Every child should have these brilliant books on their bookshelf!
Sinead, a mother of three who writes over at www.shinnersandthebrood.com has compiled her top choices of books for under-fives.
There are some books that you will (be forced to) read again and again; some that will be thumbed and torn and covered in mysterious, indecipherable stains due to overuse; some that your older kids will indulgently take from the shelf even when you’re sure they’ve outgrown them. I’ve put together a little list of some of our kids’ favourites – books they constantly return to and, incidentally, they’re all books that we enjoy reading too. Because, let’s face it. Some kids books are crap really, aren’t they?
If you’re relatively new to the parenting game and have yet to accumulate the entire Julia Donaldson back catalogue then some of these may be new to you. If you’ve been around the block once or twice, then you probably own most of them already.
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
This was one of my son’s first books. He unintentionally memorized the first few pages when he was three and used to ‘read’ it aloud to his baby sister. Ouch. I just got an ache right in the heart thinking about it. It’s really adorable. The premise is this: three little owl siblings sit on a branch waiting for their mother who has taken off for some undisclosed reason. Maybe she had some rodents to catch or insects to gather. Or maybe she just had enough and wanted a half-hour without wails and demands in her feathery ear. Either way, after a couple of pages – in which the baby owls speculate about reasons for her absence – she returns, as expected. Phew. Everyone is delighted and peace is restored to the nest. Hurrah!
If you’re the kind of mum who needs to escape every once in a while, whether it’s just to get a facial or better still, to abscond for the weekend and party like it’s 1999, then this is the book for you! Mums have to go away sometimes - to work, to run errands, to consume unusually large volumes of Shiraz and dance to 90s pop - but rest assured kiddos, they’ll always come back.
Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson
Brace yourselves for all of the feelings if you’ve not read this one. Here’s how it goes: cute little girl has lots of fun and adventures with paper dolls she has cut out with her mum. A nasty little Horrid Henry type snips them up but the little girl is OK because the dolls will live on in her memory along with – wait for it – her long-since departed ‘kind granny’ and all sorts of other childhood treasures that no longer exist. Gulp. Yup. It’s a magical one. If you don’t come over all emotional at the end, you’re made of stone. Fact.
Five Minute's Peace by Jill Murphy
This one is for the parents and the kids. Mrs Large is all too relatable; the quintessential frazzled mother who just wants to be left alone to read the newspaper and eat a bit of leftover cake in peace. No martyr to the cause, Mrs Large is on a mission for some me-time. She’s delusional enough to attempt to fill a bubble bath with four kids in the house and of course, is repeatedly interrupted because, as per the rules of motherhood, no woman who has borne a child shall be permitted into the bathroom alone. Everyone will get a chuckle out of this one and you might feel a little better knowing that Mrs Large’s head is just as wrecked as yours is.
Zog by Julia Donaldson
With two daughters, we’ve resigned ourselves to a certain degree of pink, glitter and sparkly unicorns. As much as we try not to gender stereotype as parents, it seems to seep in from all directions. We have a lot of books about fairies and princesses and that’s OK. Our six-year-old son loves them just as much as our four-year-old daughter. But there ain’t nothing like a bit of subtle feminism and Donaldson nails it yet again in this warm tale of a hapless dragon named Zog who teams up with a princess who has had enough of being rescued by knights in shining armour and would much rather pursue a career in medicine. Princess Pearl is all about female empowerment and we love her!
The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr
This one has always been a massive hit here. It’s a sweet yarn about a hungry tiger who pays a visit to a mum and daughter and proceeds to eat them out of house and home. To be honest, I reckon the tiger serves as a metaphor for that annoying neighbour who seems to call at the most inopportune times and stays too long.
The book has been around since the 60s and it shows its age a bit when mom has a freak-out upon realising that she has nothing to feed the hard-grafting man of the house for his dinner, but we’ll forgive that.
The cheeky tiger even drinks ‘all of daddy’s beer’. Mom was cute enough to hide the gin, it would seem. Or maybe it was she who actually drank all the beer and concocted the whole fanciful story to cover her drunken ass? Gender issues and theories abound but one thing’s for sure, the kids love that crazy lager-swilling tiger.
What are your kids’ favourites? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Alternative theories about our mysterious jungle friend are also welcome!