Guest post: My family's favorite books by Amy Stretch-Parker

Guest post: My family's favorite books by Amy Stretch-Parker

When Lisa from Kidunk asked me to write a guest blog post for them about my family’s favourite books I was only too happy to oblige. Although my kids have a ton of toys and tech to play with (far too much in my opinion), the two activities we insist on as parents, and have no complaints about from the kids, are getting outside to play and reading time. I’m a great believer in reading to kids as soon as they’re born, if not before, making story time part of a routine that becomes loved and cherished. There’s so much research on the importance of reading to children, as much, if not more, as there is about how important it is to allow kids unstructured play out in nature. It’s no surprise then that most of the books I really enjoy sharing with my family are often nature or outdoor play based.

I’m going to start with the book that formed me as a child, the book that got me exploring, that encouraged the passion for wildflowers, gardening and foraging I still have as an adult - Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies series. A timeless classic with delicate songs and beautiful illustrations. For me it was an I-Spy book. I’d take my little book out with me on walks, my mother pointing out wildflowers in the hedgerow, garden plants and trees, all of which I could find between the pages. I’d search for the fairies and bring petals back home to make my own magical creatures and potions. I’d sing my own melodies for the ‘songs’ and carefully try and copy the pictures.  


My partner Pete wouldn’t be who he is without Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. Growing up in Coniston, the Lake District,  who can blame him? Sailing, exploring, adventure! What more could you want from a book? He decided to make his own boat to try and get over to Cat’s Island after reading the series, and adventure I may explore further in my next ‘Peter’ book.

When my youngest turned one a parcel arrived on my doorstep from a friend who had a daughter a few months older than him. Inside the parcel was Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown. My friend said, ‘I think both of you will enjoy this as much as we do!’ And we did! Not only is this book stunning, it has a wonderful message - Be Yourself! Be Wild! Mr. Tiger is bored of being ‘proper’, of conforming and living in the city, so he makes some big changes in his life and goes WILD! It’s still one of my favourites to read to the kids, they still love the part when… oh wait, I won’t spoil it for you.

On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies is a book I bought for my step-daughter Lilly when my son and I moved in with my partner and his family. It’s a wonderful story about transitions, about friendship and adjusting to change. Birt and Etho are two friends who play together on Sudden Hill with their cardboard boxes. The boxes are anything they want them to be; boats, rockets, castles. One day Shu comes to play with them, a new boy with a new box. Birt finds it difficult to adjust to the addition to his little duo and stops playing with the boys. It’s a heartwarming story written with feeling and in a delightfully poetic style. The colours and illustrations are simply beautiful. A must read for any child dealing with life changes (or a cardboard box to play with).

If you’re trying to bring up conscientious, environment respecting, green kids you can’t go wrong with  Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. I’m sure everyone knows the story by now, the exploitation of resources, the damaging effects of pollution and a life without trees. All the Dr. Seuss books are a big hit in our house. His style is undeniably imaginative and engaging and his messages are strong and clear. The Lorax makes an unforgettable point to children in the best way possible - through story. I hope that our kids ‘speak for the trees’ in the way the Lorax does. `

Of course when you enjoy reading children’s stories as much as I do it’s only natural to want to write one. My book Peter Digs a Den (based on a true story told to me by my partner Pete, you know, the one who loved Swallows and Amazons as a boy),  is a simple story about a small boy with a big idea. He wants to dig a den big enough for his entire family and all their pets to sleep in. I don’t know about you, but my kids love to dig and the more parents I speak to, the more I find children who love digging holes, sometimes to get to China, sometimes for no apparent reason whatsoever!

Peter Digs A Den

We’re celebrating the book launch of Peter Digs a Den on Wednesday 25th October with a children’s festival at the Coronation Hall, Ulverston. There’ll be loads of activities suitable for kids aged 2-11; story telling,model making, crafts,  hula hooping, yoga and cardboard box den building and amazing food and stalls from my favourite children’s clothing and toy companies. Tickets available here.

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