Returning to discover something new

When I started this blog at the beginning of the year, it was to share a parent’s perspective on children’s books and on reading with my children. And I’ve tried to set out some of my thoughts about the blog and about why I write it in the pages here. As I’ve gone along, I’m aware of feeling that I need to review what is new. Will I be telling you about authors you haven’t heard of, books that have just been published? Sometimes.

But I don’t review books when I first find them, first buy them, first read them. Because if I did, I could only give you my perspective, and what I’m trying to share is mine and my children’s perspective, the experience of a book with them. So I wait. I wait until they’re engaged, until we’ve read it several times, until I can start to observe their response as the book becomes familiar and my children develop a relationship with it.

And sometimes they’re interested, and sometimes it’s months later that a book I thought they’d passed by suddenly engages their attention. Or, as has happened recently, they read a book over and over and then stop for months – before coming back to it again. Over the last few weeks, my daughter has reunited us with gorgeous books that we loved, and I reviewed, and then she put aside.

We’ve been reading Juana Martinez-Neal’s Zonia’s Rain Forest again, and this time the cleared trees and damaged land seem to resonate more for her. She’s still interested in the animals and counting them, but now when we turn the page she says ‘The planet is hurt.’ She’s growing up, understanding more, connecting ideas she’s heard in other places – and so many of these gorgeous, rich books are there to grow with her, yielding more, teaching, inspiring, encouraging her each time she goes back to them.

To my delight, she asked for ‘the one with the hands’, and after a couple of false starts, I realised she meant Dancing Hands, one of my favourites from Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez – and it is delicious and poetic and lyrical all over again. And – music to my ears – the call, ‘Will you read me the Secret of the Tattered Shoes?’ (by Jackie Morris, illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi) in all its melancholy but uplifting beauty.

The lessons for me? Every book has its day, eventually. And keep them accessible, for serendipitous re-discovery.

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