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.
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.
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…
In 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, 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.
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!
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.
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:
For more extension activities which work well with this book why not try:
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.