Fantastic Fiction for Kids – Independence

Although it’s been a while since we had a Fantastic Fiction for Kids post I’m thrilled this week to be able to bring you another post in the series all about brilliant picture books which share a common theme, which this week is independence.

Today’s contributor is Stephanie Burgis. Stephanie was born in the US but has ended up in Wales via Vienna, Pittsburgh, and Yorkshire. She’s a full-time writer, having published almost thirty short stories for adults. Her first published novel, A Most Improper Magick came out yesterday in the UK! Many congratulations to you, Stephanie! Stephanie’s husband is also an author, and he and Stephanie have a young son, who I’m sure gets read to a great deal what with 2 writers as parents!

Now, without further ado, let me hand you over to Stephanie:

One of my [Stephanie’s] favourite parts of parenting so far has been getting to discover great new books together with my son. Even before he was born, I’d started collecting some of my old favourites from my own childhood, but for this post I wanted to talk about three books we discovered together and both love. The linking theme is independence: all three of these books feature characters going out into the wide world without their parents, dealing with strange adults and facing the unknown, just like every little kid eventually has to do.

I’m Not Scared by Jonathan Allen

Baby Owl ventures out into the woods at night, carrying his stuffed owl with him. He’s not scared…or at least, he won’t admit he is, despite all the interfering adults who keep on startling him by popping up out of the darkness to worry about his feelings.

My son and I laugh and laugh when we read this book. The writing is sharp and funny, the pictures are hilarious, and I love that at the end, when Papa Owl whispers: “It’s okay to be a little bit scared of the dark,” feisty Baby Owl immediately says to his stuffed owl: “He means you, Owly.” Baby Owl is not about to learn any silly moral lessons himself…but his story is wonderfully reassuring, as well as funny, for little kids to read. (And as a parent, I’m intensely grateful for picture books that make me laugh on the hundredth re-read!)

There’s an Ouch in my Pouch! by Jeanne Willis and Garry Parsons

Poor little Willaby Wallaby hasn’t left his mum’s pouch on purpose. He was kicked out by a terrible ouch! He leaves in disgust to find a better pouch to live in, but none of the other animals he meets have suitable pouches…and it’s only his good bouncing skills that save him when Ma Dingo tries to trick him into visiting the “pouch” in her mouth! In the end, he returns to his own mum (and the baby sister who dislodged him) but realizes that he doesn’t need a pouch any more – he’s a big boy who can happily bounce at his mum’s side instead of hiding in the shelter of her pouch.

My husband and I both love reading this book to our son because of the incredibly bouncy, dance-able rhythm of the text, as well as the humour of the story and the pictures. We cursed the tongue-twisting nature of the words the first few times we read the book, but our son loved it right away, and we both came to love it too – once you’ve got the knack of the text, it rolls off your tongue and is sheer fun to read, in a very tactile way.

Piglet and Mama by Margaret Wild and Stephen Michael King

When Piglet wakes up and finds herself alone, she’s scared but determined. She sets out to find her mama and won’t let anyone stop her – not even all those well-meaning adults who try to distract her by offering to play with her themselves. Sometimes, no one but Mama will do – and when Piglet finally does find her mama, her joy shines off the page.

I can’t imagine any little kids who couldn’t identify with Piglet from time to time – and the lovely ending of this book is perfectly designed to elicit real-life cuddles for the mamas (or daddies) reading it. It would be worth reading for that benefit alone, even if it weren’t so sweet and well-done.

Every little kid has to face the world without their parents from time to time. Whether it’s in the care of a relative, a childminder or a nursery teacher, it can be an awfully scary feeling. These three books are reassuring as well as funny and smart. I can’t think of a better combination.

I (Zoe) will be tracking all of these down! J is very keen on asserting her independence at the moment (“No Mama, me can do it!”) and I think she’d love every one of Stephanie’s choices. We have I’m not cute by Jonathan Allen and both girls think it’s extremely funny so I can well imagine that I’m Not Scared will also be a big hit.

Some songs that might go with these books include:

  • I Can Do it By Myself! by AudraRox
  • I Can Do It by Geof Johnson
  • Growing Up by Mr. Doolittle
  • All By Myself by The Doo-Dads

  • Some crafty projects that could be fun after reading these books include:

  • Making a container for pens or paintbrushes in the shape of an owl, inspired by this sunflower eyed owl coffee can from Cider & Faun
  • An amazing 3-D paper owl to decorate a kid’s room (or for an older kid to make) found at Skip to my Lou
  • Make a smaller version of this cute kangaroo pencil holder and call it a wallaby pencil holder, found at Mama Jenn
  • Make your kid their own wallaby using this pattern from Woman’s Day as inspiration
  • Have fun making a paper plate pig, like this one from More Mom Time or this one from No Time for Flash Cards

  • Thank you Stephanie for a wonderful selection of books today! If you’d like to find out more about Stephanie you could visit her website, say hello to her on her blog, or read the first chapter of her new novel. And if any of you have suggestions as to other books that would work well alongside these, please let us know via the comments ๐Ÿ™‚

    3 Responses

    1. Jonathan Allen

      What a nice review ๐Ÿ˜‰ I came upon a bit late though didn’t I?

      I was wondering, Zoe, if you review ebooks. I tried my hand at self publishing on Amazon in the Kindle format, and am having a heck of a job getting anyone to see it, let alone read or buy it! Even though i have a good track record in Children’s Publishing. I think it’s really good, but then i would wouldn’t I? It’s called Come to Bed, Red! and is for 2 to four year olds I think.

      great Blog btw. i will add a link to it from my Blog.
      Jonathan Allen

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