Day 30 (Week 5, Day 2)Me: (browsing shelves in library) Ooh, 367 books that I'd like to get out!
My Brain: You only have 24 spaces on your library card.
My Brain: And they're all taken up already.
Me: *sigh* I guess you're righ-
My Brain: Ha, I'm totally kidding. Let's take ALL THE BOOKS!
*both look to My Heart for confirmation*
My Heart: You already know my answer is yes. TAKE THEM ALL!
*gleefully takes all the books and runs out, laughing maniacally*
*awakens from dream*
*notices c.367 books scattered around the room*
Awake Me: Huzzah!
Think that sums up a visit to the library, don't you?
On with the reviews! Four books today to try and make up for a few days where we couldn't read any. And BOY, what a set of stories we had today!
*N.B. I didn't actually steal 367 books from the library - I hope you realise that!*
1) Green Eggs and Ham - Dr Seuss (Author & Illustrator)
It's a pretty safe bet that most of you are familiar with this. Dr Seuss (despite actually being scared of children) is for many people the most children's author of all, and wrote classic after classic, from The Cat in the Hat to How the Grinch Stole Christmas! to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and so many more. Green Eggs and Ham has always been my favourite, for the wonderful rhymes and the ridiculously daft scenarios that Sam tries to persuade the un-named protagonist to eat green eggs and ham in. There are actually only 50 different words in the entire story, which is a staggering achievement when you think about it, and for that reason it's also a brilliant story for children who are beginning to read to attempt by themselves as their confidence grows. It's without a doubt one of my favourite picture books, and I was so pleased that Josh and Xander both enjoyed it too when we read it for the first time a few months ago. 'I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam-I-Am!' is just such an iconic couplet and so instantly memorable that it's not too much of a stretch to claim that one could memorise the entire story in the same way that a lot of families nowadays know the entire text of The Gruffalo off by heart. It's the type of book that oozes intelligence without seeming to put any effort in with which to do so, and with such intense creativity that it shames my own imagination, even as someone who likes to think I can come up with some creative storylines.
Chris says: To have a story like this, where it builds silly idea upon silly idea in irresistible rhyme, repeating them all as a new one is added and allowing you to become more and more outraged in the role of the protagonist as you read it, is just an absolute dream to read to your children. The fact that the eggs and ham happen to be green, that this may effect the taste, that somewhere out there this baffling possibility may exist, is delightfully ridiculous, but also perfectly weighted to make the story work. Simply wonderful.
Josh says: I like they he tried the green eggs and ham at last and that he enjoyed them when he did.
Xander says: I like the train!
You should have seen how excited the kids were when I picked this one up! We loved the other two Panda stories in the series, so it was wonderful for them to recognise this as the third entry. It follows a similar structure to the others, but with a slightly different twist to it, with the reminder that 'it's the thought that counts' being presented throughout and leading to a very humorous pay off at the end. The Panda books have always had a very gentle moral at their heart and this is no exception, and I love too that Mr Panda seems just as grumpy throughout thanks to Steve Antony's fantastic illustrative style. Mr Panda's less than perfect choice of gifts throughout make this possibly the funniest installment yet and we had to go back and read it again immediately, with Josh and Xander both insisting on performing their own version of it. What could be better than your children enjoying a book so much that they have to go and read it allowed to you the second you finish it? Particularly when one of them can't read and is just telling you his version from the pictures! How fantastic for a book to inspire their imaginations like that. Truly wonderful!
Josh says: I loved all of it, especially when he had the underpants on his head.
Xander says: Oh, panda! With presents! (N.B. This was before we'd even read it - that's how much he loves these books!)
3) Knock Knock Dinosaur - Caryl Hart (Author) & Nick East (Illustrator)
It's always great when I realise that Caryl Hart has brought out a new book! And from the front cover (beautifully drawn by Nick East), it's kind of a given that you're going to have a great time with this story, aren't you?
It's great to receive some dinosaur toys in the post - but it's a bit unexpected when they turn out to be real dinosaurs! It's also a brilliant chance to laugh at all the hijinx that they get up to, and talk about what fun you would have if it ever happened to you as a child, and also just how on earth you would try to clean up the place before your parents got home! This is such a bright, colourful, and fun story that it's impossible not to get swept away in the little boy's panic as he realises his mother will soon be home, only to discover that it was her error in the first place (and to think that parents always blame the children!). If you want stories that involve fantastical beasts, Caryl Hart really should be your go-to picture book author!
Chris says: We had great fun talking about what games we would play if we had real dinosaurs come to visit, as well as a variety of other animals and characters from favourite films and TV shows, so this was perfect for getting Josh and Xander's imaginations fired up. The illustrations are just as exciting as the story they're telling, too, and I'm a big fan of Nick East's work so this was an excellent collaboration.
Josh says: It was so good! It was funny that the dinosaurs were big and not play size!
Xander says: Bra on his head? Not again!
4) I Want My Hat Back - Jon Klassen (Author & Illustrator)
This is the big one, my favourite picture book of all time. It's the one that had me literally weeping with laughter, and really kickstarted by love of picture books. It's drawn in such a unique and now unmistakable style, and is utterly, fantastically, totally, absolutely hilarious.
And dark. So very, very dark. Which is not what you'd expect from a picture book for young children!
In case you've not read it yet (in which case, stop what you're doing and go outside to buy it now!), it's the story of a bear who has lost his hat. On his search to find it, he meets many different animals who are unable to help him, until one triggers a memory of where he might just have seen said hat very recently...
Cue one of the most darkly comic moments to happen in a picture book ever, as the bear finds the culprit and exacts his revenge in the most delightfully implied manner possible. Roald Dahl would be proud of this. It's my personal favourite picture book spread ever as the bear and the thief stare each other down. The use of repeated language has quite simply never been better applied than it is here, helping us to understand the thief's fate in a callback to earlier in the book. I love to perform this with one of the children's librarians at work when we have school groups visit, and it never fails to get them giggling. More than that, I've never met a grown up who didn't laugh out loud when they read it for the first time either (or each subsequent reading for that matter). It's taught me that you can push whatever humorous boundary you want to in a picture book, and my dream is to one day be published with Jon Klassen illustrating my work.
The illustrations themselves, and Klassen's signature style, are so unique and so memorable and I utterly adore them. In the same way that you can recognise an Oliver Jeffers illustration from a thousand yards away, so too you can Jon Klassen's work, and I admire him as much as any artist from history whose work I've ever been impressed by.
I cannot, CANNOT, emphasise just how much I love this book and it's two subsequent sequels (which are thematically-related though not story-related), and believe that they should be required reading for the whole of humanity on account on them being so utterly fantastic.
Chris says: See above. I can't say anymore than that. Not just my favourite picture book of all time, but one of my favourite books of all time, period, and the single biggest influence on my own picture book writing. Read it, and know that what you felt flowing through you was true happiness.
Josh says: I love that the bear eats the rabbit.
Xander says: (N.B. Xander just applauded without having to say anything. I loved that reaction!)
So, to summarise Day 30...
What a astonishingly fantastic evening's reading! Each book is wonderful in it's own right, but it was finally the day when we got to read I Want My Hat Back for the Picture Book Challenge, which automatically qualifies it as my favourite day of the challenge so far!
Reading together as a family with the quality of stories available to buy from your local bookshop or borrow from your local library is one of the greatest pleasures that you can have - enjoy this time together and look back on it in the future as one of the best parts of raising young children, and hopefully you'll see them turn into lifelong readers with all the benefits that it brings.