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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Family Friday: Picture Book Nostalgia

As you may have noticed from earlier posts, I have a lovely new nephew who, following family tradition, has a library card and is enjoying being read to on a regular basis. This knowledge led us to some lovely nostalgic moments this week in discussing which to recommend, so I thought I'd share a few favourites, just because.

Many of our Children's Laureate's lovely books have seen hard service in this house, but a particular favourite that I haven't often seen mentioned is The Princess and the Wizard, which is essentially a variation on the old 'magician's duel' theme where one turns into something and then the other turns into something else. With lovely rhyming Donaldson text and sparkly Lydia Monks illustrations, this is perfect for young girls who are ready for real stories (not recommended for babies, this one!).

A series that we've loved and recommend for any child able to pay any attention to a book is Lynley Dodd's fabulous Hairy Maclary series. I personally particularly enjoy Slinky Malinki's stories (possibly due to the cute 'linki linki' pronunciation we had when the youngest was a toddler...). These books are also strong on rhythm and rhyme but are far shorter and more suitable for the youngest children. The pictures are also far more full of interesting detail than they at first appear and little ones love looking out for clues to what's going to happen next.

Another series is Julie Sykes' and Tim Warnes' gorgeous Little Tiger books. Little Tiger is a fabulous stand-in for an awkward toddler who doesn't want to go to bed or have a bath. Loving these stories led us to their brilliant Santa series (such as Hurry, Santa!), in which Santa is clumsy, noisy or running late on Christmas Day and the animals must help him. Lovely bright pictures which exude warmth and friendliness and a simple text that the kids soon learned to join in with made these books firm favourites over several years (and the board book versions, which originally came with little toys, are now a little dog-eared).

Finally (because I really can't go on forever), I'd like to mention the wonderful Oliver Jeffers, who is a relatively new picture book author-illustrator. His stories are wonderfully simple and warm and understated - oh, and bizarre. It's perfectly ok, for example, in The Way Back Home for a boy to go to a cupboard and find an aeroplane. Just lovely, imaginative stuff.

It's been a lot of fun going back through the picture books I used to regularly read to the girls and reminisce about which were our favourites. I should say that the 8 yr old does still read some of the picture books we have, especially when she's tired and wants a 'comfy blanket book'. A good picture book can be just as rewarding as a longer story.


  1. Thanks for the recommendations. I think my nephews would love the "Slinki Malinki" and "Hurry, Santa" books. I know my sister is always on the lookout for another good book they'd enjoy.

  2. Lynley Dodd is fabulous. I must look out for that book, thanks!


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