Friday, 21 April 2017

Day 76 (Week 11, Day 6) - Friday 17th March 2017

Day 76 (Week 11, Day 6) - Friday 17th March 2017

We're enjoying our time in France at the moment, spending the day at Disneyland Paris and coming back to the lodge to enjoy a bit of reading before bed! It's lovely being out in a log cabin knowing that we've got more Disney magic to enjoy for the next couple of days (though with the delays in getting these blog posts written up we could well have been home for a month by the time this one is published!).

Here's what we read today:

1) Let's Go For A Drive! - Mo Willems (Author & Illustrator)

We've read several Mo Willems books for the Picture Book Challenge already, and it's always great to welcome another one! This is the first of the Elephant & Piggie series to feature, which is itself one of my favourite series for kids of all time. The two title characters are so fun and innocent with the misunderstandings that occur and the ideas they come up with, and Let's Go for a Drive is a perfect example of this. They decide that they need to go for a drive, gathering the bits they'll need for their journey, until they realise they've forgotten one rather essential piece of kit...

It's classic Mo Willems, with repeated dialogue and theatrical declarations from the characters ending with a delightful twist that makes you laugh out loud. I've seen a lot of people say that he's the nearest thing we have to Dr Seuss nowadays and I can easily see why that is. The illustrations remain simple but oh so effective, and I can't think of a series that has as many titles as this in it but has retained a level of quality so high throughout.

Best of all, there's so many Mo Willems book we still have to read for the Picture Book Challenge that we aren't going to run out anytime soon!

Chris says: I just love how Elephant & Piggie get so excited about things before realising that they don't actually have the most essential thing you need for going on a car journey. Fantastic!

Josh says: I like how silly they are.

Xander says: I like Daddy's car best.

2) House Held Up By Trees - Ted Kooser (Author) & Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

This is a book about the power of nature, about how you can try to stop it but ultimately it will win against you. Even though the father of the children in this story does everything to keep the trees away from his house, snipping tiny shoots before they can take proper root, he's just delaying the inevitable, and when he has to move away the trees quickly begin to reclaim their land. Eventually, they grow so tall and powerful that they uproot the house and take it high into their branches, claiming it for their own.

It's all visualised superbly by Jon Klassen in his unique signature style, fitting in perfectly with Ted Kooser's haunting story about one man's struggle to hold back nature, and the ultimate futility of the attempt. It's clear that the father believes it to be a battle worth fighting to try and keep his lawn perfect in the spot where the trees were removed to build his house, but in the end even he acknowledges it's time to give in.

The father isn't a villain in this piece, just someone with a slight obsession that will ultimately come to nothing. It's this theme, that in the end we're powerless against nature, that makes for a haunting yet beautiful read.

Chris says: We all have something that we're slightly obsessed about (I'm not going to make myself sound too flawed by repeating any of mine), so any reader will relate to the father that just wants to keep his lawn pristine. In the end though, this is a powerful statement about how nature will always win, and a good lesson for children on what would happen to our surroundings if humans all suddenly died out!

Josh says: I liked that they ended up with a treehouse.

Xander says: I like trees!

3) Journey - Aaron Becker (Author & Illustrator)

We read Aaron Becker's Return, the final book in his Journey trilogy, a short while ago, and were blown away by the powerfully imaginative fantasy tale (told with no words at all) of a girl with a red pen trying to rescue a captured king. It was a truly special tale that has to be one of the best I've read with the kids so far for the Picture Book Challenge, indeed since Joshua was first born, made all the more special by the fact it was indeed word-free throughout. Naturally we couldn't make do with just the third book, so we've got hold of Journey and Quest, the first and the second books in the trilogy, and I'm happy to say that Book One, Journey, is just a spectacular a tale as Return.

What's great is of course that we've filled in several of the questions we had when reading Return about what exactly was going on (which I refuse to criticise as it works well as a standalone book still, and it's my fault I chose to read it before the first two books), and having already cheated and read Book Two as well (don't tell the kids!), followed by Book Three again, I can safely say that it's one of the most satisfying and breathtaking trilogies I've read in any format. It's a true testament to Aaron Becker's skill as a storyteller that one of the two ingredients we would usually consider essential for a picture book to word (words & pictures) isn't present, and yet that doesn't matter one iota.

Purely as illustrations they're lovely, but they weave such a fantastic story that they feel like so much more than just images. They're storytelling perfection laid out in front of our eyes, and I'd love to return to these again and again and again.

I realise that I've barely mentioned how the kids feel about these books and that it's mainly been what I think, but that's because I've connected so well with them personally I can't help but want to share how they made me feel. The kids themselves, Josh particularly, loved that they got to help tell the story and make it slightly different with each read, interpreting the pictures how they want to and imagining what they would do if they had a magic colour-pencil. We did read it again straight away, twice in fact, so that both kids could tell their own version.

A story that allows you to do that is a very important story indeed. We're so lucky to found this series!

Chris says: I feel honestly privileged to get to read such a fantastically-imagined fantasy series like this. Genuinely one of the best fantasy series I've ever read, no matter what format it comes in.

Josh says: I like the bird.

Xander says: A ship!

So, to summarise Day 76...

So many of our favourite things here today: Mo Willems, Jon Klassen, rich fantasy worlds, beautiful storytelling, stunning illustrations - all adding up to an incredible trio of books for this evening! We've had some incredibly impressive sets of three stories so far for the Picture Book Challenge, but this has got to be right up there with the best.

Makes you so excited for what's coming next!

Books Read: 148/1000 (14.8%)

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