Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reading matters

Last night, while passing through Bristol Airport, I picked up a copy of The Gruffalo's Child. I'm a big fan of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and Elizabeth's growing to like them too. She already enjoys The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, though she gets a bit scared when the dragon puts in an appearance. That's a general dragon thing; she's the same with David Melling's The Kiss that Missed.

Elizabeth was sick in the night, and the new book came in quite handy at half past five this morning. It was a useful distraction while I was changing a particularly unpleasant nappy. We then got half-way through reading it before she ran off to do something else. I had to finish it by myself. Sadly I have a bone to pick. Ms Donaldson and Mr Scheffler could learn a bit about optics: the shadow of a mouse cast in the light of a low moon might be a lot longer than the mouse itself, but it wouldn't be any wider!

Elizabeth's cousin Emily has a couple of other books by Donaldson and Scheffler. Emily's four now, and the books are probably targeted more at her age group than Elizabeth's 22 months, but the regular metre and clever rhyme scheme give the text a musical quality that can hold even a young child's attention. I like The Snail and the Whale (but be prepared to get involved in a serious discussion of environmental issues with older kids). I can't comment on The Smartest Giant in Town, but Helen reckons it's not as good as their others. Well they can't all be masterpieces.

Another favourite author is Mick Inkpen, who does his own illustrations. He has written a long list of titles involving Kipper or Wibbly Pig. The Kipper books are variable in length: on the basis of a very small sample set, I hypothesise that the shorter ones all include "(Little Kippers)" in their titles. Elizabeth's at an age now where those really aren't long enough. I suspect they may be dusted off again once she starts reading herself. On the basis of Beachmoles and Bellvine, it seems that his Blue Nose Island series are aimed at older kids.

One other author/illustrator I'd like to mention is Debi Gliori. She's perhaps best known for her Mr Bear series, though I have to say they're far from being her best work. Where Did That Baby Come From? is a charming (I wondered how far I'd get before using that word) title, particularly for a child who's just acquired a new sibling. We've just had Polar Bolero out of the local library, a wonderful book set in a bizarre world of dreams.

I must mention another of Debi Gliori's books. No Matter What would bring a tear to a glass eye, and could be a great source of comfort to even a young child affected by divorce or bereavement. She cleverly avoids limiting the applicability of the story by making both the (single) parent and the child of indeterminate sex. "Love, like starlight, never dies." Oh, I feel all metaphysical!

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