The Home of the Ghosties!

The Home of the Ghosties!

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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

What makes a good children's book?

So I was asking myself that question, "what makes a good children's book?"  And of course it depends on who is answering... the child or the parent.

Well, you should go to the ultimate source, so I asked the 5yo Pink Kid, "What's your favourite book?"  Of course, I was hoping she'd say, "Making Rainbows" or "Moon Ghostie Manners", but of course she didn't. 

"Hairy McClary from Donaldson's Dairy!" she exclaimed.  But then (because we were looking at the Penguin site at the time, she saw the cover of Jane Tanner's "Isabella's Secret" ...  "Oh, no!  This one, I have this one.  I LOVE this one with the fairies!"

Well, I love Hairy too, and no one can argue against the fact that Jane Tanner does the best fairies in the business!  But what about "Diary of a Wombat"?  And all those lovely picture books with Australian animals.  And then there's multiculturalism which is a great theme this year... what about a book that deals with children from different cultures?    Nope, not popular with the Pink Kid.  She likes 'FUNNY', 'BEAUTIFUL' and 'SHINY'.  (Also, I should emphasise 'funny', not 'amusing' or 'humourous'.  'Amusing' and 'humourous' are too subtle.  We're talking 5yo here).

So here we are.  Parents buy (and often choose) the books.  But when my children choose their favourite books, they rarely pick the ones I would.  So there's a tug of war between what I see as educational, humourous and interesting on the one hand, and what is 'FUNNY', 'BEAUTIFUL' and 'SHINY!' on the other.  I still reckon that parents buy "A Very Hungry Caterpillar" to teach their children about the wonder of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and kids like it because it's the biggest banquet they've ever seen!  Pink Kid virtually salivates when we get to the part about the cake!

So perhaps that's it then, the "best" children's books are ones that bridge the gap between the adult "wants" and the child "wants".  So books like "Hairy McClary" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".  Adults get to smile, kids get to belly-laugh, it's visually attractive and not too boring to read aloud for the 100th time.

So the small Pink Kid sits in the corner while I gleefully read "Dairy of a Wombat" (having refused to read Disney Princesses yet again).  I laugh at the wombat slowly training the family he adopts while Pink Kid sort of listens, sort of waits for it to be her turn to choose...

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