As any parent of small children knows, a copious amount of picture books is essential. Not to keep your little one entertained (they will devour the same book over and over again!) but to stop adults having the monotonous boredom of reading the same story over and over. Seriously, it is us parents that need new picture books not the kids! As someone who has written and illustrated a children’s picture book and is working on another one I thought I would do a post about some of the books me and my wife love to read to our little boy. Yes your Gruffalos, Meg and Mogs and Hungry Catapillars are must haves but the ones below are those little gems that are hidden away in row upon row of generic samey stories. I do find most children’s books have predictable uninspiring stories and are not actually that well written but quickly rushed out to make a bit of money. I am not saying this is a guide to good children’s pictures books, more the style that we like…
Baby Blue Egg by Mij Kelly and Mary McQuillan
We picked this one up cheaply as an ex-library copy. My wife had a quick look and it seemed funny. When we read it to our boy he loved it. It is about a little egg that starts to hatch and is off to find who his mother is when he suddenly gets chased by a scary dinosaur. He bumps into different friendly dinosaurs who are each a different colour. The rhyming is really good and it helped our son learn his colours. There is also a twist at the end which is obvious to an adult but adds some excitement for the little ones. It has been ready many times so far.
Yawn by Nick Sharratt and Sally Symes
I bought this when I knew we had a child on the way for its simple language and clear images. It has a big mouth shaped hole running through it and is basically the story of Shaun who does a yawn that is given to different animals. Again there is good rhyming throughout and, when he was old enough, our son could tell you who the yawn was going to next. It is nice because each page ends with, “Guess who he/she gave it to?” then the next animal appears on the following page. We have moved away from this but it was great when our boy was learning animals names and sounds.
Oi! Frog by Kes Gray and Jim Field
We don’t actually own this one, we borrowed it from the library but it was an instant classic. It is about a frog that wants to sit on something soft but is told by a cat, who is a stickler for the rules, that frogs sit on logs. The book is all about the frog saying, “so what does a…sit on?” and naming different animals. The cat tells him and they all rhyme leading to some animals sitting on some funny things. The twist at the end is particularly humourous too. We did buy it for a friend’s child but have not purchased a copy for ourselves yet.
There’s an Ouch in My Pouch! by Jeannie Willis and Garry Parsons
As the boredom of old books sets in we have started to buy second-hand books from charity shops. We saw this and grabbed it quickly. Willaby Wallaby has been kicked out of his mother’s pouch by a terrible ouch and now he is throwing a wobbly. The story revolves around him finding other marsupials and them offering their pouches but they are all wrong somehow. In the end we finally find out why he has been kicked out of his own pouch. It is nice because it is set in Australia and introduces loads of new animals to discuss. I will say this though, it is a tongue twister of a book so look through it a few times before reading out loud to your children.
Freddie and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson and Karen George
There is a reason that Julia Donaldson is such a renowned children’s author. The books she has created with Axel Scheffler and Nick Sharratt are classics, but the amazing thing about her is that her lesser known books are really good too. I recently discovered Rosie’s Hat at the library but the one we have that is great is Freddie and the Fairy. We actually got this in the 4 for £5 offer in The Works. I find most books in that offer are that mushy pulp that try to teach morals and are pretty badly written or simply not entertaining enough, but if you sift through you do find some classics. In Freddie and the Fairy, Freddie saves a hard of hearing Fairy from a tree and is granted all the wishes he could ever want. Unfortunately Freddie mumbles and the Fairy gets most of his wishes wrong, mixing up his wish with another thing that rhymes with it, such as him getting a frog instead of a dog. It is really nice to read and, much like Yawn, the reveal of what he gets is on the page afterwards so helps the little ones to say what they see. We tend to turn the page and let our son say what is there instead. Freddie does learn the error of his ways and gets what he wants…or very nearly!
I think what this shows is that there are so many children’s books out there you need to sift through a lot of rubbish before you get to the good ones. I think that rhyming and something a little different is best. Something that is either interactive, a little bit silly or allows you to educate your child a bit through them guessing what comes next or learning about colours, shapes or animals makes for better books. You can really get them involved then. I will say this, I laugh at poo and farts but there appears to be a lot of children’s books about this and they are actually not very good. Most are not clever, they are just pretty much saying, “he he, look some poo.” This all makes me realise that writing a children’s picture book is not actually that easy, you need to think about it and move away from the lowest common denominator stuff. You also need to realised that children are not as unintelligent as you may think and the best books should entertain the adults as well.
I was going to add my own book in but that would be a bit self-indulgent (also it is nowhere near as good as the books above!). So there we go, just the sort of books we like to read in our household. I hope that has given you a few ideas if you have, or know, little ones and I hope these are books you haven’t really heard of so they can bring entertainment to other households too.
Well it has not been the free, writing fueled summer I expected but at last I have managed to edit Super Lizard Returns and format it for Smashwords. You can get a free copy of the ebook here. There are a few changes from the Wattpad version, mainly typos but I have added in a few lines that add continuity to the stories and link them together more clearly. Basically it is just mentioned things that happened in previous stories in the book rather than pretending they did not occur. Finally I have changed a few jokes from the first story, Sequins and Spandex. A few hinted at being a little rude and given the target audience I felt that these were not in the spirit of Super Lizard. So there we have it, I promised an edited ebook version of Super Lizard Returns before the end of my school summer holidays and, for once, I have delivered. So enjoy and please leave a review even if it is not a good one, I like to know how people feel about my work. Oh, yeah, and it should be on ibooks, Sony and Barnes and Noble soon enough when those people at Smashwords have weaved their magic. Right I am off to stare into the sunlight and wonder where all the time has gone!