There are many reasons to love a book, and just as many to loathe one. Everyone has their own triggers. Inspired by Aimee Bender’s wonderful article on Goodnight Moon in the NYT’s writing blog back in 2014, we have spent a lot of time thinking about what we look for in children’s books. We are very conscious of rhyme, but above all rhythm. Narrative is essential. And they have to be well written. When you read them for the hundredth time, certain lines grate. Sweet is good; mawkishly sentimental wears thin quickly. We are also very aware of the messages the kids are absorbing through them.
There are a small number of books to which my response is ‘Mummy doesn’t read that one, ask Daddy,’ because I know it doesn’t drive Daddy to screaming point by the second line. And vice versa. I’m not a robot, and reading is an act of sharing.
Despite best efforts in selection, some books we started out with only to realise our mistake with horror as the book we could no longer bear had become a child’s favourite. It seems cruel to criticise too strenuously, but you won’t believe my enthusiasms if I don’t also point out some of the problems. Read the series for more!