Tuesday 7 November 2017


I’ve always loved seeing small groups of children poring over favourite "sharing" books. I like the way they talk about the pictures and pages, pointing out characters and interesting things and making or retelling their own mini-stories. Sharing with friends or with grown-ups – especially those who enjoy the playfulness of the task and delight in funny choices - is a positive and friendly part of a child’s reading experience.

Today’s review includes three titles that fit into the “books for sharing” picture book category.

YOU CHOOSE IN SPACE, created by NICK SHARRATT and PIPPA GOODHART, is the latest title in the popular You Choose design formula, offering a tool-kit of “space” ideas to enjoy and bright, detailed spreads. The young readers are led through the spreads by two “human” characters ( a boy in a wheel-chair and a mixed-race girl) whose speech-bubble suggestions help the reader to create their own individual imaginary story. What job will you do on the space ship as you fly to Planet Pick and Mix? What clothes and shoes, friends and monsters and more will you choose? The spreads are full of ideas and visual jokes while across the end-papers, just inside the covers, are examples of wonderfully expanded adventures to guide the space journey.

CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE MIX-UP, my second “sharing book”, comes from HILARY ROBINSON. (Mixed-Up Fairy Tales, created by Hilary and Nick Sharratt, has been a favourite in schools for some years.) CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE MIX-UP, her newest title, is another in the hands-on, split-page, spiral-bound format, but this time illustrated by Jim Smith. Children can flip and re-arrange the flaps to create story variations involving characters like Santa Claus, Jack Frost, Cinderella, Snow White, Christmas Fairy and more. So, for example, the three flaps could create Little Red Riding Hood / went shopping for a special present for / the Big Bad Wolf or Santa Claus / got stuck in the chimney of the house belonging to / the Three Little Pigs  or several alternative combinations.

HIDE AND SEEK, the third picture book, is told in a much quieter and more thoughtful mode than the titles above. HIDE AND SEEK is by well-established illustrator ANTHONY BROWNE, with scenes that remind me of earlier books, especially his version of Hansel and Gretel.  Poppy and her bored, younger brother Cy are in the caravan, feeling sad because their puppy Goldie is missing. Poppy takes Cy outside and sends him off to hide in the wood outside their door. As Poppy seeks for Cy, and Cy waits to be found, the wood takes on a shadowy feel and strange, surreal things are glimpsed, half-hidden, within the spooky trees. What can you find? asks the book. I felt the items were very well hidden, but thankfully, there's a page at the back listing the eighteen hidden objects, and HIDE AND SEEK does have the hoped-for happy surprise ending. There's an anxious mood to the spreads which, combined with the lack of any parent roles around in the story, makes me feel that it would be good to have a book-sharing, talking adult by your side for comfort as much as for help with the seeking task. I felt HIDE AND SEEK is more suited to book-shelves and book-boxes of KS1 than to EYFS collections.

I wonder if you have any favourite sharing books?

Reviews by Penny Dolan


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