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Episode 3: ‘How Much Does a Ladybird Weigh?’ and ‘Katie and the Impressionists’

THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG: To encourage parents and teachers to read to children (and to educate picture book writers about including cognitive elements in their work). The act of reading out loud is not enough. When reading a picture book, or even a middle grade book, we are given a fantastic opportunity to develop an interactive experience with our children. What is an interactive experience? This interactive experience does not require any devices. It does require constant interfacing between the adult and the child/children. When reading to children, you want to deliver the book in a manner that invites the children to participate as active listeners and engages responses from them that grow their minds. Passive listening is all very well, but the story is soon over, and an opportunity has been lost to use ‘story time’ as a guided exploration of another world, or some subject. I totally understand how often the bedtime story has to be delivered promptly and that there is no time for discussion. I firmly believe however, when possible, an extended period devoted to reading and delving into the text, benefits the child, and is enjoyed by both the adult and the child.

Unlike my previous ‘reading picture book’ blogs, where I took you along with me as I ‘read’ to a child, in this blog, and hopefully, more future blogs, I would like to examine picture books and draw the cognitive depth from them.

We will be looking at two picture books in this blog.

Since my picture book collection is in storage, while necessary house repairs take place, I visited our local library.

As an illustrator, the cover illustrations draw my attention. If the cover is appealing, then I will peek inside and see what treasure I can uncover between the pages.

So, what are we reading today?

How Much Does a Ladybird Weigh?

Written and illustrated by Alison LimentaniPublished by Boxer Books, United Kingdom, 2016

Alison used lino cuts and litho printing and digital colour to create the illustrations.

This is a counting book. Adults always want counting books for teaching wee ones counting and number concept. This is a counting book with a twist.

(Writers and illustrators note: many publishers will not accept counting or alphabet books, citing an oversupply in the market. If you are able to come up with a book that is not simply about counting, or is delivered in a unique way, there is a market.)

This book uses counting as a springboard for teaching the concept of WEIGHT! This is the first junior picture book that I have found that deals with weight.

Alison compares the weights of different creatures, for example: 10 ants weigh the same as 1 ladybird.

Cool! Very cool! My inner geek is excited. What a clever way to introduce children to comparisons, understanding the impact of size, weight and quantity. Mathematics education at its best.

The illustrations are simple, but detailed and very attractive. Since most 3- and 4-year olds are fascinated by animals, I think this book will be a winner.

It will appeal to boys and girls.

‘How Much Does a Ladybird Weigh’ was Alison’s debut picture book. She is a qualified Veterinary Nurse, Animal Behavourist and Children’s Book Illustrator. She has published two picture books, and has several other animal-themed books in the pipe-line.

Katie and the Impressionists

Written and illustrated by James Mayhew

Published by Orchard Books, United Kingdom, 1997, 2014

One of several similarly themed books by the same author, ‘Katie and the Impressionists’ is a gentle introduction for young children to fine art.

Katie goes on a rip-roaring adventure. She is a little like Mary Poppins, diving into pavement chalk paintings. I would have loved this book as a child, and indeed, I do as an adult. Truthfully, I would find some of her adventures a little frightening. She is a plucky kid, jumping from one painting adventure to another!

The illustrations are lovely and Katie is an action-filled adventuress who keeps you turning the pages. I didn’t want the story to end. It is a pity picture books are generally 32 pages long. I wish story books were still popular.

This picture book provides a visual feast. I think this book is ideal for prompting children to describe what they see, and also to inspire them to try different art styles. You never know if you have a budding Impressionist at home. Art is not just a creative outlet. Drawing and painting involve multiple cognitive (brain) functions, so can be a fun way to boost brain development.

James Mayhew included artwork by Monet, Renoir and Degas.

I am certainly no expert, since I do not use these mediums, but I think the illustrations are done in pastel and either colour pencil or conte crayon.

Apart from his numerous other books, in the ‘Make Art an Adventure’ series, James Mayhew has also authored:

Katie and the Sunflowers

Katie and the British Artists

Katie and the Bathers

Katie and the Lily Pond

Katie and the Spanish Princess

Katie’s Picture Show

Katie and the Starry Night

Katie and the Mona Lisa

Needless to say, I will be on the lookout for some of these books!

Recently I have been trying to blog twice a month, but time is not on my side, so I am returning to once-monthly blogs. I will be alternating months between illustration-themed blogs, and picture book reviews with cognitive insights. Please join me this time next month for another an illustration blog.

Happy reading!

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