Joining in is jolly good fun!

After the intense excitement and sugar-fuelled adventures of Christmas, the boys are and I are actually quite enjoying settling back into a somewhat calmer routine.  It’s not that we didn’t LOVE everything about the festive season, but more that we’re ready to finish that chapter on a high note and get things back to normal in anticipation of a great year ahead.

One of the things we’ve most appreciated is having some calmer, quieter time to share books together again.  All of us were lucky enough to receive some real treats this year (and I’ll hopefully be blogging about them soon), though the books I’m sharing today have actually been favourites for a couple of months now.

This New Year’s Eve, in a radical departure from the traditional party-going antics that most people prefer, Team Story Seekers decided to undertake an utterly horrendous awe-inspiringly joyous trip to Ikea.  While this left M (my husband) and I in need of some serious down-time in a darkened room, it left C and H with a new arts and crafts table (and matching chairs) and some lovely little armchairs in which to snuggle.

These armchairs are now drawn up around me each day, in a scene reminiscent of the sort of storytelling session I used to imagine only Julie Andrews could actually pull off, and I’d like to share the books that are more often than not the boys’ first choices at these times.

C is currently very keen on this delightful book:

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‘Foxly’s Feast’, by Owen Davey published by Templar)

I have to confess that I have always been a huge fan of this book and first got it out of the library as year or so ago, but C has only recently become interested in it (though he is now such an enthusiastic fan that one might even call him obsessed…).

I was immediately drawn to the front cover (and not only because it features an owl) and was even more enthralled once I realised it was a wordless story.  As I might previously have mentioned, I am continually amazed by the skill of illustrators to tell a story through pictures alone and Owen Davey does this with consummate ease.  I found the autumnal colour palette instantly appealing and Davey’s friendly yet stylish illustrations are perfectly suited to the subject matter.

In short, the plot follows a fox who fancies a decent meal and trots around the forest seeking out tasty morsels.

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The reader (and the owl who accompanies the fox throughout his foraging) becomes increasingly worried about exactly what ‘food’ the fox is after, but after a high-tension climax…

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…all is revealed and we see the fox’s true intention – to share a picnic with his friends.  C particularly likes this final spread, of the fox and the owl lying underneath the tree, replete with an elegant sufficiency of enoughness!

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In fact, it is C’s reaction to the whole book that has made it such a special experience for me.  He is not reading yet, but recognises a few words and can tell quite a few of his favourite stories from memory.  He relishes the chance to ‘read’ a story to M or myself and especially enjoys reading to his little brother, H.  This book has given him the chance to join in with the story and actually become a proper ‘storyteller’ in his own right.  The fact that there are no words means that he can’t get anything ‘wrong’ and none of his listeners mind in the slightest if he tells it slightly differently every time!

It clearly gives him huge confidence in his imaginative capabilities, as well as his performance skills, that he can be the one in charge of the story and he has shown great insight into why the characters might behave as they do.  He gives each one an incredibly detailed back story and is keen to believe the best in the fox, even when the evidence might initially suggest otherwise.

M was genuinely surprised after the first time he shared this book with C at bedtime (at my suggestion) as he said he really didn’t think C would be into it.  He was happy to be proved wrong, but he did add that he thought it was because ‘Foxly’s Feast’ was “much better” than any other wordless stories we’d shared thus far!  It is an absolute credit to Davey that the detail within his pictures allows for such rich and varied storytelling, while still appearing outwardly simple and clear.

H doesn’t talk much yet, so retelling a story, no matter how stunning the book, is probably a bit beyond him (though he definitely appreciates C’s versions of ‘Foxly’s Feast’!).  He’s more of a fan of this book:

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I Spy on the farm…’, by Edward Gibbs (published by Templar)

The beautiful illustrations are a cut above many of the other farmyard books that we’ve read with the boys, but if I’m brutally honest, H loves it just as much for the cut-out circles in each page that lead you through to the discovery of the next animal.  ‘Peepo’, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, was one of the first books we ever shared with him and when he saw this book it was as if he recognised the similarities and understood how the book worked.

H loves farm-related books and games and is just getting the hang of making some of the different noises of the animals.  He therefore loved the chance to make the various animal sounds as he peeked through each page’s hole and then screamed with delight when we turned the page to reveal said animal.

As a geeky ex-teacher, I appreciated the chance to reinforce some key colour and word knowledge, alongside the obvious delights of mooing like a cow and neighing like a horse!

Here is H’s favourite part (he loves making me trot him up and down and then throw him into the air as I whinny away!):

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This is my favourite part, purely for the gorgeous way in which Gibbs depicts the texture of the lamb’s wool:

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Both these books serve to remind me just how interactive an experience storytelling is for young children.  When C and H were babies, we loved to share touch-and-feel books, but as they’ve grown older it’s been very interesting to observe how their interaction with books has changed.  It is still just as important and it still brings them just as much pleasure and I’m therefore grateful to have found two such glorious books with which to encourage their participation!

Do you have any books that you find particularly successful for getting young children to join in?  I’d love to hear about them!

TTFN

Disclaimer:  I received my copies of these books from the publisher.  I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the reviews represent my own honest opinion.

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