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So the days are still short and the weather retains a nasty chill, but there’s no reason to feel glum about the year ahead. To help restore your excitement about all that’s to come, we’ve put together a list of children’s story books that will lift your spirits and rekindle your sense of wonder in the everyday.
If insects could talk, what would they say? Could we even understand them? Du Iz Tak? (which was recently honoured at the prestigious Caldecott picture book awards) easily engages its readers by bringing them into the story through the use of an ingenious (and often very funny) visual language that’s sprinkles clues, prompts and great little side stories throughout its wonderfully illustrated pages.
The more attention you give to the details, the more the story reveals of itself, until finally you can almost understand exactly what our little neighbours are saying to one another.
Imagine a bicycle with square wheels (“you wouldn’t get very far”); a door without a room (“would you be indoors or outdoors?”); a teapot without a spout (“you would get very thirsty”). These are just some of the odd and unusual scenarios and their consequences that illustrator Norman Messenger asks readers in Imagine, a book for the unbridled invention of young and curious minds.
By using images that have a surreal or seemingly illogical flavour (Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher come to mind as influences), Messenger creates compelling puzzles and allows readers to interact with many of the pages by opening flaps or spinning wheels to reveal exciting new concoctions that will keep them guessing, thinking, and imagining.
It’s a natural tendency at this time of year to look forward to the warm summer months, taking picnics in the park or relaxing on a beach. But if you take a moment to think about it, you’ll see that there’s something uniquely special about each month of the year.
This is the precise message of Elsa Beskow’s Around the Year, which puts together simple verses with gorgeous, evocative images to remind us of the joy to be found in everything from tucking into freshly baked food in the depths of February, to the first blooming of flowers in April to the ripening berries and glowing cornfields of August.
While the Findus books are best known for the vibrant adventures of farmer Pettson and his cat Findus, this one is a little different. Findus, Food and Fun instead offers readers a creative compendium of things to do whatever the time of year.
From propagating grass seeds in old socks to making boats out of tree bark; from baking delicious treats using berries to creating a teeming aquarium of creatures from ponds and rivers, Findus, Food and Fun encourages constant invention and shows there’s always lots to be done when you decide to embrace seasonal change as well as appreciate it.
A wordless tale written by a poet, Footpath Flowers relies on its bold visuals to tell the story of a little girl who gradually brightens up the world around her through small acts of kindness and appreciation.
The glorious black and white illustrations serve only to accentuate those beautiful splashes of colour that the young protagonist adds as she shares her creativity and compassion with those around her.
From picking flowers to petting dogs, the story teaches us just how important it is to never lose sight of the small things in life.
A book that revels as much in words as it does in the actions they represent, Let’s Join In is divided into four chapters with the titles “Hiding”, “Giving”, “Chatting” and “Bouncing”.
With lavish illustrations throughout, each chapter helps bring both the word and its associated activities to life using a simple formula that fuses everyday examples into a simple narrative highlighting the many joys to be found in exploring the world as if for the very first time.
It reminds readers, young and old, that the commonplace is in fact extraordinary.