Last week we were on holiday! We had a fantastic time, saw many wonderful things, caught up with some great friends and all in all just got a buzz from life
We spent one entire day at the zoo being thrilled, amazed and occasionally disgusted by the various creatures we saw. M went crazy over the Komodo Dragon, whilst J fell in love with the fish and bugs.
Now we’re back at home we wanted to relived the exploring and excitement of that day at the zoo, and fortunately (thanks to a comment left here by Kelly from We Are Here) , I had the perfect book at hand – Welcome to the Zoo by Alison Jay.
Welcome to the Zoo tells a myriad of stories about events which take place one day at a zoo. There’s the boy who loses his balloon, the ostrich who escapes from his keeper, the monkey who steals a picnic, the poodle who causes havoc in his determination to chase after a woman’s hat blown off by the wind, and more…
These stories are told entirely without words but simply through observing all the tiny, funny and beautiful detail in Jay’s rich illustrations. The book opens with a map of the zoo, and ends with some suggestions of animals or details to look for, but otherwise the stories are waiting there for you to construct yourself.
This is what I both enjoy and (if I’m honest) sometimes feel less enthusiastic about with wordless picture books – if I’m tired I’m happier with a text to follow, but if I (or the girls) have more energy, wordless picture books can be exhilarating in a way that books with a (more or less) “set text” sometimes can’t. The inferences M makes to tie a (wordless) story together are often surprising, giving me wonderful insights into her view of the world.
In my experience wordless storytelling stimulates imaginative leaps in ways that books with text don’t always manage to achieve. Tanya, from books4yourkids.com has written a really wonderful guest post all about “How to Read a Book without Words (Out Loud)” over at The Well-Read Child – I encourage you to read what she has to say!
Alison Jay has a very distinctive illustrative style (you might recognise it from Crabtree and Evelyn packaging), whereby she uses crackling varnish to give her illustrations an aged feeling. Inspired by this we decided to draw portraits of our favourite zoo animals using a technique to mimic the crackling so typical in Jay’s work.
1. We draw pictures of our favourite animals on paper with wax crayons. We pressed down as hard as we could and tried to cover the paper entirely.
2. Once the paper was covered with crayon we crumpled up our drawings as tightly as we could.
3. We uncrumpled our paper and laid it as flat as possible before painting over it with a very thin paint wash (just regular tempera paint watered down quite a bit). The paint only goes into all the little cracks in the crayon that were made when the paper was crumpled and thus gives a similar effect to the crackle painting done by Alison Jay.
4. Some versions of this activity suggest painting over the dry picture with glue, to help preserve your art and give it a shiny gloss. We did do this, but I’m not sure that anything was really gained by it. Once the glue was dry we created our own zoo gallery to remind us of a really wonderful day out!
For more examples of crayon crackle painting, take a look at these very effective images at Art at Stark
Welcome to the Zoo: ** (2 stars)
Fun zoo-bound music to listen to includes:
Some more zoo-inspired fun we’d like to get up to includes:
What are your favourite books about going to the zoo? What other wordless picture books would you recommend?