Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a book that I wish I’d had in my life a long time ago.
Whilst not technically a children’s book, I decided to include this on The Inquisitive Newt for two reasons.
Firstly, because I wish I had read this during my teenage years, when I was stumbling into my initial romantic relationships. I feel that having reasonable expectations, printed in black and white, would have given me permission to advocate for myself and my rights within the ‘partnerships’ more. I plan to give a copy to Daughter when puberty takes hold.
Secondly, I included it because I would have loved to read it after having given birth. I came to a lot of the conclusions myself, but I often felt alone in my convictions regarding feminism and motherhood. Ironically, given that I’ve categorised this review as my first ‘parenting’ title, I especially loved the section regarding the use of ‘parenting’ as a verb.
I really love the tone of the text – that it was adapted from a letter gives it an enormous warmth and immediacy. I’ve read a lot of books about feminism but they can often feel… Academic, rather than practical. This one felt like a conversation with a friend, which I suppose it is.
Are there any books you wish you had come across sooner? Are there any you plan to read/gift to your children for this reason?
Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson is a really fun introduction to gardening, and is one of those books which call for a high degree of interaction between reader and listener – something I absolutely love.
Told in verse and requiring lots of finger actions, this is a fantastically fun little gem of a book. Beginning with the page above and ending with a row of flowers, there are all kinds of things to giggle at in between.
There isn’t a great deal more to be said about this book – lots of bright illustrations, few well-chosen words… it’s a delight to read to small people.
It’s definitely one I would recommend getting a copy of and just trying for yourself.
Have you read Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson? Did you like it as much as me?
Rosy’s Garden by Satomi Ichikawa should be a classic. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, but bear with me…
I happened upon our copy in a charity shop when Daughter was around two and ever since, we’ve read it regularly. In itself, this isn’t at all unusual. The difference between Rosy’s Garden and just about every other book, though, is that I have never once thought, “Oh, not again…” Time after time, this has been eagerly brought to me and time after time I’ve said – just as eagerly – “Ooh, good choice!”
At its core, the book chronicles the titular character’s summer holiday at her grandmother’s house. There’s no singular main event, nor is it a series of Milly-Molly-Mandy- esque episodes as I had first presumed on finding the book. The best description I can think of to describe the layout is a journal-cross-scrapbook. There are little notes about flower names, the language of flowers, how to make rose water, how Granny and Grandpa met, how to gather seeds…
I think that’s what I love most about the book – the little snippets of information that is genuinely new and interesting. There are so very many books about planting a seed that grows into a flower but so few about the culture that surrounds our gardens and the things we plant. This book perfectly fills that gap.
And perfect as the writing is, the illustrations still manage to make it even better. Some of them look like botanical prints, they’re so accurate. But at the same time there’s so much character and warmth in them – so many details to spot.
The more I write about this book, the more I could write so I’m going to leave things here, before I get carried away. I maintain what I said though – this really should be a classic.
What’s your list of ‘would-be’ children’s classics?
The Gifts of Autism by Katherine Uher is a fairly rare thing – being one of only a handful of books I’ve come across so far which is both written specifically for children, and aims to highlight the positive aspects of autism.
Whilst other factual books exist about autism, they focus on parts of the condition which might result in a child feeling stigmatised or even inferior to their peers. This book, conversely, describes various autistic traits – as the title suggests – as gifts.
I always feel that you can tell the quality of an alphabet book by the choice of word for the letter Q and this didn’t disappoint – the word ‘Queen’ doesn’t make a tenuous appearance and the alternative word isn’t something entirely un-Q-related with the word ‘quite’ whacked in front. Whilst this might not seem like big praise, but you’d be amazed at how often the above happens, so full marks there!
The book also contains a section designed to encourage self-reflection with a focus on positive autistic traits – indeed, positive traits for anyone to possess. I really like this invitation to praise oneself in detail – whilst drawing in a book, or even drawing-at-all, might not be every child’s cup-of-tea, the art pages can still serve as cues to think about what makes us awesome. Autistic or not, self-praise is something that doesn’t happen nearly enough – particularly not in the UK, where we seem to be bound by some unwritten law to downplay our own achievements for fear of sounding like we’re boasting. I think we’d all feel a lot better if we took the time to acknowledge the things that make us great, whether we’re autistic or not.
I also feel like it’s important to add that this is an excellent book for any child. As I’ve said above, the vast majority books that I’ve found on autism focus on traits that are often perceived as negative, even if the book is trying to take a neutral, fact-based approach. If we want to live in a society which values everyone for the contributions they do make then we need to make sure we that we focus on this when we explain the world. By thinking about the gifts of autism, the condition becomes a lot less isolating and neurotypical children might begin to see their autistic peers in a more positive light. And a little understanding can go a very, very long way.
Do you know of any positive books on autism I might not have come across yet? I’d love to hear about them if you do!
I feel like Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers is the author’s love-letter to planet earth.
Full of Jeffers’ usual humour, beautiful illustrations and important information, this is a lovely book to share with very young, very curious people.
Jeffers talks about land and sea, the sun and stars and everything in between. Familiar characters feature …
… such as The Penguin and The Boy from ‘Lost and Found’, in addition to various other animated animals and people.
There’s not a vast amount that I can say about this book – beyond, “it’s fabulous and you should own it,” – because the subtitle does it all for me. Technically called Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, the book is just that – a series of notations about the world – this is what land looks like, and sea, this is the sky in the daytime and at night, here are constellations, here is a city, here is a forest, it can feel as though time can move slowly or quickly, people are mostly concerned with eating and drinking and staying warm…
There are so many things to like about this book, but they’re the sorts of thing that I can say about any of Jeffers’ works and the title of the book explains the rest, so I’ll just leave you with the above pictures and the promise that there’s a high probability your local library will have a copy you can enjoy…