Illustrated by Jarvis (super talented!!)
For ages 5+
I’ll let you into a little observation I’ve made… When children come to my book club for the first time, I have realised that most are bringing the toughest-to-read book they can find, something that is impressive, thick and tiny text. These children, remember, are mostly aged 5 and 6! I ponder where this originates from. Is there pressure from home to be an advanced reader (so competitive amongst parents in the playground or bookshop banter I’ve found), or is it coming from the school ethos of being ‘excellent at literacy’, or even from the child themselves - eager to seek awe and praise from either peers or adults around them? Who knows!?
With my own children I continued read them bedtime stories once they started to go to school, even secondary school - we go through an age-appropriate chapter book together. Statistically speaking, boys are more reluctant readers than girls - new data would be nice on this though, and I’d like to see other gender groups on surveys in future. My eldest is a girl, and as soon as she could read she was reading around 3 books a week on average. My youngest is a boy, and although he was desperate to learn to read, it turns out it was more of a personal mission due to wanting to be able to read the instructions on MineCraft!! So, at school, he’s an advanced reader, but yet, he isn’t terribly fussed about self-reading books, although he enjoys a book at bedtime with me (me reading!).
So - you see, even with my profession, there’s no magic wand. Children love all types of books for all different reasons. There is no rule that all girls love pink sparkly unicorn books and all boys love super hero comics. Banish these stereotypes from your brains right now!! If this message isn’t news to you, then no worries. If you’ve had a light bulb moment then go you!! Whoop whoop!!
Oh my, I have gone a bit off piste. So, gorgeous reader, I noticed this morning how my lovely KS1 book clubbers ‘show and tell’ books have all become much more recommended reading age appropriate and how animated they are about them. Most are now bringing in picture books to share and read to the group from. The must-read-Roald Dahl-books crew are gradually bringing books more akin to their own interests and joy. I don’t put children off RD books, don’t get me wrong, I love variety, BUT I love our incredibly talented and global contemporary children’s authors and illustrators more, who speak to the world our children live and learn in in the 2020s (not the 1960s EEK - that’s older than me)… and by the way, I am pro the controversial (not) move of Puffin to create more appropriate-language versions of RD books for younger children. I am a parent of young children, work with young children in schools, and in bookselling. If you don’t agree with Puffin’s move on this, then perhaps you are out of touch with the challenges and drastic changes in culture and society in this country today compared to the 1960s. If this is the case, it makes sense why you yearn for children 50-70 years younger than you to read what you did when you were 6 or 7 years old when most of today's communications technology hadn't been invented. Wow - I had no idea that was bubbling up inside needing to escape.
This morning, I was absolutely delighted to share a the above brand new book for younger readers. ‘Bear and Bird: The Picnic and other stories’ by Jarvis (Walker Books) published last week on World Book Day, but my school was closed for a teachers strike, hence it’s this week’s choice. Jarvis, an author:illustrator based in Manchester, UK, firmly came onto my radar last year with the publication of his picture book for children - ‘The Boy with Flowers in His Hair’, a beautiful and sensitive story for children with themes of vulnerability and friendship. I know now that Jarvis has worked on quite a number of children’s books, so I’m really excited about his latest venture with Walker Books, as this new series with two very lovable best friends, Bear and Bird, was a big hit this morning (and it’s a HUGE hit with me too).
About the book
This first edition is a hardback book with what I would describe as an earthy palette, calming and inviting with off white gloss-finished thicker pages, illustrations throughout and larger text, spaced wider apart for younger readers embarking on their first chapter book journeys, sumptuous end papers. Jarvis’s artwork is peacefully colourful and cuteness. Bear and Bird are unfussy, expressive, relatable and engaging.
The book contains four short stories: ‘The Flower’, ‘The Picnic’, ‘The Painting’ and ‘The Blanket’. Each story demonstrates the ups and downs of Bear and Bird’s (best) friendship dynamic, featuring growth mindset themes of forgiveness, jealousy, kindness, and change.
I decided to start with ‘The Flower’. Bird accidentally falls into a flower! After a while, Bear wanders outside to find Bird ready for a new day’s adventure, but can’t find her. Then Bear hears something that sounds like crying coming from a rather large flower nearby. In rather comedic sketch style prose, the reader enjoys Bear’s attempts to cheer up a sad flower, and come to terms with the fact that a flower can talk! Unfortunately for Bear, he tries to cheer up the flower by telling stories about how ‘ SO silly’ his best friend Bird can be sometimes… well… you can guess the innocent flaw in his plan. We were gasping and giggling all through this. So much fun!!
The children then moved onto my ‘Bear and Bird’ activity sheet (see the FREE download link below) and while they created their pictures I read ‘The Painting’ to them. The children listened intently as Bear who had never painted anything apart from his front door unassumingly creates a masterpiece and Bird, who invited Bear to join her for painting, feels incredibly dejected as her artwork doesn't receive any praise from the other woodland animals. Bird has a massive tantrum and storms off. Bear then seeks Bird out and with kindness and humility finds a way to help Bird to feel better about herself, restoring her self-esteem and self-worth. What an adorable best friend!!
Verdict? Great for reading out loud with lots of expression and fun dialogue - children will LOVE this in class and for bedtime stories. Can’t wait to read more ‘Bear and Bird’ feel-good stories. I feel like I’ve found treasure!!
Congratulations too to Jarvis (and Walker Books) for 'Bear and Bird: The Picnic and other stories' being celebrated as the Indie Book of the Month for March 2023.
Here's an extract from 'The Painting'...
Inspired by the funny moment in 'The Flower' when Bear didn't realise Bird was stuck upside down in the flower and he started to try to cheer it up, the children and I decided to think how it might go if it was Bear stuck in a flower instead! The children's artwork was absolutely awesome and I'll post them up on my Instagram feed! I hope you enjoy this activity too.
Download my FREE activity sheet
About the creator
Jarvis (author + illustrator)
Jarvis studied graphic design and previously worked as a record sleeve designer, website designer and an animation director before becoming a children’s book illustrator. His books with Walker include Mrs Mole, I’m Home! and Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, which won the 2017 V&A Best Illustrated Book. About his picture book inspiration, Jarvis says, “The way I work is always visual. I will have an image or character in mind and I pull a story out of it. I doodle and doodle and doodle until I get it right.” Jarvis lives in Manchester with his wife and their dog and cat.
Grab a copy
Buy here through my affiliate link at Bookshop.org or purchase from your local independent bookshop...
Publication date: 2 March 2023
Also by Jarvis (more titles available on my online store):
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