I read. A lot. A little bit of everything, I’m usually democratic in my tastes across genres. To me, a good writer can come from anywhere, and good books can come from unsuspecting authors. As I like to remind those close to me even a broken clock is right twice a day. Though I’m impartial to non-fiction (yes I’m looking at you Malcolm Gladwell), children’s fiction always holds a special candle. Perhaps it’s the otherworldly landscapes, or the unlikely protagonist succeeding against all odds. I especially like creation stories – mythologies of Ashanti, Greek and Norse origin, and let’s not forget Kalevala – filled with rich proverbs and lessons that still hold true today.
So you can imagine my surprise when I realized that I didn’t like reading to my kids. It’s not that I didn’t read, I did. Actually I felt I had to. Every parent forum, or specialist unanimously agrees that reading to children has enormous benefits to children’s development. And as I’m no psychologist, who am I to disagree? So I read, but I didn’t enjoy it. In the beginning there were picture books with very little text. But after the fiftieth time of reading Good Night Moon, I was ready to chuck it out the window. So I stopped. If this gave me no pleasure, I then took to other things we could both enjoy. Swimming? Check. Hiking? Check. Then I relaxed, figured that I can’t be alone in this feeling, and starting combing bookstores. That’s where the magic is.
There are so many fantastic children’s books available it’s incredible. The illustrations and the stories are witty, engaging and complete. No longer limited by language, there’s now access to wonderful fables from authors across the globe, translated to English, Finnish among many others. Having access these beautiful tales renewed my love of reading, or rather imparting knowledge to my little ones from a different perspective thousands of miles away. Usually humorous, sometimes touching, I’ve included a list of titles that I enjoy. It’s far from complete, so I’ll keep updating, but for now here’s a starter.
This Is Rome by M. Šašek
One of my favourites in the series, This is Rome is Miroslav Šašek at his best. In it are wonderful illustrations that habour a strong sense of nostalgia, like a children’s version of a Fellini film, replete with the Trevi fountain, Vatican City, the Pantheon as well as colourful nuances of Roman life. Definitely a most have for any book collection – children or otherwise, as the illustrations are delightful for all ages.
This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe
A relative newbie in children’s publishing, Matt Lamothe has made his name known with his debut children’s book This Is How We Do It. Imaginative in it’s illustration, the book follows a day in the lives of 7 real children from select cities across the globe. Informative yet fascinating, this is a beautiful eye opener for what we value, and how the other side lives. Meant for ages 5 upwards.
Home by Carson Ellis
One of my favourite illustrators, Carson Ellis’ solo picture book doesn’t disappoint. Full of stunning illustrations, Home is a whimsical tribute to the endless possibilities of what a home means. This in particular struck a chord with me, after living in so many places – dwellings, cities, countries – what is home? It’s nice to see this notion explored, even in a small way. Best yet it’s translated to Finnish and Swedish – try Stockmann for titles in either language.
The Beast of Monsieur Racine by Tom Ungerer
Though a modern classic, The Beast of Monsieur Racine isn’t for everyone. Nonetheless I greatly appreciate the muted colour palette of the illustrations, but mostly the plot. It’s a commentary on many things still relevant today, touching on friendship, public perceptions, and society. Even though kids will love its ludicrous premise, parents may perhaps find some themes that resonate with them.
Once Upon An Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
In a nutshell, Oliver Jeffers is a creative genius. In this recent installment from his book collection, Jeffers creates an alphabet book, quite unlike others. With spare yet surreal text and illustrations, this charming book will having you revisiting for months to come. And even though it’s meant for 3 – 5 year olds that won’t stop others from coming to peek, and leaving in laughter.
Maps by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińscy
Meant for ages 7 upwards, Maps features beautifully drawn maps with playful details including geography, culture, flora and fauna, curiosities and unique attributes from a hodgepodge of countries. And though Europe is the main focus – the authors after all hail from Poland, no region is left untouched and all is completed with brilliant details.
Do I read to my kids? Yes. But now I enjoy it a little more everytime.