Real Books to Read

I'm a Hungry Dinosaur‘Real’ books to read are sought after by those introducing young children to the exciting and vital world of reading. Many picture books are invaluable in opening children’s minds and imaginations to story but only a small number of these can actually also be read by readers at the earliest stages of reading for themselves (although don’t discount children’s memorisation of text as not being reading – they see it as such and it should be affirmed as a stepping stone).

These select ‘real’ books are examples of quality literature, appealing story and are easy enough to read.

Repetition of, generally, simple words is the key. There can be exceptions if some words are interesting enough though – and their meaning supported by the illustrations.

MaxsBear_BoardBook_CoverA series about a little boy called Max by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson (Gecko Press) has just been re-issued in board book form. These sturdy books are great for very young children to manhandle but can also be used to introduce reading. The three books in the series look at simple events in Max’s day and feature Max, his dog and his bear.

The simple, repetitive text in Max’s Bear begins:

Here is Max’s dog.

Here is Max.

Here is Max’s bear.

And continues:

Max kisses the bear.

Max licks the bear.

Max bites the bear.

Max throws the bear.

Children will enjoy the realistic humour.

Max’s Wagon re-introduces us to the characters and format and Max’s Bath humorously relates all the things that fall into Max’s bath.

Where is PimA step up, but still easy to read is Where is Pim? by Lena and Olof Landstrom (Gecko Press) about a dog who takes off with a toy. An adult could start reading this picture book aloud and encourage a child to join in when the text becomes very predictable:

Is that Pim?

No, that’s a bag.

Is that Pim?

No, that’s a can.

As with many other books, children will spontaneously often join in on subsequent readings – ‘reading’ along as well. To help the reading process, remember to point to the words when you’re reading picture books to young children when it suits – not if you’re getting in the way, though.

I'm a Dirty DinosaurRhythmic text is another aid to helping young children read. Janeen Brian and Ann James have just duplicated the success of I’m a Dirty Dinosaur (Puffin Books) – which James illustrated with clay from her dam and coloured pencils) in I’m a Hungry Dinosaur. Both these books have a rhythmic, ‘join-in’ text, with plenty of repetition:

I’m a hungry dinosaur,

Oh, the cake looks nice.

I’ll chomp and chew

A piece or two …

Maybe one more slice!

And Ann James has even used actual chocolate icing and hundreds and thousands in her illustrations. The cake looks delectable.

Dog In, Cat Out

Another old favourite by Ann James is Dog in, Cat Out with text by Gillian Rubinstein.

Dr Suess, of course, also ticks all these boxes, including humour – a child magnet.

Green Eggs and Ham



Stephen Michael King’s Baker’s Dozen – Classics you’ve read to your kids

Every now and then it’s nice to reflect and remember the golden moments of yesterday. And nothing conjures up warm, snugly memories better than a magic word or two, shared and cherished with those you love.

Stephen Michael KingWhen I asked children’s illustrator author, Stephen Michael King, what his reading list looked like, he trumped the idea with a list of classics reads, dredged up from his recollection of days spent reading them with his children.

Have a look. Do you recognise any of your favourites? Perhaps you’ve shared one or two of them yourself…

One dozen classic stories I’ve (Stephen Michael King) read with my children.

It was going to be ten but I had to add two more. Whoops three more . . . the title should read thirteen classic books I’ve read with my children. Here’s his baker’s dozen.

The Terrible underpants The Terrible Underpants – (with voices) You can’t say the name Wanda Linda without doing a silly voice. Kaz Cooke – Penguin Books

Green Eggs and Ham – I had to read every page in one breath. It’s lots of fun as the text grows and my face turns blue. Dr Seuss – HarperCollins

 Mr Magnolia – I love it, so my children had to love it too. Simple problem/perfect solution! I’ve read it easily three hundred times. It didn’t worry me if my children were already asleep. Quentin Blake – Random House UK

My Uncle is a Hunkle – My daughter asked me to read this at her preschool. I used my best ever cowboy voice. We must have read this book together about a hundred times. I feel like crying when I imagine her laughing in my arms. Lauren Child – Hachett Children’s Books

Where the Wild Things Are – I read this hundreds of times too. Its story and art are timeless but its design is what hypnotises me every time. Maurice Sendak – Harper Collins Inc.

The Hobbit – I read this to my son when he was in primary school and we were both so proud we read it together before the movie was released. My daughter read it to herself a few months before the movie’s release. She’s equally satisfied. JRR Tolkien – HarperCollins

Peter Pan – I read this with my daughter and we both loved how Peter killed pirates and yelled “Cock a Doodle Doo”. We love the movies but the book is an earthy adventure not to be missed. J M Barrie – Vintage

hover-car-racerHover Car Racer – My brilliant wife suggested I read this. If you want to introduce your son to books and you need to twist his dad’s arm to read . . . then this is the book. I had a lot of work on at the time but this book kept me connected. I read it once to my son, then to my daughter, and then my son asked me to read it again. Matthew Reilly – Pan Macmillan Australia

The Importance of Being Ernest – (with voices) Who would have guessed! What an experience! Father and daughter magic! I had a different voice for every character. Occasionally I would use the wrong voice or say a random stupid word. It was so much fun. Oscar Wilde – Penguin Group

Danny the Champion of the World – What can I say? I own an autographed copy. When I first read this book I wished I lived like Danny in a caravan with my dad. A Message to Children Who Have Read This Book – When you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important: a stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY. Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl– Random House UK

Midnite Midnite – (with illustration by Ralph Steadman). My Mum gave me this book. I read it when I was eight, nine or ten. Can’t remember exactly when! It was a joy to dust off the old copy and read it again. Over forty years after it was written, father and son had a rollicking good time! Randolph Stow – Penguin Books

Nicabobinus – I read this in a dusty corner when I worked in a children’s library and had to contain my laughter. Both my children read this book on their own steam. I heard waves of freeform laughter coming from their rooms. Terry Jones– Penguin Books

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – I first read this because I admired the old ink illustration. I then chose to read it to my daughter because it has a great girl character and wolves. Joan Aiken – Vintage Children’s Classics

Thanks to SMK for this beautiful list, and Roald Dahl for his sage advice as always.

In future Classic Reads with your Kids posts, we’ll try to feature even more ‘classic Aussie reads’ too! Keep on reading.


Review – The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories

When I opened the satchel and pulled out a sheath of cobalt blue dust jacket, slapped with the bright punch of Dr Seuss artwork, my heart took off instantly at a gallop. It galloped so hard, I had to press this hard cover book firmly to my chest to stop it busting through my ribcage.

Such is the power of Dr Seuss.

And most especially the power of some long ‘lost’ stories, complete with original artwork, begging to enter the mainstream consciousness of both longtime Seuss lovers and those who are embryonic to the Ted Geisel phenomenon. For that, Random House Books USA and HarperCollins Australia, I thank you.

The discovery of these stories is an interesting one. Located quite by accident by self-confessed Seussologist Charles Cohen, all seven stories were originally published in Redbook magazine in 1950 and 1951. Upon making his eBay discovery, Cohen quickly bought up as many original Redbook magazine copies as he could and began re-listing them on eBay, touting them as containing original ‘lost’ stories by Dr Seuss.

The magazines soon came to the attention of Cathy Goldsmith, VP Associate Publisher at Random House Books in the US, who quickly snapped up several magazine copies before exploring the option to republish the series in a collective tome.

The result is a clutch of heart-stopping Seussy goodness with seven glorious stories comprising:

The Bippolo Seed
The Rabbit, the Bear and the Zinniga-Zanniga
Gustav the Goldfish
Tadd and Todd
Steak for Supper
The Strange Shirt Spot
The Great Henry McBride

Each story is pure Seuss at his best – a collaboration of colour and candour, whimsy and wackiness, rhythm and rhyme that eternally defies everyday and leaps into exceptional. There are no surprises here. Just more heart-warming delight – made even better for the fact that they just may have forever been ‘lost’. The appreciation one feels over this fact is palpable.

From the cat and the duck and their outrageous intention for a wee little seed, to a bear and a rabbit with a penchant for pointing out eyelash flaws and a set of twins who learn how cosy it really can be to be two peas in a pod, the tales are pure rhythmic joy.

It’s interesting to note that the story Gustav the Goldfish later became A Fish Out of Water by Seuss’s wife Helen Palmer (illustrated by PD Eastman) – and it’s such a thrill to see the original illustrations, featuring Seuss’s iconic flair.

The only question I have about The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories is why each tale wasn’t made into its own individual book. How glorious it would have been to add seven new tomes to our beloved collection … but I can only presume the scant illustrations made individual books an impossibility, without adding to and thereby corrupting the purity of this beautiful original work.

Whether it’s seven whole tales or one book of seven,
No matter its form, I’m in Seussy heaven.

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories is published by HarperCollins Australia. You can see the trailer on how the stories were discovered here.


Lost Dr. Seuss books to be published

HarperCollins Children’s Books is thrilled to announce the publication of THE BIPPOLO SEED AND OTHER LOST STORIES by Dr. Seuss – a collection of seven stories by the iconic author and illustrator that were originally published in magazines between 1950 and 1951, but never before in book form. THE BIPPOLO SEED AND OTHER LOST STORIES will be available from the 30th September 2011.

“As more and more Australians discover and indeed re-discover Dr. Seuss every year, it is a real treat for us to be publishing this amazing new collection of stories. We’re confident it will be eagerly received by Dr. Seuss fans of all ages,” said HarperCollins Australia Head of Children’s Publishing, Cristina Cappelluto.

THE BIPPOLO SEED AND OTHER LOST STORIES features the following seven stories, “The Bear, the Rabbit, and the Zinniga-Zanniga” (about a rabbit who is saved from a bear with a single eyelash!); “Gustav the Goldfish” (an early, rhymed version of the Beginner Book A Fish Out of Water); “Tadd and Todd” (a tale passed down via photocopy to generations of twins); “Steak for Supper” (about fantastic creatures who follow a boy home in anticipation of a steak dinner); “The Bippolo Seed” (in which a scheming feline leads an innocent duck to make a bad decision); “The Strange Shirt Spot” (the inspiration for the bathtub-ring scene in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back); and “The Great Henry McBride” (about a boy whose far-flung career fantasies are only bested by those of the real Dr. Seuss himself).

About Dr. Seuss

Theodor “Seuss” Geisel is quite simply one of the most beloved children’s book authors of all time. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, an Academy Award, three Emmy Awards, three Grammy Awards, and three Caldecott Honors, Geisel wrote and illustrated 44 books for children. Hundreds of millions of copies have found their way into homes and hearts around the world. While Theodor Geisel died on 24 September, 1991, Dr. Seuss lives on, inspiring generations of children of all ages to explore the joys of reading. For more information about Dr. Seuss and his works, visit

Fabulous Foodie Fiction!

Food, glorious food! I love cooking and I love eating. I enjoy trying new recipes and I delight in modifying old ones. I will often browse through the pages of a cookbook, looking for inspiration. But inspiration does not only lie in recipe books — many a time it can be found in the pages of fabulous foodie fiction.

My earliest memory of food in fiction is, of course, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss. This timeless children’s book with amazing, crazy rhymes had me begging my mum to feed me curiously coloured culinary cuisine (gotta love a little alliteration). In more recent times, after I first read the book to my daughter, and she requested green eggs and ham for dinner, I made a spinach and ham quiche. It had eggs, it had ham, it was green — mission accomplished!

We need to jump to my late teens for my next memorable foodie fiction experience. The book was ME Kerr’s Fell, a YA novel about an ordinary teenage boy who enrols in an elite private school under an assumed name, where a mysterious club known as the Sevens wield more power than they should. Within its pages, the main character cooks French toast for his would-be girlfriend, providing step-by-step instructions. I had never eaten French toast before — but after reading the description in the book, I went off and made some. And I have been making it as an occasional breakfast treat ever since.

In more recent times I have become enamoured of Poppy Z Brite’s foodie fiction, set in New Orleans. Brite made her name with horror novels such as Lost Souls and Drawing Blood, but came to eventually change her writing focus. She’s written a series of novels following the adventures of Rickey and G-Man through the restaurants of New Orleans. These are the type of books that make you hungry as you read them. And they make you want to cook with alcohol, as Rickey and G-Man establish their restaurant, Liquor, where every dish on the menu has at least some alcohol in it. Very inspiring!

Brite’s Rickey and G-Man appear in a number of short stories as well as the following novels:

I’ll finish up this post with a quote from one of Brite’s short stories — “O Death, Where Is Thy Spatula” from the collection, The Devil You Know — which is not actually a Rickey and G-Man story:

“The main thing you need to know about me is that I love eating more than anything else in the world. More than sex, more than tropical vacations, more than reading, more than any drug I’ve ever tried. I’m not fat—I’m actually quite slender—but I can’t take credit for any kind of willpower or exercise regimen. The truth is, I’m not fat because I only finish eating things that are really, really good, and there just aren’t that many of them in my opinion. I love eating, as I say, but I’m picky as hell. A French pastry, ethereal manifestation of butter, custard, and chocolate, designed like a little piece of modern architecture? I’m there. A slice of cold pizza? I might nibble at it until my hunger headache goes away, but no more.”

Okay… that’s it! I’ve got to go and eat now. Baked Isigny Ste Mère Petit Camembert with blanched garlic, thyme, a sprinkle of pepper and doused in red wine… served with crusty bread and washed down with the rest of the wine. Mmmmmmm! Check out the recipe! What are the rest of you eating? 😉

And tune in next time when I’ll write about… something… don’t know what yet… can’t think of anything else other than the Camembert… mmmmm… Camembert… mmmmmm…

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

The Severus Snape Guide to Literature’s Bad Boys (cont.)

It must have begun at a young age for me, though I can’t remember my first ‘bad boy’ book character. Was there an evil male character in One Fish, Two Fish? Doubt it.
The first memorable one was Colin, from The Secret Garden. Forget Dickon, Colin’s where it’s at, with his petulance and consistent weeping and general hysteria when his authority is questioned. Mary was the only girl who knew how to handle him…how I wished I was Mary!

And in highschool, when I was introduced to Ol’ Willy Shakespeare, I wasn’t so much taken with Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other as I was infatuated with Macbeth’s ambition and his romantic willingness to do whatever Lady Macbeth said! Dreamy.

When I was started on Anne Rice a little later, Lestat was perhaps the most conventionally dashing element of my book character fetish. It didn’t matter to me whether or not he sucked people’s blood, sometimes to the fatal point. What mattered most was that he made sure he looked his best every time he was on the prowl – he was like the century’s first ever metrosexual, and darn proud of it!

But before you judge, cast your mind back to your book crushes. Even the best of girls have trouble resisting Mr Darcy’s charms from Pride and Prejudice. I preferred Captain Wentworth meself. And those fans of Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester? Go read Wide Sargasso Sea and get back to me on that one. It’s like everything I thought about him when I read the original text, but even juicier and more damning to his character.

It seems that the one thing I cannot stand as my tastes in fictional characters have “matured”, is a male lead being rude to his fellow females (Colin was the early departure from the rule but I have remedied that with my later bad boy choices). Give me a character who wants world domination, who sells his soul for three wishes, who creates an alter ego of himself so he can do evil things without suffering the consequences, rather than a gentleman who treats his lady with disdain. Mr Darcy, it’s just not on!

Draco Malfoy has managed to escape my lusty bookgirl advances because he’s under 18 years of age. Whenever I take a Harry Potter quiz, I’m a Ravenclaw girl (the bookish group), with one point away from being Slytherin (the “evil” group). My guess? Slytherin guys and gals are just misunderstood. They don’t REALLY want to be bad…it’s just that the GOOD guys are so, infuriatingly…well, good. And that would annoy just about anyone, wouldn’t you agree?

So I figure the thing that all my bad boys have in common, perhaps, is that they’re really good boys at heart.
Or at least, that‘s what helps me sleep at night. Heehee!