Day 19 (Week 3, Day 5)
We had a great evening of reading again (though this blog post is coming to you late due to an incredibly busy schedule at the minute!), reading three books that we've never read before. Sometimes we end up with three books on a similar theme, and sometimes (like tonight) they're all quite different. We don't mind what we read - we just love to discover great stories and let you know about them!
I read to them while they were in the bath tonight, partly to change things up a bit, and partly because we were so short on time and they were both so tired!
I met Steve Cole once at the Big Book Bash in Derbyshire, having seen countless titles that he had written on library shelves all over the county, and he was delightfully fun and enthusiastic - it's clear that his personality infuses itself fully into his stories, because Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard is wonderfully fun and creative, filled with great imagination and a lovely little twist at the end. Every parent (and babysitter I'm sure!) recognises that most frustrating of situations, where it's far-beyond bedtime but your children just won't sleep, and you'll try just about anything to convince them that the land of slumber is where they need to reside right now. Watching the babysitter try to convince the children in this story that she has an increasingly eccentric team of scary helpers that will come for them if they don't (including a robot, alien, and child-eating plant), before producing a leopard as a final throw of the dice, was the perfect level of tension for Josh and Xander to enjoy,
The illustrations by Bruce Ingman are really well done, combining very bright and colourful people and objects with generally single-tone backgrounds to help everything stick out better, which is a technique I've not seen often but is very effective. Loved the twist at the end too, though I won't spoil it so you can discover it for yourselves!
Chris: We're lucky in that Josh is pretty good at going to bed when he's asked, though Xander can certainly be more of a mixed bag! I'd never admit to trying scare them to sleep (honest), but it's always fun to see a very recognisable scenario played out in an imaginative way. I've always looked forward to when Josh is old enough for us to start reading Steve Cole's middle grade series like Astrosaurs and Cows in Action, and books like this show that we're going to be in for a treat!
Josh says: I liked seeing all the creatures again at the end.
Xander says: I'm drinking coffee! (N.B. I don't think a small cup of bathwater counts at coffee, Xander...)
2) Light-Fingered Larry - Jan Fearnley (Author & Illustrator)
Highly entertaining story about an octopus who can't stop stealing, but reforms his ways when he gets himself into trouble and realises he can't carry on as he is. Who doesn't love to see a reformed bad guy in a children's book?! It's the perfect chance to show children why, even if they've done something wrong, it's never too late to apologise and try to put things right! There's so much going on in all the pictures within this story, and it's great to have books where you and your kids can spend time talking about everything they can see in the illustrations as well as just reading the text. Excellent fun!
Chris says: We had great fun reading this, particularly the refrain of 'nickety-nickety-nick-nick-gone!' everytime Light-Fingered Larry stole something. Loads to talk about on every page as well - it's great to see an illustrator go into so much detail to make the page really come alive.
Josh says: I liked the end when you see that Larry has kept the keys.
Xander says: Splash splash! (N.B. Not sure if this was due to bath time, or Larry splashing in the ocean!)
3) Blue Chameleon - Emily Gravett (Author & Illustrator)
Emily Gravett is one of my favourite picture book author-illustrators, and she always has such wonderful imagination. Blue Chameleon is a fantastic example of this, as she shows a chameleon looking for friends by mimicking a variety of animals and objects without meeting any success, before meeting a fellow chameleon and being rewarded with a great friendship. It's imaginative on so many levels - the title is a play on the chameleon being unhappy, the way the chameleon shapes itself into the different creatures and objects is fantastically done, and it's also a good tool for getting younger children to understand colours, shapes, objects etc. The kids both enjoyed pointing out the latter on each double page, and loved how the chameleon turned multicoloured when he was happy having found his new friend. It's a very uplifting book that shows friendship is always round the corner!
Chris says: I love imaginative books, and this has imagination in so many different ways. I really do like seeing how the chameleon even tried to copy everyday objects, because the ways Emily Gravett manages to shape it into near-copies is fantastic. Great for kids to learn about shapes and colours etc. when they're younger, too.
Josh says: I liked all the different animals and objects that the chameleon turned into.
Xander says: Snail! Boot! Fish!
So, to summarise Day 19...Some incredibly inventive storytelling, mixed with familiar problems of children not sleeping, righting your wrongs, and looking for new friends. We're blessed really that no matter what theme you want in a picture book, you know that out there you can easily find someone who has written a fantastic take on it that you can enjoy and talk about as a family.
Not only that, but they've likely written many more books that you'll get to enjoy in the future, too! We certainly will be doing for the Picture Book Challenge!