A new type of story: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

This book is not found in book shops. And it is not just one story. It brings the stories we may not have heard, but really should. This is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls!

The Story

The idea started when Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, two entrepreneurs, saw how few children’s books contain stories about girls. According to a study (2011) 100% of books contain male characters. Whereas only 75% of books contain female characters.

And when you look at the aspirations of these characters, the difference becomes even greater. In children’s media only 19.5% of female characters have jobs or have career aspirations. Meanwhile, 80.5% of male characters do.

So they wanted to create a book that would inspire children. And be one that they would have wanted when they were growing up. Their aim is that it will inspire young girls and boys to reach the extraordinary; become astronauts, architects, mathematicians and athletes. Showing boys and girls the amazing jobs and actions women can do.

They describe their book as:

“a children’s book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present”

Which is pretty awesome.

The Book

And the book really is exquisite. Every double page has an illustration of the inspirational woman on the right, with a beautiful glimpse of the woman’s life on the left.

The wonderful women include people from the past including Ada Lovelace, Frida Kahlo and the Bronte sisters. As well as people who are making history now, like Simone Biles, Serena Williams and Malala Yousafzai.

And it’s not just about the women in the book. The illustrations were created by 60 female artists from around the world too. So children get to not only read about amazing women, but see the wide diversity of their artwork too.

The book has received almost entirely positive praise.

Waterstones and The Book People both give it a 5/5! And it totally deserves this.

They say “If you can see it, you can be it”, and what better than 100 different people to see!

Things to Note

We should say that there are some women in the book that some people don’t agree with. Personally, I think including a transgender girl can be good, though I feel someone like Laverne Cox would have been better suited. There’s also two pirates, who probably don’t have the most admirable professions. However they do show a full range of what women can do.

There also may be a few people who you wish were in the book but aren’t. But that opens up a great opportunity! Let your children know these people. Let them create their own book of amazing women. I’d include Ronda Rousey, Miranda Hart and Rachel Bloom (because of how they inspire me) but there are so many women out there who’s stories deserve to be heard. And if children hear them, you never know, it might be the thing that raises their aspirations.

Additional

If you want to find out more, or have a look at the plans for the sequel, go to rebelgirls.co

For our reviewed books about inspirational girls, have a look at the Karate Princess, about a unconventional girl and her great skill.

 

Where My Wellies Take Me Book Review

Where My Wellies Take Me … by Clare and Michael Morpurgo. Designed and illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill

This book is just lovely and has become a firm new favourite.  I decided to read it when I saw it had been shortlisted for the 2014 Kate Greenaway Medal. I actually started reading it when we were driving up to my daughter’s graduation.  As a rule, I don’t read when I’m a car passenger because I get car sick! But this book was so delightful, I forced myself to overcome my nausea.  Eventually my body won and I had to put it down but I grabbed stationary moments to read on and finally finished it at the hotel.

You could say this book is a mixture of a diary entry, a poetry anthology, and a natural history guide.  So its appeal is wide ranging. I shared it with my 84 year old mother who was delighted to be taken back to her own childhood.  Young children who are interested in nature would also enjoy this book.  They may not be able to appreciate all the poetry, but I’m sure they’ll enjoy the illustrations and some of the more familiar rhymes and as they grow they can revisit the book and explore it further.

page of the book with a girl in wellies and the words "and I'm off!"

5 Reasons to Read

page of a book with yellow and orange flowers above a handwritten paragraph

1 It’s printed to look just like a scrapbook

I absolutely love all the detail that has been used to make it look like a scrapbook.  It starts with the front cover printed to show a drawing, a postcard, a stamp and small sections torn out from a dictionary all just as it might appear on a scrapbook.  The book continues, exquisitely, in this vein.  Drawings, dried flowers (attached with small pieces of tape), maps, notebook pages all stuck onto the buff coloured paper.  And I adore the way some drawings are on tracing paper, which when turned, reveal another image – the kingfisher is my favourite.  It even has a matchbox with its content (not matches … I won’t spoil the surprise!) It is a book to be poured over again and again.

page of a book showing what looks like a paper cut-out saying "Map of my favourite places and poems"

2 The delightful collection of poems

Poetry speaks to us all in different ways.  My 84 year old mother may not remember what she had for breakfast, but she can still recall poems learnt in infancy.  Learning poems off by heart is a skill that exercises the brain in many ways.  This collection includes well known nursery rhymes, as well as Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat”, and Christina Rossetti’s “Hurt No Living Thing”.

It also has many poems that I hadn’t heard of, such as the very lovely “Little Trotty Wagtail” by John Clare, which so perfectly describes a wagtail, and exposes your child to wonderful  vocabulary such as ‘pudge and waggle’, ‘tittering tottering’, and ‘waddled’.

Poems allow children to explore sounds, words, feelings and ideas in a different format from stories.  They are a great tool to developing their attention, language, empathy and thinking skills.  This book gives you a great selection.

Page of book with beautiful pencil drawing of a frog and frogspawn

3 It shows a more natural way of life

We live in a busy world where children are playing with smart phones and tablets.  Electronic devices are great for learning skills and knowledge, but they do not give children all that they need for a healthy, rounded education.  It is really important that children learn to look closely at the world around them.

I also read recently that children need ‘dirt’ to develop healthy gut bacteria.  You could help them by going to collect a wildflower posy, blowing dandelion clocks or planting some seeds.

Corner of a page in the book of a pencil drawn hand holding a pencil that is adding the final touches to a drawing of a lamb

4 The use of handwriting

There is a good reason for teaching children joined-up (cursive) writing.  It  helps children learn to spell, and the more efficient the handwriting, the quicker children can focus on the content of their writing.  However, children don’t usually see hand written books. This book has a hand written story alongside printed poems.  Talk to your child about the similarities and differences.  Which do they prefer?

Page of the book with a poem and a drawing of a kingfisher on a branch
5 It reminds us to appreciate the moment

A. E. Houseman’s poem “Loveliest of Trees, The Cherry Now” celebrates the beautiful cherry blossom.  Depending on the weather, the tree usually blooms from March to mid-April.  So now is the time to go out and enjoy it.  A heavy rainfall or high winds will bring it to its end for the year.  Once gone, you have to wait til next year.  For me, this is a very good reminder to stop and enjoy the moment.

Where my wellies take me is a book to enjoy, keep and return to.  It will take you back to a simpler time in your life and I hope will encourage you find special time with your children to stop and smell the flowers.  An article I read today stated that children spend an average of 6.5 hours a day looking at screens.  This may result in poorer communication and social skills. As parents, you need to consider what you want for your child and help create an environment that supports it.  Bear in mind that you are your children’s role models.  So you will need to put your wellies on too and put your phones away!!

Time is precious.  I wonder where your wellies will take you?  Maybe you could share with us your favourite local  wellie walk, where you can see the changing seasons and enjoy each one for what it brings.

Additional Learning Opportunities

You could help your child start their own scrapbook.  It could be for flowers, leaves, feathers found on walks, or ticket stubs, postcards, brochures, stamps, anything that you can collect and stick in.  Alternatively you could include stories and poems and help your child illustrate them.

Put your wellies on and explore the natural world. Spring is a great time to see flowering bulbs, blossom, buds on trees.  Frogspawn and toadspawn are present now and in a few weeks there will be ducklings, goslings, and cygnets.

For other books about the great outdoors see our review of  Percy the Park Keeper, and for stopping to smell the roses,  see Footpath Flowers.

Footpath Flowers Book Review

Footpath Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith

This week I received a text from a very good friend saying she’d left something on my doorstep.  I went to look, and found this book, Footpath Flowers.  When I saw her a few days later she said she knew I was going through a rough time, and was going to leave me some flowers. But instead she saw the book and knew that it would be a far better gift.  She was spot on.  I have  been going through a rough time, but this blog has really helped me.  So here I am, writing a book review for a truly beautiful book that has helped me realise that even when you think you are dealing with something alone, there are people out there thinking of you.

Foopath Flowers is a wordless picture book.  Readers will know that I have previously written that good wordless picture books are invaluable at helping children develop speech and language and thinking skills.  This book is no exception.  This book is also an absolute joy to behold.  It gently tells the story of a little girl going home with her father, following a shopping trip.  But the story is so, so much more than this.  The little girl, through the simplest of acts, shares love and kindness along the way.   This is a beautiful story and one that is definitely worth reading.

5 Reasons to Read

 

1 It teaches your child to look deeper

One of the reasons this book stands out is that it is wordless and yet it has an author…. Sounds a bit odd I hear you say! The author, JonArno Lawson is an author and a poet.   In this beautifully illustrated book, JonArno Lawson has created a narrative that is truly poetic. Great poems can be read over and over and each reading brings different interpretations.  This book is the same.  Read it with your child once and talk about it.  Read it again.  What do you notice now? Keep going and keep talking.  By helping your child to go deeper with a children’s book, you are helping them develop skills, and hopefully pleasure, in looking beyond the obvious.

 

2 Anyone can make a difference

The little girl creates a little posy of, well basically, weeds.  She could have held on to them until she got home, but she doesn’t.  She places them, unceremoniously, in places which undoubtedly demonstrates her inate love for living, and once living, animals and people.  It appears that she expects no thanks, just giving for the sake of giving. This is a lesson not just for children, but for us all.

 

3 The narrative is from the little girl’s viewpoint

The narrative is the way the story is written, or in this case, drawn. This book has a simple story. A little girl picks wild flowers and gives them away.  It is the narrative that draws us in to the story and gives us a sense of being part of it. We see the little girl spotting the footpath flowers, often in unusual places, reaching out to get them.  This is very typical of young children, who see the world from a completely different viewpoint, rightfully unburdened by life’s stresses.  Many stories are told in the third person, using the voice of an unseen narrator.  Footpath Flowers, by telling the story from the little girl’s viewpoint, is giving children a different perspective.

 

4 The use of colour

The story starts almost completely in black and white.  Slowly, coulour starts to creep in as the story progresses, in line with the little girl’s act of kindness.  What a lovely way to show that a little bit of love can bring colour into all our lives.  A simple lesson, and one worth remembering.

 

5 The father

When I first read the book, I felt the father was not engaged with the little girl.  This was because he is never seen to be talking to her and is often  on the phone.  However, on re-reading and studying the book, as is so important to do, I got a different impression.  The father is a constant presence, always offering a hand to hold and patiently waiting when the little girl is, so tenderly, placing her flowers. It is this quiet, understated love that I find so appealing.  In this day and age it is not always possible that parents can be a constant presence in their child’s life.  However, what does matter, is that, when there is time to be present, parents demonstrate unconditional love in a way that suits them. Walking quietly, hand in hand, is one charming way of doing this.

Additional Learning Opportunities
  1. Go for a walk and spot wildflowers.  I wonder how many you can find.
  2. Go to a botanical garden and learn more about the huge variety of plants.
  3. Collect some wildflowers and either press them or use them to make a collage.
  4. Discuss what other small acts of kindness could help to lift someone’s day and maybe put one or two into action.
  5. Read Little Red Riding Hood.

Where The Wild Things Are Book Review

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Where on earth do I start with this classic? To quote Julie Andrews from the Sound of Music, I guess I need to “start at the very beginning”. I first heard of Where The Wild Things Are from my husband. He insisted we buy it when our first daughter was born. I had not heard of the book, but he said it was an absolute favourite of his! He even recalled his father reading it to him when he was a little boy.

I have kept the copy of the book we first bought back in 1993. It was first published in the US in 1963 and in the UK in 1967. I find it impossible to come up with any single word to describe the pictures. I have spent hours reading this book to my three children, and many hundreds of school children, and it has given me so many wonderfully emotional, warm and fuzzy moments. If you have not yet had the pleasure of sharing this book with your child or children, then I recommend you do so immediately.

5 Reasons to Read

 

1 Poetic narrative

The language used is just gorgeous.  It is more like an unstructured poem than a prose text. Sendak wrote how ‘an ocean tumbled by’ and placed Max sailing ‘through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year’. It’s just beautiful. The more you can expose your child to story language, the more they will love it. And the more likely they will use it in their own creative writing.

2 Pictures tell the story

Where the Wild Things Are is a true Picture Book, with the pictures and text combining to tell the whole story. At the beginning, the text tells us that Max ‘made mischief of one kind and another’ and the pictures tell us what some of that mischief was. Then, in the middle of the story there are pictures of ‘the wild rumpus’. Encourage your child to use their own words to describe the rumpus and add in your own words, to expand and extend theirs. Children need to develop their speech and hear new words to develop their own communication skills.

 

3 The picture frames (and lack of them)

The first picture of Max has a large white frame. This frame decreases with each successive picture until it disappears completely. The pictures then increase in size, covering the left page as well as the right and during the wild rumpus both pages are filled in their entirety. The reverse then occurs as Max returns home. The changing frame could simply refer to when the story goes from real to fantasy. However, it could also be seen to represent the presence of Max’s mother providing a safe boundary or even Max dipping his toe into a world where he is in charge. What do you think?

 

4 Great vocabulary

‘they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws’.  These words are great to read out loud with big voices, over and over. All children deserve to hear it, to join in with it, to read it and ultimately to use it in their own speech and written work.

 

5 Help your child develop emotional literacy

Max clearly starts off feeling angry. Anger is a natural emotion and one that we all experience at some time or another. If you never feel angry, you can never know how to deal with it. Books are a brilliant way for children to explore negative emotions and learn about managing them.

If you look carefully at the pictures you will see Max going through a full range of emotions. He starts off angry, then is almost maniacal!  We also see a scared Max, a controlling Max, a regal and possibly pompous Max and a pensive and homesick Max.  Few books show these emotions and thus this book is an excellent vehicle to help talk about them.

Conclusion

Where The Wild Things Are is a book that consists of beautiful language and stunning pictures.  But it is more than that. This book could help you and your child explore feelings and emotions. This could help you and your child develop understanding and skills that will be of benefit for many years to come.

Additional Learning Opportunities
  • Max discovers the land of the wild things. Why not dig up an atlas and talk about famous land discoveries made by boat.
  • Have fun acting out roles in fancy dress.
  • Put on some ‘wild rumpus’ music and  let the ‘wild thing’ in you out!
  • Draw or paint some ‘wild things’ of your own.
  • If you have older children, they could write the story in the form of a play script, and then act it out.
  • Discuss whether Max would ever return to see the wild things and what might happen then?

Mr Wuffles Book Review

Mr Wuffles by David Wiesner

I love Mr Wuffles. Apart from his white paws and throat he is very similar to my own cat, Gizmo. Both Gizmo and Mr Wuffles are “the epitome of indifference” as said by Amy Farrah Fowler of the wonderful Big Bang Theory. However he is far from indifferent when it comes to little green men and their spaceships!

In this wonderful, almost wordless book, Mr Wuffles comes up against aliens and a band of insects. As usual for this site, I won’t give away the ending, but I can at least confirm that it is a happy one.

5 Reasons to Read

Mr Wuffles looking at a small silver spaceship on the wooden floor

1 A picture is worth a thousand words

Wordless picture books are fantastic because they encourage children to tell the story using their own words. Young children need a lot of practice to become fluent speakers and so wordless picture books are great tools to help them along the way.

If your child is not yet speaking using grammatically correct sentences you can help them. Always allow them to speak and try to avoid butting in (counting to 5 is a good rule of thumb). Once they have said their bit, repeat it back to them but using the correct language. They don’t need to repeat it, but over time, they will start to use an increasing amount of correct language.

 

Two green aliens in their spaceship with their heads in their hands

2 There’s a lot to think about

Mr Wuffles uses a comic strip format to tell the story. A lot happens in these pictures and the children that I have shared this book with have all enjoyed scrutinising the pictures to understand the story. This is helping your child develop analytical skills that are needed to understand complex texts.

 

Three green aliens in their spaceship holding a yellow flag and talking in an alien language
3 Have a go at translating

The aliens and ants have their own language. Have some fun with this and see if you and your child can translate the symbols. Once you’ve chosen the words, choose some good voices to use. What voice might you use for the aliens? The more fun and interactive you make storytime, the more pleasure your child will get from the experience. And the more pleasure your child gets the more likely they will make reading an integral part of their lives.

 

Four aliens sitting on the floor talking to an ant and a ladybird

4 Explore the cave paintings

Cave paintings may well have been used to tell stories 40,000 years ago.  I like the use of them here, telling us, and the aliens, the ants’ stories.  You could talk about them with your child, both in terms of this story and the history of ancient stories drawn on caves thousands of years ago.

 

A little round silver spaceship with three legs sits on a wooden floor

5 Think about where the aliens will go next

Stories give children the opportunities not only to enjoy the story per se, but also to think of what may happen next.  So, where will the alien ship fly to as it leaves Mr Wuffles’ home? Will it return to the alien’s planet, will it go to another location and battle against another predator on Earth, or somewhere else?  Let your child’s imagination fly.

Conclusion

Wordless picture books really are marvellous in helping your child develop their imagination and language.  Mr Wuffles is a great story and one to be enjoyed, not just with younger children.  Please let us know if you enjoyed it.

Additional Learning Opportunities
  • Can your child name the shapes from the alien’s language?
  • Introduce your child to the planets of the solar system. Can they learn the names of the planets? Maybe your child would be inerested in learning about star constellations or distant galaxies.
  • Could your child come up with another story about Mr Wuffles and draw a comic strip version on this story?
  • If you have an older child, they might like to write the text for the story.

Once Upon An Alphabet Book Review

Once upon an alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

I like alphabets. When expecting my daughter in 1992, I made a Winnie The Pooh alphabet cross stitch to while away the last few weeks. I recall my mother telling me about an alphabet banner that was on ‘Matron’s wall’ in the 1930s! Even now, 80 years later, she can recite the whole thing! “A is for Alfred who angled at Ayr, B is for Bernard who …”

Some of its language is a bit outdated now, but it’s incredible that she can still recall it all. So I was delighted when I came across Once Upon an Alphabet in my favourite independent bookstore in Bristol.
I am definitely a fan of Oliver Jeffers. His quirky style came into my world with Lost and Found and, with every new publication, he continues to show his incredible talent and amazing creativity. Once Upon An Alphabet is quite simply superb. Here are 5 Reasons why you should Read it.

For this article, I’m going to take a slightly different stance by using 5 of the 26 letters, and their stories, to give my 5 reasons.

M – The mad and magnificent “Made of Matter”

Alliteration abounds! This story contains no less than 15 words starting with the letter M. Alliteration, where words next to each other start with the same sound, is a literary device, and all the stories here contain them. Understanding alliteration will help your child recognise sounds, a technique called phonological awareness, which is a vital component of learning to read. And once your child is writing, using alliteration will help them create wonderful poetry and stunning stories.

W – “The Whiraffe”

I’ll be honest. This one is quite unsettling. However it is very important that children explore darker themes, and they can do that in the safety of their own homes, with their special adults close by. You can use this story to discuss ethics and talk about whether the inventor should have done what he did.

O – “Onwards”

The owl and the octopus appear in several stories. As well as being amusing, this interweaving of characters will help prepare your child for more complex texts. Your child will learn how multiple characters are linked and learn how to remember more characters. This story also provides us with intertextuality, where different books are linked to one another. Look closely and you’ll spot two of Oliver Jeffers’ creations from another book Lost and Found.

Y – “A Yeti, a Yak and a Yo-yo”

Limericks are less well known these days, probably because they have often contained inappropriate language. However they are fun and children enjoy the rhythm and rhyme. Maybe you could help come up with some appropriate ones. Rhythm and rhyme help children learn the natural rhythms of spoken language. It will also help them say and read words with more than one syllable.

Q – “The Missing Question”

Oliver Jeffer’s is more than an illustrator. His pictures provide additional information for the reader. In terms of printed text, this story is the shortest, with only three sentences. But the pictures give us more. This is teaching your child that stories, good stories, go beyond the literal. Helping your child to learn how to infer.

Once Upon An Alphabet has 26 short stories that intertwine with one another in a humorous and occasionally unexpected way. Each story will give you and your child something to think about. And when you get to the end you can, and will, find yourself back at the beginning again.

 Additional Learning Opportunities

The vocabulary is glorious. A child’s book with the word enigma can’t be sniffed at. Use it to develop your child’s language. Don’t assume they understand the words, explain them to them by giving a definition and then using them in other sentences. As well as wonderful words, there are expressions too. ‘Building bridges’ and ‘laughing in the face of death’.

Talk about Bob and Bernard. What might they do next?
Could an astronaut have a fear of heights? You could talk about fears and what can be done to avoid them having an impact on your life.

Percy the Park Keeper Book Review

Percy the Park Keeper Stories by Nick Butterworth

  • One Snowy Night
  • After the Storm
  • The Rescue Party
  • The Secret Path
  • The Treasure Hunt
  • Percy’s Bumpy Ride

This article is about not just one book, but six books, all about a kindly Park Keeper, Percy.  The first one was published in 1989, but it was the fourth that first came to my attention when it was given to my daughter as a birthday present and became a firm favourite. It is a charming story with a fold out page at the end to enjoy. The books became so popular that they were turned into television programmes, which all my children watched avidly. They are all appealing owing to the gentle pace, charming illustrations and a surprise fold out page.

Each book features Percy and his woodland friends. In One Snowy Night, Percy helps the animals come in from the cold while in After the Storm, Percy assists them in a relocation. The Rescue Party deals with a trapped rabbit and The Secret Path has the tables being turned on the animals. In The Treasure Hunt the animals find out that treasure can mean different things and in Percy’s Bumpy Ride a flock of sheep save the day.

1 See that a simple act of kindness goes a long long way

In three of the books, Percy helps the animals either find somewhere warm to spend the night, find a new home or find safety. However, he doesn’t always do it all on his own, the animals all help too.  What a great way for young children to have it demonstrated that by pulling together the outcome is better for everyone.

Illustration of a rabbit stuck down a well

2  These stories can help your child learn resilience

Bad things happen. Wrapping children up in cotton wool may seem the best response but in the long term it means your child will not be equipped to deal with difficult circumstances. It is important for children to build resilience by experiencing difficulties and overcoming them. These stories demonstrate that difficulties can be surmounted.

3 See the beauty of the seasons

In these books we get to enjoy the beauty of all the seasons. The daffodils in Spring, warm Summer days with wildflowers and butterflies. The exquisite colours of Autumn and the cold snow of Winter. The pictures are beautifully drawn, down to the last detail of Percy’s breath condensing in the cold Winter’s air. You can enjoy the pictures and talk about the seasons with your child. Explore which is their favourite and why.

4 Take a trip to your local park

Children learn so much from being outside.  These books are great to stimulate them to look into the beauty of the Natural World. I have a particular fondness of garden birds and Nick Butterworth includes robins, blackbirds, thrushes and sparrows as well as woodpigeons, coots and seagulls.  As well as wildlife, the books shares information about trees and plants. Go outside and see if you can spot birds and trees or bushes, and then go home and try to find out what they are called.

5 Enriches your child’s vocabulary

Books are wonderful at providing your child with words that they don’t come across on a day to day basis. These stories will introduce your child words like to cocoa, snuggled, shivering, chuckle, damage, tangly, wrecked, handkerchief, shrubbery, and handiwork and expressions such as “Good gracious!”, “pricked up his ears”, “a great storm was raging”, and “drifting downstream”. As your child’s vocabulary grows the more they’ll enjoy increasingly complex books, which in turn gives them more words. It’s a never ending expanding spiral.

Percy with his arm around a sad fox with badger and the squirrels

These are lovely books that you will enjoy just as much as your child. This is the fourth article I have written for the blog and it was as a result of a personal request, from my brother-in-law, to write about the books he loved reading to my nieces and nephew 20 years ago. I hope he feels I’ve done the books justice. If you have a personal favourite, please let us know, and we can share with the rest of the world. Good books are worth sharing!

Additional Learning Opportunities
  1. These books are great for discussing animals and habitats.
  2. Can your child sort the animals from the smallest to the tallest?
  3. Maybe your child could plan a treasure hunt for you and write signs or clues?
  4. Could your child design a flying machine and where would they like to fly to?
  5. Go to the park and enjoy doing observational drawings of flowers or trees.

Peace At Last Book Review

In my opinion,  Peace at Last is one of Jill Murphy’s  finest. First published in 1980, it received a commendation for the Kate Greenaway award.  My first daughter was born in 1993 and this book was a firm favourite. We read it over and over and over again, so much so, I can still recite most of it off by heart, 20 years later!!  It is a charming tale about the Bear family and poor Mr Bear who cannot get to sleep.  She loved joining in with me as I made the noises; Baby Bear’s nyaaowing, the ticking and cuckooing of the clock, the humming of the fridge, the snuffling of the hedgehogs, the tweeting of the birds and the alarm clock waking the family up.

The story starts with the Bear family going to bed, but poor old Mr Bear can’t get to sleep owing to Mrs Bear’s snoring.  He wanders around the house, trying to find some peace.  In the end he finds “peace at last” but …. you’ll have to read the story to find out!

1 Peace at Last is a perfect bedtime story

Bedtimes are truly precious times and stories about bedtimes are particularly charming.  My fondness for bedtime stories crosses 2 generations. I can still visualise my mother, sitting on my bunkbed, over 40 years ago reading Dr Seuss to me. And 30 years after I was repeating the experience but this time in the mother role, and I can’t wait to be able to do the same as a Grandparent (though my children are currently not so keen!)  A story about bedtime reinforces to children that all families go to bed and, in this day and age, traditional illustrations, with no computers, laptops, tablets or phones is a good way to reinforce that bedtimes are not places for electronic devices.

2 An opportunity to show off your vocal talents

In this book, you can SNORE, NYAAOW, TICK-TOCK and much much more! By reading with expression you are making the story more interesting and thus your child will be more involved, engaged and may well join in with you.  Especially if you point to the words as you go along, which is a great way to show your child that the written word in English goes from left to right and top to bottom. Your child will soon see that some words in the book are all capitals which is a clue from the author to read these words with emphasis. Unleash the actor inside and let rip!

3 The pictures are delightfully detailed

From Mrs Bear’s curlers and hairnet to the increasing bags under Mr Bear’s eyes; every page shows lovely detail. Your child is growing up in a modern world and this book is set in an era where there are no mobile phones or even digital clocks, so you can use the illustrations to develop your child’s vocabulary.  Explore their knowledge of knitting, grandfather and cuckoo clocks, hairnets, salt cellars and pepper pots.  The black and white pictures are also worth exploring; there’s an old fashioned telephone with a dial to talk about and compare with our modern day phones.

4 It contains beautifully poetic story language

Simply put, story language is language that is more often found written down rather than delivered in day to day conversation. The story starts with ‘The hour was late.’ Have you ever come across an hour and one that is late?  More commonly, we would say “It is late”. This is one of the many reasons that children brought up on books do better in their academic education because they can use these phrases in their own writing and hence get higher marks.

Illustration of mrs bear and mr bear asleep in bed

5 It is onomatopoeic-tastic!

Poetry is filled with onomatopoeia, words that sound like the noise they are describing, and this book is too.  Snore, Nyaaow, Tick-Tock, Cuckoo …. I could go on but I don’t want to spoil it for you. In school your child will learn about them as a literary device and use their own creations to write poetry; this book is giving them a head-start!

This book could give you and your child a warm fuzzy feeling, like it does for me or it could be used to help your child with telling the time, writing poetry, thinking about how animals adapt and considering what it would be like without electronic devices.  I leave it up to you. Enjoy!

Additional Learning Opportunities
  1. You can help your child write Mr Bear’s diary entry of his night
  2. Discuss with your child what might happen the next day, your child could draw a picture or write a continuation of the story
  3. Rather than using your vocal talents, your child could use a variety of musical instruments to create a soundscape for the story. What sound or instrument might they use for SHINE, SHINE?
  4. There are many clocks illustrated throughout, help your child use them to tell the time and even work out how much time is passing during the night.
  5. Discuss nocturnal animals.

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?