Tag Archive for Goodhart Pippa

You Choose in Space

Whenever I sneak a look at the top ten most borrowed books in the school library, there’s one book that always features. You Choose by Pippa Goodhart, illustrated by Nick Sharratt is that dream of a book: children can read it over and over again, huddled around its pages with their friends, changing the narrative each time, reinventing the story in multiple ways, daydreaming their future. After a while, there is even a comforting familiarity about the illustrations. Just this week, some Year 3 pupils were going through the book making choices based on how much money their character had! So, it was with open arms that I embraced the new title, You Choose in Space. Whether it’s which alien you would befriend, what mode of transport you would use, or which freaky food you’d eat for your space snacks, the book has everything for a fun-filled interactive space adventure. Just as the original, the pages are packed with vibrant, colourful, happy images, giving full boost to any child’s imagination. It’s amazing to think that the original premise was rejected by publishers – for many children, You Choose has been their introduction to books. So, to turn the world on its head, I didn’t ask readers what they would choose in space, I asked Pippa and Nick. Here, are their choices for You Choose in Space:

 

 

Pippa:

Nick and I are actually pictured in the space craft coming in to land on Planet Pick-and-Mix.  Search carefully, and you’ll spot us!

If I had all those choices to choose from when we came down to land, I think I’d mostly go for blue things.  Why?  Because blue is my favourite colour.  I’d pick the blue bobbed hair to wear.

Nick: I’d choose the blue and orange hair and the Saturn top.

Pippa: A blue iced donut to eat.

Nick: It has to be the rainbow jelly for me.

Pippa: I’d very much like to meet the smiley blue alien with knobs on her head who rides a scooter and makes blue sandcastles from soft blue sand. I think she would make a fun friend.

Nick: I think the tall alien with the spike on the top of his head looks like he’d be nice and friendly.

Pippa: I’d also like to try and spy a duckafly from all the strange animal things as I fly by in one of those big baskets with wings.

Nick: My favourite is the horse bird.

Pippa: I’d very much like to ride on a pink-powered orange space hopper.  Why?  Because space hoppers were a new toy here on Earth when I was about ten, and I got one for my birthday, and I hopped and hopped on it again and again.  If it had that added pink zoom power I could hop it higher into the sky, and maybe even fly into space and explore all those other planets.

Nick: I had a space hopper too! But I’m going for the rollercopter.

With huge thanks to Pippa and Nick for taking time out of their busy writing and illustrating schedules to read their book with me. What would you choose? Go into space and make your own choices here.

 

Perfect Pictures in Picture Books

Another sterling month for children’s books – there aren’t enough weeks of the year to feature all the books of the week that I’d like. So here’s a roundup of some excellent early 2016 picture books. With illustrations that ooze charm.

what will danny do

What Will Danny Do Today? By Pippa Goodhart and illustrated by Sam Usher

Do your children pore over You Choose or Just Imagine? This wonderful new book from the same author allows the child to choose what Danny will do. It’s a normal day for Danny – he’s going to school, but the reader makes all those delicious decisions – everything from the small detail of what he should eat for breakfast to how he should travel to school.

The questions in the text aren’t boring either – not ‘Will he have toast or cereal?’ but exquisitely worded – ‘Will he pick a crunchy, chewy or wobbly breakfast?’ and my favourite ‘Which book will Danny take to bed?’. There’s wonderful empathy at play, as when his Dad comes to pick Danny up from school, there are no questions, just a simple ask for the reader to spot him (clue: he’s wearing a green jacket). It’s not too hard either – no worrying for Danny at the end of the school day.

Of course the choices are led by the pictures – Sam Usher’s illustrations feel old-fashioned, soft and familiar. The faces of his people are full of expression, reminiscent of children drawn by Quentin Blake (such as Sophie in The BFG), but more and more distinctive to Sam Usher too (particularly his older people). But it’s the attention to detail that shows off Sam’s craft. Choosing what to wear from Danny’s overflowing wardrobe, or what to eat from the jam-packed kitchen, or how to get to school (you could even choose the penny-farthing or the UFO! – one child is using a zip-wire to reach school). The depiction of teachers in the staffroom (yes, you can even choose Danny’s teacher) is hilarious – I’m still undecided between Shakespeare, the monkey, or the young lady with the tower of books (is that me, Sam?).

Simply hours of fun. This is one book I shan’t be giving away to any child. It’s all mine! Published this week, choose to buy it here.

too many carrots

Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson

Another book, in which for me, the illustrations MAKE the book. Rabbit loves carrots, to the extent that (rather like a certain someone with books) they are taking over his burrow. He collects them wherever he goes. One day he realises he needs somewhere else to sleep –there is simply no room left in his burrow. Each of his friends is most welcoming – until he overloads their houses with carrots too, and inadvertently breaks them (bird’s nest is particularly susceptible). So rabbit has to learn his lesson – with a stick rather than a carrot. He discovers that rather than collecting carrots – sharing is the way to go.

The depth of each illustration is marvellous – from the landscape of wild flowers behind rabbit’s carrot patch, to the mountain of his carrot collection to the terrible collapse from too many carrrots in beaver’s house. But it’s not just the detail and scope of each carrot horde in each setting – but the wonderful depiction of the animals and their reactions to events. The facial recognition of each emotion is there for the young reader – comfort, enjoyment, irritability, anger, discomfort, shame….it’s fabulous.

Pay particular attention to the title page (complete with Keep Calm and Carrot On sign, a few carroty books, and rabbit’s own to do list).

To teach sharing, to enjoy the artwork, or simply for a tight little story – this is a gem of a picture book. Buy your carrot (I mean book) here.

little why

Little Why by Jonny Lambert

A fascinatingly feel-good title for young readers that carries two important messages without resorting to preaching. Little Why is a small elephant who is told by his parents to ‘keep in line’ on the way to the watering hole. This little toddler elephant is bursting with questions about the other animals he sees though, and strays more than once, only to find himself face to face with a hungry crocodile.

He learns important messages about the merits of his own species (loving oneself) – the other animals may have appealing features such as “long lofty leggy legs” like the giraffe, or “speedy-spotty fuzzy fur” like the cheetah, but Little Why discovers he is perfect the way he is – with his “flippy-flappy ears, and super-squirty trunk”. He also learns not to run off from his parents, for although there is a ferocious snappy crocodile on the loose, if his parents are near, then he can be swiped out of reach.

Jonny Lambert is a master of colour, pushing the boundaries with his use of white space around the images, and superbly giving context and texture to his grey elephants with strokes and lines – repeated in the other animals, but drafted to perfection on the elephants, who otherwise would be dull grey. Lambert uses the animals’ body language to convey as much emotion as their facial features – the trunk is a giveaway symbol for Little Why, but also the shape and angle of the birds throughout. It’s a touching little picture book, and could easily become a household favourite. You can buy it here.

supermarket gremlins

Supermarket Gremlins by Adam and Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Chris Chatterton

Can Adam and Charlotte do no wrong? I seem to be writing their names frequently in my recommendation lists. This is a small gamble, as readers of my generation have a special place in our hearts for gremlins (we know not to feed them after midnight, and never to get them wet), but will the next generation (the intended readership) be equally charmed?

Supermarket Gremlins is a lift-the-flap book with the cute variety of gremlins invading the shelves, and trolleys, and eventually the shopping bags so that they can come home with you. The beauty of the book is the mum’s complete obliviousness to their presence – it is the boy who notices their mayhem and mischievousness (and the reader by lifting the flap on the pictures). From submerging themselves in water in the cleaning bucket (the gremlin blows his cheeks out with endearing cuteness) to the naughty gremlins emptying out packets of cereal, burping in the cheese, eating all the chocolate spread (wait, are they gremlins or children!).

It’s a really fun title, with rhyming text, such as things you’ve “forgotten”, matching with finding a “gremlin’s bottom” – the Guillains have nailed this one. Chris Chatterton’s illustrations are slightly retro in feel – an old style supermarket with piles of tins, and a house at the end with a tyre swinging from a tree. But the main fun of course is finding all the gremlins – and the publishers have really gone to town here – there are numerous flaps on each page, varying in size, with lots of funny pictures hiding behind. Hugely enjoyable, the illustrations are both mischievous and compelling – just like children. Feed yours before midnight here.

 

 

Reluctant Writers

It was late in the holidays, with work to be done
Going back to school soon, the end of the fun
My son scratched his head and gave a big sigh
I’ve got to write a story, to give it a try

The problem he said was creating a story
His teachers would never give him the glory
He was averaging c’s in his paper he said
He simply had nothing flowing from his head

Then, wait just a sec, I said with a yelp,
There’s this book I know, I think it could help
Called Descriptosaurus with characters and stuff
It could pad out your stories without any fluff

With settings and adjectives and adverbs and things
You could write about dragons and monsters and kings
It could give you emotions; happy, evil or sad
With heroes and villains; the good and the bad

Creatures with wings, arms, legs and heads,
Buildings with secret stairs, armchairs and beds
Landscapes with mountains, volcanoes and bogs
Atmospheres with lightning, misty skies, fogs

In conjunction with that though, I said just remember
There’s no substitute for reading Jan to December
With Descriptosaurus you can make quite a start
But you’ll also need to use what’s in your heart.

Many parents have asked me which books their child should read to improve their creative writing and enhance their vocabulary. There’s no magic solution to writing – otherwise we’d all be published authors, but there are tools that can help. The two issues that come up most often are 1) the creative process – a story with which to work – which comes from the child’s imagination. Some children are better at this than others – and many who themselves read voraciously will find it easier to come up with an idea. And 2) vocabulary and setting. It sometimes seems that those who devour non-fiction more readily than fiction can have the stronger vocabulary. For vocabulary and setting, I’ve found a book that might be able to help.

Descriptosaurus

Descriptosaurus by Alison Wilcox is an interesting resource, marketed mainly at the education industry, although it does have a place in the home if used correctly. It aims to frame that first ‘idea’ or expand vocabulary into a rounded piece of creative writing – offering help with settings, character traits and emotions. It helps to break down language into its different grammatical components – explaining phrasing, adjectives and verbs and using them in conjunction with landscapes, places, and characters so that the child has a starting point and can then progress to a story from their own imagination with the tools in place to help them. The book divides up into settings, characters, and creatures. It’s an expensive resource for parents, but can be a useful addition to a classroom environment.

Show Me a Story

Show Me a Story by Emily Neuburger is also targeted primarily at parents or carers, but with a less academic slant. It is American, so the store suggestions at the back are redundant for the UK reader, but the rest of the book is illuminating and inspiring. Initially the start of the book is aimed at the parent, informing them how to start a discussion on narratives, to encourage inventive minds and demonstrate how children use stories to explore emotions and questions about the world, to solve problems and to answer moral dilemmas. Emily Neuburger then goes on to explore how to encourage storytelling – visiting inspirational places, starting a journal etc. She then describes different craft activities to help children form a story and storylines, from ‘story pools’ to collages, blocks, dice and games. She brings to mind the Simon and Garfunkel song (America) of sitting in a train carriage imagining what all the other people do for a living, exotic or otherwise, making up stories wherever you are.

write your own story bookwrite and draw your own comics

The Usborne Write Your Own Story Book is a user-friendly book, spiral bound to lay flat, which encourages writing within it. It uses the same sorts of tools in a more basic way – setting and character suggestions, and possible story openers. In a way though, it is quite prescriptive – the blank pages have titles at the top that encourage the child to write within a certain genre: telling a story from a given picture, continuing a story already started, creating your own fairy tale, writing a story about time travel (all good training but more limiting perhaps). There are handy tips in the margins too: explaining motive, questions to ask, super verbs, sights and sounds etc. The crucial difference between this and Descriptosaurus, is whereas the latter looks like an academic text book, Usborne’s looks like a fun book to play with – which will help to get the creative juices flowing for enjoyment. Usborne’s more recent title is Write and Draw Your Own Comics, which is similar but of course with the drawing element as well – explaining speech bubbles, sound effects, exploring action drawings, and moving the story along frame by frame. Both encourage a love for writing.

Write Your Own Story2

These are all great tools for starting out, but again, for me there is no substitute for reading as much as possible and also discussion about stories with your child – be it stories from books, newspapers, TV, family history and the real world. It’s important to share views on what might happen next, why a character acted how they did, what emotions you feel after reading or watching something. From this, children can gather the tools needed to create their own wonderful imaginative adventures.

You ChooseYou Choose2

If completely stuck for a starting point for discussion, one useful book is You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart. For a while it was given free to toddlers in the Bookstart book pack in the UK, and although it is lovely to look at with a toddler, it is also an ever-useful tool to spark ideas for creative writing, in much the same way as the more advanced titles above. Each page aims to provide a different ‘choice’; where would you go, where would you live, how would you travel – all excellent tools for setting a story.

Happy writing!