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RAWR! #Furreads for little and big kids.

August 5, 2013

Animals hold a very special place in humans’ hearts. So too do picture books. It’s no coincidence there are masses of children’s books about animals. They are our family and our friends.

Animals are our protectors and our adventure companions, in reality, in our imaginations, and in our stories. Some people dedicate their lives to saving endangered or hunted animals.

Pet owners are fiercely protective of their animals. Such dedication is equalled by our pets’ protective promises to us. We love our pets and they take us as we are. Animals don’t judge us. Pets don’t break up with us.

Apart from exploiting their image all over social media (but they’re sooooo cute!), we treat them like royalty. So we should too; their loyalty and unconditional love can truly make our day.

Animals are pivotal to our read, watch and play culture. They are central to many famous pieces of literature (Charlotte’s web, Animal Farm), film (Amores perros, Dumbo) and games (What’s the time Mr. Wolf?, Angry birds).

Caterpillar, Eric Carle Museum by flickr user: Masstravel (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Caterpillar, Eric Carle Museum by flickr user: Masstravel (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Perhaps best known for The Very hungry caterpillar, Eric Carle is, in my humble opinion, an amazing children’s literature author and illustrator. If I had to pick a favourite it would be one of his collaborations with Bill Martin Jr. called Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? It’s an outstanding journey through beautiful art and wonderful rhythm. Each page introduces a new, stunning creature. The narrator asks the pictured bear: “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” The bear replies, “I see a red bird looking at me”. Then the bird is asked, and so on. Animals view animals that view animals. The reader quickly learns the rhyme and rhythm, travelling through the bright, visual petting zoo. The repetition, the percussive rhythm, and the bold, beautiful paintings, bounce the book along musically. Occasionally, the familiar becomes magical, even comical. Carle’s yellow duck, for example, sees a blue horse. Most readers do not question this creativity; do not accuse Carle of inaccuracy. Instead, we embrace his story with wonder and joy. Inspiration for this incongruent colouring came from his high school days. Carle explains:

In WW11 Germany, my high school teacher Herr Krauss introduced me to abstract and Expressionist art during a time when works such as these had been banned. The so-called “degenerate art,” paintings of modern and expressionistic art my teacher showed me were unlike anything I had been exposed to before. And really this experience changed my life, though I didn’t know it at the time.

Little and big people the world over are also thankful to Carle’s teacher for inspiring his iconic style that continues to entertain and educate us.

Mo Willems/ Flickr user: Dishfunctional (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Mo Willems/ Flickr user: Dishfunctional (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Mo Willems’ books are silly, very funny, sometimes moving, and creatively unique. They are also chocked full of fur and feathers! Children adore them and adults love to laugh along too. If you don’t know his work, start with the Pigeon books, they’re hilarious. Attune to his readers’ generation’s penchant for online play (and because he is an awesome marketer), Willems has a fabulous site called Pigeon Presents which has a great section called Fun. Go there and play!

For more fur fun, I highly recommend watching this Auslan version of Nick Bland‘s The Very cranky bear. It’s such an expressive, exciting telling of a wonderful animal book. Enjoy!

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David Green is a proud Children’s and Youth Librarian, from Wollongong, Australia. He blogs about libraries, learning and other loves at dpgreen.net. You can also connect with David on twitter @dpgreen and on Facebook.

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