Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Picture Book Woes

Melanie at The Wine-Dark Sea posted about her daughter Isabella's current favourite books, and left me bemoaning my inability to find American published picture books at the library. Not entirely unreasonable, I have to admit, given that it is a British library, but irritating to someone with a book list obsession who hangs out online with similarly book-loving Americans.

I have a confession to make. I didn't really discover the beauty of picture books until Star was around four and we dabbled a little in Five in a Row, thanks to my friend Missus Wookie who lent me the books. Poor Angel missed out almost totally, as I threw myself into Sonlight's (mostly) chapter books with her at a ridiculously young age. All in all, my picture book collection is rather thin. I want to build up a better one for Little Cherub, but I am hampered by the knowledge that (a) my budget is limited, and (b) I have no younger children coming up to justify investing in a personal picture book library. So I bemoan the shortcomings of the library and build up an Amazon wishlist that is likely to remain largely in the realm of wishes.

But all is not lost. I shouldn't malign our library, as in British terms it is really very good. I can order any children's book within our county free of charge, and it is almost always there ready to collect within a week. The picture book selection in the local branch is good, with a decent proportion of quality book. Occasionally a coveted American book even turns up there - I spotted Snowflake Bentley recently, for example.

To fill in the gaps left by all the lovely books recommended by American friends and seen on book lists, I have been working on creating lists of my own that include more British published books. There are plenty of British goodies out there, but in the absence of an English equivalent of FIAR, or Picture Perfect Childhood, I have to do a bit of detective work to find them. Mostly it is a case of following a trail. If I find one good book, I search Amazon for others by that author, or published in the same series. For example, a couple of weeks ago I picked up a used copy of The Mushroom Hunt by Simon Frazer, a lovely book that will make a great starting point for learning about mushrooms. It is part of a "Read and Wonder" series published by Walker Books ... an Amazon search for the series threw up all sorts of goodies with five star reviews like this, and this, and this. And at least some of them are available from the library. I also have favourite publishers that can be relied on to produce good quality books - Frances Lincoln and Barefoot Books - and occasionally trawl their catalogues to see what is available. If I want something recently published in the UK the library is usually happy to buy a copy if they don't already have one. I still include on my booklists American books for which I can't find equivalents here, or that just look too good to miss (that wishlist again!), but overall my lists have a UK bias that I can't find anywhere else.

The other vital part of collecting picture book ideas is to write them down. Somewhere I will be able to find them when I want them. Over the past few weeks I have been tidying and adding to various half-baked lists, and now have them in good enough order to share.

Which, as I am out of time, I will do in my next post.


Kristen said...

I saw your comment on another blog about making your own laundry detergent. Would you please share the recipe with me?! Thanks!

Fe said...


I know what you mean about books on american lists:-) I'll read any notes you share with interest... our libraries tend to lean towards the UK for picture books, more than the US (I haven't explored the older children section so much as yet:-) )... so I suspect I'll find any pointers you have quite useful:-) (Of course, we do also have Australian books... but not sufficiently to fill a library...)

Michele Quigley said...

Kathryn this post reminded me that I owe you an Amazon gift certificate! I'll send it now.

I make my own laundry detergent using this recipe:

Elizabeth said...

I feel exactly the same about American book lists! Would be nice to indulge given an unlimited budget, but otherwise, I await the Bookworm's UK alternative!

Shari said...

Ah, but isn't the thrill of the chase half the fun?