Things-I-have-learned-as-a-parent number 359: A walk for the sheer fun of it, in our local park or nature reserve, is never complete without a stick.
The sooner the girls can find one which meets their ideals for the day the happier they are. A big one to lean on, a little one to become a wand, a bendy one to be a flag: a stick is an essential acquisition on any sort of exploration.
And so it was with some eagerness that I accepted The Stick Book by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks for review. Would the girls and I get new ideas and be inspired in new ways? Would it encourage us out on those days we were suffering from inertia? Would it make me look with refreshed, delighted eyes at the pile of sticks by our back door that grows and grows and normally has me rolling my eyes in slight desperation?
The Stick Book contains 70 different ideas for using sticks in outdoor play. There are 8 themed chapters, for example one on “Stick games” (including pick up sticks, capture the flag, and tracking with stick), one on “Adventure sticks” (including building dens, swords, catapults and spear throwers) and on on “Watery sticks” (including pooh sticks, making a mini raft and measuring the depth of a stream). Each activity is accompanied by a photograph and tips or brief instructions on the activity in question.
Essentially, this is a craft book, not unlike those you might get from the library packed with Easter crafts or Egyptian crafts. It’s just that this time the unifying theme is outdoor play with sticks. And like many craft books, with the advent of the internet, and great sites like Let the Children Play, the ideas you find within the pages are probably available for free somewhere online, and many of them are so simple (such as playing pooh sticks) that you might wonder if this really is a book worth buying.
It’s definitely worth seeking out. By bringing all the ideas together in one place it IS stimulating. It has motivated the girls and me get our shoes on and go walking and looking for good sticks. M in particular has enjoyed reading the book herself, and choosing an activity she’d like to do. I particularly like the fact that all the people who feature in this book’s photographs are kids. There’s not an adult to be seen in this idyllic, natural landscape full of potential for adventure.
As children increasingly lose contact with outdoor play, and adults become less confident and comfortable with it (after all, isn’t it easier to put on a DVD?), this book will hopefully be a useful reminder of how simple and enjoyable it is to play outdoors. All you need is a stick and a little bit of inspiration.
If you want a gorgeously delicious, funny and charming slice of inspiration then look no further than Stanley’s Stick by John Hegley, illustrated by Neal Layton.
Hegley’s text is about a boy called Stanley on the way to the beach with his parents. As always Stanley is carrying his stick with him and over the course of the book we are introduced to all the different ways Stanley plays with his stick. It’s been a Stickosaurus, a slug life-guard, a secret message writer. You are left in doubt as to how important Stanley’s stick is to him; he even tries to name his stick, though it takes a very dramatic event for Stanley to strike upon just the right name for his favourite toy.
I try hard not to reveal too much of the plot in any review I write, and certainly not to give away any final twist. But this time, I’m struggling so hard to resist temptation. Layton’s illustrations are fun and lovely but it is Hegley’s rich, clever, light, expressive language that make this a picture book which (I’m confident) stands head and shoulders above just about any other you will read about today. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Hegley, after all, is an accomplished poet and is passionate about creativity. And the way he finds to round off this perfect picture book is… well, it is absolutely word perfect.
Stanley’s Stick is a book to buy, to read, to roll around your tongue and savour, to hug, to take with you as you walk through the park stick in hand. Yep, I really do quite like this one!
As luck would have it (or not), we’ve been experiencing the wettest April in what seems like living memory. We’ve had day after day after day of rain and so photo opportunities for stick play outside have been few and far between. Instead, this weekend we raided our stick stockpile, left two to dry on the radiator overnight and then transformed them into magical objects by decorating them with ribbons, pipecleaners and beads.
The girls have been using them as wands, trumpets, banners and flags, and can’t wait for the rain to dry up so the sticks can come out with us on an adventure.
Whilst making our decorated sticks we listened to:
When the ground is a little less sodden, we’re planning to do several project from The Stick Book, including:
And if you wanted to make a bundle of stick books to enjoy, you should include The Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Not a stick by Antionette Portis, and A stick is an excellent thing by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
Today I’m joining up with the weekly celebration that is Nonfiction Monday. This week’s host for Nonfiction Monday is Gathering Books. Do click on through to see what other books are included in this week’s celebration of children’s nonfiction books.