Exploring Pictures in Picture books – Mat Tobin — June 27, 2020

Exploring Pictures in Picture books – Mat Tobin

A couple of weeks ago Mat Tobin (@Mat_at_Brookes) did a zoom CPD exploring pictures in picture books. And I was fascinated. I never realised how much depth and meaning was in an illustration in a children’s book. I realised that the images portrayed the story, but it goes a lot deeper than that.

The location of the character. The size of the character. The frame around the image. All have an impact on how the reader perceives the story and the emotions linked to it.

I’m not going to discuss every aspect in the zoom, but I will pick out some key aspects within the discussion.

Position and size

If a character is on the left hand side of the page, it shows that the character is starting a journey. It evokes feelings of safety and comfort. If a character is on the right side of the page looking to the left or moving towards the left it shows that they are finishing their journey and returning home.

Perspective and viewpoints

If the character is looking at you, the reader, it shows that they are inviting you on the journey with them. If you can’t see their face, it is an invitation to think about their feelings. When reading picture books, often we understand how the character is feeling by looking at the illustrations and the emotions portrayed on their face. When you can’t see their far, it puts the reader on edge, as they are unable to see the emotions portrayed.


If there is a thin frame around the illustration, it invites you to observe as an outsider. It is like looking through a window, you can see what is happening, but you are not part of the action. If the image is breaking free from the frame it suggests that the character is escaping or is liberated.


Colours are well known to be linked to emotions, and this is no different in illustrations in picture books. Bright colours in an illustration suggests that the story or character is joyful, whereas dull colours suggest that there is sadness.

Illustrations in picture books are very powerful and can be analysed as much as the words can be. Even more so, when you are reading a wordless or pure picture book where the story relies on the images.

I never realised quite how powerful and impactful illustrations could be, I will never look at a picture book the same.

The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan — June 26, 2020

The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

Synopsis – This is a story about a child who finds a lost thing on the beach when he is looking for bottle tops to add to his collection. No-one else notices the lost thing, so he decides to find where the lost thing belongs.


My thoughts –  Within this book, you never find out the name of the main character, who narrates the book.

This makes it seem like the reader is the person who the story belongs to and it is their story they are sharing with the listener.

The main moral/value within the story is belonging and fitting in. The idea of everyone having a place that they belong and fit in is a theme throughout the words and illustrations within the book. It is also directly referenced in the last few pages.

Another theme within the book is how curiosity changes as we grow up, that younger people are more curious about the world. As we grow up we wonder about the world less and accept the world as it is without questioning.

The illustrations within the book are very interesting. There are many pictures on each page, framed differently to highlight different aspects of the illustrations and to convey different meanings. There are few colours used in the illustrations and they are quite dull, apart from the lost thing. This helps the lost thing to stand out more and catch the readers attention, as the colour is so contrasting to the rest of the image. There is a lot of depth to the images, with a lot of activity and emotion captured within each image in the book.

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to children aged 9 and above due to the levels of meaning within the story, however younger children may also enjoy reading it, particularly looking at the illustrations. It can be read at face value, or with more depth, considering the themes with criticality.

Classroom ideas – Due to the value of fitting in, this book would be useful to use within a classroom where children are struggling to form friendships and children don’t feel like they fit in. It will help them to understand that they are not alone, and they have somewhere they will fit in. This would lend itself to PSHE lessons, where these topics could be discussed sensitively.

One activity you could do with pupils is asking them to rewrite the story from the perspective of the lost thing, exploring the emotions that it feels throughout the story, using vivid language to describe what is happening and how the environment looks.

You could stop reading before the end, asking the pupils to write a different ending for the story, maybe he looks after the lost thing or perhaps he gives it to a friend.

How the grinch stole Christmas – Dr Seuss — December 4, 2018

How the grinch stole Christmas – Dr Seuss

Synopsis – The Grinch hates Christmas, and this year he has had enough. He’s decided that he’s going to out a stop to Christmas. How will the residents of whoville respond?

My thoughts – I enjoyed this book, however, it was quite different from the film, which was a little disappointing, but not completely unexpected. The language used was fairly simple, making it a great accessible Christmas read. I really like the illustrations in the book, they are so simple and the splash of red on each illustration adds emphasis to certain aspects of the illustrations. The illustrations were really engaging and helped to tell the story.

Classroom ideas – You could do a range of Christmas activities such as making cards or decorations. You could discuss what is really important and what Christmas is all about. You could look at the character of the grinch and ask the children why he might hate Christmas – you could talk about loneliness.

The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig — November 20, 2018

The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig

Goodreads synopsis – From number one bestselling author Matt Haig comes a hilarious and heartwarming story, brilliantly illustrated throughout by Chris Mould Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say. Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.


My thoughts – I loved this book. This short book touches on mental illness in an easy to read way, making it accessible for young children. This book will help readers feel like they are not alone, and may help them better understand what they are going through.

I loved the illustrations in it by Chris Mould, they worked perfectly with the story. And I liked that they are black and white illustrations rather than colour, as it represents the feelings shown within the book well, as some people with mental health link it to darkness and not seeing colour.

The book rhymed which gave it a good rhythm when reading, which many children enjoy when hearing books read aloud to them. I also like the simplicity of language used, as the concepts are challenging enough without the added language barrier.

Classroom ideas – I think this would be a good book to read and let children digest independently. Although it’s child-friendly, it discusses some challenging topics, and I don’t think it would be suitable to complete work based on it. You could maybe do mental health related activities and discuss the themes within the book, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing comprehension from it.

Nevermoor- Jessica Townsend — November 15, 2018

Nevermoor- Jessica Townsend

Goodreads Synopsis – A cursed girl escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate

My thoughts – Although this book took a while to read, I really enjoyed it. It was hard to find time to read it with university and life being so hectic but when I got the chance to read it I loved it. I had no idea that what happened at the end would happen, and I really liked that. It was such a shock when it happened. It’s got such an interesting plot, and I would love to read the sequel at some point to see what happens next.

Classroom ideas – I think it’s a really good book to read for pleasure with your class. One classroom idea would be to look into the characters in the book and delve deeper into what they are thinking and feeling at key parts of the story. You could also draw the illustrations to accompany parts of the story. There are so many interesting events that happen in the book that you could look at. You could do diary writing, or newspaper articles about the events that happen.

That’s not my hat – John Klassen — November 6, 2018

That’s not my hat – John Klassen

Amazon synopsis – From the creator of the bestselling I Want My Hat Back and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole comes the story of a tiny fish who proudly wears a blue hat. It fits him perfectly. Problem is, trouble could be following close behind… So it’s a good thing that the enormous fish he took it from won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not as though he’ll ever know what happened, right? With so many emotions conveyed in just the glint of an eye, visual humour swims to the fore in this thrillingly original, perfectly-paced cautionary tale.

My thoughts- I enjoyed this book. There was very few words, which meant that the illustrations did most of the ‘talking’. The book was quite short meaning it is accessible for a larger group of children. The language used is quite basic which means that it is accessible for a large group of pupils.

Classroom ideas – you could look at ethics, the book mentions stealing which you could have a debate about and consider if it is ever morally right to steal. You could also do drama from the different characters point of view. You never find out how the big fish got his hat back, so the children could write a couple of pages for the book to show what happened.

A Place Called Perfect – Helena Duggan — November 1, 2018

A Place Called Perfect – Helena Duggan

Goodreads Synopsis – Violet never wanted to move to Perfect.                                         Who wants to live in a town where everyone has to wear glasses to stop them going blind? And who wants to be neat and tidy and perfectly behaved all the time?
But Violet quickly discovers there’s something weird going on – she keeps hearing noises in the night, her mum is acting strange and her dad has disappeared.
When she meets Boy she realizes that her dad is not the only person to have been stolen away…and that the mysterious Watchers are guarding a perfectly creepy secret!

No copyright infringement intended!

My thoughts – I really enjoyed reading this book, it had such an interesting plot that was really unique. I think the sequel to the book will be really interesting, and the book finished in a way that made you want to read the next book immediately.

I think the characters were really interesting, and had a real mix of personalities. I loved how the main two characters were a male and a female child with no love interest. It means that there’s something for both genders in the book and they are both represented.

There are characters in the book who are orphans which may be a sensitive topic for some children, but will enlighten some children about how some children don’t have parents and may help some pupils develop empathy.

Classroom ideas – You could use this as a hook for a science topic about the human body as it discusses eyes heavily throughout the book. You could do character work, looking into the characters and doing role play for different scenes within the book to explore the book more deeply. You could get the children to do diary entries as the different characters, George and Edward Archer would be two really good characters to explore in this way.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2 | Book Review — October 24, 2018

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2 | Book Review

Goodreads Synopsis – Good might stories for rebel girls 2 is a children’s book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, Ilustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world. This book inspires girls with the stories of great women.

My thoughts – It’s amazing to see how many incredible women there are out there making the world better one step at a time. They are going above and beyond to make the world better for other women.

Whilst it’s interesting to read this, the information is very quick fire and doesn’t give much detail about the women and their achievements. It’s a very basic overview of them. Which is perfect for young children, but makes this book less engaging for older children.

I love the illustrations and the quotes each women has after there information, it helps keep young readers engaged, and it gives more of an insight into the women they are reading about.

Classroom ideas – I think this book would be good to show girls how powerful women can be and show them that they can be anything they want to be. It may also have some use to support a unit on stereotypes. It could be useful to share at the start of a topic about one of these women as a short introduction into the woman. It could also be used as an example of how you may want their work to be presented as you could do a similar style entry for someone you are focusing a unit of work on, such as Queen Victoria.

Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets – Dav Pilkey | Book Review — October 10, 2018

Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets – Dav Pilkey | Book Review

Goodreads Synopsis – George and Harold are up to their usual tricks. Last time they hypnotised Principal Krupp into believing he was Captain Underpants. Now, by mistake, they bring to life the most disgusting, life-threatening monster — the terrible Turbo Toilet 2000. Can anyone save the school from the terrifying attack of the Talking Toilets? Watch out world, big briefs are back!

No copyright infringement intended!

My Thoughts – My brother really enjoyed this book, and was really engaged by the lpot and the characters. Personally, I don’t find them the most engaging of books. Whilst they do have amusing plots and characters, I just don’t find any of the characters relatable or all that interesting, and I realise I’m not the target audience for the series, but it’s always nice to read a children’s book with relatable or interesting characters.

Classroom Ideas – I’m not so sure you could make a unit of work from this book. I don’t think the series is the best for classroom use, other than promoting a love of reading.

Florence & Leon – Simon Boulerice — May 29, 2018

Florence & Leon – Simon Boulerice

Goodreads synopsis – Florence and Leon have never met. Florence is a swimming instructor. She has a small problem with her lungs: it’s as if she’s breathing through a straw. Leon is an insurance salesman. He has a small problem with his eyes: it’s as if he’s seeing the world through a straw. One day Florence and Leon bump into each other, literally, and this mishap turns their lives upside down. Over slushy drinks with proper straws, Florence and Leon find out how their differences make them alike.

My thoughts – I love the illustrations in this book, they give a really calm feel to the book, and suit the story perfectly. It’s a really short faced paced, child-friendly romance book. I’d love to read the book with the French and English version together, it would be perfect for the classroom. It’s a very uncommon story for a picture book, as most focus on friendships and children rather than adults.

Classroom uses – I can’t really see many uses for this book in the classroom, other than to promote reading for pleasure. You could discuss disabilities, especially breathing and sight difficulties as they are mentioned in the book.