Monday, July 26, 2010

When Home is... a Picture Book

After admitting to coveting a ‘fantasy’ house and fairytale lifestyle as a teenager recently, I thought it was perhaps time to come clean about my fantasy house of today. It also seems fitting as last week we received a letter from the Council approving our plans. Perhaps fantasies will become realities?!

But, stepping away from reality (which is also very time-consuming and expensive) let’s go back to the homes of fantasy for today. Obviously, I have always loved the idea of ‘home’ as recently I found two of my favourite childhood books and now read them to my children: both by Richard Scarry and both – surprise – about home.

I loved the house in his Best Word Book Ever and I still do. The Rabbit Family’s house had everything I thought a ‘grown-up’ house should have: stairs, a fireplace and bunk beds.

And the mood I wanted to have in my ‘grown-up’ house was most definitely the home of Mother Bear and Father Bear in the Richard Scarry book Good Night, Little Bear.

The picture below of Father Bear putting Little Bear to bed still makes me feel warm and cosy. I remember loving the playfulness of this family; that Mother Bear ‘loves a joke’ and is 'such a tease' while Father Bear carries Little Bear on his shoulders and lets him have the delicious looking chocolate cake well after bedtime. I still love it, so much so I bought this book for my godson recently whose father would be one of the first dads I know to let his little boy have chocolate cake before carrying his 'wiggling and giggling' baby to bed.

It’s amazing how illustrations can evoke such strong feelings that – for me anyway – haven’t faded as I’ve aged. Since returning to the world of picture books with my own children, I have found other fantasy homes.

After Lily’s birth seven years ago, a friend in the UK sent me the first book in the Blue Kangaroo series by Emma Chichester Clark. She loved it because the little girl in the stories was also called Lily. My Lily loved it because she loved the Blue Kangaroo. I loved it because I wanted Lily’s parents’ garden. I still do. What’s not to love?

That huge old tree with the swing (just like my teenage fantasy), tulips in the garden, flowers everywhere, lots of grass, happy children and even a white picket fence...

And wait until you get inside... look at that big armchair surrounded by shelves and shelves of books.

Great stories and beautiful illustrations are a potent mix, no matter what your age. Maybe that’s just me. Or is it?!

The Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry,Hamlyn
Good Night Little Bear by Patsy & Richard Scarry, Golden Book
I Love You, Blue Kangaroo; Where Are You, Blue Kangaroo? by Emma Chichester Clark, Random House


In keeping with this theme, it’s going to be a bit of a book week here. I have an interview with author Virginia Lloyd about her memoir The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement coming up. Also the Sydney Sunday Telegraph and Brisbane Sunday Mail Books Editor, Lucy Clark, will write about how books create a feeling of home for her.


Anonymous said...

It's not just you, it's true! And old picture books are even more homely when they've been read a thousand times over and the smell of the turning pages, the creases and the feel of the paper are all a part of the memory ... Nothing can replace a favourite childhood book - and certainly not an e-reader (not to get political about it!). JJ

Anonymous said...

I took it even further ... painting a white wood dolls' house with a winding path to the front door with potted trees on each side. Picket fenced garden, a painter on a ladder, painting the wall of the house on one side, a big old tree with a swing and a deck chair on the grass, on the other. On the back wall, a lace curtain billowing out of the upstairs window and the maid in the garden, hanging out the clothes! Did I go too far?

Germaine Leece said...

Not too far at all... and your story will come in very handy when I do a post on doll houses!


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