Last week, I did something I really should have done ages ago. I sorted through my sons’ bookshelves, trying to make sense of the picture books, encyclopedias, comic books and novels they have been accumulating since…. well, birth.

Some of the obvious ones had already migrated to my daughter’s room ages ago, but lately I’d been having this nagging feeling while searching through her books for our read aloud sessions that some great ones were missing.

How excited I was to find a couple of real treats from Julia Donaldson, collecting dust on the boys’ bottom bookshelf!

George the Giant was the scruffiest giant in town, until he bought himself some new clothes. He then became “The Smartest Giant in Town”. (This generated some conversation with my children for whom ‘smart’ means clever or intelligent. I explained that in England, ‘smart’ also means handsome or well-dressed…)

In this book, George walks through town in his ‘smart’ new clothes and meets all sorts of animals in distress. He helps every one of them by giving them items from his new wardrobe, until he has nothing left but his old rags. But he is happy because he has helped his friends, who, in the end, reward him by naming him ‘The Kindest Giant in Town’. This book, full of lovely, repeating rhymes, fantastically illustrated by Axel Sheffler, teaches a great lesson about helping those in need. My daughter couldn’t believe how George gave his clothes away without a second thought, and giggled seeing him in his various stages of undress. She has asked for it again and again since I ‘found’ it, and we highly recommend it! Pre-School – Grade 3.

A little old lady sits in her tiny house, feeling sorry for herself. When a wise old man stops by, she asks him to help her, for her house is ‘a squash and a squeeze’.

The wise old man tells her to bring in her animals, one by one, which she does without questioning. In come the hen, the goat, the pig and finally, the cow.

“Stop, I implore. It was teeny for one, but it’s titchy for four”

My older boys, who happened to be listening in on this read-aloud, and had forgotten it from their early days, didn’t get it, and wondered what the wise old man was trying to do. “He isn’t really a wise old man, is he, mummy? He’s just crazy”, thinking this was a story about not listening to crazy strangers… 😉 When finally, in the end, the wise old man told the little old lady to send all the animals out, they got it. “Ooooooh, clever”. The house now seemed huge to the little old lady, after having shared it with her various farm animals. A great lesson in appreciating what you have, it is again beautifully illustrated by Axel Sheffler, and told in Ms. Donaldson’s classic, clever rhyming style. A fantastic read-aloud for kids of all ages, as my 3 can attest to!

This one had not been abandoned in the boys’ room, and has been a storytime favorite of all of ours forever. Years ago I had an audio version which I have sadly misplaced, but I have the voices for this one down pat!

“A Gruffalo, what, didn’t you know?”

The story of a clever mouse who outwits all the animals in the forest who would eat it for lunch, is a classic. My kids love hearing me do all the animal voices, and never tire of hearing how this tiny mouse outsmarts even the scariest animals in the woods. When the imagined Gruffalo actually does make his appearance, the story takes a surprising turn! One of my favorite read aloud bloggers, ReadAloudDad, reviewed the Gruffalo here, and it is well worth a read!

Julia Donaldson has written many other stories that I am now eager to discover. I’m so glad I tackled the boys’ books and found these treasures again.

Now, if only I could muster up the energy to go through their clothes for the dreaded winter –> spring cleanup. Uggh. No chance of finding ANY hidden treasures, there, I’m afraid.