Let’s Explore with Kids Through Books

”Lions and Sailing Ships”, by Svyatoslav Sakharnov*

 
 
In times of uncertainty, culture always helps. And now, that we stay home with our children, not only do we want to make them feel safe and happy, but be careful not to limit their sense of exploration, curiosity and imagination that would otherwise be triggered through many other means. So where do we escape with our children, besides play-time in the yard (for those of us lucky to have a yard), and games and activities indoors, especially that we still make efforts to limit screen-time? Books. We read, dream, learn, explore, travel. And then invent our own stories. Not only do books broaden their imagination, but they develop empathy, help them (and us) accept their emotions, deal with fear and scary situations, often times in imaginative ways. We all need that these days.

That being said, you may already own some of the most talked about children’s books, so here are a few great more under-the-radar children’s books you can order online. In doing so, we can also lend a virtual helping hand to the artists who wrote and drew them or maybe to your favourite local bookstore that had to close its doors for the time being. By ordering from them or by buying gift cards or pre-ordering new releases you may ensure they keep their activity going to some degree. Here are five eight ways to support your favourite indie bookshop. The culture-driving businesses are usually the independent and small businesses. Let’s do our part.
 
 
The Wolves of Currumpaw and Shackleton’s Journey, by William Grill

When I first bought William Grill’s The Wolves of Currumpaw and Shackleton’s Journey, I knew they were two of those books to save for later for when my son could truly discover their beauty. It seems we are slowly getting there, not because we can read for ourselves (not there yet), but because the drawings lead us through the stories in a way no other book does, and help us discover the stories in a truly explorative sense. We gave names to all the wolves in The Wolves of Currumpaw, tracked their trail, helped humans make peace with them, tried to understand bad behaviour and accepted that the humans made a mistake and were trying to change, becoming friends with the animals. And then we counted every single one of the 69 dogs in Shackleton’s Journey, studied every map and name written on it (which lead to pulling out the world atlas and to more exploration), checked out every supply and dog igloo and camp activity and sledge in the story. It’s not just a story we take away, but countless. We escape.

That’s what William’s books, with his style of drawing, those effortless, unrestrained, natural-flowing, child-like (in the best possible meaning) strokes of pencil, do: they leave enough room to the imagination, taking us on a journey of wonder.

Note: If you don’t have a local bookshop you can support, you can order William Grill’s books from here if you are in Europe and if you are in the US or other parts of the world you can refer to your regular bookshop or book provider**. There is also an activity book available, or wooden toys you can order directly from William Grill’s online shop.
 

“While looking out over the Currumpaw I knew this view had to be the shot that established Lobo surveying his kingdom.”
”The Wolves of Currumpaw” by William Grill

 
 
The Lying King / Crocodile’s Tears / Monkey See, Monkey Draw / The Jungle Grapevine, by Alex Beard

Alex Beard believes it is his ​“duty as a human being to be a responsible tenant of the natural world” and that, as an artist, he has “certain tools to help accomplish that goal, therefore not using the talents at my dispoal for greater good is both irresponsible and selfish”. Nature and those that you find in it are what inspires him the most (no wonder, given his lineage – Alex’s uncle was wildlife photographer and artist Peter Beard). What better example to set for our children?

About his children’s books, Alex has told me: “Tales from the Watering Hole are anthropomorphic parables in the vein of Aesop and Kipling. The Jungle Grapevine is about rumors, Monkey See, Monkey Draw is a book about the fun of making art for little kids, Crocodile’s Tears is a story about endangered species and the environment, and The Lying King is about a warthog.”

Note: If you don’t have a local bookshop you can support, you can order the books directly from Alex Beard’s online shop if you are in the US and if you are in Europe or other parts of the world you can refer to your regular bookshop or book provider**. His illustrations from the books can serve as a creative source for drawing, too.
 
 
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau, by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Éric Puybaret

We are into the underwater life. Big time. Journeys under the ocean, the biggest fish, what the blue whale eats, how big the eyes of the colossal squid are (the biggest in the animal world, if you are curious, the size of a bowling ball), what’s the biggest depth of the ocean… we are curious about all of it. So Jacques Cousteau is slowly becoming a hero in our home. It’s about endless curiosity. How can it not capture a child’s imagination and sense of adventure? And children can slowly begin to learn how passion can lead to positive impact. But what makes the story in Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau so irresistible for kindergarten children are Éric Puybaret’s illustrations. His drawings are rooms of wonders, letting fantasy be part of reality.

Note: If you don’t have a local bookshop you can support, you can order the book here if you are in Europe and if you are in the US or other parts of the world you can refer to your regular bookshop or book provider**.
 
 
In the meantime:

Children’s books authors and illustrators are coming up with online readings and drawing tutorials to keep children occupied at home.

Flying Eye Books comes with activity suggestions while staying indoors, some of which are downloadable.

Libraries, archives and other cultural institutions are sharing free colouring sheets and books from their collections for at-home projects for kids.
 
 
* The book “Lions and Sailing Ships”, by Svyatoslav Sakharnov, pictured in the first image, is a classic children’s book that unfortunately has been out of print for years.

** In these trying times, our intention is to support artists and small businesses of any kind, so we will not link to global online book chains or corporations, leaving you to make the choice of helping your favourite independent bookshop. If you don’t have a favourite indie bookstore, here is how to find one you can support.
 
 
More stories: Journeys to the Other Side of the World / Talking Books and the Art of Bookshop Keeping with Vlad Niculescu / Editorial: The Children Are Alright

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