A colourful way to learn about the world

posted in: Kali Stileman | 9

What would you include if you were asked to create a book about your world? Family? Friends? Places you love? Where would you start in helping a toddler learn about the world around her?

This is the task facing Kali Stileman in her new book Big Book of My World and she has, very practically, used the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum (ie the statutory framework in the UK that sets the standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to five) to guide her in her selection of what to include.

So you’ll find counting, shapes, colours, sounds, opposites and feelings, amongst other things explored in this bright, cheery, modern-looking book. Kali Stileman’s illustrations zing off the page with collage style pictures created in saturated, vibrant colours. If her style has nods to Eric Carle, she also acknowledges another (UK) childhood favourite – the yellow duck from the Usborne books illustrated by Stephen Cartwright – with at least one owl to find on every page.

J, 3, has really fallen for this book. The pictures make her giggle and she loves the interaction that comes from me sitting with her and counting, or helping her find different shapes and match colours, or from talking about the weather and the seasons. Given her enjoyment I have to wholeheartedly recommend this book if you work with the youngest of children, or are looking for a picture book that is fun but “educational” (I use quotes as I think we learn from all books we read, it’s just that this book is overt in its educational aims). I certainly know some parents who will really appreciate this very structured approach to so many of the basics that toddlers need to come to grips with.

If I had to find fault with the book, I would reveal more about my approach to learning and teaching with my own children at home than anything really wrong with Big Book of My World; what others will really enjoy and value in it (i.e. its instructive tone) is precisely what didn’t cause me to fall in love with it (and I do like to fall in love with my books). It’s probably not a book I would have bought myself (my review copy was provided by the publisher) but I do think lots of parents will appreciate it. It’s certainly a book that should be enjoyed in many a playgroup, nursery and kindergarten where it will support an engaging, clearly structured approached to learning.

We took our cue from Kali Stileman’s style and leitmotif, her owls, to create our own owl collage. I precut some owl body and wing shapes then let the girls loose with glue, pens and googly eyes.

A cheery, charming addition to our gallery of artwork, don’t you think?

M enjoyed the craft as much as J enjoyed the book 🙂

Whilst we made our owl collage we listened to:

  • Night Owl by Dan Zanes & Friends
  • Night Owl by Cat and a Bird
  • The Owl Song by Mary Keating

  • Other activities which would work well alongside reading Big Book of My World include:

  • Creating a book with your kids full of things that are important them them in their world – you could include photos of their favourite toys, write out their favourite songs, stick in labels from their favourite food and have them paint a picture in their favourite colour, for example. We’ve made a few different sorts of book on the blog – you can find them here.
  • Making fabric owls like we did here (you should click through just to see photos of M and J when they were MUCH younger!)
  • Making different types of collage – Artists Helping Children has a brilliant bank of ideas.

  • So yes, what would you include in your book about the world?

    Disclosure: I received my copy of Big Book of My World from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.

    9 Responses

    1. Ali B

      Great post Zoe. I love the owls! Do you know the Ahlberg’s Baby’s Catalogue? I’m not sure I like the idea of overtly instructive books either, but then any book encouraging language use and counting will have to be done with a parent, carer or older sibling, so I guess children will always benefit from that.


      It is nice to see these things being presented to the children and they identify with their day to day things.

      Books like Wisdom of Tenali Raman,a jester in the Kingdom of Vijayanagara in the Indian language is wonderful to read. Can someone present the same to the Children of other world.

    3. Sharing Sunday #13 « Free Your Parenting

      […] books, called Playing by the Book. This week’s Babies & Toddlers link is for a review of a lovely book for toddlers called Big Book of my World, but I also wanted to sneak in a link to a review of an older children’s book that I think […]

    4. Louise Boyes

      Hee Hee. The thing I love about this blog is that the young girl wearing the school uniform has her shoes on the wrong feet!! Great blog post and this book is now on our Christmas list for my godson. Lou

      • Zoe

        Thanks Lou! Yes, I didn’t realise at the time that J had her shoes on the wrong feet… ach well. That’s independence for you 🙂

    5. Debbie S.

      This looks like something my daughter might enjoy. I requested that my library purchase it. Keeping my fingers crossed!

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