The highlights for us from June’s Walker Books include ‘Ellie and Lump’s Very Busy Day’, which is a fantastic, warm book about a special day in the life of two very cute elephants, Ellie and Lump. The illustrations in this book are the main talking point; illustrator Becky Palmer has captured the excitement of planning a special party for a loved family member, and we also loved the wonderful rhythmical sound effects dotted throughout the narrative intended to bring the story to life. Our little girl loved our efforts to read these sound effects out loud!
‘Everyone’, meanwhile, focuses on mindfulness and feelings. You may think that little ones don’t need to have an awareness of such things, but we thought the sentiment was really nicely presented. Our little girl is too young to fully appreciate the meaning in this book, which explains that from the animals in the woods to the neighbours next door, everyone laughs, everyone cries, and everyone has feelings, but she loved looking at the different expressions on the main character’s face.
Last but most definitely not least, we have ‘Pink Lion’ from Jane Porter. This bold story about a lion who thinks he’s a flamingo is a brilliant read, full of twists and amazing pictures, especially for little ones who like animals. We’ve been lucky enough to exclusively interview Jane Porter about her forthcoming release. Here’s what she has to say!
Q: What inspired you to write Pink Lion?
A: I run an art class for under 5s once a week, which is the highlight of my week – the children are always so funny and inspiring. One week, almost four years ago, I asked the group what they thought the story I was about to read was going to be about, and a boy said ‘a pink lion’. The story was actually about a robot! But I loved the idea of a pink lion, and went away and started to write the story.
Q: How do you think children’s novels can help inspire children to be themselves?
A: I really believe children’s literature is the most important sort! Children’s novels (and picture books) are a fundamental way of helping growing minds to understand not just themselves but also others – empathy begins with picture books. They also help children to feel better about daunting new experiences, daily challenges, and emotions – which can be very extreme at that age. I do think it’s important to understand that you don’t have to be like everybody else.
Q: How can parents help encourage a love of books for children in a world of tablets and smartphones?
A: My own children are now 20 and 22, so when they were little there were no such things as smartphones or tablets. I think it’s difficult for parents today. But what hasn’t changed is that what children really want (and need) from a parent is focused attention – and sharing a picture book or two at the end of the day is a perfect way to provide this, and enjoy talking together about the pictures and the feelings and experiences involved, as well as just reading the words.
Q: What inspired you to become a children’s author?
A: Being a reader of children’s books! I read all the time as a child, and used to really look forward to going to the library – so I suppose it was only natural to want to make one of my own one day.
Q: Aside from your own books, which children’s books do you feel are perfect to get little ones into books?
A: One that sticks in my mind particularly from when my own children were little is Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson – it is wonderful to read aloud, and the emotion in it is pitched just right. They wanted to hear it night after night – perhaps for the reassurance of the mother owl coming back. But these days there are so many amazing picture books available, we are all spoilt for choice. I’m lucky because I get to read a story to a group of 3 and 4-year-olds each week, and it’s very interesting to observe which ones they are particularly taken with. I always know it’s a winner if I end up under a pile of children at the end all wanting to look at the details in the pictures.
And a recent book that makes me wish I had a small child at home to read it with is the very original (and Caldecott Honor-winning) Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis. As well as having stunning artwork, its made-up language is a joy to read aloud and offers so many possibilities for playful discussion and improvisation.