Zanib Mian’s top 5 books with families
Published on: 30 April 2019 Author: Zanib Mian
Author Zanib Mian looks at a range of family relationships and representations that she has enjoyed in children's books – from the family dynamics that everyone can relate to, to expressions of love that warm the heart.
From the front cover of Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik
Families provide a wealth of entertaining sparks to the pages of a book, from comedy to sentimental content and perhaps even the shock factor. Authors love writing books with families, and we love reading them. Perhaps what makes books with families such great reads is that we enjoy comparing our own families to the ones on the pages and spotting the hilarious things that we do exactly the same as the family in the book!
I particularly enjoy seeing the dynamics between family members, siblings, parent-child relationships and grandparents. Reflecting on my top five books with families has been interesting, as I realised that the ones I’ve been touched by and that have left a special mark in my parenting journey, are unlike my own book Planet Omar in that they are not comedies, but much like Omar’s family, there is much love emanating through the pages of each one.
1. Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
This is a Roald Dahl adventure, but at the heart of it, it is a story about the relationship between Danny and his father. The book is written in an autobiographical style, in the voice of Danny, a nine-year-old boy who lost his mother when he was just a child, and is being raised by his father, who, to Danny, is the most wonderful man on Earth – he simply adores him. And why not? The books describes an admirable father-child relationship, which of course, includes lots of story-telling!
Danny discovers that his father is a poacher, getting up to no good in the early hours of the morning. And so Danny learns that no matter how normal things seem, families are not perfect – sometimes parents can do things that are shocking and may be difficult to understand.
2. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury have ingeniously taken the simplest of childhood moments and spun a wonderful, endearing story out of it. A father and his four children – a toddler, a preschool boy and two older girls – go on a bear hunt! Reflecting on this book brings back such warm memories of reading it to my children. I know it by heart, of course, having read it thousands of times. I love the normality of this family and the mess they’re not afraid to get into. I love the implication that together they can get through any obstacle, be it outrunning a bear to the safety of their cosy bed. My children and I didn’t quite know whether the bear was imagined or real, which simply added to the fun!
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Most people are familiar with this hugely imaginative and funny story of an eccentric chocolate maker who allows five lucky children into his mysterious factory.
I’m including it in this post, because I adore the closeness of Charlie’s family, who despite being on the brink of starvation, are loving, kind and patient with each other. Four grandparents, Charlie and his mother and father share whatever little they have, of food and money, and even space. The book depicts a wonderful relationship between Charlie and his grandfather. I appreciate the representation of this gem of a relationship, because my children are very close to their grandparents. I can’t help but think that Charlie’s very sweet nature is a result of this love and respect he is shown by those raising him, which is why this family is one of my all-time favourites in children’s literature.
4. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson
This is the story of three baby owls who wake up to find their mother has gone, so they wonder and think, ‘because all owls think a lot.’ Of course, she does return, much to their delight. I love the way these siblings stick together and half comfort each other, but half just get on with their own thoughts about where their mother has disappeared to. This story perfectly captures the way siblings interact with each other and the way children assess situations, which is why it’s an endearing read for any child.
5. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram
This is a charming book about the love between a parent and child. I think it’s so important that members of a family should be able to express their love for one another in the way that this father and son do. I’ve always told my children that I love them and we enjoy expressing just how much to each other just like these rabbits do. However, an interesting thing about Pakistanis from my parent’s generation is that, although they showed a lot of affection and love– including using a whole host of terms of endearment – saying ‘I love you’ simply wasn’t the done thing! So I revelled in expressing it in words such as, ‘I love you to the moon and back.’
Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian is published by Hodder Children’s Books on 18 April 2019.