Since completing my last book review for Tes, I have moved schools and begun a new autumn term with nearly 60 early years foundation stage (EYFS) children. Stories and picture books always play a key part in an EYFS classroom, so the Ladybird and Bumblebee classes were very excited to get the chance to give their thoughts on What Makes Me a Me?
This book is extra special, as it is written by Ben Faulks, otherwise known as CBeebies’ Mr Bloom. This fact alone caused a lot of conversation about who he is and why he has two names.
Isabelle exclaimed: “I know who wrote this book!” when we read it the second time.
Ben Faulks’ thought-provoking story is accompanied by illustrations from David Tazzyman, whom older readers will recognise as the illustrator for the Mr Gum series.
The title, front-cover illustrations and colours made it very easy to engage the children’s interest.
The main character looks a similar age to the children in my class, so his picture on the front cover meant they could connect with the book immediately. The character and colourful text makes it an eye-catching choice, causing Noah to comment on the sparkly letters on the cover.
The theme of the story is ideal for the start of term with any infant-aged class. The question “What makes me a me?” is posed. Then many similarities to other children, objects and creatures are pointed out. But differences are also highlighted, helping the children to begin to see how we are all unique.
Everyone was keen to spot characteristics that they shared with other people. Josie said: “I’m like a baker when I cook.”
Lucy said “I am a bit like my friend”, which prompted Harry to add: “I am a bit like my friend because we are both kind.”
Their thinking then moved away from friends, to consider animals and objects – just as in the book, when the main character thinks about superheroes and trees.
Stomping like a dinosaur
Oliver said “I can hop like a rabbit” and he showed us all how he could do this.
Harry said “I can stomp like a dinosaur, but I am not scary”, prompting a lot of stomping from everyone.
Preston said “I like scratching like a dinosaur”, encouraging Joe to be more specific and realise: “I can be like a T-Rex and stretch up tall.”
The conversation continued with Millie adding that she runs like a fast dinosaur, but isn’t so tall.
The book’s text is rhythmic and patterned, meaning that the children have been able to join in more and more as they become familiar with the story. Many vocal sounds are cited, such as racing car, superhero and volcano, which the children have enjoyed contributing while I read the story.
The pages are split so that similarities are described first. Then, following a “but”, we hear about the differences.
The illustrations throughout the book are colourful and engaging and, with further time to look carefully, children noticed some things that made them laugh: a dog caught short near a tree, the boy eating dog food and, on the final page, the dog thinking about what makes him him.
One page that shows similarities and differences with a computer is full of interesting, smaller illustrations, which the children enjoyed looking at carefully.
The story tells us that the main character doesn’t have an on-off switch, and this led us all to try acting like toys that can be turned off. The children had great fun with me and a pretend remote control, making choices for when they could start and stop me.
When I asked the class, we were nearly all in agreement that we were pleased this book is now in our book box.
Some children have already chosen to return to the book during their independent time, to reread the story or retell it to others. Any book that causes this reaction at this point in the term should be in every single EYFS book box.
Matt Perrett is EYFS leader at Moorlands Schools Federation in Bath