Having gathered together picture books about libraries and reading, I thought it was time to look at those that put the spotlight on books themselves. The seven that I’ve chosen include several that focus on the relationship between a child and their favourite book, something that all readers can identify with.
The Children Who Loved Books
Written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas
Angus and Lucy love books. They have hundreds of them. Then one day, all the books are taken away, and Angus and Lucy discover they need books more than they ever imagined.
Angus and Lucy don’t have much, but they do have lots of books, enough to fill the caravan they live in with their parents. However, one day, when the books pour out of the door and windows, they have to go. The family then discovers that “because there was more space in their home, there was a lot more space between them all”. When Lucy comes home with a library book, they begin to read it together long into the night. The next morning, they head out together to the library.
This is “a warm and moving celebration of books and the way in which they bring us all together”. Beautifully illustrated, it conveys the joy that comes from sharing and reading books.
It’s a Book
Written and illustrated by Lane Smith
Can it text? Blog? Scroll? Wi-fi? Tweet?
No…it’s a book.
In this hilarious book from the illustrator of Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (highly recommended), the printed word meets new technology. Monkey is reading a book when Jackass begins to ask questions: “How do you scroll down?”, “Can it text?”, “Tweet?”, “Wi-Fi?” In response to “Where’s your mouse?”, a tiny mouse appears from under the monkey’s hat. Then Jackass starts reading the book. He can’t put it down and tells Monkey, “Don’t worry, I’ll charge it up when I’m done!”
The message in this story is not about books being ‘better’ than computers. It’s about books offering something that can’t be found in computers; the experience of getting lost in the printed word and in the turning of the page.
But Excuse Me That is My Book
Based on characters created by Lauren Child
Charlie has this little sister Lola. She really loves books. At the moment there is one book that is extra special. Lola says, “Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies is my favourite book and I really need it. Now. Now. Now. Now!”
Lola has a favourite book, which she wants to borrow again when she goes to the library with her brother. But it isn’t there. Charlie tries to find another one for her to read by asking questions and making suggestions. Each time, Lola finds something wrong with the book. Finally Charlie offers her Cheetahs and Chimpanzees, which turns out to be “probably the most best book in the whole wide world”.
This book, based on the TV series, Charlie and Lola, clearly shows the relationship a reader has with their favourite book. Lola only wants Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies; nothing else will do. However, with perseverance from Charlie, she opens up to an alternative, which quickly becomes her new favourite. This reminds us that, through thoughtful questioning and listening to a reader, we can help children to consider other books, thereby broadening their reading experience.
Written by Natalie Jane Prior and illustrated by Cheryl Orsini
Lucy loves to read, but there is one special book that she borrows from the library over and over again.
The book is shared with her friends, dropped in the ocean, flown to China and even made into a banana sandwich.
But what will Lucy do when her favourite book goes missing?
Lucy is introduced to a book by her local librarian. It quickly becomes her favourite book and is recommended and shared with her friends. Lucy borrows and re-reads the book several times through the story until one day she is told that it is no longer available in the library. Everyone searches for a copy for her without success. Then the book is found at a Friends of the Library sale and Lucy is reunited with her favourite book.
This is another story about a favourite book, although, unlike Lola’s, this one is shared with other children. It demonstrates the love of a book and the desire to pass that love on to others. We follow the journey of the book through the hands of many children, each experiencing it in different ways. The story also shows the role of the librarian (the images of the character in the book are based on Megan Daley, a teacher-librarian who writes the blog, Children’s Books Daily) in matching the book to the reader and initiating the relationship between the two.
Written and illustrated by Emily Gravatt
It’s nearly Cedric the dragon’s bedtime-there’s just time for his mum to read him his favourite book. Unfortunately for her, Cedric likes the story so much that he wants to hear it again…and again…and again… A cross dragon is a fiery dragon, and Cedric ends up burning a hole right through the book!
(Synopsis from Pan Macmillan)
Cedric loves hearing the story about the red dragon. He loves it so much he wants his mum to read it again and again and again. Each time she changes the words, shortening the story. But still Cedric wants to hear it again. When she falls asleep, he sees red, which is a bit of a problem, because Cedric is a dragon. Soon there is a flaming hole in the book (and the blurb-hence the synopsis from the publisher’s website!).
This is another fabulous story about a favourite book from the wonderful Emily Gravatt. Many adults will sympathise with Cedric’s mum, having experienced repeated demands for more of the same story. Thankfully these are not usually accompanied by fire and flames!
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
Written by William Joyce and illustrated by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm
Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books. But every story has its upsets.
Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds.
But the power of story will save the day.
Morris Lessmore loves books. But one day, the wind blows him and everything he knows far away from home. Thankfully he encounters a lady who sends him a book. This then leads him to a building filled with books. Morris lives amongst them, reading and caring for them. He shares them with others; “sometimes it was a favorite that everyone loved, and other times he found a lonely little volume whose tale was seldom told”. As Morris says, “Everyone’s story matters”. Years pass and, as Morris grows older, the books care for him. Then one day, it is time for him to leave and he says goodbye to the books, pointing to his heart and telling them, “I’ll carry you all in here”. Shortly afterwards, a little girl arrives and begins to read…
This is a touching story about the role that books play in the life of a reader. The friendships that develop between them will be familiar to those who have books they love. This is the same theme that plays out in the ‘favourite book’ stories in this post. The book has also been made into an Academy Award winning short film.
The Treasure Box
Written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood
When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.
As war rages, Peter and his father flee their home, taking with them a treasure box that holds something more precious than jewels. They journey through mud and rain and long cold nights, and soon their survival becomes more important than any possessions they carry.
But as the years go by, Peter never forgets the treasure box, and one day he returns to find it…
The treasure in the title is a book that has been saved after a library is destroyed by war. It is carried in a box by a father and his son as they flee their homeland. This is “a book about our people, about us” and is “rarer than rubies, more splendid than silver, greater than gold”. After his father dies, the boy buries the box, returning for it many years later as a young man.
Because of the themes of war and displacement, this moving story is suitable for older children. It is “a haunting and beautiful tale of the power of words, the importance of stories and the resilience of the human spirit”. I love the work of Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood, both of whom have received numerous awards for their work in children’s literature.
These seven picture books show the relationships readers have with books and the different ways in which they interact with them. They can help us introduce children to the joys of reading and growing to love a book.
All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.