Oh to Write Children’s Books Like These

by limebirdvanessa

I have often thought I would like to write a children’s book. One for quite young children. I have other projects to finish before I could contemplate starting this, but I have been thinking about what type of book I might like to write. As any parent knows, young children will often want the same book read to them over and over and over again. With some books you feel you will quite literally go insane if you have to read them one more time, but others you are quite happy to read repeatedly.

Below are five of my favourite books for young children. These are ones that either or both of my children loved and repeatedly asked for, and that I never tired of reading. If I ever wrote a children’s book, I wish it could be like one of these…

Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, pictures by Clement Hurt

“Goodnight clocks. And goodnight socks. Goodnight little house. And goodnight mouse”

This classic is the perfect bedtime story for very young children. First published in 1947, it has a timeless innocent charm. A little rabbit goes to bed and says goodnight to everything around him. This book is best read in a quiet hushed voice.

Barnyard Dance, by Sandra Boynton

Stomp your feet! Clap your hands! Everybody ready for a barnyard dance! Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Twirl with the pig if you know how”

A lively raucous book that needs to be sung loud, with lots of thigh slapping and “Yeehaa!”s thrown in. Hillarious illustrations, this one was a firm favourite with all of us. There is apparently an audio version of it being sung available, but we just made up our own tune for it!

Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball, by Vicky Churchill, illustrated by Charles Fuge

“…But when the day ends and the sun starts to fall, then I do what I do best of all. I find somewhere soft, somewhere cosy and small. And that’s where I like to curl up in a ball”

A child wombat talks about all the things he likes to do – just having fun jumping high, or pulling silly faces, or walking round in circles. Simple pleasures that young children enjoy. It’s really a poem and has an engaging rhythm and rhyme, with wonderful illustrations that capture each moment perfectly. The book came with a little cuddly toy of the wombat so we could cuddle the character while reading about him.

I Touch, by Rachel Isadora

 

“I touch the bubble, it pops. I touch the newspaper, it crinkles. I touch Daddy’s beard, it’s scratchy”

This book is beautiful in its simplicity. A young toddler explores his world through touch. It didn’t immediately strike me as one that would be a favourite but my son took to it straight away, and it was read almost daily for a while. The reason we liked it is because reading it was a combined effort, I would say the first part of each statement “I touch my bear”, and my son would add the second part “He’s soft”, and he would be so pleased with himself for remembering them all, so I would take pleasure in his delight.

Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr Seuss

“I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am”

I am under no delusion that I could ever aspire to replicate the genius of Dr Seuss, but I couldn’t have a list of favourite children’s books and not include one of his. Dr Seuss featured quite heavily in our reading, and I think Green Eggs and Ham was the most requested story of his. My children loved the silliness and the repetition, and I loved performing it in different voices.

It’s hard to define what makes a great children’s book, one that both children and adults will love. The ones on my list are either very simple with concepts that young children can relate to, or they are silly and fun. Rhythm, rhyme and repetition go down well, and of course the illustrations are very important. One day I plan to write one, and if I were lucky enough to get it published, my hope is that it will be one that is asked for repeatedly by children, but doesn’t render parents insane.

What are your favourite children’s books? Have you ever written any, or thought about writing any yourself?

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29 Responses to “Oh to Write Children’s Books Like These”

  1. Great post Vanessa. Like you I’ve always dreamed of writing a children’s book, maybe more towards the 8- 12 bracket, but I’ve never really got round to actually putting pen to paper. I studied a module at University about the children’s books that you’re talking about and it was really interesting! It’s crazy to think how many aspects go into these picture books that we don’t even think about when reading.

    I say you should go for it! Good luck 🙂

    • Thanks Beth. When I first read your comment there, I thought you meant that you had studied a module at uni about those exact books I mentioned, and I thought “Wow, that’s a coincidence!” but then I realised you must mean the genre, hehe. Yes, I think it’s a mistake to think that because they’re quite simple (Dr Seuss excluded!) that it somehow makes them easy to write, but I don’t think that’s the case at all, as you say, so much thought has to go into them.

  2. Great examples, Vanessa. They do want the same book over and over, that is true and gives me an idea. Something for the two and up set, like a pick the ending in pictures.

  3. The one I enjoyed reading the most was Prince Cinders by Babette Cole, but there were several others. I have also dreamed of writing a children’s book.

    • That wasn’t one that we read, but my list could definitely have been a lot longer, I restricted myself to five! I tend to think that some people write for adults and some people write for children, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do both.

  4. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book as well. My current work in progress is probably aimed more toward 7-8 year old children but I think it would be amazing to write one for a smaller bunch of kids as well.

  5. I’m not familiar with any of the newer books, since I don’t have kids, but I believe I wore out a few copies of “Green Eggs and Ham.” Thanks for the sweet reminder!

    • Thank you, I felt a mixture of happiness and sadness when I took the books out to write this piece. My children saw the little pile I had selected (which was much more than five initially), and with horrified shocked looks on their faces said “You’re not throwing these out are you?!” – it was nice to hear that they still valued them!

  6. Nice post, Vanessa – this sort of topic is one I enjoy revisiting, myself. 🙂

    I was “lucky” enough to have grown up with an older sister who was an avid reader, so the children’s books of my tender years tended to skew slightly older (Harold and the Purple Crayon, Where the Wild Things Are)…but I do remember with such fondness having my sister read them with me. My parents did their fair share, of course, but I always wanted “Dori” to do it! 😀

    My husband and I are real geeks, so – while we do enjoy the classics like Goodnight, Moon – we also had a collection of young superhero books we read to our girls when they were little.

    Thanks for making me smile with this – it’s such a wonderful thing to remember! 🙂

    • That’s really nice that you had an older sister to read the books with you, that must be a lovely memory for her too 🙂

      I don’t know about the newer copies, but on my copy of Goodnight Moon, inside the back cover is a photograph of the writer and the illustrator – in the photo of the illustrator, he is smoking! It always makes me laugh when I see that and think about how much society has changed since then!

      • That is funny! I’m sure part of it is just the age in which we live…but I can’t think of any author or illustrator who’d have their promo photo showing them smoking. Maybe a fringe artist trying to be daring…!

        I think reading was a special way I bonded with my sister. We don’t share much of the same tastes now, decades on, but we likely influenced each other a lot when we were young. My girls are the same age, so they don’t really have a “big sister/little sister” dynamic as much as I experienced, but they still look after one another. 🙂

  7. Best wishes! It’s a genre I know I couldn’t write, it takes a whole different skillset.

    My daughters both loved Ann Can Fly, and in fact learned to read with it. It has a special place in my heart as well for that reason. So too the Berenstein Bears B book.

    • I don’t know whether it’s a genre I could write either, but it’s something I’d like to try. I’m not a good enough illustrator though, so I’d need to find a good illustrator to collaborate with on it.

  8. Lovely post and sentiments. I am not familiar with all of those books, only Goodnight Moon, Green Eggs & Ham, and Barnyard Dance.

    Like Mayumi, I don’t recall much of early childhood books read to me (aside from Dr. Seuass), but I remember several I read on my own. A personal favorite is Ferdinand by Leaf Munroe (I think that’s the author). I also loved a series written by Thornton Burgess, a whole bunch of stories about various animals and their adventures–it’s quite an old series, I doubt kids these days have ever read them.

    I have a children’s book idea in mind, but I can’t imagine when I’d have the time to sit down and actually write it. It would be a book geared towards locals and tourists, so even though it would be written in voice suitable for children, all ages might enjoy it because of the local flavor. Who knows, maybe one day.

    • The other two books aren’t very well known, they just happened to be ones in our collection that we took to.

      I don’t think I was read to a great deal as a child either, I certainly don’t have many memories of it. If I was, it was probably more by my grandmother who I spent a lot of time with, than by my parents.

  9. Any of the Little Golden Books, or anything by Dr. Seuss, Winnie-The-Pooh, of course and my daughter loved the goodnight book too. I remember my Mom reading “A Childs Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson to us, and I remember her reading all the bible stories to us from that big blue hardcover book, the one we all used to see at the dentists office here in the states. We had our own set.
    I had forgotten those lovely memories, thank you.

    • It’s funny thinking back isn’t it to the books we loved as a child, and the ones our children loved. When I was putting this post together I was thinking about the last time I would have read any of those books to them, and how I wouldn’t have realised at the time that it was going to be the last reading of them, and wondered whether it was a sudden stop or a gradual stopping – I can’t remember.

  10. I wasn’t ever read bedtime stories when I was little and I remember always being really jealous when I visited friends houses and they had stack of books that looked really fun, I was always particularly jealous of Each Peach Pear Plum and The Jolly Postman! Having said that I did once find a Superted book in my house and can still recite the entire thing now!
    Writing a book like this sounds fun but really hard work! I think it’s really difficult to make a career as a writer on these books too because the advance is so small, a friend of mine wrote 16 books in one year and still wasn’t earning all that much!

    • It’s funny the things we get jealous of as children, it’s generally not the things the parents would imagine we are jealous of at all!

      16 books in one year is going some, you’d imagine they’d be doing very well with that – I guess like with most writing, we do it for love mainly…

  11. I miss reading bedtime stories! Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was a favorite because it was the first book my daughter “read” herself. She had it memorized, but no matter.

    • Actually Chicka Chicka Boom Boom still sits on our shelves, and did make it into the shortlist when I was writing this post, but it didn’t make the final cut because I remembered that I did get a bit tired of reading it, and this list had to be books that I was always happy to read.

  12. I remember the Little Golden books, too, and of course, Dr. Seuss. My older sister taught me to read at a very young age, so I probably started reading to myself before most kids. It takes a lot of talent to write a good children’s book, and I don’t think that’s where my strengths lie….

    • I didn’t think I remembered the Little Golden books, but I’ve just seached them out, and yes, several of them did feature heavily in our collection, in fact I had completely forgotten about The Poky Little Puppy which was a big fave when my daughter was tiny. I’m looking forward to having a go at writing one sometime!

  13. I did a post a few months back on exactly why “Green Eggs and Ham” is Seuss’ Best Book Ever. I stand by my ramblings: http://mikeallegra.com/2012/03/04/dishing-out-much-more-than-eggs/

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