As the father of two young children, I have read many Julia Donaldson books at bedtime. Here are two favourite children’s books & and my fond memories attached to them.
The Influence Of Julia Donaldson
There is no doubt that Julia Donaldson is a children’s writer who has had a mammoth impact on the lives of millions of children and parents around the world. The influence she has wielded on the minds and imaginations of little people is hard to imagine.
As a fiction author, I can only imagine how it would feel to have generations of children, parents and grandparents sharing my stories. It must be amazing to have so many people hold such positive, fond memories of their work. To imagine young children curling up in bed with a parent or grandparent to listen to stories, like The Gruffalo, Room On The Broom and Zog during the formative years would be amazing. However, very few authors ever have a career with as much longevity or influence as Julia Donaldson.
Being an experienced educational professional, I also look at the power that such writers have over early literacy development in toddlers and babies. Academic research expresses the importance of reading to young children from an early age. Simply exposing them to a wide array of stories, words, and meaningful conversation profoundly affects early literacy skills.
In this new series of creative writing blog articles, I will share how particular fiction books, authors, or genres have influenced me. I hope to share some of my favourite books and my journeys into building a reading list of new authors or genres and some books that have impacted me as a writer.
In this article, I wish to share two books from Julia Donaldson that have given me some of the fondest memories of any book I have ever read. To share books with one’s son and daughter for the first time is one of my most cherished memories as a parent. To hear them giggle, recite passages and become engrossed with a story is one of the most magical experiences a parent can have.
What is your most treasured children’s book? Share it in the comments box below and tell others why.
A Squash And A Squeeze
Whereas many young children’s favourite Julia Donaldson book is The Gruffalo, my son’s first book was A Squash And A Squeeze. I remember walking through Coleraine towards Waterstones with my son, Ollie, in his buggy. He was only two years old, and I wanted to buy him a copy of the book as I’d heard a teacher read it in the primary school I worked in at the time.
Ollie had been read with from the day he was born. As the son of two teachers, it would be hard to escape such treatment. Throughout his reading repertoire of such classics as, ‘That’s Not My Dinosaur’ and various touch and feel books, I wanted him to have something new.
I returned to my mother-in-law’s house in Portstewart and sat down with Ollie in the lounge with the book. I closed the door and sat with my son on my knee as he asked, ‘Wassat?’, pulling at the book. I explained that we were going to read a new book together.
As a father for the first time, this was a crucial moment. I was brought up by my mum, and I always wanted to share stories with my children whenever that time came. Sitting on the settee, with Ollie cuddled into my chest, I read the book over and over that weekend. It was the first story that I consider sharing with my son and, as a father, it was terrific.
My daughter, Lucie, is an incredibly creative child. Most days, she asks to draw, paint and generally make a massive mess with art materials. Once she has finished, she carries it in with pride and explains what she has created in detail. With such an artistic, creative mind, it may come as no surprise that her favourite Julia Donaldson book is Paper Dolls.
From a very young age, Lucie has loved the idea of the paper dolls coming alive and floating from place to place around the little girl’s house. She would regularly skip through our home, with crudely torn pieces of paper claiming they were, ‘Ticky and Tacky and Jackie the Backie and Jim with two noses and Joe with the bow’. The creative mind and playful nature that this book appeared to instil in Lucie were amazing to see as a father, and it made storytimes a joy.
As we see the little girl use her imagination to play with slippers and oven gloves, we get a glimpse of the playful mind of such young children. This is something we all see and hear as parents, when walking past our children’s bedroom doors. The sound of their wittering and acting out the roles of multiple characters as they swish their toys around is something that warms our hearts. We could be forgiven for potentially longing for the days when we did such things as children.
At the end of the story, when we see what happens to the paper dolls, we are introduced to multiple trinkets stored within the little girl’s memory. Everything from sweets and pictures, to a kind grandmother and a mobile from above the little girl’s crib, is described. This part of the book always brings about the question of, ‘Why is the girl’s granny there? Both of my grannies come to see me’. I never have the heart to discuss this further.
As a teaching professional, I have always been interested in the outburst of the little boy when he gets hold of the paper dolls. His act of destruction has always intrigued me. By reading into the history of Julia Donaldson, and the tragic story of her son, there is an added emphasis on the little boy. There is no doubt that we, as readers, can see that the memory of Hamish is always with her and his inclusion in Paper Dolls is a heartwarming tribute.
When I think of this book, and the memories I have been able to build with my own little girl, it makes me hope that she does the same with her children someday.
Forging Memories With Julia Donaldson
Writers like Julia Donaldson have a critical job in using their craft to encapsulate young children’s imagination for the first time. To help them develop the early signs of language, phonetics and rhyme with lovable, memorable characters that stay with our children and us for years.
I will continue to look back fondly on that weekend, listening to Ollie chime, ‘Skosh and Skeez!’. I’ll also smile fondly when I remember Lucie curl up into my side at bedtime as she rhymed off the names of the paper dolls.
Children’s books are vital to helping our young children learn, develop imagination and develop an ever-expanding vocabulary for later life. However, sharing such stories builds more than a love of books – they make memories between parents and children that can influence our grandchildren and beyond.