Irene Dickson
Nosy Crow: 2016
ISBN: 9780857638618
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Ruby and Benji are building with different coloured blocks. When Benji wants one of Ruby’s red blocks, a tussle breaks out and both their creations crash to the floor. The accident causes their red and blue blocks to mingle and soon they start building together. But then Guy arrives with his green blocks …

The cliff hanger ending to Blocks reflects the unobtrusive approach throughout. Irene Dickson resists judgement and also over-explaining the children’s responses and emotions. Dickson does provide emotive pictures without clutter that are perfect for focusing in on the action. There are also opportunities for young readers to get physically involved with the reading (at least in the hard cover version) through the two cut-out squares (block shaped) on the cover. These are fantastic for small fingers to explore! This is a great book to start a conversation about what it means to share and play.

A preview of Blocks can be viewed on the Nosy Crow website.

Boom, Snot, Twitty: this way, that way

Doreen Cronin (author) Renata Liwska (illustrations)
Penguin Viking: 2015
ISBN: 9780670785759
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A bear, bird, and snail (Boom, Twitty, and Snot) are looking for the perfect spot to spend the day together. Boom wants to splash around at the beach. Twitty wants to hike and look around the mountains. Snot has prepared snacks. Boom and Twitty become tired and hungry as they persist in asserting what they want to do, but then they can’t find Snot. They follow the trail and discover that Snot has found the perfect spot for everyone to enjoy.

Boom, Snot, Twitty is a book that rewards multiple readings. There are layers of wit and wisdom in the understated character of Snot, who tactfully manages a compromise that meets everybody’s needs. Moreover, the drawings develop and play with the stubbornness of Boom and Twitty as well as the physical characteristics of Snot the snail. For a particular aspect of sharing—compromise and problem solving—this is a fine choice.

Green Cat

Dayal Kaur Khalsa
Tundra Books: 2002
ISBN: 9780887765865
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Note: Green Cat is out of print. Consider searching in your library or online for a second hand copy of this wonderful book.

A boy and girl sharing a bedroom fight about the room being too small: “‘I want more space!’ each one would shout…”. One day a green cat arrives and asks them what they like most. He precedes to bring that item (toast) as well as a wonderful array of other more or less banal items into their room. After a while ‘in all the clutter’, they voice their original complaint: ‘We…need…more…room’. The green cat proceeds to take everything out again and they agree that there is enough room, perhaps even for one item the cat took away.

This classic picture book is full of wonder and humour! The illustrations overflow with colour and chaos as the cat introduces more and more items to the room. A series of rolling vignettes emerge as more animate interlopers interact with the children and other items—these provide amusing scenes for active minds to trace. The rhyming text purrs along with some absolute gems (a burst of confetti!). The sharing message is relatively oblique—the children are shown rather than told that they could think of their shared space another way.

My Little Gifts. A book of Sharing

Jo Witek (author) and Christine Roussey (illustrator)
Abrams Appleseed: 2017
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

My Little Gifts begins with the holidays and a mass of (traditional) presents: ‘I tear and crumple and rip. I find dolls and dresses, books, and even a bike’. But the little girl narrator soon explains that smiles from Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa are an ‘extra gift’ and this begins an exploration of all kinds of gifts and types of sharing (e.g. knowledge, affection, friendship, help, imagination). A conflict between the girl narrator and her little sister bookend the wide-ranging examples: at the beginning of the book the sisters argue over who plays with the older sister’s red travel case. The conflict is then recalled and resolved toward the end of the story, when the older sister is able to give her sister a special gift.

This intelligent book first makes a connection between gifts and sharing and then explores with great thought and sensitivity the many facets of both. It is relentlessly positive and challenges a tendency to present sharing as a difficult action to perform. The quirky conceptual drawings are useful for exploring the emotions around sharing and the flaps are genius; they are appropriate to the subject matter but also provide busy hands with opportunities to explore, pause, and consider the ideas contained within.

My Turn

Laura Rankin
Bloomsbury: 2016
ISBN: 9781599901749
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Pammy, a young sheep, narrates her play date with her friend Wyatt (a calf), emphasising how much fun they have together. The speech bubbles tell a different story, indicating that Wyatt is becoming increasingly annoyed with Pammy’s refusal to give him a turn. They argue when Wyatt insists he has a go. Pammy can’t understand Wyatt’s anger until she plays a new game with her brother, which involves shooting hoops until you miss. Eddie, an older brother, is more skilful and when Pammy grows bored waiting for Eddie to miss, she acknowledges that it’s no fun never having a turn and seeks out her friend Wyatt.

A real advantage of this sharing book is its savvy use of speech bubbles alongside the main narrative. These allow all characters to communicate their views and children to identity the disconnection between the central characters before it erupts. The emotive images build on the ideas in the text. The outdoor scenes and scattered toys rendered with soft bright water colours make the environment look inviting and ready for play, highlighting the disruption that occurs by not taking turns. Lastly, it is worth noting that while turn-taking is the focus, much of the disagreement arises from Pammy dominating the direction of play, providing opportunities for broader discussion for young people more likely to lead than follow.

Sharing a Shell,

Julia Donaldson (author) and Lydia Monks (Illustrator)
MacMillan: 2004
ISBN: 9781509862702
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

None of the other shell-dwelling creatures will share their shell with a shell-less hermit crab. When a hungry bird approaches, the hermit crab finds one quick and after some initial reluctance shares his new shell with an anemone and a bristle worm. When they outgrow the shell there are some moments of disagreement, but they’re soon ‘rocketing all round the rockpool in their wonderful home for three’.

This sharing story is full of heart, giggles, and glitter! If you’re interested in talking to your toddler about sharing, but don’t want a teaching book this may be the one for you. The narrative includes conflict and compromise that centres around the issue of sharing space, but at its core this is a great story full of word play. It’s also bound to get your little one exploring with all the bright, glittery and tactile images.

Sheila Rae’s Peppermint Stick

Kevin Henkes
Harper Collins: 2001
ISBN: 9780060540784
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Sheila Rae has a peppermint stick and gently teases Louise, who wants a taste. She sets a couple of impossible tasks for the younger mouse in exchange for a lick and then says she would give one to Louise if she had two. When one of Sheila Rae’s challenges backfires and she falls and breaks the Peppermint stick, Louise reminds her of her promise.

Sheila Rae’s Peppermint Stick is a short book that reflects reality—sharing can be hard and lead to power struggles. Henkes handles the tricky top with respect for all involved and allows everyone to save face in the end. The back cover indicates that the two characters—Sheila Rae and Louise—are siblings. This is not explicit in the text, and the story works whether or not you draw this conclusion. Parents finding sibling squabbles difficult may wish to read the back cover to children to stress the relationship between the two mice.

This is Our House

Michael Rosen (author) and Bob Graham (Illustrator)
Walker Books: 1996
ISBN: 9780763602901
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

George is occupying a large cardboard house in a play space beneath towering apartments. Other kids would like to join him but George says, ‘This house is mine’. George rebuffs various strategies to infiltrate his domain until finally, while taking a toilet break, everyone piles into the house. George, now excluded, decides the house is indeed for everyone.

This fantastic collaboration from two revered picture book creators has a huge amount going on. There’s the use of black and white and colour images to highlight the action in the midst of a busy playground—perfect for talking about the conflicts and emotions of the different children. There’s the gentle humour which emerges in both text and pictures (e.g. ‘This is my house,’ says George, to which Rasheda replies, ‘Well, this is my tunnel’). There’s also the genius of the humble cardboard box, which quietly underscores the fact that difficulty sharing is part of development and not about the objective worth of an object in dispute. 

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