The grandparental discovery and rediscovery of books I enjoy, or that Ruby enjoys and I don’t hate, continues.
Sue Williams & Julie Vivas, I went walking (HMH Books for Young People 1996)
This lovely little book has been read to us twice at Rhyme Time at Leichhardt Library. Who wouldn’t love Julie Vivas’s images? ‘I went walking and what did I see? I saw a [xx] looking at me.’ The parents can join in the recitative, as the librarian takes us through a series of charming animals. Until the end, where all the animals and the child are frolicking together. There’s an art to writing text for picture books, and Sue Williams makes it look effortless.
Sheena Knowles & Rod Clements, Edwina the Emu (Harper Collins 1997)
This is the sequel to Edwin the Emu, which I remember from the distant past. It was read to us in the marvellous Kidspace in the Australian Museum. (An actual emu egg was accidentally smashed by one of the young scientists soon after the reading.) I think it went right over Ruby’s head, being a story of how, Edwina having laid ten eggs, Edwin stays home to look after them while she goes out to get a job. No one will hire her because, well, she’s an emu. It’s total nonsense, and Rod Clements’ illustrations are supremely silly.
Melanie Joyce & Dean Gray, Follow that Tiger: Catch Him If You Can (Igloo Books 2016)
Some books are just right for a 17-month-old reader, for reasons that would have been hard to predict. In this one the jungle animals are all concerned about the tiger. Ruby generally wants to stop with the crocodile, who appears on the first spread. The tiger is mildly interesting, because after all he growls, but who cares about the monkey, the parrot (clearly not a kookaburra) or the rest? It speaks wonders for the writing and illustration that we have got past the first spread more than once.
Sophie Beer, Love Makes a Family (Dial Books 2018)
This was another Rhyme Time read. It’s exactly what it says in the lid, showing lots of combinations of adults and small children doing things that families do together. It was read to us without any heavy-handed pointing out that the families included people of different skin colours, that on same spreads there were two adults of the same gender, and so on. That is to say, it’s a book that might make some culture warriors cranky, but for the rest of us it’s a sweet mirror held up to our times.
Jennifer Cossins, 101 Collective Nouns (Lothian Children’s Books)
We bought this stunningly beautiful book at the National Folk Festival. You know, a murder of crows, an exaltation of larks, a troop of kangaroos, and especially, given that we bought this for Ruby, a riot of kookaburras. The kookaburra page isn’t the only one we’re allowed to look a but we are required to return to it often and supply sound effects. Ruby’s own kookaburra impersonation is impressive.
I Went Walking, Edwina the Emu, and Love Makes a Family are the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first books I’ve read for the 2019 Australian women Writers’ Challenge. I haven’t included 101 Collective Nouns because, perhaps arbitrarily, I’ve decided it’s a book of art rather than of writing.
Meant to respond to this when I saw it came through but time overtook me. As I said I’ll be coming back to this for ideas. Our little grandson is one next month so we’ll be buying some books.
Our son sent through a little video a couple of days ago of him reading Hairy McLary to Max, but he over did a “grrr” when Scarface Claw appeard and poor little Max visibly jumped and pulled a face. He didn’t cry but he quickly turned the page. We had to laugh. I used to love reading Hairy Mclary to my kids.
Haha! Reading to little ones reminds me of the social dimension of reading. We (us adults) think we’re alone when we read a novel, but one of the things that a novel (or a poem or a book of non-fiction) does is to make a community of readers. Blogs and book groups and reviews and university courses help make these communities partly visible, but mostly we can’t tell. This is something that occurred to me when we were flat-hunting last year. I always sticky-beaked at the bookshelves of strangers and invariably felt a kinship with the owners of those shelves – seeing similarities and also differences, but always some kind of recognition. When we read with Ruby it’s so obviously a shared thing, not just with her, but with generations of people that we know have read and loved, say, Hair Maclary!
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I love sticky-beaking at people’s shelves. I started doing that as a teen when I babysat. I remember being introduced to The rise and fall of the Third Reich through the shelves of a family I babysat for. They rose in my estimation by having that book. But as I’ve got older my “assessment” has become a little more nuanced – and sometimes it’s just lovely to see that people have books (besides, that is, beautifully placed coffee table books on a beautiful coffee table.) Oh, that’s snooty isn’t it? After all, some people are committed to libraries – and how would I know that? (Unless I snuck into their bedrooms to look at their bedside tables!!)
And after all what would be wrong with sneaking in and having a look?
Indeed – if I get caught one day, I say Jonathan sent me!
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