As I mentioned yesterday, there are things I love and things I don’t in children’s books. Here are a few of these:
- Counting books (usually too didactic & repetitive)
- Books that try to teach (colours, numbers, pretty much anything), particularly the authorless “educational” ones like Baby Einstein … shudder
- Sarcasm and adult humour (so jading for children!)
- Focusing on “are you good?”, punishments and/or “consequences” (Berenstein Bears books are bad for this) as these feel way too manipulative
- Male-centric or non-gender equal texts (note: this doesn’t mean that every book needs a female carpenter or a working mother, but please, try to transcend gender stereotypes a bit. And write about girls: they have adventures too!)
- When things have to fall apart too far (e.g., the first half of the book is a big fight) before they get better, and the getting better part isn’t very well-developed or long
- Leveled reading books, with their corresponding lack of any literary value (some exceptions, notably the Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems)
- A good portion of computer-generated illustrations and some mixed media (nothing wrong with these, but I just don’t enjoy the juxtaposition, for example, of fabric samples with photos with computer art. Mo Willems & the Knuffle Bunny books are again an exception)
What I love:
- Real art for the illustrations, in widely varying styles
- Stories with a twist, imaginative adventures, and/or a focus on relationships, friendship & family
- Stories about girls and women
- Evocations of home and family
In summary: I love real stories, put together with care and skill, that see children as imaginative and discerning readers. I shy away from books that seem designed to manipulate children’s behaviour or act as disguised rote learning activities, put together on the quick and cheap.
Long live children’s literature!