Exploring Classic Picture Books

Some recent treasures of picture books that I found in a local second hand shop got me thinking about the idea of the ‘classic’ picture book – what makes a book a ‘classic’? I would propose that answer to be: enduring popularity. Both in terms of across time, with generations of children enjoying the books, and on an individual basis as a ‘classic’ story would be one that you would not tire of going back to again and again. This popularity endures through the quality of both illustration and story, with ‘classics’ being appreciated by adults as well as children.

There are a few titles I’d like to share with you, these are some classic picture books that I’ve shared with Babybear this week and she has thoroughly enjoyed. Hopefully this gives you some inspiration to start your own exploration of classic picture books. For more ideas of books to share Junior Magazine’s ‘Top 100 Children’s Books‘ is stacked with classics that you and your wee one will love.

wherethewildthingsare

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (first published 1963)

This book is just beautiful -a celebration of imagination with illustration that is so wonderfully captivating and dreamlike. It is a simple story of a boy escaping into his imagination to a land where the wild things are; with snarling, growling creatures that make him king of the wild things but with him ultimately wishing to be home, where he is loved. I read this to Babybear, 14 months old, and she was enchanted throughout- I’ve noticed a growing preference from her for more ‘arty’ style drawings as opposed to more modern, bright, bold and busy images.

wheresspot

Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill (first published 1980)

I bought this for Babybear after I remembered it from my own childhood and she loves it just as much as I did. Spot the dog disappears at dinner time and a hide and seek adventure to find him ensues. The flaps to lift to try and find Spot delight Babybear on every page. This extra interaction with the lift-the-flaps easily allows for conversation with your wee one beyond the words on the page.

peepo

Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (first published 1981)

This is a delightful book that journeys through a baby’s day, showing the everyday scenes of 1940s life, with holes in the pages to peek through -Peepo! The verse of the story has a flowing rhythm when read aloud and despite the decade that the illustrations depict there is still a freshness to them. Babybear loves pointing to details in the pictures for me to tell her what it is: ‘pram’, ‘bus’, ‘teddy’, ‘baby’…!

-Find these classic picture book titles and a whole lot more in your local library or independent bookshop – if you can’t find what you’re looking for, just ask, they may be able to order it in for you.

Babybear’s Favourite Books: ‘Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?’

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For Babybear’s recommendation today, I’ve chosen: ‘Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?’ written by Bill Martin Jr and illustrated by Eric Carle (yes, this book was the inspiration for my daughter’s moniker). This book was a gift to Babybear when she was born and, despite the small library of books she has now, it has remained a consistent favourite.

The story shows a succession of North American animals, with each animal describing the actions of the next:

‘Striped Skunk,

Striped Skunk,

What do you see?’

‘I see a mule deer

Running by me.’”

The distinctive illustrative style of Eric Carle errs on the side of realism in comparison to most cartoony and bright children’s picture books but Babybear seems to love them: perhaps the simplicity of a single animal with white backgrounds on each page or the fact that the artistic illustrations are such a contrast to her other books.  She will happily sit at peace, engrossed by the pictures, as I read the full story with her, not something that can be said for many books at the moment!

The repetitive phrasing on each page (‘Screech Owl, Screech Owl, what do you see?’; ‘Rattlesnake, Rattlesnake, what to you see?’) makes it a great book to read aloud as the rhythm of the words read in a lovely, poetic way. The repetition is also good for encouraging your wee one’s understanding of language.

-Find ‘Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?’ by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle in your local library or independent bookshop – if you can’t find it, just ask, they may be able to order it in for you.

The Jeelie Piece Song (Skyscraper Wean)

With Burns Night coming up on the 25th of January I thought I’d give this week’s posts a Scottish theme. Today, I’d like to share with you a favourite song that I often sing with Babybear (well, I sing and she claps appreciatively!) . I find singing a wee tune to be a great activity when her dinner is just out of the oven or off the hob and I’m trying to distract a hungry BabyBear!

The Jeelie Piece Song (originally by folk performer Adam McNaughton) is a real childhood favourite of mine, which I loved to watch being performed on my ‘Singing Kettle’ (Scottish children’s performance group – www.singingkettle.com) video over and over again. It tells the tale of ‘weans from castlemilk’ who are missing out on their dinner because their ‘pieces’ are ‘skyting oot the winda’ of twenty story flats – that is, for those not versed in Scots, the children from a housing scheme in the south of Glasgow are missing out on their lunch as their sandwiches are being thrown of windows of twenty story flats, to them playing below.

Have a listen to The Singing Kettle’s performance, so you know the tune, and below are the words so you can sing along! Can you figure out what it all means?!

The Jeelie Piece Song (Skyscraper Wean)

I'm a skyscraper wean, I live on the nineteenth flair,
But I'm no gaun oot to play ony mair,
Since we moved to Castlemilk, I'm wasting away,
'Cause I'm getting one less meal every day.

O ye cannae fling pieces oot a twenty-story flat,
Seven-hundred hungry weans will testify to that,
If it's butter, cheese or jeely, if the breid is plain or pan,
The odds against it reaching earth and ninety-nine to one.

On the first day my maw flung out a piece o' Hovis brown.
It came skyting oot the winda and went up insteid o' doon,
But every twenty-seven hours it comes back into sight,
'Cause my piece went into orbit and became a satellite.

One the second day my maw flung me a piece oot once again.
It went and hit the pilot in a fast, low-flying plane.
He scraped it off his goggles, shouting through the intercom:
`The Clydeside Reds have got me wi' a breid-and-jeely bomb!'

One the third day my maw thought she would try another throw.
The Salvation Army band was staunin' doon below.
`ONWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS' was the piece they should have played,
But the oompah-man was playing a piece-on-marmalade.

We've wrote away tae Oxfam to try and get some aid,
And a' the weans in Castlemilk have formed a ``Piece'' brigade;
We're going to march to George's Square, demanding civil rights,
Like `Nae Mair Hooses Over Piece-Flinging Height!'

Why not have a think back to your childhood and share with your baby one of your favourite songs or rhymes. Babies and young toddlers love the rhyme and rhythm, it will build their vocabulary and listening skills and most of all singing with your baby is a great fun, interactive activity.

Babybear’s Favourite Books: ‘The Big Night-Night Book’ by Georgie Birkett

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For Babybear’s first recommendation in, what will be, a series of favorites, it seems only right to select the current bedtime story of choice: The Big Night-Night Book.

The ‘story’ is a lovely rhyme in which the wee boy in the book says night-night to everything (teddy, cup, toothbrush, stars…) before snuggling down to sleep. There are some touchy-feely bits on every page and I love that in this book they enhance the bright and bold illustrations instead of being the main focus.

The illustrations in the book are familiar routines for wee ones, like getting their pyjamas on and having a glass of milk before bed. Babybear likes pointing out the cat on each page with cries of, “Dat! Dat!”. Personally, I like the page of the wee boy brushing his teeth, I have this vague hope that it might encourage Babybear to love getting her teeth brushed instead of trying to hide when its teeth brushing time!

  • -Find ‘The Big Night-Night Book’ by Georgie Birkett in your local library or independent bookshop – if you can’t find it, just ask, they may be able to order it in for you.

I ‘heart’ Libraries!

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One of my favourite activities with my daughter, aka Babybear, is a trip to our local library, she gets so excited when we near the library door so I know she loves it too! Libraries have so much to offer babies and toddlers and regular trips to the library is a great habit to get into when they are young. Here are my top reasons to love your local library:

Rhyme time – Many libraries offer free sessions (like ‘bounce and rhyme’ and ‘Bookbug’) for babies, toddlers and their carers. It’s a great opportunity to learn some new songs and rhymes to sing with your little one at home but also to spend some time focused on and engaging with them. This benefits the literacy development of even the youngest tots and can be a great opportunity for you to meet other parents in your local area.

Lead by example – Toddlers love to copy, only today Babybear was busy cleaning her highchair while I got her lunch ready! So, if your little one sees you borrowing and enjoying library books they will want to do the same so they can be just like mum/dad/granny/grandpa!

A space away from home – Libraries are especially wonderful on those freezing winter days or when it’s bucketing with rain, they give you a child friendly space to get out of the house. The children’s sections in libraries will usually have little chairs and tables toddlers can sit at to look at books or draw/colour in.

Did I mention the books? Of course, the best part of the library is all the wonderful books you can borrow! Babybear loves to leaf through the baby/toddler books and pick out ones that catch her eye. Its never too early to read with babies and show them the pictures in books; it can help them understand the rhythm of language and begin to build their vocabulary. With a mass of choice of children’s books to borrow, all for free, there is nothing to stop your little one being a baby that loves books!

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