My girls were away for a couple of days last week staying on their own at their grandparents and whilst I LOVED having a bit more time to myself, I couldn’t resist a special welcome home picture book party; a day spent reading, playing, eating and dancing.
On the evening they arrived home I gave them invites inspired by the artwork in The Zebra who Ran Too Fast by Jenni Desmond. Set on the African plains, this book explores rings of friendship, how they can break and make up again – a simple, kind and non-threatening exploration of a situation many children find themselves in at one time or another. Desmond’s use of muted stone and moss colours is stylish, and the illustrations feel loose and free with lots of “scribbles” and splashes.
I used Desmond’s sun motif to form the basis of the party invites; a round piece of watercolour paper with flamecolour centre, surrounded by drops of ink, blown outwards using a straw.
Whilst I made these invites, the process is definitely easy enough for kids to enjoy too (if you’re worried about kids drinking up the paint/ink accidentally you could use food colouring instead).
The following morning we started as we meant to go on. We made vanilla ice cream (without a freezer) and tested different vanilla flavoured icecreams to discover our favourite. This was inspired by Vanilla Ice Cream by Bob Graham. Graham is THE master of global perspective. He knows how to zoom in and out of scenes and stories like no other teller of tales I know, and once again he works wonders with this understated story, following a sparrow who hitches a lift on a cargo ship. Masterful picture books often include a clever “reveal” in their final pages, so I should have known something was coming. Still, I was taken by great (and joyous) surprise with the twist Graham pulls off in this colourful, delightful story endorsed by Amnesty International.
To make icecream without a freezer you need cream, sugar, icecubes and salt. The cream and sugar go in one bag – here’s the cream, sugar (and vanilla in our case):
And below you can see it having frozen; the cream-containing bag is put inside a larger bag full of ice and salt. Because salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, the icecubes melt, extracting heat from the cream as they do so. After about 5 minutes shaking the icecubes were mostly melted and the cream mixture was like soft icecream.
And here’s the final result – definitely the most luxurious vanilla icecream I’ve ever eaten!
For full details on how to make your own icecream without a freezer and in under 10 minutes, do take a look at these instructions from the National STEM centre.
I love a good book about books and storytelling and Herve Tullet has created a mischievous and inventive interactive piece of theatre exploring story characters, plot and the need for a title in his Help! We Need a Title!. A motley collection of characters are in need of a good storyline and a punchy title. They appeal directly to you the reader/listener for help. With plenty of surprises this book is lively and highly amusing.
If you like the sound of Tullet’s book do look for Do not open this book by Michaela Muntean, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre, one of the funniest books in our home – an absolute must-have for families who like a bit of interaction with their books and harbour dreams of writing stories.
Taking our lead from characters who walked in and out of the pages of Help! We Need a Title! I set up a book “stage” with the help of the patio doors, a basket of dressing up costumes and a selection of liquid chalk markers (you could also use whiteboard markers).
My girls love drawing on photos in newspapers and magazines so it was a natural extension that we then drew “on” the characters who walked into our patio-door picture-book.
And finally the contents of our picture book were included too.
After lunch, for some chill-out time, we got out good old staples: lego and the wooden railway, this time brought to life by Bruno and Titch: A Tale of a boy and His Guinea Pig by Sheena Dempsey. Bruno has always wanted a guinea pig. Titch, a guinea pig, has always wanted to be taken home from the pet shop by a Big Person. One day their paths cross – but does it work out how they’ve each always imagined it would? Deadpan guinea pig humour (yes, really!) and fabulous illustrations full of new details upon each reading add something special to this tale about friendship, imagination and looking after pets. We especially loved Bruno’s passion for invention, right down to the poster of Einstein by his bed.
Our interpretation of Bruno and Titch’s lego/railway play:
No party is complete without dancing, so following a reading of Frances Dean who Loved to Dance and Dance by Birgitta Sif we cleared the kitchen to create space for a good old boogie, aided by a prop or two.
Put your cynical adult brain to one side and remember a time when the phrase “dance like no-one’s watching” felt like something utterly joyous and liberating. Sif’s book is all about holding on to that freedom and not being afraid of a little bit of exuberance mixed in with a good shot of rhythm. It’s an encouraging story about holding on to what you care about, even when others seem to doubt you, a message I think every child deserves to hear time and time again.
For a book bursting with so much heart and happiness, the colour scheme is particularly interesting; there are lots of natural greens and browns rather than the bright sparkly jewel tones often used by illustrators to convey intense happiness. For me this speaks of the impact being connected to the outdoors can have on feeling content and happy; indeed all of the scenes showing Frances Dean dancing take place in parks and forests surrounded by space, trees and wildlife.
We reused embroidery hoops and ribbons to create waves of colour we could dance with.
Jumping for joy? Yes, that pretty much sums up our 2014 Picture Book Party 🙂 An all day festival of playing and reading – just what summer holidays are made for.
Disclosure: All the books featured in this picture book party were sent to me a free review copies by the Walker Books, as part of the Picture Book Party blog tour. See how how more families have been partying at the following stops on the tour: 26 August: www.mummymishaps.co.uk, 27 August: www.culture-baby.net, 28 August: www.theboyandme.co.uk and 29 August: www.beingamummy.co.uk