It was Boa's birthday. It was going to be the best one ever. Or so he hoped.
He invited all his friends round. They would bring him wonderful presents. Or would they?
Birthdays can be a difficult time for parents and kids. I have found while teaching that at times it becomes a bit of a competition between friends and parents as to who can buy the best present. Birthdays have always been a time to celebrate with family for me while growing up but it was never about the presents. To be honest do we remember what we got for each of our childhood birthdays or was it about the celebration and having a special day?
I love it how Jean Willis has used a birthday as a prime example of teaching children about a problem that they will probably face somewhere in their lives. By each guest at the birthday bringing a gift (that they themselves put a lot of thought into and would have loved) does not mean that it is the most thoughtful gift for someone else. I loved how is expressed the disappointment of the Boa although the Boa's mum kept reminding him that it was the thought that counted.
As well as the moral about being thankful for what you get given I think that this book also has many other things that can be talked about. For example it is looking at how different animals have different features. The print in the book is a great size to look at with children and there could be many discussion about punctuation.
Tony Ross water colour illustrations show feelings on the faces of the animals. Another two things this book could be used for - feelings and art.
I would highly recommend this as a book to have on the shelves of every child. If they are not taught about being thankful for the company of friends or thoughtfulness of others where do they learn this?
My children and I spent a bit of time having fun with the cover of this book. The alliteration in the title encouraged us all to read it out loud several times. We also talked about the snake on the front cover and how he was feeling. My four year old son had no problems deciding that the snake wasn't happy. It was a great opportunity to chat with My two year old daughter about feelings and how we can read faces to see how someone might be feeling.
The illustrations are a lovely mix of earthy colours created using watercolours and black ink. The hair on the animals caught my eye as being very simple but really well done. The font in the book is fun looking but still easy to read.
The story in the book is just beautiful and both my two and four year olds love it. During the book, we talked about what sort of gifts we liked to give people and what sort of things we like to get as presents. The message about being happy that people are thinking about us enough to give us a present, even if it isn't something that we really wanted is important. My children and I talked about what we could say to people when we are given a present that we are not so happy with. I found the book a good starting point for this discussion as I am sure that the children will receive presents that they don't really like and how they react is important. It was also a chance to talk about how we choose presents for people and how we need to know the person and what they like in order to make the best choice possible.
The story ends by showing us that sometimes a present might seem like a dud but in fact turns out to be the best present ever. This book is just delightful and well worth a read.
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"A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882)