A quick overview
I’ve been thinking a lot about children’s literature lately: what’s good, what’s interesting but bad for sensitive kids, what’s local and how it compares with the international stuff… And just in time I received two lovely new books:
– A Scarlet Tail (An Original African Tale) – Susan Long & Claire Norden
– Pig and Small – Alex Latimer
We’ve read both at bedtime and had requests for repeats, so that’s a good sign.
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A Scarlet Tail is about a handsome and athletic African Grey parrot named, of allstrange things, Nebuchadnezzar the Third. He and his fellow birds are practising their aerial acrobatics for the annual aero-display and later, he is joined by his best mate, Belinda the Bee, to play some hide and seek in the jungle. It’s a simple and unremarkable plot but, my goodness, what absolutely spectacular writing!
Kiddie book rhymes are usually a bit forced. Not these. The verse is inspired. Clever, ironic, fun for parents to read, and full of delicious words. It’s rare that I enjoy reading a book more than my little one enjoys hearing it (and that I marvel at every phrase and word choice). And the illustrations are glorious: bright, compelling, detailed.
Suggested age: Start reading this one to your littlies at 3 or 4, then leave for a while, and come back to it in Grades R, 1 and 2. You should then hang onto it for the later primary school years, because the vocabulary is totally amazing!
Pig and Small reminds me a lot of the writing of Mo Willems (creator of the Gerald and Piggie books), because it’s irreverent, full of funny details that only parents will spot and light on text (making it easy to read to a toddler at bed-time). It’s also heavy on magnificent illustrations and very strong on the final moral: namely, that two friends can be very, very different but still find things to enjoy together.
This one doesn’t rhyme, but it’s still fun to read and lovely to discuss afterwards.
Suggested age: You could start reading this one to kiddies aged 2.5 onwards.
Both books are published by Random House & available at book stores/online.
This article was originally written for Jozikids by Tiffany Markman in 2014.
Note: If you enjoyed this article, read Good books are out here, and other stories by Tiffany Markman.