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.
5 Reasons to Read
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.