30/05/2008

A guided tour through Asher's bookshelf

So, I promised a book review or two and I realise, as I read some other reviews, that I'm basically crap at reviewing. I guess that's why I did so poorly in English at school, because I really do like to read. I wonder why? I'm certainly critical enough. So instead of calling these 'reviews' lets call this post a 'book guide for babies.'

It's not an exhaustive list of Asher's books, but they are some of our current favourites (he's almost two). I've put them in alphabetical order, so don't feel like I'm playing favourites, and the book links are mostly to Amazon.com, although you should ideally purchase books from your local independent book retailer!

Janet and Allen Ahlberg - Each Peach Pear Plum
Divine illustrations and beautiful rhyme make this book great. It's possibly a little old for Asher because he doesn't 'get' most of the nursery-rhyme and fairy-tale allusions and he doesn't understand looking for the characters but he keeps asking us to read it, so he must like it.

Pamela Allen - Mr. McGee and the Biting Flea
We had 'Fancy That' by Pamela Allen as well, but that was so well-loved that it got ripped, because it is a paper rather than a board book, and we don't have a replacement yet. I believe that this is one of those books that is going to encourage literacy because of the repetition of the 'ow, oo, ee' sounds. It's fun enough to read and the illustrations of Mr. McGee struggling out of all of his clothes are priceless.

Sandra Boynton - Moo, Baa, La La La
This book is a surreal look at animal sounds. The rhythm and rhyme are great in Sandra's books and the drawings are cute and quirky enough to keep the adults entertained through many, many readings. We also have But Not the Hippopotamus which I think Asher likes but I find a bit ummm.... sad? Forgive the spoiler but the hippo gets left out of everything until the end of the book when she joins in with the others. It's reads more lonely than it sounds when I put it like that and I just don't like it as much. One of the advantages of both of these books is that they are really short - good for little kids with short attention spans, and good for kids who are meant to be in bed but need a story.

Rod Campbell - Dear Zoo
Another classic (and very sturdy or well designed for a lift-the-flap book - our copy has no injuries so far!). Asher loved this book from very early on. He liked, and still likes, turning the pages and lifting the flaps and making the appropriate animal noises. He still won't tell us what a camel sounds like though.

Eric Carle - The Very Hungry Caterpillar
This book is a classic, and it's famous for a reason, it truly appeals to young children and adults don't mind repeated readings. I personally am not much of a fan of the illustrations but Asher seems to love it (I prefer the delicacy and detail of Allison Lester, Janet and Allan Ahlberg and the Lynley Dodd books).

Lynley Dodd - Slinky Malinki
Although we have various others in the Hairy Maclary series this one is my personal favourite. I don't know if it's because we had it first or because of the sheer joy of the language but I really love reading this book aloud. The drama, the fun-to-read language and the beautiful, detailed illustration make for a really lovely book.

P.D. Eastman - Are you my Mother
I loved this book as a child and so recently purchased the board book for Asher. We haven't read it very much but already it's becoming a favourite. I think he's confused about the digger being called a Snort though! This fabulous review explains the book and some misgivings around it's content it much better than I can...

Mem Fox and Judy Horacek - Where is the Green Sheep
OK, make 'Slinky Malinky' my *joint* read-aloud favourite with Green Sheep - this book is unadulterated reading aloud pleasure, and would be top of my list for books for babies. It'll probably get included in most baby shower gifts I give from now on. This book really spells out what things are, so it's great for babies just as they are learning that words connect to things and to concepts ('near' 'far' 'moon' 'star') and it continues to be a great book for toddlers who are working out shapes, concepts and colours. (Check Judy Horacek's site for hilarious cartoons)

Charles Fuge and Angela McAllister - Found You, Little Wombat
This one is still a bit old for Asher, but he asks for it regularly. He doesn't understand the idea of 'hide-and-seek' which is the premise of the story, but the illustrations are engaging and it has good narrative tension. As long as it treads the line between trying to fit too much 'story' in while still being simple enough for the very young this will probably become a favourite for all of us.

Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski - Meg and Mog
I suspect that this book is the one that will help Asher learn to read. I'm not a huge fan, mostly because of the ending, but I like how clear it is and how the words really relate to the text so perfectly. I guess that's what you get for having a strong collaboration between the author and the illustrator?

Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury - We're Going on a Bear Hunt
We go through phases of loving this one and times where he doesn't request it as much. I love the sequencing aspect of this book which is similar to Kiss, Kiss, but with better production values (better written, better illustration)

Dr. Seuss - One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
At this stage Asher is still to young for this classic, but because it was a favourite of mine as a little kid we have it, and we occasionally have a go at reading it to Asher. As his attention span grows he may be able to last a bit longer before his attention wanders. The cut down versions of this book (Such as 'Wet Pet, Dry Pet, Your Pet, My Pet' which is a 'touch and feel' book we have that Asher LOVES) are a great bet for little kids.

Margaret Wild and Bridget Strevens-Marzo - Kiss, Kiss!
I think this was Asher's fist ever book. I didn't really like the illustrations at first but it's grown on me and now it's one of everyone's favourites. I think the turning point came when Asher was really very little and I walked into the room to see him looking through the book making kissing noises. A very sweet book.

I have always read to Asher - when he was very small it was because I didn't know what else to do with him (we would lie on the bed and I'd read the only two books we owned - Kiss Kiss and Slinky Malinky - over and over again. I would change the way I read them in silly ways (try reading like a Pirate! Or like a Gregorian Chant! Or a newsreader!) to keep me amused but I would just keep reading. As he got a bit older we would both read to him, pointing out things in the picture, and but the time he was maybe seven months he was helping turn pages. Now we read a few books after the bath and before bed every night, as well as sometimes during the day. So now, when I occasionally get bored of the books we have, irritated with being asked to read the same book over and over or irritated by the high price of kids books I go to Mem Fox's website for a pick-me-up dose of literature love. I would encourage everyone, whether you have kids or not, to explore it a bit and make a point of reading books you love to any kids in your life.

Now I'd love some book suggestions for Asher (or for me!). Were you read to as a kid? What books did you love? Why? Do you read to the kids in your life now? What are your favourites to read? What are the kids' favourites?

1 comment:

Madeline said...

Thanks for this post! Some new ones to add to my list.