Saturday, April 18, 2009

I recommend... Martin Waddell

If you have/teach very young kids. If you love children's books. If you (or your older children) have an interest in doing some public readings for little kids, please look in on the works of one of my favourite children's authors.

I don't remember what made me think of him, but think of him I did, so here we are.

I confess to being less of a fan of his work for kids old enough to read for themselves. But his work aimed at the sort of audience who consumes their stories at bedtime, snuggled down in the crook of Mom/Dad's arm... well, there are few who compare, in my view.

His stories are loving and gentle and affirming. So much so, that I regularly read the last page with a catch in my throat, to the puzzlement of my wide-eyed sons.

You're probably familiar with some of his work already, even if you don't know it, but here (in no particular order) are some of my favourites:

  • Owl Babies. Three baby owls discuss whether or not they're afraid while their mother is off hunting.
  • The entire Big Bear, Little Bear series, which recounts conversations between Big Bear and little bear. What is so lovely about this is that the relationship between these two, while one assumes them to be parent and child, is not nailed down in such a way as to exclude aunts and uncles, grandparents, godparents and even babysitters.
  • Once There Were Giants. A tender story about the changing perspective involved in being little, becoming big and then producing a little one of one's own.
  • Rosie's Babies. Nothing to do with Rosemary's Baby (although the title may be a knowing wink at parents). A story about becoming an older sibling with the arrival of a new baby.
Let me hasten to add that not all our stories were gentle Waddell types. There were some rather more swashbuckling ones, too - especially when I was making them up! But when I remember reading to my boys, the first author that comes to mind is Waddell.

Reading to our children was one of our most treasured activities. There is nothing quite like being curled up with a sleepy boy whose head smells of baby shampoo, and sharing an adventure with him before he goes to sleep.

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