The ability of stories to transport us

posted in: Karin Littlewood | 10

A few posts ago I mentioned British illustrator Karin Littlewood‘s latest book – Immi, as something I was looking forward to reading. Having typed those original words I was overcome by temptation and bought us a copy on spec – we’ve loved all of the books we’ve seen where Karin Littlewood has been the illustrator and that was good enough reason to take a punt on Immi. And Wow! wow! wow! Immi has immediately become my favourite new book! Here are some of the reasons why….

Photo: Margrét G.J.

Immi, an Inuit girl, catches fish through a hole in the ice. One day instead of fish she finds a small trinket, a little wooden bird, on the end of her line and is amazed by its beauty and colours.

As each day passes she catches another wonderful curio and so she starts to use them to decorate her igloo. Her home becomes a thing of wonder and animals from far and wide come to visit.

They always stayed for supper,
and they filled those long dark nights
with stories of faraway lands.

And Immi’s world seemed a brighter
and more colourful place.

In the closing pages of this stunning book the mystery of the source of the treasures adorning Immi’s igloo is revealed and the generosity is reciprocated, leaving readers feeling both in awe at the beauty and diversity of the world, at the same time feeling touched by the possibility of being able to reach out across oceans and cultures to share something special.

This respect of and faith in humanity is a theme close to my heart, and then add to that the thread in this book of how sharing stories can move us and enrich our lives… well you can see why I love the tale told in Immi.

If the beliefs at the heart of this book weren’t enough to persuade me to encourage you to find this lovely book to read with your own children, then the illustrations would clinch it.

The watercolour and pencil illustrations sing out throughout this book. The brightly coloured treasures Immi catches glow like jewels against the icy, dark backdrop of a polar landscape, and yet their vibrancy never swamps the sense of peacefulness that the landscapes and night skies exude.

Immi reminds me of two other books I love – The Red Book by Barbara Lehman, (which I reviewed here) and Polly and the North Star by Polly Horner (which I reviewed here), with a similar theme to the former and the illustrative fireworks like the latter.

Having been transported ourselves by this beautiful book we set to making our own igloo to play with and create stories around. We filled icecube trays with water and popped little trinkets, beads, buttons, shells – all sorts of little treasures – into the water so they would freeze into they ice. Once our cubes were frozen we used them to build an igloo (gloves were essential 🙂 ).

The igloo took a couple of days to build – a row or two of “bricks”, sprinkled with water and then replaced in the freezer each time. The slight melting of the icecubes, and the sprinkling of extra water meant that when the rows froze they stuck together creating a solid structure. Whilst the igloo was being built we used scrunched up silver foil to help support the icecubes but once the capstones were in place and frozen solid we simply pulled out the foil, leaving our igloo ready to play with.

The girls found a playmobil girl to be Immi and plenty of arctic animals to come and visit.

Spare icecubes were used to build around the igloo…

… and lots of fun was had discovering the various treasures decorating the igloo and captured in the other blocks of ice.

Then the game changed and the girls wanted to melt the icecubes to get at the trinkets.

I filled bowls with hand-warm water and lots of fun was had melting the ice…

…and fishing up the treasure!

Immi: *** (3 stars)

Music we enjoyed alongside our igloo and ice play included:

  • The Greenland Fisheries by Pete Seeger
  • Dans notre igloo by Philippe l’homme
  • Gone Fishing sung by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong

  • Other activities you could get up to having read Immi include:

  • Make your own fishing game like this one from Fun with Mama, this one from Bread and Butter, or even this one we made on Playing by the book.
  • A seashell necklace like this one from Chasing Cheerios
  • Making your own fishing rod like this from Imagine Childhood

  • I now want to return to Paper Tigers’ April edition all about Canadian Aboriginal Children’s Literature to look for more beautiful stories to read aside this one. But what about you? What’s the most recent book you’ve discovered and fallen in love with?

    10 Responses

    1. Zoe

      Thanks Carrie! Yes, the gloves were a real necessity, and to slow down the melting of the ice we turned off the heating whilst we were playing so everything was indeed cool! I had visions of the girls playing with it in the garden in the snow or at least with a good frost so that the whole world could be white (and even colder!)

    2. sandhya

      Oh, this is such a “try-able” idea!

      And I so agree with the idea of reaching out across cultures to share something special.

    3. Judi

      I so need to make our books come alive! You do such a great job at that with your kids. I often just let them do the creating but I think initiating a little more would be beneficial for all of us! Thanks for inspiring me!

    4. Zoe @ Playing by the book

      Hi Judi,
      It’s in a really interesting point you make about how much you leave it to the kids to initiate the play, and how much one as the adult initiates things. I have to say it’s quite often me initiating these more structured projects that I write up here on the blog – but I still feel that that is honest to the kids’ play – they’ll take an idea I present to them and turn it into their own project – so with this one I hadn’t thought at all about melting the icecubes and igloo, and since the ice all melted they’ve been playing with the little treasures all over the house – the trinkets have come to take on special meaning, and again I didn’t anticipate that.

    5. Kristine

      You must have a massive freezer for this one!This book looks beautiful. I love the theme of objects carrying memories and special significance in our consumeristic society. I also liked what you wrote in your last comment about how the play takes on a life of it’s own.

    6. Zoe @ Playing by the book

      Hi Kristine,
      Lovely to see you back in the blogosphere! We haven’t a massive freezer but I did have to empty out an entire drawer and then the depth of the drawer was what determined the size of the igloo. I’d love to have a much bigger freezer so i could use it to preserve more food…

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