Wednesday, 23 October 2013

What Makes A Picture Book A Favourite Book?

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love You, A Bit Lost, Howl's Moving Castle, A Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

“I love you to the moon and back.” 

What is it that makes a book stay with us? What is it that we remember, specifically? Is it the prose, a
certain line? An illustration? Is it the memory of reading with someone in a favourite spot?

“I want my mummy!” 

The first picture book I read alone was Green Eggs and Ham. The first one I read to my son – and still read – was Owl Babies. (We even dressed up as Mummy Owl and Bill for Halloween one year.) The first one he read was Hug, swiftly followed by Tall. (Though it does help that these books have very, very few words.)


But how do we choose those first books? Is it that our parents or grandparents give them to us? Is it that we’re innately drawn to a concept, sound, or rhyme? My son had intense separation anxiety, and found Owl Babies soothing, because he could repeat “I want my mummy!” and feel vindicated. (He still tells me, sometimes, that he feels like the little owl and wants me to come home early.) And yet, I chose that book for him, only a few days after I learnt I was pregnant. My mother says I loved repeating the rhymes in Green Eggs and Ham, and playing with the rhythm of the text. At home, we read poetry and sing songs (like Guinea Pig Town and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt) for the rhythm, which my son has developed an appreciation thereof. Is that because of me, or is that because of him? Is it because I recall reading rhyme with my mother and shouting it to the sky in the park?

“What a beautiful day!” 

I’m sure there’s no concrete answer to what makes us love a given book. Book love is existential,
really – it’s unique and experiential and dependent on so, so many factors and ideas. But isn’t it marvellous to think about? To question why we might love a picture book? To think about creating memories with our children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren? Which books have stayed with you? Which books make you smile every time you think of them?

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