One of the advantages of being an uncle is that every time I purchase books for my nephew and niece, I get the pleasure of reading them first and then re-reading over and over when babysitting. You soon start to recognise the marks of a good quality piece of storytelling when reading with kids regularly.
A positive moral or message, an imaginative narrative and a healthy dosage of kookiness, that’s the recipe for a successful kids’ book. Over the last few months I have begun to compile a list of favourites and the chosen titles are as follows:
5. Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates (3-6 years), Publisher: Cape.
A comical little tale about a dog who runs a book shop and finds that books are the key to other worlds.
4. Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon (3-7 years), Publisher: Hutchinson.
Two eggs hatch side by side, a crocodile and a parrot. The creatures believe they must be brothers, a funny mismatch that celebrates diversity.
3. Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (4-7 years), Publisher: Macmillan.
A dapper tiger complete with a top hat and Edwardian dress embraces his inner feral animal and starts an alternatively natural trend.
2. Zeraffa Giraffa by Dianne Hofmeyr, illustrated by Janne Ray (4-8 years), Publisher: Frances Lincoln.
A beautifully illustrated true story about a giraffe sent from Egypt to a French King in the 1820s.
1. A Children’s Treasury of Milligan: Classic Stories and Poems by Spike Milligan by Spike Milligan (8-108 years), Publisher: Ebury
My four year-old nephew has a tendency to cantillate the Milligan poems at random. Limericks like:
There are holes in the sky where the rain gets in.
The holes are small, so rain is thin.
Or my particular favourite:
A very rash young lady pig
(They say she was a smasher)
Under a van-
Now she’s a gammon rasher.
Milligan’s’ scribblings are absolutely barking mad. Sentences of insanity highlighting an imaginative perspective of the world and all who sail in her.
I highly recommend these philosophical pieces of writing for reading with kids. They are guaranteed, I can assure you, to make any sadness in the heart rapidly dissipate.