Playing by the book

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Chameleon, calm down! A picture book from Brazil

Posted on | January 18, 2013 | 20 Comments

calmaGisele 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.

calmchameleon_reading

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).

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We then strained the cabbage mush through a muslin to extract all the purple liquid created.

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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.

acidbase1

chameleons

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:

  • Karma Chameleon by Culture Club (an absolute favourite of mine when I was young!)
  • Why Chameleon Changes Colour! from Tinga Tinga Tales (lovely thumb piano on this one)
  • Million Chameleon March by Ellis Paul (a political kids’ song, which you can listen to for free on MySpace)


  • Other activities which would go well with Calma, Camaleão! include:

  • Experiencing something of what it feels like to be a chameleon with this great activity using party tooters. Do watch the video!
  • Using tracing paper to create a chameleon which can magically change colours just like Helping Little Hands did when they read another good chameleon picture book, A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
  • Making a chameleon out of pipecleaners, using this tutorial form Lines Across.

  • 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.

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    Comments

    20 Responses to “Chameleon, calm down! A picture book from Brazil”

    1. Stacey
      January 18th, 2013 @ 2:34 am

      How great are those illustrations! I can feel that little guy reaching out to me!
      Stacey recently posted..A Growing Vocabulary

    2. Rhythm
      January 18th, 2013 @ 3:27 am

      This looks like an excellent book! I love wordless books and this chameleon looks like a winner! And I really like your paper activity! Thanks!
      Rhythm recently posted..Play With Your Dog!!

    3. Zoe
      January 18th, 2013 @ 7:17 am

      Thanks Rhythm and Stacey – I do really like these illustrations – they feel very alive to me. And the litmus paper worked so well – like magic!

    4. Polly
      January 18th, 2013 @ 7:59 am

      fantastic activity. Once again I stand to ovate. (which sounds vaguely gynaecological- but y’know whaddi mean)
      Polly recently posted..MonkeyFarts

    5. Zoe
      January 18th, 2013 @ 8:43 am

      He he, Polly, this is a great book, and really fun activity, but not sure having a baby is the right way to celebrate ;-)

    6. Catherine
      January 18th, 2013 @ 8:52 am

      Wow, this is another fantastic activity. My daughter has just discovered The Mixed Up Chameleon and thinks it is hilarious :)
      Catherine recently posted..Katie’s Picture Show by James Mayhew

    7. ReadItDaddy
      January 18th, 2013 @ 9:37 am

      Fantastic post and love the activity around it too! We did a small piece on wordless books this week and how great they can be if you lack the confidence to read aloud to your children and like to let them ‘lead’ the story. This looks like a perfect addition to that list!

      Brazilian children’s books are amazing though, there’s a whole metric ton of talent down there and brazilian children’s illustrators are really wowing the world right now.
      ReadItDaddy recently posted..ReadItDaddy’s Book of the Week, week ending Friday 18th January – Our Big Blue Sofa by Tim Hopgood (Macmillan Children’s Books)

    8. Zoe
      January 18th, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

      Hi Catherine, yes Mixed Up Chameleon is fun – do track down the Emily Gravett one too, plus there’s a nice japanese one – name escapes me at the mo, but available in translation..
      Zoe recently posted..Chameleon, calm down! A picture book from Brazil

    9. Elli
      January 18th, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

      By amazing coincidence we were reading a chameleon book last night, and one that no-one has mentioned: ‘Chameleons are Cool’ by Martin Jenkins, in Walker’s fantastic ‘Read and Discover’ non-fiction series. It’s well written with some great illustrations, and nicely dispels the myth that chameleons change colour to fit in with their background.
      Elli recently posted..Pillow Fight

    10. Mrs brown books
      January 18th, 2013 @ 10:48 pm

      Ahhh, sounds like first textless book I might really like. What a rare treat and super creative play ideas. Looking forward to the swap!
      Mrs brown books recently posted..The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

    11. Zoe
      January 19th, 2013 @ 6:59 am

      Mrs Brown,

      Really, you’re not a fan of wordless books? Tell me more, please!

    12. Zoe
      January 19th, 2013 @ 8:04 am

      Elli, Martin Jenkins is a non fiction illustrator par excellence I think – I don’t know his chameleon book, I shall have to look out for it.

    13. becky
      January 19th, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

      Hi Zoe…not been by for a while but lovely to see you are all still delighting in our books art and music…adore your chameloeons!
      becky recently posted..How to save for a holiday

    14. Storied Cities
      January 20th, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

      This book looks wonderful! I really like Gravett’s book Blue Chameleon, too. There’s something about those little guys!
      Storied Cities recently posted..Baby City: Lazy Little Loafers

    15. choxbox
      January 21st, 2013 @ 2:22 am

      Wow. Amazed at your creativity every time Zoe!

      And we have one from Tulika called Colour Colour Kamini – Kamini is a quirky chameleon (and also the name of our piano teacher!) – you would love the book, I just know :)

    16. Amy Broadmoore
      January 21st, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

      Each time I look at your blog, I am amazed by how many cool activities you do with your kids. I had a period of a year or two when the kids and I were pretty creative, but you have kept that up for a long time. I am sure your kids will remember their childhood fondly. -Amy
      Amy Broadmoore recently posted..Celebrate International Book Giving Day This February 14th!

    17. gisele barcellos
      January 22nd, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

      Hiii!
      Loved the post!! I stayed a few days without internet, had a little problem, so only today I saw this post.
      This book is great, my kids love it, too. So happy that you guys had so much fun with it.
      Count me in the swap, in April!
      I´ll try to find other Cardon’s wordless books to send you!

      And anxious to see the books you have sent us!:)
      gisele barcellos recently posted..TEMA DE FÉRIAS

    18. Zoe
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 10:46 am

      Hi Gisele! HOORAY! But where are my books to you? I was hoping they would be there by now :(
      Zoe recently posted..Friendship up on high

    19. laurent cardon
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

      hello , I’m Laurent Cardon the author of this book .Gisele just sent to me your link, and i am very pleased to discover this incredible e most creative way to work with children on my book ..ehehe. And thank you very much to use all these words to talk about my wordless story.
      this book is the first one from a collection about how animals learn about their vital functions( the other books are from BIRUTA publisher, in Brasil : spider ,tadpole,firefly). i can send you pdf’s if you want to have a look,or seeing some drawings on my website.
      wordless books are my best pleasure, i did some more , like (FLOP, a historia de um peixinho japones na china). you have now my email adress to contact me ,if you want. and thanks again for all you did. nice to talk to you.

    20. Sarah
      June 21st, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

      Hi Laurent,

      I am a teacher and live in England and would love to use this book. Is it available to buy from anywhere?

      Thank you for sharing this,

      Sarah

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