Puzzle books – why you’ll love them

Sorry we haven’t written much recently. There’s been a few things going on which has made focusing on Mrs ABC a little bit harder. Still, now that things have settled, it’s time to come back! And I’m going to start with one of my favourite types of books. Puzzle books! I’ve been wanting to write about these for a while, as they can be good in so many ways (and for many different children). So let me start by explaining what they are.

Puzzle books are stories which, as you can imagine, contain a puzzles. Mazes, Spot the difference, and “Where’s Wally” type games that all add to the story. They’re sort of like video games but in book form. You can read the story without doing the puzzles, and it will still make sense. However the real joy and wonder about these books is being a part of them. Every time you solve a puzzle you get to feel like you are with the character. So here are my top 5 reasons why you’ll love them too!

illustration of a brain with lots of bright colours, red, green, blue and yellow, splashed on it

1 Puzzles engage the brain

Puzzles can be key for child development. By doing a puzzle you develop problem solving skills, which you can use in other areas of life. As well as developing strategies for solving them, your memory adapts as it tries to hold onto various bit of information. These skills are the same used for solving maths or science problems. So if your child wants to be a mathematician, engineer or astronaut this is a great place to start.

These puzzles don’t just develop cognitive skills, but also emotional skills like patience, which are just as important. They also help raise your child’s self-esteem, due to the satisfaction and accomplishment of solving a problem. There really is no downside of doing puzzles.

photograph of tasty chocolate cakes with sprinkles of little pink hearts on top

2 The imaginative, adventurous settings

These books are set in so many wonderful locations! I love the book about Chocolate Island (the whole island made of chocolate! Sounds like heaven to me…) but there are ones set in the real world too. There’s a few set in the jungle, some on trains, and even some with dinosaurs! Whatever your child is into I’m sure there’ll be at least one story they’ll like the look of.

Having stories in lots of different settings not only makes them accessible to different children, they also make children aware of the different places on Earth. The puzzles in the Arctic are different to those in the Jungle, but both can be solved using the same techniques. This way your child learns that the skills they have can be used in different situations, helping them develop a growth mindset (look out for an article on the growth mindset coming soon).

photograph of a small child reading a book surrounded by sparkles and light

3 Great for children who struggle with reading

Children who find words difficult often find these books much easier. They can do the puzzles and get that warm feel-good feeling when they complete them. This helps them build their confidence with books, allowing them to transition to other books more easily. Although these books may not have as many words as some others, they can be still be great for your child’s development. So if your child only feels comfortable with these books, that’s fine. They’ll get to more complex books when they’re ready. For more tips on helping your child read have a look at our article What you can do when your child is having difficulties reading.

photograph of 2 boys and a girl lying on some grass, reading books

4 Suitable for all ages, genders and interests

What I find great about these books is that there are ones suitable for 4 year olds up to ones for 12 year olds. And even now, I still find the puzzles engaging. And these puzzles are not solely aimed at boys. There is such a wide array of stories that most children would be happy with at least one, whether they’re into mermaids, dragons or trains.

photograph of a grandmother reading to her two grandchildren

5 Great for family time

Although these books are great to be read individually some of the problems may get your child asking for you assistance. And that’s great! Reading books, or doing the puzzles in them, is a great time to bond together. It’s a great chance for them to learn from you, and to spend quality time together. These books are great for that. So prepare your skills in finding binoculars in the jungles, and finding the safest path across the sea.

Most of the puzzle books I’ve found are published by Usborne, and there are so many to choose from! So, as I love these books a lot, prepare to see a few reviews on these. Happy Puzzling 🙂

Why I Love The Minpins

The Minpins, written by the master of children’s books, Roald Dahl, is a great fantasy-adventure book for young readers. It was always a favourite of mine as a child, full of adventure and heroism. Fantasy and reality. I love that it was set in a forest that I could actually stumble across. And as it could be any forest in England, it made every forest in England potentially full of Minpins! (Minpins are the tiny people who live in trees)

The book stars Little Billy who, being told by his mother to not venture outside, heads out into the dangerous forest. There he finds a beast – and the Minpins – and sees the dangers of going outside. However brave Billy sees a way of making things safer, not just for him, but for everyone in the forest.

Read on for my reasons why I love this book, and think it’s so great for young readers.

1 It’s set in a real place

I find it truly magical when a fantasy book has an actual place in reality. Take Harry Potter for instance. The gateway to the Hogwarts Express is set in Kings Cross Station, allowing people to re-live the magic every time they see it. There’s even now half a trolley in the wall, so they can imagine going to Hogwarts themselves! So I love that The Minpins is set in an English forest, so that it could be any English wooded area. Imagine going on walks with your child and pointing out “There! I think I see a minpin!”. As a child I was definitely more receptive to walks if I could imagine there were minpins in the trees.

2 The Minpins

One of the reasons I love this book is because I love the Minpins themselves. I love that they have little suction boots that help them walk up trees. I love that they live inside trees! The whole idea of a whole house, in miniature, inside a tree…for me is incredibly magical. And maybe it’s a bit silly to look at a tree and think there might be tiny people inside, but I think the last line of the book says it all. Sometimes we need to believe in magic to find it. And in life, sometimes we need to believe in the unbelievable (that we can pass exams, go to medical school, become an astronaut, raise a child, whatever it is). Maybe believing in Minpins is a good start.

3 The incredible adjectives

Okay…maybe I don’t love it for the vocabulary, but I do think it definitely adds to the book. And learning new words is always great for children. Words like “whooshing” and “whoomph-whoomph” and “gigantic galloping hooves” really add pace and adrenaline to the story. Maybe you’ll start using words like “guzzling” and “tantalizing” too. These words are great for expanding your child’s vocabulary, helping them to advance to more complex books.

And let’s not forget the beautiful illustrations by Patrick Benson (as shown throughout this post). His drawings really bring the whole world to life. You can almost feel the “orange-red smoke” coming from the monster, as Billy flies through the air above it.

4 The adventure of being outside

This book is so full of adventure. From flying on a swan over a lake, to up above in the sky. Even if you don’t meet the Minpins, there is so much to be gained from going outside. This story will not only make kids excited to have their own adventures, but also encourages them to be brave. Developing resilience, problem-solving and determination by playing outside, or battling their own challenges, are skills that really help children deal with the wider world. Which leads me to…

5 Sometimes you need to step out of your door

Although ignoring the warnings of your mother is not usually the best idea for a child’s safety, sometimes, just sometimes, following your feet can be a good idea. Like Dory says in Finding Nemo “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him”. If you go into the forest you may find a beast, but you might also find that you can beat it.

Thank you for reading this article. If you want other books on going outside do read our article on Percy the Park Keeper. While the Karate Princess is a great story about being true to yourself. I hope this article helped you find another great book. Let us know what you think about it in the comments. Happy Reading! 🙂

Additional Learning
  • Go on a walk to a “Minpin” forest
  • Write a diary entry from one of the Minpins perspectives. What were you doing when you saw Billy? What is it like to fly on a bird?
  • Think of all the other good adjectives you and your children know. What words would they use to describe the Gruncher?

Why a Karate Princess is a great role model

Firstly, let me share with you a little thing about me. When I was 18 I got a black belt in karate, and it was one the proudest moments of my life. It’s the first the thing I come to whenever I think I haven’t accomplished anything (which happens a lot more than I should let it). I started when I was 11, when I saw that there would be an instructor teaching it at a nearby school. And from the first session I was completely hooked.

For me, it was a rare place in my world where being pretty and smiley and friendly didn’t matter. I could be me 100%. Instead of being judged on what I looked like, or how I behaved, I was rewarded for my skill. This was so important to me and, I feel, to every little girl.

So maybe I’m a little biased in recommending this book, The Karate Princess by Jeremy Strong. However it is great to have a story about a strong little girl. There are plenty of books, and films, about princesses who don’t do very much, and even more stories about little boys who do. So I think it’s nice, and refreshing, to have one about a princess who does a lot. Especially when that is defeating bad guys.

The story is about a princess, Belinda, who’s father thinks she won’t marry a prince (and therefore amount to anything) because she isn’t pretty. So her mother sets out to find an instructor who will teach her, so that she doesn’t need to be pretty. She finds a karate instructor. Seven years later, with her years of karate experience, Belinda ends up on a mission which, if she succeeds, will let her marry a particular prince. The ending is superb, as is how she tackles the many ups and downs of her mission. Making the book a great one for courageous young girls, and boys.

Here are my reasons why I think Belinda the Karate Princess, created by Jeremy Strong, is a fantastic role model.

Front cover of The Karate Princess showing a girl with curly black her joyfully kicking a pillar, while an exhausted guard looks on

1 She’s not only good at karate, she’s kind too

When she comes across the Bogle, a monster she has been told to capture, she could have just over-powered him but she doesn’t. She listens to him and empathises with him. It can be all well and good being powerful enough that you can bring harm to anyone, but it is a much greater thing knowing when to use it. And an even better thing being kind. Many heroes focus on their physical strength and power as the thing that makes them heroic, but what I think makes Belinda so good is that she is also kind and supportive. A great thing to teach children.

Belinda is holding the hairy bogles head in her hands.

2 She doesn’t let other people’s opinions of her define the way she looks at herself

In the book other people believe her to be unworthy because she isn’t pretty like the other princesses. However not once in the book does she seem to care. Magazines and films are constantly telling us that we need to be good-looking in order to get anywhere, and it can be difficult not believing them. So I think it is a great to show that you should take no notice of these negative ideas. And that it doesn’t matter if you’re pretty or not, you are amazing anyway.

A picture of a page in the book where a rival princess is kissing a kings hand

3 She’s assertive

Whenever she comes across people who want something different to what she wants, she calmly outlines her point of view. Assertiveness is a key skill where you put forward your needs in a clear and logical manner. However it can be so hard to actually do. Sometimes we’d rather apologise for wanting something or just sit silent and complain later. Belinda does none of that. When she believes she has been wronged she says so, not in an accusatory way but just by stating the facts. This is a great skill to have and one that I believe all children should grow to learn. Especially in this day-and-age, where when they grow up  they could find other people won’t have their best interests at heart.

Belinda, the karate princess, stands knee deep in a swamp and shouts into the fog

4 Belinda is looked down on for not being pretty but ultimately wins using skill

Most of the book revolves around Belinda’s worth being defined by her lack of being pretty. This is a message that often crops up in society both for boys and girls, and fuels the rise in mental disorders like anorexia. I think it is therefore so important that at the age where studies show girls have a drop in self-esteem, they see characters who defy this. Seeing a character who believes in herself and defeats all the opposition, even when other people didn’t believe she would, can only hope to raise children’s confidence.
A page in the book where Belinda is sympathising with the bogle. A monster she was told to defeat.

 

Now I know all children won’t consciously pick up on all these things. However they will see an awesome girl being, well, quite frankly awesome, which really is all that you could need.

Additional Opportunites
  • Take them to a martial arts class. They’ll learn discipline and fitness as well as increasing their self-confidence
  • Write the story from the Bogle’s point of view

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish – a book about appreciating the world

I’m a bit of an environmentalist. I love volunteering with conservation charities and pretty much idolise The Eden Project. I try to minimise the resources I use by fixing things. And instead of buying things new, reusing what I have or buying from charity shops. Maybe this is why Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish resonated so strongly with me. I think I was probably about 5 years old when my mum first read it to me. I can still remember how I felt about the story, which is why, 20 years later, I am now sharing it with you 🙂

The story, written by Michael Foreman, is about a man who wants to reach a star, so he builds a rocket to get him there. Unfortunately this pollutes the Earth and covers the planet in rubbish.  This, however, wakes up the dinosaurs from under the Earth, who then clear the planet of all the rubbish.  When the man returns he finds the dinosaurs and they teach him a very important lesson about the planet.

These are the top 5 reasons I love the book and the lessons it has taught me.

1 It teaches you to appreciate what you have

A lot of reasons why people are unhappy today is that, like the man in the book, they don’t see the good things that are around them. So instead they search for something that never quite makes them as happy as they want to be. Learning to be thankful for the things you have is a great skill to set your child up for a happier life. And one that is even more important in adulthood.

Dinosaurs, apes, mammoths and birds all celebrate together

2 It is all yours, but it is also all mine

What I really, really love about this book is the message that it brings. That only when everyone comes together, and sees that the Earth is “all yours, but it is also all mine” can we look after it properly. The dinosaurs believe the Earth shouldn’t be owned. It shouldn’t have “parts of it [belonging] to certain people”. Maybe if we shared one world, we wouldn’t have people fighting over different parts of it.

Man looking up at a star

3 The pictures help you feel the words

The pictures are made in a lovely watercolour style, which I think is beautiful. Though it’s not just the style that makes them interesting. I love how they reflect the mood of the writing. When the man gets to the “star” and finds nothing there, the picture shows mostly the vast emptiness of space. And when the man is looking at the star, the pictures are equally quite empty. It’s just him. Whereas the dinosaurs are usually seen together. Playing together. Working together. For me, it makes me feel the man’s loneliness. Maybe he wanted to go to the star in the hope he wouldn’t be alone.

A very large dinosaur with a long neck talks to a man in a spacesuit

4 It explains the impact we have on the environment

There are plenty of books on planes and trains for children, but very few explain the impact of making them.  And although technology is fantastic, we don’t often see how we could be causing harm.  I think this is really important for children to learn.  Things don’t just appear out of nowhere. They are made from other things, and often have a cost. Especially in this day and age I think it is very important we know the environmental impact humans have on the environment.

Illustration of a man gleefully getting out of his rocket to find a world full of grass, plants and flowers

5 That if you focus too much on one thing you can lose sight of everything else

In the case of this book it’s literal, as the more the man focuses on the star the more he can’t actually see the Earth. Like the man in the book we can become so focused on one thing that we lose sight of everything else. Sometimes it’s a good thing to just sit and notice everything going on around you. Hopefully enjoying the flowers on the way.

Front cover shows two green dinosaurs happily jumping on a pile of cars

I hope you liked my review of this book and it’s made you want to sit down and read it. I think it has such an important message, which is important for all of us. Let out that inner dinosaur!

Additional learning
While reading the book
  • You could count all the animals in the book. How many dinosaurs are there? How many birds?
  • You could discuss why you think the man wanted to go the star.
Extra Learning
Science and Technology
  • You could draw a rocket. Or even better make one. All you’ll need is an empty kitchen roll, some bits of coloured paper and glue or sellotape. You could even make it fly by getting a foot pump like this or attaching it to a balloon and a long piece of string like this.
  • You could take your child to a Science Museum (the one in London has a very good space exhibition) to learn more about planets and space.
  • If they like the dinosaurs you could teach them about all the different types of dinosaurs that there were. See if they can spot them in the book.
  • This one is just because of the scientist in me but one thing I don’t quite like about the book is that it mistakes a moon for a star. You could explain the difference that our moon is a rock that travels around a planet, while a star, like the sun, is a giant ball of burning gas.
Outside Activities
  • You could go to a Botanical Garden or Park where they have all sorts of different species of trees and flowers. A lot of them run activities for children too, which helps them learn as well as keeping them entertained.
English
  • If your children can write, they could write the story from the dinosaurs point of view.
Art
  • You could draw a picture of the world when it is polluted and one where the dinosaurs have made it beautiful again.
  • Better yet, make a collage! You could use bits of rubbish to make a picture of the rubbish heap and bits of leaves and flowers to make one of the natural world.
Well-being
  • Say all the things you are thankful for, whether it’s flowers or cups of tea. It’ll make you feel better and is a great thing to do when your child, or you, is feeling down.
  • Spend some time in nature. Take a walk with your child and just enjoy the fresh air. I’m sure they’ll enjoy the sticks and puddles quite a bit.

5 Ways You Can Help When Listening to Your Child Read

Listening to your child read is key in helping develop their reading skills. But sometimes it can be difficult to find the best way to do this. That’s where we come in. Here are five ways that have been proven to help when you listen to your child read.

picture of a book shelf

1. Let them choose

There’s nothing worse than having something you enjoy taken away from you by making it a chore, or by someone telling you how to do it. It’s the same for a child. Don’t force them into reading a book that they don’t want to read. This could make them resent reading because they associate it with something they HAVE to do rather than they WANT to do.

To help, take them to libraries and let them choose books they like. Even if they choose the same book week after week or they’re choosing books that you feel are too easy for them.  Let them take ownership.  Try to see that their choice is a good thing, as it shows their love of specific books.

girl looking at a notebook

2 Give them time to figure the words out themselves

When they’re reading there are going to be words that they stumble over. Let them try to work it out. Many words in the English language are ‘sound-out-able’ i.e by using the phonics that they have learnt at school, they can say the sounds in the words and then blend the sounds together to make the word.

However some words cannot be sounded out, they are now referred to as “Common Tricky Words”.  Unfortunately, phonics can’t help here.  Your child just needs plenty of practice seeing these words and reading them ‘on sight’.

So when your child stumbles on a word, after about 4-5 seconds, if it is ‘sound-out-able’ then sound it out for them and then just say the word.  If it is not, then just say the word and make sure they repeat it before they carry on.

You could also re-read the whole sentence for them, up to and including the difficult word, so that they don’t lose the flow.  If there comes a point in the book where this difficult word comes up again, and they are still struggling with it, that is completely normal.  Just go through the whole process again.

It is completely normal for children, when learning new words, to repeatedly struggle over the same word.  Although you may see your child remembering it in some contexts but not all.  Again, this is completely normal.  The most important thing is to stay calm and understanding and try really hard to avoid getting frustrated.

It’s like learning to ride a bicycle.  A lot of hard work at the beginning but then with plenty of practice, everything just slots into place.

A stack of picture books with a mug on top

3 Listen to them read “little and often”

It is much better to listen to them read for 10 minutes every day, than for one hour once a week.  The more often a book is read the more your child will remember the words in it. So if you can, put aside some time each day to listen to your child read. It could be a book on their reading scheme, or one that they’ve chosen from the library. It could even be a paragraph from a child-friendly magazine. As long as you’re listening to them read regularly, you’re helping them on their way.

Little boy sitting on a bench with a book, laughing

4 Be encouraging and reward effort over ability

Sometimes it’s difficult knowing how to help someone do something you already know how to do. Let them know there’s no rush in figuring words out and that they’ve done really well. If they pronounce a word wrong or can only work out half a word tell them the right word but congratulate them for trying. Tell them that you’re so proud of how they tried to figure it out even if they didn’t get it quite right.

By rewarding effort over ability you’re helping your child develop a good working mindset. One where they feel they can overcome a challenge if they work at it rather than giving up because they don’t think they can do it.

woman reading by the sea

5 Be a reader yourself

One of the best things that can help children get into reading is if their parents read. Studies have shown that children who grow up in houses with books do better at school than other children. It doesn’t even have to be literature, as long as you enjoy it. Children learn how to act from the people around them, and copy what they do. So the more you read, the more they will too.

 

Photos thanks to Pexels

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut Book Review

I have always loved Dr Seuss books and I Can Read with My Eyes Shut is no exception. I love the wacky, out of the box, out of this world stories and illustrations. They’re so creative and can be both very clever and just right for children. What’s also brilliant is that they’ve been cleverly made to help children read, using techniques like rhyming words and repetition to get kids learning to read faster. As well as enjoying some truly fantastic books.

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut is a very simple book, more like a poem really. Like many Dr Seuss books it joins the Cat (as seen in Cat in The Hat) telling little cat that he can read with his eyes shut but that it’s more fun if you open them. And takes you on a journey of all the things you could read about if you don’t read with your eyes shut.

1 The rhyming words

Not only do the rhyming words make the story fun to read but it also makes it easier to read. Children will pick up the words faster as they know how they should sound. It also helps them to see that words can sound similar while looking quite different. Like “stuff” and “enough”. This helps them to learn different ways of spelling the same sounds and then knowing which ones go with which words by seeing them on the page.

2 It has a great rhythm

It’s got a very upbeat rhythm keeping you going til the end. Unlike some books that might make you think you’re reading a novel, I Can Read with my Eyes Shut  doesn’t drag or get boring. A bonus as this is, it also makes it easier to read and remember words making this a very good book for children who’ve just started to read. In a similar way that song lyrics are easier to remember than other text, your child will pick up the words and remember them better than with other books. This helps them gain confidence and encourages them to go and read more.

The more that the you read, the more things you know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go
3 The story is about why it is wonderful to read

The main character is literally telling you that reading is amazing, while you’re reading. That is brilliantly meta! I love the idea that you are reading a book that’s showing you why you’ll love reading books. What’s more it’s saying it like a friend, with so much enthusiasm and love you can’t help but go along with it. It also opens your eyes (pun intended) to what we can read about. There are things far beyond our imaginations out there to read. Encouraging children to go out there and find it.

4 It sets your imagination a-light

Who is Foo Foo? Why is Jake the Pillow Snake? What problems would you have with an owl on your nose? All these questions you’ll be asking as you read the book, and the answers are endless. Each time you could come up with something different. Or elaborate on the answers you’ve already thought up. Great for creating inquisitive minds.

Little cat playing a Hut Zhut

5 It’s fun

There are so many opportunities in this book to have fun with your child. Whether you’re trying to read upside down or trying to read with your eyes shut (which I can guarantee you will after reading this book), there are so many places you can have fun and enjoy reading with your child.

I hope you enjoy this book just as much as I do and together with your children see that even if you can read with your eyes shut, it is much better to read with them open.

Learning Opportunities
  1. Say all the things you could read about, real or made up, the more the better
  2. Draw a new musical instrument as creative as the Hut Zhut
  3. Discuss what you think the problems would be of having an owl on your nose
  4. Discuss with your child what they think  Foo Foo could be or where they could find Jake the Pillow Snake
  5. Let them create a creature, like the ones found in the book, that they could read about.

Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles Review

Written by Tanya Alevropoulos

I came across Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles due to my obsession with the Kate Greenaway award. It has been nominated for the 2017 award, due to be announced in June 2017. I take great pleasure in reading all the nominated titles. Then trying to guess which will be selected for the longlist, the shortlist, and finally receive the award. I found it a few weeks ago in Foyles book shop in Waterloo and devoured it.

The story starts by stating that the green lizards and red rectangles were at war.  The red rectangles were smart but the green lizards were strong and thus neither could defeat the other. The fighting continued until they gathered for a truce. Could they find a way to make peace?  I don’t want to spoil it for you, so you’ll just have to read it!

Illustrated page of a book filled with green lizards looking at the top right hand corner

1 It has been nominated for the prestigious Kate Greenaway medal

If a book is nominated for a medal, I always think it’s worth taking a look. It is telling me that other people rate it as well.  Previous winners include personal favourites such as Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are and Anthony Browne’s Gorilla. Which would put this book into very good company indeed!

A red rectangle covers over half the page squishing the green lizards, which don't look very happy

2 The endpapers set the scene and !!!spoiler alert!!! illustrates the ending…

For those not in the know, the endpapers of a book are basically the first and last pages of the book after the front and back covers. These days many picture books have endpapers worthy of study; they relate to some aspect of the story (often in an amusing fashion).

For Green Lizards and Red Rectangles the front endpaper (see photo) shows a heaving mass of lizards, and they don’t look happy! Why might that be? You can talk about this with your child. The back endpaper, for those who like to read the last page of a book in advance (personally I never do), gives you your ending.

Mix of green lizards standing, crawling and fighting some red rectangles

3 It is a very clever story of war and peace

The pictures and printed text combine to demonstrate the absurdity of war and conflict in a way that small children can understand.

A mixture of different sized red rectangles on top of one another

4 The ending is inspired

I was hugely delighted with the ending. It really is very, very clever!

Book illustration with a crowd of green lizards, some standing on each others heads, to get a view of something happening of the paper on the right hand side

5 It should be a compulsory PSHE text

The Guardian review says it all “This book offers an easy, safe means to talk about the idea of war”. PSHE should, in my opinion, be a compulsory subject, but the New Curriculum does not agree. So now many schools are now only paying it lip service. By reading this book with your child you are giving them vital skills to consider the repercussions of conflict and the crucial ability to find resolution.

Page of a book saying the Green Lizards and the Red Rectangles were at war

Steve Antony’s genius is to have created illustrated characters as diametrically opposite as you can get.  Since the lizards are living, green, curvy and squishy, whereas the rectangles are inanimate, red, angular and hard. The history of mankind demonstrates that difference in race, creed or opinions, which has resulted in, and still results in, conflicts. Ones in which millions of lives have been lost.

This book could help your child consider these horrible but real consequences in the safety of a warm, comfortable familiar room. And just maybe, maybe, could make a difference to their life and to the lives of others. I think that’s worth £6.99, and 15 minutes of your time, don’t you?

Additional Learning Opportunities

Rather than listing them all, quite simply this book provides an excellent vehicle to talk about war. As an extra, you could ask your child to think of a different animal and alliterative shape who could be at war and let them create their own drawings, for example Grey Elephants vs Turquoise Triangles, and see how they manage to find peace.

This Is Not My Hat Book Review

A few years ago, while I was looking at the newest selection of picture books in my local Waterstones, my eyes were drawn to This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. Then an unknown author/illustrator. The black matt cover stood out against the other books with their brightly printed gloss covers.

On opening, I knew from the endpapers that the pictures in the book were going to be more than just simple illustrations. And by the last page I was hooked. The two short punchy sentences, opposite a picture of a little fish swimming away, looking behind towards its unseen pursuer, made me see that this was no ordinary picture book.

The main story follows a small fish who is racing to safety after he steals a hat. He is completely honest about the crime and he believes he will succeed.  The reader, however, is entitled to an additional viewpoint, that of the hat’s owner, a much bigger fish.  The big fish first becomes aware of the theft, and thereafter seeks to retrieve his hat. I believe all children should have the opportunity to read this book for five reasons.
Illustration of a little orange fish wearing a blue bowler hat

1.It introduces the idea of right and wrong

Through the story you see that the little fish commits a crime by keeping a hat that doesn’t belong to him. This is great premise in a book for young children as it helps children understand about right and wrong at a young age. This allows them to make more moral decisions as they get older. And is especially so if you discuss the little fish’s choice with your child/children. As well as talking to them about the consequences of what he does (and says).

Photograph of Front Cover of This Is Not My Hat shows a little fish wearing a bowler hat swimming away on a black background

2. It has learning opportunities for all ages

The book really is accessible to readers of all ages. From very young children who can enjoy the pictures, to more mature children (and adults) who can discuss and ponder as to what might have happened to the fish. It really is a great book when you can see something new each time you read it. Especially if you end up reading it every night.

3. The eyes have it! They’re teaching non-verbal signals

Klassen’s brilliant illustrations, from tiny changes in the position of the pupils to changes in the eye shape tell you what the characters are thinking. It’s sheer genius!  Non-verbal signals are key to human interaction. So by picking up these changes in facial features your child helps to learn key communication skills that are used daily.

4.The pictures are not only fab, they’re helping your child to read between the lines too

Not only are the pictures wonderful to look at, but they tell us the story from the big fish’s point of view.  When he realises his hat is missing, we can tell how he feels by Klassen’s very clever drawings. He is clearly not happy! And who can blame him?

Using pictures to help understand stories will help your child learn to read between the lines, an inference tool that is needed when studying more complex texts at a more advanced stage of their education.

5. It’s not just me who thinks it’s brilliant, other people do too!

It won two of the most highly regarded awards in the world of picture books, the Kate Greenaway award in 2014 and the Caldecott medal in 2013. This is the first time one book has received both awards, making picture book history and proving that This Is Not My Hat truly is a brilliant book! Resulting in it being a global phenomenon!

So there you have it, I welcome you into the delightful world of mischievous fish. May you never lose your hat.

 

Learning Opportunities:

Here are questions we believe you should ask in order to get the most out of reading This Is Not My Hat.

After reading the book you can discuss:

  • What you think happens at the end?
  • What might have happened to the little fish?
  • Is it ok to take someone’s hat?
  • Why do you think the author chose a hat?
  • Could the little fish have taken something else? If so, what?

Additional Learning

  • You can look at other books with hats in
  • You can compare This Is Not My Hat with Jon Klassen’s other book about a hat, I found a hat
  • Which one do you like more? Why?