Tag Archives: Esphyr Slobodkina

Reading with the Grandies 32: Digger, Digger and Despereaux

The world has changed since my last post about grandparental reading. Our granddaughter has started school, which means that her little brother now goes to Day Care without her reassuring presence. They both still like to be read to. Here are some of the titles that now have a look-in among the established favourites such as Catwings, Grug, Mrs Wobble the Waitress or Fantastic Mr Fox.

Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock, Dig, Dump, Roll (Walker Books Australia 2018)

For a brief time, our grandparentng days included the reading time at our nearest bricks and mortar bookshop, Harry Hartog’s in the Marrickville Metro. On one of our attendances we asked the brilliant ukulele-playing book reader to include a book about diggers as a treat for our two-year-old grandson. She obliged, and made a sale for which we are immensely grateful.

It’s a simple book, first published in Australia but now available from Candlewick in the USA and Walker in the UK. It’s structured as a series of riddles: What’s that making that noise? Here’s a hint … [Turn the page] … machinery revealed. The book’s refrain has now entered permanently into the vocabulary of the two year old and the five year old as well as their grandparents: ‘Digger digger coming through!’

An added topical bonus is that we discover at the end that all the machinery and the builders have been constructing a school: ‘You can learn and play here too.’

Hervé Tullet, Press Here (Allen & Unwin, first published in France as Un Livre by Bayard Editions 2010)

This is a terrific piece of design. One spread presents an image of one or more coloured dots with an instruction (‘Press here and turn the page’, ‘Tilt the page to the left’, and so on). The next spread reveals the result of your action. The dots multiply, change colour, move around the page, get bigger and smaller. It’s a wonderful book to read and be read to, and I’ve seen people of various ages having a nice time with it.

The English translator isn’t named. It may have been designer Hervé Tullet himself. Whoever it was did a magnificent job.

Esphyr Slobodkina, Caps for Sale (©1940)

We may have a copy of this in a box somewhere. I remember enjoying it with our children, and now it’s been read to us by the marvellous Lisa at Balmain Library Storytime.

A troupe of monkeys steal a pedlar’s caps from his head while he’s asleep. He tries everything he can think of to get his caps back, and in the end manages it in an unexpected way. The language is wonderfully incantatory, and apart from sheer enjoyment value, there’s plenty to exercise young minds – the range of colours, numbers, and of course the overarching problem to be solved.

Esphyr Slobodkina was a Russian-born avant garde artist and feminist, and this is brilliant.

Kate diCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux (Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread) (Walker Books 2003)

I may be posting about this prematurely, as we’re only a couple of chapters in – it’s a big chapter book. But both Nana / the Emerging Artist and I are enjoying it immensely, and Granddaughter listened wide-eyed.

I did read parts of this decades ago, but it’s brilliantly fresh this time around.

The princess, known as Pea, isn’t all that keen on the business of choosing a suitor, but is very taken by a little mouse, the Despereaux of the book’s title, who is entranced by her beauty. The mouse breaks some of the most sacred rules of mousekind by first letting humans see him, then letting one of them (Pea) touch him, and then – oh horror! – speaking to them. But what are you gong to do when the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen doesn’t think you’re an ugly, big-eared runt, but thinks you’re cute, with cute ears?

We do a lot of reading. Small amounts of Paw Patrol, My Little Pony, Peppa Pig. These blog posts are selective.