Picture books about books

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.

Picture Books About Books

The Children Who Loved Books
Written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas

The Children Who Loved Books

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

It's A Book

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

But Excuse Me That Is My Book

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.

Lucy’s Book
Written by Natalie Jane Prior and illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

Lucy's Book

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

The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr Morris Lessmore

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

The Treasure Box

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.



Libraries and reading: Part II

In Libraries and reading: Part I, I considered how public and school libraries provide for readers through decisions made around collection development. Following on from this, I would like to explore the ways in which libraries promote reading for children through events, activities and displays. As the previous post highlighted, there is a difference between the two sectors in terms of the driving force behind decision-making. In school libraries, the focus is on education and reading is promoted as a way to learn and develop skills. Recreation is highlighted in public libraries, with an emphasis placed on reading for pleasure.

School libraries are very good at promoting reading, with many using a range of strategies to encourage their students to engage in this activity. Special events are one way of placing the spotlight on reading. These include World Book Day, which often involves children coming to school dressed up as characters from their favourite books. In Australia, Book Week occurs in August each year and coincides with the Children’s Book Council of Australia book awards. Book character parades and reading and voting on shortlisted books are part of the celebrations in schools across the country during this week. Other events for promoting reading include author and illustrator visits and book fairs. The teacher-librarian, Barbara Braxton, has a extensive list of examples in her post on library events. (Her blog, 500 Hats, is an excellent resource for teacher-librarians and children’s librarians and is well worth bookmarking for future reference.)

You’re a wizard, Harry! Dressing up for World Book Day

World Book Day

World Book Day-Being Harry Potter by Iain Cameron: CC BY 2.0

There are also a number of ongoing activities that can be used to promote reading. These include book clubs, which can be tailored to the interests and needs of the children. Again, Barbara Braxton has a post entitled The FIRST Book Club, which includes suggestions for monthly activities for a group meeting in the library. Golden tickets can be hidden in books that are seldom borrowed, prompting children to search beyond popular titles. Genre passports can be used to encourage students to explore the breadth of the fiction collection, helping them to discover what they enjoy reading. I have set up a Pinterest board to curate ideas for promoting reading. This can be used as a starting point for planning library activities.

Displays are another way of promoting reading. Like events and activities, these expose children to new formats, genres, authors, illustrators, subjects… They can be based around particular topics, celebrations and authors’ birthdays (such as Eric Carle, Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl). Students can be involved in creating the displays by including their reviews and recommendations of books (Braxton, 2015). There are a couple of posts on the 500 Hats blog that offer useful advice for setting up library displays for children: The Landscaper’s Hat and Tricks of the Trade. I also have a Pinterest board entitled Library Displays, containing inspiring pins from a variety of libraries.

Public libraries tend to use fewer approaches to promoting reading for their younger users. Most offer storytime sessions, some of which are tailored to different age groups. These may also be bi-lingual, either incorporating a community language or sign language. Some libraries have loyalty schemes (such as The ReadUp Program), with children collecting stamps for each library visit and then receiving a certificate once they reach a certain amount. Public libraries are particularly known for their summer reading programs (such as the UK’s Summer Reading Challenge and the Summer Reading Club in Australia), which encourage children to continue reading through the school holidays. Awards and prizes are often offered as part of these. However, the public sector could learn a great deal from school libraries, which are very creative in the ways in which they promote reading amongst their students.

Everyone is welcome at storytime…even bears and ninja turtles!

I hope that this post has provided you with some ideas for promoting reading (for pleasure) amongst the children you work with. I would also recommended reading The Reader Leader’s Hat by Barbara Braxton for ways of “growing readers” (Braxton, 2014). Please share any activities you have used to encourage children to read in the comments below.

Farewell, Michael Bond

Last week, on 27th June, Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear, died, aged 91. He had written over 150 children’s books in a career spanning 60 years (Horwell, 2017). A Bear Called Paddington, the first book featuring the bear from Darkest Peru, was published in 1958. It was followed by more than 20 novels and picture books, with the last one, Paddington’s Finest Hour, appearing this year. Michael Bond also wrote a series of books about a guinea pig called Olga da Polga (a personal favourite of mine) and another about the detective, Monsieur Pamplemousse, and his dog, Pommes Frites. But his most beloved creation is Paddington Bear, who is “charming and sweet and gentle” and “reflects the best of us” (Morpurgo, 2017). Flowers and jars of marmalade have been laid around the bronze statue of the bear in the duffle coat at Paddington Station in London as a tribute to Michael Bond.

Michael Bond and Paddington Bear-in 60 seconds by The Telegraph

In response to Michael Bond’s death, Michael Morpurgo, the renowned children’s author and former Children’s Laureate, wrote a touching piece about Paddington, “an immigrant from Peru who is found on a station platform with a label around his neck” (Morpurgo, 2017). That label became known the world over and said simply “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” These words take on a deeper meaning when we consider the current refugee crisis in Syria and the reaction by other countries, which include closed borders and proposed walls. The kindness shown to Paddington by the Brown family is much in need in our world today. For as Michael Bond said, “Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees” (Bond, in Pauli, 2017).

Paddington himself was an illegal immigrant

Paddington has become as much a part of British culture as that other famous bear, Winnie the Pooh. Both are instantly recognisable and have made the transition from books into films and merchandise. In 1976, the original TV series, Paddington, aired, with its distinctive combination of a three-dimensional bear, hand-drawn backgrounds and character cut-outs. It was narrated by Michael Hordern, who famously said that “his most challenging roles had been God, Lear and Paddington Bear” (Horwell, 2017). I have happy memories of watching the show as a child. So for old times’ sake-and because it’s so good-here is the first episode, entitled Please Look After This Bear.

Paddington Bear-Please look after this bear by Paddingtonbeartoons

I’ll end with a quote from Michael Bond that I feel we would do well to remember when working with children :

I think the most precious thing you can give a child is your time. And I think the next most precious thing you can give a child is an interest in books. If you’re brought up with books being part of the furniture, with a story being read to you when you go to bed at night, it’s a very good start in life. I never went to bed without a story when I was small (Bond, in Pauli, 2017).

Farewell, Michael Bond. Thank you for the joy and laughter you brought to the world through your books. You will be greatly missed.



Happy birthday, Harry Potter!

June 26th marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published ten years later in 2007, bringing the adventures of the boy wizard to a conclusion. During that period, the popularity of the series grew as it was embraced by children and adults. The seven books have resulted in eight films, a range of computer games, a stage production (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), a fan website (Pottermore) and several theme parks. Fans have come together to form the Harry Potter Alliance. With chapters around the world, this organisation uses principles from the books to promote activism, especially amongst youth.

Levioso! (With thanks to Harry Potter Wiki)

Harry Potter Series

Potter by L. Whittaker: CC BY-NC 2.0

Whilst it is widely acknowledged that the Harry Potter series has played a significant role in encouraging children to read, there has been criticism about the quality of J. K. Rowling’s writing (Dickenson, 2017). The first three books won numerous awards, many of which were judged by children. However, as the series became increasingly popular, the debate around the books as works of literature began. The issue I have with this is that critics assess the writing using adult standards and tastes (Dickenson, 2017). They also judge the books in terms of the educational value they have rather than the pleasure they bring the children who read them.

Grim news….critics slate the Harry Potter series

This, of course, brings us back to the issue of reading for pleasure, which I explored in an earlier post. Many popular children’s writers have experienced the same criticism that has been levelled at J. K. Rowling. This is intellectual snobbery at work (Gaiman, 2013); by downplaying the value of Harry Potter, high culture can once again be presented as superior and pop culture as trash. This attitude ignores the passion and delight children feel for the series and for the characters within the books. It also downplays the richness of the world that J. K. Rowling has created (Dickenson, 2017), as well as her ability to create page-turning plots. As with other popular books and series, adults are still telling children what to read rather than respecting their choices. Yet again, reading for pleasure is being sidelined in the name of raising standards.

Despite adult criticism, children love Harry Potter

Reading Harry Potter

Hermionivy by Jeremy Hiebert: CC BY-NC 2.0

Perhaps it’s time to accept Harry Potter as a entertaining read that has been, and continues to be, the first step into the world of reading for many children.

Happy birthday, Eric Carle

On June 25th, the renowned children’s author and illustrator, Eric Carle, will celebrate his 88th birthday. For almost 50 years, he has brought joy to children around the world with his stories. Since the publication of his most well-known book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, he has worked on over 70 titles. His artwork is instantly recognisable with its use of bright colours and distinctive collage technique (Biographical Notes for Eric Carle, n.d.). In the following video, marking the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle talks about how the book came into being and gives some insight into his art techniques.

Eric Carle-The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Waterstones

Born in New York, Eric Carle moved to Germany with his family when he was six. He returned to America in 1952 and worked as a graphic designer at the New York Times and then as the art director of an advertising agency. His collaboration with Bill Martin Jnr, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, marked the beginning of his career in children’s books (Biographical Notes for Eric Carle, n.d.).

Eric Carle’s picture books often have special features, such as twinkling lights (The Very Lonely Firefly), cut-outs (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and sounds (The Very Clumsy Click Beetle and The Very Quiet Cricket), which add to the experience of reading for young children. Many have a strong nature theme, such as those about insects or marine life, with additional information provided about the characters in the story.

I have selected ten books written and illustrated by Eric Carle. These span his career as a children’s picture book author from 1969 to the present day.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This all-time favorite not only follows the very hungry caterpillar as it grows from egg to cocoon to beautiful butterfly, but also teaches the days of the week, counting, good nutrition and more. Striking pictures and cleverly die-cut pages offer interactive fun (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

It’s hard to believe that The Very Hungry Caterpillar will soon be 50 years old. It has a timeless quality, which appeals to everyone, children and adults alike. It is a fabulous resource for introducing the days of the week and sequential counting.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon (1975)

The Mixed-Up Chameleon

Hilarious pictures show what happens when a bored chameleon wishes it could be more like other animals, but is finally convinced it would rather just be itself. An imagination-stretcher for children (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

This book is all about being yourself, rather than wanting to be someone else. Another picture book with a similar theme is Edward the Emu written by Sheena Knowles and illustrated by Rod Clements.

The Bad-Tempered Ladybird (1977)

The Bad-Tempered Ladybird

A grouchy ladybug who is looking for a fight challenges everyone it meets regardless of their size or strength. How this bumptious bug gets its comeuppance and learns the pleasures to be gained by cheerfulness and good manners is an amusing lesson in social behavior. Die-cut pages add drama and dimension (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

Also known as The Grouchy Ladybug, this story introduces the concepts of telling the time and increasing size as the ladybird spends the day looking for someone to fight!

The Very Busy Spider (1984)

The Very Busy Spider

With the use of raised printing, this innovative book adds the sense of touch to vision and hearing as ways to understand and enjoy the strikingly designed illustrations and the memorable story. Various farm animals try to divert a busy little spider from spinning her web, but she persists and produces a thing of both beauty and usefulness. Enjoyed by all audiences, this book’s tactile element makes it especially interesting to the visually-impaired (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

Children are able to follow the spider’s silken thread with their fingers while learning how it makes its web. Farm animals try to make conversation with the spider, allowing readers to join in with the different noises they make.

A House for Hermit Crab (1987)

A House For Hermit Crab

An underwater fantasy based on the true habits of hermit crabs and the flora and fauna of their marine environment, this book offers young readers an interesting first introduction to marine biology as well as an appealing story of Hermit Crab’s search for a house he can really call his home, as he grows throughout one year’s cycle (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

The months of the year form the structure for this book, with the hermit crab making new friends and adding to his shell as he journeys from January to December. Along the way, children are introduced to a range of sea animals from anemones to lanternfish.

From Head to Toe (1997)

From Head To Toe

“I can do it!” is the confidence-building message of this book. As young children copy the antics of Eric Carle’s animals, they’ll learn such important skills as careful listening, focusing attention, and following instructions. Just as alphabet books introduce letters and simple words, From Head to Toe introduces the basic body parts and simple body movements-the ABC’s of dancing, gymnastics, and other sports activities (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

This is such a fun book to read with children, because it is so interactive. They can mimic the animals as they use the various parts of their bodies in different ways. It is great for developing body awareness and learning to name body parts.

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (1999)

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle

HEAR the beetle CLICK as it flips through the pages of this book and learns how to land on its feet! Small readers will recognize and empathize with the clumsy little beetle’s eagerness to learn what the older beetle can already do so well. They will understand, too, its frustration when at first it fails. And they will surely rejoice in its eventual spectacular triumph (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

This book is all about perseverance and patience. The different animals the click beetle encounters encourage it to keep on trying. The book features a clicking sound as the page is turned for the final successful flip.

“Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” Said the Sloth (2002)

Slowly, Slowly, Slowly, Said The Sloth

Slowly, slowly, slowly…that’s how the sloth lives. He hangs upside-down from the branch of a tree, night and day, in the sun and in the rain, while the other animals of the rain forest rush past him. “Why are you so slow? Why are you so quiet? Why are you so lazy?” the others ask the sloth. And, after a long, long time, the sloth finally tells them (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d)!

In the blurb of the book, Eric Carle asks “Why are we always in a hurry?” The sloth in this story can teach us all about slowing down and experiencing life, rather than dashing from one activity to another. A very zen book!

Mister Seahorse (2004)

Mister Seahorse

Mister Seahorse and fellow fish fathers, who care for their soon-to-be-hatched offspring, share their stories while acetate pages reveal camouflaged creatures who bear witness to the conversation between fathers with fins (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

This is my favourite book by Eric Carle. I love the way information about the different fish fathers that care for their offspring is shared as part of the story rather than in a didactic way. I particularly love poor Mr Tilapia, who can’t answer Mr Seahorse because his mouth is full of eggs! Children also enjoy finding the creatures that are camouflaged behind the see-through pages.

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse (2011)

The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse

I am an artist and I paint…a blue horse, a red crocodile, a polka-dotted donkey…

Here is a celebration of creativity and colour that will inspire young artists everywhere.

This book was written as a homage to Franz Marc, the German expressionist artist, who was killed during the First World War. He was famous for his paintings of blue horses, hence the book’s title. Each animal is presented in stunning double page spreads with a simple text.

So many of Eric Carle’s books have become classics and this may be because:

The secret of [his]…appeal lies in his intuitive understanding of and respect for children, who sense in him instinctively someone who shares their most cherished thoughts and emotions (Biographical Notes for Eric Carle, n.d.).

Here’s a treat to end with; Eric Carle reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I particularly love the close-up shot of the poor caterpillar with a stomach ache from eating too much food!

Eric Carle reads The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Puffin Books

Happy birthday, Eric Carle! And thank you for the beautiful, funny and informative books that you have created over the last five decades.

All images taken by the author. The quote for The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse taken from the blurb of the book.

Picture books about reading

Having previously explored my reading philosophy and reading in libraries, I’ve selected seven picture books that shine the spotlight on reading. In these stories, characters learn to read, love to read or learn to love reading.

Picture Books About Reading

How Rocket Learnt to Read
Written and illustrated by Tad Hills

How Rocket Learnt To Read

Meet Rocket, a new student, and his teacher, a little yellow bird.

Watch as Rocket practises singing out the sounds of each letter of the alphabet, discovers the delicious excitement of listening to stories and finally, best of all…learns to read!

Dogs and reading. Two of my favourite things. In this delightful story, Rocket the dog is drawn into reading because he wants to hear the ending of a story read by the little yellow bird. Before long, he is learning “all of the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet” and using the letters to spell out words. By the end of the story, the two are reading stories together again and again. Oh the joys of becoming a reader!

Bears Don’t Read!
Written and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

Bears Don't Read!

George isn’t happy doing the usual bear things like chatting and fishing. But what else is there? Until one day, he finds a book beneath a tree and knows, more than anything, he wants to learn to read! If only he could find someone to teach him.

Then he meets Clementine, a little girl whose love of reading will change George’s life forever…

With fabulous illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark, this book tells the story of George the bear, who wants to learn to read. He finally finds a teacher in a girl called Clementine. Like the little yellow bird, she starts with the alphabet, showing him what she is learning at school. Although George finds reading tricky at first, he perseveres with the help of his friend. Soon he is able to read a whole book on his own and “that was just the beginning”.

The Bush Book Club
Written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Ben Wood

The Bush Book Club

All the animals belong to The Bush Book Club. All except Bilby. He can’t stay still long enough to read. But what would it take for Bilby to slow down and look into a book?

I love the work of Margaret Wild and I’m sure more of her books will make an appearance on future picture book lists. Ben Wood’s illustrations beautifully complement this story about the Australian animals who are part of The Bush Book Club. Each has their own reading style (Echidna reads tucked up in bed, while Kangaroo reads as she hops along) and preferred genre (Koala loves fantasy tales, while Crocodile prefers stories that make him cry). Only Bilby doesn’t read, because he just can’t sit still long enough. But after he gets locked in the clubhouse, he discovers that reading happens when you find the right book. In his case, The Terrifying Adventures of Big Brave Bilby! This calls to mind Ranganathan’s Second Law of Library Science: every reader his/her book.

Oliver and George
Written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas

Oliver And George

Oliver is ready to play but George the bear is busy…reading. Oliver tries everything to get George’s attention. What happens when a boy bothers a bear too many times?

This simple but effective story highlights the engrossing (and addictive) nature of a good book. Oliver wants to play with George, trying all sorts of things to get him to join in. But George is caught up in his book and nothing can distract him from it, except…when Oliver takes it away. And just when George is ready to play, Oliver opens the book and gets hooked too!

Rufus Goes To Sea
Written by Kim T. Griswell and illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev

Rufus Goes To Sea

Rufus Leroy Williams III knows exactly what he wants to do for summer vacation. He really, really, REALLY wants to be a pirate, just like the characters in his favorite book. He’s ready to become a brave matey on the Scurvy Dog. But there’s a small problem:

Rufus is a pig.

“Arrrh! No pigs on pirate ships!” the Captain growls.

What can Rufus do to prove he’s the pirate Captain Wibblyshins is looking for?

Keeping with the animal theme, Rufus is a pig who loves to read and wants to become a pirate. He is also very persistent, never giving up on his dream, despite being rebuffed several times by Captain Wibblyshins. But then, the pirates discover he is just what they need: a reading pirate. Rufus is able to read the instructions on their map, which leads them to the buried treasure. Like Pirate Pete in No Pirates Allowed! Said Library Lou, the pirates discover that the treasure is a chest of books, where “new adventures waited inside”.

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read
Written by Curtis Manley and illustrated by Kate Berube

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats To Read

Nick has two cats, Verne and Stevenson. They do everything together-except read. So Nick has an idea: he will teach them to read too! But reading can be hard and takes lots of practice. Can his cats learn how?

In this celebration of reading, Nick and his cats discover that finding just the right book can make all the difference.

This picture book features cats and not just any cats, but a grumpy cat! Nick wants to read with his cats, but they are less enthusiastic about the activity. So he tries to teach them to read using flashcards. When he reads stories about fish, Verne gets hooked and he is soon borrowing library books with Nick. But Stevenson (the grumpy cat) is not interested until Nick discovers he loves pirates. Like Bilby in The Bush Book Club, it was simply a case of matching the reader to the book. This is a great story about reading for pleasure. I love the illustrations by Kate Berube, especially those of Stevenson with his pirate’s patch!

A Child of Books
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

A Child Of Books

A little girl, a child of books, sails her raft across a sea of words and arrives at the house of a young boy. She invites him to go away with her on an adventure into the world of stories…where, with only a little imagination, anything can happen.

Like a number of picture books, this one straddles the topics of reading and stories. I have included it, because it focuses on the joy of reading stories, rather than the process of learning to read. It is described as an “extraordinary ode to the power and promise of storytelling”, which of course lies at the heart of reading fiction. The authors have been economical with their words, choosing them carefully to create poetic sentences including “We can lose ourselves in forests of fairy tales” and “We will sleep in clouds of song”. Each page is filled with Sam Winston’s typography from relevant stories and songs, creating a landscape and adding an extra layer to Oliver Jeffers’ illustrations. This is a remarkable book arising from a truly collaborative process.

I hope you enjoy sharing these wonderful books about the joys of reading. Coming soon…picture books about books!

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.

Libraries and reading: Part I

Having outlined my beliefs about reading, I want to consider how reading occurs in library contexts. (At this point, it is important to remember that libraries offer more than just books, but that is for a future post.) In this post, I will focus on the ways in which libraries provide for readers through collection development.

There are two types of libraries that support children’s reading: school and public libraries. The ways in which they provide for readers is different, because of the beliefs that underpin their approach to collection development. School libraries are focused on educating children and seek to support learning and teaching. The emphasis is on learning to read and reading to learn, sometimes at the expense of reading for pleasure. In addition, any local or national curriculum will impact on collection development, particularly in the area of non-fiction. On the other hand, public libraries concentrate on recreation, both in terms of reading for pleasure and reading for information. Unlike school libraries, they are not driven by government documents.

Books, books, beautiful books!

These different beliefs about the purpose of the library impacts on collection development, resulting in different resources being made available in school and public libraries. Because the collection development of school libraries is often driven by curriculum, this can result in a non-fiction collection which is tailored to support topics within subject areas. This is partly influenced by the limited budgets available to teacher-librarians, who have to make purchase decisions that will support learning and improve educational outcomes for students. This means that the non-fiction collection may be narrower than that of a public library and is more likely to change in response to amendments to the curriculum. Fiction may consist of ‘safe’ choices, particularly in denominational schools, and this can result in the omission of genres or formats that are considered less educational, such as comics, magazines and pop culture literature.

Collection development in a school library is often influenced by curriculum 

In public libraries, collection development is primarily driven by user needs and interests. This means that the scope of a children’s collection may be broader than in a school library. Non-fiction tends to cover topics that may not appear in curriculum documents and will often focus on leisure reading, rather than reading to complete an assignment. Fiction is also more extensive, including graphic novels, ebooks, audiobooks and magazines. Authors and series that are popular with children are included, rather than frowned upon, because they encourage reading for pleasure.

Public libraries may have broader fiction collections for children

It is important to note that this does not imply that public libraries are better than school libraries in providing for children. Both play an equally important role in supporting the development of readers. They just do this differently. I will explore the ways in which libraries promote reading in a future post. This is something that school libraries do very well.


My reading philosophy

Having explored libraries over the last few weeks through picture books and fiction for children and young adults, I thought I would turn my attention to reading. To begin with, I want to share what I believe about reading as it relates to children. These beliefs form a personal philosophy, which underpins my practice as a children’s librarian. They also influence the decisions I make about all aspects of working with children from setting up the library space to developing a collection.

I believe all children:

– are competent and capable
– should be treated with respect and understanding
– have different learning styles, which need to be considered when teaching reading
– are already readers, albeit at different stages in terms of skills and experience
– are able to read, regardless of ability, background or previous schooling
– have the potential to fully develop their reading skills
– can develop a love of reading, based around personal choice

Even very young children are readers

Baby And Child Reading

Reading by ThomasLife: CC BY-ND 2.0

I believe children learn best when:

– they are interested and engaged
– they see purpose in what they are doing
– they have a say in what they learn

Reading happens naturally when a child chooses his reading material

I believe we read for different reasons and in different ways, including:

– for enjoyment
– for information
– for practical purposes
– alone
– with another child or adult
– as part of a group

A book can be shared with a friend

Reading Together

IMG109 by US Department of Education: CC BY 2.0

I believe reading extends beyond classic fiction to include:

– personal preferences
– different formats, including ebooks, comics and magazines
– a range of genres, including non-fiction

Reading encompasses more than just fiction print books

Different Formats

Digital Dandy by TaylorHerring: CC BY-ND 2.0

As a children’s librarian, I will:

– model a love of reading
– demonstrate positive attitudes towards reading and readers
– provide a safe and supportive environment for readers of all ages
– encourage all reading efforts
– model reading skills through group storytime and shared reading experiences
– talk with children about books to develop reflection and the ability to self-select
– provide opportunities to read for both pleasure and information

The library environment encourages and supports all readers

Shirley Library

Shirley Library by Solihull Heritage & Local Studies: CC BY-SA 2.0

These beliefs are not set in stone. Instead I will develop and refine them in response to new information and ideas I encounter. This ensures that my philosophy is relevant, enabling me to engage in best practice within the library and to support all children as they explore the world of reading.

Libraries in children’s literature: Part II

Continuing on from the post about libraries in children’s literature, here are the final three books in which libraries play an important role in the story.

Children's Books About Libraries

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Written by J. K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay

The Chamber Of Secrets

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.

When the shabby little house-elf Dobby pops up in Privet Drive insisting Harry Potter must not return to Hogwarts, Harry suspects his arch-rival, Draco Malfoy, may be behind it. Rescued from the dire Dursleys by Ron Weasley-in an enchanted flying car-Harry spends the rest of the summer at The Burrow. Life with the Weasleys is so full of magical distractions, Harry soon forgets Dobby’s frantic warnings.

But back at school a sinister message found daubed in a dark corridor echoes Dobby’s predictions that terrible things are about to happen…

In the second book in the Harry Potter series, someone is turning students from non-magical families to stone and suspicion falls on Harry after he is heard speaking in Parseltongue. Harry and his friends must discover who has opened the Chamber of Secrets and who is the heir of Slytherin.

The Hogwarts Library features in most of the Harry Potter books. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry uses his invisibility cloak to search the Restricted Section for information about Nicolas Flamel. A year later, when the Chamber of Secrets has been opened, Hermione is able to borrow a potions book from the Restricted Section by presenting a signed note from Gilderoy Lockhart. She uses this to make polyjuice potion. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the three friends try to find material in the Legal Section that will help in Buckbeak’s hearing, while the following year, Harry looks in the Restricted Section for ways of breathing underwater in order to complete one of the tri-wizard challenges in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Hermione once again returns to the library to search through the Restricted Section to find information about horcruxes in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

In the first book in the series, there is a brief description that gives an indication of the magnitude of the Hogwarts Library:

And then, of course, there was the sheer size of the library; tens of thousands of books; thousands of shelves; hundreds of narrow rows.

Within the library, there are a number of different sections: Restricted, Legal, Invisibility, Dragon and Reference. Books can only be borrowed with permission from the librarian and those in the Restricted Section required a signed note from a teacher. Spells have been placed on books to prevent students from defacing or stealing them. The librarian, Madam Pince, is very strict and enforces a number of rules, including no eating in the library. She is described as being “a thin, irritable woman who looked like an under-fed vulture”.

The books in the Hogwarts Library provide Harry and his friends with information that is helpful during their adventures. Remember, as Ron says (in reference to what Hermione would do), “When in doubt, go to the library”.

Information in this section taken from the Hogwarts Library page of the Harry Potter Wiki.

Ink and Bone
Written by Rachel Caine and illustrated by Christina Griffiths (cover)

Ink And Bone

Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.

In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar… but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.

Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life-and soon both heretics and books will burn…

Ink and Bone is the first book in the Great Library series, followed by Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill (to be released in July 2017). The premise behind the three books is that the Great Library of Alexandria, which was destroyed in ancient times, has been saved, along with the information it contained. The year is 2031 and the Great Library now controls all knowledge, functioning as a nation-state connected to daughter libraries or Serapeum throughout the world. Jess Brightwell, a Londoner from a family dealing in stolen books, is accepted as an apprentice by the Great Library. Once he arrives in Alexandria, he discovers secrets about the organisation, which put his life and his friends in danger.

Physically, the Great Library of Alexandria is “more of a sprawling, vast complex than any single building”. Guarded by automata in the form of lions and other creatures, it houses all the original books and scrolls ever written. Politically, it controls access to information through a process called mirroring. Any item within the Library’s collection or Codex can be written into a blank, allowing “protection of knowledge while also giving free access to all”. This is reinforced by the Doctrine of Ownership, which makes the possession of an original document illegal. The Library owns all knowledge in order to protect and preserve it. Throughout this alternate history, there have been threats to the existence of the Library, notably in the development of the printing press by Gutenberg. These ideas have all been quashed in order to maintain the Library’s power and its control of knowledge.

Each daughter library is staffed by librarians and scholars, who are specialists in particular areas. These include Medica, Artifex, Historica and Lingua. The Library also has its own army, the High Garda, who protect both the Great Library and its Serapeum. The process of mirroring is carried out by the Obscurists, who are born with the ability to perform alchemy. They also provide the spark of life in the automata.

This is a fascinating page-turner of a book, exploring issues relevant to our times: the desire for power, the control of information, corruption within institutions and the suppression of knowledge. It could almost be a primer for America under Donald Trump! It’s going to be interesting to see how the story unfolds across the next two books.

The Grimm Legacy
Written by Polly Shulman and illustrated by Zdenko Bašić (cover)

The Grimm Legacy

Lonely at her new school, Elizabeth takes a job at the New-York Circulating Material Repository, hoping to make new friends as well as some cash. The repository is no ordinary library. It lends out objects rather than books-everything from tea sets and hockey sticks to Marie Antoinette’s everyday wig.

It’s also home to the Grimm Collection, a secret room in the basement. That’s where powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales are locked away: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles and has a will of its own.

When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth and her new friends embark on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before they’re accused of the crime themselves-or the thief captures them.

This book introduces readers to the New-York Circulating Material Repository, which was established in 1745 and has been in its current location in Manhattan since 1921. Despite a fairly ordinary exterior, the Repository has an impressive main examination room (MER) with “tall ceilings, massive imposing tables, and an elaborately carved staging area”. Its centrepiece is the Tiffany windows:

All four sides of the MER were paneled with forest scenes. To the north was winter, with frost-rimed rocks and black branches against a bright sky. To the west, spring: crocuses, the barest glimmer of green, blossoming trees dropping petals that seemed to twist and float. To the south, summer: layer upon layer of green, with birds peeking out here and there and a pair of deer stooping to drink from the mossy stream. And to the west, fall in all its blazing yellows and reds. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

The New-York Circulating Material Repository loans objects rather than books. These include “musical instruments, sports equipment and specialized cooking tools”. It also has several Special Collections, the most important of which is the Grimm Collection. This houses items bequeathed to the Repository in 1892 by a grandniece of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. These were collected by the brothers along with their folk tales and include a glass coffin, a golden egg, spindles and dancing shoes. There are a number of other Special Collections in the Repository. The Wells Bequest contains items related to science fiction, such as shrink rays and a time machine, while artificial intelligence, computer viruses, software and technology are found in the Gibson Chrestomathy.

As well as librarians, there are library pages working in the Repository. They are responsible for fetching items requested by patrons. These are stored in stacks on different levels and call slips are sent to the relevant sections using a system of pipes. Once an item has been picked, it is placed in a lift and sent down to the MER where the patron can inspect and borrow it. Items that have been returned are re-shelved by the pages.

There are two other books, which feature the New-York Circulating Material Repository: The Wells Bequest and The Poe Estate. More books to add to my reading list!

All these brilliant books have adventure running through them. Who would think that the library could be such an exciting and dangerous place!

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb or contents of the book.

Library and Information Week

Next week is Library and Information Week in Australia. Organised by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the aim is “to raise the profile of libraries and information service professionals” (ALIA, n.d.) through a range of events and activities within library services. This year’s theme, Celebrate!, has been chosen to mark ALIA’s 80th birthday.

Let’s celebrate all that’s wonderful about libraries great…

and small!

National Simultaneous Storytime is one of the events held during Library and Information Week. On Wednesday 24th May at 11am, the picture book, The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, will be read in libraries, schools, early childhood centres, homes and other settings across Australia. The initiative is now in its 17th year and has been very successful in sharing a love of reading with children. It aims to:

promote the value of reading and literacy;
promote the value and fun of books;
promote an Australian writer and publisher;
promote storytime activities in public libraries and communities around the country;
provide opportunities to involve parents, grandparents, the media and others to participate in and enjoy the occasion (ALIA, n.d.)

The ALIA website has a range of resources available to support National Simultaneous Storytime, including ideas for activities, teachers’ notes and merchandise. Organisers are encouraged to register their participation as this will enable them to access digital presentations of the book, which can be used as part of the event.

And this is the book that has been chosen to be read simultaneously around Australia:

The Cow Tripped Over the Moon
Written by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood

The Cow Jumped Over The Moon

Hey diddle diddle
You all know the riddle,
A cow jumps over the moon…

But the moon is so high in the sky! How many hilarious attempts will it take before Cow makes her famous high-flying leap?

This brilliant picture book tells the real story behind the cow’s record breaking jump over the moon. It also highlights the importance of perseverance and never giving up on your dream. An excellent choice for National Simultaneous Storytime.

So join in the fun next week and celebrate all that is wonderful about libraries and the people who work in them.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images taken by the author and all quotes taken from the blurb of the book.