As it happened, road works foiled that plan, but it felt like one of my shortest journeys home thanks to an enjoyable a trip down memory lane, courtesy of Jeremy Vine and his show on Radio 2.
The best children's stories
He announced the results of a survey to find what his listeners think is the best children’s bedtime story ever written. The top three were The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne and, with the most votes, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
These are all books that I have enjoyed reading to my three (now teenaged) children, and the discussion Jeremy had with viewers, poet and author Michael Rosen and Julia, the winning author, reminded me of so many others that have faded into the past.
The joys of bedtime reading
The moments shared with your child at their bedtime can be some of the closest, and reading aloud together is a pleasure I’ve not enjoyed for some years now.
But when Julia started to recite her wonderful story about the little mouse who outwitted the hungry animals in the deep dark wood by inventing a scary monster called the Gruffalo, only to be confronted by his own invention (played by Jeremy Vine on this occasion) it took me back to those special, cosy, cuddly bedtimes.
I love my teenagers and the adult conversations we have now, the conviction and passion that comes from who they are, but I allowed myself a little nostalgia as I enjoyed Julia’s performance.
Re-reading my favourite stories
And when I got home I looked out the box of books I’ve kept. I’m not sure why I’ve kept them – the chance of reading to grandchildren is still years away, so maybe it’s just for me.
I spent Friday afternoon re-reading some of my favourites, and some of those that I still know by heart, so often were they requested by one or other of the children.
Some, like Mick Inkpen’s Lullabyhullaballoo! and Noah’s Ark by Lucy Cousins are falling apart through loving overuse. I’ve always found Dogger by Shirley Hughes the most heart-warming story and it’s still as good as it ever was.
Some of the most frequently asked for books were ‘alternative’ classics – do you know ‘Whiff – or How the beautiful big fat baby (warthog) found a friend’? Billy used to love this mad, rhyming story.
Or how about Norvin the Great White Man-eating Shark?! I’ve added a photo of some the books I re-visited on Friday – is your favourite there?
Are you sitting comfortably?
The craft of telling a story in not so many words, often with rhyme, humour and a message behind the story, is not an easy one. Add the stunning illustrations that children’s books have and we’re spoilt for choice.
The pleasure attached to books can be immense, and I’ve always been a sucker in a bookshop – somehow I just don’t feel guilty when I spend money on books. Spending a few minutes reading aloud to your children or grandchildren at bedtime can sometimes seem like a chore, but the benefits for listener and reader are well worth the effort.
What are your favourite stories?
I’d love to hear whether you or your child has a favourite. Do you agree with the Radio 2 poll and vote The Gruffalo to the top, or have you got your own choice that you’d like to spread the word about? Please tell me – I’d love to hear!
Love Kathy x