BfK Books About Children’s Books
Book Power: Literacy through Literature, Year 2 HHHHH
Jane Bunting, Sue Ellis and Jenny Vernon, CLPE, 64pp, 978 1 872267 46 3, £15.00 pbk
The Book Power series offers primary teachers and student teachers practical advice on approaching literacy through literature with different age groups. The quality of the books chosen is of paramount importance if they are to inspire a deep response. Book Power, Year 2 suggests a rich range of activities round eight books including Michael Foreman’s Mia’s Story, David Conway and Jude Daly’s Lila and the Secret of Rain and The Puffin Book of Fantastic First Poems which is edited by June Crebbin. Not all of the ideas for extending enjoyment and insight will be new to experienced teachers, but the book reminds us about what works well with particular kinds of text. Talk and discussion about books, termed ‘booktalk’ by Aidan Chambers in Tell Me: Children
Reading and Talk, is of great impor tance; the writers argue convincingly that by engaging in this kind of talk regularly children get better at sharing and defending their opinions and explaining their ‘puzzles’. Of course opinions have to be honed into informed views and a return to the text for evidence is part of becoming a sensitive reader of literature.
Other promising strategies described include retellings of stories, role play and drama. Visualising techniques – making mind pictures of characters and places as a way of moving into a fictional world – are also well explained and exemplified. When it comes to poetry, ‘it needs to be lifted off the page and given voice’. So the authors give examples of children being prepared in groups to perform poems. These active explorations – role play, presentations and so on – make it much more likely that children will become able to develop their understanding of a text when they come to write about it. Children are sometimes less enthusiastic about preparing a written response. Uninspiring tasks make for dull writing!
So the authors make it clear that the writing activities need to be imaginative and appealing. Part of this book’s appeal is its visual character: there are helpful and interesting photographs of children at work and examples of children’s writing and drawing. Less forward young writers in par ticular often gain confidence through star ting with annotated drawings. Bunting et al term these annotated drawings ‘creative re- interpretations of
Multimodal in character, they involve design as well as drawing and writing. Where a child chooses to draw a character or scene from a book, teachers can encourage them to pull on the language of the text when crafting the annotations.
Although the authors concentrate on picture books, stories and poems, some themes give rise to informational kinds of thinking and writing and there are suggestions about presenting information, for example about a country, in a chart format. Setting up contexts for shared writing, whether it is fiction or informational in character, can also help enthuse. Using the ICT
approaches included here, for example highlighting particular parts of the text on the interactive whiteboard fits well with modern practice. Collaborative planning of a piece of writing can be a springboard to the children’s individual efforts, perhaps involving selecting from and shaping the annotations. This reinforces the idea that writing benefits from snatching at thoughts, getting them down and then editing them. It shows that editing and shaping can be a creative process.
The activities set out in the author study which explores some of Emily Gravett’s picture books, could be applied to children’s work on other authors. In fact all the suggestions in the book can be amended and adapted to inspire work with texts other than those included here. What comes through again and again in this book is the need to use imaginative and enjoyable activities as a way of getting children engaged, while always returning to the text to suppor t developing ideas and opinions.
I Like Toys 978 1 84877 381 3
I Like Peas 978 1 84877 382 0
Under 5s Pre-School/Nursery/Infant Go Wild with… Colours
Neal Layton, Pavilion, 12pp, 978 1 84365 174 1, £3.99 board
Lorena Siminovich, Templar ‘Petit Collage Touch and Feel’, 10pp, £6.99 each novelty board
These simply designed but ver y appealing books would delight children from about six months upwards. They are robust and will survive well if tossed into the toy box. Both have inviting covers using vibrant primary colours. I Like Toys has a jolly robot, a ball and ship on the front and I Like Peas is a riot of red and green and somehow this cover manages to make the vegetables look dynamic with the peas popping out of their pods. The toys and vegetables on the pages are likely to be familiar and to encourage pointing and conversation; they are textured, too, so that young children can feel as well as look at things. So, for example, little fingers can trace the shape and texture of the toy car’s wheels and feel the rough skin of the carrot.
A nice touch and a good talking point is that all the toys and all the fruits mentioned are displayed on the final double spreads. This helps children understand that things can be grouped, by purpose (toys) and by kind of foodstuff (vegetables). I Like Peas also introduces the concept of opposites. These user-friendly books would make a welcome addition to a child’s first book collection.
This delightful board book introduces colours via their association with a specific animal. Layton’s illustrations are reminiscent of Quentin Blake in the amount of scratchy chaos that is present in the line. This results in lovely characterizations of the animals. Some chosen animals are a little abstract for the target audience – with half a blue whale not really the best choice for blue or a mole a good example of black. Children like animals where there is a defined sound that they make, such as the lowing of a cow or the growl of a bear. Only half the chosen animals fit into this category. Overall this is a nice ‘star ter’ book for babies. It is an excellent size, with a very clear format that displays excellent production values. In a marketplace where this concept has been introduced in a host of ways, the freshness of Layton’s images delivers a book that is original and appealing.
VRe Funny Face HHH
Nicola Smee, Bloomsbury, 18pp, 978 1 4088 1871 8, £5.99 board
This book explores the different expressions that appear on the face of a small boy whose ball is stolen by a naughty bear. The muted palette and bold illustrations unambiguously show the differences in the range of emotions that are displayed – they
20 Books for Keeps No.188 May 2011
include happy, sad, frightened, naughty, cross, surprised and worried. The story encourages parent child interaction by inviting the reader to pull funny faces appropriate to each point in the story. There is lots of fun to be had and a surprise mirror on the last page in which the child can see their own expression.
frustrates the baby more. Finally his older brother realises what the baby is trying to convey and he races off to rescue brown bunny that has been dropped. Baby’s increasing urgency and distress are satisfactorily resolved and with a twist to this tale’s ending, not only will every child be smiling but so too will all the adults!
Katie’s Zoo: A Day Oot for Wee Folk
James Robertson, ill. Karen Sutherland, Itchy Coo, 20pp, 978 1 84502 314 0, £6.99 board
When Baby Lost Bunny HHH
Julia Jarman, ill. Adrian Reynolds, Orchard, 32pp, 978 1 84616 061 5, £10.99 hbk
This humorous brightly illustrated picture book will resonate with every member of the family! When baby calls out from his buggy on the family walk, each member of the family and all the farm animals they meet believe he is calling to them and trying to attract their attention. Their delight only
Itchy Coo is a publishing company dedicated to producing original books in Scots for children and young people, including translations into Scots of classics by Stevenson, Dahl and A A Milne. Katie’s Zoo is the sixth in the series which started with Katie’s Coo, a collection of favourite and lesser known traditional rhymes. Like its predecessors, this new title is a robust board book with a simple story and refrain in large, plain print against lively double spread illustrations of Katie’s adventures. The colours and shapes are bright and flat, but achieve mosaic-like complexity, particularly in the depiction of the chameleon that Katie encounters in her search for her favourite animal. The search ends with a twist which should please the younger readers who have been following the guessing game embodied in the story.
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