After all these years of hunting down, reading, and blogging about children’s books, I finally have a baby that I can use as a litmus test to check and see whether my gut instincts about kid’s books are any good.
I’ve learned a number of things:
- Board books are indispensable when your child is old enough to turn pages (6 months plus) but likes to rip pages/is unable to do anything other than rip pages (not sure what age this is).
- Animals are a big deal. Familiar animals are an even bigger deal.
- No matter how beautiful the illustrations are, a very small child is more likely to crow with delight at a photograph.
This last point was, for me, heart breaking. I love beautiful illustrations. I want my kids to be broad-minded about what is “beautiful”. I want to challenge their aesthetic senses with interesting imagery and colours. But hey, my 10-month-old loves photographs. He doesn’t understand that the patch of orange made with swishy brushstrokes is, in fact, a cat. But show him a photo of a cat and he immediately starts babbling in high-pitched ecstasy while he reaches out to touch it. As a result, we go to the library and come home with insipid books about animals doing (or not doing) insipid things. I love it, because he loves it. But these are not books that I sit around with and look at after he’s asleep. That is, until now.
Fear no more! Contraires is a beautiful, inspired, challenging book. The “opposites” in this book are more than just “up” and “down” and “big” and “small”, they are photographic lessons of the natural world. Where else is a kid going to learn things like “miniscule, like the shrew…and enormous, like the African elephant”; or “in a group, like gnus…and alone, like the brown bear”. And – a bonus for some – they are in French.
Contraires had me as soon as I saw it’s quirky and fun cover. I encourage you to pick it up – no more “my name is Slippers, and I like to chew/Peekaboo, I see you!” – no, thank you. (Sample insipid verse improvised by me).
Favourite Opposite: Herbivore, like the giraffe…Carnivore, like the lion. No time like the present to learn about animals eating animals!
Favourite Photograph: Female, like the hen. You should see the expression on her face!
Rating: A from me and A from the baby.
Ages: I think that kids as old as 2 would like to look at the pictures, but there’s not much story so it might not hold their attention. For a kid who is learning French (as opposed to one whose parents speak it to them regularly) you could probably go as old as 4, as long as they love animals, because these animals are just so much fun. And yes, there are lions, and cheetahs, and primates, and koalas, and penguins.