How to Find Good Quality Children’s Books

One of the questions I asked most often is ‘where do I find good, quality children’s books?’ and the answer is a lot of internet surfing – looking at book awards, book lists and of course, book blogs.

One of the most useful book lists I have found in the past year is: Nurturing Youthful Humanism: 200 Children’s Books Illustrating the Pope’s Words. Intriguing isn’t it? What does the head of the Catholic church know about such things? Well, the book list came out of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair which had an exhibition of “books for children from every corner of the world who want to live in a world without war or false illusions; who wish to see the earth as it was created”. The list has introduced me to some fantastic books – books I would not have come across otherwise.

The list is divided into nine sections: Joyful Sobriety, Unity and Dialogue, Migrants, Families, Disability, School and Culture, Work, Peace and Democracy and Earth. The introductions to each section are written in both Italian and English and the lists include books from all over the world.

I’ll start with the books I bought from the Work list and one of my favourites:

The Carpenter by Bruna Barros. Published by LEMOS Editorial, Brazil.

 

This wordless picture book by Brazilian illustrator Bruna Barros is magical. A little boy is distracted from his iPad by a shapeshifting tape measure. The tape measure first appears as a snake and then the little boy bends and folds it into a house, a car, an elephant and finally a whale which causes such a splash he has to be rescued by his dad.

The final picture shows the boy and his dad sitting together in a boat, the tape measure has become a sail and the sea is calm. It really is a lovely book full of imagination and creativity and illustrated using strong, clear colours and patterns that little ones can trace with their fingers.

Another wordless picture book on the list is:

Dog on a Digger: The Tricky Incident by Kate Prendergast.
Published by Old Barn Books.

I love this one too! It is the story of a dog who lives in a caravan on a building site. Together, he and his human companion go to work – they wear their ‘high vis’ jackets, use the digger to move rubble and junk and then take a break at the onsite snack bar – the only words in this book are those on the menu ‘chips with everything!’ The owner of the snack bar has a little puppy who goes missing. As the humans search for the puppy, Dog hears his distress coming from a waterway and putting his rescue plan into action he bravely plucks the puppy from the water. The final drawing has the little pup wearing his own high vis jacket and Dog keeping a firm paw on him. A fantastic book for all ages – older kids will enjoy the detailed drawings and younger ones will be in awe of all the action.

There is lots to discuss, particularly around safety and as our youngest students are currently building their own construction site it is a good conversation starter about keeping safe and being responsible.

Looking through this book list brought a book award I had not heard of before to my attention:

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander.
Published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

This is a beautifully written and illustrated book about life on a real farm.

The author, Eugenie Doyle, runs her own organic farm ‘Last Resort Farm’ and you can find out more her farming methods here. In the book, the farmers and their two children, are  preparing for winter and they leave their warm, cosy kitchen to lay straw over the berry plants, stack wood, secure the hoophouse’s plastic sides with ropes and hay bales, repair the chinks in the chicken coop, harvest the honey and stock the farm shop for the holidays. The multitude of tasks and their importance in the running of the farm is clear to see and the text, though lyrical at times, “The fields rest brown and bare” is explicit in description “with bales of hay we build a windbreak for the beehives” and makes the book a very useful, and interesting teaching tool.

With that end in mind, I was interested to look up the award it won in 2017.  The book won the American Farm Bureau Foundation 2017 Book of the year award. How interesting! I looked at little closer at the award and saw how the winners all appeared to be books about arable farming (growing crops) and not pastoral farming. It is telling that in the description of another of its award winning books The Tree Farmer by Chuck Leavell the AFBF write:

Most books connect to the public’s feelings only when the are tearing down agriculture or modern agricultural practices.

This kind of ‘you are either with us or against us’ propaganda makes me nervous. I will return to this topic but in the meantime don’t let it put you off Eugenie Doyle’s beautiful farm book.

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