Unlocking the Magic of Children’s Books: Molly Arbuthnott’s Guide

Selecting the perfect picture book for your little ones is exciting and crucial for their development. Picture books play a vital role in shaping a child’s early experiences with literature, fostering a love for reading, and stimulating cognitive and emotional growth. 

Books go beyond entertainment; they contribute to language development, enhance vocabulary, and lay the foundation for a lifelong appreciation of storytelling. 

To guide parents in this, Molly Arbuthnott, a creative mind behind cherished children’s works from the Oscar and Friends series; Conrad the Spider, and Athena the Cheetah and others, offers valuable insights. With awards like “The Best Cat in Literature” from the British Library, Molly’s perspective enriches the significance of selecting literature for children. Here are her insights for parents seeking the perfect picture book.

1. Dive into a Visual Wonderland: Bright and Engaging Illustrations

Start visually with books that have bright pictures. Colors that pop and characters that come to life on the page will surely grab your child’s attention. Molly emphasizes that  storytelling begins with the eyes.

2. Clear as a Sunny Day: Simple and Clear Text

Words matter! Opt for books with clear and simple language. The best picture storybooks feature text that flows smoothly, creating a seamless reading experience. The goal is to wrap your little one in the warmth of language, making reading a cozy and enjoyable venture.

3. Adding Excitement: Interactive Elements

Add a bit of hands-on excitement. Seek books with interactive elements like flaps to lift, textures to touch, or surprise sound effects. These engaging features transform reading time into an exploration, bringing stories to life beyond the printed words.

4. Messages that Matter: Positive Themes and Messages

Each story should have a positive message for young readers. Molly recommends selecting books that incorporate valuable lessons, such as those about friendship, kindness, or overcoming fears. A good story leaves your child with not just a smile but a nugget of wisdom too.

5. Real-Life Connections: Relevance to Daily Life

Choose books that relate to your child’s daily life—like going to school, making friends, or bedtime routines. The more relatable the story, the easier it is for your child to connect with the characters and the message they convey.

6. The Magic of Repetition: Re-readability Factor

Lastly, think about how much your child enjoys reading the book over and over. A beloved storybook is like a favorite treat—your child will want more. Look for books that your little one requests again and again, as the true magic of a picture storybook is its ability to create lasting memories through repetition.

Considering these elements is crucial because they contribute to a child’s overall development and engagement with literature. When choosing picture books for your kids, think about the colorful pictures, easy words, fun things to do in the book, good messages, stories about everyday life, and if your child wants to read it again and again. 

Molly maintains that if a book has all these, it’s the best for your child. Her books, like Oscar the Ferry Cat (ISBN: 978-1-59079-566-8; $16.99 USD) published by SelectBooks, Inc. and set to be released in the US on May 14, 2024, give parents good choices for their kids. So, encourage your child to have fun reading and learning! Rose Leslie, who played Ygritte on the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones, wrote of it, “Such a delightful read. Long may Oscar and his adventures continue!” 
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York has created a beautiful video production of her reading from Oscar the Ferry Cat for her YouTube channel. It can be viewed here.

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