Posted on | January 18, 2013 | 20 Comments
Gisele at Kids Indoors is a passionate sharer of children’s books. She happens to be based in Brazil, but thanks to blogging, our paths have crossed, and recently we swapped a few wordless picture books with each other. She sent me some real gems, but our absolute favourite has to be Calma, Camaleão! [Chameleon, calm down!] by Laurent Cardon.
As we turn the pages of this gorgeous book, we share in the delights of a young chameleon as he discovers he can change his colour depending on his background. He plays joyously with this ability (as any baby does when they discover a new activity they can master), and one day discovers, quite by chance, that not only can he change colour, he can also change form.
He bumps into a chicken and suddenly has a chicken’s comb. Whilst chasing after the chicken he then barges into a flamingo, and Boof! The chameleon has a flamingo’s beak as well as a chicken’s comb. This game continues with other animals until suddenly the party’s over and poor little chameleon is tired, confused and weepy. Along comes his mother, who reassures and calms her child down. The chameleon’s upside down world returns to normal, though his newly established, exuberant friendships with all the animals he met along the way remains.
Chameleons are one of those animals which pop up in children’s books rather a lot. There’s Eric Carle’s Mixed-Up Chameleon, Emily Gravett’s Blue Chameleon, to say nothing of Mwenye Hadithi’s Crafty Chameleon amongst others. So why would I recommend you look out for this book?
The illustrations are amazing; full of humour, energy and a sumptuousness that I can’t resist. Cardon’s acute observations of body language and facial expressions lift the images right off the pages. The sheer excitement the chameleon experiences when he discovers his special abilities is infectious and Cardon’s use of colour on white pages adds to the dynamism his story exudes. Carle and Gravett are indeed illustrious illustrators, but this little Brazilian chameleon turns out to be my very favourite, one I’m sure you’d adore too.
Here’s a trailer for the book, which will give you a good impression of the narrative and Cardon’s illustrations. (Just as the book is wordless, this animation has no soundtrack).
As I said, Calma, Camaleão! by Laurent Cardon is entirely wordless so anyone anywhere can enjoy it, although it may be difficult to find via your normal book sources. Wolf, Wanted by Ana Maria Machado is also illustrated by Laurent Cardon, and this has been translated into English and is published by Groundwood Books so is rather easier to track down. I’ll certainly be on the look out for it, given how much I enjoyed Cardon’s Camaleão.
Having laughed so much whilst reading the book, M and J immediately announced they wanted a chameleon as a pet. Well, I couldn’t facilitate that, but I did promise I would get them some colour changing chameleons to play with… and here’s how we did it.
First we got a red cabbage and chopped it finely in our food processor, along with a small amount of water (about 150ml).
We then strained the cabbage mush through a muslin to extract all the purple liquid created.
I poured the purple liquid into a baking tray and we soaked sheets of blotting paper (you could use coffee filters instead) in the liquid and then left the now-purple pieces of paper to dry on the laundry rack over night. Once dry I cut out chameleon shapes and set up a colour changing station for the girls.
In a weekly pill box (you could use an ice cube tray instead) I lined up small samples of various (nearly) colourless liquids, including vinegar, lemon juice, water with baking powder dissolved in it, a sugar solution, a salt solution, water with washing soda dissolved in it and lemonade.
The girls painted with this liquids on the chameleons and saw how the different liquids changed the chameleons’ colours in different ways. Some colourless liquids made the chameleons turn blue or green, others made them turn various shades of pink.
What we’d done here is create our own litmus paper, and by painting the chameleons we were investigating the effect of different acids and bases, combining art and science in one easy and very satisfying little project!
Whilst our chameleons changed colour we listened to:
Other activities which would go well with Calma, Camaleão! include:
And finally, the delight that’s come from swapping books with Gisele has encouraged me to commit to running another Perfect Picture Books by Post swap later this year. I’ll be announcing details in April so mark your diaries if your interested in swapping great picture books with other people around the world who, just like you, are passionate about fabulous children’s books.