Day 63 (Week 9, Day 7) - Saturday 4th March 2017
We've long since given up trying to be young and having a Saturday night out with two young children, but that's fine because since whenever I touch a drop of alcohol I immediately fall asleep anyway, so I'm more than happy to say my Saturday nights usually consist of a few good stories with the kids before they go to sleep and then a quiet evening with my wife in front of the TV or with a book before we head to bed ourselves!
There's FAR much more adventure to be found in the picture books we read than trawling from pub to pub anyway, so here's where our adventures took us tonight (just me and Josh - Xander fell asleep early!):
1) Return - Aaron Becker (Author & Illustrator)
We had great fun with this story! It's another story with no words at all, which gives us the chance to tell it slightly differently everytime, which Josh enjoyed doing with both me and then his grandma. The illustrations are truly beautiful, perfectly capturing the fantastical feel of this world that a young girl and her father find themselves in. They arrive via a door drawn by a magic pen, and have to stop an evil bad guy from capturing a prince and destroying all the magic-pen creatures with a terrible device - or at least that's how we told the story!
I'd worry that some parents might dismiss a book like this because of the lack of words, thinking that it would be for much younger children or not appropriate for those learning to read, but I would beg them to reconsider because this sort of story fires the imagination as well as any other, if not more so. It improves their own storytelling and creativity in a way that a worded-story can't, and those are fantastic skills to encourage development of at every turn.
This is apparently the third in a trilogy, so we'll be ordered the other two books ASAP! We encourage you to do the same, and let us know the plots that you came up with!
Chris says: I love stories like this, where the skill of the author/illustrator is apparent with the tale they tell despite the lack of words. It's stunningly drawn and richly creative with the fantasy world we are taken to, and I can't wait for us to get the other books in the trilogy - I hate starting anywhere but the beginning of a series, so it's testament to Aaron Becker's skill that it's got me so excited about the others and desperate to get going on them!
Josh says: I like getting to make up the words to the story each time.
2) Little One - Jo Weaver (Author & Illustrator)
As the story began, I realised that it felt like I was watching a beautifully drawn version of a television nature documentary, the type of which the kids have always enjoyed to snuggle up and watch when we've been talking about nature and similar themes, so this was a lovely chance to explore how bears survive throughout the year.
The illustrations are truly stunning in black & white, and I'm always astonished at the level of detail talented artists can put into their work, recreating individual twigs and blades of grass in a way I can only dream of. It's great to see it in an educational story like this, giving a sense of real important to the facts it's illustrations, and making the year of a bear & bear cub's lives as beautiful as the drawings that showcase it.
We'd lap up anything else that Jo Weaver wanted to teach us about!
Chris says: I see beautifully drawn picture books all the time, but these are SPECTACULARLY beautiful. I'm in awe of people who can draw like this, especially when it's used to help teach something like a year in the life of a bear. We've seen the life of a bear or polar bear in documentaries before, and this is another great way of reminding ourselves what a journey the animals go on.
Josh says: I like how the mummy bear and baby bear spent their time learning about the world together.
3) Rain - Sam Usher (Author & Illustrator)
I loved Josh's reaction to this story, about heavy rainfall causing a flood and a community not letting it bother them, having fun on boats instead. He told me 'I liked it because I didn't know what a flood looked like and now I do,' so how great to finish a book and feel like you've learned something where you weren't expecting to!
There's a positive feel about Rain, that people can make the most of a bad situation and find ways to smile as a community, but the best part is that the flood is only one of three individual stories that are being told (that I could see, anyway). The above is one, a child learning that the best things are worth waiting for is another (showing great patience it must be said!).
The third though is what I think makes this book really good - it's one that's easy to miss (and doesn't affect the story if you DO miss it), but is a lovely touch when you do see it. Throughout, the grandad keeps telling the boy to wait until the rain has stopped before they go out, and if you pay close enough attention you realise that it's because he's received a long love letter, and can't quite find the right reply (screwing up the paper), until the rain stops and he's ready to go outside with his grandson to post it. This then leads to an adventure in a boat to post it, connecting the three plotlines together.
I love books that have connections or slightly hidden extras like this, and if you've paid enough attention throughout you'll notice that everyone who joins in the street party on the boats at the end has been seen elsewhere in the story already, such as the penguin in the dinghy, the dragon prow, the musical boatmen etc. There's a reference to a floating city too, and so we can easily conclude that all this is the boy's way of having the adventure in the rain that he's been looking forward to.
It's fantastic - a simple story on one level, but with so much more on many other levels. You can choose any of these to read, which is a fantastic achievement. I'll be sharing this with many people!
Chris says: There's so much to this, from the grandad writing the love letter to the people at the end party having been seen already throughout the story. I love a story where you can choose just to read a simple plotline or read something more into it. The illustrations themselves in general are lovely too!
Josh says: I like that they had to use a boat because of the flood, and now I know what a flood looks like.
So, to summarise Day 63...
So much stunning creative talent this evening! The incredible world with no words that we visited in Return, the beautiful illustrations for the life of a bear and cub in Little One, and the multi-layered story of Rain, together added up to a perfect evening of reading picture books. I would defy anyone to read these three stories and not be delighted at the journeys that they weave and the way they inspire the imagination of both children and adults alike. I love reading with the kids any night (though it was just Josh tonight), but tonight was particularly wonderful.
Isn't reading fantastic?