Fight Consumer Driven Christmas with Picture Story Books
It is christmas and I have nieces and nephews. Being an aunt at christmas is a darn sight easier than being a mother. I have no idea how my mother managed to organize christmas presents for five children. It is even more amazing as we lived over an hour from a town with a shopping centre and there was no internet shopping to help her out.
For the record I believed in Santa until I finished grade six. My mother cried as she told me. I remained dry eyed. It was for the best as high school was going to be hard enough for me.
It did not feel like a betrayal to me at all. It was also very important that I did not tell the secret to my younger siblings. This also made sense. It made them happy and so excited to believe.
The reason my siblings and I believed in santa so easily was it simply did not seem reasonable that my parents could afford to buy christmas presents for all of us. It seemed like the only plausible explanation was some sort of charitable old man with a silly suit and boundless wealth to share around.
What was unique to my christmases BT ( before truth) and AT (after truth) was the book swag that we all got. Every year my siblings and I would get a small stack of books that my mother would have spent ages in Bendigo trawling the Dymocks but mostly op shops for. From a young age the act of reading was not something you only did to get through school, it was used as a form of gift giving and an act of pure love.
Which is why I am happy to uphold that tradition even if it does not make me the funnest gift giver at christmas. I mean if you are 6 years old and get a picture book and a water pistol, you are more likely to get excited and want to play with the water pistol.
Books play the long game. Books plant seeds of empathy and understanding and emotional intelligence. They also last longer than a plastic thing with batteries. They do not take up much room and do not make any annoying sounds to give primary care givers a head ache or rage black outs.
The other day I got the tram and made my way to the Readings Children’s Book shop on Lygon Street. I could afford to buy brand new books for three children ages 2, 4 and 7 because I am not a home owner with any dependents. The book shop was very air conditioned and an old woman was complaining about it as I walked in and felt the lovely icy air on my bare arms. It was so refreshing. The shop assistant complimented me on my excellent taste. That uni class devoted to children’s literature was paying off.
The very first book was one I had wanted to purchase for a while. It did not escape my attention that the book was hard to find and I needed to ask for assistance. The children I am buying for live in a rural area and so it is important to me to gift books about all kinds of children and all kinds of the lives they lead. Maxine Beneba Clarke is an award winning writer and her children picture book with the brilliant and beautiful illustrations by Van T Rudd shapes a window into a world that is set in a place very far from us but also very familiar: a oldest sibling with ”two crazy brothers” and a ”fed up Mum.” That is the magic and joy of this. Its familiar to me because I came from a family where you made your own fun and it was not store bought.
When I was a little kid I was given the non christmas version of this book. A collection of written letters between fairy tale characters. It was so fun to be able to open other peoples mail and read little letters and cards from the Big Bad Wolf to the Three Little Pigs. I was obsessed with that book. This version is themed and will seem so weird to kids growing up in a digital world. It will show my age and thats all fine. It is just a sneaky way of introducing my niece and nephews to the art of letter writing and snail mail.
Oh, Pig you amazingly sans guile creature. You have done it again in this story about how you go about creating havoc out of jealousy and a need to be the centre of attention. Pig really flips the script of the likability and cuteness perception of his breed. The favourite dog type of Maria Bramford in her Netflix series Lady Dynamite and Abby Jacobs from Broad City. It could be argued that Pig shows what can happen when unearned and unchecked privilege goes unchecked and unexamined. Of course in real life we know that nothing happens to these people. This is a book for children so Pig experiences very satisfying comeuppance. The question remains though: did Pig learn their lesson?
Jon Klasson uses hats in their picture story books to illustrate more complex social ideas and ethics to children. Before this there was I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat. The first is about a lost hat and the second is about a stolen hat.
This third instalment is about two turtles who find a very fetching hat that they both like and look good in. As usual the illustrations show the animals with very expressive eyes that help tell a story with few words but immense meaning. These two turtle friends both want this hat and if you have read the previous books you expect one thing to happen and get delightfully surprised.
This book made me almost squeal in recognition when I saw it. This one is going to be given to my Father. He was a dairy farmer all through my childhood and has a love of anything to do with space. He also created the myth of how I came into existence: Aliens who are my real family dropped me in one of my father’s cow paddocks. They did this on purpose as they did not appreciate me and my weirdness. My father found me in the middle of the night as he was checking irrigation. Its a miracle I didn’t drown or get eaten by a wild cat.
This book for children is also inspired by the 1976 Nicolas Roeg’s iconic science fiction film starring David Bowie called The Man Who Fell To Earth. A film that has a R rating for high impact nudity and sex. I have seen the film at ACMI and purchased the dvd of said film to accompany the picture story book. I should have checked the rating of the film before buying it. Even though not a little kid anymore and should be able to watch an R rated film as a grown up with my parents. Not sex scenes though.
The picture story book is an adorable child friendly adaptation that involves a baby cow who falls to earth and is found by some friendly sheep. It held my attention longer than the film did.