On Books and Babies

So, as I’ve discovered recently, this whole new mother thing is damn hard. I’m actually writing this one handed while my little owl of a newborn, Sophie, has one of her marathon feeding sessions. Of which there are many. Very many. I’m surprised she hasn’t doubled in size already to be honest. I’m surprised there is anything left of me to be doubly honest.

I won’t bore you with the details of my plight, as I’m sure so many of you already know how strange and surreal this whole thing is, but I want to mention one small advantage of breast feeding. I didn’t consider this at all until a friend from work mentioned it, just before I went on leave. A great deal of the pain and frustration of learning to feed your baby can be diluted somewhat with a great book open in front of you. And when the time stretches into hours of your day and night, you can actually read a lot (when you’re not struggling to keep your eyes open at least). So, here’s what I’ve been reading:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, Illustrated by Jim Kay

I mention this edition in particular because it’s large and stays open when you lay it flat, which makes it a lot easier to read – hands free! Plus I read this one aloud, you’re never too young to hear Harry Potter after all. It’s been so nice to re-read this book, especially with the 20th anniversary being talked about so much. It makes me feel so old though! My mum bought me my first copy of HP as a gift for making it through year six camp (gosh I hated school camp) all those twenty years ago. She said the man in the book store told her it was a great read, and he was right (thank you booksellers, just thank you). I remember how in the following years the entire landscape of reading shifted. Suddenly it wasn’t such a nerdy thing to be a reader. I stood in those massive lines waiting with hundreds of kids to get the later books and finally felt like I was a part of something. I’d found my community. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there just like me, who have J. K. to thank for that.

I just had a thought – maybe Sophie’s taking so much time feeding because she wants to hear how it ends? What a smart cookie. Hehe.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Inga Moore

I have this lined up because I’m getting close to the end of Harry Potter. It was one of my favourites growing up and I can’t wait to revisit it. This edition is a large hardback like Harry Potter above and has beautiful illustrations. I wonder how many other lovely classic editions I can justify buying for this purpose? Any suggestions?

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

Okay so I haven’t been reading this one as much – my husband has been reading it aloud to Sophie and me every now and then. He does the best Winnie-the-Pooh voice and his Eeyore is top notch. I actually missed the boat on this one in childhood, I’ve never read it. Turns out it’s hilarious! If you haven’t read it for yourself (or for your little ones) you definitely should! I am completely in love with the cleverness and complete uniqueness of the little stories.

The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster

I read this in hospital. It was the perfect light, entertaining read to distract from the shock of a newborn in special care and your entire body suddenly being the property of anyone and everyone. Jody has had plenty to say about Sara Foster over the past couple months and she’s entirely right.

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

I’m reading this late at night and I’m really enjoying it so far. Elizabeth Kostova wrote The Historian, which was hugely popular years ago. The Shadow Land is set in Bulgaria, which is interesting.  It’s a part coming-of-age story, part mystery. I love the detail in Kostova’s writing and I’m entirely absorbed in the story. I want to know how this all comes together. There will definitely be a review to follow of this one.

Anyway, please give me all your newborn advice, I’m more than happy to hear it all. And I’m even happier to hear your latest, greatest book recommendations!

Hope you’re all well.

Amanda x


Great Picture Books for Kids

As some of you know already, I spend my days working as a children’s librarian. This means I get to spend lots of time surrounded by kids and the books they love, which makes me very, very happy. Sometimes though, seeing all those bright, happy faces makes me miss my family, who I don’t get to see all that often, especially all my little nieces and nephews who are just starting to engage with books and reading. It also reminds me that I promised their parents a couple of posts about great kids books. I’m sorry it’s taken so long (!) but here you go.

I thought I’d  steer clear of the usual children’s stories, opting instead for some that are a bit newer or slightly less well-known.

Great picture books for kids:

  1. Baa Baa Smart Sheep and I Love Lemonade by Mark and Rowan Sommerset. Okay – so to be honest these aren’t exactly new favourites. I’ve loved these books since they were released a few years ago, and they’re often my go-to books to buy for celebrations, especially for boys around 3 – 5  years old. The Sommersets are a New Zealand author/illustrator duo and they have a fantastically funny, delightfully quirky writing style that cracks me up as much as the kids I’m reading to.
  1. Sweet Petite by Poh Ling Yeow and Sarah Rich. I loved watching Poh & Co on SBS and when I found out she and her friend Sarah were releasing a picture book I was ridiculously excited. She has such a lovely vibe about her and just seems really genuine and down-to-earth. She’s totally on my list of fabulously fantastic people (everyone should have one of these don’t you think?! Life just seems so much more special when you surround yourself with people you admire and who inspire you, even if you don’t know them!). Anyway, this is a sweet little book about friendship and cake. Who doesn’t love friendship and cake?! Read the book then bake the cakes!
  1. Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. This one had me in tears of laughter when I first read it. It’s about a blue crayon who somehow gets a red label in the factory. Cue identity crisis!! Red sets out to prove that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts. It’s a great story for 4 – 5 year olds and they won’t even notice they’re learning an important lesson at the same time.
  1. The Pigeon Series by Mo Willems, including Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, The Pigeon Needs a Bath and The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog. Kids love these books (and adults totally do too). Who wouldn’t love such a cheeky, mischievous pigeon? You have to do the voices though. Don’t borrow or buy these books unless you’re willing to put on your best pigeon impression! But let loose and you’ll reap the rewards.
  1. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Okay, so this one is probably better for those slightly older, around 5 – 7  years old. They’ll be old enough to ‘spot the difference’ between the first and last pages, which is a really clever way of helping them to understand the story. What does happen to Sam and Dave after all? The illustrations by Jon Klassen are just beautiful (of course) and the story has the kids groaning in frustration. How could they have missed a diamond that big?!
  1. Please Mr Panda by Steve Anthony. I read this at our story time for 2 – 3 year olds a few weeks ago and they loved it. Mr Panda is a seriously grumpy-looking dude who has a gripe about manners. It’s great on the details too, you can pick out the colours of the doughnuts and ask/explain why the little lemur is upside down. You may, however, have a little difficulty explaining why they might not get a doughnut every time they say please. Yummmm…doughnuts…
  1. This & That by Mem Fox. Mem Fox is an absolute genius kids book writer. She has written so many that are now a part of our regular story times, from Possum Magic to Where is the Green Sheep? The Magic Hat and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little ToesThis & That came out before Christmas last year and while it hasn’t packed as much of a punch as Mem’s big name books, I just think it’s lovely. Really lovely. It has beautiful rhythm, and read softly at bed time could help to lull little ones off to sleep or for spin-off stories with older ones. For 0-2 year olds.
  1. Mix It Up by Herve Tullet. I love this book! It’s all about colour! Colour that changes and mixes and splatters all over the page. Great for learning how yellow and blue become green and red and yellow become orange, etc. Read the book, then do it yourself I say! Great for 3-5 year olds. Herve has a new book out as well called Let’s Play which looks fab too.
  1. You Are (not) Small by Chris Weyant and Anna Kang. Okay…so pull those funny voices out again for this one. BIG. Small. BIG. Small! It’s fantastic for teaching kids about size, and you can do lots of little activities after, like getting them to line up their toys in height order, getting to line their family up, or grabbing some sticks from the back yard to do the same.
  1. Did you take the B from my _ook? by Bec and Matt Stanton: The blurb for this book says it all “Firstly, your favourite thing in the whole world is the letter B. And secondly, you’re about to sneeze and all the Bs are going to be blown out of the book. So until you can get your favourite letter back, you’re about to sound really, really silly …” Just sound silly. Stumble and slip over all those missing ‘B’s and you will have them giggling with you. Or at you. Either way, it doesn’t matter.

Okay, I’ve probably waffled on enough now. Just remember to read with enthusiasm! The little ones will love it if you love it. Reading doesn’t have to be a serious thing – it should be a joy. Reading is a joy. I promise.

If you like hearing about kids books, we can definitely include some more every now and then. We’re flexible like that. Just call us Gumby.