so I prowled off to my local indie bookshop and bought not one but four books...picture books.
I bought two for birthdays which occur this month. The first was "Mulga Bill's Bicycle". If you live in another part of the world you may not know the poem by AB (Banjo) Paterson but most Australian children learn about it in school. (There was a time when they would have memorised it but that is less common now.) The poem tells the story of an arrogant man who gives up his horse and buys a penny-farthing bicycle - which he proceeds to try and ride with disastrous consequences.
Of course it is the illustrations by Kilmeny and Deborah Niland which make this version so funny. It will appeal to the parents of the intended recipient as well as the recipient herself.
Her brother is getting "The tiger who came to tea" by Judith Kerr. There is a smaller, rather battered copy of the book in this house. My nephews loved it when they were small - "even though it's a girl and not a boy"! They would make "tiger food" from malted milk powder and a chocolate drink known as "Milo" - and then eat it themselves.
I also bought the Ahlberg's wonderful "Peepo" - and yes it is one of the best picture books ever. The wealth of detail in the illustrations and the delightful anticipation of wondering what is behind that small round hole on alternate pages make for one of the glorious anticipatory experiences in reading even for an adult.
I know all of these books well. They have all been around for many years.
I did not know the last book I bought - although I had been told about it. I had been waiting for the bookshop to get it in. It is "Out of the Egg" by Tina Matthews (Walker Books). It is a retelling of the story of "The Little Red Hen" - with a twist to the tale that turns it into something very special indeed. I won't spoil the surprise if you have not read it - but, believe me, you should.
I brought them home and handed them over to the rather flat Senior Cat. The seemingly endless hot weather is not merely frustrating him but sapping his energy.
He sat at the kitchen table and read all four books. He can still recite Mulga Bill (and a good many other poems). He remembered the Tiger and Peepo and was delighted by the twist to the Little Red Hen story.
"Oh, look at this!....I had forgotten that.... Remember this one... And the coal, children would not know what that was now...oh yes, tiger food....You can't even see the spokes in the wheels he is going so fast..."
The Senior Cat is 90. There were far fewer books around when he was very young. I am glad he has lived long enough to enjoy them. You are never too old for a good picture book.