‘You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child’ Dr Seuss
I’m a school librarian. When people ask me what I do, I reply bashfully then give them the mandatory back story. I reel off tales of glossy magazines, glitzy film premieres and motorbike taxi rides across Paris. Naturally I leave out the fact that at Vogue I sold classified ads to clairvoyants, the premieres were full of z-listers and the Paris team made me cry. All the same my career back then was frivolous and fun. Recently though it’s taken a bit of a detour to a world full of books and kids, and it’s never been so rewarding.
Job satisfaction used to be defined by lunches out in swanky restaurants or by pulling off a tricky project. Whereas now a good day in the office is when a child devours a book I’ve recommended to them, or when the cheeky boy, who I thought wasn’t listening to the story, summarising the plot so far. This makes my heart sing.
I feel very privileged to have had this job. When reading some of the old favourites to the classes I’ve been transported back to my own childhood, when life was much simpler. But it’s also allowed me to discover some new gems that I look forward to reading with my troublesome trio.
So with my librarian hat on, I thought I would share some of the books we’ve enjoyed to hopefully inspire your budding bookworms.
I struggle with picture books. Some of them I could chiefly launch out of the window as the quality of the writing is questionable. Even some of Julia Donaldson’s books fall flat in my eyes.
But here are some we’ve loved in class –
Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola series, Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaur, The Monster Who Ate Darkness, anything by Oliver Jeffers, Oi Dog and Oi Frog, Princess Smartypants, Scrummy and Smile books starring Sunny McCloud, There’s a Pig up my Nose!, Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes, Ada Twist, Scientist and Iggy Peck, Architect.
All the children, my boys included, go wild for The Book with No Pictures. It’s full of silly made-up words that really appeal to a child’s sense of humour.
Through author/illustrator workshops we’ve unearthed treats such as The Magic Bojabi Tree by Dianne Hofmeyr and Little Fred Riding Hood illustrated by Liz Million (get Liz to come to your child’s school – the kids love her and I haven’t laughed so much in years! http://www.lizmillon.com).
I also have a soft spot for classics such as The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark and Giraffes Can’t Dance, but my all time childhood favourite is The Velveteen Rabbit.
5-8 year olds
This is when children usually get hooked on Rainbow Magic and Captain Underpants. There’s nothing wrong with them as they get children into reading but it’s lovely to open their eyes to different books too.
The illustrated Judy Moody & Stink books are great for early readers and appeal to both boys and girls. Holly Webb’s Puppy Tales collection is adorable and Josh Lacey’s The Dragonsitter series is good for reluctant readers. There seems to be a plethora of sports personalities now writing for children. Chris Hoy’s Flying Fergus series and Frank Lampard’s Frankie’s Magic Football books are proving popular with the children.
Year 3 have loved Baby Aliens Got My Teacher and other books by Pamela Butchart, The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson, Jacqueline Wilson’s Cliffhanger/Buried Alive and The Ironman by Ted Hughes.
David Walliams is a huge hit with the kids. I’m not completely sold on all of his books, but I did enjoy some of the short stories in The World’s Worst Children. I was in the middle of the Peter Picker one when the headteacher brought in some prospective parents. I’m not sure they were impressed when a child shouted out that Mrs Bainbridge was reading them a story about a giant bogey that was the size of the moon!
One of my favourite authors, Michael Morpurgo, has retold some of the classics and I managed to win over a Year 3 class with Pinocchio and its beautiful illustrations. He’s bringing out a version of The Wizard of Oz in September which I am sure will be equally as good.
9-12 year olds
I love reading to the older children as I often enjoy the books as much as they do. I cried reading Wonder as my bedtime book and I’m getting near the end with the Year 5s now and they tease me when my eyes well up. It is a real treasure of a book and will be released as a film this autumn.
Paul Jennings’ short stories are hilarious and quirky, as are Louis Sachar’s Wayside School Stories. The kids often look slightly befuddled when they see me laughing to myself as some of the jokes go completely over their heads. Sachar’s Holes and There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom are also worth a read.
Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events are wonderfully written and the stories are now on Netflix so it’s been great to see the children’s enthusiasm for reading them first.
Other books I’ve read include Trash, Morpurgo’s Butterfly Lion, Horowitz’s Granny (laugh out loud funny!), The London Eye Mystery, Confessions of an Imaginary Friend, and recently released See you in Cosmos and Time Travelling with a Hamster. Christopher’s Egde’s books The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and The Jamie Drake Equation look promising too with their science and astronomy theme.
As I now prepare for our return to the UK I know I’ll look back at my time in the library with such happy memories. Books are my passion and it’s been amazing to share this with children and witness first hand their love of stories develop.
It’s also given me a window into the school life of my boys. Though I’m not sure they share my enthusiasm for fiction. The Reception-aged child often calls out in my class to say the picture book is boring and he wants me to read one about electricity!
But as the saying goes – everyone is a reader, some just haven’t found their favourite book yet. Hopefully these recommendations will help your children find their special book. I’d love to hear yours too.
‘Just follow the day and reach for the sun!’ Wonder, R.J Palacio