As any parent of young children will know, there comes a moment when it’s time for a clear out. It’s when the floor is no longer visible beneath a carpet of plastic cars, colouring books and various devices which bleep, glow or flash at unpredictable moments. It’s when you no longer tidy the mess but simply bend the knees, stoop low, drive the shoulders into the mass of tat, and shove it piled-high into a corner.
It’s also well-known that clear outs have to be clandestine affairs, carried out stealthily when the kids are in bed. Do this with said children and you’re doomed. Untouched board games suddenly become precious treasures. Fluff-covered superhero figures, left alone for months in some dark recess, are suddenly clutched lovingly to chests. Despite lacking critical parts and despite generating next to no prior interest, jigsaws become vital, as essential as oxygen.
In a recent after hours clear out, and with that unique, stomach-flipping feeling of discovering your children have moved imperceptibly from one stage of life to the next, we filled a bag of board books. My children are babies no more. So many favourites, like Millie Moo, Rainbow Rob, I Like it When – reminders of those special days when books weren’t just read, they were licked and chewed and salivated upon. Books that established a bond between adult and child, before words are understood – when the neurons in the brain are firing in a way that is almost perceptible.
It’s highly unlikely I will buy another board book, unless as a gift for someone else. If I were to part with my cash, Animal Babies by Julia Groves would be a wise investment. There’s a series of four, each one showing bold images of animal parent and child across a double-page spread.
The pictures are intriguing – the best way I can describe them is that they are pictures that appear almost like photographs, such is their accuracy and nuance. They have a warm, engaging quality which infuses each animal with character and depth.
Animals often feature in children’s books, but the author has cleverly moved beyond the predictable. All the animals you expect are in the books, plus ones you wouldn’t. These are built to last, both in design and content – an older child would be interested to look at a raccoon and their baby kits or an alpaca and baby cria.
These books will be finding their way to a good home, now my children are too old for them. And, one thing’s for sure, when it comes to clear out time, Animal Babies will be firmly in somebody’s ‘keep’ pile.
A copy of Animal Babies was provided by the author.