Children’s new books that last

Today’s post is a REVIEW of a children’s book. There are myriads of square paperback picture stories that children can thumb through themselves. If these get torn or worn out, it is not much of a problem to replace them with others.

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Bedtime is a different matter, however. We want children to snuggle up and go to sleep comfortably, feeling safe and loved. Having that one-to-one time with a parent is a special nightly experience, particularly important if the child is away from home during the day while parents work.

I would argue for a special bedtime book, one that is not alongside the toys to be picked up at will. This should be a book only brought out by the Mum, Dad, grandparent or loved carer. When they lift it down from its own place on a shelf it can act as a signal for the story that leads up to settling down for the night. For this, the book has to have a lasting format, hardback with a distinctive cover, quality paper and imaginative, artistic illustrations, ones that will remain in the child’s mind after the story and enrich his or her understanding and imagination.

I’ve just read The Book of Bedtime Stories    Ten prize-winning stories from Mumsnet and Gransnet chosen by Michael Rosen.  This is an immediately attractive hardback book with a dust cover. The indigo sky with golden stars and moons contrasts with the clear white surround of the title and the front illustration of a peacefully sleeping child. The book will stand out on the bookshelf.

I enjoyed opening this book, the feel of the good quality paper, the variety of illustrations. I imagine the child wanting to be the one to turn the next page, but carefully.

These ten stories were those chosen by Michael Rosen from the twenty on the short-list in a competition that had more than four hundred entries. Each one is written by an unpublished author; each one is illustrated by a new young artist. Therefore, the book represents twenty talents fresh to the children’s book market.

Toddlers approaching two years and youngsters not too far from independent reading are all catered for in this volume.

imageAppropriately, the opening story  tells of a child reluctant to go to bed. It is suitable for tinies and may become a calming favourite as they become pre-schoolers. The cuddly baby illustrations are similar to those of Shirley Hughes.

The next story features a cow who sneakily finds a way to jump over the moon. Although the solution is not original, the skillful telling is just right for the four-year-old, while the distinctive style of the illustrations will attract all ages. I’m sure this illustrator, Tamsin Gilbert, will go far.

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Many a child who has lost or mislaid a favourite toy will want ‘the jaguar story’ over and again.  The loved soft jaguar goes missing at the swimming pool and then writes postcards from his travels. Eventually, he returns. As the child gets older s/he may wonder if Mum has a slightly guilty secret over jaguar’s loss.  A touch of humour is always welcome, but this writer knows how to deal imaginatively with a major disaster, which such a loss is to the child.

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By contrast, a story aimed at the older child is lyrical and dreamy. I really loved the writing about Celeste and her care of stars, as well as the painterly illustrations. This story will appeal to the child with creative leanings.

The final story is also lyrical and original. The night thief who changes the skies has that thought-provoking, mysterious quality that will bring a small listener back again.

There will be many relatives and friends of parents who will be delighted to find a Christmas present that is of high quality and of lasting value. I am sure the lucky children who receive this will thoroughly enjoy their bedtime stories over a period of years. It is the sort of book which, when adult, the grown child will want to safeguard ready to read to their own small ones.

It’s heart-warming to have something that lasts in a world of quick reads and fast turn-over. The Book of Bedtime Stories is available now from Amazon if you live overseas or in the hinterland. Otherwise, why not buy it from your local independent bookstore? This is the best place to browse for gems you might not otherwise know about.

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