Books about love

With Valentine’s Day just a week away I thought it would be a good time for a post about books which explore different types of love. We all want our children to feel loved but sometimes it is hard to explain exactly what love is. Enter books, which show love in all its many forms. Family love, friendship, the idea of loving yourself and romantic love are all explored in picture books and can help children to understand the idea of love better. Plus, with International Book Giving Day 2017 falling on Valentine’s Day this year, there has never been a better time to find, give, read about and spread a little love…

FAMILY LOVE

‘Guess How Much I Love You’ by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

fullsizerender-21Okay, I know that this is not the most innovative choice but it is a classic for a reason- amongst other things, it gave us the phrase ‘I love you to the moon and back’! The relationship between Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare is very sweet but it’s the way that way they try to quantify how much the love each other which I find really interesting. Sometimes big feelings like love are hard to describe and this book gives children the tools to be able try and do this. The first few times I read it, I wasn’t sure about the almost competitive element of Big Nutbrown Hare always loving a bit more, but when I tried to see it through a child’s eyes the message I got was that a parent’s love is enormous and never ending and that’s a message I’m happy for my child to hear many, many times. A sure fire winner (and also a great shout for a baby shower if you have one coming up).

‘More People to Love Me’ by Mo O’Hara and Ada Grey

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This book explores the fact that all families come in different shapes and sizes. The main character is asked to draw her family tree but because she has so many people in her family- parents, step parents, half brothers and sisters and various assortments of grandparents she becomes upset because they don’t fit nicely into a family tree. With the help of her teacher, she is able to see that she is lucky to have so many people that love her and that she loves in return and eventually she draws herself a whole family forest! It’s a lovely way to look at families which is different to the picture book norm and celebrates family love and relationships in a funny and thoughtful way.

FRIENDSHIP

‘Max and Bird’ by Ed Vere

fullsizerender-20I’m a huge fan of Ed Vere’s books- they are so bold, colourful and exciting and this one is no exception. Max (the cat) agrees to teach Bird to fly and in return Bird says he will let Max eat him. As it turns out, flying is not an easy thing to master and they become great friends, leaving Max with the dilemma of whether to eat Bird or not. Happily, he chooses not to (although he takes quite a while to decide on this!) and his love for his friend overcomes the ‘rule of nature’ that Cats have to eat birds. This is heart-warming without being mushy and is also really funny at the same time but what I like best about it is that it gives a great example of how being friends with someone is sometimes more important than following the rules.

‘Oliver’ by Birgitta Sif
img_7891Oliver is a solitary boy. He enjoys playing by himself and having fun with his own imagination. He doesn’t seem to have any ‘people’ friends but that suits him just fine- he doesn’t even know he needs them. And then one day, a chance accident happens and leads him to meet someone who has been there all along and a beautiful friendship is born. I love the way Birgitta Sif uses the illustrations in the story to do most of the storytelling and the way her characters’ quirky natures are always embraced rather than made an issue of. This book is perfect for showing children that the right friend is out there for them- whether they are looking for one or not. A different take on friendship and one I love.

LOVING YOURSELF

‘I’m Special, I’m Me!’ by Ann Meek and Sarah Massini

fullsizerender-22Milo is upset because everyday the children at school tell him he can’t be what he wants to be at playtime. Not strong enough to be a lion, not tall enough to be a pirate captain, not handsome enough to be a prince. However, Milo’s mum looks at him each day in the mirror and helps him to see all his positives and eventually Milo starts to see them himself. One day, when he is playing, instead of being given a role to play he comes up with his own and it’s so fantastic that everyone joins in with his game. This is a great book for teaching children the power of knowing their own strengths and believing in themselves and can lead to some really interesting conversations about how they see themselves. Just be ready to shower your child in compliments when it’s over- they will almost certainly want to know what you see in them when you’re finished.

‘Odd Dog Out’ by Rob Biddulph

 fullsizerender-19Odd Dog is upset. Where she lives everyone fits a certain mould and she stands out so she decides to find somewhere she will fit in. She travels the world and eventually finds a place where everyone is just like her. But then she spots someone else who really stands out and when she sympathises with him she discovers that he likes being different and he encourages her to stand out from the crowd as well. After his epiphany, she jets off home only to discover that everyone in her hometown has been really missing her and when she looks a little closer lots of them are starting to behave a little bit differently too. This is such a clever book, encouraging children to embrace themselves and not feel tempted to blend in with others but in a really accessible way which even young children will understand. We love it and it is perfect for encouraging children to love and be proud of themselves.

ROMANTIC LOVE (with a twist)

‘Prince Cinders’ by Babette Cole

FullSizeRender(19)Of course, there are many fairy tales available which give children a rosy image of romantic love. However, if you are after something a bit different, this one is worth a read. Prince Cinders is a Cinderella story for modern times, featuring a bumbling Fairy Godmother, big hairy brothers, a Prince who wants to meet a girl but gets turned into gorilla, a missing pair of jeans and just enough of the original story to still be recognisable. I won’t explain too much more than that for fear of spoiling the fun but what I will say is that this is a fairy tale which is equally enjoyed by girls and boys and has  an emphasis on humour rather than the lovey dovey stuff.

Well, that’s a bit of inspiration to get you going. What will you be reading in the run up to Valentine’s Day? And will you be giving a book for International Book Giving Day? I’d love to hear all about it. Happy reading!

 

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Spread a little kindness…

After a tumultuous week of world politics that has left a lot of the people I know feeling confused and a bit helpless, it seemed only natural to write a blog post about kindness. As always, I turn to my ever-expanding collection of picture books to find the comfort I am looking for and happily I find it everywhere. I think it is part of my job as a parent and a teacher to make sure that children are not frightened of diversity, that they looks out for people who are having a hard time and, most important of all,  that they spread kindness wherever they go. I know most people reading this will feel the same. So if you are looking for a starting point and some positive role models look no further. Here are my favourite books for modelling kindness.

Pass it on by Sophy Henn

fullsizerender-16This book starts with the notion that not every day will be perfect but with a positive attitude you can find a silver lining. It also gives children the really powerful message that that their behaviour can have a positive effect on others and help them to have a better day. It has a short repeated phrase ‘Pass it on’ giving children something to join in with even on the first time of reading. As with everything she does, Sophy Henn’s illustrations are vibrant and beautiful and by the end of reading it you will be smiling. I have read this with pre-schoolers and with much older children. My class are 7/8 years old and when we launched our acts of kindness this was the book we started with and they loved it. It really is a fantastic way to introduce to children (and adults) to the notion that they can make a positive difference to others.

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

fullsizerender-14Elephant is in a seriously bad mood until he discovers a surprise package at the front door. Inside is a hat. This instantly cheers him up and he decides to take them to his friend, Zebra’s house but when he gets there Zebra is also feeling grumpy. So Elephant shares his hat with his pal to cheer him up and they move on to visit the next friend (also grumpy) and the next and the next, each time cheering up their friends by sharing the many-layered hat with them. By the end of the book everyone is taking part in an informal hat parade, their grumps long forgotten because of the actions of their friends. This book beautifully illustrates that small act of kindness make a huge difference.

The Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton

img_8920This book tells the story of Bear who is feeling unwell. Bear is a pretty dramatic chap and does not cope well with being ill so when his friend Mouse finds out he’s poorly, he decides to pop round and try to help. It is not easy to help Bear. He wants the situation to be treated seriously and does not feel like being cheered up. (It is worth mentioning that Bear thinks he may be dying and there is a conversation about leaving a will in case your child is sensitive to these issues. The tone is quite light hearted and it is clear that neither the mouse or the author thinks he will die and that bear is over-reacting but not every child will respond well those issues). Eventually all mouse’s good intentions wear Bear out and he falls asleep and wakes up feeling much better, but now it’s Mouse’s turn to feel ill. Luckily Bear knows just how to look after his friend and is happy to reciprocate. This is probably best suited to slightly older children as the storyline and language is quite mature in places but it is a really interesting look at the tricky side of friendship and illustrates the importance of looking after each other, even when it’s tough, perfectly.

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

fullsizerender-15I have seen lots of lists lately which give ideas of books which should be staple reads during childhood an in my opinion, this should be on every one. I can still remember the first time I read this story and the way I felt about the completely selfless act Bella performed so that her little brother could be reunited with his favourite toy. One of the things I like best about this story is that it showed that this wasn’t an easy decision- sometimes doing things for others is hard. However, if Bella was ever in any doubt that she had done the right thing her brother’s reaction more than makes up for it. I believe everyone’s book shelf should have a bit of Shirley Hughes’ magic on it and this is a great place to start.

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

fullsizerender-13The Little Gardener is a tiny figure who works all day but he is so small that he feels that, no matter how hard he works, he cannot make a difference to the place where he lives. Eventually, when he is exhausted and almost ready to give up, he makes a wish that he might have a little help. The Little Gardener falls asleep for a month, during which time some children see a flower in his neglected, overgrown garden and decide to start tidying things up. When he wakes there has been a dramatic change and the Little Gardener’s life is changed forever. This message in this book is so strong because children can see things from both sides- that it’s okay to be like the Little Gardener and ask for help and have hope, but also children have the power to help others every day through small acts of kindness even when they don’t know who they are helping. Emily Hughes is one of my favourite author-illustrators and I love everything she does. This was the first book of hers that I read and I still return to it regularly- sure sign of a winner.

 

I hope you have found something here that will help you to share the idea of kindness and positivity with your little readers. As always, I love to hear what you are reading at the moment so if you have any good suggestions, let me know below and happy reading…

A taste of childhood: A year in Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

img_7911Recently it was my little magpie’s birthday (she is known as the magpie because she is constantly hopping around and has always had an eye for anything sparkly). It had been an exceptionally busy week with me going back to school after the summer holidays and her starting at her new school nursery and so I had had to be very organised with all the birthday planning and it wasn’t until less than a week to go that I realised I had almost forgotten something very important- her birthday book. She couldn’t have a birthday without a book so I started to think about all the things on my ‘To buy’ list which she might like and scrolling through instagram and all my favourite book accounts to see if there was something she would love. As a looked down my feed I saw the ‘Brambly Hedge’ account pop up with ‘Autumn Story’ and I knew it would be perfect.

img_7915As it happened I bought the ‘A year in Brambly Hedge’ box set. The little magpie is very interested in seasons at the moment and so the fact that there is a story for each season is perfect. But also there was a little selfish part of me that wanted the books for myself because I remembered reading them and being in love with the intricate illustrations when I was little. For anyone who has not come across these books before they are as quintessentially British as any Beatrix Potter or AA Milne story. They follow the lives of a community of mice, shrews and voles who live in the hedgerows, trees and bushes of the English countryside.

img_7910The author has taken time to give each of the characters its own personality and they are often featured across the different books so you feel like you get to know them a little bit. They have quite a lot of text in each book but all the stories are exciting- a surprise birthday picnic for Spring, a riverside wedding in Summer, a little mouse lost in the woods in autumn (my favourite) and a Snow Ball in winter- but it’s the illustrations that really draw you in. They are so detailed and as a result the more you look at them the more you notice. What I loved when I was little, and still love now, are the intricate cross sections of the trees where you feel like you can look inside their houses and see the little creatures busy in their homes. I spent many hours looking at these and they still fascinate me today.

img_7911As English animal stories go, these books have all the warmth of a tea party at Pooh corner, mixed in with the adventures of Peter Rabbit but because they were written much more recently (the 1980s) the language is easier for our modern day children to understand. If you are a fan of AA Milne and Beatrix Potter, these should be on your radar! It’s also worth mentioning that they are the perfect size for little fingers as they are small hardbacks which all come in a presentation box. They look so lovely on their shelf- is it just me or does everyone find a set of books like this really satisfying?

Does anyone else have fond memories of these books? My favourite of all was ‘The Secret Staircase’ (I think I might have to save that for ‘book of the week’ one week) but I find them all captivating. I’d be really interested to know if these books ever made it further afield than Britain. Did anyone growing up in another country read these as a child? Drop me a comment below, I love hearing from you!

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Learning about friendships

It is my unwavering belief that picture books help children to make sense of the world around them. If they are finding something difficult there is almost certainly a book that will help them out with it. Friendships can be one of the most difficult things for our little ones to navigate through. One day someone is your best friend, the next they don’t want to know you, the day after that they want to be your friend and it’s your turn to play it cool. Its all so tricky. There are gazillions of books about friendships and it’s a theme I plan to revisit many, many times but for today I thought I would champion some of the most interesting books I have recently discovered that show the reality of friendships and could help children to view friendship in a new way.

Continue reading “Learning about friendships”

Back to School Books

If you, like me, have a little one going to nursery or school for the first time this September (blub), or if they are starting a new school, or if the summer holidays have been so long and lovely that your children have just forgotten all the fun things about school and seem a bit reluctant to go back then broaching the subject can be a tricky. Why not try one of these books to help them reflect on their feelings about school, start a converstaion about what they are looking forward to and give them the opportunity to share anything they might be nervous about.

Continue reading “Back to School Books”

World Book Day 2016

Hooray for World Book Day! The day of the year where:

a) parents hurriedly try to find/ make/ buy a costume for their children, while…

b) teachers carefully plan opportunities for their classes to love books even more whilst managing a pack of excited children in fancy dress, dressed as (in my case) a giant red crayon and…

c) children get giddy because their teacher is dressed as a giant red crayon and they get to be superheroes/ princesses/ animals for the day.

It has its critics but for all that, I still love it. Continue reading “World Book Day 2016”