Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Fantastic Fiction for Kids – Shifting Perspectives

Posted on | February 17, 2010 | 6 Comments

fantastic_fiction_buttonToday’s Fantastic Fiction for Kids selection comes from Nancy at Bees Knees Reads. Nancy has two girls, aged 4 and 6, and they live in a small town on the coast in northern California.


Three years ago she started blogging about picture books with her sister Kim Baise at Bees Knees Reads and around the same time they developed a start-up press, Bees Knees Books to collaborate with author/illustrators and publish picture books. They released two books in 2009: Maybelle, Bunny of the North by Keith Patterson and A Wonderful Week by Marjolein Varekamp. If all this weren’t enough to keep Nancy busy she also runs a bookstore – Coastside Books! I’m sure Nancy has bad days like the rest of us, but her existence sounds quite idyllic to me :-)

Nancy’s theme this week is “shifting perspectives”. Of selecting these books Nancy wrote “Although two of the stories have characters with disabilities (blind and deaf) the stories are really more about looking at the world (or one’s own experience) from a different viewpoint. And I think the story, I Feel A Foot, which is a retelling of a Sufi fable illustrates that theme perhaps most obviously. One of my favorite sayings is, “Don’t believe everything you think!” And these three books playfully challenge the reader to shift her perspective many times.”

black_book_of_colours_frontcoverThe Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faria.


The author and illustrator are from Venezuela and the book was first published in Spanish. It is beautiful in it’s conception and production. The pages are black with embossed illustrations and Braille underneath the lettering so the reader must touch the pages, shifting one’s senses from sight to touch. The narrator is guided by Thomas who is blind and he describes color by how he feels or experiences color. There is a great excerpt and review here. After reading this book together you can ask children to close their eyes and imagine/describe what different colors look like. Is Thomas’ world black or is it rich with color?
the_deaf_musicians_frontcoverThe Deaf Musicians by Pete Seeger and Paul Dubois Jacobs, illustrated by Gregory R. Christie



Pete Seeger is a lyrical storyteller, probably because he is a musician. He dedicated this story to his deaf father and knew that deaf people still enjoy music even without hearing. It’s possible to learn a new way of communicating through music and in this case through music and sign language. This story is about a jazz musician who loses his hearing and has to learn sign language. He starts a new band whose members are also deaf and now sign their music. This story is a really fun jazzy read-aloud. A longer review can be found at Bees Knees Reads.
I_fee_a_foot_frontcoverI feel a Foot! by Maranke Rinck, illustrated by Martijn van der Linden.


Imagine a turtle, bat, octopus, bird and goat asleep in their hammock. Turtle hears a noise. They all go to investigate in the pitch black. What each animal bumps into and what each believes he’s found weaves a tale about differences of perspective and experience. The discovery of an elephant (who later joins them all in the hammock) is revealed after each animal has come to a different conclusion. Visually this book is a treat with its vivid colors and patterns. And did I mention it’s funny? [Zoe adds: Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page if you would like to see illustrations from inside this book]

I (Zoe) have not yet read it, but I just came across a review of The Seeing Stick over at Planet Esme – this lovely sounding book (by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka) sounds like it would go perfectly with the three books suggested by Nancy today.

As to some music to enjoy today you could try:

  • Superstition by Stevie Wonder
  • Mess Around by Ray Charles
  • Blind Willie McTell by Bob Dylan
  • Evelyn Glennie playing Scwantner’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra
  • Any of the late string quartets by Beethoven, for example No. 14 in C# Minor, Op.131


  • Some activities which could go with today’s books include:

  • Teaching your children some sign language. Baby signing is already quite popular but older children may enjoy having a secret code they can use with you or with each other. You could try learning some BSL (British Sign Language) or ASL (American Sign Language) (these are so different from each other they are mutually unintelligible).
  • Create a Feely Bag – place a number of objects inside a large bag, ask your child to put her hands inside and to try to work out what objects are in the bag, simply by feeling them. If you’ve a fabric stash you could do a version of this which instead has swatches of material with different textures eg velcro, silk, velvet, felt, and ask your child to describe what she can feel even though she can’t see it. A commercial textures feely bag is available here.
  • Continuing with the sensory theme A Bit of This and a Bit of That has this great post on ball matching – and then something similar but with smells – a great way to get kids thinking about their senses. I definitely want to try these projects out with my girls.
  • Melitsa from Play Activities also has a selection of great posts about sensory play with some lovely ideas.


  • It was a bit of challenge for me today to come up with music and activity suggestions so if you have any that would work well with these books, please do let me know via the comments!


    Thanks once again to Nancy for our great list of books today. Please do pop over to Bees Knees Reads and say hi to her and her sister!

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    Comments

    6 Responses to “Fantastic Fiction for Kids – Shifting Perspectives”

    1. Andi
      February 17th, 2010 @ 11:15 am

      These sound like great books! As an activity, how about painting or sculpting with your eyes closed (or blindfolded)? It is such a different feeling to create something based on touch and feel alone.

    2. Janelle @ Brimful Curiosities
      February 17th, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

      My daughter just started learning a little sign language at school. She loves talking with her hands and can say I love you (mom, dad, grandpa, grandma). She really caught on quick!

    3. Nancy
      February 18th, 2010 @ 6:29 am

      I’ll have to check out that reissue of The Seeing Stick! And I really like the music suggestions especially Beethoven’s later works, when he lost his hearing. I know this was a challenge. Something I like to do with the kids in the car on the way to school is to ask them to name the different instruments they hear in a piece of music. This gives them the awareness of different ways of hearing the music.

    4. Carrie, Reading My Library
      February 20th, 2010 @ 6:40 am

      What a cool and unique theme! Can’t say I have any song suggestions though. =)

    5. Zoe
      February 21st, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

      I’ve just come across another book I think might fit well with this theme – Moses Goes to A Concert by Isaac Millman, about a class of deaf children attending an orchestral concert

    6. vanessa@silly eagle books
      February 22nd, 2010 @ 2:27 am

      I just checked out The Black Book of Colors two weeks ago and have a post about it coming up! I thought it was wonderful and juliet loved it. I can’t wait to find these other ones. Great post.

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