Posted by Bo Piper on 18/11/2010
Pants by Giles Andreae and Nick Sharratt
You may do your best to ignore it and squash it, but every parent eventually has to accept that almost all small children go through a stage when pants, knickers and bottoms are the most fascinating things in the world. You can, of course, pretend it isn’t happening or you can say knickers to that and celebrate this short-lived phase with a big, bold picture book that waves the flag for the humble pant. The frilly ones, the spotty ones, the big and small ones, and even the absence of pants is cause for celebration. Children love this book and one of the pleasures of the exercise is that, although it concentrates on underwear, every page offers a wider view of the world.
This one passes every test: tiny children (and older) recognise the song on which it is based, but there are variations to make it a new experience. Involving for adults, too, as you read and reread and try out all kinds of sound effects.
Dealing in a really imaginative way with the idea of separation from the mum you really love, this is a wonderful book that makes you feel cosy just to think about it. This is a delightful story and Benson’s illustrations have a wonderful expressive quality.
Endearingly dotty version of old English folk tale, about a woman who thinks that her house is too small, and so it proves when the farmyard animals turn up. The text is simple and silly and children never seem to tire of the rhyming words. The illustrations capture the sense of ordinary life gone mad.
The world of Dr Seuss is both bizarre and wonderful. Children love the Cat in the Hat; they love it when The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, even naughtier than before. He is such a character – like the mad, bad, wild creature that lurks inside even the best behaved child – that you cannot help falling for him, even if the rhythm of the piece is irritatingly train-like and quite difficult to read.
There are enchanting, highly detailed pastel pictures to accompany this story about four-year-old Rosie, trying to get her mum’s attention while she puts the baby to bed. Rosie tells her own stories about her babies, bear and rabbit: how they make her cross, what she gives them to eat – apples, pears and grapes (but they do not like the pips). This is a great insight into the egocentric world of the small child and a gentle and sympathetic account of sibling rivalry.
It is almost 30 years since Carle’s wondrous book first appeared but it is still a marvellous thing, never bettered in the age of the pop-up and the cut-away. The life cycle of the butterfly is recounted in the very simplest terms using bold blocks of colour and minimal language as the caterpillar emerges from the egg and nibbles his way through the pages. This is a colour book, a counting book, a days of the week book and a nature lesson. It is transforming in every sense from the final triumphant emergence of the butterfly to the finger-sized holes in the pages that demand exploration by tiny hands. A book that is quite crucial to happiness.
In fact you’ll be going on it very frequently once this book joins your library. Rosen’s version of the old familiar game has a comic slant as a family set off on a imaginary bear hunt, find a real one and get chased back home. The language is delightful to small mouths, all swishy swashy, squelch squerch and hooo wooo, and the chanting rhythm completely infectious. Oxenbury’s lovely watercolours add to the effect. Not just a book for sharing but one for acting out with the whole family.