Three new books for the very young employ patterning to encourage participation. In size, shape and illustrative media the books are very different. Yo Baby! is square and pencil crayon-pastel-toned. A Day with Nellie is a tall and bright collage. We'll all go flying is long and vividly coloured. All three convey the curiosity and exuberance and wonderment that is part of the preschoolers' world view.
A Day with Nellie is exactly that; the story follows Nellie through the day. The text is simple and declarative: "When Nellie wakes up, the blankets are every which way. She is ready to start her day." The pages are filled with the objects and people that are part of Nellie's life: clothing, food, friends and so on. The lay-out of these objects is almost like an early picture dictionary. The book irresistibly draws the child in and encourages the reader to point and name the objects. Marthe Jocelyn's cloth collage is cheerful and child-like. Nellie is a pleasing dark-haired child who sometimes needs a nap. The end-papers of children holding hands and dancing across the page in four rows are joyful and inviting.
In Yo Baby! there is a progression in the text: "Yo baby! I'm not a baby, I'm a . . ." This refrain is repeated going from butterfly to giraffe to pineapple, etc., building cumulatively in the illustrations until the end when everything returns to the baby. In very short order the listening child will join in the refrain and anticipate what appears on the next page. It is a simple concept but an effective one in encouraging the child to "read". This is the very essence of pre-reading. Schwartz's representational drawings done in coloured pencil are soft and whimsical.
We'll all go flying is the most, dare one say, complex of the three books. It has the most text. The rhyming verse has a refrain which the child will immediately pick up on: "And what will we spy / In the sky so high?" The action of the story moves from day to night. There is also an element of counting: "One getting-up sun", "Two helicopters", "Three zig-zag flashes" till "Ten space ships"; and addition: "Four swift blue birds / And a soaring hawk!" Each page is a different colour reflecting the time of day or weather¨purple for the storm-dark sky, for example. And each page has a gatefold which when opened reveals the answer to the question "what will we spy?" LaFave's cartoon-like illustrations and bold colour add to the sense of derring-do of the three companions on the hot-air balloon adventure.
These three books are in the best possible way interactive. These are books which foster parent-child participation. The parent as reader can prompt all sorts of responses from the child. The repetitive text and cumulative stories naturally encourage the child to join in. And while the child begins his or her first steps toward reading, he/she will have great fun with these playful books.
Theo Heras Children's Librarian and Partner in MaryContrary Associates