Little books with big ideas

Here are some wonderful little books that deal with some of life’s bigger issues. They are all books that my children and I have enjoyed reading together. They’re not necessarily great for helping beginning readers to read independently (see my earlier post on this topic), but they are all terrific books and well worth sharing with your children, or just reading for your own pleasure!

Once again, please feel free to add your own titles to this list by leaving comments. That way we can all find out about some more fantastic books.

  • Blabey, Aaron (2009) Stanley Paste. Melbourne: Penguin. I can’t recommend this author/illustrator highly enough. I love love love his books! This one (like most of them) is about how it feels to not quite fit in, and what to do about it. Also look out for Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley and Sunday Chutney from the same author.
  • Child, Lauren & Borland, Polly (2005). The princess and the pea. London: Puffin Books. Similar to the traditional tale of the princess and the pea, except that there are some subtle comments to suggest that both the prince and the princess could not care less about royal protocols. They simply want to marry someone they can love and respect. And yes. That is the Polly Borland, the photographer who has been commissioned to take the portrait of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth (among other very famous people)! Gorgeous illustrations in true Lauren Child style.
  • Curtis, Jamie Lee & Cornell, Laura (1997). Tell me again about the night I was born. London: Scholastic. The birth story of an adopted baby. And yes. That’s the Jamie Lee Curtis.
  • Fox, Mem & Smith, Craig (1989) Sophie. Belgrave, Vic: Ian Drakeford Publishing. A sensitive look at the circle of life, and the love between a little girl and her grandfather. I cried the first time I read this one.
  • Fox, Mem & Staub, Leslie (1997) Whoever you are. Rydalmere, NSW: Hodder. This book reminds us that no matter what our religious, cultural or linguistic heritage we are all the same inside.
  • King, Stephen Michael (1995) The man who loved boxes. Gosford, NSW: Scholastic Australia. If you see a Stephen Michael King book, buy it. They are wonderful. This one is a sensitively written and beautifully illustrated story of a man and a son who find a special way to share their love for each other. Great to see a book about a man and children for a change.
  • King, Stephen Michael (2008) Leaf. Lindfield, NSW: Scholastic. This book is a story, but you won’t find it in the words. Any words in this book are more sound effects than sentences. The story, though, is sweet and touching. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
  • Legge, David (1994) Bamboozled. Gosford, NSW: Scholastic. If someone read you this book without showing you the illustrations, you would think it frightfully boring. The pictures carry way more than half the meaning in this story, and you can spend hours just looking at each page, wondering about all the strange things in the grandfather’s house.
  • Levine, Gary & Kroll, Karen (??) 39 ways to open your heart. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press. This is not a children’s book at all, but it is one that I have recently begun sharing with my five-year-old when she’s having a tough day. The artwork is quite beautiful and although the short pithy sayings might be a bit “new age”, they have been a great starting point for some wonderful conversations with my daughter about how to look after your deepest inner most self in what is at times a harsh world.
  • McBratney, Sam & Jeram, Anita (1994) Guess how much I love you. London: Walker Books. A book about what to do when words alone just cannot express your love for someone. I can’t read it to my kids without choking up just a little on the last page…especially if we’ve had one of “those” days.
  • Munsch, Robert N. & Martchenko, M. (1980). The paper bag princess. Gosford, NSW: Scholastic Australia. A great book about a princess who saves the day, rescues the prince and then decides not to marry him after all because he’s such a toad! A lovely twist on the usual gender stereotypes of traditional fairy tales.
  • Reynolds, Peter H. (2003). The dot. London: Walker Books. A book about finding your artistic voice and making your mark on the world. Both my children love this one.
  • Spaulding, Norma & King, Stephen Michael (1998). The little blue parcel. Gosford, NSW: Scholastic Press. “Mr and Mrs Twistangle lived in a little wooden house that crouched at the very edge of the street.” So opens this wonderful little book. How can you not want to read it after an opening like that? Already we know that all is not well in that little house. Deals with jealousy, self-worth, bullying and the gentle art of patience.
  • Vanni, Gian Berto & Siff, Lowell A. (1964) Love. Published in 1989 by Firefly Books, Willowdale, Ontario, Canada. “Part story, part visual play, Love will surprise all who turn its pages.” So says the blurb on the dust jacket. This delightful book is the story of a little girl in an orphanage. She’s not very nice, and people aren’t very nice to her, but love wins out in the end.
  • Wild, Margaret & Vivas, Julie (1989) The very best of friends. Sydney, NSW: Scholastic Australia. Julie Vivas would have to be among my top five favourite illustrators, and Margaret Wild is well known for her great writing for the very young. They team up in this book to deal with death, loss and grief in a way that little ones can understand.
  • Wild, Margaret & Vivas, Julie (1991) Let the celebrations begin. Norwood, SA: Omnibus Books. Another beautiful book from these two, this time dealing with the holocaust in a sensitive way. Don’t worry. It’s not too ‘heavy’ for kids.
  • Waddell, Martin & Benson, Patrick (1986) The tough princess. London: Walker Books. Another role-reversed fairy tale. The princess in this tale fights dragons and hundred-headed monsters and rescues princess. What a girl!
  • Waddell, Martin & Eachus, Jennifer (1994) The big big sea. London: Walker Books. A reminder to sometimes let go of all the ‘rules’ about what time children should be in bed and how they should fall asleep on their own. A very simple story of love.
  • Whatley, Bruce & Smith, Rosie (1994) Whatley’s quest. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. An alphabet book with a difference. Great for kids of all ages.
  • Wojtowicz, Jen & Adams, Steve. (2005). The boy who grew flowers. Bath: Barefoot Books. Another story about staying true to yourself, even when you feel so different to everyone around you.
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