An end to the blank canvas

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
Picture books to foster creativity at key stage 1 selected by Anne Faundez

You Choose By Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart Doubleday pound;10.99

Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly By Sue Heap and Nick Sharratt Puffin pound;4.99

Flyaway Katie By Polly Dunbar Walker Books pound;10.99

The Dot By Peter H Reynolds Walker Books pound;8.99

Fairytale News By Colin and Jacqui Hawkins Walker Books pound;10.99

Here's a selection of picture books to stimulate children's creativity through imaginative talk, art and writing.With its eye-catching illustrations and accompanying questions, You Choose, demands an immediate visual and verbal response. Each spread presents an assortment of images on increasingly specific themes such as shoes, beds and pets, and a simple text asking the reader to single out one image and elaborate on it.

The endpapers are filled with words suggesting potential choices. The illustrations, set within individual frames or part of a general picture, are humorously detailed.

This highly interactive book can be used in many ways: encouraging young children to talk about what's on the page; as a springboard for developing narrative; or simply to flip through for the sheer pleasure of its busy images.

Children in reception and key stage 1 will revel in the intensity of colour and power to hold the eye in Sue Heap and Nick Sharratt's rewarding collaboration, Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly. While teaching about colours, the book sets up a lively dialogue between the two illustrators in which they take turns to declare their colour preferences: Nick likes red cars, Sue prefers pink and orange ones; Nick likes black cats, Sue prefers black and white, and so on. Look out for mischievous details, such as Sue's little green and yellow alien straying on to Nick's page.

The combination of two styles of artwork - Nick Sharratt's more linear style incorporating thick black outlines and saturated colours, and Sue Heap's softer, more textured approach - makes for a coherent, intensely satisfying book.

Life without colour is bleak, as Katie discovers in spectacular fashion in Polly Dunbar's joyous fantasy adventure Flyaway Katie. Inspired by a painting of birds with wondrous plumage, she decks herself in colour - blue socks, green hat, pink dress.

Suitably attired, her mood lifts. The borrowed colours crackle and fizz with a momentum that propels her into the painting, where she stays all afternoon, happily soaring the skies with her new-found friends. The story's progression to a glorious, totally cheerful climax is conveyed through a sequence of pictures that finally explode from their frames in an intensity of swirling patterns and shimmering colour.

Perfect for encouraging artistic expression is Peter H Reynolds's The Dot.

During art class, Vashti is paralysed at the sight of a blank piece of paper. What should she draw? Where should she start? Her teacher suggests she make a mark - a humble dot will do - to gain ownership of that paper, and then sign it.

Vashti soon becomes artist and critic, endlessly elaborating on the dot and experimenting with colours, sequences and patterns. The point that all children have artistic potential waiting to be realised is made clearly and humorously through the text, and dramatically reinforced by the illustrations, with their deliberate and selective use of colour. Only when the story characters are actively involved in the creative process does colour intrude upon the page. This is a very special book, ideal for encouraging children to make that leap towards creativity.

As the cover of Fairy Tale News indicates, here is a book and a newspaper, both of which make hilarious and valuable reading - as parody and a model for journalistic writing (which extends its use into key stage 2). The book centres on the adventures of nursery and fairytale characters whose lives become entangled in one glorious story concerning Jack, of beanstalk fame, and the Giant.

The humour of the retellings is reinforced through dynamic pictures, speech bubbles and selective use of bold type and varying font size. The paper, tucked in the giant's pocket in the endpapers, presents the same adventures in the form of reports, adverts, horoscope and sports page, using the typical conventions and presentation of journalistic writing, so providing a perfect model for Year 4 children's own writing.

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