Each week I review books we’ve read with Squirm. Find other reviews here
Dancing with Grandma by Rosemary Mastnak
(AWW 2013 Squirm Challenge: Book 17)
This is a gorgeous book about a young girl (Anya) who is staying at her grandmother’s place when she has an idea. She gets all dressed up, then has a wonderful, enthusiastic dance with her grandmother. So enthusiastic, that even the dog and the cat join in. There aren’t a huge amount of words in this book, instead the story is really carried by the beautiful, vibrant illustrations. What we do get in the words, though, is some fabulous use of verbs (whisk and whirl, twist and twirl) and almost the feeling of an off page dance teacher calling out the actions for the dancers to follow. I’m a sucker for dance books, and this one did a great job of it, invoking a number of dance homages throughout. I also love that the grandmother is portrayed as an active person.
This book would be the perfect introduction to a dance session. You could read it and then try to copy the dancing that Anya and her grandmother do. Or you could use the words to create your own dances. When you get exhausted and fall to the ground (like Anya and her grandmother) you could use You Tube to watch dancing – maybe even find some of the dances that are here in the book (look at highland and Irish dancing, to start with, as well as The Nutcracker and contemporary dance.) You could also use this book to talk about things that Grandmothers and grandchildren do together.
Button Boy by Rebecca Young and Sue deGennaro
(AWW 2013 Squirm Challenge: Book 16)
Banjo loves collecting buttons. He looks for them and finds them everywhere, even when the other kids are all busy playing with each other. Grandma Woolly helps him out with his button collection by sewing the buttons onto his favourite jumper. However, each day as Banjo heads out, he finds people looking for buttons that they’ve lost – and he’s able to find them on his jumper. What will happen when all the buttons are gone?
I love the way the book gives us a repeating selection of words telling us Banjo’s route on the way to school, especially the gorgeous use of verbs. (This really is a verb-y couple of books!) The language in the book is fabulous, with a number of rare words used particularly well. I also love Grandma Woolly saying ‘Unbutton my eyes’ – a nice example of figurative speech and punning at the same time!
Sue deGennaro’s illustrations deserve special mention. She really has become a favourite illustrator of mine, and I think I’m going to have to spend some time tracking down all her different books! Once again, her illustrations are delightful here, and I love the way that she gives little hints and clues to other parts of the story. She also brings so much more to the story on top of the words – like all good picture books should! Her illustrations would make reading the book again a real joy – and sharped eyed readers should be able to enjoy the book even more.
You would have a perfect starter book for talking about collections here – it would be fascinating to ask different people some of the things they collect – especially if you’re able to find some particularly avid collectors and see some of their collections. (I’m a collector – I collect books and I used to collect Barbie Dolls. My mother collects bears and dolls. My grandmother collects dolls, bears and other toys . . . I had no hope, did I?) A trip to the museum would also go perfectly with this book, especially if you can see some of their social history collection, where you get to look at some of those everyday objects which are so important to people at the time. (I worked in the Social History section of the Queensland Museum for my week of Work Experience. I worked with everything from guns to toys to farm equipment – an amazing week!) There’s also room for some great conversations about friendship and how to make friends and how to help other people.