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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

If I Could Be

Author: Pippa Goodhart
Illustrations: Nick Sharratt
If I Could Be is a double edition of the books You Choose and Just Imagine 
Publisher: You Choose first published by Doubleday in 2003, Just Imagine first published by Doubleday in 2012. If I Could Be first published by Doubleday in 2014. 

My three oldest children (7, 5 and 3) were sprawled out on their bellies on the landing this morning, 'choosing' together from this book, and discussing, with great excitement, their selections, so I felt If I Could Be deserved a post tonight. This book wouldn't be my first choice of bedtime story, but it is the first choice always, of Bert, 5 and increasingly Edie, 3. It isn't my choice, as basically the book involves giving children categories of goods or ideas to select from which generally involves a lot of procrastinating, thinking, changing of minds, and draws out bedtime no end! If you've got a lot of time on your hands, a long car journey maybe, and you want to stimulate discussion and get into the mindset of your child, this is the book for you. 

The first section of this double edition, You Choose, offers scenarios to choose from, generally stooped in everyday life: so based on what to wear, how to get there, what to eat and what to do. On each double page spread of this large hardback there's a bright background colour and busy page of images, with a question posed at the top. There's a tentative link through the themes, so choosing where you would live moves into what you would put in your house? At 5 years old, Bert has started to make relational choices, so for example he matches his choice of riding round in a VW Beetle on the transport page, to selecting a flower T shirt on the what to wear page, saying that people who drive beetles like flowers. This book is fantastic for getting children to argue, discuss, share their thoughts, claim ideas and express themselves. It can be frustrating for children with limited vocabulary though, unless you share as a very patient parent happy to point and smile and not impart you own ideas on every page. 

The second book in the double edition is Just Imagine: this one tends to have more fantasy scenarios, such as asking children to imagine being small, or not human, or being magical. In terms of building vocabulary this book is fantastic, as there's so much to see, label, infer, relate and categorise. While there may not be much to physically 'read' on each page, the book is promoting these basic reading skills all along. 

Nick Sharratt's illustrations work so hard in this book. They are all equally bold and bright, with no obvious a emphasise or stand out pictures. Control and decision making is really handed over to children with this book, making it suitable for building attachment relationships ( thumbs-up as adoption friendly though beware of the 'choosing your family' page; we emphasise the 'choosing friends' angle harder on this page). 

In all, a fun, exciting book that would make a good addition to any classroom, nursery, or home bookshelf. It's interactive angle means you need to choose wisely when to read. This is a noise- inducing book, and a book for sharing ideas ( not calming!) - prepare for sibling squabbles and fall-outs over claims to ideas, but equally prepare for being invited in on those funny and touching moments, such as when children suggest items or ideas for each other ('Edie would love those flip flops' suggested Bert this morning, 'and I would like a pet lion and three robot dogs please!' Edie replied). If I Could Be is like a ticket into your child's imagination, a mirror to shine at phases of child development; it promotes creativity, drama, independent thinking, matching skills, critical thinking,'s a very very useful book.  

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