Have you found yourself, over the past weeks, explaining to your little ones that you have to ‘work’? Have you been met with a blank stare, an eyeroll or an eager ‘I’ll work with you!’? The world of work is a mysterious continent for kids, who navigate its coastal waters riding on questions from, ‘What do people do all day?’ to ‘Is that a job?’ via ‘What will I be when I grow up?’
‘Working’ is part of a grown-up vocabulary and it is one of the main activities kids come up with when playing at being mammy or daddy, beside nursing a mug of tea or coffee. Very young readers (2+) will enjoy making this vague idea of work into something more specific, with tasks, actions and tools, following Jessica Spanyol’s Clive as he tries out a new job in each of his gentle adventures: Clive is a waiter, a teacher, a librarian, a nurse, in this great, inclusive series that also tackles gender stereotypes linked to professions. For readers of a more inquisitive nature (of either the philosophical or rebellious kind), I’m Actually Really Grown-up Now by Maisie Paradise Shearring (4+) is a brilliant example of a kid longing to join the ranks of the adults in her life. The lines between play and work are blurred … with mixed results!
Search-and-find books such as William Bee’s Migloo’s Day (3+) offer great opportunities to encounter lots of different jobs from the more realistic (meet Isabella the traffic police lady or Reg who sells the veg) to the more old-fashioned (Mr Tompion the clock winder) or the more fanciful (Flossy the Candyfloss lady!). Kids aged 5+ who wonder what’s keeping their grown-ups busy (outside themselves!) will love Virginie Morgand’s What Do Grown-ups Do All Day? It’s a wonderfully diverse look at jobs and occupations, presented in bold illustration and accessible text, and always with a care to be relatable to children.
If your child has a strong sense of what they’d like to do, check out the ‘Academy’ series by Steve Martin. With a title on becoming a vet, a chef, an entrepreneur, a doctor, a pilot or even an astronaut (and more), there should be plenty to get you started in your early career guidance sessions. These books combine explanations with challenges and activities, so the young professional can get a taste of the job (7+).
For readers who eat up facts or are historically minded, try Heroes: Inspirational People and the Amazing Jobs They Do by Jonny Marx and Gerhard Van Wyk. It is a great one-stop shop if you have a hopeful explorer, biologist, social worker, lawyer, activist, writer or farmer on your hands (to name but a few of the categories explored in Heroes, 9+). And finally, if you or your kids have ever felt a deep sense of panic at the question ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ Natalie Labarre has lots of wonderful options in her Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of, from ‘professional laugher’ to ‘crossword puzzle writer’ and absolutely everything in between!
Written by Juliette Saumande (juliettesaumande.blogspot.ie), a children’s book writer whose latest title, My Little Album of Dublin, is illustrated by Tarsila Krüse and published by The O’Brien Press.
I’m Actually Really Grown-up Now, by Maisie Paradise Shearring
Meena is really not happy that she can’t stay up late and enjoy the party like the grown-ups do. So, the next day she decides to officially become one of them. It involves dressing (up) like a grown-up, reading the news like a grown-up and of course going to work (on her toy tractor)! Meena’s self-appointed job is to organise a grown-up party for herself and her friends, but she soon discovers adulthood isn’t quite as fun as it first seemed. Gorgeous, warm illustrations add tons of humour to the straight-faced text. Great fun! (Age 4+)
What Do Grown-ups Do All Day? by Virginie Morgand
That is a fair question, isn’t it? Virginie Morgand answers it by looking at fifteen workplaces from school to the farm via the hospital and TV studios. In each, a wonderfully diverse cast of professionals gets a chance to name and explain their job, and the reassuring voice of the narrator gently guides the reader into imagining themselves in their place. Colourful, informative and very stylish! (Age 5+)
Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of, by Natalie Labarre
From mime artists to golf ball divers via professional queuers, this book is bound to have something for the most undecided of budding professional. Big, bright and busy illustrations cleverly combine scenes and settings that allow lots of characters to do their job. The bite-sized text is full of cleverly selected facts and figures that will bring a ‘Wow’ to many readers’ lips. There are also search-and-find challenges on every page for a very interactive experience! (Age 8+)
Heroes: Inspirational People and the Amazing Jobs They Do, by Jonny Marx and Gerhard Van Wyk
Forget about Batman, Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman. This book celebrates real-life heroes: people from all walks of life and all continents who have made terrific contributions to their field. Here you will find explorers, mathematicians, athletes, environmentalists, builders, firefighters, inventors, vets and lots more. There is a huge amount of facts delivered through very accessible text and striking illustrations using very effective colour schemes. (Age 9+)
For more reviews check out Inis magazine which is published by Children’s Books Ireland, the national children’s books organisation whose vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life.