Books I Can’t Wait To Read To My Daughter

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I have a baby daughter. If you follow me on literally any social media, you may have picked this up already. I am obsessed with her.

We’re big on books in my family, and as a result Edith’s already got more books than I have room for. I ordered one of those cool display things that looks like a library book rack to put up on the wall, but I’m not convinced it’s going to be enough.

I’m not too clued-up on kids books – particularly for really young kids – so I’m drawing a lot on my own memories, as well as some I’ve seen on social media in passing. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and by the time you’re reading it I’ll inevitably have found more…

The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson

My mum used to work in a nursery before she retired and she is a huge Julia Donaldson fangirl – she’s already started buying them so Edith can have the full collection. I didn’t know there were so many! I have at least two copies of the Gruffalo that my friends with older kids have given me and we inevitably end up watching it every Christmas morning (even though my sister and I are in our mid to late 20s) so it’s going to be one of Edith’s first stories.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

I am, and have been for some time, an Angry Woman. Before Edith was born my husband joked that every time she she was battering my organs she was practising fighting TERFs, reply-guys on the internet and other assorted wrong’uns.

Okay so some of these have aged terribly (JK Rowling, anyone?) and there are some stories I would have liked to see included (Marsha P. Johnson, for example) but on the whole they’re full of incredible stories and role models. Some of them I know shamefully little about, so it’ll be a learning experience for me too.

Both were a gift from one of my best friends just after Edith was born, and she’s kickass and strong and always beside me whenever I need her. We’re rebel girls, and I know with her help Edith will be as well.

Look Up! – Nathan Bryon

Look Up! appeared on my radar when it was awarded the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year. I was BIG into space when I was younger and I still think it’s incredibly cool, plus I’m all for seeing girls being represented in STEM hobbies and ambitions. Definitely one I’ll be picking up on my next trip out.

Old Bear Stories – Jane Hissey

These books are basically perfect – nice, cosy, wholesome, with adorable characters. There will be books to teach my kid she can do anything, books to teach her about the world and about compassion and humility, but these are the books I’m going to read her when she needs to close the door and be safe for a while.

Plus if you follow Jane Hissey on Twitter she posts adorable illustrations of characters from the series and cute animals.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea – Judith Kerr

A classic from my childhood, and one that was beloved by the kids my mum had in the nursery. It’s just fun, it’s the right level of absurd (a tIger coming to tea and eating ALL THE FOOD IN THE HOUSE) and features the most absurdly exciting thing I could possibly have imagined as a young child: a late -night trip to a cafe for tea.

If you’ve written a children’s book in 1968 and it’s still being read to kids in 2020, I think the general consensus is that you’ve absolutely nailed it.

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy – Lynley Dodd

One of the criticisms I saw of this book on Goodreads was that it had “very little plot”. Honestly, who cares? It’s got funny dogs, rhymes – kids love rhymes – charming illustrations and a villain. It’s top tier.


Right now she’s too young to do much more than grab at the pages – we have a soft crinkly picture book that she LOVES – but when she’s able to sit up by herself (thus freeing up my hands for turning pages) I’m going to be reading to her whenever we have a quite few minutes.

What other books should I have on my shopping list? Let me know! I love books that focus on diversity and social issues, as well as rhymes and fun pictures.

Friends Reunited: The Lost Book

Gather round everyone, it’s time for the heartwarming story of a boy who loved a book, and why occasionally the internet isn’t a total cesspool.

A couple of years ago, while on a weekend away in Peebles with Sean, the conversation turned to a book he’d read and loved as a child. He couldn’t remember the title or the author, just a few fragments from his memory. The front cover, a young boy doing his homework while scenes from the game dance around him. The main characters. Plot points.

“Let’s Google it!” Said I, because obviously Google has all the answers.

We uncovered a plethora of books vaguely matching the description. None of them were the right ones. We spent a long time trawling the internet, me adamently refusing to believe that this book could be impossible to find, but it certainly looked that way.

peebles
You’d never guess we’d been up half the night on a book hunt.

Every now and then in the following months and years it would come up in conversation and we’d look again, dozens of different search terms, wording them slightly differently, scrolling through Goodreads and forums and Google Images. Sean had started to wonder if the book was something he’d made up, a writing prompt that had snaked its way into his subconscious. I wasn’t so sure. The details he could reel off to me were too precise.

It was hugely annoying. I’m a stubborn crow and I have great faith in the internet, both of which were being tested strongly by this bloody nameless, formless book.

After it raised its head again late last year, I suited up and went in. But this time, I had a different plan: Reddit.

There’s a subreddit called r/tipofmytongue, where you post things you can’t remember the name of with a few descriptive details and hope that someone will recognise what you’re talking about and enlighten you. Reddit can be a…questionable place, so I wasn’t sure how well this would work. Or if it would at all. Or if I’d be soundly flamed.

But would you believe it, within a few hours I had a single, solitary response, from a user called GitaTcua.

It must be Gameplayers by Steven Bowkett.

I looked it up. Immediately checks out.

gameplayers 2

If I’d been alone, I would have screamed. As it was, I was with my Granny, and I didn’t want to give her nervous breakdown.

For the grand total of £3.72, I was able to secretly acquire a copy (HUGE shout out to Abe Books and The Children’s Bookshop for stocking it and delivering it so promptly) and present it to Sean as a belated Christmas present. He’s notorious for not doing big emotional displays but the level of carefully contained joy he exuded was high.

Basically, tenacity pays off and I am the best fiancée ever. Happy Christmas Seanathon!

gameplayers
His childhood book with his childhood teddy bear. Glorious.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Want My Future Children to Read

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, and this week it’s books to hand down to your future kids! Or someone else’s kids, if they’re not really your bag.

Fortunately, I learned to read at some stupidly early age (my parents found out when I innocently asked who Colin Montgomery was after seeing his name in the paper my dad was reading) so I have no shortage of material from my formative years to choose from.

With a little help from my mother, here’s ten books that I’ll be forcing into the grubby little hands of any future kids I have.

Dogger

dogger

Yes, this is a real book, and yes I did produce it and triumphantly yell “DOGGER!” in the middle of Waterstones once to prove it to my mum.

We can forgive the name, given that it was released in 1977. (Believe me, I googled VERY carefully to find the date.) It’s a beloved classic, a boy with his favourite toy dog and what happens when it goes missing at the funfair. Reach the end without crying. I dare you.

Harry Potter

harry potter

I mean, come on. Do I even need to elaborate on this one? Harry’s consumed my life since I was in single digit numbers and my future children will be force fed the books once they’re old enough to understand. If they’re not looking for their Hogwarts letter at some point I will have failed as a parent.

The Famous Five

famous five

Another classic. I can’t think of an Enid Blyton book I DIDN’T love to be fair, but the Famous Five were always my favourite. Who didn’t want to go on an adventure with all your friends, a remarkably intelligent big dog and lashings of ginger beer? With a combined age of less than fifty they seemed to be more competent than every single police force in the series.

That Book About The Jumper

I can’t for the life of me remember what this book was actually called, but one of my earliest memories is getting a bus to the library in Inverkeithing and insisting that my mum check me out this book about a favourite jumper. Remember it Ma? I had a real vested obsession. (No pun intended.)

Old Bear Stories

old bear

Find me a more perfect childrens’ series. Spoiler alert: you can’t. I can’t formulate the words to describe how nice these books are. Even as an adult all I have to do is think about Little Bear’s Trousers or hum the theme tune and I regress into a fugue state.

In fact, I think I might go out and buy the whole lot and never leave the house ever again.

The Gruffalo

the gruffalo

This one’s a little past my time for picture books, but having a mother who worked in early years education meant that I have had the praises and relative merits of pretty much everything Julia Donaldson has ever written. There’s something charming about the Gruffalo, warts and claws and all.

Plus we – as in my entire, adult family – always end up watching The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child on TV every Christmas morning.

If Only They Could Talk

if only they could talk

When I was little I wanted to be a vet, before I realised my ineptitude in maths and science might be a hindrance. It did lead me to James Herriot, and his stories of veterinary practise in the Yorkshire Dales. Fun for the whole family.

I have vivid memories of lying on the sofa ill as a child with books piled around me, reading about prolapsed uteri, obese Pekingese dogs and the best way to treat mastitis.

The Polka Dot Horse

polka dot horse

This was – ironically, given the plot of the book – a forgotten favourite from when I was REALLY small. I haven’t read it for years, but I can still remember the pictures of the lonely little wooden polka dot horse rolling down the street in the dark.

Fortunately, it has a happy ending, but if this doesn’t make you want to weep, I fear you.

Wild at Heart series

wild at heart

OK so I LOVED these books as a child (see above re: veterinary dreams) and absorbed pretty much the whole series when they were sent to me from the US by my auntie Fee. I didn’t find out until years afterwards that they were written by Laurie Halse Anderson, who in my later years became my YA lit hero and the author of some of my favourite books. Now I love them even more.

Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness

I’ve always been a huge nerd and I loved these non-fiction books. Probably the reason my general knowledge is as broad as it is. In particular, anything involving animals and space. Or animals IN space.

And a special bonus shout-out to…

Every single electrical appliance my parents bought in my childhood. I had a bizarre proclivity for reading instruction manuals, which meant that as a youngster my understanding of how to work the TV, VCR, kettle, washing machine and hi – fi was sounder than that of my parents. It also meant that I was remarkably easy to entertain – just stick me in the middle of the room with a file full of instruction books and I was happy for hours.

Then I’d fix the clock on the oven.

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Share your favourite childhood books with me! Or if you know the jumper book I’m talking about, y’know. For nostalgia’s sake…