Day 28 (Week 4, Day 7)
And just like that, we've finished our fourth week of the Picture Book Challenge! It's easier to measure it in weeks I think, rather than months, so we're one-thirteenth done! Woo!
And it's been a fantastic first four weeks, something I'll talk about more in a separate blog post, most likely. For now, I'll just quickly say thank you to all the authors, publishers and readers on Twitter/Facebook who have been helping to promote what we're doing here, and that we can't wait to read more fantastic picture books as the year goes on!
On with the mini-reviews...
1) A Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting - Michelle Robinson (Author) & David Roberts (Illustrator)
Who would have thought that a picture book about avoiding getting eaten by bears could be genuinely educational as well as utterly daft and hilarious? In such a beautifully illustrated manner too! All those individual strokes of the pen to create the fur - stunning!
I really do mean that I'm delighted to see some completely truthful facts about brown and black bears in this story - normally you might expect a book to just talk about running away from bears if you ever spot one, but Michelle Robinson has specifically tried to show the difference between brown and black bears and how you need to react very differently to each if you ever come across one in the wild - something that the protagonist here has difficultly doing when coming across both at the same time! The narrator is fantastically sarcastic with the child in question at times, and it's also very aware of the fact that the advice it gives for dealing with one bear only seems to attract the other. I'm delighted with everything that I read from Michelle Robinson, and David Roberts wonderful illustrations feel so familiar that I'm sure I must have seen some of his work before.
Definitely the best bear spotting guide you'll find around!
Chris says: I'm absolutely in love with both the illustrations here and the gentle way the narrator continues to chastise the protagonist for not taking things seriously. And, of course, the fact that you learn actual facts about how to react if you run into a brown or black bear!
Josh says: I liked when the bears played with the boys' teddy.
Xander says: Bears!
2) Jasmine's So Fussy - Judith Heneghan (Author) & Jack Hughes (Illustrator)
A nice little tale that shows just why you shouldn't be quite so fussy about what you try, and the rewards you might find if you're a bit more open. It's particularly a message that I'm keen for Joshua to heed, as he's not the greatest at giving new food a try! His reaction to this was positive, especially when I asked him what the benefits of trying new things could be, so perhaps we'll see a marked change from here on out! It's nice and colourful, illustrated with care, and a good example to use with children when you want to address the sort of issues talked about above. Any opportunity to encourage our kids to try more things is welcome!
Though I'd feel bad if I didn't point out that, food aside in Joshua's case, they're both really rather good at giving new things a go...
Chris says: It can often be the hardest battle that you face with your children (getting them to try new things, especially food), so I'd welcome any chance to try and show them exactly why trying something new can be positive. Let's hope it has the desired effect!
Josh says: I liked the strawberry cake - I'd like to have some!
Xander says: Strawberries!
3) Is There A Dog In This Book? - Viviane Schwarz (Author & Illustrator)
The kids absolutely adored There Are Cats in This Book which we read way back on Day 4 so they were delighted to get to read another in the series! Just like the other book, this is a fantastically imaginative and interactive story about a group of silly cats encouraging the reader to help them along the way, which in this case involves investigating whether a dog has gotten into the book. Though they're initially wary (most of them, anyway), they soon come to have fun with the playful pup, as the reader gets to help them using the various lift-the-flap features throughout, almost certainly giggling and laughing heartily as they do so. We certainly did anyhow! The illustrations also have a quirky feel that perfectly matches both the characters and the tone of the book.
What we love more than anything is how much the interactive bits really drive the story forward. In a regular lift-the-flap book it's fun for children to discover what's hidden beneath, but with Viviane Schwarz's stories the flaps are an integral part of the narrative, sometimes being not so much 'lift' flaps but 'turn' flaps, revealing a secondary image on the other side which reveals the next part of the story. It keeps it fun for older children who might be outgrowing the simple 'lift' flaps, and also paves the way for excellent humour. We'll be reading the third book in this series, There Are NO Cats In This Book, at some point for the Picture Book Challenge, and hoping that Viviane Schwarz comes up with more in the series as time goes on!
Chris says: I really stories that make the reader feel like they're influencing what's going on, and I'm certain that Josh and Xander really do get a sense of that with this series. They're very funny and sweet, and VERY well requested!
Josh says: I loved the crocodile, and when the dog was in the trumpet, and the cats hiding in the piano/wardrobe.
Xander says: I liked when the dog appears.
So, to summarise Day 28...
A really good mix tonight: one book that is hilarious, informative, and highly imaginative in how it presents that information; one that gets across a useful message about not being afraid to try new things; and one that is very interactive and very funny with it. All very bright and colourful too! A perfect advert for different ways that picture books can have a positive impact on children's imaginations, and just how much fun it can be to take them all such exciting literary places.