A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Anyone who has ever spent time looking after small children will know that bedtime stories can be a mixed blessing. I am a writer, a reader and a book blogger, and I am very much in favour of reading stories to children, but there are times, I admit, when the thought of reading the same book again makes me groan. I blame my bitter adult brain for that. Because my daughter seemingly cannot get enough of certain books. I can read them to her three times a day for a year and she still gets a kick out of them.
But what is their appeal?
Some books have an obvious appeal, like, for instance, Panda’s Pants. Here we have, as the title would suggest, a confluence of pandas and pants. The eponymous panda sees an advert in a newspaper for a shop selling pants and he decides that a thin, handsome panda such as he – though modest he is apparently not – deserves a new pair of pants (aesthetically displeasing, fat-assed pandas need not apply). So our panda is first in the queue for the shop opening, ahead of an elephant, an alligator, a pig, a dog and a giraffe. Panda is greeted by the shopkeeper, who is, I think, an iguana, though it is hard to be sure, since it is the same size as the elephant. Panda tries on every pair of pants in the shop and seems to enjoy the experience, judging by the shameless posing and dance moves. As someone who briefly worked in a lingerie department, I can confirm that panda’s pants-trying etiquette is WAY off, as he does not keep on his own underwear beneath the new and unpurchased pants. He seems to be quite a young panda, so maybe he doesn’t know any better. And to be totally fair to the panda, it’s possible that he doesn’t actually own any pants, which would explain his decision to visit a pants shop in the first place.
Still, panda is pleased with the pants he tries on and when he can’t make up his mind which type he prefers, he decides to buy them all.
The book is extra appealing as it is very tactile and little hands can feel shiny disco pants, faux fur pants, flowery felt pants and tartan pants from Scotland.
Although, I am not totally sure, now that I think about it, how on board I am with little hands being encouraged to feel pants, especially when they’re being worn. By an excitable panda. But still, we won’t quibble with the genius combination of pandas and pants. And bonus points to the author for the book’s scandalous and shocking ending.
The second book that I am reading daily is a quirky little gem called Dig the Dog. Now, it was inevitable that someone would buy my little girl this book as we have a dog called Digger, who we often call Digs, so the book is pretty close to perfect, apart from the fact that it is almost impossible to read. Never has there existed such a tongue-twister masquerading as children’s literature; at least not since Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Maybe it’s just my tired brain struggling at the end of a long day, but I can’t seem to read aloud passages like this without tripping over my words:
Then Doug the Dog disappeared
under the garden gate.
Dig the Dog finished
his food and dug in
the dirt for dessert.
Also, the book has a seriously weird font that makes it difficult to distinguish between say, a lower case h and an n. Not helpful in terms of accurate enunciation WHEN THE BOOK IS ALREADY A TONGUE-TWISTER.
However, the story itself is enchanting. Our two main characters, Dig the Dog and Doug the Dog are fence-sharing neighbours and therefore naturally predisposed to despising one another. Both of them are magnificently mutty with eerily expressive eyes and big appetites. Over the course of the story, Dig and Doug the dogs do a fair amount of digging and eating, and then they have an epic scrap over a bone. Mid-fight, Kit the Cat appears and sneers, and the dogs unite to chase her off. Then they learn to share and to take turns, and presumably they live happily ever after. This is the kind of story that I am quite sure will set up my little girl beautifully for primary school, especially the bonding over dislike of a mutual enemy part.
The final book is a classic that will probably be known to many of our readers. It is called Each Peach Pear Plum. This book has superb, intricate illustrations and the book requires a child to spot certain small images hidden on the page. The story has some nice rhymes and a comforting feeling of familiarity as it drafts in some classic fairytale characters.
But I don’t know. I just find it a bit empty. There’s no story arc. No narrative tension. No real character development. No red herring. No twist in the tale. No epiphany. No moral. It’s just ‘find this, find that. Haha, there’s Mother Hubbard’s bottom’, type of thing. Which is all very well and good, I suppose, but not particularly gripping after the tenth read. However, the story does feature a beautiful plum pie that makes my mouth water. And the ending gives me a warm fuzzy glow of happiness because fairytale characters and picnics do that to me, and the last image is of fairytale characters having a picnic.
So what can be gathered from this somewhat shapeless and lazy post?
That some children are impressed by pants, by watching their parents struggling to enunciate, by the spectacle of two dogs fighting over a bone, by spotting things in a picture that are hard to spot, and by skinny exhibitionist pandas.
What are your favourite books for small children? Which ones still don’t bore you after the one hundredth reading? Because so far I have found only two books of which I haven’t grown weary and they are Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino and The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. But what is the best picture book ever written? Please tell me so I can buy it and take a blissful break from pants*, pandas, pooches and plum pie picnics.
*In case it needs saying: I will be taking a break from reading about pants, rather than a break from wearing them.
Panda’s Pants by David Sim. A touch and feel book. Tango Books. Dig The Dog by Alison Maloney and Maddy McClellan. Meadowside Children’s Books. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Penguin Books.