Picture This

I mentioned that I am rekindling my love affair with picture books. This is actually an understatement. It’s developed into a full-blown, no-holds-barred relationship. I think it all started when my local library informed me that Lilly was actually eligible for a library card of her own, which allows me to check out even more stuff (on her behalf, ahem)!

Just to clarify, picture books are those publications generally aimed at the 0-6 market. That’s a pretty broad range. You start off with the sort of board books that Lilly is mostly interested in at the moment – sturdy cardboard books with little text and lots of pictures, made from the kind of material that stands up to at least some of the abuse the average baby is likely to inflict upon it. After that, the books get bigger, the pages softer and the amount of text increases, although pictures remain a vital part in telling the story. This is the sort of thing I am mainly interested in.

The brevity of picture books conveniently enough also caters to my own short attention span. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment of having read ten picture books in less than the time required to read one chapter of an adult novel. Not only that, my research has opened up whole new worlds. I mean, who knew that Aliens Love Underpants? Or about the existence of fantastic creatures such as The Gruffalo, or an adorable pig named Olivia? Surely my life is richer for having encountered classics like Hairy Maclary, or the Blue Kangaroo books? To me, the best stories are either zany, like Zagazoo; or have an empowering message, like Big Bad Wolf Is Good, or preferably both – such as Giddy Goat, which is about a mountain goat afraid of heights and a great story about overcoming your fears and finding friendship.

I also recently had the pleasure of hearing Julia Donaldson, the author of The Gruffalo, speak at the London Book Fair in her current capacity as Children’s Laureate. Her love for stories and books is evident in her selection of titles for the current Waterstones Children’s Laureate picture book promotion. What I loved most about her talk was the ad hoc recital of Whose Mouse Are You? (Robert Kraus, Aladdin Books; read here on YouTube) as a great example of the lasting power of stories told with rhyme and rhythm.

So clearly I am not only on a continuing mission to get in touch with the picture book market, but I am also leaping at the chance of letting my inner child have a play. I’ve also decided to embark on a journey of discovering some of the classics in English children’s literature, which is clearly somewhat different from what I grew up with in Germany.

So far, I have read The Magic Faraway Tree, with The Railway Children next on my list. So if you have any suggestions, either based on what you read as a child or what you currently read with your own children, I’d be most grateful for some feedback and comments. It’ll keep me immersed in my happy flight of fantasy.

Although if my blog writing over time degenerates into Dr. Seuss-style rhymes, you’ll know I have taken the whole thing a step too far. In that case, just point me back to the yellow brick road, will you?

For that IS the way back home, isn’t it?

2 thoughts on “Picture This”

  1. Thomas the tank engine, Winnie the pooh, and there’s nothing more English than Enid Blyton. I loved paddington too. Roald Dahl and there’s a book of poetry by Quentin Blake and Michael Rosen called ‘Get me out of here’. Marvellous! I’ll come back with more. I read much more, and more widely, when I was a child than I do now. Odd isn’t it?

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