Considering she is only 6 months old and cannot read, S owns a lot of books. Perhaps even too many books, some (illiterate idiots) might say. We also borrow library books on a regular basis.
At the moment she has three cloth books and three board books on her play mats, and we have three library books as well, having recently returned a book we loved so much we kept it for two months!
My favourite book at the moment is called Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus. It’s fairly simple, as you can imagine: the bus driver tells you, “I have to go over there, please can you keep an eye on my bus and don’t let the pigeon drive it…” and then the pigeon spends the whole book trying to persuade you to let him drive the bus. As with all the best children’s books, it’s a completely ridiculous premise that works precisely because it’s so ridiculous. The pigeon tries bargaining, bribing, pleading and trickery to get you to let him drive the bus. At the moment, S is too young to do much other than listen to the words and look at the pictures of the pigeon looking sad, but I can imagine in a year or so it will be one of those books she will get endless enjoyment from, shouting at the pigeon that it can’t drive the bus!
The book we borrowed from the library for a good two-month chunk is possibly the most simple, straightforward book I’ve ever come across: Orange Pear Apple Bear. I used to read it to my ex’s four year old, and never understood why she loved it so much. S also seems completely mesmerised. There are five words in the entire book, repeated in different order. I know children love repetition, but I didn’t realise something so simple could be so enjoyable. An orange, a pear, an apple, a bear. An orange pear. A bear that looks like an apple. And so it goes on, and S sits and watches the pictures go by.
Another library book we kept a little too long was Peace At Last. I chose it mainly for sentimental reasons: I can remember reading this book when I was at school. S seemed to enjoy it though, I think because of the repetition. Mr Bear can’t sleep, and goes from room to room in his search for peace, always ending up saying “Oh no! I can’t stand THIS!” There are lots of opportunities for making silly sounds: Mrs Bear’s snoring, Baby Bear’s aeroplanes, the fridge, the cats outside, the cuckoo clock, and the illustrations are traditional and quite beautiful.
I bought a copy of Yak Yuk on a whim in Waterstones the other day, and immediately fell in love with it. It’s a board book, so I know I can give it to S to play with and look at the pictures without having to worry about parts of it getting torn out (library books are a worry on that front!), and there are very few words – typically two to a page. The story is basically about a yak and his friend, who is a duck and likes to jump in muddy puddles. The pictures are bright and colourful and because the words are so simple you can make the story as complex or straightforward as you like. And then S can sit and use it to practise turning pages and look at the pictures for herself.
When I bought Yak Yuk, I also bought a board book of Each Peach Pear Plum. This was another one I used to read as a child: the original Where’s Wally book. You start off looking for Tom Thumb, and then on the next page a short rhyme tells you who you’re looking for next. At the moment S is not really old enough to do that side of it, but she enjoys looking at the pictures and listening to the rhymes. I’ve always loved the Ahlberg books; the stories are enjoyable and the illustrations adorable and instantly recognisable. It’s hard to believe Each Peach Pear Plum is now 34 years old!
One of my favourite books of all time is a children’s book I owned long before I was even pregnant. I have loved Where The Wild Things Are since I was very young, and always enjoy reading the book. Spike Jonze recently made the book into a movie which, while definitely staying true to the look of Maurice Sendak’s original illustrations, was nowhere near as amazing as the book! It’s about a little boy who is naughty and sent to his room, from where he sails off to a far away land where the wild things are. At the moment I don’t think S is really old enough to understand it, and the pictures are a little dark for her right now, but I can’t wait until she’s old enough to read along with me.
Last, but most definitely not least, is another book that will have to wait until S is a little older. I borrowed Don’t Put Your Finger In The Jelly, Nelly from the library when I was still with S’s father, and would read it to his two youngest children. They loved it and quickly learned the words by heart, shouting them out as I turned the page. In the end I bought them their own copy for Christmas, and would often overhear them reading it to each other – a sure sign of a hit. In my experience any book which allows the reader to interact, with flaps to lift or holes to poke, is a winner with young children, and this book comes out on top of that pile. The first part has a big picture of a jelly and tells you not to put your finger in it. There is of course a hole for you to poke your finger through, and when you turn the page your finger is waggling next to the jellyphant, who is upset. The book goes on like this: don’t put your finger in the cheese Louise, pasta Jocasta etc, until the last one – which I won’t tell you, because I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.
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