Throughout my life, drawing, painting and general craftiness came before books. Instead of reading a book before going to bed I would fall asleep surrounded by pencils and paper – I still have a piece of wallpaper from my childhood home, where my bed use to be, which has squares coloured in with crayon. So it is fair to say that I am not a natural book-worm but I have found that I am loving books more now more than any other stage of my life.
Although I don’t have any time to sit down and read a novel these days, I am catching up on all the reading I missed out on when I was younger. Ava is my avenue for this. Ava absolutely loves books and will happily spend hours reading. Sitting in her room ‘reading’ her books, showing her dolls the pictures and telling them the stories, acting out the books she knows best and of course handing us book after book to read for her.
Here are a few of our favourites, some that we just keep coming back to and others that we have just recently discovered.
Immi by Karin Littlewood is a book I happened to come across a couple of years ago and I am in love with it. It is a simple little story that departs from the real world without being completely fanciful. Even though it is set in a ‘cold white world’ this story is about warmth and the happiness you can bring to people without even knowing it. For me it was remembered with ease, making it a great story to tell Ava when the lights are out and no book is required. The illustrations are gorgeous fitting perfectly with this dreamy story.
Another book that has been a long time love for Ava and me is Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. I was immediately drawn in by the amazing illustrations by Jon Klassen. His use of space and gradual inclusion of colour with the impeccable text tells the story beautifully. This sweet story with its gentle message is a delight to read night after night, as has been requested by Ava. I don’t get tired of it, no matter how many times I read it.
Gus Gordon is an amazing Illustrator and story-teller with a wonderful sense of humour. Wendy is a little package filled with all these elements. I read an interview with Gus recently where he said ‘I love collage’, and it shows in this book, he uses numerous media to create his beautiful illustrations incorporating stunning typography. It captures the old school circus days, the glamour of being a celebrity and the longing for home and a more humble life. It is hard not to love this Evil Knieval inspired character.
Today we have no plans is more my favourite than Ava’s. While she does like it, it is me who requests this one for bedtime reading sessions. I love the work produced by this Melbourne-based team illustrator Anna Walker and writer Jane Godwin and I really found a connection with this story and my approach to chaos in a child’s life. We don’t have a week quite as busy as the characters in the book but it is enough for me to relish the pajama wearing, no plan days, which I think need to be a little more frequent the smaller your child is. Other books by this wonderful duo are All through the year, and Starting School.
AGAIN! by Emily Gravett is our newest favourite book. We just read it last week and it was an instant success and was the catalyst for writing this post. It had Ava in fits of laughter, promptly followed by hiccups (which is what always happens after too many giggles and while this is not ideal at bedtime it is so worth it). It is one of those books where expression comes easily, it is cleverly written and there is an event which took us truly by surprise. My suggestion is to not look at it too much before reading it so you can be surprised too. Ava loves this book and laughs every time we read it, we talk about it while playing, inserting lines from the book into our conversations when appropriate, which is not difficult “AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN!”. It is so much fun!
When we go to the library we have a fairly indiscriminate way of picking books, if we pick it up and it looks vaguely interesting we take it home. I rarely read them beforehand and hardly ever put a book back on the shelf. We get some pretty interesting books this way, like the magical ones in this shortlist, some peculiar ones that have us scratching our heads, others that only ever get read the once and everything inbetween. When we get home and read a new batch of books together it is a new experience for both of us, something so lovely to share. It is this way that I learn about what Ava really likes rather than choosing books I think she will enjoy. We just read everything.