For young children the world is often a worryingly uncertain place.. Here are seven picture books with plenty of space for sharing which could help them feel more at home with some aspects of everyday (and more especially every night) life.
101 Things to Do with a Baby
Jan Ormerod, Kestrel, 0 7226 5929 6, £4.95
In a relaxed and varied series of pictures Jan Ormerod shows how an older sister can welcome a new baby as part of the family. Everyday routines (‘give him cereal… let him share your egg… better clean him up’) warm and silly things (‘Kiss his ear… blow on his tummy’) baby hazards (‘watch out for hair pulling … nose grabbing… dribbling… head banging’) are all shown happening in a messy, lived-in home that shows every sign of having been hit by the new arrival. Dad is very much a part of the action. Reassuring and full of love.
Are You There, Bear?
Ron Maris, Julia MacRae, 0 86203,174 5, £4.95
Bear is hidden somewhere in the shadowy darkness of ‘my room’. (The same room that appeared in My Book.) He could be several of the dim shapes revealed in ‘wide shot’ on the first spread; but as the circular torch beam moves in closer we see that shadows are not always what they seem. Gradually all the toys are found and join in the bunt until bear is discovered – reading My Book!
The book has the kind of deceptively simple design which is the result of a great deal of thoughtful, careful planning and execution. Lots of possibilities for talking, sharing and looking.
You Can’t Catch Me!
John Prater, Bodley Head, 0 370 30594 9, £4.95
John Prater, like Ron Maris, is a relative newcomer to picture books who has in a very short time established a reputation for books for young children. This his third book is a slightly larger than life tale of what happens when Jack runs away from bath time. (‘I hate baths!’ said Jack.) It is full of fun and life and movement. As a bonus the text with its repeated refrain is carefully matched with the pictures to encourage prediction and assist new readers. Lots of mileage here right up the age-range to first year juniors.
An Evening at Alfie’s
Shirley Hughes, Bodley Head, 0 370 30588 4, £4.95
The fourth, and (we are told) the last of this much-loved series. In this one Alfie, and Annie Rose have a baby sitter (Mrs McNally’s Maureen). Everything goes smoothly until Alfie hears a noise that makes it seem as if his favourite story – Noah’s Ark – is coming true. ‘It’s raining on the landing.’ Alfie tells Maureen. What follows in words and pictures is a richly human and funny account of coping with a burst pipe. Alfie, involved, independent, resourceful and inventive is a model for any child in a similarly unpredictable situation. Shirley Hughes deserves a hug for getting it right yet again.
Three books about night-time fears:
One Night at a Time
Susan Hill, ill. Vanessa Julian-Ottie, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 11229 X, 94.95
Novelist Susan Hill empathises exactly with childhood fears. For imaginative Tom pictures in books, cartoons on TV, the washing machine, shirts on the line, the neighbours’ shears: all give, him nightmares. But mum knows how to cope – one night at a time. An open, sensible book with pictures of recognisable (suburban) homes, gardens and public library, and a good line in frightened children and bad dreams.
Louis Baum, ill. Susan Varley, Andersen Press, 0 86264 073 3, £4.95
Working (single parent?) mum puts small girl to bed and pops out to do some late night shopping. ‘Pete’s in the cellar, fixing his bike’ but that’s not much consolation to a wakeful child.
The storyteller speaks directly to the child in the pictures – ‘Mum will be back soon’ – telling what Mum is doing and providing a running commentary on her daughter’s activities -‘Why are you halfway down the stairs?’. When Mum returns she finds a small girl in nightie, with teddy bear, sitting on the front step and there is a joyful reunion watched by Pete who has come up from the cellar. Susan Varley’s pictures are full of atmosphere and feeling and there is a sense of real lives going on here.
What’s Under My Bed?
James Stevenson, Gollancz, 0 575 03509 9, £4.95
Grandpa’s scary stories would have anyone believing in things under the bed. Fortunately he also knows how to restore the balance in favour of the rational world. As usual in Stevenson’s Grandpa books this is by reminiscing about his own childhood. This time the moustache-wearing grandfather-child in the pictures is imagining more nasties than a classroom full of children could muster and having them explained away by his grandchildren. Wittily written and drawn it’s a pleasure to share with children, most of whom quickly appreciate the jokes.