Poor Little Owl…

A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton

Further to my reviews of Oh No, George and Shh! We Have a Plan by Haughton, I decided to take a look at A Bit Lost.

What a sweet little book this is! Accompanied by Haughton’s signature illustrations, this book is humourous and overall, a lovely read.

A Bit Lost can be borrowed from the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!) and purchased from Booktopia and Walker Books.

Summary

“Little Owl must be more careful when he is sleeping … Uh-oh! He has fallen from his nest, and with a bump he lands on the ground. Where is his mummy? With the earnest assistance of his new friend Squirrel, Little Owl sets off in search of her, and meets a sequence of other animals. Yet while one might have his mummy’s BIG EYES, and another her POINTY EARS, they are simply not her. Chris Haughton’s striking colour illustrations follow Little Owl on his quest. Which of his new friends will lead him back to his mummy?”

Suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.

What I love about this book

The endearing characters are probably the best thing about this book. As a parent, your heart strings tug for the little lost owl and the worried mummy. The squirrel and frog are cute and remind me of how sweet young children can be. They really try their best to help little owl.

The story is humourous and reinforces the love that parents have for their children. A great book to cuddle up with your own little owl.

The language used in the book is clear and simple, making it engaging for both a toddler and preschool age audience.

Storytime Tips and Activities

  • Talk with your child about how little owl and mummy owl are feeling and how they might feel in the situation of being momentarily separated. Remind your child that the owl and mummy are re-united!
  • Take the time to pause and discuss how the squirrel and frog help little owl (there is a positive side to the story!)
  • Talk about why squirrel may have thought that the different animals were little owl’s mummy.
  • Make the actions with your child, copying the owl’s description of his mummy.
  • The simple language in this book is suitable to do some letter and word recognition with older children. Run your finger over the words as you read.

A Children’s Book Institution

I wanted to pay homage to a children’s book institution – Spot the Dog by Eric Hill.

These books are so clever and engaging to children of various ages. A couple of Spot books are an absolute must for your children’s book collection (that is, if you don’t already have at least one!).

I grew up with Spot and am getting just as much joy sharing various Spot books with my kids. A real classic with timeless enjoyment.

We have a couple of Spot books at home which had fallen a bit out of favour. When I say “fallen out of favour”, I by no means meant that my daughter no longer enjoys them – they just got buried under the current favourites (ie Olivia by Ian Falconer mainly).

Some of the first books that I bought my daughter was a set of 4 Spot the Dog board books (colours, numbers, shapes and first words). They were very small, containing only one word per page, and just perfect for little hands. I picked these up at my local post office and they were fantastic for teaching her first words.

On a recent trip to the library, my daughter picked up two different Spot books – Spot’s Opposites and Happy Christmas Spot. When we got to reading them, I was reminded about how good these books are and why they have stood the test of time. She is now using these larger Spot books to learn reading and expand her vocabulary.

If you have never read any of the Spot books, they follow a playful pup (with his family and friends) through day-to-day activities. The illustrations are bright and depict objects/stories to which children can relate. The language is clear, direct and simple – making them a fantastic teaching tool for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

The Spot stories are gentle and story lines relatable for many everyday activities and situations. Even though most of the Spot books are appropriate for a wide age and learning variation, some of the books are tailored better for different audiences.

The beauty of the Spot of the Dog series is that Hill uses various techniques to engage with and teach language skills to young children:

  • Clear, simple and bright illustrations,
  • Direct and clear language,
  • Bold text, often high contrast too,
  • Relatable stories and characters,
  • Lift-up flaps and pull tabs,
  • Use of teaching language tools and reinforcement built in to the story (eg one page showing a single word accompanied with an illustration of that word, then use of the word in a sentence).

If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend getting a couple of Spot books for your children’s book collection. You can find many of these books in libraries and in bookstores alike. It’s great to see that stories I enjoyed as a kid are still as popular as ever.

 

 

A bit of individuality please!

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

So far, this is my favourite in the Olivia series (see my reviews also of Olivia and Olivia the Spy).

As with the other books in the series, the illustrations are fantastic and little Olivia is full of personality. She is extremely intelligent, confident and inquisitive, a great character for young daughters in particular.

What I love most about this book is the message that it conveys – individuality is important, and that just going along with “normal” is really very boring. This is an important notion for both our sons and daughters.

In this book Olivia is having an “identity crisis” and explores the various options she sees available to her. She questions why other young girls would want to all look the same as princesses with pink ruffly skirts and tiaras, when there are so many other alternatives out there.

As with Falconer’s other Olivia books, Olivia’s grasp of language is better than a lot of adults (I know many adults who wouldn’t be able to use the term ‘corporate malfeasance’ in a sentence). This is how Falconer cleverly caters to the parents who are reading the book. He engages them by creating a level of relatability to their own children. We feel the mother’s exasperation with Olivia’s persistent questioning, we relate to our children coming out with sentences and thinking “where on earth did you hear that!”…I love the opening line “Olivia was feeling depressed” – how many young children truly understand the notion of being depressed? She uses the term in such an exaggerated manner, very reflective of her expressive character.

Another great read by Ian Falconer. A sweet and humourous book which delivers some complex and important discussion points to have with our children around socialization and behaviour.

You can’t catch me!

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

I will be honest with you – I am in two minds about this book. At first I found the theme quite dark and maybe a bit too mature for my 4 year old (who also found the illustrations a bit creepy). However, I do also see a more goofy side to the book. All the other reviews that I have read online tend to agree the latter take on the book. Maybe I’ve just read a little too much into the storyline….

Shh! We have a Plan can be borrowed at Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local libraries too!) and purchased through Angus & Robertson.

After having read Oh No George! by Haughton, I was a little surprised by this story. The illustrations are as fantastic and unique as Oh No George! but uses deeper shades of blue instead of bright oranges and reds. The shades of blue perfectly represent the sneaky, darker tones to the story. The first thing my daughter asked me when she saw the book was, “Mummy is this a scary story?”

No, the story is not scary. Where I feel that the story has some darker undertones is that it follows a crew of people dressed like “robbers” who are trying to capture a bird, squirrel, etc in the dark. It is only the little one who is able to encourage the birds (who ultimately turn on the group anyway) by giving them some feed. What may have led me to the more serious conclusions of this book is the Einstein quote that Haughton includes on the dedication page – “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding”. A bit too deep for my pre-schooler I think.

On the other hand, this book could be read with a more slap-stick interpretation. You essentially have the three stooges who cannot execute a plan successfully. It takes the littlest one (who keeps being shh’d) to come up with a strategy that actually works.

The book has minimal text and lets the illustrations do most of the talking. This is part of the reason why there is a bit of a variance to the interpretation I had on this book.

While I do appreciate this book, I can’t say that it was a real hit in our household.

I’d love to hear from others who have read this book and enjoyed it more than we did. Maybe you have a different take or some other suggestions?

 

Lucky Frog.

Oi Dog! by Kes & Claire Gray

Further to my review of Oi Cat! (see my post When you really should have put your foot in your mouth), we went back over to our local library and took out Oi Dog!

Despite reading these books out of order (should have been Oi Frog – Oi Dog – then Oi Cat last!), this book in the series was as big of a hit as Oi Cat!

The book is full of hilarious and detailed illustrations – you get a little more out of them every time you look at them.

The premise of the story and the rhyme is similar to Oi Cat!, but looks at a new set of animals that sit on various things. This further extends the vocabulary that is being taught in the books. There does also appear to be an added layer of repetition in the book, reinforcing what the words your youngster is learning.

The book ends with a very lucky frog who can sit on whatever he likes!

A great series of books for pre-school and young school age children, and a whole lot of storytime fun for the family.

Hello Fish!

Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins

A beautifully bright and cheery book, fantastic for teaching children about colours, descriptors, and rhyme.

I have a soft spot for books that end with cuddles between mummy and baby (eg Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you see? and Hello Baby!) – this book is just that with the addition of a fun rhyme and engaging illustrations.

Available to borrow at the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (check your own local library too!) and for purchase at Big W and Dymocks.

Summary

“Little fish has lots of fishy friends. Stripy fish. Spotty fish. Happy fish. Grumpy fish. So many friends, so many fish, splosh, splash, splish!”

This book is appropriate for babies for the engaging graphics and simple language, but also appropriate for teaching rhyme and furthering language skills for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

What I love about this book

What I love most about this book is the illustrations. They are quite simple – but this is what makes them so effective. It looks as though they were done with a big, thick paint brush and with the kind of paint that you would find at any school/kinder. The bright, bold colours are wonderfully engaging, particularly for youngsters. They give the book an uplifting and whimsical tone.

As the perfect accompaniment to the illustrations, the language used in the story is simple, direct and rhyming. This combination makes the story extremely engaging for a wider age group – your preschooler can enjoy this book as much as a toddler, or baby.

The book works on various levels teaching rhyme, as well as interesting ways to describe the different fish.

This book is a lot of fun and offers many good teaching points. It also conveys the message of beauty in diversity. What makes the book particularly clever is that it is a seemingly simple book, but does a whole lot of teaching!

Storytime Activities and Tips

  • Run your finger over each word as you read them.
  • Read the book slowly, the rhyme will still allow a slower pace. Take the time with each word to help with letter and word recognition.
  • Point at each of the relevant fish and to what the describing word refers. For example, “Grumpy fish…Oh, look at the frown on that fish’s face!”, “fin-fin fish…look at all the fins on that fish!”
  • Create some suspense at the end with “But where’s the one I love the best, even more than all the rest?” and give your little one a big hug and kiss when you get to the last page.

Spying v Eavesdropping, a subtle difference…

Olivia the Spy by Ian Falconer.

Due to my daughter’s absolute love of the first book in the series Olivia (read my review here), we recently borrowed Olivia the Spy.

This book in the series is as great as the first.

While Olivia does appear to have grown up a bit in this book, her character is just as endearing as before. As a parent of an inquisitive and cheeky pre-schooler, I can relate to the mother’s exasperation to “No mummy, I know how to…..[insert daily assisted activity here]” and it all going a bit pear shaped.

Olivia is a bright child with a vocabulary that would challenge some adults. While somewhat unrealistic for most children, the book does work to push an expanding vocabulary. The storyline and premise can easily be understood by preschoolers, but cleverly introduces these more difficult words (eg suspicious, insecure, etc).

The illustrations in this book were fantastic. Falconer uses the signature black, white, red drawings and also super-imposes them onto photographic images.

Another great story to add to the collection. I love this book for pretty much the same reasons as the original Olivia story, but also for the added complexity to character and storyline. This story teaches children (and adults!) about the concept of eavesdropping and how a poorly informed understanding of a situation can lead us to some crazy conclusions.