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A viking in a tutu?
You Choose! - Pippa Goodhart
Member Name: historywitch
You Choose! - Pippa Goodhart
Advantages: Gloriously illustrated, fascinating and appealing. Starting point for discussions about the world
Disadvantages: Needs more pages!
Nick Sharratt’s illustrations will be familiar to anyone who has seen or watched ‘Tracey Beaker’ as he is responsible for the book covers and the cartoon inserts for the TV series. He has also illustrated several books of fairy tales for the under-five age group with a simplified version of his ‘Beaker’ style drawings (I have already reviewed one of these books). Pippa Goodhart, the nominal author (as there aren’t many words in this book) is responsible for a wide range of children’s books, including ‘Ratboy’ and much of the Oxford Reading Tree. Between them they have a great deal of experience in what children like, part of the reason I bought this book unseen.
A larger than usual book (about 30x25 cms), it has an immensely attractive front cover with the name of the book in large text across the front. On the letters of ‘YOU’ are the three characters who reappear throughout the book, with whom children can identify and have fun spotting. These three characters (a boy, a girl and a cat) are very friendly and appealing; my daughter and I particularly enjoy spotting the cat who is usually harder to find on the page. In addition to the title and these three characters are four bands of pictures that cross the front page. Each band is made up of a series of small images that you will later come across in the book. Because they are all mixed up, rather than categorised as they are in the body of the book i.e. shoes, jobs, hats, it makes them very appealing and interesting in its own right. Olivia loves looking at this front cover and likes to spot her favourite pictures. It’s a lovely start to the book as it is a point of discussion in itself and sets you up nicely for the pictures inside.
The back cover has three bands of pictures, with a brief introduction to the concept of ‘You Choose’ (which I will cover below). It also has the ‘Approved by Bookstart’ label (Bookstart are a charity which provide parents with free books to encourage reading) and several shining reviews. The Times Literary Supplement for example, says that it is:
‘ Marvellous for developing speaking and listening’
which is most definitely the case.
There is no story in this book, none at all. Except for the one that you create yourself. This 28 page book is designed to stimulate creative thinking and imagination in your toddler and child so the book is laid out in a rather unconventional way. Each double or single page spread is illustrated with pictures of different categories of things and your child is encouraged to choose something to add to their story. The first and last pages are filled with text examples of these stories to demonstrate just some of the thousands of steps you can take. To give an example:
‘Would you go to the seaside, be friends with a Viking, live in a fairy tale palace with a ping-pong table in it, travel by limousine, eat a box of chocolates, wear a grass skirt with a cowboy hat and fluffy mules, keep a pet elephant, be a hairdresser, go on a bouncy castle and sleep in a kennel?’
The different categories are:
***Where would you go?-A double page spread depicting lots of different landscapes amalgamated into one picture. You can talk about what it might be like in a tent in the desert, in a city, by an erupting volcano or even in space!
***Who would be your family and friends?- Two pages in the style of a portrait gallery with familiar and not so familiar characters. Fancy having Cleopatra or a pirate as your mother? How about a witch for a grandmother or a gnome for an uncle! My husband and I encourage Olivia to pick out a character for each of us; so far I have been a superhero and a pirate and my husband has been a 1920’s gangster and Frankenstein’s monster. Always makes for an interesting insight into how your toddler sees you!
***What kind of home would you choose?-As before there are familiar homes and unfamiliar ones such as a haunted house, a space station, a Romany caravan and of course a Swiss Chalet (my daughter’s favourite, even though we live in a flat!). For many toddlers this is a really good introduction into the ways people have lived in the past, live now and may possibly live in the future. My daughter is particularly interested in the castle so when she is a bit older we will be able to use this initial interest as a jumping off point to future investigations.
***What would you put in it?-A wonderful double page miscellany of the most glorious combinations of items. Every time we look at this we discover something that we hadn’t noticed before. From a carousel to a swimming pool, a garden gnome to a cheese grater, an Egyptian sarcophagus to a glitter ball these pages are my favourite pages.
***How would you travel?-These are my daughter’s favourite two pages. Trains, planes, automobiles, chariots, gondolas, a pink spaceship, she loves them all and loves to assign modes of transport to everybody. The weird, wonderful, fantastic and historical are all jumbled together with the everyday methods of getting around, to provide endless fun and endless points for discussion.
***What would you eat?-A veritable banquet has been laid out on the table. What would you choose? Not for those on a diet!
***What would you wear?-Will your child put you in the big pink dress, or their sibling in the Elvis suit? What about the 1970’s brown Y-fronts, the sari and the celtic robe, with a Japanese fan to stop you from getting too hot? Another magical mix, this time of clothing and accessories from different times, cultures and styles. The next two pages are single spreads dealing with more accessories, clothes and shoes, again a disparate and interesting mix.
***How about a pet?- From wild to domesticated animals, there is a pretty representative sample on these pages. In addition there is a very friendly looking dragon, a dinosaur and a unicorn!
***What job would you do?-A pretty wide selection of jobs are on offer and I was pleased to see that some attempt had been made to subvert certain gender sterotypes. The florist is a man, as is the ballet dancer, while the farmer, plumber and scientist are women. A good opportunity to discuss all the people that you might come across in your everyday life and to expand upon those discussions.
***What would you do for fun?- Another wide range of activities covered, although my daughter was quite confused by ‘acting’ being represented by people wearing happy and sad masks and it took me (the classical scholar!) a few minutes to realise what they were trying to depict.
***Where would you sleep?-Finally after a busy day its time to rest. From a shower of flower petals (fairy) to a coffin (vampire) there is an interesting choice to be made here. My daughter consistently chooses the dog kennel, but I can assure you that she has a perfectly serviceable little bed, in which she is asleep right now!
I bought this blind after reading the reviews for it on the Amazon.co.uk site, which are unreservedly positive and glowing. I now feel the need to add to those glowing reviews as this book is as wonderful as described (and I rarely review books that don’t impress me, life is too short). What came out from the reviews is that this is especially useful as a book to appeal to boys, who often are harder to encourage to read (or even sometimes to sit down quietly!). I tried this book out on one of the little boys I look after, who is almost 2 years old. He is usually incredibly boisterous and rarely shows an interest in books. However he was engrossed in this one for hours….well 30 minutes, which felt like hours after a whole morning of ‘brrrrrrm’ ‘neeeeeenaaaaa’ and ‘baaaaannnnng’. My daughter also enjoys this book and I have already ordered copies for two or three upcoming birthdays. It is such a wonderful jumping off point for imaginative discussions and also for starting to introduce history, different cultures and other concepts such as geography and anthropology.
I love this book too, as does my husband, so the age range should probably be about 12 months, with parental supervision, to 28 years! My parents are visiting in a few weeks so we could maybe bump the upper age range up to 58!
********Price and Availability*******
The RRP is £5.99, but I ordered my copy from Amazon for £4.49. Marketplace copies start at £2.35.
Play.com have it for £4.99
Summary: Choose this book for your child