Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Oscar and the Cricket...

Oscar and the Cricket: a Book about Moving and Rolling by Geoff Waring, Walker Books

Kids ask questions that are difficult to answer. It's not too long since Abigail asked me what electricity was and I found myself stumped on how to explain this to a 3 year old. On a trip to the library I came across Oscar and the Bird: a Book about Electricity and discovered that you can do science for small children. Crisis averted. I was going to review Oscar and the Bird, but it was out helping someone else when we went to the library, so we picked this one up instead.
Oscar and the cricket have found a red ball on the hill which rolls, and stops. It bounces off things, and changes direction. The leaves in the tree move in the breeze. Oscar has a lot of questions to ask about all of this. The cricket is there with explanations and encouragement to try different things, like rolling the ball on a smooth surface to make it go further. This is all told as part of a story arc which held Abigail's interest well - too many facts and no characters wouldn't have held her interest.
The illustrations are simple and effective in carrying the story, and there is a helpful  two page summary at the end of the book to summarise the concept of moving and rolling. There's even an index so you can go back and find anything you want to look over again. I owe you, Geoff Waring. Thank you.

The Littlest Dinosaur and the Naughty Rock

The Littlest Dinosaur and the Naughty Rock by Michael Foreman & Camilla Reid, Bloomsbury Paperbacks

The littlest dinosaur is in a bad mood, and doesn't know why. He does knows that his dad can cheer him up, so goes to find him. Dad is asleep, and doesn't want to talk to an angry little dinosaur: 'well, if that's the way you're going to behave, I'm not going to talk to you at all.' In fact, no-one in the family can be bothered helping the littlest dinosaur understand his bad mood, or express how he is feeling. The story is at best a valuable lesson in how troublesome emotions in a toddler can quickly escalate from a bit of a grump to a full blown tantrum (throwing his lunch in a puddle), and at worst a lesson in how to make a child feel confused, humiliated and alone: ' the other dinosaurs could see him up there, all by himself. He felt terribly ashamed.'
The 'reveal' that the naughty rock is actually a wise old tortoise offers a small glimmer of hope to the deflated littlest dinosaur, by explaining  to him that everyone sometimes has bad days, but if you are polite then people will be kind to you. His gentle guidance may be a highlight in the story, but the small dinosaur is still the one that has to go back and beg forgiveness from his family. No lessons in sensitivity for them, then.
I was disappointed that our local library has several copies of this book, in the main because I don't believe that it is appropriate to normalize a punishment where the child is shamed and feels labels themselves 'naughty'. Early years are a time to guide a child and build self esteem not destroy it, even for dinosaurs.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Dragon on the Doorstep

A Dragon on the Doorstep by Stella Blackstone and Debbie Harter, Barefoot Books

This was a book gifted to us in our Bookstrust Bag, and is a favourite of both girls. It definitely fits into the more-pictures-than-words category of book, telling a a simple rhyme about two children who find an assortment of scary creatures round the house in a giant game of hide and seek.
As with all the best picture books, there is more to be told in the narrative contained in the pictures than in the words. The animals the children find are taken with them from room to room and hidden  for little readers to find; there's also a clue on each page as to what's hiding on the next one, building a sense of anticipation. The spider is a real favourite here, from the clue of a cobweb in the attic to its journey on a toy train and on to hide in the washing machine.There's plenty opportunity in the brightly-coloured illustrations to introduce children to spacial concepts, by asking them to find or describe if things on, in or behind. The children's faces only really show happiness and surprise throughout the book, but I think that's fine as there would be too much going on otherwise. Barefoot books prides itself on diversity, having both a boy and a girl and a black and white child as the human element in the story. They also don't confine the story, taking it from room to room until all the animals are outside and playing a new game.
I can't say that I have anything negative to say about this book, and it left me wondering why I'd never heard of Barefoot Books. Thankfully our local library had, and had just invested in a good amount of Barefoot titles  to explore, and more than one has become a permanent fixture since. The current edition also contains a dvd version, or you can find it on You Tube.