Just a few days ago my eleven year old son came home from school bursting with enthusiasm for a book one of his teachers was reading aloud to them in school. Cloud Busting, he said, and it’s written like a big long poem about a boy and his friend. He claimed that I’d love it.
So enthusiastic and so certain was he that I ended up downloading the audio book and we listened to it there and back again on a school journey. It’s only 45 minutes long but boy it packs a punch in that small package.
It’s a story about poetry and imagination, about bullies and victims and haiku, about poverty and isolation, about guilt and forgiveness, about redemption and the choices we make to be the person we are or the person we want to be.
Over the years we have used audio books to pass long car journeys. In fact I remember one such journey finishing whilst there was still 20 minutes left in the story and we sat in the car, all of us, until it was over. Fish, it was called, by L S Matthews. Another standout was Girl Underground by Morris Gleitzman. I also downloaded quite simply the best children’s book I ever read aloud to my son, the hilariously imaginative Muddle Earth, which we still talk about and still listen to, years after I read it to him at bedtime.
These books have been brilliantly written and and thoroughly engaging and, perhaps with the exception of the latter romp – a spoof of Middle Earth – they have tackled the most profound of subjects. Girl Underground is about politics and immigration and minority communities, Fish is a story of poverty and migration and hunger. They have tackled these big themes in ways that have had our kids and their parents rapt.
And they call them books for children.