My daughter is not a wide reader. But she will read the same illustrated series over and over again, and also anything tiny. She loves Sylvanian Families, bugs and tiny books. In an effort to get her reading more widely I asked for recommendations from people who know kids’ books.
Here’s what they suggested:
THE BEATRIX POTTER BOX SET
It’s easy to forget about this one. Because they’re out of copyright, these books are relatively cheap, per book, if you buy them all at once. I found the cheapest place to get them here in Australia is at Big W (for $50). I’ve also seen them at Costco.
Definitely avoid buying the big anthology of the Beatrix Potter stories. Beatrix would be horrified to know they’d ever been printed like that. Those little books were only meant to be read as little books.
Each book is about 166.9 x 231.9 x 28.2mm.
Annick Press published an imprint of tiny books featuring authors such as Robert Munsch. In fact, it was one of these which got my daughter hooked on tiny books. I bought it online thinking it was a regular sized picture book, mainly because it was the cost of a regular sized picture book. I was disappointed to see how tiny it was when it turned up, but perked up when my daughter loved the tiny size of it. The Paper Bag Princess is the most famous book in this series. (We already have the regular size.)
If you’re in America you’ll be able to buy these second hand for a buck each, but in Australia we’d be paying an extra ten dollars per book to get it sent over.
204 x 204mm, with stiff but paperback covers
THE NUTSHELL LIBRARY: MAURICE SENDAK
Four Maurice Sendak books in tiny version, in their own little box. Aww. (And ‘aww’ isn’t normally a word I’d use with Sendak’s dark work.)
It includes Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup With Rice, One Was Johnny and Pierre.
71.12 x 101.6 x 43.18mm | 249.47g
FANCY NANCY PETITE LIBRARY
HarperChildren’s have realised that there are girls (especially?) who love small books, so they’ve published a few of their girly series as tiny versions, including Fancy Nancy and also Pinkalicious.
Fancy Nancy is 76.2 x 109.22 x 38.1mm in its box.
POCKET GENIUS BOOKS FROM DK
Dogs, bugs, horses, Ancient Rome… If you’re after tiny non-fiction, this is your series.
Each book in the series is 97 x 127 x 10mm.
ELSIE PIDDICK SKIPS IN HER SLEEP BY ELEANOR FARJON
Though not published specifically as part of a tiny edition of anything, the 1997 edition of this book is in itself unusually small, though not quite as small as ‘nutshell editions’ of things.
123 x 180 x 10mm
GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU: LITTLE LIBRARY
“The adorable hares from the classic Guess How Much I Love You are back in a gorgeous miniature slipcase gift collection containing four short stories.Big and Little Nutbrown Hare, from the multi-million-selling picture book Guess How Much I Love You, return in these four seasonal picture books: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Each captivating story is seasonally themed and beautifully illustrated, and the four books are collected in a covetable miniature slipcase”
92 x 94 x 52mm
LITTLE CHICK: THREE STORIES
These are board books, so obviously designed for the book-chewing toddler market, but the stories work for an older audience.
91.44 x 96.52 x 38.1mm
LITTLE FUR FAMILY
These small board books have fur on the front, great for sensory seekers. They’re by Margaret Wise Brown.
There was a little fur family
warm as toast
smaller than most
in little fur coats
and they lived in a warm wooden tree.
Published 1946, the layout is similar to Beatrix Potter.
BRAMBLY HEDGE BOX SET
The set of A Year In Brambly Hedge are reasonably small, which makes sense because the main characters are mice.
154 x 178 x 52mm
Small editions of books tend to come out before Christmas, because they’re considered ‘stocking stuffers’.
Though they are hard to find if you’re looking for them, I’ve also noticed a disproportionate number of tiny books in secondhand stores. I have a theory about why this is: They’re a pain to keep on a shelf. Mainly because you can’t shelve them. You need a little box for them. I think parents get sick of them lying around and send them to the thrift store. Also, if little books are considered stocking stuffers, it’s easy come, easy go.
Anyhow, keep your eye out in thrift stores if you have a little lover of tiny books! One day you may stumble upon a collector’s item. Four Frogs In A Box by Mercer Meyer is out of print and goes for about $50 second hand.
Which makes me think small, limited editions of books may be especially valuable. It’s far cheaper for publishers to produce regular sized books, and they don’t put them out that often.
I haven’t added the Mr Men books here because I think they are terrible. But I am sure their nice, small size contributed to their wide appeal.
What is meant by boy friendly and girl friendly?
Sometimes a Google search screenshot speaks a thousand words:
Girl Friendly Links
Strong Female Characters In Fiction from Common Sense Media
100 YA Books For The Feminist Reader from Bitch Media
9 FEMALE CHARACTERS WE WISH WE’D BEEN MORE LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL from The Mary Sue
Here’s an interesting article from author E.M. Kokie about how much harder it is in some ways to write a female protagonist than a male one: “I’ve discovered, to my frustration and anger, that it’s actually much more difficult to talk about [my female protagonist’s] body, and her body’s desires, in ways that feel natural to her character (and her love interest’s character) and that feel readily accessible to the landscape of YA readers….I was shocked to find a complete lack of language for the female anatomy in all but one of the books I checked, and none at all during an intimate scene.”
The Greatest Girl Characters of Young Adult Literature from The Atlantic
Reading Today Online has the lesson plans Females in the Spotlight: Strong Characters in Picture Books and Girls Read: Online Literature Circles.
How Do You Find Feminist Children’s Books? asks Bitch Media
Women Protagonists in YA: A List and Resources from Ashley F. Miller
Feminism 101 book recommendations for teens from Feminism 101
And for the younger readers, here are some chapter books about girls, though I haven’t read them so can’t promise they’re ‘girl friendly’, which it should be clear by now, is not the same thing! (Here are early chapter books featuring girls that come in a series.)
Heroines Of Colour is a Pinterest board featuring book covers of heroines who are not white.
Girl Friendly Books: Well-known For Rounded Female Characterisation
- The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
- Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis
- Feeling Sorry For Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
- Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen
- Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
- The Kayla Chronicles by Sherri Winston
- Spindle’s End by Robyn McKinley
- Don’t Judge A Girl By Her Cover by Ally Carter
- Year Of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty (2003)
- Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller (2006)
- The Running Dream by Wendolin Van Draanen (2011)
- True Blue by Deborah Ellis
- The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy
- Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (2006)
- Arabel’s Raven by Joan Aiken
- Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
- Princess by M.M. Kaye
- The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
- The Penderwicks and its sequels by Jeanne Birdsall
- Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
- A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L’Engle)
- Independent Dames by Laurie Halse Andersen
- The Daring Nellie Bly by Bonnie Christensen
- You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! by Shana Corey
- Imogene’s Last Stand By Candace Fleming
- Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell
- The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
- The Evolution Of Calpernia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
- His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
- Clementine By Sara Pennypacker
- Eleanor Roosevelt by Russell Freedman
- A Ballet For Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
- CLAUDETTE COLVIN: TWICE TOWARD JUSTICE by Phillip Hoose
- ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM by Tanya Lee Stone
- Daughters Of Time edited by Mary Hoffman
- Just Like Tomorrow (2004) by Faïza Guène, translated by Sarah Ardizzone
- Lady: My Life as a Bitch (2001) by Melvin Burgess
- A Gathering Light (2003) by Jennifer Donnelly
- Ballet Shoes (1936) by Noel Streatfeild
- Wise Child by Monica Furlong
It may be that narrow input is much more efficient for second language acquisition. It may be much better if second language acquirers specialize early rather than late. This means reading several books by one author or about a single topic of interest.
— from The Case for Narrow Reading by Stephen Krashen
My daughter said she didn’t want old-fashioned books. But we raced through the Little House books. My son decided he didn’t want any books in which the protagonists were girls. But I said let’s just try Ramona. And he of course, loved it.
— Kevin Henkes, author of Kitten’s First Full Moon and many others
There are studies suggesting that reading digitally may, in fact, benefit certain groups of children, from boys from disadvantaged backgrounds who struggle with print, through to children with dyslexia – but many of these are based on small sample groups, with the common conclusion being that more research is needed.
Reading in this way implies that fiction is a kind of gossip. It assumes that authors say a little bit about the characters they describe so that readers can have the fun of guessing about all the aspects of character and experience they are not told about. […] But, like gossip, guessing about literary characters can misrepresent them by fitting them into categories readers already possess. Readers who want the pleasure of perceiving something more than or something different from what they already know or believe about human nature have to work with a different assumption: that authors carefully select what they choose to say, and that their choices—both what they say and what they don’t say—define what they wish readers to understand.
– The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, Perry Nodelman and Mavis Reimer
On the other hand, concretization is a skill that many adults have forgetten. Many readers have been taught to focus so much on using texts’ potential for engendering sights and smells and sounds. That’s a pity. Not only does it deprive such readers of a source of pleasure, but it also prevents them from understanding the subtle richness of the texts they read.
– The Pleasure of Children’s Literature by Perry Nodelman and Mavis Reimer
I grew up in the 1980s and 90s, but this was before parallel importing of books in New Zealand, when books were still super-duper expensive. Few kids owned many and school libraries were quite small. I was lucky to grow up in a household full of books, though these comprised almost entirely of:
- Little Golden Books
- Read-It-Yourself books from Ladybird
- My mother’s childhood books, and for some reason, a number which had belonged to her cousin. These were mostly Famous Five novels, along with a few from Blyton’s Malory Towers series and a few similarly bound ‘girls’ novels’ by Elsie J. Oxenham.
Here is a picture of Elsie J. Oxenham. It was taken in 1910.
I never was impressed by Oxenham’s books, which have dated in the most conspicuously terrible way you can imagine. I’ve since passed them on, and perhaps a collector found them at the second hand store. Enid Blyton’s books, however, are harder to get rid of, not because they haven’t dated. Enid Blyton’s books are terrible in ways that are well-known and well-documented by many other modern readers:
When it comes to Blyton’s notorious characterisations of travellers and gypsies [Cullingford says they are] ‘so absurdly innocent that they are beside the point’, a worrying observations both in light of the fact that, around the same time as Blyton was writing, over 200,000 gypsies were either being killed or had recently been killed in the Nazi death camps, and in light of the fact that Blyton is still promoted in school and very widely read by children.Understanding Children’s Literature, edited by Peter Hunt
The reason I’m having trouble giving my Enid Blyton collection away is because the stories are still compelling, and because I have such fond memories of Enid Blyton stories as a child. Again, I’m not alone in this:
500 Million Readers Can’t Be Wrong from Children’s Books Articles
The Enduring Appeal Of Enid Blyton from The Guardian
If there’s any dilemma at all in the first world problem of owning too many books, it is this:
- Do I want my daughter to read Enid Blyton, over and over again, like I did?
- Did I love the stories of Enid Blyton mainly because I wasn’t exposed to much else?
- Is there enough time during childhood for the average reader to get through all of the old classics as well as all the best new ones?
- What does it mean to be a well-read child these days, when there is so much out there?
- Wouldn’t I prefer my daughter read modern classics over and over, for example the Harry Potter series, which is neither racist nor sexist (at least, if it is, we can’t see it yet)?
- Do I donate these Enid Blytons to the second-hand store, or do I keep them here, taking up space on a shelf?
- If I give them away, will I feel the hole they have left? After all, those are my childhood memories right there!
- If I keep them on the shelf and my daughter finds them, will I be slightly irritated that she’s not reading better stuff, which I have bought for her with good money?
- If my daughter reads them, is this an unexpectedly wonderful lesson in 20th Century inequalities, as it was for me?
- Is there a danger in sheltering young people from the sexism of earlier eras that they forget things can swing just as quickly back the other way?
What have you done with your childhood books? Do you encourage your children to read those over newer ones? Do you think children should read older books alongside modern publications for a rounded view of recent history?
How does the binding of a book affect reader expectations? What about the size?
The actual individual appearance of of individual books is just as obvious an example of how prior expectations control our responses to stories; it influences our attitude to the stories the books contain before we even begin to read them. We expect more distinctive literature from hardcover books with textured, one-color cover and more conventionally popular material from books with luridly colored plastic coatings. We tend to think differently about paper-covered books and ones with hard covers, and as a result we respond differently to the same story in different formats; what might seem forbidding and respectable in hardcover often seems disposable and unthreatening in soft.
The size of a book also influences our response to it. We tend to expect rambunctious, energetic stories like the ones by Dr. Seuss from large books and more fragile, delicate stories like those by Beatrix Potter from smaller ones. In fact, larger books do allow larger effects, while smaller ones demand restraint from an illustrator, lest they appear overly fussy; but these differences are as much a matter of convention as of technical limitations. We tend to read smaller books expecting charm and delicacy — and to find it even if it is not there — and to read large books expecting energetic rambunctiousness— and to find it even if it is not there.Words About Pictures by Perry Nodelman
We shouldn’t underestimate the effect of binding and size. One disadvantage of book apps and ebooks is that the reader is not provided with any textural information, and the size is fixed according to the dimensions of the device.
That said, a universal book app created for iOS (for instance) may well be interpreted very differently depending on whether it is read on an iPhone, an iPad mini, an iPad, a Mac screen or projected onto a smart board.