Illustrated by Erika Meza
For ages 3+
It’s not that I struggled to find a book to base this week’s KS1 Book Club on, it’s that I had a lot to choose from, and as always I wanted to bring something to the room that resonates with the children in a way that they’d never contemplated before. One of the biggest mantras the heroes of children’s publishing uphold is that every child should be able to see themselves in a book - a book that is accessible to them. I’ve been sitting on this particular book for a couple of weeks now, always planning to review it for you all. However, having observed the mindset of the group of children in this book club over the last academic year, and how wonderfully open they are to new thinking, I just instinctively knew that it was the right moment in our journey for ‘Stop! That’s Not My Story’.
Smriti Halls has authored some beautiful children’s picture books over the years; some of my favourites include: ‘Rain Before Rainbows’ illustrated by David Litchfield (Walker Books), ‘I’m Sticking with You’ illustrated by Steve Small (Simon & Schuster), ‘Dinos Don’t Give Up!’ Illustrated by Richard Merritt (Little Tiger Press). I’m particularly looking forward to hear second collaboration with David Litchfield, ‘Peace on Earth’ (Walker Books), which publishes on 7th September 2023. Amongst other titles, Erika Meza illustrated the recently published, and fantastic, children’s picture book ‘The Memory Book: A reassuring story about understanding dementia’ (Hachette) by the incredible Louise Gooding (author of ‘Wonderfully Wired Brains’), and, ‘Seven Sisters’ by Ayisha Malik (Little Tiger Press).
About the book
On first glance at the cover artwork, were you under the impression that this was a story about a little girl who is standing up to say that the characters in the traditional European-origin fairy tales aren’t who she identifies with (having noticed some familiar stories in within the illustrations)? Well, you’re partially right. If you chose this book already on this basis then don’t worry - that’s good thinking, inclusive and shows a ready-to-learn attitude about other cultures. However, as the current UK Children’s Laureate (and awesome top amazing fella), Joseph Coelho said of this book that it is… “A brilliant rhyming picture book that will help children see themselves at the centre of a story.” This is a story book that features a brown-skinned child protagonist where the story isn't directly about recognising heritage or cultural differences, although is an underlying message should you chose to pull this out for the children you are engaging with (which I did in the book club so I could give the children an opportunity to share the non-European fairy tales they grew up with).
Our protagonist has extra-long dark coloured plaits in her hair, is wearing a vibrant pink dress with a paisley design around the hem and and a very enviable pair of pink and white high-top sneakers. Already, the character comes across as fun, energised and ready to problem-solve. She’s empowering for girls merely in her stance (and has the cutest little dimples)! I wasn’t sure whether to adopt ‘she’ for my own review of the book, as there is no reference to the child’s gender within the story itself, but the blurb on the back of the book does reference the protagonist as a girl. This is important for you to know.
The reader isn’t told whether the girl is at home, in a bookshop or in a library, but she’s found a book from the bookcase and can’t wait to get stuck in… however, she leans over the pages and all of a sudden finds herself falling into the story book in a marvellous vertical double page spread. Turning the book around during the story so the children have to refocus their attention is fab! We all gazed and gasped! Also - a super touch is that at the end of each mini fairytale adventure there is a ‘page-turn’ in the corner of the double spread that gives a little clue as to which fairytale she will fall into next… we LOVED this feature, it was so much fun guessing.
The book is filled with traditional fairytales including: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and The Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty (with the hilarious ‘YUCK!’ moment when the prince tries to kiss the girl… she shows him the hand, with the other hand on her hip, it’s priceless).
Once out the book she discovers a book filled with blank pages for her to write her own stories, stories that will feature her as the hero, whether she’s and explorer, a knight, a queen, a princess or a witch (and so on). It’s a hands in the air moment by the time the reader reaches the last page. We all felt really uplifted and a few of the children seemed quite fired up and ready to take on the world. Just an amazing result!!
I asked the children to start from where our protagonist's story ends, with themselves as the hero! Clip-boards at the ready with my free downloadable book-based activity sheet the children drew fabulous vibrant pictures of themselves as the main character of a new book about their own adventures. Hit the download link below to have some creative fun with this too!
About the creators
Smriti Halls (author)
Smriti Halls is the internationally bestselling author of over 30 books for children. Before becoming a full time writer in 2012, she worked in children's publishing and television. She's now been published in more than 30 languages from Arabic to Afrikaans and from Catalan to Korean. She lives in London, UK with her husband and three children. (Source: Simon & Schuster)
Erika Meza (illustrator)
Mexican-born artist, Erika Meza, has trained in both Tijuana (where she studied graphic design) and Paris, where she attended the Illustration programme at L'École Nationale Superieure des Arts Décoratifs. The illustrator of many beautiful books, including the award-winning My Two Border Towns, written by David Bowles, Erika now lives in London. (Source: Simon & Schuster)
Finding your voice
Buy the book
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Publication date: 22 June 2023
Also available in hardback.
Publication date: 22 June 2023
'A brilliant rhyming picture book that will help children see themselves at the centre of a story.' - Joseph Coelho, UK Children's Laureate
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