(Especially for Theresa...)
The boys and I had such a lively discussion recently, remembering our favourite books from way back when. It's amazing what we started to remember when I asked the question, "What were your favourite books when you were really little?"
They started to recite: "The night Max wore his wolf suit..." It's no secret that our Max was named for the King of Maurice Sendak's Wild Things, which was Chas and Sam's favourite story when he was born. When he popped out looking JUST like Max, there was no hesitation. Poor feller. "Max" is a dubious literary character, especially now that the movie is out! We still know the whole story by heart, we've read it so many times.
"Oh, oh, 'The Runaway Bunny'!" I was always surprised at their love for this story. "Why did you like that one?" I asked. "The pictures. And his mummy ALWAYS came for him." A comforting tale for a little boy or girl who wants to prove their independence... but not really! 'Goodnight Moon', also by Margaret Wise Brown, has the same strange illustrations that the boys remember and is a sure putter-to-sleep of reluctant sleepers.
'Guess How Much I Love You?' by Sam McBratney is another one that the kids remember fondly. I love this story, with its fun illustrations and giggles. The Margaret Wise Brown books and 'Guess How Much I Love You' are all available as board books, thank goodness! We have passed ours on to cousins who love them as much as we do. They are still going strong in spite of being chewed and used as bridges for trains.
'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle is another story that I read OVER and OVER and OVER... The board book version invites toddlers to put their finger into the mysterious holes and drive the reader mad with trying to turn pages. 'Rosie's Walk' by Pat Hutchins is lovely, we recently borrowed it from the library again to laugh at the silly fox's misadventures! 'Rosie's Walk' is great for beginner readers to "pretend" to read: they will probably know its few words by heart!
'Winnie The Pooh', by A.A. Milne. Chas and Sam say "Make sure you say NOT the Disney Version!" The language in the original stories is lovely, the poems silly, and the characters loveable. Even if you do read the short Disney books, be sure to read the 'Winnie The Pooh', 'House At Pooh Corner' and all the rest. Even little ones who seem to have a small vocabulary love these comforting stories where everything turns out all right. "The atmospheric conditions have been rather unfavourable of late" says Owl. "What?" asks Christopher Robin. "It's raining," Owl replies. "Yes, it has!" The poetry of A.A. Milne is also fun, 'And Now We Are Six' being our favourite book of poetry by Milne. "But now that I'm six, I'm as clever as clever. I think I'll be six now for ever and ever!"
Some may find this a little old-fashioned, but the poems of Edward Lear have stuck with our family. 'The Pobble Who Has No Toes' is a literary classic (we think), and if you've got a quirky sense of humour you'd like to pass on to your kids, this is it.
Reciting and learning poetry is the best way to exercise the memory muscle. Nursery Rhymes seem to be dying out these days, which is a shame. Learning a rhyme by heart, and singing it aloud, is the first step in rote-learning "more important" things like times tables. Every child should have a book of Nursery Rhymes, and have them read aloud regularly. I don't think kids learn nursery rhymes at school any more, alas! They fit in with day-to-day life, and can be sung while eating, bathing, putting the kettle on... I still sing nursery rhymes in the kitchen!
The 'Charlie And Lola' books are relatively new on the scene... and I'm sorry they weren't around when Chas was little! They were a staple of Max's bedtime for ages. All of Lauren Child's books are great. My sister, who was a nanny at the time, sent the boys a pack of a dozen different Lauren Child books and we devoured them. 'That Pesky Rat' is our favourite of them all (so far), but the philosophy and collage-type illustrations are pretty much brilliant right through the lot. Charlie And Lola are both sweet and believable. 'Clarice Bean' is wonderful.
I'm going to stop here! Please leave suggestions if you think I've forgotten any favourites, because there is more! I have another list, books for primary school-age kids, percolating here. The boys are keen to share their best loved books with all the budding bookworms out there.