Earlier in the week I posted on the topic of the ‘slow reading movement’ – the ‘new’ way to read that encourages us to sit down quietly and…well…read, basically! Turn off the gadgets, ignore the many distractions of life and focus on the text in front of you. This is supposedly good for our mental health on a whole bunch of levels, and not just when you’re reading worthy novels. You can apply this to reading a magazine, a school newletter or any of the other texts we tend to absent-mindedly skim through these days.
So, what about kids’ books? As much as I love to read with my kids, I am well aware that I can actually read a whole picture book whilst mentally composing a shopping list or reminding myself to send a work email. The more often we’ve read a particular book, or the more simplistic the wording, the more likely I am to rattle it off some nights while thinking nothing more nurturing than ‘are we there yet’? So, today I bring you 3 picture books that FORCE you to be ‘present’. Go slow with these ones, and reap the benefits!
The Last King Of Angkor Wat by Graeme Base
Penguin Australia RRP:$26.99
If you haven’t read Base’s acclaimed book Animalia, you really haven’t lived. It set a new benchmark for exceptional children’s book illustrations, with rich, complex images readers can linger over for hours. Many books later, this latest work is again in the animal world, using the lush jungles of Cambodia as a backdrop. Exploring the ruins of temples at Angkor Wat, we meet Tiger, Gibbon, Water Buffalo and Gecko who are competing to be the new ruler of the tribe. In the style of a classic fable, each one must learn a bit about themselves – humility, bravery, acceptance of others – as they discover what it takes to be a ‘true’ king. There’s a short historical note about the region at the end, too, offering a great starting point for further research with your child if you so wish.
The Soldier’s Gift by Tony Pamer & Jane Tanner
Penguin Australia RRP:$26.99
Not every children’s books needs to be about tinkly, winkly elves – or even beautifully drawn animals. Sometimes kid’s literature gives us an opportunity to discuss frightening topics in less threatening ways. The Soldier’s Gift is the moving story of a young Australian girl, Emily, whose beloved big brother heads off to fight in the First World War. He writes to her as often as he can. Until, one day, the letters stop coming and the family receives a telegram instead. In child-friendly language, this book illustrates the hardship of life in war time, including the challenges faced by soldiers as well as the community waiting for them to return. The book concludes with a series of historical photos and a more substantial, though still accessible, analysis of the WW1 story. It would be an asset to any classroom, or to any family with ancestors in the forces.
The Wild One by Sonya Hartnett & Lucia Masciollo
Penguin Australia RRP:$24.99
Sonya Hartnett is another acclaimed writer for young people with everything from delightful picture books to gritty young adult fiction under her belt. It could be argued that this one is a book for any age, containing an important message for grown ups alongside a sweet narrative for kids. Little Charlie meets The Wild One when he is playing in the park. Together, they inspect bugs and birds, cover themselves in mud and wrestle in puddles. The wild one lives in a tall tree and Charlie visits him as often as he can. “I wish I could stay here always,” said Charlie. “You can’t,” said the wild one. “You have to go to school.”
And so Charlie goes to school and learns maths and makes other friends. He still visits the wild one occasionally, especially when he has something important to think about. Charlie becomes a doctor, has children and has many adventures and has almost forgotten the wild one, until he walks past that big tree one day with his granddaughter. Lovely watercolour-style illustrations make this a gentle exploration of nature and the things we take for granted in life. It reminds us to hang onto the ‘magic’ of youth no matter how many years go by.
What are your kids reading at the moment? Are you skimming or taking it slow?
With thanks to Penguin Australia for my review copies.