I came across a very sweet new book today, whilst trying to amuse C and H as we waited an inordinately long time for a prescription to be fulfilled at the chemist. We wandered around, marvelled at the fact it wasn’t raining, used our extra-powerful-imaginary-telescopes to look for crane trucks and skip loaders and waved at LOTS of buses. This took up all of three minutes. I was therefore starting to panic about how we’d fill the remaining twenty seven, when we walked past a bookshop selling ‘Florentine and Pig Have a Very Lovely Picnic’ by Eva Katzler, illustrated by Jess Mikhail.
The bunting on the front cover immediately caught my eye (I’m a sucker for a row of pretty flags), before I even noticed the fact that this book was advertising itself as being ‘A story with recipes and more!’. More? More! We had to investigate.
The story itself is fairly simple – the two main characters (Florentine and Pig) decide to have a picnic and plan to include all their favourite treats. However, horror of horrors, Pig has eaten the last of his favourite apples! They embark upon a quest to obtain some more, which all ends well and sees them cooking up a hamper full of yummy-ness before relaxing under a tree and munching away.
I loved the variety in the descriptive language used throughout the book and C particularly relished the mix of action words on the double page spread where they actually prepare all their picnic food.
However, what C and I (H was napping, otherwise I’m sure it would have had his vote as well!) most liked were the interactive elements in the book. By this, I don’t mean that there are pop-ups, flaps or ‘touch and feel’ features, but that the book itself feels like so much more than just a story.
The very first page you come across is an introduction (written for young readers, not adults) to the author, illustrator and the pair that came up with the extra activities (Laura and Jess Tilli) with pictures, plus a pointer towards the Florentine and Pig website and Facebook page.
Soon after the story begins, Florentine reveals her (very elaborate) menu for the picnic, which leads you on to the fact that they are three apples short when it comes to the required ingredients. C loved the fact that the apples, once discovered, were numbered from one to three. A very small touch, but he loves reminding us at every opportunity that he’s good at counting, so it worked for him!
However, this was NOTHING in comparison to how excited he was to discover that all the recipes for Florentine and Pig’s picnic treats were listed at the end of the book, along with instructions on how to make bunting (big thumbs up from me). C is just a trifle keen on cooking and has been for a while, so considers himself quite the amateur chef now. He really enjoyed reading through the recipes and instructions and the fact that they linked to the story we’d just read and within five minutes was discussing which culinary techniques he’d use, which recipes he’d tweak slightly, how we could go shopping for all the ingredients (we have been enjoying ‘Don’t Forget The Bacon‘ by Pat Hutchins recently, so shopping lists are considered SUPER fun in our house), how he could get his friends to help at his birthday party next week.
And that’s the part that really clicked with me. This book epitomised what I’d like to do with Story Seekers. Have a book and a story at the centre of the ‘action’, but have crafts and activities that lead on from the story and that may even take you to somewhere quite different. I like the fact that there is an accompanying website, with further extension ideas. I’m aware that lots of books and authors do this already, but for me, this was the most overt example I’ve come across.
I also like the fact that the book was a collaboration and that this team effort was highlighted and celebrated at the very start of the book. When (I’m having a VERY rare moment of positive thinking, so have refrained from the word I want to use, which is ‘if’…) I get the Story Seekers classes up and running, I’d like the children involved to feel as though they are having a say in how things happen and not feel as though it’s something that’s ‘done to them’. (I know that very young children probably won’t be aware of this and will be very unlikely to be able to vocalise it, but I’d like to have this as part of my philosophy from birth onwards nonetheless.) I’d like them (or their parents on their behalf) to feel part of the Story Seeking process, as opposed to me being in charge and leading them everywhere. The ‘making up a story on the spot’ section of the classes will fit in especially well with this idea.
Anyway, I suppose what I’m getting at is that although coming across this book isn’t necessarily going to change anything about Story Seekers, it was just great to come across a handy (and also beautiful) book that neatly exemplified what I’d been thinking. We make sense of the world through stories (for a wonderful view on this, please look at this amazing TED talk by Bill Harley when you have fifteen minutes to spare) and I suppose that this little Florentine and Pig story arrived at just the right time to cast a bit more light on Story Seekers for me.