‘In My Tree’ by Sara Gillingham, illustrated by Lorena Siminovich

Having recently found some touch-and-feel books amongst my loft treasures, I wanted to share a newer example from the genre that makes both the boys and I smile.  A LOT.

‘In My Tree’, written by Sara Gillingham and illustrated by Lorena Siminovich, is one in a series of very simple books about animals, their habitats and their families, published by Chronicle Books.  We also have ‘In My Pond’ (by the same author and illustrator team) and that is very popular with the boys as well.

I actually sought out ‘In My Tree’ after my sister bought ‘In My Pond’ as a present for C when he was a few months old.  He responded to it from the first reading and as it comes in board book format, he was able to play around with it himself, gradually working out how to turn pages and point at his favourite bits over the upcoming months.

All the books in the series feature a finger puppet character, which can be moved by the reader as they progress through the book.  When they were very small, C and H enjoyed trying to bite the little creature (which I took as a compliment on my puppetry and acting skills, rather than a display of any worryingly overdeveloped carnivorous tendencies) but they soon learned that this hampered the storytelling process and refrained.

One of the great things about sharing robust books with children from a very early age is that they can learn about how to handle them without parents worrying that they’ll damage either the books or themselves.  The boys now know that we don’t leave books on the floor or tread on them and they’re not toys to be thrown around.  We respect the magic and wonder contained in books and want to be able to appreciate them for many readings to come.

However, our books are always accessible and are handled fairly constantly.  I’m pretty sure that the boys know how to enjoy the physical aspect of books because they’ve been allowed to practise doing it since they were so little.  Bath books are great for this as well and we have a few of those that still get used regularly.  It also helps to have people modelling the reading of books to them, so letting them see us read is really important (though it’s pretty hard to find time to sit and read whilst they’re awake, if I’m being honest, so this isn’t as regular an occurrence as perhaps it should be!).

Back to the book.

The bright, bold images on each spread captured C and H’s attention, as did the the hole that grows increasingly large with each page turn.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I LOVE owls, so it was hard to choose my favourite spread from a whole book about them, but here it is:

The lovely clear illustrations allow for lots of pointing out of colours and shapes (the circles of the owl’s eyes, the triangle of its beak, the stars in the sky, etc.) and the wibbly wobbly edge around the hole in each page is lovely for little fingers to run around.  However, when you’re small (and for me, even when you’re all grown up), not much is more satisfying than this final page:

The owl is safely back in the tree with its family – hooray!  H isn’t talking much yet, but can has words for mummy, daddy and his big brother, so hearing the word ‘family’ in the story always sparks off an excitable session of pointing at us and shouting our names, then pointing at himself and waiting for us to say his name.

This is what always astounds me about such simple-seeming books with so few words.  They can still prompt many other chats about many other things – another great gift that reading with children provides.  AND, if there’s an owl or two thrown into the mix, all the better 🙂


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