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Beauty and sadness in children’s books

One of the great joys of being a parent is reading to your children (or as is happening more and more often these days, having them read to you). There are more kids’ books to choose from than ever before, and I’m often struck by the power and beauty of them.

This, from Town Is By The Sea (Joanne Schwartz; illustrated by Sydney Smith) is glorious.

It’s a deceptively simple book set in a mining community in Nova Scotia but relevant everywhere. In it, a child talks about his day and his routines while his dad mines for coal under the sea. It’s quietly heartbreaking – the book very cleverly hints at the danger and fear of the men working underground without breaking the spell of the main narrative – and very beautiful.

Another writer I’ve come to love is Oliver Jeffers, whose children’s books are just perfectly pitched: my son’s current favourites include The Great Paper Caper, in which a bear is ruining the forest because he wants to follow in his father and grandfathers’ footsteps. I don’t want to spoil the excellent twist. My son also loves How To Catch A Star, which really evokes the way kids think, and pretty much everything else Jeffers has produced. We’re big fans.

Jeffers is probably best known for Lost And Found, a tale of a boy and a penguin that was animated for TV, but I think his best work may be The Heart And The Bottle, which I can barely think about without getting all teary.

It’s about love and loss, and it will take your breath away.