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For me it’s the timeless Peepo. For my husband it’s How To Be A Lion, the delightful story of a lion called Leonard being true to himself and refusing to eat his best friend, a duck named Marianne (yes, we suspect the author is a Leonard Cohen fan). We all have books that move us when we’re reading to our children, usually at bedtime when the day is slowing down. Having the time just to read is as important to me as it is to my son. Focusing on that one thing for a little time makes you more open to feelings that are often crowded out by to-do lists or the stress of work.
Koru Kids spoke to parents and writers about the books they read or have read to their children that move them the most, and what it is that makes these books so powerful.
Books About Love
A favourite with many parents is I Love You To The Moon And Back by Amelia Hepworth, illustrated by Tim Warnes. “It’s the perfect bedtime story, going through the events of the day and bedtime routine” says freelance children’s book writer and editor Rebecca Lewis-Oakes, who reads it to her toddler daughter almost every night; “certainly for the first six weeks I couldn’t finish it through the tears, especially up to the line ‘I love you to the moon and stars, my precious little one.'”
Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever is about the ageless and transforming power of love across the generations, with its tender lines “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” Publisher and mother-of-one Isobel says: “I’ve never managed to get to the end of the story without crying. It’s absolutely heartbreaking and even just describing the story brings me to tears. It perfectly captures that fierce protectiveness a mother feels for her child and knows she always will.”
Books That Bind Us To Our Families
Sometimes books stir us because of the memories they bring even more than the stories they give us. Mother-of-two Olivia has loved Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd, since she was read it when she was small. “It was read to me by both my parents and ties me both to my geographically dispersed sisters, who also read it to their small sons, and to my North American heritage. I’ve known it by heart for years but find it calming and meditative, even though I have read it virtually every night for four years. My daughter also loves that I now read it to the baby, and I missed it for the year where she was ‘too old, Mummy,’ and he wasn’t born yet,” she says.
Books About Friendship
Children’s book critic Imogen Russell-Williams recommends The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie. The story follows the friendship of four girls who first meet under an apple tree. It is “the warmest and most exemplary portrayal of female friendship you could imagine,” Imogen says.
I asked my husband Daniel why it is that he likes How To Be A Lion so much, and the friendship and independent spirit at its centre were two of the reasons he gave. “Leonard stands up to the other lions who want him to eat Marianne the duck and join them in being fierce, and through Leonard's courage and his words, he ends up showing them that they don't have to act tough if they don't want to, that there are many ways to be a lion. The heart of the story is so moving to me because its ideas of independence and being yourself are exactly the sort of thing I want our son to grow up with confidence in, and because it's about something that's difficult for a lot of boys as they get older: the pressure to conform, to hide sensitivity, to be something they're not.”
Books That Reflect Our Stories
Lynsey Pollard, director and founder of littleboxofbooks.co.uk, says the book she found most moving to read to her son was I Love You Honey Bunny by Christine Swift, illustrated by Sarah Wade, which describes the love and care between a mother and child. “I initially hated it because it felt really cheesy and not something I would ever read, but my son loved it and I think it's because it just features a mum and her child. I was a single mum at the time and it was the only book I could find that resembled our family unit. He recognised that from a really young age and used to pretend it was us,” she says. That her son identified so strongly with the bunnies in the story helped inspire Little Box of Books, which is aimed at more children seeing themselves and their families in the books they read.
Books That Are Comforting To Read
This is where Peepo, a story by Janet and Allan Ahlberg following a baby and his family through their day, is so special to me. There’s a rhythm to the poetry that makes you take it gently as the book and the baby’s day draw to a close. I can’t read it without remembering my mother reading it to me, along with Each Peach Pear Plum, also by the Ahlbergs. My favourite verse to read is about the baby being carried up to bed: “he sees the landing mirror with its rainbow rim, and a mother with a baby, just like him.”
Tom, a father of one, loves reading Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury to his son. Showing different babies all over the world in cheerful illustrations, the book finishes with a kiss on the end of the narrator’s baby’s nose. Tom says he likes it “because the rhythm and the repetition is very gentle and soothing but also because of my son’s reaction to it. He loves having his fingers and toes counted and quickly learnt to anticipate the kisses at the end so that by a couple a pages from the end he is already looking up waiting for his nose to be kissed. Just the sight of his little face looking up and trusting completely that he is going to get nose kisses gets me every time,” Tom says.
If you have suggestions of your own, please add them to our Bringing Up Great Kids Facebook page. We look forward to hearing about your favourites, and have added links to the books mentioned in this piece below.
I Love You To The Moon And Back by Amelia Hepworth, illustrated by Tim Warnes (ages 0-3)
Love you Forever by Robert Munsch (ages 0-5)
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd (ages 0-5, though 30 and 40somethings tell me they still love reading it too)
The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie (ages 3-7)
How To Be A Lion by Ed Vere (ages 2-5)
I Love You Honey Bunny by Christine Swift, illustrated by Sarah Wade (ages 0-3)
Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (ages 0-4)
Ten Little Fingers And Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (ages 0-3)
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