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I have to admit that there have been one or two occasions in my lifetime when I’ve lost a library book.
I’ve never had a reasonable excuse (the overflowing levels of books in my home may be what has swallowed them up, but I cannot use this an acceptable defence). I’ve certainly never been able to claim that any loss was on account of a wild bear hungry for words.
But a twelfth century Brother Hugo could and did. Or at least he does in the delightful and engaging Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe, illustrated by S. D. Schindler .
To make good the loss of a missing manuscript, Brother Hugo is ordered by his Abbot to prepare a fresh copy. Having borrowed the neighbouring monastery’s version of the lost text, we follow Hugo as he carefully recreates the book that has disappeared.
All goes well until his journey to return the loaned copy, when he is stalked by a hungry bear…
A historical note at the end of the book quotes from an extant letter written by Peter the Venerable (c. 1092 – 1156, a real-life abbot who published the first Latin edition of the Koran amongst other things):
“And send to us, if it pleases you, the great volume of letters by the holy father Augustine, which contains his letters to Saint Jerome, and Saint Jerome’s to him. For it happens that the greater part of our volume was eaten by a bear.“
Beebe has used this historical fact to build a captivating and funny story. We learn a lot about how books were at one time made including where parchment comes from and how some inks were made. But this is no dry non-fiction text.
Historical figures and settings come to life in ways which make them real and relevant; “The dog ate my homework” is an excuse I’ve yet to hear in real life – a bit like seeing someone slip on an actual banana skin – but it’s an excuse we are all familiar with, and which resonates clearly with poor Hugo and his encounter with the bear. Beebe’s text is perfectly peppered with slightly archaic language, giving a lovely flavour seasoned just right for using this book with slightly older children.
Schindler’s illustration are a delight, drawing heavily on many styles and motifs used in mediaeval manuscripts. Illuminated letters start each paragraph and the finely executed, detailed ink and water colour illustrations contain much humour. As befits a book about hand-created manuscripts, Schindler’s illustrations are completely executed by hand (you can learn more on Schindler’s blog), without computer manipulation, a relatively rare thing these days in picture books.
Text and illustration are both splendid but what truly completes this book is the inclusion not only of a historical note and glossary but also a commentary from both author and illustrator on the inspiration and process of their work. This adds real depth to an already interesting and beautiful book.
Brother Hugo and the Bear has appeared on several “best of 2014″ book lists in the US, including 2014 American Booksellers Association Best Books for Children Catalog, Kirkus Best of 2014 and School Library Journal Best Books of 2014 and it is certainly worth ordering a copy of this American import (unfortunately you’re unlikely to find this in a UK library). It would make an ideal book to use as the basis of some activities for World Book Day.
Inspired by Brother Hugo we wanted to make our own illuminated manuscripts. Using some colouring-in pages printed from the web as our inspiration we drew outlines for illuminated letters using pencils before going over them with ink.
The inked letters were then filled in with watercolour and a little bit of gold guache before being leather bound.
Completely at their own instigation the girls used a Latin dictionary to find words they liked to write in their manuscripts.
Whilst making our manuscripts we listened to various 12th century music such as this, this and this.
Other activities which would work well alongside reading Brother Hugo and the Bear include:
Watching this hilarious video about the changes from scrolls to codices in the history of the book:
Making your own ink. There are lots of different recipes from this using egg yolk, lamp black and honey to this one recycling old felt tips which seem to have run out.
Browsing online images from illuminated manuscripts. Both the British Library and the National Library of the Netherlands have fabulous, searchable illuminated manuscript databases
Watching the super, award winning, family-friendly feature length animation The Secret of Kells, which as you might guess from its title is about creating an illuminated manuscript.
This year sees the 10th anniversary of another of my favourite books about books: Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing a few new book-themed book discoveries – but do let me know your favourite picture books which celebrate books and the joy of reading.
“When can I grow a beard?”
“Where do doctors go when they’re ill?”
“How do cuts get better?”
“Why do I look pale when I’m ill?”
Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body by Katie Daynes, illustrated by Marie-Eve Tremblay answers all these questions and many more in a brilliantly framed and formatted book for the 3-7 year old crowd all about the human body.
Rather than going through topic by topic like many body books do (covering, for example, your brain, your senses, your digestive system), this book is themed around the type of questions kids of this age are so good at asking: Why does x happen? How does y work?
Thus we have spreads asking and answering questions around when things happen to human bodies, how parts of human bodies work, and why bodies behave like they do. This framing of the information about bodies is a effective device; the book sounds like a child asking the question, making the questions and answers seem doubly relevant and interesting to young readers and listeners. It also allows for a rather eclectic approach to the issues covered and for the young age group this book is aimed at I think this is so clever; it creates the space for some more difficult or whimsical questions, such as “Where do my ideas come from?” and also allows dipping in and out of the book with great ease.
The colourful cartoony illustrations are fun and feature children asking lots of questions and doing different activities. It’s interesting to note that no child with any disability is included in the book; I do wonder if this was a conscious editorial decision. The robust physical properties of the book (with pages more like card than paper) are ideal for young children; it’s easy to handle and will certainly cope with repeated reading and enthusiastic lifting of the flaps.
I love the very last page of Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body, for it turns the tables on the reader/listener and after asking a few questions which your child should be able to answer having read the book, it states “Now here are some questions this book can’t answer. See if you can…”
This gave us the idea to create Mini Me Booklets – a mini book kids can fill in about themselves using these questions as prompts. I’ve created a printable template which you can download from here. Once you’ve printed off the sheet, you’ll need to fold it and cut it to create the booklet. This video will show you how:
As well as some pens and pencils you might give your kids some photos of themselves to cut up and stick into the booklets (my kids adore seeing photos of themselves when they were younger); if you do this I suggest that the photos are sized so that the area to be cut out is no more than 65mm high (to ensure it will fit in the booklet).
I was particularly heartened by what M wrote in one section of her Mini Me Booklet:
Whilst making our Mini Me Booklets we listened to:
Pee keeps our insides clean by Marc “Doc” Dauer (from a whole album about how the body functions). It’s a much catchier song than the title would suggest, and you can listen for free here on the album’s Myspace page.
The Bloodmobile by They Might be Giants
Dry Bones sung by the Delta Rhythm Boys
Other activities which would work well alongside reading Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body include:
Creating your own lift the flap book with all the questions your own kids come up with whilst reading this book. Here’s a simple template you could adapt.
Learning what blood is made up of by creating a sensory tub to play with. I love this idea from I Can Teach My Child.
Making a role play hospital at home with teddies and dolls. Here’s a couple of ways we’ve done it in the past, including an operating theatre and home made x-rays.
What’s the funniest or most surprising question about bodies you’ve ever been asked by your kids?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body from the Royal Society.
Each year the Royal Society awards a prize to the best book that communicates science to young people with the aim of inspiring young people to read about science. Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Your Body is on this year’s shortlist for the The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. The winner will be announced 17th November.
Blog: Playing by the book
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I’m so excited! The wonderfully talented, super generous author and illustrator Clara Vulliamy is kicking off a new series here on Playing by the book today.
Every month (where possible), she is going share some ideas to encourage children to tell stories of their own, using the monthly theme from the “I’m looking for a book about…” carnival. She and I will be turning her prompts into a library of mini books you can print off and give to the kids in your life (and yourself!), along with a blank mini-book ready and waiting for stories and illustrations to fill its pages.
These mini books are unique little treats, and Clara and I hope that with her prompts, and a great list of books to read/share from the monthly carnival, we’ll be firing up imaginations and encouraging kids, young and old, to create tales of their own.
As Clara says…
Maybe it’s an older child who would like to write their story down, or a younger one who would be happy telling theirs by drawing pictures…
or, my own personal favourite, making up a story together while chatting at bedtime after lights-out…
I’ll suggest a starting point, a few nudges along the way to keep the story flowing along and an inspiring object or two (I always find an actual THING helps me when I’m writing a story) –
Whose bed could this be?
- and the rest is up to them!
Now to the first mini-books from our library-to be…
Two books especially for you from Clara and me
The Small book of Big Story IDEAS by Clara Vulliamy
A blank book waiting to be filled with stories!
For each book you’ll need to download a pdf file (see below), print it off, and then use the method shown in this video to fold/cut the paper to create the actual book:
To download Clara’s Small Book of Big Story Ideas (No. 1), on the theme of elves and fairies, please
4 Comments on A World Exclusive! A mini illustrated book for inspiring young story tellers, by Clara Vulliamy, last added: 5/14/2012
How wonderful it is to be welcoming back author/illustrator Clara Vulliamy with this month’s mini-books to inspire children (young and old) to create their own stories!
This month’s theme, to go with yesterday’s book review round up, is the seaside. Clara and I hope that, armed with top book tips, crafts and our mini books, you and your kids will be inspired to get storytelling and playing together – do let us know how you get on!
Click here to download Clara’s Seaside themed book full of storytelling prompts!
Once you’ve downloaded the book, you’ll need to fold it using the instructions in this video:
With your imagination sparking you’ll need a book to fill with your words and pictures. Click here for a blank mini book to fill with seaside stories!
Just in case you missed the first books in this delightful series by Clara, you can find the Fairy/elf story prompts here, and the blank book waiting for your magical stories here.
Clara and I wish you very happy story telling! Here’s hoping you find treasure at the beach
Once you’ve finished a book what do you do with it? Shelve it away so it can barely be seen?
How about, instead, exhibiting it on a window sill or mantelpiece to invite comment, to become an ever present part of your life?
Not all books lend themselves to this of course, but High Times: A History of Aviation by Golden Cosmos, and Swan Lake by Ping Zhu are not your everyday sort of book.
An almost wordless, non-fiction accordion book, High Times: A History of Aviation takes you on a journey from Icarus via Leonardo da Vinci, to the Wright Brothers, through the Second World War on to Concorde and the Space Shuttle. Key dates and inventions are picked out and briefly explained in the book’s wrap-around cover, which acts as a key for details to spot in the exciting and broad landscape presented as the book opens out.
Ping Zhu’s Swan Lake, which takes the same format, is entirely wordless. One side of the book shows the audience watching a performance of the ballet, whilst on the reverse you can see behind the scenes as the ballerinas prepare themselves to go on stage.
Both books are wonderfully tactile to hold and interact with. Printed on heavy-weight card these are books you really want to feel between your fingers.
Swan Lake‘s illustrations reminded me of 1960s illustrations, and the girls really enjoyed exploring the audience and making up stories about the different characters they could see, from the bored looking lady with a pearl necklace to the rather mysterious animals who have somehow snuck in to the theatre (they made me think of a Finnish illustrator I like, Hannamari Ruohonen, who also creates fabulous wordless picture books).
The printing technique and bold colour scheme of High Times ensures the book feels both retro and modern. Again, there is lots of fun to be had looking for details, from the family going on holiday with their rubber duck, to the zoo animal being transported by Boeing 747. This book is a great example of how science (in this case, engineering and inventions) can also be explored through art. Team it up with The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont by Victoria Griffith, illustrated by Eva Montanari (which I reviewed here) and The Story of Inventions, by Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Adam Larkum (which I reviewed here) and you’ve got a terrific trio of books to inspire the next generation of flying machine inventors.
But these books are not just for the young. Both NoBrow books are immensely stylish, and as such, will no doubt appeal to adults as well as children. I can easily imagine them unfolded and on display in beautiful, architect designed houses. And why not?
Displaying stories and illustration on your walls is great way to integrate books into your lives, and at £10 a pop I can’t think of a cheaper way to get some eye catching, discussion-inducing art up on your walls.
Inspired by the idea of displaying an illustrated story, the girls set about making their own “mural book”. I blu-tacked a length of fax paper (yes, such a thing still exists, I got mine from Rymans) up our staircase and the girls took turns to illustrate a story chinese-whisper style.
M would illustrate a stretch of paper, then J would take over the story and add her twists and turns. Because I was nervous about pen marks going on the wall I illustrated a simple border along the length of the paper and explained that the girls had to draw inside the border. This worked really well and The HWA (Humane Wall Association) can confirm “No walls were harmed during the making of this book”.
The story grew and grew…
The narrative was somewhat complex, with lots of free association going on, but some of my favourite cameos were these:
“Zeus sent down thunderbolts onto the dinosaurs escaping by bicycle.”
“The dragon and the unicorn came to the magic castle.”
The girls’ mural book is still up on the wall and it’s the first thing anyone sees when we open our front door. I rather like how a story welcomes people into our home.
Whilst we were all illustrating we listened to
Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky (although dancing on stairs is not to be encouraged…)
Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines
The Flying Machine by The Sippy Cups
Making an accordion book. Here’s a tutorial from Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord.
Watching Swan lake ballet clips. making peg doll ballerinas and more – as per our Swan Lake round up from last year.
Creating a cardboard airplane you can fly in – I love this one from Joe’s Secret Lab.
Other activities which could be fun to get up to alongside reading High Times: A History of Aviation or Swan Lake include:
What books have you enjoyed recently that are gorgeous enough for you to want to display them as art?
Disclosure: I received free copies of High Times: A History of Aviation by Golden Cosmos, and Swan Lake by Ping Zhu from NoBrow Press. I was under no obligation to review the books and I received no money for this post.
If you were invited to design a school library launch, how would you go about it? What events would you want to facilitate? Who would you want to involve?
These questions have been very much on my mind since the start of the year, for designing and delivering a school library launch is exactly what I have been asked to do by a local infant school. Can you imagine how excited I feel?
It’s an honour to be asked and trusted by the school to design a whole day of activities and I’ve loved every minute of it so far. Library Launch day is February 12th and now we’re counting down the days…
With apologies to NASA, whose original image I’ve modified.
Having got to the stage where I’ve everything prepped and in place, I wanted to share my plans and resources with you as many of them are easily replicable in families, in classrooms, in clubs, anywhere would you might like to help young children and their families get excited about books. And with World Book Day coming up next month, you could take any of these ideas and use them to celebrate perhaps my favourite day of the year
Today I’ll share the activities the 3-5 year olds will be getting up to, and next week I’ll share the session plans for Year 1 (5-6 year olds) and Year 2 (6-7 year olds), although I believe many of the activities could be adapted to work with children of any age.
We were keen to get as many children into the new library during the day as possible so each class of 3-5 year olds will spend one session going on a treasure hunt for book characters in the library. The basis of this session with be Katie Cleminson’s Otto the Book Bear, in which a bear in a book steps off the pages and into real life. Having read the book, kids (in pairs) will be given a treasure card to identify which books and book characters they need to find in the library.
Some of the sheets of cards kids will be given so they know which characters to hunt for in the library
No doubt 30 kids hunting 30 soft toys is going to be quite chaotic! Once all the characters are found, the session will finish with a reading of one of the books found by the kids during the session.
A couple of trips to charity shops resulted in a good number of soft toys that either were actual book characters (for example I found Paddington Bear, Pooh, and Poppy Cat without even really looking), then I raided my kids’ soft toys and chose ones which matched (near enough) great books. So, for example, I am borrowing a soft toy squirrel and teaming it up with A First Book of Nature, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Mark Hearld.
I supplemented these with a few extra official character soft toys (who wouldn’t love the excuse to get a Mog cat or Tiger who came tea toy?). Castlemere Books, based in the US, is the most comprehensive site I found for official book character soft toys, though I didn’t end up using them because of shipping costs to the UK.
Some of the characters kids will be searching for in the library!
On returning to their classrooms the kids will paint/colour their own bookshelves and Otto the bear. You can download the shelves here and the bear here.
The second session will be based around Lulu loves Stories by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw (follow the link to read it for free online). This is a gentle story about a child who is taken to the library every Saturday by her father. Each book they read together inspires different sorts of play, from being on a farm (having read about Old Macdonald) to making a pretend aeroplane (having read a story about going on an adventure).
Each table in the classroom will be set up with a different activity taken from Lulu Loves Stories: there will be one with princess dressing up, one with farm animals and one with construction toys. A fourth table will be set up for each child to create their own library to take home, by selecting and gluing lots of images of children’s book covers onto these shelves.
I’ve spent a fair few evenings cutting up old publishers’ catalogues to create enough “library stock”, but other than time in preparation, this activity has been very cheap to prepare with many publishers willing to send catalogues upon request. (If you were working with older kids you could simply give them the catalogues and ask them to do some fantasy shopping – seeing what books they themselves would chose for their library would no doubt be very informative.)
On a fifth table children will be able to cut out Lulu bookplates. These are available as part of an activity guide on the US publisher’s website. Don’t be confused by the name change – Lulu (in the UK) becomes known as Lola (in the US), but this doesn’t affect the bookplates.
This session will be rounded off by reading Lulu reads to Zeki also by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw, which is a simply delightful (and funny) window into a later stage in Lulu’s life;she now has a younger brother, and is passing on the love of books her father instilled in her to little Zeki, reading to him whenever possible.
The third session for the 3-5 year olds will open with a reading of I Love My Little Story Book by Anita Jeram, which is all about the delights you can find inside different books, and the various places they can transport you to.
Each child will have the opportunity to make their own bunny which comes with a hidden story book of its own. It’s a simple collage activity to make the bunny out of an envelope, a pompom, some dried spaghetti, googly eyes and cardboard ears, all stuck on to an envelope, inside which each child will find a blank mini book (blue to match the one in the story). Kids will be encouraged to make the story book their own with whatever mark-making they like.
The mini books are each made from a sheet of A4 paper, using this technique, my favourite way of making small paper books as it requires no sticking or stapling.
As well as there being tables set up with fairy tale activities (castles and knights to play with, dressing up, plastic animals in a forest play scene) kids will also be able to colour in and cut out several book plates designed by Anita Jeram.
These are all available to freely download (as long as you’re not using them for commercial purposes) from this brilliant website, http://www.myhomelibrary.org/, created by former Children’s Laureate, Anne Fine.
If time allows a reading of I like books by Anthony Browne will finish off this session. This is a very simple introduction to different types of books with just one sentence on each page. It’s a great reminder that there are all different sorts of books you can enjoy reading, not just story books.
The fourth session of the day will be based around an all time classic, Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Once the story has been shared, each child will be given their own cardboard treasure chest to embellish with sticky jewels. I sourced some great treasure chests (from http://www.littlecraftybugs.co.uk/) so large that kids will be able to store favourite books inside them.
Elsewhere in the classroom during this session kids will have the opportunity to dig for buried treasure in a sandpit, make aliens out of green playdough, and play with plastic dragons, as well as the chance to colour in this Charlie Cook sheet which you can download from the official Gruffalo website, or to draw their favourite book on this Charlie Cook activity sheet from the US Scholastic website.
This session will be wrapped up with a reading of We are in a book by Mo Willems – a perfect book for this age range where the oldest kids may well be able to join in with reading this funny story about what characters in a book think about their readers.
And as well as all of this, all classes will have a session with the award winning author who is coming to join the school for the day… but more about this in a later post!
It’s worth repeating
Do! Read! Enjoy! Fall in love!
These may be exhortations, but I can assure you that if you pick up a copy of Do! by Ramesh Hengadi and Shantaram Dhadpe with Gita Wolf, published by Tara Books, these things will come naturally to you. Do! is a heady mixture of gorgeous art, open ended storytelling, an adventurous exploration of an aspect of Indian culture and beauty made solid in the form of a stunning handmade book.
Winner of the 2010 Ragazzi award at the Bologna Children’s Book fair, Do! contains a series of double page spreads each depicting one or two activities, all drawn in the style of art from the Warli tribal community of painters in Maharashtra, western India. “Work”, “Dance” “Farm” “Play” are just some of the verbs depicted in the intriguingly simple yet detailed illustrations, all hand printed, and every page is a treat to pour over. M and J have loved challenging each other to find vignettes such as the monkey carrying her baby, the mice climbing the roof, the crab in the stream.
This book is for you if you and your children like telling your own stories; with only a word or two per page accompanying scenes full of people and animals doing all sorts of things, this book makes it easy to weave your own stories and for your kids to create their own narratives.
This book is for you if your children (or you!) enjoy books like Where’s Wally?, Flotsam or looking for the duck in Usborne books; the illustrations in Do! will draw any “reader” in – my two girls have spent a long time pouring over the pictures looking at every detail.
This book is for you if you appreciate books to hold, feel and smell; Do! is a book you want to have in your hands, not on a shelf . Having been silk-screen printed on recycled kraft paper (to recreate the mud walls of village homes where the art has its origins) its easy to feel connected right back to the people who made it. And reading that helps you feel connected to the world around you is exactly my sort of reading!
Do(!) take a look at this video showing how the book was made.
Appropriately enough for a book from a publishing house whose name means “star” in a number of Indian languages, Do! is a stellar book. Unusual, engaging, gorgeous, creative. Yep, it’s been a big hit in our home!
The final illustration in this lovely book is based around the verb “Draw”; The images show how the reader can create their own Warli-style figures. This was all the encouragement we need to go off and do our own drawing. But to create something of a keepsake (which seemed like the right think to do given that this book is indeed worthy of being a keepsake), we opted to draw Warli-style using glue, and to create a batik style decorated pillowcase. Here’s what we did.
We got a white pillowcase and used
3 Comments on Do! Read! Enjoy! Fall in love!, last added: 3/27/2011