Day 57 (Week 9, Day 1) - Sunday 26th February 2017
A trip to grandparents is a great chance to involve more people in the Picture Book Challenge! This time the kids' Grandad David and Nanny got to sit down and read a book each, which is something they both love to do whenever we go to visit. It's always nice to get as many people as possible to read to Josh & Xander so they get to experience a good number of different storytelling styles and interpretations of the characters in their favourite stories. I'm sure Toby the dog would have liked to have read to them as well if he could!
1) Bob the Artist - Marion Deuchars (Author & Illustrator)
I thought this book was excellent for two reasons: 1) the positive message to not try and change a key part of yourself just to try and fit in, and 2) the small lesson in different artists and styles for children. I'm not an art person particularly, but I do think that the gentle introduction that Bob the Artist gives when it shows Bob painting his beak in several different artistic styles is lovely! So too is the way that Bob ends up not caring that he has thinner legs than the other birds because he's happy in himself at the end of the book. It's fine to be a little different, especially if it makes you unique among your peers.
The illustrations themselves show how you can put across an effective message whilst staying minimalist, with Bob himself being an all-black little bird until he discovers different artists and the colours begin to explode off the page (though this isn't to say that there isn't colour and excellent artistic merit in the illustrations before that at all!).
I'd say this is a great choice for anyone who wants to use the differences in artistic styles to show a child how it's fine to be different because everyone has things that are their own that they should be proud of. That's the message I hope Josh & Xander took from the story anyway!
Chris says: It's an easy message to remember in this story, and that's the type of message that I love picture books to promote - having something about you that's different is absolutely normal, and it's what you do as a person that's important. I definitely want my kids to grow up feeling that way!
Josh says: I liked the drawings.
Xander says: I draw too?
2) Tidy - Emily Gravett
I've read a couple of stories recently about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Holly Bourne's Am I Normal Yet? in particular), particularly of the utterly-mentally-debilitating variety, and while Tidy is not trying to tell us about quite as extreme an example, it does a great job of approaching the subject of how it's fine to want things to be neat and tidy, but not to let it get in the way of having fun living your life. Badger is one such person who doesn't like mess, trying to keep the forest where he lives tidy in impossible ways (binning all the leaves, uprooting all the trees), until he eventually realises he might have gone too far when he concretes the forest over and realises that he can't now get into his sett to sleep.
Emily Gravett is a wonderful author/illustrator, and I love the way that children can easily see that as Badger gets more extreme in his tidying, the forest loses its colours and becomes drab and dull. Whether it's intended exactly this way or not I'm not sure (though knowing her skill with storytelling, I'd pretty certain it will be), but to me it's a great echo of the fact that if you let an obsession like this build to the point where you can't enjoy things because you're trying to prevent them occurring to get rid of the threat of untidiness, your life too will become drab and dull.
As ever, it's a gentle way of talking about issues that can affect someone at any age, without making it into a huge talking point. Your children can just laugh at how daft Badger has been if they want, or you can follow up and discuss it in more detail if you feel you need to.
Brilliant, as ever, from Emily Gravett!
Chris says: I'm not a tidy person in anyway, so you'll never get me ending up in the situation as badly as Badger, but I really do appreciate a story that you can use to gently show your kids why you shouldn't take things too far at the detriment of enjoying your life.
Josh says: Daddy isn't very tidy.
Xander says: Trees!
3) Dave's Rock - Frann Preston-Gannon (Author & Illustrator)
I so love the illustrations in this story! Just look at Dave on the front cover with his utterly adorable wide caveman eyes! It's charming right from the first page all the way to the very end in fact, as Dave and his friend Jon first compete to decide who has the best rock, before working to enjoy their rocks together. The fact that they get so close to building a scooter together, only to ignore it and leave the animals to build it themselves afterwards only makes me adore them even more. It's a delightfully funny story that the kids enjoyed as much as I did, as we laughed together about how silly they both were.
I write a lot about loving books that teach kids a gentle message, have swashbuckling adventures, or a twist cleverer than any adult book can manage, but sometimes it's wonderful just to have a book that makes you laugh due to it's simple story and genuine warm humour. Dave's Rock is perfect for the latter, and we'd love to check out the first book in the series, Dave's Cave.
Lovely end to the evening's reading!
Chris says: This is the sort of story that makes you say, 'What? You haven't read Dave's Rock? Well, better put that right straight away!', and then gets you to produce a copy from the place in the library you've stashed it deliberately for such an occasion. In other words, if someone told me they wanted a picture book to make them laugh, I'd have this high up on the list of titles to recommend.
Josh says: The animals were cleverer than they were!
Xander: I have a rock!