As of this writing, Re:word has three heirs apparent, all under the age of four. Naturally, we’re preparing them to take over as soon as possible so we can retire to the yacht. That means exposing them to fantastic writing and fantastic authors. Like Nick Bland, an Australian children’s writer whose work focuses on Bear and his friends Zebra, Lion, Moose, Flea, Boris the Buffalo and others.
What makes Nick’s writing so good is that it’s fun to read. And it’s not just the stories themselves. It’s the attention he pays to cadence: the beat of the words — and he doesn’t miss one.
A lot of children’s authors will force a rhyme into place like this:
This is John and this is Jane
And yesterday they got on a plane.
The yesterday is off beat. That should be a two-syllable, front-heavy word like ¾ well, like “heavy”: HEA-vy.
Most parents excuse this kind of laziness. We’re not most parents. And neither, it seems, is Nick Bland.
“This is Bear and this is Flea
But flea’s a little hard to see.”
“In the Jingle Jangle Jungle
on the edge of Slimy Bog,
Bear was picking berries
from a very wobbly log.”
“To draw kids to reading, you have to make them feel good when they read,” says Jodi Goldstein, a reading specialist in Toronto. “Our brains are naturally comforted to patterns. It’s why we sing nursery rhymes. And it’s why you’re so jarred by a lyric that doesn’t rhyme or a line that throws off the beat.”
Jodi loves Nick’s work from a few different perspectives. “He mixes up the syllabic structure from story to story, and even from page to page within a story — but he never loses the beat. That’s not easy in its own right. He’s also skilled enough to fit his ideas into the structures he creates, and still make them palatable to kids.” She says she can easily pull out story morals from Nicks’ work, and they’re very repeatable:
“So Bear and Boris Buffalo went back to Froggy’s Cave,
agreed that bears and buffaloes are equally as brave.”
As a bonus, Bland’s books are beautifully illustrated, very colourful and look great on a shelf. Look for his books online or at all the best kids’ bookstores. Here’s his entire catalogue as of this writing.