Wake up! It’s going to be a beautiful, busy day…

posted in: Katie Cleminson | 16

One of my first posts back at the start of the year was all about the book I had chosen for M’s 5th birthday – Katie Cleminson’s Box of Tricks. It was a book everyone in our family fell in love with and it continues to be read most weeks, especially now by J at bed time.

Photo: Ron Almog

When Katie’s latest book, Wake Up!, arrived unannounced in the post (sent by her publisher) I couldn’t bring myself to open it immediately. I didn’t want to be disappointed, I didn’t want to feel sad the way you might when a new friend turns out to be not quite right for you after all. But of course I couldn’t leave Wake Up! sitting on the shelf for long – I was itching to read it to the girls! And so, not without some trepidation, I sat down with the two of them and we began to read…

A word perfect story in rhyme of one boy’s day from the time he wakes up to the time he falls asleep to dream, we finished this book and immediately read it several times more in quick succession. In once sense the day is very ordinary – a boy wakes, dresses, goes to school, plays, comes home for dinner, has a bath, reads a story and goes to bed. But this day is so full of joy, brimming with delight in simple things that you’ll find yourself wishing you could step into the story and share the day’s happiness. The bouncing rhythm and natural rhyme of the text make it a treat to read out loud; I couldn’t help reading Wake Up! to the girls with a spring in my step, mirroring how the boy seems to experience his day.

So the words are a treat, but what about the pictures? Well, the illustrations are gorgeous, fluid and bold, full of joy and gentleness. The boy’s family consists of an elephant, hippo, lion, lemur and cat, his teacher a kindly bear, and his classmates a panoply of furry and feathered friends alongside other children. With apparently just a few lines and minimal use of colour Katie Cleminson manages to capture gestures and expressions so precisely there’s a real magic to her illustrations. On the one had they appear to be simple and yet they capture feelings and atmospheres profoundly – looking at her images reminds me of reading poetry – you wonder how someone can say so much with so few words – or in the case of Cleminson, with so few lines.

So yes, we fell in love with this book too! The uncomplicated language, along with its musicality has made it a book that M, as an early reader, has also read out loud. The fact that it appeals to both my 2 year old and my 5 year old, albeit in different ways, only adds to the knowledge that had I first come across this book in the library I would definitely have ended up buying our own copy! I also think it would be a fantastic gift for anyone just starting nursery or reception (kindergarten) – whilst the book is not primarily about going to school, school is presented as something great fun, without anxiety or concern, and would provide a reassuringly positive image to any new pupil.

Katie Cleminson likes to draw using ink and pipettes and so when we finally managed to put Wake Up! back on the shelf we thought we’d try exactly that…

Both girls loved the vibrancy of the colours (we used the inks undiluted, though in future I might dilute them to make them last longer). Initially M and J were frustrated by the lack of control they felt they had using the pipettes as pens but the more they explored what they could do with the ink and pipettes, the more they enjoyed it.

We used two types of pipettes – ones like these and others like these, and I would definitely recommend the latter, even though they are considerably more expensive – M and J enjoyed using them much more, as they were easier to hold and control the flow of ink, and for me they were much easier to clean! We used both watercolour paper and thin card. The latter was nice to draw on as it was so smooth, but the watercolour paper worked particularly well given that quite often a lot of ink was squirted on to the paper and the watercolour paper withstood the wetness better than the card.

This picture (above) by M, actually reminded me of Joan Miro’s work rather than Katie Cleminson’s but either way it’s gone straight on our wall. Once the ink was dry J used a thin watercolour wash to paint over her pipette drawings and they also turned out rather beautifully!

Wake Up!: *** (3 stars)

Songs we’ve loved singing and dancing to in the wake of this warm and wonderful book include:

  • Wake Up Boo! by The Book Radleys (“Wake up its a beautiful morning”)
  • When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along in the version by Louis Armstrong (“Wake up, wake up, you sleepy head”)
  • Wake up Little Susie by The Everly Brothers
  • Wake me up before you go go by Wham!

  • And then specifically for the kids (though I’m sure you’ll end up dancing to them too):

  • Wake Up by The Verve Pipe
  • Wake up by Steve Lee
  • and we’ll be playing this when Christmas comes round again – Wake up by The Hipwaders

  • Also inspired by Katie Cleminson’s gorgeous book we’re hoping to try making our own daily routines book – this will be a great activity for M to practise her writing and both girls to illustrate. I like these accordion books made by Maya and her mum, The Artful Parent. With the summer holidays coming up it might be a book of our ideal day rather than our regular routines, as they’re bound to go out the window quite quickly! For the grown ups out there, the Daily Routines blog makes interesting reading – all about the routines of various famous people, including writers such as Franz Kafka and C.S. Lewis amongst others.

    Now do make sure you’re back here next week – Playing by the book turns 1 and we’ll be celebrating in style, not least with an interview (our first author/illustrator interview!) with Katie Cleminson herself.

    UPDATE: You can read my interview with Katie here.

    Disclosure: I received my copy of Wake Up! gratis from the publisher. This review, however, reflects my own and honest opinion.

    Wake Up! will be published in the US in February 2011 under the title Cuddle Up, Goodnight.

    16 Responses

    1. sandhya

      Aren’t the words Wake up! so cheerful sounding themselves. An addition to your wake-up songs: “O what a beautiful morning!” from the movie Oklahoma. We love it here.
      Seems like a wonderful book, and will look out for it.

    2. Bernadette

      I also absolutely love your girls’ artwork!! I taught an art class one year that was based on illustrations in children’s books. This book/illustrator would be a good addition.

    3. Ian @ Tidy Books

      We love this book too. A really nice book to finish a day off, well, in our bed time reading it has led to my son asking for another of our short versed favourites, Daddy Hug. Both incite lots of snuggling, which is great.

    4. maggy, red ted art

      Wow. Yet another wonderfull project in the Playing By The book household! I always want to buy all the books you review. Red Ted loves painting more than anything else (more than glueing and playdough!), so i think we will give this a go.

      Thank you

      PS is it a stretch, but could we use this in Summer Get Crafty? After all Summer is about Beautiful days?….

    5. Janelle

      So glad her newest book is just as good. We also love Box of Tricks (or Magic Box as it is titled in the US). Your pipette art is unusual and I bet great practice for fine motor skills.

    6. Zoe

      Hello all,
      Thanks for your lovely comments – sorry I didn’t get to reply yesterday, but it was the last day of the school year and things were hectic!

      Bernadette – looking forward to brainstorming our book/illustrations idea 🙂

      Ian – I don’t know , but I shall be looking out for it now!

      Maggy – I’ve been thinking about buying shares in Amazon and the Book Depository – what do you think?! 🙂

      Janelle – yep, the most interesting thing was seeing them gain control over the squeezy bit of the pipette – realising they could suck up or release ink at various rates.

    7. Zoe

      Thanks Katie! Yes, M’s is already on the wall as we had a frame that was the right size – but I do need to get one for J’s artwork now 🙂

    8. BookMoot

      I love your pipette art project! Drawing the ink and controlling the flow is do good for fine motor skill development not to mention the artistic aspects! Lovely!

    9. Zoe

      Hi Steph,

      So glad you were able to reserve the book through your library system – it’s still pretty new, so if it’s already available that’s fantastic.

      Hi BookMoot,
      Yes, I hadn’t realised about the fine motor skills that would be needed, but the kids certainly did have to try a few different things before they could get the pipette to do what they wanted in terms of ink flow.

    10. amanda hartman

      I love all the directions and connections you made! Wonderful post- I am going to read more! I am also going to repost this for other readers to find and enjoy!

    11. Isil

      Have just read this. Like Maggy, I want to buy all the books you review 🙂 Will look up the library now.

    12. Zoe

      Aah Isil, hope the library has a copy. I really love everything Katie Cleminson has written and illustrated.

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