It’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.
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.
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.
We drew up a list of potential ingredients:
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.
Essentially this was like a “potions” making activity, but entirely edible (or drinkable) and with lots of lip and finger licking.
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.
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:
Other activities which might work well alongside reading Stína include:
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Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.