Day 20 (Week 3, Day 6)
We had a slightly different setup tonight, as Josh fell asleep early but Xander stayed awake, so Xander had storytime all to himself! If you've followed this blog for a bit, you'll probably have noticed that Xander doesn't always stick around for the entirety of a story, often doing his own thing for a bit while Josh listens patiently, so I wasn't 100% sure if I was going to have a captive audience for the duration of all three books.
Luckily, Xander happily sat and listened to our three stories for the evening, once again insisting on reading one of them himself when we'd finished, pictures of which I've included below! I love that he wants to tell the stories straight back to us as it shows just how much he loves our reading time together, and gives me great hopes that he's already become a reader for life.
So, on with the stories!
1) Captain McGrew Wants YOU For His Crew! - Mark Sperring (Author) & Ed Eaves (Illustrator)
We had great fun reading this first, as Xander is a huge fan of pirates and pirate ships, and this book promised to make him a member of the pirate captain's crew! He enjoyed seeing the different things that he would have to do as part of the crew (even though they become increasingly tiring, even as the captain relaxes more and more!), and the big bright colourful illustrations captured his eye and his imagination perfectly, letting him talk to me about everything that was going on as we went through it. It's a really good idea to have a story and title like this, to make it seem like it's talking directly to your children and make them feel involved directly in the story, and Xander immediately wanted to read it out loud himself afterwards. I don't think the tiring life put him off wanted to join Captain McGrew's crew, and I can see us returning to this one quite a few times in the future!
Chris says: Xander really loved talking about everything happening in the pictures, and I loved how the pirates got more and more tired while the captain got more and more filthy - there's definitely some parallels with the captain representing your children and the pirates representing yourself! Pirates are always a great draw for children, and this is a damn fine example of how to make a pirate story exciting and interactive for kids.
Xander says: I like the cannon!
And here's Xander reading the book himself, and getting annoyed when he didn't feel we were giving him enough praise for it:
2) How to Find Gold - Viviane Schwarz (Author & Illustrator)
I'm not sure I've ever read a book that captures the imagination of playtime for children quite as well as this. It's about a girl and her crocodile friend who go searching for gold, but it's the way it develops with events happening simply because they suggest them that makes this so wonderful - let's face it, playtime as a child often involves loosely connected, plot-hole filled story line that evolves in the most fantastically random directions as time goes on. The fact that they make up their own map, for instance, then draw a cross on it to represent where the treasure should be, before making the journey to the place they've just made up, is spectacular. It takes a special mind to make something like this into so special but brilliant a story, so I can only heap praise after praise on Viviane Schwarz for this.
Chris says: The more I think about it, the cleverer this story becomes. It's just perfect at highlighting how a child deals with a problem in their play, or even how they think about life - I need to do this, and I need this to do it, so that's what will have to happen next. How wonderful to find a book that captures the essence of this so perfectly, that you can to someone and literally say, 'Here, this is a illustrated example of how a child's mind works'. I want everyone I know to read this now, to check that they agree with me!
Xander says: I loved the pirate ship!
3) When Angus Met Alvin - Sue Pickford (Author & Illustrator)
What I like about this isn't so much the story itself, but the way it tells it. Some books really try to involve the way the text is presented as part of the storytelling experience, making it move around with the actions it's describing (flying, jumping etc.), increasing in size when the dialogue is shouted etc., and that's something that When Angus Met Alvin does very well indeed. It's a fun story in its own right, about two aliens trying to outdo each other before forming a firm friendship, but the aforementioned presentation of the text, coupled with some excellent illustrations that really capture the alien-feel, help to make this extra exciting for children.
Chris says: It's always nice to see a story that tries to make the whole experience of reading it more fun, and Sue Pickford has clearly gone to great effort to make it so. I love how eccentric the looks on the aliens' faces are too, and I could tell that Xander was going to enjoy it when he laughed at the four eyed dragonfly-esque alien bug on the first spread.
Xander says: Aliens! (N.B. Short and to the point!)
So, to summarise Day 20...Great imagination and inventive storytelling techniques were the main themes of the day for me. From telling the reader themselves that they are part of the story, to entering the mind of a child during playtime, and finishes with words that take you on a journey just from their style, this was a great selection of stories to show how inventive a picture book can be. Not only do they inspire children to enjoy reading and use their imaginations, picture books like this also make reading extra fun for adults too.
We've been lucky enough to read many inventive picture books in the past, and we can't wait to discover many, many more!