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.
I really love instagram but there are times when I feel like I’m not really doing the books justice when I feature them on there, so I have decided that I’m going to try something new. Enter the new hashtag #bookhabitweeklypick.
It was tough picking which book woud go first but after a weekend where I finally felt like we were beginning to see some signs of spring I chose Emily Hughes’ beautiful ‘The Little Gardner’.
When I bought this book it was just a chance encounter. I didn’t flick through the pages, I hadn’t heard of it before or read anything by the author I just saw the cover and thought it looked interesting. I’m so glad I did. It has become a well-loved book in our house for both me and the little Magpie (my daughter, currently 3 and a half).
The text is simple, repetitive and gentle. It guides you through the story of a tiny gardner (perhaps some kind of fairy folk, although he doesn’t seem to possess any magical powers) and his friendly worm. Between them they try everything to keep the garden beautiful but it is just too much for them. After realising that the job is too big, the gardner wishes for help and then falls into a deep slumber for a month. When he awakes he finds that the universe has granted his wish (nearby children have cleared and planted while he slept). Where once it was overgrown and dangerous there are now flowering plants and new wildlife.
Part fairy tale, part fable, this story puts a great emphasis on the qualities of trying hard, perseverance, asking for help and most of all having hope. The text is used sparingly and all the emotions and extra details come from the intricately beautiful illustrations. Every time we look at them we find another hidden detail that we haven’t spotted before and this helps to keep the book exciting for little ones. The colour palette is more muted than many children’s books but it really adds to the atmosphere of the story and makes the garden transformation more visual and exciting at the end.
Emily Hughes is a really special talent and has a style which is instantly recognisable. If you haven’t given her books a try yet I would urge you to track them down and give them a whirl. They are truly magical and timeless and would easily earn their place on the most beautiful bookshelf.
If you have already enjoyed ‘The Little Gardner’ or would like to look out for more of her work, Emily Hughes has also published ‘Wild’ and has recently illustrated ‘A Brave Bear’ written by Sean Taylor.
A lot of the time, when people read with their children they do it to help them with their literacy skills and there is no doubt that works but to me reading is so much more than that. Reading benefits every part of who they are. Social skills, problem solving, patience, motivation, empathy, understanding of relationships can all be developed by simply picking up a book and diving in. And if you manage to help your child develop a love of reading then it is something that will be with them for their entire life, and that’s not something you can say about a lot of things. Being a child can be hard work but when they immerse themselves in a book they can really switch off. Not just the older children either. If my three year old is having a bad day a book can really break into her mood and it can be like pressing the reset button. This does not always work but is well worth a try! Below are just a few of my thoughts on what books can do for us and our children and not one of them is anything to with literacy. (Please remember that all of these also apply to adults reading books as well!)
Books can cleverly take something scary and make it funny.
Books can make you feel as though you are not alone.
Books can make you laugh when you want to cry.
Books can transport you to a million places when you can’t leave the house.
Books can make you see things from a different point of view.
Books can help you find an answer to a question noone else can answer.
Books can make you believe in magic.
Books can make you think for yourself.
Books can give you goals and dreams.
Books can turn an ordinary day into a magnificent adventure.
Books can be something different each time you read them.