Peapod’s Picks – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!

Peapod’s Picks is a regular(ish) post featuring books Peapod has been enjoying – from favourite board books, noisy books and busy books to bedtime stories and books with props from his story baskets.

I’ve written about Peapod’s Spot story basket before. This is another basket that he’s really loved and it’s another classic…

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Bear Hunt turned 30 last year and after all that time and now a channel 4 animation too, I can’t imagine there’s many people who are unfamiliar with it. It’s truly a children’s bookshelf staple, both in homes and schools.

However, one should never assume, so just in case –

A family set out to find a bear, encountering all manner of terrain and weather along the way. They joyfully swish, splash and squelch through it until they find a cage and…a bear!! A hasty retreat ensues!

This is an absolute joy of a book – rhythmic, onamatopaeic and repetitive, it’s a gift for getting children joining in.

The ending is clever in this respect too as it places its demands on your memory and speed and you can’t help but finish it feeling as full of laughter, exhilarated and ready to collapse as if you’d really been out in the elements bear-hunting!

The hunt itself has both a freedom and a nostalgia about it – family walks and days out in nature. And then there’s Helen Oxenbury’s delightful illustrations which capture this so perfectly. They are so expressive and the use of both colour and black and white imagery is really effective.

It’s a book which demands action, performance and movement! It was one of the first story sessions I did when I went back to work after Mat Leave last summer and I made it an interactive one with movement and fabric, sensory bottles and bags, actions and lots of joining in.

So with these in mind, it seemed like a good choice for one of Peapod’s story baskets. I didn’t do it straight away as he still seemed a bit little for it, and I’m glad I waited as in the last couple of months he’s got loads from this (not least the phrase “uh-oh”!) and loves telling the story with it.

For the long and wavy, swishy-swashy grass, we have paper pom poms…

The deep, cold river is some splishy, splashy metallic ribbons. There’s also a blue sensory bottle.

I have to be honest, there’s no mud! When I did it at storytime, we used bags of mud to squelch but I can’t leave those in his basket long-term, so it’s actions only fir this bit unless anyone has a better idea?!

For the big, dark forest, we’ve got some pinecones to feel and roll and tap together etc.

We use both a sensory bottle and sparkly white fabric for our swirling, whirling snowstorm.

And the narrow, gloomy cave is of course a large piece of black fabric, perfect for hiding under, peeking out of…

…and finding a Bear inside of course!

Peapod loves this – from looking independently at the book to listening to us read it to acting it out with us and playing with all the tactile elements, especially ‘splashing’ through the river and finding bear in the cave. It’s a firm favourite and one I can’t wait to read and play o ce he’s old enough to really join in with the words too!

It’s a classic for a reason – such great fun!

Wiggly Wiggly: Playtime Rhymes

I feel like I haven’t reviewed any books for littlies for AGES! Been so busy catching up with the stack of MG/YA/Adult books I’d let build up that I just never got round to it. But now that I can stick my head above the surface of the others, it’s time to get caught up on the board/picture book side of things too! (And really, these are my favourite books to read and review!)

So, today it’s the turn of ‘Wiggly, Wiggly’, kindly sent to me for review by Walker.

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Really, all I need to say about this book is that it’s written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell (both former Children’s Laureates and both blooming brilliant). So, there – that should be all you need. But that’s not really much of a review is it, so I’ll start by reviewing another book (bear with me!)

The rhymes inside ‘Wiggly Wiggly’ are taken from the larger collection ‘A Great Big Cuddle’.9781406373462

The main difference being Wiggly Wiggly is a book for the youngest readers. It’s a board book which means sturdy (edible) pages and a good strong cover (best tested by throwing on the floor and bashing up and down a lot) and it features the very best rhymes for joining in with from A Great Big Cuddle. But, for toddlers upwards I’d recommend getting A Great Big Cuddle instead: it’s paperback and paper pages, so it’s not as durable for tiny hands and exuberant, excitable readers, but perfect to share together as they get a bit bigger and with LOTS more rhymes to enjoy!

Regardless of whether you go for Wiggly Wiggly or A Great Big Cuddle, all of the rhymes are firmly rooted in children’s own experiences and interests: things that they can relate to (food, greetings, cuddles and puddles) and/or that will spark their imagination (animals, toys and nonsense). And, in both, Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring them all to life superbly: full of expression, colour and movement – they leap off the page, they make you pause and look, they encourage talk, movement and laughter.

The rhymes are bursting at the seams with onomatopoeia, alliteration and rhyme – perfect for experimenting with making silly noises, using nonsense words, adding sound effects or changing your expression/volume/tempo etc.

Likewise, they are made for joining in with: finger rhymes, action rhymes, moving around or role-playing rhymes – they are impossible to read without getting moving in one way or another! For the very, very youngest it’s easy to see how you can move them or move with them or use your touch and movement to make them interactive, so there’s really no excuse not to get wiggling!

But the thing I liked absolutely best of all about this as a book of action rhymes is that there’s no instructions: no diagrams or drawings showing how to move your feet/hands/body so it’s yours to take wherever you and your little one want to take it! They are (as the sub-title ‘Playtime Rhymes’ suggests) perfect for playing with and making your own.

I can’t wait to start reading this with my little one (currently still on the inside so quite hard to wiggle with effectively!) and will be ‘upgrading’ to ‘A Great Big Cuddle’ as he gets older.