Sunday, 19 February 2012

Musings from the Daughter of a Mad Book-Collector: Books for Babies

Finally last week I found the book that I’d been scouring the charity shops along Cambridge’s Mill Road for. All I needed to do was part with 30p and Tristan would be able to add ‘The Tiger who came to Tea’ to his burgeoning book collection. I had been looking along the shelves and rummaging through the boxes in stores run by the Salvation Army, Arthur Rank Hospice, Cat’s Protection (the money I have spent in this particular shop must have saved many tens of cats by now), and the rather amazing charity shop which raises funds for Romsey Mill, a Christian charity supporting young people in the area, for as long as Tristan has been a presence in our household. The former was a particular favourite haunt as at the back of store there is always a trolley brimming with books all only 5p each. After each visit I would usually buy 5 or 6, obviously keeping an eye out the Judith Kerr classic, as well as anything with flaps or touchy-feely pictures. The trolley was most often full of obscure annuals though and dog-eared Harry Potters so I had a job finding story books for bedtime reading. I rarely found a ‘classic’ and, when they suddenly decided to up the price of each book from 5p to 15p, I stopped going as regularly. (They have now reduced the price back to 10p a book so I assume I wasn’t the only one who felt this price hike was unreasonable in these straightened economic times.)

I have found extraordinary things in both Arthur Rank and Cat’s Protection – nearly new Dr Seuss for 20p or 30p, a pile of brand new Julia Donaldsons for 30p each, (including ‘The Snail and the Whale’ and ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’) as well as a few weary, but still very readable, Ladybird books. Tristan now has a book collection to show off to his baby friends, and he has sat contentedly through ‘Treasure Island’, ‘The Cat in the Hat’, and ‘Bears in the Night’ – the latter a present from his auntie Deborah and, alas, the kind of book which I am certain that you would never find in a charity shop as you can never to be too old to enjoy the anticipation of creeping up Spook Hill and being terrified by the hoots of a giant owl.

Nowadays Tristan is quite a challenge to read to – mainly as he insists on grabbing and chewing on everything that I am holding, from TV remotes to my indestructible mobile phone. So for now we have to give up on reading to him and, instead, we go to bed each night with one of the ‘That’s Not My …’ books.

I am a huge fan of these colourful books (I am yet to come across one in a charity shop) and Tristan never seems to tire of feeling the prickly ears, bumpy buttons or squashy feet before he eventually gets to his robot with the sparkly antennae, or his teddy with the furry tummy. However I thought it would be useful to compile a list of the books which I think Tristan will eventually come to love, and which I already have built up an affection towards. So, I think every baby should own the following:

Margaret Wise Brown Goodnight Moon (1947): this book has spawned endless imitations including Goodnight Bush, Goodnight America and Goodnight Goon
Dr Seuss Green Eggs and Ham (1960): debatable which Dr Seuss to add to the list as they are all brilliant, but this is probably my favourite
Maurice Sendak Where the Wild Things Are (1963): I didn’t quite see the attraction of this book until I looked closely at the illustrations, and realised how they related to Max’s nightmare
Judith Kerr The Tiger who came to Tea (1968): finding this for 30p was like having all my Christmases come at once. At the moment I am getting quite a bit more pleasure from it than Tristan though.
Eric Carle The Hungry Caterpillar (1969): this book comes in endless formats – to attach to the buggy, large format paperback, small and dumpy board book
Stan Berenstain Bears in the Night (1971): out of the shelf, through the door, on the bed …
Julia Donaldson The Gruffalo (1999): the loveliest book to read to a baby, and surprisingly easy to find in charity shops
Campbell Books Faces (2002): babies love looking at black and white contrasts and faces in equal measure so this book was popular from the start.
Lydia Monks Aaaarrgghh, Spider! (2007): a Christmas present from the grandparents with the most wonderful illustrations, and a brilliantly horrifying ending!
James Mayhew Katie and the British Artists (2008): actually a present from my parents to me, but a lovely way of introducing babies to the great artists

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

  1. I would love so much to go book-hunting with you! You found wonderful treasures--and listed a few I have never seen before! I hope I can find a copy of The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

    vanessa @ silly eagle books


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