If friends and relatives were thinking of giving books to Prince George or his parents (or any new baby) what would you suggest they chose?
I always hope some friends and relatives will give babies books. Unlike clothes and toys, neither the baby itself nor its parents will grow out of them very fast! In fact, the books that children get given at birth are often life-long companions and woe-betide any younger siblings who try to appropriate them. And there’s the additional advantage that it is the one time that you can give a child a book and not risk having to see that obviously slightly disappointed face that the gift of a book usually elicits in a child! (It’s all right. They come round to them later…). Since many of the friends of the young Prince’s parents already have children I’m sure they will be showering him with their own ‘must haves’. These will be the books which they have read more times than they can count, the ones in which they – and their children – are word perfect. The ones that parent cannot risk skipping one word for fear of reprisals!
Every child needs a good collection of nursery rhymes. Parents may think they can remember them but typically they only remember the first verse! The Puffin Mother Goose Treasury, though first published in a longer version in 1973, remains a vital source of what is needed and each rhyme is perfectly matched by Raymond Briggs’s witty and appealing line drawings. Katherine Lines’s Lavender’s Blue with illustrations by Harold Jones would make a good alternative collection of nursery rhymes. Weaned on nursery rhymes babies are well-poised to move onto the best picture books for babies. For small hands, board books of all kinds and buggy books in particular are invaluable accessories – especially as they can be sucked and chewed throughout the teething stage. They make great cheap presents and all babies need a lot of them – especially the buggy books as they get lost. Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea buggy book is particularly attractive. Favourite picture books which should be in any baby’s library include the classic titles such as Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s The Baby’s Catalogue, Eric Hill’s Where’s Spot? – one of the simplest and most effective lift-the flap-books, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and John Burningham’s Mr Gumpy’s Outing. And every year there are wonderful additions to these reflecting the strength of picture book creation currently in the UK. Illustrators such as Alexis Deacon, Emily Gravett, Catherine Rayner and many others are all creating wonderful picture books which any child will treasure. For more sustained reading aloud all parents need some good collections of folk and fairy stories. A companion volume to The Puffin Mother Goose Treasury, The Fairy Tale Treasury also illustrated by Raymond Briggs with a text by Virginia Haviland is an excellent source of traditional stories from around the world. Also good to know are Rudyard Kipling’s wonderful Just So Stories. There are many excellent editions with glorious illustrations bringing out the jokes of How the Elephant Got his Trunk, How the Leopard Got his Spots and the rest. A nice long-term library gift for any baby is Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales: The Original Peter Rabbit Books. In facsimile editions this boxed set of the titles ensures that all children know the classic story of Peter Rabbit as well as many of the other less well-known tales.
In addition to building a library for the young prince, friends could think about books that will help the parents through parenthood. Quentin Blake’s Zagazoo should be thrust into every new parent’s hand as it is the wisest, the kindest and the simplest introduction to the ever-changing stages of parenting.