In Praise of Picture Books

An extraordinary newspaper headline this week, caused me to choke on my muesli, and no doubt a few coffee cups were spilled in cafes around the capital as readers took in the implications of the story. Picture Books Hurt Reading – has created a commotion in children’s bookshops, schools, libraries and families. After all, we all have our favourite picture books. As I write this, dozens of people are casting votes for Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Diary by Lynley Dodd to be named a Great Kiwi Classic.

According to the article the linguist who has done the research found ‘picture books stunted imagination’. That’ll be news to children’s book fans, whose imagination has been stretched and kindled by beautiful and intriguing illustrations in fiction and non-fiction. In fact we’d be hard put to put together a non-fiction book for early readers that didn’t have pictures. Can you conceive of a book for young children about the ocean without illustrations of dolphins, whales, octopus etc?

I can only hope that the headline and the quotes are out of context.

Picture books bring children to reading by engaging and delighting them with images that complement and elaborate on stories, and informing them and arousing their curiosity about the world.

Summer Non-Fiction

Before the summer holiday, I’d stocked up on a pile of non-fiction books from Craig Potton Publishing. My pick of these for an informative and entertaining read is: Tramping – a New Zealand history by Shaun Barnett and Chris Maclean.

There is the pleasure of course of dipping in to a bookshop or two while on holiday. I first visited Alice and Gertrude bookstore and cafe in Sydney and only wished it hadn’t been quite so crowded and that I’d had more time. I’ll be back next time I’m there to enjoy the combination of good food and browsing a wide range of second hand books. Later in Bowral, NSW I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of the beautifully presented Latin for Birdwatchers in a shop window. It lured me into the shop, and to make a purchase. I think this is just a perfect gift book. I was really pleased to find Mapping our World here, which sits on the coffee table of my hosts in Sydney. I couldn’t leave Australia without my own copy and only wish I’d been in Canberra for the exhibition that it’s based on.