One of my first posts back at the start of the year was all about the book I had chosen for M’s 5th birthday – Katie Cleminson’s Box of Tricks. It was a book everyone in our family fell in love with and it continues to be read most weeks, especially now by J at bed time.
When Katie’s latest book, Wake Up!, arrived unannounced in the post (sent by her publisher) I couldn’t bring myself to open it immediately. I didn’t want to be disappointed, I didn’t want to feel sad the way you might when a new friend turns out to be not quite right for you after all. But of course I couldn’t leave Wake Up! sitting on the shelf for long – I was itching to read it to the girls! And so, not without some trepidation, I sat down with the two of them and we began to read…
A word perfect story in rhyme of one boy’s day from the time he wakes up to the time he falls asleep to dream, we finished this book and immediately read it several times more in quick succession. In once sense the day is very ordinary – a boy wakes, dresses, goes to school, plays, comes home for dinner, has a bath, reads a story and goes to bed. But this day is so full of joy, brimming with delight in simple things that you’ll find yourself wishing you could step into the story and share the day’s happiness. The bouncing rhythm and natural rhyme of the text make it a treat to read out loud; I couldn’t help reading Wake Up! to the girls with a spring in my step, mirroring how the boy seems to experience his day.
So the words are a treat, but what about the pictures? Well, the illustrations are gorgeous, fluid and bold, full of joy and gentleness. The boy’s family consists of an elephant, hippo, lion, lemur and cat, his teacher a kindly bear, and his classmates a panoply of furry and feathered friends alongside other children. With apparently just a few lines and minimal use of colour Katie Cleminson manages to capture gestures and expressions so precisely there’s a real magic to her illustrations. On the one had they appear to be simple and yet they capture feelings and atmospheres profoundly – looking at her images reminds me of reading poetry – you wonder how someone can say so much with so few words – or in the case of Cleminson, with so few lines.
So yes, we fell in love with this book too! The uncomplicated language, along with its musicality has made it a book that M, as an early reader, has also read out loud. The fact that it appeals to both my 2 year old and my 5 year old, albeit in different ways, only adds to the knowledge that had I first come across this book in the library I would definitely have ended up buying our own copy! I also think it would be a fantastic gift for anyone just starting nursery or reception (kindergarten) – whilst the book is not primarily about going to school, school is presented as something great fun, without anxiety or concern, and would provide a reassuringly positive image to any new pupil.
Katie Cleminson likes to draw using ink and pipettes and so when we finally managed to put Wake Up! back on the shelf we thought we’d try exactly that…
Both girls loved the vibrancy of the colours (we used the inks undiluted, though in future I might dilute them to make them last longer). Initially M and J were frustrated by the lack of control they felt they had using the pipettes as pens but the more they explored what they could do with the ink and pipettes, the more they enjoyed it.
We used two types of pipettes – ones like these and others like these, and I would definitely recommend the latter, even though they are considerably more expensive – M and J enjoyed using them much more, as they were easier to hold and control the flow of ink, and for me they were much easier to clean! We used both watercolour paper and thin card. The latter was nice to draw on as it was so smooth, but the watercolour paper worked particularly well given that quite often a lot of ink was squirted on to the paper and the watercolour paper withstood the wetness better than the card.
This picture (above) by M, actually reminded me of Joan Miro’s work rather than Katie Cleminson’s but either way it’s gone straight on our wall. Once the ink was dry J used a thin watercolour wash to paint over her pipette drawings and they also turned out rather beautifully!
Wake Up!: *** (3 stars)
Songs we’ve loved singing and dancing to in the wake of this warm and wonderful book include:
And then specifically for the kids (though I’m sure you’ll end up dancing to them too):
Also inspired by Katie Cleminson’s gorgeous book we’re hoping to try making our own daily routines book – this will be a great activity for M to practise her writing and both girls to illustrate. I like these accordion books made by Maya and her mum, The Artful Parent. With the summer holidays coming up it might be a book of our ideal day rather than our regular routines, as they’re bound to go out the window quite quickly! For the grown ups out there, the Daily Routines blog makes interesting reading – all about the routines of various famous people, including writers such as Franz Kafka and C.S. Lewis amongst others.
Now do make sure you’re back here next week – Playing by the book turns 1 and we’ll be celebrating in style, not least with an interview (our first author/illustrator interview!) with Katie Cleminson herself.
Disclosure: I received my copy of Wake Up! gratis from the publisher. This review, however, reflects my own and honest opinion.