Inspiration From The Distant Past

Inspiration From The Distant Past
Found note in an old book... warms the cockles of my bookish heart...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Aussie baby books

What to give a baby? Books, of course! My beautiful great niece was about four months old and I still hadn't given her anything. See, I don't usually give gifts to the unborn, and just hadn't found the right gift. Part of my problem was a determination to give this little Texan something made in Australia. Of course everything here is made in China, just like all over the world and I was searching in vain. And because she's there and I am mostly here, I wasn't sure of colours, tastes and sizes for clothing.

Finally, a lovely friend reminded of books for babies. She commented on how much her baby girl loved the books I had given her a year or so ago. I had forgotten, I suppose, but she said her little one was responding to books at six weeks. Mine were too, but that seems so long ago. So I sought out some Aussie board books for wee ones. They must be board books, to be chewed, bashed and played with. I found a couple of good ones.

Jackie French is an author I feel close to because I started reading her articles in the back to basics magazine Earth Garden many, many years ago. She seems like a distant aunty or long-time pen pal. Her personal story is interesting: she started writing in a desperate attempt to pay some bills and she is dyslexic. So I bought Princess the book Diary of a Wombat, illustrated by Bruce Whatley.

It is just what it says-- a recount of a week from the point of view of a marsupial. Oddly I never read this one to my own kids, but I was amused to hear my twelve year old reading it aloud to her little sister and a thirteen year old friend on the way home from the shop. The story is so charming, you can't help smiling. Mothball the wombat does a lot of sleeping, but works hard to train the humans that live nearby, and they do eventually catch on. In the end she concludes, 'Evening: Have decided that humans are easily trained and make quite good pets.'

My other choice was Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek. Again, hearing this during the back seat recitation was strange. See, this book is my main foreign language teaching source with children from about three to five years old. My little students love doing hand gestures to the story, and reciting along with me. There's no Italian or French publication that I can find. I just translated it myself and show the kids the pictures in the English version, a copy of which is in almost every kindy or grade one classroom in Australia. So, I had never read it out loud in English and hadn't realized it actually rhymed!

Obviously, the main idea is the search for the Green Sheep, and we have to meet lots of other sheep before we find him. For example, 'Here is the near sheep. And here is the far sheep. Here is the moon sheep. And here is the star sheep.' The story ends as we find that elusive sheep, asleep curled up behind a bush like Little Boy Blue…er, Green. Ending a bedtime story with a character asleep is great. Sets a good example, see?

While in the post office I saw a book by Pamela Allen with a magpie on the front, called Waggle Giggle Gargle. They are charming Aussie birds that make a fun sound (click here to hear it). This one's new to me, but I've always loved her books, and I popped it in the package. Princess' Mum and Dad will have to tell us if she likes it.

So I hope Princess' parents read her lots of books, especially ones to teach her about her family in Australia. And I hope they let her chew them, too.

Which books would you buy for a baby?


  1. +JMJ+

    When one of my cousins was about to celebrate her first birthday, her mother asked everyone to buy board books for her. They would be "starter books" that would familiarise her with the wonders of reading and yet be sturdy enough to survive teething and other baby indignities!

    I'm also reminded of former US First Lady Nancy Reagan's request that guests bring "grown up" books (my faulty memory's term, not her own) to her unborn baby's shower. She wanted to start building a library for her child, and asked her friends to contribute their own favourite books, for the baby to read when she got older.

    As for me, I'd probably buy the complete set of Beatrix Potter books for the little kid! =)

  2. I always do this! I had forgotten about Diary of a Wombat which my little brother had (he was born in Adelaide though we are American) and it's actually available in the US. These days I always bring my friends' kids books as my "hostess gift" when I am staying over. Always goes over well! I recommend Babies by Gyo Fujikawa and the sequels.

  3. For toddlers: My grandkids LOVE Blue Hat Green Hat -- Dear Zoo -- and I Know a Rhino. I always give books. It's important to start the love of reading BEFORE they can get down off the lap.

  4. Great ideas, Readers.
    En, I like the idea of a library starting before they are born!
    Carin, don't tell me it's available there when I've just paid international postage! Silly me...
    Kim, I'll keep my eye out for those ones.

  5. I always give board book as baby gifts too. It is never too early or too late to introduce babies to reading. Helps stimulate the brain to build communication, language and literacy skills.

    I know you educators know this-- but everyday people don't know that rhyming is a pre-literacy skill. You wouldn't believe how many parents haven't played silly rhyming games with their babies or sang nursery rhymes or read rhyming books.

    Even worse, many parents haven't even read any board books to baby. I actually use board books to stimulate language for my 3-5 yr old language delayed kids-- sounds sad I know--- but they drink the little baby books up-- and like I said it is never too late to stimulate the brain.

    I have actually considered providing a workshop or video on how to read to newborns, infants, toddlers because you don't read to them the same way. Many parents especially in poor socio-economic area have no clue how to share books with their babies. Many of them were never read to either.

    OK-- this rambling mini-rant should probably be a blogpost someday. I put it on the TBB list.

  6. Courtney LammertMay 4, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    Princess, Cate, loves the books. She really likes when we read together. She enjoys holding board books, so that was a PERFECT gift! Those books are all so cute. I often teach with another book by Mem Fox. It is called Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. She is a great author.

    The wombat book is so cute. I love that Cate has some books about Australian topics. I know she will treasure them for many, many years. That is so special. Someday we really need to bring her to Australia so she can actually see what it is all about.

    We love our Aunt DeLynne, Uncle Alan, and cousins Izzy and Adele!

  7. We would so cheerfully baby-proof the house and drag out the Duplo for a visit from Princess Cate!

    Love to you all three.


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