Ever wanted to dance like an animal but wasn't quite sure how to do it? Well then, this book is perfect for you and your little ones.
My little girl received this book recently as part of a Bookstart pack of books and its fast become one of our favourite books to read and dance along to and do the actions. It's not really an action book as such but when you read it it really just makes you want to follow what the animals are doing. For example on the opening page we are told, "If you like to dance and you sometimes sing, why don't you do the animal thing?"
Then, we are shown lots of different animals and there is a little bit of text about how each one dances. For example, when it comes to the ostrich we are told, "high stepping knees and feathers that bounce - film-flam flutter to the ostrich flounce." A lots of the dance moves really make my little girl laugh because they are a bit wacky and a bit funny but its really funny watching her trying to recreate them.
I like that they introduce lots of animals in this book and so different ones to the usual, pig/cow/horse/dog etc that you get with regular little kids books. This is a great way of teaching them about new different animals and also the characteristics of those animals and what makes each one different from the other. For example, as well as the ostrich I have mentioned above there is a snake, a donkey and a lizard, just to name a few of the more interesting animals.
Each animal and their dance move is spread over two pages so I think the illustrations really make this book too. The pictures are wonderful and colourful and they really show the animals moving to their own beat. The text is written in bold black lettering so its easy to read and short enough to keep a small child's attention.
The book is from Oxford University Press. We have the paperback version and the ISBN is 978-0-19-279207-5.
>> A Bit of Background>>
This is a book I picked up for Preschool in a local charity shop at the bargain price of 40p. On the reverse it has a box stating 'A Gift to you from Bookstart and Oxford University Press' This gives me the impression that this is a book that is well thought of in educational circles or money would not have been invested in giving away free copies to young children. I can't see any age recommendation in my copy, but I feel it would be suitable for very young children and would still appeal to my oldest preschoolers. More of why I think so later. This book was nominated for the 'Early Years Award' in 2005 and the 2006 'Nottingham Book Award'. It is written by the Australian author and artist Jan Ormerod and illustrated by the British artist and author Lindsey Gardiner.
>> Book Layout>>
The title gives you the impression that this is going to be a lively book, and the cover illustration reinforces this, with animals drawn in such a way that they appear to be moving across the page. There's something about their faces that makes them look lively, friendly and animated all at the same time - I find it very engaging.
The first double page spread that you find when you open this book has no words, just a landscape illustration with shadows of over 10 animals in the foreground. It's a night-time scene, as evidenced by the stars, but although most of the colour scheme is conventional, the use of an almost fluorescent pink for the stars, the tree trunks and other highlights is attention-drawing.
Following this is another double page spread, with the credits on the left hand side and the title page on the right.
The story begins with the next double page spread; in fact the whole book is laid out in double page spreads. This seems to be a deliberate ploy and works well with the text.
We start with a similar illustration to the opening one, but this time the little mouse character, who was shown underneath the title on the preceding page, is standing on a rock in a pose which suggests he is ready for action. The text is: 'If you like to dance and you sometimes sing, why don't you do the animal thing?' Turning over, we see 3 pictures of penguins in different poses, 'put your heels together and waddle along. Go craak craak craak - it's the penguin song!' So the text continues, with suggested movements for ostrich, snake, monkey, donkey, elephant, lizard, chicken, duck and rhino, but the last one has no movement.
I find these delightful! The penguin outline, for instance, is simply drawn but with lines around the outside of the character that suggest motion. Each penguin is coloured in a slightly different shade, so that the smallest, most distant is paler and the largest and biggest has the strongest colour. The background is a complementary pale shade of blue, with simple fish outlines. On the next double page, the ostrich is shown against a red background, and so on. Lindsey Gardiner's choice of colours add to the dynamic feel of the book. I'm not sure what media she used for the animals - the outlines look as though they might be pencil. In some places it looks as though pastels or chalks may have been used, but I'm no art expert and I'm not sure. I do know that the way they are shown with widely spaced eyes and smiley faces is likely to attract small children. It's simply very good to look at.
I'm not going to discuss the story as such, because it's not really a story, to be truthful. It's more of an exploration of movement. If you read through the text examples I quoted earlier, you'll perhaps realise that it has a very rhythmic feel, almost like a rap.
There's also great use of rhyme: 'feathers that bounce --- the ostrich flounce' None of these feel contrived to me. I've often noticed that, when the text introduces rhyme for the sake of it, children invariably are not really engaged with the book. Not so here.
The text also makes good use of alliteration, where initial sounds are repeated - 'jive and jiggle - jump and wiggle' and occasionally assonance, where vowel sounds are repeated in a sentence - 'slither along, with a hiss and a wriggle'. Apart from adding to the musicality of the story overall, and the enjoyment to be had in reading the book aloud, all of these: rhythm, rhyme, alliteration and assonance - help to develop children's phonemic awareness and therefore skills needed for reading are being acquired. How much more so when a child enjoys the activity that leads them in this direction!
I should also mention that the author has used the opportunity to introduce some great vocabulary, like 'slither' 'trudge' - all very dynamic verbs.
>>Using the Book>>
This is a book that is great to read aloud. I feel that most children will enjoy hearing it read, and most adults who enjoy reading to small children will enjoy reading this one. It's more than just a book to read, though; it's possible to use it very interactively - and noisily - as each animal's movement is discussed, attempted and [hopefully] mastered! Imagine the potential fun as adult and child go through the motions together - great for relationship building. I believe that this book will help develop children's musical and physical skills, as well as those for literacy. Just one note of caution, though: I would advise using it as part of the bedtime routine unless you're up for a rowdy session! That's the sort of thing my dad had a real penchant for, getting children over-excited so they got in trouble when they wouldn't/couldn't sleep!
I can see this book being useful with very young children, perhaps even babies from the age of about 9 months, because they could begin to join in with a few simple movements. Older children could learn the whole routine, and I can see some of our children who are almost ready for 'big' school joining in with some if not most of the text. I can't see anything not to like about this book and can't give it any less than 5 stars. If you have young children I really recommend it to you - you'll have great fun together if you can throw yourself into it!
>> Getting a Copy >>
The Amazon website is currently listing new copies available at £4.43, and, as it's a 'Click and Look Inside' promotion, you have an opportunity to decide whether you like the style before you buy.
ISBN 978-0-19-279207-5 Oxford University Press, www.oup.com
Thank you for reading my review, which may be posted on other sites.
Picture books often have a simple story line with a strong rhythm and plenty rhyming words: Doing the Animal Bop by J. Ormerod and Lindsey Gardiner begins 'If you like to dance and you sometimes sing, Why don't you do the animal thing?' It is hard for children to resist the urge when this is read aloud to get up and try to move in the same way as each animal that appears in these pages, jiggling and jiving, waddling like a duck or stomping like a rhino.
This is not really a story at all, more of a poem that introduces a series of animals, one on each double page, concentrating on the way they move and the sounds they make. As well as rhyme, there is onomatopoeia in the 'Craak, craak, craak' of the penguin song, and alliteration in the 'flim-flam flutter of the ostrich flounce' or the monkeys' 'jive and jiggle'. The hissing of the snake is exaggerated in the line 'you can ssssssing this ssssssong'. The chickens peck and cluck whilst the rhinos roar and rage.
On the final pages the line 'so let's end up with a great big mooo!' (because the cow can only chew) becomes so familiar that children love to join in. There is after that one more double-page illustration of the animals in silhouette dancing off into the night under the pink stars in the dark blue sky. It's as though they are off to party all night.
Both rhyme and rhythm come through in no uncertain terms, creating a lively pace. This is an ideal book to encourage children to get up and move, exercising and trying to stomp, waddle, jive or slither like a snake. You can imagine that it's probably not the best bedtime story, unless you want your child to run off a little more energy before slipping under the covers.
I absolutely love the use of colour in Lindsey Gardiner's illustrations. The backgrounds in particular are striking, and all are different colours. A pink elephant trudges along against an orange background, whilst a pale green lizard moves on a salmon pink ground. The ostrich seems to have borrowed Winnie the Witch's stripy tights, bouncing and flouncing on a deep pink background. In each picture there is a tiny mouse with a yellow tummy and tail; we meet it right at the beginning, and children can have fun spotting where it is on each page throughout the book, as it frequently tries to imitate the other animals.
This is a feast of language and colour, and a delightful way of teaching very young children about the sounds and movements of different animals. Recognising rhyming words is said to be a fundamental precursor to reading, so that is one more reason to make this an ideal book to read aloud, perhaps to children as young as two. It may not be the easiest book for a young reader to tackle, unless a particularly confident one is looking for a challenge. If you are looking for a book that will impart a love of the sounds of words to your children and at the same time get them out of their seats, this could be the ideal one.
Doing the Animal Bop
J. Ormerod and Lindsey Gardiner
Oxford University Press
Paperback, 32 pages
Price £5.99 (Amazon £4.49)