A Gruffalo stance*

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book benchVisitors to Nottingham’s Central Library may have spotted the Gruffalo and his friends in the window recently. I took E in there last week so that she could see the Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler bookbench which is pride of place.

If you haven’t heard of the bookbenches before, they were scattered around London last summer as part of the National Literacy Trust’s reading trail – there were 50 benches, all representing different London-based authors, and they attracted a lot of attention before being auctioned off to raise money for the charity. I passed the library the other day and saw the Donaldson one in there and immediately made plans to take E to see it. Julia Donaldson is her favourite author.

Now, Julia Donaldson doesn’t need any publicity from me. This isn’t a sales pitch, merely a grateful thanks from a parent who wants to teach her child to love books. I was vaguely aware of her books as a non-parent, but now I can quote several by heart. And I love them as much as E does.

I think I’ve mentioned before E’s love for her toy witch – bought for her alongside a copy of Room on the Broom, as well as a toy dragon from the same book. We also have the Room on the Broom app and, now it’s no longer on i player, I’ll have to get the DVD. E can quote it by heart. Many a car journey we spend talking through what happens – “what does the dog find?” “Who finds the bow?” and so on.

We own nearly all of the Donaldson/ Scheffler books – I love the illustrations. Tabby McTat’s illustrations show such a realistic and diverse, thriving city, and in all of them I like the beetles with smiley faces. The Snail and the Whale often makes me cry – as well as having a nice message about mankind’s effect on nature and a plucky female heroine! I also like trying to spot the Gruffalo in the illustrations for other books. He’s in most, except the Smartest Giant in Town and A Squash and a Squeeze.

But other Donaldsons are coming through – there are so many of them – and with so many brilliant illustrators. For younger children the Nick Sharratt ones are good – really bright colours and simple stories. E likes Goat goes to Playgroup and Hippo Has a Hat. We were also recommended The Paper Dolls with illustrations by Rebecca Cobb, which in turn has led us onto reading her books (Aunt Amelia is great).

Essentially, I find you can pick up any of her books and find something to immediately engage a child. So she becomes a default option, standard and reliable, as well as also providing something for the adults reading her. There are additional benefits. E has taken a huge interest in S’s ancient Observer guide to Freshwater Fish and as such, can point to a picture of a sturgeon and name it. This is due to reading Tiddler. (I’m not sure if I’m proud or slightly unnerved by this ability…)

The book bench remains at Nottingham Central Library for another couple of weeks and then is going on tour around some the city’s libraries! You can tweet @readingnottm for more information.

*I’ve been teaching E some Neneh Cherry lyrics but she misheard.

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