I recently used these three picture books for my Play and Pretend Storytime at the library. (Age group: 3 to 6 years.) They’re all loosely related along the themes of imagination and animals, but mostly I picked them because they had new, shiny covers and were fun to read!
Mathilda and the Orange Balloon
by Randall de Sève
I used a sheep puppet to introduce this story. I told the kids her name was Mathilda and she had brought something special to show them, but it was hidden in my bag and they would have to guess what it was. Mathilda the puppet then “whispered” clues in my ear: 1) It was round. 2) It was kind of big, but not heavy. 3) It was orange. They loved this guessing game. The special thing Mathilda wanted to show them was, of course, an orange balloon.
The story has wonderful images, although not much of a plot. Still, who can resist the charm of a cute little sheep who wants to pretend she is an orange balloon? It’s an enjoyable, light-hearted read that encourages kids to use their imaginations and dream because “anything is possible!”
Children Make Terrible Pets
by Peter Brown
I love how this book defies expectations. The picture on the cover says it all: Lucy the bear holding her sweet, lovable human pet. It’s all backwards! The kids and I also loved how the humans kept making funny squeaking noises throughout the book. I let them chime in on those parts.
A good song to go along with this is Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around:
Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, show your shoe.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, that will do!
Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark
by Deborah Diesen
The illustrations in this one are great. For some reason, the characters remind me of Fraggle Rock (ah, fond memories from my own childhood!). Anyway, what makes this a perfect read-aloud story is the bouncing rhythm, as well as the elements of rhyme and repetition. It’s what literacy educators call a predictable book; like a song with a chorus that repeats between verses, the story has a “refrain” that kids can quickly learn by heart and read out loud along with the teacher. In terms of helping children learn to read, this is a bonus feature!
My favourite part is when the fish swim to the deepest, darkest part of the ocean. The pages are almost black, but you can faintly see the fishy characters peeking through the darkness. What great work on the part of the illustrator, Dan Hanna. While many may not admit it, I think most children can relate to being afraid of the dark, which makes the book’s messages about courage and friends sticking together through thick and thin highly relevant to young readers.