Stína

posted in: Lani Yamamoto | 2

stinaIt’s unseasonably warm in my part of the world at the moment, and here at Playing by the book we’re all longing for crisp days, with snow and ice and sparkle and the sort of mint-fresh air which gives you the magical ability to breathe out puffs of microscopic diamonds. Dreaming of a proper winter, we’ve really enjoyed stepping into the world of Icelandic author and illustrator Lani Yamamoto with her new book, Stína.

Stína appears to live alone in a cabin (you can easily imagine she is a good friend of a slightly grown-up Pippi Longstocking). She’s inventive, clever, capable and resourceful, able to solve her every day problems with flair and charm. But as winter sets in, she becomes a prisoner in her own home: Stína really hates the cold and finds it ever harder to leave the warmth of her bed, even though she’s curious about the white landscape and children playing – apparently unperturbed by the bitter cold – she can see through her window.

This is a delightful tale of unexpected friendship and of being brave and imaginative enough to try doing something you couldn’t believe you could do. It’s about being a person not defined either by stereotypes (Stína has her own tool box but also sews and knits) or your own expectations of yourself (Stína is afraid of the cold, but doesn’t let it stifle her curiosity) and it is uplifting, empowering and heart-warming.

stina1

Stína is also simply but beautifully produced. A cloth cover and black line drawings enhanced by a restricted, primarily blue and green palette give this stylish book a homespun and yet stylish feel. The positive, can-do attitude of Stína, the way she makes friends and the story’s quiet exploration of the benefits of being open and brave make this a book it’s a real delight to share.

stina2

Whilst Stína is very much a story book, one of the reasons it appeals so much to all of us at Playing by the book is that it is also part activity book. There are instructions for finger knitting (an activity Stína teachers her new friends), and a hot chocolate recipe. Taking our lead from our new favourite heroine we set about trying to invent the yummiest hot chocolate ever experienced in the Playing by the Book Household.

hotchocolate1

We drew up a list of potential ingredients:

  • Cocoa
  • Hot Chocolate powder
  • Milk
  • Double cream
  • Squirty cream
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Chilli flakes
  • Cardamom
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Mini marshmallows
  • A vanilla pod
  • Sprinkles
  • Broken up bars of milk chocolate and dark chocolate


  • Each person got to create their own recipe using whatever they liked from the list. Rigorous taste testing was then carried out, assessing our hot chocolates, not only for general yumminess but also for interesting ingredients and unusualness.

    hotchocolate2

    Essentially this was like a “potions” making activity, but entirely edible (or drinkable) and with lots of lip and finger licking.

    hotchocolate3
    My personal favorite turned out to be a recipe using a good dash of cream and a pinch of cinnamon, though J preferred the version she created where the hot chocolate was stirred with a vanilla pod and M liked her version with a tall tower of squirty cream and lots of spices.

    hotchocolate4

    A simple but very satisfying after school winter activity! Indulgent and imaginative, I can only encourage you to set up your own hot chocolate testing laboratory!

    Whilst empirically researching hot chocolate we listened to:

  • Hot Chocolate by Recess Monkey
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! sung by Dean Martin
  • The Little Holly Tree by Ange Hardy. Just such a lovely wintry song.


  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Stína include:

  • Recycling your old duvets – homeless shelters and animal sanctuaries may accept them, if they are in reasonable condition and machine washable.
  • Planning some snow games just in case it gets cold enough to bring what everyone one in this home really wants for Christmas. Games we love include painting snow with water tinted with food colouring or even tempura paint, making giant coloured ice marbles with balloons, or stocking up on maple syrup ready for making sugar snow.
  • Trying out ARM knitting. Stína does some finger knitting, but have you ever tried using your arms instead of knitting needles?


  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • Some things are worth waiting for: Snow by Samuel Usher
  • Is it snowing yet? 2 winter reads shimmering with hoarfrost
  • Snowflakes, Seedheads and CBeebies
  • stinaotherreads

    If you’d like to receive all my posts from this blog please sign up by inputting your email address in the box below:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

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

    2 Responses

    1. We loved this book very much (enough to make it a Book of the Week) – such an original idea to mix together a fabulous original story, with some great Heath-Robinson-esque inventions and some ace ideas for activities (I can finger knit!! Hooray!)

      Awesome review as ever, and so glad you all loved this one as much as we did!
      ReaditDaddy recently posted..8 Ways to Draw an Elephant by Paola Ferrarotti (Tara Books)

    Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.