It was with a little bit of sadness that I realised that, for the first time in a good few years, we do not own, and had not had out of the library, any of the books on this year's Greenaway shortlist. Although A and C are still fond of picture books, I don't tend to buy as many these days, and in the library they will not even deign to look at the picture book boxes any more. It's rather a good job that in September I will have a very good excuse for being firmly back in the picture books zone. Although obviously I will be mainly borrowing from the library rather than buying, as having spent so many hours de-cluttering, I don't plan to instantly re-clutter again.
Anyway, this year at work we are judging the Greenaway books again with several classes. It's going as well as always, and the students have really enjoyed looking at the books and thinking about which ones are the most successful as picture books.
They haven't had the chance yet to decide on a winner, but I certainly have two favourites: Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton and I Want my Hat Back by Jon Klassen.
These are certainly two books where the pictures tell the story, and the words are very much an added bonus. George is a very brighly-coloured book with drawings that show a refreshing disregard for scale and realism. George is a dog who tries hard to be good, but often fails. He has the most expressive eyes I have seen in a picture book since Mo Willems' Pigeon. The ending is open-ended, which has irritated some of our judging panel, but I think it gives excellent scope for a discussion about behaviour, choices and control. I think a child would be more willing to think about these things from the very loveable George and his owner Harris's point of view, and that this would be a much better starting point for discussion than basing it on something the child has done, which may well be met with resistance.
The bear in I Want my Hat Back is looking for his hat. There is some repetition in the text, and it would be an easy one for a small child to join in with. The animal pictures are in lovely muted tones and are very appealing. However, when the Bear realises where his hat is, and the page turns red, things are about to get a little nasty. The twist at the end is very funny, but if your tot is very sensitive you should probably know that it involves the bear eating a cute (but essentially criminal) bunny rabbit. It might be worth reading it yourself first to judge its appropriateness for your child. A would certainly have been most upset by it.