I have been inspired by #picbookday today! It’s reminded me how important picture books (and books in general) have been in our family.
Books and stories have always been a part of my life. Bedtime stories while all tucked up in bed. Listening to family stories told by Grandma. Starting school and learning to read with ease. Anticipating the weekly trips to the library every Friday. The huge, quiet space filled with books. Having the cards stamped and leaving with a pile books to keep me occupied over the weekend and beyond. A childhood spent devouring books.
I remember the first book we bought for our eldest daughter when she was a baby – Each Peach, Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, now a bit more the worse for wear, but still treasured.
As part of my ITT, I took a course on The Picture Book for one semester and amassed a bibliography over 200 picture books. You could say that it was a bit of a passion. Once I was in the classroom all that experience with picture books came to bear. It was a rich, beautiful world to share with my Year 2 children.
Some of my all-time favourites:
Anthony Browne wrote fantastic stories with sometimes surreal illustrations. Willy is, of course, a very well-known character.
Mitsumasa Anno created beautiful non-fiction books of great scope, helping children to imagine and learn about a world much greater than their immediate environment. It’s one the things that makes books so important for growing minds.
The magical The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg is enthralling – for each story, just a caption and a picture. The reader has to create the rest of the story. The quality of the illustrations is breathtaking.
To refresh my memory, I have been delving into the website of a children’s bookshop in New Zealand and thought that British and other readers might like to know about some New Zealand authors and some beautiful NZ-themed picture books.
The legendary Margaret Mahy was a prolific writer, and amongst her many talents was the ability to conjure a most unlikely and comical story. Her writing was such a part of so many children’s lives growing up.
Lynley Dodd is, I think, well known in the UK. The classic is Hairy McClary, “from Donaldson’s Dairy” (in NZ, a dairy is a corner shop). She also created wonderful spinoff characters like Slinky Malinki and the terrifying (but cuddly) Scarface Claw.
Eve Sutton with Lynley Dodd as illustrator created a book that became one of our family favourites. Before the internet with cat pictures, there were books with cat pictures!
Pamela Allen, who has published over 50 picture books since 1980, loved to create quirky characters and situations. These three are particular favourites:
Gwenda Turner was a masterful illustrator, creating images that had a strange stillness, like a memory or the fragment of a dream. She wrote books that evoked New Zealand, like these:
Ronda Armitage told stories (illustrated by her husband David) set in lovely remote places like these. I was particularly fond of these stories, as my grandfather was a lighthouse keeper for many years.
Patricia Grace is a well-known short story writer, whose Maori culture is central to her work. She teamed up with illustrator Robyn Kahukiwa to create this classic, a folk tale about an old woman (kuia) and her friend the spider.
The pleasure of beautiful art and well chosen words make picture books a very rich experience to share with children. It is wonderful to be celebrating them today. In another life, I might have stayed in my classroom and continued to enjoy them with my Year 2s. But it was when some of those children struggled to pick up reading that I began a different journey, into the world of how we teach – so that all children are able to know the joy, and the magic, of these stories for themselves.
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