I was near Fort yesterday for some work and popped into Kitab Khana for a bit right after…it was supposed to be a quick in and out…but i emerged with a bag full of delightful books for the boys. I love the kids section there – well stocked, well catalogued, enough space to sit and browse. One of the books i picked up was Swimmy by Leo Lionni.
This is the first book by Leo Lionni that i have got for the boys and they were of course most excited (not because of Leo Lionni but because it was a NEW book!)
We started out by looking at the cover. “What do you think this book is about?” i asked. “Fish” came the prompt reply. We looked at the cover a little more and i asked if they could figure out which fish it was about. After looking at it for a bit, Nish asked if it was the “black one”. Then we moved on to read the book. I pointed to the art as we started reading and we identified what looked like block prints. (we have been doing a lot of printing of late)
The story is absolutely delightful and one that the boys just loved. The idea of a whole group of small fish getting together to look like a large fish was cool and they really liked how the small fish were able to scare off the larger fish with their ingenuity. The book brought out various concepts – creative thinking, bravery, working together, making the most of a situation…while i did not dwell too much on these yet at the initial reading, they are definitely themes that i see myself coming back to. (this also lends itself to the book being read to a large range of ages)
The author’s creativity comes through in almost every page…his descriptions are so lovely.. anemones that are like pink palm trees and medusas with rainbow jelly are such pretty images more mentally and how he expresses them on paper through his art. The text and illustrations complement each other and create room for many conversations around the text and more.
After reading the book thrice together last night and twice first thing in the morning i asked the boys if they wanted to try doing some art like the kind in the book. Nish loved the jelly fish and wanted to make something like that. So i cut up papers painted by the boys over the last few days in different shapes. With the jellyfish in mind, i made long strips and a semi circle, i did some almond shapes and triangles for fish and then i made a bunch of circles, triangles, squares and rectangles.
We took one-sided paper that i had folded into little cards with the blank side out and the print inside. I gave the boys some ‘Joker gum’ (which is like a rice paste kind of glue) and we got started. Sid decided to make the jellyfish instead of Nish and i showed him the pic from the book. In the beginning, i put the glue on the paper for them, but fairly dissatisfied with the speed of my work, they took matters into their own hands and got to sticking in earnest. N made a fish and then moved on to making a fire engine and truck (the fire engine looks like a pice of deconstructed art with its individual parts pasted almost separately).
At one point, when Nish was making his fire engine, he picked a big triangle for the body..i almost told him to take a rectangle instead – i thought it should have been an obvious choice (he used a rectangle for the truck), but then i refrained from doing so…this was after all his art and it was up to him to make these choices.
We had a lovely morning and came up with some delightful art too!
(this is a pic of the medusa from the book)
(here is what the boys came up with)