Do You have Small Children to Read to?

Recently, my personal interest in writing has led me to two wonderful sites for writers. I first joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Challenge. This was set up to challenge us to write one book each month for a year. It has been a wonderful inspiration the last three months as I sought to meet the challenge. Trying to improve my own writing, I discovered Carrie Charley Brown’s site Read for Research Month in March and took that in too. Wow!! Now I’m trying to follow RhyPIBOMO in April.

Parents who have small children must be delighted at the variety of beautiful picture books one can find these days. With advice from Carrie and friends, I have discovered a whole new range of colourful and sometimes wordless picture books for children.

I’d like to share a few that I have looked at. Of those that are wordless, I have found two wonderful storybooks by Molly Idle about her heroine Flora. At first I read Flora and the Flamingo which is all pink and white and depicts Flora as she copies the flamingo’s movements, wearing her pink swimsuit and flippers. Then, as she moves, he does and they relate to each other throughout the book this way. Sometimes there are flaps to open for surprises and sometimes, just beautiful pictures to look at for the story on the big page until Flora and the flamingo finish dancing together. I was so entranced I got Flora and the Penguin out, finding a story in muted blues with Flora dressed for skating. Molly Idle is certainly a fine artist.
Another book, almost wordless was a way of looking at things. We are shown what might be a duck’s beak or a rabbit’s ears and there is just a banter of viewpoints back and fore until close to the end. I don’t want to spoil the fun of what Amy K.Rosenthal and Ted Lichtenheld have done with it but it’s fun too. The Way Back Home was mainly told through the pictures and shows a small boy’s imaginative travel out into space and how he gets back home. It also reveals how new friends can help each other. Oliver Jeffreys is an Irish writer and father of two small boys who reveals the plot through words and simple childlike drawings.
Finally Mo Willems writes many books for young children and one is called That is NOT a good Idea! This depicts a hungry fox and a plump goose, building a relationship during a walk in the city, then in the woods and each change of place (and the goose’s choice) is punctuated by ‘that is not a good idea!’ But it has a surprise ending which will make children laugh. Other prolific authors are Peter Brown who wrote Mr. Tiger goes Wild and Jean Reagan who wrote How to babysit a Grandma ( and later a Grandpa.) I could go on forever Enough to say that books like those I mention here, are a joy for adults to read and for children who are beginning to take an interest in books with a good story.

What have I learned? I have discovered how important good illustrations are and how words need to be carefully chosen.  I have learned that stories can be told just through illustrations, through one conversation, with different kinds of presentations and should try to be amusing for young children. Informative books can also be a story as Linda Ashman showed in her book Rain! illustrated by Christian Robinson or Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali, a story about the life of an African boy who was taken to England in the 18th century.

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