After a short hiatus caused by life getting in the way, my parenting panel is back in full effect. Stepping away from the TV for a while, I asked them to tell me about their favourite bedtime reads – and as you can see below, they did me proud. So, if you need a bit of inspiration for widening out your bookshelves this Christmas – or you just want to get some recommendations for the next trip to the library – sit back, relax and let us tell you a bedtime story or two…
Gemma Bailey chose: What the Ladybird Heard
Ours is not the kind of child to fit into a routine and as such, bedtime can be a bit fluid, to say the least. But over time it has become clear that the one part of the routine (such as it is) that is completely indispensable is the bedtime story. More than even a bath, it draws a line under the manic activity of the day and leads all of us towards the restfulness of the evening and, hopefully, sleep. Of the books on our daughter’s shelf, a quarter were penned by Julia Donaldson, and so it’s unsurprising that she’s the author of our favourite: What the Ladybird Heard.
The Gruffalo, the Snail and the Whale or Room on the Broom may seem more obvious choices, but there’s no point trying to explain the elegance of the rhyme or the meaningfulness of the story to an 11-month-old who really just wants to laugh at you trying to imitate no fewer than ten different animals, most of whom are imitating one another. (Plus, thanks to BBC Christmas specials I find it almost impossible to read any of the rest of Donaldson’s books in anything other than a bad Scottish accent.) So What the Ladybird Heard floats our bedtime boat for the simple reason that there’s no better end to the day than listening to your daughter chuckling at your increasingly theatrical attempts to do an impression of a goose who’s pretending to be a horse.
Morgan Lloyd Malcolm chose: The Noisy Book
The lad is now 20 months old and has always enjoyed staring, shouting and pointing at books of various descriptions but never for very long. His attention span is so short it can’t be called a ‘span’. It’s more like ‘blip’. Something will get in his way of running around, jumping off things, pushing things over or hitting things for a teeny tiny momentary blip and then he’s off again. Books create these attention blips.
Which is why a book at bedtime really doesn’t work. We did try something called ‘Sleep snoozy bunny’ or something but the bunny rabbit puppet it contains would give him the most hysterical laughing fits that rather than calming him down to a relaxed and drowsy state it would encourage a fit of bed bouncing and then he’d be shouting ‘bye bye’ before legging it out the room to go slam the freezer door a few times or something.
So I have, for the meantime, given up on bedtime stories. But the one book that holds his attention for the longest and which I suppose still qualifies for this review as we often read it lying on the bed if not at actual bedtime is; The Noisy Book by Soledad Bravi. He bloody loves it. He gets to be noisy. And he knows it so well now that he pretty much does the noises before you turn the page. Big favourites are the ‘Beep beep’ cars (standard), the ‘mmmmm’ bottle (he’s never taken a bottle so really don’t know what he thinks mmm actually really means) and the ‘raaaaa’ lion (again, standard, but he really does do a very convincing one. So proud). It is also the source of a long standing dispute between mummy and daddy about how to pronounce the rabbit sound which is written ‘tnnstnnntnnstnn’ which I do in the classic Bugs Bunny style of basically kissing my teeth a la da yoots but my husband does phonetically, paying full attention to each and every letter. I am right of course, but his way has stuck. So now my son thinks bunnies really do sound like that. Poor deluded bugger.
Anyway. It’s a good book. I recommend it. And though it’s just a series of pictures with noises for you to imitate it still contains drama. Oh yes. Take for example the run of pages that go “The Pin goes ‘OUCH’” “Baby going ‘WAAAH’” and “Daddy goes ‘Shhhh’”. If that’s not a story of parental dysfunction we can all relate to I don’t know what is.
Phill James chose: Hug
Being avid readers ourselves, Sarah and I have been guilty from day one of making sure there have been enough books in the house for Jess to familiarise herself with. Turning one this week, she is yet to fully understand the complexities of The Count of Monte Cristo. Indeed, whilst she enjoys turning the pages of such childhood classics as The Tiger Who Came to Tea, the Snail & the Whale and Where the Wild Things Are… by far her favourite book is a small, battered second hand copy of Jez Alborough’s mini masterpiece “Hug.”
The book is about a little Chimp called Bobo who has lost his mum and becomes sad when he sees all the other animals in the Jungle hugging each other. The whole book only contains three words (Hug, Mummy, Bobo) but despite having read it to Jess over 100 times, she still tenses up in anticipation until the moment where Bobo, crying and down on his luck, find his Mummy and gets a well overdue hug. Her beam and roar of approval upon Bobo’s salvation has warmed my heart copious times since her Gran bought the book from a charity shop. Given Jess’ favourite pastime is handing out hugs of her own, it should probably have come as no surprise.
Emma Tjolle chose: Iggy Peck, Architect
When Henry asked us to write a review of our favourite children’s book, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about. There is one book that I frequently catch myself flicking through…on my own. Introducing Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty.
‘Young Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was two, when he built a great tower – in only an hour – with nothing but nappies and glue.’
Essentially it’s a great tale about a little boy, a passionate dreamer, who builds amazing creations out of unusual items. His parents think he’s awesome but not everyone is quite so enamoured with Iggy’s talents.
There are so many things I love about this book. The rhyming pattern is really cool. I love the internal rhymes in the first and third lines. Coupled with the second and fourth lines that each rhyme at the end, it’s an absolute pleasure to read.
The illustrations, by David Roberts are fabulous – many of them done on graph paper. They are so detailed that every time I pick it up I see something new that makes me smile. The characters in the book all look so cool. Iggy’s mother is a Pucci wearing, behive toting, blue eyeliner rocking, fashionista mama, who has my favourite line… ‘Good gracious, Ignacious! His mother exclaimed. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!’
I love everything about this book, it’s a great story, has a great message about following your passions, has beautiful pictures and is one super stylish kids book. Oh and Eliza rather likes it too!
Jonathan Furno chose: Dinosaurs Love Underpants
I was in a terrible quandary on this one… as I and my daughter were torn as to which book to choose – so I decided to do them both.
Dinosaurs Love Underpants – by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort
As you can tell from the title, this is a really serious book about the actual cataclysm that befell the dinosaurs. This has been a favourite of my daughter’s since she was around 3 or so as she liked telling me which pants were her favourites and she still does. I like it because the subject is inherently funny (yes I am a grown up who still laughs at words like “poo”, “wee”, “pants” and “bum”, but I am bigger than all of you so shut up) and the surreal/ridiculous imagery makes me smile.
The rhyme of the poem is easy to read and even easier for the little ones to follow. We are now on to the 2nd generation with my 19 month old son and he loves dinosaurs and roars at the book constantly.
I love this book as it entrances both of my kids at the same time and I enjoy reading it too! I defy any adult not to find the image of a Diplodocus in frilly knickers that are “titchy” at least vaguely amusing. If you don’t then you have no soul.
Some Dogs Do – Jez Alborough
I love the whimsical notion of dogs doing something they’re not supposed to in this story. (I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet). The story is spot on and leaves you with a lovely warm glow. But it also shows genuine sadness and parental concern within the character. I love the painted art and the fact that the dogs in the story actually look like specific breeds and have not been too “humanised”. The facial expressions and body language is superb and conveys the relevant emotions brilliantly. The sadness in the main character at one point is so convincing that you genuinely feel for the little fella!
My little girl liked this book ever since she got it a few years ago and now my son likes it too. I enjoy reading it to them for the way it captures both of their attention and genuinely seems to delight my little boy.
That is really the crux of why I love both of these books. They have good solid rhymes, excellent art, are not condescending to kids and actually have a proper story in them, without just seeming to be a vehicle to sell merchandise (although I do want that diplodocus in knickers as a mini statue for my desk at work!).