A dotty delight: Spots by Helen Ward

posted in: Helen Ward | 4

spotscoverPacked with perky Dr Seuss-esque rhyme, Spots by Helen Ward (Spots in a Box in the US) is a very funny exploration of one guinea fowl’s quest for his missing spots.

His plumage is not like the others so he sends off for dotty supplies: he wants to fit in by matching his friends. Boxes of all sorts arrive, filled with spots of different colour and size, but will any of them be spot on and what he thought he needed?

This is an amazingly illustrated, stunningly produced book about how one guinea fowl’s quest to be like all the others leads him to discover that we don’t all need to be the same to get along; smiles, not colour of spots, is what brings us together.


Helen Ward’s text is a delight to read aloud, full of bouncing, lively word play. Her illustrations, detailed and finely painted, zing off uncluttered white backgrounds, giving them a real sense of impact with each page turn. Not only beautiful to look at, they are also funny! From the guinea fowl with a box on his head to his dancing as he wears silvery, sparkly spots, there’s something reminiscent of the great black and white comedy heroes like Laurel and Hardy or Buster Keaton in the bird’s characterisation.


With die cut holes, foil and sparkle, this book has been produced with great attention to detail. The pages are such that you will want to explore them with your fingers as well as eyes as you read or listen (there’s even a spread where you’ll want to get out your pencils and make your own mark – the illustration will lure you in).


Humorous and inventive, with a subtle message about diversity and finding out who you are, Spots is a prize-worthy picture book.

We decided to create our own flock of guinea fowl each with their own style of spots. I created a guinea fowl silhouette which we printed and cut out – you can do exactly the same by downloading this left-facing fowl and this right-facing one (in pdf format).


We then let ourselves loose with spotty and dotty ideas, mixing stickers with printing (corks and lids), using the hole puncher to create mini dots to glue on, ink splats, collage circles, buttons, sequins – anything went as long as it was spotty or dotty.


All in all this made for a rather grand flock – imagine how well this could work in a classroom or group setting?!


Whilst decorating our guinea fowl we listened to:

  • Ladybug Without Spots by Randy Kaplan
  • Dots and Spots by John Bristow
  • Dotty Dimples by G.H.Green/arr.Bill Cahn – for three xylophones!

  • Other activities which would go well with Spots include:

  • Dressing up with spots. I know my girls would go mad for a box full of dot stickers and permission to cover themselves in them. I think it would look pretty cool too, especially if they were wearing something monochrome. A perfect rainy day activity!
  • Using left over plastic eggs from Easter and some feathers to make your own toy guinea fowl, using this image as a starting point (just add spots!)
  • Joining the dots. There’s a dot-to-dot guinea fowl in Spots, but rather than drawing in the book, why not print off some dot-to-dot activity sheets if you and the kids enjoy joining the dots.
  • Reading Elmer by David McKee; this is another story with a similar tale about being different and yet finding a way to feel happy.

  • Do you go in more for spots or stripes? What are your favourite picture books about either?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    4 Responses

      • Zoe

        Thanks Catherine. Even though it has been out a little while in both the US and the UK it hasn’t been picked up widely it seems, and I can’t understand that. It’s such delightful book.

      • Zoe

        Thanks Marjorie. My favourite “dots” created by my girls are those from milk bottle tops!

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