Many of the books that are produced (I won’t say “written” because that is too generous) for babies and really small children are really really awful. I have no love for books called “my first words” or “baby’s book of colours”. You know the type, they have no listed author and all the illustrations were cut and pasted from a collection of stock photography. “Reading” one of these books to the Boy is a special form of mommy torture – especially when he says “again, again” (car, truck, digger, airplane, helicopter, boat, sailboat, speed boat, ocean liner…” ahhhhh!). I have this need for at least some small form of narrative and at least a kernel of a story in my books. Even Sandra Boynton at her worst, is better than these books (Yes there are Sandra Boynton books that I love, but many of her books also make me go ahhhhhh!! – but that’s another post). This is why I was so happy when I was given a copy of Elusive Moose by Joan Gannij and Clare Beaton. My mother bought this book for us at a needlework festival and it has turned out to be one of the best books that we have for babies/younger toddlers.
What does this book have going for it?
The illustrations are beautiful textile art created by a talented woman called Clare Beaton – I know nothing about her (she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry). But what I do know is that she has created fantastic illustrations for a series of children’s books published by “barefoot books” (http://www.barefootbooks.com/). I love landscape quilts and this type of textile art and as a knitter myself I can appreciate the work and ability it must have taken to create the scenes in these books.
Joan Gannij has written a lovely rhyming story about all the animals that the narrator has seen while always wishing to see a moose. Our Boy has always loved books with rhythm and rhyme more than other books. This was especially true when he was small. Long before he could talk or communicate he would stop crying whenever I read him something with a nice rhyming story. I think the sound of the words were just soothing.
Finally – I like this book because it features North American wild animals. Many many children’s books feature animals. Many of which are cutely anthropomorphized jungle creatures, or else cutely anthropomorphized farm animals. I don’t really have a problem with that – these are books for babies after all. But it’s nice for a change to read the Boy a book about animals from a bit closer to home that are just living in the wild and being animals rather than driving cars, etc. The book is by an American but it reads as if could be set in any number of Canadian forests.
When the Boy was younger he just enjoyed the story for how it sounded. Now that he’s bigger he likes to find the hidden moose on each page, and although he often likes to listen to longer stories, this one is still brought out before bed on a fairly regular basis. The Boy’s dad also says that this is his favourite of all the “board” books that we have. That’s high praise from a man with very strong opinions.
Clare Beaton has illustrated several books. We also own and enjoy “Secret Seahorse” which is set underwater with a seahorse hidden on each page. In general, Barefoot Books is an excellent source of high quality children’s books.
So, if you need a break from “Baby’s first words”, “1 million trucks on a page with no story”, or “shoot me now as I list things that are green” – I suggest Elusive Moose.