Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our Favourite Reads: Fifth Edition

In an effort to avoid too many editorial faux pas, I did go back and check my numbering on these posts. Apparently, I'd managed to skip a number somewhere, so this is honestly my fifth post about children's books.

This week's best picks
It's always a source of annoyance to me that so many children's books are so bland and boring and just plain rubbish. Maybe I'm just too picky, but if it's not going to have a decent story line, it ought to at least profess to teach you something like colours or numbers or the names of objects around your house. And please: if you're going to write a children's book in verse, don't be lazy. If you have to force a rhyme, just give up and think of another sentence to fit in that you can rhyme more easily. If I need to adopt a certain regional accent to make the rhyme work, or if you're switching up forms of address for one character like a schizophrenic letter writer...you're doing it wrong.

We just took these books back to the library the other day, and we've had a blast with them. Both of them come quite highly recommended both from me and from E. So shall we dive in with our synopses?

Again! by Emily Gravett is an absolute gem. Seriously: I may just buy every book this woman writes. She has a hilariously enjoyable sense of humour: the sort of thing that children and their parents reading the books will be able to appreciate. In this story, a rowdy little dragon is settling down for a bedtime story with his mum. There's just one problem: he'd happily drag out storytime forever and never go to sleep! I love how Gravett handles the little dragon's eventual frustration when his cries of, 'Again! Again!' cease to be heeded. A brilliant story for any parent whose tolerance for repetition has been worn out during storytime.

Freight Train by Donald Crews is very minimalist; not just in terms of the illustrations, but the number of words, as well. This is definitely a great book to start for younger toddlers: even 12 months doesn't seem too soon. But the illustrations, while simple, are lovely, and they're a great help for older kids who are either A) learning their colours, B) in the midst of a train obsession, or C) both. Any guesses which of those describes my little monster? Ethan has loved this book: everything from shouting 'Train!' to get me to read it for him, to pointing out the different cars, and shouting, 'Gone!' when the train disappears off the page at the end.

Another recommendation I'm throwing in is for The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen (respectively of A Series of Unfortunate Events and That's Not My Hat fame). This book taught Ethan the concept of what the dark is. He now gleefully points it out every time the bathroom light is off, or we drive through a well-shaded country lane, or go into our windowless front hallway. And the best part is, he's so busy being chuffed that he can identify and name the dark that it's never occurred to him yet to be frightened of it. Jon Klassen's illustrations are adorable, simple, and effective, and Lemony Snicket's personification of the dark makes it a brilliant character in its own right as it interacts with little Laszlo: a boy who is, at first, afraid of the dark in his big, creeky house.
Laszlo confronts the Dark.
via, TheTimes.co.uk
So that's what we've been reading at bedtimes lately. I know that The Dark, at least, will be making it into Ethan's birthday/Christmas present list (just bought it on Amazon this morning!). Anyone else reading any fun children's books lately? What about grown-up books? Fiction or non-fiction, I'd love to hear suggestions. After finishing John Humphrys' In God We Doubt the other week, I've moved on to a few magazines and a re-read of Bill Bryson's At Home. I can only spend so long in the adult's section of the library before the protests from my son get too loud...


  1. I'm pretty sure we read the Freight Train book when my boys were little. It has been awhile since I read any kids books but I love them - we still have a large library that I hate to get rid of!!

    1. I know what you mean! I'm sure my mother still has the majority of our old children's books. I sort of want to pilfer the best offerings on our next trans-Atlantic trip to bring a few home for our kids!