Thursday, 9 October 2014

A Breath of Fresh Air! Three Picture Books about Playing Outside reviewed by Pauline Chandler

Choosing bedtime stories for my grandson recently, I was struck by how many picture books are full of rampaging dinosaurs, wild-eyed dragons, monsters and superheroes, all in dazzling primary colours. Very exciting, but not quite conducive to a calm ‘time for bed’!  I’ve noticed, too, that young mums and dads are now thinking that it’s best not to overstimulate little ones, with every bright toy or storybook that comes along.     

May I suggest play in the great outdoors? Soft nature colours, wonderful weather, textures, scents, sounds, fresh air freedom! What could be better for the kids than time free from the adult’s all seeing-eye (or when they think they’re free!), freedom to learn by making their own decisions and solve their own problems. Are there any stories to encourage this? Yes there are!

I had to search hard for them, those outside books, with the kind of soothing ambience that says what a wonderful world it is, stories that celebrate simple pleasures, such playing in a field of dandelions, or collecting eggs from the hens, or messing about in the garden.  

Sandra Horn’s book ‘The Dandelion Wish’ tells just such a gentle story, beautifully illustrated by Louise Warwick.  Out in the fields, Jo and Sam watch the wind blow the dandelion seeds high into the air and when Sam suggests blowing seeds to make a wish, Jo joins him, with magical results. Yes, there’s a dinosaur, pirates and fireworks, but they’re all part of the Dandelion Fair, which arrives and departs like a dream. In the end, ‘Only the night heard a home-going rabbit whistle a rock-a-bye tune.’
This is a lovely story that celebrates outdoor play and the power of a child’s wishing and dreaming.

Kim Lewis’s picture books about country life on the farm, are some of the best.

In ‘Friends’, Sam and Alice go off, on their own, to collect a new-laid egg, but on the way back home, they quarrel and the egg is broken. Both children are deeply upset and think they can’t be friends any more, but when the hen lays another egg, they make up, finding a way to do this by themselves, with children’s innate awareness of what’s fair. Then they find the fresh egg and take it home together.  What lovely pictures illustrate this charming story! Kim Lewis treats us to detailed and realistic images of life on the farm. 

My final choice is ‘The King of Tiny Things’ by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Gwen Millward.

This delightful tale, with more enchanting pictures of the countryside at night, takes us with Chrissy and the narrator on a summer time visit to their grandparent’s house. When the girls camp out in a tent in the garden, they meet all sorts of little creatures on a night-time adventure. There’s so much to enjoy in this story of magic in the dark, with friendly bugs and caterpillars, and the king of tiny things. Children on their own, free, outside and doing stuff! Wonderful!

All three picture books are highly recommended for children aged 5-7.

Pauline Chandler 2014




julia jones said...

Am reviewing The Dandelion Wish myself for Eclectic Electric next week and found that reading it gave ME a wonderful night's sleep - never mind the grandchildren!

Pauline Chandler said...

Ha ha! I know what you mean, Julia!

Penny Dolan said...

Lovely recommendations!

Sandra Horn said...

Thank you, Pauline!

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