Thursday, 28 February 2013

You Choose by Nick Sharratt & Pippa Goodhart

You Choose is the work of Pippa Goodhart (author) and Nick Sharratt (illustrator). It's almost a cross between a picture book and an activity book.  At our house it's known as a conversation starter.

We read a lot of books at supper time when it's often just E and me around the table (plus one giant ginger cat at our feet).  A friend gave us this book for E's birthday but admittedly I'd had my eye on it for some time. The format is a series of questions accompanied by an array of mouth watering illustrations that let you make up new answers and stories each time you read it.

It's a real work out for the imagination and E took to it from the start.  It opens with a question we all may ponder now and again:

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? 

Below this text is a two page spread bursting with landscapes from volcanoes to deserts, to cities to the seaside.  There's even a snapshot of outer space for anyone who wants to go to the moon or visit the planets.  E tends to alternate between visiting a volcano and Saturn's rings.

The book continues in this format with questions about choosing the pet you'd like to have, the clothes you'd like to wear and the food you'd like to eat.  We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on the transportation page debating the merits of rocket ships vs steam trains. I'm curious if this edition is sold in the US as the food section includes some very British fare like Christmas pudding and bangers and mash. The food pages are also useful for talking about some of those foods that your little reader may not readily eat.

I really like the way this book gives the child an active role.  E now initiates the questions without any prompting from me and it often leads to a dialog about why we like certain choices.  It's rewarding to have your child ask you a question and wait genuinely for your answer.  And it's even better when he asks if he can come to the moon with you.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Imagine Children's Festival

The Imagine Children's Festival is in full swing at London's Southbank Centre. We made a beeline down there as soon as we could. This is a festival for children that's run in part by children. I call it a celebration of fun, books, art and performance. The Book People are involved too so you can bet ya we weren't going to miss it!

With free events galore, a chill out zone for workshops and a dedicated arts space taken over by children, there are discoveries to be made in every nook and cranny, inside and out, of this concrete palace.

We ran into the Beastie while outside looking at boats, and inside we had a hard time choosing between live music, book readings, drawing, cardboard sculptures and theatre. The Southbank is filled to the brim with hoards of delighted children and it cheered me to no end to be a small part of all the excitement generated by books, books, books. E had a blast - admittedly at times just running the length of the fifth floor - and selfishly I wished I could have set up residence for the week.

E was lured down on day 2 to meet 'George' from one of our very favorite books by Chris Haughton.  We listened to Haughton read Oh No, George! and A Bit Lost before George came to life in front of us on Haughton's easel.  

We also crept in to Salvatore Rubbino's workshop where he had the group busy creating a 3D Thames scape with bridges and boats form his beautiful book, A Walk in London.  E was fascinated by the set up and spent quite a lot of time playing with the creations after everyone had left.

We carried his enthusiasm home with us and later made an amateur version of Salvatore Rubbino's Thames scape using E's toys:

What struck me most about our time at the Imagine Children's Festival was the excitement generated by activities involving books and art. What a treat for the kids and adults to discover together how much fun all these cultural activities can be. For more about the Imagine Children's Festival visit:

We're back next week with a review of E's current favorite book by Nick Sharratt.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Whale by David Lucas

The cover of Whale looks more like album art than a fantastical children's book to me. This is a good thing. I love the vast expanse of blues and the lower case title, and how it looks like it could have been published in the 70's but is actually from 2006. Some of you will be old friends with David Lucas' books, but for any newbies this one's for you.

Our copy of Whale was a third birthday present for E from one of my sisters. It's now standard mealtime reading (so that's at least three times a day). He's fixated on the whale's smile and always remarks how the whale looks happy. Since reading Whale, E has learned about dolphins and fishmongers and almost grasped the meaning of the word 'innumerable'.

The story is a great tale about a town in deep trouble after the whale is washed ashore and flattens all the buildings in one go. It's a story of how the whale and the sea creatures save the day with a little help from Joe, the townsfolk, an owl, the wind, the sun, the moon and the innumerable stars.

Joe awakens one morning when something crashes into his house and it knocks him out of bed. He and his Grandma May escape their house through the chimney only to discover that the entire town, including the fishmonger and the mayor, are stranded atop the whale.  The whale is contrite but cannot help himself as he's stuck ashore. After much consultation from the owl and the elements the suggestion comes back that the townsfolk should sing.  Joe gets things started and soon everyone joins in, including the whale.  It's a rain song and before long they're all more than a little surprised to find the town flooded and the whale floating at sea. The whale gets to work putting things right and drinks as much of the sea water as he can.  Then he starts to sing and like a call to arms all the wonderful wild creatures come forth from the sea and rebuild the town in a dazzle of shells, pebbles and pearls. The town is saved, the whale is saved and Joe has made a new friend.

The narrative is uncomplicated but the added detail gives this book an edge over standard early reading picture books.  It's a good transition book for introducing your young reader to more text.  The illustrations are joyous and it's a treat to tread the pages of Lucas' distinct designs, patterns and illustrations. In fact, the illustrations alone make this book a worthwhile read.  To find out more about David Lucas and his other books, projects and illustrations you can visit:, Booktrust and this post from Playing By the Book.