Day 27 (Week 4, Day 6)
I always write an introduction to the day when I do this blog posts, and it's occurred to me that with 365 of these to do I might begin to repeat myself after a short while, so please take this as an apology now if I constantly come back to the same themes when I'm doing so!
There's a reason that I'll talk about the same themes a lot of the time, however, and that's because they're so important. Spending quality time as a family, raising our children's literacy, de-stressing by reading; all of these are benefits of reading together and as both a parent and librarian I want other people to see these benefits too.
I'm lucky in that I genuinely get excited if I've read a fantastic picture book, just as much as I do any other type of book. It's partly because I love to read anything that makes me smile, and partly because I can't wait to see the same reaction from other people, whether it's my children or children that I'm reading to at a storytime or other adults that appreciate it as much as I do.
All 66 books that we've read so far for the Picture Book Challenge has moments to make you smile, and I'm certain that every one of the 934 still to read will have those moments as well. It could be the illustrations, the sense of imagination, the creativity, the ingenious way of bringing across an important message, the humour, the grumpy animals, the hats...or it could be many or all of these things together. I love the fact that a picture book will only take us a few minutes to read together but can create a happy (and in later years, nostalgic) memory that will stay with us for a long, long time afterwards, and that because they're short and sweet it's easy to take a chance on one, in a way that you just can't on any other type of book (because how easy do you find it to read a whole chapter book of any age in a day without making it the focus of your entire waking time?).
Anyway, introduction to Day 27 over, and on with the reviews...
1) Who Am I? - Gervase Phinn (Author) & Tony Ross (Illustrator)
As is probably true with many of you, I know Gervase Phinn best from his tales of life as a school teacher and inspector in Yorkshire, a particular favourite of mine being his Christmas-themed book A Wayne in a Manger. I know that he's written several novels for adults, but this is the first children's book of his that I've come across. As you'd expect from an ex-teacher, it's title theme of 'who am I?' is a perfect one to talk through with young children, asking them to describe who they think they are, and showing them that they have a place in the world no matter how they see themselves.
The legendary Tony Ross is in charge of the illustrations, bringing a quirkiness to the text that never fails to raise a smile (just look at his eyes on the front cover coupled with that smile!). and it all adds up to another fine example of a picture book that is more than just a story to be done with when the pages are closed.
Chris says: I'm reminded of the scene in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when the whale drops out of the sky and has to give names to all his body parts having only just been brought to life. If you had to start with a blank slate, how would you describe yourself? What features do you think other people would mention about you in particular? What is it that you makes you special? All questions that are great for getting children to think about themselves and their place in the world!
Josh says: I liked when the chameleons mummy found him at the end.
Xander says: Crocodile! Snap!
2) Max and Bird - Ed Vere (Author & Illustrator)
I LOVE the opening few pages of Max and Bird, where Max and Bird decide to be friends, before Max gleefully states his intention that part of this friendship should involve Max being able to chase and then eat his new friend, as if it's a perfectly reasonable thing to expect a friend to be alright with. Of course, Bird is able to convince Max that they're friendship will last longer if the latter doesn't eat him, and they work together in a very sweet manner to help Bird learn how to fly. I often mention messages within stories about being friends with people no matter their differences, and you can read this as a message about learning to work together if you want to; alternatively, you can ignore all that and just laugh about the thought of a cat helping an increasingly frustrated bird to fly, and then realising that he's better off not eating him after all.
Also, the illustrations are delightfully quirky, and it shows libraries being awesome. What more could you want?
Chris says: I just love the idea of a cat thinking that the best thing his bird friend can do is to let himself be eaten, as proof of that friendship. Makes me giggle just thinking about it! You could use the message of 'don't eat your friends - work together to solve problems instead!' if you wanted to, but really I think you can just sit back and laugh on this occasion.
Josh says: I liked Max and Bird making friends.
3) This Book Is Out Of Control! - Richard Byrne (Author & Illustrator)
There's no doubt in my mind that Richard Byrne is one of the most creative picture authors and illustrators out there today. This Book Ate My Dog! was fantastic for getting children to physically shake the book to interact with it when prompted, and We're In The Wrong Book! used so many different artistic styles it was almost unfairly creative. This Book Is Out Of Control! is just as imaginative, with it's use of a remote control controlling a dog instead of a fire engine in error, and encouraging the reader to take over the reins of controlling it. It's another wonderfully interactive twist that enraptures children and makes the reading of it all the more fun. Whether it's flipping everyone upside down and onto the ceiling, or spinning the dog round like a tumble dryer (took a long time for Josh to stop laughing at that one!), it's full of actions that will make you laugh all the way through, and doubly so for your children who get to feel like they have an influence on the story.
The illustrations themselves are fun, colourful and expertly drawn, as well as bring so hilariously interactive. It's really a perfect book to read when you want nothing more than to laugh away togehter before bed (or indeed anytime!).
Oh, and I saw what you did, Mr Byrne, with the very end of the story encouraging my children to push the one button that hadn't been pushed yet - and yes, it worked many times!
Chris says: Such a funny book, and such a clever way of getting children to physically interact with the story - not that I'd expect anything else from Richard Byrne. You can't help but smile throughout, particularly with the startled expression of the dog as he finds himself suddenly controlled by the remote. Absolutely glorious!
Josh says: I loved all of it, but especially the dog spinning round.
So, to summarise Day 27...
What an absolutely marvellous evening for funny and imaginative storytelling! Who Am I? made us talk about how we think of ourselves, Max and Bird had us talking and laughing about making friends, and This Book Is Out Of Control! had us in stitches and interacting with the book as if we were really in the story.
I love that picture books can get us feeling like we're part of the story, usually by trying to talk directly to us as readers, as it makes the whole reading experience so different than normal. We know that we're not really influencing it, and we know on the 24th reading that nothing different is going to happen, but it doesn't matter because we're having such a good time doing it. You just don't get that same experience with the majority of other types of storytelling.
Bring on tomorrow night!