15th Nov: A classic favourite…
Today’s favourite is a real classic. An action song in a picture book – We’re All Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. The poetic use of repetition and rhyme make this a great read aloud and pull the child along on the bear hunt. It is full of sounds and movement. The sense of adventure in this book is palpable and lends itself naturally to being turned into a game. It is one of those books where the story comes off the page and follows you and your children into the real world.
14th Nov: A favourite illustrator …
I haven’t been using the Picture book Month theme calendar for my posts because so many of our favourite books just don’t fit into the categories and I wanted to talk about individual authors, illustrators and series of books. But today my chosen illustrator happens to have created a wonderful book on today’s theme – dragons. Not only that but I have just discovered that she illustrated the covers of some of my favourite adult fiction books written by Robin Hobb, which feature … dragons.
Jackie Morris‘s illustrations are beautiful – each page is a masterpiece in its self. She combines intricate detail and fantastical, exotic colours and places, with almost whimsical people and powerful animals. Tell Me A Dragon shows that everyone has a dragon – what ever its size or speciality. What is yours? Another of our favourite Jackie Morris books is Can You See a Little Bear?
13th Nov: And something for the little ones …
Looking back to when my two girls were babies their favourite first picture books these were simple, boldly illustrated books with minimal words, and either something to do (feeling the textures or lifting flaps) and/or strong characters.
12th Nov: Something a bit more grown-up …
My eight year old daughter is currently very taken with a couple of Babette Cole‘s picture books. Funny, child-friendly illustrations introducing puberty (Hair In Funny Places) and the strange world of grown-ups (Mummy never told me) in a relaxed way tongue – cheek way. Now we certainly need to track down another of her books – Mummy Laid an Egg. These are great examples of how picture books, traditionally aimed at very young children can be appropriate for older children – how funny illustrations and good rhythm and rhyme continue to appeal as children get older.
11th Nov: More historical fiction
History is a favourite subject in our house. So here are a couple of very different historical fiction pictures books. The first is a princess story with a difference – a real life princess and the real pressures of being royalty. Moi and Marie Antoinette (by Lynn Cullen and Amy Young) follows Marie Antoinette from her idyllic childhood in Austria to the pressures of the French court, through the eyes of her lap dog. The dog acts as a proxy – this is all about how French court life separates him and his mistress, but has a happy ending as he finds a loving mistress in her daughter Theresa. No French Revolution here. Another of our favourites covering a very different time and place is Freedom Ship, by Doreen Rappaport and Curtis James. Based on a true story of a group of slaves, including women and children who escaped with a Confederate ship, joining the Union fleet and gaining their freedom. An exciting adventure of a boy and his family, filled with the professionalism of the slave sailors and the fear and suspense of this very daring escape.
10th Nov: Counting books
As so many picture books are aimed at babies and young children a lot of them feature numbers and learning to count. A classic is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. With his signature colour and texture dense illustrations it tells the story of a caterpillar eating lots of things – with the extra fun of holes in the page where he has eaten through the food. Unlike many picture books devoted to counting the story line stands on it own. Another counting book with more to it than just counting is We all went on Safari. A bright, journey through the grasslands of Tanzania with a band of Maasai children, counting the different animals as we go – in both English and Swahili.
9th Nov: Once in a life-time Great Aussie Do!
Our favourite picture books from Australia are both published by Scholastic. And Kangaroo played his Didgeridoo, byNigel Gray and Glen Singleton. “You should have come to the Great Aussie Do” – lots of Australian animals come together for a party in a book with a wonderful song like rhythm to the lyrics and friendly humorous illustrations, introducing an assortment of Australian wildlife. Another very different favourite is an version of Waltzing Matilda, lyrics written by Banjo Patterson and illustrated by Freya Blackwood. The beautiful, evocative pictures tell the story of the shearers strikes that the song is said to have been written in honour of. It comes with a CD of the song, sung to the little known, original tune. (Both are hard to get hold of in the UK).
8th Nov: Our favourite animal books
My youngest daughter and I are animal mad, so we find ourselves drawn to beautiful picture books about animals. Not the anthropomorphic kind, but the books showing animals as they really are. These as it turns out are a very rare beast indeed. Many of the factual books about animals aren’t picture books, or are dry with random text that fails to flow through the book, often accompanied by not very inspiring photographs. But one of our favourite publishers Walker Books do a fantastic series called Nature Storybooks.
Each is a great example of a picture book, written to flow like fiction with beautiful illustrations. And each is different – different authors, and illustrators make for a varied look and read. We already have five, and regularly borrow two others from the library. Every single one is a gem.
7th Nov: Babywearing books
I have carried both my daughters and we love to see pictures of children being worn. Here are a couple of the rare books specifically about babywearing. Thought there are others which show it in passing. Our favourite is the classic A Ride on Mother’s Back, by Emery & Durga Bernhard. With rich, friendly, fascinating pictures of babywearing all around the world, it is a great introduction to how different traditional cultures carry their babies. Another one, set in Africa is Goodnight, Kuu Kuu by Wamoro P. Njenga and Anne Sibley O’Brien. It follows a baby through his day from the vantage point of his mother’s back. Evocative and very sweet natured. Do you know of any babywearing books? We are always on the look out for more. More babywearing books …
6th Nov: Food glorious food …
Many picture books have a moral to the story or are written to teach children a lesson about behaviour. As a parent these can make us feel uncomfortable or positive about the book depending on our own parenting style. Some of our favourite picture books turn food discipline on its head. One of these is the Daisy book Eat Your Peas by Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt and the other is Don’t Dip Your Chips in Your Drink, Kate by Caryl Hart, Leigh Hodgkinson. Both deal with how children eat with humour, and have something for the parents reading them to take away and think about.
5th Nov: Princess stories
Having two little girls in the house it is hard to avoid the influence of helpless, ball-gowned princesses. But one day in the library we discovered Mary Hoffman‘s Princess Grace. This is a really nice book exploring a young girl’s developing interest in princess, as she discovers that there have been far more interesting storytale and real-life princesses than the ones that require rescuing by fairy tale princes and who wear pink floaty dresses. The illustrations by Cornelius van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu are rich and full of facial expression. On the subject of princesses – we really like John-Steptoe’s Mufaro’s beautiful daughters, a traditional African twist on the old fairy tale princess.
4th Nov: You Choose
My girls love You Choose. Over the years we have spent hours playing imaginative games with this book. It is highly interactive, with page after page of pictures to choose from. The pictures are bold and cartoon like in Nick Sharratt’s trademark style. He is another illustrator whose picture books feature in my children’s favourites. Who do you want to be your friend? Which clothes, house or food would you choose? Warning – parents may get fed up of this one long before the children!
3rd Nov: Stone Age Boy
Picture books of course aren’t just for babies, and can have great educational value. Though we have found surprisingly few historical fiction picture books. One of our most borrowed books from the library is just that –Stone Age Boy, by Satoshi Kitamura. When a boy falls down a hole he finds himself back in the stone age. His new friend introduces him to stone age life. This is well written and beautifully illustrated, with glorious clear colours and lot of detail. Stone Age Boy is a great introduction to a very different way of life, showing how stone age people made tools, hunted, and cooked. A particularly nice touch is the pictures of stone age animals on the inside covers.
Please leave a comment if you would like to share your favourite historical fiction picture books. We are always on the look out for more.
2nd Nov: Bear Books
Both my girls have loved the Bear books, by Stella Blackstone and Debbie Harter from Barefoot Books. They are simple but joyful, with bold illustrations full of colour and patterns. A single book grasps their attention so that they not only want to be read the book, but will spend hours looking at the pictures and playing with the Bear. In the back of our favourite Bear at Home there is a plan of Bear’s house and my daughters have spent hours walking their fingers around the house, and imagining themselves living in the house. Highly recommended as a first book for a baby, especially in its board book format.
1st Nov: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
So to kick off I thought I would share one of our favourite writer/illustrator partnerships – Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Amongst these are some of my daughters’ all time favourites. My youngest daughter’s first favourite book wasMonkey Puzzle – she always waited with bated breath for the little monkey to be returned to its Mum. Another of our favourite characters – the Gruffalo has taken on a life of his own with merchandising, a stage show and an animated film. Room on the broom is also a much loved classic in our house, but actually you can’t go far wrong with any of these picture books.
The illustrations are bright, humorous and friendly and the words bounce along through the pages, with a song-like rhythm. Indeed many have been put to music in songbooks.
Which are your favourite Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler picture books?
November is Picture Book Month. To celebrate I’ll add some more of our favourite picture books each day through out November.
In a picture book, the illustrations are integral, providing not only a visual experience but telling the story too. They can provide not only a wonderful introduction to reading, but also an appreciation of poetry and art. As the saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words.
Find out more about Picture Book Month and read the daily featured posts from Picture Book Champions.
Please leave a comment telling us about your favourite picture books…