Choosing bedtime stories for my grandson recently, I was struck by how many picture books are full of rampaging dinosaurs, wild-eyed dragons, monsters and superheroes, all in dazzling primary colours. Very exciting, but not quite conducive to a calm ‘time for bed’! I’ve noticed, too, that young mums and dads are now thinking that it’s best not to overstimulate little ones, with every bright toy or storybook that comes along.
May I suggest play in the great outdoors? Soft nature colours, wonderful weather, textures, scents, sounds, fresh air freedom! What could be better for the kids than time free from the adult’s all seeing-eye (or when they think they’re free!), freedom to learn by making their own decisions and solve their own problems. Are there any stories to encourage this? Yes there are!
I had to search hard for them, those outside books, with the kind of soothing ambience that says what a wonderful world it is, stories that celebrate simple pleasures, such playing in a field of dandelions, or collecting eggs from the hens, or messing about in the garden.
Sandra Horn’s book ‘The Dandelion Wish’ tells just such a gentle story, beautifully illustrated by Louise Warwick. Out in the fields, Jo and Sam watch the wind blow the dandelion seeds high into the air and when Sam suggests blowing seeds to make a wish, Jo joins him, with magical results. Yes, there’s a dinosaur, pirates and fireworks, but they’re all part of the Dandelion Fair, which arrives and departs like a dream. In the end, ‘Only the night heard a home-going rabbit whistle a rock-a-bye tune.’
This is a lovely story that celebrates outdoor play and the power of a child’s wishing and dreaming.
Kim Lewis’s picture books about country life on the farm, are some of the best.
My final choice is ‘The King of Tiny Things’ by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Gwen Millward.
All three picture books are highly recommended for children aged 5-7.
Pauline Chandler 2014
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