Thanks to the democratisation of air travel, a global economy and parents’ changing mindsets about travelling with children in tow, we’re now witnessing the advent of a new generation of very lucky — and, dare I say, privileged — tots who think nothing of hopping on a plane and arriving hours later in a foreign land halfway across the world. Thus, Lately Lily is one of the few children’s books that have managed to capture the zeitgeist of today’s mini globetrotters.
For many little children, especially girls, even before they start to make friends or play together with other kids, they may already have a vague concept of what friendship means, through their interactions with their toys — particularly stuffed toys that easily lend themselves to make-believe conversations and physical expressions of affection, i.e. hugs and kisses. And while adults tend to dismiss such one-sided pretend-play as ‘cute, harmless fun’, in the minds of children, these ‘pretend-friends’ are probably as real to them as anybody else in their lives — and the bond between them and their toys actually serves as good practice for when they actually do get out there and attempt to make real-life friends.
When I was little, I had a white teddy bear. It wasn’t particularly special, but I liked to bring it with me everywhere around the house. Over time, the fur turned brown and it probably smelled, uh, ‘special’, but oddly, I just became more attached to it.
Now that I’m a parent, though, while I find it sweet that my daughter is very affectionate towards her motley collection of stuffed creatures, it’s hard not to wince when she grabs them with less-than-clean hands and plants kisses on them with food-smeared lips; or, worse, when she’s in a toy shop and attempts to hug and/or kiss various stuffed animals, all of which have probably been manhandled by countless other kids and have remnants of their DNA to show for it. But that’s the difference between kids and grown-ups: kids don’t think about practical things like dust, germs and stains — they just go with their heart.
In Monkey and Me, a little girl brings her stuffed monkey on an adventure to see some animals — possibly to the zoo, although it isn’t specified in the story. The simple repetitive text: “Monkey and me, monkey and me, we went to see, we went to see some __________” will appeal to young toddlers who will be able to memorise and recite the whole book easily — and make them want to read it again and again — while the double-page illustrations of the girl and her stuffed monkey, as well as the different animals that they see, are bold and exuberant.
A jealous queen sees the fun that Emily Brown has with her stuffed bunny and conspires to steal the bunny. Alas, in her hands, the bunny doesn’t deliver the fun that the queen expects.
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown is a cute story that illustrates the special relationship children have with their favourite toys, which become their playmates and co-conspirators on their imaginary adventures. Like books whose stories come alive when they are read, toys too only take on special meaning when wholeheartedly played with.
I think any kid with a favourite toy will be able to relate to Knuffle Bunny, which tells the story of a little girl, Trixie, who almost loses her stuffed bunny. The cute illustrations juxtaposed on photographs and simple, funny lines make the book memorable. Continue reading →