Books Family Kitty Reading what we're reading

Penguin {what we’re reading}

05/11/2013

A lot of the books which I write about are loved because of their storytelling; the way the words roll around in my mouth, and that very pedantic pleasure of seeing a word used in its perfect context, and with perfect rhythm for the rhyme. And I love good illustration in the girls’ books and we can spend ages looking at a really detailed picture, spotting all the extra clues or parental in jokes left by the illustrator.

Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

Penguin is none of those. There’s no patter, no tongue twisting complexity of language, and the artwork is, not quite minimalist, but certainly clutter free. And yet I think it’s wonderful. And I think there is a very good reason for including it in our library.

Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

You’ll have to bear with me a little bit on the explanation front here, but you know the feeling when you go to see a film of a most beloved book and you come out feeling faintly cheated; the actor just hasn’t played the character the way you heard her in your head, or the pressures of Hollywood have cut what you thought we’re the most important parts of then story for the sake of pacing, and turned it all on its head in the process. Take The Dark is Rising as an example; I love it as a book series but the film, while a fun film, rather trashed the book in the process, and it’s not the only culprit.

The disappointment comes about because your mind has taken those words and built a virtual reality out of them, filling in any plot gaps, and turning little black letters on a white page into a whole world; giving flesh to the typeface skeleton.

I think that’s an acquired skill, built up over years of reading for pleasure. A skill which puts the pleasure into reading and i suspect is the reason why I get rather disappointed when a book finishes and the driving force behind why I immediately start reading round on the subject, especially where it’s historical fiction and I want to know what really happened and what is artistic license.

Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

I want the girls to have that skill, a well stretched imagination, and a longing to read more, and this is where it starts, with a primer for imagination. Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

The story itself is simple, Ben gets a penguin as a present. Ben talks to Penguin. Penguin says nothing.

Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

Whatever Ben tries, Penguin says nothing,

Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

until at last on the final page, Penguin says everything. And you could rattle through it, a nice quick read before bedtime, but I’m trying to consciously linger, to have Kitty wonder why and how Ben happened to have a rocket to send Penguin to outer space,

Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

or why there was a passing Lion, and to enjoy the simply drawn but perfectly captured stages of a toddler tantrum in progress.

Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

Kitty thinks it’s hilarious, especially the page where the Lion eats Ben for being too noisy, and because the written part is short and simple she’s got it memorised. As I was taking these pictures she sat turning the pages telling me the story all the way through the book and giggling at herself, and I love that this is a book which she can pull out and read for herself if she wants; sometimes I just wish I could see what her imagination is making of all of it.

Space for the Butterflies - what we're reading - Penguin - Polly Dunbar

Maggie Stone

Do go and say hi to Lucy and Kelle and see what they’ve been reading, and if you’ve seen something you think we all ought to be reading, please let us know!



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  • Claire @ Great British Family 05/11/2013 at 9:04 am

    Beautiful post. I completly agree on the whole book to film thing and have been dissapointed too on a number of occassions. I love reading and you made me remember why. I’ve barely picked up a book (except children’s books of course) in the last six months since my baby was born.

    This looks like a great children’s book and like you I really hope that by reading with my daughter from such a young age, she will devlope a strong love of reading like me and her daddy (he reads on average two books a week) and a great imagination too.

    • Carie 05/11/2013 at 9:44 am

      I know I’ve read a lot fewer books since the girls were born, I think I’ve replaced reading for me with reading to them – and possibly transferred the book buying habit across as well!

      • Claire @ Great British Family 05/11/2013 at 1:04 pm

        I have transferred my love of cookbooks to children’s books. I always used to go straight to the cookbook section, now it the children’s. I’ve just bought 2 more this morning! How could I resist Room on the broom for £1 & a beautiful illustrated one called moon rabbit that I’d not seen before for 20p! both in perfect condition.

        • Carie 05/11/2013 at 1:25 pm

          Room on the Broom for £1 is brilliant! Lucky you!

  • Lucy 06/11/2013 at 8:32 pm

    I love these sorts of books, that are really simple but leave you lots of time to think and discuss. It looks brilliant, and definitely one I need to add to my list. x

    • Carie 06/11/2013 at 8:46 pm

      It is a lovely book, and the tantrum picture is just so true to toddlers you just know that Polly Dunbar has had first hand experience!

  • Becca 06/11/2013 at 10:12 pm

    Oh wow! This is actually B’s favourite book. I absolutely love it because it just reminds me of his relationship with our dog – he’s all full of frustration that she won’t listen or do what he tells her, but she’s super protective of him and would definitely bite a lion on the nose if necessary.

    I adore this kind of book because of how quickly they memorise it and begin using the sayings in other situations. I think it’s a great way for them to learn really abstract concepts like love and friendship because they’re so beautifully demonstrated.

    • Carie 06/11/2013 at 10:35 pm

      Well he has excellent taste! I can so see it mirroring his relationship with your dog!!