How (Not) To Choose Books Your Children Will Love

I went into a book-shop this morning to gather some inspiration for this blog.


I love books. I love writing. I love reading.

But my all-time favourite thing to do is to read with children.

This morning, inspired by recently baby-sitting a very sweet 2 1/2 year old, I went to the local bookshop – the only book-shop in the entire council region.

I would have had a lovely time

except that

as soon as I found the children’s section (my favourite section) I heard

‘The Manager’ instructing his juniors on how to run a book shop.


I did not try to listen.

But I heard him. Everyone inside the shop–and probably outside the shop–heard him.


When a writer goes into a book-shop, she should almost be in heaven.

Not this morning.


When I venture into a book-shop I usually pick up a book, caress the texture of its cover and marvel at the book design; check out the title and author; and  re-experience that great excitement of opening up a book that’s new to me, or a new version of an old, loved book.

And if I’m really, really lucky, I feel that delicious crisp, slidy-crackle as the page edges peel apart for the very first time.

Not this morning.


I love to pick up old-favourites and reread the pace and rhythm of great writers. I rarely leave a bookshop without reading at least one of Mem Fox’s stories, and I hear her in my memories of the audio-tapes my children listened to every day when they were small.

But not this morning.


The Manager’s voice had no rhythm.

He didn’t teach about books or words or rhymes or rhythms. He didn’t take a book and stroke it, and demonstrate how to love it.

He spoke only of shelves and sales and stock-take.


My heart sank.


I left the children’s section, went to the bargain table, picked out some trustworthy classics, took them to the counter and handed them to The Manager.

‘I’m writing a blog about children’s books,’ I said. ‘Which is your favourite children’s book?’

‘I don’t have one.’

I wanted to give him another prompt, but my astonishment rendered me mute. He continued without prompt.

‘I left children’s books in my childhood. I don’t have children. Children and children’s books are of no interest to me.’

By this time, I’d managed to pick up my jaw from off the floor.

‘So, if a parent asked you for a recommendation, what would you say?’

I’d ask them about the child’s interests.’

‘And how about a grandparent asking for their two-year-old grand-child?’

‘Then I’d find out more about the desires of the purchaser.’

The pay-wave machine beeped.

The Manager handed me my bag of books–which was much smaller than usual.

And I left–no longer wondering why children are losing their love of books.


Let’s not leave the blog there:

Which are your favourite children’s books?

Which books have your kids worn out?

What do you love about them?

What are you currently reading?

What do your kids love about them?

Please let us know your recommendations.




3 thoughts on “How (Not) To Choose Books Your Children Will Love”

  1. Forgot to say that I went through a spate of giving children “Where the Wild Things Are” and “the Very Hungry Caterpillar” for birthday presents.

    I have a friend who has translated “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” into Kyrgyzstanese (???) – and it’s great for the kids learning to read as they can get most of the same foods in the book in their country (many kinds of food they can’t get normally).

  2. Oh no! That’s so sad.
    My favourite book that I read time and time again when I was small was “Little Blue and Little Yellow” and it was about two coloured dots who met and merged and made green. It was my favourite and I couldn’t get enough of it. I think of it often as I mix paint and hand paint my lino prints. My brother had two favourite books that he would re-borrow constantly from the library “Sharpur the Carpet Snake” and another little gem about Homer (can’t remember the real title) but Homer has little mishaps throughout his day and every second page has ‘”Beans” said Homer and off he went!’ I’d love to illustrate a children’s book one day but it might take me a while. I love Robert Ingpen’s illustrations – he’s in his 80s now and his work was featured recently on Channel 2. His work is subtle and brilliant. He’s one in a long list of favourite illustrators.
    I love reading “The book with no pictures” to my great nieces and nephew and they love it too.

    1. ‘The Book with No Pictures’ has been a hit with every child I’ve read it with, since your recommendation. Thank you!

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