* Brace yourself for a long post.
** Spoilers ahead! Big time! (With children’s books, one cannot resist the temptation of putting in pictures, especially when the storyteller is an awesome illustrator!)
Sometimes life gets in the way of reading. And sometimes reading gets in the way of life. But nothing else combines these two, than reading together with a friend, or your own son.
As far as I can remember, I have always put two books by my bedside. And now my son does the same. It is not something that I have taught him or told him to do, but it is just one of those things that children pick up by observing us go about our daily lives.
We started collecting books for my son, when he was barely three months old. We started with high contrast picture books and now (even though he doesn’t know how to read) he has graduated to slightly higher versions of picture – storybooks (similar to the Animal Stories, in the photograph above).
Along the way, we were given helpful suggestions for books by our parents, and friends. And one day, my friend (who collects children’s books; yes! she really does!), showed me her copy of Dogs by Emily Gravett, I knew I had to collect her books (remember my Books as Heirloom theory).
When I saw and read Dogs for the first time, I was charmed by Emily Gravett’s illustration style. I love the magic that is created when the book author is a good illustrator or the illustrator is a very good storyteller. A lot of us are familiar with Eric Carle‘s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (that my son loved after it was performed as a puppet show in his Giggle group at school). Illustrations that are made of collaged hand-painted papers and even die cut pages to show that the very hungry green caterpillar eats its way through the book, through apples and plums and eventually becomes a beautiful butterfly.
The very same friend (who collects children’s books) had in the past also introduced me to Leo Leonni and his book Little Yellow, Little Blue, a little book that teaches children to recognize that friends come in different colors, different backgrounds but what ties them all together is love and friendship. Made out of torn bits of paper, Leo Leonni, created this book to amuse his grandchildren on a train journey. I then bought A Color of His Own, in which a chameleon learns the importance of friendship and finding your own color.
Well, as usual I have digressed. It is difficult not to, especially when it comes to books (or food, or art for that matter!)
Back to Emily Gravett, once we got Dogs (which my son loved), we moved on to Monkey and Me, in which a cheeky little girl and her stuffed toy monkey hop like kangaroos and swing upside down like bats. All three of us enjoyed acting out the book, and most importantly my son recognized punctuation, the Exclamation mark :). He can spot it anywhere now. Soon after, we got another one, The Blue Chameleon and then another one, The Odd Egg. Now, this one, even though very beautifully illustrated, was not as enjoyable for my son as it was for me. I will re-introduce it after a couple of years when he might actually enjoy it.
After this we got Again! (the exclamation mark was immediately recognizable). But before I write more about this book, I’d like to tell you more about our ‘Storytime @ Home’.
At the end of the day, when we trudge wearily towards the bed, the little one jumps up and down on the mattress with a book. Once his father has done his share of storytelling he’s put to bed with a kiss and the attention shifts to me. After the telling of one story, comes a request for another, ‘Punha!’ (which in Marathi means Again!) or ‘Ajun ek’ (which means ‘One more!’). And in between nodding off and waking up to find him staring expectantly for another story, he’s past his bedtime.
Now substitute Cedric the Dragon for my son and Cedric’s Mum for me. And that is the story of Again! Now here’s a book that I most identify with since I became a mother!
Again! is a story of Cedric a cheeky little dragon with a fiery temper. So, he gets ready for bed, like a good little dragon, brushes his teeth and carries a book to bed, with his favorite red dragon blankie.
The story that his mum is telling him is shown in the background. The story is of Cedric the dragon, who does not sleep at night and troubles everyone including the princess and the trolls. ( ‘What is a troll ?’ is a very difficult question to answer to a 3 year old, believe me! )
And then Cedric, very sweetly, asks, “Again!”
and so it goes on till his mum nods off
and finally falls asleep while telling him the story and he gets all the more angry with fiery consequences.
And now, reading any more beyond this will be a spoiler. But if you have still persisted with me, then do continue and maybe later put in an order for this book.
This book is a treasure, a collectible even if you are a grown up! So do buy it, and tell the story to the your children and most importantly to the child that resides within you.
Before I forget, do watch Emily Gravett draw Cedric the Dragon.