The Power of the Picture Book Challenge

At the beginning of June I discovered a picture book challenge on Instagram. Yes, it was winter and I was bored and getting kind of low-spirited at being cold - so what better way to brighten things up than make a whole lot of new Insta-friends with a common interest!? Oh my it was great fun. And addictive. Even our toys got in on the action.

Finding a picture book each day from our (not insubstantial) children's book collection to match a changing theme, was inspiring, interesting and entertaining. It reminded me of the power and pizazz of a good picture book. Some make you howl with laughter. Others have a poignancy that can bring you undone. My mum was a kindergarten teacher for many years and used to read a book about a Magpie who died - every year to her class, crying every time. Generations of kids watched agog at their teacher's emotional response to a picture book. I love this.

Through carefully chosen words and illustrations that bring the story to life - a glorious partnership is made in a picture book. Happily the market is apparently booming. Unsurprisingly e-books can't begin to capture the magic. 

Can you recall your favourite Golden Book? (Mine = The Tawny-Scrawny Lion!); The Dr Seuss tale you loved best? A book you treasured?; One you still own (or wish you did)?

If you thought you'd grown too big to enjoy 'em, you are sooooooooooooo missing out!!

Of course it helps to have a five-year-old who is wanting me to read/help him read one (or fifteen), every single night. We love snuggling under covers and discovering the magic of a new story, sounding out words, laughing at rollicking rhymes, pointing to the pictures (the artwork can be mind-blowingly amazing!) ...I really don't want this time to end (though by about book seven, I do find I'm yawning more than reading. Okay sometimes I do get cranky and snap the book shut - "Tomorrow! We'll finish this one tomorrow!!" Cue howls of protest...)

They become synonymous with your childhood, weaving their way into your mind and memories. You might recall a favourite book and then surprise yourself by also remembering intricate details about the pictures that went with it. Or how the spine got scuffed and who you blamed for it. Who read it best using funny voices. Or what your PJ's looked like in 1982....

Whether about big things or small, Picture Books bring laughter and joy to many. They characterise culture (for example, Australian ones can tell of things unique to Aussie life) or appeal across borders by highlighting universal themes (love, friendship, families, kindness, happiness, grief); they fulfil a vital role in the learning and development of children everywhere. They reach across generations.

Here's a few favourite Picture Books, for inspiration.

The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness by Colin Thompson is currently very hard to find. Follow the link to the publishers for a copy - all the major online sellers don't seem to have it. Any book that starts with the line: "George lived alone with his Grandmother and the empty space where his mother and father should be."is going to be emotional. This book does not shy away from the darkness that can live inside those who are feeling empty and lonely. However, in finding a dog who needs as much love as George, this boy (and his new found pet) begin to flourish. The story is delicately told and heartwarming in the extreme. The illustrations add to the poignancy. 

On a sillier note, Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort is universally funny to kids (and adults). I know I'm not telling you anything new by saying that underpants is a subject guaranteed to produce snickering and laughter. However, making a link between the undergarment and how dinosaurs became extinct is kind of new. But to my (unscientific) brain it is as believable as any of the other theories out there... So for any parent who's ever told their kids that the Great Wall of China was built to keep out the rabbits, this book will make perfect sense. 

The vibrancy and wonder of Eric Carle's picture books have not paled over the decades. If all you know is the hungry caterpillar then you're missing out on the much larger and SCARIER animals given the Carle treatment. The Greedy Python is another fun one worth looking up.

For those of us who grew up wishing we were Laura Ingalls and loving Michael Landon, these picture book versions of prairie life are a lovely introduction to Pa and Ma, family, roasted jackrabbit and all that made up that wonderful pioneering life. 

And keeping with our bookish theme, we attended the launch of the latest Exploding Endings by Tim Harris. When we first discovered Tim's writing, we were pretty excited at a local title containing such a great mix of school age fun and humor. (See our review here) So it was with great excitement that we joined the celebrations for Exploding Endings Volume 3 - and yes, the tales are as hilarious as ever. Particularly good for reluctant readers (and similar in look and style to Diary of a Wimpy Kid) these titles make great Christmas gifts.

I'm now taking part in a #KidsLitChallenge on Instagram - celebrating favourite book titles for 6-12 year olds. Check it out!

Also check out the great list of nominated and award-winning books from this year's Children's Book Council of Australia Awards. Have you read many of them? 
Here's my review of the wonderful Mr Huff a worthy recipient of the Book of the Year: Early Childhood Award.


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