Carl Marks, the bearded half of high-street philosophers Marks and Spencer,
once likened reading to your child to ‘throwing acorns at a scarecrow’.
Who knows what he meant, but throwing acorns at a scarecrow is the epitomy
of a great day out in the Daddington household, so I can only presume that Carl was endorsing
it wholeheartedly. And who’s to argue with the great Carl Marks? Not me.
So, with those wise words ringing around my girdled-brainbush,
here are 5 great acorns to throw at your little scarecrows.
Again! (by John Prater)
Plot: Heavy irony. In a handy pocket-sized volume.
Ahhhh. Is there anything sweeter than when a toddler, having just finished a favoured activity, repeats the word ‘Again’ over and over, at increasing volume, until you give in and repeat said activity? Then upon completion, that sweet utterance springs forth once more. “Again! Again! Again!” And off you go again, like the diligent man-slave you are. Well, when the activity in question is reading ‘Again!’ (part of the mini treasures series from Red Fox – very handy for holiday reading/torture) then your cyclical existence takes on a delightful irony, that will either lead you to a higher plain or an early grave. Pocket-sized though, so there is a silver lining.
There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly (illustrated by Pat Adams)
Plot: Due to extensive NHS cuts, an old lady takes matters into her own hands.
After swallowing the fly, the old lady tried to get an appointment with her local GP, but he was too busy managing local healthcare budgets to actually dispense care or advice. The spider made not a jot of difference, other than taking the edge off the hunger she’d been feeling since the Tory government had delayed her pension for another 2 years,
forcing her back into relative poverty.
After eating her neighbours cat, she felt distinctly unwell and decided it was probably time for a trip to hospital. But no! The Tories had just closed down her local A+E, leaving her a good 120 miles from the nearest emergency services. The local dial-a-ride had been abolished (along with the library and community centre) after the recent council cuts. What was she going to do?! “I wonder if I can get medical help at that Tescos that’s thriving up the road from where the high street used to be?
Hmmm. Probably not”.
In desperation, she jumped on her dog, rode it until she found a cow. Rode that until she found a horse…and rode the old nag until it collapsed from exhaustion. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, hungry and alone, she was forced to eat the horse. Which, it turned out, was actually 90% beef, the one meat she was allergic to. She died. But hey, at least we’re cutting the deficit.
Oh, wait. We’re not, are we.
La Surprise (by Janik Coat)
Plot: “Honey…we’re going to need a bigger litter tray!”
This beautifully simple, wordless kids book would make the ideal present for a 3yr old whose world you’re about to ruin by gifting them a younger sibling. In delightfully simple, and strangely calming, graphic form, it tells a tale of tranquility, new arrivals and serene co-existence. Quiet and harmonious, it’s everything your house will never be once that second noise-box arrives.
Not Now Bernard (by David McKee)
Plot: A step-by-step guide to getting your child taken into protective custody
Published in 1980 (before every children’s book had to contain a heart-warming and politically correct narrative about chasing stars or befriending animals…and research found that severe neglect can cause permanent psychological damage) Not Now Bernard is the tale of one boys attempt to get his parent’s attention. He fails…and gets eaten by a monster, who in turn, fails to get Bernard’s parent’s attention. Great illustrations and a slightly confusing moral undertone (neglect child, child becomes monster. Neglect monster, monster goes to bed quietly. Uh?) makes this far more interesting (for narrators at least) than a lot of the crap out there.
Pants (by Giles Andreae + Nick Sharratt)
Plot: Hmmm. Not an extensive one, that’s for sure. In fact the title pretty much says it all.
I was stuck for a short while, trying to work out what can be said about this little beaut, beyond describing the vibrant illustrations and catchy rhyme that run throughout. Then it hit me! Whammy! Like a literary wedgy. It’s a subtle, underwear-based metaphor for embracing the myriad of different creeds, colours, shapes, sizes and sexualities that grace this doomed little planet of ours.
‘What a lot of lovely pants there are!’
How better to introduce your youngun to the joys of liberty, acceptance and equality for all, than through the medium of pant-rhyme. (Ironic then that the quote on the back ‘Hilariously funny for any pre-schooler’ comes from The Daily Mail….our gnarled bastion of ignorance and prejudice)
Let’s Dad! urges you NOT to buy your books from amazon…until they start paying UK corporation tax.
There are hundreds of independent bookshops out there that offer fine collections of kids books and great levels of service.
Failing that, charity shops are often choca with classic children’s books.
Basically, do anything, even write your own, before feeding the devil that is amazon.
If shopping online is your only option, try The Book Depository, who are often cheaper than amazon and offer free delivery…and they’re a registered UK company paying their share of tax.
A recent study by academics at the University of Warwickshire found that 97% of children who are read to from an early age will go on to study in higher education, snort ecstasy and have an unfulfilling relationship with someone who works in arts administration. Not great news, but better than the remaining 3%, who work at Urban Outfitters.
If you like those odds, here are 5 great children’s books to start them off with…
Goodnight Moon (written by Margaret Wise Brown / illustrated by Clement Hurd)
Plot: A rabbit (with acute OCD) says goodnight. To everything.
Bedtime for babies is more about routine than choice of book. A calming bath, into their jammies and then it’s time for a story. You could read them American Psycho and they probably wouldn’t care, as long as you did it in a soft voice. Goodnight Moon is a great way to signal the start of snoozy-time (and it doesn’t contain a single graphic description of face-drilling); “Goodnight this. Goodnight that. Goodnight this. Goodnight that. Goodnight this. Goodnight that.” If you say goodnight enough times your little pipsqueak might stop humping bedtime teddy, calm down and go to sleep. Finish off with, “Goodnight light, Goodnight [insert name]” and back quietly out of the room.
Welcome to the Zoo (by Alison Jay)
Plot: Monkey steals camenbert. Poodle attacks Station Master. How to catch an emu with a butterfly net.
There are a million different stories, or none, depending on how much time you have.
This wordless wander through the zoological equivalent of an open prison is an absolute treat. The illustrations are beautifully detailed and affectionate, there are wonderful little narratives unfolding on every page (seriously, someone shoot that f*cking poodle) and if you like a little more structure to your cardboard books then there are various Where’s Wally style challenges laid out on the final pages. With more depth and humour than most adult fiction, this is a book that will entertain for years.
Lost and Found – Pop-up Edition (by Oliver Jeffers / paper engineering by Corinna Fletcher)
Plot: Even penguins get lonely.
If this isn’t the best pop-up book ever, then I‘ll be damned. It’s got more flaps, tabs and strange protrusions than a drunken night in Bangkok. Throw in the rich colours, wonderful illustrations and heart-warming narrative – all present in the original 2D version – and you’ve got one hell of a children’s book. Worth holding off with this until the child in question understands that pages are for turning, not tearing, as it’s such a beautiful object that a little piece of your heart will die each time it takes a hit.
Have you ever tickled a tiger? (by Betsy Snyder)
Plot: Seven acts of mild bestiality.
This improved version of the ever-popular ‘That’s not my Teddy/Puppy/Train/Dinosaur’ series, gives your little one the opportunity to tickle a tigers tummy, poke a penguin and fluff an ostrich, with the help of some neatly placed fabric swatches. With a rhyming couplet on each page, bright and colourful illustrations and durable textures, this touchy-feely tale is great before and after they’ve learnt to read.
Postman Bear (by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler)
Plot: Bear is having a party. Well, more of a get-together really. In fact, it’s only two or three of his closest friends,
so I wouldn’t be upset if you don’t get an invite.
Donaldson + Schaffer are the Torvil and Dean of children’s books, their perfect 6.0 being The Gruffalo, that friendly rip-off of Where The Wild Things Are. Postman Bear has all the essentials for an engaging read; a homely little narrative, cute pictures and, the icing on the cake, flaps on every page. I don’t know about you, but I love flaps!
If you’ve got a great book recommendation – or one that should be avoided at all costs – pop it in the
comments box below and I’ll add it to the next list…