A great kid's yarn
I've raved about the joys and importance of reading to your kids before, but I haven't personally suggested what to read them before. I love Alison Lester's books, and I think she's probably one of the best children's book illustrators AND writers in Australia. And that is no easy feat.
For one, not many illustrator-writers get published. They're either one or the other. The handful who do are usually big names in kids' publishing, or are illustrators who break into writing (seldom the other way around). Alison is one of those illustrators with a beautiful eye for detail, great sense of colour, and writes well. Are we there yet? is my favourite – I haven't tired of reading it to my son, who's five-and-a-half, since I bought it for his birthday last year. It's a great way to introduce Australia to a child, and it certainly encourages a sense of adventure in adult and child alike.
I'd heard a little about the book, but what convinced me to buy it was that it was short-listed for the Australian Children's Book of the Year awards last year. In fact, Are we there yet? won the Picturebook category in 2005. When you're standing in a bookshop surrounded by brightly coloured children's books unable to decide which to get, it makes a big difference to know that certain books have been highly recommended – or won an award. It makes it easier to support Australian children's writers and illustrators (who are very good!), and not go for the easy option of the kid's cartoon/merchandise/toy tie-in story book. (However much these have their place on a child's bookshelf, they don't really match well thought out, well told, and well illustrated home-grown picture books.)
If you're wondering what to get a child this year, the 2006 Australian Children's Book of the Year shortlist is here. Its awards cover young adults, early readers, early childhood, picture books and 'information' books. If you want a better idea of what the books look like or are about, check out Readings' coverage of the Awards here.
And remember, when reading to your kids – read early, read often and read for fun.