The rights of a reader

There has been some discussion on Twitter recently about the importance of reading for pleasure and how to encourage this in children. This is something I feel very strongly about. I’ve explored it in previous posts about book choices, reading for pleasure in schools and getting children to read.

Reading for pleasure is a wonderful thing

Girl Reading

Reading by Bethany Petrik: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One of the tweets by the children’s author, S. F. Said, included the idea of the rights of a reader. This is taken from Daniel Pennac’s book, The Rights of the Reader, in which he presents a manifesto of “the 10 rights that should be granted to all readers” (Lacey, 2006). Available as a poster illustrated by Quentin Blake, these are:

1. The right not to read
2. The right to skip
3. The right not to finish a book
4. The right to read it again
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to mistake a book for real life
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to dip in
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to be quiet

Consider how these rights are often not accorded to children when reading at school (and sometimes at home). They have to read, whether they want to or not. They have to read what they are given by their teacher. They are discouraged from re-reading books, especially multiple times. They are steered away from certain authors and formats towards those that are perceived to be ‘better for them’.

The right to read anything (including magazines)

Underpinning it all is the focus on reading as a skill to be acquired, rather than an experience to be savoured. This is why so many children, who may start out loving books, particularly when they share picture books with their families, end up turning away from reading as something that is not for them.

The right to read anywhere (including on the floor in a bookshop!)

Boy Reading

Lost by Tim Pierce: CC BY 2.0

S. F. Said believes “every child can be a reader” (Said, 2019) and that the way in which this can happen is for them to become hooked on books. This begins when they find a book that draws them in and allows them to experience the joy of reading. The trouble is “some kids haven’t yet found that book. But that doesn’t mean we should write them off as ‘non-readers’. It just means they need help to find it” (Said, 2019). To that end, S. F. Said has put together a crowd-sourced list of 31 books that have turned “kids into readers” (Said, 2019). Booktrust has then curated lists of recommendations, all with the aim of putting the right book into the hands of a young reader. More ideas can be found under the Twitter hashtag #hookedonbooks. These are all great resources for parents, guardians, teachers and librarians and have the potential to help every child to become a reader.

Get children hooked on books by encouraging them to read for pleasure, by helping them to find books that they enjoy and by not telling them what or how they should be reading. In short, afford them the same rights as readers that we as adults have.

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The wonderful world of Celestine and the Hare

Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day, which marks the start of Random Acts of Kindness Week. This event focuses on “[changing] schools, the workplace, families and society through kindness” (The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, 1995-2019). As part of the celebrations, I would like to introduce you to the wonderful world of Celestine and the Hare. Located in Karin Celestine’s garden shed, it is “a place that makes people smile and where kindness and mischief are the order of the day” (Karin Celestine, n.d.). All sorts of creatures, from weasels to circus mice, can be found there and their stories are told through books and videos.

But before I share the first seven books with you, let me introduce you to the Tribe…

Emily explains to the Tribe what a bookmark is (from Finding your Place)

The Tribe

From left to right: Emily, Panda, Small, Baby Weasus and King Norty

Here are their bios from the front of the books:

Baby Weasus was found on the doorstep on Christmas Eve and was adopted by King Norty. She is only little but clever and brave and curious with a huge kind heart. Being a weasel she is also a little bit mischievous, especially when with her daddy.

King Norty is the King of the Weasels. He can’t read but uses his weaselly intelligence, wit and torrential charm for choklit snaffling. Which is what he spends his days plotting to do (along with being daddy to Baby Weasus).

Panda loves the sea and his sock hat. He likes to draw and is best friends with Emily. He is quiet and thoughtful and loves it when Emily reads to him.

Emily is wise and patient and kind and loves to read. She looks after everyone in the Shed and gives the best cuddles. She likes to make things and read books but will always stop what she is doing to hold down the knot on your parcel.

Small doesn’t remember what he is or where he came from before he was found but he is small so he is called Small. He is rather quiet and shy and sometimes people don’t notice him, but he is very helpful and always kind. He likes to sit in tea cups and eat biscuits and watch what is going on best of all. Everyone loves Small.

The characters that Karin Celestine has created remind me of those found in the books of Winnie-the-Pooh. Each one embodies qualities we can identify with, and maybe aspire to. And like A. A. Milne’s stories, the books contain humour, friendship and kindness, as well gently guiding children (and adults) with lessons in love and compassion. Plus there is something beautiful to make at the end of each one.

And here are the books…

Books of beauty and love

Celestine And The Hare Books

Small Finds a Home

Small Finds A Home

When Small comes to live with the Tribe there aren’t enough beds to go around. But Emily has an idea…

Includes instructions for stick weaving.

Paper Boat for Panda

Paper Boat For Panda

Panda dreams of sailing on the wide and beautiful sea, but he knows his boat is only a toy. Then Baby Weasus has an idea…

Includes instructions for making your very own paper boat.

Honey for Tea

Honey For Tea

Emily’s bees make lovely honey for tea. But how can Baby Weasus say thank you for all their hard work?

Includes instructions for making your very own alder cone bee.

Finding your Place

Finding Your Place

Panda loves when Emily reads to him, but he can never find his favourite page. Luckily, Emily knows just how to help…

How to make your own bookmark inside.

A Small Song

A Small Song

When the hedgehog plays, Small remembers songs his Grandpa used to play. And King Norty knows how he can hear the songs again…

How to make your own banjo inside.

Catching Dreams

Catching Dreams

When Baby Weasus can’t sleep, King Norty has just the thing to help her…

How to make your own dreamcatcher inside.

Bertram Likes to Sew

Bertram Likes To Sew

The youngest of the family, Bertram doesn’t like swimming like other water voles, but he does love to sew and repair his family’s clothes. A gentle story about being true to yourself and following your passions.

Includes ecological notes and instructions about making your own teddy bear.

There are a further two books about Bertram’s family: Bert’s Garden and the soon-to-be published Helping Hedgehog Home. I’m planning on adding both of these to my collection.

I love these small books, which are full of warmth and kindness. They offer us gentle lessons in how to live and how to be with others. These are the qualities we need today in a world that is often hard, brash and ‘all about me’. Tasmin Rosewell from Kenilworth Books echoes these sentiments in her review of the books:

We’ve never found a book so small that is so warm and so heartbreakingly profound. The creatures in this delightful little tribe have lives that revolve around the tiny pleasures that the world can offer… With so many awful things in the world, and so much hate, these books are about the huge power of simple kindness.

(Twitter, 2018)

The books are ideal for sharing with children of all ages in schools and libraries (and they are also perfect for grown-ups too!). Karin Celestine has developed a set of teacher notes for the books and is also available for school visits.

Along with the books, I now have my own Baby Weasus, ready for mischief in her blue feather boa. Together we are going to snaffle some choklit!

Baby Weasus, who lives with me

Baby Weasus
What are you waiting for? Enter the wonderful world of Celestine and the Hare. You won’t regret it.

Photographs taken by the author. Click on the book cover image to link to the source. Quotes taken from the blurb and content of the books.

Picture books about bathtime

Saturday 9th February is Read in a Bathtub Day! In honour of this fantastic event, which perfectly combines bathing and reading, I have gathered together a list of bath-related picture books. These are ideal for sharing with little ones, particularly at bathtime.

Picture Books About Bathtime

The Flying Bath
Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by David Roberts

The Flying Bath

The calls have started! Who is first?
A kangaroo is weak with thirst!

One by one the calls come in from animals across the globe in need of water: from the grubby piglet who needs a shower, to a frightened baboon whose tree is on fire. But never fear, the bath toys are coming to the rescue in their magical flying bathtub! And they have water enough for every emergency.

In this fabulously fun story, the bath toys (a duck, frog and wind-up turtle) answer calls for help from animals around the world. With the refrain, “Wings out, and off we fly. The Flying Bath is in the sky!”, they set off to provide assistance to a thirsty kangaroo, a worried bee, a grubby piglet, a frightened baboon and an endangered fish. Then they head home in time for the children to have a bath. The story is told using only speech bubbles, making it perfect for retelling. There are lots of details in the pictures. Look closely to find out what each animal uses as a phone!

In my opinion, you can never go past a Julia Donaldson picture book. She is just the best at creating great stories with perfect rhyming text. And she always works with such great illustrators: Axel Scheffler, Lydia Monks, Rebecca Cobb, Lucy Richards and Sara Ogilvie. She has collaborated with David Roberts on Tyrannosaurus Drip, The Troll and, my favourite, Jack and the Flum-Flum Tree. All three are worth searching for at your local library.

Whale in the Bath
Written by Kylie Westaway and illustrated by Tom Jellett

Whale In The Bath

“Bruno, get in the bath!”

Bruno can’t wash when there is a whale in the bath. Why won’t anyone believe him?

A bubbly read-aloud story about bathtime with a very splashy solution.

Poor Bruno! He needs to have a bath, but there is a whale in the tub and it’s using his bubblegum bubble bath! His sister, Ally, doesn’t believe him and his brother, Pete, thinks it’s impossible for a whale to fit in a bath. Bruno is unable to reason with the whale. The situation looks hopeless until the whale has an idea; he whooshes water out of his blowhole and creates a shower for Bruno to wash under!

I really enjoyed this book, which was a 2015 CBCA Notable Book. It was lots of fun to read, especially the conversations between Bruno and the whale. And I love the endpapers, which are full of shrimp. Kylie Westaway and Tom Jellett have also worked together on Why Can’t I Be a Dinosaur?, about a girl who knows just what she wants to wear to a wedding… and it’s not a dress!

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth
Written by Michelle Robinson and illustrated by Kate Hindley

How To Wash A Woolly Mammoth

Is your woolly mammoth splattered in mud and tangled with leaves? Is he less fragrant and grubby around the ears?

Washing a woolly mammoth can be hard work. But don’t worry! Just follow this step-by-step guide… and woolly mammoth washday will be fun for everyone!

Just don’t get soap in his eyes…

This is another humorous bathtime story. The child in the book takes the reader through a step-by-step guide for washing a woolly mammoth. This includes filling a bath tub, adding bubbles and scrubbing with a broom. Shampoo is also used. But “be CAREFUL not to get any in the mammoth’s… EYES!” If you do, you have to find a way to get it out of a tree! The illustrations add to the fun, especially the various ways of getting the mammoth into the bath and the different hairstyles created whilst shampooing.

Michelle Robinson has written a number of children’s picture books, such as There’s a Lion in My Cornflakes and The Forgetful Knight. As an illustrator, Kate Hindley has created both picture books and fiction books for children, including You Must Bring a Hat and The Royal Rabbits of London.

Pig the Grub
Written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey

Pig The Grub

Eww! What a stinker!

Pig isn’t just the world’s greediest Pug, he’s the DIRTIEST too. It’s high time he had a bath! But try telling Pig that…

Oh, how I love Pig the Pug! The world’s greediest pug is back again. Only this time, he is refusing to have a bath, despite being stinky and rotten. When the bath is run, he makes a dash for it. Grabbing his toy bone, he blocks up the tap and then dances around, saying, “You won’t get your soapy old water on me!” Of course the water pressure builds up behind the blockage and the bathroom explodes, the tap hitting Pig on the nose. So now, Pig has learnt his lesson and has a bath without complaining.

As well as the Pig the Pug collection, Aaron Blabey is responsible for other humorous picture books, much loved by children. These include Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas (but they do nibble bums!), Thelma the Unicorn and I Need a Hug. He has also created the very popular Bad Guys series, which features Mr. Wolf, Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Piranha.

The Bath Monster
Written by Colin Boyd and illustrated by Tony Ross

The Bath Monster

Have you ever wondered where your dirty bath water goes? The Bath Monster slurps it up of course! It’s his second favourite food and no one wants to find out what his FIRST favourite food is…

This book is, obviously, about the Bath Monster, who lives under the bath tub and drinks the dirty water that goes down the plughole. Mum tells Jackson that it will get him if he doesn’t have a bath. Because he loves nothing better than getting dirty and muddy when playing with his friend, Dexter, Jackson needs a bath every night. However, he begins “to wonder if there really [is] a Bath Monster”. Then one day, when he refuses to have a bath, he finds out that there is! This is another fun bathtime book. The illustrations by Tony Ross are full of joy as the boys get muddy rolling down hills and climbing trees. And the Bath Monster is extremely hairy!

This is Colin Boyd’s debut book and how wonderful for him to work on it with Tony Ross, who is a legend in the world of children’s books. He has won numerous awards and  illustrated both picture books, including the Dr Xargle series with Jeanne Willis and fiction books, such as the Horrid Henry series written by Francesca Simon.

Clementine’s Bath
Written and illustrated by Annie White

Clementine's Bath

Clementine runs away to escape a bath. Not a BATH! thinks Clementine. She hides under the bed, behind the curtains and even in Baby’s toybox. Can her family find her in time to give her a bath?

Clementine the dog is pretty stinky as a result of rolling in the rubbish. Like Pig the Pug, she does not want to have a bath and she runs off to hide. But everywhere she goes, her smell gives her away. Trying to escape, she lands on a skateboard, gets catapulted through the air and lands… in the tub. Clementine soon discovers that baths aren’t so bad. You get more hugs when you smell good! This story has a similar theme to Smelly Louie, which was one of the books I chose for the More picture books about dogs list.

Annie White has created another book about Clementine: Clementine’s Walk. She has also beautifully illustrated a number of books, including Gallipoli, Beware the Deep Dark Forest and My Dad is a Bear.

The Pigeon Needs a Bath!
Written illustrated by Mo Willems

The Pigeon Needs A Bath!

The pigeon is filthy! Do you think he should take a bath?

This book has the familiar theme of an animal needing a bath, but not wanting one. The pigeon from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! is filthy. In conversation with the reader, he discovers that he smells, has flies buzzing around him and really does need a bath. There then follows multiple reasons why he can’t get in the water: too hot, too cold, too deep, not deep enough, too lukewarm, too wet, too reflective, not enough toys, too many toys… Finally the pigeon gets in and loves it! “Can I stay in the tub forever?” he asks, ten hours later. A wonderful book to share with children, along with the rest of the Pigeon series.

Mo Willems has written and illustrated many children’s books, including the Knuffle Bunny collection and the Elephant and Piggie series, which are ideal for early readers.

I hope you have a wonderful Read in a Bathtub Day tomorrow. Run a bath, grab a book and soak away your cares. Just try not to drop the book in the water!

Click on the book cover image to link to the source. Quotes taken from the blurb and content of the books.

International Book Giving Day

February 14th is International Book Giving Day. This is a wonderful initiative run by volunteers with the aim of “getting books into the hands of as many children as possible” (International Book Giving Day 2019, n.d.). The official website has lots of information on how to get involved and how to organise events to celebrate the day, along with free downloads for bookplates, posters and bookmarks. This year, there are two posters: one created by Priya Kuriyan and the other by Chris Haughton. If you use any of these resources, please acknowledge the illustrator, because ‘pictures mean business‘.

International Book Giving Day 2019 poster by Priya Kuriyan

International Book Giving Day

Image used with kind permission of International Book Giving Day

International Book Giving Day 2019 poster by Chris Haughton

International Book Giving Day

Image used with kind permission of International Book Giving Day

We know from literacy organisations that there are many children who do not own books, so this initiative really does have the potential to change lives. Once you are hooked on reading, your life outcomes improve, along with your social capital and wellbeing. So, make a difference by giving a child a book on International Book Giving Day!

Library Lovers’ Month

February is all about libraries. Designated Library Lovers’ Month, this is a chance for us to celebrate our love of libraries and to consider what makes them so important to our communities. Last year, I wrote a love letter to the first library I joined. This can be a great way of reflecting on the role that libraries have played, and continue to play, in your life. There is also a wonderful thread on Twitter in response to this question posed by Lucy Powrie: Why are libraries so important? It’s full of love for these special places.

Let your library know how much you love it

On Valentine’s Day, Australian libraries will celebrate Library Lovers’ Day. The theme for 2019 is ‘Library Love Stories’ and there are lots of great ideas and resources around that on the ALIA website. In addition, this year there is a 200-word flash fiction story competition, starting with the writing prompt, ‘there was love to be found in the library’.

Share the love on Library Lovers’ Day!

Both these events focus on the value of libraries to both individuals and communities. This has coincidentally been the topic of recent discussions on Twitter, initiated by the cuts in library funding in the UK and the consequences of this. Two things are happening in response to the loss of staff. Firstly, libraries are being run by volunteers and secondly, libraries are being handed over to community groups to manage. There are issues with both courses of action. Whilst it is important to acknowledge that people are acting with the best of intentions by keeping libraries open in some way, the argument that something is better than nothing is not good enough. Dawn Finch, a CILIP Trustee and chair of CILIP’s Ethics Committee, has written an excellent post entitled What is a library? In this, she states that handing public libraries over to volunteers or charitable groups will not save them from closure; it will merely postpone it. The reason for this is that without professional library staff, a library is just a room with books and computers in it. When staffed properly, it becomes a place where people are supported in finding the resources they want and need, assisted in learning new skills, accepted for who they are and provided with a safe place to be. As Dawn Finch says, “some things simply make the places we live better, safer, and more bonded as communities” (Finch, 2018) and libraries are one of those things. That it is why it is so important that we fight to keep them funded and staffed with library workers, not volunteers. This is something to remember as we celebrate Library Lovers’ Month.

Libraries are important to every community

I love the Library because...

Luz by San José Public Library: CC BY-SA 2.0

Have a wonderful February, celebrating all that is good about your local or school library. Remember, libraries help build and support communities. Let’s do all we can to ensure they can continue to do this.

Revisiting storytime craft

Last year, I looked at the issue of craft in storytime sessions held in public libraries. It has been almost 12 months since I became involved in the early literacy programme at one of the branches in my library service. At the time of writing the post, I was struggling with the nature of the activities offered as part of storytime. My concern was how to incorporate my beliefs about the competency of young children into a public library setting. There has traditionally been a rigid approach to storytime craft, with a predominance of pre-prepared activities, often using templates. The results are items that are all the same, with the presenter showing the children and families a sample and saying (Blue Peter-like) “here’s one I prepared earlier”. This arises from the fact that most library staff are not early childhood-trained and are unaware of what is considered best practice in terms of children’s creativity. So how have things gone for me since then?

Everyone loves playdough!

I am pleased to say that things are changing in my library service (and many others too). Over the last year, we have seen a gradual move away from focussing on end-products to focussing on the process or experience. This has naturally moved planning from adult-centred activities to child-centred ones, which are open-ended and suitable for all ages within the group. This is very familiar to me from my days of working in early childhood classrooms and I am much happier in what I am now offering children as a craft activity.

Children of all ages are able to use pastels to create colourful pictures

For each storytime session, I choose an activity that is inspired by the book I will read to the group, rather than derived from it. For example, previously staff would have selected a book, such as The Gruffalo, and then made gruffalo masks using a template, which the children would have coloured in or collaged. Recently I read The Gruffalo at a storytime session and then gave the children some coloured playdough and a selection of collage materials (matchsticks, pipe-cleaners, googly eyes, etc.) and suggested that they might like to make their own monsters. The results were brilliant! Because the group is made up of children aged from 18 months to 5 years, this open-ended activity meant that everyone could participate at their own skill level and experience. The result was a range of amazing monsters, each one different, which showcased the children’s creativity. This reinforced for me the innate abilities and competency of young children.

Pencils are another medium through which children can express their creativity

One of the things I have learnt over the last 12 months is that I have to tailor the activities I offer to the setting I am working in. This means that there are limits to what I can do with the children since the environment is not the same as an early childhood classroom. For example, painting is a difficult option for several reasons. Firstly, the pieces do not dry by the time the session ends, which means the children are unable to take them home with them. Since attendance at storytime can be sporadic, many don’t come back to collect their paintings when they are dry. There are also issues around the potentially messy nature of the activity, especially for toddlers. Most parents and caregivers are not prepared for this and are reluctant to risk getting clothes dirty (and understandably so). It is possible to get around these issues through creating group pieces and by investing in easels (which are easier to work at than tables) and smocks to keep clothes clean. But these are potentially costs that library services can ill afford, especially in these days of austerity measures. So it is about working with what you have in a way that empowers young children. It is also about modelling approaches to creativity for parents and caregivers, just as we do when we lead the early literacy sessions. It shows them the importance of process and moves them away from having to do something right or making a piece that is recognisable. I can see how the adults in the group have become more relaxed during this part of the storytime session. They are now standing back and letting the children create, because they don’t have to help with cutting and folding and working towards a product. Instead they are now watching and talking with their children about what they are making, praising their efforts and learning from them.

Children love to make music using a variety of instruments

Xylophone

Image by l_cwojdzinski: Pixabay License

I now feel that things are going really well with storytime craft. It has been hard at times to do things differently, because it has meant challenging the expectations people have had about what it should look like. But it has been wonderful to see the children so engaged during the activities and to have positive comments made by their families about what is now being offered. I hope that I can continue to build on this over the coming year.

 

Interactive picture books

Last year, I read the interactive picture book, Mix It Up!, as part of a storytime session. The children in the group were aged from eighteen months to five years, which is quite a range developmentally. However, they were all mesmerised by the book, which asks the reader to use their hands and fingers to mix paint on the page. So, inspired by this experience, I have put together a list of seven interactive picture books.

Interactive books come in several different formats. Some invite the reader to engage physically with the book. This can be through touch and feel books, which generally have simple statements on each page, such as the That’s Not My….series. Then there are flap and tab books, which include the Spot series by Eric Hill. These have narrative storylines and children can participate in the story by lifting flaps and pulling tabs to reveal surprises in the illustrations.

The books I have chosen for this list are ones in which the children take part in the storytelling experience by engaging actively with the book as part of the narrative. A narrator, either seen or unseen, talks to the reader, usually asking them to do something to make something else happen in the story. Humour is a strong feature of these books, which are a lot of fun to read and play with.

So, without further ado, here are the interactive books I have chosen for you…

Interactive Books

Mix It Up!
Written and illustrated by Hervé Tullet

Mix It Up!

Use your hand to mix up the colours. It’s like magic.

Smudge, rub, shake and have fun!

This book is a fully immersive experience for children, who have to tap and rub paint spots to create new colours. They can also mix the ‘paint’ by closing the book and tilting the pages. As with many of the interactive books on this list, there is a strong sense of cause and effect; when I do this, that happens. Even though no actual paint is involved in the reading experience, it can form part of a follow-up activity to reinforce what has been learnt.

Hervé Tullet has created several other interactive books: Press Here, Let’s Play! and Say Zoop! Each of these offers young children the opportunity to become fully involved in the reading experience.

The Scared Book
Written by Debra Tidball and illustrated by Kim Siew

The Scared Book

This book is too scared to tell you its story because there are MONSTERS! Can you help?

It needs you to RUB away its goosebumps, FLICK away the monsters and FAN away the yucky smell they have left behind.

The unseen narrator of this book is unable to tell the reader the story because there are scary monsters in the book. Each double-page spread has a problem, which the child is required to solve through doing a particular action. For example, “there’s a tingle in my spine”, which needs a scratch, and goosebumps, which need to be rubbed away. Finally, with the reader’s help, all the monsters have gone because “you frightened them away”. I like the way this book encourages a sense of kindness and empathy. Through the actions of the child, the narrator is no longer scared. This provides a good starting point for ways in which we can reach out and help others who may be anxious or afraid of something.

Debra Tidball has also written When I See Grandma, which, like The Scared Book, was shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year. Using Rachel William’s photographs, Kim Siew has illustrated the book, You Make the Dreams, written by Peter Warrington.

Don’t Touch This Book!
Written and illustrated by Bill Cotter

Don't Touch This Book!

This is Larry’s supercool new book. Isn’t it great? You probably want to read it, but…

Don’t touch this book!

Okay, okay! But you can only touch it with ONE finger.

Whoa. How’d you do that?

Larry the purple monster is the narrator of this book. He gets to decide who can touch his book, because it has his picture on the cover. But he soon lets the reader play, asking them to drag one finger down the page. Hey presto! A streak of blue appears. Soon a rainbow covers the page. Larry then encourages the child to do different actions, which result in amazing changes in the illustrations. When a T-Rex appears, the reader can help Larry escape. This is a fun and highly interactive book, which will have children moving around like robots, roaring like dinosaurs and flapping their wings madly. Be prepared for a very noisy and active storytime!

Larry the purple monster appears in three other books: Don’t Push the Button!, Don’t Push the Button! A Christmas Adventure and Don’t Push the Button! A Halloween Treat. A fifth book, Don’t Push the Button! An Easter Surprise will be published next month. So there is plenty of fun to be had with Larry!

Is There a Dog in This Book?
Written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

Is There A Dog In This Book?

PS: There is a book in this dog!

Tiny, Moonpie and André, the three cats from There Are Cats in This Book (which I reviewed in a previous post), think there might be a dog in their book. The reader has to hide them from it by turning and lifting flaps. Despite their help, the cats end up face-to-face with a very frisky pooch. But they soon discover that dogs are not as scary as the cats thought they were. I really like the way the characters engage directly with the child, telling them what to do and what not to do! There is humour on each page as the cats try to hide from the dog and the illustrations are delightful.

I love Viviane Schwarz’s books. They are so much fun and they are filled with cats and now a dog! Last year, she released two books featuring Tiny Cat: Animals with Tiny Cat and Counting with Tiny Cat. These promise to be as enjoyable as her others.

Cat Secrets
Written and illustrated by Jef Czekaj

Cat Secrets

“I’m sorry-this book is not for you. This book is for CATS ONLY. What’s that you say? You are a cat. Okay… get ready to prove it!”

In this book, three cats try to prevent the reader from turning the pages, because “this book is for CATS only!” In order to check that only cats are reading the book, they set a series of tests. Firstly they want to hear the reader meow and purr. Then they ask them to stretch like a cat. Finally they have to take a cat nap. This results in the cats falling asleep and a mouse sneaking up and reading the book! Like Viviane Schwarz’s books, the whole of the text is in speech bubbles, with the cats directly conversing with the reader. There are also lots of funny comments as the cats talk amongst themselves: “Hmm. That was actually a pretty good meow” and “I’m still not convinced. Let’s hear them purr“. By taking the tests, the child immerses themselves in the reading experience. They are also able to follow the mouse who appears throughout the story as it attempts to grab the book!

Jef Czekaj is a cartoonist, as well as a children’s author and illustrator, and this shows in his work. He has created three other picture books, including a companion to Cat Secrets: Dog Rules, which looks just as funny.

Tap the Magic Tree
Written and illustrated by Christie Matheson

Tap The Magic Tree

There is magic in every tree. The tall, silent one in the woods. The small, bumpy one in the park. Even the bare brown tree in your backyard.

As the seasons change, trees change too. They sprout leaves. The leaves change colour. Sometimes flowers bloom. Sometimes apples grow. Trees shelter birds and feed squirrels and bees.

There is magic in every tree. And in this book, you become the magician. How? Tap, clap, wiggle, jiggle and then… turn the page.

On each double-page spread of Tap The Magic Tree, there is a picture of a tree and instructions for the reader. After following these, they turn the page and discover what has happened. A tap on the tree results in a green leaf appearing. More taps and the tree is covered in new foliage. Rubbing the tree brings buds, whilst shaking the tree causes the ripe apples to fall. The orange and yellow leaves of autumn drop off the branches when the reader blows on the page, whilst clapping makes snow fall. Finally a bird makes a nest in the tree and a baby chick hatches. And in this way, the seasonal cycle begins again. I love the way children can interact with every page of this book, through the different actions that help the tree move from one season to the next. At the same time, the features of each season are gently presented for them to learn about.

Christie Matheson has written several other interactive books, including Plant the Tiny Seed and Touch the Brightest Star. Like Tap The Magic Tree, these focus on nature, exploring rhythms and life cycles in the natural world.

Play This Book
Written by Jessica Young and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

Play This Book

“To start our show we need a band-maybe you can lend a hand!”

There are lots of ways little hands can make music. Each page of this interactive book invites readers to STRUM, TAP, CRASH-PLAY!

With a delightful rhyming text and engaging illustrations, this book is full of instruments waiting to share their sounds. The only thing this band needs is YOU! Just use your imagination, turn the pages and PLAY THIS BOOK!

I really like this book. Like Cat Secrets, the actions required of the reader relate directly to the storyline. This means that they strum a guitar (which is big enough for that action), pat a drum creating a beat, tap the keys on a keyboard, shake some maracas, play a saxophone and a trombone, and crash the cymbals (by closing the book!). At the same time, the child can make the noise of the instrument they are playing. So be prepared for a very noisy storytime!

Jessica Young and Daniel Wiseman have also worked together on Pet This Book, which is all about taking care of animals. I may have to find a copy of this!

I hope you have enjoyed this list of interactive books. If you do read them with children, be warned, it will get very rowdy! But remember, that will be a measure of how much they are engaging with the books.

Click on the book cover image to link to the source. Quotes taken from the blurb and content of the books.

Winnie-the-Pooh Day

January 18th is the birthday of A. A. Milne. It is also Winnie-the-Pooh Day. This is a chance to celebrate the wonderful world of Hundred Acre Wood. Inspired by his son’s toys, Milne wrote two books about the adventures of Pooh and his friends: Winnie-the-Pooh published in 1926, followed by The House at Pooh Corner two years later. Both were beautifully illustrated by E. H. Shepherd (who also created the pictures for The Wind in the Willows). The books are rightly considered classics and are much loved by children and adults.

Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends in The House at Pooh Corner

The House At Pooh Corner

I adore the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. They are gentle, full of kindness and friendship. And they are so funny! A. A. Milne has great comic timing, which is not surprising given that he also wrote for Punch, the British humour magazine. In addition, the characters he created are archetypal. There is the zen-like Pooh, the anxious Piglet, the gloomy Eeyore, the mothering Kanga, the know-it-all Rabbit and the exuberant Tigger. We can all identify with one of them and have met many of the others in the course of our lives! My favourite is Piglet, because he is “so small that he slips into a pocket” (Milne, 1926) and also because I can relate to him most of all (which tells you something about me!).

The original toys that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh stories

Like Paddington Bear, Winnie-the-Pooh has become a brand, largely as a result of Disney buying the rights to the books. Consequently, there have been films, TV shows and a range of merchandise, including toys, t-shirts and even playing cards. This has brought the characters from the books to a new generation of children. Personally, I prefer the E. H. Shepherd depiction of Pooh and his friends. They have a softer, gentler look, whilst the Disney versions seems more brash to me.

Winnie-the-Pooh, old and new

Today there would be few adults or children who have not heard of Winnie-the-Pooh. Along with Piglet, Tigger and the other inhabitants of Hundred Acre Wood, he is very much part of popular culture. You can read about his antics in the original stories, as well as in an official sequel, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, written by David Benedictus. The illustrations are by Mark Burgess in the style of E. H. Shepherd. I would also highly recommend the audiobooks narrated by Alan Bennett. They are wonderful and very understated. Finally, there is The Tao of Pooh by  Benjamin Hoff, which explores Taoism through the lens of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Statues of Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore outside Newton Public Library, Massachusetts

So on Friday, grab a pot of honey and spend some time with “a Bear of Very Little Brain” (Milne, 1926) and his friends. You won’t regret it.

Unless otherwise stated, photographs taken by the author. 

 

2019 Reading Challenge

Welcome to 2019! I’m starting the year with a reading challenge. This is a great way of promoting reading and encouraging children (and adults) to explore the world of books.

Boy reading

Image by anaterate: CC0 1.0

A reading challenge is, unsurprisingly, a list of challenges related to the what or where of reading and examples can be found on my Pinterest board, Promotion Of Reading Activities. I have used these as the basis for creating my own reading challenge and would therefore like to thank those who have shared their ideas via the Internet. The important thing for me is that the reading challenge is a way of promoting an interest in reading. It should not be seen as a log, which, like structured book reviews, have a tendency to bog children down in paperwork. This often has the effect of turning them off, rather than on to, reading.

For my reading challenge, I decided to focus on the what of reading. I also chose to see the challenge as a treasure hunt, rather than a reading log, because I wanted to ignite children’s interest in reading through searching for books that matched each of the challenges. In addition, these needed to be fun and appealing to all readers, from those who are confident and enthusiastic about reading to those who are reluctant to pick up a book. I also wanted every child to be able to complete the challenges, regardless of whether they were sharing picture books with their families or reading independently. (The challenge can also be undertaken by teens and adults.) In order to achieve these aims, I have selected broad challenges, rather than focussing on particular genres or subjects. In this way, it is possible to complete the whole challenge regardless of your individual interests and reading preferences. So, without further ado, may I present my Reading Challenge for 2019…

2019 Reading Challenge

I hope you might consider encouraging the children you know to undertake my 2019 Reading Challenge (or even have a go yourself). One book a month is not terribly hard, but it may help them to catch the reading bug. So let the Challenge begin!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

Image by StockSnap: CC0 1.0

As 2018 draws to a close, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year. May it be filled with love, peace and kindness. I look forward to sharing more ideas, information and, of course, books with all you lovely readers in 2019.