in other places to find new ones but still it often takes some digging. Coupled with the recent disappointing news that the Guardian will soon no longer be adding to their online children’s books web page (aimed at children), I knew the only way to quieten my mind on why books are so important for children was to take on Middle Grade Strikes Back’s challenge and write a response. My little voice wanted to join the crowd to help it cheer louder and ideas started to leak out…

“Books are like people.”

I think books are like people. They each have their own personality and ultimately, it’s not what’s on the outside of a book that matters it’s what’s on the inside. The content of a book offers every child a paradox. On the one hand they have the opportunity to discover the world beyond their front door by absorbing the plentiful fresh ideas and opinions spread across the pages; whilst on the other hand they’re drawn into exploring the world within themselves through the questions and thoughts triggered every time they read a new book.

It was at this point as I wrote my blog that it became clear I needed something much sharper to express the enormity of the value books can add to children’s lives. I was looking for a perspective changer. Something children and their parents could relate to.

Why do children’s books matter so much?

So the best way I knew how to translate these feelings about why children’s books matter to me was to write this rhyme.

the-infinite-playground-2

 

A wider coverage of children’s books can only mean a greater choice is more readily available, making it easier to find the perfect fit for each child so they too have the opportunity to learn, experience and understand our world and who they are. I’d like to see not just the big names getting coverage but also new authors, niche authors, non-fiction authors and without doubt the illustrators as major contributors to many children’s book sales.

So thank you to Middle Grade Strikes Back for reminding me what drives me to keep persevering with writing children’s books and why I started blogging about children’s books in the first place.

 

Children’s Picture Books about Books

Picture books about books, reading and creating stories are the perfect choice if you want to encourage your child to read during the new term. I really enjoyed putting this list together as each book demonstrates such an individual approach to the same topic from both new and established children’s authors. As before, I’ve written a short review and my two boys have rated them out of 10, the first score being from my youngest, age five.


This Book Just Ate my Dog – Richard Byrne (author & illustrator). Publisher: OUP Oxford (1 Jan 2015). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

This is a fun, quick read. Beautifully sketched illustrations coupled with a basic story but guaranteed to get some chuckles from the younger ones enjoying the unexpected interactive element to the story.

CLICK TO BUY This Book Just Ate My Dog! (Ben & Bella)


Wanted Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar – Emily Mackenzie (author & illustrator). Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s (18 Dec 2014). RATING: 10/9; 10/10.

I adore this book in every way. The vocabulary and language used is just the right mix of simplistic and clever. The character is cute and the bright and bold illustrations compliment the humorous story. This is exactly the kind of book I aspire to write! I can’t get enough of Ralfy and neither can my boys. It’s a firm bedtime favourite. A “must have” for any little person’s book shelf.

CLICK TO BUY Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar


Recipe for a Story – Ella Burfoot (author & illustrator). Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books (1 Jan 2015). RATING: 1/10; 7/10.

I thought this book was both original and informative. The rhyme makes it a pleasure to read and its light-hearted approach to the elements of story-making is a fun way to introduce story writing to children. However, for my youngest the idea was not believable. Being quite matter of fact, he was adamant that it was a strange story as “you can’t cook a book.” He had a point and it highlighted that the age group that this book was written for might not be able to understand or appreciate the full meaning inferred by the clever play on words and take the story more literally than intended.

CLICK TO BUY Recipe For a Story


The Incredible Book Eating Boy – Oliver Jeffers (author & illustrator). Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books (25 Jun 2009). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

This is an entertaining story full of amusing and quirky illustrations. It must be on the road to becoming a classic by now. We have read this book so many times and yet it still remains a page turner for us all.

Note to reader: Although you can’t cook a book apparently it’s quite possible to eat hundreds of them!

CLICK TO BUY The Incredible Book Eating Boy


Bears Don’t Read – Emma Chichester Clark (author & illustrator). Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books (26 Feb 2015). RATING: 7/10; 8/10.

George is a bear who is not satisfied with doing the usual bear things, he wants more. He wants to be able to read and it takes a little girl called Clementine to give him a chance and fulfill his dream. This is a charming story with amusing illustrations which can inspire children to be brave, determined and go beyond what they know.

CLICK TO BUY Bears Don’t Read!


Books Always Everywhere – Jane Blatt (author) & Sarah Massini (illustrator). Publisher: Nosy Crow (31 Mar 2013). RATING: 4/10; 2/10.

A very simple rhyming text coupled with large bold illustrations of different types of books, where you find books and what you can do with books means this book will appeal to pre-school children.

CLICK TO BUY Books Always Everywhere


It’s a Book – Lane Smith (author & illustrator). Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books (1 Mar 2012). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

This is a book of few words, yet it says so much. It’s a humorous comparison between a traditional book and our expectations of modern technology. It’s brilliant and my boys find it hilarious. We usually take turns in reading the different character parts. However, although the tongue in cheek use of the word Jackass (opposed to donkey) is apt for this story as it’s not a word we commonly use for a male donkey in the UK (except for negative connotations perhaps) I’m not convinced it works as well in a book for young children in the UK as it might in the US and it leaves me cringing ever so slightly every time the boys read the word.

CLICK TO BUY It’s a Book


The Story Machine – Tom McLaughlin (author & illustrator). Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s (15 Jan 2015). RATING: 10/10; 9/10.

The author’s creative imagination and artistic skill shines through in this book. It beautifully demonstrates that the art of telling stories doesn’t require high tech gadgets to bring them alive. It’s about creating something new with words and pictures in your mind.

CLICK TO BUY The Story Machine


Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite – Nick Bromley (author) Nicola O’Byrne (illustrator). Publisher: Nosy Crow (6 Mar 2014). RATING: 6/10; 4/10.

It’s all about the book! Caught up in the wrong book is a crocodile, who likes to eat words, gobble up letters and swallow sentences. He gets scribbled on and shaken until he eats his way out the book. A book that aims to engage the reader to comment.

CLICK TO BUY Open Very Carefully


Use Your Imagination – Nicola O’Byrne (author & illustrator). Publisher: Nosy Crow (4 Mar 2015). RATING: 8/10; 9/10.

Wolf teaches rabbit how to create his own story using well known, traditional wolf tales as the basis for this amusing modern twist. A witty, colourful and vibrant read.

CLICK TO BUY Use Your Imagination

What theme would you like to see in my quick look book reviews?

Source: Public or private library.

 

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

 

Feeling the Love in Picture Books

Love Books

Image courtesy of ponsuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My boys and I are back once again with our quick look, book reviews and ratings. As before, each score is rated out of 10, with 10 being the best and 1 the worst. The first of each scores is from my youngest boy.

As we approach Valentine’s Day what better way to celebrate than to learn about love. I have to admit it wasn’t a topic I had previously thought to read about to my boys at this age. I guess I was hoping my daily motherly actions would be a more than sufficient demonstration of love for now. Yet there are times in every parent’s life when we have to step back and realise we cannot teach our children everything and the full extent of love is one of these such things. Parental love is just one type of love so it’s both natural and inevitable that our children will have genuine feelings for others throughout their lives.  At times I think some adults can be very quick to dismiss a child’s feelings for others and consider them to be easily replaceable and somehow less important than their own “mature” feelings. We should never underestimate the intensity of a child’s feelings. A child’s love can be naïve but no matter how misguided it may be, it is no less real or genuine. How many times in your childhood were you told there are “plenty more fish in the sea” for example? This may well be and it may be appropriate to move on but it doesn’t deal with the feelings that remain. Most of us tumble our way through life trying to fathom out love with no instructions or map to guide us so rather than seeing love as a commodity that is easily replaced these books we have chosen aim to SHOW children HOW to love. Having feelings of love may come to us more easily than knowing how to deal with them, how to show our love and how to treat the people that we love. So it is never too early to start learning.


Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney (author) & Anita Jeram (illustrator) RATING: 1/10; 7/10.

Yes we started with a classic which has inspired many a declaration of love between parents and children all over the world. Has anyone reached further than the next galaxy and back? Beautiful book however rated down by my youngest who said it was only about how much they loved each other and nothing else!


Love Splat – Rob Scotton (author/illustrator) RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

Splat is an endearing character who tells a simple tale of love and rivalry showing how modesty and kindness triumphs. A rose-tinted view perhaps but a nice introduction to competition in love with a happy ending. Ideal for the age group.


Everyone Says I Love You – Beegee Tolpa (illustrator) & Michael Caputo (paper engineer). RATING: 10/10; 9/10.

A lovely pop-up book with very little text. The pop-up pictures are iconic representations of six different countries (e.g. Eiffel Tower for France) and the text details the name of the country and how to say “I love you” in that country’s language (e.g. for France in French.) So simple yet this one little book still manages to teach language pronunciation, classic landmarks of each country and how love spans the world – all with very little writing!


Henry in Love Peter McCarty (author/illustrator). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

Say I love you with a blueberry muffin! A sweet story of how the little gestures can mean the most.


Never too Little to Love – Jeanne Willis (author) Jan Fearnley (illustrator) RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

It takes two to love in this very cute book which has been creatively designed. Its simplicity will appeal from a young age as the message is simply the title!


The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein (author/illustrator). RATING: 5/10; 8/10.

A well-known book about unconditional love which has been a controversial target of much debate over the years. Again not rated very highly by my youngest because he found it too sad and in this instance I have to agree. This book doesn’t leave me feeling all warm and cosy about love instead I’m left feeling it’s a thankless task. However the message is loud and clear that love is about giving not receiving and it takes two for love to thrive.


Love Monster – Rachel Bright (author/illustrator). RATING: 3/10; 9/10.

I can see a theme appearing with my youngest who rates any book down if something sad or scary happens. To him if something goes wrong it’s not good regardless of the outcome! This book portrays a valid message of not to look too hard for love, sometimes you may get it wrong but if you be yourself, it may find you. I like this book as it is more realistic than most but very gently approaches the possibility of disappointment on the road to love. It is an encouraging story of never giving up and accepting who you are.


Love is You and MeMonica Sheehan (author/illustrator). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

An adorable depiction of all the good feelings love brings to a partnership. This could mean a parent, a friend or a pet. No matter who it is this book revels in the support, the sharing, the giving and the dependency that love initiates. Beautifully illustrated.


I Love You Stinky Face – Lisa McCourt (author) & Cyd Moore (illustrator). RATING: 5/10; 5/10.

A gentle, funny way of describing unconditional love and finding the good in people. Not much to the story line but a delight to read none the less.


A Kissing Hand – Audrey Penn (author) & Ruth E. Harper/Nancy M. Leak (illustrators). RATING: 10/10; 9/10.

A truly heart warming story of a parent making her child feel safe, secure and loved at all times, even when she is not present. A fantastic story which could help children build the courage and confidence they need for independence.

I hope you have loved our selection!

Where obtained: public or personal library.

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.