Welcome to this month’s Touring Picture Book Club, our monthly feature in collaboration with Book Bairn, Mamma Filz and Along Came Poppy. Each month we all read the same book and share the play or learning ideas it has inspired. This month our book of choice is How to be a Lion by Ed Vere, published by Puffin Books.
We all know lions are fierce and roar and eat other animals right? Well, not all lions. Leonard looks just like all the other lions but he’s actually pretty quiet, he likes to think and daydream and write poems. And when he meets a duck, rather than eat it, he befriends it.
Leonard and his new friend, Marianne the duck, have a lot in common and love to spend time together going for walks, writing poetry and looking at the stars. But the other lions just won’t have it and they tell Leonard in no uncertain terms that this is no way for a lion to be.
Poor Leonard is in turmoil. There is so much pressure on him to fall in line with the other lions but he doesn’t want to change who he is and we love this clear and contrasting illustration of Leonard’s thoughts as he searches for an answer.
The story of Leonard will resonate with many of us when we feel the pressure of society to conform. This book is a wonderful tool for young children who aren’t yet aware of the pressures that are being placed on them. The message that there is more than one way to be and it’s ok to be who you are is skillfully delivered with grace and conviction. Paired with a warm and vibrant colour palette this is an eye-catching and stunning book.
In last month’s Touring Picture Book Club we looked for examples of boys who weren’t the stereotypical male character and discussed the need for positive friendships between boys in children’s books. This is a perfect book to build on that discussion as the character of Leonard is a boy and as well as not being a stereotypical lion, he is also far from being a stereotypical boy. It’s great to see examples of men or boys who are more gentle and thoughtful but Leonard goes beyond that with his natural character giving him real strength and courage.
And now on to our activity: With my eldest learning to read and write simple sentences our activity this month is a reading one. Lovely Leonard inspired us to think about how people and things don’t always have to fit into specific boxes, so with that in mind we created…
Silly Sentences Mix Up Game
The idea behind this one is that you write out different sentences with the same structure and chop them up. Then you have fun mixing the sentences around to see what new silly sentences you can come up with. As my children are quite young we went for very simple sentences and just chopped them in half but you could make them more complex and/or longer if you wish.
My boys dictated the sentences, with a little bit of prompting and guidance from me, whilst I wrote them down. All our sentences start with an article (A/An or The) and a single noun and are followed by a simple description: The lion is very noisy. A balloon can float up to the sky….
Once they were all written down I split the article and noun away from the rest of the sentence so we had a pile of sentence beginnings and a pile of endings. Then we shuffled them and laid them out again randomly choosing a beginning and an ending. We laid them out face down and my boys took turns in turning them over to reveal the new sentence.
Whatever the new sentence read it was met with a lot of laughter, particularly whenever the end of the sentence happened to be “wears a nappy.” We had a lot of fun doing this and challenged each other to come up with the silliest sentences we could. But it was really interesting to see my 6 year old thinking about the new sentence, once he’d stopped laughing, and realising that even though it wasn’t the description he was expecting it could still be true. “The Sheep is nice and sparkly” sounds funny because sheep are meant to be woolly, eat grass and say baa but we decided you could have a sparkly sheep if you had a toy sheep covered in sequins or a picture of a sheep decorated with glitter.
Just like Leonard we were seeing that there isn’t just one way for everything to be…
We hope you have enjoyed this month’s Touring Picture Book, be sure to check out the other posts and join us again next month!
Buy How to be a Lion from Waterstones.
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