#nevertoooldforpicturebooks is a no-holds-barred invitation to one and all to make this hashtag a zingy buzz. Anything, just about anything from anyone reinforcing that one is never too old to dig with joy into a picture book is welcome here. The very first straight-from-the-heart note goes out from the incurable bibliophile, blogger and freelance writer, Sandhya Renukamba. Humongous picture booky hugs for this, Sandhya; it’s over to you now:
One of the best children’s books, Alice in Wonderland, begins thus:
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’
Which makes sense. Most of the time. Even after a child graduates beyond needing pictures in books, an illustrated edition of a book is so much more attractive than a non-illustrated one. And conversations – nothing like conversations in a book to spice up the narrative. Any reader – grownups too – will agree with that!
So yes, picture books. It all began when the daughter was born. I have been a lifelong reader, but when I was a child, there were hardly any picture books around. At least not the kind of books we get today. It was while discovering reading children’s books along with my daughter that I first fell in love with picture books. And we have not looked back since.
The happiest times I have spent as a mother were reading aloud to my daughter. When she was very little, we lived in the UK. This meant, for readers like us – we all are big readers in the family – it was quite the Promised Land. The first thing we did after finding a house and settling in, was to get a library card. It was the best thing I have ever done.
Our very first picture books together were the likes of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Peter Rabbit books, Guess How Much I Love You, Are You My Mother?, The Going-to-bed Book, and This Is The Bear. I would often ‘read’ the stories to her in our native tongue, along with reading them out in English. As she grew older, we visited family stories with books like Tell Me a Story, Mama, and When I was a Little Girl. Angry times were handled with the likes of Where The Wild Things Are. An early introduction to poetry and rhymes was made with books like Over In The Meadow and Iza Trapani’s retellings of nursery rhymes like Itsy bitsy spider, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and The Bear Went Over the Mountain. Wackilicious times were spent with the books of Dr Seuss, Edward Lear, and Shel Silverstein, many of which are layered enough to be picked up over and over again, well into adulthood.
We learnt much about India in books like Handmade In India, Excuse Me, Is This India?, I Is For India, We, The Children Of India: the preamble to our constitution, and Going To School In India. In fact, the wonderful picture books by Tulika books, Pratham books, Katha books, Tara books, etc., are all part of our journey – there are too many wonderful books to enumerate. For example, conversations about diversity were seeded with books like Same & Different, I Am Different, and We Are Different, all by Manjula Padmanabhan.
The Amelia Bedelia were the best introduction to the pun, humour that I think is of the highest order. With our growing book collection, books overflowing everywhere, and probably the only decoration at home, Sarah Stewart’s The Library was the perfect book to go to. Loss was handled with gentleness with the help of books – Robie H Harris’s Goodbye Mousie the perfect book when the daughter’s goldfish died, and Tear Soup the book we turned to when she lost a much loved cousin recently.
A recent addition to our collection is Neil Gaiman’s Blueberry Girl, and The Book With No Pictures. Yes, I know what Alice said about books with no pictures, but believe me, this is one book you’d want to pick up. And wordless books? They are the best kind of picture books. I promise you that if you pick up Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman, or Barbara Lehman’s The Red Book, Mercer Mayer’s A Boy, A Dog, and A Frog, or Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, or David Wiesner’s Tuesday, or Jeannie Baker’s Home, or any similar books, you’ll have a treasure in your hands that can be timeless, and can be ‘read’ by little ones unable yet to read, as well as be layered enough for teenagers and even adults. And this one, The Mysteries Of Harris Burdick, has to be picked up to be believed!
I could clearly go on and on. Even today, when we visit bookstores, our purchases are never complete without at least one picture book added to the mix. After all, one never grows out of picture books, no matter how old one gets. They are our first step into reading purely for pleasure, but they also are an education. In many ways. One can even charm non-readers with picture books, luring them into the world of readers as they get hooked. As said in the opening lines in Lauren Child’s well-loved picture book Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Book?