Children’s Book Week, rain and cheerios

posted in: Anne Faundez, Karin Littlewood | 7

Today is the start of the UK’s Children’s Book Week, a celebration of reading for pleasure for children of primary school age (5-11) with special events taking place all over the country in schools, libraries and bookshops. 79 years old and going from strength to strength, the theme of this year’s Children’s Book Week is “books from around the world“.

Illustration: Shirin Adl for Children's Book Week 2010

As part of Children’s Book Week a special pack has been created (primarily with teachers in mind, but available to anyone to download) including book lists relating to this year’s theme for different age groups, for example:

For younger children:

  • Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant (Gecko Press): join adventurous bear Mouk on a trip around the world
  • A Balloon for Grandad by Nigel Gray and Jane Ray (Orchard Books): a journey over mountains, seas, deserts and rivers
  • Sweets by Sylvia van Ommen (WingedChariot): the Netherlands
  • Starlight by Gillian Lobel and Nic Wickens (Tamarind): a journey to the North Pole and under the sea

  • For emerging readers

  • Fruits by Valerie Bloom (Macmillan Children’s Books): Carribean counting poem
  • Frog and a Very Special Day by Max Velthuijs (Andersen Press): the Netherlands
  • When We Lived in Uncle’s Hat by Jutta Bauer (WingedChariot): Germany (Here’s my recent review in case you missed it!)
  • Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Brown (Walker Books): set in Kenya
  • Big City Butter-Finger by Bob Cattell and John Agard (Frances Lincoln): a Caribbean boy comes to London

  • Poetry from around the world:

  • We are Britain by Benjamin Zephaniah (Frances Lincoln): celebrating the diversity of British society
  • My Village: Rhymes from around the world collected by Danielle Wright (Frances Lincoln): collection of international nursery rhymes
  • Skip Across the Ocean collected by Floella Benjamin (Frances Lincoln): rhymes and lullabies from 23 countries
  • Photo: Noel Feans

    For 5-7 year olds one of the featured books is The Day The Rains Fell by Anne Faundez and Karin Littlewood. I loved Littlewood’s illustrations in The Colour Of Home (included in my round up of books for National Refugee Week), so I was keen to get hold of The Day The Rains Fell to read with M and J.

    The Day The Rains Fell is an African creation story. Lindiwe and her daughter Thandi descend from the sky to visit Lindiwe’s creations – animals and landscapes around the word – to check that all is well with them. Although pleased with what they see, they realise that something is missing: life-giving rain.

    Not only does Lindiwe the ensure that the rains do fall, she also creates pools from clay pots for water to collect in.

    Lindiwe spoke to the animals.
    “From this day on, when it rains
    my pots will fill with water and
    you will enver go thirsty again.”

    Whilst Lindiwe was creating pots, Thandi used some clay to create beads. To thank Thandi and her mother for the rains, the animals use their plumage, skin and scales to colour the beads (“…Flamingo used her feather to paint some beads pink. Zebra rolled on his beads to turn them black and white…”) creating a glorious, rainbow necklace for Thandi to wear.

    Both girls and I enjoyed the story, especially over a very wet weekend as we’ve just had, where it has been good to be reminded how important rain is! Although it does not detract from the storytelling in the book I have not been able to establish whether this creation myth is one actually based on an African tradition, or simply a creation (no pun intended) from the head of the author.

    Nathalie Mvondo, who writes at the wonderful Multiculturalism Rocks! helped me out with some background; there are indeed several earth creator goddesses in various African traditions (such as Ala, an Ibo/Nigerian goddess incarnating Mother Earth or Asase Ya an Ashanti creator goddess), but none that she or I could immediately identify as Lindiwe or Thandi.

    Given that at the end of the book there is a double page spread contextualising the manufacture and importance of pots and beads in Africa, a note on the cultural/religious context of this story would have fitted in very naturally. Perhaps its absence is explained if this version of the creation myth is not one that is actually documented in Africa.

    Leaving aside issues that are perhaps mainly the interest of cultural scholars, what really stands out in this book is the visual imagery. Vivid, bold, but also tender, Karin Littlewood’s watercolour illustrations are sumptuous. Her characterizations of African animals is spot on – they are beautiful, noble and yet full of the fun that is so appealing to young children. If you’d like to see for yourself what I mean, several illustrations from The Day The Rains Fell can be seen here on Karin Littlewood’s website.

    As well as being a thoughtful, interesting story, with illustrations full of brilliance and colour, The Day The Rains Fell offers so many possibilities for further play. Our immediate response was to make some colourful bracelets, inspired by the lovely necklaces in the book.

    First we used food colouring to paint handfuls of cheerios.

    In the process we ate quite a few cheerios and spread food colouring all over the place.

    Once the food colouring had dried (we left our “beads” to dry over night), we threaded them on to long pipecleaners.

    We filled up our pipecleaners with our colourful beads and then twisted the ends together to complete our bracelets. Easy peasy, surprisingly beautiful and rather satisfying to make.

    The Day The Rains Fell: ** (2 stars)

    Music to enjoy alongside this lovely book could include:

  • When It Rains by Lisa Loeb
  • Singin’ in the Rain, sung by Gene Kelly
  • Beads from Mother Goose Time presents Going on a Safari
  • Putumayo’s African Playground album

  • Further ideas for games and creativity inspired by The Day The Rains Fell include:

  • Making our own desert – a tray full of sand, our plastic animals, a few playmobil trees and a sunken saucer of water, a couple of rocks from the garden and maybe a bone or two left over from the Sunday Roast!
  • Making pots with plasticine, fimo/sculpey or even real clay
  • Playing “raining” with lots of containers and a sink full of water – especially using a bottle or two punched all over with holes to create multiple showers.

  • A nonfiction book which would pair up brilliantly with The Day The Rains Fell is Animal Colors: A Rainbow Of Colors from Animals Around the World, which I first discovered thanks to this review at Wild About Nature. Another book I can’t wait to read Karin Littlewood’s newest book, which came out last month – Immi. It looks like a winner!

    7 Responses

    1. HackneyHackette

      Those bracelets look brilliant, what a great idea to use Cheerios. My son calls them tiny bagels and is slightly obsessed with them so we’ll definately be doing that, I’ll need to get more food colouring though as we only have red and blue.

      On another note I followed your link to Children’s Book Week and had an explore. I was amused to see that Jake and Dinos Chapman are doing an exhibition for children. Considering what their normal stuff is like I dread to think what this will be – but I think we’ll go anyway!

    2. Zoe

      Hi Carrie,
      Be brave, go on! It’s not that bad at all – in fact I’d say it is less messy than normal painting. And the threading on pipecleaners makes it much easier for small hands and fingers than threading onto string which is so much floppier.

      Hi Hackney Hackette,
      We only used 3 colours – red blue and yellow, and to be honest I don’t think the yellow really showed up that well, so just red and blue would work fine probably.
      Yes, the Chapman bros. exhibition should be interesting – if you do get to see it please let me know what you thought!

    3. maggy, red ted art

      Oh Zoe, you do find us some marvelous books to look at – always something new and fabulous!! Love your book reviews!! 🙂

      And of course… LOVE the bangles. And the fact that you can indeed eat them!! Much better than the “original” sweetie chain thingies…

      maggy x

    4. Zoe

      Hi Maggy, yes, you can indeed munch on the bracelets -always an added benefit of any crafty project isn’t it when it can double as a snack!

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