I’ve been on a picture book kick recently, starting with the indescribably adorable Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid, which I read about in a review from Kirkus. The children’s librarians at my library were happy to provide me with more contemporary picture books, and then I started revisiting old favorites.
Along the way, I read Australian author Mem Fox’s book Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. As a librarian, and as someone whose parents read her stories every night, I’m already sold on the reading-to-kids idea, but Fox emphasizes how important it truly is.
Among all the anecdotes and tips for reading aloud, I came across this quote on page 142, which struck me as perfect for Banned Books week. But Banned Books Week is in September, and I didn’t want to wait to share:
“The whole point of books is to allow us to experience troubled realities that are different from our own, to feel the appropriate emotions, to empathize, to make judgments, and to have our interest held. If we sanitize everything children read, how much more shocking and confusing will the real world be when they finally have to face it?”
Books are a safe place to encounter new ideas and situations, and think (or talk) through them. Experiencing something vicariously or hypothetically is often safer than having that experience oneself. Though “difficult topics” may be uncomfortable for some, books are an excellent “vehicle for true learning and understanding.” (For more on this topic, see “Censorship and Invisibility,” one of my Banned Book Week blog posts from last fall.)
Picture books naturally lend themselves to discussion. For those of us who tend to focus on the text, they are also a good reminder that reading an image requires another type of literacy. In a good picture book, the text and the image complement each other; the pictures aren’t just a representation of the text, they can contain more information – and often jokes. It’s worth taking a bit of extra time to look at the pictures on each page closely, not just because they are colorful or cute, but because there is more going on. (Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann is an excellent example of this.)
Here are a few of my favorite picture books, old and new. I keep a current list, tagged “children’s” in LibraryThing.
Sometimes I Forget You’re A Robot by Sam Brown, 2013
Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner, 2013
Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid (also, A Pet for Petunia), 2011, 2013
A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy, 2012
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (also, This Is Not My Hat), 2011, 2012
13 Words by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Maira Kalman, 2010
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett, 2007
Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh, 1992
Julius, the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes, 1990
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz, 1972
Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrations by Margaret Bloy Graham (also, Harry by the Sea and No Roses for Harry), 1956-1965
What are your favorite picture books from childhood? When was the last time you read a picture book, quietly to yourself or out loud?