I’ve spent the last 3+ months in Canada as full-time carer of my 6 year old grandson, Gabriel, while his mother completes a residential training course. An important part of our routine is our weekly visit to the local public library. For Gabriel, the time there means some extra computer time, on activities which he doesn’t have on his tablet at home. I’ve given up trying to encourage him to choose his own books in the library, so I do so for the week ahead. We spend at least an hour a day reading together, a mix of titles from his extensive collection and those from the public library. Though his reading skills are well developed, he prefers to be read picture books.
My choice is influenced by titles which I think will read well aloud. Some have been flops: either one or both of us haven’t liked the story and/or illustrations. Others have been great successes. I have found many I really like and which I haven’t seen at home. That’s not to say they are not available in Australia; it’s just that I haven’t previously seen them. Here are some of our favourites (not in any special order), a list compiled by Gabriel and me together.
Dinosaurs on my Street by David West (2013). This is a great book for dinosaur fans, combining factual information about 30 dinosaurs but they are seen roaming the streets of a modern city. The dinosaurs are accurate in all senses, and in relative size to the environment. The computer-generated art work brings these giants creatures to life without being threatening.
Skink on the Brink by Lisa Dalrymple and Suzanne del Rizzo (2013). This Canadian book, combining fiction and factual pages, tells the story of the skink, endangered in Ontario, though the use of plasticine illustrations and well-written rhyming text. Though the skink is anthropomorphised, the whole book works well. As a juvenile his tail is bright blue but as he matures his colour changes. This allows the reader to see that change is a normal part of growth.
Miss Smith and the Haunted Library by Michael Garland (2009). This one generated lots of talk. Miss Smith’s class visit the library where, during a reading of a magical book, by the wonderfully idiosyncratic librarian, scary literary characters come alive. There’s the Headless Horseman, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Captain Hook, and the Wicked Witch of the West. However the as the reading of the story is finished, the party ends and all the fearsome characters return to their own worlds.
Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster and Caroline Pedler (2010). Noodle the mouse took a ball of wool discarded by the farmer’s wife and knitted an extra-long scarf, using Hedgehog’s quills. Every page contains tactile illustrations and that was the great attraction. The story is simple, with themes of friendship and cooperation.
If I Ran the Zoo by Dr Seuss (2004 but originally published 1950). Dr Seuss has not lost his magic for this current young generation and I enjoyed revisiting this title which I had read to my younger sister as well as to my own children, and now grandchildren. We spent ages enjoying the rhyme and rhythm as well as the fantastical creatures throughout the book.
Russell the Sheep by Rob Scotton (2005). This author is one of my favourites because all his illustrations bring a smile, if not a laugh, and his text also works well. Russell can’t sleep while all the other sheep do so and he resorts to the usual (and not so usual) ways of falling asleep. There’s a wealth of detail to look and laugh at.
Drat that Cat by Tony Ross (2013). Suzy the cat pees in dad’s golf bag, throws up on the floor (a common occurrence by the cat in this house!) and then she decides to teach her family that they really do love her. So she stops eating, getting food from the neighbour’s dog, until she is taken to the vet. During her absence the family realise how important she is. Gabriel enjoyed the recurring refrain and the classic Tony Ross illustrations.
A Book by Mordicai Gerstein (2009). It’s night as the book starts but the family awakens when the reader opens the pages and we see them around the table discussing their day and their roles in life. Everyone except the girl knows their story. So she sets off to find her own reason for being, meeting familiar characters on the way. She decides she is to be an author and write her own life. There is lots to discuss including the illustration perspectives and references.
And finally, Gabriel’s ‘most favourite’ (for today at least) of his own books. Shhh! by Sally Grindley and Peter Utton (2006, originally 1991). This has been a regular choice here for many years, and almost always 3 or 4 consecutive reads. It’s a retelling of a giant story where the reader tiptoes through the castle. The first time we read it, when aged about 3, he was absolutely terrified as he expected the giant to come to life. Now he enjoys it for the remembered frisson of fear and the final double page: Quick! He’s coming! Shut the book!
Hope you manage to find some of these titles. Perhaps some of them are your favourites already.