Twenty three years ago, I was heavy with child – my first child. I didn’t have much stuff for this new baby – very few clothes, or anything really, but I had a shelf crammed full of picture books ready to read. The only parenting books I had read concerned children’s books – they were inspiring and had me very excited about becoming a Mum and being able to introduce my baby to the wonderful world of books. (Honey for a child’s heart by Gladys Hunt and Babies need books by Dorothy Butler – alas this is out of print!)
Perhaps I was mad, maybe I still am. I have no baby clothes left – they either fell to pieces or were passed on, but I still have those books and more books and they have remained with us and are still used either by us or little visitors.
I was recently looking through my bookshelves for my books by Shirley Hughes and was unable to find them. I was a little perplexed and puzzled about what had happened to them. Late last week, they appeared on my kitchen table – a lovely pile of old friends. I had lent them to a friend who now has four young children, but in my usual muddleheaded way had no memory of this. She has been enjoying reading these with her children and they have now returned to me. I took a photo of some of these books by Shirley Hughes – they are a little battered, but they are still cherished.
My first baby, a son is a passionate reader and has a wonderful job two days a week working at a local bookstore. It is one of my favourite shops to visit and I have just returned from visiting to buy some books for babies about to be born. Much to my surprise I discovered that there were no books by Shirley Hughes on their shelves – why? They are not readily available locally. They can be ordered from overseas but will take four to six weeks to arrive. They are available from the Book Depository.
This makes me so sad! Shirley Hughes is a gifted writer and illustrator. Her books capture the world of small children and she communicates profound thoughts simply and imaginatively. Lucy and Tom’s abc helped me talk to my children about many things, including: friends: “f is for friends…sometimes Tom and James get cross with each other, but friends are important people so you can’t be cross for long” – what a lovely way to introduce the idea that you might have conflict with your friend but you can get over it and make up. Or getting sick: “i is for ill. This is Tom being ill in bed. He needs a lot of things to play with. Even then, he gets very hot and bored and keeps calling out for people to come and amuse him.” Tom’s face says it all. This book was fun to read, it introduced many different concepts and opportunities to talk with my children about the stuff of life.
Alfie – how I love Alfie! The books about Alfie and his little sister Annie Rose are delightful. The story of when Alfie lends a hand – captures the dilemma Alfie faces when he insists on taking his blanket to a birthday party and then needs both hands for holding hands in a circle game and helping his friend Min feel safe – he has to make a big decision – he can’t do this and hold his blanket. Dogger introduces us to Dave and Bella. Bella again has to make a big decision – a wise and good decision for her brother Dave who has lost his precious Dogger and Bella manages to rescue him. I am sure that my children learnt much from being read Shirley Hughes’ books again and again and again. Shirley Hughes describes the world of the child with much honesty and her characters make wise decisions. They are inspiring characters. Navigating much in life involves growing in wisdom. Such picture books are a wonderful tool for helping us teach our children about life in all its complexities.
I do want to support my local bookstore, and I bought a lovely collection of picture books I can use as gifts to welcome these babies to the world, but I would LOVE to be able to buy books by Shirley Hughes locally. I certainly suggested this local bookstore have these books readily available.