Some of our books are due for a little holiday.
I really don’t have anything against any of these – in fact I really like The Troll, and I enjoy how Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book comes full circle, and the details in the illustrations. But my two-year-old has been on a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler binge for a fortnight now, and I have to call time. He loves Pip and Posy – really, really loves. To a toddler, it seems there’s nothing quite so compelling as an exaggerated drawing of a sad face, and on that front Pip and Posy deliver every time. So I read the books again, and again, because I can put up with a bit of boredom in exchange for my son’s pleasure in telling me, with his mouth turned down at the corners, “Pip sad. Pip SAAAD. Pip cry, cry, cry!”.
But there comes a point where, even to indulge this slightly disturbing delight in other people’s suffering (totally developmentally normal, honest), I just can’t do it again. So all of these are sneaking out of the pile of bedtime books – just back onto the ordinary bookshelf where they’re a bit less conspicuous – and in their place will go some books that don’t make my heart sink. How is it that some books I find it tedious to repeat, and others I have honestly never felt bored with? Some of these books I’ve been reading for ten years now and I still enjoy them even though I am word-perfect without looking at the pages. The Three Little Wolves And The Big Bad Pig can make me laugh out loud even the hundredth time around.
(There Are Cats In This Book by Viviane Schwarz, Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, Kipper’s Birthday by Mick Inkpen, Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee, Olivia by Ian Falconer, The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr).
These are my old friends: some of them I discovered as a parent, some were stories I listened to as a child, though most of my original copies have fallen to bits and been replaced (because they were “very old and broken like Mummy”, as I try not to say too often).
(Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards, Full Full Full of Love by Trish Cooke, Mog the Forgetful Cat and Mog and the Baby by Judith Kerr, Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough, Penguin by Polly Dunbar, I’m Not Cute by Jonathan Allen, Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee).
I’m always looking for new books to read, and despite having more books than we really have space for, we borrow half a dozen from the library every week. Very occasionally, one of them will hit that magic spot where I know I could read it again and again without getting tired of it – I can’t put my finger on what it is about these books, but to get me through the “More! Again! MORE!” toddler months, I cling to them.
Other options to deal with tedious repetition: my daughter wanted Rapunzel read to her every night for what felt like a decade; I found as many different versions of the story as I could get hold of in libraries and second hand book shops and in fairytale collections that we already owned, so there was at least a little variety in our nightly reading. And when another daughter went through a Gruffalo phase, I was happy to read it as long as she’d let me do different accents for each character; I was entertained by the terribleness of my voices and had to concentrate enough to keep track of which voice was whose, and she got her story, so we were both happy. Usually. If she was tired or grumpy she would demand that I “read it in Eng-er-lish”.