The Flying Bath and developing a bathroom library

posted in: David Roberts, Julia Donaldson | 8

With pretty much all clock-watching abandoned for the summer holidays we’ve been sneaking reading into unusual places. First we boosted breakfast feasting on books with our toast rack displays, and since then we’ve been squeezing in extra reading at the other end of the day – at bathtime. When the kids were little we were big fans of the plastic books you could immerse in water but now we tend to have a stack of comics and magazines (for all ages) on hand in a magazine rack.

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It doesn’t matter so much if comics and magazines get wet – a short spell on the washing line or a radiator fixes that, and if they end up really too wrinkled and dog-eared for reading, they’re ripe for recycling as collage material.

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Of course, another way to enjoy reading at bath time is simply to sit on the floor and read a favourite book to your kids whilst they can’t escape from the tub, and what better than a bath-time themed book for such an occasion (Scottish Book Trust has some great recommendations here)?

When news of a flying bathtub which saves animals in distress reached our ears we had to check it out…

flyingbathIn The Flying Bath by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by David Roberts there’s a hotline to a team of firefighting, thirst-quenching, mud-washing pals who use their bath to fly the world over, saving animals who have come unstuck thanks to a lack of water.

As you’d expect from Donaldson, the superhero antics are told in rhyme, with a refrain which kids will quickly sing-song along with. Roberts’ illustrations are detailed and have an older feel to them especially when compared to some of the other illustrators Donaldson is often paired with. I personally love his eye for pattern and texture. His architectural drawings are beautiful in their clarity and precision, and Roberts has had enormous fun with the choice of telephones used to dial 999.

Despite all this, I have to admit that this isn’t a book I’ve fallen madly in love with. I found Donaldson’s text requires a little practise to read out loud (a surprise, given that normally her poems-in-picture-book form trip off the tongue). This makes me too aware of the technicalities of the rhyme to simple enjoy the ride with the rescuing animals. And the text is more a series of flights of fancy rather than an extended narrative with a traditional story arc.

HOWEVER.

However, however, both my kids thought this book rather delightful and funny, and had a lot of fun spotting nods to other books Roberts has illustrated. Indeed my kids enjoyed this book so much they immediately came up with an idea for ‘playing by the book’ by creating a bathtime mosaic set, mirroring the tiled wings of the flying bath.

We grabbed a bunch of foam sheets (such as these) and cut them up into squares before letting them loose in the bath.

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The kids loved having the tiles floating all around them – it was like “bathing in a rainbow” said J! Both kids enjoyed making different tiled patterns around the bath, exploring repetition – a visual rhythm, if you like!

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Whilst it turns out this book was great for maths play, it’s also a book that could be used in science classes for kids in nursery and the first years of school, gently exploring drought, forest fires, and the need for water for life (both for animals and plants). You could team it up with some research about water charities, for example Waterbridge Outreach.

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I’m a supporter of this particular charity because it aims “to give children in developing communities hope for the future through nourishing their minds and bodies with books and water.”

Yep, water and books. A good combo, no?

Waterbridge Outreach donates books in English and local languages and funds clean water and sanitation projects in communities and villages in the developing world. You can read about some of their projects here.

So it turns out that even if a book isn’t the best thing I’ve read all year, there’s still a lot to be said for it. It can inspire play, it can make children laugh, it can start conversations, it can even lead to a good deed or two!

If you want music to go along with reading The Flying Bath you could try these songs:

  • Bartleby Finkleton Will Not Take a Bath by Steve Weeks
  • Bath Time by The Sing Sings
  • Bathtime Blues by Uncle Moondog (listen for free on Myspace)

  • For more extension activities which work well with this book why not try:

  • 15 Fun Bath Time Activities That Don’t Include a Rubber Duck! (from Babble.com)
  • Water Math & Science Activities for Kids Ages 3-6 from The Measured Mom
  • Taking books and bath times one step further with this bath tub made out of books!

  • Are you a bath or a shower person? Do you have a bathroom library?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Flying Bath from the publishers.

    8 Responses

    1. Fun ideas! I used to read to the girls all the time when they were little ones in the tub but I haven’t thought to leave reading materials for them now that they are on their own. Thank you for the reminder!
      Stacey recently posted..August Break: Selfie (plus family)

    2. The foam squares in the bath looks like so much fun. We were big fans of plastic bath books when my kids were younger. My daughter had a fear of water from about 18mths old and that meant baths were not a fun experience for any of us. I found some lovely plastic bath books and they certainly helped encourage her back into the bath. I now always try to read to my kids while they are in the bath.
      Melissa @ Honey Bee Books recently posted..A Fairy Craft Birthday Party

    3. Thanks Stacey – let me know how you get on if you do introduce a reading pile into the bathroom!

      Hi Melissa, lovely to hear that books made it feel a little bit safer for your daughter.
      Zoe recently posted..The Flying Bath and developing a bathroom library

    4. We read The Flying Bath last week too. It isn’t quite right, is it? We were quite disappointed. We went back to older books and soon forgot about it though. 🙂
      Lyn recently posted..C.S. Lewis on writing for children

    5. Hi Lyn, sadly I have to agree with you. We read it a lot now in the hope that it would grow on us, but the text doesn’t quite work for us. The illustrations, however, are delightful.
      Zoe recently posted..The Flying Bath and developing a bathroom library

    6. We normally have showers but if we’re organised tonight the girls can jump in the bath and try out the bath paint I made at mothers’ group the other day. Like your foam squares idea. The mosaics look great.

    7. SIMONE FRASER

      I’m a shower person, definitely, although baths do often posses greater aesthetic appeal. My books go nowhere near the shower and bathroom area. My picture-book and art-books are my favourite ‘worldly possessions’ and too beloved to risk damaging!

    8. I love your mosaic idea with the craft foam. My daughter has decided she likes to spend a long time in a ‘bubble bath’ so that would be a fun activity.

      Melissa, we had the same problem at about 18 months. The Big Red Bath by Julia Jarman helped us.
      Catherine recently posted..Book bloggers recommend starting school picture books (2)

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